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Volume 3, Issue 217: Wednesday, June 20, 2001
- "Despite Cutbacks, IT Jobs Go Begging"
E-Commerce Times (06/18/01); DeLong, Daniel F.
Jobs in the IT sector are still abundant, according to the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). A recent ITAA survey shows 900,000 IT jobs available this year, about half of which will remain vacant due to lack of skilled workers--this, despite large cuts recently announced by Nortel and JDS Uniphase. Bruce Walker, marketing vice president for job site Flipdog.com, says technically adept workers should have no problem locating a promising new job opportunity. Nat Dodge of IT recruitment company Directfit adds that the only difference now from the earlier dot-com atmosphere is the absence of wild perks. "The slowdown has returned the adult to the workplace," says Dodge.
- "Supreme Court to Review Case That Redefined Patent Doctrine"
New York Times (06/19/01) P. C1; Greenhouse, Linda
The Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear the appeal of a patent case that has attracted the attention of many advocates of intellectual property rights. The high court will review a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in which an 8-to-4 majority found that a patent held by a company called Festo had not been violated because Festo had changed the patent during the course of the application process. This ruling reinterpreted a long-standing patent doctrine known as the doctrine of equivalents, which held that a patent was infringed if some entity made unimportant changes to a patented item and then claimed it as an original device. The Federal Circuit said this does not apply to any patent altered in the course of its application, replacing the case-by-case appraisal of patent-infringement arguments under the doctrine of equivalents with what the Federal Circuit majority called "a complete bar" to act as a standard. However, advocates of intellectual property rights say this ruling could have an adverse affect on patents because nearly every patent is changed, if only slightly, during the application process. Among the groups supporting Festo's appeal are research institutions including MIT and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the American Intellectual Property Law Association, and the United States Chamber of Commerce.
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- "US Venture Capital Seeks Out Indian Technology Talent"
Financial Times (06/20/01) P. 28
Silicon Valley investors are increasingly being drawn to Indian tech firms and U.S. startups founded by Indian entrepreneurs. Indian entrepreneurs in the United States have gathered $2.85 billion in investment over the past 15 months, reports IndUS Business Journal Publisher Upendra Mishra, while India's National Association of Software and Service Companies says firms in India will receive $1.2 billion in foreign venture capital in 2001-2002, compared with $500 million in 1999-2000. Indian entrepreneurs in the U.S. benefit from a network of Indian IT professionals in that country, many of whom are now on the boards of powerful venture capital firms, as well as a general perception among U.S. tech firms that Indian IT workers are among the best trained in the world. The Indian government has also taken an active role in courting foreign venture capital, and this new openness is prompting many Indian IT workers who have cut their teeth in the U.S. market to return home and launch new opportunities; this growth has prompted officials in Bangalore, the center of India's tech industry, to predict foreign venture capital investment could reach $5 billion within the next three
- "Employers Seek Ways to Lure Back Laid-off Workers When Times Improve"
Wall Street Journal (06/19/01) P. B1; Dunham, Kemba J.
Tech sector employers are finding inventive ways to keep laid-off workers close and available for rehiring once the economy picks up. Cisco, for example, is offering workers a one-year stint at an affiliated nonprofit organization with one-third of their pay plus full benefits. So far, Cisco executives say about 200 employees have considered the alternative. Other companies are enticing valuable workers to go to school or to take a one-year sabbatical. Some critics doubt that employers are so keen to maintain good relations and say laid-off workers should inspect their contracts carefully to ensure the alternative offerings are more substantial than their regular severance package. Mercer Management Consulting vice president Bob Atkins also warns employers against going too far to keep laid-off workers on hand because the skills required once the economy warms could be different than the present.
- "Many Federal Agencies May Fail to Comply With Law Helping Disabled Access Web"
Wall Street Journal (06/20/01) P. B2; Bridis, Ted; Simpson, Glenn R.
Observers say few federal agencies are prepared for Friday's deadline to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1998. This act mandates that federal government Web pages and computer technology be made accessible to those with disabilities. This has forced federal agencies to make changes both large and small--for example, converting Web pages into formats compatible with software with sight and hearing impairments and replacing traditional keyboards with devices that individuals with limited mobility can use. Agencies that are not in compliance with the act by Friday's deadline can be sued under the terms of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Officials at the Justice Department say some 10,000 Web pages are not yet compliant with the act, risking such suits from both citizens and from their own employees. Although there is no mandate in the act requiring vendors to provide software and hardware that is accessible to disabled individuals, Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller says vendors must hurry to provide such equipment; otherwise, say observers, the government will not be able to purchase their products. The act is expected to add $1 billion per year to the government's tech spending. In related news, the National Council on Disability has released a report that is highly critical of the federal government for not providing more assistance to disabled users of technology. The report suggests that the Bush administration form a commission to oversee accessibility issues.
