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 2, Issue 1: Monday, January 03, 2000
- "Companies Await Back-to-Work Y2K Test Today"
Washington Post (01/03/00) P. A2; Chandrasekaran, Rajiv; Joyce, Amy
As the first business day after the date change, today will be an important measure of the impact of Y2K on the business world. Officials said yesterday that no major problems have occurred as a result of Y2K. President Clinton's top Y2K adviser John Koskinen says there are "no reports or indications there will be any significant problems" today, but adds that small glitches are likely to occur. A number of minor problems have been reported; for example, Israel reported problems with its data-processing systems, while Scandinavia reported minor glitches with its medical equipment. In South Korea, an apartment complex near Seoul lost heat for several hours on Saturday because of Y2K. Overall, Y2K problems were minimal, and a number of companies and government agencies yesterday announced plans to shut down or reduce monitoring operations.
- "U.S., Firms Overreacted to Y2K Fix, Critics Say"
Los Angeles Times (01/02/00) P. A1; Dunn, Ashley; Miller, Greg; Piller, Charles
As New Year's Day passed uneventfully not only in the U.S. but also in far less-prepared nations, critics began to speculate whether the huge expenditure of U.S. resources on Y2K was necessary. In the U.S., companies and government agencies spent between $150 billion and $225 billion on Y2K. By contrast, Russia, which also seems to have passed through Y2K unharmed, spent up to 100 times less than the U.S. on Y2K fixes, says the Gartner Group's Lou Marcoccio. The British government spent less than a tenth as much as the U.S. government. "I think we have been had," says Paul Strassmann, former CIO of the Pentagon, Xerox, and General Foods. "The psychology of the Y2K funding was basically confronting management with extreme demands for which there was no rationale whatsoever." U.S. governments and businesses approach to Y2K was to repair all systems that could cause social, economic, or safety concerns. Experts say the reaction of the U.S. to Y2K is a result of the nation's heavy reliance on technology, the tendency to avoid risks, and the threat of lawsuits. Meanwhile, President Clinton's Y2K czar John Koskinen says the U.S. did not overreact to Y2K, noting that the glitch is more complicated in the U.S. than in other nations. Furthermore, Y2K problems are likely to continue to appear well after Jan. 1. The Gartner Group predicts that only about 10 percent of Y2K disruptions will occur within days of Jan. 1.
- "Apple in a Color Bind"
San Jose Mercury News (01/02/00); Fortt, Jon
Color and design might become key differentiating factors among computer makers as prices drop and innovations for consumer systems reach their limits, experts say. Apple could be leading a design trend with its popular iMac and iBook lines, with consumers willing to pay more for a more attractive device. Since the iMac debuted in 1998, over 2 million of the systems have sold. Blueberry is the most popular iMac color, selling far more quickly than lime, tangerine, and strawberry. Some retailers, notably Best Buy, were initially concerned with the inventory challenges of stocking five colors that sold at different rates. However, retailers now say the iMac's popularity outweighs inventory problems, and some retailers offer extra memory with less popular colors to stimulate sales. Apple's rivals have followed suit and are now focusing on design issues as well; for example, Compaq's new iPaq and Dell's WebPC both offer sleek designs. Retail expert Bill Ford predicts that the PC market will follow a path similar to that of automobiles. "Once the technology was worked out where there was no further price reduction, they started changing the character of the car," Ford says. Some experts say innovation in computing will slow down, and computer makers will turn to design as a way to distinguish their machines from those of rivals.
- "Company's Secrecy Inspires Guessing"
New York Times (01/03/00) P. C3; Markoff, John
Microprocessor design firm Transmeta is the subject of much speculation in the high-tech industry, as it continues to conceal details about the product it plans to unveil on Jan. 19. Transmeta employs Linux creator Linus Torvalds, and is rumored to have connections to IBM. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is said to have invested in Transmeta. Transmeta's patents indicate that it has discovered a way to simplify processor circuitry and also to allow other chips to run instructions more rapidly. However, Transmeta founder David Dinzel hints that the company is developing a low-power microprocessor, which could play a major role in portable wireless computing in the future.
