Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Part Cyborg, Part Human
  2. Airline (Web) Revenue Soars
  3. Cutting Work Privileges
  4. Slight Change in High-Tech Hirings
  5. Monkey Think, Monkey Do
  6. Campus File-Swapping Truce
  7. Love Found, Love Lost
  8. Author
  9. Tables

Groundbreaking surgery has fitted a British university professor with cyborg technology, enabling his nervous system to be linked to a computer, reports CNN. A 3mm-wide silicon square was implanted into the professor’s left wrist that attached 100 electrodes to the median nerve. Connecting wires were fed under the skin of the forearm and out from a skin puncture, and the wounds were sewn up. The wires are linked to a transmitter/receiver device that relays electrical impulses to a computer by radio signals. These signals, encoding movements such as wiggling fingers and reading feelings like shock and pain, are then recorded by the computer. Scientists hope the procedure leads to a medical breakthrough for people paralyzed by spinal cord damage. Similar experiments have previously only been carried out on cats and monkeys in the U.S.

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Airline (Web) Revenue Soars

Bookings on major airlines’ Web sites pushed airlines’ Web sales over $6 billion in 2001, up more than $1 billion from 2000, giving struggling U.S. carriers a small victory in a devastating year. Southwest and Delta appear to have led the industry, producing more than $3 billion in Internet revenue, based on estimates from a USA Today survey of major carriers and PhoCusWright, a consulting firm specializing in Internet travel. Part of the reason for the increase was due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, prompting airlines to promote specials on their Web sites. But these sites produced a small slice of their $86 billion 2001 revenue; travel agents still sell 70% of airline tickets.

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Cutting Work Privileges

Classifying employee email and Internet privileges as potential security hazards, distractions, or worse, major corporations are considering dramatically curtailing, or even completely abolishing the freedoms on which employees have grown increasingly reliant over the past few years, reports Reuters. Some Fortune 100 companies, citing the possibility of debilitating virus and worm attacks, are looking to step up security measures beyond firewalls, which bar access to sites containing racy or inflammatory comments. For example, one of Germany’s largest employers, an energy firm, has had email and Web surfing prevention in place since 1999. Among the nearly 100 email attachments outlawed by the company are screensavers, digital greeting cards, and the ubiquitous executable file—a common target for virus authors. Elaborate content filtering software, which can run upward of $30,000 to install, can block all but the tamest incoming email messages and most attachments, according to Trend Micro, a European anti-virus software manufacturer. “It certainly makes sense for the large corporations,” said a spokesperson for U.K.-based Sophos Anti-Virus. “We are likely to see a clampdown in the months and years to come, which is a shame because the Net is a pretty fun place to be some days.”

Table. Is the Worst Over?

“These airlines will probably have a double-digit decline for the year and a double-digit increase [in sales] on their Web sites.”
—Lorraine Sileo, PhoCusWright analyst

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Slight Change in High-Tech Hirings

Chief information officers (CIOs) anticipate a 10% increase in the hiring of IT professionals in the second quarter of 2002, down 1% from the previous quarter’s forecast. The majority of CIOs (81%) plan no change in hiring activity, up from 78% in the first quarter of 2002, according to RHI Consulting, Menlo Park, CA. The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. Some other findings in RHI’s Information Technology Hiring Index: the construction sector is expected to see the strongest technology hiring activity of any industry in the second quarter; the business services sector is second in IT hiring activity. On the regional front: CIOs in New England and West South Central states are most optimistic about second-quarter activity; both regions forecast a 16% hiring increase.

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Monkey Think, Monkey Do

An experiment that uses electrodes implanted within the brains of monkeys has demonstrated how a cursor on a computer screen can be controlled by thought, reports the Washington Post. The experiment, conducted by scientists at Brown University, forgoes the mouse and improves the speed and accuracy of neural signal transmission. However, real-life applications still face several challenges, including getting the electrodes to operate over prolonged periods and whether their presence could impair the brain’s function.

Researchers have started a private company to market the technology, which could one day be used to assist paralyzed people to manipulate robots and computers. It could be ready in 10 years.

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Campus File-Swapping Truce

Universities are allowing students to continue file swapping despite legal risks and the heavy demands such activities place on computer networks, reports CNET News. Now that the legal threats have receded and many of the technical problems that once plagued the networks are solved, administrators have more options when setting peer-to-peer usage policies. Tolerance of file swapping on campus is partly attributed to the emergence of efficient management tools for network traffic, which could be used to limit the peer-to-peer practice. Companies such as Packeteer, Cupertino, CA, and NetReality, Santa Clara, CA, have been marketing such bandwidth management software to schools and claim hundreds of clients. The technology costs between $3,000 and $49,000.

“Music and movies are out there to download, so rather than take a hard-and-fast line to block it … we decided it would be best to let it continue, but to limit it down until such a time it becomes illegal.”
—Russell Taylor, director of academic computing and information systems at Lees-McRae College, Banner Elk, N.C.

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Love Found, Love Lost

Call it the future of singles bars for the joystick generation. Maybe it’s all the surveillance equipment that makes people less inhibited. But whatever it is, high-tech flirting is in full force at Remote Lounge, a bar in New York City where video monitors are hooked up to a network of cameras. People channel surf and can phone others they spy on the bar’s monitors to arrange an in-person meeting. Once a match is made, a picture can be taken by a console-mounted camera, sending the photo to the bar’s Web site (

… Just as potential mates use the Internet to meet, now they can divorce online. For $246, the Web site prompts couples on everything from dividing financial assets to deciding where the kids celebrate birthdays. The software then uses the answers to fill out the documents the couple can download and submit for court proceedings. The Web site was started last year by a Seattle lawyer and can be used in Washington, California, Florida, and New York. The service is so successful, Texas has signed on, and several other states are considering.

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UT1 Table. Is the Worst Over?

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