Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Boosting Military Tech Spending
  2. Press 'Eject' Button and Call Security
  3. Identity Tops Theft List
  4. Pashto-Phonics
  5. Talk to the (Gloved) Hand
  6. Winning Over Girls on the Gadget Front
  7. A Robot to Do a Nano-Crab's Work
  8. When Web Surfing Turns to Googlewhacking
  9. Author

A proposal to increase high-tech spending in the next U.S. defense budget is the first step in a long-term plan to incorporate more technology into all branches of the military, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The goal is to increase science and technology spending from 2.5% to 3% of a defense budget that may grow to more than $375 billion in 2003. Under a project dubbed "Transforming the Military," defense officials have been exploring the use of advanced technology like pilotless airplanes that can fire missiles, pilotless undersea vehicles, new battlefield communications systems, and new AI applications. The massive technology effort to transform the way the military operates was well under way before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but Pentagon officials say the war in Afghanistan has driven home the need for new approaches to waging war.

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Press ‘Eject’ Button and Call Security

Software that fires employees with a simple press of a key is the latest way for employers to "downsize," reports the New York Post. The $500,000 "fireware," developed by Business Layers, Inc., of Rochelle Park, N.J., dumps intended employees with a memo, closes their payroll accounts, cancels company credit cards, shuts down email, eliminates parking privileges, and locks down telephone extensions. Employees’ names are wiped off any password or company account they’ve ever used—including FedEx or even deli takeout. The software also alerts security to collect any notebook computers, cars, cell phones, or any hardware or software equipment that’s ever been allocated to the fired employee. "We provide an entire trail of everything the employee has ever dealt with—equipment, data, everything," says a Business Layers spokesperson. About 25 major firms have downsized with the software in recent months.

"Up until last year, our focus was to put people into the system and make them productive instantly. Now it’s the opposite function to take them out."
—Sharon Tolpin, spokesperson for Business Layers, Inc., developer of fireware.

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Identity Tops Theft List

Identity theft was the leading consumer fraud complaint in 2001, reports the Associated Press. Of the 204,000 complaints compiled by the Federal Trade Commission, 42% involved identity theft. Other top consumer fraud complaints were: problems with Internet auctions (10%) involving goods delivered late or not at all and items less valuable than advertised; deceptive trial offers and charges from Internet and computer services (7%); and shop-at-home and catalog offers that failed to deliver or honor (6%). See the FTC site:

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With learning Pashto, Afghanistan’s most commonly spoken language, in demand in diplomatic and military circles, a linguistics professor has devised a Pashto primer that teaches the language by phone and computer, reports the New York Times. A Miami-Dade Community College professor visited the senior editor of Pashto services for the Voice of America in Washington, D.C., and recorded the editor reciting 1,000 basic Pashto words to fill out the database. A spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command, Tampa, Fla., said he received the professor’s training materials "with no strings attached" and passed it on to linguists in the intelligence community. They found the program useful, the spokesperson said, but declined to say what they did with it.

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Talk to the (Gloved) Hand

A pocket-size handheld receiver that reads the hand (sign) gestures from a glove outfitted with sensors and displays single lines of text has been developed by a 17-year-old high school student, earning him more than $300,000, a meeting in Sweden with Nobel laureates, and top honors at Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition. Inventor Ryan Patterson already has a provisional patent on the glove, with plans to get a full patent. He also has ideas for other devices to go with the translator glove (he awaits the release of a new voice chip he says will improve his invention), and believes the glove could be available to the public in a year.

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Winning Over Girls on the Gadget Front

Electronics companies are increasingly aware of the need to appeal to women, reports BBC News Online. Companies have found that style is the number one priority for women, whereas men are more concerned with brand and performance. While men want to know what the gadget can do, women want to know what the product will do for them, and how it’s going to improve their lives. One big obstacle that often deters women from buying electronic gadgets: the intimidating atmosphere and technical jargon in many electronics stores. Instead, women are turning to the Internet, where they can research at their own pace.

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A Robot to Do a Nano-Crab’s Work

A team of robotics engineers, biologists, and computer scientists will test the feasibility of using microscopic robots to ferret out harmful algae propagating in coastal waters. With a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, researchers at the University of Southern California plan to conduct experiments using a scanning probe that can be used to create images of and interact with organisms at the atomic level.

"Bozo the Clown could manage a monopoly successfully. It takes zero, zero managerial talent to manage a monopoly."
—Scott McNealy, Sun CEO, referring to Microsoft

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When Web Surfing Turns to Googlewhacking

The latest Web surfing craze—the pursuit of Googlewhacks—and the game of finding them—Googlewhacking—is fueling a legion of obsessed surfers searching for the next big thing, reports CNET The game starts by typing two words into the popular search engine, with the goal of obtaining a single result: seeing the phrase "results 1–1" appear in the upper right-hand corner of the Google screen. The challenge comes from the size of Google’s database, which has indexed more than three billion Web pages and is updated constantly. Googlewhackers have become highly competitive, assigning a complex point system to their finds by using an algorithm that values certain words in a Googlewhack over others. One fan has even designed an automated software tool to find all Googlewhacks.

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