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Timely Topics for IT Professionals

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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


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Volume 3, Issue 202:  Monday, May 14, 2001

  • "New Internet Protocol Still Has Many Hurdles to Clear"
    Wall Street Journal (05/14/01) P. B5; Goodin, Dan

    Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) will likely eliminate the impending Internet address shortage, although its implementation will force the operators of millions of Web servers worldwide to install new operating systems. Today, IP version 4 (IPv4) supports 4 billion addresses--74 percent in North America, 17 percent in Europe, and 9 percent in the Asia/Pacific region. Because many analysts predict that millions of new Internet-enabled products will hit the market in the next few years, each of them needing a unique IP address, the current system will soon run out of such addresses. The problem is compounded by the fact that the population of Web users is expected to hit 1 billion by 2005, compared to only 400 million today. Internet engineers from around the world are gathering in Ottawa this week in order to strategize the rollout of the new IPv6 system, but Internet Engineering Task Force director Scott Bradley says one major hindrance has been Microsoft's delay in incorporating the new standard in its servers. Microsoft, which supplies about 80 percent of the world's Web server operating systems, says it will fully support IPv6 in next year's line of products. Cisco recently announced that IPv6 would be built into a wide range of its networking equipment, and Sun Microsystems has started making its Solaris Web server operating system IPv6-compatible.

  • "New Breed of Attack Zombies Lurk"
    Wired News (05/11/01); Delio, Michelle

    The tech firm Asta Networks has finished a six-month observation of hackers using the Internet2 network to practice new denial-of-service (DoS) techniques. Special software allowed Asta to watch as hackers probed networks with often unnoticed trial runs of their new attacks, dubbed "pulsing zombies." By executing short bursts of attack traffic from remotely-controlled zombie computers, the hackers can succeed in seriously degrading network performance while hiding the source of their attack from counter-measures. Asta Networks CEO Joe Devich says this can be a very costly form of attack, especially for companies that pay for Internet bandwidth on a usage basis, because they are often unaware of the source of the extra traffic that is slowing their site's performance. Last year, conventional DoS attacks cost companies $1.2 billion in lost revenue, according to the Yankee Group.
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,43697,00.html

  • "IT Training Tax-Credit Bill Filed in the House"
    Computerworld Online (05/10/01); Sullivan, Brian

    The tech industry is supporting a bill recently filed in the House of Representatives that would provide a tax credit of $1,500 for each worker given IT training each year. A mirror version of the bill is before the Senate. The Computer Technology Industry Association (Comptia) says the bill is necessary to keep U.S. firms competitive worldwide. The rapid pace of technological change has made frequent IT training necessary for nearly every firm, says Bruce Hahn, the director of public policy at Comptia. Hahn says the tax-credit incentive will be especially beneficial for small firms, which are often wary of paying for IT training because they fear that employees will take their new skills to a better paying job at another firm. The same bill was presented to Congress last year but appeared too late in the session to proceed very far. A spokesperson for Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the bill, says the bipartisan support the bill enjoys will improve its chances for success this session.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Nerd Alert!"
    Wall Street Journal (05/14/01) P. R14; Weissman, Michaele

    Engineers and scientists are often involved in the leadership of a tech start-up, but they can hamper a company's progress unless they learn managerial and business savvy along with their technical know-how. That is the driving force behind the integration of MIT's Sloan School of Management and its School of Engineering. Engineers and techies can be so fixated with a product that they forget their client's needs or the business sense of getting a product out on time. In other instances, they can micromanage their employees, which is counter-productive to the growth of a company's innovation and business. So far, over 120 universities have launched centers to train entrepreneurs, who may come from the school's other departments with a product idea to market. MIT's Leaders for Manufacturing program, for example, teaches business savvy, people-management skills, and how to acquire venture capital. Additionally, MIT recently appointed Thomas Magnanti, formerly of the head of the Leaders for Manufacturing program, as dean of the School of Engineering in order to bring a business flair to augment engineers' technical knowledge. Graduating engineers now must complete a series of communications skills classes in order to get their degrees, an example of the new approach the school has taken.

