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@hq.acm.org.

Volume 2, Issue 92:  Friday, August 11, 2000

  • "Computer Security at EPA Was Weak, Investigators Say"
    Wall Street Journal (08/11/00) P. B10; Bridis, Ted

    A congressional investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency's computer network found that its security had been severely compromised. The report, to be released today by Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.), concluded that the flaws in the agency's information-security procedures were so widespread that they rendered the entire security system useless. For example, investigators noted two dozen incidents of hacking since 1998. The EPA was not even aware when the investigators themselves broke into the system to test its effectiveness. The investigators were able to guess passwords and easily spy other users' passwords once inside the system. The final report labeled the agency "a model of what not to do when it comes to managing information security." Although the EPA has taken steps to correct the flaws, including a four-day shut down of the entire system, the report cautioned that much work remains and security threats still exist.
    For information regarding ACM's activities related to security, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.

  • "Dell Shares Dip on Continuing Fears Over PC Market"
    Financial Times (08/11/00) P. 15; Heavens, Andrew

    Dell Computer's second-quarter revenue fell more than $200 million short of analysts' predictions, once again sparking concern that the PC industry is stagnating. Dell reported revenue of $7.67 billion but had expected to reach $7.9 billion. The company blames slow sales in European markets for the disparity but believes that sales will increase in the second half of the year. Revenue growth of 30 percent for the entire year is still attainable, Dell's CFO said. However, the company did announce profits of $603 million, or 22 cents per share, which was one cent higher than analysts' expectations. Dell attributes the profit to sales of its servers and notebooks. In spite of this profit, the company's stock fell more than $1 yesterday and has fallen almost 30 percent in five months. Many analysts fear that PC sales are about to enter a period of steep decline.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Carnivore Going to Review U."
    Washington Post (08/11/00) P. A23; Vise, David A.

    Privacy advocates are assailing the Justice Department's review plan for the FBI's Carnivore system, which was announced yesterday by Attorney General Janet Reno. Reno's plan calls for a top-notch university to review the system and provides a period for public comment, as well as recommendations from a Justice Department panel. Assistant Attorney General Stephen R. Colgate will head the Carnivore review panel and plans to submit a report to Reno by Dec. 1. Nine or more universities, including MIT, Purdue University, and the University of California at San Diego, will be considered for the review role. Privacy advocates were disappointed by the plans, arguing that the FBI must release Carnivore's source code. "There is grave danger in the Justice Department getting to choose who is going to be the outside reviewer," says David Banisar of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Alan Davidson of the Center for Democracy and Technology and Lisa Dean, vice president of the Free Congress Foundation, criticized the proposed review for training its focus on Carnivore's technical workings. Dean dismisses the review as "a dog and pony show."
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7949-2000Aug10.html
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "Senator Challenges Tin.it Merger"
    Financial Times (08/11/00) P. 17; Betts, Paul

    The merger between Telecom Italia Internet division Tin.it and Seat Pagine Gialle that would establish the largest Internet group in Italy got shareholder approval Thursday. However, the Telecom Italia shareholder meeting encountered a snag when a dispute erupted between Telecom Italia Chairman Roberto Colaninno and Senator Antonio Di Pietro. Senator Di Pietro requested that the merger be delayed because the Turin, Italy prosecutor's office had yet to sign off on the deal. He asked that a three-man commission be appointed to investigate the one-for-one share swap ratio. While the Turin Tribunal approved the deal Wednesday, the prosecutor appealed the decision yesterday. The merger also got the approval of the Italian telecom and antitrust regulators.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Computers to Get a Good, Swift Boot"
    Philadelphia Inquirer (08/10/00) P. F1; Nicholson, Leslie J.

