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Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / May 26, 2005
Chicago Wi-Fi
The Chicago City Council's Finance, and Economic, Capital and Technology Development Committees passed a resolution in March calling for a study on deployment of a citywide high-speed wireless network.

The resolution comes in response to a bill pending in the Illinois Legislature that would restrict municipalities from building wireless networks that compete with commercial entities.

Acknowledging the political climate, the committees' co-chairs urged quick action. One chairman suggested passing a shell resolution stating that Chicago retains its right to explore a citywide wireless network. It's not clear what that resolution would mean if the legislation did pass. -- Center for Neighborhood Technology

Take My Server, Please
An Indian Linux software company, Linuxense, sponsored the Linux Server Break-in Challenge in early March. The company made a server available on the Internet for 96 hours. It hosted an open source project as a potential victim to give enthusiasts across the globe a chance to break into the machine.

According to Linuxense, nobody cracked the server, which lacked firewall protection and ran all services normally found in a regular Linux distribution and more. All user activities on the server were logged, and at the end of the event, Linuxense planned to share the packet capture data with the contestants for analysis.

The software version used was Adamantix 1.0.4, and the challenge server (PIII 600 MHz 128 MB RAM) was connected to the Internet through a bridge (Compaq P4 2.2 GHz 256 MB RAM) set up using Honeywall. -- Linuxense

Stale Web Site Costs Restaurant
A New Zealand restaurant was fined $3,000 in addition to $260 in court costs in the Waitakere District Court after pleading guilty to violating the Fair Trading Act.

Over a six-month period, the restaurant's Web site advertised availability and prices of certain meals on the menu. An investigation discovered many of the meals couldn't actually be ordered at the restaurant, and others weren't available at the listed price. In some cases, the Web site price varied between 17 and 36 percent cheaper than the in-house menu.

The New Zealand Commerce Commission received a complaint from a customer, who had notified the restaurant and the Restaurant Association of New Zealand that the Web site menu was outdated and misleading. -- New Zealand Commerce Commission

Bringing Home a Telly
The Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management and Miami-Dade TV's Down to Earth environmental television series received the red carpet treatment in March.

After an extreme makeover, Miami-Dade TV entered an episode from the series in the Telly Awards and picked up a Bronze Award in the TV Program Education category. The episode, Yard Care 101, discusses tips for gardeners to make their yards not only beautiful but environmentally friendly as well.

The Telly Awards -- which honor outstanding local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs -- receive more than 10,000 entries annually. -- Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management

Wireless ISPs Get Spectrum
The FCC adopted rules in mid-March to open access to new spectrum for wireless broadband for wireless Internet service providers (WISPs). The move is designed to draw new entrants into the market and stimulate rapid expansion of wireless broadband services, especially in rural America, according to the agency.

Licensees must register all system base stations electronically with the FCC. Base station registration will enable licensees to locate each other's operations and will boost protection of grandfathered stations from interference.

The FCC also provided an opportunity for introducing new wireless broadband technologies, such as WiMAX, into the 3650-3700 MHz band. -- Federal Communications Commission

IT Could Cut Medical Costs
Speaking to state CIOs at the NASCIO Midyear Conference in Washington, D.C., U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt urged states to collaborate with federal officials to create interoperability standards for health-care information and IT systems.

Replacing paper patient files with shareable electronic documents would help contain health-care costs, which have ballooned from $143 per person in 1960 to nearly $6,000 per person today, he said. At the conference, Leavitt called lowering health-care expenses an "economic imperative."

"Medicaid expenditures will exceed public education expenditures for the first time this year," he said. "If health care begins to push out all other priorities, it throws off the economic equation."

Electronic health records and other IT applications could slash the cost of delivering health care, but only if those solutions are widely interoperable. That's often not the case in the fragmented health-care industry, according to Leavitt. "I see technology being harnessed in fascinating ways as I visit different communities -- but none of it connects."

As the source of payment for nearly half the nation's health-care expenses, government can drive adoption of interoperable electronic health records and other solutions. He called for state officials to work with the federal government to develop standards for health IT, then quickly implement them.

"We intend to be highly collaborative on this," Leavitt said. "But make no mistake, we'll do it with a 'forced march' mentality, and I intend to lead the way." -- Steve Towns, editor

Finding the Source
Despite many governance models, the funding sources for online government activities are fairly common. Seventy-eight percent of funding comes through the CIO's office (or IT group) and 12 percent comes from public affairs offices, according to Managing Citizen-Centric Web Content: State of the Practice White Paper prepared by the Industry Advisory Council's eGovernment Shared Interest Group and Best Practices Subcommittee.

Much Progress, More Work
States are making progress on addressing homeland security challenges, according to a survey by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.

  • 100 percent of respondents have established a statewide emergency operations center.
  • 98 percent have designed exercises to train responders and identify weaknesses in agency response plans.
  • 95 percent of responding states have focused attention on bio-terrorism preparedness, acting to amend policies and laws related to isolation and quarantine practices.
  • 94 percent have developed mutual assistance agreements with neighboring states for sharing National Guard resources, equipment and personnel.

    Progress on developing coordinated responses to specific types of terrorist attacks was uneven, however. For example, 87 percent have response plans in place between state and local providers in the event of a chemical incident, and another 5 percent are in the process of doing so. Similar results were shown for the following types of incidents:

  • biological (82 percent complete and 13 percent in progress);
  • explosion/incendiary (81 percent complete and 17 percent in progress);
  • radiological (79 percent complete and 13 percent in progress); and
  • nuclear (71 percent complete and 16 percent in progress).

    On the Map
    California's high-tech exports represent nearly one quarter of U.S. high-tech good exports, according to Cyberstates 2005, a report by the American Electronics Association.

    A Clock That Hides
    Clocky is specially designed for people who don't want to get up.

    When the alarm clock goes off and a person presses the snooze button, Clocky rolls off the bedside table and wheels away, bumping mindlessly into objects on the floor until it finds a spot to rest and hide.

    Minutes later, when the alarm sounds again, the sleeper must get out of bed and search for Clocky, ensuring the person is fully awake before turning it off. Small wheels concealed by Clocky's shag enable it to move and reposition itself, and an internal processor helps it find a new hiding spot every day. -- MIT Media Lab

    Surf Bored
    Fewer people in the United States surf the Internet at home, according to a study by Nielson//NetRatings. The study tracked how long Internet users in various countries were online at home in 2004 versus 2003. Here's how the countries stacked up.

    VoIP Implementation
    The voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) market will grow rapidly between 2005 and 2009, according to International Data Corp. The market research firm expects VoIP subscribers to grow from 3 million to 27 million subscribers in that time. -- eMarketer Inc.
    Shane Peterson Associate Editor
    Jessica Jones Managing Editor