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


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Volume 2, Issue 133:  Wednesday, November 22, 2000

  • "High-Tech Outlays Seen Rising 50 Percent by 2004"
    Reuters (11/21/00)

    Spending on information and communication technology (ICT) worldwide climbed to more than $2.1 trillion in 1999, accounting for 6.6 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP), according to a World Information Technology and Services Alliance study released on Tuesday. By 2004, worldwide ICT spending is expected to grow another 50 percent, the study says. The United States continued to lead global ICT spending last year with $762 billion, which represented nearly 9 percent of the U.S. GDP. Japan came in second with $362 billion in ICT spending, followed by Germany with $139 billion.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Margaret Steen: 'Soft Skills' Are Just as Vital as Tech Skills in the Valley"
    SiliconValley.com (11/20/00); Steen, Margaret

    High-tech companies have traditionally prized an employee's technical skills above all else, but many are now placing more emphasis on the ability to interact with other people. People skills are becoming especially crucial for managers of tech workers, who are faced with the difficult task of retaining highly coveted workers. However, high-tech managers, like their workers, often concentrate more on their technical skills than their soft skills. "Never in my career as a technical manager was I ever measured on retaining people," says Susan Haumeder, owner of coaching firm The Third Bridge. "It doesn't do you any good to have 20 hotshot engineers if you've got nobody to manage them that really knows how to do that." Haumeder has witnessed engineers exhibiting a wide range of antisocial behaviors such as passive aggressiveness, refusal to collaborate with co-workers, and open hostility. Although the stereotype that tech workers tend to prefer computers to people holds some truth, tech workers also have many unused people skills that can easily be cultivated, Haumeder says. People skills are important not only for managers who need to retain valuable employees, but for all tech workers as technology becomes more pervasive in the workplace.
    http://www0.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/indepth/docs/ms112100.htm

  • "Wiretapping System Works on Internet, Review Finds"
    New York Times (11/22/00) P. A17; Schwartz, John

    Critics of the FBI's Carnivore email monitoring system were not appeased by the results of an independent review of the system, released Tuesday night by the Justice Department. The review concludes that Carnivore needs to be improved but does not pose a privacy threat. However, privacy advocates contend that the review failed to address the true privacy issues regarding Carnivore. "Many of us believe that the entire arrangement is a violation of federal wiretap law," said David L. Sobel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The head of the review panel, Henry Perritt Jr., says that even if Carnivore is otherwise perfect, steps still need to be taken to ensure the adequacy of "the legal human and organizational controls." All future versions of Carnivore must also be subjected to a review, the panel said. Perritt urged Congress to introduce legislation that would update language associated with trap-and-trace and pen register rules. Perritt said that the rules as presently constituted do not work within the context of the Internet. Meantime, House Majority Leader Dick Armey said yesterday that he still opposes Carnivore. The report on Carnivore lacks the necessary objectivity that is needed to find the answers to the privacy questions raised by the monitoring system, Armey said.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/22/technology/22CARN.html
    Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy

  • "Early Shipments of Intel Pentium 4 Chips Included Wrong Piece of Software Code"
    Wall Street Journal (11/21/00) P. B8; Williams, Molly

    Early shipments of Intel's new Pentium 4 microprocessor contained an incorrect piece of software code, the chipmaker announced yesterday. No chips with the wrong code have reached end users, the company said, and chips having the correct code have been sent to PC manufacturers. The affected code, which operates the processor's BIOS software, could have erased data if uncorrected. Although analysts said the mistake was not significant or even unusual, Intel has had several glitches and delays this year, and some wonder if the industry leader has lost a step. Problems pushed the launch of the Pentium 4 from October to this week, while Intel also saw trouble earlier this year with the Pentium III and the now cancelled Timna processor.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/493028.asp

