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Peek In At The Day Care Center

Bits & Bytes


WORRIED THAT JUNIOR IS brawling at day care? Or maybe that the tot isn't joining in on all the fun. Worse yet, could the staff be neglecting your child? Now you can assuage those parental fears by peeking in on the day-care center from your desktop computer at work.

Think of it as Big Brother meets Mary Poppins. The new KinderCam system from Atlanta-based ParentNet Inc. uses the Internet and Neteye 200 digital cameras from Axis Communications Inc. for this feat of cyber-snooping. Here's how it works: Point the browser on your PC at ParentNet's Web site, enter your name and password, and presto, you're watching live images of Junior and the other kids happily finger painting.

Over the next two years, Kids `R' Kids, a Norcross (Ga.) company that has a chain of day-care centers in the Southeast, plans to roll out the service in all of its 54 day-care facilities. The company hopes KinderCam will give it an edge in the highly competitive day-care business. Parents pay $20 a month for the service. So far, the 90 parents who have tried the first KinderCam system, installed a month ago at an Atlanta Kids `R' Kids center, are "very positive" about it, says Director Harry W. Fraley Jr. There is an added bonus, he says: Grandparents as far away as Israel are logging in to watch the little ones.EDITED BY IRA SAGER Andy ReinhardtReturn to top


IS THE U.S. LOSING ITS EDGE in software? Over the years, the U.S.--a dominant force in the computer industry--has lost its technology advantage in such pockets of the business as memory chips and monitors. But that has never happened when it comes to writing computer programs. Software has always been an American success story.

That may be changing. According to META Group, a market research firm in Stamford, Conn., U.S. software productivity is on an alarming downward trend. To calculate productivity, the study measured programmer output at 6,000 companies in 46 countries. It found that U.S. developers produced an average 354,000 lines of software code last year, down almost 50% from 690,000 in 1995--placing the U.S. at the bottom of the global ranking. The top performer: Canada.

U.S. companies are still the most innovative software developers, but the rapid pace of technological change is slowing them down, says Howard Rubin, who conducted the study. He calls it the "learning curve effect." By staying off the bleeding edge, other countries aren't experiencing as big a drop in productivity.

Meanwhile, business demand for software is up 25%, creating an imbalance that could boost business for offshore programming shops, the study concludes. EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top

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IT EVENTUALLY HAPPENS TO everyone on the World Wide Web: Online sessions inexplicably turn into a frustrating "world wide wait." Now, there's software to help Net surfers pinpoint the online holdups and get help.

The $50 computer program, Net.Medic--developed by VitalSigns Software Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif.--puts a "dashboard" on top of any popular Web browser. Each "gauge" measures a different aspect of the online session and immediately warns when and where something goes wrong.

Net.Medic's AutoCure feature can cure some common local problems, such as resetting the modem to a correct compression and speed setting. For snags that originate beyond the PC--a slow Web server or a faulty modem on the Internet service provider's dial-in network--Net.Medic will dispatch an E-mail message to the appropriate party detailing the problems. VitalSigns offers a free 30-day version that can be downloaded from www. BY IRA SAGER Paul EngReturn to top

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