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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 3, Issue 275: Friday, November 9, 2001
- "Comdex: Six Big Trends That Will Be the Show's Big Buzz"
ZDNet (11/07/01); Houston, Patrick
Six themes are expected to dominate the upcoming Comdex Fall technology exhibition. Security has become very important, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks; Comdex will become a hub of biometric security solutions. There will also be a heavy concentration of mobile devices: On hand will be plenty of cell phones, laptops, Web tablets, personal digital assistants, and wearable computers. Networking is another big trend; Information Methods CEO and Comdex advisor Tom D'Auria believes that this year's conference will signal the maturation of voice-over Internet (VoIP) technology. Mobile computing via automobiles, or telematics, will be represented by new products such as a voice-activated, combination computer-car phone from MobileAria. Another major theme at Comdex will be Internet appliances, such as Internet-ready phones and TVs. The last trend is digital imaging, which is having a growing impact on both the consumer and business sectors. Comdex is expected to host image management solutions that offer users a way to create, edit, capture, store, and manage digital images online.
- "IT Jobless Rates Hit Historic Highs"
InformationWeek Online (11/07/01); Chabrow, Eric
IT unemployment is at its highest rate since 1991, according to a study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September 1991, the rate was 4.3 percent; both September and October of this year saw an IT unemployment rate of 5 percent. The September figure surpasses the overall jobless rate by 0.3 percentage point. Some economists theorize that less IT spending is partly responsible for the higher rate of IT unemployment. "In the third quarter of 2000, after Y2K, businesses began to re-evaluate their technology positions and pulled back on IT purchases and investments, resulting in a significant pullback on hiring and job losses," notes Creighton University economics professor Ernest Goss. Another theory postulates that employment drops off once a company's major IT investments are deployed and less IT professionals are needed. One reason why the IT jobless rate is closer to the overall rate is because, unlike the last recession, layoffs are taking place across the board. Florida Economic Associates chief economist John Godfrey also notes that many of the companies that have let IT workers go are bankrupt and/or shuttered.
- "Bells Labs Claims First Nanotransistor"
Electronic News Online (11/08/01)
Bell Labs scientists announced that they have created transistors with channels just one molecule thick. These transistors, which measure a billionth of a meter each, are fabricated from thiols, a carbon-based semiconductor material that also contains hydrogen and sulfur. The researchers were able to attach electrodes to the molecule through a chemical self-assembly method. The fabrication process does not require a clean room, and is relatively simple and cheap, according to the company. Bell Labs also announced that it has constructed a prototype switch using a pair of nanotransistors. "This work pushes the miniaturization of electronics to its final frontier," said Bell Labs physics research VP Federico Capasso. "It may become the cornerstone of a new nanoelectronics era."
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Cybersecurity Czar Urges More Spending to Protect IT Infrastructure"
Computerworld Online (11/08/01); Johnson, Maryfran; Radcliff, Deborah
Speaking at the Trusted Computing Conference in Palo Alto, Calif., cybersecurity czar Richard Clarke insisted that both the government and private industry need to spend more on IT infrastructure security. Cyberattacks on the infrastructure threaten to cause "catastrophic damage to the economy," he said. Clarke also told attendees that he favored the proposed GovNet project to build a federal agency network independent of the Internet, and was opposed to a national ID card. Reactions to Clarke's comments were mixed: @Stake director of research and development Chris Wysopal was impressed by his knowledge of IT security issues, but some participants said Clarke was unclear as to how the private sector can work with the government to manage security and privacy issues. Many attendees also discussed the possibility of government regulation to prevent cybercrime, although privacy advocates recommended that legislators should proceed with caution. "We must understand what the long-term impacts of these government decisions will be," urged the Center for Freedom and Democracy's Alan Baudson. All attendees agreed that building a solid IT infrastructure security strategy requires increased collaboration between the government and the private sector.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Uncle Sam Wants Napster!"
