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 222:  Monday, July 2, 2001

  • "Tech Future Is Set to Brighten"
    New York Times (07/02/01) P. C7; Leonhardt, David

    A new survey by CIO Magazine reveals that corporate CIOs foresee a 6.3 percent increase in their IT spending over the next 12 months. In a May survey, the CIOs predicted only a 3.8 percent increase; however a September survey found CIOs projecting an 18 percent increase. Analysts say the survey's results could indicate that the downturn in corporate IT spending has reached bottom. Still, few analysts expect corporate IT spending to return to the heights it reached before the dot-com bubble burst. This is the tenth month that CIO Magazine has conducted its poll; the results for June were based on 276 responses to 4,100 surveys, a 7 percent return rate. In related news, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports that corporate IT spending now represents 7 percent of the total economy, double its percentage from 10 years ago.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/02/technology/02POLL.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Many H-P Employees Accept Cuts"
    Wall Street Journal (07/02/01) P. B8; Avery, Simon

    Hewlett-Packard will not be among the tech firms closing operations this week in an effort to reduce operating costs and use up employees' vacation time. Instead, Hewlett-Packard has requested that all of its 90,000 employees either accept pay cuts averaging 10 percent or use whatever vacation time they have accumulated. Company officials say nearly all--about 97 percent--of the firm's employees have agreed. The firm is also cutting back on travel and car allowances in an effort to save money during the current economic downturn. Other tech firms, including Compaq, Sun Microsystems, and Adobe Systems, are using the Independence Day holiday as a reason to close their offices for an entire week, giving employees no choice but to take vacation time and reducing operating costs. Although the route these firms are taking is seen as a way to avoid laying off workers, California labor officials have scrutinized the plans, questioning whether forcing salaried employees to take vacation time is legal. Although state officials have gone back on an earlier opinion that such a step is not legal, they say they will continue to investigate the issue.

  • "A Revolutionary Pursuit: Freedom From Microsoft"
    SiliconValley.com (06/30/01); Gillmor, Dan

    Although Microsoft appears likely to emerge from the antitrust suit against it relatively unscathed, columnist Dan Gillmor argues that it will be up to independent, average computer users to loosen themselves from the software giant's stranglehold on the industry. Gillmor contends that Microsoft's recent behavior--namely the strategies behind its new XP line of Windows and Office upgrades and its .Net Web-based services initiative--could alienate the average users who have, until now, been relatively content with its software and have not viewed themselves as victims of the company's predatory behavior. For example, Windows and Office XP will give Microsoft much greater control over how users can register and employ the programs, while registering for Passport, the gateway to Microsoft's Web-based services and software--which will perhaps one day soon include Windows--requires users to provide a great deal of personal data that many may not wish to disclose. Gillmor points out that there are alternatives to Microsoft's products, even if it means something as simple as rejecting Windows XP and remaining a Windows 2000 user. Gillmor also supports Linux operating systems, Apple's iBook line of laptops, and the new Web browser Opera from a Norwegian company as Microsoft-free options.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/opinion/dgillmor/dg070101.htm

  • "They've Seen the Future and It Is Us--Sort of"
    Washington Post (07/01/01) P. G6; Waxman, Sharon

    The science-fiction movie "A.I." depicts a future that might not be that far-fetched, say scientists researching real-life artificial intelligence. Computer scientist and author on artificial intelligence Ray Kurzweil expects that computers will be able to interact with humans on every level, eventually surpassing us in intelligence. Already, scientists at MIT are working on the second generation of robots with emotions. The popular Kismet project at MIT features 15 networked computers that interact with humans through a robotic face that displays the network's feelings. Other technologists are far more wary of such endeavors, such as Sun Microsystems' co-founder Bill Joy, who last year wrote a manifesto urging restraint in the development of sentient machines. He says society has not thought out the potentially dangerous moral repercussions to many of the technological works now in progress.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64709-2001Jun29.html

  • "Report: Internet Professional Services Firms in Fight for Market Share"
    E-Commerce Times (06/28/01); Enos, Lori

    IDC's new report, "Survivor: Competing in the Internet Services Market," shows three distinct levels of providers of Internet services and outlines the opportunities each has over the other. Firms such as IBM Global Services and PricewaterhouseCoopers are established firms that cater to firms' current need for experience and the breadth of offerings that these providers can offer. Second-tier firms, or evolving firms such as Sapient and Cambridge Technology Partners, may be burdened by debt and often have even smaller firms nipping at their heels. The smallest, emerging firms, which have little brand recognition but also few liabilities, stand to make the biggest gains, say IDC analysts, because they can afford to undercut their competitors and offer local corporations a nearby solutions provider. Examples of these emerging firms are Experio Solution, ePresence, and eForce.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/11601.html