  • "Price Cuts Spark Portable PC Price War"
    CNet (11/19/00); Wilcox, Joe

    Leading notebook makers Compaq and Sony on Sunday unleashed a price war by announcing major price reductions, in a move that analysts say reflects soft consumer demand for notebooks as the holiday season approaches. The price cuts will benefit consumers, but will probably force rival notebook makers such as Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard to reduce prices as well, experts say. Responding to Sony's price cuts, Compaq took $300 off two Presario 1800 models. Consumers can now pay $2,799 for Compaq's fully loaded 18XL390 with an 850 MHz Pentium III. Sony, which usually targets the higher end of the market, threatened its notebook rivals by announcing price cuts that target a lower segment of the market, experts say. Sony reduced its Vaio XG38 and its Z505LS models from $3,099 to $2,899. Furthermore, Sony is offering an additional $100 mail-in rebate. Sony also reduced prices on some models in the $1,400 to $2,200 range, prompting Compaq to offer $100 rebates on some Presario 1200 and 1700 models. In addition to weak consumer demand, the price cuts could indicate that notebook makers want to eliminate inventories as Intel prepares to launch a mobile version of its 1 GHz Pentium III after the holiday season, says Gartner Group analyst Ken Dulaney.
    http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1006-202-3770292.html

  • "Europe Starts Debate on Patents"
    Wired News (11/21/00); Delio, Michelle

    European supporters of open-source software warn that the European Patent Office (EPO) could vote to extend patent protection to software even though many European countries are against such a move. Current EPO policy does not allow patents for software except when the software is an extricable part of a larger program, such as an operating system. Open-source supporters argue that a change to the no-patent policy would hamper innovation and cause the European software market to resemble that of the United States, dominated by the largest software firms. Small and midsize businesses would suffer tremendously, the open-source advocates argue. However, although countries representing a vast majority of Europe's citizens oppose or are unsure about granting patent status to software, a coalition of smaller countries and countries that are not a part of the European Community but that have EPO voting rights could force passage of the software-patent measure. Some opponents of the measure say even the current law is unsatisfactory, as the provision allowing certain software to be patented is actually a significant loophole.
    http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,40299,00.html

  • "Is Chip Slowdown Overblown?"
    Investor's Business Daily (11/21/00) P. A6; DeTar, James

    Although analysts predict a slowdown for the semiconductor market, major chipmakers say they are enjoying strong growth and do not expect that growth to stop. Analysts have been predicting a slowdown since the general tech shakeout this March, when the Philadelphia Stock Exchange's semiconductor index declined 45 percent. Demand for cell phones and PCs is falling, which will soon lead to an oversupply of chips and a decrease in their value, some analysts say. The stocks of leading chipmakers have fallen significantly in recent months after analysts downgraded their value based on these forecasts. However, chipmakers Intel and AMD say growth may be falling off from its peak but is still strong. Intel has seen growth in every quarter this year, while AMD claims its growth in 2000 will be 35 percent. The Semiconductor Industry Association says revenue in the industry surpassed $200 billion this year, a 37 percent increase, and should surpass $300 billion in 2003. Industry insiders say analysts may have misread a midyear oversupply of chips, which occurred after chipmakers overcompensated for a shortage of chips earlier this year, as a sign of a widespread slowdown.

  • "Congress Takes Another Aim at Business Method Patents With H.R. 5364"
    Law.com (11/15/00); Kuester, Jeffrey R.

    Several Democratic congress members recently introduced H.R. 5364, the "Business Method Patent Improvement Act of 2000," the culmination of efforts by opponents of business method patents to stop their dissemination by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The bill would affect all pending patent applications and any issued after the law goes into effect. The bill would mandate that all business method patent applications be automatically published, and would create a public protest mechanism for published applications and a new opposition process for patents. Applicants would also have to reveal if and how a patentability search was conducted. Some analysts contend that the most significant impact of the legislation would be to lower the burden of proof for demonstrating the "invalidity" of a business method patent from its current "clear and convincing evidence standard" to the "preponderance of the evidence" standard. This is expected to cut down dramatically on the number of patents that are valid by any other standard.

