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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 3, Issue 204: Friday, May 18, 2001
- "Protecting the Net From Private, Political Interests"
Los Angeles Times (05/17/01) P. T5; Chapman, Gary
The People for Internet Responsibility, a group of 25 Internet and tech pioneers, met earlier this month in Los Angeles to discuss whether recent attempts to "govern" the Internet could destroy its original purpose. Members said governments, businesses, and other interests increasingly see the Internet as a tangible piece of "real estate" on which they can claim a certain area as their own. This way of thinking, the members argued, is leading to many awful decisions that could have serious long-term consequences. Barbara Simons, the former president of the ACM, said the interests of copyright holders have overwhelmed the interests of innovation--for example, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, passed at the behest of copyright holders, makes illegal many of the reverse engineering techniques that often lead to new technologies. Members also expressed dismay that the dispersal of Internet addresses has become a corporate affair overseen by the elite who run the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an organization that members charge is predisposed to the interests of major corporations. Also, the competing interests of various parties could dissolve the free, global nature of the Internet--for example, the recent attempts by Germany and France to prevent U.S. sites from selling Nazi-related items to their citizens.
For more information about ACM's activities in the area of technology and public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Pentagon Says It Is Under Daily Computer Attack"
Reuters (05/17/01); Wolf, Jim
Speaking Thursday in front of a House Armed Services subcommittee, Assistant Secretary of Defense Linton Wells reported that unidentified hackers are constantly attempting to break into the Department of Defense's (DoD) computer networks. The Space Command task force took over the role of defending DoD computers in October 1999, and is headed by Army Maj. Gen. David Bryan. Bryan reported that unclassified DoD networks were successfully breached 215 times last year, but that classified systems have yet to be hacked. All together, there were 23,662 "incidents" reported to the task force last year, most of which involved "routine" scans sent by automated hacking tools to randomly search for weaknesses.
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- "Bill Exempts Taxes on Employees' Computers, Net Access"
Newsbytes (05/16/01); MacMillan, Robert
Several major companies, including Ford, Delta Airlines, and Intel, provide employees with free computers and Internet access, and a new bill from U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) would prevent the IRS from considering the items taxable. Weller spokesperson Ben Fallon says Weller devised the bill when he heard the IRS was considering classifying free computers and Internet access as taxable benefits. The items deserve tax-free status, Fallon says, because they help reduce the digital divide. The bill, H.R. 1835, enjoys support from members of both parties.
- "New Economy--The End or Just the Beginning?"
E-Commerce Times (05/16/01); Mahoney, Michael
Although the current economic downturn has led many media pundits to pronounce the death of the so-called New Economy, some economic experts contend that the New Economy is not in trouble at all. In fact, these experts say, the media is looking at only a small fraction of the New Economy, mostly the number of dot-coms that have closed down in the past year, rather than the big picture. "[The New Economy] is a structural change in the economy that happens once about every 50 years," says Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, director of Technology, Innovation and the New Economy project at the Progressive Policy Institute. Atkinson says the current structural change is dependent on information technology, just as the previous, post-war structural change was dependent on the change from small-scale to large-scale, consumer-driven manufacturing. Mitchell Levy, author of "E-Volve-or-Die.com," agrees, saying the Internet revolution is one of the three major societal revolutions in human history, along with the agricultural and the industrial revolutions. The real New Economy that Atkinson and Levy believe is taking place involves the transformation of markets to global environments that move according to the potential of digital production. These environments favor innovation and moving quickly to enter the market. Media pundits who argue that New Economy companies should return to Old Economy business tactics are missing the point, Levy and Atkinson argue--the only Old Economy tactic that is still applicable universally is to make a profit.
- "How to Squeeze More Into the Digital Attic"
Financial Times (05/18/01) P. 11; Harvey, Fiona
Holographic data storage technologies may be very near realization thanks to research at Lucent's InPhase Technologies. The spinoff company intends to commercialize Lucent's polymer technology, which officials claim will solve the materials problem that has hindered 3D data storage so far. Begun in the 1960s, research into 3D data storage has been unable to overcome high cost barriers and reach the marketplace despite offering 10 times more storage capacity and a reading speed 30 times faster than current electromagnetic technology. The basis for this performance improvement is the reliance on photons to read data stored in three dimensions, instead of slower electrons that interpret data spread over a larger 2D area. Lucent aims to produce a 150 GB 3D storage product for less than $1,500, although skeptics point to the myriad of other tech companies that have foundered in their quest for holographic data storage.
