DID YOU HEAR?

IBM's 8257 Fast Ethernet Workgroup Switch Model 416 is the fastest network switch in its class, according to IBM. This new switch is capable of handling 9.5 million data packets per second and outperforms similar leading competitive products at comparable price points by an average of 200 percent, based on comparisons to published specifications from leading competitors. Designed for medium to large-sized companies deploying e-Business initiatives, Model 416 creates faster response times by improving overall data traffic flow around a local area network and to the Internet.

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In wake of recent concerns that children are able to access materials unsuitable for their age, an international Internet content rating system has been created. This new global rating system will be based on the established RSACi content rating system and will be governed by the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). Founding members of the ICRA include: AOL Europe, IBM and Microsoft, among others. To ensure worldwide deployment and acceptance of this new international system, ICRA will accept additional memberships from companies willing to join in the efforts of building and managing an acceptable online rating system. Once available, this system will be open to anyone on the Internet as a free service.

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Has the "Star Wars" craze reached Kenneth Starr -like proportions? On May 12, millions of fans logged onto the biggest Web site for movie tickets, MovieFone, but were shut out in their attempts to get tickets to the premiere of "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace". This occurred even though MovieFone added about 30 percent more phone lines and 10 times its normal computer capacity to handle calls and online sales. To put things in perspective, Don Heath, president of the Internet Society, said the same thing happened last year when the famous Starr report was made available on the Internet.

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IBM has set a world record in hard-disk storage density, according to published reports, writing and reading data bits so small that 20 billion of them can fit within a square inch. This record density of 20 gigabits per square inch is more than three times that of any disk-drive product shipping today. At this density, every square inch of disk space can hold 2.5 gigabytes -- equivalent to two TV-quality movies, two hours of MPEG-2 digital video, nearly the contents of four CD-ROMs or the text of some 2,500 average-sized novels. Since IBM introduced the first magnetoresistive (MR) sensor for reading data on hard disks in 1991, data density has increased more than 60 percent each year. If this continues, 20-gigabit density products would be available within three years. Increasing data disk density can lead to disk drives that are lighter and consume less energy. These products also are usually more reliable, because fewer disks are needed to achieve data-storage capacity.

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Telecom gear maker Lucent Technologies (Murray Hill, NJ) announced it’s joining forces with other top communications firms to simplify and lower the cost of linking Internet-based networks with traditional telephone systems. The companies that have joined forces to create this "Softswitch Consortium" include: Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Level 3 Communications, Nortel Networks, Enron Communications Inc., NorthPoint Communications Group Inc. and Rhythms NetConnections Inc. The networking alliance will promote and develop "Softswitch" technology to link Internet Protocol (IP) and traditional telephone networks.