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


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Volume 2, Issue 104:  Monday, September 11, 2000

  • "Hewlett-Packard May Seek Deal for Consultants"
    New York Times (09/11/00) P. C1; Sorkin, Andrew Ross

    Hewlett-Packard is in the midst of talks to acquire PricewaterhouseCoopers' consulting unit for a possible $20 billion, according to executives close to negotiations, but negotiations are currently in a very delicate stage. Executives said that PwC had previously held preliminary talks with General Electric, Siemens, Microsoft, and IBM. If the deal with Hewlett-Packard goes through, it would transform the company into a full-service computer hardware manufacturer and consulting services company, mirroring the business model of IBM. Meanwhile, the deal would sever ties between PwC's consulting arm and its accounting business, as the SEC continues to focus its attention on conflict of interest issues in such situations. The deal would be in line with several similar separations of consulting and auditing units, such as Andersen Consulting separating from Arthur Andersen, and Ernst & Young selling its consulting business to Cap Gemini. Consulting is more lucrative a business than both selling computer hardware and accounting.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/11/business/12CND-HWP.html

  • "New Web Software Start-Up Draws Microsoft Workers-and Its Ire"
    Wall Street Journal (09/11/00) P. B1; Buckman, Rebecca

    Several former Microsoft employees have founded Crossgain, a company that intends to offer XML-based Internet solutions for software developers. Crossgain's applications will allow developers to focus on their own applications rather than their applications' scalability and security, explains CEO Tod Nielsen. XML, a programming language that allows different programs to communicate with one another over the Internet, is the key to the company's strategy. Although Crossgain will probably compete with Microsoft in the XML-based application market, analysts note that Crossgain is aiming its applications at users of several different platforms, including Unix and Linux, while Microsoft is targeting its XML-based .NET platform primarily at Windows users. However, Crossgain has taken so many employees from Microsoft that current Microsoft workers must receive special permission before they can talk to the startup. The startup has already received funding from Benchmark Capital and from the Barksdale Group, headed by former Netscape CEO and outspoken Microsoft opponent James Barksdale.

  • "Ruling on Temps Reflects a Changing Workplace"
    Washington Post (09/10/00) P. M1; Johnson, Carrie

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) cited the growth of temporary workers in the technology field as one of the main reasons for its August ruling that temps should receive the same benefits as full-time union workers. Temporary employment increased 577 percent between 1982 and 1998, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tech companies have come to rely on temp workers to meet deadlines for Web sites or new software programs, although many tech "temporary" jobs can last for several years. However, many in the tech field argue that the NLRB's decision does not consider how their industry differs from others that employ temps frequently. Many tech "temps" are really free agents capable of negotiating their own deals, argues John Chuang, CEO of Web staffing firm Aquent Partners. Also, many staffing firms such as Aquent already provide benefits, including 401(k) and medical plans. "This is an old economy dispute that is spilling into the new economy," says Chuang. "A lot of temps don't even work in a union environment. It doesn't make sense."

  • "When the Judge Can't Really Judge"
    New York Times (09/11/00) P. C4; Brick, Michael

    Maryland legislators are investigating whether to establish a court for technology-related cases. Several state officials, including the former president of the state bar, have expressed concern that many judges may not be able to handle the issues on which high-tech cases often turn. The comments of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who ruled in the government's antitrust case against Microsoft, demonstrate their point, the Maryland officials argue. Judge Jackson, when he ordered the software company split in two, said he was following what the Justice Department and state attorneys general had recommended because there was no way he could do a better job than they had already done. Although several states have courts specially designated for business cases, Maryland's would be the nation's first tech-specific court. Critics question whether technology cases merit a specialized court and argue that such courts could draw the "best" judges away from other important, but perhaps less complex cases. Also, critics note that many technology cases, such as recent disputes involving Napster and MP3.com, involve copyright and patent issues, which are the purview of the federal court system.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/11/business/11JUDG.html

  • "Important Questions Facing All of America This Election Year"
    SiliconValley.com (09/09/00); Gillmor, Dan

