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


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Volume 3, Issue 245:  Monday, August 27, 2001

  • "Tech Leaders Feel Neglected"
    Los Angeles Times (08/27/01) P. C1; Shiver Jr., Jube

    High-tech executives are criticizing President Bush for apparently ignoring the importance of information technology to the economy, despite having contributed money to his campaign. The Clinton administration's stance on technology was clear to Silicon Valley, while the current administration is tight-lipped, leaving the industry uncertain, according to Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle. This is in marked contrast to Bush and Vice President Cheney's promises that the industry would not be taken for granted, promises made during the campaign as well as in the early months of 2001. "I just don't think there is a technology champion in the Bush team," says Hal Varian, UC Berkeley's dean of the school of information management. "Bush's own background is in energy, and his administration reflects that focus." Still, the White House has come out in support of a permanent ban on Internet access taxes, a permanent federal tax credit for corporate R&D costs, international high-tech trade efforts, and more online procurement. Also, with about 50 technology bills wending their way through Congress, a sluggish economy, and rumblings about online privacy and security, Bush will have to deal with the high-tech industry eventually.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "New Microsoft Judge Has Limited Antitrust Record"
    Wall Street Journal (08/27/01) P. A3; Bridis, Ted; Simpson, Glenn R.

    Federal judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has been selected by a lottery process to decide what to do with Microsoft in the wake of a June decision that the company violated U.S. antitrust laws. Judge Kollar-Kotelly is known for advocating out-of-court settlements while her experience with antitrust cases is limited. She has not demonstrated a specific preference toward government or corporations in the two Justice Department-drafted antitrust settlements she has judged. Furthermore, her husband, attorney John T. Kotelly, has represented Corel, a software company that competes against Microsoft, but a clerk of the U.S. District Court assures that "there is no ethical conflict." Kollar-Kotelly will replace Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who was removed from the Microsoft trial when he publicly aired critical remarks against the company to reporters. Her ultimate ruling could either break up Microsoft or limit its business activities.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/619973.asp

  • "I.B.M. Creates a Tiny Circuit Out of Carbon"
    New York Times (08/27/01) P. C1; Chang, Kenneth

    IBM researchers announced that they have created a functioning computer circuit out of a single carbon nanotube, which is just 10 atoms wide. Dr. Phaedon Avouris, who is heading the nanoscale studies, says that this development could mean current chip sizes can hold up to 10,000 times more circuits and break barriers in computing set by silicon chips. Silicon-based chips are expected to reach their minimum size in 10 to 15 years, and scientists at companies like IBM and Hewlett-Packard have been looking to develop new technologies that will replace silicon after that time. Although Avouris warned that the new developments did not guarantee that a workable processor would result in the near future, he did say that the nanotube breakthrough proved that the physics of nanotube computing worked.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/27/technology/27NANO.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Spending on Tech Is Way Down"
    Washington Post (08/25/01) P. E1; Irwin, Neil

    The nation's technology spending will likely fall this year for the first time since 1974, according to research firm Precursor Group. Just last year, corporate tech spending rose 19 percent over 1999, due mostly to heavy investment in the first part of the year. Precursor's reports show that tech spending has already dropped 2.4 percent for the first half of this year as companies pare back their new investments because they cannot foresee any strong revenue growth. Technology spending rocketed during the stock market boom of the late 1990s because companies could use their high valuations to easily raise capital without divesting much ownership. But as tech spending has hit the brakes, consumer spending is still robust enough to carry the economy forward, according to John Hancock Financial Services chief economist Bill Cheney.
    http://www.washtech.com/news/software/12108-1.html

  • "For Dot-Com Workers, Double Trouble Post-Bubble"
    E-Commerce Times (08/24/01); Regan, Keith

    Over 41,000 Internet workers have been laid off since October 2000, and these people are now facing a job market whose offerings possess considerably less flexibility, salary, and comfort than dot-com workers were accustomed to. Searching for a job with similar standards to one's previous position means longer job searches, more trips to the unemployment office, and more contract work, says Monster.com technology jobs expert Allan Hoffman. Despite the tight market, Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger notes that many laid-off dot-com workers at least have the advantage of high-level management experience whose value will continue to rise. Challenger also points out that after six months of increases, Web company layoffs have finally started to taper off.
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/13066.html

