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Volume 3, Issue 165: Wednesday, February 14, 2001
- "The Body Electronic Builds Its Resistance to Infection"
International Herald Tribune (02/14/01) P. 1; Knowlton, Brian
Monday's email virus that enticed users with an attachment supposedly containing a picture of tennis star Anna Kournikova caused more annoyance than damage, computer security experts say. Although the virus affected hundreds of thousands of users, including 100,000 in Australia alone, experts say this virus could not compare to last May's "Love Bug" virus, which caused damage estimated in the millions of dollars. Experts credit the chaos the Love Bug virus caused with decreasing the risk of similar damage from the new virus. Since that virus struck, companies have increased email security, often employing email itself to send warnings about new threats. In fact, the new virus hardly had an impact in Asian countries, as workers there arrived at work Tuesday morning fully aware of the virus and how to defeat it. However, some experts warn that, as the memory of the Love Bug virus fades, companies risk becoming less alert to the threat of future attacks. Allan Paller, research director at the Systems Administration and Network Security Institute believes that "people have probably gotten less careful over the last six or seven months." He says many users undertake better security practices in the first 70 to 90 days after a virus outbreak, what he calls the "half-life" of the virus. However, after this period, users begin to act less carefully.
- "Appelate Judges Back Limitations on Copying Music"
New York Times (02/13/01) P. A1; Richtel, Matt
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Monday to support the injunction the recording industry has been seeking against Napster. Federal District Judge Marilyn Patel issued that injunction in July, condemning the file-sharing service for abetting copyright infringement on the part of its users, but the injunction to shut down the company was stayed five days later by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the three-judge panel ruled Monday that Napster could continue operating only for the meantime, while an outline for a revision of the original injunction was worked out. The Ninth Circuit judges also said the technological limitations of the service should be considered when ordering Napster to monitor copyright infringement. The judges moved to place the burden to identify illegal activity on the recording companies, who would then report it to Napster. Although yesterday's ruling does not order Napster shut down, Napster officials said it could lead to the shuttering of the site. The Recording Industry Association of America suing Napster is comprised of the five major labels in music: Universal Music Group, EMI, Sony, Seagram's Universal, and Warner Music. Bertelsmann, parent company of BMG Records, dropped its suit against Napster and has instead allied with the popular service in order to create a fee-based business model for the service.
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- "Tech Firms Go Overseas to Expand"
USA Today (02/13/01) P. B1; Backover, Andrew; Iwata, Edward
U.S. tech firms are responding to the slowing domestic market by strengthening international investments. As growth in U.S. tech spending this year slows to only 7 percent, sales are rising by 10 percent and 11 percent in Asia and Europe, respectively, according to International Data. Both telecommunications and computer manufacturers are growing business overseas. IBM has begun construction on a $300 million chip manufacturing plant in Shanghai and plans to spend $200 million in Linux development centers throughout Asia. In sharp contrast to recent U.S. layoffs by the company, Lucent Technologies' Mike Butcher says the telecom giant recently hired 200 Chinese researchers and may hire another 200 in the near future. Lucent receives 40 percent of its revenues from overseas sales. Computer and networking equipment provider Cisco Systems has noted 100 percent to 150 percent growth annually in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese contracts even while the market slows in the United States.
- "Lawmakers Introduce High-Tech Training Initiative"
Newsbytes (02/12/01); McGuire, David
Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) are preparing to reintroduce the Technology Education and Training Act, legislation that would give a $1,500 tax break to companies and their workers for enlisting for technology training courses. The bill would "help workers and their employers recover the cost of training and help thousands of workers obtain higher paying new economy jobs," said Weller. A Weller staff member noted that IT companies are having difficulty filling positions and the economy is losing potentially billions of dollars because of the lack of qualified IT candidates.
