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


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Volume 2, Issue 95:  Friday, August 18, 2000

  • "Fall Release Is Seen for New Linux Operating System"
    Wall Street Journal (08/18/00) P. A6; Gomes, Lee

    Although he concedes Microsoft's Windows operating system still outperforms his own creation in some areas and certainly enjoys a huge market advantage, Linux creator Linus Torvalds says the support of industry heavy weights such as IBM will drive Linux onto more and more computers. This fall Torvalds says the latest version of Linux will be released. He says its performance on high-end, multiple-processor computers is much improved, although "Windows is still a no-brainer for most people," including his own parents and sister. With the support of companies such as IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat, VA Linux, and Caldera Torvalds expects the number of applications ported to Linux to greatly increase, alleviating the platform's largest current deficiency relative to Windows or the Macintosh OS. A proponent of intense competition in the marketplace, Torvalds restrains himself from controlling too much of Linux's ongoing development, preferring instead to let the hacker community, independent software vendors, and giants such as IBM introduce developments that must compete with others to become part of the accepted platform. Of IBM's involvement in particular, Torvalds says the company is now as much a part of the Linux development community as any hacker. Torvalds points to 1999 as a watershed year for Linux and figures it will take five to 10 years for the platform to truly compete with Windows for market share across the computing industry.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/447916.asp

  • "High-Tech Leaders Favor Net Security Czar"
    E-Commerce Times (08/16/00); Ford, Beverly

    The United States needs a "computer security czar" to protect the nation's Internet security interests, according to a CIO magazine poll of 261 chief information officers released on Wednesday. The poll also revealed corporate uneasiness about the government's regulation of the Internet. Most want government protection but worry about the loss of privacy. A significant minority said the FBI's Carnivore program to read the email of suspected criminals was a privacy threat, and nearly all of the CIOs believe Web sites should post details of what data they collect from users and how they collect it. Interestingly, a majority of the e-commerce firms surveyed said they had not suffered any cases of cybercrime, which disputes a Computer Security Institute projection that nearly three-quarters of all e-commerce firms have been victims. On non-security issues, the poll found most CIOs accepting the influx of foreign IT workers only if they train American workers. Also, the poll's presidential survey found just under 50 percent of CIOs favoring the Bush-Cheney ticket, with Gore-Lieberman a distant second and barely ahead of "None-of-the-above."
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/news/articles2000/000816-7.shtml

  • "PC Makers Aim to Sell Businesses More Than Hardware"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/18/00) P. A8; Seitz, Patrick

    PC makers are moving aggressively to become service providers for small to midsize businesses, a market that analysts believe could be worth $250 billion a year. Dell, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and Gateway now offer services such as Web hosting, marketing, procurement, and Internet access. Analysts say the reasons for this move are clear. "The profit in PCs isn't what it used to be," states Ray Boggs of International Data. Small and midsize businesses provide a greater profit margin than computers and related hardware. Also, these firms offer a wealth of customers who lack the expertise or staff needed to put themselves online. Moreover, analysts expect this market to grow even further, unlike the market for corporate service providers, which has already reached its saturation point. Only Hewlett-Packard is offering all its services through its own Web site. Many other PC makers have established partnerships with other providers. For example, users of Dell's DellEWorks.com can link to sites providing everything from online payroll management to a bulk seller of office furniture. Dell also has an agreement with AT&T to provide Internet access. Offering so many services, these sites should be a big hit with small to midsize businesses, analysts say.

  • "Fed to Keep Pushing for More Access to Wiretaps"
    USA Today (08/18/00) P. 3A; Johnson, Kevin

    The Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals ruling earlier this week that struck down new FCC wiretap standards will not stop the Justice Department from fighting to broaden the FBI's ability to use wiretaps, DOJ officials said Thursday. "We believe that we can demonstrate that these capabilities should be included in a revised FCC order, and that the concerns of the court can be addressed," said Attorney General Janet Reno. Meanwhile, Reno is helping federal law enforcement officials determine whether the ruling on the FCC wiretap standards will have any impact on the FBI's use of its Carnivore system. Privacy advocates claim that the ruling gives a huge boost to their fight against Carnivore. "It casts a dark shadow of doubt over the legality of Carnivore," says the Center for Democracy and Technology's senior staff counsel, James Dempsey. ISPs could use the court ruling as a reason to rebel against FBI requests to link Carnivore to their networks, Dempsey says.
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20000818/2563825s.htm

  • "ICANN Self-Nominees Compete for Ballot Slots"
    Newsbytes (08/18/00); McGuire, David

