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 243:  Wednesday, August 22, 2001

  • "'Spin' Could Be Quantum Boost for Computers"
    New York Times (08/21/01) P. D1; Chang, Kenneth

    Physicists and computer researchers are coming closer to a new advance that manipulates the magnetic position of a spinning electron to give that electron nearly unlimited data transmission qualities. Current computer processors translate electrons as either positive or negative, but by using their magnetic spin to carry new sets of information, computing capacity could be boosted into what is dubbed "quantum computing." Even though the concept of utilizing the magnetic spin on electrons has been around for some time, scientists are closer than ever to developing applications, such as with the separate efforts of Motorola and IBM. These companies aim to produce M-RAM, or magnetoresistive memory chips, that could lead to instant boot-up times for computers or chips that double as processors and storage devices. These applications are possible because M-RAM stores data even when the power is turned off. Already, research in the field has led to a great increase in the capacity of hard disks since IBM first introduced magnetoresistance-sensitive read/write heads for storage drives in 1997.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/21/science/physical/21RESE.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "HP's Pragmatic Mother of Invention"
    Financial Times (08/22/01) P. 9; London, Simon

    Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is implementing her plan to dramatically restructure her company, coalescing 83 divisions into just a few large front- and back-end units. The previous organization of the company was seen as promoting innovation and entrepreneurship amongst long-time company veterans, but it hindered the large capital projects and sales collaboration needed in today's economy. The "front-back" structure has been integrated to some extent into many other technology companies already, such as IBM, Xerox, and Motorola. Fiorina's plan is to bundle all sales and marketing into just two front-end units, one for consumers and one for business partners. In the development side, there are four separate units organized by technology focus. As a separate entity, a 30,000-employee services unit meets the needs of valued HP business customers.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Server Farms Cultivate Ways to Cut Energy Costs"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/22/01) P. A4; Sleeper, Sarah Z.

    New data center designs are not only saving energy, but creating lowering overhead costs for Web hosters. Former assistant secretary of the Energy Department Joe Romm says there are a new generation of data centers that are being built that are different than those built during the Internet boom because they are more sensitive to the cost-savings involved in lowering energy consumption. Projects like US DataPort's new San Jose center will be the nation's largest at 2.2 million square feet, and house its own power plant producing enough energy to light 200,000 homes. The plant will use gas-fired turbines in order to cut down on emissions--other data centers use diesel for their backup energy production. Additionally, steam from the furnaces will be used either for the air-conditioning system or to produce auxiliary power. US DataPort CEO Grant Sedgwick plans to lease out his company's data centers to Web hosters and points out that struggling companies like Exodus Communications could save money by moving into US DataPort facilities.

  • "High-Tech Slowdown Starts to Hurt in Ireland"
    Financial Times (08/21/01) P. 2; Brown, John Murray

    The closure of a General Semiconductor Plant in Macroom, Ireland, is one of several that have rattled the industry, demonstrating that the country is not immune to the effects of the worldwide high-tech slowdown. The Industrial Development Agency estimates that 4,300 layoffs have taken place since the start of 2001. U.S. companies have long seen Ireland as ideal for foreign operations, thanks to a low 10 percent corporate tax rate, highly skilled workers, and a flexible environment. However, it is reckoned that 80 percent of Ireland's manufactured exports and 50 percent of all manufacturing jobs come from foreign-owned concerns. SIPTU head Dan Geraghty contends that Ireland overextended its promotion of IT investment. "It is clear to us, that this sort of business is of an ephemeral nature, indeed some things like computers are based on planned obsolescence," he says.
    http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?id=010821000834

  • "Houston Brings the Web to the Masses"
    Los Angeles Times (08/21/01) P. A6; Kaplan, Karen

    Houston is offering its 1.8 million residents free email and personalized Internet accounts for desktop publishing via its new SimHouston program. City CIO Denny Piper thought of the idea as a way to bridge the digital divide in that city by making the current number of public Internet access points more useful for residents. The city had installed the SimDesk software on its 14,000 departmental PCs and Piper saw that he could easily scale the program to also include Houston residents. Once new features to the program are finalized, users will be able to carry out word processing, create spreadsheets and calendars, write email, and even conduct videoconferencing. The SimHouston program does not include any extra money for hardware since there is currently a surplus amount of Internet-connected PCs in city libraries. Rather, administrators wanted a way to make that infrastructure more useful to Houston residents, 60 percent of which already have Internet access at home.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Movies Will Cause Broadband Explosion--Valenti"
    Newsbytes (08/21/01); Kelsey, Dick

