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Volume 2, Issue 123: Friday, October 27, 2000
- "Microsoft Computer Network Hacked"
CNet (10/27/00); Festa, Paul
Microsoft has not said whether it believes hackers stole or corrupted any of the software company's source code during an assault earlier this week. Microsoft's Rick Miller yesterday said the attack was "a deplorable act of industrial espionage." According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, hackers diverted Microsoft passwords to a St. Petersburg, Russia, email address. The hackers targeted the source code for Microsoft Windows and Office, the Wall Street Journal reported. An independent security analyst told CNet that the hackers would have a difficult time finding buyers if their intention was to sell black-market editions of Windows and Office. The hackers could reverse-engineer the software to develop a competing version of either product, the analyst noted. However, the analyst believes that because Microsoft software is so well known, the hackers are unlikely to try to blackmail the company. Sources say Microsoft has requested help from the FBI to find the hackers.
- "Federal Forum Tackles E-Commerce Regulation"
E-Commerce Times (10/26/00); Morrow, James M.
New regulations for the e-commerce industry may be forthcoming from the FTC, the agency said Thursday at the opening day of a two-day conference on consumer protection. The FTC's focus is trained on existing laws and how they could be applied to Internet downloads and software, or more specifically, how "government, private industry, and consumer advocates can work together to ensure that consumers receive adequate information when shopping for software and other computer information products and services." Clickware warranty agreements will get a thorough examination during the conference. Consumer advocates worry about the industry's state-level support of the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) and what that may mean for consumer protections. Industry representatives claim that UCITA provides sufficient protections for consumers. A. Brian Dengler, vice president and associate general counsel at America Online, said that the market should dictate public policies, but that if the government must get involved, policies should be "technologically neutral and non-discriminatory" to help the Internet fulfill its growth potential.
For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Gee-Whiz Shortage at Internet Expo"
Washington Post (10/27/00) P. E2; Walker, Leslie
The technology on display at this year's Internet World trade show lacked the innovation of previous years, with most new tools aimed at improving the Internet. Many companies exhibited multimedia tools and software designed to help Web sites improve communication with customers. Voice technology was another popular area. America Online displayed its AOL Phone service, which uses text-to-speech technology to read news and email to subscribers over the phone. Meanwhile, Net2phone showcased a device called Your Alternative Phone (YAP), which sends phone calls over the Internet. However, many people who tried out the YAP device could not hear the person they were trying to call. Meanwhile, Net Technologies' DoTell.com enables users to add voice to PowerPoint and digital presentations by using the phone. Also debuted at the show was a tool called BodyMedia that attaches sensors to a user's body that send information to a Web site designed to help gauge the user's health. A company called eCopy.com showed off its eCopy device, which users can plug into a Canon copier to scan documents directly to the Internet.
- "G8 Seeks Tighter Internet Security"
Financial Times (10/27/00) P. 8; Atkins, Ralph; Buck, Tobias
Representatives from government and industry met during the Group of Eight meeting in Berlin to come up with a plan to fight cybercrime. The only real progress came on a national-contact-point plan that would provide information on cybercrime, said European Commission representative Michael Niebel. The industry can step up its efforts to help combat crime on the Internet, participants agreed. Those in attendance also called for an international standard for Internet security. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder stated the need for "better international cooperation and, above all, binding international minimum standards" to fight cybercrime.
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- "New Economy Takes Center Stage, But Not All States Are Well-Prepared"
Investor's Business Daily (10/27/00) P. A8; Prado, Antonio A.
Education is the top factor influencing a region's potential to capitalize on the tech-driven economy, according to a recent study from the Milken Institute. The study ranked each state's potential for high-tech growth based on criteria such as education level, number of startups, venture capital investment, and number of patents awarded. Massachusetts ranked first in the study because of its educated workforce and research capabilities, both of which stem largely from MIT. Strong venture capital investment also contributed to Massachusetts' top ranking. Although California is a thriving high-tech hub with strong research capabilities, innovation, and venture capital, the state ranked second in the study because it relies too heavily on foreign workers. To be the top high-tech state, California needs to improve education to ensure a continued supply of skilled workers, the study says. Connecticut ranked third, followed by Colorado and Washington. Arkansas received the lowest ranking in the study, in large part because it has the nation's worst education system. In addition, Arkansas is weak in drawing business as well as research funding to the state. High-tech executives are beginning to recognize the importance of education to continued growth, and are supporting a number of educational initiatives.
