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 ACM.
To send comments, please write to email@example.com.
Volume 3, Issue 294: Wednesday, January 2, 2002
- "IT Starting Salaries to Remain Flat in 2002"
CIO Information Network (12/27/01); Aponovich, David
The average base salaries for U.S. IT professionals will fall or remain as they are in the new year, according to a salary survey from RHI Consulting. RHI executive director Katherine Spencer Lee says the economic downturn and the dot-com implosion have caused most pay structures to flatten out. The overall average salary increase for 2002 is expected to be 0.1 percent, a dramatic downgrade from the 8.4 percent predicted for 2001. Lee predicts continued starting salary growth for IT workers that are technically adept and knowledgeable about business, industry, and interpersonal relationships. RHI also expects to see significant base salary increases for network security professionals. Applications architects and consulting and systems integration directors will experience the highest average base salary growth, with 6.7 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively. Strong worker demands will also fuel starting salary growth for database managers, ERP integration managers, systems administrators, disaster recovery specialists, senior help desk specialists, and software engineers, according to RHI.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Online Job Sites Yield Few Jobs, Users Complain"
Wall Street Journal (01/02/02) P. A7; Maher, Kris; Silverman, Rachel Emma
Many users are discovering that landing a job through online job sites is a rarity. Searchers complain that such sites are riddled with outdated vacancies, and note that potential employers often do not acknowledge inquiries. A recent study by Drake Beam Morin estimates that 62 percent of hires for management-level positions take place through networking, whereas only 6 percent take place via Web sites. CareerXroads also completed a study indicating that more hires in 2001 occurred through corporate Web sites rather than online job boards. Users such as unemployed health-care administrator Grace Dubois do not like the fact that machines rather than people match job openings to candidates, resulting in a lot of offerings that seekers are not interested in. Furthermore, the rising unemployment rate is intensifying the competition between job applicants using boards, which are also increasing in number. Meanwhile, employers overloaded with online resumes have difficulty acknowledging them all. CareerXroads' Mark Mehler warns that seekers should not depend solely on the Internet, stressing that most hires in America take place through employee referrals.
- "Peer to Peer: As the Revolution Recedes"
CNet (01/02/02); Borland, John
Peer-to-peer (P2P) technology is apparently losing its glamour in the corporate world, but maintaining its allure simply because of its efficiency. Although consumer-oriented, file-trading P2P projects by StreamCast Networks, Kazaa, MusicCity, and others face the threat of massive lawsuits, business-oriented P2P companies such as Groove Networks and NextPage are gaining traction. Experts say the decentralized design of P2P will help secure companies against physical disruptions as well as cut costs. Groove, founded by Lotus Notes pioneer Ray Ozzie, recently secured a 10,000-seat license deal from GlaxoSmithKline and $51 million in funding from Microsoft. Meanwhile new companies Kontiki and Red Swoosh are targeting the industrial strength P2P content delivery market dominated by Akamai Technologies. Larger technology firms Intel and Sun Microsystems are also pioneering business P2P standards and platforms through Intel's work in the Peer-to-Peer Working Group and Sun's Jxta, which is a new programming language platform designed to facilitate more powerful P2P applications.
- "New Patent Office Has Old Goal"
New York Times (12/31/01) P. C4; Chartrand, Sabra
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is struggling to significantly reduce the pending time for patents. The office's goal for the past five years has been to cut application processing time from 24 months to 18. However, patent officials say that instead the pending time has increased because there is insufficient funding for hiring and training examiners, while the number and sophistication of applications has increased as well. The number of applications the office accepted in 2000 represents a 75 percent increase over 1991 figures, with high-tech inventions constituting the bulk of the growth. The agency says its workforce of 3,000 examiners will need to increase an additional 700 next year, mainly to handle patent categories that were unheard of a decade ago, such as software, biotechnology, and business methods. Examiners were also being lured away by higher-paying jobs, but the office instituted legislation that gives them a 10 percent raise if they switch from paper-based processing to electronic. A major goal of the agency is the complete computerization of the patent application system, but after spending $240 million to begin the project this year, many stages are still dependent on conventional, paper-based processing. "In the 21st century, so much technology is so sophisticated that we can't allow patent applications to sit around for two or three years," says Patent and Trademark Office director James E. Rogan.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Conservative Year Ahead for IT Budgets"
Computerworld Online (12/26/01); Verton, Dan
Giga Information Group has lowered its IT spending estimates for this year and next because of the Sept. 11 attacks and the slow economy. Instead of the previously forecast drop of 3 percent this year and 7 percent growth for 2002, Giga now expects a 5 percent drop this year and just 4 percent growth next year. Some areas of continued growth will be in security, application servers and integration, e-procurement, databases, portals, CRM, and software outsourcing and consulting. Telecommunications and hardware infrastructure will drop an estimated 20 percent this year and another few percentage points next year, according to Giga. Areas such as servers, mainframes, network infrastructure, IT training, education, and storage hardware are expected to experience a decline of 10 percent or more in investment. Computerworld's October IT spending survey reported 68 percent of executives see their IT budgets flat or declining next year.
