Timely Topics for IT Professionals
About ACM TechNews
ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Gateway Inc. or ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 1, Issue 2: Friday, December 3, 1999
- "Small Firms Shrug Off Year-2000 Concerns"
Wall Street Journal (12/03/99) P. C8
Small businesses have grown less concerned over Y2K in recent
months, and up to 1.5 million small firms plan to do nothing
about the computer problem, according to the results of a Gallup
survey conducted in October. The survey, funded by the National
Federation of Independent Business, reveals that most of the
small firms that intended to repair systems for Y2K in April have
not done so. Among the respondents in the October survey, 48
percent said they had made Y2K repairs, 4 percent planned to make
repairs, 18 percent said they had no at-risk equipment, and 26
percent planned to do nothing. The federation is surprised by
the results of the survey, but doubts that small business
attitudes towards Y2K will change between now and the end of the
year. Still, the group says the economy will not be
significantly affected because firms that have not prepared tend
to be the smallest companies.
- "Groups Ask FTC to Close E-Mail Flaw"
USA Today (12/3/99) P. 1A; Rodger, Will
The FTC today is expected to hear arguments from consumer and
Internet groups urging the commission to force software companies
to patch a widespread hole in email systems that permits third
parties to monitor users' Internet habits. The email breach
exists in all email programs that have the capability of
displaying Web pages, says computer scientist Richard Smith.
Companies can use the breach to place cookies on users' emails,
Smith adds. Among the groups petitioning the FTC today will be
Junkbusters.com, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the
Center for Media Education, Privacy International, the Consumer
Project on Technology, the Consumer Federation of America, and
the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Officials from Microsoft and
Netscape say they are already looking into the allegations.
- "Amazon.com Is Granted an Injunction in Barnesandnoble.com Patent Dispute"
Wall Street Journal (12/03/99) P. B5; Thurm, Scott; Quick,
Barnesandnoble.com has been ordered by U.S. District Judge Marsha
J. Pechman to halt the use of its Express Lane one-click shopping
system, a potentially crippling blow, considering that the online
holiday shopping season is in full swing. Barnesandnoble.com
said it will shut down the system, but also announced that it
will meet the demands of the all-important holiday shopping
season by launching a new service within coming days. Details
about the new service, Express Checkout, were not released. The
judge's ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Amazon.com in
October, charging that barnesandnoble.com's Express Lane system
infringed on a patent for Amazon.com's one-click system.
Barnesandnoble.com plans to appeal the ruling.
- "High-Speed Net Use Expected to Explode by 2003"
C|Net (12/01/99); Grice, Corey
Over the next three years 27.3 million people are expected to use
DSL to access the Internet compared to just 700,000 last year,
according to a report by International Data. Local phone
companies who have endured criticism for their investment in DSL
lines believe the increase of DSL users is good news. DSL
providers and high-speed dial-up companies are competing to be
the Internet connection of choice for the growing Internet
population. The DSL foreign market will be a good source of
revenues as Western European DSL users are expected to increase
34 percent by 2003. DSL prices have dropped in 1999 but are
expected to increase; total DSL revenue will reach $2.3 billion
in the U.S. by 2003, according to the report. Both business and
home Internet users are beginning to upgrade their dial-up or
ISDN connections to DSL; the report predicts that around 9.3
million DSL users will be residential users by the end of 2003.
