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 email@example.com.
Volume 2, Issue 116: Wednesday, October 11, 2000
- "Responding to Small Rival, Intel Sees Mobile-Chip Edge"
New York Times (10/11/00) P. C4; Markoff, John
Intel executives yesterday at the Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, Calif., said the company's Pentium processors were more efficient users of energy than new processors from Transmeta. Transmeta, founded by former Sun Microsystems employee David R. Ditzel, claims that its processors reduce the power consumption and heat emissions of Intel chips without sacrificing speed. Transmeta chips featured in the forthcoming Sony Vaio generate 600 MHz on both battery power and house current. In contrast, Intel's current processors generate 500 MHz and 300 MHz on battery power and house current respectively. Analysts say the importance of power consumption is increasing as companies release new mobile computers with longer battery life. Transmeta uses Long Run software to produce its power savings. The program varies power output based on which task a processor is performing. Intel executives argue that this software is no better than its own system, Speed Step, which turns the processor on and off based on power demand. Analysts agree that Transmeta has put pressure on Intel to improve power consumption in its processors, noting that the company has attracted the attention of Fujitsu, Hitachi, and IBM, which is manufacturing Transmeta chips but not yet including them in its computers. "Intel is clearly playing catch-up," Ditzel said at yesterday's event, adding that new Transmeta chips would match Intel's touted 1 GHz chip. A few analysts dismissed the whole matter, saying the power drain caused by processors is slight compared to that from a mobile computer's LCD screen.
(Please note that access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "As Christmas Approaches, Parts Shortages Plague Electronics Makers"
Wall Street Journal (10/10/00) P. B1; Tam, Pui-Wing
Palm sold only half as many handheld devices last quarter as it could have, industry analysts say. The company is the latest high-profile victim of a parts shortage that has hit numerous tech firms as they begin to prepare for the holiday shopping season. Sony recently announced it would cut production of its eagerly awaited PlayStation 2 by 50 percent, citing a lack of the necessary electronic components as a major cause. Tech manufacturers are scrambling to find enough chips with flash memory, required for many of today's most-demanded gadgets, and Gartner Group reports flash-memory suppliers are charging more than twice as much for the chips this year. Eli Harari of flash-memory chip supplier SanDisk says, "We've only been able to meet 60 percent of the demand." He says he and other suppliers cannot immediately increase their production capacity because the lead-time for flash-memory plants is at least two years. Although some analysts fault manufacturers for not predicting the rise in demand, supply-chain managers at Palm say no one could have expected demand to double in one year. Palm has gone begging for components from suppliers in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, but its executives have already said it will not have enough of its new Palm VII model to meet the Christmas demand. Many Palm customers have already reported waiting three months or even longer to receive their handhelds. The company says it has learned from this year's shortages and has reformed its supply-chain policy to compensate for any future problems, increasing its pool of flash-memory chip suppliers and also seeking multiple vendors for other components.
- "Clinton Signs Off on PNTR With China"
TechWeb (10/10/00); Mosquera, Mary
President Clinton on Tuesday signed legislation approving permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China, in a move that will open the large Chinese market to U.S. high-tech companies. Under the U.S.-China Trade Relations Act, China will reduce tariffs on technology products and eliminate the tariffs by 2005. By 2003 China will drop customs duties on computers and related products, which now average as much as 15 percent. The high-tech industry has pushed for PNTR with China and welcomes the bill's passage. "By signing this legislation, President Clinton has laid the groundwork for American technology companies to compete in China, one of the fastest-growing markets for high-tech products and services in the world," says Business Software Alliance President Robert Holleyman. In addition, Holleyman notes that China's notoriously high piracy levels have fallen from 97 percent to 91 percent in recent years. Membership in the World Trade Organization will further encourage China to protect intellectual property, Holleyman says. China's admittance into the WTO is also expected to allow the U.S. to help shape Internet and e-commerce development in China. The Internet population in China is expected to rise to 20 million this year.
