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


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Volume 3, Issue 236:  Monday, August 6, 2001

  • "Germ of Tech Rebirth Seen in Price Cutting"
    Wall Street Journal (08/06/01) P. A1; Thurm, Scott

    Even as prices continue to drop and lead stock valuations lower, some analysts see an opportunity for the tech industry to be revitalized through growing demand. Lower prices historically create greater sustained demand, as has been the case with the semiconductor industry, which has roughly halved prices every 18 months as processing power doubles. Although Merrill Lynch tech strategist Steve Milunovich says prices have remained relatively stable considering the depth of the tech sector slowdown, he expects prices to again fall drastically as companies start buying again and making deals. The Commerce Department has reported that second quarter prices dropped by only half as much as they did in the first quarter.

  • "Dell Quietly Dumps Desktop Linux"
    IDG News Service (08/02/01); Vance, Ashlee

    Citing low demand, Dell Computer no longer offers the Linux operating system for its notebook PCs and desktops. The option was shelved six weeks ago with no public announcement, admits Dell's Sarah Lavender. However, there was still strong demand for Linux-enabled workstations and servers this year; Lavender explains that Dell hoped server customers would want Linux-enabled desktops as well, but this did not happen. Dell pushed its support of Linux through investments in such companies as Red Hat and Eazel, but the closure of Eazel earlier this year dampened hopes that the open-source software would make significant strides in the desktop market.
    http://www.pcworld.com/resource/article/0,aid,56943,00.asp

  • "Wafer-Thin Batteries That Are Good Enough to Eat"
    Financial Times (08/06/01) P. 7; Machlis, Avi

    Power Paper of Israel has developed a process to produce thin, environmentally friendly chemical batteries that can be printed out on paper and other flexible substrates. The chemical formula for the printable material is a closely guarded secret, while the battery itself consists of an electrolyte core bonded to a cathode and an anode. The device's applications include novelty items such as colorful mouse pads and musical greeting guards under development at Power Paper's Hong Kong subsidiary; thin information displays and device plug-ins that can be installed in credit cards; and precision heat-sensitive tags co-developed with KSW Microtec. The battery could also be embedded in wearable electronic drug delivery systems. The device is not yet rechargeable, but it possesses a two-and-a-half-year shelf life, a 20 mAh per square inch capacity, and can be manufactured for only a few cents.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Code Red Is Studied for Clues to Its Origin, Possible Tie to Older Virus"
    Wall Street Journal (08/06/01) P. B5; Bridis, Ted

    Security experts are studying the programming instructions of the Code Red worm in the hopes of tracking down its creator. Experts have found close similarities to an older virus program that attempted--unsuccessfully--to attack the U.S. Energy Department research lab in April. By locating the first computer infected by Code Red, known as Patient Zero, specialists hope that the motives behind the worm--and the identity of those who released it--will be revealed. Unlike other worms and viruses, Code Red lacks any identifiable traits, besides a script in the early days of its inception that defaced Web sites with a "Hacked by Chinese!" message in July. Code Red also baffles experts in its complexity while it strangely failed to bring down its intended target, the White House Web site, in two waves of attacks. Meanwhile, Code Red is morphing into a worm that creates vulnerabilities on the servers and routers it infects. Despite the intended goal of attacking such government sites as the White House and the Department of Defense, the Code Red worm has garnered the most attention for its effect on the Internet, which is being slowed as hundreds of thousands of host computers send out billions of search requests that help the worm identify new targets.

  • "Girls Dig Demos Too"
    Wired News (08/03/01); Kettmann, Steve

    Female attendance and participation at the Assembly '01 demo fair in Helsinki is significantly higher this year and appears poised to exceed last year's total of under 400 women out of almost 5,000 programmers. The number of women attendees at the conference has surged from 1 percent five years ago to approximately 10 percent this year, according to student and Assembly veteran Jonne Backhaus. "Women have discovered that this can be profitable, working with computers, so they want to get involved," notes 17-year-old attendee Jenny Jarvinen. Many of the female participants acquire an interest in writing demos after accompanying their boyfriends to the event.
    http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,45786,00.html
    To learn more about ACM's Committee for Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women