- "Offices in Cyberspace"
Financial Times (02/14/01) P. 11; Kehoe, Louise
The conventional workplace environment may be eliminated in the future, writes Louise Kehoe. She says online collaboration will free employees from the confines of the office and allow them to access a global, 24-hour workplace comprising not only co-workers in the same building, but teams of workers from clients and partner companies. Already, new technologies are emerging to facilitate this type of work, including a virtual workspace product from eRoom. ERoom lets users draw insights from past projects and lets teams of remote workers collaborate in real-time. Other cutting-edge collaboration tools are software such as Lotus' Quickplace and Microsoft's Digital Dashboard. Bob Luchetti, an architect specializing in workplace design, says, "The office will be an enabling environment rather than a perk. Workplaces will be less status-driven, more open and flexible, designed to suit the activities of a group at any given time." Kehoe continues this thought by predicting that workers' aims and attitudes will change in response to new environments. Because workers will not see each other in person, there will be less social inhibitions, which could potentially lead to conflict. She adds that these types of fundamental changes to the workplace are in themselves barriers to any such revolution. However, Kehoe also says cost savings from new techniques will eventually lead corporate executives in this direction.
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- "Napster Is Just One Battle in the War for Control of Digital Content"
SiliconValley.com (02/13/01); Gillmor, Dan
Although Monday's ruling by a panel of federal appeals judges in San Francisco did not shut down Napster completely, the popular music file-sharing service's days may be numbered, writes Dan Gillmor. Gillmor cannot foresee the site succeeding with a fee-based model backed by its partner Bertelsmann, even if the other recording companies were to settle with it. However, Gillmor does not support the use of Napster for stealing and points out that officials at the company clearly knew many of its users saw the site as vehicle for piracy. In a broader sense, though, Gillmor is disturbed by how Monday's decision will affect consumers' rights in relation to the power of entertainment firms. Although a series of decisions in the past--for example, letting consumers tape movies for future viewing--supported consumer rights, recent court decisions and bills in Congress have restricted those rights when digital media is involved. In the future, Gillmor sees most media--music, movies, even books--being available on the Internet on a pay-per-view basis. Gillmor wonders how the record companies and other content owners will enforce their copyrights now that Napster users are likely to move to peer-to-peer networks, which are difficult to monitor, as they do not rely on a central server or database to facilitate the sharing of files. Furthermore, Gillmor questions whether businesses that are counting on the legitimate uses of peer-to-peer computing will allow content owners to go after such networks without some kind of check. Gillmor notes the reaction of Stanford University law professor Larry Lessig, who says Monday's ruling will make the recording companies the "bad guys." Noting the history of the record companies and other entertainment firms in similar situations, Gillmor does not think content owners mind for one second being called the bad guys.
- "U.S. Proposal Would Aid Small Net Businesses"
E-Commerce Times (02/14/01); Mahoney, Michael
Less than half of small businesses consider e-commerce a significant resource for procurement or sales, a recent survey by Cyber Dialogue found. A bill pending before the U.S. Congress would create an advisory panel to support e-commerce efforts by small and mid-sized manufacturers. The bill would fund a series of support centers operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These centers would offer e-commerce guidance and training to area businesses, and centers that developed particularly successful ways of helping businesses move online would be rewarded with further federal grants. Rep. James Barcia (D-Mich.), who is sponsoring the bill, says, "This legislation ensures that no business will be left behind, especially America's small and medium-sized businesses, which are the backbone of our economy and the realization of the American dream for so many." E-commerce revenue from small businesses could reach $110 billion within two years, International Data reports. The bill's proposed advisory panel, also run by NIST, would also work toward developing standards for business-to-business e-commerce. The bill has been referred to the House Committee of Science.
- "Updating Voting Machines Could Take Nation a Decade"
USA Today (02/14/01) P. 1A; Drinkard, Jim
Election officials and the makers of voting machines both warn that a full-scale upgrade of the nation's voting machines could not be accomplished in time for the 2004 presidential election and could take as long as 10 years. The Florida election debacle highlighted the outdated and inefficient voting systems that many jurisdictions use. Now, state and federal politicians are calling for new, better machines and are earmarking billions of dollars in funds to support upgrade efforts. However, voting-machine makers warn that they do not have the production capacity, in terms of machine or labor power, necessary to meet this skyrocketing demand. The companies that make the machines are, in general, small and private; no large firm has been involved in the market since the 1970s, when IBM sold its interests. Moreover, voting-machine makers would not be able simply to design a better machine and offer it to all of the voting districts in the nation. Each voting district has its own election laws, and voting-machine makers explain that they must often sends sales representatives to each of these districts, trying to persuade election officials to purchase their machines. Moreover, a maker's responsibility to its machines is a long-term concern, a fact that makes a quick nationwide upgrade unlikely. "What's not achievable is being able to send out support people who understand the technology and elections and the legislative requirements in each state," says Sequoia Voting Systems CEO Peter Cosgrove.