- "Hacker's Work Prompts Delays of DVD Audio Systems"
Wall Street Journal (12/03/99) P. A10; Landers, Peter; Peer,
Matsushita Electric Industrial, the Japanese manufacturer of
Panasonic products, recently agreed to delay the release of its
DVD Audio system by at least six months due to concerns about the
ease of which the technology can be pirated. In October, a group
of Norwegian hackers displayed the encryption keys to DVD video
technology on the Internet. Although the difficulty in pirating
DVD video disks and selling them would be great, executives at
Matsushita say that pirating music from a DVD audio disk and then
selling it cheaply over the Internet would be much more feasible
due to the fact that there is much less data required. Other
consumer electronics companies applauded Matushita's decision,
saying that it is in the best interests of the industry to delay
the release of DVD Audio until a new encryption system can be
- "Experts Tackle Mobile Internet Business Model"
Total Telecom (12/01/99); Molony, David
Executives in the telecommunications and the Internet industries
addressed the topic of a business model for the mobile Internet
during the ISP Forum in Amsterdam on Wednesday. The issue is of
importance when one considers that cellular phone users are
believed to be key to the future of the Internet. By next year
most new phones will provide Internet access. Moreover, analysts
believe that as many as half of Internet browsers could come from
some kind of a mobile terminal within two years. The main
questions involve who will pay and how, but there were no easy
answers from industry experts. David Worlock, of EPS Limited,
said mobile Internet "should be started on a different business
model, on a different site, and in a different relationship with
the consumer." Advertising was seen by some officials as a
potential alternative to replacing tariffs for the mobile
versions. However, Alison Mordue, of Turner Broadcasting Systems
Europe Limited, had questions about advertising, as well as about
charging against simplified information systems. Meanwhile,
Yahoo Europe's Bjorn Modee added that pay per minute is unlikely.
Oyj Radiolinja and Sonera charge startup fees and a rate per
minute. However, one of the differences between the two cellular
service providers in Finland is that Sonera requires an
additional charge for the type of services used, while Radiolinja
(Please note that access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors
- "Unified E-Mail Service Promises Cost Savings"
InternetWeek Online (12/02/99); Drucker, David
Concord Technologies next week will announce its EReceive unified
messaging service, which allows users to receive fax and voice
messages on their PCs. The service allows users to forward voice
and fax messages, and can alert users of incoming emails over
mobile phones, handhelds, or pagers. Concord's service works
through a user's existing email account, making it more appealing
than many other systems that require separate email accounts.
Many other vendors such as Lucent, Nortel, and Siemens offer
unified messaging systems, and ISPs and ASPs are considering a
move into the market as well. However, analysts say the benefits
of unified messaging might not justify the cost, especially of an
in-house system. In most companies, only a few workers need
unified messaging, so outsourcing the service might be more cost
effective than developing an in-house system, says Forrester
Research analyst Amanda McCarthy.
- "Report: Growth of New Web Users Sinks"
USA Today (12/03/99) P. 1B; Davidson, Paul
A new report from Cyber Dialogue finds that Internet retailers
may be forced to expand their marketing efforts to attract new
Internet users, renew efforts to retain existing customers, and
increase their revenues due to the sluggish growth of the U.S.
Internet-using population. The growth rate of adult Internet
users declined from 58 percent during the first half of 1998 to
13 percent during the first half of this year, the report says.
The report predicts that roughly half of all U.S. adults will use
the Internet by 2003. Adults with low or moderate levels of
income are not making the jump to cyberspace in large enough
numbers, a major cause for the slowdown, the report finds.
Widespread availability of broadband services is the key to
luring these non-participants, says Cyber Dialogue analyst Tom
Miller. The report also shows that roughly a third of those
surveyed say they do not need the Internet. Further, 27 million
adults gave up using the Internet this year, according to the
- "Single-Use Software Is a Quantum Leap"
Electronic Engineering Times Online (11/29/99); Matsumoto, Craig
Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Laboratory have devised a
way to exploit quantum states to create software applications
that can be used only once. Physicist Richard Feynman predicted
quantum computing's emergence decades ago--actual products are
still decades away--and IBM's Almaden researchers have developed
the largest quantum-computing systems to date. Quantum
teleportation, only recently discovered, allows quantum changes
to occur without the transmission of any quantum information.
This exploits quantum mechanics, in which atomic nuclei can exist
at two stable energy levels simultaneously--just as if a computer
bit existed as both a 0 and a 1 at the same time. The act of
using quantum software would change the quantum state of such
software, barring repeated usage. With this, the quantum
computer can test multiple possibilities at once, cutting
database search times in half during laboratory tests. Isaac
Chuang, IBM Almaden researcher, says researching quantum
computing possibilities uncovers "a regime of physics we have
never encountered before."