- "Lawmakers Vote to Double Fees for H-1B Visas"
SiliconValley.com (10/07/00); Puzzanghera, Jim
The House of Representatives on Friday unanimously approved a bill that doubles the fees high-tech firms pay for H-1B visas to $1,000, with the extra money expected to provide $200 million in technology education for the American workforce over the next three years. Congress intended to raise the fee in conjunction with the legislation approved by both houses last week to raise the annual H-1B visa cap. The fee increase was postponed because Congress needed to act quickly to boost the number of visas, but the House passed a separate bill on Friday to double the H-1B fee. The Senate is likely to approve the fee increase soon as well. The high-tech industry is pleased that the visa cap has been raised, and does not object to the increased fees.
- "Report: Small Biz Vulnerable to Net Attacks"
E-Commerce Times (10/11/00); Saliba, Clare
Small and midsize companies are prime targets for hacking and other cybercrimes, a new report from Gartner Group concludes. The report predicts that cybercriminals will strike half of these firms in the next three years, and that a majority of those firms will never learn they were cybercrime victims. Smaller firms are particularly at risk because they do not recruit proven security professionals and because they often rely on the uncertain security of regional Internet service providers. Gartner suggests that at-risk firms have an outside security expert audit their systems. The report also recommends firms use remote access servers and check for email viruses. The report comes as two other studies indicate that security spending is increasing among U.S. firms. Gartner's Dataquest predicts security spending will total $6.7 billion by 2004, up from $2.5 billion this year. Information Security magazine last week reported cybercrime is still on the rise despite security spending. In related security developments, Internet Security Systems announced the presence of a Trojan horse spreading through Internet Relay Chat. The horse, which has struck more than 800 computers, may launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, which could be especially damaging to online retailers during the holiday season.
For information regarding ACM's activities related to security, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.
- "Signs of Market Saturation in PC World"
New York Times (10/09/00) P. C8; Richtel, Matt
With recent profit warnings from Intel, Dell, and Apple and PC sales growth projected to fall to its lowest point since 1994, the PC industry is wondering whether its slowdown is permanent or merely, as Apple CEO Steve Job believes, "a speed bump." PC sales will grow only 12.2 percent this year, International Data (IDC) projects, a significant drop from 1999's 23.8 percent growth rate. Many analysts believe this is a sign that the PC market is saturated, as many businesses and households have the computers they need. Although some analysts say this will lead to a major market turn from PCs to handhelds and Internet appliances, most think the PC market is shifting from first-time computer buyers to replacement buyers. However, a few analysts question whether anyone can tell what the sales-growth downturn means in the long run, noting that growth dipped to 12.8 percent in 1998 only to explode again the following year. Also, as analyst Michael Murphy points out, while PC demand may be slowing in the U.S., worldwide demand is still growing. IDC estimates 18.9 percent sales growth worldwide this year. Murphy predicts that eventually 2.5 billion computers will be in operation around the world. Only one-fifth of that total has been met so far, he says. Other analysts note that the struggles of Dell, Intel, and Apple may be endemic to their particular situations rather than being the first hints of industry-wide trouble. Intel is facing fierce competition from AMD, analysts say, while slow adoption of Microsoft Windows 2000 is hurting sales at Dell. For its part, despite Steve Job's optimism, Apple may have reached a saturation point for its Macintosh line, analysts warn.
(Please note that access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "ICANN Critic Wins Seat in Global Board Election"
Newsbytes (10/11/00); McGuire, David
Cisco Systems engineer and ICANN critic Karl Auerbach will represent North America; Nii Quaynor, Africa; Masanobu Katoh, Asia; Andy Mueller-Maguhn, Europe; and Ivan Moura Campos, South America, as the new at-large members of ICANN's board. The five new board members were chosen out of 27 candidates to represent the Internet public during an International online election. Some 76,000 at-large members of ICANN from around the globe participated in the election process. The ICANN board already contains nine other board members that represent three internal "supporting organizations" of ICANN. Auerbach believes ICANN needs internal reform such as the removal of a few senior staff members. Auerbach also intends to become familiar with confidential records and computer systems at ICANN. If ICANN is to become a legitimate arbiter of Internet addressing policies for the entire world, then as an organization ICANN must be less secretive and more open about its policies, says Auerbach. ICANN "is an international, super-national government," says Auerbach. Auerbach will not reveal ICANN secrets that are legally protected. The newly elected board members will officially join the ICANN board following ICANN's November board meeting, which means they will not help choose new top level domains.