  • "Hackers Delay Censorship-Busting Software"
    InfoWorld.com (06/28/01); Perera, Rick

    Hackers in the Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC) have postponed the launch of their anti-censorship software. Dubbed "Peekabooty," the software is intended to allow access to government-blocked Web sites. The software was slated to debut July 13-15 at the Def Con hackers' convention but still needs adjustments, reports the CDC. "It would be irresponsible to release the program in its current state," wrote CDC hacker Oxblood Ruffian in an e-mail to the press, adding, "My main concern is that Peekabooty needs to function with a higher degree of stealth and mitigate client risk as much as possible." In December, CDC announced that the government of the United Arab Emirates had restricted access to the CDC's Web site following news reports of the software project. Earlier, the CDC developed a program called Back Orifice for breaking into PCs with Windows 95 and Windows 98 operating systems.
    http://iwsun4.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/01/06/28/010628hnbooty.xml

  • "Wider Net Has a Catch"
    Boston Globe (07/01/01) P. G1; Rosenwald, Michael

    E-recruiting, or using the Internet to reach a nearly unlimited pool of candidates, provides both opportunities and challenges. Many recruiters at large companies such as Novell and General Electric are so inundated with resumes that they hire out the work of sifting through them to "sourcers" or "cyberians." This allows them to focus on their core work of selling the company to individuals, says Novell corporate recruiting manager Melissa Anulao. IBM and American Airlines have implemented a recruitment software solution that quizzes candidates online and helps to direct potential recruits to the right jobs. For smaller companies, the challenge is greater since they have the same access to the Internet. Monster.com vice president of training strategies and Internet recruitment Ed Melia says many users of his company's services are not taking full advantage of the tools available to them, such as the range of filters companies can apply to resumes they receive.

  • "Replicators Tap Into Sci-Fi Idea With Precision"
    Baltimore Sun (07/02/01) P. 1C; Moylan, Martin J.

    Manufacturers are finding new uses for replicators, or rapid prototyping systems, which build 3D models from computer-based designs, as prices for the machines fall, reports Stratasys CEO Scott Crump. Align Technology uses replicators for creating specially made orthodontics parts. Ford, Boeing, DaimlerChrysler, Sunbeam, and other firms use the prototyping machines to create full-scale models prior to mass production. NASA is considering sending the machines into space for making spare parts, says Beth Israelnaim of the Rapid Prototyping Association. Last year, 23 manufacturers sold 1,320 rapid prototype systems, compared to 1,178 in 1999. The machines cost between $45,000 to $300,000. Some machines can create three-dimensional models two to three feet in diameter from wax, metal, plastic, and even chocolate. "They'll be like printers. When they get down to $5,000, you'll see them in homes," predicts Crump.
    http://www.sunspot.net/technology/pluggedin/bal-pl.replicate02jul02.story

  • "Multilingual Domain Name Usage Lags"
    Network World Fusion (07/02/01); Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

    Although multilingual domain names have piqued the curiosity of non-English speaking Internet users, and Internet policy makers consider multilingual domain names a priority, a lack of standards as well as technical problems have kept corporations from using multilingual domain names. Initially, there were numerous multilingual domain name registrations in VeriSign Global Registry Services' testbed, but sales of non-English domain names have decreased, according to registrars. U.S. multinational companies have not been registering multilingual domain names because end users have such a difficult time navigating internationalized domain names. Originally, users had to obtain a plug-in from i-DNS.net International and Walid in order to access multilingual domain names, but Walid director Doug Hawkins notes that fewer than 100,000 users downloaded its free software. In June, VeriSign revealed that it had made a deal with RealNames and Microsoft, allowing users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.0 browser to access the multilingual domain names without a plug-in. "This service enhancement provides for commercial use of those names in a way that's transparent for end users," says Tom Newell, vice president of internationalized domain name services at VeriSign, noting that the names are now "viable and resolvable." The deal between VeriSign and RealNames is an interim measure, as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has yet to develop a standard for the encoding and transmission of internationalized domain names. The IETF fell behind schedule after Walid filed patent claims pertaining to multilingual domain name resolution; however, the IETF is now going ahead and is close to finalizing protocols with the group's support.
    http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2001/0702apps.html

  • "Report: Decline in Job Cuts Could Signal End of Dot-Com Shakeout"
    E-Commerce Times (06/27/01); Enos, Lor

    Dot-com layoffs have tapered off in June, from 13,419 in May to 9,216. This is the second month in a row that dot-com cuts have declined, hinting that the sector may have finished purging itself of unsustainable companies, reports the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Still, Challenger analysts say because the dot-com industry is entering a mature stage, job cuts are likely to continue at a certain level. Despite declining from previous months, June still saw five times as many job cuts as the same month one year ago, when the dot-com bust began. Since the beginning of the year, 74,199 dot-com jobs have been lost, 80 percent more than the combined cuts in 2000. Many of those losses are a result of consolidation in the sector and buyouts of smaller firms, says Challenger CEO John Challenger. Dot-com infrastructure firms are still laying off at record levels, with 5,817 June layoffs.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/11563.html

