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Scientists Set Up Alternative to ‘World Wide Wait’ -URBANA,

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 Computer scientist Oliver McBryan had a problem working on a virtual model of a flying airplane: The Internet is so slow it would take 100 days to download one simulation.
The vast computer network originally built for scientists is so technologically dated and clogged with regular folks sending e-mail, playing games and downloading video clips that the scientists can’t get anything done.

Now, McBryan and other researchers have gone online with an entirely new, scientists-only computer network called vBNS that exchanges data at speeds that blow away the World Wide wait of the Internet.

“Moving from the Internet to vBNS is like moving from a pocket calculator to a personal desktop computer,” said McBryan, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Top speed of the vBNS, or “very high speed Backbone Network System,” is being bumped up this month to more than 21,000 times that of the average modem. The network will be able to transmit the entire contents of the Library of Congress twice a day — a task that would take an entire month on the Internet.

While the general public may never have access to the vBNS, telecommunications companies already are taking lessons learned from the vBNS and using them to help ease congestion on the Internet.

McBryan and other experts say the Internet could be upgraded to run as fast as the vBNS in five to 10 years, creating consumer opportunities such as downloading a digital-quality, two-hour movie in a matter of seconds.

The vBNS started in 1995 as a 14,000-mile fiber optic loop connecting the nation’s five supercomputing centers in San Diego; Boulder, Colo.; Urbana; Pittsburgh; and Ithaca, N.Y. Researchers needed the vBNS to more easily transfer the huge amounts of data used on supercomputers because the Internet was not up to the task.

Computer experts also needed a place to develop and test the technology needed to rev up the Internet to higher speeds. MCI Telecommunications Corp., which built and maintains vBNS, already is using some vBNS routing technology on its Internet service, said project manager Charles Lee.

Administrators at the National Science Foundation, which once managed the original Internet, decide which researchers and projects can have access to the network. MCI’s agreement with the foundation requires that the vBNS always be faster than any network available commercially.

“There aren’t millions of users doing e-mail,” Lee explained. “It’s strictly for what’s called meritorious applications — support of science with a big S.”

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Urbana is developing ways to bring people at separate sites into the same virtual reality environment.

For example, the center is working with Caterpillar Inc. to let company engineers in the United States and Europe simultaneously tinker with computer models of tractors.

The most innovative uses of such a high-speed network could be hard to predict, however. Ten years ago, few computer experts could have imagined the popularity of the World Wide Web, that portion of the Internet where users can view text and images, hear sounds and watch animation or video.

“It’s not clear exactly where the Internet is going,” researcher Charlie Catlett said. “The vBNS is a test bed to let us figure out how the next generation of Internet will look.”

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Internet Case Presents Challenges for High Court, Lawyers

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The institution that still presents quill pens to lawyers is ready to consider the propriety of restricting indecent materials on the Internet.
The case, which will go before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, presents a tough challenge to lawyers on both sides: trying to explain cyberspace to justices unfamiliar with the place.

“The court is called upon to apply the First Amendment to a form of communication it, in effect, knows nothing about, or at least has no hands-on experience with,” said David Sobel, a lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

At issue is the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act, the first attempt by Congress to regulate the freewheeling global computer network.

A three-judge court in Philadelphia blocked the law from taking effect shortly after it was enacted last year. The judges ruled the law would wrongly deny adults access to material that may be inappropriate for children.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by July.

Interviews with current and former court employees, who insisted on anonymity, suggest that the Internet remains mainly a mystery for all nine justices. Lawyers arguing both sides of the case have tried to clear that hurdle by using their briefs as teaching tools.

They are also counting on input from the justices’ clerks.

“There is a hope on both sides that the law clerks to the justices will play an unusually pivotal role in deciding this case,” said Andrew J. Schwartzman, a lawyer representing the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition.

“The clerks … are likely to be very comfortable with this technology, and we hope they will be sitting down with their justices and explaining some of those concepts.”