- "Glitches Hit N.C. 911, British Credit Systems"
Los Angeles Times (12/30/99) P. C3
A British credit-card system and a 911 emergency response system in Charlotte, N.C., have already experienced Y2K glitches that might indicate the type of problems Y2K could bring, says President Clinton's top Y2K adviser John Koskinen. The credit-card system, used by about 5 percent of British retailers, reads four days in advance and was unable to process transactions containing Jan. 1, 2000, according to London's Daily Mail. Users of the machines, manufactured by Racal Electronics, were able to fix the problem by pressing the clear button twice. Meanwhile, the 911 system in Charlotte encountered problems during a Y2K test, and the primary backup system failed as well. However, service continued, with calls being processed by manual backup, Koskinen says. "As companies go through these types of final tests, we are going to see these last-minute glitches," says Bob Cohen of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). In an ITAA survey released Wednesday, 92 percent of 400 respondents said they are prepared for the date change, Cohen says.
- "Pervasive Pushes Linux e-Commerce Development"
E-Commerce Times (12/29/99); Beale, Matthew W.
Pervasive Software has released a version of its Tango 2000 Application Server for Linux. The product was certified by IBM's ServerProven Solutions program, which tests software compatibility with Netfinity servers. KeyLabs conducts the certification tests. As a Linux application, Tango 2000 represents a popular trend among developers. Tango 2000 enables developers to create database-driven Web applications on Windows or the Macintosh operating system to be deployed in any combination of operating environments, says Tango's Greg Hemstreet. Tango 2000 now supports the Red Hat, Caldera OpenLinux, and SuSE Linux distributions, in addition to Windows NT, Sun Solaris, and Mac OS.
- "Online Security Still a Mystery"
Newsbytes (12/29/99); Dennis, Sylvia
A huge percentage of small to medium businesses do not know how to make company Web sites more secure, according to a new report from British Telecom. The report says 85 percent of these types of businesses have company Web sites, but 88 percent of those participating in the survey admitted that they either had no security measures on their sites, or that they were not aware of what the security measures were on their sites. Twenty-six percent of those responding said they offered secure socket layer (SSL) as a way to protect their customers, and 12 percent said they use PKI. Twenty-five percent of small to medium businesses said they felt that security would hamper online trading. New legislation set to be introduced in 2000 in the U.K. makes electronic signatures legally valid; another law would establish a general framework that would give greater protection to online transactions.
- "E-Tail Failures Could Trigger Federal Legal Action"
E-Commerce Times (12/29/99); Caswell, Stephen
An Internet legal expert says that many online retailers are violating the FTC's Mail Order Rule of 1975, which stipulates that companies receiving sales orders that are submitted over telephone lines by computer, fax machine, or "similar means" must inform their customers if order shipments will be delayed. The Mail Order Rule also states that companies must give customers the chance to cancel the order, says Michael D. Scott, a partner with Perkins Coie LLP. Scott, who is also the author of the "Internet and Technology Law Desk Reference," notes that the rule forces companies to cancel the order if a consumer does not specifically agree to the delay after a second notification. Many online retailers are unaware of the rule's existence, Scott says. Scott says he would not be surprised to see the FTC take action against some of the retailers to make them aware that they must abide by the rule. The companies could find themselves being targeted by class-action lawsuits or lawsuits filed by shareholders, Scott adds.
- "'Honey Pots' Sweeten Hunt For Hackers"
Wall Street Journal (12/31/99) P. B4; Takahashi, Dean
A new technology called a "honey pot" is increasingly being used by companies to lure hackers. The device works by allowing IT departments to create decoy networks with bogus files and other information that will make hackers think that they have discovered a real site. Once hackers have broken into a network's outer defenses, they will be automatically transferred to the honey pot if they try to do something unauthorized, such as reading someone's email. Once the honey pot is occupied, an alarm is sent to the systems expert on a pager. The key is to make sure that the phony files are juicy enough to make the hackers stay in the site long enough for security experts to unmask them. Several large companies, such as Cisco Systems and Network Associates, are selling their own versions of honey pots for the growing intrusion-detection technology market. These companies say that the New Year's weekend will be an ideal testing time for the technology.
- "IBM to Recognize Software Group"
InfoWorld.com (12/29/99); Scannell, Ed
IBM plans soon to announce a new software unit devoted to the integration of IBM's software products with various industry standard solutions. Run by IBM vice president Paul Loftus, who will report to IBM Software Group Solutions general manager Steve Mills, the new Solutions and Integration unit will also cover IBM Java products and operating systems solutions. The initiative builds on the software reorganization IBM announced in November, covering four major types of software solutions: technology management, managed by Tivoli's Jan Lindelow; organizational effectiveness, led by Lotus' Jeff Papows; business transformation and integration, managed by John Swainson; and the leveraging of information, handled by Janet Perna. With the latest move, an IBM spokesperson says, "We can now better direct our marketing efforts more strongly towards those areas."
