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Computational biologists at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center have created an anti-spam filter inspired by the way scientists analyze genetic sequences. BBC News reports the formula automatically learns patterns of spam vocabulary with a proven 96.5% success rate. Indeed, in a recent test the filter misidentified only one message in 6,000 as spam. The formula, named Chung-Kwei after a Feng Shui character known for carrying a bat and sword, grew out of the Teiresias algorithm that researchers use for pattern discovery in computational biology sequencing. Chung-Kwei uses Teiresias to identify strings of character sequences that typically appear only in spam. The method builds up its database of known true spam patterns and continuously adds new patterns as it spots them. The system is currently undergoing a series of pilot studies.

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Majoring in Homeland Security

Despite continuous reports of the downward spiral of college-age students looking to pursue careers in IT, there now appears to be a surge of sign-ups for degrees and certificates in homeland security, including branches in engineering and biotechnology. Hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities have either augmented existing courses or initiated entire programs around issues of security, defense, and terror. Not only does this effort attract federal funding in many cases, it has also caused quite a buzz of excitement among students with the ultimate promise of varied career opportunities. "Homeland security will be the biggest government employer in the next decade or so," says Steven David, chair of the graduate certificate program in homeland security at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "America continues to face threats," he says, "and terrorism will never go away."

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In the Driver's Seat

An auto insurer is offering up to 25% discounts to drivers who allow it to install a monitoring device in their cars and keep a digital driving diary of their moves. The possible success of this program has the American Civil Liberties Union, privacy advocates, and indeed the insurance industry worldwide feeling tense. Progressive Corp. has tested this monitoring program in a few states within the U.S., though similar data-collecting devices have also been tested abroad. The monitor tracks driving time and behavior, offering discounts to those with a light foot and clean record. Privacy proponents contend that should Progressive manage to increase its market share using this strategy, the cascade effect would mean most other insurance companies would follow, thus giving the driver no choice but to be monitored or drive uninsured. Moreover, since insurance companies would own this driving data, critics fear they would be free to sell the information. A Progressive spokesperson says the program is completely voluntary.

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Campus Security

College dormitories have become hotbeds for tech looting over the past few years thanks to all the pricey digital tools and toys most students now own. As a result, a multimillion-dollar industry in dorm room security products and services has emerged, reports USA Today. Reported on-campus burglaries hit a record 29,256 in 2002 (the most recent year tracked by the U.S. Department of Education). Laptops, digital cameras, MP3 players, PDAs, and DVD players are just some of the popular items in a typical heist because they are easy to lift and conceal. To help combat this trend, dormitory officials and students are outfitting themselves with the latest in steel footlockers, digital safes, keyless door locks, and lockable furniture.

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Bay Area Attractions

A torrent of investments in biomedical companies is reshaping the Bay Area economy once dominated by some of the biggest names in software, Internet services, and telecommunications. According to the San Jose Mercury News, local biotechnology and medical device companies have secured $1.7 billion in venture capital investment over the past four quarters, surpassing for the first time the very software companies that have long been the number-one magnet for high-tech investors. Indeed, the area's biomedical sector is getting one of every four venture capital dollars compared to the one of 16 in the high-tech investment frenzy of 2000.

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Hello, I Must Be Going

The level to which cellular companies go to one-up the competition in this billion-dollar market includes a new line of bells and whistles to get customers out of sticky situations. Cingular Wireless, for example, now offers a phone feature to rescue customers from a bad date, reports the New York Daily News. Subscribers to the escape-a-date package ($4.99 per month) can arrange to be called at a preset time where one of eight scripts is randomly selected and whispered in their ear: "Just repeat after me and you'll be on your way: `Not again! Why does that always happen to you?' Tell them your roommate got locked out and you have to go let them in." Some cellular firms offer preprogrammed excuse calls, while others supply sound effects subscribers can dial up to convince the person on the other end of the phone that they are in an airport or dentist's office.

Effective with this sentence, Wired News will no longer capitalize the `I' in internet. At the same time Web becomes web and Net becomes net. Why? The simple answer is there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words. Actually, there never was. [A] change in our house style was necessary to put into perspective what the internet is: another medium for delivering and receiving information. That it transformed human communication is beyond dispute. But no more so than movable type did in its day. Or the radio. Or television."
—Tony Long, copy chief, Wired News

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