Timely Topics for IT Professionals
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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 3, Issue 244: Friday, August 24, 2001
- "Government to Fund Technology Projects Focusing on Speed, Security"
GovExec.com (08/23/01); Vaida, Bara
The National Coordination Office (NCO) for Information Technology Research and Development reports that the federal government will spend $1.97 billion on numerous IT R&D projects in fiscal 2002. One of the mandates is to build computers that can process data at 1,000 times the speed of current models in order to counteract the shrinkage of the high-end computing sector as a result of businesses favoring midrange systems over high-end systems. Another goal is to create software development standards and procedures that boost security and reliability. Other federal R&D projects the NCO report focuses on include raising semiconductor performance levels with new material, luring more IT professionals into the marketplace, and analyzing the societal effects of IT. In addition, the National Science Foundation is awarding grants to universities so that they can be connected to the Internet2 network and share research data. The NCO report says that the federal R&D initiatives will either complement existing projects in the private sector or will target areas where there is a lack of private-sector investment.
- "$1B Wasted on High-End Servers, Gartner Says"
InformationWeek Online (08/22/01); Gonsalves, Antone
The Gartner research firm estimates that companies that spent money on high-end Java application servers between 1998 and 2000 wasted over $1 billion. The servers were packed with features that far exceeded the requirements for most Web sites, requirements that could have been fulfilled by less expensive low-end servers, according to Gartner. Such decisions came out of a sense of confusion over the software capabilities actually needed to run Web applications. "People need to take control and be responsible for their (computer) architecture and the choices they make," explains Gartner analyst David Smith. "They need to understand that while they may have the requirement to have the capability of [Enterprise JavaBean] for one aspect, that doesn't mean that all the different tiers in their system have to have the high-end application server. They can use the low-end ones to do [Java Server Pages], servlets and make calls to the EJB on the high-end one." Gartner warns that not following such advice could lead to a $2 billion loss between 2001 and 2003.
- "As More Buyers Suffer From Upgrade Fatigue, PC Sales Are Falling"
Wall Street Journal (08/24/01) P. A1; McWilliams, Gary
Manufacturers in the PC industry are facing a conundrum as their research and development spending is squeezed by the lack of consumer interest. PC sales have fallen for the first time in the United States in 15 years, partly because both business and home users see no great technology to make them want to buy. Within the PC industry, many point to the success of Dell as the cause for the lack of innovation. Dell has gained the dominant position in the market through its ruthless cost-cutting and pricing scheme, which means a scant research and development budget. Other manufacturers, such as former PC leader Compaq, have followed Dell's example in order to stay competitive, leaving much of the research and development to software and hardware suppliers Intel and Microsoft. These two companies have ratcheted up their research spending during the downturn and are driving innovation in the PC market, while PC makers themselves continue to innovate in notebook computers, which have relatively robust sales compared with desktop systems. Microsoft's new Windows XP system is expected to boost PC sales this year, and Intel has said it will release its plans for a completely redesigned PC architecture later this year as well. IDC research says that companies are now upgrading desktop systems every four years, compared to the three-year schedule maintained during the 1990s.
- "As Public Records Go Online, Some Say They're Too Public"
New York Times (08/24/01) P. E1; Harmon, Amy
Privacy advocates are claiming that putting public records online only leaves people more vulnerable. Home owners in Allegheny County, Penn., object to public records going online, as with the recently launched property assessment service on the county's Web site. And American Civil Liberties Union lawyers have also attacked the state government in New Jersey for posting the registration information of workers who must obtain a state license, such as nurses and accountants. Meanwhile, a new Web site promoting voter turnout in New York City is raising the hackles of privacy advocates by posting voter registration information on the Internet. Demanding only a name and birth date as privacy protection, the site allows anyone to find any registered New York City voter. Although the site ostensibly aims to increase voter participation by making it easier to find polling stations and districts, some people say that the Internet medium makes it too easy for people to misuse the information. Even though all the records being displayed online are publicly available, the open nature of the Internet has removed the barriers of time and distance of the paper-based system. Courts are divided over the issue, causing advocates on both sides to look to the legislative process to create new laws governing the issue.
