New IBM laptops feature crash-protection technology

Today’s cars come equipped with sensors that can detect danger and automatically deploy air bags. Now laptops, too, are getting a similar defense mechanism.

Two new models of ThinkPad notebook computers, unveiled last fall by IBM Corp., come with a chip that can detect when the laptop is accelerating–such as when it has been accidentally nudged off a table and is plunging to the floor.

If the hard drive happens to be reading or writing data at the time, the chip tells the drive to stop temporarily. Hard drives are at their most vulnerable when reading and writing data, so IBM believes its crash-protection chip will help guard against such losses of important information.

IBM says the technology is particularly apt for use in schools, where laptop computers often are subjected to abuse by students. The crash chips are found in IBM’s new ThinkPad R50 and T41 models, which start at $1,529 and $1,649, respectively.

(866) 426-1740

NetSupport’s new asset management software can help contain IT costs

According to Stamford, Conn.-based market research firm Gartner Inc., technology asset management will rank as one of the top five priorities for information technology (IT) leaders through 2006. Tools for managing and taking inventory of IT assets have remained beyond the budget of many schools and universities so far–but with the release of NetSupport DNA (Dynamic Network Administration), school IT professionals now have an affordable, easy-to-use system for keeping IT costs in check, according to the company.

“The Gartner report revealed that a majority of organizations do not have efficient ways of keeping track of their IT assets,” said Alastair Kingsley, managing director of NetSupport Inc. “That opens them up to dangers like system downtime from improperly implemented upgrades, poor customer service, overpaying on license fees, and extra work for programmers. With NetSupport DNA, IT departments can know what hardware and software they have in place, monitor student application usage, budget more accurately for upgrades, improve their in-house IT support and performance, and even track internet usage–all resulting in greater efficiency and reduced IT costs.”

Available in a flexible modular format, NetSupport DNA allows you to pick and choose the specific applications you need. Modules include hardware and software inventory, which can identify and store information about all the Windows-based computers on your network and the software on each machine; application and internet metering, which keeps track of software and web usage and can generate reports; software distribution; remote PC control; and a help-desk solution.

A downside is that NetSupport DNA only works with Windows-based computers and will not inventory Macintosh systems. The software runs on a Windows NT, 2000, XP, or 2003 server platform. A 100-computer license costs $2,688 for the inventory module alone and $5,376 for the full suite. Education and volume discounts also apply.

(888) 665-0808

4GL’s latest software streamlines special-ed management

4GL School Solutions has introduced an enhanced and web-accessible version of its suite of special-education management solutions for K-12 schools. Called Encore, the software aims to help districts operate more efficiently by automating and streamlining special-ed data collection and management, allowing districts to redirect resources into the classroom for improved teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

“Special-ed delivery is in crisis. Teacher turnover is high; data collection, forms, and paper processing take an inordinate amount of time; and thousands of dollars that districts don’t have in the first place are wasted or lost because of inefficiencies in the system,” said Clark Easter, the company’s founder and chief executive. “By making [our] solutions web-accessible, districts large and small can now take advantage of what they know is the only way to get special-needs programs under control–through technology-based, data-driven solutions tailored to meet their specific needs.”

A key component of the Encore suite is Timeline Tracker, which manages and monitors all phases of the individual education process for students. Interacting with Timeline Tracker is Forms Tracker, a program designed to streamline data entry with electronic versions of district-specific forms used by special-education teams. As data are entered, compliance requirements are verified automatically, a process that can reduce a district’s special-needs program paperwork burden by as much as 40 percent, according to the company.

The Encore suite also includes three optional modules: Encounter Tracker, which documents the delivery of direct and administrative services; Claims Tracker, an automated billing application that allows districts to file claims for reimbursable services; and Educational Outcomes Cubes, an analytical tool that monitors compliance and records best practices in a Timeline Tracker implementation to help districts identify what is–and is not–working.

Data accuracy, which is critical to managing information for special-needs students, has been increased to more than 98 percent for some 4GL clients using the online compliance support built into the system, the company says.

(877) 678-8070

New schedule-building software allows for greater flexibility

ACE Software of Grove City, Ohio, has launched an integrated Master Schedule Builder/Student-Scheduling Software program for K-12 schools that builds a school’s master schedule around the students’ needs, not the teachers’, thus eliminating scheduling conflicts and the resulting frustrations, according to the company.

By focusing on the students’ requirements for classes, sections, or teams, the program eliminates the familiar late-summer “scheduling fires” that occur when students overwhelm principals and faculty by changing classes that don’t fit into their schedules. Instead, principals and teachers are able to devote time to other pursuits.

The software builds a master schedule automatically by using all student course requests and staff and room requests, then it schedules the students by placing them in class sections. All of the work is performed by the software, and data for students, sections, classes, teachers, rooms, and times are entered only once into the system. Upon completion, results can be verified within minutes and changes can be made quickly and easily, the company said.

ACE’s Student-Scheduling Software features 64 periods, or time slots, instead of the standard 8 to 16 in other student-scheduling software products, allowing schools to schedule as many block, mini, and “skinny” courses as they need.

Dennis Ashworth, principal at Glen Este High School in suburban Cincinnati, uses ACE’s Master Schedule Builder/Student-Scheduling Software to address a significant challenge. “We have five small schools with five different bell schedules, and we offer one-, two-, and three-trimester classes,” he said. “The ACE product’s flexibility and power enable us to effectively schedule each school independently.”

Master Schedule Builder/Student-Scheduling Software works on all Windows 2000 systems and beyond, as well as Unix and some versions of Linux. An application service provider (ASP) model hosted by ACE Software also is available. The ASP version costs $5.99 per student, plus the cost of training.

(800) 837-2692

Toshiba’s new tablet PC introduces a new way of scrolling

Call it rock ‘n scroll: Toshiba Corp. has launched a new tablet PC that allows users to tilt the clipboard-like computer up and down to scroll through web pages. Users reading an electronic book or digital magazine also can turn the pages manually by tilting the tablet from left to right–similar to the real thing.

The unique “dual axis accelerometer” is among several new features in the Toshiba Portege M200, the company said. Others include pen-enabled programmable buttons that allows users to launch applications with the touch of a stylus and a one-touch zooming utility. The product has a suggested retail price of $2,499, but education discounts may apply.

Tablet PCs are notebook computers with handwriting recognition so the displays become digital writing slates. Models with built-in keyboards, including this latest one from Toshiba, are sometimes also called convertibles.

Tablets are still novelty items today, but computer makers expect the mobile devices to gain traction in coming years. Microsoft Corp. launched its operating system platform for the tablet PC in November 2002, leading to numerous models, including ones from Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard Co., Gateway Inc., and Acer America Corp.


Material from the Associated Press was used in some of these reports.

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