Washington Post (11/08/01) P. E1; Walker, Leslie
The Defense Department is looking to the tech industry to provide new peer-to-peer (P2P) collaborative computing tools that will help its divisions and networks become more efficient, especially in crucial war-time situations. Lt. Col. Robert Wardell, special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told industry leaders at the O'Reilly & Associates P2P conference that the military's systems were often too inefficient to fully coordinate battle groups. Just last week, the U.S. Joint Forces Command started experimenting with the cutting-edge Groove P2P product from the founder of Lotus Notes. "You have a dispersed enemy who basically is operating on a peer-to-peer system, at a very low level," Wardell explained. "How are we going to attack that? Probably the same way."
- "Vanishing Visas: Uncertain Future for Unemployed H-1B Holders"
San Francisco Chronicle Online (11/06/01); Kirby, Carrie
H-1B workers face a tough road to stay in the United States if they lose their jobs, and sometimes even risk not getting paid. According to the law, the contracting firms that bring many H-1B tech workers to the United States are required to pay them regardless of whether they find them work or not. Numerous cases, especially in the South Asian community, have arisen where these workers are not paid for months before receiving notice of termination. The Department of Labor corroborates, saying complaints from H-1B workers is on the rise as the economic downturn progresses. Nonetheless, the number of H-1B workers in the United States is great--163,200 visas were issued this year, almost half are from India, according to the latest statistics from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "The Party's Definitely Over for Silicon Valley"
USA Today (11/08/01) P. 1B; Swartz, Jon; Hopkins, Jim
Silicon Valley's woes are the worst in its 50-year existence, and may not have hit bottom year. After setting the pace for the nation's economy through much of the 1990s, the region's tech sector grew four times as fast the overall economy during that period, the valley is experiencing new lows. Now, the unemployment rate in the Valley is growing faster than any other U.S. metropolitan region and its power source, venture capital funding, is down 71 percent from a year ago. Bankruptcies are also on the rise, while real estate prices and sales have plummeted. In September, for the first time in 25 years, there was no initial public offering for any type of company. Silicon Valley goes through 10-year cycles, according to tech industry veteran Fred Hoar, but this one is by far the worst. Still, former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold and others say the innovation that comes from the unique Silicon Valley dynamic of leading learning centers, venture money, and technology companies offers a sure hope for the area.
- "A Paternity Dispute Divides Net Pioneers"
New York Times (11/08/01) P. F1; Hafner, Katie
Several of the Internet's early pioneers are embroiled in a dispute over the invention of packet switching, a technology innovation that enables data to flow over the Internet much faster and more reliably. Dr. Leonard Kleinrock, of the University of California, began asserting his claim in 1996, pointing to his 1961 doctoral thesis that described some fundamental aspects of packet switching. However, Dr. Donald Davies, in a paper published just after his death, has since disputed that claim and said Dr. Kleinrock's paper was in fact dealing with a single node, not a network. Organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering have taken separate sides on the issue, as have Internet pioneers such as Arpanet founder Lawrence G. Roberts and Paul Baran, who was acknowledged to have developed packet switching together with Dr. Davies.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Talking X Internet: Carl D. Howe"
Boston Globe (11/05/01) P. C1; Weisman, Robert
Carl D. Howe, principal analyst at Forrester Research, says the next wave of the Internet is already here, but will eventually bring far more digital interactivity into people's everyday lives. He dubbed this phenomena the "X Internet," or extended, executable Internet, and says it will be enabled by moving more personalized applications nearer to the end user, as opposed to general information housed in a far-away data center. By the time non-PC Internet devices outnumber PCs in 2006, Howe expects that the extended Internet, the second phase of X Internet, will truly take off. A number of small companies are already developing and implementing parts of this vision, but will likely be bought out by larger players in the future, Howe predicts. Howe also believes that events such as the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks will make the X Internet more desirable as users seek direct connections to information and events via the Web, rather than filtered information via the news media. Such information could be gathered via Web cams and sensors in the pavement.
