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Some U.S. elementary school computer workstations could put children at risk for developing poor postures and painful repetitive stress injuries, according to a Cornell University study. In the study, to be published in the May issue of the journal Computers in the Schools, researchers watched 95 elementary school children as they worked on computers in school. Some "striking misfits" the study found: Keyboards placed too high and monitors positioned higher than recommended for children, thereby encouraging craned necks, hunched shoulders, and awkwardly placed wrists. However, because children are spending only limited time at school computers, the study concludes, they are only at "moderate postural risk," but how classroom computers are set up bears close watching as more schools acquire more computers.


"Hopefully on Dec. 31, 1999, the only ball dropping will be at Times Square."
—Robert Green, Y2K manager for Public Service Electric and Gas, N.J.


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Unwired Iraq

As the Internet's tendrils spread throughout the Arab world, Iraq remains out of reach. A country without email and Web sites originating within its borders, Iraq is plagued by the ruins of war and years of U.N. sanctions; few computer components can enter the country. Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon says his country would like to connect its citizens to the wired world, but human rights activists are hard pressed to believe him, claiming Iraqi leaders would never tolerate the free exchange of ideas afforded on the Internet. "If Iraq had the will, they could have the Internet in spite of the sanctions," human rights activist Eric Goldstein said. Iraq's only official site—www.iraqi-mission.org—originates from its U.N. mission in New York.

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How's the Weather?

The weather is now the most popular subject for U.S. Internet users seeking news on the Net, according to a recent poll. A nationwide telephone survey of 3,184 adults conducted by Pew Research for the People and the Press last November found that people who use the Net as a source of local news, entertainment news, and weather data increased significantly since 1996, weather being the most popular category of online news; in 1996, technology news was the most popular online information sought. Pew says the reason for the change in weather as an indicator is that the online audience is changing from an elite, computer-savvy group to a group that better reflects the mainstream.

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E-Post Offices for Group Mail

As email becomes increasingly critical to running a business, more companies that function like e-post offices are providing the technical support for group email accounts so individual businesses don't have to. One example, Critical Path, a San Francisco email outsourcing company, supports millions of email boxes from two major data centers, hosting the email of 180 corporate customers. Another is eGroups, which provides ways for small groups like businesses, extended families, and universities, to set up group email addresses.

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Remote Crane Tamed

In an effort to make construction sites safer places, the U.S. Commerce Department is developing remote-controlled cranes, reports CNN. A conventional crane operator has to rely on hand signals or guidance sent by two-way radio that can make for dangerous unseen maneuvers. The robotic crane uses sensors, video cameras, and the global positioning system. That means the operator doesn't have to be in the crane's cab or on the site—or even in the same city. The robot's first test will be carried out by the U.S. Navy, which will use it to automatically deploy welding robots for shipbuilding.

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Hacking by Palm III

Reports that users of the Palm III, the third generation of hand-held electronic organizers made by 3Com, can adapt the organizer to mimic keyless car-entry devices. Officials have also been startled to learn hackers have been using the device to trick payphones into making free long-distance calls. Equipped with a infrared beaming capability, the Palm III has the ability to exchange information with similarly equipped devices. Hackers have reportedly used this infrared technology to copy infrared commands, such as those emitted from TV remote controls or garage door openers. "The risk has been dramatically overstated," said a 3Com spokesperson.

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Author

Send items of interest to Fox_r@acm.org

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Figures

UF1Figure. Y2K Countdown.

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UF2-2Figure.


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