Blogger/Tech leader encourages professionals to tap virtual world technologies

In an effort to encourage environmentally-friendly practices, The Nature Conservancy on its Web site highlights advice from Christian Renaud, the chief architect of networked virtual environments for the Cisco Technology Center, who supports increased use of virtual tools in the workplace. In this article, Renaud outlines steps professionals can take to protect the environment including relying on Web conferencing and VoIP to reduce cross-country air travel for face-to-face meetings (Renaud, TNC, 1/30/08).

Tennessee education leaders tap Oracle software to improve student data reports

Tennessee’s Department of Education recently deployed Oracle infrastructure software to better manage student data, Government Computer News reports. Specifically, the department is installing Oracle Database; Oracle Warehouse Builder; and components of Oracle Fusion Middleware including Oracle Application Server, Oracle Business Intelligence Standard Edition and Oracle Portal to comply with federal and state reporting requirements. The new programs enable the department and school district officials to track student records such as attendance, assessment, enrollment and truancy information, as well as identify areas in need of improvement, according to Oracle. Specifically, the Oracle-based data warehouse generates five reports including assessment data, which includes standardized assessment grades. Other reports cover attendance; exit status data such as enrollment, student withdrawals and graduation rates; discipline records; and truancy rates. The department also will be able to produce its annual state report card that assesses school performance, as well as allow school districts to access data on teacher qualifications (Walsh, GCN, 1/30/08).

$9M FCC grant helps Utah expand telemedicine network

The University of Utah recently received a $9 million Federal Communications Commission grant to expand the Utah Telehealth Network, the Deseret Morning News reports. The grant will help expand the network to include roughly 50 additional sites statewide and will enable the more than 30 existing sites to switch to Ethernet connections, which will significantly boost speed and increase the volume of data that can be exchanged, according to officials. University Health Care and Intermountain Healthcare together will lead the expansion with help from other partners such as the Association of Utah Community Health and the Utah Navajo Health System. As a condition of the grant, the FCC requires that network organizers secure 15 percent in matching funds to help cover the cost of the entire expansion, which is slated for completion in 2011 (Collins, Deseret Morning News, 1/31/08).

U.S. Air Force seeks developers' input on cyber-defense system

The U.S. Air Force’s (AF) Electronic Systems Center and new Cyber Command this week held a two-day event in Massachusetts for contractors interested in helping construct an automated cyber-defense and retaliation system, United Press International reports. The AF last month detailed a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for what it called a Cyber Control System (CCS), which would manage "command and control" for the AF's portion of the Pentagon's Global Information Grid intranet. In its proposal, the AF solicit interested companies to develop their own ideas about CCS and to attend the industry event to share ideas with military planners. According to an AF statement, roughly $7 million has been allocated this year for the system, which will be phased in beginning with a test of phase one in September. One commander says the first phase should "be able to detect patterns and give operators within the Air Force Network Operations Center near-real-time information about any suspected network disturbances," adding that it also will enable information transfers “to kinetic and non-kinetic war fighters and decision makers." At the event, industry partners are being asked to develop the phases and officials hope to release a formal plan by March and have a fully operational system by 2010 (Waterman, UPI, 1/30/08).

Intel tops list for U.S. green power purchasing

In a press release, Intel Corporation on Monday announced it has purchased more than 1.3 billion kilowatt hours per year of renewable energy certificates as part of a comprehensive approach to curb its impact on the environment. According to the release, the move may make the company the single largest U.S. corporate purchaser of green power. In addition, the purchase brought Intel to the top of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest Green Power Partners Top 25 list, as well as to the No. 1 spot on EPA's Fortune 500 Green Power Partners list. Intel officials note that they hope the record-setting purchase will encourage the market to adopt green power, potentially leading to additional generating capacity and lower costs (Intel release, 1/28/08).