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- "Linux Takes Hollywood as Microsoft, SGI Trail"
Wall Street Journal (05/17/01) P. B5; Avery, Simon
Computer animation and special effects firms in Hollywood are switching over to the Linux operating system, citing lower costs and the ability to change the source code to meet their needs. A number of companies have already used the Linux platform in major projects, including "Titanic." Hewlett-Packard says Dreamworks used Linux servers and workstations in the new release "Shrek," a feature-length computer animation. The Linux machines increased speed 10fold and allowed animators to greatly increase the number of screens per second and to add life-like graphic resolution to the film. A number of software firms marketing products to Hollywood animation studios have converted their products to Linux, including Alias/Wavefront, the software arm of SGI, which makes hardware systems aimed at studio developers. The company says at least one fourth of all Hollywood studios have begun conversions to the Linux platform. SGI also says Linux could play a key role in speeding the development of all-digital films and in boosting the sales of its specialized animation servers.
- "Technology's Leading Ladies"
Washington Post (05/18/01) P. E5; McCarthy, Ellen
The networking and advocacy group Women in Technology awarded seven women leaders for their role in shaping the Washington, D.C.-area tech economy. All seven are executives in local firms. "It's important to spotlight women that embody characteristics that our membership can work to emulate," says Women in Technology President Cindy Kendall. Winners included E-Commerce Industries founder and President Paula Jagemann, TDF-Telecommunications Development Fund CEO and President Ginger Ehn Lew, TranTech founder and President Titi McNeill, all of whom won Leadership Awards.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computer, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Energy Hikes Light up Tech Sector Frustrations"
NewsFactor Network (05/17/01); Weisman, Robyn
As the Bush administration finalizes its nationwide energy strategy, tech organizations are also putting forth their views. On Wednesday, the trade group American Electronics Association (AeA) presented its views on the power crisis and ways to resolve it. AeA representative Marc Brailov explained that tech firms are key players in energy conservation and that the current crisis is damaging the entire tech sector, adding that the media and public have largely ignored the troubles of tech firms. He believes that the crisis should be handled in a planned way involving private and government firms nationwide. Tech executives in California say their firms are facing higher energy costs--the forthcoming rate hikes in California could see their rates rise 49 percent--and rolling blackouts, even though their firms are not big energy squanderers. Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle says tech firms' dissatisfaction is logical since they provided significant funding for President Bush's run for office. Moreover, he says, the tech industry is closely linked to that of the whole U.S. economy. Tech firms want to have a say in decision-making, he says, warning that if the government decreases support, it could compel tech firms to go to foreign shores.
- "Intel to Describe New Chip"
Associated Press (05/16/01); Bergstein, Brian
Intel will unveil plans to produce a powerful new chip for wireless devices, including cell phones and handheld computers, at its tech developers conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Thursday. The chip will feature all three of the main functions of wireless chips--communications, memory, and processing--on one chip. Currently, those three functions must be divided among separate chips, making it difficult for developers to make wireless devices too powerful because the devices would have to be large, unwieldy, and expensive. However, analysts speculate that Intel's new chip, which could be ready for use in wireless devices before the 2002 holiday season, could lead to devices that were once confined to the realm of science-fiction and comic books: phones with video displays that are built into watches, for example.
- "Worldwide Copyrights a Quagmire?"
Wired News (05/16/01); McCullagh, Declan
Open source advocate and GNU Emacs creator Richard Stallman is the latest tech expert to speak out against the Hague Convention treaty, which, if enacted as proposed, could radically alter how international copyright law is enforced. Stallman, speaking before officials of the U.S. Copyright Office on Tuesday, said the Hague Convention would allow countries with more restrictive laws on software copyrights to impact the work of open source programmers in the United States. As an example, he explained, "A software developer living in the U.S. who does reverse engineering could face being sued in a country that banned reverse engineering." Opponents of the Hague Convention also include many ISPs, which fear that the provisions of the treaty could force them to filter specific content in order to avoid violating other countries' Internet regulations. The case most often cited by the treaty's opponents is the recent battle in court between U.S. portal Yahoo!, which offers Nazi-related items for sale through an auction sites, and the French government, which bans the sale of such items; a French judge said Yahoo! must prevent the sale of such material to customers in France. However, the treaty, which has been in the works since 1992 and is the product of negotiations among 49 countries, does have supporters in the U.S., especially in the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry believes that international copyright regulation is necessary to prevent users in countries with weak copyright laws from running Napster-like file-sharing services for movies, music, and other content.
