Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. NET Works for Volunteers
  2. Lights Out Back In
  3. China Holds Tightest Net Reins
  4. Hints of Recovery
  5. Talk is Hardly Cheap
  6. '02 Views
  7. Author
  8. Figures
  9. Tables

The U.S. government is calling for volunteers from the science and technology arena to serve in the National Emergency Technology (NET) Guard. The task force is expected to mobilize at a moment’s notice to repair disruptions to the nation’s communications and technology infrastructure caused by terrorist attacks or other emergencies, according to The NET proposal outlines a program designed to help deploy communications interoperability on the state level as well as the establishment of a national clearinghouse of civilian emergency prevention and response technologies. A center for testing antiterrorism and disaster response technology has also been proposed to fall within the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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Lights Out Back In

Lights-out manufacturing—a bust of an expensive trend decades ago when manufacturers thought machines would eliminate the need for employees—is fast making a comeback. The superiority and reliability of the current crop of computerized technologies, coupled with pressure on manufacturers to raise productivity to survive, has a growing number of U.S. companies returning to lights-out manufacturing as machines become more reliable in making precision parts on a consistent basis, reports the Wall Street Journal. Moreover, plant-based machines can now be linked to the Internet where supervisors can check operations or make repairs from any place at any time. Many managers have also reconsidered the notion that such technology will eliminate the need for human workers. Steve Ward, general manager for IBM’s global industrial sector, once envisioned a day when machines alone would handle the assembly line. “But as we’ve worked on it, we realize that to get the last person out will cost a ton of money.”

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China Holds Tightest Net Reins

China maintains the most extensive Internet censorship in the world, according to findings from a study by Harvard Law School researchers. The Chinese government regularly denies its 46 million users access to over 19,000 Web sites it finds threatening. Moreover, censors sometimes deny any Internet access to users who searched for the prohibited information. The six-month study found that Beijing blocked thousands of popular news, political, and religious sites as well as many that feature entertainment and educational information. The researchers found the study offers further evidence that the Internet is proving easier to control than older forms of communications such as the telephone, fax, or postal mail.

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Hints of Recovery

The economic sky over Silicon Valley shone a bit brighter as the New Year approached when signs of recovery were spotted in the return of venture capitalists, the return of buying customers, and the distinct slowing of job losses in the area. USA Today reports economists predict the worst is over in Silicon Valley, although the growth will be slow the first six months of 2003.


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Talk is Hardly Cheap

Is a company liable if an accident occurs while an employee is using a cell phone, beeper, laptop, two-way pager, or other work-related gadget? Many courts, and nervous employers, are seeing a disturbing increase in the number of criminal charges and civil lawsuits against companies whose employees were involved in an accident—usually a car accident—while talking or working with such devices, reports the New York Times. Such cases are plowing new legal ground in determining the ways companies will be responsible for events outside the traditional workplace and beyond traditional work hours. To avoid the risk that a work-related call may be blamed for an accident, more employers are now prohibiting employees from using cell phones to conduct business while driving. However, new findings from a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis indicate a ban on the use of cell phones while driving may cost the economy just as much as the accidents caused by drivers using the phones. (The study determined that drivers using cell phones are involved in about one in 20 traffic accidents.)

Insurers are exposed in more circumstances than we have been in the past. We’re now looking at people potentially on the road working or at home working. They’re spread out all over the place.”
—Tim Diveley, Insurance company VP on risks of employer liability for accidents involving employees.

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The Lycos list of the most popular search terms in 2002 is topped by Japanese cartoons, music-trading services, tattoos, and Britney Spears. Aaron Schatz, cultural trend spotter and Lycos list tabulator, says the annual experience indicates “the breadth of how deeply people search the Net and the wide variety of interests they have.” After factoring out sexually-oriented sites (always at the top of the rankings), the list sifted down to the Japanese cartoon “Dragonball” at the No. 1 spot, followed by the music-trading service KaZaA, tattoos, Ms. Spears, and Morpheus at No. 5. Once dominated by young males, Schatz says a shift in the terms used this year tell him more young women are logging into the picture. And for ’03? Schatz is already predicting the movie of the year (in terms of search requests) will be the sequel to The Matrix.


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UF1 Figure.

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UT1 Table.

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