  • "Linux Bucks Slump; Show to Draw Biggest Crowd Yet"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/27/01) P. A6; Riley, Sheila

    The expected turnout at this week's LinuxWorld Conference in San Francisco illustrates the growth of Linux support in the face of the economic downturn, according to organizers. As many as 25,000 attendees are expected this year, compared to just 400 three years ago. LinuxWorld also bucks the trend of declining attendance at other technology trade shows, which Tradeshow Week's Michael Hughes says is typical of industry slumps. Another significant development is the appearance of large, established companies advocating Linux, whereas three years ago supporters were mainly maverick individuals. IBM, Dell Computer, and Hewlett-Packard are registered for the conference. Shipments of licensed Linux server operating systems increased from 1.3 million to 1.6 million between 1999 and 2000.

  • "Senator Plans Anti-Piracy Copyright Legislation"
    Newsbytes (08/24/01); MacMillan, Robert

    New legislation being discussed in the Senate Commerce Committee would require content providers and hardware manufacturers to develop copyright protection schemes for digital content. Backed by committee chairman Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., the legislation is intended to provide blanket coverage to copyright holders against piracy. However, Consumer Electronics Association officials say they want lawmakers to consider the rights of users to make personal copies for legal uses. CEA represents hardware manufacturers such as Gateway and Toshiba, but has not formulated an official response to the proposed legislation. Meanwhile, Reps. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Chris Cannon, R-Utah, have put forward legislation that would enable online content providers to use the same licensing structure provided for cable, signal broadcast, and satellite content distribution companies. That legislation would also allow home users to make backup copies of music they download from those online companies.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/169394.html

  • "New Kind of Intelligent Robot Can Learn by Experience"
    Philadelphia Inquirer (08/23/01) P. F3; Boyd, Robert S.

    The Self-organizing Autonomous Incremental Learner (SAIL) is a developmental machine programmed to learn from experience. Michigan State University robotics expert John Weng teaches SAIL a few basic skills, which it then develops through interaction with its environment. Basic skills are taught through supervised learning, and then the robot is sent out on its own and learns to act through a system of positive reinforcement for correct behavior and negative reinforcement for incorrect behavior; this distinction between the two is triggered by telling the robot what is good and bad through buttons or voice commands. SAIL is also programmed to respond to tactile sensations and what it perceives via stereoscopic vision. "Human trainers teach robots through verbal, gestural, or written commands in much the same way as parents teach their children," Weng explains. Other researchers are working on their own versions of developmental robots, but Weng boasts that SAIL is the closest thing to a human child in terms of learning abilities.
    http://inq.philly.com/content/inquirer/2001/08/23/tech_life/ROBOT23.htm

  • "Repressive Governments Able to Tame Internet"
    Washington Times (08/23/01) P. A11; Sands, David R.

    The Internet has been praised as a tool that promotes democracy and free speech in even the most repressive nations, but the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace finds that little significant political change in authoritarian countries has occurred through Web-based activities. Studying China and Cuba, Carnegie researchers Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas note that the regimes closely monitor the Internet for signs of political unrest and tightly control access to computers. There is only one public Internet outlet in Cuba, a Havana cybercafe, and it is very expensive. In China, politically sensitive material is detected and expunged from the Web through administrative monitors called "Big Mamas." China's policies on online political repression are particularly dangerous, according to Amnesty International's T. Kumar, who warns that other regimes could adopt similar policies.
    http://www.washtimes.com/world/20010823-14516190.htm

  • "Portals Open Window For Sales"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/23/01) P. A6; Coleman, Murray

    Business software companies are marketing new portal offerings to their customers in hopes of opening new sales opportunities. They tout business portals as ways to unite customers, partners, and employees to key applications and a centralized system. BroadVision executive vice president of marketing Chris Grejtak calls portals, "the new operating system for the Internet." Already, many big technology vendors are looking to drive a profit in the portal market, despite a small $252.1 million valuation last year, according to International Data. However, by 2005, that market is expected to grow to $2.4 billion--one reason so many companies are moving into the portal space. So far, the top position in the market is held by Computer Associates, partly through their acquisition of Sterling Software early last year. BroadVision and Plumtree Software also have a good share of portal sales, but large firms like IBM and SAP are looking to encroach on their territory.