    ICANN will email its 158,000 at-large member voting base to remind voters to evaluate some 150 self-nominated candidates attempting to get their names placed on the ICANN ballot for one of the five at-large board spots. A self-nominated candidate must receive the support of at least 2 percent of the registered voters in their region, which is a difficult task, as ICANN does not offer the candidates a list of voters. "How can one run or campaign when you can't even reach your electors?" asks Cisco Systems engineer Karl Auerbach, who also is the second-most-supported candidate in North America. ICANN's actions demonstrate that the Internet organization does not want the at-large portion of its board to function, contends Auerbach. The leading at-large candidate in North America, University of Texas Professor Emerson Tiller, agrees that ICANN is not putting enough effort into assisting the at-large candidates. However, Tiller maintains that the emails ICANN is sending out will be a boost. Further, ICANN probably wants to avoid the embarrassment of having no at-large candidates meet the requirements, says Tiller. At-large members of ICANN can give support to a single nominee, but can change their support from one candidate to another until the nomination process is completed on August 31. Those nominees that do receive 2 percent of the vote from their region will join the 18 nominees picked by ICANN that are already on the ballot. A list of all the at-large candidates is available at members.icann.org/nom.html.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/pubNews/00/153825.html
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Quantum Computers Aren't Just Theoretical"
    Wall Street Journal (08/17/00) P. B6; Hamilton, David P.

    The latest advances in quantum computing are pointing the way toward computers far more powerful than the most powerful computers of today. Physicist Richard Feynman first proposed the idea of a quantum computer 20 years ago, suggesting that the indeterminate properties of many particles could increase storage and processing capabilities. For example, whereas binary bits can be either a one or a zero, quantum bits could be both a one and a zero. Researchers have yet to discover the best way to achieve this potential, but recent breakthroughs show some promise. IBM scientists recently built a quantum computer that solved a complex "order finding" problem in just one step. The IBM team, headed by physicist Isaac Chuang, built quantum bits from the nuclei of organic molecules. Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory synthesized a molecule to use for quantum bits and used a magnetic resonance spectrometer to manipulate the movements of a trillion copies of this molecule. Although these computers use fewer than 10 quantum bits, researchers believe a 30-quantum-bit machine, which would far exceed the power of traditional computers, is only five or 10 years away.

  • "Know Java? It Could Help Your Salary"
    Philadelphia Inquirer (08/17/00) P. C1; Woodall, Martha

    Salaries for IT professionals, especially those with Java training, continue to increase, reflecting the Internet's strong presence in all types of companies, according to a recent survey from high-tech recruiting firm Texcel. The survey questioned 2,500 tech workers in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Java programmers gained a 15 percent salary boost over the past year, bringing average regional pay to $78,750. As demand for Java continues to grow, Texcel predicts that salaries for Java programmers will rise another 10 percent to 15 percent over the next year. Java is commonly used to write large Internet applications for e-commerce, and the demand for Java shows the continuing push for companies to move business online. Beyond Java's popularity, companies pay high salaries for Java programmers because of the dearth of programs that teach the language. Many colleges are unable to keep pace with industry needs and do not offer Java training, says Texcel's Jerry Zinser. Programmers for Microsoft technologies such as Visual Basic are also earning more than in the past, with salaries jumping 11 percent to a regional average of $68,100 in the past year.
    http://web.philly.com/content/inquirer/2000/08/17/business/JOBS17.htm

  • "Small Businesses Need Creativity to Attract Scarce Tech Workers"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/18/00) P. A10; Howell, Donna

    Small technology companies lack the financial resources to compete with larger firms for employees in today's tight labor market, but small companies can offer non-monetary advantages that appeal to a certain type of worker. Few workers--less than 10 percent, according to a recent study from technology recruiter BridgeGate--are willing to accept a lower salary to work for a pre-IPO firm. As a result, small companies need to focus their hiring efforts on workers who are willing to accept risk and uncertainty, says John Putzier of the Society for Human Resource Management. This type of worker is interested in the excitement of the work as much as the salary, Putzier says. Workers most likely to gamble on working at a startup are young and urban, with relatively high salaries and some college education, according to the BridgeGate study. Some workers believe they can make a bigger difference at a small company, and appreciate that startups do not award jobs based on seniority. Meanwhile, top managers still demand cash and cannot be sold on a startup's potential and vision.
    http://www.investors.com/editorial/tech02.asp?v=8/18

  • "Tech Cluster Incubates Female-Owned Businesses"
    SiliconValley.com (08/16/00); Nguyen, Pham-Duy D.

