Association for Computing Machinery
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 technews@acm.org.

Volume 1, Issue 12: Wednesday, December 29, 1999

  • "Experts Play Down Virus Threat to Computers Over the Holiday"
    New York Times (12/29/99) P. C1; Markoff, John

    Computer security experts say that there is little evidence that hackers or cyberterrorists are planning any major attacks on networks over the New Year's weekend. Previously, many security experts had worried that the New Year's weekend would spur many hackers to spread viruses in order to increase panic over Y2K computer problems. Many also feared that hackers hired by firms as temporary workers to make computer networks Y2K compliant would secretly insert virus code into the systems that would go off on Jan. 1 However, the U.S. Government's National Infrastructure Protection Center recently said that it had no firm evidence of any such activity, although it said there were four viruses that could potentially pose a problem. The first three are called Microsoft Word macro viruses, and the fourth is known as PC CIH. The agency said that because of beefed-up computer security planned for the weeks around the New Year's weekend, this time period would be the most difficult for hackers to engage in any criminal activity. Regardless, security experts still urge companies and government agencies to be vigilant. A computer security firm recently estimated that there was a 1 in 14 chance that a large-scale "virus event" would take place over the New Year's period.
    http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/12/biztech/articles/29secure.html

  • "Avon Tries to Exploit Internet Without Alienating Its 'Ladies'"
    Wall Street Journal (12/28/99) P. B4; White, Erin

    Avon Products faces the challenge of moving its business onto the Internet without abandoning its traditional direct sales force of "Avon ladies." E-commerce offers great potential for Avon: the company estimates it saves $1 to $3 for every online U.S. order, while a high-profile Web site could help the company modernize its image. To realize this potential, Avon has tapped IBM to help develop a new, $60 million e-commerce site over the next three years. Meanwhile, the company is carefully reassuring its corps of direct sellers that they have a future at Avon. Avon CEO Andrea Jung has promised to keep 95 percent of sales over the next three years based on traditional models, and will increase incentives for those representatives that participate in a new recruiting program.
    http://interactive.wsj.com/archive/retrieve.cgi?id=SB946340858210033133.djm
    (Access for paying subscribers only.)

  • "Meeting Big Expectations a Worry for Linux Firms"
    Investor's Business Daily (12/28/99) P. A6; Crum, Rex

    Linux companies have recently had great success holding IPOs and attracting venture capital financing due to investor enthusiasm for the open source operating system. However, experts say Linux companies might have difficulty meeting inflated expectations and the market might consolidate as a result. Linuxcare, a company that offers technical support for companies using any type of Linux, closed its second round of venture capital financing with $32.5 million. Dell and Sun are among Linuxcare's investors. Linuxcare was founded about a year ago, and has already gained $40 million in venture funding without even offering its own product. More users are beginning to deploy Linux, and since most lack the technical skills needed to install and run the operating system, companies such as Linuxcare and Red Hat are more in demand. Red Hat, Cobalt, and VA Linux all held very successful IPOs, and experts say Linuxcare looks promising, although the company has not announced IPO plans. Linuxcare is unique because its approach is not centered on a specific product, experts say. In addition, Linuxcare is likely to capitalize on the severe lack of workers trained in Linux, and will attract major clients that have the largest need for support.
    http://www.investors.com/stories/IF/1999/Dec/28/45.html

  • "SAP Lawsuit Will Test Budding Legal Theory"
    Wall Street Journal (12/29/99) P. B7A; Boudette, Neal E.; Davis, Ann

    SAP America in August filed a lawsuit against two of its former executives charging that the workers left with confidential knowledge when they went to work for competitor Siebel Systems. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, will test a growing legal argument that some employees know so much about their employer that they cannot leave for a rival company without divulging critical information. Some courts have upheld this argument and prohibited executives from switching immediately to a rival company. Although most courts maintain the employees' right to switch jobs, the situation is changing as courts become more aware of intellectual property issues. SAP's suit against former executives Andrew Zoldan and Narina Sippy centers on the former workers' knowledge of SAP's strategy for mySAP.com, which aims to help companies conduct e-business. "Zoldan is keenly aware of where SAP's problem accounts are, what are the weaknesses or limitations, and thus is uniquely positioned to use SAP confidential and proprietary information to help Siebel craft a counter-strategy against SAP," the suit says. SAP's suit seeks to prevent Zoldan and Sippy from working at Siebel for two years. In October, SAP sued Siebel, claiming that Siebel's "predatory hiring" of 27 former SAP employees over the past year damaged SAP's business. Neither lawsuit seeks a specific amount in damages, and SAP Co-CEO Hasso Plattner says SAP's goal is to prevent Siebel from hiring its workers.