- "Law Helps U.S. Tech Firms Hire More Foreign Workers"
Investor's Business Daily (10/26/00) P. A6; Howell, Donna
Tech firms are breathing easier now that a measure to increase the number of H-1B visas issued each year has become law. Many firms depend on the visa, which permits highly skilled foreign workers to stay in the United States for up to six years, to compensate for a shortage of tech labor. For example, Microsoft employs H-1B holders in nearly 8 percent of its 23,600 U.S. positions. Previous H-1B policy limited the number of visas issued annually at 115,000, and this year that allotment was reached in March. The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000 increased the yearly limit to 195,000 through 2004. Holders of H-1B visas say lawmakers next must tackle the issue of making H-1B workers permanent residents. The wait to receive a green card can often last longer than the six years of residency granted by the H-1B visa, says software developer and H-1B holder Shailesh Gala. He says the slow application process for green cards prevents many H-1B workers from establishing a life in the U.S. However, H-1B holders say they are enthusiastic about the new H-1B policy because it allows them to leave the firms that sponsored their H-1B application. Some tech industry officials protest this provision, saying foreign workers are the subject of intensive recruiting as soon as they arrive in the country and start working.
- "On High-Tech Issues, Candidates Have Their Differences"
Philadelphia Inquirer (10/27/00) P. A25; Puzzanghera, Jim
Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush agree on many issues that affect the high-tech industry, but the two nominees hold different philosophical stances on technology. Both candidates support major high-tech issues such as an increase in H-1B visas and more research and development funding, but Gore takes a personal interest in technology while Bush approaches the industry from a CEO's perspective. Gore views technology as a science, and believes the government can play a limited role in helping the industry innovate. Still, Gore would maintain Clinton's approach of allowing market forces to shape the industry for the most part. Although Gore believes in self-regulation in the e-commerce industry, he also believes the government plays a role in maintaining market competition, as reflected in his support for the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. Gore is knowledgeable about technology and high-tech policy, and his supporters say the high-tech industry would benefit from a president who understands technology. By contrast, Bush believes in encouraging business by limiting the government's role in the high-tech industry. Bush is not as well-versed in technology as Gore, but supporters say the Texas governor understands which policies are vital to the high-tech industry. Texas received the top rank in the country from 1997 to 1999 for growth of high-tech exports, Bush's aides note, adding that the state is now second in high-tech job growth. Although critics attribute Texas' high-tech strength to the tech companies already established in the state before Bush's time, they also note that Dell and most other tech firms in the state are strong Bush supporters.
- "Privacy Tops Concerns About Going Online"
San Jose Mercury News Online (10/25/00)
The University of California-Los Angeles believes that its recently released study of Internet use in the United States could be used to help inform the government's approach to Internet policy. A key focus of the study is Internet privacy, which most Americans view with skepticism. "People are optimistic about the technology, but they still have some very serious concerns about privacy," says UCLA Center for Communications Policy Director Jeffrey Cole. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and other privacy groups should find plenty of information in the report to add to their arsenals for next year's session of Congress. Although privacy fears are not stopping people from using the Internet, they are hampering e-commerce, which is largely dependent on the submission of credit card data. The vast majority of Internet users expressed at least a moderate degree of concern over the security of their credit card data on the Internet, but the research shows that the longer a person has been using the Internet the more their fears tend to abate. The survey also found that more than 30 percent of parents use filtering software to keep their children from being exposed to harmful Web content.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "U.S. Remains Home to Most Domains"
Whois.net reports that 26 million names have been registered in the .com, .org, and .net top level domains, and Network Solutions' dotcom.com says 15 million of those names fall under the .com domain. Dotcom.com also reports that the United States leads all countries in domain-name registration, with 70 percent of all registered domain names, while the United Kingdom, Canada, Korea, Germany, and France comprise the top five leaders in the international market. The international market for domain name registration should surpass the U.S. market between now and the first quarter of 2002, dotcom.com forecasts. Within the United States, California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois lead all states in domain name registration, while Washington, D.C., is the leader on a per capita basis, according to dotcom.com. Although dotcom.com claims that 99.9999 percent of name combinations under the .com domain are not yet taken, an increasing number of registrants are turning to domain name resellers such as DomainBook.com and GreatDomains.com to find a name. Demand has sent the average price for a "used" domain name at GreatDomains for this year, as of the end of September, to $24,468. Of the names registered by GreatDomains, 4 percent were purchased for amounts greater than $100,000.
