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


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Volume 2, Issue 99:  Monday, August 28, 2000

  • "Greenspan Upbeat on Technology"
    Washington Post (08/26/00) P. E1; Berry, John M.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, speaking Friday at an economic conference in Jackson, Wyo., cited technology as the main reason for the continued growth of productivity in the United States. Greenspan said, "The most recent wave of technology has engendered a pronounced rise in American rates of return on high-tech investments, which has led to a stepped-up pace of capital [spending] and increased productivity growth." He also noted that technology has improved trade and the integration of the world's economies. Greenspan's comments came as the Commerce Department released its latest figures on gross domestic product, which grew 6 percent for the 12-month period ended this June. This growth continues to amaze economists, who did not expect to see such prolonged growth without an accompanying rise in inflation. The Fed has raised the overnight interest rate six times in the last year to prevent just that. Greenspan did warn conference attendees that the growth will not last forever and to expect much criticism of the global market system when the inevitable slowdown occurs.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27424-2000Aug25.html

  • "Visa Now, But Immigration Later"
    Wired News (08/28/00); Chaudhry, Lakshmi

    Tech companies frustrated by the long application process for H-1B visas and green cards can now turn to VisaNow.com, which promises to speed up the process. VisaNow coordinates the distribution and collection of all necessary paperwork. The company's in-house lawyers make sure the paperwork meets government requirements and then files it with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. By eliminating the need for human-resources departments to hire lawyers, VisaNow has saved some tech companies as much as half the cost of obtaining H-1B visas for foreign workers. However, VisaNow can do nothing to speed up processing at the INS, which has been inundated with applications while suffering a severe staff shortage. Currently, approving an H-1B visa application can take as long as six months.
    http://wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,38395,00.html

  • "Silicon Valley Gets Revved Up for the Election"
    Wall Street Journal (08/28/00) P. B1; Swisher, Kara

    Silicon Valley is becoming increasingly political as the upcoming presidential election draws closer and issues such as Internet taxation, H-1B visas, and online privacy remain unresolved. In addition to traditional issues such as more funding for research and development, the high-tech industry is concerned about a number of Internet issues such as the digital divide, intellectual property, and cyberterrorism. Some Silicon Valley officials believe Democratic nominee Al Gore will best serve the interests of the high-tech community because of his long record of supporting technology. By choosing fellow tech-supporter Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, Gore established the Democrats as the high-tech party, says NetNoir's David Ellington. Among Gore's Silicon Valley connections are venture capitalist John Doerr and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, who contributed $250,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Meanwhile, Republican nominee George W. Bush has also been working to establish himself as a high-tech leader. Bush appeals to Silicon Valley with promises of decreased regulation and educational reform, a Bush spokesman says. Bush's high-tech ties include Cisco CEO John Chambers, who recently hosted a fundraiser that brought in more than $4 million for the Republican nominee.

  • "Republicans Work for Change With E-Commerce Site"
    Los Angeles Time (08/28/00) P. C1; Kaplan, Karen

    The California Republican Party has opened a new e-commerce site, RepublicanShopping.com, which donates a portion of each purchase to the party's fundraising efforts. Stuart DeVeaux, the communications director for the California Republican Party, says, "There's a high brand loyalty when it comes to voting Republican. We believe we can extend that to high brand purchasing loyalty." Critics question whether the site will generate significant funds, but California party officials believe it could greatly benefit local and state candidates. Although it has been running for only three weeks, party officials expect the site could eventually reduce or even eliminate costly direct marketing and other traditional fundraising methods. The site is well within California campaign-finance law, which does not limit who can contribute to campaigns, but party officials say they will seek approval from the Federal Election Commission before taking it nationwide. The California Republican Party turned to e-commerce site Ebates.com to set up RepublicanShopping. Ebates provides rebates to customers who link to online retailers through its sites. In this case, the rebates are routed to the Republican party. Ebates has offered a similar service to the Democratic Party, which is reportedly considering the possibility.
    http://www.latimes.com/print/business/20000828/t000080718.html

  • "Users' Rights Take Another Hit in Ruling"
    Baltimore Sun (08/28/00) P. C1; Gillmor, Dan

