Association for Computing Machinery
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 technews@hq.acm.org.

Volume 3, Issue 208:  Wednesday, May 30, 2001

  • "Tech Industry Struggles to Cope with Its Losses"
    USA Today (05/29/01) P. 1B; Iwata, Edward

    Although the tech industry is reeling from financial losses, a sharp fall off in growth, and layoffs, advocates maintain that the next innovation will bring about another boom. However, critics counter that the next technological advance will not generate the same strength in the economy that the Internet did. Critics also argue that much of the recent tech growth was the result of overspending by companies that were afraid to be left behind in the New Economy, adding that the nation could find its economy in a recession. Moreover, some critics contend that the latest technology has not raised productivity and that companies are becoming more cautious about spending on tech products. Advocates of technology are convinced that the industry is in better shape than industries such as steel, automobiles, and oil, which have experienced their own downturns. They say the tech industry is strong in both players--from Dell and IBM to Cisco and Intel--and advances--from transistors and mainframe computers to PCs and the Internet. Advocates list biotechnology, wireless technology, high-speed broadband access, and nanotechnology as having the potential to be the next big technology. Boom-and bust cycles are part of the high-risk nature of technology, industry advocates say.
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20010529/3355533s.htm

  • "IT Spending Slowing, Not Stopping"
    CyberAtlas (05/25/01); McCormick, Gavin

    A recent survey of IT professionals by TechRepublic reveals that although nearly half of respondents said they have cut IT spending because of the current economic downturn, nearly 66 percent still plan to grow their overall IT budget. However, the TechRepublic survey found that most firms are unlikely to invest in IT that does not show a quick, clear return on investment. Areas of IT meeting these criteria include networks, servers, and other core equipment, says TechRepublic CEO Tom Cottingham. The budget for IT training is also unlikely to be cut, while the most likely victim of IT budget reductions is consulting, the TechRepublic survey found. A separate study by Interactive Week found that the average firm of 5,000 or more employees will raise IT budgets 20 percent. The Interactive Week study also found that these firms on average will likely increase their IT staffs this year and should increase their purchase of Net-related products and services to $19 million from $16 million last year. Firms are also likely to see Internet-related revenue nearly double to $112 million from $62 million, the study found. However, firms seem less keen to move internal operations such as data-mining and supply-chain management to the Internet, with 10 percent of the firms surveyed by TechRepublic saying plans to do so would be a victim of budget cuts.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Gambling It Can Move Beyond PC, Intel Offers a New Microprocessor"
    Wall Street Journal (05/29/01) P. A1; Hamilton, David P.

    Intel is finally ready to release its next-generation 64-bit microprocessor, the Itanium, originally code-named Merced. Although delayed for two years due to unexpected difficulties in development, the Itanium promises to help Intel enter the server market, where it will compete head-to-head with offerings from Sun Microsystems and IBM. First proposed in the early 1990s, when Intel engineers started realizing memory limitations on their 32-bit x86 processor design, the Itanium program was meant to provide a whole new framework for servers and workstations. The first version of the new chip is about 50 percent slower than the latest x86-based Pentium 4 chips, while Microsoft says it should have a final version of its Windows operating system designed specifically for Itanium ready late this year. Analysts say most potential buyers of Itanium-based computers will likely wait for the next version of the processor line--dubbed McKinley and due out next year--before buying into the architecture. Most of the first users of Itanium are expected to use it for testing. Intel worked together with Hewlett-Packard to develop the chip, using that company's parallel processing technology and design talent. Itanium chips are compatible with x86-based programs and Intel is working with software developers to modify their programs to make the most of Itanium's features. Meanwhile, many computers are planning to incorporate Itanium chips in their server lines.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/579547.asp

  • "City of Silk Becoming Center of Technology"
    New York Times (05/28/01) P. C1; Smith, Craig S.

