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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 2, Issue 100: Wednesday, August 30, 2000
- "Intel, IBM, Others to Open Lab for Linux Software Development"
IBM, Intel, and 11 other companies are forming the nonprofit Open Source Development Lab to encourage Linux use by providing a forum for Linux programmers to synchronize their developing projects. Linux is expected to be the fastest-growing operating system in the server market through 2004, although Microsoft's Windows platform is expected to remain the most popular, according to International Data. The Open Source Development Lab will be open by the end of the year, says Intel's Will Swope, who says the center's primary function will be to ensure that popular e-business programs run on the Linux platform. In addition to IBM and Intel, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Caldera Systems, Dell Computer, Linuxcare, LynuxWorks, Red Hat, Silicon Graphics, SuSE, TurboLinux, and VA Linux Systems are supporting the center with funding and equipment. The companies also may open two or three additional centers by June of next year.
- "Trojan Horse App Threatens Palm Platform"
Computer Reseller News Online (08/28/00); Stirpe, Amanda; Savage, Marcia
The Liberty Emulator, a Trojan horse application designed by Swedish gaming developer Aaron Ardiri, could erase data from the Palm operating system. In a posting to palmstation.com, Ardiri said he was developing the Trojan horse application for use in a future program and had not meant it to be malicious. Palm acknowledged the potential harm of the Liberty Emulator but said it had no reports of affected users. Although a Trojan horse is less likely to cause widespread damage to a community of users than a virus because it is not self-replicating and is inert until a user runs it, experts note that the earliest computer viruses were also Trojan horses. Ryan McGee of VirusScan Wireless says, "The Liberty Emulator Trojan really confirms our earlier suspicions that there's a very high likelihood that viruses will be written native to the Palm OS in the near term." Several groups, including Palm and McAfee.com, are working on fixes for the Trojan horse. Meanwhile, Palm suggests that affected users should "hot sync" their handhelds to repair any damage.
- "ICANN Extends Deadline for Self-Nominees"
Newsbytes (08/29/00); McGuire, David
The deadline for member endorsement of at-large candidates for the ICANN board of directors was extended from August 31 to September 8. "We wanted to give everybody maximum opportunity to participate in the process," says ICANN official Andrew McLaughlin. The deadline was also extended to avoid complaints from at-large members that had not yet received the necessary PIN numbers to participate in the voting. Now the PIN number issue has been solved and nearly all ICANN voters will have a chance to endorse at-large candidates, says McLaughlin. The board elections will be held from Oct. 1 through Oct. 10, leaving the candidates only a month to campaign after the ballot is completed. Some candidates appear to have the necessary endorsements from the at-large membership in their respective geographic locations. In North America, 3.5 percent of the active members have thus far endorsed Cisco Systems engineer Karl Auerbach, who would be placed on the ballot if the deadline were today. Barbara Simons and Emerson Tiller are two other candidates from North America that have a strong chance of being included on the final ballot. The one variable is a requirement that 2 percent of the active at-large members endorse the candidate. There are 21,596 potential voters in North America but only 8,406 have activated their accounts. South America, Europe, and Asia also have successful candidates that have obtained the proper number of endorsements. Information on candidates and the voting process in general can be found at members.icann.org.
For more information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Report: UK Set for Cybercrime Surge"
E-Commerce Times (08/28/00); Enos, Lori
Cybercrimes such as fraud, hacking, and viruses will proliferate over the next 20 years, according to a recent survey from the Association of British Insurers. "Future Crime Trends in the United Kingdom" predicts that some e-criminals will employ specially customized software to commit their crimes, while others will hire mercenary hackers to do it for them. The report also expects criminals to go beyond simply pilfering credit card information to actually taking part in bogus transactions and establishing sites that sell fake goods and services. The survey maintains that real-world crime will not decrease as a result of the increased cybercrime. New copying technologies will lead to an explosion in piracy and the counterfeiting of items such as phone cards. Copyright infringement cases resulting from the illegal use of music, films, and games will also dramatically increase. The report warns authorities that they need to develop sophisticated, high-tech methods to thwart future cybercriminals, and applauds the efforts of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for its crackdown on consumer fraud on the Internet. However, the report says law enforcement faces difficult challenges, as it must play by established rules and respect various privacy rights, while cybercriminals are limited only by their imaginations.