- "Candidate for the (Net) People"
Salon.com (10/06/00); Cave, Damien
Computer scientist Barbara Simons, a candidate for the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is hoping to encourage the domain-name authority to focus more on serving the Internet-using public and less on bowing to corporate interests. Simons is the former president of the Association of Computing Machinery, the industry's oldest computing society, and a former IBM technology advisor. Initially Simons decided to run because of her concern that when Esther Dyson resigns as ICANN's chair next month, the group's 18-member board could be completely without women. However, an even larger concern for Simons is the impact ICANN could have on the Internet if the group continues on its current path. By serving corporate needs, ICANN could cause the Internet to "become like radio--tamed and commercial," Simons says. ICANN's delay in releasing new domains due to concerns about protecting trademark holders is especially troubling to Simons. "ICANN shouldn't be worrying about trademark policy," Simons says. "There should be thousands of new domain names." In addition, Simons believes the public should have more of a voice in ICANN, noting that the group has restricted the public's control in several ways; for example, by nominating its own candidates before the board elections started.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Tech Bias Complaint May Be Wake-Up Call"
SiliconValley.com (10/07/00); Heim, Kristi; Steen, Margaret
Former Microsoft employee Monique Donaldson filed suit on Wednesday against the company, alleging that it discriminates against African Americans and women. According to Donaldson's complaint, the company gives its employees "overly subjective" performance reviews and cedes too much authority for granting promotions and pay raises to its managers. The suit claims that the company's African-American and female employees, who account for not quite 3 percent and 26 percent of its total workforce respectively, do not receive as much pay, bonuses, or stock options as white male employees of the same or even less experience. Microsoft responded in a written statement, "We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at Microsoft." Analysts say high-tech firms can appear to be discriminatory because the growth of their business operations often outpaces the growth of their human resources department. As a result, human resources officials cannot monitor hiring practices or follow up complaints as closely or as quickly as they should, analysts claim.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Congress Primed For 2001's Tech Legislation"
TechWeb (10/06/00); Mosquera, Mary
As this year's session of Congress ends, legislators are already looking ahead to the hot issues in next year's Congress. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) agree that tech issues will play a major role in that session. This year's session featured the passage of two pieces of legislation favoring the tech industry: normalized trade relations with China and an expansion of the H-1B visa program for skilled foreign workers. Next year's big tech issues will be privacy and taxes, McCain and Boucher both said. Boucher said Congress will likely grant baseline privacy protection, noting that America Online and Hewlett-Packard support a privacy bill sponsored by McCain. However, McCain warned that debate over online taxes will be contentious. Next year a moratorium on sales taxes levied on Internet purchases expires, but McCain, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees much of the new Internet legislation, does not believe an online sales tax system will be implemented easily. "There's going to be a lot of blood on the floor before next October," McCain said. Congress will likely also tackle the issue of intellectual-property patent reform, Boucher said.
For information regarding ACM's work on matters of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Offshore Programming"
Boston Globe (10/08/00) P. E1; Denison, D.C.
Some foreign programmers are spurning H-1B visas in favor of staying in their home countries and working for American companies over the Internet. Factors driving the offshore programming trend include advances in global connectivity, object-oriented programming languages, and the high-tech labor shortage. In addition, a number of online exchanges are emerging that help connect programmers with companies that need skilled workers to complete a project. Among the companies offering intellectual capital exchanges are eLance, guru.com, HelloBrain, HotDispatch, and webPRN. Many programmers such as Anuj Seth of India say offshore programming allows them to stay home while also earning money. Seth says he has made over $5,000 working in his spare time on Java projects since December, which he notes is a large sum of money in India. Meanwhile, American companies say offshore programming saves money and eliminates the hassle of dealing with visas. Offshore programming could foreshadow the eventual replacement of large, permanent companies by temporary groups of workers collaborating on projects, says Thomas W. Malone, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management. HelloBrain CEO Bharat Sastri shares Malone's view. "Flying bodies from point A to point B is moronic, especially when there are visas involved," Sastri says. "You don't want the person, you want their knowledge."