    A recent decision by a federal judge in New York City has further restricted what users may access and trade over the Internet, writes Dan Gillmor. Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that a Web site must take down its links to the source code for DeCSS, a software program that decrypts DVD files. The film industry had filed the lawsuit to prevent the pirating of its movies, which it feared would lead to a Napster-like service. Judge Kaplan based his ruling on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law passed by Congress two years ago that not only outlaws digital piracy, but also the processes and products that pirates could employ to break copyright restrictions. Some observers believe the DMCA overshot its target, endangering the traditional fair use of copyrighted material as well as First Amendment concerns. These observers see Judge Kaplan's decision as proof the DMCA will value corporate concerns over those of consumers. Moreover, these observers believe the film industry, other content producers, and supporters of the DMCA either do not understand or do not want to acknowledge that advances in technology will force them to change the way they provide music, films, and other copyrighted material.
    Click Here to View Full Artcile

  • "A Short Life for Ads at Top of Web Pages"
    New York Times (08/28/00) P. C11; Stellin, Susan

    Most online ads run no more than three weeks before expiring, according to a new study by Media Metrix's AdRelevance unit. The one-year study of banner ads on the 500 most popular Web sites determines that 23.7 percent of all Web ads are pulled after only one week, 16 percent stick around for two weeks, and 11.9 percent last three weeks. Online ads are being used for short-term marketing purposes and not as tools to enhance brand awareness, says Charles Buchwalter, an author of the report. "As time goes by, the average duration of campaigns will start increasing as people understand more about the brand impact," he said. Ads released by the automobile industry lasted 7.8 weeks on average, the longest of any industry. The financial services and travel industries also ran ads for long periods of time. The average online ad campaign was viewed more than 7.25 million times during the second quarter of 2000, but more than half of all ad campaigns attracted only 44,000 views.
    http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/08/biztech/articles/28surv.html

  • "DeCSS Trial Wrap Up"
    LinuxWorld Online (08/00); Durham-Vichr, Deborah

    A federal judge concluded a lawsuit brought by the movie industry with a ruling that outlaws the posting of the DeCSS code that decrypts DVDs, but the trial failed to resolve issues such as free speech, fair use, and reverse engineering. The suit began in January when the Motion Picture Association of America sued Eric Corley, publisher of the hacker magazine 2600, for posting the DeCSS code in a November article on reverse engineering. Judge Lewis Kaplan not only issued a permanent injunction preventing Corley from publishing the code, but also prohibited Corley from linking to sites that provide DeCSS. In addition, Judge Kaplan extended the ruling to sites that deal with 2600. The ruling carries negative implications for linking, which will likely become a central issue in an appeal, according to legal experts at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Free speech is another major issue in the case, as defendants argued that DeCSS should be protected under the First Amendment. In response to the free speech claims, Kaplan maintained that DeCSS is more than just a form of expression for programmers, because the code allows others to bypass the access control technology on DVDs. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), copyright circumvention technology is illegal. The defense argued that the DMCA amounts to a law against reverse-engineering. Pointing out the shortcomings of the DMCA, which protects the CSS code that encrypts DVDs, the defense contended that CSS also prevents fair use of DVDs. In fact, the Norwegian teenager who created DeCSS did so because he wanted to play DVDs on a Linux computer, not because he intended to facilitate piracy.
    http://www.linuxworld.com/linuxworld/lw-2000-08/lw-08-decsswrapup_p.html
    For information regarding ACM's activities related to encryption, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.

  • "Security Flaw Discovered in Webmail System"
    InternetNews.com (08/23/00); McWilliams, Brian

    A security flaw that could affect 100 million people or more, including users at Network Solutions, CompuServe, ICQ, AltaVista, US West, and others, was located in Critical Path's online email service. An attacker could simply steal a "session cookie" from the user through an HTML email message with an embedded image file that is completed with JavaScript code. The attacker then would have free reign over the user's email account, being able to delete or read the user's emails and even send emails from the account so that they appear to come from the user. The security flaw is particularly problematic because once an email account has been breached, the user will not be able to regain control of the account. On Monday, Jeffrey W. Baker printed the specifics of the security flaw on the security mailing list of Bugtraq. On Wednesday, Critical Path acknowledged the security hole was real, but will be fixed, possibly on Wednesday. The patch would roll out right away to all email customers that outsource from Critical Path. The patch would develop a "smarter" session cookie with a hash value that changes constantly, says Critical Path CSO Mike Serbinis. Until the security flaw has been fixed, users can simply disable the browser's JavaScript to avoid any attacks.
    http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,2171,3_444201,00.html

