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Volume 3, Issue 237: Wednesday, August 8, 2001
- "D.C. Ranked 2nd In Tech Workforce"
Washington Post (08/08/01) P. E5; Irwin, Neil
The Washington area boasts more high-tech employees than any other U.S. region with the exception of Chicago, according to a survey by the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The university study has a broader view of what constitutes high technology, which is why Silicon Valley and Boston did not take the lead positions, as in typical studies. This reflects a shift in focus from Internet, software, and telecommunications to more general areas of technological advancement throughout the economy, such as automotive parts engineering and "intelligent vehicle systems." Ann Markusen, director of the report, says, "A lot of innovation is taking place in these service sectors that aren't necessarily software companies or dot-coms." The University of Minnesota report finds that 321,600 high-tech workers inhabited the D.C. area in 1997, just behind Chicago's workforce of 341,100. San Jose and Boston were ranked third and fourth and New York was ranked fifth.
- "Russian in Digital Copyright Case Is Released on Bail"
New York Times (08/07/01) P. C4; Lee, Jennifer 8.
Authorities released Russian programmer Dmitri Sklyarov on $50,000 bail yesterday, which was put up by his employer, ElcomSoft. Sklyarov was arrested three weeks ago for allegedly disseminating Advanced eBook Processor, a program designed to circumvent Adobe Systems software and decrypt electronic books, at a hacker convention in Las Vegas. He is one of the first to be tried under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), and experts see his case as a test of its effectiveness as well as a test of America's digital copyright laws. "Either the criminal provisions of the DCMA are going to be killed, or we're in a position where some civil liberties are going to be killed," says Sklyarov's lawyer Joseph M. Burton. The programmer's arrest triggered a wave of protest in the form of Web sites dedicated to him and the picketing of Adobe offices and federal buildings. Sklyarov's next hearing will take place on Aug. 23, and if convicted he could face a maximum prison sentence of five years.
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- "As U.S. Dot-Coms Hit Downturn, Internet Jobs Abroad Gain Appeal"
Wall Street Journal (08/07/01) P. B8; Dunham, Kemba J.
IT employees orphaned by the U.S. dot-com bust are looking to find a new home in European, Asian, or Australian Internet companies. These regions' six- to 8-month development lag behind the United States makes former dot-com professionals hopeful that their expertise will raise their employment prospects. Some American dot-commers get added job satisfaction working overseas, although they may not be earning as much. One of the attractions for hiring Americans is the hope that the experience they bring to the table will help companies in these countries avoid the traps that companies in the U.S. fell into, says ABCpoint.com's Chris Carmicle, who is looking for work abroad. However, foreign dot-coms are suffering from their own economic downturn, and have begun to ease off their recruitment initiatives.
- "UCITA Goes Back to the Drawing Board"
Computerworld Online (08/03/01); Thibodeau, Patrick
The American Bar Association (ABA) will not pursue revision of the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) for now. Rather, the association will form a group to look at the pros and cons of the proposed software licensing law. The decisions of the ABA will likely have repercussions on the states as they individually deal with UCITA. Meanwhile, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), architects of the legislation, has agreed to delay its campaign for adoption of UCITA, say people familiar with the matter. In addition, the NCCUSL will consider revisions to the legislation in November to boost support for the measure. Chairman of NCCUSL's UCITA drafting committee, Carlyle "Connie" Ring Jr., says there are two options. "One is for the states to work together, to collaborate to come up with uniform rules. The other is for Congress to adopt uniform rules."
For information regarding ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP
- "Son of Code Red? New Worm Brings New Risks to Web"
Investor's Business Daily (08/07/01) P. A6; Howell, Donna
A new worm has surfaced that exploits the same Microsoft server flaw as Code Red, but is poised to spread even more rapidly across the Internet. Security experts note that Microsoft's patch has been widely publicized over the last two weeks, but that nearly 70,000 of the 400,000 Web sites notified have not updated their systems. The new worm variant creates a back door in the compromised servers so that a hacker can re-enter to gain control of the system. Conceivably, the worm could be a precursor to a giant denial-of-service attack involving thousands of systems. And unlike Code Red, the new worm, named Code Red II, uses infected servers to look for other sites with nearby IP addresses, making Web hosting sites especially vulnerable.
