Bits & Bytes
The Mess Made for Business by Junk E-Mail
AS THE ART OF LETTER WRITING GOES the way of the 32 cents stamp, more and more of what pops up in our mailboxes at home is nothing but garbage. So is it asking too much to want our E-mail boxes, especially those at work, to be junk-free?
Don't count on it. A Mar. 29 study from Internet security consultant Worldtalk Corp. says that almost one-third, or 31%, of corporate E-mail is junk. And unlike the innocuous supermarket sales fliers that jam up the mail slot at home, this junk mail is causing financial loss and service interruption. "Internet E-mail abuse is worse than we expected," says Simon Khalaf, who oversaw the study at Worldtalk, based in Santa Clara, Calif. The study was compiled from network surveillance of more than 31 million messages in systems worldwide.
Other findings: Employees spend, on average, 30 minutes a day sifting through their deluge of E-mail. Spam-mail--unsolicited messages from unknown senders--can cost a 5,000-person organization more than $12,000 per day to process. That's 50 cents per employee, to check and delete junk-mail messages.
And incidents of E-mail leaks aren't all that uncommon. According to the study, some 9% of all corporate E-mail messages include some form of proprietary or confidential information, such as product plans, and are sent out maliciously or without the company's permission. More and more, "you've got mail" is likely to mean you've got a problem.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top
What's in the Corporate E-Mail Box?
BUSINESS & PERSONAL 69%
CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION 9%
DATA: WORLDTALK CORPORATION
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THE NET MAY BE THE KEYSTONE OF THE NEW ECONOMY, but don't tell some Keystone Staters. Pennsylvania's plans to be the first state to replace its license-plate motto with the state's Internet address--www.state.pa.us--are getting a mixed reception, says state transportation spokeswoman Laura Templeton.
Governor Tom Ridge wants to change the state's tag line for the first time in 23 years, to boast that Pennsylvania is tech-savvy enough for tomorrow's companies. But traditionalists like the state's old slogan, "The Keystone State"--and want to keep it.
Ridge's enthusiasm might be a little ahead of itself. In Pennsylvania, tech jobs make up 2.9% of the state's total employment--only slightly above the 2.8% national average. Massachusetts leads the states at 7.3%. Pennsylvania lags even further behind Silicon Valley: San Jose, Calif., leads metro areas at 28% and California, overall, is 6.8%. The numbers may be why Silicon Valley is yawning over Ridge's campaign. Jokes California Motor Vehicles Dept. spokesman Evan Nossos: "We didn't think of it first because we think the Internet is a passing fad."EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top
Trick Your Kid into Becoming a Programmer
EIGHT-YEAR-OLDS WRITING SOFTWARE PROGRAMS? It's now possible with new software that teaches kids programming skills while they play computer games. On Mar. 29, Stagecast Software Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., released Stagecast Platform, a product in which programming lessons are simplified to amount to little more than mouse clicks on icons.
Here's how it works: Starting with an onscreen scribbling pad, kids can draw the characters they want--be it a purple blob or a five-petaled tulip. Then, they can create a set of "rules" to define how the characters are to move and act--but the rulemaking process is just computer programming in disguise. Through a series of mouse clicks, for example, kids can set it up so that hitting the left arrow key moves the purple blob to the left of the screen.
And flights of fancy can easily be transformed into valuable learning tools: With a little teacher input, characters can become particles in a solvent, and rules drawn from a chemistry textbook can move the solvent through a semipermeable membrane in a simulation of osmosis. The software, based on technology called Cocoa, developed at Apple Computer Inc., sells for $59.95. At that price, who needs MIT?EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top