  • "Government Should Block XP Release"
    SiliconValley.com (08/02/01); Gillmor, Dan

    Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system should be blocked from being released on October in order to resolve several anticompetitive features on the software, writes SiliconValley.com columnist Dan Gillmor. Especially in light of the federal appeals court ruling that Microsoft is in fact a monopolist, antitrust officials should prevent Microsoft from using Windows XP to promote its own software and Internet branding over other providers. Part of the June ruling, which was recently reaffirmed after a brief Microsoft appeal, affirmed Microsoft acted in an anticompetitive manner by integrating its Internet Explorer browser with the operating system. While Microsoft recently announced it would allow PC manufacturers to remove the Explorer icon, experts say the area of concern has changed to such markets such as media players and instant messaging.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/opinion/dgillmor/dg080301.htm

  • "Now Available From Russia: Software Programming"
    Wall Street Journal (08/06/01) P. B1; Chazan, Guy

    Russian IT programming has grown into the nation's fastest-growing export to the West since U.S. companies began outsourcing in the early 1990s. Economic downturns, indigenous talent shortages, and the country's low labor costs are driving demand for Russian IT expertise. Vested Development, a leading IT firm in Russia, is the brainchild of former Soviet soldier Anatoly Gaverdovsky, who has translated his military experience into an entrepreneurial enterprise. Meanwhile, Intel and other American technology companies are opening development centers and software labs in Russia. The success of such business ventures relies on Russians being able to overcome a negative image of their nation. Some companies collaborate with U.S. firms or open Western branches; Vented Development, on the other hand, is an American company managed by Americans. Exporting IT is a viable business to many Russians, as the country's oil and gas reserves will not last forever, says head of IBS Anatoly Karachinsky. Although Russia wants to compete with India, the current world leader in IT outsourcing, a lack of professional project managers and industry associations will make reaching this goal a formidable challenge.

  • "An Artificial Boy? Only in the Movies"
    Philadelphia Inquirer (08/02/01) P. F4; Lynch, Stephen

    Creating a human-like machine is an unlikely possibility, say experts in artificial intelligence. "No one thinks of making a machine like a human; that's not even a goal," says Rina Dechter, a professor at the University of California-Irvine's Artificial Intelligence Lab. Instead, AI has been used for more practical concerns. Fellow UCI professor Michael Pazzani, for instance, uses AI to filter news for personalized digital newspapers at AdaptiveInfo. Scientists are also developing medical databases that identify diseases as well as programs that help AIDS patients create drug regimens. Currently, minute advances are being made in AI, says Pazzani. One advance is constant propagation. Dechter describes this as a decision-making process based on moves that have already been made, while focusing on a particular goal; the method helped IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in a chess match.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "A Net of Their Own"
    Business Week Online (08/01/01); Salkever, Alex

    An increasing number of community wireless networks such as Guerrilla.net are starting to appear around the world. Like the group of computer experts in the Boston area behind Guerrilla.net, who view their initiative as an attempt to create an alternative to the wired Internet, these pioneers would rather build their own networks than continue to use traditional modes of communication, such as the telephone. Such wireless broadband setups are likened to the ham radio, because anyone within the beaming distance of the system would be able to log onto the network. The new wireless data networks rely heavily on peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, which is being used to offer voice options so users can speak to each other over the Internet, as well as file-sharing capabilities. Clay Shirky, a P2P expert and principal at the Accelerator Group in New York, says the way in which tech workers are advancing networking is no different than the way they did 20 years when they were "smuggling PCs into businesses behind the backs of the people running the mainframes." There is no need for phone companies to be alarmed just yet because such P2P systems are not ready for broader use today. The technology is open to security risks, businesses remain wary of it because they do not know how to capitalize on it, and it is continues to be linked to the legal issue of exchanging copyrighted content files.
    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2001/tc20010801_849.htm

  • "Casting a Wider Net in Brazil"
    Wired News (07/30/01); Rebelo, Paulo

    Only about 11.1 million out of over 160 million Brazilians are currently online, but both governmental and non-governmental organizations are planning to change that through initiatives. The Brazilian government will set up Internet terminals at post offices within every major city, an effort that Brazilian Planning Minister Martus Tavares says will cost $400 million. A special government commission has also been established to bridge the digital divide via the Digital Inclusion Project, and is considering ideas from various civil agencies. The government is also studying the possibility of a country-wide free ISP. Meanwhile, the Viva Rio organization has launched Viva Favela, a Web portal designed to grant Internet access to Brazilians who cannot afford computers or phone lines.
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,45526,00.html

  • "Commerce Computer Security Lacking"
    Associated Press (08/02/01); Hopper, D.I.

