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 1, Issue 7: Wednesday, December 15, 1999
- "A Confident Europe in Countdown to Y2K"
International Herald Tribune (12/15/99) P. 1; Buerkle, Tom
Europe expects Y2K to have little impact on its critical infrastructure, including the power grid, air traffic control
systems, telecommunications, and banking. Although a few problems are likely to affect small and midsize businesses, most
of these issues will be delays or errors rather than total failures, the Gartner Group says. "We expect there to be a
marginal increase in the hassle factor for computer systems in the next few weeks," says Gartner Group research director Andy
Kyte. Action 2000, the British government's computer bug agency, expects glitches in about 5 percent of data functions, which is
similar to the level of problems large companies have when they deploy new software systems. Britain was among the earliest
nations to rank Y2K as a top priority, and British businesses and government agencies have spent about $32.42 billion on
remediation, according to Action 2000. Other countries have benefited from the Y2K information that has been disseminated by
Britain, the U.S., and the Netherlands. Many experts say Italy is the least Y2K-ready of all the major European nations. "We
have been a bit behind, but I think we are catching up to European standards," says Enrico Giacomelli, CEO of Italian
software maker Softsand. Eurelectric, the association of European electric companies, says it is increasingly confident
that it will be able to maintain power production. Meanwhile, the Financial Services Authority of Britain says banks, brokers,
and financial markets should continue to operate smoothly through the date change. Europe's aviation sector has prepared for Y2K
and concerns about flying have diminished.
- "Sun Microsystems Plans to Offer Linux for Its Hardware Line"
Wall Street Journal (12/15/99) P. B17
Sun has announced plans to offer a version of Red Hat Linux that runs on its workstations and servers. In the past, Sun has
focused on proprietary technology, developing hardware that runs on its own UltraSparc microprocessors and Solaris operating
system. However, some Linux users are demanding access to features of UltraSparc-based computers, including high internal
data transfer rates and high-end graphics support, says Sun's Herb Hinstorff. Although Sun has encouraged Linux as a Microsoft
Windows rival, the company is concerned about Linux competing with Solaris. In response to Linux, Sun has allowed Solaris to
run Linux programs without modification, and plans to open Solaris' source code.
- "Intel to Push 800 MHz"
PC World Online (12/14/99); Mainelli, Tom
Intel next week is expected to announce an 800 MHz Pentium III processor and a 750 MHz Pentium III CPU, reclaiming the lead in
its battle with Advanced Microprocessor Devices (AMD) to offer the fastest chip on the market. Originally, Intel had not
planned to announce the 750 MHz PIII for three more weeks, and had not scheduled the debut of the 800 MHz PIII for months. In
November, AMD announced its 750 MHz Athlon processor, now the fastest processor available, two weeks ahead of schedule. Intel
is now shipping some of its new processors to PC makers, but experts believe PCs based on the new chips will not be available
before January. The competition between Intel and AMD is redefining high-end systems, and speeding the availability of
increasingly powerful technology. Compaq is working on a new Presario model, the Presario 5900Z, based on the Athlon-750. AMD
has announced plans to release an 800 MHz Athlon in the first half of next year, although experts believe the release will come
within a few weeks. Experts predict AMD will release 900 MHz Athlons at the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the
second quarter. Intel and AMD's rivalry is benefiting everyone in the PC market, says Insight 64 chip analyst Nathan Brookwood.
High-end users are able to get cutting-edge technology, while other users enjoy the price cuts on existing processors every
time a new model is released.
click here to view full article
- "U.S. to Computer Hackers: Give U.S. a Y2K Break"
Reuters (12/14/99); Wolf, Jim
John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000
Conversion, recently pleaded with computer hackers to delay their
activities until after the New Year's weekend has passed.
