Only NASA can prevent forest fires

A team led by NASA and U.S. Forest Service scientists assisted in squelching the recent arson fire in Southern California. The group transmitted real-time images of the fire’s perimeter — gathered by sensors onboard a piloted aircraft — to the Esperanza Fire Incident Command Center. With the images, the center was able to map the fire’s path and deploy aid accordingly.

From an altitude of 43,000 feet, the NASA wildfire sensor collected and sent 100 images and more than 20 data files in a 16-hour period on Oct. 28 and 29. A satellite communications link fed the data live.

Read the fine print

Microsoft officials told Federal Computer Week that a new 3-D version of their popular Virtual Earth application does not require a large amount of storage space to download, unlike the rival Google Earth Web service, which needs at least 400M of free space, according to Google’s system requirements.

Virtual Earth users just need to install a 5M plug-in to view the 3-D images, Microsoft officials said.

We wanted to check the specific configuration requirements for ourselves. But the full system requirements are buried so deep within the Help page that users need an archaeology degree to find them. After a lot of clicking, we found a page that says the 3-D version needs 250M or more of hard-disk space.

See for yourself:

Go to using Internet Explorer.

Click “Free! Download now!” on the left-hand side.

Click small “Help” hyperlink in the pop-up window, which brings up another pop-up window.

Click “System requirements for Virtual Earth 3D (Beta)” under “Related topics” in the second pop-up window.

Microsoft officials said the apparent discrepancy in the system requirements is caused by local system requirements the system uses for caching temporary files. The 3-D Virtual Earth application does not need to permanently install 250M of data. Instead, it streams 250M of data at certain intervals.

Google, which is known for its simplicity, displays Google Earth’s requirements directly on the download page: com/download-earth.html.

Decode IPv6 and win prizes

The federal government’s transition to IPv6, the next generation of IP, will prompt businesses to offer a host of new commercial products and services, in hopes of winning contract awards, according to a study released Nov. 6.

The Office of Management and Budget requires federal agencies to transition from IPv4 to IPv6 by June 2008.

About 67 percent of the nearly 300 private-sector survey respondents said they would invest in producing IPv6 products and services, according to the Second Annual IPv6 Government Action Study by Juniper Networks. About a third of them said the mandated transition would significantly accelerate the pace of production.

The transition to IPv6 depends on industry’s willingness to manufacture IPv6-capable products and services, according to a report accompanying the survey.

“We think industry sees a market, and they’re ready to move forward,” said Chuck Lynch, co-founder and senior partner at SynExi, a technology consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va., which worked on the survey.

Government IPv6 IT purchases over the next couple of years will likely focus on training, testing, engineering services and production equipment, said Peter Tseronis, director of network services at the Education Department and co-chairman of the CIO Council’s IPv6 Working Group.

Students hit the books to stop terrorists

On Nov. 6, the Department of Homeland Security announced it has awarded 103 new scholarships and fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students as part of a program that encourages future scientists and engineers to specialize in areas relevant to homeland security.

Since 2003, the DHS Scholars and Fellows Program has sponsored 439 scholarships and fellowships for students who are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Jay Cohen, undersecretary of the Science and Technology Directorate at DHS, said, “I’m confident of their contributions to the DHS mission, and we are confident that this program will better equip them for success.”

He added, “While they are sure to be faced with multifaceted and complex scientific challenges, as well as determined adversaries, I believe they will meet and surpass our expectations and advance S&T’s future technological and scientific progress.”

Recently, the new students gathered in Washington, D.C., for an orientation, where they participated in a research internship fair. The program provides opportunities for hands-on research experience in DHS laboratories, national laboratories or university-based DHS centers of excellence.

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