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 email@example.com.
Volume 3, Issue 224: Monday, July 9, 2001
- "Net Rivals Gird for Latest Battle"
USA Today (07/09/01) P. 3B; Acohido, Brian
The market for Web-based services will exceed $50 billion by 2005, reports International Data (IDC). Competition in this market has already narrowed to J2EE, which is promoted by a coalition of IT industry players, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun Microsystems, and .Net, the new initiative from Microsoft. Microsoft's .Net is an attempt to leverage the software giant's presence on most desktops--it will run exclusively on the Windows platform and will draw from 3.5 million software developers who know Visual Basic. In contrast, J2EE is compatible with numerous operating systems and is dependent on the Java language, which has a base of 2.5 million developers but also enjoys widespread use among university-level developers. Whereas .Net can count on a wide number of Windows users as potential clients, J2EE is hoping to reach out to those whose systems depend on Unix servers, IBM mainframes, and other large-scale devices. Both sides agree that the key to their platforms' success will be how well they handle XML, the Internet protocol that allows data from different systems in different formats to be shared online. Although J2EE was under development several years before the advent of .Net, observers say Microsoft, until now only a minor presence in the Web-based services market, will provide ample competition.
- "Study: Web, E-Mail Monitoring Spreads"
CNet (07/08/01); Shankland, Stephen
About 27 percent of employees around the world (100 million) constantly have their email and Internet activities monitored, according to a new report from the Privacy Foundation. The basis of the study is the financial reports of companies that sell online surveillance software to employers; about $140 million worth of such software is sold each year worldwide. The foundation identifies the MIMEsweeper email monitoring package and the Websense Internet use tracker as the hottest-selling employee surveillance programs on the market. The proliferation of such software is attributed to its falling price, according to the report. As many as 14 million U.S. workers are continuously monitored, the study finds. The U.S. Army, the city of Boston, and the Small Business Administration are just some of the government agencies that keep tabs on their employees' online activities; private corporations that do the same include 20th Century Fox, Nike, Marriott, and Barclays. The foundation warns that "by creating and storing a detailed audit trail of employee activities, organizations may be inadvertently stockpiling large amounts of potential evidence that could be used against them in future litigation."
- "Will IT Spending Drop in 2001?"
InternetNews.com (07/06/01); Liu, Bob
Although most industry analysts continue to believe that the corporate IT sector will continue to grow this year, with Aberdeen Group last month having predicted a compound annual growth rate for 2001 of 9.6 percent, the latest news from the corporate sector suggests that the analysts' optimism may be unfounded. International Data's (IDC) Small Business and Home Office Research department recently issued a study that found that IT spending at small businesses this year will be less than in 2000. Although the study notes that small businesses are traditionally not an accurate bellwether of the overall IT economy, many large businesses are now sending similar signals. These large businesses say sales cycles are longer, with customer demand stagnating, while intense competition is hurting margins by driving down prices. Some observers believe the coming weeks, when many firms release their results for the first half of the year, will see a great number of warnings. On Friday, an earning warning from data storage leader EMC sent the stock market tumbling. "It now appears that there are fewer dollars being invested in information technology than a year ago," says EMC President and CEO Joe Tucci.
- "Help Wanted: Fresh Directors for Dot-Coms"
Wall Street Journal (07/09/01) P. B1; Swisher, Kara
Most publicly traded dot-coms lack perspective among the members of their boards of directors, say many industry observers. Investors and analysts criticize the boards of such companies as Amazon.com, Webvan, and Yahoo! for their conflicting interests, their lack of tech-industry experience, and their total absence of outside ideas. Neil Minow, a corporate accountability expert, says these companies have not evolved their board membership. The directors who may have served the company well in its founding years need to be replaced by others with a different skill set and viewpoint, he argues. Amazon founder and board member Jeff Bezos says his company is looking for another director with insight on how to improve Amazon's operations. Yahoo!'s board has been criticized for lacking media experience, although the hiring of Hollywood insider Terry Semel as CEO is one step in that direction. Analysts say eBay is an excellent example of a company that did not limit its board to the narrow viewpoint of Silicon Valley.
- "Time Off Should Offer a Time for Reflection"
SiliconValley.com (07/08/01); Gillmor, Dan
Columnist Dan Gillmor argues that last week, which saw many large Silicon Valley firms shut down operations to reduce costs, provided an ideal opportunity for the IT industry to reflect on its behavior. Indeed, Gillmor says, reflection has been largely absent from the Internet economy, which is notorious for favoring the quickest solution and the bottom line. This way of thinking has led to an environment in which defective products are shipped to consumers only so that a company can be first in a particular market, Gillmor argues, and in which few people take the time to think through potentially bad ideas. For example, Gillmor points to the venture capitalists and investment bankers who backed ridiculous ideas based on flawed, short-term thinking. The investors were not much harmed by their own advice, Gillmor says, but average investors, those who did not know any better, lost a great deal. Gillmor says everyone with power, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street to Congress, should take a moment to reflect on their actions and not act first and think later. Also, Gillmor says everyone should step back from technology's pervasive influence in today's world--the television, email--to gain perspective on what is really important.