  • "Y2K Attention Turns to New Year's Viruses"
    Baltimore Sun (12/26/99) P. D1; Somerville, Sean

    Companies are increasingly replacing their Y2K concerns with fears of computer viruses caused by hackers over the New Year's weekend. These viruses can be disguised as Y2K fixes, and they may also be mistaken for Y2K problems and cause widespread panic. Companies around the nation are urging employees to not open Y2K fixes claiming to be sent from Microsoft or AOL, as those two companies do not make any Y2K remediation products. Computer security firm Symantec says the average Y2K virus will probably begin working on or near Jan. 1, and may reset the system clock or rearrange programs in order to masquerade as a Y2K problem; however, the virus may also portray itself as a Y2K fix. Network Associates reports that at least 12 major viruses are supposed to start working around Jan. 1. Viruses are becoming increasingly costly. For the first six months of 1999 viruses caused companies and individuals roughly $7.6 billion in damages, as compared to only $1.5 billion in damages for the first half of 1998, according to Computer Economics. Virus experts say most hackers are men between the ages of 17 and 25, who spread viruses mainly to gain respect from their partners in crime, although some viruses are used by hackers as a threat in order to extort money from companies. Some computer experts say they hope the recent conviction of David Smith, the creator of the "Melissa" virus, may cause other hackers to think twice before sending out destructive creations.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Less Obvious but More Powerful"
    Knight-Ridder (12/27/99); Claymon, Deborah

    Researchers at laboratories such as IBM's Almaden Research Center and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center are designing technologies that can link to an information network, allowing various appliances to work together and often anticipate user needs. To anticipate what a user may want, computers must be able to gauge the context of a situation through a basic ability to see, hear, or feel. Researchers at IBM's Almaden laboratory are currently developing Suitor, a technology that can personalize online information, based on the changing interests of the reader. This personalization can be achieved by computers with visual perception, which indicates what is most interesting to a user at any given moment, says Almaden cognitive scientist Paul Maglio. Another emerging technology at Almaden is the "emotion mouse," which analyzes heart rate and temperature to determine changes in the user's mood. This may be useful in the classroom, enabling an educational program to slow down when students become too physically stressed to keep up with the lesson, according to researcher Wendy Ark. The technology of the emotion mouse could also be applied to everyday tools, says Ark. For instance, an emotion detector embedded in a car steering wheel could alleviate road rage, alerting drivers when they have become too agitated.
    http://www.bergen.com/biz/postpc199912271.htm

  • "How Environmentally PC are PCs?"
    MSNBC.com (12/23/99); Llanos, Miguel

    Environmental "report cards" recently distributed to PC makers have sparked a debate on what can be done with the ever-increasing number of old PCs. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition handed out report cards to PC makers, giving IBM and Apple green candy canes for their efforts in providing environmental information to the public, while reprimanding eight other industry players with symbolic lumps of coal. Although many criticized the report cards as unfounded, all agree that the increasing number of discarded computers is a hazard. The National Safety Council says more than 12 million computers are thrown out every year in the U.S., while 315 million more will become obsolete in the next four years. The coalition is suggesting legislation to require PC makers to take back old computers, though industry members have criticized this solution. Environmentalists and industry members both agree that PCs also have many important environmental benefits, including the reduction of waste spurred by the rise of e-business.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/348979.asp

  • "Will Employee Privacy Be the Internet Issue of '00s?"
    Investor's Business Daily (12/29/99) P. A6; Tsuruoka, Doug

