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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 3, Issue 201: Friday, May 11, 2001
- "Judges Seek Answers on Computer Code as Free Speech"
New York Times (05/11/01) P. C4; Harmon, Amy
The three-judge panel hearing the appeal of 2600 magazine publisher Eric Corley--ordered last year by federal Judge Lewis Kaplan to remove a link from his magazine's site to DeCSS, a code that can unscramble DVD encryption--Thursday asked both sides in the dispute to provide answers to 11 questions on what many see as the key issue in the case--should computer code qualify as free speech. The judges also want opinions on Kaplan's method for determining if it is a violation of free speech to ban a site from linking to other sites. Martin Garbus, a lawyer for Corley, said the judges' request was unprecedented, saying, "What's clear is that neither Judge Kaplan's decision nor the briefs nor the oral arguments have given them the answer to the questions they think are the most important." Garbus speculated that the judges were preparing an opinion on the more general issues raised by Corley's case, rather than merely deciding if Kaplan's original decision should be upheld. The crux of the case, say legal observers, will be whether the judges see computer code as instructions, which First Amendment protection usually covers, or something that is comprised of speech but is considered a separate machine, which the First Amendment does not protect. The judges could also decide that the government's desire to protect digital copyrights outweighs free speech concerns. A lawyer for the Motion Picture Association of America, the chief pursuer of Corley, said the judges' questions were not that important.
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For more information and articles on DeCSS and copyright protection, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Microsoft Changes Terms of Pacts Under Which Firms Buy Software"
Wall Street Journal (05/11/01) P. B7; Buckman, Rebecca
Microsoft yesterday announced a new policy governing the corporate purchase of its software. The policy, effective Oct. 1, will result in reduced software costs for a majority of purchasers, Microsoft officials claimed. Firms can now choose to subscribe to Microsoft software rather than enter a three-year "enterprise agreement." Under the subscription plan, firms will rent Microsoft software, saving about 15 percent from the traditional licensing cost. However, once the subscription's term ends, firms will not own the software they have been using. Microsoft officials say the subscription plan will be especially useful for firms that expect large shifts in the number of software users it will have. The new policy also eliminates a discount given to firms that purchased software upgrades in bulk. Those firms must now participate in what Microsoft is calling its Software Assurance program, which charges an annual fee for bulk upgrades of software. Guernsey Research analyst Chris LeTocq says this change could cause some firms' software costs to rise anywhere from 22 percent to 70 percent. Previously, Microsoft announced that its new Windowx XP operating system would be officially released on October 25.
- "Internet Could Run Out of Address Space by 2005"
NewsFactor Network (05/10/01); Durham-Vichr, Deborah
Europe and the Far East are both adopting Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) at a much faster rate than the United States, which seems content to use IPv4, an older Internet protocol that might run out of space for IP addresses. There is some division among experts as to how important the issue actually is. "If anyone says the U.S. is lagging more than others, it's not true and they're pushing an agenda," says Internet Architecture Board Chairman John Klensin. The current IPv4 system will be able to support 4 billion IP addresses; however, if the system continues to grow at a steady rate, this space will be insufficient in a matter of four years. It is possible to translate IP addresses, but IPv6 is the only way to go if IP address translation eventually becomes unviable as a long-term solution, says Klensin. Although no one system or country currently runs solely on IPv6, the European Union is discussing the adoption of IPv6 and the Far East is moving even faster toward IPv6 deployment. Countries with large, wired populations that started late, such as China, are the only ones that will be able to deploy IPv6 with relative ease in the near future, says Klensin. Looking at the long-term, deploying IPv6 from the start will clearly be less expensive than making conversions later, notes Klensin.
- "White House Prepares Cyber-Security Plan"
Newsbytes (05/09/01); MacMillan, Robert
The White House Wednesday revealed its latest efforts to upgrade the National Plan for Cyberspace Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection. Work on the plan is ongoing at the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, part of the Department of Commerce, where officials have been meeting with representatives from the tech, telecom, power, finance, law enforcement, and numerous other private-sector industries. The plan will be "a true national plan representing a consensus about the importance of cyber security and the road ahead to security," said National Security Council senior director Richard Clarke at the Gartner Group's Spring Symposium/ITxpo. Clarke stressed that the Bush administration's plan would not be a product of the federal bureaucracy, which observers interpreted as an attack on the Clinton administration's efforts on the issue. Members of the taskforce working on the plan will provide their recommendations to the president later this year.
For information regarding ACM's activities related to encryption and security, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.