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- "Critical Piece of the Puzzle: Attracting Women to IT Field"
Daily Record (10/25/00) P. 4B; Weidemann, Craig
The IT industry should try to attract the interest of women as it looks to fill a growing number of jobs with a limited pool of workers, writes Craig Weidemann, vice provost of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Women are turning away from high-tech careers partly because of their distaste for the type of work environment they believe exists in the IT field. In addition to the nature of computer work, teaching methods influence women's attitudes about IT careers, according to a recent report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Teaching methods that focus on the technical aspects of hardware without focusing on its applications and uses are not effective with female students, the study says. In addition, many girls and women view IT professionals as antisocial male computer geeks--a stereotype fueled by media portrayals of IT workers as well as the IT industry's own male-oriented advertising. This perception of high-tech workers leads women to believe they would not fit in with the IT culture. The IT industry could attract more women by showing that the field offers creative careers that provide social interaction and make a difference in the real world, observers say.
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To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Net Standards Group Puts XML to the Test"
CNet (10/24/00); Mariano, Gwendolyn
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has released its XML schema specification as a W3C Candidate Recommendation, a process in which the standards body encourages use of the specification in order to gain feedback from other consortium members and the public. The move is significant because XML schemas make it easier to improve interoperability and data exchange between various systems using common vocabularies. Currently, XML uses the less flexible document type definitions (DTDs) to interpret various data types. XML, which is supported by a variety of high-tech players, is designed to simplify business-to-business transactions by allowing disparate systems to work together. With the W3C's decision, software makers will now be empowered to include XML schemas in their products, increasing the specification's use. IBM's David Fallside says that the W3C's move is a testament to XML's stability. "DTD is going to be around for a long time...[but] schema is sort of the next generation," says Fallside. "With schema you can do pretty much everything that you can do with DTDs, but schema adds a number of capabilities."
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- "Computer-Crime Treaty Evokes Criticism"
Wall Street Journal (10/26/00) P. B8; Bridis, Ted
The Justice Department privately told industry executives during this week's Group of Eight meeting that there is little that can be done to change controversial provisions in the Council of Europe's computer-crime treaty. The DOJ helped craft the treaty, but U.S. industry executives were given a chance to see the treaty only after it was on its 19th draft. U.S. tech companies and civil rights groups are criticizing the treaty as being lax on privacy and too costly to implement. Industry executives will meet with the Clinton administration today to air their complaints, which include concerns that ISPs could be legally forced into monitoring the real-time actions of Internet users on their networks. Further, the industry is worried that the treaty would make ISPs liable for illegal material on their networks. There is also concern about the treaty's network-security provisions, which restrict the possession of diagnostic tools in the hopes of keeping them out of the hands of hackers. However, there is some indication that the industry's fears may be somewhat alleviated. Two U.S. delegates at the Group of Eight meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the next draft of the treaty will leave out a provision that would have forced ISPs to store 40-day chunks of consumer data. In addition, the delegates said a plan to identify individual computers for purposes of fighting cybercrime would be abandoned. Should U.S. officials decide to sign the treaty, which is due to be completed before the year is out, it would have to meet the Senate's approval before going into effect.
