Tag: computers

Computers do not help kids study

42074Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils’ performance.

A global study from the OECD, penned by Andreas Schleicher says the frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.

The report looked at the impact of school technology on international test results, such as the Pisa tests taken in more than 70 countries and tests measuring digital skills.

It says education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen “no noticeable improvement” in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science.

“If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classrooms,” said Schleicher.

“Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately.”

The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) says schools have £619m in budgets for ICT, with £95m spent on software and digital content.

But Schleicher says the “impact on student performance is mixed at best”.

•Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results
•Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have “somewhat better learning outcomes” than students who use computers rarely
•The results show “no appreciable improvements” in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology
•High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school
•Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills

“One of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified,” said Schleicher.

Classroom technology can be a distraction and result in pupils cutting and pasting “prefabricated” homework answers from the internet.

The study shows “there is no single country in which the internet is used frequently at school by a majority of students and where students’ performance improved”.

Among the seven countries with the highest level of internet use in school, it found three experienced “significant declines” in reading performance – Australia, New Zealand and Sweden – and three more had results that had “stagnated” – Spain, Norway and Denmark.

The countries and cities with the lowest use of the internet in school – South Korea, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan – are among the top performers in international tests.

Scientist claims computers will never be conscious

SongA Korean quantum physicist has fuelled  the debate about artificial intelligence with a paper he claims shows that human consciousness “cannot be computed”.

Daegene Song, an associate professor at Chungbuk National University in Korea, says a paper he has written shows consciousness is not like other physical systems.

“The brain and consciousness are linked together, but the brain does not produce consciousness,” he writes. “Consciousness is something altogether different and separate. The math doesn’t lie.”

Song said he reached this conclusion by quantum computer research and claims there’s a mechanism in human consciousness that no computing device can simulate.

“Among conscious activities, the unique characteristic of self observation cannot exist in any type of machine,” he said. “Human thought has a mechanism that computers cannot compute or be programmed to do.”

He claims that no research into the brain has ever represented consciousness precisely, and no one has shown how a neuron network, like the human brain, gives rise to consciousness.

Graphene spins like nothing else on earth

illustration courtesy Chalmers University of TechnologyScientists at Chalmers University of Technology said that large area graphene preserves electronic spin over a long period.

And that means the window is now open for the long-touted spintronics, promising faster CPUs and memory for computers.

The aptly named Saroj Dash, head of the research group at Chalmers, said: “These results will attract a lot of attention in the research community and put graphene on the map for applications in spintronic components.”

Spintronics, already used in state of the art hard drives but Dash believes there’s more exciting times ahead. “The thin carbon film is not only an excellent electrical conductor, but also theoretically has the rare ability to maintain the electronics with the spin intact,” said Dash.

That means that in spin components of the future, electrons will be able to travel several tens of micrometers with spins staying aligned, something you can’t do with aluminium or copper, Dash said.

The researchers have managed to create graphene through chemical vapour deposition. Dash said: “The CVD graphene can also be easily removed from the copper foil on which it grows and is lifted onto a silicon wafer. There are good prospects for the production of large area graphene on an industrial scale.”

So when, and if, will we see spintronic computers? On that subject Dash is a little more pessimistic. He said: “Whether spintronics can eventually fully replace semiconductor technology is an open question.”

93% of UK households have a computer

A parliamentary answer has revealed that a staggering 93 percent of households in the UK own a computer.

That’s according to the director general of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), replying to a question from Chris Ruane, the Labour membery for the Vale of Clwyd.

What’s more, the percentage may be greater than this now, because the figures are from 2011.

According to the ONS, 88 percent of unemployed people in the UK have computers.

And, in a debate on the future of the BBC, it was revealed that 40 percent of iPlayer use is through mobile devices rather than desktop computers.

Labour MP asks Treasury about missing laptops, Blackberrys

Gareth Thomas, Labour MP for Harrow West, has asked questions about lost or stolen computers, mobiles, Blackberrys and other IT equipment to the Treasury and other government departments.

Thomas asked the Secretary of State for International Development just how many pieces of kit went missing or stolen from 2010 to now. In total 42 laptops went missing, 18 phones, nine Blackberrys, a 15 inch monitor and nine memory sticks, Conservative Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan, admitted.

