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 email@example.com.
Volume 3, Issue 269: Friday, October 26, 2001
- "PC Industry Waits for Impact of XP"
Financial Times (10/26/01) P. 20; Daniel, Caroline; Abrahams, Paul
Industry heavyweights attending the launch of Windows XP in New York revealed their expectation that the operating system will give a much-needed boost to PC sales, particularly in the consumer sector. Dell Computer Chairman Michael Dell predicted that both XP and Intel's Pentium 4 chip "will be an immediate hit with consumers." Compaq Computer CEO Michael Capellas and Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina both agreed that consumers are likely to favor the system's improved digital music, photography, and home networking applications. In the enterprise sector, Windows XP will probably be most popular among small- and medium-sized businesses at first, according to Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft's European branch. However, Gartner Research is not as enthusiastic about the expected sales jump, and claims that the economic downturn and a saturated market are insurmountable obstacles.
- "Net Surfing, E-Mail Targets of New Antiterror Law"
IDG News Service (10/25/01); Garretson, Cara
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says he plans to put new powers granted to his agency immediately to use, once President Bush signs the antiterrorism bill Congress passed on Thursday. The antiterrorism bill will allow law enforcement officers to capture email addresses, tap multiple suspected phones, open voice mail messages, and view online account information of suspected terrorists. Additionally, the bill expands the court's authority to order a warrant for a broader communications gathering that may go beyond their traditional jurisdictions, thus making law enforcement faster. He also said that suspected individuals would be accosted on the grounds of any violation of the law, no matter how minor the offense.
- "CERT/CC: Internet Infrastructure Targeted for DoS Attacks"
InfoWorld.com (10/24/01); Costello, Sam
The Computer Emergency Response Team/Coordination Center (CERT/CC) has issued a paper warning of more serious threats from denial of service (DoS) attacks to the Internet infrastructure. Because of automated tools and more specific attacks on router hardware, DoS attacks are gaining potency, as was demonstrated by the recent Code Red and Nimda viruses. By using distributed zombie computers and public Internet Relay Chat channels, attackers make it more difficult for network administrators to stop these attacks without seriously slowing Internet traffic or pulling public networks offline. CERT/CC also says DoS attacks are increasingly targeting Windows users, and suggested that individual end users even install firewalls on their personal computers.
- "Alert System Sought For Internet Attacks"
Washington Post (10/25/01) P. E4; Cha, Ariana Eunjung
Rising fears of attacks on the Internet have prompted discussions on the creation of a "first alert" system. The Office of Homeland Security's cyber-security advisor, Richard A. Clarke, is urging that high-tech companies build information dissemination centers. One of the hurdles of such a measure is getting companies to share data with each other, a difficult obstacle because many firms do not want to risk giving sensitive information to rivals. The FBI expects to engender trust with Infragard, an organization that keeps an email list that people can use--anonymously, if they wish--to report problems. Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is pushing for the creation of a national technology corps of volunteers who would assist in the repair and re-creation of high-tech infrastructures that are under assault. Furthermore, Clarke is also behind a proposed separate Internet for government operations as well as a plan to grant emergency workers special access to wireless communications in times of crisis.
- "IT Companies Unlikely to Meet FY 2001 H-1B Visa Cap"
Computerworld Online (10/24/01); Thibodeau, Patrick
Technology companies are unlikely to fill the 195,000 H-1B visa positions allowed by Congress for this fiscal year despite the huge effort last year to raise the cap from 107,500 H-1B visas. The Immigration and Naturalization Service had only approved 138,000 H-1B visa applications by the end of July, although that number did not include those hired at research facilities and universities. Moreover, Amar Veda of the Immigrants Support Network says that many companies hold approved petitions in reserve, but do not actually end up taking on new H-1B employees. Still, the H-1B cap is set to fall again to just 65,000 by the end of 2003 unless the IT industry renews its intense lobbying efforts. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) says the current situation reflects a healthy use of the H-1B program, but not the abuse that critics assert--that companies are favoring H-1B workers in the financial downturn because they are willing to work for less pay and benefits. About 900,000 positions in the IT field will remain open this year, according to an ITAA study conducted this past spring, compared to 1.6 million last year.
- "'Brain Drain' Shifts Into Reverse"
USA Today (10/25/01) P. 3B; Kessler, Michelle
South Asian technology workers are heading back home in droves, according to industry professionals. Although the Immigration and Naturalization Service does not keep track of how many H-1B workers have been laid off so far as a result of the IT downturn, Indian business owners in Silicon Valley's "Little India" say their sales are off 30 percent. Wipro, the largest Indian software firm, says it is benefiting from the U.S. downturn as skilled Indian programmers come home seeking better job security. About 52 percent of respondents to a survey on www.justindian.com recommend that laid-off Indians should return to their homeland rather than search for work in the United States. Although many workers left before the Sept. 11 tragedy, increased scrutiny on foreign-born professionals as a result of the attacks may lead to more departures.