- "An Indian State Logs On to the Net"
International Herald Tribune (08/30/00) P. 5; Fuller, Thomas
N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, a rural Indian state of 80 million people, has made a name for both himself and his region with his ambitious attempts to make the area a high-tech hub. High-tech giants Microsoft and Oracle have invested in the area, and President Clinton has said Naidu is "very much admired." Naidu believes he can transform Andhra Pradesh using the same economic model as Singapore and Malaysia, which concentrated on foreign investment and better infrastructure. Naidu does not need to look past his own backyard for workers as over 400 colleges in the state offer degrees in computer science. Naidu's dedication is already showing results. Last year the state had $220 million in software exports. Naidu is also using technology to improve his government's services, reducing the bureaucracy and reigning in remote officials who once enjoyed unchecked power. He is also automating payment services for the 3 million residents of Hyderabad, the state's capital. However, several recent events cast some doubt on Naidu's chances for long-term success. A series of floods worsened the state's already weak infrastructure, while an increase in the cost of electricity prompted protests in which police killed at least two people. Moreover, critics question whether Naidu can succeed in the same fashion as his East Asian models, which were able to curtail the rights of their citizens in the name of economic progress. India's democracy does not give Naidu that power. Furthermore, critics believe Naidu may be stressing the importance of technology at the expense of his state's serious poverty issues.
- "Intel Recalls Its Fastest Chip"
SiliconValley.com (08/28/00); Poletti, Therese
A circuit failure in the 1.13 GHz Pentium III processor has prompted Intel to recall the chip only a month after its introduction. The recall will prevent Dell and IBM from shipping computers featuring the new chip until Intel can redesign and test the new chip--a process that could take several months. However, an Intel spokesperson said the recall would not have a significant financial impact because the company has shipped only a small number of chips. Although the announcement did not impact Intel's standing on Wall Street, industry analysts expressed dismay at yet another production problem for the world's largest maker of semiconductors. Already this year Intel has ordered a $200 million recall of its 820 chip while delaying the appearance of its new Celeron and Itanium processors. This latest recall is especially frustrating for the company because Advanced Micro Devices, its chief competitor, recently introduced its new 1.1 GHz Athlon chip.
- "Chief of MP3.com Testifies in Music Copyright Hearing"
New York Times (08/29/00) P. C6; Richtel, Matt
MP3.com CEO Michael Robertson yesterday testified he did not knowingly violate copyrights belonging to Universal Music Group. The testimony came before Federal District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who ruled in April that MP3.com had violated the copyrights of five major record companies. At dispute was My.MP3.com, a service that built an online database from users' CD collections. The My.MP3.com database contained 65,000 albums, 10,000 of which were from Universal artists. After Judge Rakoff's initial ruling, four of the five companies--Time Warner, EMI, Sony, and Bertelsmann--settled their damage claims against MP3.com out of court. Each company may have received as much as $20 million, say industry analysts. Universal would not settle, analysts believe, because it plans to start a service to rival MP3.com and did not want to license its content to the site, as the four other companies have done, or because it wants more money than the other companies received. Judge Rakoff will award damages to Universal based on his determination of whether MP3.com's violations were "willful." If he rules the violations were willful, MP3.com may have to pay up to $150,000 for each violation.
