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


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Volume 3, Issue 276: Wednesday, November 14, 2001

  • "Gates, Chambers Say Productivity Gains Will Be Adding Up"
    Investor's Business Daily (11/13/01) P. A8; Seitz, Patrick; Bonasia, J.

    At the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers both predicted productivity growth in the technology sector for the coming year. Gates expects innovative, XML-based Web services and new products such as the Tablet PC to spur this growth; such advances will double the productivity increases knowledge workers experienced in the 1990s and facilitate business-to-business e-commerce, he said. Gates also anticipates that tablet PCs will become the most popular kind of PC within five years. In his keynote speech, Chambers described a "virtual global networked corporation" as the primary driver of productivity. Companies that adopt the Internet will likely experience four times as much productivity as companies that shy away from IT, he said. International Data (IDC) analyst Crawford Del Prete expects wireless technology to boost productivity, especially in light of how important it has become in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. It is also forecast that corporations will supplant desktops with mobile computers in 2002. IDC predicts that there will be a 5.6 percent increase in technology spending next year and a 10.4 percent increase in 2003.

  • "Security Clearance Requirements Spark IT Talent War"
    Newsbytes (11/12/01); Emery, Gail Repsher

    Government IT contractors are seeing more job applicants recently, as people are more eager to help the country by using their technology expertise. But the number of applicants that have crucial security clearances are still few. One insider said both employers and job candidates are flexible in trying the new arrangements, with companies stretching technical qualifications if applicants have needed security clearances, and new workers taking pay cuts of up to $50,000. Other firms are turning to recruiters and are investing in training for existing employees or new hires while they wait for security clearance applications to process. The leading IT fields are information security and investigative services.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/172077.html

  • "Region Is Well Represented in the Technology Fast 500"
    Washington Post (11/14/01) P. E5; Chea, Terence

    The Washington, D.C., metropolitan region holds the second-largest number of fast-growing technology companies after Northern California, where Silicon Valley is located. The Technology Fast 500 study by Deloitte & Touche found three of the top10 ranking companies were located in Maryland or Virginia, and 51 companies in the Fast 500 were from those states. California has 132 companies on the Fast 500 list, while Massachusetts has 31. Internet firms topped the list, led by eBay, which posted a growth rate of 115,874 percent. InfoSpace, Excite At Home, and PFSweb were next, as software, communications, and Internet companies dominated the list, which included only 39 companies that also appeared on last year's list. Rockville, Md.,-based Celera Genomics was the fastest-growing biotechnology firm, a segment that comprised only 8 percent of the Fast 500, but is expected to grow much faster in coming years.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24993-2001Nov13.html

  • "Government Continues to Fund High Risk, High Payoff Projects"
    Small Times Online (11/13/01); Karoub, Jeff

    The government is continuing to pour money into risky small technology projects under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program (ATP). "Our role is to help companies that want to be viable and substantial in tomorrows marketplace when there is a failure in the marketplace to provide resources," says ATP program manager Michael Schen. ATP recently earmarked over $100 million for research into such fields as nanotechnology, microsystems, and MEMS. The latest round of funding has awarded money to such recipients as Luna Innovations, which is working to develop carbon-based spheres, or buckyballs, for medical diagnosis and treatment; and Microcell, which is working on fuel cells based on a microfiber membrane to provide low-cost electricity. Earlier this year, President Bush wanted to eliminate new ATP grants, cut the 2002 fiscal budget from $145.4 million to $13 million, and prevent NIST from spending $60.7 million for new programs. Current ATP funding was saved by the Senate, which did not approve of Bush's proposal. However, next year's ATP funding is still mired in congressional negotiations.
    http://www.smalltimes.com/document_display.cfm?document_id=2572

  • "Security Firms Emerge As Bright Spot In Tech, New Spending Poll Says"
    Investor's Business Daily (11/14/01) P. A7; Prado, Antonio A.