- "Most U.S. Workers Comfy With Technology-Study"
Newsbytes (07/05/01); Kelsey, Dick
Most U.S. workers feel at ease with technology, according to a new Society of Financial Service Professionals survey of 1,130 members. Some 92 percent reported being comfortable with technology and equipment at the office. Using technology increases knowledge in the workplace, said 87 percent of participants, while 80 percent said technology develops job skills. However, many workers admitted to using technology for personal uses: only 37 percent said spending time at work looking for a job online is "highly unethical," and 41 percent said they have engaged in personal Internet surfing or online shopping at work. Similarly, a similar percentage reported using corporate email for personal reasons or playing games on the computer. "Overall, what's happening is there is the blurring of the line between work and personal life. [I] tend to think that people do personal Web use at work and [work-related tasks] at home," says Asha Paranjpe Williams, vice president of marketing and communications at the society.
- "OS X Flaws Draw Hackers' Eyes"
ZDNet News (07/03/01); Lemos, Robert
Apple Computer's new OS X operating system has begun to attract unwanted attention from hackers who feel more at ease with the common Unix architecture. A number of new security threats have been posted on Internet message boards in recent weeks regarding vulnerabilities with the operating system, including a buffer overflow flaw and a password issue. FreeBSD project team member Robert Watson says Apple is still forming its security policy for the Mac OS X, which will be of more importance once the company moves further into the server market, which is when hackers' interest will increase.
- "PC Vendors Pursue Recycling Program"
IDG News Service (07/03/01); Evers, Joris
The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA), a coalition of some 2100 hardware vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and Sony, in October will begin a trial of three programs for recycling PCs, monitors, TVs, and various other pieces of hardware. One program requires consumers to take old hardware to a retailer and pay to have that retailer take it to a recycler. The second requires retailers to arrange special collection events and then take the old hardware to a recycler. The third program requires local governments to take the old equipment and arrange its recycling. In each program, industry will subsidize the collection efforts. Meanwhile, several individual hardware firms have embarked on their own recycling plans, including Gateway, which lowers the cost of a new PC by $50 for consumers who trade in an old machine, and IBM, which charges consumers $29.99 to recycle PCs, monitors, and related hardware. Several states and foreign countries have guidelines for hardware recycling as well.
- "LightSurf Piggybacks a Tiny Camera on a Cell Phone"
New York Times (07/09/01) P. C4; Flynn, Laurie J.
Philippe Kahn, the founder of LightSurf, is starting to market technology that will be able to send pictures--with voice attachments--from wireless phones to other phones, handheld devices, or PCs using wireless networks. LightSurf's technology is designed to conform the picture to the receiving device, and according to Kahn, the entire process should cost only 20 cents to 25 cents a shot and less than a minute to complete. Under the scenario envisaged by LightSurf, a user would attach a small digital camera to a cell phone, enabling him or her to send pictures as well as voice messages. A number of cellular phones are currently being developed that will have a camera built into them, and according to Kahn, some digital cameras will also have wireless modems built into them. LightSurf technology is already being used in a Kodak digital photography system called Kodak Picture Center, which has been installed in a number of major drugstore chains, including Rite-Aid and CVS. With the Kodak digital photography system, users can have their pictures digitized, stored on a server, and accessed via the Internet. Eventually, users will also be able to gain access by using their cell phones. A number of other software companies are trying to develop similar systems, and several camera manufacturers have brought out digital camera add-ons for hand-held devices like Palm Pilots, as well as for cellular phones.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)
- "Dumped Workers Find Revenge"
Wired News (07/03/01); Delio, Michelle
A report released last month by the nonprofit Business Software Alliance (BSA) found that one out of three programs installed on computers worldwide is a bootlegged copy. The BSA, a watchdog for the software industry, investigates allegations of piracy, often based on tips it receives from employees whose jobs have recently been terminated. These former employees report their tips on a hotline or send them to the BSA Web site; the BSA then corroborates the information by calling the software company whose merchandize was copied without authorization and asking them to check their records for registration information. If the investigation proves that the tip was valid, the organization then turns the case over to attorneys who try to settle out of court with the business in question. Most of the cases are concluded this way; however, if the firm does not want to cooperate, the BSA can visit the corporate grounds unannounced and accompanied by local law enforcement officials to check computers for the unlicensed software. If a case goes to court, companies can be fined up to $150,000 for each copyright infringement. In "Software Piracy Sweeps" week this year, the BSA collected $6.2 million from companies that were using pirated software. Revenue is used to fund the organization's education and compliance programs.
