Timely Topics for IT Professionals
About ACM TechNews
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 278: Monday, November 19, 2001
- "Comdex Fall 2001: Picks and Pans"
PCWorld.com (11/16/01); McDonald, Anne B.; Arar, Yardena; Bass, Steve
A wide host of technologies--good, bad, and bizarre--were on display at Comdex Fall 2001 in Las Vegas. The convention boasted a generally dignified atmosphere, rather than one characterized by outrageous stunts and cheesy showcases. Among the highlights was a convertible, multipurpose notebook from Hewlett-Packard; a versatile, interchangeable SD Memory Card; next-generation wireless networks from Proxim, Intel, and others that can run at up to 54 Mbps; an ultra-low power processor and chip set from Intel; and Serious Magic's Visual Communicator, a software application that can create video productions with very high production values. Bluetooth did not appear to be gaining support at Comdex, in contrast to 802.11b. Fujitsu showcased its lightweight LifeBook P Series Windows XP notebook, which features a built-in DVD/CD-RW drive and battery life of six hours. Over 70 Korean companies were displaying wares, such as LCD monitors, input devices, power supplies, and desktop cases. Some of the more unusual fashion statements included a 15-pocket vest for electronic devices, and Dockers with a hidden pocket for handhelds.
- "ICANN Forum Warns of Web Vulnerability"
San Francisco Chronicle (11/17/01) P. B1; Kopytoff, Verne
ICANN concluded its recent meeting by warning that the Internet is susceptible to hacker and terrorist attacks via the 13 root servers. ICANN also said that the 10 computers that hold TLD registrations could be at jeopardy, particularly those holding the smaller domains. "There's no way we can patch everything on the Internet," said ICANN board member Karl Auerbach. Lars-Johan Liman, who operates the root server in Stockholm, said an attack could come from someone as innocuous as a janitor at a root server facility, although he adds that all of the root servers are maintained in a "professional environment." There has never been a wide-scale attack on the Internet from any terrorist group, but hackers and irresponsible management at vital computer facilities could open the door for a terrorist attack, said Auerbach. The Internet could help terrorists facilitate political objectives due to its current security weaknesses, said Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office director John Tritak. ICANN has yet to take any specific action regarding this topic, and members are not very enthusiastic about instituting new security policies for fear they may establish unrealistic security requirements.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Internet An Ideal Tool for Extremists--FBI"
Newsbytes (11/16/01); McWilliams, Brian
The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) reports that Internet technologies are allowing extremist organizations to conduct "leaderless resistance." The report notes that "An extremist organization whose members get guidance from emails or by visiting a secure Web site can operate in a coordinated fashion without its members ever having to meet face to face." The technologies extremists use, such as Internet relay chat (IRC), Web-based bulletin boards, and free-mail accounts, offer a secure way to cloak communications and indoctrinate members using a "steady stream of propaganda." Leaderless resistance increases authorities' difficulty in anticipating extremists' moves, according to the report. Furthermore, the NIPC says that as extremists become more technically competent, they increase their capability of seriously injuring the country's network infrastructure.
- "Tech Industry Sees Business Productivity As a Top Market"
E-Commerce Times (11/15/01); Keefe, Bob
Technology companies at the Comdex trade show are concentrating on offerings that boost productivity. Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers declared that Internet-based "workforce optimization" will save $140 million over the next three years or so, 70 percent more savings than the previous three years. Speaking to attendees, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates estimated that business productivity could double within the next decade thanks to Internet technologies of increasing sophistication; he also predicted that such innovations would pull the economy out of its current doldrums. Meanwhile, the U.S. government reported that productivity experienced its biggest increase in the past 15 months, an almost 3 percent gain in the quarter that ended in September. Productivity is especially increasing in the area of business-to-business transactions, where online ordering enables companies to lower inventories, speed up delivery times, and eliminate intermediaries.
- "InfiniBand Offers Infinite Net Changes"
Investor's Business Daily (11/19/01) P. A7; Deagon, Brian
InfiniBand is a new computing architecture that will lift restrictions on how fast data can be moved between computing components, such as from the central processor to storage or other parts of a network. Although the technology promises huge performance gains in computing systems, it also takes away the differentiators of proprietary technology and would lead to a commoditization of the server market, much like what has happened with PCs. Nearly all the major computer companies are behind InfiniBand's development, but still none are taking a front-line position, says IDC analyst Vernon Turner. IDC estimates that 1.26 million InfiniBand-based servers will ship in 2003 and 6.7 million in 2004 after their launch in mid 2002. Companies such as Lane 15 Software are looking to capitalize on the necessity of InfiniBand management software and CEO Alisa Nessler says her firm aims to pioneer the market by providing end-to-end solutions for early adopters so that the technology is deemed a success.