Koskinen says that although some hackers feel that they may be
doing a public service by breaking into computer systems to
highlight their lack of security, it would be better if such
activity was put off for a few weeks after the calendar changes
to 2000. Authorities are concerned that January 1 will bring
hostile cyber attacks from individuals or rogue nations, although
the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, which is in
charge of fending off cyber attacks, says that it has no direct
evidence of any such activity. However, many anti-virus software
manufacturers say that people should be prepared for a slew of
viruses triggered to go off on January 1. In preparation for
this, several federal agencies, including the U.S. Office of
Personnel Management and the Defense Department, are planning to
stop their Internet services for a brief period during the New
Year's weekend to avoid any possible Y2K-related attacks or other
- "Windows 2000 System, Long Awaited and Long Delayed, May Be Complete"
Wall Street Journal (12/15/99) P. B8; Hamilton, David P.
Microsoft says it could complete work on Windows 2000 and release
the operating system to manufacturers as early as today, although
the operating system will not be commercially released until Feb.
17. For months, Microsoft has been saying it is on schedule to
release the program to manufacturers by the end of the year,
although the date is still not fixed and could be pushed back if
glitches appear. Windows 2000, already more than a year overdue,
is one of the most complicated software projects ever attempted.
The operating system is the core of Microsoft's effort to
dominate the Internet computing market. Windows 2000 will be
Microsoft's first operating system for high-end server computers,
and Microsoft believes Windows 2000 will rival Unix systems in
reliability and stability. Windows 2000 will run the Internet
and e-commerce applications that are part of Microsoft's Windows
DNA 2000 initiative. Microsoft says Windows 2000 will help it
overtake companies such as Oracle that make individual e-commerce
- "E-tailing Is Next Frontier for Logistics Providers"
Journal of Commerce (12/14/99) P. 1; Atkinson, Helen
E-commerce vendors, especially startups with little experience,
might face an order-fulfillment nightmare this holiday season,
experts say. As a result, some e-commerce firms might decide to
outsource distribution to logistics providers. U.S. consumers
are expected to spend $4 billion online between Thanksgiving and
Jan. 1, with 8.6 million households shopping over the Internet,
according to Forrester Research. The rise in online shopping
means that many packages that customers would ordinarily have
transported themselves will need to be shipped instead.
Meanwhile, many e-commerce vendors have very little experience
with the U.S. delivery network. Many vendors worked to gain
market share for the holidays without thinking about order
fulfillment or profits, says Forrester analyst Stacie McCullough.
This holiday season might motivate online vendors to outsource
their order fulfillment to companies such as United Parcel
Service and Federal Express, says analyst Mike Simonetto.
Catalog retailers such as Fingerhut can also capitalize on the
order fulfillment situation, says Simonetto.
- "Ford Set for Europe Deal With IBM"
Financial Times (12/14/99) P. 27; Burt, Tim
Ford intends to extend its European e-commerce services through a
new partnership it is expected to announced today with IBM, with
their alliance to include supply chain management, purchasing,
and vehicle design. The five-year deal would create two
accelerated solutions centers (ASCs) in Cologne, Germany, and
Essex, England, where about 100 new e-commerce applications would
be developed annually. Ford will save about 30 percent a year
through the arrangement, based on a pilot test of the program
this year in the U.S. The applications created by IBM and Ford
would allow closer integration with Ford's Oracle and Microsoft
ventures. The IBM deal is the first major effort by Ford to cut
down on software development costs in Europe.
- "AT&T Says It Is Y2K-Ready but Warns of Problems in Rural Areas, Abroad"
Wall Street Journal (12/15/99) P. B23; Blumenstein, Rebecca
AT&T announced that its network is ready for any Y2K-related
problems, but said customers may have trouble in rural locations
or when making international calls. AT&T's John Pasqua believes
the company has fully readied itself for almost anything that
could occur as a result of Y2K. AT&T's preparations include a
contingency plan for widespread power failures. The company has
dedicated a minimum of $700 million to make sure its 285 million
lines of code will not encounter any problems. However, AT&T may
not be able to avoid all problems because the global telecom
network consists of multiple interconnected networks. AT&T and
other carriers route calls to hundreds of other carriers after
getting them from regional Bells and other local telcos. These
telcos, particularly ones in rural areas and high-risk countries,
have caused concern for AT&T officials. The company is primarily
worried about countries that have not sufficiently invested in
Y2K compliance, according to Pasqua. But Pasqua said 90 percent
of countries called most often are ready.