- "Tech Workers Manage Complex Balance of Work, Education and Home"
Washington Post (10/08/00) P. L1
High-tech workers, many of whom work more than 60 hours a week, are struggling to find time to update their skills. Rapid advances in technology have made education a lifelong process for high-tech workers, as skills grow obsolete with each new development. To meet this need for training, tech workers can choose from a wide range of degree and certification programs from universities, nonprofits, and community colleges. In addition, many companies are beginning to provide free online training for employees. However, many managers expect employees to work on courses outside of the office, creating problems for workers with tight schedules. Workers can solve time problems by forming groups with coworkers and friends that meet monthly and communicate online about real-world technical issues, says Michael Smith of programming and consulting firm TeraTech. Networking is a useful way to benefit from colleagues' knowledge, which is more up-to-date than information found in books, says Smith. One tech worker says she balances education, work, and her personal life by having a common interest that overlaps all of these areas: gender issues in online communities.
- "CERT Floats Policy on Publishing Software Flaws"
Newsbytes (10/09/00); Krebs, Brian
CERT will now publish information about vulnerabilities in commercial software programs 45 days after the software vendor learns of the vulnerability, the government-supported Internet security group announced last week. However, CERT still will not publish information on the ways in which malicious hackers could take advantage of the flaws, or "exploits." Reaction to CERT's announcement in the computer security industry was mixed. The Internet Computer Security Association's Russ Cooper approved of the announcement, noting CERT will not continue its practice of holding information on vulnerabilities until the vendor has developed a patch. However, SecurityFocus' Elias Levy said there is no point in withholding exploits because hackers will learn of them quickly through other sources and because many vendors will not act to correct vulnerabilities unless someone shows how a hacker could exploit them. Levy noted younger programmers at CERT are more open to a "full disclosure" policy. Allen Paller of the Systems Administration, Networking, and Security Institute downplayed the announcement, saying, "If they're saying they're not going to publish this information for 45 days because a fix hasn't yet been announced by the vendor, that just plays into the hands of the bad guys, because the bad guys don't need 45 days."
- "Sen. Edwards Intro's 'Spyware Control Act'"
Newsbytes (10/09/00); Krebs, Brian
Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has introduced legislation that would help protect the privacy of Web users' surfing habits. The Spyware Control and Privacy Protection Act mandates that companies provide a clearly worded and highly visible privacy warning on products that contain data-collecting spyware code. This warning would inform customers as to how their data would be collected and how it would be shared. Just as important, Edwards' legislation would allow consumers to disable the spyware. The bill further empowers consumers with the FTC's Fair Information Practices' Access and Security sections, which give consumers the right to access collected data and change errors found therein. Consumers could sue for damages of $50,000 each time a software maker violates its own policy. Edwards says he has a long-time interest in privacy, but remains shocked at how often new forms of privacy invasions crop up. "Spyware is among the more startling examples of how this erosion is occurring," Edwards said.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Calif. Cities Turning Away Dot-Coms"
USA Today (10/10/00) P. 3A; Ritter, John
In an effort to curb "office creep," officials in several California cities are actually turning away dot-com companies that want to set up operations. Because of a severe shortage of office space, these Internet startups have been opening new facilities in downtown retail areas and industrial districts of such cities as San Francisco and San Jose. City authorities are now concerned that such encroachment will ruin the character and vitality of their downtowns. They also are clearly worried that dot-com firms will replace such traditional businesses as warehousing and light manufacturing. In September, for instance, Redwood City prohibited new offices in ground-floor downtown spaces for 45 days. The moratorium will likely be extended for several more months. Meanwhile, Menlo Park has tightened rules on offices in prime industrial areas. Developers are now required to seek special-use permits from the city council. Finally, San Jose officials are seeking proposals for a 1.6-million-square-foot, mixed-use project in its downtown core. Up to 1 million square feet would be rental apartments and for-sale condominiums. Susan Shick, executive director of the city's redevelopment agency, explains, "We have no interest in limiting office [development], but the mix is really what makes downtown exciting."
