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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 3, Issue 283: Monday, December 3, 2001
- "DVD CCA Appeals Ruling to Calif. Supreme Court"
Newsbytes (11/30/01); Bartlett, Michael
The DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) has appealed its case to the California Supreme Court in an effort to try and keep programmers from posting DeCSS code on the Internet. DVD CCA created the Content Scramble System to protect content producers' copyrights, and has claimed that publishing the DeCSS hack program violates their trade secrecy. The first court ruling favored the DVD CCA and prohibited posting of the code, but on Nov. 1 a California Court of Appeals overturned the first injunction on the basis of the First Amendment. The DVD CCA says in its latest petition that an even more recent ruling in New York against DeCSS propagation sets a precedent for curtailing its spread on the Internet. In the New York case, the Motion Picture Association of America sued hacker magazine 2600 to keep it from linking to sites posting DeCSS.
For background on DVD court cases and DeCSS code, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "An Inventor Unveils His Mysterious Personal Transportation Device"
New York Times (12/03/01) P. C1; Harmon, Amy
After almost a year of speculation, inventor Dean Kamen has finally unveiled the Segway Human Transporter, code-named "Ginger"--a two-wheeled, battery-powered device that features intuitive navigation. A single standing rider can direct the transporter and increase or decrease its speed by shifting his or her weight and operating a turning mechanism on one of the vehicle's handlebars. The device can also climb stairs and has a computer encoded on-off key protected by encryption. It can be powered from a wall socket and travel up to 15 miles on a six-hour battery charge and has a top speed of 12 mph. It has no brakes. Speculations of Ginger's nature were fueled by leaked excerpts from a book proposal authored by Kamen and journalist Steve Kemper; fanning the flames were endorsements from Apple founder Steve Jobs, Amazon.com Chairman Jeff Bezos, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr. Kamen says he kept quiet in order to protect his company's intellectual property while filing numerous patent claims. The inventor goes so far as to say that his device could revolutionize pedestrian transport, lead to the redesign of urban areas, and reduce the world's dependence on oil; however, a $3,000 price tag and public bans on motorized vehicles on sidewalks may act as barriers. Field tests will be conducted in early 2002 by the U.S. Postal Service, the City of Atlanta, and the National Park Service.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Bush Team Seeks Broader Surveillance Powers"
Washington Post (12/02/01) P. A25; McGee, Jim
Hardly a month after the signing of the U.S.A. Patriot Act into law, the Bush administration is urging Congress to expand federal surveillance powers even further. The CIA wants Congress to grant it the same legal authority as the FBI to gather data on foreign intelligence targets from telephone providers and ISPs. "What they are asking for is the ability to carry out email interceptions without a court order, upon the say-so of the director of central intelligence," says electronic surveillance legal expert and lawyer James X. Dempsey. Meanwhile, the Justice Department wants to jettison the key legal provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), thus authorizing wiretaps on suspected parties even if they are not connected to a foreign power or international terrorist group. Onetime NSA general counsel Stuart Baker declares that the proposed amendment "blurs the line between intelligence and law enforcement." Both proposals are part of the Bush administration's initiative to reorganize the regulation of domestic intelligence gathering that was originally set up after Watergate.
- "More Women, Girls Needed in Tech Fields"
Women's eNews (11/29/01); Nobles, Phoebe
More women and girls need to receive IT training, according to participants at a symposium on "Women and Girls in the High Tech Economy." This will be imperative as the economy bounces back from its current doldrums. Caroline Kovac, IBM's general manager of life sciences, declared that IT will experience rapid growth within the next 10 years. The Department of Labor says science and technology is the fastest-growing job segment, yet there is a pronounced shortage of technically skilled people in these fields. Although women in science and technology do not make as much money as their male counterparts, they still make more money than women in "regular jobs," according to keynote speaker Shinae Chun of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau. Attendees suggested that an effort should be made to change technology's public image in order to attract more young women into the field; this effort must be coordinated through up-to-date role models, mentoring, extracurricular educational programs, and media such as television and film. The National Council for Research on Women's Linda Basch said the most encouraging educational programs for girls establish real-world connections to computer applications.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Don't Fear Science You Can't See"
Wired News (12/01/01); McGee, Patrick
Nanotech researchers are advocating a more proactive effort to educate the public about their field. Sun Microsystems' Bill Joy wrote a popular article last year that drew attention to the doomsday possibilities nanotechnology could lead to. But Glenn H. Reynolds, speaking at the Nanotech Planet 2001 conference, compares such criticism to the anti-biotech movement that sought to stop genetic research. Reynolds says nanotechnology researchers should make more of an effort to make plain both the advantages and disadvantages of nanotechnology in order to build trust instead of fear. Albany NanoTech director of business development LeMar A. Hill says education is necessary to help the U.S. technology community keep pace with new advancements such as nanotechnology, especially since many foreign experts are returning to their home countries.
