We know where you live

Libertarian magazine Reason will be spooking the hell out of its 40,000 subscribers with its June issue. Each reader will receive a customized cover featuring a satellite picture of his neighborhood with his home circled in red. Editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie says the 40,000 individualized covers hammer home the point of the cover story: the power and pervasiveness of databases and their impact on personal privacy, or lack thereof. Anyone else think Reason won’t have a problem getting folks to re-subscribe?

Paging Dr. Blinky

A new study at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York shows that surgeons who play video games make fewer mistakes in surgery. Shouldn’t that be “surgeons who play video games will make fewer mistakes in surgery”? Anyway, the brains behind this research said the hand-eye coordination promoted by three hours a week of joystick-controlled video games improves surgeons’ dexterity in laparoscopic procedures, where a surgeon uses joysticks outside the body to control a tiny camera and surgical instruments inside the patient. According to the study, frequent gaming results in 37 per cent fewer mistakes during this type of surgery, and 27 per cent faster task performance. So by all means, before your next procedure make sure your surgeon reached at least the banana level in Ms. Pac Man.

Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40!

IBM Corp.’s S/360 mainframe, which put the “big” in Big Blue, hit the big 4-0 earlier this month. The occasion had many happily walking down memory lane remembering the good ol’ days, like how IBM spent US$5 billion developing the system, which today would translate into US$30 billion. While mainframes might be as cutting-edge as a butter knife these days, they put more than US$4 billion in IBM’s pockets last year. We should all do so well at 40.

The dark side of mobile

It used to be we only had to worry about cell phones giving us brain tumors, but their ubiquity and popularity are now causing more worries and complications. First there’s the fact that mobile phones have become the detonating device of choice for terrorists who want to blow up something and be miles away from the scene of the crime. That’s left governments asking “Should we or shouldn’t we?” when it comes to using cell-blocking technology around likely terrorist targets. On an unrelated note, cell signals also are interfering with police radios and other emergency services. Radios used by emergency services run on the same 800-MHz spectrum as cell calls from some wireless providers. Fixing the problem means sorting out the spectrum, which has brought differences of opinion from profit-conscious providers.

Worst technology ever

The Marts (Wal- and K-) are planning to sell a new US$79 DVD player that would make the Puritans proud. Manufactured under the RCA brand, the player contains content-filtering technology from Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay that would skip all the good stuff — violence, sex and swearing — in our favorite DVDs. ClearPlay offers customized controls to allow parents to block up to 14 levels of offensive material. Man, we’re thinking the box would self-destruct if you tried to sneak a Tarantino disc in there.

Shaw is chief cook and bottle washer of Layer 8, your online rumpus room featuring the best of Network World (U.S.) and the not-just-networking news. She can be reached at layer8@nww.com.



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