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 96:  Monday, August 21, 2000

  • "Tech's Tyranny Provokes Revolt"
    USA Today (08/21/00) P. 1A; Iwata, Edward

    Consumers are experiencing a "digital backlash," according to recent surveys. Although Cyber Dialogue reports the active population of Internet users in America now numbers 77 million and is increasing 10 percent each year, that growth rate has fallen considerably since 1997. Also, Cyber Dialogue found 108 million American adults have no interest in going online. Moreover, the survey found 29 million users decided to abandon the Internet last year, the highest number yet. A survey by Harris Online revealed 33 percent of consumers are not comfortable shopping online. That discomfort has even spread to the industry itself. Several anti-Internet-era Web sites and the film "I Want to Blow Up Silicon Valley," which mocks the dot-com culture, have appeared in recent months. Many computer companies are now working to make their devices easier to use to appeal to those consumers who are disaffected or simply uninterested. This includes computers that are ready to go out of the box and classes on computer and Internet use such as those offered by 3Com and Gateway.
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/acovmon.htm

  • "Some in U.S. Congress Say U.S. Government Could Use an Information-Privacy Czar"
    Wall Street Journal (08/21/00) P. B6

    Taking a cue from the growing trend toward the hiring of privacy officers in the private sector, some congressmen are calling for the federal government to instate a privacy czar who would oversee the government's information-protection efforts. "A centralized leader will be able to make information security one of the top priorities of the federal government," says David Marin, a spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). Davis is pushing a bill to create a federal Office of Information Policy that would be headed by a chief information officer. In related news, the Progress and Freedom Foundation is holding its sixth annual technology policy summit in Aspen, Colo. Many top government and industry representatives will be on hand to discuss issues such as how the Internet is affecting public policy; deregulation of the telecom industry; and the role of the FCC and e-commerce.
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "Many Online Taking Privacy Into Their Own Hands"
    Los Angeles Times (08/21/00) P. C1; Shiver, Jube Jr.

    Consumers on the Internet are actively fighting online companies' attempts to collect their personal data, concludes a new Pew Research Foundation study of more than 2,100 Americans, including more than 1,000 Internet users. Online privacy invasions by commercial Web sites are a concern to 84 percent of Internet users, compared with only 68 percent who say that hackers are a privacy threat, according to the report. The results of the study show that consumers would prefer that Web sites collect data only with consumer permission, says the study's director, Lee Rainie. Alarmingly, the study finds that consumers' ignorance of basic online privacy issues is undermining their efforts to protect their personal data. Indeed, more than half of those surveyed had no idea what data-collecting "cookies" are, and many Internet users do not realize that cookies are being attached to their hard drives as they surf the Web. Internet users also unknowingly expose their personal information in other ways when they are online. Many Internet users are rookies--some 35 percent of the 144 million U.S. Internet users came online for the first time during the last year. These Internet neophytes are "all the more reason to provide consumer education so that people can make appropriate choices" about their online privacy, says Dana Rosenfeld, an assistant director at the FTC. The study does show that some Internet users are taking steps to protect their privacy online. One in four Internet users have used false identities or responses when visiting Web sites requesting data; 5 percent have use "anonymizing" software; 10 percent have used encryption software to protect their email; and 20 percent have used an alternate email address for privacy purposes.
    http://www.latimes.com/business/20000821/t000078480.html
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "India Seeks More U.S. Visas, Less Control for Tech"
    Reuters (08/21/00); Madhavan, Narayanan

    An Indian software industry group on Monday announced that it is urging the prime minister to request an increase in H-1B visas as well as other changes in current visa laws during his visit to the U.S. next month. The National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), like the U.S. software industry, is pushing for an increase in the number of H-1B visas that allow foreign engineers to work in the U.S. for three years. The visa cap is now set at 115,000, but two bills in Congress suggest raising the limit to 195,000 or 200,000. In addition to the visa increase, NASSCOM urged the prime minister to pursue an early signing of a totalization agreement, which would put an end to Indian IT workers paying social security in both the U.S. and India. Workers on H-1B visas cannot receive social security benefits in the U.S. because the visas are valid for only three years, and workers must pay social security for 10 years to receive benefits. In addition, NASSCOM asked the prime minister to seek the removal of restrictions on the location of H-1B workers, arguing that such constraints are outdated and contrary to the trend of globalization.
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20000821/tc/india_usa_dc_1.html