- "Report: P2P Movement Picking Up Steam"
NewsFactor Network (07/02/01); McDonald, Tim
Peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies have yet to realize their potential, especially for enterprise applications, according to a new study by the Meta Group. The report finds that Internet file-sharing systems such as Napster and Gnutella are just rudimentary P2P architectures without the security features necessary for business applications. Instead, Meta Group analysts predict that the P2P frameworks that prove most useful will be those that are built upon public key infrastructures so that they offer some data protection to users. This type of P2P application will be pervasive in e-businesses by 2004, and a few companies are already working on the specific solutions. The Meta Group report also says large developers such as Microsoft, Intel, and Sun Microsystems will likely incorporate P2P in their next generation e-business strategies such as Microsoft's .Net, Sun's Jxta, and Intel's P2P Working Group.
- "High Schoolers, High Rollers"
Washington Times Online (07/02/01); Stefanova, Kristina
The Internet has made it easier, and somewhat more lucrative, for teenagers to start their own business. With the Internet, teenagers possess more and better resources and are able to reach potential customers who might not give a teenager a chance if they were to meet one face-to-face. "Teens are risk-takers by nature," says John Challenger, president of the outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, adding, "They believe that nothing bad can happen to them since they have no previous experience that would lead them to believe otherwise." Also, the current economic downturn may be prompting many teenagers to consider their own businesses as they see older relatives lose jobs as their employers cut staff to save money. For example, 17-year-old Saied Ghaffari has several major firms advertising on his Web site, which allows firms wanting to hire teenagers to post job listings. Teenagers who have an entrepreneurial urge can also take comfort in the fact that Michael Dell, Bill Gates, and Napster creator Shawn Fanning all entered the business world as teenagers. However, Webnoize analyst Ric Dube points out that many teenagers may have difficulty convincing potential customers that their business opportunities are credible.
- "High-Tech Malaise Will Continue Through Summer--Analysts"
NewsFactor (07/03/01); DeLong, Daniel F.
Although analysts generally agree that the tech business will pick up later this year, many have written off the summer due to a slew of further bad news this week. Along with IBM announcing 1,000 job cuts from its Global Services group due to changing market conditions, Hewlett-Packard also asked 14,000 Asia-Pacific workers to take pay cuts or use outstanding vacation over the next four months. Analysts also pointed to the weaker-than-expected earnings reports from e-business software vendors i2 Technologies and Broadvision. Lehman Brother analyst Neil Herman says the tech sector depression will likely extend through the third quarter because there are no positive economic indicators to induce companies to resume tech spending.
- "Gartner: No Rest for the Work E-Mail Addict"
IDG News Service (07/02/01); Pruitt, Scarlet
Over half of U.S. workers check their email six or more times each day, according to a new survey from Gartner, while 34 percent of workers said they check their email constantly. Moreover, 23 percent of workers read business-related email during the weekend, and 42 percent check email while they are on vacation. The Gartner survey reports that the average worker needs 49 minutes each day to check email. However, barely a quarter, 27 percent, of this email is truly important for business, Gartner reports, with 37 percent rated as "occupational spam," short and usually unnecessary messages between co-workers. Gartner's Maurene Caplan says many workers views email as an essential part of contemporary corporate life and are afraid of falling out of the loop if they do not keep constant or near-constant tabs on their email. Also, checking email on weekends and during vacation is essential to prevent a backlog of hundreds of messages from accumulating during that time. While on vacation, Caplan recommends that workers either send an automated out-of-office email, have a trusted co-worker check their in-box for them, or set aside a brief period of time each evening to deal with that day's messages.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "High-Tech Industry has Old-Time Mentality"
Washington Technology (07/02/01) Vol. 16, No. 7, P. 32; Emery, Gail Repsher
A new survey from Deloitte & Touche suggests that for women, a glass ceiling exists in the tech industry. The survey, part of Deloitte's effort to increase its female partners and directors, reveals that 60 percent of women in the tech industry would choose a different career path if they could start over and that only 9 percent of all tech workers have a boss who is female. The poll included 1,000 women and 500 men, with 47 percent of the participants working in the tech industry. Although 59 percent of the women working for tech companies said their industry has a more level playing field than others, 72 percent added that men have an advantage in getting ahead. Sue Molina, national director for Deloitte's Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women, says although the tech industry is offering a new economy, companies are operating with old attitudes when it comes to women. However, some observers dispute the findings of the survey. Washington, D.C., CTO Suzanne Peck suggests that the ceiling is more skills-related than gender-related because few CTOs ultimately become CEOs of companies. Carol Gallagher, a senior principal at system integrator American Management Systems agrees with Peck in that company leaders of today have broad backgrounds that include sales, finance, marketing, and technology.
