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Volume 3, Issue 199: Monday, May 7, 2001
- "Questioning Continues in Copyright Suit"
New York Times Online (05/04/01); Kaplan, Carl S.
Web publisher Richard Corley and his defense team on Tuesday debated digital copyright issues with three federal appeals court judges in New York City. Judge Jon O. Newman, the ruling questioner, argued key points with chief defense lawyer Kathleen Sullivan, who contended that the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is illegal since it limits the "fair uses" of DeCSS technology and its distribution. DeCSS allows the unscrambling of digital copyright codes on DVDs. Fair use law says some unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted material is allowable in the interests of academia, news, and criticism, but Newman argued that the DMCA does not do away with fair use, saying, "At worst, it eliminates fair uses in the most technically favorable form." Another important point the judges considered is the level of individual expression in the anti-copyright software, the "expressive content"--the higher such content is in an article, the more favorable courts are likely to be to review the First Amendment laws. However, because DeCSS software was designed expressly for breaking copyright encryption code, such "speech content" is minimized, Newman says. Sullivan also argued that links on Corley's 2600 Web site leading to DeCSS sites do not go against the DMCA--in fact, she said, the court's rulings on the links could have repercussions among news organizations, which may provide links to questionable material on their online news sites. Newman said that the posting of such links must be evaluated by the intention of the news organizations, adding that the previous verdict against Corley by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan is relevant to Corley only.
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- "NSA Adviser Says Cyber-Assaults On Pentagon Persist With Few Clues"
Washington Post (05/07/01) P. A2; Loeb, Vernon
The federal government continues to search for the perpetrators of a sophisticated attack on the Pentagon's computer system. Code-named "Moonlight Maze," the attack began three years ago and has been traced, investigators say, to Internet addresses in Russia. "The hackers have built 'back doors' through which they can re-enter the infiltrated systems at will and steal further data; they have also left behind tools that reroute specific network traffic through Russia," writes NSA consultant James Adams in this month's edition of Foreign Affairs magazine. Russian officials have denied having any knowledge of the attacks. The hackers first entered the Pentagon computers through a technique called tunneling. This technique hides malicious code within routine systems, making it very difficult for investigators to detect. Although investigators say the information stolen so far is "unclassified but still sensitive," other officials have deemed the attacks' effects as "massive." Efforts to thwart the hackers are further complicated by international law. Should the hackers turn out to be state-sponsored, attempts to cripple their own computer systems could be taken as an act of war.
- "Economists Agree: Technology is the Weakest Link"
Investor's Business Daily (05/07/01) P. A6; Prado, Antonio A.
A new study by Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown and CIO Magazine reveals that growth in tech spending fell 29 percent from March to April. On account of this decline, Deutsche Banc and CIO now forecast that corporate IT spending will grow 7 percent this year, down from an earlier prediction of 9 percent. A new report from the Commerce Department notes that IT spending in the first quarter grew by 11.1 percent over last year's first quarter, well below recent years' 20 percent and higher growth rates. The decline in capital IT spending in the same quarter translates to an annual decline of 6.6 percent. "Technology clearly remains the weak link in the business sector," says Ed Yardeni, chief investment strategist at Deutsche Bank. Analysts place much of the blame for the current slowdown in the tech sector on excess inventory levels. As firms try to reduce those levels of inventory, fewer new products are developed, which in turn slows the overall economy.
- "New Economy"
New York Times (05/07/01) P. C4; Stellin, Susan
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- "Pink-Slipped Indian Workers Give up Life in U.S."
Christian Science Monitor Online (05/04/01); Kremmer, Janaki Bahadur
Many IT recruits from India are now out of jobs as a result of the economic slowdown in the United States. Because the regulations of the H-1B visa program mandate that terminated workers must leave the country, many are now heading back home. About 1,000 tech workers went back to India in March, reports Prem Anand, who operates a Web site that monitors Indian tech workers. He says e-commerce and Internet-based technicians fared the worst because of reduced demand for such skills. In addition, job placement firms in India are reporting that many Indians living in the United States are now looking for work in India. Another alternative for laid-off workers is transferring to European or Asian countries, suggests Anand, especially Germany. Manish Bhasin, a tech expert who went back to India, disagrees, arguing that language and intolerance problems could arise. He prefers going back to India rather than to other Asian countries. However, the economy in India is also experiencing decreased demand for microchips, electronic goods, computer gear, and cars. Still, researchers say U.S. tech firms will likely turn to India for their outsourcing needs. Of the H-1B visas issued by the U.S. government to highly skilled foreign workers last year, 41 percent went to workers from India, reports the U.S. Embassy in India.
