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Volume 3, Issue 156: Wednesday, January 24, 2001
- "Former Sen. Bill Bradley Touts IT's Role in Economy"
InfoWorld.com (01/23/01); Trott, Bob
Speaking before a gathering of IT officials, former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley said the high-tech explosion of the past decade was one of the many unprecedented events of the 20th century to shape our everyday lives. However, he told the IT officials not to try to outguess what will happen next. "The thought that you can predict the future, I think, is a precarious path," he said. Bradley said further advances in technology and globalization will once again change the high-tech landscape, especially in the areas of biotechnology and telecommunications, and told the IT officials that they must be prepared to react to these changes. As an example, Bradley pointed to how the way in which biotechnology promises to increase the lifespan of individuals could also affect the country's Social Security policy.
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- "AOL to Cut 2,000 Jobs in Area"
Washington Post (01/24/01) P. A1; Klein, Alec
AOL Time Warner, reflecting a new management style at the recently merged company, yesterday cut 2,000 workers across all of its divisions. The layoffs, affecting 3 percent of its 85,000-person workforce, were an attempt to avoid overlap and focus on the media giant's technology ambitions. Salomon Smith analyst Lanny Baker says AOL Time Warner's Internet model, if proven successful, could force competitors such as Walt Disney to conform in order to avoid being shut out of growing markets. Former America Online executives have assumed half of the top-level management positions in the new company, and several policy changes reflect an Internet-type corporate atmosphere--for example, the use of stock as compensation. In the past, AOL favored using stock options, as is popular with other Web companies, to reward employees and management. In contrast, Time Warner traditionally used cash bonuses as compensation.
- "Avatars Widen Realm of Virtual Reality on Internet"
Wall Street Journal (01/24/01) P. B1; Tran, Khanh T.L.; Regalado, Antonio
Avatars, virtual versions of real-life people, are being used to draw crowds--and their money--to commercial Web sites. High-tech studio firms develop the software that companies such as Coca-Cola, British Telecom, and even the rock bands Metallica and Aerosmith are using to place fans and customers into online worlds where they can interact in various activities. British Telecom is using photo profiles of 271,000 people taken at London's Millennium Dome to create avatars for about 20,000 users who have signed up on their Web site. The users can then download their digitized selves to use with 3D games such as Quake III Arena and The Sims. Aerosmith recently hired Worlds.com to create a 3D site where fans can go online, in avatar form, to chat with band members' avatars. Worlds worked with Aerosmith and Giant Studios to create realistic characters for each of the band members for online performances using Lycra bodysuits and special face-imaging technology. Over 50,000 VIP members to Aerosmith's site can customize their own avatar, choosing outfits and other physical characteristics. Matthew Lawson, the head of the British Telecom lab researching avatars, is not certain but hopeful that this new feature will pay off. "It could be that in 12 months we turn around and say avatars were just a fad. But my gut feeling is that we can make a lot of money."
- "Silicon Valley Has the Power to Remain High-Tech's Melting Pot"
USA Today (01/24/01) P. 3B; Maney, Kevin
The tech industry in Silicon Valley is in a horrible situation, argues columnist Kevin Maney. A lack of education funding, horrible traffic, and astronomical housing prices are top on his list of negatives for the region. The recent rolling blackouts, a situation that may not be resolved in the short-term, only heighten the necessity of moving, he says. However, in interviews with employees and managers of firms based there, Maney finds a firm, stubborn commitment to the area. "The net of it is that the Bay Area is perhaps the greatest intellectual melting pot the world has ever seen," says Softbank Venture Capital managing director Gary Rieschel. Rieschel points out the unique culture that has grown up around San Francisco, where ingenuity and hard work can secure success and respect. HearMe marketing executive Brenda Scariot says the region's natural beauty and innovative spirit are what make it home to tech firms, though she admits serious over-population does pose concerns.
- "ICANN Chooses New President"
New York Times (01/24/01) P. C4; Gaither, Chris
ICANN elected Dr. M. Stuart Lynn to replace Michael Roberts as its president and CEO. Lynn, who retired from his position as the associate vice president for information resources and communications at the University of California in 1999, will start in his new position following the next ICANN meeting, which will be held March 10 to 13. Lynn, an ACM Fellow, has held several positions within the association, including ACM Treasurer (1983-1984) and ACM Publications Board chair (1976-1982).
