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 193: Monday, April 23, 2001
- "Intel Product Could Set Off a Price War"
New York Times (04/23/01) P. C9; Gaither, Chris
Intel has announced significantly lower price points for its Pentium 4 line of processors in hopes of stirring consumer desire and boosting PC sales, which have seen a quarterly decline for the first time over the last three months. Intel expects that PC sales will remain stable this quarter and see a slight rise in the next. Although Intel and its main rival, Advanced Micro Devices, have said they want to avoid cutting into company profits by initiating a price war, the latest move by Intel will be matched by AMD, company officials said. Intel claims that new production savings allow the reductions, and that it will further streamline its process, sell 20 million Pentium 4 chips, and release a 2 GHz chip by next year. Although some analysts criticize the Pentium 4 for not actually being faster than the Pentium 3, others say that consumers, who buy mainly according to clock speed, will flock to the new, high-speed, low-priced Intel units. AMD has scored several victories over Intel in the past year, gaining several points in market share and introducing the first 1 GHz processor ahead of Intel, who usually leads in speed. As of the beginning of this month, Intel held 77.5 percent of the market, leaving AMD with 20.8 percent.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)
- "China Warns of Coming Hack Attack"
Washington Times (04/23/01) P. A1
Chinese and American hackers are attacking each other's computer systems in response to strained relations between the two nations. According to American hackers, hundreds of Chinese Web sites have already been victimized in a plan called "ChinaKiller." In response, some Chinese computer experts are calling for a week of retaliation, beginning on May 1. In the past, Chinese hackers have gone after U.S. government sites following the 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. A security consultant and hacker from Hungary, known as "Taltos," warns that he would not be surprised to see some new viruses appear as the Chinese attack U.S. sites indiscriminately.
- "Once-Highflying Dot-Com Crowd Comes Back Down to Earth Rapidly"
Los Angeles Times (04/23/01) P. C1; Menn, Joseph
Job hunters in the Silicon Valley region only now are starting to realize the reality of the dot-com bust. Web programmer Spencer Thiel says that skilled workers could expect a $10,000 to $15,000 pay increase every time they switched jobs during the halcyon days of the Internet economy. Now, even old-line tech firms such as Pacific Bell have hiring freezes in place. Many laid-off workers are reaching for unemployment for the first time now that their severance packages are depleted--unemployment in Santa Clara County, Silicon Valley's core, rose to 2.2 percent in March, up from 1.8 percent in February. David Pruitt is considering having to return to Oklahoma because he cannot afford to keep up with his $1,800-per-month rent. Arlene Borg of the state Unemployment Development Office says that many top-level people used to high salaries are shocked to find the most they can receive is $230 per week. Although demand is still fairly strong for technically-oriented workers, those with management and marketing experience have little appeal because they are seen as expendable, says corporate lawyer Michael Blend.
- "Survey on Women's Role in Silicon Valley"
New York Times (04/23/01) P. C3; Flynn, Laurie J.
Women in Silicon Valley's high-tech workforce fare better than in other regions of the country, with higher percentages of female computer programmers and electrical engineers. Even still, a recent survey of 826 women in the Valley correlates with data that shows there may be a glass ceiling keeping women out of the senior executive positions. In Silicon Valley's 150 largest public businesses, only 6 percent hold the top position though 40 percent of managers are women. Of those surveyed, 28 percent agreed that their gender was an impediment to career advancement. Perhaps because of this, 20 percent said that they planned to either contract their work out or launch their own business within the next three years.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "IDC: Security Software to Total Billions by 2004"
InfoWorld.com (04/18/01); Costello, Sam
The online security industry will enter a boom market, with revenues growing above 30 percent annually, reports market research firm International Data (IDC). Intrusion detection and vulnerability assessment products will top $1 billion in annual revenue by 2003, mostly from IT managers' need to monitor and map their networks--not alarmist concerns about breaches, IDC reports. The PKI industry alone will top $1.7 billion by 2004, and combined with other authorization programs and security administration programs in general, revenues in this sector will hit $7.7 billion per year by 2004. IDC ascribes this growth to future demands for secure e-commerce.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Linux and Handhelds: Good Match or Sure Failure?"
