The United States is no longer No. 1 in making the best use of information and communications technology, a new study says. It dropped to fifth place this year and Singapore is now tops. Singapore s ranking in the so-called networked readiness index was based on several factors, including quality of math and science education and low prices for telephone and Internet services, said the World Economic Forum report. The United States drop from first place last year is less due to actual erosion in performance than to the improvement of other countries, the report said. The top 10:
* 1. Singapore
* 2. Iceland
* 3. Finland
* 4. Denmark
* 5. United States
* 6. Sweden
* 7. Hong Kong
* 8. Japan
* 9. Switzerland
* 10. Canada
Some tidbits for your next cocktail party: most people around the world get their hair cut every 6.2 weeks; blue pens outnumber black pens, 4 to 3; the average life of a tennis shoe is 521 miles. Data mavens will revel in this bounty of information, posted at gullible.info, unless they want accuracy. One hundred percent of what you read on the site is absolutely and completely false. The site s creator, Kyle Stoneman, said that not everyone who visits the site realizes the giant grain of salt with which they are to take the information. I would be inclined to say there s a good percentage of people who don t put any effort into questioning the source, said Stoneman, 19, a student at George Washington University. I m legitimately frightened by the fact that people will believe what they read on the site. Stoneman, a political communications major, said he started Gullible.info last fall as a social experiment, parodying people s willingness to accept bits of information without question.
Being creative is not a problem for Matt Siber. Where other people see advertisements, he sees art. While working on a series of photographs in which he strips the text from billboards, Siber became intrigued by logos. As I was paying more attention to signs, I became drawn to the really tall poles with signs on top, said Siber, who lives in Chicago and posts his work at siberart.com. This is a very common phenomenon in the Midwest, where the landscape is so flat that a tall sign could be seen for miles if no buildings block the view. Without the poles, Siber found that the logos looked as if they were floating. A round Pep Boys sign looked as if it were being tossed like a ball through the sky. A Chevron logo, framed with a sad-looking tree, seemed like a square UFO.
TRACK YOUR WORK
Whether you prefer to exercise on land, sea or snow, a new line of GPS-powered activity monitors will soon log your workouts with a new level of complexity, using data verified with satellite technology. The Navman Sport Tool ($290) will not give directions, but it will use built-in Global Positioning System technology to track speed and distance traveled, as well as a list of other features on devices that cater specifically to athletes who walk, run, ski, in-line skate or windsurf. It measures speed to within 0.3 kilometers an hour (0.2 mph) and distance to within 2 percent of the distance traveled, the company says. Each of the sport-specific devices is about three inches long and an inch thick. The simplest one, designed for walkers, measures current and average speeds, distance traveled and calories burned, and displays them on a small digital screen. A speed target zone, a heading indicator and an altimeter are available on other models.
OUT WITH OLD
E-mail and word-processing programs have made collaborating on long documents much easier than it used to be, but getting everyone onto the same page or even into the right revision of the document can feel like herding cats. NextPage 1.5, a document-tracking system for Microsoft Office files, provides a way to lasso multiple copies of a document and make sure no one is working on an outdated version. The NextPage system does not store the files on a central server or database, but works by tagging each desired Word, Excel or PowerPoint document with a hidden tracking number deep inside the file s code. As the document moves from person to person by e-mail, the NextPage software sends a notification message each time the file is edited or renamed, and tells who made the changes. The system can also create a complete history of a single document to show every person who worked on it along the way. The NextPage software is sold as an annual subscription at nextpage.com, with a typical price of $250 for each user. A 60-day free trial and a system demonstration are also available at the site. NextPage works with Windows 2000 and later and needs at least Microsoft Office 2000 with Service Pack 3. And because the software works directly with Microsoft Office, there is no need to pester the company s information technology department or harried office computer whiz to set it up.
Instant messaging is a bit more portable and affordable with K-Byte s Zipit Wireless Messenger. Sized to slip into the baggy pockets of cargo pants, the device s lithium-ion battery will provide power for about six hours. Priced at $100, Zipit offers a convenient solution to keeping teenagers from tying up the family phone or PC. The device s highlights include a four-inch, 320-by-240-pixel monochrome screen and a qwerty keyboard. In addition, there is something it lacks: a service fee. Because Zipit uses the Internet, instant messaging is free. Compared with other communicators, like AT&T s Ogo, Zipit owners incur no fees other than connection charges at some hot spots. The manufacturer s Web site (zipitwireless.com) offers a locator based on ZIP codes. The device supports the three most popular services: AOL, MSN and Yahoo. Users can personalize the device using the MyFriendz key, a pop-up window that displays the screen names of friends who are currently logged on.
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