    According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), security vulnerabilities in the Commerce Department's computer networks make business secrets stored on its computers easy targets for outside intruders. Though no incidents of hacking have been reported yet, the GAO said that the department's system fails on all computer security fronts, including prevention, detection, response, and reporting incidents. Samuel Bodman, the head of the Commerce Department, said that his department has created an information security task force and is revamping its technology department. The GAO has found fault in numerous other government computer networks, such as those belonging to the Internal Revenue Service, in which online tax returns were accessed, and the Interior Department, where GAO computer experts were able to read federal payroll records.

  • "Info Glut Creating Scarce Commodity: Attention"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/02/01) P. A6; Bonasia, J.

    Workers stuck in a quagmire of data translates into sluggish performance, as many companies have found out. A survey conducted by the Institute for the Future finds that one out of three corporate e-business employees in Fortune 500 companies feel inundated by information. Workers who suffer from information overload are more prone to stress and depression, according to clinical psychologist Dennis Hinkle. Hewlett-Packard developed a solution to its data glut through the creation of a corporate portal that reduced its Web presence from about 4,700 Web sites to 2,000. HP's business-to-employee services director Janet Beyer reports that human resource costs have decreased 15 percent and 300 human resource positions have been eliminated as a result. Accenture Institute for Strategic Change director Thomas Davenport advises other companies to follow similar strategies. Customers also suffer from information overload, and Davenport notes that businesses should seek to emulate mass media as a way to hold their attention. Sex appeal and age-based promotions are just some of the techniques companies can leverage to attract customers, investors, and analysts, he says.

  • "High-Tech Venture Capital No Longer Flowing Freely"
    Washington Times (07/31/01) P. B7

    Venture capitalists are reversing their dedication to Internet and other high-tech companies after a string of disappointments. Technology startups attracted $10.6 billion in venture capital in the second quarter, a 61 percent drop from the year before. Silicon Valley investments fell from $9.28 billion to $3.14 billion over the same period, a decline of 66 percent. Venture capital peaked in the third quarter of last year with $28.6 billion, but the drop-off is currently expected to last at least through 2001 and perhaps even 2002. Medical sciences, health, and biotechnology startups are doing better; they experienced a 37 percent increase in capital, from $1.07 billion last year to $1.47 billion this year.

  • "China Tames Wild, Wild Web"
    Christian Science Monitor (08/02/01) P. 1; Marquand, Robert

    Within the past year, China has been able to successfully limit its citizen's access to Web sites deemed undesirable by the government, while at the same time rapidly expanding its Internet capabilities. About 8,000 Internet cafes have been shut down by the government in the past several months, either because they were not registered or because authorities failed to keep users from viewing objectionable sites. Through the continuous issuance of regulations, chat-room monitors, and the "The Great Firewall of China," which monitors overseas access and blocks certain Web sites, China has been able to restrict use of the Internet. At the same time, the amount of people using it has increased from 2 million in 1998 to 23 million today. A few arrests of individuals found to have used the Internet for unauthorized use has served to deter others from doing so. Because many Chinese Internet users are relatively well-off, fear of government punishment has kept illicit use to a minimum, though some do manage to escape restrictions by utilizing "proxy servers" to circumvent the firewall and gain outside access. The government of China sees the Internet as a way to monitor its citizens better, coordinate its functions, and as a tool for future e-commerce.
    http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/2001/08/02/p1s1.htm

  • "E-Gov Bill Compromise Getting Closer"
    Washington Technology (07/30/01) Vol. 16, No. 9, P. 18; Emery, Gail R.