- "Lucent to Buy $500 Million of Sun Servers"
Wall Street Journal (12/02/99) P. B12; Hamilton, David P.; Mehta,
Lucent Technologies said it would buy $500 million of computer
servers from Sun Microsystems in an effort to further merge
telecommunications and computer-networking equipment. Lucent
will use its wireless network technology, called Flexent, in
Sun's low-end Netra servers. The two companies have agreed to
jointly develop the new equipment, and will also work together on
connecting servers directly to optical communications networks.
The alliance may boost Lucent's position in the corporate data
- "Sun Postpones Java 2 for Linux Announcement"
Computer Reseller News Online (12/03/99); Howle, Amber
Sun yesterday delayed an announcement of its Java 2 platform for
Linux. The company had licensed some Java Media tools to a
developer team called the Blackdown Java-Linux Porting Team
earlier this year. The team this week unveiled a second release
candidate of its Linux Java 2 port, saying the final version will
not be available until more compatibility tests are run.
Currently, a Java 2 Software Development Kit documentation bundle
is posted on Sun's Java Web site, Blackdown says. Inprise, which
had been scheduled to take part in the postponed announcement, is
also working on Java technologies for Linux. In September,
Inprise said it would create commercial rapid application
development tools for Linux. Inprise released a preview of its
JBuilder's Just-In-Time compiler for Linux, which improves the
performance of Java 2 applications on Linux.
- "U.S. Hires Advisory Firm in Microsoft Case"
New York Times (12/03/99) P. C2; Brinkley, Joel
The Justice Department yesterday announced that it has hired
investment banking firm Greenhill & Company as an adviser on the
financial implications of potential remedies in the Microsoft
antitrust suit. Greenhill will advise on "a full range of
potential remedies...including conduct and structural relief,"
the department says. The department will rely on Greenhill
during the mediation effort now in progress and in its remedy
proposal, if the final ruling in the case is against Microsoft.
The Justice Department says the move does not signal that it has
decided on which solution to pursue. However, solutions that
might require the department to seek financial advice include
forcing Microsoft to open its Windows source code and splitting
the company. Microsoft has criticized the government in the past
for failing to grasp the technological and financial implications
of its proposed remedies.
- "Pentagon Planners Gird for Cyber Assault"
Philadelphia Inquirer (12/01/99) P. A1; Goldstein, Steve
The Department of Defense is increasingly worried about cyber
attacks on its computer systems. The Pentagon reports 80 to 100
unauthorized entries into its computers every day, 10 of which
usually require some sort of investigation. The main point of
vulnerability is the network dealing with non-classified
information, called NIPRNET. The Defense Information Systems
Agency has reported 18,500 break-ins to the system in 1999, as
compared to only 5,844 in 1998. Information on this system
include where troops are situated, spare parts orders,
transportation logistics, and some credit-card and phone numbers
of military personnel. The Pentagon is now attempting to improve
its intrusion detection software, train personnel in becoming
more adept at computer security, and review who should have
access to its non-classified networks. Y2K poses problems for
the Defense Department, which is Y2K compliant but worries about
increased hacker attacks on New Year's Day. The department is
also concerned about the possibility of programmers who have
planted bugs in the Pentagon systems under the guise of preparing
the computers for Y2K readiness. The Pentagon says that it wants
to become less reactive and more proactive when it comes to cyber
- "Promises, Promises"
CIO (12/01/99) Vol. 13, No. 5, P. 46; Slater, Derek
CIO and International Data recently surveyed IT executives to
determine which vendors and integrators make reliable business
partners. Respondents ranked partners on several points, such as
the partner's effort to understand the client's business issues
and willingness to share the risks and responsibilities of
implementations. The survey also evaluated whether a partner
surpasses the obligations of a contract, ensures that products
offer real business advantages, works with other vendors and
business partners to help the project, and ensures customer
satisfaction after a sale is made. Respondents evaluated
partners on these points in four categories, including ERP, data
warehousing, groupware/messaging, and systems management. In
general, the survey found that integrators scored higher than
product vendors, although 70 percent of respondents say they
contract directly with their vendor. Integrators are more
responsive than vendors, particularly large vendors, respondents
say. "The vendor comes in with the assumption that the software
works," says Allegheny Teledyne IT director Donald McMahon. "The
integrator works under the assumption that he will make it work."
