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Timely Topics for IT Professionals

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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


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Volume 2, Issue 59:  Monday, May 22, 2000

  • "Microsoft Scrambles to Launch Software"
    Wall Street Journal (05/22/00) P. A3; Buckman, Rebecca

    As Microsoft prepares for next week's launch of its Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), experts say the software giant must be careful to present the product in a way that will not compromise its position in the ongoing antitrust trial. NGWS is Microsoft's attempt to establish Windows and certain applications in the Internet market, where the company has traditionally lagged. Microsoft also plans to announce new Web services that operate on non-PC devices and across various applications. In light of the antitrust suit, Microsoft should not risk portraying itself as an operating system monopolist by touting NGWS as the ultimate Internet operating system, experts say. Meanwhile, Microsoft says the trial has no impact on its NGWS strategy. The company plans to focus on the close ties between its operating systems and applications, despite the fact that the Justice Department favors splitting Microsoft's operating systems business from its applications business.

  • "High-Tech Workers Widen Pay Lead"
    Washington Post-Washington Business (05/22/00) P. 10; Behr, Peter

    A study by the American Electronics Association reveals a widening gap between the salaries of technical and non-technical workers in the Washington, D.C., region, although the study does not include the large group of technology workers at businesses that are not based on technology, such as law firms, banks, and manufacturing plants. The study focused on the employees of technology companies that develop software, computer systems, Internet applications, networks, and other IT tools. However, there are also tech workers from other fields and occupations that moved into tech positions, usually by taking classes at nights and on weekends, and these workers may initiate a bridge between the distinct tech and non-tech groups of workers. Those workers who are leaving their fields for technology positions boost the continuing economic growth of the region, according to experts. Still, employers tend to seek skilled workers from other companies before hiring an employee with schooling and no experience. Attracting tech workers from the outside will not be enough to fill the tech worker void in the D.C. area, according to Stacy Hayes of the McCormick Group. "The solution to this shortage has to be found from within our region," says Hayes.

  • "Real Networks Has Digital Web Player for Music, Video"
    Wall Street Journal (05/22/00) P. B6; Buckman, Rebecca

    RealNetworks, a competitor to Microsoft in supplying software that allows users to watch videos or listen to music on the Web, is expected to announce the release of a new digital "entertainment center." The new center enables users to simultaneously download a music player, a jukebox, and a downloading device. In addition, the tool offers improved search capabilities, a more useful guide to Web programming, and a radio tuner that gives users access to more than 2,500 radio stations by way of the Internet. Despite a study by Market Decisions that demonstrated Microsoft Window's streaming media technology is being used more often by large businesses, Microsoft is still behind the rest of the industry, according to Larry Gerbrandt of Paul Kagan Associates. Both Microsoft and RealNetworks continue to develop new products and technologies. Microsoft today will probably announce its intention to distribute 13 new international versions of the media guide associated with its media player.

  • "EU Set to Lift Data Security Export Curbs"
    Financial Times (05/22/00) P. 8; Hargreaves, Deborah

    European Union officials are expected to liberalize export control regulations on encryption devices today, giving EU tech companies a leg up over American and Japanese firms that are still hindered by stricter export rules on data security products. EU tech firms can sell their encryption products to any EU member country and 10 other "friendly" countries": the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, and Switzerland. Licenses would have to be obtained if companies wish to sell data security products to any other countries.

  • "New Computer Virus Mostly Halted in Tracks"
    Houston Chronicle (05/20/00) P. 2C

    Most corporate computer users escaped any serious damage from a particularly nasty strain of the "Love Bug" virus called "Herbie" or "Spammer A." The virus had the potential to be much more devastating than the original, but most businesses were prepared for it, equipped with current antivirus software and urging employees to ignore specific email attachments. Both viruses travel using Microsoft's Outlook email program. The virus was downgraded by antivirus company Network Associates from "high" to "medium" over the weekend.