  • "Domain Name Reflection"
    InfoWorld.com (08/22/00); Jones, Jennifer

    On Wednesday, ICANN's current chairperson Esther Dyson gave the keynote speech at the Progress & Freedom Foundation's technology policy conference in Aspen, Colo., where she discussed the issues that arose during ICANN's development. Since the start, ICANN has had to continually deal with individuals who believe the organization is handing American-only rights to foreigners and others that think ICANN is simply working to ensure that corporations obtain control of the Internet, said Dyson. One early error in judgement on the part of ICANN was utilizing charity bylaws instead of becoming a regulatory entity that is accountable to everyone, said Dyson. Further, ICANN has had difficulties arising from its dependence on lawyers who have to approve any text placed on ICANN's Web site, she said. ICANN has also had to face the consequences of its own poor efforts at public relations, according to Dyson. ICANN is not a government agency and does not govern, Dyson said. "And we are not a consumer protection agency, though I get complaint letters all the time about, let's face it, the industry's biggest player, Network Solutions," she said. ICANN's first priority is Internet stability, said Dyson. Dyson intends to stay active on issues pertaining to ICANN after retiring from her position in November and will become one of ICANN's biggest critics in an effort to keep the organization at its best.
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/00/08/22/000822hnicann.xml
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Question of Internet Vulnerability Gets Researchers Clicking"
    NewsFactor Network (08/22/00); Carr, Matthew

    Researchers are starting to study the breaking point of the Internet. And although they believe that any random breakdown of routers, the specialized computers that connect smaller regional networks of the Internet, would not crash the Internet, an organized attack by hackers may be enough to cause a complete collapse of the network. Researchers have come up with mathematical models that describe how electronic information flows throughout the Internet, and the scale-free structure is said to be the model that represents the Internet. Scale-free networks consist of connections of varying amounts of nodes or points. In a study published in Nature in July, physicist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi and a team of researchers confirmed a finding by Reuven Cohen and physicists from Bar-Ilan University that theoretical resilience would work for the Internet. Using a network diameter of four, the Barabasi team found that it was not until a few more router hubs were removed after the distance between nodes had been tripled that percolation was reached. Cohen says percolation is when "the network becomes mainly small islands of a few sites which are not connected to the rest of the network." Percolation is similar to a snowstorm shutting down a major airport and stranding travelers, in that information would be stranded at isolated outposts. Still, some researchers say it is wrong to gauge network resilience using the Internet's diameter. Others simply believe that the Internet will not collapse. Ultimately, simulating the dynamics of an attack, rather than using a mathematical model, would provide more insight into how the Internet would break down.
    http://www.newsfactor.com/news/articles2000/000822-sm1.shtml

  • "UK Delays Work Email Legislation"
    Reuters (08/28/00)

    The U.K. Department of Trade and Industry has pushed back by three weeks the implementation date of new rules that permit employers to monitor their employees' emails. The controversial rules, originally scheduled to take effect Oct. 2, will now become active Oct. 24. The Department of Trade and Industry judged that the delay was necessary to give businesses more time to prepare their arguments against the rules. Businesses may decide to outright prohibit employees from sending personal emails because the new rules are so difficult to abide by, says one top business group.
    http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,38447,00.html

  • "Four Root Servers on Internet Failed for Brief Period"
    Wall Street Journal (08/25/00) P. B8; Bridis, Ted

    Four of 13 root servers, the vital computers that support the Internet, stopped working properly on Wednesday night because of a technical glitch. The servers that went down, labeled "B," "G," "J," and "M," were located in Tokyo, California, and Virginia, and were operated by Network Solutions, the Defense Department, the University of Southern California, and an organization located in Japan. NSI worked on and fixed the problem in a short period of time. The glitch did not affect .net or .org domain names at all, and only affected .com domains that are rarely accessed. "We understand now what happened, and we have a work-around for it, so it won't happen again," said NSI general manager Bruce Chovnick. Mark Rippe, an NSI vice president, expressed serious concern about the incident and placed responsibility squarely on NSI's shoulders. However, the problem was relegated to a glitch instead of an attack, and the difficulties were said to be minor and unseen by end users, according to NSI spokesman Christopher Clough. "The fact that the link was broken for that length of time, generally speaking, doesn't cause an immediate and substantial difficulty," said ICANN President Michael Roberts. Theoretically, the Internet could function on a single root server, but overall Web performance would be retarded if more than four root servers had difficulties at the same time, said Clough.