    Candidates in this year's elections have spoken much about technology but have said little about the industry's most important issues. For example, candidates have ignored the high-profile cases involving intellectual property concerns, but the recording industry's copyright disputes with Napster and MP3.com could impact every user of the Internet, both individual and corporate. Candidates instead seem to be catering only to corporate interests such as the number of visas given to foreign high-tech workers. Other important issues candidates have ignored include the increasing amount of power held by corporations in the borderless Internet. These corporations are holding sway over legislatures, avoiding taxes, and making large gains on brick-and-mortar merchants--often at the expense of local economies. Also, the growth of the tech industry may eventually hurt non-tech workers, especially when America's booming economy eventually begins to slow down. However, the government continues to give subsidies and special deals to tech corporations, raising questions as to whether vital new technologies such as broadband will be distributed fairly in the future. Candidates who do not address these issues are ignoring the ways in which technology will affect and possibly harm the country long after voters have forgotten this year's elections.
    http://www.mercurycenter.com/premium/business/docs/gillmor10.htm

  • "Costa Rica's Educated Workers Lure High-Tech Companies"
    Associated Press (09/10/00); Carl, Traci

    Costa Rica is attracting a growing number of high-tech companies with its educated workforce and the low cost of operating in the country. Intel, for example, opened a plant in San Jose in 1998, which offers workers generous salaries and stock options and uses standards of efficiency and safety. The plant now generates a third of the Intel chips used in computers worldwide. Costa Rica attracted Intel by offering worker training in area schools, limited government interference, and 400,000 square feet in a tax-free zone. However, loose regulations have also made Costa Rica the world's top location for Internet gambling companies.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Several Candidates Poised to Reach ICANN Ballot"
    ICB Toll Free News (09/06/00)

    North Americans Karl Auerbach, Emerson Tiller, and Barbara Simons are all close to making the final ballot for the upcoming vote to determine ICANN's next board of directors. Auerbach, an engineer at Cisco Systems, leads the way with more than 4 percent of the 10,346 currently activated voting at-large ICANN members. With 432 endorsements, Auerbach would still make the ballot even if the remaining 11,250 at-large members in North America activated their accounts before the Sept. 8 deadline. Former ACM president Barbara Simons, with 343 endorsements, and Tiller, with 319 endorsements, will probably make the ballot, but support from 2 percent of the active at-large members residing in North America is necessary to make the grade. European at-large candidate Andy Mueller-Maguhn is the leading candidate overall with 2,405 endorsements, which is more than 10 percent of the voting base in Europe. There was more publicity for the nomination process in Europe than in the United States. Asian and Latin American candidates also have obtained solid support. The candidates currently competing to get on ICANN's ballot will only have a month to campaign once the final ballot is established. The at-large candidates will compete with 18 candidates that were already chosen internally by ICANN.
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "E-Gov Can't Stop Now"
    Civic.com (09/01/00); Sarkar, Dibya

    A new study from Forrester Research indicates that by 2006 federal, state, and local governments will collect 15 percent of fees and taxes online, and governments will receive 333 million online submissions--137 million to state governments. Authorities will deploy nearly 14,000 e-government applications as well. Business and public demands will require governments to put more services on the Internet, the study shows, but it also warns that many agencies will face challenges such as a lack of technological skills, bureaucratic inaction, the need to retrain workers, lack of funding, security and privacy concerns, and intra-agency quarreling. However, the author of the report, Jeremy Sharrard, says users want the convenience and speed of online interaction with government. The report projects three stages of online government: first, two years of offering low-risk, constituent-focused services; then more sophisticated, customer-centered services that will require the integration of several departments; and finally, after 2005, a reorganization of all government levels to make things more efficient and to enable more advanced services. Sharrard says the federal government will have to supply funds to state and local governments for their efforts, or see a digital divide between small cities and large ones.
    http://www.fcw.com/civic/articles/2000/0828/web-egov-09-01-00.asp

  • "Little Expected From Politicians on Privacy Law"
    CNet (09/06/00); Ross, Patrick

    Congress has introduced dozens of Internet privacy bills this session, but most remain untouched due to lawmakers' uncertainty on which direction to proceed on the issue of online privacy. Many analysts are predicting that the next Congress will move with much more speed on Internet privacy. Congress held hearings this week on Internet privacy and many lawmakers expressed their wariness over federal law enforcement agencies' online monitoring tactics, including the FBI's Carnivore system. "The FBI is pushing the envelope," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Conservative and liberal lawmakers alike are concerned about the online policing policies of law enforcement agencies, said Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.). Reps. Robert Barr (R-Ga.) and Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) voiced similar refrains. Meanwhile, Kevin DiGregrory, Justice Department deputy assistant attorney general, said that the important issues of online child pornography, fraud, death threats, and extortion are suffering because of the distracting controversy that has enveloped Carnivore.
    http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-2713029.html
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "$20-Billion Expected in On-Line Shopping"
    Toronto Globe and Mail (09/06/00) P. B3; Southworth, Natalie