Despite the upcoming release of the Agenda VR3 Linux-based handheld, many industry observers doubt that Linux-based handhelds will be able to draw enough users away from Palm and, to a lesser extent, PocketPC devices. Linux-based handhelds are also due soon from Samsung and Sharp, but observers say the devices, while boasting more powerful applications that standard handhelds, are unlikely to be appealing enough to draw many users. The Samsung Yopy handheld, for example, features multimedia applications, which were impressive when first revealed but, now that PocketPCs have multimedia applications and the Yopy has yet to appear on shelves, are not considered all that revolutionary. Observers contend that the enterprise market may provide the most compelling opportunity for developers of Linux-based handhelds because of its reputation as a server platform. If Linux-based handhelds can run the same applications as enterprise systems do, they will be very attractive to corporate IT departments. Also, as an open source device, Linux-based handhelds could provide cost advantages, both in the device itself--although vendors are not, at least so far, attempting to undercut the established handheld market--and also, because of the vast network of Linux developers, in its applications.
- "Showdown at the Digital Corral"
Washington Post (04/22/01) P. H1; Cha, Ariana Eunjung
With men and women more mobile today than ever before, a new idea, nicknamed "Enum," would link one's contact numbers and addresses through an Internet address based upon a phone number, which when typed would offer a glossary of cell, email, work phone, and other means of contacting someone. Developed by Cisco Systems engineer Patrik Falstrom, a selected phone number would be typed in, then reversed by software so that each number was separated with dots, and all tied to a domain name such as: 188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.0.1.e164.arpa. The typed number would be guided by pre-programmed preferences, so that typing I it would simply send email, or dial a home phone number with instructions to dial a work number if the home phone is not answered. Currently, a political battle is brewing over the question of who would run the master database storing people's multiple-contact information--VeriSign that overseas the domain name registry, or NeuStar that manages the master list of U.S. phone numbers. The U.S. government has not taken a position, though the State and Commerce Departments, as well as the FTC are all examining the issue. Experts are unsure whether an Enum database could be safeguarded against hackers, and some wonder whether Enum would place too much personal information in the hands of companies already criticized for their anti-privacy practices.
- "Lab Rat: Virtual Light"
Red Herring Online (04/19/01); McKay, Niall
New headsets fuse virtual reality with what people see in the real world, allowing users to actually see what before they could only imagine. New augmented reality (AR) technology, such as that being developed by Hughes Research Laboratories, projects digital information on small displays overlaying what is really seen. Applications for this technology include allowing architects and builders to visualize future buildings on-site or letting motorists identify landmarks without taking their hands off the wheel. Hughes researchers are currently working on integrating GPS systems, databases, wireless connections, and display technology to make six products planned for commercial release over the next five years through their business arm, X-Laboratories. New developments at the University of Washington have also allowed AR to overcome some technological hurdles by using lasers to project digital images directly onto the retina. Although the X-Laboratory headsets face power consumption and display problems, the retinal scanning display (RSD) technology will help Microvision, another AR developer, make smaller and clearer units. Microvision plans to release its first RSD system this summer.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Cisco Systems Inc. Is Target of Suit by Shareholders"
Wall Street Journal (04/23/01) P. B4; Goodin, Dan
Cisco Systems, which announced its first substantial layoffs this year, is facing a lawsuit. Cisco allegedly breached securities laws by circulating false information about its products and financial performance, according to a shareholder lawsuit filed by the law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach. Filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the suit asks for class-action status. A Cisco spokesman said the lawsuit had no basis, but refused to give details. The suit accuses the firm of management wrongdoings that led to a $400 million decline in Cisco's market value. Cisco's shares have fallen amid lower spending on networking gear and additional troubles. The company stated last Monday it would be forced to write off over $2.5 billion in inventories and that its fiscal third-quarter profits would fall below expectations. According to the lawsuit, Cisco CEO John Chambers and other key executives deceived investors from August 1999 to February 2001. The suit also alleges that executives generated $595 million by selling Cisco stock during that period for up to $80 per share. The suit says such practices artificially boosted the company's sales and net. In addition, the suit says Cisco deliberately shipped faulty or unfinished equipment to customers so it could continue to generate revenue.
