Dot-com industry magazine reborn as Web site

After having folded in 2001, the dot-com era magazine The Industry Standard on Monday relaunched as an Internet-based publication with a virtual tech futures market, Reuters reports. Unveiled in 1998, the original print publication was touted as the "Bible" of the "Internet Economy" and in 2000 set a record for selling more advertising pages than any other magazine. Funded by International Data Group (IDG), the revamped The Industry Standard plans to take a strategically different, lower-cost approach: there will be no print publication and there will only be one full-time editorial employee. Instead, the publication will rely on freelance writers. It will also feature an online “predictions market,” which will poll readers on industry issues to forecast events. For example, readers will be asked to bet with virtual money on the likelihood of events such as Apple shipping 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008, or high-tech venture funding dropping 15 percent in Q2 2008. Reuters reports that the launch of The Industry Standard come just a few months after the close of one of the last dot-com-era publications, Business 2.0 (LiMon, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 2/4/08).

Mass. colleges launch video game development programs

Massachusetts colleges and universities are establishing majors and concentrations in video game development to train future industry leaders, the Boston Business Journal reports. At the Wentworth Institute of Technology, for instance, students can take an introductory course in video game development. Slated to launch in 2009, the school also plans to expand the offering into a concentration consisting of five courses tackling topics such as 3-D game development, game engine design, virtual reality and immersive environments, according to officials. Northeastern University, meanwhile, is creating a new game design and development major, which will launch by fall 2008 or 2009. Also, at Boston University, a four-course graduate certificate in multimedia and video game engineering program opened for students this semester. Previously, video game companies heavily recruited staff from technical and art schools, industry officials said, adding that now, as colleges adopt relevant programs, there is less need to handpick from select segments. One Northeastern program chair notes that elements of video games will extend beyond entertainment into other business sectors and "universities are beginning to think of [ways to] deliver curriculum that's going to prepare people to work in that kind of environment" (Noyes, Boston Business Journal, 2/1/08).

Obama, Clinton tout widespread adoption of EHRs to reduce costs

During a debate in Los Angeles last week, Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) touted the cost-saving benefits of implementing health information technology (IT) such as, Healthcare IT News reports. As part of her health care overhaul plan, Clinton said she would push widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). She added that she will work this year to pass EHR legislation through Congress. Supporting her plans, Clinton cited a RAND study suggesting that EHRs could save $77 billion annually in health care costs, funding that she says could be applied to support preventive care efforts. Specifically, she said health IT could help manage chronic disease care and expand health care access nationwide. Meanwhile, Obama said to ensure successful, widespread invest in the health IT, "we have got to go to rural hospitals who might not be able to afford it" and help them purchase software and other necessary tools. He added that investing in EHRs "will pay huge dividends over the long term," particularly for Medicaid and Medicare. Furthermore, he noted that promoting a healthier population “is the only way over the long term that we can actually control” the overwhelming current health care spending (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 2/1/08).

Insurers begin to reimburse for online visits, concerns remain

Some of the largest U.S. insurers including Aetna and Cigna are beginning to reimburse physicians for online patient visits, a trend experts say could become more popular, the Los Angeles Times reports. On average, online health care services, which are considered most appropriate for follow-up consultations, treatment for minor ailments and periodic checkups that do not require in-person office visits, cost roughly the same as a regular office visit. Advocates for online physician visits say they increase care access and patient satisfaction, while critics of the practice, including some physicians, say they could lead to errors and raise some ethical questions. Other experts add that online visits may not reduce costs because the technology could cause patients to seek care more often, the Times reports. Meanwhile, Medicare, which is rakes in roughly half of the country's physician bills, does not reimburse for physician e-mail, and several small insurers recently stopped reimbursing for online physician consultations because so few members used the service (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 2/4/08).

Privacy rights group to certify EHRs that meet secure data standards

The Patient Privacy Rights Foundation will award seals of approval to electronic health record (EHR) products that comply with the organization's standards for protecting personal health data, Government Health IT reports. Rolling out later this year, the initiative will initially focus on personal health records and data repositories, according to the group’s founder. Information technology security experts will evaluate the technical aspects of products, while evaluation of more complex EHR systems will come later. Ultimately, these steps will help the group reach its overall goal of building a trusted consumer brand much like the Good Housekeeping Seal. According to Government Health IT, companies seeking privacy certification will pay a fee to cover the costs of the program (Ferris, Government Health IT, 1/31/08).