    Overall tech spending is expected to rise slightly this year, according to a survey from Gartner and the SoundView Technology Group investment bank, while 48 percent of respondents said that security will receive a greater portion of IT budgets next year. Tech spending should rise 2.5 percent in 2001, the survey found, and then 1.5 percent next year. On a scale from minus 100 to 100, security scored an 80 on the research firms' IT spending index; in comparison, storage and Web-based applications scored below 60. "The strength of Web-based applications on the CIOs' spending priority list marks the fundamental shift to the Web at the infrastructure level," notes Gartner senior VP Al Case. The Sept. 11 terrorist attack has given security concerns a new priority, says SoundView technology strategist Arnie Berman. The survey estimates that 75 percent of corporate technology spending in the United States will be used for ongoing projects and maintenance, while the remaining 25 percent is earmarked for new projects. SoundView CEO Mark Loehr claims that such spending "supports our conviction that the bottom has been reached."
    http://www.investors.com/editorial/tech.asp?v=11/14

  • "European Union Set to Vote on Data Law"
    New York Times (11/13/01) P. C6; Meller, Paul

    The European Union is unlikely to adopt the requests of President Bush when drafting its data-protection law. Bush sent a letter to the European Union asking that ISPs and telecommunications firms retain customer records and data for longer than what is necessary for billing. A spokeswoman for the European Parliament said the governing body was actually moving to restrict the retention of data further. Civil liberties groups from the United States as well as European countries have opposed Bush's proposition, saying that it would increase the powers of U.S. law enforcement even further than what is allowed in the United States in some instances. Bush had sent a list of 47 measures to be adopted to aid the war on terrorism, but European Parliament spokesperson Marjory Van den Broeke said the letter was never discussed during a brief debate on Monday. A vote on the data-protection law is expected on Tuesday.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/13/technology/13NET.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "ICANN: To Serve and Protect"
    Wired News (11/13/01); McCullagh, Declan

    ICANN is attempting to raise awareness about Internet security matters in the wake of Sept. 11, but because it does not have the legal power to force VeriSign and other registrars to follow its security advice, it is playing little more than an advisory role. In early November, ICANN proposed a data escrow agreement that would safeguard consumer information in the event of an attack and the downing of the Internet system. Another focus will be route server security, and VeriSign's Michael Aisenberg praises ICANN for "calling attention to security responsibilities." Aisenberg says Network Solutions uses biometric verification for access to rooms holding root servers, and employs back-up power supplies, multiple Internet linkage, and overall redundancy to safeguard Network Solutions servers, including the "A" and "J" root servers. Aisenberg also notes that VeriSign has "been visited by a wide range of security officials from government agencies" since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Ex-Network Solutions official and current Shadow Logic chief technologist Rick Forno likewise argues that ICANN should work to raise awareness about security while staying away from operational meddling. ICANN board officials lack security expertise, according to Forno. One ICANN board member with an extensive background in security, Karl Auerbach, has proposed creating a duplicate DNS system that can be accessed during emergencies and in case of the downing of the Internet.
    http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,48344,00.html

    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Sound Alternative to Telephone Networks"
    Financial Times (11/13/01) P. 13; Morrison, Scott

    Telecommunications equipment makers are marketing voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology as a way to make corporations' voice communications resilient to infrastructure attacks, save on maintenance costs, and add flexibility. Although the benefits of VoIP have been emphasized by the recent World Trade Center attack, many firms say they will wait until the economic environment improves before switching over to VoIP technology. Cisco offers equipment that replaces old PBX infrastructure, hoping to tap what it says is a $13 billion market. Nortel, on the other hand, is marketing a "softswitch" technology that lets companies adapt their current voice lines to handle VoIP data as well. This transitional approach is seen as better suited to the current buying climate and Nortel has already signed major deals with carriers Qwest and Sprint to upgrade their networks to VoIP technology.
    http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=011113001440

  • "Security Concerns Top Comdex Agenda"
    InfoWorld.com (11/12/01); Schwartz, Ephraim; Fonseca, Brian; Neel, Dan

    Technology vendors at the Comdex Fall 2001 show are highlighting new security products and services. EDS, the computer services company, unveiled its new range of security services, including cybersecurity, business continuity, and emergency management planning. EDS CEO Dick Brown urged companies in his keynote address to decentralize their operations in order to lessen their vulnerability to physical attack. IBM Global Services also unveiled four new security offerings for its Web hosting customers that focus on finding and fixing network vulnerabilities. Hurwitz Group analyst Peter Lindstrom says the complexity and importance of network security has forced companies to turn to outsourcing firms to improve the security of their networks. Comdex also is featuring various biometric security products, VPNs and personal firewalls, virus-protection software, authentication products, and smart cards.
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/01/11/12/011112hncomdexwrap.xml

  • "Nokia Will Open Up Parts of Its Software"
    Wall Street Journal (11/13/01) P. B11; Harris, Edward

    As part of an industry initiative to develop a unified platform for 3G (third-generation) Internet-enabled mobile-phone services, Nokia has agreed to grant rival handset manufacturers access to certain parts of its software. "This initiative is to ensure that any user, using any phone, can access any service in any operator's network," says Nokia's Pertti Korhonen. The company expects such standards to create a mass market that will bring in more revenue, and is therefore willing to license its software even though it runs the risk of easing the entry for competitors. Motorola, Sony, Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson, Siemens, AT&T Wireless Services, Vodafone Group, and NTT DoCoMo also support a common technology platform.

