Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Juggling Outsourcing Stats
  2. He Said, She Said
  3. Royal E-Flush
  4. Plane Precision
  5. Email Evidence
  6. VCR RIP?
  7. Driven to Distraction
  8. Author

On the same day India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) came out in defense of its recent claim that IT outsourcing to India has improved U.S. employment figures, the Associated Press reported a dramatic drop in U.S tech jobs migrating to India, Russia, and China. "U.S. banks, financial services, and insurance companies have saved $6–$8 billion dollars in the past four years owing to IT outsourcing to India. Helped by these savings, companies have prevented layoffs and instead added 125,000 more jobs," Nasscom stated, pointing to market research from U.S.-based firms indicating the U.S. could save over $300 billion over the next six years by outsourcing software development. A Forrester Research report indicated 27,000 tech jobs moved overseas in 2000 and predicts the number will mushroom to 472,000 by 2015 if companies continue to farm out work at the current pace.

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He Said, She Said

The developer of a controversial computer algorithm reportedly capable of identifying the gender of authors (80% accuracy) by reviewing their writing claims pronouns are a key element to its findings. Moshe Koppel of Bar Ilan University in Israel fed 604 different pieces of text from the British National Corpus—a collection of over 4,000 documents assembled by academics to study language use—into his program; the results found the biggest difference is that women are more likely to use more personal pronouns than men. The Scotsman reports female authors tend to use "I," "you," and "she," while male authors are more prone to terms like "a," "the," and "these." When a paper analyzing the research team’s findings was rejected as sexist by a panel of reviewers from the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers sought to subdue criticism by using the program to analyze scientific documents. The program detected similar gender patterns in "fairly flat, academic prose," said Koppel, "It blew my mind."

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Royal E-Flush

The ultimate poker-playing computer program able to beat world-class players moved a bit closer to reality with the recent introduction of PsOpti—a competitive poker program created by researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada. PsOpti is based on a mathematical formula derived from the work of Nobel Prize-winning game theorist John Nash, reports Australian IT. Combining algorithmic methods, statistical analysis, observation, and Monte Carlo simulation, PsOpti represents a decade of effort by the UA team led by Jonathan Schaefer and including former student Darse Billing who turned professional poker player to put himself through school. "Nash showed there is an optimal point for an imperfect information domain like poker," Schaefer notes, pointing out that finding that optimal point is computationally infeasible. The team came up with a "pseudo optimal" (hence, PsOpti) solution to the problem and it appears to be close enough for the program to play a reasonably good game of poker, albeit not yet world-class. The UA team also disclosed a Texas Hold’em communications protocol that enables users to compete online; see

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Plane Precision

A radio signal switched on last July represents nine years and a billion dollars in aviation precision. The Federal Aviation Administration’s command center at Herndon, VA, is the site of a new satellite-based signal that tells pilots where they are in the air within five feet. The system corrects the current GPS signal, which is accurate only within the space of a football field. Once the system is fully deployed, aviation experts expect planes will be able to land in bad weather at thousands of small airports. It will also allow pilots to fly shorter, more direct routes and make faster descents, thus enabling more planes to land per hour. Japan and Europe are building similar systems that will be compatible with the U.S. effort, creating a new worldwide navigation capability.

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Email Evidence

Email is used as evidence in more and more workplace lawsuits and regulatory investigations, damaging corporate reputations and increasing legal liabilities. The 2003 Email E-Mail Rules, Policies, and Practices survey of 1,100 U.S. employers found 14% have been ordered by a court or regulatory body to produce employee email; in fact, 1 in 20 companies had battled a workplace lawsuit triggered by email. The survey, conducted by the American Management Association, The ePolicy Institute, and Clearswift, indicated 75% of the firms surveyed have email policies in place, but less than half have actually trained employees regarding these policies. For the complete survey results, see

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A momentous occasion was celebrated this summer when, for the first time since its consumer debut, DVD movie rentals surpassed videocassette rentals. The landmark week duly noted DVD the most popular home video format in the U.S., thus following the lead of DVD players as the fastest-growing consumer product of all time.

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Driven to Distraction

When it comes to automotive grandeur, it’s no longer a matter of what’s under the hood. More drivers are finding the dashboard prime real estate for an array of high-tech cruising accoutrements—a growing trend making safety experts increasingly nervous. Car owners are choosing to outfit their vehicles with such enhancements as satellite TV, DVD players, and video-game devices, regardless of the fact it is illegal in most states to watch a screen of any kind while driving. Wired News recently reported hip-hop impresario Sean "P. Diddy" Combs plans to sell customized Lincoln Navigator SUVs equipped with three DVD players, six screens, a PlayStation2, satellite radio, and heated, vibrating seats. "It’s just absolutely terrifying," says Lisa Sheik, of Partnership for Safe Driving, regarding such driving diversions. Many feel the punishment isn’t much of a deterrent since drivers are usually only fined. Manufacturers installing these products defend their actions by insisting they instruct drivers to watch video screens only when the car is stopped or by installing products that work only when the parking brake is engaged. Still, drivers find ways around such safety devices thanks to tips and tactics available from a variety of message boards and chat rooms devoted to the subject.

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