- "Global IT Spending to Fall Next Year"
InfoWorld.com (10/24/01); Legard, David
- "H-1B Workers Fear Prejudice After Attacks"
ZDNet (10/24/01); Konrad, Rachel
A backlash against foreign professionals has started to occur in the United States in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Although H-1B visa holders are concerned about subtle forms of prejudice, harassment, and assaults, they are just as concerned about their prospect for working in the United States in the future. In September, an H-1B visa holder was charged with finding a new job without informing the Immigration and Naturalization Service that he had left his former employer. In October, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), introduced a bill that would require foreign workers to undergo biometric inspection as a way to make it easier for U.S. authorities to identify suspected terrorists. Having foreign workers file more paperwork and undergo stricter security clearances would have affected hiring in the technology sector, which has pushed Congress to allow more foreign professionals to work in the country. Most of Bond's bill was added to the final counter-terrorism bill, but it does not include the tough requirements on H-1B visa holders. Still, the effort to crack down on the H-1B visa program continues by H-1B foes who now say they have proof that at least eight H-1B workers have connections to suspected terrorist organizations. Many foreign workers remain confident that America is committed to diversity, and add that terrorism was the main reason why they left their own countries.
- "Microsoft Prosecutors Hire Sullivan"
Washington Post (10/25/01) P. E1; Krim, Jonathan
The coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia have hired Brendan V. Sullivan, a famous Washington defense attorney, to represent them in their antitrust case against Microsoft. Sullivan's hiring increases the prospect that the states will pursue their own legal action against Microsoft if they feel the Justice Department, with whom they are now allied, compromises its stance. Already, some state prosecutors have expressed dissatisfaction with Attorney General Charles James for surrendering the contention that Microsoft needed to be broken up. James has insisted he will not budge on the Justice Department's interpretation of an appeals court affirmation of Microsoft's anti-competitive behavior. So far, the lack of a settlement in their court-mandated talks shows that the two sides will likely have to begin preparing for trial again in March, under the time line laid out by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
- "National ID Plan Could Mean Windfall for Tech Firms"
SiliconValley.com (10/24/01); Ackerman, Elise; Rogers, Paul
The prospect of a national ID card equipped with smart card technology could mean tens of billions of dollars for technology firms, according to industry observers. Citizens could use the cards to quickly verify ID, substitute a passport, receive government payments, make phone calls, and encrypt personal data. Although the government would have to maintain new computer systems for the ID network, it would yield dramatic efficiency and security benefits. Sun Microsystems' Peter Cattaneo estimates that the network and supporting infrastructure would cost as much as 10 times the amount of the cards themselves, which others experts have predicted would cost anywhere from $2 billion to $10 billion. Already, influential government officials and lawmakers, including Attorney General John Ashcroft and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have shown interest in the national ID scheme.
- "Technology Grows Up"
Wall Street Journal (10/25/01) P. B1; Mossberg, Walter S.; Belopotosky, Danielle
Over the past 10 years, technology has pushed forward into new areas and improved its usability for the average person, especially with the PC. The Windows operating system, though often a faulty product, brought the graphical user interface to consumers and has now supposedly reached a zenith point with the XP version due out this week. However, diversity and innovation in the PC sector has suffered with the elimination of many competitors and the depletion of PC makers' research and development budgets. One PC innovator, Apple, is showing the way that computing will go in the future with its digital media, networking integration, and new handheld devices. The next 10 years in personal technology will focus on connecting non-PC devices to the Internet and building out more connectivity through fixed-line bandwidth and more ubiquitous wireless access.
- "U.S. Senate Confirms Tech Post Nominations"
Two technology post nominees were confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday. Phillip Bond was confirmed as the new technology undersecretary of the Commerce Department. He was formerly a lobbyist for the Information Technology Industry Council, a federal public policy director at Hewlett-Packard, and an advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney when he was defense secretary. John Marburger III was approved as the new director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy. He was formerly president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is the current director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory at the Energy Department. He will oversee the Office of Technology Policy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Information Service. Marburger will also have the task of appointing important tech positions within the Office of Science & Technology.
- "Happy Homeworkers"
Internet.com (10/24/01); Mark, Roy
The number of teleworkers in the United States rose nearly 17 percent to 28.8 million in the past year, according to the International Telework Association's annual survey. ITAC estimates that 24.1 percent work on the road and 21.7 percent work at home, while 7.5 percent and 4.2 percent work at telework centers and satellite offices, respectively. The companies that support teleworking are either very large or very small, while teleworkers tend to be either managers or salespeople with annual salaries of $40,000 or more. Almost 80 percent of teleworkers in the survey report a greater sense of commitment and loyalty to their employers, while nearly 75 percent of at-home teleworkers say they are more productive and are doing better work. Real estate, enterprise management, and information firms are most likely to host teleworkers, the survey finds. The average teleworker is college-educated, married, lives in the northeast or western United States, is 35 to 44 years old, and works at least one full day away from the regular office. At-home teleworkers report that their work does not intrude into their personal life as much as non-teleworkers, and go on to say that their families' quality of life is better.