    A Gartner Group study predicts that fourth-quarter worldwide e-commerce totals will reach nearly $20 billion this year, the highest such number yet, and nearly twice as high as last year's fourth-quarter figure of $10.5 billion. North Americans would account for $10.7 billion of total worldwide e-commerce sales, representing roughly a 55 percent share of the total market, according to the study. Last year North America accounted for about 60 percent of global e-commerce sales; the drop-off is due to growth in other world markets. For instance, European e-commerce totals are expected to account for 27.5 percent of the world total, up 1.5 percent from last year, while Japan is expected to account for 6.7 percent of world e-commerce totals, up from 4.4 percent. U.K. online shoppers generally lead all other Europeans in e-commerce spending during the holiday shopping season, which falls during the fourth quarter, says Gartner Group analyst Astrid Van Dorst.

  • "Maryland's UCITA May Have National Reach"
    Computerworld (09/04/00) Vol. 34, No. 36, P. 12; Thibodeau, Patrick

    After Maryland implements the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) on Oct. 1, vendors in other states might be able use the law as well by applying Maryland law to their contracts, legal experts say. This means that information managers at all end-user companies will need to review click-wrap and shrink-wrap agreements carefully before accepting the contracts. Still, licensers might not rush to cite Maryland law in their contracts, because UCITA is still new and highly controversial. UCITA proponents say the law will apply a uniform set of rules to licensing contracts, but critics say the law provides vendors with too much power at the expense of software users. For example, UCITA would allow vendors to remotely shut off a user's software if the vendor believes the contract has been breached. Virginia is the only other state besides Maryland that has adopted UCITA, but the law will not go into effect in Virginia until July 2001. Meanwhile, Iowa, which has passed a law to protect its companies and residents from UCITA, might be the only state not affected by Maryland's implementation of the bill.
    http://www.computerworld.com/cwi/story/0,1199,NAV47-68-84-91_STO49486,00.html
    For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.

  • "Napster Effect May Extend Beyond Music"
    Interactive Week (09/04/00) Vol. 7, No. 35, P. 18; Robinson, Sara

    Industry groups have submitted two friend-of-the-court briefs in the lawsuit against Napster. The online file-swapping company is accused of violating copyright by allowing people to download music files for free. The industry groups contend that federal Judge Marilyn Patel misinterpreted copyright laws and legal precedents in ways that could harm the technology industry. The Consumer Electronics Association, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), and others say Patel misinterpreted the case of Sony of America vs. Universal City Studios, in which the Supreme Court found that a manufacturer is not liable for selling a device that can be used for copyright infringement but that also has other non-infringing uses. Patel ruled that the above case did not apply to Napster because Napster has a primary role in facilitating infringements and because most of the files traded on Napster are copyrighted. The brief contends that Patel based her determination only on the current use of Napster, while the Sony decision made it clear that future potential uses should be considered. CCIA vice president Jason M. Mahler says the groups fear that Patel's interpretation could harm the development of new technologies. Another brief, filed by the CCIA, the U.S. Internet Industry Association, and the U.S. Telecom Association, argues that Patel misinterpreted part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They say Congress gave the copyright owner the primary responsibility for identifying specific infringing works--not the service provider. Patel ruled that Napster had "reason to know" that infringement was taking place and so had the duty to stop it. The case is being appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
    http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2624905,00.html
    For information regarding ACM's work in the area of copyright, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.

  • "Privacy's Price"
    National Journal (09/02/00) Vol. 32, No. 36, P. 2708; Munro, Neil

    Privacy is an issue that continues to divide the online industry as much as it does the public and lawmakers. Although some companies that conduct business online are ready to do whatever's possible to regain the public's trust, others maintain that any unnecessary privacy regulations will only hinder the development of the new economy. Many companies favor some sort of an agreement between buyers and sellers that would state how businesses would use the personal information of consumers during ordinary commercial Internet transactions involving cars, stereos, software, and the like, but not for health care or financial services. Consumers would also be able to make sure that the data that companies possess is correct. Such companies say they do not mind turning down business from consumers who continue to have a problem with personal data collection. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a bill in July that resembles the plan of the online industry. Furthermore, the legislation would preempt any patchwork of laws that states may enact. High-tech companies would like to have such a privacy law in place by next year. David Sobel, a lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, adds that the high-tech industry should not collect personal information unless consumers give companies explicit permission to do so. Some observers believe technology such as data encryption, anonymous financial transactions, and untraceable email will offer a solution. Still, critics contend that citizens and courts will sometimes need access to information that companies gather for criminal and civil lawsuits.