- "Meet the Next Generation Virtual Private Network"
InternetNews.com (11/06/01); Boulton, Clint
High-tech companies have been reinforcing their virtual private network (VPN) offerings over the past year. Jim Clark, who helped to develop such firms as Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and WebMD, has created a startup called Neoteris that boasts a new VPN technology dubbed the Instant Virtual Extranet (IVE). Neoteris claims IVE can minimize implementation costs, security risks, and support issues associated with VPN technology. One problem is that VPNs require the deployment of client software and could leave an open network connection in the corporate LAN, Clark says. The resulting administration becomes expensive and consumes network resources. The Neoteris system provides access to corporate resources from a single Web browser without changing existing network resources. Firms that use IP VPNs eliminate the need for private lines between sites, boosting cost savings and enhancing business processes, says IDC analyst Jason Smolek.
- "ICANN Scraps Conference Agenda, Goes Big on Security"
Register Online Online (11/07/01); McCarthy, Kieren
The upcoming ICANN board meeting and conference will be held in downtown Los Angeles from Nov. 12 to Nov. 15 and will feature mostly security issues relating to the post-Sept. 11 world, as has been previously indicated. ICANN has asked ccTLD representatives to convene on Nov. 14 to discuss potential security-related actions to take, with a public report to be issued during the morning of Nov. 15. The conference's first day, Nov. 12, will feature ICANN constituency group meetings, ostensibly focused on security also. Issues to be delayed include discussing ccTLD demands for more representation in ICANN, the At-Large report on public participation, UDRP reform, new TLD problems and issues, and the issue of ICANN transparency or lack thereof.
- "Philippine IT Industry Braces for Chinese Competition"
Metropolitan Computer Times (11/07/01); Calimag, Melvin G.
Analysts and industry players expect China to compete with the Philippines for the IT market when it joins the World Trade Organization (WTO). "One of the key implications of China's entry into the WTO is that it would liberalize its trade rules to accommodate foreign firms," says PSI Technologies CEO Arthur Young. "That could take away the bulk of investments that could be placed in the Philippines." Labor rates in China would be cheaper, as would transportation costs. The Philippines has the advantage of a highly available workforce with IT skills, but AYC Consultants President Peter Wallace warns that bureaucratic red tape stemming from a corrupt government and a slowly eroding educational system could threaten the country's competitive edge. He says that China, in contrast, is rapidly improving its educational system and at the same time stepping up its efforts to produce more technology workers and managers. However, Wallace notes that the same countries that would compete with China would also have the opportunity to tap into the country's domestic market of 1.6 billion people.
- "Out to Outshine Mainframes"
Investor's Business Daily (11/08/01) P. A8; Coleman, Murray
Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM are building high-end servers that companies could use instead of mainframes. The servers are especially useful in managing back-office operations such as production planning and accounting. "In some cases, companies are finding that they can eliminate hundreds of smaller pieces of hardware by going with a single high-end server," notes Sageza Group analyst Charles King; this can translate into significant cost savings. Sun's contribution is the Sun Fire 15K, also known as the Starcat, which runs on Solaris software. Last month, IBM unveiled the Regatta, a high-end Unix server. HP and Compaq Computer have also entered the server arena with their Superdome and Himalaya lines, respectively. However, analysts do not believe that mainframes will be rendered obsolete. "IBM is very entrenched with more sophisticated data users," says Gartner analyst George Weiss.
