Association for Computing Machinery
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 technews@hq.acm.org.

Volume 3, Issue 184:  Monday, April 2, 2001

  • "Where Humans and Machines Meet"
    Computerworld (03/26/01) Vol. 35, No. 13, P. 56; Peterson, Tommy

    The focus of the Association for Computing Machinery's ACM1: Beyond Cyberspace conference this month was how IT is changing the way we live and gather data. However, the lasting impression after listening to the speeches was how the interaction between humans and computers transform each other. "There's been 40 years of people serving machines, and now it's time to make the machines humancentric so they'll serve people," said Michael Dertouzos, director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science. Dertouzos suggested that having computers respond to speech could make them more meaningful than being devices for aggregating and structuring information. Martin F.H. Schuurmans, CEO of the Philips Centre for Industrial Technology, said giving ambient intelligence to electronic environments would make the technology personalized, adaptive, and anticipatory to the needs of humans. Moderator Robert Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor and 3Com founder, noted that only 2 percent of the 8 billion microprocessors produced this year will find their way into PCs, while the rest will go into a wide range of devices that comprise the ubiquitous fabric of computing.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Tech Sector Cuts Back Its Demand for Workers"
    Washington Post (04/02/01) P. A1; Johnson, Carrie

    Demand for IT workers has plummeted 44 percent in the last year, in spite of the relative strength of overall employment figures, according to a recent Information Technology Association of America survey. Last year, large employers hired 1.6 million tech workers, the survey found, while this year that number has fallen to 900,000. Challenger, Gray & Christmas says the dot-com sector has been the hardest hit, with 75,000 layoffs reported in the last 16 months. However, even tech stalwarts such as Intel and Cisco have recently let go significant percentages of their workforces. Experts note that although demand is softening, there is still a need for tech-savvy workers. Laura McCarthy, a recruiter based in Northern Virginia, says companies are waiting on hiring new tech workers until they are sure about their ability to weather the economic slowdown. "At first, I heard, 'Wait until after the first quarter' [passed since Saturday]. Now they're waiting another few weeks," she says.
    http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20874-2001Mar31.html

  • "Big Time Computer Viruses Blossom in Spring"
    Reuters (03/31/01); Jonas, Ilaina

    Computer security experts warn that spring has become a prime season for the release of new viruses. Spring 1999 saw the advent of Melissa, a virus that spread through email, replicating itself through users' Microsoft Outlook address books and destroying files on users' hard drives. That spring also saw the second wave of attacks by the Chernobyl virus, which damaged data on some 2 million PCs. Spring 2000 saw the attack of the "I Love You" virus, which caused an estimated $10 million in damage worldwide. "These months have shown major operating [activity]," says Eric Chien of Symantec. "But it would be dangerous to say this kind of thing. The key to virus spreading is social engineering." Chien says the "I Love You" virus is a typical example of a successful socially engineered virus because users were intrigued by the email's subject line. In contrast, a virus such as the one earlier this year that promised a picture of tennis star Anna Kournikova appealed only to a certain segment of the Internet population. Socially engineered viruses may also benefit during the spring because of April Fool's Day, when many viruses become active. Also this year, Apr. 13 falls on a Friday, which experts predict will trigger the launch of several other viruses. However, experts note that many of these viruses have already been anticipated. The key, experts say, is making sure computers can handle an attack on any day, regardless of the time of year.
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20010331/tc/virus_dc_2.html

  • "Hackers' New Craze: Worms"
    ZDNet (03/30/01); Lemos, Robert

    Hackers now possess more sophisticated tools for disrupting the Internet, warned security experts at the CanSecWest conference last week in Vancouver, B.C. Greg Shipley, director of the tech security firm Neohapsis, said automated tool-boxes are empowering less-knowledgeable miscreants to create powerful snippets of code that can severely damage networks and individuals' computers. After analyzing the recent 1i0n Linux worm, University of Washington security engineer David Dittrich said he found significant evolution over the previous Ramen worm. He warned that worms are mutating as people take the code and tweak it to exploit different weaknesses. Shipley said this evolutionary capability poses a serious threat to systems because experts cannot lock down the threat, as about 30 new vulnerabilities are uncovered weekly in parts of the Internet.
    http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,5080428,00.html