  • "New Rule on Injury Reporting Rejected"
    Washington Post (06/30/01) P. E1; Reddy, Anitha

    The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has turned down a proposed new rule that would have required employers to report injuries related to repetitive-motion disorders separately from other workplace injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that repetitive-motion injuries--conditions such as carpal-tunnel syndrome--comprised roughly 33 percent of the 1.7 million workplace injuries reported to OSHA in 1999. However, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said the new rule was too vague in its definition of such disorders to be enacted as law. "Until a definition is agreed upon, the data collected will not help us target the injuries that need to be eliminated," Chao said. Although business interests applauded the decision, labor officials said not enacting the rule would further imperil efforts to identify and correct the ergonomic hazards that lead to repetitive-motion disorders in the first place. Already this year, the Bush administration overturned the ergonomics rule that President Clinton approved as one of his final acts. That rule would have mandated that employers correct working conditions that led employees to complain of repetitive-motion injuries.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1558-2001Jun29.html

  • "New IT Strategy Taking Shape"
    Federal Computer Week Online (06/27/01); Matthews, William

    The Bush administration is implementing a new IT strategy that has "moved from planning to results and performance," explains Department of Housing and Urban Development deputy CIO Debra Stouffer. A consensus is emerging that because the federal IT budget is not growing, sputtering projects will be squeezed to provide funding for more promising or proven projects. Clinton administration era official John Spotila believes that Bush is simply trying to cut costs regardless of IT policy issues. In the future, federal agencies may increase their focus on interoperability and cross-agency enterprise systems, says Stouffer.
    http://www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/2001/0625/web-afcea-06-27-01.asp

  • "Electronics in a Spin"
    Nature (06/21/01) Vol. 411, No. 6839, P. 747; Roukes, Michael L.

    New research in semiconductor spintronics has found that electrons can be shuttled between different semiconductor materials with high efficiency according to their spin-aligned state. The recent breakthrough involved spintronics-based light-emitting diodes, which emit circularly polarized light for electrical spin injection, and promises to change the future of electronics. The advance in semiconductor spintronics lends significant potential for quantum computation. Under quantum computation, computers would be more powerful because quantum digits would have more than the two states--0 or 1--of binary bits. However, researchers have only been able to demonstrate elemental quantum bits as ultracold atoms or ions. At this point, it is impractical to scale up existing technology to trap ultracold atoms and ions as would be needed. The use of microelectronics, however, is seen as a potential solution to the problem of scalability. Essentially, researchers hope to gain the same kind of control over the spin in microscale devices that they have over the flow of charge in conventional electronic devices.

  • "Confronting an Ideological Shift"
    Upside (06/01) Vol. 13, No. 6, P. 48; James, David

    Hong Kong venture capitalists think that the city would be better off supporting China's effort to become a tech hub, instead of trying to reinvent itself for the new economy. Simon Wong, director and executive vice president of Transpac Capital, a private-equity investment firm, contends that Hong Kong should recognize that China has a sizable talent pool, excellent universities in major cities, many research institutes, and low labor costs. Danny Lui, executive chair of the venture capital firm Authosis, says Hong Kong could provide China's growing tech industry with managerial talent, intellectual property protections, strong legal and financial support, as well as give international investors some confidence in the nation's efforts. Hong Kong has taken steps to develop a tech presence by building the Hong Kong Cyberport Development Holdings IT park, the Hong Kong Science Park research and development center, and by creating the $640 million Innovation and Technology Fund. Such projects and programs are seen as indications that Hong Kong intends to move independently of China. However, the city has struggled in tech development compared to Beijing, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo. Tech manufacturers tend to support Hong Kong in its efforts, although they believe that its major mistake was its failure to support a semiconductor-manufacturing project.
    http://www.upside.com/texis/mvm/story?id=3afc28131

  • "Diversity Pays Off"
    Computerworld (06/18/01) Vol. 35, No. 25, P. 32; Melymuka, Kathleen

    Royal Caribbean Cruises ranked No. 1 in Computerworld magazine's "Best Places to Work in IT for Diversity" survey. Of Royal Caribbean's IT managers, 54 percent are minorities, and 44 percent are women; of its IT staff, 52 percent are minorities, and 31 percent are women. Georgia-Pacific ranked No. 2, with 41 percent of its IT managers and 37 percent of its IT staff minorities, while 31 percent of its IT managers and 38 percent of its IT staff are women. "Diversity is not really a project, it's an attitude," says Florida Power vice president for information management Dennis Klinger. Florida Power ranked No. 3, with 33 percent of its IT managers and 42 percent of its IT staff minorities; women make up 38 percent of its IT managers and 36 percent of its IT staff. Diversity does extend beyond race and gender--for example, quadriplegic David Gondreau has been a systems analyst at Teco Energy, No. 5 in the survey, for 12 years. Gondreau says his disability does not impact his actual position, and the company has accommodated him with special parking, facility access, and hours. Also among the top 10 firms in the survey are PBS, Freddie Mac, the Home Depot, Nationwide Insurance, Harrah's Entertainment, and USAA.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Scientists Get a Handle on Crystal Shape"
    Science News (06/16/01) Vol. 159, No. 24, P. 373; Gorman, J.