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- "DeCSS DVD-Copying Case Before Judge Today"
Newsbytes (08/23/01); Bartlett, Michael
Andrew Bunner's appeal of an earlier injunction that prohibits Bunner's dissemination of DeCSS code over the Web will be heard today by a california appeals court. In January 2000, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge issued an injunction prohibiting Bunner's online publication of DeCSS code, which breaks down DVDs' copyright protection system. David Greene, an attorney with the First Amendment Project, says the court did not consider Bunner's First Amendment rights when imposing the injunction. The information was openly available to anyone, he argues. But Bob Sugarman, an attorney for the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA), says DeCSS constitutes a trade secret. Publishing such code is not protected by the First Amendment, he argues. The DVD CCA and the Motion Picture Association of America filed similar suits against the dissemination of DeCSS, Sugarman says. The appeals court is expected to rule on the issue within 90 days.
For more information on DeCSS code and DVD cases, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Lawyers Maneuver in Sklyarov Case"
Associated Press (08/22/01)
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have reached an agreement to postpone the arraignment of Russian computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov by a week, according to lead defense attorney Joseph Burton. Sklyarov is facing charges that he violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 by writing a program that bypasses copyright safeguards for Adobe's eBook Reader software and facilitates the copying of e-books. The programmer's advocates note that the program is not illegal in Russia and that it operates under the U.S. copyright law's "fair use" provisions. Sklyarov's case has become a rallying point for critics of DMCA, who argue that the statute stifles free speech and scientific research. Attorneys on both sides of the case are negotiating a possible plea bargain.
- "Microsoft Outpaces Legal Foes With Windows XP"
Computerworld Online (08/22/01); Berger, Matt
Justice Department officials and business competitors will likely not be able to prevent Microsoft from releasing its new Windows XP operating system to the public, which could happen as soon as Friday through software bundled with new PCs. However, the official launch for direct purchase of Windows XP is October 25. A new trial judge is to begin new proceedings to review the case on Friday, at which time many expect Justice Department attorneys to file an injunction against the release of Windows XP. Fenwick & West LLC lawyer Emmett Stanton, who has been following the case, says that an injunction most likely will not be approved because it would approach the bundling issue, which was one of the findings that a federal appeals court recently threw out of the original ruling by Judge Penfield Jackson. That appeals court has asked the new trial judge to reassess the bundling issue and to find proper remedies for Microsoft's monopoly over operating systems.
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- "Tech Growth Cools Into Long Ice Age"
USA Today (08/24/01) P. 1B; Backover, Andrew; Krantz, Matt
The technology industry is unlikely to post the high double-digit growth rates of the late 1990s any time soon, say analysts. They say the telecom slowdown mirrors a broader cooling of technology markets, such as PCs. A lack of new software and other technology applications such as widespread broadband is seen as one reason for normalized growth in the technology sector. Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Neal Soss says technology growth will slow to only two to three times the normal 3 percent GDP growth rate in the future. Wells Fargo economist Sung Won notes the tech industry accounted for about 30 percent of the U.S.'s economic growth last year, but Soss says tech spending will slow from a high of 14 times faster than the gross domestic product to just twice the GDP growth rate.
- "InfiniBand Is Aimed to Break Data Logjam"
Wall Street Journal (08/23/01) P. B4; Williams, Molly
Although companies are putting faster and faster microprocessors in their servers and network computers, the flow of data is reduced to a trickle because their communications cannot keep up with their processing speed. To solve this problem, Intel, IBM, and other technology giants are collaborating on InfiniBand, a standard that aims to boost data flow speeds to 10 gigabits a second. Several of the computing industry's leading players, including IBM, Intel, Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Sun Microsystems, and Microsoft, are working on developing the InfiniBand standard. Meanwhile, a number of small companies, run by leading chip designers, are making products that use the InfiniBand standard, including Primarion, Banderacom, and Mellanox Technologies. These companies plan to demonstrate their products at an upcoming conference in San Jose, Calif. International Data predicts that the InfiniBand chip market will grow to 4.2 million units in 2004, while over 80 percent of servers shipped in 2005 will be enabled for the standard. PCs equipped with InfiniBand technology aren't expected for five or six years. Intel is also pursuing another I/O technology for PCs called 3GIO.
- "As '.Com' Gets Company, a Rush for Addresses"
Washington Post (08/23/01) P. E1; Walker, Leslie
New TLDs .biz and .info will bring both confusion and diversity to the domain name space, and the competition for them is already heating up even though dot-com companies are collapsing and .com domain names are being renewed at only a 50 percent rate. Trademark-holder pre-registration has been controversial for both domains, with .biz's declaratory judgment trial set to commence on Sept. 13. ICANN head honcho M. Stuart Lynn makes no apologies. "Remember, ICANN established these [seven new TLDs] as a middle ground between those who were clamoring for hundreds of new top-level domain names and those who wanted none," says Lynn. "The board set these up as a proof of concept so it could study the results before proceeding further." Interbrand branding expert Julie Cottineau predicts that .com will continue to be the more prestigious domain name--at least for the short term. NeuLevel CEO Douglas Armentrout predicts that ".biz will become synonymous with Internet business," and suggests .biz could out-perform .com by shedding .com's negative association with failed online companies, and by being a global alternative to .com's close association with the United States. Meantime, Roland LaPlante, chief marketing officer of Afilias, says that 62 percent of the .info pre-registrations have come from outside the United States.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IG.