    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "U.K. E-Mail Law Reaches U.S."
    InfoWorld (09/04/00) Vol. 22, No. 36, P. 28; Rohde, Laura

    Many U.S. companies are unfamiliar with a surveillance law in the United Kingdom that could have a huge impact on the way they do business there. Companies such as Wal-Mart, Citigroup, and Boeing are now asking for more information on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, which takes effect Oct. 5. Novell's Dennis Raney says his company will deal with the letter of the law in the United Kingdom and that it has no intention of leaving the U.K. market because of its customer base. Meanwhile, Forrester Research analyst Claire Powell says the new law will not be any more cumbersome for companies than current laws for telephone tapping. However, some observers are expressing serious concern about RIP, which requires ISPs in the United Kingdom to track all data their computers receive and route it to the Government Technical Assistance Center. International Data analyst Marianne Kolding is concerned about the law because it gives authorities a free reign in surveillance. Esther Dyson, interim head of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Consumers International, and Amnesty International were involved in an open letter that called for changes to the RIP bill or scrapping it altogether. And although supporters of the law say it allows law enforcement and security agencies to do their jobs as the times change, Tony Benn, member of British Parliament in the Commons and former minister of technology, says the bill is "something Joe Stalin would have been proud to have if the technology was available at the time."
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/00/09/04/000904hnrip.xml

  • "A Woman's Place"
    CIO (09/01/00) Vol. 13, No. 22, P. 84; Bentsen, C.

    Recognizing the need to address women's advancement, IBM set up in 1995 the IBM Executive Women's Diversity Task Force, a unit which started by asking female employees for their opinions on gender-based barriers within IBM. Now, women account for over one third of IBM employees and one-quarter of its managers in the U.S, and since late 1995, the number of female worldwide IBM executives has grown from 11.5 percent to 18 percent. The Task Force paved the way for focus groups such as Women of Color, Women Executives, and Women in Technology. As directed by IT veteran Linda Scherr, Women and Technology's three goals are in-house support, recruitment, and technical enrichment programs for girls, including last summer's five onsite technical camps for middle school-age girls. "The idea is to let the girls actually do engineering, see what engineers do, and see the difference that engineering makes in society," says Scherr.
    http://www.cio.com/archive/090100_women_sidebar1.html
    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "Smart Phones Will Outnumber PC Browsers Next Year"
    Government Computer News (09/04/00) Vol. 19, No. 26, P. 41; Menke, Susan M.

    Microbrowsers for wireless phones and handheld computers will outnumber standard online PC browsers by the end of 2001, said Microsoft's David Marutiak at the e-Gov conference in July. Marutiak outlined several ways for Web sites to meet the mobile demand, such as maintaining multiple copies of their content for heavy, medium, and light browsers; or tagging the content with XML to keep the content separate from the divergent display formats. The Microsoft Internet Explorer browser can take HTML and XML data, while Mobile Explorer and Pocket Explorer additionally take wireless markup language (WML) data, Marutiak said. WML can support tag-based browsing in ASCII format, said Marutiak. On current devices, WML is limited to about four lines of display. Workstyle Server 3.0 software that can format specific Web content for access by both wireline and wireless devices was announced by Microsoft subsidiaries Wireless Knowledge and Qualcomm. Third-generation, or 3G, wireless networks and 2.5G intermediates will boost current transfer rates tenfold or more, Marutiak said. Bluetooth personal area networks will use short-range radio signals to connect devices dynamically and automatically, predicted Marutiak. Other future improvements expected by Marutiak include larger color displays through better liquid crystal displays, longer operating time via better batteries, ear bugs worn by users, and phone-computer devices carried in pockets.
    http://www.gcn.com/vol19_no26/com/2802-1.html

  • "A Robot Menagerie, from Ants to Androids"
    U.S. News & World Report (09/11/00) Vol. 129, No. 10, P. 86; Petit, Charles W.