  • "Feds Get 'F' in Computer Security"
    GovExec.com (11/09/01); Dean, Joshua

    The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations has rated overall agency efforts to secure computer systems a miserable failure. Of two dozen agencies rated, 16 failed, and only three scored above a D. The National Science Foundation got the highest mark, with a B plus, while the Social Security Administration received a C plus and NASA earned a C minus. Last year's efforts earned federal agencies an overall grade of D minus as 10 agencies' scores went down from the previous year. Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) pointed out the lack of security measures, such as antivirus software and firewalls, which allowed the Nimda and Code Red worms to disrupt federal systems this year. Experts warned that the $2.7 billion the fed has allocated on computer security is not nearly enough. The Office of Management and Budget will be paying close attention to the issue when analyzing budget requests for fiscal 2003.
    http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1101/110901j1.htm

  • "Austin, Texas, Firm Looks for Commercial Success in Artificial Intelligence"
    NewsFactor Network (11/07/01); Mahoney, Jerry

    Cycorp, of Austin, Texas, is pioneering the role of artificial intelligence in commercial computer applications. By compiling a vast database of common sense answers and reasonings, Doug Lenat, who leads the research effort at Cycorp, expects to make computer systems more accessible for users. Lenat says, "If we can write down knowledge and wisdom rules of thumb for the computer to follow and use, it can apply rules of reasoning to the knowledge that we give it and produce the same kinds of conclusions that you or I would produce." Cycorp has sustained itself mostly on secret contracts with the Defense Department, but has been planning the release of OpenCyc, an open source version of its artificial intelligence software the company says will benefit from developers who work on it for free, mimicking the open-source success of Linux. However, the release of OpenCyc has been delayed twice, and Lenat cannot predict when it will be ready. Others say the key for Cycorp is to develop commercially successful applications of the technology.
    http://www.crmdaily.com/perl/story/14618.html

  • "Tech Companies Find Few Buyers Even at Discount"
    Wall Street Journal (11/12/01) P. B1; Swisher, Kara

    Merger and acquisition activity in the technology market is not quickening to the level analysts had predicted a few months ago. Part of the reason, according to Goldman Sachs global technology investment banking head Brad Koenig, is that stock prices are currently very volatile. Moreover, active buyers, like Cisco, are worried about protecting and shoring up their current market position. Struggling companies will become more palatable to buyers as they organize their assets to reduce debt loads, as Excite@Home and Exodus are currently doing in bankruptcy court. Excite@Home said it would sell $10 million of its assets to InfoSpace last week, showing that parts of these companies still have significant value. Other experts say that the opposition to the Compaq/Hewlett-Packard merger is evidence of the skittish attitude toward merger activity, but Merrill Lynch tech strategist Steve Milunovich says the deal is inevitable as the tech industry contracts after the boom of the past few years.

  • "Techies vs. Telcos"
    Fortune (11/12/01) Vol. 144, No. 9, P. 175; Kirkpatrick, David

    The Agenda conference this October could represent the start of a movement within the tech industry to confront telecommunications companies that control broadband access to the Internet. At the conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., tech executives painted the telco industry as being responsible for the problems tech companies are facing. Indeed, many dot-coms that no longer exist were expecting better bandwidth. Businesses have not embraced broadband because T1 and T3 lines remain expensive, and only 5 percent of American homes use it; what is more, the speed offered to consumers is not enough for features such as high-quality video. Telecommunications companies essentially control the pipes running into businesses and homes, and tech executives say telcos are not doing enough to push broadband because they have no competition for offering bandwidth over telephone and cable lines. Aaron Goldberg of Ziff-Davis Market Experts Group likens the situation to trucking companies owning the road and allowing only their trucks to run on them. The 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act was supposed to create competition in the marketplace. A number of tech executives at the conference are now advocating that companies such as AOL Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon be broken up into wire owners or service providers.
    http://www.fortune.com/indexw.jhtml?channel=artcol.jhtml&doc_id=204875

  • "Storage Gets Caught in the Net"
    CIO (11/01/01) Vol. 15, No. 3, P. 115; Edwards, John