- "Intel Is Expected to Slash Top Chips' Price"
Wall Street Journal (08/07/01) P. A3; Williams, Molly
Intel could shave as much as 54 percent off the price of its Pentium 4 chips later this month, forcing analysts to lower their earnings predictions and causing the company's shares to drop. Price cuts were intimated by Intel Executive Vice President Paul Otellini's July announcement that Pentium 4 chips would be installed in desktops costing as little as $799 by year's end. Shares of Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices also fell since one analyst, Lehman Brothers' Dan Niles, forecast an Aug. 26 "price bomb" that Intel plans to drop on AMD. Niles expects the price of the Pentium 4 to be reduced from $562 to $260, and predicts further price cuts in late October if sales do not pick up. Despite gloomy earnings forecasts, Intel CEO Craig Barrett is upbeat that the chip market will recover in 2002. However, the coming back-to-school and holiday-sales seasons only escalate worries as demands for PCs and related gear fall as the result of one of the worst slumps in the PC industry ever.
- "Injunction Against Windows XP Unlikely--Analysts"
Microsoft opponents in the Justice Department and some members of Congress have pressed for an injunction against the company, prohibiting it from releasing the Windows XP on October 25. They complain that Microsoft is using its new product as a platform for distributing its Internet products, and that the company is not being as open as it ought to be in letting competitors place rival programs on the desktop. However, analysts are doubtful that such a tactic will succeed, given that such injunctions are rarely granted and the product is unlikely to threaten the competition. Microsoft, for its part, says Windows XP is the best ever and that the included extra software is for the customer's benefit. A number of companies also support Microsoft on this issue since they see Windows XP as key to spurring depressed computer sales.
- "High-Tech Industry Unfulfilled in D.C."
Mercury News Online (08/04/04); Phillips, Heather Fleming
The high-tech industry has had little success so far on Capitol Hill this year, and although some progress has been achieved in committee hearings, the industry faces an uphill fight this fall to get the attention of Congress before it adjourns for the year in October. Two important issues are computer export controls and Internet taxation. The Bush administration is backing a senate bill that would throw out a requirement calling for the president to set export controls based on PCs' processing speeds, however a house committee has approved another version of the bill that includes provisions neither Bush or the tech industry supports. Meanwhile, the current law banning taxes on Web commerce and Internet access is set to expire in October. E-commerce firms are pushing for extension of the bans. However, some senators want to tie the measure with a larger plan for simplified state tax systems. In addition, the tech sector is supporting legislation allowing the president to make trade deals that Congress cannot revise.
- "Foreign Tech Workers Get Leeway From INS"
NewsFactor Network (08/06/01); Harrison, Crayton
Despite a slowing economy and no official rules allowing them to stay longer, laid-off foreign workers are likely to stay in the country to look for another sponsor for their H-1B working visa. Based on the number of H-1B visas issued and pending this year, there is still a high demand for specially skilled foreign workers, even with the increased annual cap of 195,000 visas approved by Congress last year. The Immigration and Naturalization Service expects to issue final rules governing the time a laid-off H-1B worker has to find a new job, but gave regional directors preliminary guidelines in June advising that foreign workers should be given 60 days to secure another sponsor. Under recently passed legislation, these workers can start on their jobs even as their new employer is applying for their visa. "We're trying to be as understanding as possible," says INS' Bill Strassberger.
- "McAfee Wins Patent for Online Services System"
Associated Press (08/07/01); Wong, May
McAfee.com has been awarded a patent for a Web-based delivery system for security services. Both the subscription-based business model and the technology itself are covered by the patent. The system provides subscribers with software designed to protect them against viruses and manage their PCs, as well as maintains their desktops from the McAfee Web site. The service is the first of its kind, says Sageza Group CEO Harry Fenik. "This doesn't close the door for competitors, it simply sets some boundaries for them," he contends.
- "Momentum Is Building Rapidly"
Financial Times--IT (08/08/01) P. 2; McGregor, Richard
China's native IT industry is picking up steam as the country speeds into the Information Age. Huang Xiaojian, VP of Chinese software firm Kingdee, notes that just a few years ago most factories and enterprise operations in China had little IT infrastructure. His company, which started out primarily as an accounting firm, has launched into other areas because Huang says its customers demand a more complete solution, including CRM and logistics applications. Gartner Group estimates that the Chinese IT market will grow from just $2 billion in 1997 to about $8.2 billion this year, and again multiply to $17.8 billion in 2004. Still, a number of threats remain for Kingdee and the only other listed Chinese software firm, Beijing Ufsoft. Foreign companies such as Microsoft and Oracle still lead the market, software piracy is rampant, and the companies face greater managerial scrutiny as they move toward international stock markets.
