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


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Volume 3, Issue 210:  Monday, June 4, 2001

  • "Expert Says Windows XP Aids Vandals"
    New York Times (06/04/01) P. C7; Markoff, John; Schwartz, John

    A computer security expert has warned Microsoft that the release of its new Windows XP version this fall could make denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on Web sites much harder to combat. Steven Gibson, owner of computer security firm Gibson Research, says Windows XP contains new Internet standards that, when coupled with always-on broadband connections, would make DoS attacks much more powerful and easy to execute. Gibson contends that hackers could exploit Windows XP's better connection features to disguise the packets of data sent in DoS attacks so that networks would have an even more difficult time filtering out the data sent from zombie computers. Microsoft officials say that although XP's Internet features make the operating system more powerful on the Web, enhanced security functions protect it from malicious intrusions and exploitations. The San Diego Supercomputer Center recently reported that the number of DoS attacks is increasing. It recorded 13,000 DoS attacks on 5,000 Web sites during three weeks in February, although the study may have missed up to half of the total number because hackers vary their style of attack, making tracking them much harder.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/04/technology/04FLAW.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "ICANN Struggles With Web Growth"
    Los Angeles Times (06/04/01) P. C2; Gamel, Kim

    ICANN officials have viewed alternative top level domain providers as little more than a nuisance over the past few years; however, the organization was forced to acknowledge and deal with the alternative offerings at its most recent meeting in Stockholm, Sweden. During the meeting's public comment session, a variety of delegates criticized ICANN President M. Stuart Lynn's recent paper on the subject. "There need not be a single name space that everybody is forced to adhere to," says ICANN board member Karl Auerbach, asserting that ICANN must recognize diversity. While Lynn asserted that the paper was only meant to generate a discussion, his opinion that alternative domain name offerings would cause confusion and thereby harm Internet stability was clear. Although ICANN is unable to enforce all of its decisions, alternative naming systems might find it difficult to compete if ICANN moved to introduce more TLDs at a faster rate, critics note. "ICANN needs to take the brakes off a little and let market forces decide," says Nigel Roberts, CEO of the British Channel Islands' .gg registry. During ICANN's meeting, a consortium of country code TLD operators voted to withdraw from an ICANN policy-setting group, calling instead for the creation of a distinct supporting organization that would have the power to make decisions.
    http://biz.yahoo.com/apf/010603/icann_meeting.html
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html

  • "Gloom-Laden Conclusion on Outlook for IT"
    Financial Times (06/04/01) P. 16; Daniel, Caroline

    The United Kingdom will not remain immune to the slowdown that has struck the U.S. IT and software sector, predicts analyst Richard Holway in an Ovum Holway report. The report found that revenue growth among U.K. IT firms dropped beneath 10 percent last year, the first time that has occurred since early in the 1990s. The report also found that profits at U.K. IT firms fell 86 percent last year. Holway dismisses any hope of a rebound in the next three years, saying such rebounds are usually fueled by technology revolution such as PCs in the early 1980s, Windows in the early 1990s, and the Internet and e-commerce in the late 1990s. Holway says the IT industry will see "no big technology shift before 2004, and anyone who believes Europe will be immune to the U.S. slowdown is "living in cloud cuckoo land." Holway points to the large number of firms now outsourcing work as evidence that U.K. IT firms are trying to downsize their operations. Beneficiaries of this outsourcing trend include market leaders EDS and IBM, Holway says.
    http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=010604000963

  • "New Economy"
    New York Times (06/04/01) P. C4; Flynn, Laurie J.

    Open source software is growing as a legitimate alternative to the proprietary software model on which companies such as Microsoft have built their business. Currently, there is a fierce debate between Microsoft executives and open source advocates over the future of free software, such as GNU-Linux, and the General Public License that developers must sign in order to use most free software. Although Microsoft executives--including its chief strategist, Craig Mundie--have attacked open source as dangerous for the software business, open source advocates counter that Microsoft is employing scare tactics to discourage the development of competing software. Columbia law professor and Free Software Foundation general counsel Eben Moglen says the open source model will eventually push Microsoft from its position as the dominant computer software developer. GNU-Linux has expanded in the corporate server market in recent years, gaining significant backing from many big-name technology developers, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard. International Data (IDC) says GNU-Linux is currently the fastest growing operating system in terms of market share, although other experts have noted that the GNU-Linux movement has failed to gain traction in the consumer desktop space.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/04/technology/04NECO.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Sun Pushes Web-Services Role for Java"
    Wall Street Journal (06/04/01) P. B8; Avery, Simon