- "Computer Optics Not an Illusion"
Wired News (11/16/01); Anderson, Mark K.
Researchers are attempting to create photonic crystals in order to boost microprocessor speed from gigahertz to terahertz. Several methods for creating optical integrated circuits are being investigated: Spontaneous crystallization, or self-assembly, and precise lithographic etching. A team of scientists from the NEC Research Institute and Princeton have fashioned large-scale photonic crystals through the self-assembly method, a significant step forward. A major challenge for the team will be devising a technique to control the placement of the defects that manipulate photons and direct the chip's functions. Team leader David J. Norris of NEC speculates that photonic crystals could start showing up in electronic semiconductor technologies in less than a decade.
- "'Cyclone' Blows Computer Bugs Out of Code"
New Scientist Online (11/16/01); Knight, Will
Computer researchers at Cornell University and AT&T Labs have created a new programming language, dubbed Cyclone, based on the old C programming language that will alert software creators to potential bugs in the code when compiling. Experts say the system will ensure security holes are closed through use of a "type-checking engine" used to approve code. Cornell scientist Greg Morrisett says the concept of Cyclone is to port improved security methods from newer languages into a robust basic language like C. Eventually the researchers plan to apply the same approach to fixing more complex languages such as Linux. Cyclone can be used to update existing C programs and the goal is to be able to scale Cyclone for use with larger systems. Computer language expert Graham Hutton says the program tries to combine's C power with better security and is "definitely a good thing."
- "Instant Messaging Moves Into Europe's Workplaces"
International Herald Tribune (11/16/01) P. 1; Oakes, Chris
Instant messaging will be as common as email in the European workplace within two years, according to some experts. Advocates say instant messaging combines the best features of phone and email, and works very well with many office functions. Mats Carduner, director general of Monster.com's French division, estimates that half of the company's European workers use instant messaging in their duties, and Gartner predicts 70 percent of businesses globally will make use of the medium by 2003. Moreover, instant messaging capability is included in the most popular network software from IBM's Lotus group and Microsoft. Many leading European service providers, including MSN Europe, AOL Europe, Sunrise, and Odigo, are planning to merge their instant messaging with short message services on mobile phones. However, Gartner researchers warn that as businesses quickly adopt instant messaging, they should also set up guidelines for use in order to avoid the confusions and security breaches that have plagued office use of email.
- "Police Seize $100 Million in Fake Software in L.A."
Reuters (11/16/01); Berkowitz, Ben
Three people of Taiwanese origin were arrested in Los Angeles last week after counterfeit software, estimated to be worth about $100 million, was seized from a shipping container. The incident was the result of an 18-month undercover operation, and came about when one of the suspects attempted to bribe a federal agent posing as a U.S. Customs Service official, paying $57,500 in order to arrange that the shipment be cleared though customs in Los Angeles and Long Beach. The pirated goods were fake copies of Microsoft's Windows Millennium and Windows 2000, and indications revealed that future attempts to duplicate and circulate forged copies of the newly-released Windows XP were planned. The counterfeit goods were nearly identical to the real products, except for a lack of distinguishing hologram on the CDs and slight errors in packaging.
- "To Forestall a 'Digital Pearl Harbor,' U.S. Looks to System Separate From Internet"
New York Times (11/17/01) P. B7; Mitchell, Alison
An Internet-independent network for government communications is being considered by the Bush administration. The network, GovNet, was proposed by the president's special advisor for cyberspace security, Richard A. Clarke. He sees GovNet as a way to protect the nation's critical infrastructure and essential government services from cyberattacks, especially in times of war. Civil libertarians are wondering whether a separate network would reduce the access citizens have to the government, while some in the technology industry are worried that such a measure would prompt other institutions to create their own networks. Clarke assures that the system is not intended to be a substitute for the Internet, but as a place where government agencies can host different functions. The cost of such a network would be a major issue for the administration, and Clarke estimates that it could run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Seagate Pushing the Envelope in Data Storage Capacities"
Investor's Business Daily (11/16/01) P. A6; Deagon, Brian
Seagate Technologies announced that it has successfully stored 100 billion bits of data on a single square inch of magnetic media. Although disk drives based on this breakthrough may not be available for several years, CTO Tom Porter says that, "This milestone significantly surpasses any industry announcement to date." Such an advancement is attributed to improvements in magnetic coating material, recording-head technology, and the interaction between the two. As a result, areal density is doubling annually. Meanwhile, Fuji Photo Film claims to be working on nano-cubic coating that raises the densities for recording digital data on an exponential level. Such technology would make it possible to squeeze three gigabytes on a floppy disk or one terabyte on digital video tape, according to the company. IBM is also working to boost storage capacity, and can currently store as much as 34 billion bits per square inch on its drives.