- "Getting in Gear to Telecommute"
Washington Post (12/31/01) P. E1; Joyce, Amy
Telecommuting experts say the sector is set to take off after the Sept. 11 attacks because of a heightened sense of urgency to disperse workers and add resiliency to operations. A recent study by the International Telework Association and Council found about 28 million U.S. workers telecommute at least one day a week. Some 58 percent of employees surveyed by the 2001 Randstad North American Employee Review would like to work from home. Still, the practice is mostly regulated to either very small or very large companies. Telework Association's Chuck Wilsker says Sept. 11 has prompted four times as many calls for information about telecommuting options, while the Society for Human Resource Management says 14 percent of human resource heads expect telecommuting to be adopted more quickly. Other experts tout telecommuting as an important retention tool, given the proper policies governing it.
- "Take Your Best Guess at What Will Unfold this Year"
SiliconValley.com (01/01/02); Gillmor, Dan
SiliconValley.com columnist Dan Gillmor makes several predictions for how 2002 will unfold in the technology and Web industry. He forecasts that developments in biotechnology, corporate information-technology spending, and federal counter-terrorism and civilian monitoring equipment will lead to economic improvements in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Gillmor believes that Apple Computer will bring out a server version of its OS X operating system for Intel-compatible computers, and expects the federal judge overseeing the Microsoft antitrust case will hold off on a ruling until she hears testimony from the nine states that still oppose the deal. He also expects that more terrorist attacks will erode civil liberties and privacy rights even further. The conflict between copyright owners and technology companies is likely to escalate, Gillmor writes, while the major telecoms will successfully lobby for legislation to curtail the growth of broadband Internet access through grass-roots wireless deployment. However, for this year Gillmor does not foresee the collapse of e-commerce from a massive security breach, Microsoft gaining monopolistic control over the Internet, the death of email due to overwhelming spam, or the loss of online anonymity due to security fears.
- "Using the Voice to Tour the Internet"
New York Times (12/31/01) P. C3; Lohr, Steve
"Voice Web" software and services are poised to make an impact on the market. Both startups and major players are working toward a voice-enabled Internet, with particular emphasis on the corporate sector. Such technology can be applied to call centers to help automate phone customer services. This will lead to significant savings, according to analysts. Voice portals are another application, enabling users to access data over the telephone via corporate intranets. The voice-enabled Internet will rely heavily on standards, but more than one standard currently exists. The VoiceXML standard released by the World Wide Web consortium has been enhanced by Microsoft and industry partners, creating a new standard called SALT (speech application language tags).
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "IT Execs Approach Budgets With Caution"
InfoWorld.com (12/27/01); Jones, Jennifer
Business CIOs and CTOs will be more cautious about their IT investments this year, according a recent poll by Morgan Stanley. Although average IT budgets are higher, the percentage of decision makers rethinking their strategies is up significantly. Only 52 percent of CIOs said they were flexible with their IT budgets in October, compared with 62 percent in November. Mostly, shifts include a move away from enterprise-wide changes and toward pinpointed projects that promise quick return. Morgan Stanley predicts e-commerce, security, and enterprise application integration will be the most common projects this year, followed by storage hardware and enterprise resource planning. Still, InfoWorld's own research shows CIOs are willing to invest in areas they see as giving their companies an important edge when the economy warms.
- "Will the Sun Shine Again on the Tech Industry in the Coming Year?"
Wall Street Journal (12/31/01) P. B1; Swisher, Kara
The technology sector will revive in 2002 with the reintroduction of devices such as pagers, but with new ideas for services. Other brand-new gadgets such as Handspring's Treo combo device and the Danger Research email pager also promise a tech resurgence. Meanwhile, the introduction of Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube should increase the stakes in the home console market, especially as game makers move beyond traditional games to new functions using online connections. Amazon and Yahoo! may yet be acquired by a larger company, something some analysts had predicted for 2001, even as they refine new business models. Venture capital investors can also be expected to re-enter the market sometime in 2002 in order to bolster their portfolios that were battered by dot-com failures.