    A virtual zoo of robotic devices from all over the world demonstrates the variety of potential uses for these machines. Engineer Mark Tilden of the Los Alamos National Laboratory has created insect-like robots that can walk over and around objects. Last week Swiss researchers revealed machines with nervous systems modeled after ants that display spontaneous social behavior. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the development of minuscule spy robots that can swarm, while NASA is developing prototype robots that can construct exploration bases with no human assistance. MIT is working on swimming robots to be artificial submarines, while its Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is building Cog, a robot that can recognize and grasp objects, and Kismet, a machine that can communicate through facial expressions. Japanese scientists are researching bipedal robots that can walk. There are already robots operating in the real world. In addition to automated machines used for assembly line production, robots are being used as museum guides at the Smithsonian Institution and the Deutsches Museum in Bonn, Germany. Toy companies have started to sell simple robots as electronic pets, and geologists are using the spidery robot Dante to take samples in volcanic environments.

  • "People Have to Come First"
    InformationWeek (09/04/00) No. 802, P. 114; Weiler, Robert K.

    Even the most brilliantly conceived e-business strategy is useless without a talented staff to implement it, writes Giga Information Group CEO Robert K. Weiler. It is not surprising then to learn, as Weiler and Giga did at a recent conference for CIOs, that the issue of people--specifically, the recruiting and retaining of quality IT talent--is the highest priority of e-business leaders. Some steps businesses can take to improve their talent pool include, according to Giga vice president of human resources Sandra Casey Buford, identifying the business' goals and communicating them effectively to employees; evaluating resident skills and identifying skills that need to be acquired; creating a training program to develop needed skills in-house; and implementing a recruiting program that differentiates the business from the competition. Also key are to encourage all employees to participate in recruiting efforts, to be aggressive in retention efforts, and to ensure that every effort made is to improve the quality of work.
    http://informationweek.com/802/02uwrw.htm

  • "ICANN...But Can It?"
    Washington Technology (08/28/00) Vol. 15, No. 11, P. 20; Gildea, Kerry

    Concerns regarding future domain name policies and the fairness of ICANN's upcoming elections have thrown a light on the organization and drawn criticism from a number of different sectors. Members of Congress and the high-tech industry alike are worried that regulations could have a negative effect on e-commerce. A few high-tech industry members are particularly concerned with the ICANN election process. New nominees should be chosen because the current nominees do not properly reflect Internet users as a whole, and only seven of the 18 possible nominees are really appropriate, according to the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and its chairman, Hans Klein. Several professional organizations have similarly noted that the ICANN board nominees favor big business rather than the online community as a whole. Others, such as the People for Internet Responsibility (PFIR), want ICANN to state vague policies and regulations more clearly. PFIR went so far as to suggest ICANN be replaced with a more formally structured and internationally based nonprofit made up of delegations that cover a wide range of interests and concerns. "Railing away at ICANN because it doesn't meet some ideal model of democracy is likely to be about as effective as complaining that the U.S. Congress is too dominated by the money of those who finance political campaigns," says ICANN President Mike Roberts. Economic power can and will be influential in promoting democratic uses of the Web, says Roberts. ICANN's ability to maintain a solid international consensus despite a range of both economic and non-economic interests when developing policy is proof that its setup works. A few individuals from the high-tech industry support ICANN and are thankful for a chance to be on the organization's board.
    http://www.wtonline.com/vol15_no11/federal/1728-1.html
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "ACM Conference to Address Universal Usability"

    The digital divide---the chasm that keeps technology from reaching the widest possible range of users for reasons of access, economics, disabilities, or technical obstacles---has been a sensitive issue in science, in industry, in education, and surely over the past year, on Capitol Hill. In an effort to close that divide, a group of technologists, policy makers, advocates, users, and researchers are planning to join forces---and ideas---at a conference designed to address the topic of universal usability. "Too often, system complexity, incompatible file formats, confusing interfaces, high cost, and inadequate attention to the needs of diverse users lead to frustration and failure," explains Donald Day, publicity coordinator for the ACM Conference of Universal Usability 2000. "It's time to promote designs that help bridge the digital divide and enable successful usage by the broadest possible audience." The conference, to be held November 16-17 in Arlington, VA, will present some possible solutions to accommodate variations in hardware, software, and network access as well as focus on the politics, policies, and economics of universal usability.
    http://www.acm.org/sigs/sigchi/cuu