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 2, Issue 22: Friday, February 25, 2000
- "Microsoft Breakup Called Illogical"
Washington Post (02/24/00) P. E1; Grimaldi, James V.
Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who has been asked by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to give his opinion on several issues in the Microsoft antitrust trial, said yesterday that splitting up the software giant "doesn't seem logical." If Microsoft is found guilty of breaking antitrust law, behavioral restrictions would be an adequate punishment, Lessig says. The difficulty with a breakup would be "where to draw the lines" to resolve antitrust issues, Lessig says. Lessig believes the move to divide Microsoft stems from the government's frustration with dealing with the company's behavior for many years. Government attorneys "fear that the defendant won't properly respond to a particular order," Lessig says, noting that these concerns do not justify a breakup. Lessig did suggest that forcing Microsoft to open its APIs to the public might be an effective solution. Although Microsoft says its APIs are already equally available to all software developers, Judge Jackson's earlier findings support government charges that Microsoft favored some companies by giving them early access to the APIs.
- "CeBit: Wireless Net, Linux, Win2000 to Take Center Stage"
InfoWorld Electric (02/25/00); D'Amico, Mary Lisbeth
With approximately 7,500 participants, the CeBit exhibition is the world's largest IT event. This year's CeBit, boasting a new service that allows exhibitors to transmit live broadcasts of press conferences via the Internet, will be held in Hannover, Germany, from Feb. 24 to March 1. The show is expected to center around such topics as the wireless Internet, e-commerce, stripped-down PCs, Linux, and Windows 2000. Visitors attending CeBit will witness the unveiling of such technological achievements as WAP-enabled mobile phones developed by telecommunications companies, wireless management information systems created as a result of the combined efforts of IBM and Symbian, NEC's videophone prototype, and a range of products incorporating fledging wireless radio technologies. Visitors will also see Palm's new color-screen handheld devices and a prototype of Samsung Electronics' personal digital assistant. Debuting as well are stripped-down PCs that use USB ports to connect to all other peripheral equipment in a design vendors claim makes these machines simpler and easier to use than others.
- "Computers May Feel 'Leap Year Bug' Bite"
Washington Post (02/25/00) P. A21; White, Ben
The President's Council on Y2K Conversion, originally formed to address the potential computer problems caused by the transition to the year 2000, now fears some computer software will not recognize that this calendar year is a leap year. Council officials are dubbing this possibility the leap year bug and say computers may not realize that Feb. 29 exists and jump from Feb. 28 directly to March 1. This means bills could be mailed early, paychecks could be issued that do not include hours worked on Feb. 29, interest payments on loans could be off, and certain transactions may not process at all. The council does not anticipate the failure or collapse of entire systems, but expects smaller businesses may not be prepared for this glitch and could therefore encounter problems. There are three separate rules that exist to determine when a leap year will occur and it often happens that predictions differ depending upon which rule is used. Only two of the three rules were incorporated into the codes written by computer programmers. Other officials are not concerned, believing that efforts by organizations to prepare for Y2K included addressing the leap year bug. Nonetheless, the government's Y2K Information Coordination Center will be open during the transition from February to March to deal with any problems that may arise.
- "Microsoft Says It Foiled Hacker Assault"
Microsoft yesterday reported a syn-flood attack on its corporate Web site that had a minimal effect on the site's performance. A syn-flood attack aims to use up processing power by corrupting transmissions between a PC and the site server, causing the server to repeatedly ask for the identity of the PC. The attack on Microsoft's site temporarily slowed page viewing by about 3 percent to 7 percent, leaving some visitors unable to bring up pages on the site the first time they clicked on the pages. The impact of the attack was dulled because Microsoft's site has the capacity to handle huge traffic volumes. In addition, Microsoft was prepared for an attack because of the recent denial-of-service attacks on major Web sites, so the company was able to quickly trace the addresses that were launching the attacks and block their access to the site. Windows 2000 provided additional protection against the attack, Microsoft says. "The guys running the network swear to me that a year ago we would have been in big trouble, but with Windows 2000, nobody could knock our servers over," says Microsoft's Adam Sohn.
- "Study: U.S. Manufacturers Not B2B E-Commerce Ready"
E-Commerce Times (02/23/00); Caswell, Stephen
Although business-to-business e-commerce is gaining in popularity, few manufacturers are participating in it, concluded National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President Jerry Jasinowski in reference to a NAM survey of 2,500 U.S. manufacturers conducted in January and February. In the survey, 68 percent of respondents said that their employers are not using e-commerce to carry out business transactions. Of the 32 percent of manufacturers that do engage in e-commerce, 52 percent say they intend to use the Internet to create a new sales channel. Manufacturers that procure intermediate materials such as parts or sub-assemblies online number 12 percent, while only 7 percent obtain needed raw materials on the Web. Additionally, 35 percent of respondents say their CEOs or senior management are in charge of all e-commerce initiatives, while a full 10 percent say that no one in their company is in charge of e-commerce. NAM, which represents 14,000 members--including 10,000 small to midsize manufacturing companies--plans to conduct its e-commerce survey every quarter.