- "Treaty on Cybercrime Flew Under the Radar Despite Potential Risks"
Wall Street Journal (12/03/01) P. B1; Weber, Thomas E.
The Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime lists a wide range of online activities that could be construed as illegal, mandates real-time Internet data monitoring, and authorizes Net communications surveillance. The United States and over two dozen other countries have signed the accord. However, the document is open to interpretation, and high-tech companies, civil libertarians, and programmers have expressed concern. Companies are worried that addressing investigators' requests for surveillance and computer data will strain time, money, and resources. This is particularly worrisome for U.S. companies, since the nation plays a central role in the Internet and many communications are routed through the United States. Some concerns were addressed during the treaty's development; after ISPs criticized that the accord would require them to restructure their systems and add surveillance features, the convention was revised to allow them to use only their "existing technical capability." But despite critics' anxieties, the accord drew little attention during its development because it detailed legal and technical issues that attorney Mike Godwin says people tend to ignore. The increased credibility of law-and-order measures after Sept. 11 also quelled some of the high-tech companies' grumbling.
- "The Emergent New Order"
Salon.com (11/28/01); Leonard, Andrew
Feed magazine co-founder Steven Johnson has written a book that details the emergence of self-organizing decentralized systems in today's world, a principle that links together ants, cities, brains, software, and even terrorists. These systems, Johnson explains, consist of distributed components that solve higher-level problems collectively. Ant colonies, for example, are organizations of thousands of individuals who have no real system of authority, yet coordinate what could be construed as engineering projects, resource management, and social organization. He also lists New York City as an emergent system, particularly in regards to the way it was able to keep functioning despite the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. On a bleaker note, Johnson observes that al-Qaida is also a self-organizing system of distributed cells that does not rely on leaders, a factor that makes it more powerful. He points out that the Internet itself is an excellent decentralized system, but it is not a true emergent system; however, the Web does simplify the construction of emergent systems on top of it.
- "GOP Makes Pitch for High-Tech Donors"
Washington Post (12/02/01) P. A4; Eilperin, Juliet
Politicians from both parties are still eager to win the support of the high-tech community, despite the recent downturn, and as a result are turning to pending legislation to win support for their party. House Republicans, for example, may decide to bring a trade vote up this week before they have enough votes ready to secure passage. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.) argued in a closed-door meeting that such a vote, which would give President Bush authority to strike trade deals with other countries, would put pressure on Democrats to please high-tech contributors. Although the high-tech industry has been fairly even-handed with their campaign contributions, most other industry groups have sided largely with Republicans. Part of the reason is that high-tech companies are often run by their founders, many of whom are liberal democrats. Democrats would be forced to choose between pleasing high-tech contributors and powerful trade unions, who would likely be affected by the president's ability to more easily make trade treaties. Meanwhile, Democrats are downplaying the trade bill and pushing for passage of other legislation, including unemployment relief.
- "State, Local Governments Still Seriously Lack IT Workers"
Washington Technology Online (11/29/01); Emery, Gail Repsher
State and local governments continue to lack skilled IT workers despite the economic downtrend, according to a Gartner study. The study reveals that 87 percent of state governments and 80 percent of local governments suffer from a shortage of tech workers. These governments say insufficient compensation packages are the biggest problem in attracting and keeping IT workers, according to the study. Although IT workers are needed at all levels, the most hard hit are the intermediate and advanced skill levels. Adding to the problem is the aging of public-sector IT workers. At 54 percent of state agencies, 11 percent to 20 percent of employees will be ready for retirement within five years. Outsourcing or restructuring human resource guidelines could help the situation, but many governments are unable or unwilling to make such changes, Gartner found. As a result of the shortages, federal IT projects could suffer delays, cancellations, or failure, says Gartner's Bill Keller.