Thomas put the same question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sajid Javid, Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, replied that since 2010, 28 Laptops have been stolen or gone missing, with just 11 of those having been recovered.

38 Blackberrys disappeared from the Treasury with just four of those recovered, while 74 other pieces of IT equipment were reported stolen or lost, with just three of that unnamed equipment having been recovered to date.

Javid assured Thomas that despite the missing equipment, all laptops were encrypted and “not accessible without a security token and more than one password,” and that the BlackBerrys were password protected too.

“No tokens or passwords were left with these items, and so there was no data loss,” Javid said. “Steps were taken as soon as the theft of these electronic items were reported, to ensure that they provided no means of access to any of the Department’s IT systems”.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was also asked, however, Conservative MP Michael Penning advised Thomas to approach the independent Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Parades Commission for Norther Ireland directly.

Tin box wizard Dell declares PC alive and kicking

Michael Dell, the man who allegedly insists on a cardboard cut-out of himself present at every Dell event, has rubbished claims from certain Apple friendly corners that the PC is dead and buried.

Nonsense, he told the Financial Times, in fact. The PC is alive and kicking and Dell isn’t going to chuck out its personal systems group like HP’s Action Man Apotheker did. Rather than sticking up for the humble tin box, he said it’s an economy of scale. “It goes from one of the top buyers in the world of disk drives and processors and memory chips to not being one of the top five, and that raises the cost of making servers and storage products.”

So, then, Dell is committed to the PC, just like everyone else will say until the end of time. But they’re right, to a point. The problem is other than flinging cartoon birds at piles of pork, surfing the web and watching films, the tablet is – essentially – crap for most work. 

One senior employee at a public body that was considering introducing tablets into the work place told us, after buying an iPad 2, that he loves it – but it’s “s*** for work”.

It’s almost as if there is some sort of fad.

What people are forgetting, Dell implies, is that there is a heavy hunger for computers specifically in the emerging markets. You can read the FT article here

MIT plants Terminator seeds with Civilization II despot computer

Researchers over at MIT have decided to teach computers a task many of us refuse to learn – how to read a manual and put that knowledge into effect.

The scientists say computers are “great at treating words as data”. So they put the manual to Civilization II in front of a machine and let it loose.

Beginning with hardly any data or know-how, one computer was able to infer the meanings of words merely by reading instructions on how to install software, which were posted on Microsoft’s website.

Another was able to install and play the empire-building crack-like Civilization II by reading the gameplay manual. In fact, after reading the manual, the PC’s winning rate jumped from 46 percent to 79 percent.

The brainchild behind the experiment – Regina Barzilay, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering, said that games were used as a test bed for artificial-intelligence techniques simply because of their complexity.

She pointed out that every action that is taken in a game doesn’t have a pre-determined outcome, because the game or the opponent can randomly react to what their competitors do.

The manuals were perfect for the computers as they had very open text and didn’t tell a person how to win, meaning that the machine had to “think” for itself.

Apparently, the instructions of the game presents the computer with a list of actions it can take. This includes right-clicks or left-clicks, or moving the cursor. Although it can see these instructions there is nothing telling the computer which actions will make it successful.

It begins with random actions, which in the case of Civilization II, bring up different words on the screen.

By comparing these words to instructions in the manual it’s able to get a picture of what it’s doing and whether these actions work.

When it came to the software manual, the system was able to reproduce 80 percent of the steps that a human reading the same instructions would execute.

The researchers intend to carry on working on this theory and in time apply it to robots, meaning we could eventually be playing against these. Or more realistically, they haven’t seen the Terminator franchise and, in the end, Civ is going to destroy us the same way it destroyed our sleep cycles.

Happy Unbirthday, IBM

Dearest, sweetest IBM,

You are one hundred years old today. I can hardly believe how time flies – it seems like only yesterday I was watching you put together your first meat scales and factory time clocks.

Remember that funny name we called you? Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation. Oh, and your boyhood friend, Thomas J. Watson Sr. – he was a card!

You have come a long way since then. Building your first personal computer – what an achievement. I may have been the world’s first national broadcasting organisation but I’ve never managed to put together a mainframe quite like you. We all knew you were special. 