  • "Linux Gurus, Followers Differ on Napster Use"
    Wall Street Journal (05/22/00) P. B1; Gomes, Lee

    The open source software movement has mixed views on the current suits against Napster, an Internet site that provides a simple way to share often pirated MP3 music files, brought by the Recording Industry Association of America, the rock group Metallica, and the rapper Dr. Dre. Some people in the movement see Napster as a natural step, similar to the open source movement, where free Linux operating systems can be used as an alternative to Microsoft and other companies' commercial products. In fact, Metallica is openly disliked in many open source circles. However, the original creators of the open source movement do not completely agree that Napster is in the right or linked to their own movement. The open source movement is about voluntarily giving, not taking from others. The movement allows people to work together to develop better software, which is completely dissimilar to the creation of music. Copyright laws are meant to protect the individuals who create music. Pirating others property is not right and suits over copyrights are understandable, according to Linux creator Linus Torvalds. Other leaders are concerned the open source movement will be harmed if others view it as fighting against copyright laws. Not all open source leaders are entirely for copyright laws. Many recognize Napster as an inevitable outcome of technological advancement. And Torvalds stresses that not putting his full support behind Napster should not be mistaken as complete support for the music industry. Copyright laws should be about protecting individual creation instead of a tool used by a threatened music industry to maintain control on a share of the artist's profits, says Torvalds.

  • "Online Privacy Progress Makes Legislation Unnecessary--DMA"
    Newsbytes (05/22/00); Creed, Adam

    The Internet industry has been quick to adopt self-regulation as a means of protecting consumers' online privacy, according to a new survey conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). The survey shows that 93 percent of the most popular Web sites on the Internet have privacy policies in place. Sources say this percentage corroborates well with findings from the FTC's recent privacy report, but the agency's report finds that the privacy policies themselves leave much to be desired. Still, the DMA's report finds that roughly three of every four Web sites provide site visitors with the ability to opt out of their data-collection practices, and that a nearly like number of privacy policies describe how the site protects the data it collects. However, only 47 percent of sites permit consumers to access and correct their personal data. Congress should focus its privacy efforts on kids' data, as well as financial and medical information, says the DMA. "The focus of the government must be on preventing real harm, and letting the marketplace extend benefits to consumers unimpeded," said Jerry Cerasale, the DMA's senior vice president, government affairs.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/pubNews/00/149399.html

  • "Clinton Is Unlikely to Back FTC Efforts for New Power to Regulate Web Privacy"
    Wall Street Journal (05/22/00) P. A3; Simpson, Glenn R.

    FTC commissioners on Friday voted 3-2 to recommend that Congress increase the agency's regulatory powers over consumer privacy on the Internet. The vote comes on the heels of an FTC report showing that less than 50 percent of top Web sites meet the FTC's recommended privacy guidelines. The FTC is calling for privacy legislation "in conjunction with continuing self-regulatory programs," but the White House is unlikely to support the FTC's legislative efforts, sources say. FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky and commissioners Mozelle Thompson and Sheila Anthony voted in favor of the recommendation, while commissioners Orson Swindle and Thomas Leary voted against the recommendation. Swindle is expected to figure prominently in efforts to ensure the recommendation's defeat. Industry officials were not happy with the results of the vote, but privacy advocates applauded the move. If nothing else, the FTC's recommendation will spur the states to introduce their own privacy measures, said privacy advocate Jason Catlett.

  • "Egg Woos Customers With Cellphones"
    Reuters (05/18/00)

    Egg, a Web-based bank, on Thursday announced an agreement with BT Cellnet to offer up to 1 million free Web-enabled wireless handsets to its customers. Customers will be offered the WAP-enabled cell phones upon registering on Egg's site, www.egg.com. The WAP phones will be provided by BT Cellnet, which intends to acquire 500,000 WAP phone customers by the middle of the year, according BT CEO Peter Bonfield. Egg's chief marketing executive, Richard Duvall, said the phone offer appeals to customers interested in accessing banking, investments, and other services by mobile phone. Egg has acquired over one million users since its business began in 1998, but is not anticipated to gain a profit until next year.

