- By Judi Hasson
- Sep 10, 2001
Meanwhile, over at the U.S. Customs Service, officials are experimenting
with some neat technology to "untether" inspectors from their data systems,
according to Woody Hall, Customs' chief information officer. In a recent
video clip, Hall said the agency has been experimenting with using portable
computers in various configurations. "You can wear them in slings, you can
wear them in vests that look a lot like body armor," he said. Customs also
has been working with IBM Corp. labs to develop a headband that has a boom
mounted on it.
"The boom's got a thumbnail-sized screen that provides the same information
you'd see on your monitor, except it's in the size of a quarter of an inch,"
he said, and the boom also has a microphone on it, so the user can give
voice commands to computers. Hall said these gadgets may be ready for production
within a year or two.
PDA at CIA
It looks like the CIA, that zipped-lipped organization based in McLean,
Va., is loosening up a bit on technology. Spokesman Tom Crispell says the
agency now allows employees to carry certain kinds of handheld computers
as long as they cannot transmit outside the building.
Until now, all personal digital assistants were banned, and visitors
had to park their cell phones and pagers at the reception desk. The reason:
Any two-way transmitting device could be used as a bug to transmit conversations
and data. Now the spooks have seen the light and lightened up. Not to worry
field agents have all sorts of technology, likely even a few gadgets
we've never heard of.
President Bush approved the White House's recent Web site redesign,
but he cannot take advantage of the improved organization or reminisce with
photo.graphs of tee-ball games from the comfort of his own desk. Tucker
Eskew, White House director of media affairs, says the Oval Office lacks
a computer, much less an Internet connection for the president to peruse
his own site.
But other White House locations are getting an information technology
infusion. The administration is outfitting the Roosevelt Room with high-speed
Internet access, video.conferencing and other goodies that Eskew would not
disclose. The upgrades should be done soon, he said, bringing that much-used
meeting room into the 21st century.
What happens when satellite that measures the growing hole in the
ozone over Antarctica costs too much to operate? Just pull the plug. That's
what NASA is doing today, 10 years after the Upper Atmosphere Research
Satellite mission began. "We can't afford to continue to feed it, and we
have other priorities with new technologies," NASA spokesman David Steitz
said recently, citing $10 million in annual costs.
But some scientists say the move is a bad one. "It's a $1 billion asset
we're throwing down the drain because we can't come up with a couple of
million to keep it running," said Mark Schoeberl, the mission's former project
scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
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