- "Startup Aims to Encrypt All Web Traffic"
VNUNet.com (04/20/01); Middleton, James
Currently, an insufficient amount of online data is encrypted, as only about 7 percent of Internet traffic is protected, according to Andes Networks. This problem stems from slow encryption speeds, but Andes intends to offer an encryption scheme based on Secure Socket Layer (SSL) that will speed things up. Through the Andes scheme, an SSL accelerator would be placed in key spots on the Web's infrastructure, including ISPs or data centers. The SSL accelerator will encrypt data as it passes through or exits a center and will decrypt incoming data. User's desktops would also encrypt and decrypt information as it comes and goes.
- "Internet Names Go International"
Associated Press (04/18/01); Jesdanun, Anick
Starting April 19, VeriSign will begin accepting domain name registrations in Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and Indian subcontinent languages, as well as a variety of symbols. VeriSign's move is generating some criticism, especially among Internet engineers, who are concerned that the move is taking place before the Internet Engineering Task Force has approved standards. VeriSign would be willing to utilize any standards that are eventually approved, and it should be able to easily alter its translations to comply with the standards, although there is no guarantee that this is true, and a few characters might have to be dropped, says VeriSign vice president Chuck Gomes. VeriSign will start allowing the use of sites with foreign language domain names ending in .mltbd.com--for multilingual testbed--in the next few weeks, but will not drop the .mltbd portion of the address for months.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Global Internet Usage Has Coma a Long Way"
eMarketer (04/20/01); Centeno, Cerelle
The Internet has grown dramatically from its early days in 1986, when only eight countries went online in some fashion. The International Telecommunications Union says that 214 countries boasted Internet access last year, up from 60 in 1993, with a total of 315 million users--83 million of which hail from a developing country. Host computers, those with direct links to the Internet, swelled in ranks to 104 million in 2000, up from 72 million in 1999, according to the ITU report. Iceland, at 60 percent, leads the world in the percentage of its citizens connected to the Web, followed by Norway at 49 percent, Sweden at 46 percent, and Canada at 41 percent. Finland, Denmark, South Korea, Australia, the United States, and Singapore, at 30 percent, make up the top 10.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Personalized 'Lock' for Media Files Devised by Start-Up"
Wall Street Journal (04/23/01) P. B4; Hamilton, David P.
A venture entitled SigningStation today will reveal its copy-prevention project intended to stop unrestricted replication of digital video and music files. The public-key system, called Cryptocast, is designed to work with so-called public and private keys; data on one key is necessary to operate the other key. However, personal data must be provided for the system to operate, which could raise issues of privacy. A consumer's private key would be affixed in a "dongle" to be connected to the USB port of a PC. Without this piece of hardware, a file could not be played. Since the system uses more encrypted data than previous copy-prevention software, hacking becomes more difficult and costly. Moreover, the software is designed to trace those breaching its system. SigningStation plans to make deals with movie companies soon, although similar firms have failed to make much money in the past.
- "Regulating the Impact"
Interactive Week (04/16/01) Vol. 8, No. 15, P. 46; Gruenwald, Juliana
The electronics industry is facing its most aggressive challenge yet from European governments over the environmental impact of dumping computers and computer-related equipment in landfills. In May, the full European Parliament is expected take up the directive on Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), which would force companies to take back their products and recycle them, and the directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RHS), which would ban hazardous substances such as mercury and lead from computer products. One industry organization, the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA), says it is not in opposition to the measures but adds that they are not as palatable as they can be. For example, the EIA wonders how much financial responsibility will be placed on the electronics industry for the changes, and whether the EU is giving industry enough time to find alternatives to banned substances in consumer electronics products. The electronics industry has been able to avoid any government regulation in the United States so far. An increasing number of countries around the world have addressed the issue, but many of their efforts are focused more on take-back and recycling. The European Commission suggests that the electronics industry could pay for the changes by passing on the cost to consumers, which would raise the price of electronics goods by just 1 percent.
