Timely Topics for IT Professionals
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Volume 3, Issue 266: Friday, October 19, 2001
- "Safeguarding Data Gains New Urgency"
Washington Post (10/19/01) P. E1; ElBoghdady, Dina
Businesses are showing increased interest in data recovery and business continuity services following the Sept. 11 attacks, but some analysts wonder whether it is a temporary spike in demand or a permanent shift in spending. Many firms store electronic data on magnetic tapes and send it to a company providing secure storage, and now are considering a more expensive option that involves replicating data over high-bandwidth Internet connections almost continuously. This second service allowed many of the firms surviving the World Trade Center collapse to be able to resume operations where they left off soon after the attacks. Todd Gordon, IBM Global Services general manager of business continuity recovery, says last month's attacks are unprecedented, so it is hard to tell whether the reaction will result in a sustained spending in data recovery.
- "Wiggling Fans and Other Ways to Keep a Computer Cool"
New York Times (10/18/01) P. F9; Eisenberg, Anne
The heat generated by silicon chips inside a computer can be a serious detriment to performance and reliability, so researchers across the United States are developing approaches to reduce temperatures. Dr. Suresh V. Garimella of Purdue University has several efforts underway. One project involves the carving of microchannels into the chips. The channels range in size from that of a human hair to the scale of white blood cells, and researchers are currently exploring ways to get liquid coolant to flow through them. Another team led by Garimella has fabricated tiny fans that are energy-efficient and almost completely noiseless. The fan blades are flexible, and embedded in a piezoelectric ceramic that bends the blades back and forth when alternating current is applied. These and other cooling techniques will be the subject of a conference hosted by Garimella's group at the end of the month.
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- "Precursor to Tiniest Computer Chip Is Developed"
New York Times (10/18/01) P. A14; Chang, Kenneth
Researchers at Lucent Technologies have developed a transistor that features a switch with a thickness of only one molecule. The switch is built into a layer of silicon and consists of carbon-based, stick-like molecules one millionth of an inch thick, bonded to gold electrodes. The layer is significantly thinner than its counterpart in silicon transistors, and its faster switching speed could pave the way for faster chips. The scientists have also formed circuits out of these tiny transistors. "It shows what can be the ultimate limit for transistors," declared Dr. J. Hendrik Schon of Lucent's Bell Labs. Researchers at IBM and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed a method to construct circuits and transistors out of carbon nanotubes, but the Bell Labs technique may prove to be more practical. Still, the commercial possibilities of this technology may not be realized for years.
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- "Industry Panel Proposes Voice Standard for Web"
IDG News Service (10/15/01); Berger, Matt
Microsoft, Cisco, and Intel have formed a coalition backing a simple speech recognition standard for the Internet that will allow users to access Web services via speech commands. The Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) standard, set for initial launch in the first quarter of 2002, will be free for developers and interoperable across different operating systems. Another, more functional standard, VoiceXML, is currently being developed by another industry group, although the SALT companies say the two will not compete. SALT is simply meant to allow Web sites to add speech functionality without having to reconstruct themselves, said Frank Caris, whose Philips Speech Processing North America unit is contributing its localization and speech recognition technology to the project. Microsoft, seeing an opportunity for its .Net plans, has also said it will incorporate SALT into its Visual Studio.Net tools and Internet Explorer. AOL Time Warner already has its own Web site speech command tools available through AOL by Phone services.
- "IT Needs Women Not Nerds, Says Hewitt"
VNUNet (10/15/01); Lynch, Ian
On Monday, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt declared that the British computing industry needs more female IT professionals and fewer techno-geeks. Women currently account for only 22 percent of the British IT workforce, a 7 percent downgrade from 1994. Hewitt announced that the government is planning to launch an effort to boost their presence. She said that the initiative would involve collaboration between government and industry to implement better IT hiring and retention for women, and to improve IT training for schoolgirls. "Female IT graduates earn about 3,000 pounds more than other female graduates do," Hewitt noted.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women
- "Improved Usability Called PC Sales Key"
Philadelphia Inquirer (10/18/01) P. F2; O'Brien, Tia
Many consumers are not buying or upgrading their PCs because they lack usability. Usability often takes a back seat to innovation when it comes to high-tech design, and input from consumers is frequently overlooked. Furthermore, Cooper Interaction Design Chairman Alan Cooper notes that usability tests are performed at the end of a product's development cycle rather than the beginning. Unfortunately, few manufacturers carry out such tests. High-tech experts warn that unless ease of use becomes a top priority for technology manufacturers, the decline in sales is likely to continue. A research group estimates that sales have bottomed out for the first time in 15 years, while PC owners account for about 60 percent of the U.S. population.
