Computing Applications

News Track

  1. Crash-free consortium
  2. Pooh Corner
  3. Bedside matters
  4. Silver lining
  5. No home work
  6. Ear shot
  7. Quick Picks
  8. Figures

NASA, Carnegie Mellon, and a dozen leading technology firms have formed the High Dependability Computing Consortium with the goal of creating crash-free software. The group signed a three-year agreement to attack the problem of unstable systems by building tools “of such a magnitude that no single company could afford to build them alone,” explains James Morris, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s CS school. NASA alone expects to spend up to $10 million on the quest for 100% reliable software. All the participants expect the benefits of fully reliable software to return many more millions.

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Pooh Corner

A team of 30 experts from the security community are luring hackers into monitored computer systems to study their modus operandi. Through the use of honeynets—networks designed to be compromised—the team examines how hackers infiltrate systems, what they do once they enter a system, and how they cover their tracks. According to the Wall Street Journal, the team is currently building a honeynet to resemble a transactional Web site in order to study how skilled hackers use credit card data from e-commerce sites. Reports on the Honeynet Project can be found at

There’s going to be a group of people out there who will never forgive me and feel “once a hacker, always a hacker.” I can live with that.
—Kevin Mitnick, former hacker, on life as a free man after five years in prison.

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Bedside matters

When the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore opens in New York next fall, each of its 105 beds will be equipped with Internet terminals to help educate, entertain, and heal its young patients. The New York Times reports 42-inch, flat-panel screens will be mounted on the walls a few feet in front of each bed to serve as both computer display and television. The content of the network will include educational information so patients can learn more about their illnesses. There will also be a wide range of games and activities for different age groups. Although a few other hospitals across the country give patients access to on-site computer-based programs, the Montefiore project is among the first to incorporate computers and Web access to such a degree. “We have a way to engage the kids at a level that they live every day,” says the hospital’s senior IS director. “Technology is a part of their life, and it’s going to be a part of their future lives.”

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Silver lining

Not everyone is upset over the downslide of dot-coms. Indeed, dot-com losses just might prove the gain so dearly needed by the U.S. defense and aerospace industry where the supply of engineers has been severely depleted. Indeed, defense industry leaders are reporting a slow, but steady, return of technical workers to the field. For the first time in many years, there has been a turnaround in employee turnover. However, the brain-drain problem is far from solved for the aerospace industry; the troops may be returning but they are older than the norm and retirement is imminent.

Figure. The Top 10 Viruses for 2000.

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No home work

Telecommuting, once thought to be the employment of choice for most businesses, has clearly lost its luster with most U.S. employers, according to the Los Angeles Times. Fewer companies are allowing current employees to telecommute, claiming the practice never delivered on its potential benefits. Today, less than 5% of U.S. workers work from home, and that number is expected to decrease steadily. Managers contend telecommuting does not lead to more productivity but it does lead to increased expenses. Moreover, telecommuters are less likely to receive promotions or raises because their bosses never get to know them or get to see their dedication in action.

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Ear shot

Nanotechnology will make it possible to build hearing aids and acoustic sensors that can soon match—and then surpass—the sensitivity of nature’s sharpest ears, reports Business Week. An international research team led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working on carbon nanotubes thought to be the key to revolutionizing acoustic technology. Smallness is crucial to the sensitivity factor; nanotubes are rod-shaped bundles of carbon atoms only a few billionths of a meter in diameter—even smaller than the tiny hairs in human ears.

The whole value that we have in this culture is of being a spectacle. If you can’t be seen to exist without the spectacle, then do you exist?
—Jenefer Shute, English professor and cultural critic, on the latest trend of running Webcams in the home around-the-clock.

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Quick Picks

Maryland is the first state in the U.S. to offer the online purchasing of lottery tickets. Marylanders need to file an online application before they can choose their games, numbers, and the number of weeks to participate. “The Internet will be a big factor in the future of lotteries,” according to the state’s lottery director. Tickets must be paid by check or money order, however, since it is illegal in Maryland to pay for lottery subscriptions by credit card.

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UF1 Figure. The Top 10 Viruses for 2000

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