Persistent negative impact

Thursday, August 26, 2010

E Sunday Telegraph reports a survey of more than half a million children reveals technology is counter-productive in improving student achievement.

It found that introducing children to computers from 10 years of age could have a detrimental effect and was associated with "modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student maths and reading test scores".

The study, published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, flies in the face of popular belief and shows that expanding computer access does not reduce the digital divide.

Study co-author Jacob Vigdor said the findings suggest access to computers can harm children's learning.

"Students who gain access to a home computer between 5th and 8th grade tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math test scores," he said.

"For school administrators interested in maximising achievement test scores, or reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities in test scores, all evidence suggests that a program of broadening home computer access would be counterproductive."

Researchers analysed administrative data for more than 500,000 Years 5-8 students from North Carolina.

Payday loans

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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Take a spin in the Auto-GCAS

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

WHEN the Australian Defence Force takes delivery of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in 2015, it can expect the usual array of advanced weaponry and stealth technologies.

For the price tag of around $110 million and climbing per plane, it ought to, but the first major upgrade to our air force fleet in 30 years is not all about firepower.

Last week, Aviation Week reporter Guy Norris got a sneak peek of the JSF's extraordinary new secret weapon — crash avoidance.

He's unlikely to ever forget it. At times he was experiencing 1000km/h in runs through canyons less than 70m off the ground.

The point of it all was for the US Air Force to show off its new system for dealing with those unfortunate moments when the pilot forgets where they are or loses consciousness — the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, or Auto-GCAS.

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Current systems are simply based on terrain awareness and warnings which alert pilots of impending collisions.

The big difference is that Auto-GCAS actually wrests control off the pilot and takes evasive action.

It won't save pilots' lives in a mechanical emergency or if they've detuned it in order to make a low pass, but all the scenarios Norris was put through replicated accidents that happened in combat situations.

One notable incident occurred when a USAF pilot pulled up out of a bombing run and turned the wrong way, plunging into the ground instead of up in the air.

Smartphones and appliances

Sunday, August 22, 2010

PHONE-crazy Australians are behind a huge leap in numbers of smartphones like Apple's iPhone being sold.

More than $500 million was spent on the gadgets in the three months to the end of June — a 92 per cent increase on the same time last year.

The smartphone boom has come at the expense of traditional mobile phones, with their sales tumbling almost 50 per cent to $200 million, the latest GfK TEMAX consumer electronics survey says.

However, the statistics reveal a general fall in consumer confidence, with overall sales down 5.2 per cent.

GfK spokeswoman Gwenno Hopkin said consumers' passion for social networking and surfing the net on the move was helping to drive the smartphone explosion.

"Smartphones are becoming standard now and people are looking for that kind of functionality in the phones on offer," she said.

Telstra to kill bill shock by cutting off net hogs

Friday, August 20, 2010

TELSTRA'S 1.6 million iPhone and BlackBerry customers will have their internet access cut off if they overspend because the telco has had enough of customers refusing to pay.

The "app cap" would apply to all so-called smartphones on the Telstra network, barring users from the web until the following month.

"It stops the charge but it also stops the service," Telstra chief financial officer John Stanhope said yesterday.

He said, while Telstra "didn't want to intrude" into users' lives, it had been forced to act because it was losing tens of millions of dollars when customers failed to cough up.

"There is bill shock. People go, 'Wow, I didn't expect that size bill'," Mr Stanhope said.

But he also said Telstra was partly to blame because it wasn't doing a good enough job of explaining its plans and costs to new smartphone customers. He argued the app cap would benefit many customers by protecting them from big bills.
It was possible that customers would be able to set the cut-off limit themselves, he said.

And Telstra would also increase its efforts to "educate" users about plans.

Telstra expected to have the cap in place by the end of this financial year — by which time the telco was likely to have more than two million smartphone users because sign-ups were growing 30 per cent annually.

Rapidly rising revenue from mobile web access was one of the few bright spots in the annual financial result Telstra reported yesterday.

The real story behind Jenny's fake resignation

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

IT'S the sort of thing everyone wishes they'd done, if only they had the guts.

And for a moment, everyone thought that a woman called Jenny had actually done it - resigned from her job, gotten back at her boss and turned into an internet celebrity all at once.

A collection of photos showing Jenny writing her resignation on a portable whiteboard took the internet world by storm this week, with nearly half a million people sharing it on Facebook.

The photos showed Jenny leaving several parting messages for her former colleagues, including her boss, with matching facial expressions to boot.

She described her time as a personal assistant as "a special hell", said she knew her boss had been describing her as a "hot piece of ass" and then revealed how much time he wasted playing Farmville at work.
The stunt earned her an army of fans who praised her for sticking it to the man and described her as a "girl next door" version of Angelina Jolie.

Which is all good and well, except that Jenny doesn’t actually exist. She was actually an actress named Elyse Porterfield.

The story was a hoax created by the owners of humour website The Chive, who told the world of their prank in a second collection of photos showing Porterfield again writing on the whiteboard.

"I'm an actress in LA," reads one message. The next says: "And this has been a hoax."

Panasonic's 'bonus Wii' offer

Monday, August 16, 2010

ELECTRONICS giant Panasonic wanted to be the Santa of Christmas 2008, but its "free Wii" promotion has left the global corporation looking more like the Grinch.

The Federal Court, sitting in Adelaide, yesterday ruled the company breached the Trade Practices Act with its advertising campaign in November and December 2008.

At the time, it offered consumers a "bonus" Nintendo Wii console if they purchased one of Panasonic's Full HD Viera Plasma televisions.

But Justice John Mansfield yesterday said consumers were not told they had to provide the television's serial number within 14 days of purchase.

He said there was "no guarantee" consumers would receive their televisions within 14 days, due to the traditional Christmas rush.

That left purchasers, he said, with little or no time to claim their Wii.

"A consumer would have understood that there were conditions attached to the (promotion), but not that the conditions were such that they could not be met," he said.

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Panasonic was taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The commission alleged Panasonic's failure to inform customers about serial numbers and delays amounted to misleading and deceptive conduct.

BlackBerry info

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also threatened to cut off popular BlackBerry services unless they get greater access to user information. Like India, they've cited security concerns in pushing for access to encrypted information sent by the cell phones that gets routed through the Canadian company's servers overseas.

India has asked for encrypted BlackBerry communications to be made easily available to its intelligence and law enforcement agencies, saying that the services could be used by militant groups.

The 10 heavily armed gunmen who rampaged through Mumbai, India's financial capital, in November 2008, killing 166 people, used cell and satellite phones to communicate with their Pakistan-based handlers, according to Indian officials.

Research In Motion had no immediate comment on India's announcement. It has said its discussions with regulators around the world are private.

The announcement came after a meeting of India's home secretary, an official in charge of domestic security, and representatives of security agencies and the government's telecommunications department, the ministry said in a statement.