U.S. Navy taps software company to boost sailors’ training

The U.S. Department of Navy has contracted with Connecticut-based Sonalysts Inc. to develop and implement software designed to tutor individual sailors about submarine and surface warfare, the New London Day reports. Under the $11.4 million contract, Sonalysts will provide the Navy with “embedded training” software that can be customized to each student’s needs. The program can be used in a classroom setting to help students master techniques and knowledge necessary for their individual jobs through text, simulated computerized practice settings and real-time simulated tutoring. According to officials, the new software can train sailors “faster and more effectively, which essentially saves lives and saves money” (Daddona, New London Day, 1/12/08).

U.S. business agency Web site improves search tools, expands information sources

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Web site recently launched new search features and expanded content to improve the user experience, the Jacksonville Business Journal reports. The changes will make it easier for small business owners to obtain necessary information such as forms, licenses, permits and regulatory information to run their operations. In addition, the improvements enable business owners to access more than 9,000 state, territory, county and city government Web sites, as well as federal government resources, for information on launching and managing a business amid various legal regulations. The site now combines content from separate Google-based Web applications such as Google’s Custom Search Business Edition, Google Maps, Google Search Appliance and taps publicly available compliance information from federal, state and local government Web sites. Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration also updated its Small Business Guides, which aim to help business owners understand the regulations and programs that apply to them and how to remain compliant as they grow their operations (Jacksonville Business Journal, 1/14/08).

Texas awards $2 million to bolster computer science, engineering education

The Texas Workforce Commission recently awarded nine grants totaling $2 million to support the Texas Youth in Technology Strategic Workforce Development initiative, the Dallas Business Journal reports. Supported with Workforce Investment Act Statewide Activities funds, the grants will enable Southern Methodist University to implement a seven-week engineering and computer science summer program for students ages 14 to 18. Using the grants, the university also will offer student scholarships and develop mentoring and tutoring programs to boost engineering student retention. Tarrant County College District, meanwhile, will use its grant funding to implement five computer science and engineering summer camps designed to increase career opportunities for students in the fields. In addition, the University of North Texas (UNT) will use grant funding to expand its mobile summer computer robotics camps for middle and high school female students and other special programs. UNT also will establish camps to provide hands-on computer science and engineering experience for high school counselors and teachers. Other grant recipients include Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, the University of Texas-Austin, University of Houston and the University of Texas-San Antonio (Dallas Business Journal, 1/14/08).

IBM, Mayo Clinic launch research center to improve medical imaging technology

IBM and Mayo Clinic have partnered to create a medical imaging research facility to help develop technologies that will enable physicians to more efficiently track patients' health and diagnoses, Computerworld reports. Specifically, researchers will investigate whether the Cell chip, which was created by IBM, Sony and Toshiba for video game consoles, could help expedite the medical imaging process, according to Mayo Clinic officials. In addition, researchers will study maximum-resolution organ imaging; image-guided tumor ablation to improve the accuracy of destroying cancer cells; "video swallow analysis" to gauge how stroke patients swallow; and automated change detection to compare patients' new and old images. Under the partnership, which is an extension of an earlier research collaboration between Mayo Clinic and IBM, Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minn., will house the Medical Imaging Informatics Center, while IBM will provide high-end imaging platforms and hardware for researchers (Gaudin, Computerworld, 1/9/08; Mayo Clinic release, 1/8/08).

Spammers may now hijack printers, researcher finds

A U.S. security researcher has discovered a strategy for spamming Internet-users’ printers, InformationWeek reports. In a paper he published online, Aaron Weaver suggests an attack on unprotected printers can be initiated by creating a hidden iframe within a Web page and a Web form that submits spam messages to printers. Ultimately, Internet users can “end up sending printer spam to [their] printers without knowing that anything happened.” He adds that attackers can also control the printer, change print settings and even send faxes through unprotected printer connections. To protect against such an attack, Weaver recommends setting administrator passwords and even restricting access to specific servers for printers. Meanwhile, Information Week reports that printer security has long been an industry focus and companies such as Hewlett-Packard are attempting to address the issue (Claburn, InformationWeek, 1/10/08).