  • "Web Sites Using .org Fear Eviction"
    Associated Press (03/30/01); Jesdanun, Anick

    On April 2, ICANN will decide whether or not to accept the proposed deal it made with VeriSign. The deal has generated a great deal of criticism, particularly from users concerned about changes to the .org domain, which could revert back to a restricted nonprofit domain despite the fact that individuals, families, and companies have been permitted to register .org domain names for a number of years. The suggested deal is vague on the details about what will happen with the .org domain. Currently, ICANN has no intention of forcing .org owners to give up their .org domain names, however it is to early to offer any guarantees, says Mike Roberts, former president of ICANN. A majority of families and individuals have no reason to register as nonprofits, and for profit companies are concerned about losing their .org domain names. If the current .org domain name owners are forced to give up their domain names, it will be difficult to get the numerous entities that utilize .org Web sites to change their bookmark and address book information, says Web developer Chris Grady, who notes that search engine information would also have to be updated. As a part of the deal between VeriSign and ICANN, VeriSign would provide $5 million to assist the company that takes over the .org domain in 2002. ICANN will hear the Internet community prior to any decisions on changes to .org, says ICANN CPO Andrew McLaughlin. "The biggest problem at the moment is that the proposal is kind of vaguely worded," says Brandon Cackowski-Schnell.
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010330/tc/internet_eviction_fears_1.html

  • "Europe Taps Into Tech Talent from Russia, With Luck"
    TheStandard.com (03/28/01); Hedlund, Thomas

    The city of St. Petersburg, Russia, is quickly becoming a hotbed of IT talent for both U.S. and European firms. Although U.S. firms have been eager to tap the market for Russian programmers, European firms have been more wary, with concerns about the involvement of the Russian mafia in the country's businesses, as well as a general unwillingness to let customers know software was developed in Russia. However, as the stock of St. Petersburg-based programmers and other IT professionals has risen, with two St. Petersburg universities placing in the top three at the recent International Collegiate Computer Science Olympics, that bias is fading. A group of 14 St. Petersburg software firms, representing about 1,500 programmers, recently formed a consortium to encourage further outsourcing by European firms, especially in nearby Scandinavia's growing tech sector. The group is named Fort Ross, which was Russia's first fort in Alaska.
    http://europe.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,15917,00.html

  • "Are the Days of Free Over?"
    Wired News (03/30/01); Kumar, Aparna

    As Web content sites struggle to generate a profit off of measly ad revenue, many are eyeing the subscription-type model that makes up a significant proportion of traditional publishers' revenue. A number have already taken the plunge, with mostly negative results. Slate and TheStreet.com both moved to a subscription model and then retreated. Since changing back to a free-content site, Slate, now under the Microsoft Network, has grown its revenue by six times and its readership by a factor of 10. This past week, FreeEdgar, the financial news site that sends email updates to users for free, told its most heavy users they would have to pay $10 a month through the fee-based Edgar-Online site. FreeEdgar's Jay Sears contends, as do many other content providers aiming for subscription revenue, that his site's service is unique and vital to its users. Salon.com chief Michael O'Donnell defends his company's recent decision to charge a fee to users for specialized content on their site, saying "People pay for a point of view. That's what's proprietary and valuable." But an Internet public spoiled for so long on free content is not likely to pay for "commodities" like news, sports, and stock quotes, says Forrester analyst Dan O'Brien. "It doesn't matter how well it's done, there's just too much of it around that's free," he says. Some hope remains for content providers, however, as one Forrester survey shows that a minority of Web users are willing to pay a fee for news and music. Sites that give it away for free stand to lose out on what some--albeit a few--are willing to pay for.
    http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,42694,00.html

