Batteries for handheld and other small portable electronic devices are a major problem. The following brief news item suggests that we will soon have fuel cells that far outperform current batteries.
(September 9, 2001). The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Accessed 9/13/01: http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/epaper/editions/
Here is material from a 1999 article that discussed progress in developing such fuel cells.
Parrish, Michael (December 30, 1999). Fuel Cells Power Brave New Energy World. Environmental News Network [Online]. Accessed 9/13/01: http://www.enn.com/enn-features
Intel is releasing its new 2-gigahertz microprocessor, to
be priced in the mid-$500 range (about half of what it
charged for its fastest chips a year ago); prices on the
older Pentium chips will be cut by as much as 54%, as part
of a continuing price war between Intel and Advanced Micro
Devices. Industry analyst Douglas Lee says, "Intel has made
it very clear that they are going to rapidly push the
Pentium 4 into the mainstream desktop. I don't think Intel's
mission is to kill AMD. Their primary mission is to
stimulate PC demand. What that does to AMD is helpful to
their business, but I don't think it's the primary
objective." (AP/San Jose Mercury News 23 Aug 2001)
Comment: Notice that the pace of change discussed in this brief article is more than a doubling in one year. This exceeds the pace of change predicted by Moore's Law.
Page 73 of the 8/13/01 issue of Business Week contains a short article on a proposed new way of manufacturing flat panel displays. First, the article notes that the price of flat panel displays has halved during the past year. Then the article discusses a new manufacturing method that may decrease current prices by a factor of 10, while doubling the pixel density. The screens would be made of plastic and have a some flexibility, be lighter than current flat panels, and be more durable. It would be possible to manufacture very large screens. The article indicates that it will take three or more years to commercialize the technology.
Comment: If this technology proves to be commercially successful, it will represent a tremendous breakthrough in computer display technology as well as television displays.
E-learning will be mandatory for Fairleigh Dickinson students beginning this fall. Students will have to take at least one online course every year. Students will interact entirely through online bulletin boards, e-mails, chat rooms, and Web conferencing; books are optional. Freshmen will take a class called Global Challenge, a course on environment, culture, society, and politics. However, the first six lessons will be conducted face-to-face to help students ease into the situation, said Professor Jason Scorza. After their first year, students will be able to choose online courses from a variety offered. (New York Times--Education Life, 5 August 2001) (Edupage, August 6, 2001)
Comment: This is a very forward looking initiative. It is clear that we are moving rapidly toward distance learning becoming a significant factor in education at all levels. Thus, it is important for students to learn how to learn in such a learning environment.
IBM is making a major commitment to the development of
"grid computing," in which any computer connected to the
Internet --even a handheld device -- will have
supercomputer-level processing power, as well as access to
enormous databases and the use of a huge variety of
application programs. The person credited with the original
idea of using computer power as a electricity-like utility
is the M.I.T. computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider, who
suggested in a 1960 paper "Man-Machine Symbiosis" ways in
which computers could augment human intelligence. Irving
Wladawsky-Berger, the head of IBM's grid computing
initiative, predicts that "as grids go commercial use, we
think everyone will jump in." Companies that have already
"jumped in" -- at least with announcements -- include Sun,
Microsoft, Pfizer, Ericsson, Hitachi, BMW, Glaxo,
Smith-Kline, and Unilever. Rice University professor Ken
Kennedy says: "The goal is that grid becomes the computing
engine for the Internet in the way that the Web is the
information engine. The real long term is that this becomes
the problem-solving mechanism for society." (New York Times
2 Aug 2001) http://partners.nytimes.com/2001/08/
Comment: Grid Computing is a very important concept. When taken together with the Internet, we can see the emergence of both powerful connectivity and powerful compute power being made available from quite modest devices -- often hand held and battery powered. Our educational system needs to think in terms of every student having such devices for communication, information storage and retrieval, and information processing. J.C.R. Licklider's 1960 paper is available [Online] Accessed 8/7/01: http://memex.org/licklider.pdf.
After considering the idea since early last year, the Maine legislature has passed a law that will guarantee putting a portable computer in the hands of each 7th grader in the state starting in fall 2002.
(USA) -- Journalists who are heavy users of search engines should beware, says columnist J.D. Lasica. It turns out that the results churned out are skewed in many cases by search engines' policies of "selling" placements to the highest bidder. "The more you pay, the higher you'll appear in the search engine results," explains Lasica. The problem arises when search engines, including Lycos, HotBot, AltaVista, LookSmart, MSN.com, Netscape, iWon and Direct Hit (owned by Ask Jeeves), fail to clearly differentiate paid listings from those identified through objective search algorithms. "This is a breach of the editorial-advertising line," says Gary Ruskin, executive director of consumer watchdog Commercial Alert. "This is like one day opening your newspaper and finding it filled with nothing but ads," says Danny Sullivan, editor of Searchenginewatch. Most of the search engines dismiss the issue with assertions that users are savvy enough to know that results aren't always what they seem, but Lasica says, "Such is the arrogant, Alice-in-Wonderland, upside-down world of Internet executives." He challenges search engine companies to return results that are "clean and unsullied. Display your paid listings, too, in a separate area, but be honest and upfront about them... Don't deceive us, and don't belittle us by saying we're too shallow to care about editorial integrity." Finally, Lasica points out that there are some honest search engines out there -- Google, Yahoo and Excite either post paid listings in a separate area or don't take them at all. (Online Journalism Review 23 Jul 2001) http://ojr.usc.edu/content/story.sfm?request=611 NEWS-ON-NEWS/The Ifra Trend Report: No. 105 (1 August 2001)
Comment: In the "good old days" the Card Catalog method of indexing was relatively standardized. Now, we have a much larger library to index (think of the Web as a Global Library). People are highly dependent on search engines. Each search engine has its own approach to prioritizing its findings in response to a search request. The brief article indicates that advertising dollars may play a role in the prioritization in some search engines. And, one can imagine a search engine being constructed with a strong built-in bias towards certain points of view. (A frightening concept!)