    Sun Microsystems' JavaOne show in San Francisco this week showcases some of the Java-based products that will enable the next generation of Web services. The Web services market--offering products and services to connect important business and customer functions over the Internet--is seen as an open field for both developers and vendors. Microsoft executives have said that Java will simply become another programming language in a future Web services arena dominated by Microsoft.NET. However, BEA Systems Chairman Bill Coleman says Java will eventually win the market for corporate Web applications, while most of the direct consumer services will go to Microsoft.NET. Already, Sun's J2EE Java platform has won broad industry support.

  • "Effort Lays a Foundation for IT Sector"
    Boston Globe (06/03/01) P. J1; Lewis, Diane E.

    A group of Massachusetts businesses, schools, and community groups are forming MetroWest Centers of Excellence for Women and Minorities, a program for guiding and promoting IT careers among middle-school girls and minorities. The centers aim to provide education, labs, after-school programs, clubs, mentoring, and other services to middle-school students in those groups typically lacking representation in high tech jobs. Firms see the initiative as a way to boost the numbers of qualified IT workers, as analysts predict future shortages in the labor pool. An April 2001 survey by the Information Technology Association of America recommends tapping such groups as women, minorities, the disabled, and older and mid-career workers. One of the primary goals of the centers will be to offer preparatory math and science classes to middle-school students, who usually are not exposed to such classes. Additionally, the program provides professional advancement courses for teachers. A group called the Technology Initiative will spearhead the project, which is expected to cost $700,000 initially and $400,000 per year thereafter.

  • "Biz Wiz: She Knows What You Want"
    Wired News (05/30/01); Batista, Elisa

    Mari Matsunaga, widely credited for the success of the i-mode mobile Internet service in Japan and named one of the Web's 25 most important women by San Francisco Women on the Web, is an unlikely hero of the wired era. She has a degree in French literature and spent 20 years working as an editor for a group of classified-ad magazines. She calls herself a "technophobe" and, prior to her joining i-mode owner DoCoMo, she would not use a cell phone and was unfamiliar with the Internet. What she brought to DoCoMo was not any technical expertise but a clear idea of what Internet users want. "The newness of an idea matters less than its ease of use," Matsunaga told a U.S. audience last year. Some 20 million people now use i-mode for a host of consumer-friendly applications that were the brainchild of Matsunaga, such as restaurant listings, game, email, and news. Matsunaga's success--she has also been noted by Fortune and Nikkei Woman--is even more remarkable considering the secondary position women in Japan have when it comes to business. Observers credit her ability to succeed to her being an entrepreneur who is less beholden to the customs and conservative attitudes of Japan's entrenched corporate life.
    http://www.wirednews.com/news/women/0,1540,43342,00.html

  • "Meetings in Cyberspace May Soon Be as Routine as the Conference Call"
    Wall Street Journal (06/04/01) P. B1; Weber, Thomas E.

    Budget-conscious businesses are looking at Web conferences as a way to foster interaction and collaboration while cutting back on travel expenses. The systems are currently available from several software vendors, and current users say they are easy to set up and run. In general, Web conferences combine basic, phone-based teleconferences with the Internet's multimedia tools. For example, meeting participants can display and view slides in PowerPoint format online, or they can enter secured "meetings rooms" in which one company can show the other sensitive information. Some vendors offer software to let participants share online notes and drawings that they make during the Web conference itself. In most cases, Web conference vendors charge per minute fees: WebEx, for example, charges 45 cents per minute, but the firm also offers a $100 monthly flat rate for unlimited Web conferencing. Observers say the success of Web conferences will depend on the extent to which participants are willing to collaborate over the Internet.

