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Bits & Bytes

GAME PLAN
The next generation of codejockeys could begin learning programming at an early age thanks to c-jump, a board game that aims to teach kids programming basics. Players ski or snowboard down a computer-codecovered mountain using programming commands such as: if, else, switch and a variable x concept to navigate. According to C-Jump Factory, the game's maker, the code is based on a real application, and c-jump is "fun and entertainment for the whole family!" The game can be found at www.c-jump.com. All proceeds support an open-source programming project.

COOL STUFF
“End-user license agreements are the bane of most computer users,” claims Javacool, makers of EULAlyzer, a license-scanning program. It reveals and highlights whether the software allows pop-ups, transmits personal information or performs other disagreeable functions. JavaCool still recommends end users read the full text no matter how inscrutable or boring it is. EULAlyzer is available for download at www.javacool.com.

INFOSECURITY BLANKET
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed an emergency federal court action in early November against an Estonian investment bank and two employees who the SEC says netted $7.8 million using a spider program to rifle embargoed press releases on Business Wire, a news distribution Web site.

The SEC says the two traders employed by Lohmus Haavel & Viisemann stole more than 360 press releases before they were to be officially distributed, and used the information contained in the releases “to strategically time their trades around the public release of news involving, among other things, mergers, earnings and regulatory actions.” The traders bought long or sold short the stocks of companies mentioned in press releases.

Business Wire says no press releases were stolen, but that the invaders took some screen shots of background information, not the content of press releases. “No one gained access to our news release file prior to distribution to the media and investment community,” says Lorry Lokey, BW’s CEO and chairman. “Some of the SEC statements in its complaint have been misinterpreted.”

WEB WATCH
The Wall Street Journal reports Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have purchased a corporate jet. It’s not a plain ol’ exec jet that seats 15 or so, however. This one is a Boeing 767 wide-body airliner that commonly carries about 180 passengers. According to WSJ, Google Air will seat about 50 passengers when Gore Design Completions, a company that specializes in refurbishing corporate jets, gets done with it.

According to insiders, Google Air will have a sitting area, two staterooms with adjoining lavatories and a shower. Farther aft will be a large sitting-anddining area. At the rear will be 12 to 16 first-class seats for guests or employees and a large galley, WSJ reports. It will also have in-flight Internet access. The airplane cost somewhere in the vicinity of $15 million; and it will take about $25 million to retrofit comfortably, according to experts cited by WSJ. Because the plane can carry so many passengers, it will actually be more cost effective to fly than a Gulfstream V, a top-shelf exec jet.

MICROSOFT WATCH
Microsoft researchers have released a technical report in which they describe their attempts to construct an operating system prototype called Singularity, notable more for its dependability than its performance.

Singularity is based on using Software-Isolated Processes, which encapsulate pieces of an application or a system and provide information hiding, failure isolation and strong interfaces. SIPs are used throughout the operating system and application software, the researchers say. SIPs are not allowed to share memory or modify their own code. “As a result, we can make strong
reliability guarantees about the code running in a SIP.”

CODE WAR
Defense attorneys representing 150 motorists who were accused of drunken driving convinced a panel of country judges in Florida to compel the maker of an alcohol breath analyzer to produce the source code for the device.

The defendants have established through expert testimony that the source code is material to their defense, the three judges wrote in their ruling in early November. The judges appointed Harley Myler, an expert witness for the defense and a electrical engineering professor at Lamar University in Texas to analyze changes in the code, which the attorneys say Florida has not certified.

The source code will be delivered only to Myler, and he is prohibited from disclosing any details about the code and must return the code to the state after he examines it, the judges ruled.

CMI, maker of the Intoxilyzer breathalyzer, has refused to release the source code, which it considers a trade secret. The state cannot force the company to turn over the code, either, opening up the possibility that at least some of the defendants may beat the rap.

COCKPIT ERROR
Bad IT resulted in the early release of a number of Michiganinmates. An unspecified glitch in computer programming let
at least 8 prisoners out 39 to 161 days early, according to a state audit. The cons were doing time for embezzlement, check forgery and drug offenses. No murderers were released early. The Michigan Department of Corrections told WLNS in Lansing that it has already taken steps to fix the problem.

BUY THE NUMBERS
Few companies would be competitive, much less viable, without their IT organizations. Even though IT has been part of the business establishment for about 50 years, business decisionmakers remain suspicious of—and often give short shrift to—the concerns of IT leaders.

Consider the results of a recent survey from PR consultancy Burston-Marsteller, which found that less than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have IT stakeholders (or executives with IT experience) on their boards of directors or executive management teams. Overall, the Burston-Marsteller survey says, nearly one-third of Fortune Global 500 companies don’t even include CIOs in their top management teams.

“We looked at those [companies] that provide biographical information on their board members and executive management teams, and we looked particularly for people who have either worked as a CIO in the past or who are currently CIOs and who are helping the company develop technology expertise,” explains Idil Cakim, director of knowledge development with Burston-Marsteller. “The amazing finding from a review of the Global Fortune 500 was that these largest companies of the world did not have that many former or current CIOs on their boards. In fact, only 8 percent of them had such an expert on board in 2004, and that’s a slight increase from 2003, back when it was only 5 percent.”

But there’s a very strong case to be made for placing execs with IT experience at such a senior level, Cakim argues. After all, companies with current or former CIOs in their executive management groups generally perform better—much better, in fact—than companies that don’t. “They delivered annual returns of 9.2 percent above the indices, so we looked at how their stock performed versus the average industry performance, so we think that’s a significant rise above the average,” Cakim says. She concedes “gains [of this kind] can be attributed to many factors,” but argues that “there is a relationship” that is significant.

FACT MATTER

Wired in the Wilderness
Although better known for majestic countryside and outdoor activities, Utah and Alaska have the highest PC and Internet penetration rates, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Mississippi ranked lowest, with 48.8 percent of households with a computer and 39.5 percent with Internet access. Overall, 68.1 percent of homes have a PC, and 54.7 percent of homes are connected to the Web.
Top U.S. States by PC and Internet Penetration Rate
PC Internet
Utah 74.1 62.6
Alaska 73.4 68.5
New Hampshire 71.7 65.5
Washington 71.4 62.3
Colorado 70.3 63.4
Connecticut 69.2 62.9
Idaho 69.1 56.4
Minnesota 68.0 61.7
Maine 67.9 58.1
Oregon 67.1 61.1
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau's Computer Use and Ownership

ILLUSTRATION BY ANNIE BISSETT

10 YEARS AGO
In the December 1995 issue of Application Development Trends, programmers were beginning to see the potential problems Y2K posed for old code. Editor John Desmond claimed, “Estimates of the cost to ready applications for the 21st century range
from 50 cents to $1 per line of code.”

After a few setbacks in its Y2K readiness plan, Union Pacific found a “shocking” lack of expertise among vendors.“We knew more about the year 2000 than the majority of vendors,” Charles Parks, Union Pacific associate systems engineer, told Application Development Trends.

Over at the New York City Transit Authority, Louis J. Marcoccia, director of data administration/logistics, came to terms with the gravity of the Y2K conversion task. “Without management support and without infrastructure, this is the type of project that, in its lifecycle, you can go through project manager after project manager because they’ll all end up dying from the wars. I feel comfortable that I won’t die from this war.”

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