(USA) -- Mirroring the drug industry's newfound
commitment to make medicines for AIDS, malaria and
tuberculosis more widely available to Third World countries,
six publishing houses recently announced they will provide
free electronic access to about 1,000 medical journals to
medical schools, research laboratories and government health
departments in poorer countries. Piloted by the World Health
Organization, the program will benefit about 600
institutions, mostly in Africa, and will include training in
research techniques. Institutions in countries in which the
per-capita gross national product (GNP) is less than
US$1,000 a year will receive the journals free. In countries
where the per-capita GNP is US$1,000 to US$3,000, there
would be a minimal charge. Companies do not have to agree to
give away electronic subscriptions in countries where they
have substantial sales now, although some have indicated
they may be willing to. The medical journals will be
available through an Internet portal the WHO is creating as
part of the Health InterNetwork. The portal will both
guarantee security and provide necessary tools, such as
engines for searching the journals, said Joan Dzenowagis,
the WHO project manager for the Health InterNetwork.
Participating publishers include Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer,
Blackwell, Harcourt General, Springer-Verlag and John Wiley
& Sons. (Washington Post 9 Jul 2001)
Comment: The web can be thought of as a Global Library. The issue is, who gets access to the library? Are there important parts of the library that are not available to people because they cannot afford the cost?
Chris Herstam, member of the Arizona Board of Regents, reported that the board voted on June 29 to establish a program that allows students at Arizona Regents University to complete a master's degree in engineering online. The program integrates e-learning courses culled from all three state universities, and the regents plan to follow up the engineering degree program with similar programs in nursing and education. (Associated Press, 9 July 2001) (Edupage, July 16, 2001)
Comment: There are more and more online degree programs that are coming from well established colleges and universities. Each new announcement, such as the one given above, lends credibility to the online degree. Notice that the Arizona program draws upon coursework from "all three state universities." Online education is leading to an increased level of collaboration among institutions that -- in some sense -- compete with each other.
A July 3, 2001 press release from the State of South Dakota indicated that the state had funded the purchase of 16,040 microcomputers to be given to schools in time for use this fall. When added to the currently installed base, this will produce an average of one microcomputer per 2.3 students. The current networking infrastructure within the state and the schools will allow 70-percent of these machines to be online at any one time.
In this bulk purchase, Gateway microcomputers with monitors, CD-ROM, Floppy drive, and connectivity cost $510 each. Apple Imac 400 Indigo units (roughly comparably equipped, but without a floppy drive) cost $474 apiece.
Educators in Oregon might ask why the Oregon Legislature has been unwilling and/or unable to directly help fund microcomputers. They may also wonder why Oregon students should have less than half as good of computer access as students in South Dakota.
The press release is available [Accessed 7/16/01] http://www.distance-educator.com/dn2.phtml?id=4481.
Comment: Note the prices for these machines!
Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a coalition of industry players, are including schools as part of their continuing efforts to smoke out pirated software. Recent targets have included the school districts of Philadelphia, where 264 schools are auditing all copies of software currently in use, and San Jose, where the BSA demanded $560,000 in reparations for between 50 and 100 illegal software copies. Although that fine was negotiated down to only $50,000, critics say Microsoft and the BSA have confused their priorities. Many of the school districts under siege barely have enough money to fund basic needs--Philadelphia, for example, has warned that it will not be able to pay its staff next year without outside help--let alone the cost of auditing entire IT departments and paying punitive damages. Microsoft and the BSA claim that they are treating schools no differently from how they would treat any other software pirate; in addition, as even some educators have pointed out, Microsoft and its allies have provided schools with assistance in developing systems to detect and prevent software piracy. (Salon.com, 10 July 2001) (Edupage, July 11, 2001)
Comment: The use of pirated software in education has been a serious and continuing problem. Those doing the pirating are able to make up all kinds of "good reasons or justifications" for their actions. Many others are using the software and are not aware that it is pirated.
Fiber-optic lines can handle up to 100 terabits of data per second, enough to transmit 2 billion phone calls or 20 billion one-page e-mails, reported scientists at Lucent Technologies' Bell Laboratories. That speed is far faster than the current rate of fiber optic transmission and 10 times faster than the top speed previously achieved in laboratory experiments. Previous attempts to identify the maximum speed possible on fiber-optic systems have been stymied by the number of variables in the technology, which depends on the behavior of light and the physical properties of glass. However, the Bell Laboratories scientists built a model of a fiber-optic system by using quantum physics and information theory. The scientists say their conclusions prove that fiber optics will be more than able to handle high-bandwidth technologies. "The fact that you know networks can be scaled in this way means optical fiber is a good way to grow your system," said physicist Partha Mitra, who led the Bell Laboratories research team. (InformationWeek.com, 28 June 2001) (Edupage, July 6, 2001)
Comment: The human mind is not well suited to understand numbers like 100 terabits, or 100, 000,000,000, 000 bits. Thus, we use analogies, such as "2 billion phone calls. Even then, such a large number does not have much meaning to most people. Roughly speaking, if all of the phones in the world were simultaneously being used in voice communication, this would generate somewhat less than 100 terabits per second of data.