- "Artificial Intelligence Isn't Just a Movie"
USA Today (06/20/01) P. 1A; Maney, Kevin
Artificial intelligence (AI), the subject of much speculation, has numerous uses in the real world and may be on the verge of a breakthrough era for the technology. For now, AI is beginning to show up in real-world applications. For example, Charles Schwab has added AI functions to its Web site to handle customers' questions better, and a computer program called Aaron uses AI technology to make highly crafted artwork on PCs. Also, a company called Continental Divide Robotics (CDR) has developed an AI-based system for monitoring parolees. If parolees leave a certain area or go near a designated house, the CDR system will decide whom it should contact. The rapid growth of computing power, and a growing trend among researchers to focus on systems that gain significant intelligence in one area--for example, IBM's Deep Blue, which learned enough about chess to defeat the reigning world champion--are driving AI research. Scientists predict that in 50 years, AI will be on par with the human brain. However, researchers debate whether AI could have emotions. Another issue is whether an AI-based robot could be able to dominate humans. Microsoft researcher Eric Horvitz says, "Like myself, a lot of AI researchers are driven by the pursuit of someday understanding intelligence deeply enough to create intelligences." Horvitz is currently working on changing the computer from simply to a tool to a companion.
- "S.F. Calls For PC Recycling"
San Francisco Chronicle Online (06/18/01); Norr, Henry
A coalition of San Francisco city officials and four local nonprofits is pushing a resolution that would require the recycling and collection of used PCs. The resolution is directed at California Gov. Gray Davis and is intended to spur legislated PC recycling and collection programs by October 15, 2002. If no state-wide plan is formulated by then, San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell says the City and County of San Francisco would likely institute a collection program. She says consumers would be charged a collection fee or be asked to place a deposit to encourage them to return used equipment. Already, one waste official says San Francisco spends as much as $3 million to depose of old electronics that contain toxic materials. Similar resolutions are before officials in San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
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- "Panel Examines Legal Risk of Web-Site Links"
InformationWeek Online (06/14/01); Ewalt, David M.
A panel of journalists and lawyers last week, sponsored by the Freedom Forum and the Online News Associations, dealt with the legal implications of Web links. The issue has come to the forefront after a court ruling last year that ordered the publisher of the hacker magazine 2600 to remove a link to DeCSS, a computer code that can crack DVD encryption. Many journalists believe that this ruling, if allowed to stand, could lead to restrictions on how they report news online. "Hyperlinks are the engine of the Web, allowing rapid connections to be made between people and information," states a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the 2600 case by a group of news organizations. "Without hyperlinks, the Web's extraordinary ability to facilitate the rapid, global dissemination of information would be severely impaired." Web links could also lead to legal questions of libel, copyright information, and business practices, panel members said.
For information regarding ACM's work in the area of public policy and encryption, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.
- "Hands Off, Intel's Grove Tells Washington"
InfoWorld.com (06/19/01); Garretson, Cara
Speaking before the Progressive Policy Institute Monday, Intel Chairman Andy Grove said the government should not interfere in the continued growth of the tech industry. Grove discussed the bill currently pending in Congress that would let local telephone firms compete in the national market without opening their local markets to competition. Grove argued that this bill is crucial to the rollout of broadband Internet connections because the local phone companies are essential in providing "last mile" connections between fiber-optic networks and end users. Grove said the government should consider providing tax breaks to small business entrepreneurs who adopt broadband systems. Grove also said that the government should not try to interfere with trade in the global tech market, specifically in its restriction on tech exports to countries such as China, which Grove said could soon be the No. 2 computer market in the world. Finally, Grove said President Bush should have greater trade authority so that both he and the tech industry can conduct business.
- "The Push to Push Women Higher"
Wired News (06/19/01); Mayfield, Kendra
A two-thirds majority of female IT professionals believe that a glass ceiling exists, a recent Deloitte & Touche study of IT professionals found. In contrast, nearly two-thirds of the men surveyed say the issue is non-existent. The "Women in Technology Leadership" study also revealed that only 10 percent of participants work for firms where women are CEOs or owners. "There are a lot of the same obstacles and challenges in existence in the technology industry [as in the old economy]," says Sue Molina, director of Deloitte & Touche's Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. For example, only 12 percent of the IT professionals surveyed recognized Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, compared with 59 percent recognition of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and 98 percent recognition of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. However, projects are underway to address the problem. For example, Women in Technology International (WITI) will sponsor a roundtable for female IT leaders at its Professional Women's Summit on June 20-21. The Executive Women's Forum will let IT professionals network and get advice. On Thursday, WITI will honor female tech executives making positive contributions to society.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Why Microsoft Is Wary of Open Source"
CNet (06/18/01); Wilcox, Joe; Shankland, Stephen
Microsoft's .Net initiative is being threatened by Linux's inroads into the enterprise server market. As many of .Net's Passport authentication components rely on Windows software, widespread Linux use could hinder .Net's success. International Data (IDC) reports that Linux represented 27 percent of new server operating licenses for 2000, compared to Microsoft's 41 percent. Critics are also railing against Microsoft's new licensing strategy, which would require an entirely new license for businesses that want to upgrade from Windows versions not considered current technology. The pressure to upgrade according to Microsoft's timetable is forcing some firms to consider a Linux alternative more seriously. Microsoft has made some moves to embrace open-source-type theory, while still lambasting General Public License arrangements. Through its Microsoft Developers Network and its new "shared-source philosophy," Microsoft is trying to solicit developer support and input for Windows. However, any changes remain solely at the discretion of Microsoft, says the company's Craig Mundie.