- "Linux: Long-Term Commitment or a Flash in the Pan?"
Computer Reseller News Online (02/22/00); Bray, Paul
This year will be crucial in determining Linux's long-term success, writes Paul Bray. Although Linux has gained the support of the industry, and despite the publicity this support has yielded, whether Linux is here to stay is not clear, says Bray. Linux's long-term success depends largely upon its acceptance by the corporate mainstream, Bray argues. Although Linux has achieved a small number of high-profile corporate sales, including investments by energy firm Amerada Hess and insurance companies Reliance Mutual and Hill House Hammond, Linux demand among the majority of corporations is low. Yet industry observers and top players believe that the use of Linux will rise significantly within the corporate sector this year. "I have a growing conviction that Linux is really going to happen," says GartnerGroup research director Andy Butler. Meanwhile, IBM is fully backing the operating system, offering 24-hour Linux support and releasing Linux-enabled Netfinity Intel machines. Furthermore, IBM tapped Internet guru Irving Wladawsky-Berger to drive its Linux effort. "We've shifted up a couple of gears," says IBM Linux marketing manager Adam Jollans. "We think Linux is going to be fundamental to the next generation of the Internet."
- "J.C. Penney Sold on New Outlet: Online Auctions"
Investor's Business Daily (02/25/00) P. A6; Phipps, Jennie L.
This April J.C. Penney will launch an online auction site designed to sell overstocked items from its stores and catalog. The move is intended to reverse the company's declining earnings figures from the past two years by attracting repeat business and reducing costs. The company also announced it will close 45 department stores and 289 of its Eckerd drug stores, leading some analysts to believe the brick-and-mortar retailer may be moving toward a more online-based form of business. J.C. Penney already operates a Web site, www.jcpenney.com, that sold more than $100 million in merchandise last year. FairMarket, a company specializing in online hosted auctions, has been hired by J.C. Penney to help organize and launch the Internet auction effort. The retailer will offer its goods both in an automatic markdown format, in which the price of an item drops over the course of several days until the item is either sold or the price reaches a pre-set company minimum, and in a traditional auction format. Other retailers have successfully entered the realm of online auctions, including The Sharper Image, which began auctioning off slow-moving inventory online in March 1999 and is pleased with how much the effort has helped the company with inventory management and expansion of its customer base.
- "Europe Angered by Claims of U.S. Spying"
Los Angeles Times (02/24/00) P. A1; Dahlburg, John-Thor; Drogin, Bob
Some Europeans are accusing the National Security Agency (NSA) of intercepting communications sent by private citizens and using economic espionage to the advantage of U.S. corporations. A committee of the 15-nation European Parliament recently heard testimony from Duncan Campbell, a physicist and journalist, who insists that the NSA's legendary "Echelon" computer network not only spies on private citizens but also helped U.S. companies Boeing and Raytheon beat European rivals for contracts in foreign markets. NSA, which has never publicly acknowledged the existence of Echelon, has adamantly denied the accusations, saying that it is illegal for the agency to give intelligence to private companies for their economic benefit. Echelon is allegedly operated in conjunction with Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, which some analysts say makes the European's charges more suspect. And many European intelligence experts admit that France, Germany, and Russia consistently spy on other countries to gain commercial trade secrets for the benefit of domestic corporations. However, many Europeans insist that the NSA is spying on private citizens, and blame the agency in part for Europe's high unemployment rates because of the advantage that NSA's alleged industrial spying has given to American firms. Campbell suggests that Europeans start using encryption to protect the integrity of their communications.
- "Chatting With the Web"
Computerworld Online (02/23/00); Hall, Mark
IBM this week previewed new speech recognition technologies designed to make Web surfing even easier at the Speech Fair held at IBM's Santa Theresa Research facility. IBM unveiled a Palm Pilot PDA equipped with IBM's prototype Personal Speech Assistant (PSA) to provide online speech recognition. The Palm Pilot, due out this year, and other PSA-enabled devices could be used to navigate the Internet using voice commands, says IBM researcher David Nahamoo. IBM also demonstrated voice recognition technology intended to bolster IT security efforts by authorizing users based on their speech patterns. The technology is intended to supplement existing password and data verification techniques, making it nearly impossible to achieve unauthorized access to a Web site, says analyst Judith Markowitz. Other coming improvements to speech recognition technology include the submission of the voice XML specification to the World Wide Web Consortium. IBM says the specification, which could propel speech recognition tools into the mainstream, will be submitted in the next two weeks.
- "First Win 2000 Virus Found"
PC World Online (02/23/00); Krasne, Alexandria
Although Windows 2000 was released only a week ago, virus writers have already created W2K.Infis.4608, a virus that targets the new version of the Microsoft operating system. Symantec says the virus is only capable of infecting a system if a machine is logged online as an administrator. The appearance of a file named inf.sys or the key hklmsystemCurrentControlSetServicesinf indicates a system has been infected with the virus. Symantec has categorized the virus as low-risk since it causes little damage and does not harm a system. Regardless, the company expects to have a fix for the virus ready later this week and Windows 2000 virus detection and protection tools are available from many leading antivirus software providers.
