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 3, Issue 161: Monday, February 5, 2001
- "What Slump? Forecast Still Bright for Tech"
Washington Post (02/05/01) P. E3; Bredemeier, Kenneth
The high-tech sector in Washington, D.C., will undergo the strongest growth among all tech-heavy regions this year, Roger R. Stough, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, reports. Stough found that the total value of all tech-related goods and services produced in the capital region will increase by 13 percent this year. He predicts that Boston will see 11.9 percent growth, Raleigh-Durham 10.2 percent, Seattle 9.9 percent, and Silicon Valley and San Francisco 9.3 percent. Stough says spending by the federal government is a major reason why Washington, D.C., will remain buoyant while other tech-heavy regions deal with the downturn in the dot-com economy. The capital region had $27 billion in federal procurement purchases in 1999, more than three times as much as Silicon Valley. Among the specific tech services that will support the Washington area are systems integration, network design, software development, and general maintenance and support operations. Stough argues that the increase in defense spending during the Reagan administration opened an opportunity for many tech-related companies to prosper, and many of those companies elected to open or remain in the Washington, D.C., area, giving the region a solid tech backbone for the Internet revolution of the 1990s. Increased defense spending by the new Bush administration could lead to even greater tech growth, Stough argues.
- "ICANN Faces Hearing in Congress Over Domain Selections"
Computerworld Online (02/02/01); Thibodeau, Patrick
On Feb. 8, the House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to examine whether ICANN's approval of only seven new top level domains hampers competition. Critics of ICANN will likely request that the committee make ICANN reopen the selection process. Congress might even attempt to get the Department of Commerce to keep the new TLDs from being introduced, according to insiders. DotTV CEO Lou Kerner has been discussing the issue with the House Commerce Committee and might testify at the coming hearing. Other critics include the ACLU and many of the unsuccessful TLD applicants, several of which might take ICANN to court. Others think ICANN's limited introduction was wise. ICANN's former chairwoman, Esther Dyson, wanted to introduce more TLDs, but she sides with ICANN, saying that the organization needed to limit the number of TLDs because of technical concerns. ICANN's choice was "reasonable" at the time, asserts Dyson. "It's pretty obvious that more TLDs means more opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get meaningful domain names that reflect their business interests as well as [their] free speech interests," says Domain Name Rights Coalition President Mikki Barry. The controversy ought to be expected, as there would be no need for ICANN if there were no difficult decisions to be made, asserts Jonathan Zittrain, the co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The government would not have the support of businesses if it attempted to resume control over the domain name process, asserts Rick Lane, director of e-commerce and Internet technology at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Tech Executives Eat Humble Pie at World Forum"
Wall Street Journal (02/05/01) P. B1; Swisher, Kara
As they did last year, many of the world's digital elite gathered for the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. However, the tech landscape has undergone a radical transformation during this time, and the same digerati that only a year ago could do no wrong is now keeping a much humbler profile. Dell CEO Michael Dell says that he and the rest of the tech community have much to learn from the forum. Several panels and discussions were held on topics of import to the Internet, including online privacy, the digital divide, e-commerce taxes, e-government, e-books, and B2B exchanges. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates attended one of the sessions and said that the digital divide is his greatest fear. Cisco head John Chambers warned that the digital divide could persist for hundreds of years if the gap is not closed now. Napster's file-sharing technology spawned several lively debates related to copyright law. Musician Peter Gabriel's solution to the Napster debate calls for the creation of the Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloaded Artists (MUDDA).