  • "Study: Net No Influence on U.S. Politics"
    E-Commerce Times (08/16/00); McDonald, Tim

    Early findings from the UCLA Internet Report indicate that the Internet has a long way to go before reaching its potential as a political resource. Released in time for the political convention season, the findings from the new study sponsored by the UCLA Center for Communication Policy show that 45.6 percent of Internet users believe the technology has helped them understand politics better and that 28.1 percent of non-users agreed. However, when it comes to giving people more influence with the government, 42 percent of Internet users and 50.4 percent of non-users disagreed or strongly disagreed that they now have more say with the government because of the Internet. More than just a survey on the impact the Internet is having on politics, the study also addresses privacy, the credibility of online information, and the Internet's importance compared to other mass-media information sources. Regarding privacy, the study shows that all respondents felt the Internet threatened their privacy. To Internet users, only television and radio were considered more important. However, non-users said books, newspapers, television, radio, and magazines were all more important than the Internet. And finally, 22.1 percent of non-users were skeptical about the credibility of information online, compared to 7.5 percent of Internet users.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/news/articles2000/000816-5.shtml

  • "Future Work"
    Chicago Tribune (08/20/00) P. 6-1; Wood, Lamont

    Industry observers believe job opportunities for software and network engineers will continue to grow in coming years, but caution students and young professionals not to concentrate too much on a sole skill or a single career path. The increased demand for e-business and e-commerce solutions will add to the already high demand for workers in these fields. According to some estimates, there are 250,000 jobs currently unfilled in Silicon Valley. In addition to this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of jobs for computer engineers will increase 108 percent in the near future. The average growth for other professions is 14.4 percent. Observers agree the highest demand will be for software programmers. However, observers say knowing as many software languages as possible is not necessarily the key to a successful career. Having excellent oral and written communications skills is one key. The ability to learn new skills quickly is another. Both skills are essential because today's workers change careers an average of four times. Hewlett-Packard's Stan William says, "That makes a broad-based education more important than ever for students starting out. They should not think in terms of career training, but in terms of life-long learning--they will need to learn how to learn effectively."
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "The World Wide Web"
    Access Magazine (08/20/00) P. 10; Michals, Debra

    This past May saw the day that women represented 51 percent of the 83 million active U.S. Internet users, closing the gender gap online, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Their presence has created sites that cater to female issues and needs, and is also moving the Web toward more user-friendly and efficient sites suitable for time-pressed people of both genders. A Media Metrix study indicates that four years ago only 20 percent of the online population was female, and little besides email interested them. Webgrrls New York City director Eileen Shulock says early Web sites and e-commerce sales were geared mainly toward a male audience, in part because the Web was created by men. However, over the last year, companies that considered their audience to be primarily male have begun creating sub-sites to gather women customers. Industry experts say some sites are now designed to mesh with the way women think, so as to be more efficient and easier to use. Men tend to use the Internet as entertainment, while women are more inclined to get what they need and log off. Furthermore, men are more likely to use the Internet for financial transactions or sports scores, reports the Pew Research Center, while women tend to consider the Internet a source of community. Women create networks of friends to chat or to discuss work-related issues. Cyber Dialogue says 28 percent of women online order products over the Internet, compared to 43 percent of men online. Forrester Research's Ekaterina Walsh says women are more likely to be "technology pessimists" and notes that online companies will have to make the effort to convince women that it is safe to buy online. The trend of women moving online is expected to lead more women to become work-at-home mothers and Internet entrepreneurs.
    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "The Hard-Drive Space Race Speeds Up"
    Washington Post (08/18/00) P. E11; Singer, Skip