    Women's Technology Cluster, one of two incubators for women-owned businesses in the U.S., is helping women secure funding for their Internet startups. Finding venture capital is especially difficult for women-owned businesses, because women tend not to network with predominantly male venture capitalist circles. Venture capitalists make 9 percent of their deals with women, but invest less than 3 percent of their portfolios in companies owned by women, according to a recent study from the National Foundation for Women Business Owners and Wells Fargo. Women's Technology Cluster is highly selective in admitting companies, but firms that are accepted receive free legal and business advice, exposure for the company, and inexpensive office space. The cluster has raised over $50 million for its companies, and plans are underway to start three similar incubators.
    http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/indepth/docs/clust081700.htm
    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "A Net of Red Tape"
    Law.com (08/17/00); Roemer, John

    California state legislators have introduced 248 bills concerning Net regulation issues this session, after only 4 were introduced in 1994, but experts say this landslide could mire users down in red tape. Although it might reduce concerns over the lack of regulation in cyberspace, all this legislation could prevent users from going online without violating some rule, says University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist. Enforcement of these regulations, if passed, is also unclear. Some of the more popular bills may be passed and never go into effect, concedes Rand Martin, chief of staff of Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara). In 1998 Vasconcellos created the California Legislature Internet Caucus, a bipartisan organization that takes on various Internet legislative issues. Geist favors an open-systems plan in which model laws are only enforced if they are adopted by the legislative bodies of states or nations. Good model laws will attract legislative votes, says Geist. A successful model law is the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, which validates e-signatures and whose goal is the smooth flow of e-commerce. The act has been adopted by 22 U.S. states, and is being considered by six more states, provinces in Canada, and some European and Asian nations. A less successful model law, the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act, was recently rewritten as only two states have adopted it so far.
    For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.

  • "Security Flaws Worry World of E-Commerce"
    Baltimore Sun (08/14/00) P. 1C; James, Michael

    A recent security breach in the system of credit-card clearinghouse Authorize.net highlights the growing threat of online credit-card fraud, which could undermine the growth of e-commerce. After security consultants warned the company on July 19 that even hackers with rudimentary skills could exploit the weakness through a trojan horse program that could uncover thousands of credit card numbers, expiration dates, and customer names and addresses, Authorize.net took three weeks to rewrite its program code. The company insists that no data was pilfered, but the incident reveals just how precarious the security of online credit-card information is, and how lightly some companies take the responsibility of guarding that information. More than half of American computer users claim that they would not purchase any item online because of the possibility of theft, and Visa says online credit card fraud occurs at three times the rate of credit card theft offline. Due to such concerns, Visa recently announced 10 new security guidelines for e-commerce transactions conducted by its 21,000 member financial institutions. One of the biggest new requirements forces merchants to encrypt all credit information transferred over the Internet. Despite the publicity given to e-commerce fraud, experts say most credit-card theft still takes place in the real world, with one of the most common scams being "skimming." This is when waiters or clerks run a customer's credit card through a special reader when processing a transaction, which can hold hundreds of card numbers that are later uploaded to the Internet.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "British Consultant Believes Internet Security Fatally Flawed"
    Daily Mail--Financial Mail (08/13/00); Fluendy, Simon

    There are serious defects in the way Internet security systems operate, and the recent headlines regarding security violations are just the beginning, says Counterpane Internet Security CTO Bruce Schneier. Internet security does not compete with paper-based transaction security, according to a private report produced by Schneier and a senior security architect at Intel, Carl Ellison. Schneier's primary objection, which could enhance consumers' fears of online security and thereby hinder e-commerce's development, is that there is no way to guarantee the authenticity of a digital signature. Passwords can easily be stolen, as many of them are kept on conventional computers, which have a single password that might not be too difficult to figure out, says Schneier. Even when a digital certificate is attached to an email there is no way to positively determine the certificate's owner. This concern centers on the issuance and protection of digital certificates from Internet security companies, such as VeriSign. A lack of faith in the security system from an established figure in the world of online security could be a major problem for many Internet security companies, including VeriSign. Individuals named "Donald Duck" are listed on VeriSign's company lists, and some of these fake names even have VeriSign email addresses. However, the false names are only possible on low security certificates that are provided through a free trial, says Bob Pratt, director of VeriSign. VeriSign does agree with Schneier in some respects, according to Pratt. "Companies need to be very careful about who they accept digital signatures from," says Pratt.
    For information regarding ACM's activities related to encryption and security, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.