- "Argentina Mulls Open-Source Move"
Wired News (05/04/01); Scheeres, Julia
The Argentinean government may require its branches to use free, open-source software as a measure against illegally duplicated computer programs. Initiated by parliamentary member Marcelo Dragan, the move is part of a nationwide drive against software piracy. Currently, about 60 percent of software in Argentina is illegally copied, says trade organization Software Legal, costing dealers about $200 million annually. In 1998, Argentina passed a copyright law that incarcerates persons possessing bootlegged software for up to six years. After the passage of the law, 15,000 Argentinean companies were found using copied programs; since then, about 6,000 have abandoned the practice, says Software Legal head Martin Carranza Torres. He believes the government's migration to free software would hamper free trade; instead, software value should be set by bidding and individual evaluation. However, Mario Albornoz, director of the Institute of Social Studier of Science and Technology, says such a move would save money for the government, which is one of the biggest piracy culprits. He says the move to free software would generate jobs for IT firms and workers, but may create problems for officials unfamiliar with open systems.
- "Patents: Requests for New Trademarks by Internet Companies Have Fallen"
New York Times (05/07/01) P. C2; Chartrand, Sabra
The number of trademark requests for terms including .com or prefixed with the "e-" moniker began to decline when Internet stocks started to fall. "We can see a numerical confirmation of the fact that the whole dot-com trend went from very hot to very cold in a few weeks' time," says Glenn A. Gundersen, head of the intellectual property group at Dechert, Price & Rhoads, which produces an annual report on trademark trends. These trends over the past decade suggest that trademark applications tend to complement the economy, according to Gundersen. In 2000, the Patent and Trademark Office decided to avoid giving trademarks to generic terms and also decided that the .com domain name suffix would be disregarded, just as corporate descriptions such as Inc. are disregarded, in trademarks. Despite the downturn in requests, there were 1,000 more applications for .com trademarks in 2000 than in the previous year, and some of the requests made in 2000 were for generic terms such as soup.com, groceries.com, travel.com, and carparts.com, according to Dechert. These terms and simple misspellings were submitted for trademark in order to protect company domain names in court. In order to obtain a trademark that corresponds to a domain name, a number of companies have registered trademarks based on names that are newly minted, such as Cingular, Verizon, or Accenture, misspellings of names, or personalized marks, according to Gundersen's report. The term "1-888-Mattress" was initially rejected by the trademark office but won an appeal when the patent office appeals board found that the "888" portion of the phrase was not a word and therefore the generic-word rules did not apply.
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- "Computer Scientist"
New Scientist Online (04/30/01)
Elvind Hovig of the Norwegian Radium Hospital and his colleagues have designed a data-mining program that can search through the millions of biology-related papers published each year for the names of specific genes. The program can then predict relationships between genes based on their being mentioned in the same paper. Using the papers stored in the public database MEDLINE, Hovig's team built a data network of 13,712 individual human genes. Cross-referencing that network of genes with keywords from the papers in which they are mentioned, Hovig and his team built a database called PubGene, which can list genes that may be related to a specific gene and medical areas in which that gene has a role. The relationships predicted by PubGene have proven useful to scientists, as they are seven times more likely to be correct than those predicted by random selection--in a few cases, correctly predicted relationships were not previously known to scientists. "It is an exploratory tool," says University of California at San Diego geneticist Daniel Masys. "They don't promise to give all possible insights, but it is an aid to trying to digest and condense these huge amounts of information."
