Software lets students take exams at leisure

Reuters reports that British students might soon have the chance to take college exams in their own bedrooms at any time of the day or night — without being able to cheat. U.S. firm Software Secure has developed a program which is designed to make sure students stay honest while taking the exam by keeping them under surveillance and cutting off any access to cribbing material. The software firstly locks down the use of all files and the internet, other than those specifically needed for the exam. It then asks for a fingerprint test to ensure the candidate is the correct person and uses audio and video recording to ensure that the student is under exam conditions during the whole period…

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Top U.S. carriers plot faster gadgets, services

Reuters reports that the next generation of high-speed internet services, tablets, smartphones, and other mobile gadgets could arrive faster than you would expect. The two biggest U.S. phone companies, AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless, are stepping up plans to speed up their networks and deliver advanced devices to consumers as early as this holiday season with partners such as Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics, and LG Electronics. AT&T said it is planning to triple speeds for home internet services, and double speeds on its wireless network, while Verizon Wireless said it will be ready with a slew of high-speed phones earlier than it had previously suggested. “We still have a tremendous amount of opportunity in wireless,” John Stankey, AT&T’s operations chief said, dismissing suggestions from some telecoms analysts that the industry’s exponential growth days were over. “We’re at the front of that 10-year (growth) cycle in the mobile space today,” he said at the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York on May 14. While wireless carriers have to depend on data services for growth, because most people already have cellphones, Stankey sees opportunities in business applications. As industries add wireless connections to their equipment, such as medical devices and security systems, each business vertical could eventually generate a $1 billion a year in revenue, he said…

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U.S. struggles to ward off evolving cyber threat

The United States is losing enough data in cyber attacks to fill the Library of Congress many times over, and authorities have failed to stay ahead of the threat, a U.S. defense official said on Wednesday, Reuters reports. More than 100 foreign spy agencies were working to gain access to U.S. computer systems, as were criminal organizations, said James Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy. Terrorist groups also had cyber attack capabilities. “Our systems are probed thousands of times a day and scanned millions of times a day,” Miller told a forum sponsored by Ogilvy Washington, a public relations company. He said the evolving cyber threat had “outpaced our ability to defend against it.” “We are experiencing damaging penetrations — damaging in the sense of loss of information. And we don’t fully understand our vulnerabilities,” Miller said.

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Poor teachers may hamper good students: U.S. study

Researchers said an unusual genetic study supports the argument that good teachers make a difference and shows that poor teachers may do damage, even to gifted students, Reuters reports. The study, published in the journal Science, showed that effective teachers help kids with the best genes read better, while poor teachers brought down all the children in a classroom to the same mediocre level. The findings by behavioral geneticist Jeanette Taylor at Florida State University and colleagues could influence the debate in Congress, the White House and school districts across the United States about measuring the quality in schools. “In circumstances where the teachers are all excellent, the variability in student reading achievement may appear to be largely due to genetics. However, poor teaching impedes the ability of children to reach their potential,” Taylor and colleagues concluded…

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IBM, universities target easy-to-use cell phones

Teaming up with international universities, IBM has started a two-year research program that aims to make cell phones easier to use for groups including the elderly and the illiterate, Reuters reports. IBM said that software developed in the program, which also involves the National Institute of Design of India and Tokyo University, will be made available on an open-source basis, and other materials developed will be made publicly available for governments and businesses. Telecom industry watchers said the IBM program addresses a genuine need. “As the population in Europe and North America ages, the need for specialized mobile devices will become acute,” said Ben Wood, research director at British consultancy CCS Insight…

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Cyber-bullying cases put heat on internet giants

The internet was built on freedom of expression. Yet, society wants someone held accountable when that freedom is abused—and major internet companies like Google and Facebook are finding themselves caught between those ideals, Reuters reports. Although Google, Facebook, and their rivals have enjoyed a relatively “safe harbor” from prosecution over user-generated content in the United States and Europe, they face a public that increasingly is more inclined to blame them for cyber-bullying and other online transgressions. Such might have been the case when three Google executives were convicted in Milan, Italy, on Feb. 24 over a bullying video posted on the site—a verdict greeted with horror by online activists, who fear it could open the gates to such prosecutions and ultimately destroy the internet itself. Journalist Jeff Jarvis suggested on his influential BuzzMachine blog that the Italian court, which found Google executives guilty of violating the privacy of an autistic boy who was taunted in the video, was essentially requiring web sites to review everything posted on them. “The practical implication of that, of course, is that no one will let anyone put anything online, because the risk is too great,” Jarvis wrote. “And that kills the internet.” A seemingly stunned Chris Thompson, writing for Slate, said simply: “The mind reels at this medieval verdict…”

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Amazon launches free Kindle app for Blackberry

Amazon.com said Feb. 18 it is launching a new free Kindle application that will give customers access to over 420,000 books on a range of BlackBerry devices, Reuters reports. Called “Kindle for Blackberry”, the free application allows customers using BlackBerry devices on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and other U.S. carriers easy wireless access to Kindle books, most for $9.99 or less. “Since the launch of our popular Kindle for iPhone app last year, customers have been asking us to bring a similar experience to the BlackBerry,” said Ian Freed, Vice President, Amazon Kindle…

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Sweden beats U.S. to top tech usage ranking

Sweden took the number one spot from the United States to top the annual rankings on the usage of telecommunications technologies such as networks, cell phones and computers, a report released on Thursday shows, according to Reuters. The Connectivity Scorecard, created by London Business School professor Leonard Waverman in 2008, measured 50 countries on dozens of indicators, including technological skills and usage of communications technology. “Sweden not only has the best current mix of attributes, but it also shows few signs of losing its lead,” said Waverman. “By contrast, there is the beginning of a gap in what was once the essence of U.S. leadership in most industrial and service sectors – education and skills.”

Sweden was second in the last survey behind the United States. Norway placed third, up from fifth spot last year. Researchers say the new indicator — commissioned by telecom gear maker Nokia Siemens Networks — is already used by several countries in developing innovation strategies. “Economic recovery and government stimulus packages aimed at boosting broadband deployment and ICT development should provide room for optimism in the coming years,” Waverman said. Countries in eastern and southern Europe — including Italy, Spain, Greece and Poland — took the last spots on the list of 25 developed countries…

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