- "Inventor Inspires Others, But Is Mum on His Project"
Philadelphia Inquirer (05/10/01) P. F1; Woodall, Martha
Inventor Dean Kamen, receiving an award from Drexel University last week, refused once again to discuss IT, his much anticipated new project that is cloaked in secrecy and speculation. Many believe that IT, also known as Ginger, is some form of clean, efficient personal transportation, most likely a scooter. Since news of IT broke earlier this year, Kamen has tried to cool off the hype surrounding the device. "We have a promising project, but nothing of the earth-shattering nature that people are conjuring up," he said in a January statement. Kamen is credited with several notable inventions over the past three decades, including the first insulin pump, the first wearable infusion pump, and, one of his latest creations, a motorized wheelchair that can climb up and down stairs. Kamen is also working on the Stirling cycle engine, a technology that was first discovered almost 200 years ago--the engine is clean and compatible with many fuel types, but engineers are still trying to make practical its use in common transportation devices. Despite all of his work, Kamen's greatest pride remains FIRST, the robot-design competition he initiated for high school students. He sees FIRST, which this year involves 25,000 students from three countries, as a way to get students interested in science and technology.
Dean Kamen was a keynote speaker at the recent ACM1 conference. For news coverage of the event, visit http://www.acm.org/acm1/media/index.html.
- "Dark Side of the Cybercrime Fighters"
Financial Times (05/10/01) P. 14; Waldmeir, Patti
The Council of European governments, which also claims the United States and other countries as members, is working on a Convention on Cybercrime treaty that would standardize penalties for cybercrimes as well as make it easier to prosecute and investigate them across national boundaries. Although some aspects of the treaty are applauded on all sides--such as guaranteed prosecution of virus writers and criminal hackers--U.S. privacy and corporate concerns alike are worried over the wide-ranging jurisdiction given foreign governments when searching out cybercriminals. Under the treaty, companies would have to divulge private customer data on demand and without restriction. One case that may be a harbinger of such action was the seizing of the offices of a Seattle Web news site that was accused of facilitating protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting in Quebec. Investigators demanded the IP addresses of everyone who had visited the site within 48 hours of the Quebec protest, charging that one of them had stolen Canadian police security plans for the event. Companies are also concerned over the apparent disregard the United States is paying the privacy infringement allegations--the United States plans to oppose an amendment that would curb the international free reign of law enforcement.
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- "Patent Suits Filed Against Sony, Others"
Anderson, Ind.-based Magnequench International has filed suit against Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, and other electronics firms for violating patents it owns on miniature magnets. The magnets, the suit claims, are now "an essential component in numerous industrial and consumer electronics products," including Sony's PlayStation game console. Magnequench has filed a second suit against Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, also alleging patent infringement. Both suits will be heard in federal court, the first in Manhattan, the second in Indianapolis. Most of the firms named in the two suits would not comment on the case, but a spokesperson at Compaq said the PC maker purchases Magnequench technology from suppliers, which he said should bear the responsibility for answering charges of patent infringement.
- "New 'Homepage' Virus Erupts Overseas"
ABC News Online (05/09/01); Eng, Paul
An email virus similar to the "Anna Kournikova" virus that hit last February is making the rounds overseas, though computer systems in the United States have not been affected as of yet. Called the "Homepage" virus, it is transferred through Microsoft's Outlook program via email. When opened, the worm automatically directs a user to one of four pornographic sites, and in the meantime sends out the virus to everyone listed in the user's address book. Although it does not seem to adversely affect the computer system, it is believed to be responsible for the disabling of the Australian government's computer network yesterday, due to the huge amount of email it generated. A senior technology expert at Sophos Anti-Virus thinks that the bug may have been written by a porn site operator in an effort to draw publicity for his sites. Anti-virus programs designed to fight the Anna Kournikova attack are believed to be the reason why American computer systems were spared.
- "Congress Urges Global E-Commerce Growth"
The White House should pressure the World Trade Organization to eradicate regulatory barriers to the growth of the global e-commerce market, lawmakers on Capitol Hill said Thursday. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.) introduced the resolution, which stresses the importance of international e-commerce. A number of high-tech groups applauded the move. Business Software Alliance CEO Robert Holleyman said the resolution could lay the foundation for one of the most important technology policies of this century.
- "Chinese Hackers Call Truce in China-U.S. Cyberwar"
Reuters (05/09/01); Greenberg, Jonah
Honker Union of China, a loosely banded group of Chinese hackers, said on Wednesday that it has reached its goal of defacing 1,000 U.S. Web sites, and that it can now call a truce. American and Chinese hackers have been exchanging blows since the April 1 collision of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese jet. In its statement, Honker called for a tightening of security on Chinese computer networks to prevent future attacks. Most hacker attacks are made through unprotected Web servers that act as a catalyst.