- "Digital Gadgets the Answer to Computer Slump"
E-Commerce Times (05/04/01); Weisman, Robyn
Computer makers Sony and Apple are marketing their PCs as "digital hubs" that can connect a number of gadgets for music and video applications to the computer. Contributing to this push are the falling prices for digital cameras and public acceptance of digital photos in place of 35mm film. Last year, shipments of digital cameras grew 130 percent over 1999 to 15.1 million as improvements in image quality and lower costs spurred sales, according to International Data. The research firm predicts that the number shipped in 2005 will be 39 million. Other digital peripherals such as camcorders and MP3 music players are being promoted with Sony's Vaio laptop computer through its "Dream On" ad campaign. Sony and Apple are the two makers that are targeting this niche market early, and both are reaching after the more sophisticated PC users that would be early adopters of digital gadgetry.
- "Government to Tackle IT Skills Shortage"
Computing Online (05/01/01); Donoghue, Andrew
The British government is planning a pilot program to help develop training courses for the nation's IT workers. Malcolm Wicks, the minister for lifelong learning, reports that of the 20 million workers in the United Kingdom who use IT at their jobs, less than one in 200 has any IT qualification. The six-month pilot program will assess the needs of companies and find the right mixture of government computer courses and vendor certifications, such as those from Microsoft. However, some observers say the government's efforts are misplaced, arguing that large technology vendors are not the correct recipients of public funds and that other channels should be found to boost the United Kingdom's IT skill level.
- "IBM Develops New Method for Making LCDs"
IBM has developed a new way to position the liquid crystals used in liquid crystal displays, a feat IBM scientist Praveen Chaudhari says is the "Holy Grail" of flat-panel display manufacturing. In the new technique, atoms are beamed at a sheet of carbon to line up the atoms in rows, upon which liquid crystal particles attach. The older method, developed 95 years ago, required using velvet to put the atoms in place, resulting in flaws difficult to detect. IBM says the new method will result in lower production costs and better picture resolution.
- "Does Roberta Compute? Yes!"
Wired News (05/04/01); Dean, Katie
Roberta Furger of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, author of "Does Jane Compute?: Preserving Our Daughters' Place in the Cyber Revolution," is working to provide more tech-related opportunities for girls. Furger argues that a key reason why the number of boys interested in technology so overwhelms the number of girls is that educators do not understand how to interest girls in technology. Girls, Furger contends, are interested in technology not because of the process of making it but because of its use as a means to a greater end. For example, girls do not want to learn a programming language for the sake of knowing that language, but rather to use that language to build a Web site for something that interests them. Furger says the decline of self-esteem that is a hallmark of girls' adolescence must be considered when introducing them to the nuts and bolts of technology. "Girls may spend more time online, but they still don't consider themselves particularly savvy when it comes to technology," says Furger. Furger has led national workshops on the issue of gender equity in tech education.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Hot on the Trail of Virus Writers"
USA Today (05/07/01) P. 3D; Weise, Elizabeth
Sarah Gordon works at IBM's T.J. Watson lab, where she studies the minds of virus writers. In an interview with USA Today, she explains that virus writers cannot be pigeon-holed into a class by themselves. They represent a wide range of people--although, when pushed, Gordon says most are younger men. Nearly all share the sentiment that writing viruses will make them cool and bring acceptance. She insists that toughened legislation will have a limited effect but that changing public perception through the media could more effectively deter a greater number of viruses. Hackers generally frown on virus writing because it is not a controlled exercise and requires relatively limited technical expertise. Gordon says once the challenge mystique surrounding virus writing is diminished, fewer individuals will be inclined to release them.
- "The China Question"
Interactive Week (04/30/01) Vol. 8, No. 17, P. 22; Gruenwald, Juliana
Political observers believe that President Bush still favors renewing normal trade relations with China for another year, but anti-China forces on Capitol Hill are expected to wage a serious battle over the issue. For the tech industry, there are some concerns that members of Congress who are critical of China will use that nation's refusal to release a U.S. spy plane that collided with a Chinese jet fighter and its decision to detain U.S. intellectuals to gain support for legislation that would reject the renewal of normal trade relations with Beijing. The tech industry continues to see China as a huge market for its products and services. For example, China is expected to have some 170 million wireless phone users by 2005, the third biggest market for personal computers by 2003, the second largest market for semiconductors by 2010, and to generate $23 billion in online revenue by 2004. Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees trade issues, believes that there is a chance the House would vote against renewing trade relations. However, he does not believe the Senate would do the same, and most observers believe that Bush would veto such legislation. Ultimately, many in the tech industry do not think that the growing anti-China sentiments in Congress will be enough to damage trade with China.