- "A New Trick Gives Snoops Easy Access to E-Mail"
New York Times (02/05/01) P. C1; Harmon, Amy
- "IT Fights to Uphold Moore's Law"
Financial Times (02/05/01) P. 18; Foremski, Tom
Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger is set to speak at the International Solid State Circuit Conference about the challenges in upholding Moore's law for the next decade. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore first suggested that microprocessor performance would double every 18 to 24 months. Analysts say the truth of this postulation has been the key factor behind advances in productivity and economic growth. Gelsinger believes that, while Moore's law is still viable, chip manufacturers will have to "evaluate alternatives to continue delivering computational performance." Among the barriers that Intel is coming up against are the increasing costs and complexities in building modern manufacturing facilities and the physical limits to chip miniaturization.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Short Take: Outgoing ICANN Leader on Domain System's Challenges"
San Jose Mercury News Online (02/02/01); Plotnikoff, David
ICANN President and CEO Mike Roberts recently discussed the difficulties ICANN has faced over the past couple of years. Privatizing the management of the portion of the Internet handled by ICANN was a respectable goal, according to Roberts. However, the process of making agreements with numerous organizations from around the world ended up being more difficult and time consuming than expected. Publishing policy papers that held a solution to the Internet's woes did not meet the critic's desires as the government assumed. There are essentially three types of ICANN critics. The first group believes ICANN should have been privatized through legislation. Businesses form the second group. These businesses believe ICANN will hamper their ability to use the Internet for their own commercial purposes, and therefore want to see ICANN remain an entity that is weak and merely debates issues. The third group simply rejects any type of online authority. A significant portion of the tasks that the government originally assigned to ICANN have been completed; however, there is still much work to be done on policy development and organization of domain names. M. Stuart Lynn, Roberts' eventual replacement, will need to see where ICANN is and create a current agenda that responds to the Internet community's needs. "I think the board, if it had to do our initial year over again, would have devoted much more time to consultation with the main worldwide constituencies, who, it turned out, felt they had not been adequately consulted in the process leading up to the formation of ICANN," says Roberts. Organizations like ICANN that have the support of the Internet community are needed to ensure that future online difficulties are handled, Roberts concludes.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Should States Regulate Privacy?"
Wired News (02/01/01); McCullagh, Declan
A paper presented by George Mason University law professors Bruce Kobayashi and Larry Ribstein at the American Enterprise Institute's Federalism Project roundtable argues that state governments should regulate Internet privacy laws rather than the federal government. "Federal law would perversely lock in a single regulatory framework while Internet technology is still rapidly evolving," the report maintains. Kobayashi and Ribstein believe that the decentralized model of state law gives the Internet room to grow, although it faces opposition from corporations, politicians, and even free-market groups. "I think the free market people are basically paying the price for having engaged in an extended exercise of historical amnesia over the last several years--which ignored the very important rule that privacy rights and law have played in establishing consumer confidence in services involving new technologies," speculates Electronic Privacy Information Center director Marc Rotenberg. Some free-market groups believe that Kobayashi and Ribstein's model grants too much power to pro-federal regulation groups. Others complain that 51 differing privacy regulations would make enforcement difficult. To solve such a problem, Kobayashi and Ribstein suggest that state courts enforce choice of law and choice of forum clauses in privacy policies. But federal privacy regulation and data collection laws are popular among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, so the Federalism Project is fighting an uphill battle.
- "Intellectual Property Organization Stumped"
Interactive Week Online (02/01/01); Gruenwald, Juliana
WIPO recently held a conference to discuss how e-commerce, the Internet, and global transactions are making it difficult to protect intellectual property rights. "Today, the systems [for protecting intellectual property] can no longer work given the global dimensions brought on by the Internet," says Andre Lucas, a law and political science professor at the University of Nantes. At the conference, the Hague Conference on Private International Law suggested introducing rules that would establish where international disputes would be tried and when nations should acknowledge the decisions of foreign courts. This suggestion might extend the power of those in control of global intellectual property and limit fair-use exceptions to intellectual property rights, says James Love, Director of the Consumer Project on Technology. Getting the two groups together to work out intellectual property disputes will likely work better than an international law, says Francis Gurry, assistant director of the arbitration and mediation center at WIPO. Gurry and others think that ICANN's uniform dispute resolution policy demonstrates how such a system could be feasible. However, Love and his supporters assert that ICANN's system is biased in favor of businesses.
Click Here to View Full Article
For information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Amazon's Layoffs Spur Unions"
Investor's Business Daily (02/05/01) P. A6; Howell, Donna
Union organizers are clamoring especially loudly after Amazon.com's 1,300 layoffs last week, harping on the insecurity many workers in the dot-com sector feel. "All the free soda and stock options don't guarantee a sense of security," says Marcus Courtney, organizer for Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. A former temporary worker at Microsoft, Courtney points to the long-running debate between that company and its temporary workforce as the beginning of what he sees as a move toward unionization in the high-tech field. However, Proskauer Rose partner Peter Conrad argues that the more skilled the high-tech worker, the less likely they will be to join a union. He notes the many factors that separate the dot-com industry from other private sectors, including worry of upsetting company stability by introducing union activity, the relatively easy job-switching nature of the field, the pull of stock options, and the lack of a generation gap between workers and management. However, 45 percent of the 700 IT workers polled by TechRepublic.com said they would join union efforts in their companies. Courtney maintains that worker sentiment is reacting to the "reality check" dot-com companies have undergone in the past year. He adds that the Amazon layoffs have not killed union efforts in that company, simply saying, "We have not built a majority yet."