- "Tech Groups Flame Judge's Napster Ruling"
TechWeb (08/28/00); Mosquera, Mary
A number of high-tech trade groups have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs to the appeals court hearing the Napster case, arguing that the lower court's ruling against the music-sharing company interprets copyright law in a way that threatens service providers as well as technological innovation. The groups protesting U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's July ruling include the Consumer Electronics Association, the Digital Media Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, and NetCoalition. Although the briefs do not express support for Napster, they contend that Judge Patel's order to shut down Napster does not follow the precedent established by the Supreme Court in the 1984 Sony Betamax lawsuit involving VCRs and copyright. Judge Patel differed from the Sony ruling by ignoring the legitimate commercial potential of Napster and focusing only on its illicit uses, the groups say. In addition, Judge Patel's ruling requires Napster to continue policing its technology--a precedent that would impose excessive burdens and liability on media management software developers, according to the Digital Media Association. Meanwhile, the Computer & Communications Association says Judge Patel's ruling holds a service provider liable based on the provider having a "reason to know" of copyright infringement by users, rather than the accepted standard of "actual knowledge." Judge Patel's interpretation of copyright law goes against the language in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, as well as the intent of Congress in writing the act, says Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals could rule on the case as soon as October.
- "Silicon Valley Belatedly Boots Up Programs to Ease Employees' Lives"
Wall Street Journal (08/29/00) P. B1; Tam, Pui-Wing
High rents and an overcrowded infrastructure are keeping many workers away from Silicon Valley, according to San Jose research group Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network. The group estimates 160,000 jobs in Silicon Valley remain empty each year because of the Bay Area crush. For area tech companies the annual cost of these unfilled positions is almost $4 billion. In response, several firms now offer perks designed to ease, or eliminate altogether, their employees' commutes. Intel has opened a 103-workstation satellite office in downtown San Francisco and plans to open three additional offices in the suburbs. Cisco recently opened a new child-care center and offers free passes for the bus and light-rail systems in Silicon Valley. Adobe Systems is expanding its telecommuting programs, while 3Com provides an extensive concierge service, including laundry pickup and even help with drivers' license renewals and other personal tasks. Firms hope these initiatives will attract new workers despite Silicon Valley's problems while retaining current employees. Firms located outside the area report an increased number of resumes from employees living in Silicon Valley.
- "Discarded Computers Loom as Environmental Problem"
USA Today (08/29/00) P. 6B; Yaukey, John
Obsolete computers are posing an environmental threat as consumers dispose of the technology at an ever faster rate due to rapid advances that continue to reduce prices and increase power. Computers contain toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and chromium that seep into the groundwater when computers are thrown into landfills. Only 11 percent of the 20 million computers that outlived their usefulness last year were recycled. In five years, 350 million computers will have become obsolete and about 55 million are likely to reach landfills, says the National Safety Council. Consumers represent the largest problem in terms of computer disposal, because companies often donate old computers and are prohibited by law from disposing of old systems with the regular trash. Consumers are often reluctant to part with their computers and store old systems for a year or more before donating them, making the computers more outdated and therefore less useful to the new owners, experts say, noting that consumers should instead donate the computers immediately after replacing them. In addition, while 97 percent of computer parts can be recycled for use in other computers or as scrap metal, qualified recyclers deal primarily with companies and are not widely known among consumers. Although federal laws covering computer disposal do not yet exist, some states are working to outlaw disposal of computers in landfills or to encourage consumers to recycle and donate old systems. The high-tech industry is also taking some responsibility, with companies such as IBM working to design computers that can be recycled more easily.
- "NSI Opens Multilingual Domain Name Testbed"
InternetNews.com (08/28/00); Olavsrud, Thor
Late last week, Network Solutions Registry (NSI Registry) launched an effort to put an end to language constraints on Internet domain names by way of a new testbed. The testbed allows for the examination of technologies that can convert a foreign language domain name into a form that the Domain Name System (DNS) can process and store. NSI Registry initially will set up a preliminary test environment where ICANN-accredited registrars can examine the Registry Registrar Protocol command functionality before actually starting the tests. For every language a registrar seeks to register domain names, the registrar must first finish a multilingual certification evaluation for that language's encoding. NSI Registry intends for the certification process to begin in October of 2000. NSI also intends to be able to manage the process of connecting multilingual domain names to IP addresses, called DNS resolution, which will require improvements to the Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) software. Already Nominum, the company that handles BIND's reference implementation, has received funding from NSI Registry toward the development of a multilingual domain name form of the software. The testbed is intended to complement the work of the Internationalized Domain Name Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The testbed might need to be altered to meet the IETF's new standard multilingual domain name protocol, which has yet to be established, says NSI Registry. ICANN sees the importance of making the Internet accessible to non-English speaking users, yet also says that "the internationalization of the Internet's domain name system must be accomplished through standards that are open, non-proprietary, and fully compatible with the Internet's existing end-to-end model and that preserve globally unique naming in a universally resolvable public name space."