  • "Nation's Leading Real Estate Brokers Join Forces to Create Unprecedented Online Home Marketplace"
    Business Wire (05/19/00)

    Online real estate service provider Homebid.com has enlisted six major real estate brokers to list their properties on Homebid while using its other services. Those realty firms who have agreed to list their homes on Homebid.com include: Coldwell Banker Stevens, Realtors in Washington, D.C.; RE/MAX Central Realty in Virginia Beach; and California's Prudential California Realty, RE/MAX Valley Properties, London Properties, and Frank Howard Allen. Brokers from each of these firms will have access to the site, as will consumers who connect to the Web sites of each participating firm. In addition, brokers from the different agencies can use Homebid.com's Offer Manager, which enables them to look for properties, view important information, take a virtual home tour, and make an offer online. "It is the ideal platform for the online home marketplace, and I hope to soon see all homes made available to the public via this technology," said Homebid.com chairman and CEO Kevin M. Hickey.

  • "U S West to Spend Additional $3.4 Billion to Invest in Network"
    Wall Street Journal (05/22/00) P. B25

    U S West announced plans to invest an extra $3.4 billion this year in network upgrades to comply with some federal mandates. The regional Bell will dedicate $4.7 billion to system upgrades this year, according to a May 15 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. U S West is upgrading its telecom network to support services including broadband Internet access and video. In a filing for its fiscal first quarter, U S West said it already invested $1.28 billion and would spend even more to broaden its footprint, upgrade its network, and comply with requirements associated with the Telecom Act of 1996. Such investments are intended to increase its competitiveness in the wireless, data, and video markets, U S West said.

  • "AT&T Unit, Disney Reach Pact"
    Wall Street Journal (05/19/00) P. C18

    AT&T's wireless division and Walt Disney's Internet division have formed a partnership that calls for Walt Disney to supply Web content for AT&T's new mobile data service. Along with Disney's Go.Com sites, ABCNews.com and ESPN.com will be the primary content providers for AT&T's new PocketNet service. Content provided will be news and sports related. Financial details of the pact were not revealed.

  • "Laptops Stolen From Parliament"
    Australian IT (05/22/00)

    Thieves recently stole five laptop computers from a highly secure area in Australia's Parliament House. Although the computers had a value of around A$30,000, officials are more concerned about the possibility of hackers gaining access to the parliamentary network. It is believed that the thieves either worked in the Parliament House or were visitors who had security clearances.

  • "Ebix.com Partners With InsuranceOrder.com to Offer Consumers a Seamless Browsing to Buying Experience With Real-Time, Binding Auto Insurance Quotes"
    Business Wire (05/18/00)

    Ebix.com and InsuranceOrder.com have joined forces to provide consumers with a seamless browse to buy experience for auto insurance. This marks the first site through which consumers can comparison shop, obtain binding quotes, and purchase policies online in the matter of minutes. InsuranceOrder.com is unlike electronic referral services in that it is a licensed insurance agent that provides online coverage without additional underwriting, so consumers can receive a binding quote based on their personal information and credit histories, instead of a quote estimated from generic, aggregated consumer information.

  • "Seeking a Global Answer to Cybercrime"
    APBnews.com (05/18/00); Noack, David

    The Internet Alliance (IA), a group representing many high-profile technology companies, and a major participant at the Group of Eight conference on cybercrime, released a study on Internet crime to coincide with the forum. The study, An International Policy Framework for Internet Law Enforcement and Security, "is groundbreaking because it is the first of its kind to propose a framework for addressing international cyber law enforcement," said IA Executive Director Jeff Richards. "Events like February's denial-of-service attacks and the 'Love Bug' this month remind us that criminal activity online is not constrained by geographical boundaries," Richards said. The IA report aims to boost confidence and trust in the Internet, added Andrew Mathews, the IA's communications and research manager. "This paper takes those principles and defines the proper roles of law enforcement, industry, and consumers in addressing crime on the Internet," Mathews said. The IA report stresses that governments should not force industry into a role of Internet policeman. "The most crucial task today is to enhance lawful cooperation between industry and law enforcement when addressing online crime," said Ron Teixeira, Law Enforcement and Security Council Coordinator for the IA. "Through the expertise of our Law Enforcement and Security Council, we have already begun to bring together the top Internet security experts in the world to proactively address online security issues," Teixeira said.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Rewriting the Fourth Amendment"
    Industry Standard (05/15/00) Vol. 3, No. 18, P. 114; Perine, Keith

