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TREND WATCH

<i> A roundup of business developments spotted by other publications. Items were compiled and edited by Grassroots Research, a unit of the San Francisco money management firm RCM Capital Management. </i>

In Sync on Oil Software: Five major oil companies have announced that they will collaborate in standardizing software they use to find and develop oil. Chevron, Texaco, Mobil Exploration, BP Exploration and Elf-Aquitaine have contributed $1 million each to a new entity, Houston-based Petrotechnical Open Software Corp., for three years. Modeled on another open software group serving computer manufacturers, Petrotechnical aims to create one framework that will allow a user to tap into a central database using any oil and gas software. Petrotechnical President Dan Turner says that for every dollar oil companies spend on software, they spend $1.50 getting their programs to work with the rest of their systems. Houston Chronicle Laser Printer That Designs Fonts: A computer engineer in Florida has developed an array of chips to make conventional laser printers more flexible and efficient. William Meadow calls the product gateware because it bridges the gap between hardware and software. It enables a printer to design and program type fonts, and to fit four pages of printing on a single sheet of paper, a process called page packing. Digital Laser Systems will offer the product for about $1,000, Meadow said. Jacksonville Business Journal

Bad M-o-o-o-v-e: A federal cow buyout program, which was aimed at reducing a national surplus of milk products by taking dairy cows out of production, has apparently backfired. By buying almost 1 million cows between 1985 and 1990, the government believed that it would be able to reduce the surplus. But it has become apparent that dairymen got rid of their least productive animals. Without genetic engineering or growth hormones, each of the remaining cows has produced an average of 14,200 pounds of milk per year, up from 12,000 pounds before the buyout. Increased cheese production has taken up most of the excess, but last year the government bought and stored 380 million surplus pounds of butter. Most of it is given to schoolchildren and the poor or is shipped to other nations. Boston Globe


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