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 email@example.com.
Volume 1, Issue 3: Monday, December 6, 1999
- "IBM Plans Supercomputer That Works at Speed of Life"
New York Times (12/06/99) P. C1; Lohr, Steve
IBM today will announce its intention to invest $100 million over
the next five years to build Blue Gene, a supercomputer that will
be 500 times faster than current supercomputing technology. IBM
has ambitious plans for Blue Gene. Researchers plan to use the
supercomputer, which will be able to perform 1,000 trillion
calculations per second, to simulate the natural biological
process by which amino acids fold themselves into proteins. Blue
Gene, which will stand six feet tall, occupy 1,600 square feet of
floor space, and include about 1 million microprocessors, will
need roughly a year to perform the protein-folding simulation.
The human body manages the task in less than a second. "It's
absolutely amazing the complexity of the problem and the
simplicity with which the body does it every day," said Ajay
Royyuru, a researcher in IBM's computational biology center.
Blue Gene will require IBM to devise new standards of computer
architecture to enable super high-speed calculations and highly
advanced software to run at the high speeds without causing
bottlenecks. It is hoped that the Blue Gene project will be a
positive influence to the research community in general as well,
by attracting scientists to research projects rather than the
lure of easy Internet money, and by the computer's ability to
perform other, relatively simple biological simulations.
- "U.S. to Detail Its Charges on Microsoft"
Wall Street Journal (12/06/99) P. A3; Wilke, John R.
The Justice Department and 19 states today plan to file specific
charges against Microsoft for three violations of the Sherman
Act. The government will charge Microsoft with two violations of
Section 2 of the Sherman Act; one for illegally protecting and
extending its Windows software monopoly, and another for trying
to monopolize Internet software. In addition, the government
will charge Microsoft with one violation of Section 1 for common
business practices such as exclusive contracts that the
government says are illegal in Microsoft's case because it holds
a monopoly. Microsoft argues that the government's anticipated
Section 2 claim of attempted monopolization and the Section 1
claim of illegal business practices are not backed by Judge
Jackson's findings of fact. Jackson did find evidence lacking in
some government claims in his Nov. 5 findings. For example,
Jackson wrote, "...the evidence is insufficient to find that
Microsoft's ambition is a future in which most or all of the
content available on the Web would be accessible only through its
own browsing software." However, Jackson notes that the evidence
supports Microsoft's intent to protect Windows from the movement
of many software applications to the Web. Therefore, the
government's arguments are likely to center on the Section 2
claim that Microsoft violated antitrust law in guarding its
Windows monopoly. Faced with this charge, Microsoft would
probably contend that monopolies are allowed to compete
aggressively--an argument upheld by a number of appellate court
opinions. Although the settlement talks are moving forward, with
three meetings scheduled for the next two weeks, a settlement is
- "Computer Chip Researchers Set to Showcase Advances"
New York Times (12/06/99) P. C12; Markoff, John
Semiconductor researchers meeting this week in Washington for the
International Electron Device Meeting will announce new advances
in chip making that might allow the industry to progress well
beyond recent predictions. Some scientists in recent years have
projected that semiconductor circuitry will reach its limits by
2014, but this week's announcements indicate that researchers
will be able to keep progressing beyond that time. For example,
the University of California at Berkeley will present a paper on
a transistor that could possibly be made as small as 18
nanometers in width, or 20 times smaller than today's smallest
transistors. The transistor design could enable the development
of devices with 400 times the storage capability of today's
densest memory chips, Berkeley researchers believe. Meanwhile,
IBM researchers will present papers on new developments in
transistors and materials that might soon be released
commercially. IBM scientists, together with researchers from
Infineon Technologies, will present a new vertical transistor
that stacks logic circuits on top of memory circuits. By
contrast, today's designs arrange these circuits in a
single-level configuration. IBM's new design could eliminate the
processor-to-memory delays that are currently the largest
obstacle in high-speed computer designs. In addition, IBM will
discuss a new complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS)
technology, based on the silicon-on-insulator manufacturing
process, that could enable chips that run at speeds over a
billion operations per second. Finally, Motorola will present a
new type of crystalline oxide material called perovskites that
might offer benefits over the silicon dioxides traditionally used
as chip insulators.
- "Internet Fraud a Growing Concern to Online Merchants"
Newsbytes (12/06/99); Dennis, Sylvia
Three out of every four online merchants are worried about credit
card fraud, yet only 59 percent realize they are financially
responsible for incidents of such fraud, according to a new
report from Mindwave that was commissioned by CyberSource. The
report surveyed more than 100 businesses across the globe.