It’s why we all called you Big Blue. We remember when you grew up and gave yourself that distinct “IBM” logo, all in that lovely cerulean, the very same colour as the knitted cardigan I made for you in 1947. 

I find it so difficult to summarise your journey to being the fine, strong role model you are today.

Why, just this year, you went on that games show – Jeopardy – and at your age! Imagine. 

Anyway, I’m so proud of you.

Happy 100th birthday, IBM.

Love and kisses,


*EyeSee Auntie’s getting a little bit long in the tooth and her memory isn’t quite what it used to be. She’s still sharp at times but the smaller details slip – IBM’s 100th birthday will be on the 16th of June, 2011. Happy birthday for then, IBM!

Botnets grow and attacks will evolve

Websites hiding malware will evolve, as will botnets and the sophistication of attacks.

The depressing news form part of Kaspersky’s 2011-2020 cybercrime outlook report, which not only tells us what’s happening now but predicts what we can expect in the year 2020.

Back to now, it seems cyber criminals are moving away from sites that offer up illegal content such as pirated films and music, and onto sites that offer us services such as shopping and gaming. These attacks will often catch those who are too too au fait with technology, using a hidden piece of Java code, which runs and redirects to malicious websites.  

That’s not all we have to worry about with the company also claiming that within the next nine years, we’ll see some major changes that will affect the way we use PCs and the way hackers target us.

Interestingly, the security oracle has seen the downfall of Microsoft, claiming that we’ll soon be seeing the end of Microsoft’s OS domination.

It says that although the system will still stay as the key business platform, consumers won’t be tied to this. Instead they will have access to a huge range of alternative operating systems.

However, with the good comes the bad – that although cybercriminals will not be able to create malicious code for large numbers of platforms, they will look at different options to cause mayhem.

According to Kaspersky they have two ways of doing this. They can either make a weaker operating system their target, or specialise in Windows-based attacks on corporations.

This leads nicely into the next prediction that cybercrime by 2020 will be split into two groups.

The first will specialise in attacks on businesses, sometimes to order. They will include commercial espionage, database theft and corporate reputation-smearing attacks, all of which will be in demand on the black market.

Kaspersky predicts “hackers and corporate IT specialists will confront each other on the virtual battlefield.”

The second group will target what influences our everyday lives, such as transport systems and other services as well as stealing personal data.

As we become more evolved with technology and look at new ways to communicate without keyboards, spammers will have to work harder to send out those pesky mails. They’ll do it though, with Kaspersky claiming the “volume of mobile spam will grow exponentially, while the cost of internet-based communications will shrink due to the intensive development of cellular communication systems.”


Satyam coughs up $125 million to settle lawsuits

Satyam has conceded coughing up to settle a US lawsuit.

It will pay New York based businesses a one off fee of $125 million (approximately Rs 556 crore), which is also inclusive of taxes.

Speaking to the Indian press, chairman Vineet Nayyar said that the amount will be delivered to the four lead plaintiffs once the US court judge gives final approval to the settlement deal.

However, the companies in question – Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi, Britain’s Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, Norway’s Skagen AS, and Denmark’s Sampension KP Livsforsikring A/S – might have to wait up to four months to get their hands on the dosh, which needs to also be approved by RBI and come from Satyam’s cash coffers.

It looks like some of the money will have to be recovered from legal bigwigs Price Waterhouse Cooper, which allegedly gave a helping hand to former disgraced founder B Ramalinga Raju with the problem at hand.  

Raju is the main suspect in the multi-crore Satyam Computers accounting scam, which was uncovered last year. At the time  Raju resigned as its chairman and admitted to major financial wrong-doings while talking about a last minute effort to fill ficticious assets with real ones regarding the failed Maytas acquisition.

However, last year he wasn’t appearing in court, spouting tales of ill health.

After Raju confessed to having fiddled with company accounts, Satyam’s stock on the New York Stock Exchange took a beating. It also caused big losses and kicked started legal dramatics.

The  four here are what the company claims to be the last, but Satyam’s money pit has been endless. In December 2009, for example, it settled a lawsuit filed by former client UPaid over licence of intellectual property. The claims cost Satyam a huge $70 million.

*EyeSee “Satyam” is Sanskrit for truth. “Tata” means “goodbye forever”.