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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 2, Issue 72: Friday, June 23, 2000
- "Nike Web Site Is Taken Over by Protesters"
New York Times (06/22/00) P. C2; Richtel, Matt
Nike's main e-commerce site went down for seven hours yesterday, as visitors were hijacked to a site encouraging protesters to shut down the World Economic Forum 2000 to be held this September in Australia. The attack appears to be the work of "hacktivists," which are proliferating in cyberspace as protesters increasingly spread their ideas by substituting their own messages for legitimate sites. Visitors to Nike's site were directed to the site of the S11 Alliance, an Australia-based group that objects to globalization and corporate power. Whether S11 was involved in the attack has yet to be determined, and Nike is working with law enforcement to track down those responsible.
- "Detective Agency Obtained Documents on Microsoft at Two Additional Groups"
Wall Street Journal (06/23/00) P. A3; Bridis, Ted; Simpson, Glenn R.
The Investigative Group International (IGI), the detective organization that tried to buy the trash of a trade association that supported Microsoft in its antitrust suit, also attempted to get information about the company from two other groups that support Microsoft. IGI, according to sources familiar with the case, also conducted operations against the National Taxpayers Union and the Independent Institute, obtaining information that showed Microsoft giving financial support to both groups, thereby implying that somehow the two groups' public support of Microsoft in its court case was somehow "bought" by the company. The information was later given to the media. The discovery of IGI's actions against the two groups reveals a more complex and far-reaching campaign against Microsoft by IGI, which is doing work for a client that is still unknown. The IGI story initially broke when it was revealed recently that someone had asked the cleaning crew at the Association For Competitive Technology if they could buy their trash.
- "U.S. Court Rules Against Online Pornography Law"
New York Times (06/23/00) P. A16; Stout, David
The 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA), a law designed to limit minors' access to pornography online, remains unenforced. An appellate court in Philadelphia unanimously ruled that the act was incongruent with the First Amendment and the unwieldy nature of the Internet, upholding an earlier district court ruling. The court held that despite its good intentions, COPA's constitutionality is doubtful. Yet the act's supporters say the act pointedly targets online pornography traffickers, unlike its predecessor, the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which the Supreme Court ruled was too broad. The more specific 1998 act was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton. The ACLU and its plantiffs, ranging from Microsoft to an online art site, challenged the law. The Justice Department now must decide whether to appeal the latest court ruling. The appellate court judges said that "in light of rapidly developing technological advances, what may now be impossible to regulate constitutionally, may, in the not-too-distant future, become feasible."
To read more about COPA and the decision, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "White House Supports a Web Privacy Initiative"
Philadelphia Inquirer (06/22/00) P. C1; Wolf, Jim
The White House yesterday threw its support behind P3P, an online privacy architecture developed by the World Wide Web consortium and backed by AOL's Netscape unit and Microsoft. The standard, with the support of a wide range of industry groups and corporations, could be an alternative to privacy legislation, but some groups say P3P is not enough. P3P automatically matches users' privacy preferences with those of the Web sites they visit, and support for the standard will become part of the next version of Windows. The White House's home page and several other federal Web sites will be some of the first sites to implement P3P. President Clinton spokesperson Joe Lockhart says, "The White House is pleased to advance these goals by supporting an initiative that harnesses technology to protect privacy on the Internet."
For information on ACM's activities in the area of privacy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Handspring's Share Price Rise 35% After $200 Mln IPO"
Bloomberg (06/21/00); Jebsen, Per H.
Handspring shares increased today by 35 percent in their first day of trading following a $200 million initial public offering. The increase was attributed to investor excitement about makers of handheld computers. The company's shares soared from $6.9375 per share, to $26.9375 per share. Over 12 million of the company's shares were traded, valuing the company at $3.4 billion. The firm had already sold 10 million shares, at $20 per share, on Tuesday. Investors hope Handspring, which was co-founded by former Palm executives, will benefit even more from the expected large-scale sales of handheld computers. Global shipments of such devices are expected to increase from 8.2 million units last year, to 35.5 million units in 2003, Handspring said. PC Data says the company has a 31 percent share of the U.S. retail electronic-organizer market.
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- "Project Aims to Simplify Computers"
Associated Press (06/21/00); Emery, Theo
The Oxygen Alliance, a five-year research project at MIT, aims to find solutions that would make computers practically invisible. At least 250 MIT researchers are working on the $50 million project, searching for ways to replace the desktop computer, keyboard, and mouse with out-of-sight units and handheld devices. The system will depend on cameras, microphones, and speech recognition technology. The goal of the project is to create an invisible computer network that is linked throughout every possible place people work and live, in order to free people from being stuck at their desks. MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab is currently tinkering with technology that would allow computers to know where a user is looking, where they are going, and who the person is by recognizing facial features. With all the microphones and cameras that would be present in the system, privacy and security issues will undoubtedly arise.