- "Building Better Ultra-Light Computers"
ABCNews.com (11/15/01); Eng, Paul
Computer manufacturers have pushed design boundaries to create ultra-light portable machines less than an inch thick, less than three pounds in weight, and possessing the computing capabilities of a desktop. The disadvantages of this design include limited battery life, no built-in CD or DVD drives, and less processor power than traditional PCs. Manufacturers are investigating numerous technologies to solve these problems. The development of a zinc/air combination battery would yield greater "energy densities" and allow the computer to become even lighter. However, Fujitsu's Tom Bernhard cautions that unlike microprocessors, which double in capabilities every 18 months, battery technology growth is linear. He says it will be another three to five years before significant battery breakthroughs hit the market. Another promising area of investigation is energy-efficient processors that can vary their speeds to carry out certain operations, such as Intel's Mobile Pentium III-M and Transmeta's Crusoe chip, which use as little as 1 watt when running at low speeds.
- "Tech Groups Urge House to Bag Broadband Deregulation"
Newsbytes (11/14/01); Krebs, Brian
The Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act, one of the hottest issues in Congress before Sept. 11, could come up for a vote soon. A representative for Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said his office had assurances from the Republican leadership in the House that they would put the bill up for a vote in the next two weeks. Over 100 executives from high-tech and telecommunications firms have signed a letter against the bill, which would loosen restrictions on the Baby Bells' activity in the DSL and long-distance data markets. A recent study by the Brookings Institution shows the bill would boost the U.S. economy by $500 billion, though it would be disastrous for the smaller broadband DSL providers currently leasing access from the regional Bell companies. Cable operators, such as AT&T, have almost no restrictions on their cable data services and control 70 percent of the high-speed market. Opponents of the legislation say the bill will cost jobs and raise prices for broadband users.
- "Virus Numbers Dwindle, but Impact Increases"
IDG News Service (11/15/01); Costello, Sam
The potential of computer viruses is growing even as the amount of new malicious code is down, says computer security researcher Vincent Gullotto of Network Associates. Speaking at the Comdex computer convention, Gullotto, who serves as senior director of McAfee AVERT Labs, tracked the shift from viruses and macro attack code to worms, which can propagate themselves independent of computer users. He also said the expansion of networks to include PDAs and laptops opened up new vulnerabilities. Gullotto also exhorted companies to keep up on their employee education, interorganizational communication, and software patches. Although innovative new worms such as Nimda propose new threats and capabilities, security research will improve as experts focus on identifying malicious code by behavior rather than code signature, he said.
- "How Countries Go High-Tech"
Economist (11/10/01) Vol. 361, No. 8247, P. 12
Silicon Valley did not emerge as a result of some well thought-out plan. Indeed, the high-tech center of the United States evolved over time, as thousands of scientists and entrepreneurs sought out a warm weather state that had tough patent laws, a sophisticated financial system, and a culture for turning out money-making inventions. And so, if developing countries are serious about creating their own high-tech industries, those nations will have to make sure the right political, social, and economic climate is in place to encourage technological innovation. Although supporting high-tech growth with public investment is an option, poor governments often waste these resources. As a result, governments of developing countries would do well to focus more on maintaining peace and stability, embracing trade and investment, creating a sound infrastructure, and being sensible about intellectual property and their financial system. When countries open up their markets, they entice foreign companies to introduce skills and share technology, a situation local entrepreneurs can use, in turn, to their advantage. As a World Bank study indicates, even countries that have poor infrastructure can stimulate innovation as long as they encourage trade and offer easy access to telephones. More capital is starting to flow across the borders of developing counties, and the poor nations that have taken the greatest strides in high-tech have benefited significantly from private investment.