- "Japan Bets on Fuel Cells for Tech-Toy Power"
Reuters (12/28/01); Amaha, Eriko
Japanese researchers hope fuel cells will solve the power problems of increasingly small and power-hungry mobile devices, especially new 3G phones. The technology, which generates electricity through the combination of hydrogen and oxygen, can power devices up to 10 times longer than standard lithium batteries used in many cell phones and laptops today. Toshiba has a two-year time frame for commercial release on their its methanol-conversion fuel cell, while Sony is researching a carbon molecule-fueled battery that would work well in both extremely hot and cold temperatures. NEC, the biggest Japanese cell phone manufacturer, is collaborating with that country's government on nanotechnology fuel-cell batteries, and aims for a 2005 market debut. NEC Laboratories senior director Yoshimi Kubo says fuel-cell batteries will be malleable and refillable, allowing them to be fitted into smaller devices and refilled with fuel purchased at a convenience store.
- "When the Devil Is in the Design"
USA Today (12/31/01) P. 3B; Hopkins, Jim
Poorly received products are directly attributable to bad design in which consumers are ignored, there is an overemphasis on technology, and/or companies are in a rush to get the products to market. A company's product-development team usually gets consumer input at a late stage in the design process, if at all. Many times consumers are ignored because the design teams are primarily made up of engineers and marketers, and there is a profound lack of human behavior experts such as psychologists, notes Lorraine Justice of Georgia Tech. Teams composed entirely of corporate employees can be narrow-minded, while workers may be afraid to veto bad ideas because they are championed by CEOs or high-level executives. Industrial designers can improve products, if they are allowed to participate early in the process. Designers also create products with numerous features and functions because electronics are cheaper, but this often leads to consumer confusion. Furthermore, consumers can get frustrated if they end up with features they do not want or need. Nor is this problem limited to small companies--Babson College's John Cogliandro notes that big players such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are also guilty of overdesign.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "A Nano Fan for Nano Gadgets"
Wired News (12/27/01); Knapp, Louise
Because of increasingly compact circuitry necessary to run new technology in cell phones, laptops, and other devices, engineers are constantly battling to reduce heat and power consumption. Now, Purdue University researchers have developed a fan that uses just 1/150th of the electricity needed for a conventional fan, produces almost no noise, and no electromagnetic interference. The Piezofan, as it is called, has a piezoelectric ceramic glued onto the fan blade that causes it to move back and forth in response to positive and negative electric current. The oscillating movement is caused by the material's special quality that forces it to distort when in contact with the different charges. Device engineers see the Piezofan as an accompanying fan on electronics devices like a laptop, where one single fan is no longer sufficient, says Apple senior thermal scientist Girish Upadhya. The Purdue team is currently working on formulas to help product engineers choose the right size and shape of Piezofans for their designs and expects the technology to be in devices within the next two years.
- "Project Oxygen's New Wind"
Technology Review Online (12/20/01); Brown, Eric S.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are creating computing systems that will be as ubiquitous as oxygen to replace the PC. After the passing of pervasive computing pioneer and LCS director Michael Dertouzos, Project Oxygen is under the leadership of his MIT colleagues, each of whom bring different emphasis to the project. The group is delving into two areas, handheld devices and environmental computing systems, dubbed H21 and E21, respectively. The H21 prototypes focus on more advanced technologies than are available commercially, such as embedded digital cameras that adjust for a far broader range of lighting. E21 systems are working on solutions to problems computers and humans might have if communicating through voice and facial expression. Project Oxygen also has implications for privacy and security, since it involves a vision of many pervasive systems that would identify many individual users while protecting their identity at the same time. MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory director Rodney Brooks says these pervasive devices should work like today's telephones, which are always on, but listening only when necessary.
- "Collaboration's Still Kicking"
InformationWeek (12/31/01) No. 869, P. 23; Konicki, Steve; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk
There is a greater focus on IT security in the wake of Sept. 11, but companies are not scaling back their collaborative projects. Indeed, the situation after Sept. 11 has made the need for collaborative initiatives all the more important. In fact, companies will engage in more collaboration with their suppliers as a result of the increased emphasis on security, according to Gartner analyst Bruce Bond. Air travel beset by increasing cancellations and longer airport waits has spurred General Motors to ramp up its collaborative design efforts, notes CIO Kirk Gutmann. GM has already consolidated over 70 online designer portals into a single site accessed by approximately 32,000 designers worldwide. Meanwhile, Ingersoll-Rand is using collaborative software to centralize management, save millions in costs, and bring products to market faster. The importance of customer collaboration was demonstrated shortly after the attacks, when United Parcel Service Logistics leveraged its Global Tracker system to ship customers' orders on time despite interrupted travel. Collaborative technologies are also important to the health-care industry, particularly with threats of terrorist-directed disease outbreaks running rampant.