- "Postal Service Delivers Online"
InfoWorld (01/03/00) Vol. 21, No. 52, P. 1; Grygo, Eugene
The U.S. Postal Service plans to move aggressively into e-commerce over the next year with several partnerships and online initiatives. The Postal Service has been criticized for being slow to move online, but the agency believes its ability to serve millions of people will work to its advantage online. The Postal Service will offer consumers and businesses an e-post office box that will deliver email and provide bill presentment and payment services, says Bob Krause of the Postal Service. The e-post office box will be provided through the Postal Service Web site or through ISPs. Senders, such as bill collectors, will pay for access to consumers using the Postal Service's electronic postmarking and digital certificate/PKI capabilities. The Postal Service has also proposed an electronic messaging system for small and midsize businesses, and has already released free Web tools for third-party links to its site. Despite the Postal Service's recent online efforts, some experts say the initiatives are inadequate and have come too late.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Get Ready to Upgrade"
InternetWeek (12/20/99) No. 794, P. 26; Wagner, Mitch; Koller,
Mike; Yasin, Rutrell
As IT managers turn their focus to e-business, new operating systems, server hardware, and management platforms will emerge in 2000 to facilitate administration. For example, Microsoft plans to ship Windows 2000 in February of next year. The new operating system is designed to offer greater scalability, reliability, and manageability--areas in which Windows NT and Windows 9x have been criticized. Windows 2000 will scale up to 32 processors, and will feature Active Directory, which allows administrators to store data about users and devices on the corporate network. Meanwhile, Intel will release its IA-64 Itanium processor to systems vendors by mid-2000 for Windows 2000, Linux, and Unix. The Itanium processor will be used primarily in areas that depend on large databases, such as scientific computing, technical computing, and e-business, Intel says. In the first half of 2000 Linux programmers will release version 2.4 of the Linux kernel. Improvements in scalability and reliability will allow Linux to run better on mobile computers and larger servers. Version 2.4 will support SMP, PCMCIA, and USB devices. New features that have been added to Linux clustering technology will make Linux more viable for enterprise applications. Like Windows 2000 and Linux, Unix will offer some upgrades in 2000. Sun will release version 8 of Solaris on Feb. 17, with the goal of moving Solaris into large data centers. Solaris will cluster up to eight servers and will support IP version 6. Unix vendors IBM and SCO are supporting the Monterey operating system, which will run on Itanium processors. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard will modify HP-UX to run on Itanium. Network attached storage (NAS) systems will grow in 2000, while SANs will see grow over a longer time period. Also in 2000, e-business will increase the need for security, driving acceptance for digital certificates and new developments in PKI.
- "E-Shoppers Spent Third of Holiday Budgets Online"
E-Commerce Times (12/28/99); Caswell, Stephen
Eighty-six percent of respondents prefer online shopping to traditional shopping, despite shipping delays and technical problems, according to a Dec. 20 random online survey of U.S. adults conducted by InsightExpress. Online shoppers spent 33 percent of their holiday budgets online, with 25 percent of the respondents purchasing online for the first time. Many people who were surveyed reported being able to find items online that they could not find in brick-and-mortar stores. Sixty-four percent of respondents were satisfied with their online shopping experience. However, 49 percent complained about slow-loading or unavailable Web sites, 20 percent complained that they had to contact customer service representatives, and 17 percent complained that they could not find what they wanted online. InsightExpress CEO Charles Hamlin warns brick-and-mortar stores that next year's holiday season could prove slow if Web companies improve their online selling technique enough to attract even more online customers.
- "E-Businesses Green-Light SANs, Survey Shows"
VARBusiness Online (12/27/99); Stafford, Jan
Storage area networks (SANs) are quickly becoming a valued tool for data management, according to a recent survey by International Data. The study, which surveyed 216 corporations, found that about 45 percent of the respondents were considering SAN implementations, up from 32 percent in a poll conducted three months ago. More than 80 percent of those surveyed believe SANs will yield more centralized control of data and improved administration. SANs have gained in popularity because they can manage and provide rapid access to corporate data, which has become increasingly complex with the rise of e-business.