  • "Inside Track: Caught in a Tangled Web"
    Financial Times (11/22/00) P. 11; Kehoe, Louise

    ICANN's introduction of new top level domains took such a long time that the growth of the domain name system is a disappointment, argues columnist Louise Kehoe. Dot-info will likely never be quite as attractive as dot-com, according to Kehoe. And the addition of new TLDs might introduce some confusion as well, with domain name owners who registered a dot-com address facing the prospect of having some other company obtain the identical dot-info address. The proposed "sunrise period" might help. ICANN is also adding new registrars to handle the new TLDs, and the extra registrars might muddle the situation for users. Search engines might become the future of Internet navigation, as opposed to the simple process of guessing an Internet address. Further, VeriSign began registering domain names in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean over the past two weeks, and the move has brought even more controversy and confusion into the domain name arena. VeriSign claims it is working to provide Internet access to users in their "native language" and to establish standards but competitors believe VeriSign is trying to take over the standards process. A method of addressing technical and operational issues that complements the constantly changing demands of Internet users has become necessary. The argument that the current domain name system is losing momentum is becoming more and more mainstream. Internet addresses ought to reflect human thought instead of getting bogged down by dots and slashes, says RealNames CEO Keith Teare. Currently, spaces between words in an Internet address are not permitted, and allowing such a space would introduce a variety of new, lucrative domain names, says Kehoe.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html

  • "European Council Moves Net Crime Treaty Forward"
    CNet (11/20/00); Luening, Erich

    The Council of Europe will post a draft of its controversial cybercrime treaty to its Web site today, according to an official from the group. The treaty has come under intense fire from civil liberties groups due to privacy concerns, but the official said that the most recent draft will include revisions meant to ease those concerns. John Murphy, a law professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said the controversy enveloping the treaty could delay, and perhaps even prevent, the treaty's ratification in the United States and elsewhere.
    http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1007-200-3785827.html

  • "Internet Is Breaking Down Barriers for Women in Japan"
    SiliconValley.com (11/21/00); Zielenziger, Michael

    Japanese businesswomen say the Internet is allowing them to enter the traditionally male-dominated business world. This was unheard of in the recent past, when few businesses gave women positions beyond the secretarial or clerical level and expected women to abandon those positions to get married and have children. Now, however, as Japan tries to remedy a stagnant economy while struggling to enter the Internet age, women say the entrepreneurial culture that the Internet has fostered is providing them an opportunity to build careers for themselves. For example, Kaori Sasaki recently raised $6 million from investors such as IBM and Goldman Sachs for the launch of her eWoman.com Web site. Sasaki is also the host of an annual conference dealing with women and business. Her partner, Mari Matsunaga, is known by Fortune magazine as the most powerful businesswoman in Asia because of her role in bringing the Internet to Japanese cell-phone users. Matsunaga developed the i-mode Internet service for cell phones that now counts over 20 million users. Other up-and-coming Internet businesses run by women include eBay Japan, Womenjapan.com, and Photonet Japan, as well as countless individual efforts. "Women who have babies, women who can't work full time, the Internet has opened a very large window for them," Matsunaga says. "I think eventually they will surpass male users, but the question remains whether women will seize the breakthrough moment."
    http://www0.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/indepth/docs/japan112200.htm
    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women

  • "Now Business Dot-Coms Are Suffering Through Shakeout"
    Investor's Business Daily (11/22/00) P. A8; Coleman, Murray

