Sen. Smith and Rep. Schiff win Cyber Champ titles
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) were named 2006 Cyber Champions by the Business Software Alliance for supporting fair and safe Internet practices.

BSA presents its annual Cyber Champion Awards to policy-makers who
have championed issues that are critical to the success
of the high-tech industry.

“As advocates of innovation and U.S. competitiveness, Sen. Smith and Rep. Schiff have vigorously promoted policies that will ensure the health and continued growth of the technology industry, including intellectual property protection, free trade and promoting cybersecurity,” said Robert Holleyman, president and chief executive officer of BSA. “They understand the critical role that the technology industry plays in contributing to the nation’s economy, and the policies they champion continue to enhance economic growth by opening new markets and furthering innovation around the globe.”

Smith, a proponent of free trade, has stressed the need to ease trade barriers for the sake of U.S. competitiveness, BSA leaders said. In defending the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the establishment of normal trade relations with China, he has demonstrated his concern for the growth of the U.S. technology sector internationally, the group added.

Schiff, co-founder and current co-chairman of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, has worked to protect intellectual property rights domestically and abroad, BSA leaders said. He recently introduced a measure to prevent countries with widespread piracy from joining the World Trade Organization.

Past Cyber Champions include House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

SGI supercomputer sharpens NWS winter weather forecasting skills
The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in Norman, Okla., was simulating blizzards in autumn with a Silicon Graphics Inc. supercomputer. The purpose was to test new computer programs that could help National Weather Service forecasters produce more accurate severe winter weather watches and warnings.

This summer, the laboratory activated a newly acquired SGI Altix supercomputer to run a forecasting model that covers most of the continental United States, with data points about every 2.5 miles. NSSL programmed the machine to crank out high-resolution 36-hour forecasts every day.

“We didn’t have a guaranteed level of performance from the vendor who sold us the cluster we were using before, but with SGI, we do. That has made a big difference,” said Jack Kain, research meteorologist at NSSL, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Foreign governments turn to nonproprietary file formats
A Nov. 17 published version of Brazil’s new interoperability framework recommends that government agencies use the Open Document Format (ODF), a file format for text, spreadsheets and other office documents that is based on Extensible Markup Language.

ODF is an alternative to proprietary formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel  and PowerPoint files. It is able to save government records in a format that any application in the future can read, regardless of the software that created the original document.

India has opted to use ODF in the Delhi state government’s commercial tax office, and Italy now recognizes ODF as a national standard, according to the OpenDocument Format Alliance. The alliance is a lobbying group of technology vendors, government entities, nonprofit organizations and academic institutions dedicated to promoting the use of nonproprietary technologies for archiving government records.

“2006 is ending as auspiciously as it began, with legions of governments the world over expressing real support for ODF,” said Marino Marcich, executive director of the ODF Alliance. “ODF is providing compatibility that will enable diverse organizations worldwide to work better with one another at lower cost and give them access to their own information.”

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