    Speaking at the Progress and Freedom Foundation's Aspen Summit, Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti declared that broadband is poised to become a "wondrous new delivery system" for the distribution of movies over the Internet. He argued that such entertainment will give consumers a reason to invest in high-speed Web access and spur adoption. Online movies will prosper once standards for copyright protection and anti-piracy measures have been established, Valenti said. "If copyright is diminished or shrunk, allowing entropy to set in, the country is the loser," he warned. Issues with copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act must be resolved, Valenti explained. Web-based entertainment will follow the subscription model, according to newly-elected Napster CEO Konrad Hilbers.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/169263.html

  • "Web Firms Still Host Hopes For Recovery"
    Washington Post (08/21/01) P. E5; McCarthy, Ellen

    Almost 2,000 industry executives, venture capitalists, and consumers have gathered at the Web Hosting Expo in Washington, D.C., to network and look for signs that the Web hosting sector will bounce back from the dot-com collapse. "This is the chance for both start-ups and established companies to learn about what else is going on in the industry," explains Web Hosting Magazine publisher Isabel Wang. "They can find out how to better serve their customers and form very valuable partnerships." Digex CEO Mark Shull made a keynote address in which he detailed the mistakes of the past and what hosting companies must do within the next five years to attain success. He listed the three primary components of the Web hosting trade as customization, security, and convenience. His key suggestion was that companies better tailor their hosting technology to integrate with their customers' legacy systems.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A38480-2001Aug20.html

  • "A More Accessible Web"
    Washington Post (08/21/01) P. E1; Johnson, Carrie

    Web sites and office machines accessible to the disabled have been a federal requirement since June 25, and a government panel reckons that an extensive retrofitting of federal sites and workplaces could cost up to $691 million. "Section 508 [of the Rehabilitation Act] has done a wonderful job of crystallizing industry awareness about disability," says director of Hewlett-Packard's Accessibility Solutions program Denice Gant. Giga Information Group reports that at least 25 companies are now offering software, training, and other services to help federal agencies satisfy the provision. Microsoft, for instance, makes software for screen displays that visually-impaired people can read more easily; Westlake Internet Training hosts a Web site redesign course that also helps the blind; Electronic Data Systems and GTSI have allied themselves with accessibility software providers; and Hewlett-Packard has launched a new office for accessibility issues. However, accessibility supporters such as BusinessWeek Online columnist John Williams contend that the impetus for companies to aid government agencies and contractors in this retrofit is purely economical. Still, some experts believe that state and corporate offices will eventually comply with the federal statute as well.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37741-2001Aug20.html

  • "Bush Grants 1-Year Extension of Export Control Laws"
    Newsbytes (08/20/01); Krebs, Brian

    President Bush extended key legislation that allows for the continued export controls on high technology last week. Each year since it expired in 1994, the Export Administration Act has been extended by presidential order. The tech industry, meanwhile, is looking towards new legislation coming up in Congress as a way to modernize the current process and put the United States on par with other countries that export advanced technology. Both the Senate and the House are working on versions of a bill that would govern future technology exchanges to protect national security and enhance trade.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/169186.html

  • "Companies Join to Fight Worms"
    New York Times (08/21/01) P. C6; Schwartz, John

    Several companies in the computer security industry yesterday announced plans to cooperate in efforts to stave off computer worms that are used to propagate denial-of-service attacks, such as the Code Red virus. Network Associates, which monitors millions of computers for signs of infection, will use software developed by Asta Networks, Mazu Networks, and Arbor Networks, to assist in the effort to fight and prevent attacks.

  • "Unit to Combat Computer Crime"
    New York Times (08/22/01) P. A19; Feuer, Alan

    The U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, N.Y., announced yesterday that it will create a special unit to investigate computer crimes, including hacking; the propagation of viruses; economic espionage; and stealing trade secrets. The former head of the organized crime division in Brooklyn will lead the new unit.

