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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 2, Issue 94: Wednesday, August 16, 2000
- "College Grads Shun Dot-Coms for Security"
USA Today (08/16/00) P. 1B; Armour, Stephanie
Recent college graduates are opting to work for established companies rather than dot-coms with questionable futures. Falling stock prices and layoffs are driving young workers away from dot-coms. In fact, recent college graduates ranked dot-coms as the type of company they would least like to work for in a study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Instead, graduates are looking to traditional companies that offer guaranteed compensation rather than stock options. With technology extending into nearly all industries, recent graduates believe that they can learn tech skills at traditional firms. In addition, traditional companies offer new hires many opportunities to advance their careers, including mentoring and paid training, while dot-com positions are sometimes more limited. While traditional companies are enjoying their ability to attract talented workers, dot-coms are now facing hiring problems on top of their other woes.
- "Experts Corroborate Windows, IE Security Hole"
CNet (08/15/00); Hansen, Evan
A security flaw in some configurations of Microsoft's Windows and Internet Explorer could allow hackers to enter a computer through local and remote folders and execute malicious code, experts said on Tuesday. The problem, discovered by security expert Georgi Guninski, occurs because all folders are essentially handled as trusted files, allowing programmers to execute arbitrary code by viewing the folder as a Web page. The flaw reportedly affects Windows 95, 98, and 2000, and Internet Explorer 5.x. Although firewall-protected corporate systems are not at risk, home users are vulnerable to the security hole, experts say. Microsoft's Scott Culp says the company is looking into the problem, noting that reports of the flaw appear to be inaccurate on some points. Culp adds that Guninski did not give Microsoft adequate time to investigate the problem before publicizing the flaw.
- "Closing the Digital Divide"
Washington Post (08/16/00) P. E1; Klein, Alec
PowerUp, a joint venture of America Online CEO Steve Case, his wife, Jean Case, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, is bringing computers and Internet access to students in low-income areas across the country. The service is already operating in several cities, including Washington, D.C., San Jose, and Seattle, with plans to expand in Illinois, Virginia, and California. PowerUp has already received 50,000 computers courtesy of Gateway Chairman Ted Waitt's Waitt Family Foundation and 100,000 Internet accounts from AOL. PowerUp seeks to end the digital divide between urban households with incomes of $75,000 or greater and low-income, rural households as well as the digital divide between whites and minorities. For example, at a PowerUp site at Southern Ridge Apartments in Washington, D.C., children as young as five are learning about search engines, Web design, and even PowerPoint presentations. "It's really been able to bring them into a world they haven't been exposed to before," says one of the project's administrators.
Readers interested in the digital divide and related issues may wish to learn more about ACM's upcoming Conference on Universal Usability: http://www.acm.org/sigs/sigchi/cuu
- "Linux Community Stays True to Its Grassroots"
TheStandard.com (08/16/00); Boslet, Mark
The community of traditional Linux users, staunch supporters of open-source software, bristled at the heavy business presence at its semiannual LinuxWorld trade show. One such Linux user greeted Dell CEO Michael Dell's keynote address with a barrage of questions and demanded to know in what ways the computer giant has supported the Linux cause. Dell responded that although his company will not be developing a Linux-based OS anytime soon, it is reacting to "the groundswell of demand" among its customers. Dell noted that 10 percent of Dell servers now run Linux, more than twice as many as last year. Several other major companies, including Sun, IBM, and Oracle, were present at LinuxWorld, each affirming its belief in Linux's potential to rival Microsoft applications such as Windows and Office. Observers also noted the large number of IT manager interested in the latest Linux developments who attended the show.