- "Japan Pushes New Internet Protocol"
Nikkei Weekly (10/02/00) Vol. 38, No. 1947, P. 9
A joint venture between the public and private sectors in Japan aims to make the new Internet protocol, IPv6, commercially viable. IPv6 will be promoted by Sony, IBM Japan, and Fujitsu, along with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The protocol would help make Internet access through televisions and other electronic devices a reality, drastically increasing the number of potential IP addresses and challenging American IT superiority. The technology could provide more than enough email addresses for the world's population and end worries about space limitations. A system of ubiquitous computing could be established, setting up a network of digital devices that could be integrated into all kinds of equipment and appliances. The protocol could also ease the implementation of the audio/video interoperability system and intelligent transport systems currently under development in Japan. This month could see the establishment of a joint public/private sector council to begin developing the software needed to commercialize IPv6. NEC, Hitachi, Matsushita Electric Industrial, and Yamaha are expected to join the council, which projects commercialization in two to three years. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications will request several billion yen from the supplementary fiscal 2000 budget to fund some of the research.
- "Peer-to-Peer Forces Marshal"
Network World (10/09/00) Vol. 17, No. 41, P. 1; Jacobs, April
IBM, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and several startups are forming a working group to develop peer-to-peer (P2P) technology. P2P computing allows users to tap a network of unused PCs, workstations, and servers for storage-intensive needs. Using P2P can reduce the need for additional IT staff and hardware and software purchases, possibly saving a company millions of dollars. Consultant Cheryl Currid says as much as 60 percent of the average server and 75 percent of a given PC is not used. Currid said that corporations have significant stores of processing power which are not being maximized. One use of P2P is for real-time trade processing, noted Currid. The working group will meet to address interoperability, standards, and security concerns. Groove Networks, one of the members, will be releasing a collaborative computing-centered P2P offering this month.
- "High-Tech Hustle Sweeps the Nation"
Business Week (10/16/00) No. 3703, P. 98; Whalen, Charles J.
In the past, a region's productivity--or lack thereof--was often determined by its main industries. However, the spread of tech-oriented companies and their higher output and faster productivity growth is deregionalizing the U.S. economy. The New Economy's productivity gains have been widely spread throughout the U.S. in the 1990s, mostly because high-tech industries--semiconductors, Web hosting, software development--are taking root all over the country. Employment gains in the tech sector raise state and regional productivity levels, even indirectly. For instance, finance is the Northeast's main growth engine, but computers make the gains possible by increasing productivity. The Midwest, lacking workers, is using technology to get more out of the workers it does have and to make operations more efficient. The South lags behind because of a less-educated workforce and more jobs in tourism. The West's economy was damaged by the Asian crisis, but its unemployment rate--the nation's highest--is only 1.1 percentage points higher than the Midwest, which has the lowest unemployment. Meanwhile, California's market for high-tech jobs in services and manufacturing jumped 9.5 percent for the year that ended March 2000. Federal Reserve Bank director of microeconomic policy analysis Stephen P. Brown says the expansion is the most evenly distributed since World War II. Region-specific variations may be disappearing.
- "The Next Economy of Ideas"
Wired (10/00) Vol. 8, No. 10, P. 240; Barlow, John Perry
Although the entertainment industry has a hard time seeing it, the Internet is destined to become a place of no property, according to John Perry Barlow, cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Turning to the courts will provide no relief for the entertainment industry if the majority of people have no intention of following a law. With Napster comes the real Internet, and anyone is in position to reproduce their own "property." Dotcom will stand more for Dotcommunism as the entertainment industry loses its battle to ban media-reproduction technologies, such as Napster, Barlow says. Such technologies are no different than the VCR, which the Motion Picture Association of America tried to keep out of America for many years. The VCR did not destroy the film industry, notes Barlow, but the current fight against DeCSS shows that film companies have not learned from the experience. Thus far, MP3 has not killed the music industry either. In fact, over the past two years CD sales are said to be up 20 percent. And although software makers do not have copy protection, the software industry is booming. All indications lead to the conclusion that information can be distributed noncommercially and sales of commercial information will still increase.