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- "Interview: Vinton Cerf, A Father of the Internet"
VNUNet (05/08/01); Jaques, Robert
In order for the Internet to reach its full potential, per-minute charges will have to be done away with and the difficulties of rolling out broadband will have to be dealt with, said Vinton Cerf in a wide-ranging interview with VNUNet.com. British Telecom controls the twisted copper pairs in the United Kingdom, and its lack of cooperation on this front is holding back the Internet in the U.K. Until BT makes these pairs available to other companies, subscriber line services will remain on the backburner. The Internet does not have to be anarchic, but too many regulations are not a great idea either. ISPs cannot be expected to regulate their users, as there is simply too much material to make this possible. Balance is necessary when it comes to online privacy, and although governments probably should be able to access individual's personal information, checks and balances will be required. Individuals should be able to utilize digital signatures to authenticate themselves online, although they probably do not require military-grade cryptography. "I am a very strong proponent of good quality encryption to keep personal data and business transactions secure online," Cerf says.
- "Engineers Get in Tune to Save Time"
USA Today (05/10/01) P. 3B; Krantz, Matt
Last March, a product development team at Iomega developed a brilliant idea for a disk-based portable music device that would play back at better-than-CD quality. However, the team had to get the HipZip product ready by Christmas. In order to do this, they focused on engineering and manufacturing a product in record time while staying close to customers' desires and keeping high quality standards. The team first took a customer poll to decide which features it should include in the design, skipping the ones that received no response. Second, they used a faster aluminum molding process to test the shape of the HipZip against possible design flaws before contracting the steel molding company, giving them time to rigorously test the product. Finally, they gave individual engineers final say over specifically assigned components without having to consult a long line of superiors. One engineer, for example, decided to remove a plastic flap on the HipZip because it tore easily and was obtrusive. The Iomega team was able to release the HipZip September and won the Rochester Institute of Technology/USA Today Quality Cup award for manufacturing.
- "Internet Server Farms in S.F. Face More Regulation"
San Jose Mercury News Online (05/08/01); Vo, Kim
A committee of the San Francisco board of supervisors on Tuesday gave approval to a proposal that would require operators of server farms to obtain conditional use permits. Obtaining the permit would require farm operators to prove that their facilities were energy efficient and that their generators were not producing too much pollution. Server farms are undergoing explosive growth in the San Francisco area, with 16 operating or planned facilities occupying 2 million square feet. Recent studies have shown that the farms account for 10 percent of San Francisco's total energy consumption and that they triple the energy consumption of a standard office. Also, studies have shown that server farms' backup generators create pollution at levels 20 times greater than the level at power plants. The generators could become a major concern should the state of California continue to suffer from power shortages. Representatives of the area tech industry do not seem opposed to the permit, but some contend that the current proposal is too vague in its requirements. The committee's permit proposal should be voted on by a full board of supervisors some time this month.
- "ICANN Proposed Budget Leaked on the Web"
InternetNews.com (05/10/01); McWilliams, Brian
In a draft budget that recently came to light, ICANN intends to increase its budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1, by almost 20 percent, and to increase spending to $5.03 million, up $811,000. ICANN's board will approve the budget on June 4 at its meeting in Sweden, although an ICANN spokesperson stresses that this budget is a draft and does not adhere to the Task Force on Funding's process. Furthermore, a preliminary budget for the coming fiscal year was previously posted on ICANN's Web site, so this newer draft should not be too surprising, according to the spokesperson. The preliminary budget only recommended an 8.6 percent increase in spending while predicting lower revenues than this more recent draft. A final draft of the budget will likely be posted next week. ICANN intends to expand its payroll and to give its current officers and staff salary increases, so personnel expenses are the largest line item in the draft's spending plan. ICANN's need for more staff stems from its dependence on a few people who do not have sufficient backup, according to former ICANN CEO Michael Roberts. No money was budgeted for the elections of at-large board members, which are to be held in October 2002, but ICANN did budget almost $500,000 for a study of how individuals might participate in establishing ICANN policies.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Net Layoffs Hit a Dubious Milestone"
TheStandard.com (05/08/01); Christensen, Amanda; Black, Kathi
According to The Standard.com's Layoff Tracker, 100,000 jobs have been cut in the Internet sector since December 1999, marking a crucial point for the economy. Major indexes such as the Economic Cycle Research Institute's Leading Employment Index and Labor Department statistics show small declines across several sectors. Analysts warn that recession may be in the wings if consumer confidence is put off by a worsening job market. The Layoff Tracker registered 50,000 employees laid off in February of this year but has not counted many large cutbacks in other tech sectors, such as the recent announcement of 3,000 jobs lost at Dell. Altogether, 727 Internet companies have made reductions of more than 10, with 181 of them folding due to economic pressure. Estimates from another source, Challenger, Gray and Christmas, peg the total of Internet-related layoffs near
- "Clinton's Net Legacy"
Interactive Week (05/07/01) Vol. 8, No. 18, P. 66; Monroy, Tom
An informal Interactive Week poll of 75 Internet and IT specialists gave the Clinton administration an "A" grade for its handling of the Internet. One participant, zREP CEO Steve Sylwester, believes that the former president's executives did not meddle with the Web because its vast size prevented them from getting a hold of it. He says the Internet is branching out so fast that it is not practical for anyone to try to classify it. Goinvest.com President Jeff Fenley commends the Clinton administration for keeping the Internet tax-free. Roberto Medrano, Hewlett-Packard general manager of Internet Security Solutions, lauds the administration's initiatives in Internet security. He says meetings between officials and IT executives, ongoing since February 1999, continue to impact the direction of private and federal efforts toward raising Internet security and reliability. Medrano adds that the future of the Internet depends on the assurance of a dependable and secure Web. Likewise, GlobalSight CEO Doug Chapin says the Internet flourished because of Web initiatives, tax credits for IT research, and relaxed laws on foreign PC sales.