Another survey finding is that while vendors with a significant
share of the market rate highly in terms of strategic importance,
these same vendors are not necessarily considered good partners.
Many small companies scored well in terms of partnering
capabilities, but size is not always an indicator of partnering
qualities. Another trend the study shows is that vendors and
integrators both scored best in understanding customers'
businesses and delivering business benefits. The worst scores
fell into the categories of sharing risk and working with users
and other vendors to offer complete solutions.
- "Y2K Legal Wrangling Escalates"
InfoWorld (11/29/99) Vol. 21, No. 48, P. 1; Bowen, Ted Smalley
Y2K litigation is picking up as the end of the year approaches,
with large companies suing insurance firms that refuse to pay out
on claims for Y2K-related expenses. Xerox, GTE, and Unisys have
all sued their insurers, and experts say Y2K could result in over
$35 billion in potential claims. Companies are seeking
compensation from insurers under policy provisions covering costs
for equipment repairs that could minimize business losses. In
response, insurance companies say Y2K repairs are not covered by
standard property and casualty coverage because the public was
widely aware of Y2K. Insurers have become a common target for
companies seeking compensation, since recent Y2K legislation
shields equipment and software makers from lawsuits to some
extent. The rulings in these early cases will largely determine
the extent of Y2K litigation, experts say. "If these cases are
summarily dismissed, similar suits are pretty much down the
chute," says Giga Information Group analyst Kazim Isfahani. "If
they go through, every Fortune 100 company and others will be
lining up to cash in on the precedent." If the claims are upheld
in court, Y2K litigation could continue for up to 10 years,
Isfahani says. In addition to companies suing insurers, Y2K
suits are likely to include patent-infringement cases involving
- "A Bright Idea"
Economist (11/27/99) Vol. 353, No. 8147, P. 84
Solitons, waves that move at a constant shape and speed, can be
used for fiber-optic-based data transmissions, but have yet to
progress beyond the laboratory. France-based Algety Telecom is
seeking to establish soliton-based technology as a key network
component. Algety plans to become the first company to introduce
a commercial product that blends solitons and wave division
multiplexing technology. Algety achieved the highest speed ever
for a soliton transmission when, in February, it reached speeds
of 1 Tbps over 1,000 km. Terabit speeds may only span about 400
km without the assistance of solitons. Solitons will allow
long-distance fiber-optic network operators to reach higher
speeds without the need to install intermediate repeater
stations, which allow information to travel greater distances.
Solitons will also become popular over shorter distances as
cables become more congested with data, says Algety's Jerome
- "SAS Goes After the E-Intelligence Market"
InformationWeek (11/29/99) No. 763, P. 24; Whiting, Rick
SAS Institute early next year plans to release data-collection
and data-mining software called Web Hound and Web Mining. The
products aim to fill the need for business intelligence tools in
e-commerce. Web Hound will feature the SAS MDDB Server
multidimensional database, tools for gathering clickstream data,
and reporting tools for ordering the data and creating data
marts. Meanwhile, Web Mining will be based on the SAS Enterprise
Miner product, but will also include SAS' data warehouse
administration software. Web Mining will include analytical
templates for Web site data, and will allow users to merge data
from sites with customer and sales information from other
sources, says SAS' John McIntyre. Also building business
intelligence tools for e-commerce are Broadbase, IBM,
net.Genesis, and Oracle. In addition, Microsoft this month
announced plans to create e-commerce business intelligence tools
through its Business Internet Analytics initiative.