- "Momentum Builds for Open Source Hardware"
EE Times Online (02/01/01); Clarke, Peter
Metaflow Technologies, IROC Technologies, and Flextronics Semiconductor are among a handful of companies working to create open source CPU cores. The success of Linux open source software has encouraged such developments despite warnings that open source hardware momentum will not last. "In the short term, this concept will have to mature, in terms of studying how to create reliable, well-documented and supported IP using this approach," admits Lior Shtram of Flextronics. Flextronics is researching the possibilities of using OpenCores technology in application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). The project is organized so that "developers within OpenCores could achieve working silicon that implements their IP, and we achieve the experience needed to create a working ASIC using the IP and a demonstration ASIC to show our customers," says Shtram. Meanwhile, both IROC and Metaflow are using the Leon-1 open source processor created by the European Space Agency. IROC's device is a 32 bit reduced instruction set processor that shields electronics from soft errors in space, while Leon-1 is central to Metaflow's Implosion system-on-a-chip development system. Open source developers expect free Bluetooth and USB 2.0 interface cores to become available later this year. However, open source core technology is a risky proposition, some analysts say. "Building a business model around a core which is not your own and from which you are decoupled by one or more layers is going to raise the barriers to success," warns Gartner Dataquest analyst Luke Collins.
- "Future Visions: Flexible, Portable, and Ultraclear"
PC World Online (01/31/01); Arar, Yardena
Several emerging display technologies have the potential to offer consumers greater convenience in a smaller package. Ultra-high-resolution displays combat visual shortcomings typical of e-books or PCs but are expensive. IBM can produce a monitor capable of 200 dpi out of amorphous silicon, while Toshiba is investigating the possibilities of low-temperature polysilicon. Near-to-eye microdisplays are eyeglasses with image screens that viewers wear to keep others from intruding. Microdisplays approximate the viewing experience of a big screen or projected display at less cost. Several versions of the technology are now available. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), currently appearing in car stereo systems and cell phones and soon in digital camera displays, are made from carbon-based materials that emit light when an electric current is applied. Deposited on flexible plastic rather than glass, OLEDs do not need to be backlit and consume less power than active-matrix liquid crystal displays. However, a method to prevent contamination from airborne particles has yet to be devised.
- "Denmark 'Best Place to Set Up E-Business Centre'"
Financial Times (02/01/01) P. 2; MacCarthy, Clare
A new study from PwC compared seven cities considered the best in northern Europe for e-business, and Copenhagen took the top slot. Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen says he wants Denmark to become "the world's best information technology country." Danish foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft says that the report confirms that Denmark is at the cutting edge of the IT revolution, in position to take advantage of opportunity. "We have the strong skills including foreign languages and excellent labour flexibility. But I think the absolute most important factor is the educational quality of the workforce," Lykketoft says. London also got high scores, but Dublin scored at the bottom--a surprise given the city's high level of technology-related investment. Copenhagen's advantages include the lowest office rental rates, labor availability and flexibility, attractive expatriate regulations, foreign language ability, and easy accessibility.
- "Web Access for All"
Internet World (02/01/01) Vol. 7, No. 3, P. 26; Isenberg, Doug
Agencies and departments of the federal government must make their Web sites accessible to people with disabilities by this summer. However, other Web sites should not sit back and do nothing just because they are not legally required to do so, writes attorney Doug Isenberg. Isenberg notes that the legal debate over whether the Americans With Disabilities Act extends to the Internet continues. There is a possibility that Web sites could be determined places of "public accommodation" like physical sites, which are legally required to provide access to those with disabilities. However, the 1990 law should not be extended just to "commercial" sites, Isenberg argues, because there are other sites with important information that people with disabilities might want to access. Also, there could be problems if lawmakers require only sites with a certain volume of traffic or a certain number of pages to upgrade their sites. The elements are easy to build for upgrading sites, Isenberg says, adding that the current tools available to the disabled, such as screen-reading software, are not enough.
- "What's Private at Work?"