(Access for paying subscribers only.)
- "Rethinking Where People Work"
Network World (11/12/01) Vol. 18, No. 46, P. 29; Kistner, Toni
Businesses are looking more closely at the teleworking option after the Sept. 11 attacks as large companies see teleworking as a way to save money and other firms see greater resiliency in business processes. The International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) says there are now 28.8 million teleworking employees in the United States, the most ever. Still, teleworking proponents say widespread adoption of teleworking has yet take place, despite the many benefits. The terrorist attacks have given teleworking a new urgency, and many companies are launching into programs even if the necessary infrastructure is not quite ready. Other companies that already have remote access and mobile technology are moving forward with programs. ITAC CEO Tim Kane says larger teleworking initiatives grow out of short-term solutions that management realizes has a significant benefit to the company. Other companies are focusing on teleworking as part of their larger effort to create disaster contingency plans, says Verizon's Karen Dmytriw.
- "Web Services Crack App Integration Nut"
InternetWeek (11/12/01) No. 885, P. 1; Karpinski, Richard
Web services may encompass the third wave of Internet adoption. Big and small software vendors are supporting Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and other Web services standards. Application integration appears to be the first killer app for Web services, as demonstrated by several companies. Imperial Sugar has developed an order management extranet for five key suppliers, thus making the supply chain more efficient at less cost. Nordstrom.com has created Web services software designed to link its e-commerce site to a pair of legacy applications, gift card management, and cosmetics replenishment; Iona Technologies provided the XML messaging formats. The company plans to build a universal inventory system integrating its online inventory system with its offline inventory systems out of Web services. Hewitt & Associates has developed SOAP-based Web services that can be accessed by any customer; data and application distribution to clients will begin on January 1, 2002. Issues of security, quality of service, and transactional functionality still need to be worked out before Web services can fully mature.
- "A Smarter Web"
Technology Review (11/01) Vol. 104, No. 9, P. 52; Frauenfelder, Mark
Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee is pursuing the idea of a Semantic Web--a Web that can comprehend the underlying meaning of the information it documents. Such a Web would be more customizable, and capable of more accurate searches and authentication. The design of a Semantic Web involves the creation of standardized metadata tagging and a metadata sharing methodology between different programs. Many people feel that such an undertaking is an impossibility: The project involves rules that would increase the time it takes a program to infer meaning; opponents also believe the potential benefits to users do not justify the addition of metadata to content. But the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the World Wide Web Consortium, and other organizations are currently working on tools to create Semantic Web infrastructure. Research scientist and Semantic Web project head Eric Miller says the metadata tags would describe the meaning of the information rather than just identify it as a specific type of text; the metadata would be connected to ontologies, special documents that define metadata terms and how they relate to each other. DARPA and the University of Manchester are developing semantic languages for facilitating interactions between ontologies and metadata. One of the earliest commercial applications for the Semantic Web that Berners-Lee forecasts is the integration of disparate data systems in large organizations.
- "Federal Trade Commission Examines Standards-Setting Procedures"
Electronic Business (11/01) Vol. 27, No. 11, P. 34; Harbert, Tam
Joint Electronic Devices Engineering Council (JEDEC) Solid State Technology Association President John Kelly says the FTC has embarked on "a broad investigation into how intellectual property relates to standards setting and what rules apply or ought to be applied." High-tech companies such as Rambus and Sun Microsystems are being probed to determine whether they acted dishonestly while participating in standards-setting bodies. Sun, for example, is suspected of not disclosing relevant memory module patents. Although JEDEC requires that patents and patent applications are disclosed "at the earliest possible stage" of the standards process, Kelly acknowledges that the council has little power to enforce the rules. Standards agencies need to institute tougher patent disclosure rules, according to White & Case partner David Balto. Latham & Watkins partner Dean Dunlavy outlines a three-step process to ensure proper patent disclosure: First, JEDEC should reinforce the rules by sending a copy of them to members with every communication; second, JEDEC members must sign a document declaring that they have no relevant patents or patent applications in process; and third, patents relevant to standards that are subsequently issued either cannot be enforced or are to be licensed for free. Kelly believes the FTC's investigation stems from a case in which it accused Dell Computer of not disclosing a relevant patent during its participation in the Video Electronics Standards Association and then attempted to charge license fees for a standardized computer bus.
Click Here to View Full Article