    Researchers are looking into magnetic random access memory (MRAM) as a replacement for current RAM-derived systems to develop "instant-on" computers that boot up without delay. "I think, within a year or two, you'll see some kind of MRAM," says Carnegie Mellon engineering professor Jian-Gang "Jimmy" Zhu. In contrast to a hard drive's magnetic disk, RAM stores data on electrical semiconductor chips that require a constant power source; therefore, any unsaved data will be lost when the computer shuts down. Variations of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) are the most widespread kind of RAM in today's computers, but DRAM's reliance on capacitors that need electricity every 15 nanoseconds degrades computer performance. "You cannot access that memory while rewriting that memory," says IBM researcher Stuart Parkin. Such alternatives to DRAM as static random access memory (SRAM) and flash memory are limited, with SRAM being high-priced and bulky, and flash memory being too slow and not as durable to serve as main memory. MRAM chips will theoretically combine DRAM's density, SRAM's speed, and flash memory's nonvolatility to enable computers to boot up instantly; furthermore, the chip's low power consumption could extend the battery life of portable electronics, says Parkin. MRAM could also theoretically replace disk drives in certain applications, says professor Zhu. Hewlett-Packard labs is working on its own alternative memory: standalone chips that can be placed in various kinds of equipment. At Carnegie Mellon, Zhu and Gary A. Prinz of the Naval Research Laboratory are working on vertical magnetoresistant RAM (VMRAM), which provides higher density and stability than the MRAM chips of other labs.
    http://web.philly.com/content/inquirer/2000/08/10/tech_life/MRAM10.htm

  • "'Sensitive' Kaiser E-Mails Go Astray"
    Washington Post (08/10/00) P. E1; Brubaker, Bill

    Health insurer Kaiser Permanente accidentally sent hundreds of emails containing sensitive personal medical information to the wrong members on August 2. A "technological glitch" attributed to a technician in Silver Spring, Md., occurred during upgrading of the company's Web site. As a result, a total of 858 backlogged emails from online nurses and pharmacists were misdirected to 19 Kaiser members. Some of the misdirected messages contained names, phone numbers, and medical account numbers of subscribers. As of last night, Kaiser officials had called and apologized to 687 clients whose email was misdirected. The incident did not constitute a security breach, assured Kaiser spokeswoman Beverly Hayon. "We are conducting an investigation to ensure this won't happen again," she said.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64768-2000Aug9.html

  • "AMD Set for Intel Challenge With 64-Bit Chip"
    Financial Times (08/10/00) P. 16; Foremski, Tom

    Chipmaker AMD will soon release a 64-bit microprocessor, a direct challenge to industry leader Intel's forthcoming Itanium chip. AMD has designed the X86-64 for low to midrange and desktop servers, while Intel's Itanium is aimed at high-end servers. The X86-64 will run 32-bit applications more quickly than Intel's chips and will be less expensive. Industry observers believe that the X86-64 may cut into Intel's dominance of the microprocessor market. The Itanium chip is already well behind its release schedule, observers note, and its radical design may scare off some customers. AMD will release the X86-64's technical specifications to software programmers this week. The chip should be available next year. Intel's Itanium chip is expected by the end of this year.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Cyber-Squatter Gives Site to Gore Ticket"
    Washington Post (08/10/00) P. A19; White, Ben

    Once Vice President Al Gore had chosen Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) to be his running mate in the upcoming election, the campaign started looking for appropriate domain name addresses, but found that cybersquatters had registered almost every possible relevant domain name combination of Gore and Lieberman. Pete Lucas, a cybersquatter, was in possession of five possible domain name combinations of the names Gore and Lieberman, and another cybersquatter, Syed J. Hussain, was also hoping to make some cash. Both Lucas and Hussain had contacted the campaign looking for an offer. However, University of Maryland student David Jackson undermined the efforts of the cybersquatters by offering to give the campaign a domain name for free. The registered domain name was the one the Gore campaign had been hoping for, www.gorelieberman.com. "We were just very, very lucky that the individual who owned it was not a materialistic person but just a very nice kid," said Gore Internet director Ben Green. The campaign did have to pay Jackson $100 as reimbursement to cover expenses, as required by FEC regulations. Lucas also obtained multiple domain name combinations of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, who are running for the Republican Party. "R-rated" domain names related to Bush might be used as leverage to convince the Bush campaign to purchase a more acceptable Bush-Cheney address, said Lucas.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A630-2000Aug9.html

  • "Sun Finds New Backers for StarOffice"
    CNet (08/09/00); Shankland, Stephen

    Several computer manufacturers will include Sun Microsystems' StarOffice suite with their new PCs, the software developer announced yesterday. Emachines, Everex, and Sony will provide the free program with their low-end models. Sun already has a partnership with Gateway, which offers StarOffice preinstalled on some of its PCs. Although the new partnerships represent a small victory in Sun's ongoing battle with Microsoft's industry-leading Office suite, the company's new partners lack the market share necessary for a serious challenge. Sun also announced that it will make StarOffice's source code available this October. Sun's future plans for StarOffice center on a server-based version that users will be able to access from numerous devices, including desktops and handhelds. StarOffice runs under Windows, Linux, and Sun's Solaris operating system.
    http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-2483068.html