- "Big Brother May Be Watching You"
Boston Globe (10/22/00) P. F1; Kong, Dolores
Privacy advocates are now turning their attention to the increasingly popular company-subsidized computer purchase programs, arguing that the computers employees bring home will enable their employers to monitor what they purchase over the Internet or what Web sites they visit. Computers and other handouts from employers such as cell phones, pagers, and corporate charge cards could make it easier for companies to know more about their employees. Human resource professionals are quick to say they have no interest in what employees do with their computers, adding that the computer is now the property of the buyer. Furthermore, PeoplePC, the computer company that provides Internet access to the employees of Ford Motor, Delta Airlines, and The New York Times, adds that its policy is not to divulge information about the Web sites that people visit or the email messages they send and receive. However, PeoplePC's Web site states that circumstances may arise when it would be required to provide the government, regulatory agencies, or third parties with such information. And law experts foresee, for example, plaintiff's lawyers going after every record possible, including those stored on home hard drives, to build their case against a defendant. "It sounds to me like an extension of the workplace, as tentacles that reach into people's personal lives," says William Staples, a sociologist at the University of Kansas and author of "Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life."
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Doolittle Does Little to Harm Net"
Wired News (10/24/00); McCullagh, Declan
Wired News graded the members of the House of Representatives on their propensity to regulate the Internet, based on their voting records for seven key pieces of technology legislation. Reps. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) were judged the least likely to harm the Internet, with impeccable "hands-off" voting records. Joining the two representatives near the top of the list for a hands-off approach were fellow California Republicans Christopher Cox, David Dreier, Richard Pombo, and Edward Royce. Also near the top were Reps. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), Joe Skeen (R-N.M.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and David Wu (D-Ore.). House members who were judged to be the most likely to regulate the Internet include Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), Martin Sabo (D-Minn.), Steven Rothman (D-N.J.), Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), and Pat Danner (D-Mo.). The seven bills used in the grading addressed the issues of restricting alcohol sales over the Internet; creating a federal agency for rural TV service; extending the moratorium on Internet taxes; legalizing electronic signatures; outlawing online gambling; restricting the sale of violent videogames to youths; and increasing financial privacy protections by checking the government's ability to monitor bank accounts.
- "Lotus Pioneer Unveils New 'Groove'"
Newsfactor Network (10/25/00); McDonald, Tim
Groove Networks, founded by Lotus Notes pioneer Ray Ozzie, on Tuesday announced its Groove software designed to let users exchange data online without a central server. Groove aims to "strengthen the online connections among people who need to interact closely with one another--across all boundaries, such as time, place, or organizational affiliation," Ozzie says. Groove allows a user to provide up to 20 other computers with access to information by placing files in a shared space. The software offers home and business conferencing, instant messaging and chat, and video and music file sharing. Tasks likely to benefit from Groove include customer service, purchasing and distribution, auctions, and inventory control, Ozzie says. Groove runs on Linux and all major versions of Windows, and Ozzie says the company plans to offer Groove for handhelds and the Mac OSX. The new software faces competition from Lotus Notes as well as advanced collaborative technology Microsoft is expected to release with its next version of Office.
- "Amdahl Gives Up on Mainframe Business"
Computerworld (10/23/00) Vol. 34, No. 43, P. 1; Vijayan, Jaikumar
Amdahl last week announced that it is withdrawing from the mainframe business and will instead focus on high-end Unix servers. The move disappointed users and analysts, who speculate that IBM will have no need to lower its mainframe prices or increase performance without competitive pressure. Hitachi, IBM's other competitor in the mainframe market, announced plans to cut back its mainframe business seven months ago. Mainframe sales are expected to decline in coming years and Amdahl says it cannot justify the investment required to compete with IBM's 64-bit systems. Amdahl will stop making its 31-bit IBM S/390-compatible mainframes in March 2002, but will support its installed base until March 2007, says Amdahl's Carol Stone. Amdahl's future hardware investments will go toward Unix systems based on Sun's UltraSPARC technology. One mainframe user says Amdahl helped drive innovation in the mainframe industry, for example, with its partitioning technology. Hitachi's retreat has already left IBM with 86 percent of the mainframe market, which could account for mainframe prices remaining steady rather than falling as expected. With Amdahl out of the market, IBM will be even less pressured to lower prices and improve speed and quality, observers say.