  • "Napster for Ideas"
    International Herald Tribune (04/02/01) 1, P. 14; Dembart, Lee

    Ray Ozzie, the creator of the wildly successful Lotus Notes program, recently unveiled his latest project, Groove, software for peer-to-peer file-sharing. Groove, currently available from the Groove Networks site at no cost, lets users link their computers, viewing documents, browsing the Internet, and running other applications at the same time. Each user sees the same display on his or her monitor, and changes made by one user affect everyone's display. An additional feature allows users to speak into a microphone, with the broadcast coming through other users' speakers. In order to run Groove, users' computers must operate on Windows and have 64 MB of memory, 200 MB of storage space, a 223 MHz Pentium processor, an Internet connection of 56K or better, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer software, version 4.0 or higher.
    http://www.iht.com/articles/15441.html

  • "Microsoft Urges Global Attack Against Piracy"
    Wall Street Journal (04/02/01) P. A3; Simpson, Glenn

    Microsoft, along with Adobe Systems, Autodesk, and Corel, has pressed police agencies around the world to boost efforts against software piracy. As a result, during the past year, numerous raids in South America, Asia, Europe, Canada, and the United States have netted about $1.7 billion in contraband Microsoft products. Microsoft has begun a formal partnership with the U.S. Customs Service to exchange information on global copyright crimes. The company, which by far is the biggest victim of software piracy, has also recruited its own security force--headed by a 27-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration. During the past six months, Microsoft has taken legal action against 47,000 postings on the Internet offering its software.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/553372.asp

  • "B2B Internet 'Yellow Pages' to Go Live Next Month"
    Reuters (03/30/01); Kennedy, Siobhan

    IBM and Microsoft will launch an Internet "yellow pages"--a directory of online goods and services dedicated to encouraging business-to-business (B2B) commerce--in April; it will run on Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), a Web-services-compatible language co-developed by IBM, Microsoft, and Ariba. The directory--the first of its kind--will not only provide users with business location services, but also explain how to conduct B2B commerce over the Internet. The first version of the directory is already out, but two subsequent versions are expected to premiere before the UDDI development group passes the standard along to a standards organization. "As companies like IBM and Microsoft start to deliver the software tools [necessary to build Web services] later this year then that will really help this start to take off," predicts Giga Information Group analyst Mike Gilpin.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Business on Internet Time"
    New York Times (03/30/01) P. C1; Schwartz, John

    The Web can facilitate faster data transmission and supply-chain management, but the tradeoff is faster downturns, which leads to overstocked inventories and declining order volume despite the positive projections of business executives. "It's important to understand that the Internet cannot change what is going on in the marketplace," argues Susan L. Bostrom, senior vice president of Cisco Systems' Internet business solutions group. "[T]here are always variables that you can't control." Companies oversupplied their inventories during the last boom period to the point where sustainability was impossible; this, combined with the assumption that the Internet technology would predict economic downturns with plenty of time to spare, has hammered them. Also contributing is the fact that some companies have gotten out of touch with the market by outsourcing much of their production to contract manufacturers. Internet speed gives business decisions far greater impact, and Accenture's Allen D. Delattre likens it to stomping on the brakes of a stock car traveling 200 mph, in which "a slight misstep can cause a pileup with great carnage." In a partial reversal of his original thinking, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan lays some of the blame for the unanticipated downturn to the same IT that experts believed would end boom-and-bust cycles. Greenspan now acknowledges the risks that the technology entails, but remains positive that it will also accelerate recovery from the current slump. However, "The Federal Reserve has seen the need to respond more aggressively than had been our want in earlier days," he says. Supply-chain experts argue that companies must push to eliminate all supply-chain inefficiencies and improve monitoring by polishing up their technology. They also expect the companies with the most tightly integrated networks to recover the fastest when the upturn arrives.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/30/technology/30INFO.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Survey Highlights IT Training Shortfall"
    Computing Online (03/29/01); Ranger, Steve