- "Opera Set to Unleash Linux Browser"
eWeek Online (05/11/01); Foley, Mary Jo
Opera Software, maker of what it calls the fastest browser on Earth, on Tuesday will release the first version of its product designed for the Linux operating system. Opera 5 for Linux will be compatible with the release of most major Linux vendors, including Caldera, Mandrake, and Red Hat, and will include many of the features offered on Opera's latest Windows browser: keyboard-based shortcuts, integrated searches, and support for multiple windows. Features that will not be included in the Linux version will be news, chat, and mail clients; however, these clients may appear in a future release. Opera will provide two separate versions of the Linux browser: a free version that includes banner ads and an ad-free version for $39.
- "VeriSign Runs Into Increasing Resistance"
InternetNews.com (05/17/01); Wagner, Jim
Although the talks between VeriSign, ICANN, and the Department of Commerce (DoC) appeared to be moving toward an approval of the controversial agreement between VeriSign and ICANN, members of Congress, critics, and the Department of Justice have all taken action this week, speaking out against a hurried approval of the agreement. Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) wrote a letter to DoC Secretary Donald Evans, highlighting what they consider to be the anti-competitive nature of the deal. "Truly we believe, as does ICANN and the DoC, that the revised registry agreements are better overall for the future of the Internet," says VeriSign's Brian O'Shaughnessy, noting that VeriSign would like to see the revised deal approved soon. Other critics are concerned about the relationship between ICANN's staff and VeriSign. DomainRegistry.com President Larry Erlich became suspect of the deal after a comment made by Joe Sims to a VeriSign official. "I do not see anything there that would have any potential at all for generating the political support necessary to change the status quo, and I would not be interested in investing any of my political capital in even raising the possibility," said Sims in Jan. 2001. The Department of Justice is also looking into the deal to make sure that antitrust policies are not being violated. The Justice Department wants competition and stability, and is sure that it is possible to make an agreement that would address these two concerns.
For information about ACM's work on behalf of Internet governance, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Don't Junk That PC! Some Recycling Options"
Christian Science Monitor (05/14/01) P. 18; Belsie, Laurent
In comparison to aluminum or paper, electronics recycling is not profitable and has generated little interest. However, that may change as corporate and public organizations are taking steps to reduce the amount of electronic equipment being sent to landfills. Peter Muscanelli, the president and creator of the International Association of Electronics Recyclers (IAER), says the market for such recycling is growing. The IAER has a database of about 650 companies that offer recycling services for electronic components, in comparison to 400 companies listed by the National Safety Council in 1999, and Muscanelli estimates that about 25 percent of all unused electronics is being recycled today. However, companies must depend on government funding for their recycling programs. Also, the burden of recycling or donating electronics still lies with consumers, says Michael Alexander, senior research associate with the National Recycling Coalition's (NRC) electronics section. The NRC estimates that approximately 29 states have programs for electronics recycling. Retailer Best Buy plans to launch a nationwide recycling effort following a pilot effort last fall, charging customers $10 to $15 for taking away electronic goods. Alternatively, electronics can be donated, since musicians, collectors, and others can still use older components.
- "Silicon Valley Party Literally Over"
Investor's Business Daily (05/18/01) P. A4; Angell, Mike; Barlas, Pete; Bonasia, J.
Silicon Valley's economy is in a sober mood, with firms cutting budgets for travel, marketing, and their famed celebratory galas. Webmergers counts 61 Internet firms in Silicon Valley and San Francisco that have failed between January 2000 and February 2001, although Praveen Madan of A.T. Kearney says as many as 60 small dot-coms have folded every month since October. A.T. Kearney estimates 8,000 Silicon Valley tech employees have been laid off since October. Unemployed tech workers are finding new jobs more difficult to find than in previous years. The number of unfilled jobs has fallen from 63,000 in October to 32,000 now, reports Madan. The effects can be seen in other sectors, such as catering. Key Events president Heather Keenan says her company has hosted zero "launch parties" this year, whereas last year they contracted 25 gigs.
- "IBM Sheds Light on Upcoming Supercomputer"
eWeek Online (05/17/01); Galli, Peter
IBM has won a contract to supply Germany's Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences with a supercomputer capable of 3.8 trillion calculations each second, to be used to carry out numerical simulations research. In addition to being the largest non-classified supercomputer in Europe, the Max Planck system will be the first to feature IBM's Power4 microprocessors that run on a new eServer. A cluster of about a dozen Power4 systems will comprise the machine, says IBM's David Gelardi. "We have designed Power4 so that bandwidth increases in proportion to microprocessor frequency, thereby ensuring maximum scalability," Gelardi says. The machine will reside in the Max Planck Computer Center in Garching, Germany; the facility's director, Stefan Heinzel, declares that the supercomputer's application performance will be 10 times that of the center's current system.