  • "Korea's Tense Lesson in the Wireless Web"
    Wall Street Journal (08/22/01) P. A10; Bolande, H. Asher

    South Korea's SK Telecom has seen disappointing results from the rollout of its broadband multimedia phone, the first of its kind in the world. Mobile phone network operators and manufacturers are keenly watching the developments in South Korea because the technology and applications involved closely resemble those that will be associated with the rollout of 3G services. Currently, the mobile telecom industry is counting on 3G services to restore vitality to the industry, but if SK Telecom's example is any indication, the move may not be as smooth as expected. Despite spending about $1.5 billion out of a $3 billion budget for the mobile broadband service and making improvements over the period of one year, SK Telecom still is criticized by partner firms and customers alike for its failure to deliver on marketing promises. For one, the phone is still expensive, and many of the features--such as high-speed connectivity and video downloads--have not proved satisfying to consumers who expected to more fully utilize the handset's color screen.

  • "Security Software Spies on Workers"
    Washington Times (08/17/01) P. E5; Irwin, Neil

    Raytheon is marketing a software package that allows companies to track their workers' Internet use by drawing pictures and maps of computers, showing the links and rates of communication between them. Designed in 1997, SilentRunner was created to protect businesses against intellectual-property theft, but can also be used to check how an employee is utilizing the Internet, whether for private or business purposes, and can also verify if an inappropriate amount of emails are being sent somewhere dubious. Raytheon sold 148 licenses for the $65,000 software package as of the beginning of the year, mostly to large companies and government agencies.

  • "Cybercafe Crackdown"
    Interactive Week (08/13/01) Vol. 8, No. 31, P. 43; Gruenwald, Juliana

    Tech experts are confident that governments around the world will not be able to slow the growth of the Internet by cracking down on cybercafes. The list of governments that have restrictions on or have closed Internet cafes now includes Iran, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Afghanistan. Cybercafes are likened to public access telephone booths in these countries, where most people cannot afford computers and Internet access. People in urban centers go to Internet cafes to use the Internet for entertainment or to open themselves up to ideas that are not popular in their own country. Although governments that restrict public access to the Internet cite pornography or dissenting content as their motives, some observers believe economics is an underlying reason as well. Some countries view cybercafes as a threat because the local telephone companies are government-owned monopolies. Other countries are conflicted because they realize huge amounts of money can made by providing people with access to the Internet. Some experts even believe these countries are not sophisticated enough to respond to the challenge that is before them.
    http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2803510,00.html

  • "Enterprises Push Back XP Purchase Plans"
    InfoWorld (08/16/01); Scannell, Ed

    Corporations are not eager as consumers to buy the new Windows XP operating system, according to many analysts. While the new system offers improved reliability and Wi-Fi wireless network capability, experts say most business users will see only incremental improvements over Windows 2000. This lack of urgency, and a host of other projects IT departments are working on, will cause many companies to put off buying loads of the new operating software. International Data analyst Al Gillen adds that many internal applications are being implemented now regardless of the impending release of Windows XP. Companies that do buy the new operating system for their desktop units will likely do so because of the connectivity and remote access features that will appeal especially to workers who often travel outside of the office.
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/01/08/16/010816hnwindowsxp.xml

  • "Look Who's Talking"
    New Scientist (08/11/01) Vol. 171, No. 2303, P. 11; Graham-Rowe, Duncan

    Israel's Artificial Intelligence is trying to usher in a new paradigm with Hal, software that is programmed to comprehend spoken language. The problem in setting down language and vocabulary rules for machines to follow is that those rules are not always adhered to and carry multiple meanings, says Ai's chief scientist Jason Hutchens. Ai has bypassed this procedure and instead is programming Hal to learn the language skills from scratch, much as a human child would. This learning is the result of accrued experiences supplied by neurolinguist Anat Triester-Goren, who engages in conversations with Hal and corrects his mistakes. The program selects from an input database the responses least likely to receive a scolding. Ai hopes that Hal might one day pass the Turing test, a controversial test that measures machine conversational skills as a level of intelligence.

  • "Transistor Triumphs"
    Computerworld (08/13/01) Vol. 35, No. 33, P. 60; Ulfelder, Steve

    IBM unveiled its altering of the structure of silicon in a way that could potentially boost semiconductor speed by 35 percent, in turn the computing giant will be able to manufacture the advanced chips using conventional processes. By 2003 the industry will likely see the new technology be used in high-end servers and routers. According to IBM, they were able to push the silicon-germanium technology to speeds of 210 GHz in tests while operating on 50 percent less power than current designs. Intel also announced its ability to shrink switches, with silicon transistors 20 nanometers wide. The computer firm believes the new transistors will be built using today's processes, and by 2007 will be joined with Intel chips. However, the technology will not readily replace current systems, due in part to the high price tag.
    http://www.computerworld.com/cwi/story/0,1199,NAV47_STO62914,00.html