    Maxtor this week is releasing its new DiamondMax 80, an 80 GB hard drive that is the latest entry in the sweepstakes of hard drives with increasingly large memory. Even entry-level computers now come with drives as large as 20 GB, and IBM executives believe most computers will have 80 GB capability within the next two years. Analysts credit growing user demand for digital photos and movies, MP3 files, Internet connections, and high-resolution games for this explosion of hard-drive capacity. Experts note that programs that were once considered high-end and hard-drive intensive, such as video-editing software, now come bundled with desktop systems. However, some observers question whether the average user needs this much hard-drive power. "The hard-drive market is out of whack, and manufacturers are killing themselves economically," says John Donovan of research firm TrendFocus. "They're producing massive drives most people will never be able to fill."
    http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47554-2000Aug17.html

  • "Cybersquatting Rules Delayed--WIPO"
    Newsbytes (08/15/00); Bonisteel, Steven

    The WIPO postponed the deadline for comments on the Second WIPO Internet Domain Process, which will probably reiterate some of the rules that ICANN shaved from the First WIPO Internet Domain Process as well as deal with proper names issues that deal with more common names, such as Bob.com, instead of "famous" names. The Second WIPO Process will also consider the rules for domain names that are acronyms for public organizations and non-proprietary names for pharmaceuticals. The WIPO does believe that ICANN will utilize some aspects of the Second WIPO Process, although ICANN might not adopt any of the new resolutions, says University of Ottawa Law School Professor Michael Geist. ICANN did trim the rules originally put forward by the WIPO in the First WIPO Internet Domain Process when ICANN put together its own Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy. However, subsequent WIPO rulings have incorporated many of the rules that ICANN did not include in its policy. "ICANN has created the process, nominally, as the governing body for it, but ultimately, a lot of the policy that we're seeing implemented is coming from WIPO and NAF arbitrators," says Geist. The WIPO and the NAF most likely handle the largest portion of domain name disputes because the two organizations tend to rule in favor of larger, more powerful corporations. There has been very little interest in the WIPO's work determining the base definitions for such important concepts as cybersquatting, and the WIPO would like more outside input. Some governments do have ideas to share, and the new deadline of September 15 will give governments the extra time necessary to submit comments. Officially, UN-member countries can resolve internal domain name disputes; however, some countries want the WIPO to handle their disputes. Others have no intention of giving up the right to rule on internal domain name issues.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/pubNews/00/153688.html
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "U.S. E-tailers Still Leery of Global Markets"
    E-Commerce Times (08/16/00); Gebler, Dan

    The challenges of global e-commerce still discourage many U.S. businesses from entering this growing arena. Some 60 percent of the world's Internet users in 1999 were non-U.S. residents and that number is expected to rise to 67 percent within the next five years, according to an International Data (IDC) study. European e-commerce sales will jump from $5.6 billion in 1999 to $430 billion in 2003, IDC predicts. Adapting company infrastructure, re-targeting marketing efforts, and dealing with complex customs and tariff procedures are some of the hurdles that concern American companies. Further, there is a much larger buying pool available to global markets. To adapt to the global e-commerce market, a company must first secure a flexible system that can handle multiple languages and currencies, says IDC's Barry Parr. More latitude in company corporate structure will be necessary for successful overseas expansion so that the subtleties of local infrastructures can be handled more smoothly. Global e-tailers spend a lot on Internet advertising, and U.S. businesses must also adapt to this ethic. It's not enough to build a sole U.S. site, instead "a company must build sites for Tokyo and Paris as well," says Parr. To deal with common problems without turning them into major obstacles, U.S. e-tailers should refer to the globalization experiences of non-Internet companies.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/news/articles2000/000816-1.shtml

  • "Unions Take Aim at High-Tech Workers"
    Computerworld (08/14/00) Vol. 34, No. 33, P. 1; Trombly, Maria; Ohlson, Kathleen