- "The Bubble Has Burst, So It's Back to the Ideas"
SiliconValley.com (08/20/01); Gillmor, Dan
Silicon Valley is returning from its foray into economics and refocusing itself on innovative technology that builds upon previous advancements such as the Internet, writes Dan Gillmor. One such company is Alpiri, a small self-funded company with an intelligent staff who are finding ways to allow computers to communicate with one another, thus easing tasks on the Web. More specifically, their technology would add standard tags to data that would enable computers to intelligently complete Internet tasks such as search queries on behalf of users. Such applications, when paired with other advancements in connectivity, storage, and processing hardware, promise consumer benefits that prove technology is still the core to Silicon Valley's importance. Gillmor says that despite the new reluctance on the part of venture capitalists to fund any good idea, many advancements are being made, particularly in storage, microprocessors, and bandwidth. He says work in these areas, and many others, promises "truly valuable and sustaining" technology advancements.
- "Intellectual Property: Old Rules Don't Apply"
Wall Street Journal (08/23/01) P. A1; Murray, Alan
Technology is creating a new paradigm in intellectual property law, as evidenced by the Microsoft antitrust trial. As Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates pointed out, software companies are either wildly successful or lose big based on the quality of their idea, not any physical product. Once the upfront costs are recouped, every additional sale is pure profit, but the advent of a better competing product can easily stem sales. This creates a situation where successful companies become monopolies, as in Microsoft's case. Experts and policy makers are discussing how these new truths play out against the legal framework created for traditional product industries, such as steel and automobiles. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City plans to discuss the topic at their upcoming annual conference and intellectual property rights issues are also being hashed out on a national and international level in the United Nations and the U.S. Congress.
- "Beaming Data Holds Promise, With Limits, for Networking"
New York Times (08/23/01) P. E9; Gallagher, David F.
Scientists are working on high-speed information networks comprised of infrared beams that connect machines to one another and a transmitter/receiver. The technology could be applied to videoconferencing because infrared frequencies are unregulated and the beams' inability to penetrate walls acts as a secure barrier against outside interference. Dr. Moshen Kavehrad and Dr. Svetla Jivoka of Pennsylvania State University have conceived of a system of omnidirectional receivers facilitated by beams that are bounced off the ceiling. The system suffers from limited speed and data loss triggered by an "echo" effect as a result of the scattered beams, but Kavehrad and Jivoka use a holographic filter that arrays the reflected beams in a grid. They say that the technology could transmit two gigabits of data per second, a thousand-fold increase over cable modems. Meanwhile, researchers at Germany's University of Siegen and University of Kassel are approaching their own solution to the echo problem by enhancing the signal separation of receivers. However, infrared technology's commercial applications may be limited by a number of factors. Professor Joseph M. Kahn of the University of California at Berkeley notes that radio networking already has a customer base and is the subject of numerous corporate investments; furthermore, the technology's impenetrability requires receivers and transmitters to be installed in every room in order to maintain connectivity.
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- "Microsoft Pledges $58 Million to Get Mexicans Online"
Los Angeles Times (08/24/01) P. A3; Kraul, Chris; Aguirre, Rafael
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer yesterday announced that his company would give Mexico $58 million over five years to train software programmers and educators as part of President Vicente Fox's e-Mexico initiative to bring 98 percent of the population online. It remains to be seen how Mexico will buy the hardware needed to make Fox's $4 billion plan a reality, but Ballmer said it is a necessary step for Microsoft's contribution to be successful. As a participating member of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico can purchase hardware and software at a discount, notes Gartner Dataquest research director Luis Anavitarte. This gives it a distinct advantage over other Latin American nations that are also pursuing Internet connectivity. Although only 250 Mexican communities have Web access thus far, Julio Cesar Margain of the Ministry of Communications and Transportation expects that number to increase by a factor of 10 by 2002.
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- "Privacy: Can Businesses Build Trust and Exploit Opportunity?"