- "Time of Growing Pains for Information Age"
New York Times (08/07/01) P. D3; Overbye, Dennis
Several scientists and academics recently gathered to discuss the meaning and importance of information and technology, and how it may shape the future. The group gathered together specifically to discuss a statement by MIT professor Seth Lloyd, who said simply that the universe and its functions can be translated into sheer information. This idea rests on the basic tenet of the Information Age, which is said to have begun when Bell Laboratories researcher Dr. Claude E. Shannon proposed all information could be presented as a string of zeros and ones. More recently, the Human Genome Project showed that context and interaction is actually equally important as the informational content. Geneticists were surprised over the brevity of the human genome, but quickly found that its ability to create and dictate human life relied upon how the genes interacted. One computer scientist present at the meeting, Yale professor Dr. David Gelernter, said that today's computers face a similar shortcoming in the ability to process information. He specifically attacked the file and folder system of managing information on the computer and proposed a chronologically organized continuous stream of data that would be more fitted to today's technological capabilities.
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- "The PC Comes of Age"
Boston Globe (08/05/01) P. A1; Bray, Hiawatha
At a time when the computer industry is seeing the maturation of the PC market, David Gerlernter, a Yale University computer scientist, says computer makers are not sure what to do next. But most experts tend to agree that the "beige box" is not as important as providing people with access to corporate networks and the Internet. So far, manufacturers are starting to endow wireless telephones, palmtops, and other common devices, including cars, with computational power. But Mike Winkler, senior vice president at Compaq, suggests that the home computer is likely to serve as the mediator for delivering and storing information linked to computerized devices throughout the house. What is more, experts such as Gerlernter add that the vulnerability of networks to breakdowns and attacks could encourage people to secure their data on the hardware of a home or office machine. Microsoft wants portable computers to recognize speech and handwriting, and such devices would have no need for a keyboard. Researchers at MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science are developing software that will allow computers to understand human speech. They also are working to empower PCs with the intelligence to respond to the user and environment, such as by knowing that there is no need to announce "You've Got Mail" when the user is on the telephone.
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- "New Non-English Domains Deal Criticized"
Interactive Week Online (08/06/01); Smetannikov, Max
Criticism over changing the DNS system to recognize non-English character domains at the DNS level is growing, mostly from fears that the change will overload the already strained DNS system. For over a year now the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been working on a protocol to have domain names written in a code other than ASCII, which is both routable through DNS servers and compatible with all languages. IETF's protocol is expected to be finalized this month. However, the proposal then faces two other discussion levels where it will most likely confront growing criticism. AT &T Labs' John Klensin, vice president of Internet architecture, believes that overloading DNS is just one of the problems with the IETF's plan, which will also have to account for how to translate inflection-based languages like Chinese and Korean into code, as well as increased cybersquatting due to increased domain options. Countries like China have long complained that U.S.-based registrars enjoy an advantage in registering domain names because the Internet's DNS system is anchored by English-friendly ASCII.
- "Search for IT Workers Finds Fertile Ground in Russia"
Electronic Commerce World (07/01) Vol. 11, No. 7, P. 20; Malone, Bridget
Russia has joined India, Ireland, and Israel as a top outsourcer for U.S. tech firms. Marty McCaffrey, executive director of Software Outsourcing Research says there is a huge shortage of IT workers in the United States, and Russia has talented resources to offer. Indeed, in the recent Information Technology Association of America report, "When Can You Start? Building Information Technology Skills and Careers," tech hiring managers said there will be a shortfall of 425,00 skilled tech workers this year. Moreover, the Russian educational system remains strong in math, physics, and technology, even after the breakup of the former Soviet Union. For example, U.S. schools produce less than 1,000 PhD-level mathematicians a year, compared with just under 5,000 from Russian schools. Motorola, Intel, Sun Microsystems, Northern Telecom, and Datawatch are among the companies making inroads in Russia. The major benefit of offshore outsourcing is cost. "I'd say it's at least 50 percent less to outsource overseas than to get it done in the U.S.," says Linda Lammi, vice president of product development at Datawatch.