- "The To-Do List That Knows Where You Are"
New York Times (11/08/01) P. F9; Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit
Technologists are using computers to track people's movements and remind them of specific tasks they must do according to their location and circumstance. The MemoClip, developed by a researcher at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, alerts users to to-do list items whenever they near the place where they are to carry out that task. Dr. Alex Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing Memory Glasses that will run the reminders across the user's line of vision. The project is coupled with other wearable computer items, including a jacket that has speech-recognition and sensing capabilities. Some critics have warned that such inventions invariably make peoples' lives more complicated, and could lead to further degradation of human memory, as Aristotle warned of writing in ancient Greece.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Lawmakers Grapple With IT Issues"
Washington Technology (11/05/01) Vol. 16, No. 16, P. 1; Emery, Gail Repsher
Although Congress has been considering several pieces of legislation that could affect the IT community, those who are keeping tabs on their progress say it is particularly difficult to do so now; an unfamiliarity with email, and the chaos that erupted over the recent anthrax scare have only added to the confusion. Industry officials are especially concerned with an amendment to the House Defense authorization bill that would cut by 50 percent all outsourcing studies that the Defense Department has approved, and would also not allow contractors to win public-private jobs unless their bid is at least 10 percent lower than their federal competitors. The reinstatement of the Abercrombie amendment, as it is known, would freeze Defense Department outsourcing, and spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) David Martin warns that it would bring federal work to a grinding halt. Meanwhile, officials say the Senate Defense authorization bill contains provisions that could slow the purchasing of products and services by the Defense Department from the General Services Administration schedule. The provisions call for the creation of a services acquisition czar to pre-approve procurements, and the opportunity for all companies named to government-wide acquisition contracts or the GSA schedule to bid for task orders. In the meantime, the House economic stimulus bill would grant tax breaks to the IT industry while fast-track trade promotion authority bills would allow President Bush to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can only vote on without amending.
- "Practice Makes Perfect"
InfoWorld (11/05/01) Vol. 23, No. 45, P. 46; Raths, David
In the knowledge management arena, a "community of practice" is a group of people with common interests or expertise that share information. Mike Zacour of Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PGBC) says that service-level metrics have improved since he set up a "resource resolution" community of practice in which competing contractors cooperate. PBGC knowledge management architect Elsa Rhoads says the community has helped standardize practices by contractors and employees. Wells Fargo has leveraged a number of communities, including those composed of Web developers, LAN technicians, and vendors and employees experienced in Linux. Enterprise analyst Pete Childress believes employees can showcase their expertise and management skills through communities of practice. Hewlett-Packard's IT Resource Center hosts communities where thousands of people can share knowledge of diverse topics, such as Open View software, HP-UX, and business recovery planning.
- "Private-Sector IT Key In War on Terrorism"
Computerworld (11/05/01) Vol. 35, No. 45, P. 14; Verton, Dan
IT industry technology is critical to winning the war against terrorism by lifting the "fog of war," or battlefield confusion. "To fight the enemy, you have to visualize the enemy," says SGI Chairman Robert Bishop. Tech companies are bolstering the military's "information and decision superiority" by contributing high-performance computers, sophisticated visualization software, commercial imagery, and database integration support to the war effort. More IT investments are necessary, according to Army Lt. Gen. James King, former director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The investments would be geared to such initiatives as the building of interoperable databases to facilitate a "sensor-to-shooter" network for more accurate bomb targeting, he explains. The Pentagon also needs to integrate its databases and get more detailed, clearer geospatial data sets.
- "The Core of the Third-Wave Professional"
Communications of the ACM (11/01) Vol. 44, No. 11, P. 21; Denning, Peter J.; Dunham, Robert
ACM Education Board Chairman Peter J. Denning and Enterprise Design President Robert Dunham believe that civilization is transitioning from the second wave, the Industrial Age, to the third wave, the Network Age, and that the IT professional marks the beginning of the third wave. Basing their argument on the tenets of Alvin Toffler, the authors write that the third wave is characterized by a wide array of societal changes--institutional, cultural, moral, and social--happening at once; wealth is created by customer-centric, value-generating transactions rather than production. IT professionals are representative of the third wave because they have value-generating skills. Denning and Dunham define the IT professional's customer as "anyone to whom the professional makes a value-producing promise." The third-wave professional requires both technical skills and value skills, the latter being those skills needed to connect with and satisfy the customer; at least a minimal knowledge of "soft skills" is also required. The authors claim that these features can solve four dilemmas that have been perplexing IT professionals: A lack of skills among IT graduates, whether their field requires special technical expertise or a wide background, a software design process rampant with flaws, and whether to license network engineers. The third-wave can solve the IT skills quandary by realizing that the missing skills must be learned through practice and proved through performance; breadth and depth can be settled if every professional has expertise in at least one area and is knowledgeable of teamwork; human-centered development can solve the design dilemma; and the reasons for certification can be better defined.
Click Here to View Full Article
(Access for paid subscribers only.)