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Newsletter January 21, 2002

o Editorial
o Expert Zone
o Agent News
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o Technologies


Many ways to share

The file sharing community is in turmoil: in the last week, two announcements have suggested that the writing could be on the wall for the millions of people who share MP3 files on-line. First, Napster unveiled its new pay service, then on Thursday KaZaA said that it was suspending downloads of the software until the decision of a Dutch court on 31 January, in a case opposing the recording industry and the popular software program. The effect was immediate: the number of attempts to download KaZaA from AgentLand more than doubled overnight, and downloads of other file-sharing programs also rocketed.

Pay-to-download music systems, backed by the majors, have yet to win their spurs, and the file-sharing community is a resourceful and resistant one. Whatever next week's verdict, this story is far from finished. But peer-to-peer (P2P) technology is not just about sharing music, video and software files. There are many other potential – legal ;-) – applications based on the concept of distributed computing.

Distributed search engines such as Human Links want to make searching more efficient by combining the experience of community members to develop a true collective intelligence. However, until the community reaches critical mass, this intelligence remains limited. Whether P2P search will become a serious rival – or complement – to traditional search engines is far from clear for the moment. But the potential is there…

Another application is the use of distributed computing power to advance scientific research. Research projects that require massive computational capacity can tap into a network whose owners have installed a small program to share their resources when they are not using their computer. Current projects include the fight against cancer and AIDS, as well as the search for extraterrestrials! Whatever the outcome of the file-sharing saga, there are plenty of avenues for P2P to explore yet.

File sharing agents available on Agentland:

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> Look Who's Talking
A short review of Text-to-Speech technology, including a list of commercially available products and freeware packages.
Writing a voice-enabled application recently became a fairly straightforward task due to the advances in computer science, linguistics, signal processing and even psychology...


>> SearchAgents <<

> MyAuctionMate
Why spend countless hours posting auctions, corresponding to auction winners, and attending to business, when MyAuctionMate can automate all these chores and many more! This agent is an auction management tool for Ebay.

>> WebmasterAgents <<

> Copernic Indexer
Copernic Indexer retrieves and indexes data wherever it is found: in your company's public or shared folders, on its intranets, on Microsoft Exchange servers, or on public Web sites. It supports HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, WordPerfect and plain text files. Copernic Indexer features summarizing technologies that dramatically improve index accuracy. It identifies a document's key concepts and then uses this information to rank the document's relevancy.


> Gator
Gator is part of the family of form-filling agents. By using Gator, there is no more time wasted on lengthy questionnaires, no more forgotten passwords. Gator asks you to fill out this information once and for all, and then takes care of everything.


> The Smartest Agents Will Learn to Be Team Players
You would trust them completely. They'd become your closest confidants. But you wouldn't be able to see or touch them, and unlike some friends or family members, they would never betray you. Welcome to the future of "smart agents". This new breed of technology uses small software programs built with artificial intelligence to make independent decisions, like automatically searching for and purchasing specific kinds of products on the Web, or deciding what stocks to buy and sell in your financial portfolio.

> Facial recognition technology: an ACLU special report
Since September 11, facial recognition systems -- computer programs that analyse images of human faces gathered by video surveillance cameras -- are being increasingly discussed and occasionally deployed, largely as a means for combating terrorism. They are being set up in several airports around the United States. The technology is not just being used in places where terrorists are likely to strike, however: in Tampa, Florida, it is also being aimed at citizens on public streets. The report explains the problems encountered with facial recognition technology.

> Swarms Of Tiny Robots To Monitor Water Pollution
The University of Southern California School of Engineering has received a $1.5 million research grant from the National Science Foundation to create swarms of microscopic robots to monitor potentially dangerous microorganisms in the ocean. The project spans the fields of nanotechnology, robotics, computer science and marine biology, but is centered on the development of the ultra-small robotic sensors and software systems to control them

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