    The 60-mile-long high-tech corridor between Shanghai and the ancient silk city of Suzhou is attracting international attention now that it is the leader in China's IT efforts. China's government has aspirations to become the world's largest IT manufacturer, moving from the low-end PC components it now produces to more sophisticated equipment. The government's friendly stance, the cheap labor available, and skilled local engineers have lured many companies to the area. Already, Swiss company Logitech International makes more than one-third of the world's computer mice here, and Quanta, the world's largest laptop maker, has plans to build a new "manufacturing city" here with an annual capacity of 5 million. Perhaps most alluring is the booming consumer technology market in China--PC sales are expected to grow by a third annually as new affluence permeates the country. Even U.S.-imposed restrictions on exports of high technology to China are expected to fall, allowing Chinese semiconductor foundries to produce advanced processors.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/28/technology/28CHIN.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Boom Bolsters Indian Community"
    Washington Post (05/27/01) P. A1; Whoriskey, Peter

    The U.S. Census reports that the number of Indians living in the United States has grown to 1.6 million, up from 800,000 in 1990. In tech-intensive regions such as Northern Virginia, the population increase has been even greater, from 13,900 10 years ago to 36,100 today. Observers directly credit the high-tech boom of the 1990s for these dramatic increases, with Indian software engineers in high demand among U.S. firms. Indeed, IT professionals from India now dominate the H-1B visa program, which allows a select number of highly skilled foreign workers come to the U.S. to work for a set number of years. The federal government says the average H-1B holder is an Indian male between the ages of 25 and 29. Many of these workers are trying to follow the path to success laid by Vinod Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and other prominent Indian entrepreneurs in the U.S. Many of these Indians are products of their home country's renowned institute of tech-related higher education, the India Institute of Technology, which now has six campuses across India.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A82283-2001May26.html

  • "The Next Environmental Crisis: Techno-Trash"
    E-Commerce Times (05/29/01); Hirsh, Lou

    PC manufacturers, government officials, and environmental watchdog groups are focusing on the growing amount of electronic equipment considered waste. The Environmental Protection Agency says electronics now accounts for 220 million tons of U.S. waste, much of it containing poisonous metals. Although large companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard have set up recycling programs that people can use for a fee--usually about $30--environmental advocates say consumers need incentives to participate rather than extra barriers. Many groups are pointing to new legislation passed by the European Parliament that requires computer manufacturers to reclaim their products, equaling up to 13 pounds of equipment reclaimed per person, per year. Business groups in the U.S. advocate a different model, saying government, environmental organizations, and companies can cooperate in a system of shared responsibility that uses existing infrastructure. Movement toward a solution is being made at cooperative meetings hosted by the EPA, at which some have noted that changing attitudes in government and business will help to ease the recycling burden. Government regulations are too restrictive and businesses too wary over the release of sensitive data, they say.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/10034.html

  • "In Search of a Global Identity"
    International Herald Tribune (05/28/01) P. 10; Oakes, Chris

    ICANN continues to generate both internal and external criticism regarding its role as an international organization. ICANN will not be able to represent the international Internet community as a whole because it is located in Los Angeles, has a primarily American staff, and is accountable to the U.S. Department of Commerce, according to board member Andy Mueller-Maguhn. "At the end of the day, it's the lawyers at the company who write the policy," says Mueller-Maguhn. An international consortium of Internet stakeholders formed ICANN, and only four of its 19 board members who actually set ICANN policy are Americans, contends ICANN CPO and CFO Andrew McLaughlin. The Asia-Pacific representative on ICANN's board, Masanobu Katoh, notes that he represents all Internet users although he was elected in the Asia-Pacific region. ICANN selected Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, to determine how ICANN could represent all Internet users around the world. Bildt and his study committee will try to find an answer to this dilemma during ICANN's next board meeting in Stockholm and through an online discussion forum at www.atlargestudy.org. ICANN also will have to deal with a number of outside threats, including New.net's recent introduction of alternative top level domain names; the possibility that current registrars in foreign countries might branch off to offer alternative domains; and rumblings in the U.S. Senate, which has been questioning the way in which ICANN selected its new top level domains.
    http://www.iht.com/articles/21180.htm
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Bell Labs: A Bit Abstract and Always Curious"
    New York Times (05/30/01) P. C4; Broad, William J.