- "Customer Service Site Looks to New Technology For 'Answers'"
E-Commerce Times (12/09/99); Hillebrand, Mary
Answers.com, an online customer feedback company, launched a new
service Dec. 8 that can answer specific questions based on
company information. The new AnswerBase claims to be more
efficient than both FAQs lists and email-based customer
responses because it instantly gives specific answers to specific questions. Canadian-owned Net Shepherd, which recently bought and relaunched Answers.com,
believes it takes customer interaction to a new level. The site
works in accordance with a company's existing customer service
providers by filtering through customer inquiries, answering
those that it can, deferring others to live customer service
representatives, and, all the while, learning as it goes.
Answers.com says the service will cut down on the number of
expensive 800 number calls and emails a company receives.
- "Samsung Signs Compaq Chip Accord"
Financial Times (12/14/99) P. 27; Burton, John
Compaq has signed a preliminary agreement with Samsung
Electronics to improve Compaq's Alpha chip over the next five
years. Next year Samsung will invest $200 million in its
subsidiary Alpha Processors to increase Alpha production. The
move is part of Samsung's shift toward the non-memory chip
business and away from DRAM chips, which are vulnerable to market
downturns. Teaming with Compaq will help Samsung learn about
developing the non-memory chips that it plans to use in its new
digital appliance offerings. For its part, Compaq has agreed to
purchase $300 million worth of Alpha chips next year. The two
companies say Alpha is the fastest 64-bit chip, and plan to
compete with Intel in the market for advanced chips for high-end
- "Nifty Ways to Leave Your Hard Drive"
Industry Standard (12/20/99) Vol. 2, No. 38, P. 197; Goodin, Dan
Exchanging information online has not proven as easy as was
hoped, as file sizes, different software, and glitches often slow
things down. But a new branch of Web-based services could prove
an alternative, and a dozen companies are offering them. The
services act as Web-based hard drives, allowing users to store
information on the Web instead of on a computer hard drive.
X:drive, I-drive.com, and similar firms offer 25 MB of remote
disk space for free, and more for a charge, while Netdrive.com
offers 100 MB for free and does not require a browser for the
user to access files. Companies like Desktop.com and
MagicalDesk.com add a number of other services such as email and
calendars. However, so far users say the new services are a good
start but nowhere near perfect. Creighton University professor
Juli-Ann Gasper uses I-drive to post information and to allow her
students to drop off assignments; passwords prevent anyone other
than Gasper from accessing papers. But she notes that while
I-drive lets the students access from anywhere, not just on
campus, the system is not really saving them time. Vi Nguyen
volunteers for Aid to Children Without Parents, which has offices
in California and Vietnam. Staffers used to transfer files using
email, but now they use X:drive, which is much easier, though
some complain of problems when accessing with older browsers.
The services can save downloading time--I-drive even
automatically downloads files from its site to a PC during
off-hours. A new fee-based service, AtBackup, can automatically
back up designated files. However, the market for virtual
storage services appears ready to shake out soon, which could
mean that the big Web portals end up with the services.
- "Is Intel Loosening Its Hold on Making Crown Jewels?"
Investor's Business Daily (12/14/99) P. A6; DeTar, James
Intel has been outsourcing some of its manufacturing to Taiwan
Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) since 1997, and might
eventually outsource its Pentium manufacturing. Currently, TSMC
makes logic chips and chipsets for Intel, and is Intel's only
outside chip maker. "Obviously, Intel is the dominant
microprocessor company, and they are not outsourcing their
microprocessors, but I hope that one day they will," says TSMC
Chairman Morris Chang. Outsourcing Pentium production would be a
large change for Intel, which bases its business on design and
manufacturing. Intel now says it minimizes costs by owning its
own facilities, despite the large expense of establishing and
maintaining the plants. However, Intel will not rule out the
possibility of outsourcing Pentium manufacturing to TSMC "where
it makes strategic sense," says Intel's Tom Beermann. Meanwhile,
BancBoston Robertson Stephens analyst Sue Billat says it is
entirely possible that TSMC will one day make Pentiums, but notes
that Intel is unlikely to outsource its cutting-edge technology.