- "The Age of Robots"
U.S. News & World Report (04/23/01) Vol. 130, No. 16, P. 44; Hayden, Thomas
Although robot technology has not progressed as far as many of the great science-fiction visionaries had thought it would by the beginning of the twenty-first century, scientists around the world are working on any number of robot prototypes that could change humanity's everyday existence. Part of the problem with developing a robot, scientists say, is that building a machine that in some way mimics the way humans think and move is much, much harder than any science-fiction writer ever imagined. Scientists say the systems necessary for robots to move and feel are overwhelmingly complex, requiring an intricate web of pulleys, gears, hydraulics, and other systems. For instance, one of the most advanced robots--the first to imitate human bipedal motion--Honda's P3 can move at only one mile per hour. Even more complex is developing robotic thought, a concept that once concentrated on teaching robots to understand logic and employ it in problem-solving, such as IBM's Deep Blue computer did when it learned to play chess and then beat the then world champion, Garry Kasparov. Scientists are now working on a wide range of methods to teach robots to think, with many efforts patterned after the way children learn to think. For example, MIT's Kismet robot is designed to seek stimulation from exterior sources, and it tests methods of attracting people to speak with it and then reacts to how each person interacts with it--including rather negative reactions if a person gets too close or treats it roughly. Despite these and other recent advances in robotics, some scientists fear that by developing such smart machines, humans risk endangering their own existence, creating a new class of beings that will either rise up in protest against their servitude or that will simply outpace humans on the evolutionary scale.
- "The Semantic Web"
Scientific American (05/01) Vol. 284, No. 5, P. 34; Berners-Lee, Tim; Hendler, James; Lassila, Ora
- "Who's Afraid of Productivity?"
Weekly Standard (04/01) Vol. 6, No. 28, P. 19; Freeman, James
The latest in a series of reports from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, highlights "best practices" in the use of technological investment by government agencies and departments. The report implies that many government bodies are not doing enough to make sure that their IT budgets are put to the best use because of bureaucratic impediments. Scot Barg, the lead researcher, explains that government managers are afraid of implementing proven cost-saving technology because they would then be expected to produce similar effects. For example, the banking industry is using technology to save institutions 95 cents on the dollar for each transaction made online instead of in a branch office. Those savings have been translated to the public sector in some instances, such as the Education Department's move of financial aid forms to the Web, which has cut the processing cost from $2.55 to 90 cents. Arizona has also realized 70 percent cost savings by hiring IBM to move its vehicle registration online. Forrester Research analyst Jeremy Sharrard admits that he has never heard the idea of using IT to make government cheaper ever come up in e-government discussions. Sharrard says officials risk undercutting their clout. "If you do e-government too well, you may reduce your budget and lose your prestigious position," he says of many managers' dilemma. However, some leaders are taking the initiative to spur IT-driven efficiency in government. Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) plans to hold hearings in the House Government Reform subcommittee to focus on specific practices that can improve efficiency.
- "DaimlerChrysler's Net Designs"
Business 2.0 (04/17/01) Vol. 6, No. 8, P. 26; Holstein, William J.
DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler division intends for its FastCar online design initiative to halve the amount of time required to design a new car--from roughly four years to two--and save a "huge" amount of money in the process. The tradition-bound automotive industry is particularly ripe for e-business transformation and Chrysler especially so, given that it is currently losing a huge amount of money, has laid off some 26,000 employees, and, of the Big Three automakers, is the most dependent on outside suppliers. FastCar, which is currently being used in the design of a new large car scheduled to be in showrooms by the fall of 2003, leverages the Internet to drastically improve communication between the many people and departments involved in the design of a car. If a stamping engineer, for example, is privy to the design of the car's bodywork from the earliest stages, he or she can offer input as to what shapes are or are not technically or financially feasible, shaving large chunks of time and cost from the process. Considering the average Chrysler has about 12,000 moving parts, each with its own unique design requirements, it is not hard to understand how a Web-based design environment such as FastCar could be hugely beneficial. "In the first 20 percent of the project, you commit to 80 percent of the cost," explains the director of the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, Michael Flynn. "It's not really that the design activity is so expensive, but it's the commitment of all those downstream costs." It is estimated that Web-based design systems such as FastCar would remove about $1,500 from the cost to produce each car. Also, the flexibility enabled by such a system would provide the added benefit of effectively extending the design process, allowing Chrysler to be more adaptable to changing tastes, trends, fashions, regulations, etc. A major challenge faced by Chrysler and other automakers is the sheer complexity of their business and the fact that, while already popular in other industries, online collaboration tools have never been tested in such an environment.