    Congressional leaders and the Bush administration are closer than ever on resolving some key issues concerning e-government, namely, who will head the federal effort to promote it and how will it be funded. Debate centers on the E-Government Act of 2001, cosponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.). At a July 11 hearing held by the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, in which a companion bill was discussed, IT industry leaders and government officials reiterated their support for government's use of the Web to provide services and information more efficiently to citizens and businesses. President Bush has voiced his support for such initiatives that would facilitate government-to-business and citizen-focused transactions, and automate intergovernmental processes. Bush asserts this responsibility falls on the shoulders of the associate director for information technology and e-government, under the supervision of the chief of the Office of Management and Budget. Lieberman's bill, however, calls for a CIO to head a new Office of Information Policy. The funding issue may be even harder to resolve, since the e-government bill calls for $200 million in spending over the next three years, while Bush has proposed only $100 million.
    http://www.washingtontechnology.com/news/16_9/federal/16910-1.html

  • "Minorities, Money and Mentoring"
    Washington Business Journal (08/02/01) Vol. 20, No. 12, P. 43; Kady, Martin

    It is not easy for minority tech entrepreneurs to attract venture capitalists and corporate mentors, as demonstrated at the recent Emerging Business Forum in Chantilly, Va. The forum was designed to be a place where minority firms can network and gain access to capital, but there was noticeable lack of top Washington-area venture capitalists present. "The firms themselves need to better position themselves before the investment community," said forum organizer James Dyke. Fairfax County Development Authority CEO Gerald Gordon and others believe that the Washington area offers more business opportunities to minority firms--especially technology companies--than the rest of the nation. However, the Small Business Association reports that minority firms receive only 1 percent of all equity funding and less than 4 percent of all venture capital funding; furthermore, lending institutions give 75 percent of small businesses their stamp of approval for lines of credit, while 67 percent of minority firms qualify.
    http://washington.bcentral.com/washington/stories/2001/07/30/focus1.html

  • "Beyond the Valley"
    Economist (07/28/01) Vol. 360, No. 8232, P. 62

    The sharp economic downturn that caused many high-tech U.S. companies to lay off workers and lower earnings expectations may have ended, but its effects will resonate for quite some time, and outlooks beyond this coming autumn remain cloudy. There is a general agreement that things will pick up around mid-2002, while one school of thought expects worldwide IT spending to resume its roughly 10 percent growth. However, manufacturers of telecommunications equipment may not recover until 2003, since they took the worst beating. Until the recovery period starts, IT spending is unlikely to rise significantly, price wars may force some players out of the PC business, and software makers may shift their focus to IT services. Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International expects sales of chipmaking gear to fall this year and not exceed 2000 levels until 2004.
    http://www.economist.com/business/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=709961

  • "Virtual Observatory"
    Computerworld (07/30/01) Vol. 35, No. 31, P. 47; Lais, Sami

    The National Virtual Observatory (NVO) has proposed the development of an online data warehouse designed to contain petabytes of data about the universe and astrophysics. In an interview with Computerworld magazine, Hayden Planetarium director and NVO steering committee member Neil de Grasse Tyson discusses the warehouse in detail. He says that the system would allow all scientists with an Internet connection to take advantage of astrophysical data culled from telescopes and virtual reality environments similar to the Hayden Planetarium's Digital Dome System. The NVO has also proposed metadata standards that will arrange information into a more cohesive shape. "Some of the nightmares of mismatched data quality and breadth and depth will go away, because it'll all be the same system using the same metadata standards, the same protocols," Tyson explains. He believes that NVO is ready to start construction on the digital warehouse, with initial implementation forecast within five years of design completion.
    http://www.computerworld.com/cwi/story/0,1199,NAV47_STO62505,00.html

  • "Reusable Code Quickens Application Development"
    Network World (07/30/01) Vol. 18, No. 31, P. 36; Sullivan, Ann

    Corporations can save time and money in the development of software applications through component-based development (CBD) in which reusable software code is utilized. Component reuse is well suited to a climate where companies aim to shave IT budgets and add Web services, and where much of the present technology supports CBD. Reusable software can be taken from previous corporate projects or secured through marketplaces such as ComponentSource and Flashline.com. Demand for reusable code is climbing: 70 percent of new applications will blend old and new software elements by 2003, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, International Data expects software component revenue to surge from $516 million to $2.7 billion between 1999 and 2004.
    http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2001/0730specialfocus.html