    Research into the formation of crystals could impact how scientists try to grow new structures for nanoscale devices. Recently, researchers learned how amino acids work at the molecular level to force a crystal to take a form that is either left- or right-handed. Using atomic-force microscopy to study calcite-crystal surfaces, researchers learned that the tiny, straight steps of crystals became curved when they added amino acids to a solution in which the crystals were growing. They also learned that adding the left-handed version of aspartic acid, an amino acid, created a step pattern in calcite crystals that was opposite the form developed when the right-handed version was added. A follow-up computer modeling revealed that the energy of the steps is altered when the amino acid is added, and James J. De Yoreo of the Lawrence Livermore (Calif.) National Laboratory says this energy determines how much a step curves. "Life uses this [mechanism] in developing its own nanotechnology," says Robert Hazen, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. "So why not use this in nanoengineering?"

  • "Borg Is Back"
    Business 2.0 (06/26/01) Vol. 6, No. 13, P. 77; Girard, Kim

    Despite having recently battled a brain tumor, Institute for Women and Technology President Anita Borg continues to support the increased involvement of women in the tech industry. At present, women comprise only 9 percent of all computer engineers in the nation and 26 percent of all computer scientists. The institute, based at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in Silicon Valley, leads a series of workshops and conferences at various locations, including academic institutions. For example, Borg is currently working on the Virtual Development Center, a work-study program for women at six U.S. colleges. Borg also founded the biannual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, scheduled to be held next year.
    http://www.business2.com/magazine/2001/06/borg_is_back.htm
    To learn about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women

  • "The Next Big Thing"
    Computer Graphics World (06/01) Vol. 24, No. 6, P. 4; LoPiccolo, Phil

    In the same manner that the reduced cost and greater availability of processing power and storage devices fueled the growth of the IT industry in the 1980s and 1990s, the new decade will be marked by the increased availability of broadband Internet access. Although broadband Internet is currently available to only 5 percent of U.S. households, 15 million U.S. households should have such access by 2003. WorldCom vice-chair John Sidgmore predicts that the rise in broadband availability will lead to several new trends and applications. For example, despite their current turmoil, dot-coms will become the driving force behind the U.S. economy, just as General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler emerged out of a slew of failed motor companies to dominate the automobile industry and the overall economy. Likewise, e-commerce will continue to grow, with the Internet accounting for as much as $2.5 trillion in revenue within three years. Also on the horizon is the widespread use of videoconferencing, which will cut down on the need for face-to-face meetings and allow firms to interact on a personal level with potential clients and consumers from around the world. The Internet will also become a more "active" medium, Sidgmore predicts, as computers learn what each user finds important and alerts them to relevant news or messages. Interaction with the Internet will also change, with users navigating the Web with their voices rather than with a mouse and viewing Internet displays on 3D glasses rather than on flat displays.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "IT Training Solutions: Filling the Need for Skilled Employees"
    IT Support News (06/01) Vol. 21, No. 6, P. 20; Rice, Derek

    Although the IT economy is currently sputtering, the market for IT training remains strong. IDC senior analyst Mike Brennan explains that most firms are in the process of integrating their traditional business models with the Internet, which means their employees' IT training must remain as fresh as possible. Indeed, many firms are now seeking the IT training providers that provide the most up-to-date content, rather than the providers with the most impressive delivery system. "Products are changing so fast that if you try to rely on your traditional training development cycles to keep up with how rapidly the products are changing, you're always going to have a problem," says OutStart vice president of product strategy Michelle Bruce. Also, firms want a training provider that can offer a wide range of delivery systems--CD-ROM-, computer-, or Web-based, or a combination thereof--so that they can choose whichever system best suits their needs. Still, some firms are wary of upgrading employees' IT certifications, fearing that their employees will then demand higher salaries. Help Desk 2000 Chair Pete McGarahan argues that this is poor reasoning by the employers because the better certified their employees are, the more productive they will be. Smart2Partner CEO Tim Brown notes that while training is often among the first items cut from the budget in lean times, IT training will remain a necessity as long as technology continues to develop.
    http://www.itsupportnews.com/june2001/depts/toolbox/toolbox1.htm