- "Locking Out the Hackers"
Business Week (02/28/00) No. 3670, P. 32; Sager, Ira; Gross, Neil; Carey, John
Experts say there are five ways to make the Internet more secure without burdening the medium with excessive regulation or invading user privacy. First, computer experts suggest that software developers receive better training and learn new programming techniques, such as reducing software into smaller chunks, to decrease the number of bugs present in the software. Marketplace beta-testing should be replaced by real testing of software to ensure that it is strong enough to resist most attacks, experts say. Second, security professionals suggest that ISPs do their part by adding filtering software to their routers, which may slow down service, but would also allow the routers to turn away information packets that do not have the proper labels. Third, laws against cyber attacks need to be stricter to make hacking a less attractive activity. Fourth, companies need to be proactive by monitoring their firewalls, figuring out the specific signs of an impending attack, creating policies that allow for an immediate response to attacks, updating software, and backing up data. However, as the Internet is now a full-fledged engine of commerce--meaning lawyers will soon be involved in everything--most analysts say the threat of being held liable for not having adequate security measures may persuade CEOs and insurers to insist on giving security more of a priority. Finally, experts say youngsters need to be taught computer ethics before high school, to be shown that hacking is destructive and not just harmless fun.
- "You Haven't Got Mail"
U.S. News & World Report (02/28/00) Vol. 128, No. 8, P. 62; McDonald, Marci
Consumer-sent emails are frequently ignored by Fortune 100 companies, and there is a 62 percent chance of receiving no reply, according to a test by software vendor Brightware. After sending emails to top companies asking who is each one's CEO, Brightware received only 13 answers within three hours. This informal study indicates that online customer service is dwindling, since three times more companies responded to the emails last year. Jupiter Communications analyst Preston Dodd says, "It's like giving somebody your phone number and they call for five days without getting an answer."
- "Designing for Survival"
Far Eastern Economic Review (02/17/00) Vol. 163, No. 7, P. 42; Burns, Simon
The consumer electronics industry can now further fuel the desire for constant innovation through the Internet, inexpensive processing power for computers, and the growth of digital media. Manufacturers will have to act fast to utilize new technologies and world standards with the advent of diminishing electronics design cycles. When the electronics market becomes ordered through the adoption of one or two standards, the companies using those standards will have the greatest advantage. The market for information appliances will be particularly strong in coming weeks. The most successful information appliances will be the ones that closely link design to offered services. Manufacturers will also have to meet the demand for customization; new technology is most effectively combined with customization through the modular approach. The modular approach is also effective when some parts of a product evolve more slowly than others. Manufacturers will also have to contend with the fact that beyond the living room, homes are not proving conducive to digital technology.
- "Spawning the Gigahertz Era"
PC Week (02/14/00) Vol. 17, No. 7, P. 33; Popovich, Ken; Knowles, Anne
Intel, IBM, and Compaq all presented papers at the recent IEEE Solid State Circuit Conference, describing forthcoming 1 GHz processors, and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) demonstrated a 1.1 GHz Athlon chip. Intel disclosed details on its Itanium 64-bit chip, which runs at 800 MHz; the Itanium and Intel's 32-bit, 1 GHz Pentium III are due out during the second half of 2000. The Itanium will be packaged with the 460GX chip set, and its backside bus has a data transfer rate of 12.8 Gbps. Intel's Gadi Singer says the floating point can do over 1,000 decrypts per second and the Level 3 cache runs at core processor frequencies. AMD's Athlon is manufactured with copper wiring and is due out before year's end. IBM introduced a computer circuit design that researchers say will allow chips built using conventional silicon transistors to hit speeds of up to 4.5 GHz. Interlocked pipeline CMOS (IPCMOS) could reduce power consumption by 50 percent, researchers add, compared to current standard high-performance chips. Its key is a distributed "clock" function, decentralizing the function and letting locally generated clocks run smaller circuit sections. Faster sections can then run at higher cycles, and IBM says power consumption is reduced because the clock signal does not have to go across the whole chip.
- "Slashing Design Time"
Mechanical Engineering (02/00) Vol. 122, No. 2, P. 18; Thilmany, Jean
The Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) of Cleveland will assist the National Institute for Standards and Technology in designing a computer program that facilitates manufacturer communications. OAI recently received a $21.5 million grant from the Department of Commerce for this project. The Federated Intelligent Product EnviRonment (FIPER) program will foster decreased time in the design, testing, and marketing phases and reduced design costs, by facilitating manufacturer communication and resource pooling. Ohio University in Athens; divisions of General Electric, including GE Aircraft Engines; and B.F. Goodrich Aerospace Aerostructures are some of the companies involved in FIPER.