Online merchants say their top concerns are the lack of consumer
confidence, the use of stolen credit cards, the accessing of
customer information, hacking, and chargeback fees. The
merchants also note that they would prefer that credit card
companies and the government provide better regulations. Online
sales would be better if online shoppers were not concerned about
fraud, according to 72 percent of the merchants surveyed.
Further, 74 percent of those surveyed predict that online fraud
will be on the rise this holiday shopping season.
- "Omnibus Appropriations Bill Holds Hidden Treasures for E-Commerce"
E-Commerce Times (12/03/99); Hillebrand, Mary
The omnibus appropriations bill that was signed last week
includes an anti-cybersquatting bill that enables trademark
owners to sue cybersquatters. The cybersquatting bill also holds
that the Secretary of Commerce, the Patent and Trademark Office,
and the Federal Election Office must investigate the registration
of domain names that include personal names that differ from
those of the owner. The law says that the study must come up
with ways to protect personal names from being resold or used in
a manner that is meant "to harm the reputation of the individual
or the goodwill associated with that individual's name." The law
also says that the personal names of government officials,
candidates, and potential candidates for office must also be
protected. The Commerce Department will work with the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to come up with
resolutions for disputes involving the registration of personal
names. The study must be concluded by May. The budget law also
allocates $1.4 million in funding for the Advisory Commission on
Electronic Commerce, which will report its findings on e-commerce
taxes to Congress by next summer.
- "Consumer Privacy Laws Are Likely to Proliferate in State Legislatures"
American Banker (12/06/99) P. 1; Anason, Dean
Sources say that anywhere from six to 25 states may eventually
decide to draft consumer privacy protection measures that call
for stiffer penalties than those outlined in the federal
financial reform law signed last month by President Clinton.
Already, the states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Nebraska are
at work drafting such legislation. However, Neal Osten of the
National Conference of State Legislatures predicts that most
states will be too busy to begin taking action on the issue until
late 2000 or the following year. Annie Hall, chief lobbyist for
Bank One and chairman of the Privacy Discussion Group, disagrees,
noting that 25 states, including the 10 largest, are holding
serious talks about privacy legislation. Municipalities may also
decide to take action, Hall adds. The issue could turn into "a
contest between the states and federal government as to who can
work the fastest and have the most stringent restrictions," Hall
says. Sen. Don Betzold (D-Minn.) says that the public wants
greater privacy protections and that he would support an opt-in
requirement for banks. Congress may decide to take up the
financial privacy issue again next year.
- "Internet Commerce Lures Indian Commerce Firms"
Wall Street Journal (12/06/99) P. A26; Karp, Jonathan
India-based Satyam Computer Services plans to expand its
offerings to include developing ways its clients can make their
own businesses part of the Internet commerce revolution. Satyam
was previously heavily involved in ensuring computers were
compliant for the year-2000 changeover; however, as the new year
draws closer, many computers have already become Y2K-compliant.
Satyam Chairman B. Ramalinga Raju says Y2K was a great
opportunity for the company, but as the Internet expands, the
opportunities for e-commerce seem much greater. Indian computer
companies, which acquired a total of $2 billion in Y2K contracts,
are moving aggressively into the e-commerce market. Satyam
developed its own e-commerce initiative, Dr. Millennium, a
diagnostic tool that can detect potential Y2K problems on
computers and offer solutions. In addition to Dr. Millennium,
Satyam intends to launch other Internet-based software solutions
that go beyond Y2K-compliance, namely business-performance
management software. Raju anticipates the company's sales will
increase by 55 percent to 60 percent a year. Satyam has reached
an agreement with State Farm Insurance to integrate a new
software system for the insurer and health care firm and has
enlisted Satyam to create a Web-based application that will
increase the process of developing and testing drugs. The Indian
company has also established a joint venture with General
Electric to provide computer-aided mechanical engineering,
including the redesign of GE electricity turbines.
- "RosettaNet Standard Is Gaining Vendor Support"
Electrical Engineering Times Online (12/02/99); Costow, Terry
There are now 29 companies supporting the RosettaNet standard of
describing electronic components for more efficient
business-to-business distribution. RosettaNet, which features a
6,000-word dictionary of engineering and business terms, will
allow manufacturers, distributors, and OEMs to move parts along
the supply chain faster and more efficiently and cheaply.