  • "Profiteers Get Squat for Web Names"
    USA Today (08/25/00) P. 1B; Swartz, Jon

    Cybersquatting is again making a stir in the Internet universe, but this time the cybersquatters are taking a fall as the WIPO has been ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in 80 percent of its cases since December. The rulings have sparked a wave of new cases against cybersquatters, including disputes over the domain names MickJagger.com, BradPitt.com, TinaTurner.net, and Madonna.com. Dan Parisi is the epitome of cybersquatters in the eyes of many companies and celebrities. Parisi acquired more than 500 domain names of large companies around the world combined with "sucks.com" and bought a number of domain names based on celebrities as well. Parisi is also developing a portal called Sucks.com where consumers and employees would be able to complain about companies. The singer Madonna is currently disputing his ownership of the domain name Madonna.com. Lockheed Martin is trying to regain control of Lockheedsucks.com. The WIPO is "transferring wealth and power from the average person to corporate America," says Parisi. Some do not find Parisi to be a problem at all. Sucks.com will be a parody up until computer-related products are sold on the site, says Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy.
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20000825/2584939s.htm

  • "Tech Program Fights for Funds"
    Interactive Week (08/21/00) Vol. 7, No. 33, P. 52; Brown, Doug

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program (ATP) is again trying to fend off the efforts of Republicans in the House of Representatives as they push to eliminate all of the program's $270 million in funding. The ATP serves as a federal technology incubator, nurturing often-risky projects through the research and development phase to become commercial technologies. Republican legislators view the ATP as a waste of tax dollars, arguing that large corporations could do the agency's work instead. Every year Republicans in the House try to do away with the ATP, but the Senate votes in favor of the small agency. This year the ATP is working to galvanize support on Capitol Hill by making legislators aware of the agency's contributions. The ATP targets high-risk projects that take two to four years to complete--projects that impatient venture capitalists would likely abandon. In the past decade the ATP has awarded 468 grants worth about $1.5 billion for projects in fields such as information technology, biotechnology, and manufacturing. These grants, roughly half of which have gone to small companies, have resulted in 100 new commercial technologies. Among ATP's success stories is Vitria Technology, which received a $2 million ATP grant in 1996 and is now a global leader in business-to-business automation.
    http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2618726,00.html

  • "Privacy and Personalization: Can They Meet on the 'Net?"
    Potomac Tech Journal (08/21/00) Vol. 1, No. 30, P. 22; Erman, Greg

    Companies are having a difficult time reconciling the public's desire for both privacy and personalization on the Internet. Recent studies by Odyssey show that 80 percent of Americans want the government to force corporations to protect consumer privacy, while the Personalization Consortium estimates that 85 percent of Web users would provide firms personal data to be better served when shopping online. Experts urge e-commerce firms to use technology that enables them to collect and personalize data in a manner that gives customers a say in the process. Marketing professionals contend that the high-speed Internet exacerbates the lack of coordination among different marketing and selling entities of a company that often market different messages to the same companies, leading to an excess of promotions, confusion, and incompetent lead tracking. Marketing analysts warn that e-commerce companies must work to coordinate and tone down their marketing endeavors if they are to cut down on the current marketing chaos and strike an appropriate balance between privacy and personalization.
    http://www.potomactechjournal.com/displayarticledetail.asp?Art_ID=43371
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "What the Internet Cannot Do"
    Economist (08/19/00) Vol. 356, No. 8184, P. 11

    The Internet is one of the latest technologies to be hailed by many as a cure for conflict, pollution, and inequality. However, it appears that the Internet will not bring about world peace, nor will it raise all to the same level. Many people assume that human conflict is caused by the failure of one group to understand another; however, while the Internet does promote communication, it also has hate sites. The Center for Energy and Climate Solutions says the Internet can reduce energy consumption and pollution through online shopping and the ascent of virtual documents over paper ones. But online shopping saves energy only if it is efficiently coordinated and the shopper does not drive out to stores as well. And more and more PCs and other computer equipment are connecting to the Internet--and are frequently left on all the time, consuming more energy. The cost of going online and the price of PCs are still dropping, but although many poor people can afford computer equipment, they often lack the skills needed to exploit it effectively. However, there are some advantages to technology. The Internet can encourage more democracy in governments, and democratic governments rarely fight one another. The Internet can help users monitor and maintain machinery remotely, which promotes energy efficiency. And computer programmers in poor nations can get telecommuting jobs with tech companies without leaving home--and can be paid appropriately.