- "Hot Button: The H-1B Time Bomb"
SiliconValley.com (08/27/00); Albertson, Mark
Congress must raise the H-1B visa cap and alleviate the backlog of approved visas immediately upon returning from its August recess, or the high-tech labor shortage will begin to threaten the ability of U.S. companies to compete globally, writes Mark Albertson, senior vice president of the American Electronics Association. This year's H-1B visa cap was reached in March, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimates the backlog of approved H-1B visas at 30,000. This means that when fiscal year 2001 begins this October, the 107,500 approved visas will disappear quickly, and the limit could be reached as soon as December 2000. Companies would then be forced to wait until October of 2001 for more visas, at which point the visa backlog will likely exceed the 65,000 visas approved for fiscal 2002. With other countries rapidly advancing, failing to raise the visa cap jeopardizes the nation's edge in the high-tech industry. U.S. companies are sometimes unable to fill positions for weeks, extending the time to market for innovative products. Remaining a high-tech leader requires the U.S. to be the first to market new technologies, and the labor shortage is undermining the nation's ability to do so. The American Electronics Association supports legislation sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Rep. David Dreier (R-Covina) that would raise the visa cap to 200,000 for fiscal years 2001, 2002, and 2003.
- "Shades of Gray: Privacy and Online Marketing"
E-Commerce Times (08/28/00); Barshack, Randi
The contentious issue of Internet privacy is one that online businesses need to address, though that does not necessarily mean they must take a stand on either side of the fence, but rather stake their claim in the gray areas, argues guest columnist Randi Barshack, vice president at TeaLeaf Technology. Several issues pertaining to online privacy stand out. Foremost among these is that customers' privacy "comfort level" will differ depending upon who they are and what kind of relationship they have with retailers. For instance, B2B customers generally do not require the same privacy levels as B2C customers. Maintaining a policy of openness and honesty will always score points with the customer; doing otherwise will break the valuable bond of consumer trust. Therefore privacy policies should be noticeable and spelled out clearly. Companies can build upon consumer trust by showing customers that the use of their data can be to their benefit, that they have something to gain by parting with their personal data. Once this understanding has been established, customers become more willing to share their data. Companies must learn where to draw the line when tracking Web site visitors. Collecting data that helps enhance consumers' experience is fine, but monitoring their activities in chat rooms and elsewhere is likely to cause trouble. Online businesses themselves have reason to be concerned about privacy, considering that customers can sometimes access their ERP systems. Thus, establishing trust is a two-way street that can benefit retailers and customers alike.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Washington Watch: The Push for Talent"
CIO (08/15/00) Vol. 13, No. 21, P. 42; Varon, Elana
Congress is debating whether to increase the number of temporary foreign workers a company can hire, based on the demands of electronics vendors in desperate need of programming talent. But temporary visas called H-1Bs are not the answer, according to opponents. "[Workers searching for permanent residency] just accept H-1Bs because they can get them faster," says Immigration Reform Coalition organizer Paul Donnelly. The coalition says the H-1B demand is not related to a shortage of talent, but is simply more desirable because the visas can be secured more quickly than green cards. Donnelly's solution is to make it easier to get green cards. Ernst & Young partner Desmond Wong, who helped American companies set up subsidiaries in China, agrees. "If we don't get these people, other countries will," Wong says.