    Bell Labs, a subsidiary of Lucent Technologies, remains a key player in the development of new technology despite the turmoil surrounding its parent company, experts say. Only IBM files more patents per day than Bell Labs, which has a daily average of four patent filings. Bell Labs research has touched on a wide range of technologies, from lasers to transistors, and has led to six Nobel prizes. Current work at Bell Labs include research on biochemical-based computers and neural networks, but critics say such "blue-sky" research is partly to blame for the problems at Bell Labs. While other research labs work on discoveries that can quickly lead to revenue-generating products, the payoff from Bell Labs' work can often be delayed years, even decades. In other cases, critics say, Bell Labs has simply made bad decisions--for example, it held off on further work on OC-192 optical equipment. Nortel Networks did not back off its work in this area and now has a much greater share of the optical equipment market than Lucent does. Still, a recent study in Technology Review magazine cited Lucent as having the strongest patents among U.S. telecommunications firms, with its work on such technology as optic fibers that use Raman scattering to increase the distance signals can travel before needing amplification leading the way.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/30/technology/30BELL.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "French Frogans Internet Layer Due This Summer"
    Newsbytes (05/24/01); Gold, Steve

    A new Internet technology called "frogans" may provide widespread online viewing enhancement if it is as successful a tool as its creators hope. Frogans, produced by STG Interactive, provides an additional viewing layer for Web pages in an XML-based Frogans Slide Descriptive Language (FSDL), currently viewable only through STG's free browser add-ons. All Web pages can be viewed with frogan by typing in an extra address prefix, frogans*, in front of a Web address. A STG spokesperson said frogans' pages will give Web companies a simpler style in which to present content. STG plans a campaign to push mainstream browser companies to incorporate FSDL adaptors by the Sept. 4 launch date.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/166100.html

  • "Slow Start Foreseen for Office XP Sales"
    Bloomberg (05/29/01); Bass, Diana

    Industry analysts predict that there will be no great stampede among corporate IT departments to purchase and install Microsoft's Office XP software. Analysts say Office XP's new features, including voice-recognition software and software to allow project collaboration and file sharing, will not be enough to convince most Office users to upgrade immediately. Some users will buy the new software when they purchase new computers, but most will try to squeeze as much productivity out of the most recent Office versions, Office 2000 and Office 97, as they can, especially as many corporate IT departments are tightening budgets in the current downturn. Giga Information Group analyst Ken Smiley says Office XP will be purchased by 50 percent of corporate Office users within the first 12 months it is available, but says those who have recently installed Office 2000 will likely wait for the next Office upgrade. Currently, Smiley says, Office 97 runs on the majority of corporate systems, with 40 percent using Office 2000, and from 5 percent to 10 percent using Office 95. CIBC World Markets analyst Melissa Eisenstat says Office XP should account for 10 percent of all sales of Office software this fiscal year. Analysts say Office XP is unlikely to spark the struggling PC market, although they are holding out hope that the Windows XP upgrade may still do so when it is released this October.
    http://www.iht.com/articles/21265.html

  • "Your Boss Knows You're Reading This"
    Reuters (05/29/01)

    A recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. businesses showed that nearly 78 percent monitored employees' Web, email, voice mail, and other communications--more than twice as many businesses that said they did so than in a survey five years ago. The study, conducted by the American Management Association, showed the increasing use of technology to keep track of workers, including Internet monitoring software, location-aware devices, and screen-capture and keystroke software. Federal privacy law affords far less protection than most employees realize and views communications such as email and voice mail as fair game for employers. However, many companies cite the necessity of using such methods in today's business environment because trade secrets can be leaked or stolen with ease, employees can sue over offensive email on company networks, and Internet surfing can reduce productivity dramatically.
    http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,5084025,00.html

  • "These Days 'Made in Taiwan' Often Means 'Made in China'"
    New York Times (05/29/01) P. A1; Landler, Mark

