Computing Applications

News Track

  1. Celestial backbone
  2. Foreign hands off China's net
  3. Women and the web
  4. Doe says no nuke access
  5. Worst net nightmare
  6. Author
  7. Sidebar: Ethics quiz

Engineers and network experts are extending the Internet into deep space, adapting Net architecture to space-based communications with the lofty goal of establishing an interplanetary Internet backbone, reports MSNBC. NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Next Generation Internet Project are funding the Interplanetary Net (IPN). With the growth of wireless networking and the proliferation of robotic space missions, NASA doesn’t have to "reinvent the wheel," says Adrian Hooke, manager of NASA’s space missions operation standardization program. But planetary distance—a minimum of about 34 million miles—is IPN’s major obstacle; even at the speed of light, it takes radio signals three minutes to travel that far. To cope with this cosmic speed limit, network architects envision a "network of Internets," linked through new protocols. There’s also the bandwidth and memory limitations; one solution would be assigning each planet its own gateway to manage data traffic. Hooke says the infant IPN is already in action, just as ARPANET prefigured what we now know as the Internet. More than 100 space missions have already signed on to use protocols standardized by the International Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems. "By 2040, we hope a stable interplanetary backbone can be established between the planets," Internet visionary Vinton Cerf told a recent White House gathering.

"The public may just want to go for a walk on Mars. …And with a gigabit of data, I can bring a rock from Mars to here, plop it in front of a field geologist and let him look at it."
—Chad Edwards, manager of the Mars Network Project Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

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Foreign hands off China’s net

China’s Internet service operations remain off limits to foreign investment until the country can get more of its own companies involved, a top Chinese regulator told Telecom 2000, a conference focusing on Internet and telecommunications investment opportunities. Jeanette Chan, a Hong Kong-based attorney specializing in Chinese telecommunications law, said foreign companies can make deals to provide hardware and software used for Internet systems, but foreign companies cannot invest in ISPs. However, the law does not make clear whether investments in portals and content-rich Web sites are affected. "I think China is grappling with the whole concept of how to regulate [the Internet]," Chan said.

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Women and the web

A survey says 70% of the women polled cannot imagine life without the Web., a U.S.-based portal, found the average respondent was in her 30s, married, and had a higher than average household income; 73% of women polled said they used the Web to search for products and services. Two other surveys found that women will soon be the largest group of online spenders. Harris Interactive reported nearly six times as many women will buy online in 2000 as did in 1999, and NDP Research found that in all major product categories, women intended to buy more than their male counterparts.

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Doe says no nuke access

In the wake of reported Chinese theft of U.S. nuclear secrets, the U.S. Department of Energy has tightened foreign access to its computers, DOE officials told a House Commerce panel. The new policy ends direct access for scientists from 25 "sensitive" countries to computer systems that, though not officially classified, could be used to aid their weapons programs. It also requires an individual security protocol for each scientist allowed access.

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Worst net nightmare

The Web page of according-playing, Turkish bachelor Mahir Cagri, was stolen, rewritten by a hacker, and its URL redirected so anyone trying to see his Web page got the spoof instead. It featured driving techno music, clever animation, and some risqué renderings of Cagri’s sloppy English text and pictures from his photo album. Replicating like a virus, the page became an Internet sensation. Other versions, one featuring Mahir games, another with "dancing Mahirs," and a third substituting pictures of President Clinton, made the rounds. The sites were receiving as many as 90,000 hits a day. Back in Turkey, Cagri’s life turned upside down. People congratulated him. Local TV stations called. His phone never stopped ringing. Cagri has since put up a new page, explaining his plight: "Somethings in life happen bayond one’s control…," it begins.

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