To learn about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Future Value"
Interactive Week (07/02/01) Vol. 8, No. 26, P. 30; Raney, Rebecca Fairley
IT industry observers say there will be more commercial opportunities in the years to come because tech research will continue with the assistance of the government. Although the Bush administration budget would boost funding for IT research at universities by only $1.6 million to $642.6 million in 2002, the money would come at a time when the industry is scaling back its own projects. Over the past few years, much of the civilian IT research that has made its way into the commercial marketplace has come as a result of government research funding. The commercial spin-offs of government-funded research include the Internet and the Google search engine. President Clinton kicked off the recent wave of government funding by backing IT research through the National Science Foundation (NSF) over a five-year period starting in 1999. NSF managers say government funding could lead to advances in nanotechnology and machines that can process a quadrillion instructions per second. However, questions about privacy and the social impact of tech advancement could slow some the commercial spinoffs of current research.
- "Facing Top-Level Challenge"
eWeek (07/09/01) Vol. 18, No. 26, P. 46; Hicks, Matt
Eweek senior writer Matt Hicks discussed the future of domain names and ICANN's role with M. Stuart Lynn, president and CEO of the organization. Lynn says that before approving additional top level domains, ICANN would like to look into a number of issues, including whether or not more TLDs can be introduced without harming the domain name system and a variety of business issues. Although some companies say they intend to register addresses under the new TLDs in order to defend themselves against cybersquatters and the competition, these statements are probably "by design," as there is already a sunrise period in place to protect companies. Watching how .biz and .info pan out will be one of the ways ICANN determines whether or not more TLDs need to be introduced. ICANN supports public interest, and although it cannot prevent others from offering alternative roots for their own gain, others should be aware that alternative roots do not represent public interest. It is too early to speculate about future structural changes to ICANN, although the coming report from the study committee, which former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt chairs, might suggest some structural changes to ICANN. Country code registrars are a significant constituency at ICANN, which is improving its relations with them, however it is doubtful that the ccTLD operators will all follow an identical pattern, as each ccTLD is bound to a specific country and its laws.
Click Here to View Full Article
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Web Guru Seeks Mentor"
Computerworld (07/02/01) Vol. 35, No. 27, P. 38; Schwartz, Matthew
The growing importance of young Web experts, the so-called Web "geeks," within IT departments is demanding that managers learn how best to support them. Hamilton Gilbert of the firm HighWired, who has experience as both a programmer and manager, says most Web geeks are "looking for a home with lots of buffer, allowing them to be a creative person with parental supervision if needed." He contrasts this to more "mainstream" IT staff, who want managers to provide them with as much structure, in the forms of process and procedures, as possible. When dealing with Web geeks, Gilbert notes that managers must be up-to-date on the latest technology, otherwise the relationship is unlikely to work. Although the prevalent stereotype of Web geeks holds that they want to be loners, Gilbert suggests that they actually do want mentors. For example, Son Trinh, a 1999 graduate of Cornell University, has already left several IT positions because there were no managers willing to offer him the guidance of a mentor. However, having fellow Web geeks in management positions provides no guarantee that there will be a positive relationship, warns Robin Railey of training firm Performance Dynamics. She says Web geeks often do not have the "soft" skills needed to be the type of manager who can mentor others.
- "Dances With Robots"
Science News (06/30/01) Vol. 159, No. 26, P. 407; Weiss, Peter
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is committing $50 million over the next five years to researchers working on technology for exoskeletons, suits of high-tech armor that could greatly increase a soldier's strength. The exoskeletons would allow soldiers to carry heavy weaponry and other devices as they moved through dense urban environments in which they have no choice but to move on foot. Work is progressing at several institutions: the University of California at Berkeley, where researchers have developed a "lower extremity enhancer;" the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where researchers are working on a machine that can interpret hand motions and perform such sensitive heavy-lifting actions as loading weapons onto aircraft; and the University of Utah, which is working with its spinoff firm Sacros on a field known as master-slave telerobotics. Work on these systems is complicated by numerous factors, not the least of which is programming robots to understand and immediately mimic human action. Factors such as temperature, friction, and energy all play a role in the mechanics of exoskeltons and similar devices, and the margin for error is small: even a small variance in how much weight is placed on human users can render the devices practically unusable. Perhaps the most significant obstacle is finding a power source that would be feasible for soldiers to carry as part of the exoskeleton; researchers are currently looking at such options as fuel cells, miniaturized internal combustion engines, and a turbine the size of a coffee cup. DARPA officials point out that exoskeleton technology has non-military applications as well.