  • "So Down in the Valley"
    Washington Post (05/31/01) P. E1; Streitfeld, David

    Tech industry employees and employers in Silicon Valley are readjusting to a new reality as values for real estate, stock options, and business plans all plummet. The dot-com culture here has obviously soured, with vandals recently defacing a Fortune magazine billboard, mocking a tribute to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Signs of the dot-com bust are numerous, including the steep depreciation of rental property in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood and the proliferation of dot-com liquidation auctions. Workers in the services industry that catered to the dot-com crowd are greatly affected by the dot-com bust. Matthew Gardner, owner of an interior landscaping firm, says that many of the plant furnishings his company leased to Internet firms have been reclaimed. "When the aesthetics leave, the leased art and the leased plants, it's demoralizing. In one situation, two or three young women started crying," he said. The emotional tension is most apparent in the tales of laid-off workers, and made noticeable by companies' attempt to re-label firings as "separations" or, in the words of Dell Computer founder Michael Dell, "head-count actions." John Vanek of Patriot Patrol and Investigations, a hired police service, says his company has been contracted many times to be on site the day layoffs are announced to deal with as-of-yet unrealized "desk rage" incidents that some companies fear.
    http://www.washtech.com/news/software/10122-1.html

  • "The Taj Mahal of Out-Sourcing"
    Wired News (06/01/01); Iyengar, Swaroopa

    Indian software firms are gearing up for even more U.S. business as U.S. firms move operations there in order to cut costs. During the past 10 years, the Indian technology industry has grown 45 percent annually and has built up a considerable export business--$6.24 billion last year. Software Technology parks of India (STPI), a government sponsored development agency, plans to build 15 more technology parks in the country by March 2002 in addition to the 19 parks the STPI has already constructed. Major Indian software firms such as Infosys, Wipro, and Satyam have reported adding significant numbers of U.S. firms to their clientele, and the National Association of Software and Service Companies expects export sales to reach $50 billion by 2008. Increasing numbers of U.S. firms, including IBM, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, GE, and Dell are stepping up their investment in India even as they lay off workers in the United States. Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan says Indian companies that plan strategically for global competition will be able to take advantage of U.S. investment dollars and grow the Indian share of software sales in Japan and Europe as well.
    http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,44142,00.html

  • "Dot-Com Downturn Brings Brisk Business to Japan"
    Reuters (05/27/01); Stevenson, Reed

    With the downturn in the Internet-based economy, many dot-com businesses are moving overseas, especially to Japan. Japanese demand for basic technology still remains strong, despite the country's economic turmoil. Besides, today's 19 million online Japanese shoppers are expected to grow their ranks to 92 million in 2005, according to International Data (IDC) Japan. Web site translators especially, are benefiting from the migration. Basis Technology has won both funding and major contracts from online businesses such as Amazon.com. CEO Carl Hoffman said his company not only helped Amazon.com translate the language on their site, but the back-end Web infrastructure so that it would be compatible with informational transactions in other languages. Hoffman says the overseas e-commerce market has significant room to grow, especially for the few major dot-com players left with resources to expand in the relatively new markets.
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20010527/tc/japan_dotcoms_dc_1.html

  • "Report Urges ICANN to Broaden Leadership Ranks"
    Newsbytes (05/30/01); McGuire, David

    The NGO and Academic ICANN Study (NAIS) Project has released an interim report stating that ICANN must quickly introduce more voices in its decision-making process or it will never attain the "long-term legitimacy and stability" that it wants. "Already there is a lot of disagreement about how the public voice should exist in ICANN, but it is clear that there needs to be broad public participation if ICANN is to take on this public role it has assumed for itself," says Center for Democracy and Technology spokesperson Alan Davidson. The NAIS project has been keeping an eye on the way ICANN's government is set up for most of 2001, and its interim report is meant to emulate ICANN's earlier study. NAIS intends to influence ICANN's actions by staying ahead of ICANN's official study, says Davidson. Even if ICANN decides to affirm the current at-large structure, it needs to find a way to increase public participation in its governance, according to the interim report. NAIS intends to offer a final report in September, before ICANN's board meets in November to decide on the issue, says Davidson. ICANN's electorate for at-large board members is relatively small, numbering around 76,000, and some observers are concerned that the electorate's small size will allow corporations or special interest groups to take over ICANN's board.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/166288.html
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html

  • "Growth, Profits Become Focus for Tech CEOs"
    CyberAtlas (05/24/01); Pastore, Michael

    A Deloitte & Touche study of the CEOs of North America's "Fast 500" rising tech firms reveals that profitability and growth are their biggest concerns. About 37 percent of the participants said they have no intention of merging, acquiring, or being acquired in the next year, while fewer than 10 percent said they will launch an IPO in the next 12 months, compared to 15 percent in 2000. Approximately 8 percent said they want their companies to be acquired in the subsequent 12 months, compared to 27 percent last year, but 32 percent of the CEOs said they want to takeover another company in the next 12 months, up from last year's figure of 3 percent. A lack of funds is the main reason behind slow growth, say about one third of the CEOs. Concerning the global market, 47 percent of participants said they may expand into China and Western Europe, but 30 percent of respondents cite the North American market as the most crucial for the next five years. Competent employees are the main factor behind companies' success, the CEOs said, but about 39 percent of participants said finding and keeping skilled staff is difficult, compared to 55 percent last year, and 31 percent said a deficiency in skilled workers is their biggest challenge to growth. Tech firms "are buckling down, focusing on making profits, looking at consolidation opportunities, expanding their markets globally and focusing on attracting the right people to help them find new ways to succeed in a down market," says Mark Evans, managing director of Deloitte & Touche's Technology and Communications Group.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Bringing E-Commerce to the Blind"
    E-Commerce Times (05/30/01); Macaluso, Nora

    A unique new Internet service was launched by British retailer Tesco this week in an effort to meet the needs of a normally underserved sector of the market. Blind and visually impaired customers will find Tesco.com to be a friendlier site with the addition of new technology that converts text into speech. Developed in collaboration with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), Tesco's new technology will verbally describe products and guide customers through the Web site. According to the RNIB, there are already some special software packages that enable the blind or visually impaired to view Internet pages, but the methods are often in inadequate to deal with today's flashy, complicated sites. In the United States, over 1.5 million blind or visually impaired persons have Internet access, and more companies are working to adapt their products and services to the benefit of those customers. Lorraine Marchi, founder and CEO of the National Association for the Visually Handicapped, says visually impaired users prefer not to have to go through third parties but instead want the Web sites to meet their needs directly. Marchi says, "People with low vision need large print, good contrast," and she notes that Web designers "are not as accommodating as they could be for people with vision problems."
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/?id=10106

  • "Lord of the Dance"
    New Scientist (05/26/01) Vol. 170, No. 2292, P. 22; Graham-Rowe, Duncan

    Scientists at MIT's Bio-Instrumentation Laboratory have developed a tiny robot that could serve as the model for precision tools that manipulate individual atoms or molecules to build nanomachines or even study DNA. The three-legged, three-centimeter tall robot, dubbed the nanowalker, can cover 20 centimeters a second or tiptoe along in 4-nanometer steps. It is the vision of Sylvain Martel, who has built the probe and imaging circuitry of a scanning tunneling electron microscope (STM) into the small robot, which he intends to use to record pictures of a single atom while other robots return to manipulate it later. The tiny robot also contains a water cooler system for continuous cooling to prevent it from burning out, a broadband infrared communications system for controlling and recording its position, and flexible circuits that drive the device. The nanowalker is powered through its legs at 15 watts. Its legs extend when a similar voltage is applied into its four piezoelectric ceramic quadrants, shrink when the voltage is reversed, and bend when opposite polarities are applied to opposite quadrants. Surface structure dictates its gait, which ranges from bouncing to stepping. Martel anticipates hordes of nanowalkers, which can conduct 200,000 measurements a second, working to together to perform millions of operations a second.

  • "IPv6: Is It Inevitable?"
    Computerworld (05/28/01) Vol. 35, No. 22, P. 58; Cope, James

    Some believe that the current IPv4 system, which can handle a total of about 4 billion Internet addresses, will work well for quite some time, while others, concerned that IPv4 addresses will run out, think IPv6 should be used. WorldCom has an IPv6 segment on its backbone network service, called 6bone, says WorldCom's Charles Lee. Zama Networks uses an IPv6 network between Tokyo and Seattle. However, these IPv6 networks are primarily for experimentation and testing. Chicago's CivicNet project, which could take 10 years to finish, will use IPv6 in part because the city wanted to sidestep problems stemming from address shortages. Concerns about IPv4 and IPv6 incompatibility are unfounded for the most part, according to Steve Deering, head of IPv6 development at Cisco Systems. The protocols are not interoperable, but it is easy to upgrade current routers so that they can handle both IPv4 and IPv6 protocol stacks, says Deering. Those who think that IPv4 will run out of space are concerned that new devices such as cell phones, smart phones, and personal digital assistants will become popular and use up large quantities of IPv4 addresses.
    http://www.computerworld.com/cwi/story/0,1199,NAV47_STO60869,00.html

  • "Jobless in Seattle"
    InfoWorld (05/28/01) Vol. 23, No. 22, P. 63; Kador, John

    The downturn in the dot-com sector has hit Seattle hard enough that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been keeping a daily count of tech-related layoffs in the area. Over the past 11 months, that count has reached 11,000, with 8,000 coming this year, says John Cook, the paper's tech writer. Seattle has carried the burden of the dot-com bust because it was home to many of the retail dot-coms that bloomed and vanished in short order. Now, laid-off dot-commers report that finding work in Seattle's tech market is difficult. Although firms are still searching for workers to fill positions, especially those who have experience in Web design, databases, and e-commerce, firms are not making their needs public. Job seekers and human-resource personnel agree that finding a job in Seattle now requires extensive networking--what some are now referring to as a "hidden" job market. Observers speculate that many firms have cut back their human-resource staff sat and fear that making available positions public would lead to a deluge of resumes from the large number of recently unemployed tech workers. Those tech workers who came to the Seattle area only as the dot-com boom was occurring say they have not had time to network and feel that their chances for finding jobs in the post-boom market are therefore diminished.
    http://iwsun4.infoworld.com/articles/ca/xml/01/05/28/010528cajob.xml

  • "Shoring Up Security"
    Network World (05/28/01) Vol. 18, No. 22, P. 52; Haber, Lynn

    The latest advances in security technology have greatly improved network administrators' ability to prevent damaging hacker attacks. The G-Server from Gillian works as a filter between a company's Web server and its connection to the Internet, tagging outgoing content with digital signatures; should those signatures disappear, the filter knows something is wrong, and it can replace damaged content with a copy of the original content made as part of the initial screening process. Also available now are honeypot programs, which trick hackers into entering meaningless areas of the server so that security officials can study the hacker's behavior without exposing critical systems. The honeypot is usually designed to be more vulnerable than a company's actual system and is filled with content that resembles business plans or intellectual property. For preventing distributed denial-of-service attacks, which overwhelm a server with traffic, cutting-edge software is just now becoming available to scan and filter incoming traffic. Software is also available to scan systems and networks for weaknesses both glaring and subtle. One of the most vulnerable aspects of Web-related business is when a company moves files between internal and external networks--for example, moving data from e-commerce services to back-office applications. New "air gap" technology allows companies to move files in a shuttle that keeps secure data from being exposed to external users.
    http://www.nwfusion.com/research/2001/0528feat.html

  • "The Future Will Be Fast But Not Free"
    Wired (05/01) Vol. 9, No. 5, P. 120; Platt, Charles

    Bandwidth will likely never reach commodity status, Internet experts say, and the expansion of broadband Internet will require new economic models. Although the cost of traditional dial-up Internet access has decreased greatly in recent years, experts say this is because much of the infrastructure necessary for this access was built-in to the existing telephone network; increasing the infrastructure for broadband access, laying new fiber and completing the "last mile" into million of households, will not be cheap. The rise of broadband has also led to the shattering of two ideals of the Internet revolution: that the Internet would eliminate disparities of geography--now false because broadband is difficult to get unless near a major population center-and that information, not like energy, is meant to be free to everyone, regardless how much each person consumes. Companies, not to mention the artists and others who provide content, simply cannot survive without a workable revenue model, which means not only that users will have to pay for content, but that they will have to pay based on how much content they use. Experts predict that, as happened with cable TV and satellite dishes, users will pay if the price is right and the content is good, which is why it behooves content makers, especially the film industry, to bring their products online in a strong, secure format. New compression technology from Microsoft, among others, and distribution networks such as that being built by iBlast will allows this to occur.