- "High-Tech Workers' Fortunes See Shift"
Boston Globe (02/11/01) P. H1; Lewis, Diane E.
Internet firms are facing lean times just like other industries, and the proof is in the fact that many of their employees--highly paid professionals previously in high demand--are spending twice as much time looking for a new job as they did before. Analysts say the increase in layoffs, along with the economic downturn, has soured the mood in many workplaces and has exacerbated tensions and insecurities. This is particularly true of the dot-coms, where people who have been laid off now believe that the party is over--that the carefree workplaces that accepted, and even encouraged, their eccentricities are now a thing of the past. Even executives believe that things are turning sour, as a recent survey by ExecuNet.com shows that 52 percent are prepared for an employment market slowdown in the next year.
- "Microsoft Draws Some Cautionary Views"
Wall Street Journal (02/14/01) P. C1; Buckman, Rebecca
Microsoft analysts remain uncertain over the large investments the company is making in new efforts such as the .NET platform and the Xbox game console. Company executives gathered yesterday at co-founder Paul Allen's Experience Music Project museum in Seattle to coo over XP, the new version of the Windows operating system. The system is more than an update of previous versions, featuring computer-coding that allows greater versatility in the number of programs run simultaneously as well as catchy multimedia functions. Microsoft officials also hyped the company's business-oriented projects, such as the successful new line of Windows 2000-based servers and the fledgling .NET effort. However, analysts say many consumers are still unclear about Microsoft's plans to move its software and services to the Internet. Also of concern is the willingness of commercial programmers to continue using Microsoft languages now that the company is banned from the latest versions of Java. Without a solid base of programmers writing software in concert with .NET, Microsoft could find itself in dire straits. The software company is pushing new boundaries in other areas, including the game console market, where its Xbox will have to battle with gaming giants Sony and Nintendo. With 3 percent of its annual revenue--$700 million--devoted to its development, Microsoft sees the Xbox as a base for future business. Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget believes that the investment is wise, considering that the game console may actually act as the central server for home Internet access in the future.
- "EU Parliament OKs Law Curbing Internet, Tech Piracy"
The European Parliament today passed into law the European Union's copyright directive. The new law, which cracks down on the illegal copying of copyrighted works, was hailed by consumer groups for its balance between respecting individual liberties and protecting the rights of recording artists. Artists and music labels are not as happy with the new law, arguing that the protections are inadequate.
- "ICANN Tethered"
Interactive Week Online (02/12/01); Gruenwald, Juliana; O'Connor, Rory J.
Although ICANN was originally supposed to take over control of the "A" root server and disentangle itself from the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Commerce still has final say over ICANN's decisions, as well as the "A" root server. The U.S government apparently does not intend to disappear, either. It still has veto power over decisions pertaining to the Internet, which is generating tension between the United States and foreign businesses, governments, and users. From the start, the U.S. government might have aimed to retain control, even as it asserted ICANN would take over, according to officials at the Department of Commerce and in other departments. The U.S. government might have been passing on difficult policy decisions to ICANN, according to an insider. Even if ICANN took control of the "A" root server, officials in the Clinton administration concluded that the U.S. government ought to hold onto its oversight authority, according to insiders. Whoever controls the root server would likely have a lot of political and economic power, says University of Miami law Professor A. Michael Froomkin. "There's a lot to be proved yet before any administration would be comfortable doing that transfer because the risk of a failure would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy," says VeriSign executive advisor Don Telage. Leading ICANN executives agree that the organization is not strong enough to take over the root server. The new administration has not fully addressed the issues as of yet, according to various sources. ICANN might face a tough audience when it goes before the new administration. ICANN has drawn criticism since it was formed. Recently it has been criticized for favoring corporate and trademark interests and for its methods of choosing new top level domains. Top ICANN officials insist that it was never a government. ICANN is "a nonprofit incorporated in the state of California that has contracts with the government...and has a structure dictated in large measure by the white paper," says ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf.