  • "VeriSign, ICANN Confident About Commerce Ruling"
    Newsbtyes (05/11/01); McGuire, David

    The ICANN-VeriSign deal to extend VeriSign's .com registry contract to 2007 will receive a Commerce Department ruling on Monday, May 14, that will approve, mandate redrafting, or cancel the deal. Both ICANN lawyer Joe Sims and VeriSign spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy expressed optimism on behalf of the two organizations. VeriSign is "certainly expecting a favorable decision," says O'Shaughnessy. ICANN's board of directors voted 12-3 to allow VeriSign to extend its .com registry monopoly until 2007, while concurrently relinquishing .org and possibly .net within a few years. Still, Commerce holds the final say, and has received recommendations from influential members of Congress, such as William J. Tauzin (R-La.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) to put the deal under a microscope. If Commerce approves the ICANN-VeriSign deal, it would be more or less finalized, according to Sims.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "CD-Burning Company Faces Patent Lawsuit"
    CNet (05/10/01); Borland, John

    Online music service Gracenote has filed suit against Roxio, a maker of CD-burning software, alleging that Roxio is distributing its software even though a contractual agreement between the two companies expired one month ago. The suit also charges that Roxio is violating patents that Gracenote holds on the software. "We don't know what distribution they're doing, but we know we have the right to make them stop," explains Dave Marglin, Gracenote's general counsel. The software in question identifies song and CD titles by linking to Gracenote's database of such information--Napster is employing the software to screen songs from its network. A spokesperson for Roxio refused to comment on the suit.
    http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-5892968.html

  • "Europeans Leave U.S. in Huff Over Spy Network--Update"
    Newsbytes (05/10/01); MacMillan, Robert

    An attempt by two European Union officials to learn about the alleged Echelon spy network, supposedly conducted by the United States with Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, ended in frustration when officials at the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Departments of State and Commerce refused to meet with the officials. Carlos Coelho, the EU official who leads the committee investigating Echelon, said the spy network could threaten the privacy of EU citizens and businesses. "We have been told by some people that our industries and private companies have been spied upon, through the use of satellite interception and other means, that industrial strategies have been deciphered and that markets have been lost as a result by unfair competitive procedures," he said. However, he added that he and his colleagues have come upon no evidence to substantiate these charges as of yet. Coelho did meet with members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as well as with members of the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center to discuss the Echelon network. Officials at both NSA and the CIA said Coelho was mistaken about both Echelon and any plans he had to meet with federal agencies. The two agencies both reiterated that the government tracks electronic signals only for national-security reasons, not for industrial or other forms of espionage.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/165569.html

  • "Government Online Exchange For Reusable Components Launched"
    InfoWorld.com (05/09/01); Sullivan, Tom

    The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) is currently building a software application exchange for all 50 states to help get e-government initiatives up and running more quickly at a much lower cost. Software components developed by states will be stored in a national repository for use by other states that are building similar programs. For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles in Georgia recently used a software component developed by Arkansas for its online vehicle registration program. By reusing 80 percent of the Arkansas software, Georgia was able to save enough development costs to bypass a legislative budget approval process that would have slowed implementation considerably. Georgia CIO Larry Singer says sharing components is necessary because state governments often have to build similar systems. He notes that states cannot depend on reusing applications from the private sector because core requirements are often very different. The program, the National Software Component Exchange, will require each state to create its own state-wide exchange that will interact with the national system.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Global Slowdown in IT Spending Could Benefit India"
    Reuters (05/09/01)

    Indian IT firms are set to profit from the current slowdown in the U.S. economy, with the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) forecasting Indian IT export growth from 40 percent to 45 percent in 2001. The country's current pace will make its goal of a $50 billion IT export industry by 2008 easily achievable, says NASSCOM vice chairman Arun Kumar. The Indian IT industry will benefit from U.S. firms looking to reduce their costs by outsourcing important IT services, software, call-center operations, and other work to Indian firms. At present, some 250 companies on the Fortune 1000 list outsource work to Indian firms, and the Indian software and IT services export industry is worth $6.2 billion as of this March, NASSCOM reports, up from $100 million in the early part of last decade.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Mobile Security Flaws Send IPv6 Back to the Drawing Board"
    ISP Planet (05/09/01); Thompson, Jim