- "The Lawless Internet"
E-Commerce Times (08/15/00); Brady, Mick
Two recent disputes involving Yahoo! highlight the problems of applying national laws to the borderless Internet. The government in Saudi Arabia, which controls the country's only ISP, has banned access to the site for its "offensive" content. Meanwhile, the French government wants Yahoo! to cease its auction of Nazi memorabilia as the items may violate anti-racism laws. Although Yahoo! no longer conducts such auctions on its French site, it has no way to prevent French users from accessing the auctions on Yahoo! platforms in other countries. Saudis who wish to access Yahoo! may soon be able to work around their government's ban in much the same way. Governments around the world are struggling to maintain some semblance of order on the Internet, but they often find intense opposition to their plans or hackers who can work around newly installed protective measures. In the U.S., for example, the FBI's Carnivore program to search email for cybercrime threats was attacked by privacy groups. However, the U.S. government's reluctance to discuss the issue of state and local sales tax on Internet purchases may be costing companies millions of dollars and contributing further to the Internet's chaotic operation. Although the Internet may not meet its founders' ideal of an information utopia, neither will it be easily controlled or policed.
- "Bork Helps Rivals of Microsoft File Brief"
Washington Post (08/15/00) P. E3; Grimaldi, James V.
A coalition of Microsoft opponents has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court, asking the high court to hear the software company's appeal of the government's successful antitrust case on direct review. Microsoft wants the U.S. Court of Appeals to hear its appeal of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's June ruling against the company. The brief, written with the assistance of Judge Robert Bork, formerly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and once a nominee to the Supreme Court, argues that the case falls under the expediting act, which permits the high court to consider an appeal directly from a federal court in government-filed lawsuits. Furthermore, in crafting the expediting act, Congress had a clear expectation that the Supreme Court would hear antitrust cases on direct review, Bork claims. However, the high court must act quickly, as Bork states in the brief, "While all remedies are stayed, Microsoft may continue to exploit its monopoly and use similar tactics to destroy additional competitive challenges and to extend its monopoly into adjacent markets." The Justice Department as well as 18 states will soon file similar briefs.
- "Tech Policy Likely to Emerge as a Key Issue in Campaign"
Los Angeles Times (08/14/00) P. C1; Chapman, Gary
The 2000 presidential election is shaping up to be a conflict between two completely opposing views on the government's role in high-tech matters. Since first running for vice president in 1992, Al Gore has been a strong supporter of the Internet and the high-tech economy. Gore and President Clinton made technological issues the subject of one of their first policy papers and laid out ambitious plans for high-tech spending. After the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, the new chairperson of the House Science Committee, Robert S. Walker (R-Penn.), fought each of the Clinton administration's proposals and scuttled their passage. Walker is now Gov. George W. Bush's top advisor on technology issues. Walker believes that the government has no responsibility in developing specific high-tech projects. Walker favors adapting technology developed by the military as well as "the black box" model of government investment--in effect, giving scientists a blank check to develop whatever they will. In general, Walker wants to leave as much research and development as possible to the private sector.
For information about ACM's work in the area of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "India, China Swap Tech, Build Ties"
Wall Street Journal (08/15/00) P. A21; Sender, Henny
Despite the history of rivalry between India and China, the two countries are beginning to develop a strong trade relationship in the high-tech industry. Several Chinese companies have established centers in India to learn from India's booming software industry, while Indian software companies think China's massive consumer-electronics industry is a perfect fit for its software. In contrast, India's hardware manufacturing lags well behind China's, and Indian manufacturers would like to learn from the Chinese model of growth. Meanwhile, the Chinese consumer-electronics industry has largely exhausted its domestic market and is eyeing India as a natural point of expansion. Although the level of trade between the two countries has not risen dramatically--it was approximately $2 billion last year--it is a significant development in both the Asian and the global high-tech market.