Each justice has three or four law clerks — young lawyers chosen from among top graduates of prestigious law schools — who spend a year as research assistants.

While none of the justices is known to be a regular Internet user, computer technology is not new to them.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas are veteran telecommuters, using word processors and facsimile machines to keep in touch with their chambers from home when the court is not in session.

But their computers are connected only to the court’s stand-alone system. For security reasons, their machines are not linked to computers outside the court’s stately workplace on Capitol Hill.

All justices except David H. Souter have computers in their offices.

And even though his office is not computerized, Souter has demonstrated an awareness of the technology. Last June the court struck down part of a federal law aimed at restricting children’s access to indecent programming on some cable stations. Souter’s opinion contained what is believed be the first Supreme Court citation of material from the Internet.

In that opinion, Souter fretted: “In my own ignorance I have to accept the real possibility that if we had to decide today just what the First Amendment should mean in cyberspace we would get it fundamentally wrong.”

Now that the cyberspace issue is before the court, lawyers are scurrying to help the justices get it right.

A coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the form of a CD-ROM. It demonstrates what the Internet is about and includes links to cyberspace sites.

Court employees would not say whether any justices have looked at the “brief.”

If so inclined, the justices can also rely on the lower court’s opinion, which is, in part, an Internet primer.

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FTC Opens Staples Case To Internet Comment – WASHINGTON

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The Federal Trade Commission, wrestling with a proposed $4 billion merger of Staples and Office Depot, took the unprecedented step today of opening up the Internet to public comment after a Ralph Nader group petitioned it.
The unusual action could add a new element to the decision, in which Office Depot and Staples have sought to make their case for merger through full-page advertisements in major newspapers.

“Awesome,” said James Love of Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive law, who had written the petition, as he looked at the page. “I believed this is the first time the FTC has ever used the Internet to seek consumer comments on a merger.”

On Monday the commission voted 4-1 to ask a Federal District Court to block the merger of the two office superstores. Then Office Depot and Staples added a new dimension Wednesday with a highly publicized agreement to sell 63 stores to the other player in the office superstore field, OfficeMax.

Now the FTC is trying to decide whether to accept the divestiture and permit the deal to go through.

The new channel for public comment is easily reached from a link on the FTC home page at www.ftc.gov and marks another expansion of the commission’s presence on the Web, which has grown in the past year to include speeches, rulings and other information.

But in the past, although the FTC invited comments to its consumer complaint bureau on its Web page, it made no similar invitation on merger cases.

Then the Nader group asked the FTC to permit public comments on mergers, both generally and with a specific focus on the Staples case.

Until now public comment at the FTC has been a narrow affair. Senior officials there held the view that public comment need be considered only very late in the process, and when it was invited, there was not much. Even highly publicized cases, such as the deal that created media giant Time-Warner, drew only dozens of comments.

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Pentium 9 to Debut Soon – Intel Inc advanced report

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HANOVER, Germany — Computer chip maker Intel has announced its next-generation Pentium II processor will begin appearing soon in high-powered personal computers aimed at businesses.
“Between now and the end of June, we will be launching the Pentium II,” Intel product manager Tim Miller told Reuters at the CeBIT computer trade fair.

The chip — which combined Intel’s MMX multimedia technology with its existing Pentium Pro processor — would run at speeds “well above” the current top speed of 200 megahertz, Miller confirmed.

Last month Intel demonstrated a chip running at 400 megahertz at a technology conference in San Francisco.

Miller said the demonstration chip was not a Pentium II, but showed Intel had “head room” to raise speeds in future processors.

Pentium II would debut in PCs geared for producing 3-D graphics, complex simulations and special effects for movies. “This chip will open up new areas of visualization for the PC,” said Pat Gelsinger, Intel chief of desktop products.

Intel was expected to need faster chips to maintain its edge over challenger Advanced Micro Devices, which plans to launch a high-speed chip of its own in the second quarter. AMD has said its K6 chip will be faster than the 200 megahertz Pentium Pro now at the top of Intel’s line.

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