    Mobile users may have to wait a little longer for the release of the mobile version of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), which replaces the current IPv4 standard. Today, mobile devices must use their home IP addresses, causing delays in data transfer and opening the system up to criminals, who have more points at which to hack the network. Because IPv6 allows for a nearly unlimited number of IP addresses, this routing is no longer necessary. Still, the experts from the Internet Engineering Task Force developing IPv6 report that they face a conundrum in implementing security for the network. Either they can continue to work out a public key infrastructure necessary for a more secure IPSec standard that would let mobile devices communicate directly with servers, or they can use Purpose Built Keys that are faster, but less secure. Those involved in the development of IPv6 are worried over the timely release of the mobile version--they see mobile use as the "killer app" for IPv6.
    http://isp-planet.com/technology/2001/ipv6_now.html

  • "No Overtime for Techies?"
    Washington Post (05/13/01) P. L1; Johnson, Carrie

    Certain groups are pushing to alter laws governing overtime benefits for non-salaried IT workers--for example, the computer-professionals bill now before Congress is designed to limit overtime benefits for IT workers earning more than $27 per hour. Spearheaded by Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.), with backing from Rep. Lindsey Graham (R. S.C.), the bill would categorize higher-earning hourly IT workers as professionals. The bills' supporters argue that the misclassification of tech workers is costly to businesses, which must repay two or three years' worth of unpaid overtime as well as litigation fees. The law would break down the overtime protections in place since 1938's Fair Labor Standards Act. However, political observers doubt that the bill alone will be approved but may receive support if offered in conjunction with other measures. Marcus Courtney of the Washington State-based IT workers union WashTech says the bill is detrimental to IT consultants earning hourly pay since they are often without work between jobs. He adds that the overtime pay supports such workers when looking for new projects. Similarly, AFL-CIO deputy director of public policy Christine Owens says the proposal continues "the pattern of chipping away" protections put in place by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18351-2001May12.html

  • "Print Your Own 3D Object"
    Red Herring Online (05/15/01); Rojas, Peter

    To drum up sales, Ennex President Marshall Burns and Internet strategy adviser James Howison recently likened their company's product to the embattled music file-sharing service Napster. Ennex sells digital fabricators, also known as fabbers, which use electronic files to create three-dimensional facsimiles of objects. Priced at about $45,000, fabbers reproduce objects in plastic form, a process called rapid prototyping. Although the use of fabbers is limited, it is becoming more prevalent. For example, toy maker ToyBuilders.com uses the technology to sell custom-built toys, and physicians can use the machine to examine true-to-life body parts prior to surgery. Over the Web, digital fabber files of such articles as toy cars and teeth models are being shared. Although digital fabrication technology is still in its early stages, it can pose questions about copyright protection in the future. The original creators of files for such things as cars or computers would want to get remunerated for their work. Burns says the reference to Napster was intended to increase sales as well as "start a dialogue about the issues raised by technology."

  • "Paper Trail"
    San Francisco Gate Online (05/08/01); McAllister, Neil

    Although the Information Age has trumpeted new high-tech recording formats, there are serious doubts over the assumption that digital is better than pen and paper. Just as microfilm archives led many librarians to negate the importance of actual paper copies, today's society is perhaps overlooking the vast amount of information that goes unrecorded. Millions of Web pages are revised or shut down with no way to retrieve the older version. Perhaps more importantly, emails that chronicle our daily lives are seldom saved in any permanent form. Even if this information is recorded, the pace of technological advance makes it hard to ascertain what medium of storage will be most useful in the future. One attempt to standardize digital storage, Project Gutenberg, is advocating the use of the ASCII format, a basic code that has been in use since the 1960s. Still, confidence in current technology's permanence did not get a boost when the New York Times recently decided to store time-capsule items on a solid nickel phonograph record and on acid-free paper.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Wanted: Programmers for Handheld Devices"
    Computer (05/01) Vol. 34, No. 5, P. 12; Kiely, Don

    With handheld shipments projected to grow from 20 million this year to 62 million in 2004, according to International Data, handheld vendors face a rapidly increasing need for programmers who can develop applications for these devices. However, few traditional programmers have much experience with programming applications for devices that are as small and that use as little power as the current class of handhelds. For example, PCs often have as much as 128 MB of memory, compared to the 16 MB cap of the most powerful handheld, which means programmers do not have as much room for error. In addition, programmers must learn to operate within a much smaller user environment: smaller screens and fewer controls, for example. Programmers with Windows experience are unlikely to have much trouble with the Windows CE programming environment, experts speculate, but the Palm environment, which runs most of today's handheld applications, will almost certainly be unfamiliar to many traditional programmers. Experts say experience with Java and XML can be of great use in training handheld programmers, and some vendors believe that just as mainframe programmers learned to program PCs, so will PC programmers grow more comfortable with the new devices. Other vendors are not biding their time and are actively recruiting handheld programmers from overseas, where the devices are more widespread, and are paying experienced programmers 20 percent to 30 percent above what traditional programmers would receive.