- "U.S. On Verge of 'Electronic Martial Law'--Researcher"
Newsbytes (10/15/01); Featherly, Kevin
The United States is unduly clamping down on the Internet in order to root out terrorist activities online, argues University of Illinois professor Heidi Brush, who says the federal government would do better to rethink the conceptual framework of U.S. communications instead. She spoke at the recent Internet Research 2.0 gathering for the Association of Internet Researchers. Although offering no concrete fixes to the problem, Professor Brush painted a grim picture of "Internet martial law" being imposed in a vain attempt to capture distributed terrorist groups. Terrorists' style of "Net war," a term coined earlier by experts at the RAND policy think tank, would prove elusive to counter by the lumbering centralized government, she said.
- "IBM Plea on Simpler Computer Systems"
Financial Times (10/16/01) P. 7; Foremski, Tom
IBM's Paul Horn said that industry researchers should redirect their energy away from developing faster chips and move toward streamlining large computer systems. "It's not about keeping pace with Moore's Law, but rather dealing with the consequences of its decades-long reign," he declared at a computer conference yesterday. IBM supports the creation of self-regulating IT technologies that use the human body as a template, and the company intends to set up industry advisory boards as well as provide about 50 university research grants. The growing complexity of computer systems means a greater allocation of labor resources to manage and support computer centers and less IT growth, Horn says. The advent of self-regulating IT systems "would free IT professionals from mundane tasks and unleash a tremendous wave of creativity," he asserts.
- "Study: What Should We Do With PC Castoffs?"
ZDNet (10/15/01); Skillings, Jonathan
The Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA) is planning a study designed to determine how to best coordinate government and industry efforts to dispose and recycle used household electronics. Several manufacturers and retailers have initiated small-scale projects in which they charge a small fee or pay the costs themselves. One extra incentive for the industry to create a framework for disposal is the situation in Japan and some European countries, where the governments have made manufacturers responsible for the disposal of their own products. The National Safety Council says 20 million PCs became obsolete annually in the late 1990s, a number experts predict will only grow. The EIA study will work through existing programs set up by Florida, the Northeast Recycling Council, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
- "Code Errors Stall Spread of Computer Worms"
NewsFactor Network (10/17/01); McDonald, Tim
Several computer worms that threatened to wreak havoc this week have failed to do so because they are rife with code errors. The self-propagating anthrax worm is designed to infect email systems by posing as a bulletin about the recent anthrax scare, but its proliferation has been hamstrung by a small error in the script that spreads the virus to the Microsoft Outlook address book. Similarly, the threatened resurgence of the SirCam bug failed to materialize because of a code error, according to the Sophos security firm. However, these setbacks have by no means reduced the threat of hacker attacks; the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) reported on Tuesday that the number of "security incidents" this year is expected to double last year's total. Furthermore, the number of reported software vulnerabilities has increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2001.
- "Gauging Demand For Detection"
Boston Globe (10/17/01) P. D1; Aoki, Naomi
The recent bioterrorism threat is leading to greater demands for systems that can detect agents like anthrax, smallpox, and ebola in the air before they cause a major catastrophe. Companies like Bruker Daltonics, Cepheid, and Nanogen have for years been working with the Defense Department on machines that can detect harmful chemical and biological threats, and will probably benefit from government contracts intended to speed up research and development of more advanced equipment in light of recent anthrax scares. While thus far, the amount of inquiries into such products have been large, demand has still not been great since the extent of the threat has not been determined yet. Though technology used to detect chemicals is readily available, tools that can spot biological agents are largely unproven in the field, as most were only developed to find traces in dirt, water, and blood, and not in the air. An effective detection device would have to be sensitive enough to differentiate between dangerous bacteria and viruses and harmless related ones, and must run on minimal maintenance and be hidden from view. Cost is also a major barrier, with some machines running into the millions of dollars.
- "Governor Calls for 'Cyber Court'"
Wired News (10/18/01); McCullagh, Declan; Polen, Ben
Dissatisfied at the laggard pace of federal judges when it comes to granting warrants to monitor suspected hackers and search their homes and offices, Gov. James Gilmore (R-Va.), chairman of a government anti-terrorism commission, is pushing for the creation of a "cyber court" that will authorize Internet wiretapping and clandestine searches. The proposed court would be "patterned after the court established in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," according to a House press release. The FISA court has drawn fire from civil libertarians for not requiring probable cause to approve eavesdropping and secret wiretapping. Gilmore also suggests that the public and private sectors team up to exchange information. Meanwhile, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) recommends that hackers should be equated with terrorists and receive similar sentences for their crimes. Gilmore's proposal comes on the heels of overwhelming House and Senate approval to extend the surveillance powers of law enforcement officials.