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- "Congress Takes on Internet Privacy Legislation"
Reuters (01/23/01); Sullivan, Andy
Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) on Tuesday introduced an Internet privacy bill mandating that Web sites provide consumers with more detailed information about how their personal data is used. The bill also features opt-out language that gives consumers greater control over the use of their data. "Consumers shouldn't have to reveal their life story every time they surf the Web," said Eshoo. The Cannon-Eshoo bill will look much different once it reaches the House floor, according to Jeff Hartley, a spokesman for Cannon. "We don't see the legislation we have as the ending point--we want all interested parties to weigh in on this," Hartley said. Hartley said that Cannon will monitor the progress of the bill as it makes its way through the Judiciary committee, while Eshoo will monitor the bill in the Commerce committee.
- "Cooperative Open-Source Testbed Opens Doors"
CNet (01/23/01); Shankland, Stephen
IBM, Intel, and several other companies will commit $24 million over the next two years to fund the Open Source Development Lab, a joint project announced in August and set to begin operations Wednesday. The goal is to provide Linux programmers access to the sort of high-end hardware common in enterprise computing implementations in order to test Linux-based applications. "Now that we're open for business, we're looking for more and more [Linux projects] to roll in," says IBM's Ross Mauri. Other companies supporting the Open Source Development Lab include Computer Associates, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, NEC, SGI, and Linux vendors Caldera Systems, Linuxcare, LynuxWorks, Red Hat, SuSE, Turbolinux, and VA Linux Systems.
- "Why Is the Tech Set Putting Down Roots in the Desert? Dubai, of Course"
Wall Street Journal (01/23/01) P. A18; Pope, Hugh
Dubai Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed's new venture, Dubai Internet City, has attracted 194 high-tech firms to a regional IT hub that already houses over 200 U.S. companies. Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM are joining other tech companies that have already established bases in Dubai, including Sun Microsystems, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard. Roughly the size of Rhode Island, the small Gulf state's oil fields are nearly depleted. By creating an inviting environment for multinational tech firms and their employees, Dubai is making a gambit that it will become the center for a rapidly growing Middle East Internet business. Among the draws are low taxes, effective government, and lifestyle amenities for expatriate workers. Bahram Mohazzebi, general manager at Microsoft's Dubai regional center, says the IT sector in the Mideast has grown 15 times larger in the last four years. Andrew Goddard of the software firm Gemplus says his company moved regional operations to Dubai from Bangalore because of its convenience, increased productivity, and efficient government.
- "Copyright: Your Right or Theirs?"
Wired News (01/19/01); King, Brad
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is attempting to overturn an injunction against 2600 Magazine. A federal court ordered the injunction last year because the magazine provided links to information that would enable users to bypass copyright protections on DVDs. However, EFF attorney Robin Gross wants the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to overturn the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law passed in 1998 to protect copyright holders in the electronic era. Detractors of the DMCA say the law gives too much power to the copyright holder at the expense of the public. Gross says, "Important individual rights like fair use, first sale, and the public domain are eliminated by the statute's sloppy handling of civil liberties." In response, DMCA author Bruce Lehman says copyright law exists mainly for the protection of the copyright holder, not the public. He further argues that fair use regulations are meant to help the public gain access to material released by its creators, not to give the public the same rights as content owners. Others say that the DMCA's anti-circumvention clauses prevent the public from making fair use of electronic content. The U.S. Copyright Office is expected to issue an analysis of the law sometime this year.