  • "Both Stocks Jump as Software Merger Is Announced"
    New York Times (08/10/00) P. C20; Hansell, Saul

    After Phone.com and Software.com announced Wednesday that they were merging, investors reacted by boosting their combined market values by $2.6 billion. Software.com supplies software that ISPs use to handle their e-mail systems, while Phone.com has developed a small browser program that enables wireless handsets to display specially formatted Web sites. The companies do not offer any of the same products and their only similarity is that their primary customers are telecom carriers. Donald J. Listwin, who recently resigned as an executive vice president of Cisco Systems, has been appointed as president and CEO for the combined company. Phone.com CEO Alain Rossman will serve as chairman and executive vice president. Software.com CEO John L. MacFarlane will become an executive vice president. A decision has not yet been made on whether the combined company will be called Software.com or Phone.com.

  • "Government Wants Internet Emergency Preparedness System"
    Newsbytes (08/08/00); McGuire, David

    The U.S. National Communications System and Japanese telecom officials have asked the Internet Engineering Task Force to embed emergency-communications capabilities in the Internet Protocol, the underlying technology of the Internet. National Communications System senior systems engineer Hal Folts says the requested technology, the Internet Emergency Protection Scheme, would allow select government agencies to issue Internet communications during emergency situations. The authorized emergency communications would be given routing priority over other types of communications, Folts says. The system would be similar to the priority phone calls that are used by disaster-relief agencies in times of crisis.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/00/153351.html
    (Access for paying subscribers only.)

  • "Cyberveillance"
    Time (08/14/00) Vol. 156, No. 7, P. B22; Faltermayer, Charlotte

    International Data reports that 17 percent of Fortune 1,000 firms now employ monitoring software for surveillance of workers' Internet usage and emails; 80 percent of firms are predicted to use such software by 2001. And 12 percent of companies that do monitor employees do not even alert them to that fact. However, legally employers are in the right, and cannot only monitor employees as much as they wish, but are also under no obligation to let them know about it, as long as no labor or anti-discrimination laws are broken. Many firms contend that the possibility of intellectual property theft, sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits, and decreased productivity of workers justifies surveillance. However, there are currently products on the market, such as the Investigator from the WinWhatWhere, that can store every keystroke made by an employee, even if words are immediately deleted. Such dramatic advances in surveillance technology is spurring a privacy backlash among workers, many of whom feel such monitoring has gone too far. Connecticut recently became the first and only state to require that employers tell workers their communications are being monitored, and California and New York are both considering similar legislation.
    For information regarding ACM's activities on bhealf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "B2B: Back to Basics"
    CIO (08/01/00) Vol. 13, No. 20, P. 190; Lengel, Kenneth

    Although "B2B" is most often used to signify "business-to-business," it can also serve as a reminder to IT managers to get "back-to-basics," writes Kenneth Lengel, director of system integration for tax preparation service Jackson Hewitt. Rather than looking to the latest management fads or "killer apps" to shore up perceived infrastructure deficiencies, Lengel advises IT managers to instead remember four fundamentals of IT and evaluate the need for change from a solid baseline. The first step, Lengel writes, is to reevaluate all existing resources, including hardware, software, and staff. A strategy for change can only be conceived after the IT manager has a full understanding of what technologies he or she has access to, including computers, applications, and software licenses, as well as what skills his or her team members possess. Second, once the initial reevaluation is complete the IT manager should perform a "gap analysis" that will very simply highlight the company's current state of IT affairs, which can be compared with IT goals. Lengel writes that the results are often shocking in the sense that less change is required than previously assumed. Third, it is essential for any IT department to have a means of maintaining its intellectual capital, otherwise past experiences or a certain team member's particular expertise will not be leveraged effectively. Fourth, Lengel advises that any person or group that may have any conceivable input into a project should be included in meetings. An IT manager never knows when someone's presence will lead to a new insight that saves money, time, or stress.
    http://www.cio.com/archive/080100_platform.html