- "Code Resurrection: A New Gospel"
InfoWorld (05/07/01) Vol. 23, No. 19, P. 40; Sullivan, Tom
Existing software components will comprise 70 percent of new software applications by 2003, predicts Gartner. Although reusing old code has not been popular with software programmers, it provides numerous advantages--namely, it saves development costs as well as time spent debugging and testing new code. For example, at Pitney Bowes, the reuse of software components allowed software engineers to complete 500 man-weeks of work in just 200 man-weeks' time. Several firms now include reuse managers and engineers among their IT staff, as evidenced by the latest edition of the Fortune 500. The new trend toward reuse is an outgrowth of the rise of Web services, analysts say. Because Web services themselves are comprised of components, it makes sense for software vendors to provide firms the specific components that they need rather than often unwieldy catch-all solutions. "Web services and components are complementary," says Peter O'Kelly of the Patricia Seybold Group. "I think Web services may be a breakthrough for reuse." Firms can manage the reuse of software components in one of several ways--purchasing the software tools necessary to catalog and search their own library of software components, outsourcing that work to a growing number of ASPs that act as hosts for developments services, or buying software components from brokers.
- "Congress May Rework, Possibly Increase Bush's IT Budget"
Washington Technology (05/07/01) Vol. 16, No. 3, P. 20; Gildea, Kerry
Although the tech industry was pleased to see President Bush include a permanent extension of the research and development tax credit in his budget proposal, it was not thrilled when it found out that the budget plan calls for only a 1 percent increase in IT spending. As a result, industry representatives expect to put in long hours in an effort get more money for IT in Bush's budget. According to the proposal that Congress received in April, Bush wants to allot $44.9 billion for IT spending in fiscal 2002, which is just $429 million more than a year ago. Although the package would increase IT spending by the State Department by 9 percent and by 7.5 percent in the Agriculture Department, and would boost funding for the efforts of the FBI and the General Services Administration to fight cybercrime, IT experts would like to see more money for IT in other areas of the Bush plan. For example, the Education Department and NASA may see their IT budgets slashed 1.5 percent and 6 percent respectively. The Information Technology Association of America plans to lobby Congress on the budget, and its president Harris Miller said in a statement there were several areas in the budget where IT was "significantly underfunded." Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) says the industry may see the administration act on its concerns once Bush appoints senior IT experts to posts throughout his government.
- "I.T. Workers of the World: Are They Uniting?"
CIO (05/01/01) Vol. 14, No. 14, P. 134; Levinson, Meredith
The fledgling effort to introduce unions into the tech industry had a minor victory last year when the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, also known as WashTech, a 250-member group, won a ruling that gave benefits to long-time contract programmers at Microsoft. Still, the labor movement is struggling to win followers among tech employees, even though 45 percent of IT workers say they would consider joining a tech union, according to a TechRepublic.com poll. For CIOs and other executives, the tech labor movement is unnecessary and may be nothing more than a lot of media hype over a non-issue. "I can't figure out why anyone in IT would want to go union," says Arizona Department of Water Resources CIO Randy Wiley. "Overall, IT people have it pretty good." However, those who support the tech labor movement say several issues are spurring their actions, including mandatory overtime, benefits and training, and the threat that foreign workers who can be paid less will replace domestic tech staff. What seems to be the overriding concern of the tech labor movement is the idea that tech workers are dispensable--mere machines who can produce adequate code quickly. However, labor organizers say they are not trying to emulate the model of traditional unions, which have always emphasized wages, seniority, and collective bargaining rights, as such a position would likely alienate the executives with whom they are trying to work. Those in the tech labor movement say the greatest obstacle may be the stubbornness of tech workers themselves, who seem more than willing to take whatever executives dish out, even if it is not in their best interests.