  • "U.S. Studies Its Nanotech Plan to Make Sure It's On Right Path"
    Small Times (08/22/01); Karoub, Jeff

    Two new committees will study the federal government's nanotechnology initiatives in order to see how they can be more properly directed. The separate studies will come from the National Research Council (NRC) and the National Science Foundation and will address nanotechnology efforts in the Department of Defense and the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) begun under former President Clinton. The NNI study will take 18 months and will help the group direct nanotechnology developments in different parts of the federal government by answering key questions about the future of nanotechnology in the United States. Jim Murday serves as the executive secretary of the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Technology group, which has oversight over NNI, and says the initiative has bi-partisan support, including important budget allocations from President Bush. NNI plans to publicly promote nanotech research via workshops and online. Throughout the assessment, NRC will try to determine whether adequate consideration is being given to nanotech developments; whether internal evaluations are effective; whether "seed" investments are sufficient to meet long-term goals; and whether NNI research covers skills and knowledge that will optimize the technological benefits for the United States.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Taking the Net Where a Phone Is a Luxury"
    New York Times (08/23/01) P. E8; Biersdorfer, J.D.

    BusyInternet is planning to open a technology center in a remote area of Ghana next month and use it to offer Africans Internet access. BusyInternet will operate independent of the regional utilities, according to CEO Mark Davies. "We've put in our own link to the national electric grid, our own generator, our own satellite dish for bandwidth," he says. BusyInternet teamed up with Ghanaian venture capitalists and IT entrepreneurs to fund the project, and is currently trying to get several local financial agencies interested as well. The company hopes to establish more centers in Uganda, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and other African countries. Davies hopes that businesses and individuals will use the Ghanaian center to exchange information and skills.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/23/technology/circuits/23AFRI.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "U.S., Australian Net Security Groups Ink Partnership"
    Newsbytes (08/21/01); McGuire, David

    Carnegie Mellon's CERT Coordination Center and the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) have embarked on a joint project to better manage and keep track of online security incidents, threats, and other issues. In addition to keeping track and notifying each other about such occurrences, the agencies will co-author papers oriented around security. The move solidifies a preexisting working relationship between the two organizations, according to CERT/CC Manager Jeffrey Carpenter. "We feel very strongly that the activity (and) security problems we see don't begin or end at the borders of the United States," he says.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/169252.html

  • "Copyright Law Chills IT Security Research"
    Computerworld (08/20/01) Vol. 35, No. 34, P. 6; Verton, Dan

    Scientists working to improve security for computers and networks could go to jail for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, an edict that many critics say will hurt the progress of scientific research. DMCA prevented Princeton University Professor Dr. Edward Felten and his team from releasing a paper at an April conference that discussed security flaws in a program designed to prevent digital music piracy. Other scientists are worried that they might also be threatened with legal action or jail time if they try to disclose their findings, even though they may be legitimate from a research point of view. "The DMCA seems to cast a very wide net and will catch a lot of things besides computer security," declares Felten. Advocates of DMCA contend that it protects copyright owners' and authors' rights to make a living. One of the staunchest critics of the law is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization that represented Felten when he took the Recording Industry Association of America to court, defending his First Amendment rights to release his paper. "The DMCA set up a system where, essentially, the government outsourced censorship of science," says EFF legal director Cindy Cohn.
    http://www.computerworld.com/cwi/stories/0,1199,NAV47-81_STO63180,00.html
    ACM submitted a declaration in the case of Felten v. RIAA. To read the declaration in its entirety, visit http://www.acm.org/felten.

  • "Information Mobilization"
    CIO (08/15/01) Vol. 14, No. 21, P. 146; Brown, J.