    IP storage is designed to be cheaper, faster, and more efficient than fibre channel, leading to improved storage area networks (SANs). Cost savings can be realized by recycling existing Internet-compatible hardware for one's storage needs. One of the major draws of IP storage is the unlimited scope the Internet gives it, whereas FC technology is limited to a six-mile radius. Organizations can use already existing security technology such as virus scanners and firewalls to protect IP storage data. IP storage speed is currently not much faster than FC, but that should change with the expected approval of the 10 Gbps Ethernet standard by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers next year. However, the IP storage sector is split into advocates for two incompatible protocols: ISCI (Internet small computer system interface), designed to transmit SCSI I/P traffic over IP networks; and IFCP (Internet FC protocol), a standard for connecting native fibre channel devices to an IP network. Industry observers also harbor doubts that the technology can live up to its hype. Network latency still needs to be ironed out, while CNT's Mark Knittel says that IP networks must be carefully evaluated before an IP storage strategy is implemented.
    http://www.cio.com/archive/110101/et_article.html

  • "The Writing's On the Screen"
    New Scientist (10/27/01) Vol. 172, No. 2314, P. 36; Lillington, Karlin

    The advent of the electronic book seems set to permanently alter society's reading habits. Forrester estimates that one-sixth of the U.S. book-publishing market will be comprised of e-books by 2005. The distribution of handheld devices designed to make reading electronic text less stressful has prompted publishing heavyweights such as Random House and Simon & Schuster to embrace the initiative and announce e-books. However, sales of e-book readers have been disappointing, mostly because they are expensive, lack standards, have limited battery live, and the screens can be hard to read, especially in the wrong light. Consumers are also turned off by the high prices of the e-books themselves, while royalty and anti-pirating issues have yet to be resolved. Electronic paper, which MIT's Nicholas Negroponte describes as "a refreshable computer display," is likely to help people become more used to e-reading, and offer extras that printed books do not, such as video and graphics displays downloaded from the Internet. Meanwhile, publishers have started targeting e-books to young people who are often immersed in the electronic world in the course of their daily lives.

  • "Computer Consciousness"
    Computerworld (11/05/01) Vol. 35, No. 45, P. 52; Anthes, Gary H.

    The fastest supercomputer will be able to perform more than 100 trillion operations per second by 2005, predicts Stephen M. Younger, former senior associate director for national security at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Younger believes that factors such as quantum computing could allow such advancing of computers to continue indefinitely. Younger, who secured the nation's nuclear arsenal while at Los Alamos, believes supercomputers will usher in a social revolution with its own social issues. For example, Younger says military officials could employ the superfast operating computers to determine which enemy soldiers will live and die on the battlefield. The nuclear physicist says the reason why supercomputers with artificial intelligence will be built is because humans need another fully conscious species to interact with, which could help us to better understand ourselves. Younger even suggests that humans will have to address the issue of whether self-aware computers, which could be built within 20 years, would have a soul or spirit analogous to the human spirit, and whether unplugging it is the same as murder. Younger sees the creation of autonomous war robots, or allowing computers to make decision over humans, to be dangerous. "I see this machine as helping us, not replacing us," says Younger.
    http://www.computerworld.com/storyba/0,4125,NAV47_STO65279,00.html

  • "Stopping the Next One"
    Business 2.0 (11/01) Vol. 2, No. 9, P. 98; Kaihla, Paul

    Although the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon show the limits of technology in protecting against terrorism, technology will play a key role as the United States tracks down terrorists who are responsible for the national tragedy. U.S. officials are likely to turn to the strategy that enabled them to crack down on drug cartels in the 1990s, according to people in the intelligence and military community. In the U.S. war on drugs, U.S. officials used signal intelligence (sigint) to determine the exact whereabouts of Pablo Escobar. Sigint is a sophisticated eavesdropping network U.S. officials can use to intercept, exploit, and jam electronic communications. The worldwide surveillance network relies on simple radio antennas wired into sophisticated receivers, P-3 Orion spy planes, and geosynchronous spy satellites in space. And the technology is likely to include spectrum analyzers (to break down all signals in an area), data mining software (to find a single hot-button sequence in hundreds of millions of intercepted email messages, faxes, and phone calls in minutes), and a system that can pinpoint a single voice out of thousands of cell phone conversations in an area. Intelligence experts are aware that Middle Eastern terrorists pose unique challenges, such as operating in Afghanistan and other countries that may not have cellular service. Nevertheless, intelligence experts remain confident in all the electronic weaponry they have at their disposal to determine the coordinates of Osama bin Laden, and the fact that they only need an RF signal.
    http://www.business2.com/articles/mag/0,1640,17505,FF.html