- "Africa vs. the Network, Says Presidential Task Force"
ITWeb (10/22/01); Norwood-Young, Jason
The International Advisory Council on Information Society and Development held its first meeting recently, discussing the issue that the Internet could be a barrier for the African continent's e-inclusion. The group of IT professionals and government ministers met with South African President Thabo Mbeki to talk about training, development, and infrastructure that can bring South Africa and the rest of Africa into the Internet world. Berkley University Professor Manuel Castells noted that Africa as a whole is not connected to the Internet and its creative opportunities, and that includes a large percentage of South Africa. However, the group was not able to come up with a clear resolution to the problem. Mbeki created the council on the realization that communications and information technologies are drivers for economic growth and socio-economic rise. Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says the meeting was very productive and represents "a new form of cooperation between the public and the private sector."
- "War Boom: More Pentagon Spending Could Actually Hurt Silicon Valley"
San Francisco Chronicle Online (10/23/01); Plotkin, Hal
As the Pentagon prepares to dole out its expanded budget to technology firms, it would be good for American business if several changes were made to the way government contracts are handled. Technology firms are expected to be big winners and are working to secure anticipated contracts for such projects as Web-enabled military helmets, rugged portable computers, and field detection kits. Although military financial support has fueled important technological innovations, the funding has also come at cost as winning firms neglect other markets and lose their competitive edge. During the slow economic times of the 1980s, for example, major corporations such as General Electric and FMC in Silicon Valley lost their edge by focusing on "safe" Pentagon contracts. Because the buying process is kept exclusive, competitive forces are not allowed to hone either the product or the price, resulting in an inferior product--like FMC's Bradley Fighting Vehicle--at a greater price to the government. New Web-based procurement tools could help contractors find competitive services and materials without seriously compromising national security.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Out of Touch"
Interactive Week (10/15/01) Vol. 8, No. 40, P. 45; Barrett, Randy
Web accessibility for the disabled has progressed considerably lately, but still has room for improvement, says Judy Dixon, consumer relations officer at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Dixon, who is blind, encounters problems when accessing the www.coke.com Web site. The Macromedia Flash program is to blame, which supersedes other programs such as a Braille reader or a text-to-speech program. Yet Dixon notes that Microsoft's Internet Explorer prompts users to install the Flash program. The blind have serious problems navigating the Web, while the deaf and physically handicapped have their own problems: Some physically disabled use "head sticks," and Opera Software's Opera browser, but not all sites support it; hearing-impaired users prefer sign language to English and must deal with non-captioned streaming videos. Both experts and activists agree that site developers and Web development tool makers must make an effort to improve accessibility. Currently, about 10 percent of the Web can be surfed by disabled people, estimates Larry Goldberg, director of media access of the WGBH Educational Foundation. The move to improve Web accessibility for the disabled has been accelerated by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, a 1998 law requiring that new federal Web sites meet basic accessibility guidelines as of June 24, 2001.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "The Top Techno-MBA Programs"
Computerworld (10/22/01) Vol. 35, No. 43, P. 26; Copeland, Lee
MBA programs have gained popularity in the aftermath of the dot-com collapse. Programs are many and varied, but their central appeal is their greater focus on the bottom line rather than technology. Their concentration involves the meeting of business objectives that involve technology through the study of analytical skills, business operations, problem solving, and financial priorities. At Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, the core curriculum includes statistics, decision-making and analysis, finance, microeconomics, and operations, while technology-oriented courses come later. Northeastern University offers its High Technology MBA program to full-time professionals whose employers authorize their education; in this way learners can quickly apply their lessons to the business world. Many MBA schools have partnered with businesses so that students will be able to use new technologies and solve real-world problems. "[Students] get the opportunity to get their hands dirty and apply their technical knowledge with newfound strategic knowledge," boasts Chuck Johnson of Purdue University's Krannert School of Management. Among the top schools ranked in Computerworld's fourth annual Techno-MBA Survey are Arizona State University's College of Business, Bentley College's McCallum Graduate School of Business, and Georgia Institute of Technology's Dupree College of Management.
- "High-Performance Java"
Communications of the ACM (10/01) Vol. 44, No. 10, P. 98; Pancake, Cherri M.; Lengauer, Christian
Java implementations are often criticized for being relatively inefficient in terms of execution when compared to Fortran, C, and C++, but the push toward high-performance computing (HPC) applications is advancing efforts to enhance performance using high-speed networks and accelerate remote method invocation. This, combined with developments in statistic analysis, just-in-time compilation, and Java Virtual Machine (JVM) optimization, will benefit all Java implementations. The advantages of using Java for HPC include access to new resources such as class libraries and programmers. One of the major points of inquiry is finding ways to boost Java's suitability for HPC. Among the issues to be considered are poor integration between Java's OO model and single-program-multiple-data (SPMD) parallelism; one solution is to execute multiple JVMs in parallel. Also complicating Java's execution of HPCs is a lack of rectangular, multidimensional arrays and the representation of intricate numbers and arrays as objects instead of primitive data types.
(Access for paying subscribers only.)