MySpace to launch developer platform

Adam Ostrow reports on Mashable.com that the social networking site MySpace on Feb. 5 will launch a developer platform. Pre-registration is available now at http://developer.myspace.com. According to the article, MySpace plans to help developers “monetize their applications, potentially through a revenue share program,” meaning the company may use its major advertising sales force to help developers earn top revenue. Though final details will not be released until Feb. 5, preliminary details discussed in the article suggest MySpace has been closely watching other sites such as Facebook to learn the best strategies for a social network developers platform (Ostrow, Mashable Social Networking News, 1/30/08).

IBM adds Linux apps support to Unix servers

IBM on Tuesday announced it is adding a new capability to its virtualization platform that will enable Linux applications to run on IBM's Unix servers, IDG News Service reports. Slated for inclusion in all editions of IBM’s PowerVM virtualization software (formerly known as the Advanced Power Virtualization platform), the "Lx86" capability enables x86-based Linux applications to run on IBM's System p and Power-based Unix systems without modification, the company says. The systems will be designed to auto-detect and run Linux-based binaries designed for x86 environments. Meanwhile, IBM also announced plans to update its i5/OS with support for Power6 processors. According to the company, the V6R1 update will include improved performance, storage and security features (Shah, IDG News Service/Yahoo! News, 1/30/08) 

Connecticut to allocate $5 million for nanotechnology research

Connecticut’s governor today announced that her revised budget will include $5 million to support industry-university partnerships in nanotechnology research at Yale University and the University of Connecticut (UConn). Using the funding, each university will establish Centers of Nanoscience and will make both accessible to industry representatives, faculty and students outside each institution. Specifically, the Yale Center will focus on the application of nanotechnology to bioscience, while the UConn Center will emphasize material science (Governor’s release, 1/30/08).

Media reports reveal U.S. government plan to bolster protections from cyberattacks

According to Washington Technology, industry and media reports suggest President Bush on Jan. 8 signed a classified joint directive that could potentially increase the federal investment to protect against cyberattacks by several billion dollars a year. Yet to be publicly released, the joint National Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security directive, according to Washington Technology, would expand the intelligence community’s role monitoring Internet traffic and guarding against federal computer systems attacks. Washington Technology also cites an article from the Wall Street Journal that suggests estimated federal spending for the initiative could be as high as $6 billion annually and $30 billion across five years. Researchers from the Reston, Va.-based research firm Input Inc., note that for 2008, the government will likely spend roughly $5.7 billion on information security, mostly for protection against hackers and cyberattacks. They add that, though the exact wording and goals of the directive are not publicly known, the U.S. government appears to be moving toward taking a more active role to stop cyberattacks and prevent future attacks. Meanwhile, Washington Technology reports that the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post this week revealed the existence of the classified directive, but U.S. Congress members say they have not received much information (Lipowicz, Washington Technology, 1/29/08).

U.S. FDA's IT shortcomings raise risks, report finds

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Science Board recently released a report suggesting that the agency’s inability to modernize its IT systems has resulted "in a plethora of inadequacies that threaten our society," Government Executive reports. Though the FDA has yet to publicly release the report, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, reference the report in a letter sent on Tuesday to Comptroller General David Walker. According to the letter, the Science Board report states that the FDA’s inadequate IT infrastructure has caused "critical capability gaps." The lawmakers also cited findings that suggest the agency lacks necessary information science capabilities and information infrastructure to fulfill its regulatory mandate; cannot provide sufficient infrastructure support to regulate products based on new science; relies on obsolete IT infrastructure that is unstable and lacks necessary controls for ensuring continuity of operations and effective disaster recovery services; and maintains an inadequate IT work force is that is not optimally organized.

 

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday released a report that indicates that two FDA databases on foreign medical device manufacturers contained errors and could not automatically exchange data. Kennedy and Waxman have since called on the GAO to conduct a thorough review of FDA's IT infrastructure (Brewin, Government Executive, 1/29/08; GAO report, 1/29/08).

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