Computing Applications

News Track

  1. Telecommuting Loses Appeal
  2. Privacy Issue for DNA Database
  3. No Copying, No Warning
  4. Big 'Boss' Is Watching
  5. Men Outperform Women in Virtual World
  6. Cell Phone Radio Waves Made Public
  7. The Mystery of the Sucking Shower Curtain
  8. Tables

Studies and new research show employees who telecommute believe the arrangements actually hurt family life and career advancement. In fact, a number of supervisors are revoking these arrangements due to telecommuting-related problems, reports USA Today. Telecommuting hasn’t grown at the clip many experts first predicted in the 1970s; there were 21 million workers in 1997 who did some work at home as part of their primary jobs, a number that grew by just 1.5 million since 1991, according to the Department of Labor. That number reflects only people who did work at home and not necessarily those who were involved in formal telecommuting arrangements for which they were paid. Only about 3.6 million employees, or about 3.3% of all wage and salary workers, were paid in 1997 for working at home. Experts report several reasons why telecommuting hasn’t become more widespread:

Table. More than 80% of financial and IT companies with telecommuters say they plan to scale back their telecommuting programs:

  • Employees are reticent because they fear working outside the office will hurt career advancement.
  • Employers worry telecommuting will create security risks.
  • Some telecommuters are reporting the arrangement increases stress by blurring the barriers between home and office.

Remember in the 1950s they said we’d all drive flying cars and work from home? Well, we’re not there yet.”
—Steven Maclaughlin, chief knowledge officer at Expidant, an Indianapolis-based interactive services firm that has chosen not to use telecommuting

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Privacy Issue for DNA Database

An ethical firestorm has erupted as scientists prepare to build the world’s largest genetic database. The study, which will contain DNA samples from 500,000 adults in Britain, will examine genetic factors that account for cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. The $84 million Population Biomedical Collection won’t get off the ground until late next year because researchers insist on drawing extensive data collection and analyzation protocols, causing concern over patients’ confidentiality and what access drug companies should have to the information. The study, to be conducted in the London area, will be the largest and the most ethnically diverse ever conducted.

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No Copying, No Warning

Fans of major recording artists are unwittingly buying CDs that cannot be copied by computer, reports the Hollywood Reporter. Designed to prevent piracy, the anti-copying capability also prevents consumers from putting the music on portable listening devices. The CDs give no notice or other visual indication they have this limitation. The SafeAudio technology is on sale in several nations, but all such deals with record labels are covered by nondisclosure agreements.

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Big ‘Boss’ Is Watching

One out of every three people in the U.S. who work online are being monitored, with more and more employers getting into the spy game, says USA Today. Because employers can purchase monitoring software for less than $10 per employee, spying has increased at almost twice the rate of employees getting Net access. “It’s an example of the technology cart driving the policy horse,” says Andrew Schulman, author of a study by the Privacy Foundation ( Schulman suggests that employers, at the very least, tell their employees they’re being watched; employees, in turn, should be aware they may be under observation.

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Men Outperform Women in Virtual World

Men tend to perform better than women do in navigating computer-generated spaces, according to findings presented to the American Psychological Society’s convention in Toronto. In one experiment, men traveled 20% farther in a virtual environment than did women; in another, women took about one-third longer to decide which way to point, and were more likely than men to be wrong. Whether test subjects learned the layout by relying on a joystick or passively observing it through a VR headset, women on average were consistently slower and less accurate when trying to locate objects or move from point to point. “The virtual environment exaggerates male-female difference in orientation,” said Earl Hunt, who conducted the experiments. “Why, we don’t know.” A crucial implication of Hunt’s work is the potential for bias in fields in which VR simulations are used to test, educate, or train people.

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Cell Phone Radio Waves Made Public

The world’s top cellular phone manufacturers agreed to provide consumers with radiation-emission levels from their products. The agreement by Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia comes amid international controversy over whether radio waves from phones can affect the human brain. Phone makers agreed to include the specific absorption rate (SAR) in user manuals starting next month. The SAR shows the absorption of energy by the human body in watts per kilogram. The maximum safety level is 2.0; most phones hover between 0.5 and 1.0.

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The Mystery of the Sucking Shower Curtain

Ever wonder why the shower curtain sucks in when you’re taking a shower? Thanks to $28,000 worth of high-powered computer software, a Ph.D. in engineering, and too much free time, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Massachusetts claims to have found an answer. First, a computer image of a bathtub was created and filled with 50,000 tetrahedral cells that sense velocity and pressure. The “shower” flowed for 30 seconds at about eight gallons per minute. In the end, a computer crunched numbers for almost two weeks (a total of 1.5 trillion calculations) and an answer was deduced: The shower’s water droplets decelerate under the influence of aerodynamic drag, transferring energy to the bathtub’s air, which begins to twist like a miniature hurricane turned on its side. As in the eye of a hurricane, the pressure in the center of this disturbance is low, pulling on the shower curtain.

Young people see the Internet as a gateway to the outside. You can take a tour of the White House. You can write to Britney Spears. You can see what you’re held back from seeing here [in Iran]. You don’t feel so isolated. It’s like you’ve been given the world.”
—30-year-old Ali, who spends several hours a night online.

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UT1 Table. More than 80% of financial and IT companies with telecommuters say they plan to scale back their telecommuting programs

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