- "The Slow Rise of 3D on the Web"
Computer Graphics World (07/01) Vol. 24, No. 7, P. 22; Meloni, Wanda
Consumer, commercial, and educational applications on the Web have been slow to take advantage of 3D, although for years it has been viewed as a boon for the graphics industry. Over the last 18 months, the situation has begun to look more favorable for the graphics industry, reports M2 Research's Wanda Meloni. Meloni says changes in the market and in technology have fueled the rise of 3D on the Web. The increase in broadband connections from 2.7 million users in 1999 to 8 million users in 2000 means that the market of consumers who have Internet connections fast enough to view and interact with 3D content has grown considerably. Also, 3D players are no longer limited to a proprietary format now that new game consoles from Nintendo and Microsoft will offer Web-based real-time 3D multiplayer gaming; in addition, 3D graphics technology will now be embedded into applications for Internet appliances and handheld devices. M2 Research estimates that the number of Web media players that are 3D-enabled will rise from 17 percent currently to 32 percent by the end of the year, as 3D player vendors offer more direct support to 2D players such as RealPlayer and Shockwave. Still, content production will remain a major hurdle because millions of Web authors are not using 3D. Meloni says creative professionals and digital designers will need a new set of 3D tools that will work seamlessly with current Web content in video, 2D graphics, and audio.
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- "Learning to Stretch"
InfoWorld (07/30/01) Vol. 23, No. 31, P. 42; Biggs, Maggie
A soft economy coupled with less money has caused companies to significantly amend their training programs. ClearCommerce's Julie Fergerson and Micro Controls International CTO Alexander Osifero each follow their own approaches when it comes to stretching their training budgets, but they also agree on the effectiveness of certain measures. Both executives hold peer-to-peer brown-bag internal training sessions, a move that has led to more open communications between employees and departments. They also recommend that executives should consider both traditional and nontraditional avenues of training, and never lose sight of the importance of expanding skills, even during an economic downturn. Fergerson, for example, favors organizing strategies around internal options and external networking sessions with nonrival companies; she also recommends industry and technical conferences as places that can expand knowledge and furnish networking opportunities. Osifero prefers Web-based training because it offers lower costs and greater learning options. "With our focus on profitability, more energy and skills must be applied to marketing, product positioning, sales, and the like," says Fergerson. Osifero believes that CTOs should boost their business and best practices skills if they wish to weather the economic downturn.
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- "You Be The Judge"
InformationWeek (08/06/01) No. 849, P. 18; Swanson, Sandra; Ewalt, David M.; Maselli, Jennifer
IT professionals who discover or suspect child pornography stored on their office computers are bound by law to report it to the authorities, according to a new statute in South Carolina; a stiff fine and jail sentence for those who fail to do so is expected to be approved next year, says South Carolina Senate staff attorney Sharon Gunter. This development is representative of a growing movement to invest companies and individuals with law-enforcement powers. But leaving such decisions in the hands of civilian IT staffers is problematic; there is always the possibility they may accuse innocent people of wrongdoing. A more sensible alternative is to hand off enforcement responsibility to corporate legal professionals, suggests Public Broadcasting Service IT director David Shomette. Nevertheless, the child pornography issue is impossible to ignore, and Cyberangels executive director Parry Aftab believes 80 percent of U.S. companies have at least one employee who stores child porn on computer. The issue is also energizing corporate managers to institute regular monitoring of their employees' Internet and computer activity.
- "Artificial Consciousness: Utopia or Real Possibility?"
Computer (07/01) Vol. 34, No. 7, P. 24; Buttazzo, Giorgio
As technological advances make the concept of artificial intelligence seem more and more possible, professor of computer engineering Giorgio Buttazzo of the University of Pavia notes the importance of science fiction as a way to prepare mankind for its advent. Science-fiction movies often portray self-aware robots as sinister machines that can act against humanity, enslaving it or threatening to destroy it. Buttazzo raises important questions as to whether machines can truly become self-aware and argues that the Turing test can help refine the process of answering such questions. However, the results of such a test, even if they indicate self-awareness, can be conjectured. From a neurological perspective, a machine must possess a neural network that simulates the human brain in order to be considered self-aware; for a computer, this constitutes 5 million GB of RAM, and Buttazzo forecasts that this amount of RAM will have been achieved by the year 2029, provided that developers sustain their current growth rate. Defining self-awareness through philosophy, Buttazzo writes, requires approaching the question from a number of disciplines: pragmatic, religious, dualistic, reductionism and idealism, collective consciousness, and others. Other insights into artificial intelligence he examines include the possibility of achieving self-awareness in sequential machines and faster response times as evidence of a developing mind.