Companies that have joined RosettaNet in October include Agilent
Technologies, Lucent Technologies, NEC, and Philips
- "New Disabled Web Site Unveiled"
Associated Press (12/02/99); Jesdanun, Anick
We Media has launched a new Web site for the disabled that will
feature shopping, online college courses, chat rooms, and job
listings. Site visitors must purchase special equipment,
including a vibrating mouse, in order to leverage the site's
unique features. We Media is the only site to feature software
coding that works with the vibrating mouse. The vibrating mouse
could prove to be a key tool if it works everywhere on the
Internet, said Richard Ring, Head of the International Braille
and Technology Center for the Blind.
- "New Disguise for Infection of Computers"
New York Times (12/04/99) P. B1; Markoff, John
A computer worm called W32.Mypics.Worm with a trigger date of
Jan. 1 began infecting computer systems on Thursday, marking the
start of what experts believe will be a number of destructive
programs disguising themselves as Y2K problems. The worm has
already shown up at a number of corporations, and anti-virus
firms say they have released code that rids systems of the worm.
"There is so much media attention about Y2K problems that this is
a great way to disguise a malicious program," says Symantec's
Marian Merritt. W32.Mypics.Worm targets Windows users and
spreads as an email attachment in Microsoft Outlook and Outlook
Express. An infected system will send the worm to as many as 50
people in the user's Outlook address book, with an email that
reads, "Here's some pictures for you!" When users try to open
the attachment called "pics4you.exe," the worm infects the
Windows registry. In addition, rather than directing users to
the home page of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, the worm
sends users to a personal page on the Yahoo! Geocities Web site
that contains pornographic pictures. After Jan. 1, the worm is
set to deliver two payloads, the first of which tries to
overwrite the system's BIOS so the computer will be unable to
reboot. However, many of today's computers protect the BIOS from
this type of attack. The second and more significant payload
overwrites Windows' autoexec.bat file in order to reformat the
hard drive and cause the system to lose all programs and data.
If users simply delete the message and attachment, the worm will
not harm the system.
- "More Companies Monitor Employees' E-Mail"
Wall Street Journal (12/02/99) P. B8; Wingfield, Nick
Employers are increasingly checking employee email and are
sending their own message that employees who partake in
inappropriate emailing will lose their jobs. The New York Times
just fired 20 employees and sent out warning letters to other
employees, after the workers had sent what the publishing company
referred to as "inappropriate and offensive" material. The
company said that while it does not make it a habit of monitoring
employee email, when a violation of policy is reported, the
company does investigate. The New York Times is the latest in a
long line of companies tightening the reigns on its Internet
system. Xerox fired 40 employees for violating its policy, and
Edward Jones & Co. fired 19 workers who sent inappropriate
emails. Companies are cracking down on Internet use because of
the risks they face with the potential liabilities involved in
electronic communications. Companies are worried about the loss
of trade secrets through email, as well as offensive material
that could lead to harassment lawsuits.
- "A Better Tap for Importing Beer"
Internet World (12/01/99) Vol. 5, No. 34, P. 56; Roberts, Bill
Heineken USA has implemented an Internet-based system that cuts
in half the time required to send beer from its parent company in
the Netherlands to U.S. distributors. In the past, Heineken used
a paper-based reporting system that forced distributors to place
orders 12 to 14 weeks before they needed to be restocked, says
Heineken USA's Andy Thomas. In order to improve its ability to
predict restock orders, process current orders, and fulfill
orders, Heineken needed a single system. Since Heineken has only
2 percent of the U.S. market and the company's distributors are
mainly partners of large U.S. beer companies, Heineken needed a
solution that would be inexpensive for distributors. For that
reason, Heineken turned to the Internet rather than an EDI
system, for example. The company contracted American Software to
build a Web-based forecast-and-planning application called
Heineken Operational Planning System (HOPS) in 1995. By 1998,
all 450 U.S. distributors were using HOPS to connect to the
Holland-based parent company, and distributors are now able to
restock in just six to eight weeks.
- "To OC-192 or Not to OC-192"
Telephony (11/22/99) Vol. 237, No. 21, P. 58; Miller, Elizabeth Starr
Many carriers are beginning to conduct trials for OC-192, but
some are more aggressive than others when it comes to actual
deployment for live traffic. Service demands prompted AT&T to
conduct a trial upgrade of its New York-to-Cambridge connection
nearly six months before scheduled. Global Crossing announced
that it would test OC-192 over its Cleveland-to-Chicago
connection. Both companies intend to upgrade other segments of
their IP networks according to customer demand. Level 3 is
already transmitting at OC-192 throughout its whole network.