    A recent survey of IT professionals in the United Kingdom found that two-thirds of respondents would leave their positions if their employers did not provide additional training. The survey also found that 66 percent believe that their employers do not provide enough training, while 90 percent expect their employers to pay for training. The results paint a grim picture for the U.K. IT industry, which could have a labor shortfall of 620,000 workers within the next two years. "The industry is suffering because it hasn't invested in people," one survey respondent said. Many employees dislike corporate "clawback" policies, which mandates that employees repay the cost of training should they quit. John Eary of the National Computing Centre says U.K. companies have little choice but to invest in training. "The industry's unwillingness to invest in training is a big factor in the skills shortage. The individual has the responsibility to get educated and the employer must train them to meet industry needs," he said.
    http://www.vnunet.com/News/1119893

  • "Toward the Mainstream"
    Financial Times--Director (03/30/01) P. 2; Fisher, Andrew

    The past year's economic downturn has bitten heavily into the prospects of e-consulting firms and dotcoms, but consultants remain optimistic that there will be plenty of room to go around as traditional companies use the Web to realize their business strategies. IT and Internet software allows companies to whittle down and integrate their business processes and outsource less essential operations to application service providers and other external companies. Speed is also of the essence: Companies must become more flexible and quick to drop e-business initiatives that start to flag. "E-business means 'faster, better, cheaper' and biting it off in smaller chunks," explains Gilbert Toppin of Deloitte Consulting. This challenge is proving tougher for smaller Internet and e-commerce consultants such as Razorfish and Scient, but larger companies are acquiring some of them to fulfill their consultancy needs, notes Giga Information Group's Stephanie Moore. The emergence of business-to-business electronic exchanges or e-marketplaces is also causing a stir, since they can save costs and widen a company's range by integrating procurement with other operations. Furthermore, business-to-employee Web training enables companies to provide their workforce with Web skills that are continuously updated. Of central importance to the new business model is a renewed focus on profits and solid returns on investment. "If the dotcom failures have done anything, they have awakened the realization that business economics don't go away," argues John Little of PA Consulting's management group.

  • "Most E-Government Initiatives Lack Strategy--Study"
    Newsbytes (03/29/01); McGuire, David

    PricewaterhouseCoopers recently sponsored a study showing that government agencies are under such pressure to produce e-government that they often neglect basic cost-benefit analysis when implementing Web services. "The Use of Internet in Government Service Delivery" examines about 50 e-government sites that co-author Steven Cohen describes as well-run. However, of the 50 sites, only six had administrators who could demonstrate that their operations were based on detailed fiscal research. Cohen, a Columbia University professor who heads the school's Executive Master of Public Administration, says departments and agencies assume that any digital application in government must be more efficient. His study contains an 11-point list that officials should use as a guide in developing a Web process that can support itself. Cohen remarks that government leaders should ask themselves, "does this deliver a better, faster, cheaper service than people showing up in person?"
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/163842.html

  • "Cold Shoulder?"
    Interactive Week (03/26/01) Vol. 8, No. 12, P. 13; Brown, Doug

    Although President Bush has often claimed to be a supporter of the high-tech industry, critics say his actions during the initial months of his term have cast some doubt on his position. Although he took office over two months ago, Bush has yet to fill six top science and technology posts in his administration. Yale University physicist--and Republican--D. Allan Bromley says Bush's budget for fiscal 2002 would, when adjusted for inflation, reduce spending at the National Science Foundation by 2.6 percent, at the Department of Energy by 7.1 percent, and at NASA by 3.6 percent. "It is unfortunate that there is no one in the inner circle in the White House at the moment with solid [science] training," he says. "Because such an individual can inject science and technology into discussions and can recognize decisions that could have a significant effect on the nation's science and technology." Critics have the most concern for Bush's plan to suspend funding for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) pending a review of its activities. ATP, which provides funding for projects too bleeding-edge to attract venture-capital investment, has been credited with helping develop some 100 commercial products. However, supporters of the Bush administration say the president still favors technology. Bush, they say, merely wants to be sure that federal money is being spent wisely. As for the open science and technology positions, a Republican science advocate with some access to the White House says the administration is trying to fill them with executives from the tech sector. This is proving to be difficult, as few want to leave the industry for the fishbowl environment of Washington, hence the delay in completing the science and technology team.
    http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2701144,00.html