- "Women Fight Gender Gap With Self-Employment"
EE Times Online (08/09/00); Costlow, Terry
Although the technology and electronics industries are growing quickly, the issue of equality has been increasing, highlighted by the number of women that have left companies and corporations in these fields to start up their own businesses. Small Business Administration (SBA) statistics demonstrate that between 1987 and 1997 the number of businesses owned by women increased by 89 percent, approximately three times businesses' overall growth rate, says Women in Technology International (WITI) Chairwoman Carolyn Leighton. However, studies that demonstrate the electronics industry is an employee relations leader do not reflect the reality of the business environment, Leighton says. The number of women dropping out of the electronics industry could dissuade other women from entering the industry in the first place, she says. Through June, under 10 percent of the North American registrants for the ICANN elections were women, despite the easy sign up process and the fact that NetSmartAmerica.com believes 60 percent of Internet users will be women by 2002. The Association for Computing Machinery's Committee on Women in Computing found a decline in the percentage of women that are obtaining computer science bachelor's degrees while the number of women with baccalaureates is increasing in other fields. ACM recommends that the computer science industry act to attract more women into the field, however the effort will be fruitless if the women currently in the field are not utilized, Leighton says. WITI is creating software to assist companies in determining how well gender issues are being dealt with internally. Eventually, the software will improve the work environment and thereby improve the bottom line, says Leighton.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Steamed Surfers Vent on the Web"
Baltimore Sun (08/14/00) P. 1C; Feeney, Mary K.
Internet users can vent their anger at life's little injustices by visiting Web sites such as www.angryman.com, where visitors bemoan anything from the high cost of beer at ballgames to being awakened by car alarms going off in the middle of the night. Internet users with more narrowly focused topics of complaint can take their grievances to the likes of www.schoolsucks.com, www.bitterwaitress.com, and www.homedepotsucks.com. Angryman.com, with its motto of "Don't Get Mad, Get Angry," offers visitors the chance to participate in polls and sound-off areas. Politicians and celebrities are not exempt from these bashings, quite literally in the case of www.decentdesigns.com/punch, which gives visitors the opportunity to treat Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and others as punching bags. Eric Hellwig, founding editor of Business 2.0 magazine, says the Internet provides a healthy outlet for people to unleash their anger and complaints. University of Chicago Professor Steve Jones notes that corporate-complaint sites such as walmartsucks.com provide companies with good insight on how they can address customer complaints.
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- "Privacy: Do You Know Where Your Data Is?"
Computer Reseller News Online (08/14/00); Torode, Christina
Hosting providers are generally free to sell customer data at their own discretion because few are rules in place to prevent them from doing so. Although much of the focus on privacy is on consumers, privacy concerns also apply to companies, notes Junkbusters President Jason Catlett. Hosting providers can be held liable for breaching their own privacy policies, as seen in the FTC's lawsuit against Toysmart.com. However, privacy policies tend to lack any real safeguards for customers, Catlett says. Weak privacy policies can be partly attributed to customer apathy in reading the policies, says Pradeep Singh of Management Information & Technology Consultants. Customers often neglect to read policies when they race to sign up with an ASP that offers free services to those who sign up immediately. Still, the ASP industry is addressing privacy by working with the World Intellectual Property Organization to determine policies on issues such as copyright violations, loss of data, and data integrity.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "How to Halt Nazi Sales in France?"
Wired News (08/11/00)
A French judge has established a new hearing of Nov. 6 for the ongoing case involving French citizens' access to the sale of Nazi artifacts on Yahoo! Web sites. The judge also mandated that three independent experts, two foreign and one from France, must determine how to force Yahoo! to block French citizens from accessing the sites. The judge dismissed Yahoo!'s argument that the Yahoo.com site does not fall under the jurisdiction of the French court.