PSINet, which is conducting laboratory trials of OC-192 with
frame relay, plans to route traffic on its whole frame relay
network in the near future. AT&T and Sprint are the only key
players that have not made significant progress with OC-192,
according to RHK senior analyst Dana Cooperson. Carriers are
conducting OC-192 deployments because of their desire to provide
OC-48-based services and the protection of Sonet, Cooperson said.
In addition, companies that upgrade now will be able to take
advantage of equipment that is less expensive and widely
- "IBM Outlines Ambitious Post-PC Plans"
C|Net (12/02/99); Wilcox, Joe
IBM this week briefed industry analysts on its plans to move away
from the one-size-fits-all PC to a new strategy called EON, or
"edge of the network." With EON, IBM intends to focus more on
connections and services, and combining disparate technologies
together so that the company can meet the many needs of its
customers. The first EON offering, an all-in-one PC built around
a thick LCD display, could come as early as April 2000. IBM does
not plan to make many of its new non-PC products available until
the first or second half of 2001. "IBM's vision is right on, and
they have more pieces in place than any other vendor in the
world," says Joe Ferlazzo, a Technology Business Research
analyst. Some of the new devices could include wearable PCs,
foldable screens, and paper computers, and have new features such
as embedded computer chips and support for wireless.
- "Dawn of the Digital Marketplace"
Upside (11/99) Vol. 11, No. 11, P. 124; Knorr, Eric
The tremendous growth that is expected to occur in
business-to-business e-commerce over the next several years will
be enabled by a new kind of e-commerce site that brings buyers
and sellers together to form a digital marketplace. The sites
are divided into horizontal sites that provide a certain type of
buyer with a wide range of products from different industries,
and vertical sites, which focus on only one industry. Horizontal
sites, such as Ariba Network and Commerce One's MarketSite.net,
allow corporate buyers to save money by seamlessly integrating
internal and external purchasing systems. Meanwhile, vertical
sites pool information about a specific industry to simplify
sourcing for customers and to offer sellers fast access to new
customers. Digital marketplaces, both horizontal and vertical,
can sell items using a catalog, exchange, or auction model. In
the catalog model, vendors simply list prices and items for sale.
In the exchange model, multiple buyers purchase from multiple
vendors using a bid-ask system, providing both buyers and sellers
with timely comparative pricing information. Meanwhile, auctions
allow vendors to sell extra inventory rapidly and at a higher
price than typical liquidators would be willing to pay. Some
sites such as FastParts.com, use a combination of catalog,
exchange, and auction models. To fully leverage the benefits of
the digital marketplace, companies should have a well-implemented
purchasing system and should reengineer their purchasing
processes when deploying the new system. By integrating
sourcing, purchasing, and billing, companies can improve the
speed of transactions and cut expenses for acquiring business
goods, services, and customers by over 50 percent, vendors and
analysts say. The digital marketplace allows vendors to easily
gain new customers, and allows buyers to save time and money in
purchasing items. Experts predict that the most successful
digital marketplaces will be those that offer availability rather
than low prices, because corporate buyers are more concerned with
getting their orders quickly than at a low cost.
- "No Way to Run a Network"
Scientific American (11/99) Vol. 281, No. 5, P. 56; Grossman, Wendy M.
The effort to overhaul the domain name system keeps running into
snags, writes Wendy M. Grossman. Network Solutions has held the
government contract to distribute the top-level domains com, org,
and net for the past eight years, but complaints in recent years
led to a 1997 proposal to introduce global top-level domains and
allow competition. The handling of global top-level domains and
Internet numbers was given over to the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) last year. While ICANN has
begun testing and has named member organizations, it found itself
before Congress over certain issues. Opponents are also
concerned about the trademark-dispute process and the possibility
that ICANN will censor too harshly and help undermine privacy.
Network Solutions has drawn ire with its statement that its
database is intellectual property, with possible antitrust probes
in discussion at the Justice Department and European Commission.
Grossman writes that the registrations should be considered
public property and that qualms about government and ICANN's
potential authority are the sort of thing that always surface
along with centralization. Perhaps a better solution would be to
create a "separation of powers" by putting different entities in
charge of domain names and Internet numbers, Grossman writes.
However, Grossman says competition with other registries will
keep ICANN from being able to control the entire Internet.
Decentralization is still important, Grossman concludes.