    Labor unions are trying to move into the high-tech sector to increase their power in the digital economy. The strike against Verizon Communications by its union members is the latest example of organized labor affecting the high-tech industry. Workers at other high-tech companies might follow the lead of Verizon employees, if the union members are able to unionize Verizon's wireless and broadband units, says Daniel Cornfield, chairman of sociology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Unions have been steadily losing members in recent years, and need to find ways to appeal to the high-tech workforce--a task that could prove daunting in light of the major differences between traditional union members and high-tech workers. For example, high-tech workers want flexibility rather than guaranteed job security, and pay based on merit rather than seniority, says Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America. Some observers say the IT labor shortage encourages companies to cater to the needs of IT workers, leaving little need for a high-tech union. However, Communications Workers of America's Steve Early disagrees, saying high-tech workers need a way to communicate with management and to have more control over their working conditions.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "How Green Is His Valley"
    Industry Standard (08/21/00) Vol. 3, No. 32, P. 90; Harris, Scott

    Former Indiana Attorney General Jeff Modisett last January left his position with a year left in his term to join Technology Network (TechNet), a bipartisan lobbying group for the high-tech industry. The unexpected move came after Modisett realized the potential of the Internet to improve democracy, as he watched people learning to use the Internet in western Sumatra. Modisett, who was visiting Indonesia to observe its first democratic election in decades, began using the Internet himself to communicate with his staff back in Indiana. "I saw how the Internet could be used to promote democracy all over the world," Modisett says. As he began learning more about the Internet, Modisett says the move to TechNet seemed like an opportunity to take part in "the most important policy debates of our time." Many current laws are not suited to govern the Internet, says Modisett, noting that working on Internet policy is like attending "a new Constitutional Convention." Modisett, now the vice president and co-CEO of TechNet, leads the groups Democratic members, while fellow co-CEO Lezlee Westine leads the Republicans. The group lobbies Congress on high-tech issues such as research and development tax credits, visas, and trade policy.
    http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,17529,00.html

  • "When Does Copying Become Illegal Use?"
    InternetWeek (08/14/00) No. 824, P. 16; Kemp, Ted

    Observers of the information technology industry say the legal dispute between Napster and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will not only have an impact on the sharing of music, but also on Internet technologies involving text, video, and software protection. If Napster wins the copyright battle, there could be an increasing demand for encryption programs as content providers seek to protect their work. For example, Jim Penhume, Yankee Group director of media and entertainment strategies, sees encryption as a catalyst for e-books and other emerging technologies. Furthermore, the tech industry could see tougher laws on copying and distribution. Although the RIAA charges that Napster facilitates music piracy with its technology, the music service has invoked the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 and "fair use" of music in its defense. Still, some experts say the RIAA would do well to work with Napster. Online market researcher InsightExpress has found that 75 percent of Napster users say they are more likely to buy music because of the music service. And digital rights management firms such as Reciprocal and Supertracks could also become part of a solution for record labels.
    http://www.internetwk.com/story/INW20000811S0006
    For information regarding ACM's activities related to encryption, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.

  • "Semiconductors: Fewer Thrills and Chills?"
    Business Week (08/28/00) No. 3696, P. 50; Reinhardt, Andy

    The semiconductor industry could peak as soon as six months from now, say two Salomon Smith Barney chip analysts. The original prediction was for chip capacity to outpace demand by 2002, but creeping inventory levels, scattered price declines, and shorter waits to obtain parts indicate the opposite. But although panicking investors have bailed out, these events could present a great opportunity. _The signs of the chip market's impending plummet are not as easy to determine, thanks to the diversification of the industry. New markets for products such as Internet equipment and consumer electronics give chip manufacturers an outlet independent of the PC market. "New products and applications all over the world are driving demand for chips," says Applied Materials CEO James Morgan. _In 1995, 38 percent of semiconductor revenues came from microprocessors and dynamic memory chips, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. Those products are expected to account for only 29 percent of the market in 2003, with emerging technologies such as specialty chips for communications and optical parts accounting for a greater percentage. _Keeping up with demand will continue to challenge chipmakers, with capital spending on chip-manufacturing plants expected to grow more than 65 percent in 2000, to over $50 billion. As long as capacity lags demand, which could last another two years, some chipmakers could see 80 percent stock appreciation, says analyst Eric M. Ross.