- "The New Laws of Dynamic Pricing"
Internet World (12/15/99) Vol. 5, No. 35, P. 26; Andrews, Whit
Dynamic pricing is a growing trend in e-commerce, as technology
erases issues such as availability and facilitates negotiation,
writes Whit Andrews. Soon every product on the Internet will
have flexible pricing, Andrews says, and companies that sell
products or services should embrace dynamic pricing while the
models are still being formed. Companies should consider the
possibility of dynamic pricing for every product, regardless of
the product's current popularity. The bidding process helps
determine demand for a certain product and prices can be raised
or lowered accordingly. Dynamic pricing applies to all
categories, Andrews says; eLance, for example, matches contract
workers with suitable clients. Another rule Andrews suggest is
that companies should structure their data carefully. If prices
are not fixed, all of a product's other features should be
described in great detail. Buyers want to know exactly what they
are getting, and sellers want to target only bidders worth their
time, Andrews says. Companies should also look for a new
opportunity, forming a new market that includes services that
make it invaluable. In addition, a business should consider not
only price, but other factors such as availability, freshness,
and quality that might appeal to a customer. To ensure that
buyer and seller are both satisfied with a transaction, companies
should remember to educate their buyers, Andrews says. Another
important consideration is allowing bots to access a site. Bots
will soon be advanced enough to make small purchases themselves,
and sites must organize information concisely to accommodate
these software agents. Finally, Andrews suggests that companies
waste no time in learning about dynamic pricing. By waiting,
Andrews says companies risk winding up like brick-and-mortar
firms that were late to embrace the Internet and are now
struggling to keep pace with startups.
click here to view full article
- "Streaming Media Goes Mainstream"
InformationWeek (12/06/99) No. 764, P. 69; Riggs, Brian
Streaming media is expanding into mainstream business as
companies realize that the technology can improve communication
and possibly reduce costs. This year companies are expected to
spend between $600 million and $700 million on streaming media
products, and the amount is expected to jump to $4 billion by
2003, according to Perey Research. Although about 9 percent of
U.S. firms now use streaming media on their Web sites or
intranets, the figure will reach about 30 percent within a year,
Dataquest says. Jacobs Engineering Group uses Vuent's Envision-i
real-time visual collaboration platform to allow employees at
different locations to work together on complex, 3D diagrams.
Instead of waiting for a team member at another office to send
CD-ROMs of the latest diagram, engineers and designers at Jacobs
can now receive diagrams immediately using streaming media. In
addition, Envision-i allows Jacobs to send only the relevant part
of the diagram, reducing the size of the files that are
exchanged. Faster communication is considered the top benefit of
streaming media. The technology is used to train workers,
broadcast executive speeches, and move closed-circuit television
onto data networks. Streaming media adoption is expected to grow
as the technology is incorporated into browser and email
software. Lotus tied Microsoft Windows Media Player and
RealNetworks' Real Player into Notes R5 messaging and
collaboration software in September. Meanwhile, White Pine
Software modified its CU-SeeMe videoconferencing software so it
can be integrated into Web servers and viewed with media players.
However, some IT departments at this time are reluctant to use
streaming media because of bandwidth and storage issues.
- "Root Certificate Warning May Rattle Consumers"
TechWeb (12/10/99); Krochmal, Mo
Certificates of identification are expiring in Netscape Web
browsers prior to Communicator version 4.06, which might cause
users to believe they are encountering a Y2K problem. Users will
see a warning page that informs them their certificate has
expired. The problem does not affect Microsoft Internet
Explorer, and is the result of certificates issued from AT&T,
VeriSign, and CyberTrust that were issued with five-year
expiration dates, most of which are set to expire December 31,
1999. Newer browser programs have certificates with 10-year
expiration dates. Forrester Research analyst Carl Howe says,
"It's really more of a PR problem than a Y2K problem. Newbies
see the message and freak out." The problem can be solved by
updating the Web browser.