    An increasing number of companies are expected to turn to mobile solutions to improve their operations. However, analysts warn that companies should have a legitimate business reason for going mobile, considering how the technology would benefit workers and customers. Experts add that some companies might want to consider whether they need a mobile solution at this time, particularly when uncertainty surrounds standards for mobile technology. For companies that want to gain a competitive edge by becoming an early adopter of mobilization, a partnership with a vendor will likely be the best way for companies to get their data ready for mobile devices. Companies can gain basic information sharing by choosing a wireless application service provider (WASP), but custom programming will be needed for more demanding projects. Some companies might want to follow the path of Sears, Roebuck and Co. by creating their own mobile solution. By customizing inventory data for some 15,000 handheld computers, Sears' salespersons now have a better idea of what is in the stockroom. Companies also should take the time to offer training and support programs for workers, which would help produce a better return on their investment in a mobile solution.
    http://www.cio.com/archive/081501/et_article.html

  • "The Back Office Moves to India"
    InfoWorld (08/20/01) Vol. 23, No. 34, P. 26; Ribeiro, John

    India is becoming the country of choice for American and European companies that wish to outsource IT-enabled back-office services for customer support and data processing. Firms can take advantage of a burgeoning telecommunications infrastructure, highly skilled workers can be hired for less money, and the time difference allows companies to meet customers' needs around the clock. CustomerAsset co-founder Meena Ganesh says that the economic slowdown in the United States could benefit India "because companies need to take advantage of the leveraged costs of outsourcing to be in a position to consistently shore up their bottom lines quarter to quarter." Some American multinationals have established Indian affiliates to expand their back-office services to a worldwide scope. Indian services companies must put in a lot of effort to be IT outsourcers, training their staff to function across cultural boundaries and investing in systems that satisfy the security and quality concerns of their clients. The National Association of Software and Service Companies expects a 54 percent gain in revenues from IT-enabled services in India for the year ending March 31, 2002, an approximate total of $1.4 billion.
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/fe/xml/01/08/20/010820feindia.xml

  • "Trust Me!"
    Interactive Week (08/20/01) Vol. 8, No. 32, P. 18; Barrett, Randy

    Trust will determine whether the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) is successful in implementing the federal cybersecurity program, according to agency director Ron Dick. The federal effort to protect the nation's infrastructure from hackers demands that government agencies share information with each other, and that the private sector share information with federal authorities. However, government agencies have been more interested in politically maneuvering for money and prestige than cooperation, and companies are too afraid of providing competitors with access to their security information to share information industrywide. What is more, companies rarely report cyberattacks to federal authorities because they are afraid of bad publicity, of becoming more of a target, and of a bungled investigation by the FBI. Legislators are considering bills that would limit the exposure of companies, but some observers say the Freedom of Information Act does not offer companies enough protection for their sensitive information. Some critics add that the government must overhaul its approach to the problem in terms of narrow sectors in order to address crime by individual attackers and small groups, and some insiders say a common language for tracking cyberattacks also is needed. The difficulties that the NIPC has encountered so far are growing pains, according to John Tritak, director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, which is the bureau that coordinates security efforts among government agencies.
    http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2805065,00.html

  • "Learning From Open-Source Software"
    MIT Sloan Management Review (08/01) Vol. 42, No. 4, P. 82; Von Hippel, Eric

    Manufacturers have long been considered the masters of innovation development because they have a greater financial incentive to create new products and possess the resources to widely distribute them. On the other hand, customers are bringing manufacturer-free product development closer to reality through user innovation and development communities that freely share knowledge to build their own solutions; open-source software is one such route. In order to prosper, the benefits of innovation and voluntarily sharing that knowledge must outweigh the costs, and users must be able to compete against manufacturers in the production and diffusion of products. Open-source software can essentially be created, revealed, and distributed over the Internet for free, optimizing production and diffusion. Smaller companies are leveraging open-source software to triumph over corporate giants. For example, 60 percent of the world's Web sites support Apache open-source software rather than rival products from Netscape and Microsoft.
    http://mitsloan.mit.edu/smr/past/2001/smr4248.html

  • "Robot, Heal Thyself"
    Scientific American (08/01) Vol. 265, No. 2, P. 40; Musser, George

    Daniel Mange and others at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology are striving to create self-repairing electronic circuits that would represent the first significant applications of self-replicating machines. One of the institute's first yields is the microinstruction tree (MICTREE) artificial cell, a processor with four bits of data storage capacity that can be linked to other cells via electrical contacts. The system can recover from the loss of a cell because the cells are programmed to take over for any destroyed or malfunctioning neighbor relative to their position until a replacement cell can activate. Prototype MICTREE cells are hardwired, while a finished product would be arranged in a field-programmable gate array that can be custom-tailored to specific applications. This next step is called the multiplexer tree (MUXTREE), which Mange and his associates are currently developing.