Intel plans new low-power chip

At a technical conference this week, California-based Intel Corp. plans to unveil details about a chip it has code-named Silverthorne that draws roughly a tenth of the power used by the company's other laptop computer chips, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to the company, Silverthorne, which will likely release in the second quarter, targets mobile Internet devices ranging in size from a cell phone to a laptop computer. Typically, those devices need low power consumption to preserve battery life, the Business Journal reports. To reduce power consumption, Intel says it has tapped an approach called "in-order" execution, in which computing instructions are carried out one at a time. More details will be released at the International Solid State Circuits Conference, which continues through Thursday in San Francisco (San Jose Business Journal, 2/4/08).

U.S. government agency to ensure 600 vendors offer IPv6-compliant products

The federal General Services Administration (GSA) is reviewing information technology (IT) schedules for roughly 600 vendors to ensure they offer IPv6-compliant products and services, Federal Computer Week reports. GSA is managing a number of initiatives to ensure departments meet the June 30 deadline to ensure network backbones are IPv6-compliant. According to Gene Sokolowski, the GSA’s deputy chief technology officer in the Federal Acquisition Service’s Integrated Technology Service, officials are asking vendors to specify how they comply with IPv6, as well as the test criteria used. He also notes the end goal is to identify IPv6 products on government-wide acquisition contracts and expects the analysis to be finished by early spring. Meanwhile, GSA has created three teams to address IPv6 issues. The emerging-technology team will monitor the evolution of technology and identify those that are commercial in nature; the portfolio team will identify IPv6 products and services that need to be on a schedule; and the communications team will work with agencies’ IPv6 points of contact to understand agency transition needs and inform them of existing capabilities, according to Sokolowski. He adds that the communications team also is developing a Web site and brochure, slated for completion in early February, and in April plans to hold an acquisition event in California. Finally, GSA is compiling information on IPv6 training opportunities for agencies (Miller, FCW, 1/31/08).

New measurement encoding standard released

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) recently approved the new OpenGIS(r) Observations & Measurements (O&M) Encoding Standard, Government Computer News reports. The new standard offers an Extensible Markup Language schema to effectively describe data and facilitate others’ use of the data for other purposes. Specifically, researchers collect data and display it using their own common language, making it difficult for outside researchers to adapt or apply parts of data from other studies to their own. The latest standard aims to simplify the expression of data used by all scientists. OGC’s executive director uses this example:


“The initial work for O&M was done by a Ph.D. in Australia who wanted to express depth in millibars of atmospheric pressure … It became apparent that one of the big difficulties of sharing his scientific data was the description of the data so it could be understood on the receiving end with as little human explanation as possible.”

Noting OGC represents more than 345 companies, government agencies, universities and research groups and has been collaborating with other standards organizations, the executive director is hopeful that the new standard will be broadly adopted and implemented (Marshall, GCN, 1/31/08).

Ohio unveils IBM supercomputer

The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) recently unveiled its IBM-built supercomputer in an effort to help state businesses better compete in the global market, Government Computer News reports. The $4.4 million IBM Cluster 1350 computer system’s peak performance exceeds 17 trillion calculations per second, making it the 65th most powerful supercomputer in the world, according to OSC. Specifically, the system features 877 of the cluster nodes that run dual-socket 2.6-Ghz Opteron multicore processors from Advanced Micro Devices and are supported by 8G of random access memory. An additional 86 cluster nodes run quad-socket 2.6 Opterons with 16G of memory, while six other nodes are designated for accelerated computational work and log-in duties. The computer also includes four IBM blade servers that run dual-core IBM cell processors and links all 969 nodes and the blade system with 10 Gbps Infiniband. According to GCN, officials expect the system to help Ohio businesses such as Proctor and Gamble refine their products in a manner that could not be achieved with in-house resources. OSC’s executive director adds "the new machine will accelerate research in vital areas such as advanced materials, energy, biosciences, manufacturing, defense and aerospace applications” (Jackson, GCN, 1/31/08).

Microsoft launches comic featuring superhero IT pros

Microsoft on Monday unveiled its new daily Web comic called Heroes Happen Here, which features tech savvy crime fighters, InformationWeek reports. Sponsored by Microsoft and Seagate, the strip will focus on "four characters who are unexpectedly thrown together to chase down a rogue computer virus," according to a spokesperson. Microsoft has tapped Jordan Gorfinkel, the former DC Comics editor who helped revitalize the Batman series, to create the strip, which will run through June 28. To engage readers, the Web site will solicit real-life IT stories to inform future storylines and offer a daily RSS feed. InformationWeek also notes that Heroes Happen Here also lends its name to Microsoft’s February launch event for its 2008 versions of SQL Server, Windows Server and Visual Studio (McDougall, InformationWeek, 1/30/08).

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