- "Signing on the Dot-Com Line"
San Diego Union-Tribune Online (06/21/00); Balint, Kathryn
The legislation on electronic signatures that Congress passed last week might not provide any relief in California, where state lawmakers last year enacted their own version of the law, which does not allow digitally signed documents to be notarized online in the state. President Clinton is expected to sign the federal legislation that allows consumers to close contracts with electronic signatures, and the measure would then take effect in October. In particular, the federal legislation would allow consumers to use digital signatures to obtain mortgages, buy insurance, and open bank accounts. However, the California law is so vague that it does not indicate whether notarizations have to be done in person, or whether digital notarizations hold the same legal status as handwritten signatures. Such concerns have led California Secretary of State Bill Jones to advise notaries against doing online signatures until the state law is clarified. Jones expects to find some solutions in August, when he will sponsor a meeting on digital signatures in San Francisco.
- "Cellnet Launches World's First GPRS Service"
BT Cellnet, the second largest wireless operator in Britain,
today announced the debut of its "always-on" cellular network. The network, the first of its kind, uses general packet radio service (GPRS) technology for providing wireless connections between the laptops and main office computers of traveling professionals. Cellnet's GPRS system will initially be exclusively available to businesses. But the company plans to make it more widely available by next year's first quarter, when it introduces mobile handhelds with "always-on" functionality. Users will then have access to WAP Internet sites. Analysts forecast that GPRS phones will be capable of operating at speeds twice as fast as dial-up computer connections. GPRS' success or failure will have a pivotal role in mobile companies' investments in third-generation licenses.
- "Not Quite Real"
Philadelphia Inquirer (06/22/00) P. F1; Nicholson, Leslie J.
Virtual reality, widely known for its use in flight simulation and game playing, has also become an important tool in the field of visualization. In this broad field, virtual reality is used to show objects from perspectives that are difficult or impossible to obtain in the physical world. Medical students use the technology in the form of virtual cadavers to practice surgery. One of the biggest and best examples of virtual reality is in New York's Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, where stars and planets have been converted into computer models to allow audiences to zoom into, peek around, and even go through objects. Meanwhile, urban simulation is becoming more popular as governments and companies use the technology to see how buildings would fit at various sites. For example, the Philadelphia Virtual Reality Center created a computer model to see how a proposed baseball stadium for the Phillies would look at different sites around the city. Experts predict big things for virtual reality and the Internet that go beyond realistic online games. For example, people will use virtual-reality browsers to "sit" in their seats at a concert and enjoy the show. Virtual reality is also being used to plot business data.
- "TI to Buy Burr-Brown for $7.6 Billion"
Reuters (06/22/00); Kabel, Marcus
Texas Instruments (TI) announced it will purchase telecom equipment designer Burr-Brown to strengthen its position as the leading producer of computer chips for cell phones and audio and data devices. TI says the $7.6 billion stock deal will allow it to offer a comprehensive base of technologies covering any processing needs required by Internet and wireless communications. Burr-Brown designs amplifiers and data converters using analog semiconductors that can be applied to a variety of products, including Web-enabled cell phones and high-speed DSL systems. TI expects the deal to be finalized by the third quarter and will issue 88 million of its shares to Burr-Brown. But an agreement must await approval from Burr-Brown shareholders and government regulators.
- "Labor Shortage Aired at World IT Congress"
Computerworld (06/19/00) Vol. 34, No. 25, P. 20; Thibodeau, Patrick
Business leaders from around the world used last week's World Congress on Information Technology in Taiwan as an opportunity to ease the global IT labor shortage by connecting with foreign countries that have skilled but underutilized IT workers. Companies in countries such as the U.S. discussed deals to outsource IT work to firms in Asia and other regions where educated IT workers are seeking job opportunities. The dean of Ecuador's top engineering university attended the conference to seek investors, noting that Ecuador has the potential to follow Bangalore, India, in becoming a hub for offshore software development. Egypt and Grenada were cited as having similar potential. Taiwan, already a major supplier of the world's hardware, is now gearing up for e-commerce, launching government programs to provide its citizens with free email accounts and Internet training.
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- "Steal This Software"
Industry Standard (06/26/00) Vol. 3, No. 24, P. 138; Rosner, Hillary
As in the recording industry, file-sharing technology has become a major concern in the software industry. The amount of stolen software is estimated to account for 20 percent of all software in use. The Software and Information Industry Association says software makers lost $12 billion to pirated software last year. In fact, Adobe believes that half of its software in use is stolen, and that 90 percent of Adobe software offered on auction sites is stolen. But what concerns the software industry even more is the emergence of Napster-like technology. With more advanced file-sharing technology available, the software industry fears that pirating will no longer be limited to tech experts. Software firms believe that Gnutella, Freenet, and Hotline will make it easier for the casual computer user to obtain software products for free. In addition to file sharing, the decentralized server feature of these technologies will make it nearly impossible for software companies to track down pirates. Unlike software boards and other sites that offer illegal downloads, technology such as Freenet and Hotline does not have a central point that software companies can ask ISPs to take down.
