Computing Applications

News Track

  1. Sensing Global Vibrations
  2. The Big Four Online
  3. Gender Gap Perceptions
  4. Portion of the World Offline
  5. Cat ... and Mouse
  6. 20 Gigahertz Chip 3 Atoms Thick
  7. Apple Motto Exorcised

A global network of sensors initially designed to listen for clandestine nuclear blasts is now being used to detect violent winds, volcanic eruptions, and the crash of meteoroids from outer space, reports the New York Times. Though still under construction and primarily backed by the U.S., the International Monitoring System (part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty opened for signature in 1996) includes 90 host countries and a network of 321 stations. Its sensors monitor land, sea, and air for faint vibrations and other telltale signs of nuclear blasts and relay data by satellite and cable to the system’s headquarters in Virginia. In all, the system is to include 170 stations detecting underground shock waves, 11 tracking undersea explosions, 80 sniffing the air for radioactivity, and 60 listening to the atmosphere. Last April, the fledgling system detected a speeding meteor that crashed over the Pacific, where it produced a blast nearly as powerful as an atomic bomb.

"For the first time, we’ll have a global system of microphones listening to the atmosphere of the planet."
—Hank Bass, director of the National Center for Physical Acoustics, University of Mississippi

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The Big Four Online

The number of companies controlling 50% of user minutes online in the U.S. shrank from 11 in 1999 to four in March 2001, a drop of 64% over the past two years, according to Jupiter Media Metrix (, an Internet analysis firm. The big four are America Online, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Napster. More significantly, the number of companies controlling 60% of all U.S. surfing time plummeted from 110 to 14 over the past two years. The survey compared total home and work usage minutes; total usage minutes includes the time spent at a particular online property, Web site, category, channel, or application. The top Internet heavyweights are mostly media and online portal properties. The most popular site devoted to e-commerce was eBay, which ranked sixth on the list. The rapid disappearance of small companies starved of investor cash has contributed to the consolidation, as has a flurry of mergers, including AOL and Time Warner.

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Gender Gap Perceptions

Men and women perceive the position of women in IT differently, according to a survey by Roper Starch Worldwide for Deloitte and Touche. Based on a survey of 1,000 women and 500 men employed in the IT industry, 62% of women said a glass ceiling exists in the IT industry; while 62% of men said there is no glass ceiling. When asked if too few women have IT leadership positions, 84% of women said yes; and 57% of men agreed. However, while 75% of men said there is gender equality in the IT industry, only 56% of women agreed.

"IT executives are too quick to punish any deviation from the norm and rarely, if ever, recognize and celebrate innovation. If an assistant comes with input, they’ll treat him like a low-level employee and won’t value [it] as much as if it came from an engineer."
—Jose Campos, president of Rapid Innovation, a leadership consultancy in West Linn, OR

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Portion of the World Offline

Many assume that everyone in the world wants to be wired, but a new study by Ipsos-Reid starkly contradicts this notion. Even in the world’s most wired countries—Canada, Sweden, and the U.S.—one-third of the population is still offline. And in plenty of other well-wired European nations there are holdouts, most notably France and Italy, where usage rates hover around 30%. Cost and access issues are still the major factors keeping people offline, but it’s surprising that the most common reason given for not getting wired is that people have "no need for" the Net.

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Cat … and Mouse

Software catering directly to cats uses the characters of a frog that zaps its tongue at a buzzing fly, a flapping bird, and a bubble-blowing fish. Called Cyberpounce, the program uses random movement-generating software and can be played by the cat alone—in screen-saver mode—or as an interactive game between a cat and its owner. Least responsive are older animals or outdoor cats, but after testing 100 or so subjects, Cyberpounce’s designer claims to have coaxed some cats into uninterrupted play for 10 minutes—compared to typical real-world playing bouts lasting less than two minutes.

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20 Gigahertz Chip 3 Atoms Thick

A scientist at Intel reported the company has successfully produced a handful of silicon transistors no more than 70 to 80 atoms wide and three atoms thick, that are capable of switching on and off 1.5 trillion times a second, making them the world’s fastest silicon transistors, reports the New York Times. Although the miniature switches are not the smallest experimental transistors ever invented, they are being hailed by the industry as a watershed because they were made using standard commercial techniques and the same materials used in today’s microprocessors and memory chips. This research make possible computer chips with as many as one billion transistors and 20 gigahertz speeds.

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Apple Motto Exorcised

The Church of Satan was forced to remove Apple Computer’s trademark catch phrase—"Think Different"—from its Web site, reports the New York Post. The devil-worshipping cult was also told to remove a "made with Macintosh" badge from its site. Apple’s slogan adorned a picture of the Church’s late founder, Anton LaVey, a former circus lion tamer who founded it in 1967 and falsely claimed playing the devil in the 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby. "This exchange has definitely soured us on some of the taste of Apple," the Church’s Web master said after pulling the mottoes.

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