    Taiwanese computer and hardware makers are moving their factory operations to mainland China, attracted by a rich talent pool and other cheap resources. Despite threats of impending invasion from Beijing and much to the dismay of the local government, Taiwanese officials say the move is necessary because of economic pressures. American companies such as Dell and Intel worry that the eruption of political tensions could threaten products that are heavily reliant on Taiwanese suppliers. "If in the future, China were to stop shipping IT products, that could shut down a large part of the IT industry in the United States," says Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Chairman Morris Chang. Taiwan, which makes 93 percent of the world's scanners, 54 percent of its monitors, and 39 percent of its disk drives, has already farmed out at least half of the manufacture of these components to China. Many Taiwanese executives say the migration of low-end parts will be complete in a few years, but they add that Taiwan could retain a position as broker between American and Japanese tech companies and Chinese resources.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/29/technology/29CHIP.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Software Aims to Let Linux Run Windows Programs"
    Saint Paul Pioneer Press Online (05/29/01); Ojeda-Zapata, Gjulio

    Linux users may soon be able to run Windows Office applications on their PCs without Windows the operating system with new Wine conversion software from CodeWeavers. Currently, the company is working on making their Wine product more reliable with staple Windows-compatible products, such as Word and the popular StarCraft game. The company estimates that Wine can successfully run 5 percent of Windows programs and 25 percent with some glitches. Eventually, avid Linux users hope that Wine will popularize Linux for home use and encourage the development of native Linux applications. CodeWeavers also has a related product, WineLib, that converts Windows-based applications to Linux-compatible ones. Developers collaborated with CodeWeavers in applying WineLib to translate code. Gray Brotman of MusicMatch says his company used WineLib to complete the development of its MusicMatch Jukebox product for Linux in much less time than it would have taken the company's staff on their own.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/news/svfront/036222.htm

  • "Cybercrime Treaty Amended Over Privacy Concerns"
    Reuters (05/25/01)

    The Council of Europe, bowing to pressure from the European Union and privacy groups, has decided to strengthen the online privacy protections of its final draft treaty on cybercrime. Specifically, Article 15 of the draft was reworded to give courts and other independent bodies the supervisory power to ensure that signatories of the draft are complying with privacy laws and human rights pacts, including those of the Council of Europe and United Nations. The revision of the draft still forces ISPs to institute costly measures to store data related to cybercrime investigations. The draft is slated to be examined by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in September.
    http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,5083552,00.html

  • "Where Is the New Linux Experience?"
    osOpinion (05/24/01); Dingus, Doug

    Linux has not migrated successfully to the desktop because programmers are simply trying to emulate flawed Microsoft design through interfaces such as Gnome and KDE. Instead, Linux developers need to create their own platform that capitalizes on the strengths of a Linux system: stability, flexibility, and the simplicity to run on most hardware. Whereas Microsoft applications contain many features unnecessary to most users, applications for a Linux desktop should be basic tools that users can build on later. Although new users will still have to overcome ingrained Windows computing experience, eventually Linux developers will be able to gain a foothold in the market if they can remain true to their purpose of creating a reliable and usable product instead of copying Microsoft.
    http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/9966.html

  • "Will Notebooks Force out Desktops?"
    InformationWeek (05/21/01) No. 838, P. 30; McDougall, Paul; Wallace, Bob

    Laptop usage is on the rise as businesses adopt them for a variety of tasks. International Data (IDC) predicts that notebook sales will increase by 25 percent in 2001, while desktop PCs will grow by 7.7 percent--by 2003, notebook sales will jump a further 13.1 percent and desktops another 8.2 percent. In real numbers, though, sales of desktops will outnumber notebooks this year, says IDC. Dell Computer executives say many clients prefer using notebooks for staff members even if they are not mobile. The British branch of WorldCom may purchase thousands of Compaq's upcoming Evo notebooks, says Richard Liddiard, desktop technology manager in Reading, England. Compaq's new Evo line features the N400c laptop, which supports 802.11b and Bluetooth technology, while the N150 laptop has a standard-sized keyboard. Another firm, Doricott Racing, uses Toshiba laptops and wireless LAN servers to fine-tune cars during pit stops. Team manager Shane Seneviratne says the 802.11b-based system is very reliable even among cell phones and in inclement weather. However, wireless Internet speeds can be sluggish and unsteady--AT&T's wireless service, priced at $50 per month, offers speeds of 12 Kbps to 14 Kbps--although speeds may improve as AT&T and other providers build up infrastructure.
    http://informationweek.com/838/notebooks.htm