- "Corporate Techies Pursue 'Disruptive Technologies'"
NewsFactor Network (10/18/01); McDonald, Tim
Corporate research labs are delving further into future technologies in order to extend their business planning and bring marketable, albeit far-sighted, ideas into reality. Intel's Technology Leadership Project has proven one such corporate research facility, and has taken in former U.S. Defense Department researcher David Tennenhouse to help coordinate the development of these "disruptive" technologies. Among the ideas Intel is pursuing is pervasive computing, where microscopic processors would form "personal area networks" to gauge and respond to people's needs. Other leading-edge technologies Intel researchers are looking into are biochips, mechanical vision, and speech technology. To fill its research pipeline, Intel researcher Kevin Teixeira says the company looks around the globe for scientists with viable ideas that need commercial backing.
- "Peering Round the Corner"
Economist--Mobile Internet (10/13/01) Vol. 361, No. 8243, P. 5
Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo has shown that consumers will pay monthly fees to access Web sites from their mobile phones. DoCoMo offers the i-mode service, which some 27 million consumers use to access some 50,000 Web sites--500 are subscription only. The service features special i-mode phones that allow users to send and receive email, read news, access weather forecasts and horoscopes, conduct mobile banking and stock trading, reserve airline tickets, play music, and run software, including games; the 3G phones also offer video telephony and the ability to use data and voice services at the same time. Although Japan has enjoyed much of the success of the mobile Internet so far, the Japanese business model is likely to work in other parts of the world. For example, DoCoMo would like to see a global standard for i-mode, and the company has alliances with companies such as AOL and AT&T and owns minority stakes in companies in Europe and Asia. However, the United States could miss out on the boom in the mobile Internet, considering that, along with Canada, it is the only country in the world where PCs outnumber mobile phones. In America, handheld computers and wireless networks also are gaining in popularity. Deloitte Consulting's Martin Dunsby believes the corporate market, rather than the consumer market, will lead the demand for the mobile Internet in the United States.
- "Business As Usual?"
InformationWeek (10/15/01) No. 859, P. 36; Ricadela, Aaron
Microsoft may have survived government efforts to split it up, but customers remain doubtful that it will take the lessons of its antitrust trial to heart and change its way of doing business. Sixty-one percent of 500 business-technology managers surveyed by InformationWeek say that Microsoft does not understand the needs of its enterprise customers, while 74 percent do not think the company uses its position of power to benefit its clients. Customers complain about Microsoft's habit of raising prices, bundling new products onto old ones to corner markets, and requiring users to purchase new products so they can make the most of existing ones; they are also grumbling about a new licensing program that Gartner estimates could cost companies that upgrade software every three years up to 77 percent more per year, while the upcoming .Net My Services software has raised concerns that Microsoft will not protect the personal data that users must disclose through its Passport online verification software. To boost customer confidence, the company will implement Sable, an initiative that seeks to restructure sales, support, and product development. The project will hopefully eliminate the practice of encouraging employees to change jobs frequently, which global accounts VP Jonathan Murray says limits long-term relationships with customers. Some 700 salespeople will receive special training to sell at least six Windows and E-business server packages that are customized for particular applications. By converting services contracts into software licensing agreements, the company hopes to improve customer support.
- "Extreme Programming Moves Slowly Into the Enterprise"
Computerworld Online (10/17/01); Copeland, Lee
Extreme programming, a set of techniques meant to increase the quality, speed, and manageability of application development, is taking root in the enterprise sector. Although some company leaders are turned off at the name, others are taking extreme programming methods piecemeal and using them to implement large corporate projects. DailmerChrysler and Capital One Financial have both adopted some aspects of extreme programming, such as small team groups and automated unit testing. But corporate managers are often wary of pairing programmers or doing other things that seem radical. Forrester Research analyst Chris Dial says extreme programming will help companies complete complex applications adroitly and without many mistakes.
- "IT Staffs Continue to Grow"
InternetWeek Online (10/15/01); Violino, Bob
InternetWeek's fourth annual Transformation of the Enterprise Survey finds that the ranks of the IT workforce are continuing to swell, even in the face of the economic slump and cutbacks in IT spending. Two-thirds of 300 IT managers polled say their IT staff has grown at an average of 44 percent. Seventy-six percent of the respondents note that IT salaries are still rising; the 17 percent average salary increase for this year's survey matched that of last year's survey. However, almost half of the managers note personnel shortages, particularly in the areas of application development, technical support, network management, and Java programming. Still, that figure is significantly lower than the 63 percent who reported shortages in last year's survey. The average percentage of IT budgets dedicated to e-business or Internet projects is 22 percent, according to the survey.