  • "UCITA Fix Won't Help Big Firms"
    Computerworld (08/14/00) Vol. 34, No. 33, P. 1; Thibodeau, Patrick

    Although the group that wrote the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) is moving away from a provision that would allow vendors to remotely turn off users' software, observers say this relaxed stance will do little to change UCITA's impact on large companies. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws at its annual meeting that ended Aug. 4 decided to negate the self-help provision for mass-market software sold through retailers. The provision remains in place for other kinds of software, such as customizable software used by corporations, virus updates, and applications bought with a site license or through a subscription service. Although the changes would exempt consumers from the provision for the most part, companies that purchase large amounts of off-the-shelf software are unlikely to qualify as mass-market customers, says attorney Cem Kaner. Beyond the concern that software could be remotely disabled, companies worry that UCITA allows vendors to create security holes in their software by installing self-help features. Furthermore, vendors face no liability for the vulnerabilities they create by adding self-help mechanisms, experts say.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.

  • "Watching Over the World Wide Web"
    Business Week (08/28/00) No. 3696, P. 195; Gleckman, Howard; Carney, Dan

    The rise of globalization and the growing Internet are creating pressure for new forms of governance. Global e-commerce is reducing the importance of political borders while encouraging international legal cooperation. Currently, companies operating globally must deal with an immense patchwork of laws, taxes, and regulations. The business community wants politicians to reconcile conflicting commercial regulation; in the future, government will become more global, with nations signing cooperative treaties and more power being ceded to international rule-making entities. Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers predicts that there will be global cooperation, though not global government. One possible model of government is displayed in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN)--a nonprofit corporation that will soon have a board of directors elected by Internet users. ICANN manages Internet domain names but has no power to enforce its rulings. Another group with more power could be constructed upon cooperative ventures among consumers, politicians, and the business community. The Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce recently presented the G-8 nations with a framework for social and economic policy for the digital age--including everything from regulation to closing the digital divide. The paper will be the foundation for the G-8's future technology initiatives. Such partnerships will do well in the coming century. Cross-border mergers are becoming more common, and nations and businesses are working together on regulations for antitrust reviews. A third model for governance is the marketplace itself, with businesses developing standard practices that become generally accepted rules.
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Democrats Top GOP in Gaining New Economy Cash"
    Hill (08/16/00) Vol. 7, No. 33, P. 1; Bolton, Alexander

    Democratic legislators worked hard to woo the high-tech community, and they have received much more soft money from the technology industry than have Republicans, according to analyses of Federal Election Commission (FEC) fundraising records for the second quarter of 2000 by both The Hill newspaper and the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). FEC records show that the 50 high-tech companies that spend the most to lobby Congress donated three times as much money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) as to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign--$318,000 to $103,000. CRP found that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $410,000 from high-tech donors, more than three times the amount raised by the National Republican Congressional Committee--at just under $130,000. Direct corporate donations are a small part of the soft money from the high-tech sector; individuals make a large proportion of big donations. DSCC's David DiMartino says Democratic Senate fundraisers have garnered $2 million to $2.5 million from the high-tech community this year. New Democratic Coalition members have led the Democratic fundraising effort; legislators in swing districts know it is important to align with the group that many believe will be the foundation of the economy in the future. The Democrats' winning of soft money from high-tech sources depends on social policies as well as fiscal policies. New Democrats Network co-founder Simon Rosenberg notes that most of the donations come from socially liberal, wealthy individuals. On the other hand, E-contributor CEO Trey Richardson theorizes that the high-tech sector goes for Democrats because the industry began in areas that are traditionally more Democratic; when it moves into more conservative areas, the fundraising difference will even out.

  • "Girls' Night Out"
    Industry Standard (08/14/00) Vol. 3, No. 30, P. 206; Solomon, Karen

    Professional groups formed by women are becoming the backbone of women who are seeking to build Internet-based businesses. Harriet Peterson, who moved six years ago to Silicon Valley to start Buzz Notes, turned to the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley Webgrrls, San Francisco Women on the Web, and Women in Multimedia, which have all been influential in helping her find reputable IT resources, investors, legal and business assistance, and other support. Although only 5 percent of venture capital funding went to businesses with female CEOs last year, according to San Francisco research firm Venture One, many women believe that women's clubs and networks put them in a better position to attract venture capital funding and succeed as entrepreneurs. Many women simply prefer the way women's groups generally operate. In such groups, women tend to focus on cultivating relationships and sharing information in an environment that is not as competitively driven as men's groups. In addition to offering valuable mentoring programs, Peterson adds that women's groups are resources for obtaining a practical education. Still, some women choose not to rely too heavily on women's groups, and some do not even see their value, arguing that such organizations would limit their social circle for contacts. Nevertheless, a large number of women view women's groups as just another avenue that could help them reach their entrepreneurial goals.
    http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,17325,00.html
    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.