- "The Ethics of Data"
InformationWeek (05/14/01) No. 837, P. 36; Wilder, Clinton; Soat, John
Industry observers say a disturbingly large number of IT professionals have not given much thought to their role in the debate over data privacy, which has become such a hot issue that there are now over 50 bills now before Congress that in some way address the issue. For many IT professionals, using data in an ethical way means following current laws on the subject, but even that approach can land companies in trouble. At N2H2, which sells Internet filtering software to U.S. schools, officials attempted to sell data on students' Internet habits, offering it in full compliance with laws on children's data privacy. Still, the uproar that ensued when its actions became public forced N2H2 to cease its sale, and observers say many companies are now establishing chief privacy officers so that they will not find themselves in similar situations. However, observers say the burden is not only on those officials who decide whether to sell data, but also on those who build and maintain the databases in which those data are stored. IT professionals have an ethical responsibility to protect those data from any kind of intrusion, either external or internal. Moreover, protecting customer data is a sound business decision, as Rachael Shanahan, chief privacy officer at Unica points out, "Poor privacy practices harm relationships." A movement is now underway to incorporate training on ethics into the curriculum of today's computer-science students; the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, which oversees computer-science departments in U.S. colleges and universities, will soon mandate a one-credit course in ethics.
To review the ACM/IEEE Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/se/code.htm.
- "Making the Case for IT"
InfoWorld (05/14/01) Vol. 23, No. 20, P. 52; Linderholm, Owen
Many business leaders and economists believe that the boom in IT spending at U.S. corporations in recent years, spurred by the Y2K bug and the rise of the Internet and e-business, is directly responsible for the rise in overall economic productivity during the same period. Harris Miller, executive director of the Information Technology Association of America says, "The fundamental transformation was the ability to have information available better, faster, cheaper than anybody had projected before." However, Paul Strassman, consultant, author, and CEO of Information Economics Press, contends that IT has yet to live up to its full potential for aiding business. A recent poll of IT and business executives by InfoWorld magazine reflects the growing importance of IT in the business world. Of both IT and business executives, 70 percent said IT was now an essential part of their firms' overall business plan. Of the IT executives, 52 percent characterized the impact of IT on their firms' revenue as significant, while 34 percent said it has had a moderate impact; of business executives, 45 percent said IT's impact was significant, 37 percent moderate. Of IT executives, 42 percent characterized it as critical that IT staff have an understanding of their firms' overall strategy; however, only 27.5 percent of business executives said business staff should understand IT. However, Strassman maintains that IT has done more to help improve productivity than it has to improve firms' most important operations.
- "Forced Fit"
Interactive Week (05/14/01) Vol. 8, No. 19, P. 28; Babcock, Charles
As the open source community continues to beef up its products, IT managers of commercial enterprises are starting to embrace the technology. The trend has picked up so much momentum that Microsoft's Craig Mundie earlier in the month characterized the open source movement as a threat to intellectual property and acknowledged that the software giant feels pressured by products based on open source code. Now that products such as InterBase, Enhydra, and Zope are available, open source code is not limited to Web servers, proxy servers, and caching servers. Companies are now using open source products targeted for databases, application servers, Samba files, and print server integration alongside their commercial code. Although there are some concerns about the security and technical support for open source code, IT experts do not view the new products as cheap imitations of commercial products. Open source code has found significant support among executives and IT managers who are moving their business online. Large software vendors, including IBM and Oracle, have also given open source code a boost in acceptance by working with the open source community on projects.
- "Computers With a View"
Federal Computer Week (05/14/01) Vol. 15, No. 14, P. 20; Caterinicchia, Dan
The federal government is starting to harness the power of peer-to-peer computing. FedStats.gov and FedStats.net are excellent examples of the resources that P2P technology opens up. Users logging onto the FedStats.gov site can search a database of published government data in XML format from over 70 federal agencies on such topics as demographics, foreign trade, agricultural trends, and health care information. The new FedStats.net initiative allows federal employees to mark documents on their connected computers for file sharing. Eventually, officials at the FedStats Interagency Task Force expect to gather enough data and develop the technology to allow government workers to compile personalized data sets and searches that can be re-accessed on the network. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on P2P for the battlefield longer than the popularization of Napster and instant messaging, says Small Unit Operations manager Paul Kolodzy. The agency is developing a P2P wireless network that would transmit both voice and data, enabling soldiers in combat to access updated geographical and organizational information instantly. Additionally, the P2P model would have the benefit of having a lower vulnerability to eavesdropping because the wireless devices would only have to power a signal to reach the nearest user whereas traditional radio signals must be strong enough to reach the edge of the network.