  • "Laid Off, With No Place to Call Home"
    Newsweek (05/14/01) Vol. 137, No. 20, P. 36; Stone, Brad; Conway, Fe

    The recent rash of layoffs at tech-related companies has landed many H-1B visa holders in a difficult situation. The terms of the H-1B visa, which was created to allow highly skilled foreign workers, mostly in the tech sector, to work in the United States, state that if they are laid off, visa holders must either find a new work and receive permission from officials at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to transfer their visa to that company or leave the United States. Visa holders are not allowed to work part-time jobs as they look for new work and be paid by their new employers until the position has been approved by the INS--a significant quandary, as the visa holders all have bills to pay, and many are supporting family back home. Complicating the matter even further are the conflicting policy statements from various government agencies concerning the terms of the H-1B visa. After the tech layoffs began in earnest, the State Department said H-1B visas are good until they expire, while the INS announced that visa holders would have a grace period after being laid off in which they could find a new job. However, the recent problems that H-1B workers have encountered have caused many visa holders and their advocates to complain about the entire system. The H-1B program forces workers to be the "indentured slaves" of whichever company sponsored their application, says Indian-American entrepreneur Kanwal Rekhi. Some advocates want to rewrite H-1B policy so that workers' visa status has no ties whatsoever to the companies that hired them.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/569390.asp

  • "Stick It in Your Ear"
    Business 2.0 (05/29/01) Vol. 6, No. 11, P. 50; Orenstein, David

    After 40 years of research involving machine translation, the first portable device to offer language-translation capabilities will hit the market this fall, when Minnesota-based ViA plans to introduce a wearable computer that it hopes airlines, hotel chains, and manufacturers will use to improve communication between customers and employers. However, no one should expect the wearable translator to offer the same fluent, free-ranging translation as human translators. Jaime Carbonell, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Language Technologies Institute, says it will take at least another 10 to 20 years for that to develop. ViA's translator is more suited for simple conversation, which is how U.S. soldiers plan to use the device when they test it by carrying on conversations during missions in the Balkans and South Korea later in the year. Carbonell, whose institute helped develop the Army's device, the Diplomat, says translation programs are great for translating text at this time, but more work needs to be done to improve speech-to-speech translation. He says the Diplomat has a better chance to understand the context and meaning of human conversation because it is designed to translate fragments of speech rather than individual words. Ultimately, though, researchers are faced with the daunting task of providing translation capabilities for some 6,000 human languages. Microsoft thinks teaching computers how to translate for themselves is the solution, and it hopes to introduce within the next five years a software product that can do just that.

  • "XP Pros Take It to the Extreme"
    eWeek (05/07/01) Vol. 18, No. 18, P. 56; Hicks, Matt

    A small, but growing number of software engineers are embracing a technique known as extreme programming, or XP, in which two programmers work together, constantly assisting and checking each other's code. Proponents say XP leads to better code that can be reused, a key concern in today's e-business environment, where a customer's needs and the technology to meet those needs can change quickly. "The best part is to work side by side with someone else," says Doug Watt of Woodward Industrial Controls. "It's a very stimulating environment and you don't run into roadblocks or mental blocks." However, XP proponents say selling management on its virtues is difficult. Managers are always hesitant to change, especially so in this case because the idea of paired work always causes them to think that they will need to spend twice as much to make it work. It is true, proponents admit, that XP requires at least some reconfiguration of a work environment so that programmers can sit side by side. Proponents suggest that a programmer interested in introducing a firm to XP begin by advocating how it can improve a firm's bottom line--reusable code, for example--and only then mention XP itself.
    http://www.zdnet.com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,2714342,00.html