    Business-to-business (B2B) startups are going the way of their consumer-focused counterparts, with many B2B marketplaces folding in recent months and many more expected to follow. Since August, over 130 B2B exchanges have folded, not including those that intended to close or reorganize, according to Deloitte Consulting. The number of B2B exchanges has dropped from more than 1,500 at the end of the summer to 1,300 today, and will fall to roughly 400 within four years, says Deloitte's Len Prokopets. "We're about to see the next big round of failures in the dot-com world," says B2BeMarketplace.com CEO Daniel Bryan. "And it's going to make the B2C (business-to-consumer) e-commerce fallout look pretty small by comparison." The B2B marketplace quickly became crowded as startups anticipated B2B being much more profitable than B2C. Although Dataquest predicts that B2B e-commerce sales will surpass $237 billion this year, many B2B firms are seeing slow growth. As a result, some B2B firms are repositioning themselves as content providers, reverting to the old method of bringing in money through subscription and advertising revenues, Bryan says. Private exchanges might have a better chance of success than large, public marketplaces, experts say, noting that large manufacturers believe private exchanges help prevent their competitors from discovering private corporate data. In addition, suppliers worry that public exchanges reduce their margins. Meanwhile, both public and private B2B exchanges could boost business by convincing corporations that their technologies are secure, says Yankee Group analyst Lisa Williams.
    http://www.investors.com/editorial/tech04.asp?v=11/22

  • "Kiwi Tech Law Taking Hard Turn"
    Wired News (11/16/00); Griggs, Kim

    Proposed amendments to New Zealand's computer hacking laws are being studied closely following criticisms from several parties. The revisions sponsored by minister Paul Swain would make accessing a computer without authorization illegal, except for law enforcement and security agencies. Email, faxes, and message pagers would be considered "private communication" under the changes, while telecommunications network operators would be required to guarantee that their networks can be intercepted. Swain defends the exemptions for police and security agencies as a way to empower these agencies to go after criminals using new technology. But researcher Nicky Hager writes in an article that the proposed laws' effects would be similar to Britain's controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Green Party MP Keith Locke claims his party would support anti-hacking laws, but not extended surveillance measures, deriding the bills as an excuse for state agencies to monitor individuals. Also against the proposal is the Act Party and the National Party, with representative Tony Ryall of the latter group citing warnings from Hager about an "interception interface" plugged into the Internet and phone companies, remotely controlled by police and intelligence agencies. "This government can offer no guarantee that those lines will only be used for authorized and warranted purposes, because privacy is at stake," Ryall admonished. New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Bruce Slane is concerned that the proposal would grant police the power to access computers without search warrants. The legislation's passage and the proposed amendments will face heavy debate in parliament.
    http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,40230,00.html

  • "Unions Seem a Small Threat to High Tech, at Least for Now"
    Electronic Business (11/00) Vol. 26, No. 12, P. 42; Harbert, Tam

    Labor unions are unlikely to have a noticeable impact on high-tech companies at this time, despite the recent advances unions have made into the tech industry. Still, the importance of unions in the tech industry could increase over time, especially if the U.S. economy falters, observers say. The AFL-CIO recently announced plans to focus on unionizing high-tech workers, while the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in August decided to allow temporary workers to participate in collective bargaining and unions. Still, major tech groups such as the American Electronics Association and the Semiconductor Industry Association say they have seen little union activity. Meanwhile, labor organizers say high-tech workers need to form unions to protect their rights. Former Microsoft contract worker Marcus Courtney two years ago helped establish Washtech because he felt that major corporations were hiring contract workers to eliminate the expense of paying benefits. The lawsuit brought against Microsoft by temp workers in 1992 contributed to the formation of Washtech, but the main reason for forming the group was a decision by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries that excluded some computer workers who were paid by the hour from receiving overtime pay. Temps often work at tech jobs for several years without receiving vacation time, stock options, or other benefits, Courtney says. About half of Washtech's members are full-time workers, who are interested in the issue of overtime pay as they are increasingly expected to work 60- or 70-hour weeks, says Courtney. Another workers' rights group, the Communications Workers of America, is trying to ensure that lower-level workers have the chance to move up. Meanwhile, the Alliance at IBM, a labor organization that is over 20 years old, gained momentum last year when Big Blue infuriated many of its employees by changing its pension plan to a cash-balance plan.