    Employee privacy on the Web is an increasingly controversial Internet issue. While businesses are deploying monitoring technologies to track employees' Web use, lawmakers might soon address Internet privacy rights in the workplace. Experts say the issue centers on extending already established privacy rights to the Internet. For example, if a worker talks to a doctor on an employer's phone, the worker is still granted a degree of privacy. To this point, courts have upheld the employer's right to monitor employee Internet use because the company provides the technology for workers to do their jobs. However, workers must first sign waivers to allow companies to monitor Internet use. Lawyer Charles Kennedy, who specializes in Internet law, believes the law will continue to support a company's right to police Internet use. "As we go into the next century, employers will continue to be the great exception to the privacy rights that people normally expect," Kennedy says. Even if laws are passed to protect worker privacy, companies will probably be able to require that workers waive those rights as a condition of employment, Kennedy says. However, the issue of worker privacy is complicated by factors such as outside parties who are not aware that email is being monitored. In addition to third parties, telecommuting presents difficult questions about a worker's Internet privacy, Kennedy says. Employers might not be able to monitor an email account that is set up and paid for by the worker, but might be allowed to screen an account the company establishes and pays for, Kennedy says.

  • "Greenwich to Be Center of e-Time"
    London Times Online (12/28/99); Mathieson, Clive; Landale, James; Brodie, Ian

    Beginning New Year's Day, Greenwich will become home to an international e-commerce clock. British Prime Minister Tony Blair will announce this week the establishment of Greenwich Electronic Time (GeT), which will serve as an Internet version of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the common nautical and astronomical 24-hour clock created in 1884. GeT will provide a common point of reference in online retail, enabling companies to avoid legal problems by establishing exact purchase and delivery times in international sales. GeT is backed by European online retail consortium the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), composed of IBM, Microsoft, Marks & Spencer, and the British Post Office, among others. IMRG will distribute software and tools to help IT vendors ensure that their computers conduct e-commerce based on GeT.

  • "B2B Explosion Expected in 2000"
    E-Commerce Times (12/22/99); Hillebrand, Mary

    Business-to-business e-commerce will explode in the next several years, and the Internet will account for a fourth of all business-to-business purchases by 2003, according to a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). By 2003 the online market will have a transaction value of $2.8 trillion, if the market maintains its expected growth rate of 33 percent a year, BCG predicts. Although both standard Internet transactions and private network transactions are expected to increase significantly, Internet transactions will dwarf private network transactions. In 1998 private networks accounted for almost six times as much business-to-business sales revenue as Internet transactions. However, by 2003 Internet-based transactions will contribute $2 trillion in business-to-business sales, while private networks will account for $780 billion. North America currently leads the world in business-to-business e-commerce, with a market share twice the size of all nations outside North America combined. Although Western Europe will increase its business-to-business e-commerce market in the next several years, North America is expected to maintain its dominance. Over the next five years business-to-business e-commerce will center on the areas of retail, motor vehicles, shipping, industrial equipment, high tech, and government, BCG says. Cost reductions are largely driving the move to e-commerce.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/news/articles/991222-5.shtml

  • "The Next Agenda"
    PC Week (12/27/99) Vol. 16, No. 51, P. 81; Hicks, Matt

    IT managers in 2000 will find themselves even busier than before as companies race to implement projects that were deferred by Y2K. About 57 percent of North American firms say Y2K postponed other projects, according to a Computer Sciences survey. Large, traditional businesses will move aggressively into e-business, in an effort to catch up with Internet startups. As they transform into e-businesses, companies will focus on forming closer ties to customers and leveraging customer information. Customer data will be used to create cross-selling opportunities and to tailor marketing efforts to individual interests. Some companies plan to improve their use of customer information by enhancing their data warehousing efforts. Meanwhile, financial services companies plan to use the Web to provide customers with self-service opportunities. In addition to customer relationships, companies will focus on e-business as a way to create new markets and revenue streams. As companies look to the Web to improve customer relationships and bring in new revenues, they will need to improve back-end integration. Information on legacy systems will need to be accessible to Web customers and business partners, and many companies will use packaged applications that offer integration and Web access. About 94 percent of North American firms say they have integrated none or few of their back-office systems with the Web, according to Computer Sciences. Many IT managers believed the integration issue would be solved through ERP efforts, but many ERP projects were postponed by Y2K. About 84 percent of companies say ERP projects were hindered by Y2K, according to a Cap Gemini survey. Finally, companies in 2000 will try to imitate Web startups by outsourcing more IT functions in order to react more quickly. Cap Gemini says about 76 percent of companies say Y2K slowed progress in applications outsourcing.
    http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153,2408832,00.html