- "Cyberspace Is The Next Battlefield"
USA Today (06/19/01) P. 1A; Stone, Andrea
The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency not only defends the U.S. military's 2.5 million computers against attacks by hackers, but also develops programs that could infiltrate a foreign country's computer networks and shut down financial, communications, electrical, and weapons systems, in case of the threat of war. The Pentagon has long known that its computers are vulnerable to similar attacks that plague private industry since 95 percent of its communications are passed through unclassified, public networks. It also knows that countries such as Iraq, Russia, and especially China are working hard to build up their own computer arsenals. Last year, there were at least 413 incidents of hacking intrusions into U.S. military computers, many traced to Russia, leading the Pentagon to create the Joint Task Force for Computer Network Operations, which coordinates information about computer warfare. The Pentagon has asked Congress to increase funding for the program by 500 percent, to $18.6 million, by 2002. Computer experts working on offensive computer weapons focus their attentions on "Trojan horse" viruses, which can infiltrate a computer surreptitiously. These viruses can be programmed to be triggered on command, to reproduce and cause a network overload, or to monitor and steal data. However, though officials now claim that the United States has a strong computer arsenal, they are seeking to clear up legal questions about computer combats, specifically, whether attacks that inadvertently injure civilians are a breach of current rules of warfare.
- "Cal-ISO to Implement System of Early Blackout Warnings"
Los Angeles Times Online (06/16/01); Fields, Robin
The California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO), which manages the state's electricity grid, will use email and the Internet to warn energy consumers about possible electricity supply dips. The system will provide an initial warning of such dips 48 hours in advance, reveal the general location of the shortages a day beforehand, tell utility companies about imminent blackouts 90 minutes before they occur, and give the exact locations an hour beforehand. Government agencies, businesses, and individuals who sign up for the service will receive these warnings via email if they so desire, while nonsubscribers can check the Web site of their area's utility company. The reason for the new warning mechanism is to minimize the financial damages incurred to businesses as a result of power outages. A recent study found that 30 days of blackouts could cost $21.8 billion and 135,000 jobs. Pacific Gas & Electric has already been posting similar warnings on its Web sites for months, while San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison began this month. Delays have been caused because of fears that warnings about black outs could lead criminals to target certain businesses.
- "What Domain Holders Really Want"
Wired News (06/18/01); Glasner, Joanna
Users continue to be interested in domain names ending in .info and .biz during the current pre-registration process. VeriSign made available a list of the top 10 most requested .info and .biz domain names. VeriSign's findings demonstrate that domain name owners prefer addresses that include simple nouns. "Show" topped the .biz domain, while "travel" topped the .info domain, and was also on the .biz list, according to VeriSign. "Sex" came in second on both lists. The terms "business," "Internet," "real estate," "music," "computer," and "Web" also made the top 10 on both lists. Despite the early demand for .biz and .info domain names, registrars do not believe that the new top level domains will cause as much of a stir as .com domain names did when they first came out. "It won't usurp .com's pre-eminent position," says Alldomains.com President Chris Bura. Indeed, even many .com domain names that once were considered popular are no longer generating as much interest.
- "The Incredible Shrinking Computer"
Industry Week (06/11/01) Vol. 250, No. 9, P. 19; Teresko, John
Scientists foresee supercomputers the size of a grain of sand, thanks to manufacturing processes being developed through nanotechnology. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently published breakthrough results in optical storage on the atomic level. This storage brings "the potential for writing and reading in parallel and/or storing more than one bit of information per data point," says assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Robert M. Dickson. IBM scientists have also said they have overcome a key barrier in developing semiconductors based on carbon nanotubes. Although researchers had known about the possibilities of using nanotubes for circuits, only recently have they been able to destroy the metallic nanotubes that interfere with the semiconducting properties of the carbon-based ones. IBM director of physical sciences Tom Theis says the new developments ensure that computing power will continue to increase. He says developing applications that capitalize on this capability is the new challenge.