- "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control"
Industry Standard (08/14/00) Vol. 3, No. 30, P. 178; Taggart, Stewart
Regulatory arbitrage, where the rules of multiple jurisdictions are used to make a profit, stands to become a powerful issue on the Internet, which easily crosses international borders and is not under the direct control of any single government's regulations. Due to the global scope of the Internet, smaller entrepreneurs in the short term will be able to use the virtual environment to make a profit with little risk of being arrested, according to most experts. "On the one hand, in the U.S. things like the Freedom of Information Act specify information must be given out, but on the other hand, privacy laws specify information must be kept secret," says www.publicdata.com.ai owner Vincent Cate. One method for governments to control regulatory arbitrage, if currency goes through banks, is through tax havens, says University of Miami professor of law, Michael Froomkin. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produced a report in late June that listed 35 tax havens from around the world, and recommended that those havens either lower "harmful tax practices" and cooperate more with other jurisdictions or be separated from the international financial system. However, some forms of online currency might primarily exist outside of banks. And systems used to monitor online currency will have a difficult time keeping up with security technology, says Internet Transactions Transnational founder James Bennett. The cost of security technology that protects against online monitoring is expensive, and could result in a digital divide, says Bennett. Each site could be forced to adhere to the rules of all global jurisdictions or a global organization that would oversee all the jurisdictional issues are both unrealistic. The International Organization of Securities Commissions, an informal collection of regulators, allows countries to avoid slower diplomatic processes, however no sure methods of regulation have been introduced.
- "The IT Learning Curve Expands"
InternetWeek (08/14/00) No. 824, P. 66; Maloy, T.K.
Demand for IT training is growing rapidly, and IT managers must sort through a range of choices to offer employees the training they need. The worldwide training market this year will reach about $300 billion, and will rise to $365 billion by 2003, according to a recent Merrill Lynch study. The study also shows that about 50 percent of IT workers' skills will be obsolete in three to five years. Various training options are available to update IT skills, including distance learning, professional in-house training, contract trainers who work on-site, and professional firms that provide certification and non-certification courses. E-learning, which is flexible and relatively inexpensive, is one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the corporate training market. Gartner Group analyst Clark Aldrich suggests that companies rely on a mix of training options, with an emphasis on off-the-shelf e-learning. In addition to e-learning, certification and corporate universities are among the most widely used forms of IT education. Certification is advisable when a minimum of 75 percent of the course covers material that employees need to know for their current positions. If the course covers too much material the workers do not need, certification will encourage them to seek jobs that do require the new skills, says Aldrich. Another growing trend in IT training is the corporate university, an in-house school designed to extend across the entire company. The number of corporate universities has risen to more than 1,600 today, up from 400 in 1998, according to Corporate University Exchange.
- "You Want Bugs in These Chips"
Computerworld (08/07/00) Vol. 34, No. 32, P. 69; Forster, Barbara
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) have developed a process that combines virus proteins with inorganic semiconductor elements to produce electronic biocomposite materials. These materials could one day serve as the building blocks of electronic devices such as computers, the UT researchers announced. Such a process is especially desirable for an electronics industry that is quickly approaching the limits of miniaturized semiconductor assembly. The proteins can assemble a desired molecular pattern once they bind to certain inorganic elements, says the project's lead scientist Angela Belcher. The principle is the same as that of naturally occurring biocomposite materials such as bone and shells. Virus proteins that can bind to specific semiconductor alloys allow the construction of fairly sophisticated systems, says electrical engineering professor Evelyn Hu of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The initial goal of this new building process will be to "control crystal growth and placement and assembly of nanoparticles using tools from nature," says Belcher.
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- "The State of the Cyberstates"
Contract Professional (08/00) Vol. 4, No. 12, P. 18
The American Electronics Association (AEA) recently released its annual Cyberstates report, detailing the economic impact of the high-tech industry in individual states and in the nation as a whole. The U.S. high-tech workforce grew 32 percent to 5 million people between 1993 and 1999, the report says. The number of high-tech jobs in North Dakota alone grew 90 percent, the report says. Other states that have significantly increased their high-tech workforces include Nevada, Oregon, and South Dakota. Meanwhile, Colorado has displaced New Hampshire as the state with the highest concentration of tech workers. The report shows the pervasiveness of the tech industry in a wide range of geographic locations and industry segments, says the AEA's Michaela Platzer. Looking ahead, jobs are expected to almost double in the software and computer services industry alone from 1.8 million in 1999 to 3.5 million in 2008.