  • "Wanted! U.S. Citizens for High-Tech Jobs"
    National Journal (11/18/00) Vol. 32, No. 47, P. 3682; Vaida, Bara

    Although Congress will allow more highly-skilled foreign workers into the country over the next several years, the high-tech industry could receive a sterner response the next time it raises the issue of increasing H-1B visas. Critics of the industry say it should do more to prepare American citizens for high-tech jobs. American students continue to favor subjects such as history, English, foreign languages, and art over computer science and engineering. The industry has some 800,000 unfilled jobs at a time when the number of U.S. graduates studying computer science and engineering is at a 17-year-low. "We see the H-1B visa program as only a Band-Aid solution," says Phil Bond of the Information Technology Industry Council. Labor experts say the high-tech industry could help prepare American workers by working with high schools and colleges to bring their curriculum up to date with its needs.

  • "Finishing the Computer Revolution"
    Industry Week (11/06/00) Vol. 249, No. 18, P. 17; Teresko, John

    Human-centric computing has become the focal point of MIT's five-year Oxygen project, and the director of the school's Laboratory for Computer Science has taken the crusade public in a new book that Harper-Collins will publish in January. Entitled "The Unfinished Revolution: Human-Centered Computers and What They Can Do For Us," Michael Dertouzos' book argues that the information technology industry must adapt computers to the needs and capabilities of people rather than requiring people to accommodate the lack of technological advancement. "If the quirky machines that surround you are causing you grief, imagine the mess you'll be in when there are 10 times as many of these creatures biting at you in the next few years," writes Dertouzos. He believes that computers should understand speech, automate human tasks, individualize information access, facilitate human collaboration across space and time, and offer easy customization. The Oxygen project, which includes Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, and Philips Electronics among its participants, could reveal new information about machine learning as well as the blending of biology and computer science, Dertouzos says.

  • "Instant Messaging Use Expected to Jump"
    Computerworld (11/13/00) Vol. 34, No. 46, P. 24; Disabatino, Jennifer

    Real-time collaboration and instant messaging have been heavily promoted, but corporations have been slow to embrace the technology. However, International Data (IDC) predicts that the percentage of major corporations using these tools will jump from 6.9 percent today to roughly 70 percent within the next 12 months. Industries such as transportation and retail/wholesale are expected to rely more heavily on it than others. The increased use of instant messaging and real-time collaboration is mainly due to the fact that more email programs have the technology built in, and because many employees are using free Web-based software on their own. However, many companies are wary of instant messaging because of security concerns and too much "personal chat" ruining the effectiveness of the service. Still, most experts say there is little inherent security danger in using instant messaging, and even publicly available products such as AOL's Instant Messenger have security equal to any email program. But privacy is a legitimate concern because instant messaging is completely Internet-based, and there is no control over message routing and no secure standards for message delivery.

  • "IT Strides Seen as Double-Edged Sword"
    Network World (11/13/00) Vol. 17, No. 46, P. 29; Kistner, Toni

    Technological advances, contrary to popular belief, are actually increasing the number of workers on the road each day as the number of mobile workers grows far faster than the number of remote workers, according to a recent IT Forecaster report from International Data (IDC). Although broadband and wireless technologies could enable employees to work from home, more often the new tools are used to connect salespeople, independent contractors, and other mobile workers to the main office as they conduct business at different locations. Mobile workers are increasing their ranks 3.5 times faster than remote workers, says IDC. Mobile and remote workers, as defined by the report, spend at least 20 percent of their working hours outside of the office, while remote workers must work from home at least four days a month. Mobile workers are outstripping remote workers because of advances such as longer-lasting notebook batteries and the proliferation of devices such as personal digital assistants, cell phones, and two-way pagers, observers say. In addition, the number of remote workers is growing more slowly than anticipated because of the slow deployment of broadband services, security concerns, reluctance among employers as well as workers, and the expense of remote infrastructure development. However, International Telework Association and Council President John Edwards objects to IDC's findings. Technology is not bringing more people onto the roads, but simply allows workers to make more productive use of their time while traveling, Edwards says. Furthermore, Edwards disagrees with the report's distinction between mobile and remote workers, arguing that mobile workers are a type of remote worker.
    http://www.nwfusion.com/net.worker/news/2000/1113strides.html