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- "Tomorrow's IT Powerhouse?"
Far Eastern Economic Review (06/14/01) Vol. 164, No. 23, P. 36; Wilhelm, Kathy
The software industry in China is on the verge of taking off, as an increasing number of smaller companies have grown to the point where they need software to better manage their operations. As China prepares to enter the World Trade Organization, smaller companies are realizing that they need software systems that lower expenses, quicken product development, and improve the efficiency of customer service if they are to survive the new competition. The Chinese government has begun to support the software industry with tax breaks and easy access to capital because it does not want foreign companies dominating its small-scale software developers and because it is envious of the success that India has enjoyed in the software market. China's tech talent is starting to return home as Silicon Valley continues to take its hits. Although the Chinese government declared last summer that the software industry is now a national priority, software developers say they need to operate in a free market that includes foreign developers, venture capital, and a stock market for startups. Presently, Chinese companies are outselling their foreign counterparts in security systems, language-based products, and financial software unique to accounting and financial systems in the country. IDC researcher Dorothy Yang says it will take a few years before Chinese companies can match the foreign standards of quality; most observers anticipate a 30 percent to 40 percent growth in the software market in China in each of the next five years.
- "A Shirt That Thinks"
Industry Standard (06/18/01) Vol. 4, No. 24, P. 52; Dalton, Greg
With funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research and development unit of the U.S. Department of Defense, Georgia Tech researcher Sundaresen Jayaraman has developed a smart shirt that can monitor heart rate, breathing, and other vital signs. The firm Sensatex is licensing the smart shirt, which sends and receives electrical impulses using fabric woven with optical wires. The company views everyone from the infirm to triathletes as a potential market. Sensatex CEO Jeff Wolf intends to have the smart shirt on the market by 2002 and hopes that it will fare better than Levi Strauss' entry into interactive fabrics. Last year, Levi's unveiled a jacket embedded with a cell phone and MP3 player but shut down production within months. Jayaraman is confident that his smart shirt will do better because it has no wires and components sticking outside of it--its fiber optics are the size of the thread of the garment. The field of interactive garments has drawn more attention lately, with Columbia Sportswear, Outlast Technologies, mattress maker Serta, Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch, and the U.S. Army all entering the picture. In particular, the U.S. Army is working on uniforms that change color to match surroundings, sense poisonous gas, signal commanders when soldiers have been hit with bullets, and even administer medicine to the body.
- "Net Nations"
Interactive Week (06/11/01) Vol. 8, No. 23, P. 68; Tate, Paul
Global e-commerce is still hindered by differences in the Internet savvy, or "e-readiness," of nations. According to the Global e-Readiness report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada make up the top four countries most ready to engage e-business. The study factors in social, political, and technological aspects. Another global e-business study, done by International Data (IDC) and World Times, ranks the United States fourth behind the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. In their study, IDC weighed technological strengths more heavily than did The Economist report. Internet connectivity still lags in America, says IDC chief researcher John Gantz. Denis McCauley, director of Pyramid Research, a subsidiary of The Economist that took part in the study, says the report shows transnational corporations still need to focus on the local market and that the goal of seamless global e-commerce is still far off.
- "Lowdown on the High End"
InformationWeek (06/11/01) No. 841, P. 48; McDougall, Paul; Garvey, Martin J.
Competition among high-end server vendors is heating up, with IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard leading the charge, while Compaq and Microsoft also make a run at the market. Industry observers note that such competition is favorable for consumers, as the vendors rush to add such features as improved performance, larger memory, and greater flexibility so that users can employ the latest e-business, supply-chain management, and customer relationship management software and can also run more applications simultaneously. Sun Microsystems is preparing its next-generation Starcat server, which will triple the power of the current Starfire server and may one day provide as much as five times its power; Starcat will feature between 72 and 105 processors and will provide internal redundancy in case of system failures, all for $75,000. Meanwhile, IBM's latest offering, Regatta, will feature 1 GHz clock speed, 100 Gbps processing, and 32 processors. Hewlett-Packard is offering its Superdome server, which provides 265 GB of memory, 192 I/O slots to support Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel, and 64 CPUs. Compaq will soon launch its Tru64 Unix system, and Microsoft will make the competition even tighter when its new products, based on Intel's new Itanium chip, hit the market; Itanium-based servers promise reduced prices for increased power, and the Aberdeen Group predicts that they will account for 42 percent of worldwide server shipments by 2005. Although Unix is the top trend in corporate servers, the mainframe has not disappeared entirely, with some users saying it can be faster and more cost-effective than Unix servers. IBM is pushing forward with its mainframe offerings, including the Linux-based zOS, which can run Unix and Windows applications as well.