    The Internet has helped initiate a new debate on the Fourth Amendment, as companies that do business online and law enforcement agencies try to do everything in their power to protect the networks of Web-based businesses. While the denial-of-service attacks on Web sites like Amazon.com, eBay, and Yahoo! earlier in the year prompted Attorney General Janet Reno to tell Congress that substantive laws and procedural tools may not be enough to police the Internet Economy, privacy advocates are concerned that giving law enforcement agencies more freedom to track down hackers may lead to government abuse. When the U.S. Congress briefed Reno in April about her investigation and the subsequent arrest of a Canadian teenager, Reno made a pitch for being able to track communications across state lines without having to obtain judicial approval for each jurisdiction. FBI Director Louis Freeh added that aggressive policing is now needed. While the Center for Democracy and Technology's James Dempsey is concerned about the vast amount of personal information available online, he says a new Fourth Amendment is not needed. Like other privacy advocates, Dempsey says the spirit of protecting against "unreasonable" searches and seizures must extend to the Cyber Age. Some members of Congress agree. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) has been critical of the interest the Securities and Exchange Commission has shown in monitoring chat rooms and Web sites for illegal stock trading. The last time the Fourth Amendment was seriously overhauled was in 1986 to bring about the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. However, the potential for serious constitutional abuse may already be in place with the 1976 Supreme Court decision that personal information given to a third party is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
    http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,14750,00.html

  • "Building a Better Backbone"
    Wireless Week (05/15/00) Vol. 6, No. 20, P. 24; Albright, Peggy

    As telecom carriers add data transmitting features to second-generation wireless networks, they are also planning for upgrades or additions to forthcoming third-generation technologies. Vendors are preparing for future IP service and technology that may allow them to take advantage of emerging markets. Nortel is currently testing its all-IP network, developed in collaboration with Verizon Wireless. The company is also looking at methods to reduce the cost of wireless data transmission. Motorola and Cisco Systems are preparing for the IP market by developing routers that will provide Internet links to new wireless networks. Meanwhile, Ericsson is installing two packet backbone networks, one of which is being provided to British Telecommunications. Spain's Telefonica will have access to the other packet network.

  • "The End of Linux Hysteria?"
    E-Commerce Times (05/09/00); Beale, Matthew W.

    Although the hype surrounding Linux is dying down, the open-source operating system has claimed the second spot in global OS sales and its market share continues to grow. Recent developments at Linuxcare, a services and solutions provider for Linux, have closely mirrored the trends of Linux as a whole. Once the darling of investors, Linuxcare several weeks ago withdrew its IPO because of the Nasdaq crash and executive departures. Meanwhile, other Linux stocks deflated as well. However, Linux still seems poised for significant growth this year as businesses are drawn to the platform for its flexibility and cost-effectiveness. As a neutral service provider, Linuxcare also stands to benefit this year with more businesses implementing Linux. Although support is available from companies like Red Hat and TurboLinux that sell commercial versions of the OS, Linuxcare provides support and services for any Linux flavor on any hardware platform. Linuxcare expects to become a key player as Linux expands in the enterprise, dot-com, and embedded markets over the next year, says co-founder and CTO David Sifry.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/news/articles2000/000509-1.shtml

  • "Keeping Web Data Private"
    Computerworld (05/08/00) Vol. 34, No. 19, P. 57; Harrison, Ann

    Companies that post privacy policies on the Web should ensure that detailed information is included describing exactly how customers' personal data will be used, experts say. Companies should mention whether customers are allowed to view their personal data to see whether it is accurate, and the customer should be told whom to contact to verify such data. It is also important to let customers know how long their information will be stored. Gary Laden, the director of the Better Business Bureau Online (BBBOnline), says companies should provide a link to their privacy notice on the page where they gather personal data from customers. Laden also suggests that companies encrypt all sensitive customer data, such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. David Steer, a spokesman for TRUSTe, a provider of Web data use guidelines, contends that allowing customers to opt in--meaning that they specifically ask to receive marketing and advertising content--is the hallmark of the best privacy policies. Finally, customers should be alerted to the fact that an enforcement mechanism is in place to ensure adherence to privacy policies. Organizations like BBBOnline and TRUSTe can verify that a company is complying with its own privacy policy, and can either give the company its seal of approval or take its seal away depending on the outcome of the review.