- "Can I.S. Come Back From the Brink?"
CIO (06/15/00) Vol. 13, No. 17, P. 101; Field, Tom
IS organizations are increasingly threatened by outsourcing and other trends that could make IS obsolete, unless CIOs work to change the organizations. CEOs often do not perceive IS departments as adding value to the business, and many users believe IS functions should be outsourced. Outsourcing advocates say IS organizations cannot provide the IT scalability, reliability, and adaptability required to succeed in e-business. Some IT outsourcing is inevitable, as companies need more tech projects completed and lack the IS employees to carry out these initiatives. The IT outsourcing industry is expected to be worth $151 billion by 2003, up from $100 billion today. However, the push toward outsourcing often leads to the belief that all functions should be outsourced, leaving CIOs to explain why certain functions should be kept within IS. Meanwhile, CIOs are also plagued by the perception that they lack the business skills to lead e-business initiatives. For many years IS has been losing control over technology and related spending, to the point that IS' leadership position in technology is now in doubt. IS' control has been sapped by outsourcing, the shared services movement, and users assuming more control over their systems as a result of decentralization. E-business places additional stress on IS by exposing data centers to customers, suppliers, and the Internet, thereby forcing IS to work with businesspeople to develop e-commerce technologies. IS organizations must adjust to these changes, or they will likely fade out of existence.
- "Committees Cook Spam, Create Privacy Panel"
National Journal (06/17/00) Vol. 32, No. 25, P. 1917; Peterson, Molly M.
The House Commerce Committee gave voice approval to the bipartisan Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act, legislation for combating spam, while the Government Management, Information, and Technology Subcommittee also gave voice approval to a bipartisan bill for creating a 17-member privacy commission to study various privacy issues, including online privacy and identity theft. The spam bill would give individuals the right to opt out of receiving junk mail, and also would allow them to sue spammers who continue to send unsolicited junk email. ISPs would be able to establish their own junk email policies and sue spammers in state and federal courts for $500 in damages per message and up to a total of $50,000. Repeated violations would allow the court to increase that amount to $150,000. Meanwhile, various privacy advocates, consumer groups, civil rights organizations, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Consumer Action oppose the privacy bill because it would delay federal regulatory action regarding online privacy. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) echoed their disappointment that the reform panel would merely agree to study privacy, and not take a more proactive approach to the issue. The privacy bill sets aside $5 million for a bipartisan committee to study privacy protections for 18 months, and then recommend a course of action for Congress. As a result of the vote, privacy laws would come no earlier than 2003.
- "What a Tangled Web"
Potomac Tech Journal (06/19/00) P. 19; Tedeschi, Tony
Web site design and ease of site navigation both contribute heavily to a user's perception of a company, making good site design imperative for companies that wish to stay competitive online. A site should contain relevant information that is displayed in such a way to create user "stickiness." To ensure that customers return to the site, companies should solicit feedback from users describing both their experience on the site and their overall level of familiarity with the Internet. After many years of testing, several effective features have become constant in Web site design. "Virtually every home page has company identifiers, information about the company, a listing of, or hotlink to additional products and/or services, a synopsis of what's on the other pages, and some sort of search element," says Lisa Manuzza, director of new media services at NPD Group. Companies must always keep in mind that the Net is an ever-changing environment, and that customers have different levels of comfort with the Web. Companies must realize that "more and more people are leaning toward the use of the Internet, and more and more people are getting comfortable with it," says Matt Goddard, founder and president of Web design firm Impreza.
- "Microsoft Unveils Plans for Internet Platform"
Los Angeles Times (06/23/00) P. C3; Holmes, Stanley
Microsoft yesterday announced Microsoft.Net, marking a major strategic shift designed to help the company's software establish the same type of control over Internet computing as it now has over PC-based computing. Computing is increasingly moving toward thin clients, and Microsoft.Net aims to preserve the importance of the PC in the Internet era. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates says the new Internet strategy is a "bet the company" initiative, noting that Microsoft.Net is the company's largest strategic shift since it switched from DOS to Windows 10 years ago. Microsoft.Net will initially focus on offering online versions of the company's software, such as Windows and Microsoft Office. A browser-based user interface for Windows is slated for release by the end of next year, along with new services for the Microsoft Network Web portal and tools to facilitate software development on the Web. The company also plans to offer an online business software service called Office.net that would let users integrate Word files with Excel spreadsheets and other Microsoft software from a range of devices. Microsoft.Net technologies will help users combine information from the Internet and other resources on many different devices to provide a more natural computing experience, says Gates. Still, Microsoft.Net is hampered by antitrust issues as well as competition from Web services strategies from companies such as IBM, Oracle, and Sun.