DID YOU HEAR?

Maybe astronauts should think before taking off. According to published reports, congressional investigators report some of NASA’s key computer systems could be vulnerable to hackers. The General Accounting Office (GAO) say they successfully penetrated several mission-critical systems, including one for calculating detailed positioning data for an Earth-orbiting spacecraft. After hacking into these systems, the GAO could have disrupted NASA’s command and control operations and also stolen, destroyed or tinkered with system software and data. According to the report, the major factor for this computer vulnerability was NASA’s failure to manage information technology as outlined in a 1998 GAO guide.

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NBA coaches are always looking for any competitive edge they can get. IBM does just that with its Advanced Scout Data mining application, which analyzes large amounts of statistical data and condenses it into useful pieces of information, such as identifying player patterns that box scores do not show. Advanced Scout has also played a role in the resurgence of point guard Darrell Armstrong, this year’s NBA Sixth Man Winner. According to Orlando Magic assistant coach Tom Sterner, the tool played a key role in identifying Armstrong’s talent. In a 1997 playoff series, the Magic trailed the Miami Heat two games to none. Advanced Scout revealed that the Magic fared better when Armstrong was in the game, as Miami’s shooting percentage was lower and guard Penny Hardaway got better scoring opportunities. The next game, Armstrong was inserted into the lineup and the Magic won two consecutive games before falling in the decisive fifth game. Since that time, Armstrong’s playing time has increased from three minutes a game to 30 minutes a game and culminated with his 1999 Sixth Man award, which goes to the top player in the league who has served as a reserve in more games than he’s started.

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According to a market research study done by the Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.), the average cost to build an e-commerce site is $1 million. The report, "Survey Results: The Real Cost of E-Commerce Sites," estimates that 79 percent of the total development cost is labor related, while 10 percent is spent on software and 11 percent on hardware. The report also says the cost will rise by 25 percent annually. While some survey participants spent less than $350,000, others spent more than $2 million on their Web sites. Regardless of cost, no survey claimed to be on budget for their projects. The average time to complete an e-commerce site was five months, although some took up to a year, according to the report.

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A recent published report says United States Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt warned amateur investors to be aware of the pitfalls of online trading. With 500 investors on hand at a conference in Los Angeles, Levitt talked about scam artists and glitches associated with online trading. He said glitches in online trading may delay trading and lead to catastrophic price changes between the time an order is placed and completed. Levitt said there are more than 10,000 Web sites that offer online trading and that in the next few years the number of online traders will be in the millions. In one case, Levitt said a woman meant to invest $18,00 and ended up owing a broker more than $200,000 because of price fluctuations during online delays.