- "The PC Is Dead. Long Live the PC. Pick One."
U.S. News & World Report (10/30/00) Vol. 129, No. 17, P. 44; Yang, Dori Jones
Analysts say Wall Street investors have overreacted to fears that computer sales might plummet, leading to dramatically lowered stock prices of Microsoft and Intel recently. However, dealers and vendors in the computer sales business contend that the market is off the mark, and that PC sales--while not at the astronomical highs of last fall--are still strong. International Data predicts that global PC shipments will increase by 19 percent this year as compared to 23 percent last year. However, analysts say last year was an anomaly, with many corporations purchasing new computers en masse to replace older models feared to be vulnerable to Y2K problems. Also last year, some companies offered drastically reduced prices on computers, with some even giving them away for free. However, PC makers now say prices are going up, with Americans--half of whose homes feature a PC--more concerned with upgrading and getting a quality product than a cheap deal. And analysts point to the markets of Asia and Latin America as being ripe for PC sales.
- "Labor Pains for the Internet Economy"
Industry Standard (10/30/00) Vol. 3, No. 44, P. 63; Smith, Ethan
The backlash against Internet startups has now extended to the labor force. Although Internet companies have laid off or fired about 20,000 workers this year, the industry, particularly startup companies, is still in need of workers. However, those who have held industry jobs have soured on Internet companies to such a degree that they do not want to go back. These days they favor job security, an eight-hour day, and working in a meritocracy, while no longer holding stock options in high regard. "I took my dot-com job partly because I wanted to wear jeans or khakis to work," says Heather Currier, who quit her job as a special-events coordinator for an online real estate brokerage. "But now you can do that almost anywhere." Prospective job seekers would much rather work for established giants that are moving in the direction of the Internet. At job fairs of late, potential employees often bypass dot-coms and would-be startups for old economy companies. The national unemployment rate was at its lowest point in September since the Nixon administration at 3.9 percent. And for the categories that include computer programmers and IT staff, as well as professional services and technical support, the rates are 2.9 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. Although many Internet companies have laid off employees, the "dot-com recession" could be overhyped like almost everything about the digital revolution. Furthermore, the downsizing in the Internet economy still pales in comparison to IBM in the early 1990s when the company eliminated 80,000 jobs within two years.
- "The Pen is Mightier..."
New Scientist (10/21/00) Vol. 168, No. 2261, P. 48; Kleiner, Kurt
The limitations of mobile devices in terms of cumbersome controls and small display size have inspired research in electronic pen and paper. British Telecom and MIT have built prototype digital pens that track motions with semiconductor accelerometers, but this leads to exponential errors with increased use, says Digital Ink President Ilya Schiller. Digital Ink's own product, the N-Scribe, tracks movements with the pen's cap. Digital Ink will use a short-range radio link to download handwritten notes into a computer or cell phone. Recognition software that can quickly translate a person's normal handwriting into a computer is on the horizon, Schiller predicts. Schiller plans to enable the N-Scribe to communicate wirelessly with personal digital assistants as well as wireless application protocol phones. Companies such as IBM, DuPont, Kodak, Sanyo, and Uniax are working on a flexible display screen to go with the electronic pen, the most promising building material being organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Two types of displays can be created from OLEDs: an easy-to-produce passive matrix with limited resolution, and an active matrix with better image quality that can only be deposited on inflexible silicon. Researchers at Alien Technologies believe they have cracked the active matrix problem with their fluid self-assembly technique. Whatever the fabrication method, flexible display screens should be available within the next 10 years, predicts University of Arizona physicist Ghassan Jabbour.