Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Eye on Sensitive Student Visas
  2. E-Tooling Government IT Recruiting
  3. Remote Control Ratbots
  4. More Hack Attacks in Israel
  5. Felt-Tipped Pen Mightier Than CD Copy Protection
  6. Need a Screen? Paint One
  7. Where High-Tech CEOs See Growth
  8. All Thumbs in Japan
  9. Author

A U.S. government panel has been formed to check foreign student visa applications for possible terrorist risks, reports the Washington Post. The Interagency Panel on Advanced Science Security, consisting of representatives from the FBI, CIA, State Department, and INS, among others, expects to evaluate 2,000 applications a year submitted by researchers and students seeking to enroll in science and technology programs it deems sensitive. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy would not say which programs are considered sensitive, but the State Department has already identified 16 courses of study for inclusion on its technology alert list, including information security and nuclear and missile technology. Under review are applicants’ areas of study, country of origin, and type of work.

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E-Tooling Government IT Recruiting

The U.S. government is using the Internet to find qualified candidates for IT positions by retooling portals and hosting virtual job fairs to better compete with the private sector, reports Information Week. The overall e-goverment effort, called Recruitment One-Stop, focuses on upgrading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s USAJobs portal. Recuitment One-Stop makes it possible for job searchers to apply to multiple agencies online while federal HR personnel can track applicants’ progress. The plan is to simplify and improve the online recruiting process, adopting the recruiting industry’s best practices.

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Remote Control Ratbots

Combining off-the-shelf technology with maneuverability honed by evolution, remotely piloted rodents that can navigate complex terrain represent the next wave of disaster "bots," reports Nature. By tapping a keyboard, physiologists at the State University of New York Medical Center in Brooklyn, send signals via radio waves to electrodes implanted in the animals’ brains. Controllers more than 500 feet away steer a rat using classical behavioral conditioning; an electric signal is beamed into clumps of rat brain cells that govern whisker sensation and pleasure. To turn left or right, a mild shock is beamed to the left or right whisker cells. When the rat responds appropriately, it is rewarded with stimulation of pleasure cells. By equipping the animals with radio transmitters and miniature cameras in tiny backpacks, the rats could be sent into collapsed buildings to find survivors, into minefields to sniff out danger, or on spy missions. Scientists prompted rats to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do—climb trees, go into bright light, and ignore the scent of food.

"We modeled the [unmanned aerial vehicle’s] controller after the PlayStation2, because that’s what these 18- and 19-year-old Marines have been playing pretty much all their lives. If a Marine can use Microsoft Word, he can get this plane to fly."
—Major John Cane, Marine Corps. Warfighting Lab, responsible for the mini-unmanned aerial vehicle

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More Hack Attacks in Israel

As violence escalates in the region, cyber attacks on Israel are also on the rise. The Israeli domain .il has been the number-one target of Web defacements over the past three years, suffering 548 of the 1,295 hack attacks in the Middle East, according to the security firm mi2g. Israel is a target not because of its action against the Palestinian Authority, but because it has the largest number of Internet connections in the Middle East, with 2.4 million Net connections, more than any of the 22 Arab countries. So far hacktivsm has been limited to Web defacement and denial-of-service attacks, whereby a Web server is bombarded with messages causing it to crash. "From a pro-Arab point of view it would be far more effective than sending in a suicide bomber," according to Peter Sommer, senior fellow at the Computer Security Research Center at the London School of Economics.

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Felt-Tipped Pen Mightier Than CD Copy Protection

Using simple straight lines drawn on copy-protected CDs with felt-tipped markers, music lovers are thwarting an anticopying technology used by Sony Music Entertainment on music CDs sold in Europe, reports Computerworld. Key2Audio technology, developed to prevent unauthorized duplication of copyrighted music onto CD-recordable discs, as well the prevention of music CDs being played on standard PC and Macintosh CD-ROM drives, can be "unlocked" and copied by drawing a straight line on the top of the ring separating the audio portion of the disc and the data track created by Key2Audio.

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Need a Screen? Paint One

A new technique could allow flexible, lightweight liquid crystal displays to be painted on just about any surface—walls, sheets of plastic, even clothing—reports Nature. Developed by researchers at Royal Philips Electronics, the Netherlands, the technique, called "photo-enforced stratification" involves painting a liquid crystal and polymer mixture onto a surface, then exposing it to two doses of ultraviolet radiation, forcing the mixture to separate into a honeycomb of tiny individual cells covered by flexible, see-through polymer. When connected to a computer, the crystal-filled cells can be ordered to change color to create a picture, like any LCD. If the technology catches on, cheap, paintable LCDs could wind up in previously unimagined places. So far, the inventors have painted their mixture only onto glass.

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Where High-Tech CEOs See Growth

Of what it considers the 500 fastest-growing high-tech companies worldwide, Deloitte and Touche LLP, a New York-based consulting firm, surveyed their CEOs and found 27% believed the Internet had the greatest growth potential, followed by 24% who chose software, and 23% who chose life-science applications. Other findings: North America was picked by 59% as the region with the greatest growth potential in the next five years. Western Europe was in second with 20%, followed by Japan with 7% and China with 3%. India, Russia, and Central and South America each drew 1%, while other areas took the remaining 7%. On the security front: 56% said the nation’s current emphasis on security would have no effect on their companies. On an encouraging note: 89% said they planned to hire new employees in the coming year, while 8% said they won’t be hiring; 3% planned a reduction in employees.

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All Thumbs in Japan

In an increasingly technology-driven world, young Japanese are developing hyperagile thumbs, the result of childhoods spent furiously thumbing handheld computer games and young adulthood thumbing email messages on cell phone keypads. "Their thumbs have become bigger, more muscular," says Sadie Plant, author of a new report On the Mobile, a study of cell phone habits of people in eight major cities worldwide. Japan’s "oya yubi sedai," or "thumb generation," she says, was the most advanced in the world. Television stations in Japan have held thumbing speed contests. One young woman was clocked thumbing out 100 Chinese characters in a one-minute burst, similar to typing 100 words a minute, a feat normally done with all 10 digits. In the future, Japanese thumbs could suffer from repetitive stress ailments. Thumbs, a doctor cautioned, should not be taken lightly. In Japan, if you lose a thumb, you are redesignated under the national labor legislation as "heavily handicapped."

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