GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / March 1, 2006
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 close second. As of the end of 2005, nearly 60 million U.S. Internet users used a search engine every day -- an increase of 55 percent over 2004. The following shows how many Americans use e-mail and/or search engines daily.

January 2002
E-mail: 61 million
Search engines: 33 million

June 2003
E-mail: 58 million
Search engines: 37 million

June 2004
E-mail: 57 million
Search engines: 38 million

September 2005
E-mail: 74 million
Search engines 59 million

Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project

Digital Winners
The Center for Digital Government announced the winners of its 2005 Digital Cities Survey, which examines how city governments use digital technologies to better serve citizens and streamline operations.

More than 600 city mayors, managers and CIOs were invited to participate. Survey questions focused on implementation and adoption of online service delivery; planning and governance; and the infrastructure and architecture that make the transformation to digital government possible.

2005 Digital Cities Survey winners:

250,000 or more population:

1st Place: Corpus Christi, Texas
2nd Place: Tampa, Fla.
3rd Place: Los Angeles
4th Place: Aurora, Colo. (tie)
4th Place: Tucson, Ariz. (tie)
5th Place: Chicago
6th Place: St. Paul, Minn.
7th Place: Wichita, Kan.
8th Place: Nashville, Tenn.
9th Place: Colorado Springs, Colo. (tie)
9th Place: Virginia Beach, Va. (tie)
10th Place: Mesa, Ariz.

125,000-249,999 population:
1st Place: Madison, Wis.
2nd Place: Richmond, Va.
3rd Place: Winston-Salem, N.C.
4th Place: Alexandria, Va. (tie)
4th Place: Lincoln, Neb. (tie)
5th Place: Des Moines, Iowa
6th Place: Irving, Texas
7th Place: Hampton, Va.
8th Place: Naperville, Ill.
9th Place: Torrance, Calif.
10th Place: Salt Lake City

75,000-124,999 population:
1st Place: Roanoke, Va.
2nd Place: Denton, Texas
3rd Place: Ogden City, Utah
4th Place: Independence, Mo.
5th Place: Richardson, Texas
6th Place: Westminster, Colo.
7th Place: Olathe, Kan.
8th Place: West Palm Beach, Fla.
9th Place: Fort Collins, Colo. (tie)
9th Place: Arvada, Colo. (tie)
10th Place: Schaumburg, Ill.

30,000-74,999 population:
1st Place: Delray Beach, Fla.
2nd Place: Blacksburg, Va.
3rd Place: Manchester, Conn. (tie)
3rd Place: Charlottesville, Va. (tie)
4th Place: Lenexa, Kan.
5th Place: Flower Mound, Texas
6th Place: Lynchburg, Va.
7th Place: Wellington, Fla.
8th Place: Jupiter, Fla.
9th Place: Medford, Ore.
10th Place: Alameda, Calif.

Chatting in China
The use of instant messaging continues to grow in China, with research companies estimating that the user base will hit 100 million between 2006 and 2008, according to Analysys International.

A New View
Microsoft has added an enhanced satellite view, along with other features to its local search product -- Windows Live Local -- formerly known as Virtual Earth.

Beta 2 of the search service includes new zoom and "bird's eye" features for satellite imagery. The new release also updates users on how to find driving directions and save search information.

The rebranding under Windows Live advances Microsoft's plan of offering a range of Web-based services to compete with rivals like Google and Yahoo. The idea is to give users a seamless Web experience when they link with their social communities through applications such as search, instant messaging and e-mail.

Smartphone Savvy
More than 55 percent of smartphone users store confidential personal data on their smartphones, according to a 2005 Symantec survey, which also found that many smartphone users access bank accounts and other financial documents from their phones, making the security of these devices an important consumer issue. In addition, nearly 55 percent of smartphone users said they access Web sites via their smartphone that require a password.
Shane Peterson Associate Editor