  • "Turning the Bug Into the Boom"
    Interactive Week (12/20/99) Vol. 6, No. 52, P. 62; Duvall, Mel; Spangler, Todd

    Rather than causing widespread damage and leading to a recession, Y2K is now expected to result in an economic boom as companies rush to implement projects that were put off because of remediation efforts. After Jan. 1, companies are likely to wait for a few weeks to ensure that systems are working properly, and then begin investing heavily in IT projects. About 50 percent of major corporations postponed or abandoned projects because of Y2K, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, but 73 percent of these same companies say they will launch the postponed projects in the first three months of 2000. An additional 20 percent of the companies will implement postponed projects in the second quarter. Major firms will move rapidly to deploy e-commerce projects in an effort to keep pace with Internet startups. With Y2K out of the way, companies will be able to reassign IT workers to new projects in the areas of e-commerce, ERP, CRM, and supply chain management. The market for e-commerce applications will increase from $1.7 billion in 1999 to $4.2 billion in 2000, according to International Data. Meanwhile, ERP will grow from $20.2 billion in 1999 to $27.7 billion in 2000, while the CRM market rises from $3.7 billion to $5.4 billion over the same period. Finally, supply chain management revenue will jump from $3.9 billion in 1999 to $5.8 billion in 2000. Beyond corporations, all levels of government are expected to move heavily into e-commerce in 2000, focusing most of their efforts on government-to-business transactions.
    http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/zdy2k/news/0,6158,2411186,00.html

  • "National Y2K Nerve Center"
    InfoWorld (01/03/00) Vol. 21, No. 52, P. 1; Jones, Jennifer

    Government agencies and private companies will work together over the date change to minimize the impact of Y2K. The Y2K Cyber Assurance National Information Center, representing leading companies and trade groups, will work with 40 government agencies to assess the effects of Y2K. Cyber Assurance will report technical issues or security concerns to the White House and the public. In particular, Cyber Assurance is monitoring for viruses timed to arrive on Jan. 1 and problems with certain types of networking equipment. In the event of a problem, Cyber Assurance intends to distribute information rapidly in order to minimize damage. A group of ISPs has formed the Internet Operations Group (IOPS), which will provide information to Cyber Assurance. IOPS will run status checks and updates on large networks that support the Internet. The System Administration, Networking, and Security (SANS) Institute will represent the software industry, while a group of chipmakers called Sematech will handle hardware issues. A number of security groups including the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), Mitre, Veridian, and Symantec are also joining in the Y2K effort. CERT will monitor for attacks such as probes, intrusions, and denial of service, but not for problems with major government or corporate systems.
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/99/12/27/991227hncommand.xml

  • "Storage Management Software--The Race for Manageability"
    VARBusiness (12/20/99) Vol. 15, No. 32, P. 32; Cook, Rick

    The storage management market is broadening, sparking a transition toward manageability. The number of highly trained storage managers has not kept pace with the skyrocketing number of enterprises implementing storage management, resulting in a need for greater ease of use in advanced concepts such as RAID and storage area networks. "A year or two ago, the world of storage management would have been dominated by highly technical people," says Mylex's Suresh Panikar. "Products from companies like Mylex would have been utilities for the technical people and not for the general consumer. Over the last couple of years, we've transitioned to the attitude that RAID is not yet simple enough, but we can make it simple enough for the general public to use." Storage management vendors are racing to meet the needs of this expanded market. Mylex, for example, has revamped a system called DACCS, which originally enabled users to configure a system in its initial form, according to Panikar. Now called RAID Ez-Assist, the product has become much more user-friendly, ensuring that no more than three screens are used in automatic RAID installations, says Panikar. Furthermore, Mylex has broadened its offerings to include storage management products that combine graphical user interfaces with Internet protocols.
    http://www.crn.com/search/display.asp?ArticleID=12326