  • "Guys Have All the Fun"
    Industry Standard (08/28/00) Vol. 3, No. 33, P. 105; Rich, Laura

    Online entertainment lacks programming that appeals to women, despite the fact that women now account for slightly more than half of the online population, according to a recent survey from Media Metrix and Jupiter Communications. Top entertainment sites such as Entertaindom, Icebox, and Shockwave.com rely on violence and crude humor, often in the form of three-minute cartoons, as evidenced by the microwaved gerbil from Joe Cartoon. This type of programming fails to grab the interest of most women on the Internet, who are between the ages of 25 and 44 and are seeking services, information, and sometimes community offerings, according to the survey. The leading women's sites--iVillage, Oxygen, and Women.com--offer little in the way of original multimedia programming. In an effort to provide online programming for women, a startup called Brash launched this spring with plans to offer three shows that fit into the category of reality programming. The shows include Under the Belly, which would show graphic live births, and Watch a Date, which shows viewers the most awkward moments of actual dates. However, this reality programming might not be the type of content women are looking for online, and Brash has so far been unable to sell its shows. Meanwhile, most online developers plan to continue catering to men, because men represent most of the entertainment audience. The next target for most entertainment sites will be teenage girls, who are comfortable with the Internet and have combined spending power of more than $75 billion.
    http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,17815,00.html

  • "The Military's Lessons for Private Industry"
    Computerworld (08/21/00) Vol. 34, No. 34, P. 39; Anthes, Gary H.

    The U.S. military's knowledge management efforts are far more effective than those of private industry, according to Larry Prusak, executive director of the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, and Paul Strassmann, professor of information warfare at the National Defense University. "The private sector tends to look at knowledge management from an IT perspective," says Lt. Cmdr. Judith Godwin, knowledge manager for the Navy's Pacific Fleet. "But if you look at it from just an IT perspective, it's just information." The Navy and the rest of the Defense Department make a commitment to learning from the highest organizational levels to the lowest, and implement learning processes to support that commitment. In the Navy, Godwin says, people are rewarded for successful team efforts rather than individual ones, encouraging the dissemination of knowledge and expertise. Equally importantly, and in contrast to private companies, military strategy is taught through case studies and stories, which provide a sense of context, rather than schematic diagrams, which impart only information, Strassmann and Prusak say. Specifically, Strassmann says private companies should engage in war games, as the Defense Department routinely does. "This is how you learn," he says. "You have to walk in the shoes of your competitor."
    http://www.computerworld.com/cwi/story/0,1199,NAV47_STO48722,00.html
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "The Top 10 Emerging Technologies"
    Futurist (08/00) Vol. 34, No. 4, P. 1; Halal, William E.

    Portable information devices head George Washington University Forecast's list of the Top 10 breakthroughs for the next 10 years. The virtual think tank that conducts its research electronically envisions a post-PC world by 2003 in which 30 percent of the population of industrialized nations will be using portable devices to make telephone calls, send email, watch videos, transmit documents and data, for conferencing, computation, and other forms of communication. Demand for the devices will soar as global competition makes them affordable and as wireless communication--from new chips and more bandwidth to common digital protocols and features like wireless video streaming--advances rapidly. International Data projects a 60 percent increase in the sales of portable information devices over the next several years. Researchers at GW also approve of the trend toward mass customization that Dell Computer has popularized. Dell makes about $15 million a day from sales over the Internet, where its interactive Web site enables consumers to customize their PC orders. The group does acknowledge that many people will always prefer physical shopping, and that not all products are made for mass customization. Tele-living, or the wiring of intelligent networks into homes, cars, and offices, is viewed as another breakthrough, along with the emergence of virtual assistants, which are smart programs that help people with their emails, faxes, computer files, phone calls, and other messages. Researchers also took a look at advances that are likely to be breakthroughs beyond 2010, such as computing with light. By 2015, more powerful optical computers should be available on the commercial market, giving new life to computer technology.