  • "Internet Appliances: Coming to a Kitchen Near You"
    Boardwatch (07/00) Vol. 14, No. 7, P. 26; Thompson, Jim

    Internet appliances (IAs) are expected to increase by a factor of 15 between now and 2004, says a report by the Cahners In-Stat Group. As a result, consumers will get easier, cheaper Internet access and ISPs will get more customers and revenues. The report predicts sales of line-powered IAs will exceed 37 million units in 2004, up from just over 2 million in 1999. Consumer reliance is expected to shift from sophisticated computers to cheaper, easy-to-use IAs such as TV set-top boxes, Web phones, and Internet terminals. Although TV-based appliances currently lead the pack, the report gives Web phones the edge within five years, with a compounded annual growth rate of 202 percent. Advantages to owning an IA include instant access without a boot-up cycle, automatic updating, and easy installation and maintenance. By offering Internet access, smaller ISPs will have a shot at becoming a force to be reckoned with. However, the author warns that IA producers should keep designs simple or they will lose customers. Another potential downside is pricing wars, although ISPs could offset this by offering a low basic service fee and making up the difference through additional services.
    http://www.ispworld.com/bw/jul/Technology_Front.htm

  • "GOP Gives High-Tech Issues a Light Touch"
    ComputerWorld (08/07/00) Vol. 34, No. 32, P. 6; Thibodeau, Patrick

    High-tech groups did not come away from the Republican convention in Philadelphia last week with any clues as to how GOP lawmakers would address any of their concerns. And when Democrats hold their convention, high-tech groups will not expect the party to take any strong stands on high-tech issues either. Software & Information Industry Association President Ken Wasch says issues that concern the IT industry are not even on the radar screen of partisan politics, "and that's a good place to be." Some IT industry managers, such as Tim Brennan, a systems administrator at Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse, say politicians need to demonstrate a commitment to creating a climate that will enhance the growth of technology. Still, many politicians from both parties are divided on a number of high-tech issues, such as privacy, taxation, and H-1B visas. For example, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R) is on the opposite end of several issues with Va. Gov. James Gilmore (R). But for some observers, the fact that Gilmore spoke at the convention was an indication of the GOP's stance on high-tech issues.
    http://www.computerworld.com/cwi/story/0,1199,NAV47_STO48257,00.html
    For information related to ACM's work in the area of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Eye on the States"
    Washington Technology (08/01/00) Vol. 15, No. 9, P. 36; Davies, Thomas

    Gauging the state and local e-government market is a difficult yet significant obstacle for companies currently developing strategic e-government marketing plans. In order to create an accurate estimate of market size, which is a vital element for any planning, a company must find dependable national, state, county, and city spending estimates as well as spending figures on the various state and local programs, such as education, transportation, and social services. The difficulty is that e-government is relatively new and there are no precedents displaying how to compile such figures accurately. Furthermore, there is no single definition of e-government. Often the states do not know exactly how much is spent on IT because the systems states use to handle IT-related spending are not standardized. To overcome these drawbacks, some companies utilize more than one source that offers information on the size and growth of the relevant e-government. Comparing the different sources will help companies find more accurate estimates. Another important strategy in estimating e-government spending is to avoid top-down spending estimates, which only deal with spending on the national level, unless these estimates are used in conjunction with the pertinent states' committed expenses. Some companies use tests to determine whether the estimates are sensible. Determining the proper source of market intelligence, whether strategic market intelligence or tactical market intelligence, is a final method used to ensure accurate estimates of e-government.
    http://www.wtonline.com/vol15_no9/state/1611-1.html

  • "Microsoft Strategy Shift Is Seen as Safeguard"
    Financial Times (08/11/00) P. 19; Foremski, Tom

    Microsoft on Wednesday announced a multibillion-dollar reorganization of its business around the company's .NET initiative, in a move analysts say would allow the company to divide more easily if it loses its appeal in the landmark antitrust lawsuit. "Microsoft is essentially thumbing its nose at the U.S. government, saying 'we'll find a way around this problem if we are split up'," says Gartner Group vice president Neil Macdonald. Gartner predicts that even if Microsoft wins its appeal, it will face new antitrust charges because the software giant still does not understand appropriate rules of conduct for a company of its size. Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says the reorganization will facilitate the company's efforts to create products that center on .NET.
    Click Here to View Full Article