  • "Industry Initiates Web Site Privacy Policy Adoption"
    Government Computer News (08/14/00) Vol. 19, No. 23, P. 42; Jackson, William

    Several companies are creating products that support the World Wide Web Consortium's Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P), which allows Web browsers to automatically compare a Web site's privacy policy with a user's privacy preferences. The consortium held an interoperability session in June, in which client P3P products were presented by the Electronic Network Consortium, Engage Technologies, Microsoft, and others. Also at the session, IBM and Invisible Hand Software showed off policy generators. Microsoft said its next version of Windows, which will include Internet Explorer, will support P3P. In addition, Microsoft intends to launch a P3P privacy statement generator that site operators can use to create a privacy policy in XML format. Several Web sites say they have already adopted P3P, including America Online, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, and others.
    http://www.gcn.com/vol19_no23/com/2648-1.html
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "Introducing the Computer of 2010"
    Forbes ASAP (08/21/00) Vol. 166, No. 5, P. 87; Crosby, Kip

    Forbes ASAP, with help from award-winning company Frogdesign, has virtually designed a computer for the next decade that employs optoelectronics to improve reliability and speed in an inexpensive, compact unit. Electronic components will be used in this computer mainly as switches, while communications will be optic. _The computer's hard disk will be holographic, similar to a CD-ROM or DVD with a writing and reading laser on either side, and able to hold a terabyte of data. The central processing unit's optoelectronic circuits will give the unit increased speed and efficiency. The unit's random access memory will also use optoelectronics so the speed of memory retrieval will match the CPU clock rate. _IBM and government laboratories are working on the unit's cache, which will rely on molecular magnetic memory instead of silicon memory. The holographic main RAM will allow users to access 256 GB of memory, 1,000 times as much memory as a powerful desktop today. _IBM's work on flat-panel displays may lead to a monitor fabricated from photonically excited liquid crystal, a technology that does not yet exist. The monitor's power requirement will be significantly lower, as will the main circuit's. A sticklike lithium battery will provide peripheral power, with the unit able to be recharged on a wall cradle unit.
    http://www.forbes.com/asap/00/0821/087.htm

  • "Well-Wired Summer Campers"
    Computerworld (08/14/00) Vol. 34, No. 33, P. 44; Sherman, Erik

    Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., last month held its "Get Wired, Get Hired" summer camp to teach teenage girls about business and technology. Bentley started the program, which school officials believe is the first of its kind in the U.S., after noticing that women lack a strong presence in the business and technology fields. By presenting material in an appealing way, Bentley expects to interest teenage girls in working in the business and technology sectors. The program presents technology as a tool to accomplish business goals, teaching courses on using the Internet for business research, creating documents, videoconferencing, and burning CDs. This focus on business issues is likely to be especially useful in the workplace, as IT departments increasingly value business skills. Girls who attended the one-week program said they appreciated learning business and computer skills in the camp's supportive environment, noting that some of their friends at home thought the activity was nerdy. Negative perceptions about business and technology are thought to discourage many women from working in those fields.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "Gender Gap?"
    Marketing Computers (08/00) Vol. 20, No. 8, P. 46; Saba, Jennifer

    E-tailers are not only focusing more on women these days because women shop more than men, but they are also looking to women for clues on creating a better online shopping experience. So far, the Internet has been a big hit with men, but the bleak experience of e-commerce has been a turnoff to many women. In fact, when it comes to e-commerce, it appears that men and women have reversed their behavior. Men are the ones who enjoy shopping online, while women would much rather visit and leave an e-commerce site as soon as possible. Much of the frustration that women have regarding the e-commerce experience has to do with the poor service and design of most e-commerce sites. Early on, e-tailers could get away with poorly designed Web sites, but now that women account for 50 percent of online shoppers, that no longer appears to be the case. E-tailers looking to improve online shopping are not necessarily copying sites such as Women.com and iVillage that offer a community experience. Denise Fedewa, vice president/planning director for Leo Burnett and co-author of the Chicago advertising agency's LeoShe study, says more than 50 percent of women do not want chat or the community experience. Market observers tend to agree that a clean design, up-front emotion, navigability, and search functions make for a better online experience. In paying closer attention to the behavior of women, e-tailers have learned that it is better to make e-commerce a navigable and emotional experience that markets a certain lifestyle than to pander to women and create a niche market for them.
    http://www.marketingcomputers.com/issue/august00/feature02.asp