For information regarding ACM's work on matters of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Israeli Tech Start-Ups Cross Over to Delaware"
USA Today (01/23/01) P. 1B; Cox, James
Increasingly, Israeli tech firms are incorporating in Delaware. Since 1998, experts say over 1,000 Israeli firms have filed their incorporation papers in that state, attracted by its business-friendly laws and tax regulations. The U.S. market also allows Israeli tech firms to seek U.S. managers with talent and experience as well as investment from venture capitalists. This exodus of firms is greatly troubling the Israeli government, which has been counting on its new, growing tech sector to drive the economy. Only the U.S. has more tech firms than Israel, which has benefited from a large number of military veterans with tech experience and a flood of tech-savvy immigrants from the former Soviet Union. However, Israeli tech executives say the country's tax policies are too strict, often negating the financial incentives of a public stock offering or a corporate buyout, while the pool of available investment capital funds is small. Also, tech executives say the U.S. is where most of their customers are located. "Israel is very isolated," says XOsoft CEO Lance Boxer, whose firm has moved from Tel Aviv to New Jersey. "IT has excellent technology people with a very strong work ethic. But what you've got is an excellent incubation area." To take advantage of this, many firms are moving their business operations to Delaware and elsewhere in the U.S. while leaving their research and development workers in Israel. Although Delaware has not tracked the number of Israeli firms incorporating there, the state admits it has encouraged foreign firms to relocate through a series of seminars.
- "India Drafts Law on Converged Comms"
Total Telecom (01/17/01); Rattanani, Jagdish
A new bill drafted by India's Group of Ministers on Convergence would create a new regulatory agency with oversight on all Internet, broadcasting, and telecommunications issues. The Communications Commission would replace existing law on communications matters and act as an arbiter in industry disputes. Also, the new commission would serve as a watchdog to ensure fair practices within the industry and would assume the responsibility of granting licenses. Authority to make policy decisions relating to the industry would remain with the government, according to the terms of the draft bill. The ministers believe that having the various communications sectors under one umbrella commission will cause a better understanding of how those sectors interrelate. The ministers will submit their bill to Parliament some time this spring.
- "New Version of Melissa Virus Said Spreading"
Agence France-Presse (01/21/01)
The Melissa virus, which first plagued computer networks in 1999, has returned, security experts reported last week. The latest version of Melissa is present in a Microsoft Word 2001 for Macintosh file called "Anniv.doc." Experts say Melissa.W, as the new virus has been designated, could spread quickly as few anti-virus programs are equipped to handle this file format. Symantec says the file spreads from computer to computer through email, sending itself to the first 50 addresses in each user's Microsoft Outlook address book. The email's subject line claims to be an "Important Message," and a text introduction to the infected file says, "Here is that document you asked for...don't show anyone else."
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- "Congress Should Stay Out of Cybersquatting--Patent Office"
Newsbytes (01/19/01); MacMillan, Robert
The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) late last week released a report advising Congress to forgo the introduction of additional cybersquatting legislation. The report also suggests that disputes over domain names can be effectively handled by ICANN, the courts, and the World Intellectual Property Organization's domain name dispute process, negating the need for a second-level domain that would protect government officials and candidates from cybersquatters. Personal name holders can already seek redress under existing trademark and unfair competition laws, the report says. Congress had charged the Commerce Department with examining the need for new legislation governing domain names. The PTO falls under the umbrella of the Commerce Department and its report effectively fulfills Congress's mandate.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to cybersquatting, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Most Large Jurisdictions Already Upgrading Voting Technology"
Newsbytes (01/19/01); Krebs, Brian
A new study by the Gartner Group reveals that all 40 of the largest voting jurisdictions in the country have either replaced their voting machines or have begun considering an upgrade of their voting technology since the 2000 presidential election. French Caldwell, a research director at Gartner, says most of these jurisdictions are looking into optical scanners, which are the machines that read the tiny circular ovals popularized by grade-school and college tests, or touch-screen voting machines, the more expensive option. French adds that 50 percent of the voting jurisdictions indicated that they would be willing to use the Internet or some other form of remote technology for voting, while another 30 percent said they are not interested in any remote technology. Still, the survey found that many voting jurisdictions do not have the funding to upgrade outdated voting systems such as punch-card and lever machines. A nationwide overhaul of election booth technologies could cost as much as $12 billion, Gartner estimated.