- "True Colors"
Interactive Week (12/24/01) Vol. 18, No. 49, P. 45; Fixmer, Rob
The biggest obstacle to implementing a national ID card system does not involve database software and network architecture. John Moore, program analyst with the General Services Administration's Office of Electronic Government, says, "The real challenge is getting all the various vendors and contractors to agree on interoperability issues--not to mention finding a way to ensure that the data you put in the card is credible in the first place." The comments of Moore, who is in charge of a $1.5 billion program to issue 3 million digital IDs to the U.S. military, comes as technologists and government officials consider new ways of intercepting criminals and protecting against terrorist attacks. In fact, a technological and political furor over the issue of a national ID system was created soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when Oracle CEO Larry Ellison commented that a national ID card with a photo and digitized thumbprint is the only way to make airline travel safe. A national ID card remains a controversial issue among archconservatives, libertarians, and civil libertarians. President Bush says he will not consider a national ID program at this time. Although high-tech companies support the idea of a national ID, there are serious issues that need to be addressed such as card durability and data capacity; cost and availability of readers; ubiquitous connectivity to an array of government and private-sector databases; and the security of the technology itself. Other questions remain, including whether the government or the private sector should establish the program, and whether the ID cards should be required or voluntary.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Are You There, God? (It's Me, HAL)"
Darwin (12/01) Vol. 1, No. 15, P. 38; Kalin, Sari
The spiritual and ethical implications of increasingly sophisticated computer systems are stirring debate from both technical experts and theologians, who believe that businesses must consider such issues as well. Technology such as the Internet reflects upon and transforms those who create and use it, the spiritual ramifications being whether the changes are for good or for ill. For example, Rabbi Irwin Kula of the Center for Learning and Leadership argues that the Web can allow users to tap into a mystical sense of interconnectedness. At the same time, however, it restricts creativity through depersonalizing routines, and Philip Clayton of Harvard Divinity School urges that entrepreneurs develop technology "that unlocks, rather than restrains, the human spiritual potential." Inventor Ray Kurzweil suggests that technological advancements could cut both ways, spiritually: The next 40 years, he proposes, could see the creation of machine intelligence so human-like that it could be considered conscious, while human biology and technology will merge to such a degree that it will be difficult to define what constitutes a person. Such predictions can wreak havoc with the religious, who think it sacrilegious to suggest the possibility of conscious machines, or electronically preserving oneself and achieving a kind of immortality. Some people, such as Anne Foerst of St. Bonaventure University, believe that the creation of a conscious machine will not devalue humanity; certain questions about Man's purpose will remain and continue to inspire philosophers and theologians. Business must account for the spiritual side of technology if it is to take advantage of what Kula calls "the opportunities intrinsic in this technology that can help build a better society."
- "Long-Distance Robots"
Scientific American (12/01) Vol. 785, No. 6, P. 94; Alpert, Mark
Telepresence could make up for some of the shortcomings of videoconferencing, such as the difficulty of understanding what participants are saying and the lack of equipment mobility. The technology makes use of robots equipped with a video camera, a microphone, a wireless transmitter for sending signals to an Internet connection, artificial-intelligence software, and sensors. Telepresence robots allow users to go online, from their remote location, and see what the robot sees and hears. Users also can use a mouse to control the movements of the telepresence robot. IRobot is active in this area and plans to sell telepresence robots for both business and home use. There are some concerns that people will have a hard time embracing telepresence robots because they are likely to see them more as camera-wielding intruders. However, telepresence robots may offer benefits that are so great, such as safe alternatives for seniors who do not want to live in nursing homes, that people may come to accept them. So far, reconnaissance in dangerous environments, such as the World Trade Center site, appears to be the best demonstration of the value of telepresence robots, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has decided to fund an iRobot telepresence robot that specializes in reconnaissance and surveillance.
- "21st Century Security"
Internet World (12/01) Vol. 7, No. 20, P. 22; Erlanger, Leon
Major organizations and tech firms are being assaulted by increasingly sophisticated yet easy-to-use tools such as the Code Red worm. Meanwhile, wireless access, telecommuting, and corporate extranets are eroding the perimeter between the internal network and the Internet. These factors are forcing companies to renew their focus on security and devise detailed security policies that are workable and clearly defined. There must be interaction between all employees affected by such policies when creating them. The protection companies require extends from the perimeter down into departments, servers, applications, and even hardware, and requires a commitment of time, money, and management that did not exist until recently. The firewall is a perimeter tool that is proving very popular and is being increasingly distributed throughout network entry points, but companies should not assume that it is invulnerable. Other security measures companies can employ include ID products that detect intrusions based on attack signatures, user-authentication solutions, corporate antivirus software, VPNs, and trusted operating systems. In the meantime, more and more small- and mid-sized businesses are contracting with managed security providers (MSPs) to constantly monitor their networks because they cannot afford to do so themselves.