Potomac Tech Journal (01/29/01) Vol. 2, No. 5, P. 19; Kaltenheuser, Skip
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Bridging the Digital Divide"
Daily Record--Techlink (01/01) P. 3; Brown, Rachel
Minority-owned tech firms in Maryland are donating their time and resources as a way to bridge the digital divide. For example, LKA Computer Consultants in College Park gives students at Parkdale High School an opportunity to participate in internships at the computer-programming services company. LKA also offers computer classes on the weekend that are free to the public. EBA Engineering, an information management systems firm, offers an internship program for students at the college level. The Baltimore firm has established an accredited co-op program for students of Morgan State University that should help them secure high-tech jobs after graduation. Douglas Consulting & Computer Services (DCCA) had the foresight to help prepare teachers in computer basics. Along with offering internships to high school students in Howard County, DCCA, a computer systems integration company in Ellicott City, offers computer classes to elementary and middle school teachers that will help them master MSWord, Excel, or PowerPoint, and even gives teachers an opportunity to participate in the company's regular employee training. Meanwhile, Columbia-based Edutech, an educational program planning and design development firm, donates old computers to schools in Howard County. Baltimore's Information Control Systems, which is too small to offer similar services, donates money to libraries.
- "Ensuring E-Quality"
Computerworld (01/29/01) Vol. 35, No. 5, P. 44; Melymuka, Kathleen
As corporate Internet projects move toward transactional capability, and the markets sour on the notion that the Internet renders traditional business methods obsolete, managers are once again realizing the value of proper e-business development methodology. Specifically, managers are finding ways to ensure that e-business applications are reliable. Research indicates that the quality of U.S. software programming deteriorated during the 1999 boom in Internet development as companies began to value speed over quality. Managers must find new ways to ensure the quality of the applications produced, but the ever-changing nature of Internet projects means that methodologies cannot be overly formal or inflexible, and that the criteria is likely to change depending on the specifics of the project. GE Aircraft Engines e-process leader Debby Sollenberger, in the process of creating a "digital desktop" intranet for company employees last year, put together a new methodology drawing on the requirements of e-business, traditional company processes, and the company's Six Sigma corporate strategy guideline. In doing so, the company concentrated its two-inch-thick New Product Introduction (NPI) development process manual into a single page of critical "deliverables" for e-business, called eNPI. "We're confident that now that we have this in place, we're not going to miss something huge and let quality suffer," says Sollenberger. Ultimately, companies must develop a focus on quality and a framework for achieving it, while still enabling the flexibility needed by e-business.
- "The Power of Balance"
Electronic Business (01/01) Vol. 27, No. 1, P. 39; Harbert, Tam
Although the high-tech industry focused much of its attention on the 2000 presidential campaign, industry observers say the results of elections for the House and Senate could have as great an impact on the industry as President George W. Bush will. The Senate is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with some observers saying the Democrats will be poised to retake the Senate in the 2002 elections. Turnover in the recent election saw two tech-friendly senators, Slate Gorton (R-Wash.) and Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), become former senators. Former RealNetworks CEO Maria Cantwell defeated Gorton, but the tech industry hopes that, after having spent several years in the industry, she will be predisposed to their cause. However, the tech industry is taking the loss of Abraham particularly hard, as he was the main champion of legislation to increase the number of H-1B visas issued each year to foreign high-tech workers. Despite the turnover, the tech industry expects many of the returning senators, including Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), to exert a strong influence over tech-related legislation during the new session of Congress. Hatch is proposing improved protection for intellectual property online, while observers see McCain as a leader in privacy issues. In the house, the 2000 election saw the Republican majority narrowed to just nine seats. Observers expect the Republicans to reach out to fiscally conservative Democrats to reach consensus. Among new House members for whom the tech industry has high hopes are Cal Dooley (D-Calif.) and Directed Electronics CEO Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
For information regarding ACM's work on matters of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Conference Targets I/O, InfiniBand"
InfoStor (01/01) Vol. 5, No. 1, P. 12; Coleman, Lisa
In February, the e-Commerce Infrastructure Technology Conference and Tradeshow (eCIT) will focus on the construction of operational data centers, outsourcing services that support those centers, and the supporting I/O technologies necessary. "Instead of being loaded up with 'should-dos,' attendees will take away 'how-tos,'" states Strategic Research President Michael Peterson. Organizers hope to draw InfiniBand users especially, as the topic will be a source of considerable discussion. Compaq, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard are expected to discuss their I/O server network infrastructure plans for 2001, with IBM's Renato Recia focusing on the company's research in future server and I/O trends. I/O Technology Awards will be handed out for the product of the year, the best new technology for 2001, and individual lifetime achievement. The number of IT managers expected to attend eCIT exceeds 1,000. Sun Microsystems CTO Greg Papadopoulos is expected to deliver a keynote speech, although that has yet to be confirmed. The first day will feature a series of working group meetings by such participants as the InfiniBand Trade Association, Fibre Channel Industry Association, and Storage Network Industry Association.
Click Here to View Full Article