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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

News Track

The tradition-bound institution may be late to the e-vironment, but many legal scholars are still stunned to learn the highest court in the U.S. opened its own Web site in mid-April ( Many of the court's written decisions will be posted online, as well as upcoming cases, opinions, orders, and arguments. The site makes it easier for public access to court opinions and hard-to-find information. Crucial decisions, like eleventh-hour appeals from death row inmates, are also expected to be included. "I'm sure this (Web site) is viewed (within the court) as 'moving with all deliberate speed,' even if to the rest of the world it looks like they're just getting with it," opines Sheldon Goldman, federal judiciary specialist.

"Closing the digital divide is one of the most important things we can do to have the quickest results in alleviating the kind of poverty that is inexcusable in the kind of economy we are experiencing today."
—U.S. President Bill Clinton asking for industry support and volunteers for his project to ensure all Americans have Internet access.

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Coffee? Tea? Email?

Several major airlines are working on systems that will offer passengers email access as part of their in-flight services, according to USA Today. Cathay Pacific plans to roll out a sophisticated email system on some of its passenger planes in January; Virgin, American, and United, among others, are not far behind. The airborne email is sent to equipped planes via ground transmitters or satellites (if over the ocean). Messages are sorted by an onboard server and routed to passengers. Pricing for this service is one of the bigger obstacles; indeed, some airlines will offer it free to first-class and business-class customers, others will charge a nominal fee.

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Political Coffers

Figure. As the high-tech industry grows, so does its political party support.

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Smart Scalpel

A computerized fiber-optic laser device that can instantly identify cancerous cells is being developed by Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico's medical school. This dime-size "smart scalpel" will analyze protein density within a cell during biopsy procedures and will be able to determine the presence of cancer immediately, thus helping [patients avoid additional biopsies]. A spokesperson for the American Cancer Society reports enthusiasm for the ambitious project, yet cautions transferring the device from the lab to a clinical operating room is a long reach.

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Office Cube-icles

The latest breed of PC riders rev their computers so hot that condensed cooling agents have been known to form ice within the machines. They're called "overclockers" and they thrive on souping up their computers with chip speeds and cooling contraptions that can reach comical mass. By adjusting microprocessor speed controls, a PC that runs at the typical 600MHz can zoom to 900MHz. More speed requires greater cooling facilities, and overclockers have reportedly rigged their systems with everything from fans to parts taken from gutted refrigeraters and air conditioners. According to the Wall Street Journal, this greed for speed never really accomplishes much else in terms of greater PC usage. It's all about pushing the chip to the burning point-and surviving.

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Law Preview

The first public interest, high-tech law clinic in the U.S. will open soon at the University of Berkeley. The Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic, named after its founder, Pamela Samuelson, a Berkeley law professor (and Communications columnist), will focus exclusively on tech-based legal issues like privacy on the Net, free speech restrictions, Internet-based libel lawsuits, and access restrictions. The impetus for the clinic, Samuelson explains, is the expansive role of technology today and the unique public policy issues it raises.

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Piracy Rages

Rampant software piracy is costing Southeast Asian countries billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. According to the latest figures prepared by economic consultants Nathan Associates, Southeast Asia's software industry lost 3,440 jobs because of piracy, while another 16,460 jobs were lost in related businesses. An earlier study by PriceWaterhouse showed 84% of business software sold in Southeast Asia was pirated, with the highest piracy rates going to Indonesia (97%), Vietnam (97%), and the Philippines (92%).

"Democratic societies have always had to pay a price for freedom, but the rewards have exceeded the cost. The Internet now faces such a situation. The sky is not falling, the Internet will not collapse, and the problem is manageable, but good judgment, creative engineering and care are required to protect its culture of open access."
—Leonard Kleinrock on Web site attacks

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Wireless Rules

By the end of 2002, the world will have more wireless subscribers to Internet access than wired ones, according to industry forecasters IDC, Framingham, Mass. There may be over 40 million households online in the U.S., but there are also more than 75 million cellular/personal communications systems (PCS) subscribers and 40 million paging subscribers. IDC reports that within a year all digital and PCS handsets shipped around the world will feature wireless application protocol (WAP) capabilities. The influx of WAP devices will likely send the wireless subscriber stats soaring.

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The Name Game

Up until recently, coconuts produced the primary revenue stream for the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, population 10,000. But that was before dot-TV. You see, Internet addresses in Tuvalu end in "tv" and one industry entrepreneur is betting the domain can produce a multimillion dollar revenue stream. So, William Gross, CEO of idealab!, has agreed to pay Tuvalu $50 million over the next decade to license the dot-TV domain. BusinessWeek reports the resulting company—dotTV—received $1.5 million in bids on more than 300 sites in its first three weeks of auctioning URLs. The company predicts that as Web and TV projects converge, so will the interest in securing a dot-TV address.

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UF1Figure. As the high-tech industry grows, so does its political party support.

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