Plugging In to New Form of Networking

Technology
by Christopher Keough

Think of it as another kind of plug-in. But rather than one of those little add-on programs that supplement a Web browser, GigaFast Ethernet Inc. is about to deliver a device that will allow small business and home computer users to network simply by plugging PCs into a wall socket.

Its software, in conjunction with a product called HomePlug that's plugged in to existing outlets, allows the electrical system of a house or small office to act as the conduit for the digital transfer of data.

The technology also allows for the connection of personal computers to appliances and entertainment components from stereos to video game systems.

If it catches on, said Sean Wargo, senior industry analyst at the Consumer Electronic Association, it could find a huge market in the distribution of digital entertainment throughout the home.

GigaFast, based in City of Industry, is one of three firms pursuing formats for improving home networking. New phone land line and wireless standards are on the way, as well.

The company, which provides networking and wireless services for small- and home-office users, said the system will send data at a rate of 14 megabytes per second through power lines, converting each electrical outlet into a connection point for a computer. Standard wireless networking applications transfer data at a rate of 11 megabytes per second.

HomePlug, which retails for about $99, should reach computer and electronics retailers in March.

CSC and the Feds

Computer Sciences Corp. landed two huge government contracts in the final month of 2001 that could bring the El Segundo company $315 million over the next decade.

The first is a four-and-a-half-year contract extension with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Student Financial Assistance. CSC works with the department to create systems for the office, students, bank and university personnel.

CSC will help the department modernize the delivery of major federal student aid programs, including Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, which provide more than $50 billion a year to help millions of students pay for the costs of college.

The second big contract, potentially worth $86 million, is for assistance to the Department of Defense's Computer Investigation Training Program.

CSC will assist the department in researching, developing and delivering training courses for military law enforcement personnel. Courses will cover computer search and seizure, computer intrusions and forensic computer media analysis.

As many as 35 CSC computer investigators and forensics specialists, computer security specialists and information technology professionals will work at the department's training facility in Linthicum, Md.

The recent concentration on homeland security has raised the profile of CSC's Computer Investigation Training Program, which provides training to law enforcement and the Department of Defense.

Hef Antes Up for Site

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner loaned $5 million to Playboy Enterprises Inc. in an effort to prop up its Playboy.com venture.

According to documents filed Dec. 27 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the money lent by the Holmby Hills resident came in the form of a promissory note, with Hefner agreeing to extend a credit line of up to $10 million. The Web site is authorized to draw on the note "from time to time" through the end of this year.

Playboy.com agreed to pay back the money at 9 percent interest and the note is due and payable in August 2006. Hefner has the option to convert the outstanding principal and interest into shares of Playboy.com common stock at $7.11 per share. Hefner also has the right to cash in the note for shares of Playboy Class B stock, which were trading at $16.89 (down 24 cents) at the close of activity Dec. 31.



Staff reporter Christopher Keough can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 235 or at ckeough@labusinessjournal.com.

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