- "Peering Into the Future"
InfoWorld (04/30/01) Vol. 23, No. 18, P. 38; Scannell, Ed
Executives have been reluctant to green-light peer-to-peer solutions because the technology avoids the client/server model, the focal point of many corporate IT policies. "Servers give [IT executives] the feeling that they can help users get a lot of value out of the content but also protect the corporate assets," explains E-Rooms Technology CEO Jeff Bair. "In the peer-to-peer world, that is sometimes hard to do." However, now there is a new peer-to-peer model, what the research firm Gartner Group calls Data Centered peer-to-peer, which is a combination of peer-to-peer and the traditional client/server model. Such a Data Centered model is the much touted Groove software, developed by Lotus Notes founder Ray Ozzie. The peer-to-peer software includes several features that are meant to improve a corporation's sense of security and control while maintaining the basic advantages of the peer-to-peer model. Strengthened security is key to opening more executives' eyes to peer-to-peer, say experts, because the security loopholes inherent in basic peer-to-peer models make them unattractive and also dangerous. Only time will tell if Groove and similar peer-to-peer software will catch on with corporate IT users. Proponents of the peer-to-peer model say it has numerous corporate uses, from supply-chain management to collaboration to the ability to integrate data from remote locations--employees' handhelds, for one.
- "True 3-D Without Glasses"
Computerworld (04/30/01) Vol. 35, No. 18, P. 53; Kay, Russell
Dimension Technologies has unveiled a flat-panel LCD display that produces 3D images. The display works by showing two images, each slightly different from the other, at the same time. Each image is manipulated by a directional layer so that it can be seen by only one of a viewer's eyes, and the resulting optical illusion produces the 3D image. The display includes a red diode to alert viewers when their head is not in the proper position to see the image correctly. The image quality is very good, report those who have tested the display, although the resolution is slightly fuzzy since it is showing two images simultaneously. The display retails for $1,699 and requires a computer with 128 MB memory and 500 MHz processing speed. Experts believe that it is an important breakthrough because it could lead to the widespread use of 3D images, which could benefit a wide range of users, including architects, engineers, and doctors--surgeons, for example, would be able to use a 3D image to guide them through operations rather than a composite image of individual pictures. Experts also such a 3D display will likely be used for games and simulations. Advanced 3D displays could be used for training exercises for pilots, ship captains, or tank drivers. The technology offers faster, more realistic simulations, which makes for more effective training exercises.
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- "Babbling Our Way to a New Babel: Erasing the Language Barriers"
Futurist (05/01) Vol. 35, No. 3, P. 16; Lehman-Wilzig, Sam
In the future, Synchronous Automated Translation Systems (SATS) will enable real-time translation in both text and conversation among a great number of the world's more than 5,000 languages. Using the most advanced technology in networking and artificial intelligence, SATS will provide more precise and more immediate translations. Experts say the computing power necessary to provide a primitive SATS system, based on Moore's Law of computing power's growth, will be available in approximately 15 years. Because of the importance of translating to both political and economic ventures, several major firms, including Intel, IBM, and Microsoft, are backing various SATS initiatives. Already, some basic translation services are in use, including Babel Fish, which can translate text from 19 different languages, and a translation program that covers six languages for business teleconferencing. What will make SATS so much more advanced, say experts, is that the systems will be networked in such a way so that they will be in operation 24 hours a day and will be able to learn from their experiences, becoming more precise with each use. Experts believe that SATS could contribute greatly to solving political and cultural misunderstandings and could also lead to new economic markets for firms that will be able to sell products in any way dependent on language to other countries.