- "G8 Sees Power of IT in Bridging Gap With Poor"
Computerworld (08/21/00) Vol. 34, No. 34, P. 28; Tapscott, Don
The G8 leaders attending the recent summit in Japan left the gathering with the feeling that information and communications technology could help stem the tide of poverty around the world, although anti-poverty organizations scoffed at the idea of sending computers to poor countries, according to Don Tapscott, chairman of Digital 4Sight and co-author of the newly released Digital Capital. Although an anti-poverty group leader maintained that poor people "can't eat laptops," the G8 leaders learned that they must go beyond the simple stopgap efforts and use the technology to help build the basic infrastructure of poorer countries. Information and communication technology could impact everything from schools and hospitals to roads and farms. "The upshot is remote health care workers being able to tap into big-city medical expertise, or kids learning the three Rs through distance learning programs," writes Tapscott. "And when these communities build goods to sell, the Net can open new markets." Tapscott cites the American Assistance for Cambodia project, which is bringing distance learning to remote villages, as the kind of effort that will benefit poor countries. Furthermore, the cost is about a fraction of similar work in North America. IT experts must remember that the technology can be a means to the end, Tapscott concludes.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "PC Sales Drift to Doldrums"
eWeek (08/21/00) Vol. 17, No. 34, P. 43; Popovich, Ken
Computer companies are increasingly seeking non-PC-related income as profit margins and PC sales growth decline while businesses wait longer to upgrade their systems. Most information technology market observers foresee a slump for PC sales, but they do not know how soon it will occur or how sharp it will be. For example, International Data analyst Roger Kay expects that within five years PC sales growth will decline to zero. Meanwhile, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst Ashok Kumar expects a more rapid decline, and adds that businesses are likely to begin upgrading their systems every four years rather than every three years very shortly. Dell Computer is coping with the uncertain future of the computer industry by focusing on notebook PC sales, which now account for 30 percent of its revenue. The company's notebook sales are growing twice as fast as its desktop business, Dell's Kevin Rollins said when he announced its second quarter performance earlier in the month. Gateway has a "beyond the box" strategy to diversify its income. Within the past year Gateway's non-PC income has grown from little more than 10 percent of its total income to 40 percent, and its goal is 45 percent by the end of 2000. Compaq Computer is relying on its server business, while Hewlett-Packard and IBM have e-commerce plans. Still, Dell maintains that its core business remains the traditional PC, and notes that many of its competitors have abandoned the desktop business.
- "Experts on The Fly"
Industry Standard (08/28/00) Vol. 3, No. 33, P. 188; Lindhe, Laura
Faced with extremely fast development timetables and an inadequate supply of IT talent, many companies are turning to online technology exchanges to find answers to their technology questions or even other companies to perform non-core projects for them. Such exchanges will broker as much as $50 billion worth of programming work by 2005, according to research firm Datamonitor. When Syndeo needed to develop applications for Palm handheld computers, it turned to HelloBrain.com, which saved the IT staff four months of non-core programming, according to CEO Ted Griggs. "We didn't need to become experts in Palm OS programming," he explains. "We wanted to work with someone who had experience." In addition to matching technical expertise with projects, technology exchanges also handle billing and monitoring chores associated with traditional consulting work, freeing both buyer and seller to concentrate on their core competencies. Before using such an exchange for a major project, experts advise that companies thoroughly check references and contract for a smaller job first. Online technology exchanges include Experts Exchange, Question Exchange, Open IT Toolbox, ITsquare, HotDispatch, HelloBrain, CodeMarket, and SourceXchange.
- "The Architecture of Cyberspace Shapes Our World"
GEOWorld (08/00) Vol. 13, No. 8, P. 26; Thoen, Bill
The growth of e-commerce and the increased complexity of the systems that support the Internet and its subsidiary networks threaten to overwhelm the spirit of community that motivated the Net's founders and first users. Although the tremendous freedom the Internet accords is an undeniable advantage, it has led to a depersonalized atmosphere where, in the words of John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "culture [is defined] strictly in terms of economy." Peter Katz, a proponent of anti-sprawl New Urbanist architecture, warns, "A network is not a community." Landscape architects like Katz share the same concern as Internet developers and users. They understand how a poorly planned neighborhood can easily destroy a sense of community. For example, try visiting a neighbor when a eight-lane road runs between your houses. That is what threatens the architecture of tomorrow's Internet, with the eight-lane highway of business and government running between chat rooms and newsgroups.