InformationWeek (08/20/01) No. 851, P. 30; Sweat, Jeff
CPO Leigh Williams. "They just want to deal with an institution they can trust without having to actively manage the privacy." There are many routes companies can take to solidifying customer trust, but it must be done without seeming too invasive to the customer.
- "License Changes Anger IT Managers"
Computerworld (08/20/01) Vol. 35, No. 34, P. 1; Sliwa, Carol
IT managers are up-in-arms over Microsoft's recent changes to its volume licensing and standard upgrade agreements, even though the changes are set to take effect later than originally planned. Microsoft has given managers until the end of February to adjust their budgets to the new pricing scheme instead of early October. Still, many administrators say that Microsoft's time schedule is too constrictive and that other vendors, such as IBM, give at least a year's lead-time before implementing such drastic changes. Some companies are eager to take advantage of the high-end options that are now available, such as the Enterprise Agreement, which provides businesses automatic upgrades and licensing for standard products for over 250 user seats for three years. For companies that are on a less demanding upgrade cycle, the licensing changes are seen as blatant attempts to get them to spend more money more often. This has led some IT managers, such as Green Mountain Coffee CIO Jim Prevo, to consider other desktop software for the first time.
- "Zap! It's the Future"
Maclean's (08/20/01) Vol. 114, No. 34, P. 24; Wood, Chris
Advances in smart systems have helped transform discussions of smart technologies from fictional novelties to smart devices that are now in existence. Japan's Fuji Spinning plans to sell self-cleaning fabric next year; Levi Strauss & Co. has inserted cellphones and personal electronic notebooks into clothing; IBM researchers have incorporated voice recording technology into necklace pendants; researchers in Ventura, Calif., have designed a vest that will record vital signs and deliver data to doctors; and eyeglasses that have tiny screens are now on the market. Although smart devices are starting to appear, scientists, engineers, and designers still face the challenge of making their components small enough and cheap enough for mass production. Researchers are using what they know about assembling molecules one atom at a time to build new materials for smart devices. And they are combining the news materials with computer processors today, using the latest developments in micro-circuitry and manufacturing. David Zimcik, an expert at the National Research Council, would rather refer to smart materials as smart systems because sensors, processors, programs, and moving parts are involved. In order to apply smart technologies to devices, researchers are working at the molecular and atomic levels. For example, researchers working on a rope for lifting loads into space are trying to twist carbon nanotubes into nanotube ropes.
- "Calling All Techies"
National Journal (08/18/01) Vol. 33, No. 34, P. 2620; New, William
There is a serious demand for young blood in the government IT sector, what with over 50 percent of the federal IT workforce due to retire in the next five years. Without a steady supply of IT expertise, the government will be hard-pressed to efficiently disseminate vast amounts of data to the public and fulfill its e-government initiative. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) associate director for information technology and e-government Mark Forman says that contracting private sector workers to do government jobs is one solution. "We have to get out of this notion that in order to get work done, we have to own the resources," he explains. Other concessions--such as high salaries, job flexibility, and more responsibility--must also be made to retain IT expertise; unfortunately, more IT people are drawn to the private sector, where salaries far outmatch federal pay. OMB has taken action by raising the salaries of 33,000 federal IT experts, engineers, and researchers, testing more flexible IT qualifications, and issuing a new IT specialist standard. Much criticism about the government's failure to train and retain workers has been laid at the feet of CIOs. The CIO Council was established to remedy this situation, and is sponsoring an evaluation of the federal IT workforce by the National Academy of Public Administration.
- "Get Thee to a University"
Network Computing (08/06/01) Vol. 12, No. 16, P. 63; Von Dran, Raymond; Heckman, Robert; Kingma, Bruce
When it comes to continuing their education, IT professionals must weigh a lot of factors into their choice of a university or program. They must decide at the outset whether they wish to strive for a master's degree or some smaller certification or study program, as well as set clearly defined educational goals. Prospective students should research the professors teaching the courses, the adjunct faculty, the quality of the students, and their own readiness. Inquiries should then be made into the school's research-and-development facilities, program internships, and graduate job placement. The mode of education must also be considered: Internet-only courses offer self-paced instruction, but lack face-to-face interactions, an important quality. Students must decide between one of three study programs--information systems/management, telecommunications and networking, and library science. Systems analysis, project management, data management, networking, human behavior, management principles, and information economics are disciplines covered by information systems/management; telecommunications and networking programs cover a much wider area, such as mathematics, engineering, and communications; and library science focuses on the organization, cataloging, and management of corporate intranets and the creation of Web-enabled public libraries.