  • "Enterprise Spending For Internet Technology to Stay Strong"
    Business Communications Review (03/01) Vol. 31, No. 3, P. 8

    Internet technology will take up a larger portion of U.S. businesses' IT budgets during the next five years, up from 15 percent to more than 25 percent, reports Cahners In-Stat. The growth will come from businesses enabling remote workers and building interfaces to enhance suppliers and customers. Small office/home office businesses will likely sign up with managed service providers for their Internet initiatives. Large and medium-sized enterprises are expected to spend 25 percent more on Internet technology year-over-year, said the In-Stat reports.

  • "Centers of Interest"
    tele.com (03/19/01) Vol. 6, No. 6, P. 25; Gerwig, Kate

    Worldwide data center space will double to 45 million square feet in 2003 and earn $19 billion in revenue according to predictions from Adventis. Telecommunications firms, ISPs, Web hosting specialists, and technology vendors are racing to find their business model in this sector, where brick-and-mortar companies are more than making up for the drop in dot-com Web hosting needs. Because companies are demanding value-added services including software and Web site services, vendors have an advantage. But tech companies like IBM lack bandwidth know-how, giving telecoms such as IBM partner BellSouth an edge. This situation has led to strange alliances as Web hosting aspirants such as Intel partner with telecom providers. The chip manufacturer originally planned to open 24 global data centers, but only finished four, instead opting to lease space in competitors' centers in India, Australia, and Korea.
    http://www.teledotcom.com/article/TEL20010319S0010

  • "Yahoo's B2B Ambitions Hinge on Tech Buildout"
    InternetWeek (03/26/01) No. 854, P. 1; Kemp, Ted

    Yahoo! and other online portals and content sites are working on different ways to diversify in order to make up for revenue losses stemming from the slow down in Internet advertising. Yahoo! will likely only break even and their revenue will only be between $170 and $180 million in the first quarter of this fiscal year. Yahoo! needs to develop enterprise products and services such as business portals and Web broadcasting. Unfortunately, this type of a build-out is expensive and time consuming. Yahoo!'s purchase of Broadcast.com allowed it to send a data stream to a multi-enabled ISP, which in turn distributes the stream to many different PCs. The acquisition also gave Yahoo! ISP partners, event production expertise, consultants, and expertise in how to apportion information across the Net. The company has signed some large customers such as McDonald's and Janus Capital, yet online advertising is still responsible for 90 percent of its revenue. Yahoo! will have to take on this task by itself or join with other companies that know how to make businesses internal data stores fully searchable and accessible though Web interfaces. Last May Yahoo! unveiled Website Services, which lets businesses create their own Web sites. Yahoo! also offers domain name registration and servers for Web hosting. If Yahoo! does not create more revenue for itself in these times of diminishing advertising returns, it runs the risk of ending up like so many other Dot-com's in the slowing economy.
    http://www.internetweek.com/newslead01/lead032201.htm

  • "China's Cyber-Strategy"
    Foreign Affairs (04/01) P. 118; Hachigian, Nina

    Although China did not jump on the Internet bandwagon as fast as other countries, it is quickly catching up with the rest of the world. In 1997, there were less than 1 million Internet users in China; however, there are over 22 million users in the country today and some believe that over 120 million Chinese users will be around by 2004, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. There are only 30,000 Web sites in China, but the Chinese have registered over 500,000 domain names, and new Web sites are constantly appearing. The Chinese government is promoting Internet activity at the local, provincial, and central levels. Currently, Internet use in China remains small enough and is controlled to the point that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can maintain its power without feeling threatened, writes Nina Hachigian, a senior fellow at the Pacific Council on International Policy. However, this could change as Internet use picks up and new ideas flow into the country, says Hachigian.