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For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Operator of Web Site Goes on Trial in China for Sedition"
Knight Ridder (02/14/01) P. A4; Dorgan, Michael
The government of China yesterday began its prosecution of Huang Qi, the operator of a news Web site whom the Chinese government accuses of sedition. The first day of the trial was interrupted when Huang, who claims he was beaten by prison guards, fell ill and had to be carried out of the courtroom. The case against Huang is being followed closely by human-rights advocates, who say it will show how far the Chinese government is willing to go to restrict access to the Internet for its citizens. Although Huang's attorneys claim that the government's evidence against their client demonstrates a lack of understanding about the Internet, observers note that very few sedition trials in China end in an acquittal. Huang launched his Web site two years ago as a way to help locate women and children who had disappeared, possibly kidnapped for forced marriages and adoptions. The Web site instead became a forum for information concerning many prominent issues in China, including the Falun Gong spiritual sect and the 1989 suppression of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in which hundreds or more were killed. These issues are not open to public debate in China, and Huang was arrested the day before the eleventh anniversary of Tiananmen Square and charged with "instigation to subvert state power." Huang's attorney says he cannot be held responsible for each item posted on his site. If convicted, Huang faces 10 years in prison.
- "Report: Most European B2B Marketplaces to Fail"
E-Commerce Times (02/12/01); Enos, Lori
Although the overall volume of trade is expected to continue to soar, most online business-to-business marketplaces, both in the United States and Europe, are nonetheless expected to fail in the coming few years. Global B2B e-commerce will reach $2.78 trillion by 2004, according to analysts, while European B2B e-commerce will reach $1.7 billion the same year, according to a report released by Jupiter MMXI Europe. Despite the large numbers, however, there are simply too many such marketplaces for the market to support and only 100 of the 500 e-marketplaces currently operating in Europe will be around to benefit, according to Jupiter. In the United States, fewer than 200 B2B e-marketplaces will be in business by 2004, according to a Forrester Research report entitled "The eMarketplace Shakeout." The e-marketplaces that enjoy high transaction volume, industry support, and integrated offerings will be the ones that survive, according to Jupiter. Ten European B2B e-marketplaces that exemplify these traits, according to Jupiter, are Acequote, PEFA.com, Buildonline, Band-X, Phonetrade, EumediX, Eu-supply.com, Goodex, Mondus, and IngredientsNet.com.
- "Web Accessibility Ripples Through IT"
InternetWeek (02/12/01) No. 848, P. 1; Tillett, L. Scott
Major software vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are hoping that by adding features that make their Web design and development tools easier to use by those with physical disabilities they will improve sales to federal government buyers, disabled Web designers in private industry, and, eventually, ordinary consumers. "Our accessible products will trickle down to all of our customers in the private sector," says John Steger, program manager at IBM's Accessibility Center. Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which is scheduled to take effect this summer, requires all federal government agencies to use Web design tools, email software, database servers, keyboards, etc., that accommodate those who are blind, deaf, and/or have motor-skills deficiencies. Private companies will not be forced to comply with the regulation but the federal government's annual $30 billion IT expenditure is expected to be a strong incentive, as is the roughly $1 trillion in estimated disposable income that 54 million Americans with disabilities represent. Furthermore, it is less costly for software vendors to create a single version of their software products that include accessibility tools.