  • "Tracking Your Every Move"
    Computerworld (05/21/01) Vol. 35, No. 21, P. 56; DiSabatino, Jennifer

    New technology from AT&T's Cambridge, England, labs could mark a large step forward for ubiquitous computing but could also raise many questions about workplace privacy. The technology, known as Active Bat, equips individuals in a specific environment with a transmitter that emits sound waves. The waves are picked up by receivers spread throughout that environment, which then calculate the transmitter's location to within inches by measuring the speed at which the sound waves are traveling. Researchers say the primary use they have envisioned for the technology is to let networks provide users with their personal desktop at any computer within a specific environment--for example, doctors could move from room to room and bring up each patient's records as they went. In another context, researchers admit, the devices could be used to track employees as they take breaks. However, researchers say Active Bat's potential good outweighs this risk. The system, which requires a receiver to be placed in the ceiling at intervals of 1.2 meters, will be less expensive than what it would cost to build a network that let users access it from anywhere using handheld computers, the researchers claim. The cost may decline further if the researchers can increase the interval needed between receivers, thus decreasing the number of receivers necessary.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Writing the New-Age Way"
    Wireless Week (05/20/01) Vol. 7, No. 21, P. 20; Mendez-Wilson, Deborah

    Several tech companies are hoping that people will gravitate to the pen once again, even after becoming more accustomed to typing on keyboards in recent years. For example, Anoto, a subsidiary of C Technologies, has a digital pen that allows users to compose and transmit email and faxes. The pen is equipped with a tiny infrared camera, a proprietary microprocessor, and a Bluetooth transceiver for communicating with mobile phones, laptops, personal digital assistants, and other devices that take advantage of Bluetooth wireless technology. Anoto's technology also makes use of stationery that includes tiny electric microdots and character recognition fields. When Anoto introduces its digital pen early next year, the company envisions users composing letters on the special stationary, typing in email addresses in a character recognition field, then checking off a small box for transmitting text messages to other Bluetooth enabled devices. Meanwhile, Motorola has already launched a commercial version of its iSketch technology, which it views as a wireless version of the Post-It note. In the same way people can send and receive text messages using PDAs, mobile phones, and laptops, users of Motorola's digital ink compression and encryption technology can create and send small handwritten notes, sketches, and digital signatures. Motorola has signature verification functions built into its technology that enables it to track pen strokes, speed, and pressure.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Microsystems in Japan"
    Industrial Physicist (05/01) Vol. 7, No. 2, P. 26; Waga, Miwako

    Japan is one of the world leaders in research and development related to microsystems. The Japanese government has provided ample monetary support in these efforts, having given over $300 million in funding in the last decade. In addition, the government has developed two Venture Business Laboratories: at Tohoku University for the study of sensors and micromachines, and at Kyoto University for nanostructures and photonic devices. Corporate support for microsystems has also been strong, with research and development efforts ongoing at over 40 major firms, including Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Sony, NEC, and many more. Also active are public-sector laboratories such as the Electrotechnical Laboratory and the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, as well as institutions of higher education such as the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the University of Tokyo, and several others. Microsystems research and development is expected to touch nearly every field, from imaging to transportation to medicine, and among recent microsystem-related applications are a wrist-sized camera from Casio capable of storing up to 100 images, a user interface that operates based on remote hand movements rather than through a keyboard and mouse, and an automatic, optical DNA-assay apparatus. A recent study by the Japan Micromachine Center concludes that microsystems will have a special role in the growth of several new technologies, including micro-robotics, virtual-reality systems, and smart-card systems. The study concludes that the micromachine market in Japan alone will be worth $46 billion by 2015, up from $4 billion in 1997.