- "Click and Learn"
Industry Week (01/15/01) Vol. 250, No. 1, P. 31; Verespej, Michael
Traditional corporate training can be a cumbersome and expensive undertaking even under the best of circumstances, but e-learning delivers technology and education directly to the student. E-learning can be more convenient, quicker, and cheaper than traditional training programs. LogicBay CEO Jeffries says, "E-learning addresses the issues--shorter product life cycle, increasing skills gaps, rapid technology changes that require ongoing learning, and increasing product complexity--that face business today." Three critical areas of training are particularly well suited for e-learning methods: new-hires, new products, and situations requiring mass communication to large communities of people in different locations. Especially critical to large companies who train thousands of employees and customers each year, e-learning eliminates the cost of bringing in outside training consultants or flying employees to other locations for training. Rockwell Collins, a division of Rockwell International Corporation, recently completed the training of over 1,000 managers in two weeks, using a 26-minute online tutorial. Meanwhile, IBM now offers five times the normal amount of training programs, and saves $200 million annually since employing e-learning.
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Coming soon: ACM's new online eLearn magazine covering the latest news, advances, and opinion about the burgeoning field of online learning and training; http://www.acm.org/elearnmag/homepage.html
- "Work on IT Access for Disabled Advances"
Federal Times (01/15/01) Vol. 36, No. 50, P. 1; Robb, Karen
Government agencies have until Jun. 21, 2001, to make their Web sites and IT equipment accessible to disabled individuals as stated by Section 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The inter-agency Access Board issued guidelines for meeting these regulations in December, and government agencies report that they have had less trouble than originally anticipated following the guidelines. Of the 100 Web sites surveyed recently by the General Services Administration, 86 fulfilled the standards for accessibility. Don Heffernan, deputy CIO at the GSA's Federal Supply Service, says, "All it took was a little awareness. Shame on us for not doing it years ago." Agencies are using devices such as screen readers and Braille printers to make technology available to visually impaired individuals as well as telephone-based devices for hearing impaired individuals. Also, agencies are modifying their Web sites so that, for example, information once presented only in graphic form will appear in text form as well so that screen readers can interpret it. Although agencies will only have to upgrade old equipment if a worker requests it, all new equipment purchased must conform to the accessibility requirements. Federal officials predict that, because of the general lack of problems in following accessibility requirements, agencies should meet the June deadline. Officials say this should prevent the onslaught of accessibility-related lawsuits that many feared when the new guidelines were first announced.
- "The Evolution of Computing"
Software Development (01/01) Vol. 9, No. 1, P. 38; Douglass, Bruce Powel
With the advent of the Internet and advanced networking technology, the tech industry is entering an era of pervasive computing, a time in which the universal connectivity of computers will become reality. Although most of the technologies necessary to make pervasive computing an everyday tool currently exists, the software needed to integrate the technology into a cohesive network in which all of the parts can interrelate quickly and smoothly either exists in a very primitive form or does not yet exist at all. Technology such as the XML coding language or Bluetooth wireless technology are an important step toward a universal network, but more software, and more developers to write it, are still needed. However, software for the pervasive computing era must be more reliable than earlier applications, which means it will be much more difficult to create, test, and execute. Furthermore, it is not just a matter of hiring a great many more software engineers, as many analysts predict the demand for engineers in the software field will greatly outstrip supply for several years. Instead, the way to improve software with the programmers at hand is to use better and more efficient development tools to build the new software. For example, the UML language provides several applications, including visual modeling and model checking, to facilitate the development and testing of new software. Also, the use of software frameworks--for example, Windows templates for programs that will run on that operating system--and components can greatly improve the speed of software development.
- "Chief of Protocol"
Industry Standard (01/29/01) Vol. 4, No. 4, P. 92; Heuer, Steffan
Vint Cerf intends to be the Chairman of ICANN's board for a single year. Over that period, Cerf aims to implement a small number of rules and then remove himself from the situation. ICANN oversees the Domain Name System, a system that contains many unknowns. No one knows the number of TLDs that are needed, who ought to sell these TLDs, or who even owns them. "ICANN has made the mess worse by introducing seven new TLDs," says RealNames founder and CEO Keith Teare. Domain names might not even be the primary form of Web navigation in the future. With all of these issues cluttering the horizon, Cerf hopes to sidestep the overwhelming task rather than address every issue. ICANN's approval of seven new TLDs is really a waiting game, says Cerf. There is no telling whether or not the new TLDs will help, says Cerf. Users are becoming increasingly confused as more and more steps are added to the process. Some companies, like RealNames and AOL, allow users to navigate across the Web using keywords, which actually use more directory servers. Cerf agrees that the system is awkward.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.