Google Your Bus

In early December 2005, Google Labs released the beta version of Google Transit Trip Planner.

With it, commuters can easily access public transit schedules and routes to plan trips using their local public transportation options. This first release covers only the Portland, Ore., metro area, but the company is working to expand coverage nationally and internationally.

Local transit agencies interested in being included in Google Transit can e-mail the creators at e-mail.

Tearing Out the Roots

Intel is developing a new hardware-based technique to discover and notify users when they unintentionally download a rootkit -- software used by malicious hackers to gain and maintain access to computer systems.

According to the company, the new project involves placing a small chip on a PC's motherboard to constantly monitor programs that might be affected by a malicious attack. Travis Schluessle, a researcher with Intel, said the project goal is to detect when unnecessary memory modifications are made to programs or system services.

Intel doesn't expect its project to replace various protection software, but the company believes it could enhance them. According to Schluessle, the project would provide a backup for the antivirus software, which is usually the first target to be shut down by malicious code.

Intel's latest initiative was presented during an open house for journalists and analysts in Folsom, Calif. The project is scheduled to become part of Intel's products around 2008 or 2009. -- IT Observer

Johnny on the Spot

The adage that one man's trash is another's treasure has taken on new meaning in Texas. In October 2005, the San Antonio River Authority laid down 40 cubic yards of crushed porcelain from 1,000 recycled toilets on the Calaveras Park nature trail. It was the result of a partnership between the authority, which needed to improve the trail's surface, and the city's Environmental Services Department, which needed to find the crushed remains a home.

A water conservation project called "Kick the Can" has been collecting old toilets and exchanging them for water-conserving low-flow toilets since the late 1990s. The old toilets are cleaned and crushed into small pebble-sized pieces called "Johnny Rock."

Johnny Rock is very similar to the crushed granite already used in trail surfacing, and contrary to expectations, it is not shiny or sharp edged -- the material lightens the trail, improving visibility in the dark. To learn more, contact the authority. -- San Antonio River Authority

U.S. Engineers Undercounted

According to a December 2005 research study, far more engineers graduate annually in the U.S. than is typically reported in the press. In addition, the number of engineering graduates in India and China -- long considered threats to the U.S.' status as technological superpower -- may be overstated.

Researchers at Duke University found that about 225,925 engineers graduate from American universities annually, about three times the 70,000 typically cited by the media and national academies -- which include the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.

India produces about 215,000 engineers a year, the study found. That's less than the 350,000 frequently cited by the press and the national academies.

China mints about 644,106 engineering graduates, the study reported, using figures from the Chinese government. Although the figure is in line with recent reports, Duke researcher Vivek Wadhwa believes those numbers may be overstated. -- Red Herring

Rat Race

E-mail is still the No. 1 online activity. A new study, however, shows that performing searches is a

Jessica Jones, Contributing Writer  |  Contributing Writer
Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor