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 214:  Wednesday, June 13, 2001

  • "Measure of Success"
    Boston Globe (06/11/01) P. C1; Kirchhoff, Sue

    In the mid 1990s, the U.S. economy emerged from a two-decade slump in productivity, with the rate of productivity almost doubled from 1996 to 2000. The reason for this rapid, unprecedented increase, many economists believe, was the IT industry. Better manufacturing techniques, increased corporate spending, and falling prices led many economists to dub the recent years the beginning of the New Economy, in which the typical boom-and-bust cycles would be replaced by more stable growth, with productivity providing better efficiency, which would then prevent prices from escalating, thus keeping recession in check. However, the current economic downturn has suddenly thrown that idealistic vision into doubt, as productivity fell 1.2 percent in the first quarter of this year alone. The nation's economists are in disagreement whether this means the New Economy is no different than the old, or if the current downturn is merely a bump in the road before the economy enjoys further growth in productivity and efficiency. Robert J. Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University, argues that the productivity growth of recent years was, in reality, limited to the IT industry and was based on spending growth that could not be sustained. However, Laurence H. Meyer, a governor on the Federal Reserve Board, says the current slowdown is as uniquely a part of the New Economy as the boom in the late 1990s; in history, a period of slowed growth often follows a boom caused by technological changes, he argues.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "New Report Questions Linux Server Claims"
    eWeek Online (06/11/01); Galli, Peter

    A new study from Gartner Dataquest reports that Linux owns a much smaller share of the server market than many previously thought. The report flies in the face of a recent International Data (IDC) study that claimed Linux runs on 27 percent of all servers, as compared to Windows at 41 percent. Gartner analyst and author of the study, Jeff Hewitt, says he expects Linux to gain a 10 percent share of all server shipments in 2001, up from the 8.6 percent he found in third-quarter 2000 shipments. Although Hewitt concedes his study might have excluded some workstations and other desktop systems configured with Linux server software, he balks at the IDC report's claim. In response, IDC officials say the Gartner report does not take into account free copies of Linux's server software, only software that came pre-installed on systems. The Gartner study was sponsored in part by Microsoft. Microsoft's Doug Miller says many of the Linux downloads reported were not actually implemented, but were instead used by companies to test the capabilities of the system.
    http://www.zdnet.com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,2772060,00.html

  • "IT Salaries Fall in 2001--Janco Associates"
    Newsbytes (06/11/01); Bartlett, Michael

    The average compensation for IT workers has fallen for the first time in 16 years, according to a new study by Janco Associates. The study found that in mid-sized firms, the average IT salary in the first half of this year totaled $110,578, down from $113,224. At large firms, the average salary for IT workers was $108,275, down from $108,963. The study looked at base salary, bonuses and fringe benefits, and stock options. Janco CEO M. Victor Janulaitis noted that it was the first time since the study began in 1985 that the average IT salary declined, which he blamed on "the dot-com phenomenon." He says the closure of many dot-coms, combined with fewer firms employing workers through the H-1B visa program, which allowed highly skilled foreign workers to remain in the U.S. for up to six years provided they were filling a highly paid position that no U.S. worker could fill, has driven down the salary figures. Most firms will continue to be budget-conscious for the next two or three quarters, says Janulaitis. He says e-commerce experts and computer security professionals are among those whose jobs are not at risk in the current downturn because they are responsible for improving revenue and removing potential threats, while those whose jobs may be in trouble are IT workers in infrastructure positions.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/166710.html

  • "Techie Tolerance and the International Colleague"
    CNN.com (06/11/01); Anderson, Porter

    A Techies.com survey of approximately 1,100 IT workers found that most respondents want to put limits on H-1B visas. More than half of the workers said foreign IT workers should not be allowed entrance into the United States without prior corporate sponsorship. The survey also found that entry-level IT workers had the least tolerance for H-1B employees, along with those who live in areas where IT jobs are scarce. Similarly, women were less likely than men to accept foreign workers. On the other hand, 70 percent of respondents said they would have no problem working with H-1B employees. Only 55 percent said they would be uncomfortable being supervised by such workers. About 15 percent of respondents said foreign workers are not as competent as American workers. Most IT professionals earning $100,000 did not want the government to intervene in the H-1B matter. Despite the visa program, many tech jobs are still remaining unfilled, according to recent data from the Employment Policy Foundation.
    http://www.cnn.com/2001/CAREER/trends/06/11/h1visa/index.html

  • "Software's Next Leap Is Out of the Box"
    New York Times--E-Business (06/13/01) P. E1; Markoff, John

    The software industry is moving toward a distributed computing model in which clients go online to access applications. Experts say the distributed model will change the way business is run, as corporations learn to use the Internet as an operational platform. The Internet domain-name system is one example of the power of distributed computing, as any connected computer can access the worldwide database of Web addresses. Microsoft is aiming to consolidate the development of emerging consumer applications of distributed computing under its .Net initiative. The software giant is banking its future on the subscriptions it will get from customers renting Windows software off the Internet, but it is also encouraging other developers to leverage its customer base and clout by writing programs to be delivered over the same system. Sun Microsystems' response to this is the Sun Open Net Environment, which uses the open source JXTA language. Sun hopes that JXTA will become the lingua franca for distributed computing that also uses peer-to-peer technology. Although the building blocks are simple, the company points to the wide-ranging success the UNIX language has had in the computing industry as the model for JXTA success.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/13/technology/13MARK.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Tech Industry Faces Frequent Foe in New Senate"
    SiliconValley.com (06/10/01); Phillips, Heather Fleming

    Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) has taken the helm of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which resolves key tech-related issues. With the power shift in Congress favoring the Democrats, Hollings, a long-time foe of tech-industry legislation, is expected to entrench many restrictions imposed on tech companies and work to increase privacy and consumer protection laws. The Information Technology Industry Council says Hollings has voted against industry interests 55 percent of the time. He was the single opposing vote to last year's increase in the number of H-1B visas, and many in the tech industry believe that he is opposed to the Internet tax moratorium. Although not completely against IT--he helped create the Advanced Technology Program used by the Commerce Department to fund startups--his general attitude is somewhat dismissive of the importance of technology. A World War II veteran and survivor of the Great Depression, Hollings is keen on protecting core manufacturing industries and does not see the need to pamper IT.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/news/depth/hollin061101.htm
    For information regarding ACM's efforts in public policy issues, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Gay Entrepreneurs Pour Tech Cash Into Causes"
    USA Today (06/12/01) P. 3B; Hopkins, Jim

    Gay and lesbian tech entrepreneurs are making large donations to philanthropic and political causes, industry observers report. A study by Denver's Gill Foundation found that donations this year total $100 million. Although there are no comparison figures readily available, advocacy groups for gays and lesbians say revenue is up. At leading gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign, for example, the hiring of a former Apple executive to better marketing efforts has led to a tripling of revenue. Among the leading gay and lesbian donors are Quark founder Tim Gill, who donated much of the profit from the sale of his company to the Gill Foundation, which in turn supports such gay and lesbian rights groups as the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and former E-Trade President Kathy Levinson, who last year founded the Lesbian Equity Foundation of Silicon Valley. David Bohnett, founder of GeoCities, launched a foundation after selling his company to Yahoo!; the foundation last year gave $2 million to various groups, including the Human Rights Campaign. Bohnett has also parlayed his activism into political power, having donated a large amount of money to Democratic causes; he recently hosted Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and others for a power breakfast.
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20010612/3392402s.htm

  • "Agencies Ask for Help in Cybercrime"
    Associated Press (06/12/01); Hopper, D. Ian

    Congress on Tuesday heard testimony both for and against boosting the power of law enforcement agencies to battle online crime, with Michael Chertoff, who heads the Justice Department's criminal division, calling for new wiretap laws that would apply to email and other Internet-based communications and stiff penalties for online crime. Chertoff said current penalties are too weak, with a hacker such as David Smith, the creator of the Melissa virus, eligible for no more than five years of prison even though the virus caused millions or billions of dollars in damages; also, Chertoff argued that email surveillance, such as the FBI's DCS1000 program, once known as Carnivore, is essential in tracking criminals--for example, alleged murderer James Kopp, whose email traffic tracked him to France. James A. Savage of the Secret Service told Congress of several cases in which online crime shut down or nearly shut down entire communications systems, including two telecom firms that risked having their entire systems--911 emergency services included--shut down. Arguing against increased powers for law enforcement agencies was Alan Davidson of the Center for Democracy and Technology, who said gaps in the law could cause law enforcement agencies to abuse their powers online; greater protection for citizens through encryption technology is needed, Davidson said.
    http://news.excite.com/news/ap/010612/17/tech-congress-cybercrime

  • "Mayo Study Refutes PC-Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Link"
    Newsbytes (06/11/01); Featherly, Kevin

    A new study from the Mayo Clinic casts doubt on the widely held belief that heavy use of a PC is a main cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive-stress injury that occurs when the wrist's median nerve has been compressed by inflammation in the carpal tunnel tissue. Belief that PC use contributes to this condition was so strong that the National Institute for Occupations Safety and Health agrees with the view. "We had expected to find a much higher incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in the heavy computer users in our study," admits Mayo Clinic neurologist J. Clarke Stevens, the study's lead author. However, the study, which sampled 257 Mayo Clinic employees who use PCs very frequently, found that only 10.5 percent of those studied had developed the condition, while 30 percent reported some kind of tingling in their hands, one of the main symptoms of the condition, and 70 percent had no evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome at all. Researchers say the 10.5 percent incidence rate is no higher than the rate for the population at large. In an editorial released with the study, neurologist Dr. Richard K. Olney says the researchers' findings could explain why efforts to improve the ergonomics of PCs and keyboards have not been as successful as hoped. Olney also cautions that the study's results may have been influenced by the fact that those surveyed and the surveyors were employed by the same company and by the lack of a control group.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/166709.html

  • "Rivals Exclude HP, Sun From Standards-Setting Party"
    Investor's Business Daily (06/12/01) P. A6; Deagon, Brian

    Six leading data storage companies recently met to set standards for the interoperability of their systems and to provide customers with solutions to integration problems. IBM, EMC, Compaq, Hitachi, Brocade Communications, and McData all are founding members of the Supported Solution Forum. Analysts say the forum will help solve differences between vendors and break open proprietary systems that keep data from being easily transferable. However, excluded from the initial meeting were Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, ranked No. 5 and No. 4 in the storage market by International Data. "This was the industry's most proprietary open standard's announcement ever made," said Sun's Denise Shiffman.

  • "AltaVista Unveils New Software"
    Associated Press (06/12/01); Liedtke, Michael

    AltaVista recently announced a new business-oriented application that will allow employees to sift all of their corporation's digital information--the software will let employees look into other hard drives and storage areas on a corporate network linked by a peer-to-peer system. Although other tools have been made available from Autonomy, Verity, and others, the new AltaVista program has a broader reach, able to scan 200 application formats and 30 computer languages. AltaVista claims that the software will not threaten sensitive corporate data, as administrators are still able to cordon off certain restricted areas, but critics say the software has the potential to spread office gossip, as users will be able to search co-workers' email inboxes and PC hard drives. Others warn against the increased legal liability the software could present because courts would be able to demand access to entire corporate networks via the application.
    http://news.excite.com/news/ap/010612/17/scouring-the-office

  • "Connoisseurs of Chaos Offer a Valuable Product: Randomness"
    New York Times (06/12/01) P. D1; Johnson, George

    A number of Web sites are offering something computers alone cannot--complete randomness. So-called random-number generators within computers are actually "pseudorandom generators." The results from these can be duplicated if someone finds the "seed" number and inputs it into the set algorithm. To meet the needs of cryptographers, scientists, and game designers who require truly random numbers, some entrepreneurs are tapping the non-digital world for random input that they then broadcast over the Internet. Sites such as Random.org and Silicon Graphics' Lavarand use radio static, lava lamps, and even decaying radioactive substances to generate strings of numbers that are truly random.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/12/science/12RAND.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Web Visits Are DOA With DoS"
    Investor's Business Daily (06/13/01) P. A6; Howell, Donna

    Denial of service (DoS) attacks plague the Internet much more than expected, a new study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego reveals. The report found that 4,000 DoS attacks had occurred in a period of one week in February. The Yankee Group says the costs associated with DoS attacks--security, lost sales, depreciated stock value--cost businesses over $1 billion. Part of the problem is the availability of sophisticated tools that let hackers perpetrate these crimes with ease. At Exodus Communications, which estimates it suffers from between 200 and 300 hacking attempts daily, officials are looking at new solutions, such as those developed by Asta Networks and Mazu Networks. Exodus chief security officer Bill Hancock estimates that there are 20 such companies trying to carve out a slice of the emerging market for DoS-fighting solutions.
    http://www.investors.com/editorial/tech.asp?v=6/13

  • "ICANN Chief Strikes Back"
    Wired News (06/13/01); Kettmann, Steve

    On June 12, ICANN responded to comments made by two of its own board members. Both Andy Mueller-Maguhn and Karl Auerbach called for structural reform, claiming that ICANN does not represent a large portion of Internet users. Mueller-Maguhn's comment that the ICANN board is similar to "old East Germany" because it essentially rubber stamps whatever the organization's staff lays before it irked ICANN CEO M. Stuart Lynn. "The board is not a rubber stamp, it's very active, and to draw any analogies with East Germany is just polemics, not substance," says Lynn, adding that such comments are "insulting to the board." The views of Mueller-Maguhn and Auerbach are minority views, and neither of the two has been able to convince the other board members that their ideas are correct, says ICANN attorney Joe Sims. "But I think the other members of the board feel more of a sense of responsibility to work toward a consensus, and that might require submerging some of their individual views to reach that consensus," says Sims. Auerbach would like to see ICANN's entire board be elected by the at-large Internet community, and Lynn agrees that the idea is "nice," but thinks that it would be quite difficult to execute. Both Lynn and Auerbach recommend that Internet users visit ICANN's Public Comment Forum.
    http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,44480,00.html
    For information regarding ACM's work regarding Internet governance, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Making Federal Web Sites Friendly to Disabled Users"
    New York Times (06/11/01) P. B2; Mirapaul, Matthew

    Federal Web administrators are preparing to pare down their sites in order to meet new accessibility requirements. Slated for implementation June 21, the rules require that text images be readable by text readers, multimedia translatable into audio, and other content revamps. Although government sites are mostly engineered to deliver content in the most straightforward manner, some officials worry that the aesthetic appeal of sites may be stifled by new standards mandating that sites be accessible to the sight and hearing impaired. Others, such as National Endowment for the Arts Webmaster David Low, view the challenge as an opportunity to further their art. Observers in the IT industry see a potential for the accessibility issue to spread, as software vendors modify products in order to provide federal officials with the Web building tools they need. Others are guessing that the Americans With Disabilities Act could be enlarged to include Internet properties, not just physical real estate.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/11/technology/11ARTS.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Strange Bedfellows"
    netWorker (06/01) Vol. 5, No. 2, P. 19; Weiss, Aaron

    Apple's new OS X operating system, released earlier this year, marks a major shift for the company, as it is based on Unix--making it a sort of cousin to Linux. Although Linux and Apple do share some things in common--a core group of dedicated users, small market share--the two appeal to vastly different types of personality: Apple to those who enjoy the aesthetic, visual aspect of computing, Linux to those who enjoy its roots, its "arcane commands." Indeed, Apple's new OS X is relying on that visual aspect to hook its users, as there is very little difference between an Apple and a Windows-based PC beyond the design level. The decision to base OS X on Unix opens some intriguing possibilities for Apple: it makes the system more reliable, and it opens it to various Unix-derived programs such as the PHP Web programming language, the MySQL database server, as well as the Apache Web server. This could open Apple to the Internet server market, and it also makes Apple, if equipped with software to run Windows programs, the only system that can run Apple, Linux, and Windows programs. Apple's market strategy for OS X, analysts say, might be to keep current users from bolting while trying to lure away Windows and even Linux users, who are still working on developing a graphical user interface that would open the open source system to the desktop market. Although both Linux and Apple would like to see themselves as threats to Microsoft, the software giant's latest operating system, Windows XP, shows no signs that it feels significant change is necessary--in fact, Windows XP is leading Microsoft toward a more Microsoft-exclusive environment, as it does not support, for example, music files in the MP3 format, but only those in its own WMA format.

  • "The Era of Efficiency"
    BusinessWeek (06/18/01) Vol. 3737, P. 92; Burrows, Peter; Sager, Ira; Hamm, Steve

    The downturn in the economy has executives thinking about running efficient businesses rather than spending more on technology. Savvy tech firms are benefiting by showing customers how to put tech equipment to good use. As was the case with the PC market when its runaway growth came to a halt in 1985, customers finally figured out how to apply their new machines by the early 1990s. Similarly, firms are starting to realize that the Internet is a valuable communications backbone for streamlining and reducing expenses, as they use the technology to link employees, suppliers, partners, and customers. Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown and CIO Magazine surveyed 260 CIOs in May and found that tech budgets are likely to grow just 4 percent over the next 12 months, down from 19 percent last November. Meanwhile, a survey of 150 senior executives by consultant DiamondCluster International and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania reveals that 46 percent believe that the Internet will improve customer service, while 48 percent say wiring their purchasing will aid their organization. In addition to the Internet, firms are handing over manufacturing operations to outsourcers as a way to boost efficiency. Firms also are lowering costs by making use of network storage devices that monitor sales and adjust production plans, as well as storage area networks, which are systems for linking storage devices together.
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/01_25/b3737701.htm

  • "Bar Association May Oppose UCITA"
    Computerworld (06/11/01) Vol. 35, No. 24, P. 1; Thibodeau, Patrick

    The American Bar Association (ABA) is positioning itself to fight the software industry over a licensing standard it says endangers buyers' rights. A new resolution before the ABA meeting in August could help define its stance on the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). However, the Tort and Insurance Practice Session of the ABA intends to enter into talks with UCITA sponsors, as represented by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, before the August vote. Although opponents of UCITA have blocked the legislation in seven states, they argue that new licensing agreements from Microsoft may undermine their efforts. Nationwide Insurance's Bruce Barnes says UCITA opponents will scrutinize lines in new Microsoft agreements that closely coincide with UCITA measures--especially the new software subscription model Microsoft promotes.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP.

  • "Itanium: New Opening for Linux?"
    Interactive Week (06/04/01) Vol. 8, No. 22, P. 11; Spangler, Todd

    Linux vendors believe that Intel's new Itanium 64-bit architecture, the chipmaker's attempt to crack the corporate data center market, will be an ideal opportunity for the open source operating system to attract more high-end corporate clients. Linux designed for the Itanium processor will be available later this summer from Turbolinux, Red Hat, Caldera, and SuSe Linux. Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann says, "We now have a chance to offer Linux as a first-class operating system across the whole spectrum, from embedded applications to the enterprise." Giga Information Group research fellow Rob Enderle says Linux may indeed enjoy increased business from the early adopters of Itanium, as early adopters also tend to be users of Linux. However, International Data's Dan Kusnetzky notes that companies that test Itanium-based systems on Linux may not use Linux when they move from piloting Itanium to deploying it throughout the enterprise. IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Unisys, Compaq, and Dell have each announced that they will be releasing systems based on the Itanium processor, which Intel needed seven years and $1 billion to develop but which will be superceded by another processor, the McKinley model, next year; the Itanium processor will face competition from Sun Microsystems' 64-bit UltraSPARC-based servers. Traditionally, clients in the data center market must choose between Linux, Microsoft, and Unix to run their systems.
    http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2770201,00.html