Laptop for children project expands to include low-income Americans

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project recently announced it will launch OLPC America in 2008 to bring laptops to underserved children throughout the United States, PC World reports. OLPC, originally formed by teachers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working to close the “digital divide” by developing a $100 laptop to distribute to children in underdeveloped nations. OLPC America also will work to develop a low-cost laptop for students from low-income families. Officials have already named a director and a chairman and expect to establish headquarters in Washington, D.C., where OLPC America will involve representatives from state governments. Though initially criticized for not addressing U.S. children’s needs, OLPC officials say America has always been part of the project’s plans but was not originally included because of the difference in need. Specifically, officials compare the roughly $10,000 spent on U.S. children for primary education to the $20 spent per child in Bangladesh, adding that many Americans can afford to purchase computers for their children compared to developing nations. However, officials say they are launching OLPC America to be patriotic; to build a “critical mass,” which will drive a larger development community; and to promote education, ensuring U.S. children can communicate and learn from their counterparts across the world (Nystedt, PC World/Yahoo! News, 11/12/08).

Ireland exam support site posts guide to student applications

Ireland education officials recently posted a new video guide to college applications, Silicon Republic reports. Developed in association with the National University of Maynooth, the new tool available for free at www.examsupport.ie offers step-by-step support for parents, teachers and students. The 20-minute video takes the viewer through the process of filling out the Central Applications Office (CAO) form and addresses issues such as financial aid, the history of the CAO, deadlines and statistics (Boran, Silicon Republic, 1/11/08).

Telecommuting adversely affects in-house employees, study suggests

A new study published in the latest issue of Human Relations suggests that telecommuting negatively affects in-office workers, Reuters reports. To evaluate the impact of the practice, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute studied 240 employees in a medium-sized company. They found that while telecommuting boosted moral and reduced stress for employees, those working in-house are more likely to be dissatisfied with their job and quit. In addition, in-house employees often say the workplace is less enjoyable, feel less obligated to their employer and have fewer emotional ties to co-workers when many staff telecommute. Though reasons for the negative impact vary, the researchers speculate that in-house staff perceive decreased flexibility for their own work, as well as a greater workload. To remedy the environment, researchers recommend employers ensure increased in-person contact between co-workers and grant greater job autonomy to in-house employees (Cooke, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 1/11/08).

U.S. Library of Congress inks Microsoft deal to put collection online, improve in-house systems

The U.S. Library of Congress (LOC) on Thursday announced it has entered a non-exclusive contract with Microsoft to increase access to its collections both online and in-house, Government Computer News reports. Under the agreement, Microsoft will supply the LOC with $3 million in technology, services and funding to bolster online accessibility and interactivity of roughly 800 LOC holdings. Microsoft software also will power new search and viewing tools slated for launch in 2008, which will include Vista programming for new kiosks at the LOC and Silverlight technology for the new LOC Web site, www.myloc.gov, where users will be able to access and personalize interactive materials. upon completion, the agreement will likely be worth as much as $22 million, though LOC officials say they may begin working with other companies as the project progresses (Bain and Walsh, Government Computer News, 1/10/08).

U.S. researchers develop nano-scale DNA research tool

Researchers from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute on Thursday announced the release of a research tool designed to evaluate genes on the nano-scale, Reuters reports. While current gene chip systems evaluate batches of cells, the latest tool examines thousands of genes simultaneously on a much more refined scale, searching for mutations or clues to diseases. Researchers based the system on a type of nanotechnology called DNA origami, which entails folding a single DNA strand into a complex structure bound by short, synthetic staples. According to one researcher, the latest tool represents one of the first practical applications of structural DNA nanotechnology (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 1/10/08).

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