- "Round Three"
Economist (02/10/01) Vol. 358, No. 8208, P. 63
Although Microsoft is promoting its .NET Internet platform as a great step forward, industry analysts say the software giant is actually doing nothing more than playing catch up to rivals such as Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and IBM. For several years, these firms have suggested that software should be offered as a Web-based service rather than as a program to be installed on PCs. However, Sun is now reintroducing its Web-based services as ONE, which stands for Open Net Environment. Analysts say this may be an attempt not to lose any marketing ground to Microsoft's new effort. Although the introduction of .NET would seem to be an admission on Microsoft's part that Sun was correct all along, the two companies have not finished their frequent sniping. The two recently settled a long-standing lawsuit over Microsoft's use of Sun's Java programming language, the backbone of much software. Microsoft will no longer use the latest version of Java in its product, instead relying on its own program, C#
- "When the Dot-Com Bubble Burst"
National Journal (02/10/01) Vol. 33, No. 6, P. 420; Munro, Neil
Although the dot-com bubble has burst, causing some $500 billion to $2 trillion in paper-fund losses, lawmakers in Washington are likely to proceed as if the fallout never happened. Market observers do not expect lawmakers to reign in high-tech companies over their accounting practices, largely because Wall Street money managers, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, and ordinary investors are not calling for government intervention. In fact, observers say these groups continue to look down on government regulation. President George W. Bush must select a chairman for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees the stock market, to replace Arthur Levitt. The new chairman can expect companies to lobby intensely to reverse the small changes that Levitt implemented in making company financial reports stricter. Nell Minow, a Washington-based advocate for the Corporate Library, a clearinghouse for information on company executives and directors, says Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan warned of "irrational exuberance" in 1996 but adds that the SEC failed to close accounting loopholes exploited by high-tech companies. Minow also says the SEC failed to give shareholders the final say on approving stock options to top managers and failed to allow stockholders to organize and exchange information using the Internet. The dot-com crash could even hurt local and state governments' effort to tax sales made over the Internet, adds Mark Nebergall, president of the Software Finance and Tax Executives Council.
- "Best New Places to Do Business for Tech Companies"
Industry Standard (02/19/01) Vol. 4, No. 7, P. 80; Moran, Sarah E.
The Industry Standard magazine has identified the Route 202 corridor outside the city of Philadelphia as the best location for tech startups to be located. The suburban area offers reasonable traffic, close proximity to many East Coast cities, including Baltimore and New York, and has a cheaper standard of living than other high-tech centers such as Silicon Valley and the area near Washington, D.C. Quality of life is also high, as the area boasts good schools, reasonably priced houses, and a low crime rate. Already, companies including CDnow, eGames, and United Messaging make their homes in the region, while the Philadelphia region as a whole has about 110,000 IT jobs, the seventh-largest total in the country, according to Economy.com analyst Scott Andersen. The region is also home to 85 colleges and universities, which produce 50,000 graduates each year. However, observers say keeping young workers in the Route 202 corridor may be the only challenge to setting up shop there. The immediate area is too suburban for many young professionals' tastes, offering little in the way of excitement.
- "The Ideas Machine"
New Scientist (01/20/01) Vol. 169, No. 2274, P. 26; Matthews, Robert
"Genetic algorithms" are widely used today in commercial applications such as finding the most efficient airline schedules and designing circuitry. John Koza of Stanford University has been developing the next generation of that idea, genetic programming (GP). GP begins with arranging mathematical formulas and goal parameters given by human-engineered software. GP goes a step further by not dealing with lists of data or testing every single combination of possibilities. Instead GP chooses a limited number of plausible formulas, and then breeds them thousands of times to produce the best possible design or method. In the first-ever issue of Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines, Koza and his team describe a number of designs its GP computer arrived at on its own. Its "inventions" ranged from electronic thermometers to the Christmas Tree-type antennas atop homes across the world. The results of Koza's experiments have yielded both old answers and new innovations. For example, when GP was asked to find a method for predicting planetary movement with basic formulas describing the operation of the Solar system, it eventually answered with Kepler's Third Law of Planetary Motion, discovered in 1618. GP has also come out with some real benefits. The Stanford team found the process especially adept at designing circuits that regulate non-linear feedback, a huge problem for human engineers because of the complex mathematical problems involved. Koza says GP does not know about those complexities when it randomly chooses components to use in its evolving designs. Human engineers, however, would probably be hesitant to use those components because their effects are hard to calculate. Koza, who has been working on the project for years, says his team is nearing effective commercial application but currently lacks the processing power to create 3D designs noting, "it would take years." He hopes that, if processing speeds continue to keep in step with Moore's law, they should be able to do so soon.