Get the word out on tunes, privacy, training

Bandwidth hogs

Have you noticed that at about 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each work day, the Internet seems to drag its heels, responding more slowly? Your shop's server logs probably reveal peak traffic during those periods.

However, one reason for the overall Internet slowdown is the growing use of audio streaming.

Music can be relaxing during the hectic afternoon hours, but soothing music often can't be found on local broadcast stations. Having an Internet audio player can be a temptation for users who turn to their computer for stations sending smooth sounds over the Internet. But audio requires lots of bandwidth, and it doesn't take too many online listeners to consume a major chunk of the pipe, and video hogs even more.

Audio/video player software is an important tool for many employees, so it should remain available on computers. However, its bandwidth consumption is a factor that needs to be communicated to staff.

In an effort to reduce the flow and keep service high until our lines are enlarged, we're beginning to get the word out that audio/video players are to be used for business only. Bring a CD to work if you need music.

Privacy notice

The General Accounting Office has evaluated privacy notices at a number of federal Web sites. In the examination, GAO employed the methodology the Federal Trade Commission uses in evaluating privacy disclosures on commercial sites. [See "Fair Information Practices in the Electronic Marketplace: A Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress"]

GAO analyzed federal Web privacy statements, disclaimers, security notices and other related posted information. A report is expected to be released in the fall of 2000. It could be worthwhile to check your agency's online privacy and security notices.

Online training

The Internet has become regarded as a vehicle to offer educational opportunities to an expanded audience without putting up more brick buildings.

Computer-based training using CD-ROMs with text books has become a standard method of instruction. Training organizations have been investing in improving presentations, and many groups are placing courses on the Internet. Training has become interactive. Instructors are using software to insert written comments, and students can ask questions online.

Traditional schools have not ignored developments. Accredited universities and colleges are offering online courses and degrees. Stanford University, the University of California and others are participating in the new method of instruction.

Keeping up with the latest developments is a challenge. One upcoming resource the Online Learning 2000 conference scheduled for Sept. 25-27 in Denver.

—Powell is the Agriculture Department's Internet and intranet Webmaster.

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