- "IBM Engineers to Detail Semiconductor Innovation"
Wall Street Journal (12/03/01) P. B7; Bulkeley, William M.
IBM semiconductor engineers are expected to release a paper at the International Electronic Device Manufacturers conference detailing the creation of a transistor with two gates. A double-gate transistor will prevent electron leakage. Bijan Davari, VP of semiconductor development at IBM Microelectronics, says the transistor will consume less power and cause the processor to emit less heat, paving the way for smaller chips. IBM says chips based on the new technology could be available as early as 2006. Gartner Dataquest analyst Dean Freeman declares that this breakthrough takes double-gate technology out of the realm of theory and demonstrates the possibility of practical application. However, Davari says that the development of strained silicon may delay the double gate's debut until 2007.
- "Football Shirt with On-Board Computer"
BBC News Online (11/27/01)
Researchers at the University of Birmingham are working with German, Italian, Austrian, Dutch, and Greek universities to find ways to remotely monitor sports participants. The University of Birmingham has developed a football shirt with an on-board computer capable of measuring the pace, acceleration, pulse rate, and temperature of the wearer. Such a device would aid in more accurate analysis of speed and performance in live sporting events. The electronic shirt transmits data via a radio network. Lecturer Chris Baber notes that several design challenges remain, such as making the computer resistant to spinning in the washing machine, and keeping it small enough not to interfere with the wearer. He adds that such systems could spark an interest in physics among young people. Meanwhile, the National Technical University of Athens is investigating the possibilities of computer-equipped footballs.
- "Paris School Offers Primer for Cyberpirates"
Christian Science Monitor (12/03/01) P. 1; Van der Laan, Nanette
Controversy has erupted over a Parisian school where hackers teach their techniques to others. Although organizers claim the purpose of the school is to help people protect themselves on the Internet, authorities and experts are concerned that it will encourage illegal online activity. "If you tell kids how to make a Trojan Horse--software that enables them to take control of another computer--then they are going to be tempted to use it," argues Damien Bancal, author of "Hackers and Pirates on the Internet." The police are monitoring the school, and spokesperson Michelle Bruno says that detectives are currently investigating whether hacking instruction breaks the law. A particularly hot topic is the school's association with Hackerz Voice, a magazine published by school founder Olivier Spinelli. Publishing information about hacking methods may be declared illegal, especially in light of tougher cybercrime measures that the European Commission is expected to pass this week.
- "Hack Attacks Become Deadlier: Is There a Defense?"
NewsFactor Network (11/28/01); McDonald, Tim
Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks are occurring with more frequency and their potential for damage is increasing. More and more hackers are targeting routers, the vital links between networks, according to a report from the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). The study also indicates that multiple-source attacks on multiple targets are becoming more frequent. The more sophisticated hackers no longer use Trojan Horses to insert code manually into systems, but prefer "autonomous network worms" whose propagation cannot be checked by traditional packet filters. McAfee reports that over 57,000 computer viruses exist today, with more than a hundred new viruses being created each day. It is unlikely that DoS attacks will be completely eliminated, since they are dependent on the Internet's essential openness and interconnectedness. "The Internet is comprised of limited, consumable resources," explains CERT's Kevin Houle. "Thus, it's possible to consume those resources. That's not likely to change any time in the near future."
- "Makers of Car Technology Urged to Adopt Open Standards"
Investor's Business Daily (11/29/01) P. A8; Stalter, Katharine
Car manufacturers could gain considerable revenue by incorporating telematics systems into their products, according to a report from Booz Allen & Hamilton. There is a market for telematics: General Motors, for instance, equips cars with the OnStar navigation system and is planning to install cell phones and computer terminals in other automobiles, while other automakers are working on wireless computing systems. But adopting open standards will help them make the most amount of money, claims Booz Allen VP Francois Truc, one of the report's authors. He notes that the telematics features consumers want vary among different segments of the population. Younger drivers favor email and music downloading, while older drivers prefer safety and security applications. There is also regional variation; in-dash video navigation systems have proven popular in Japan and Europe, while North American motorists are more interested in safety-oriented features. Forward Concepts President Will Strauss is convinced that a telematics standard will be developed so that drivers can operate systems regardless of car model. The real test for auto manufacturers, he says, will be how much money consumers are willing to spend on telematics.
- "Development Goes Offshore"
eWeek (11/26/01) Vol. 18, No. 46, P. 23; Musich, Paula
Concerns about terrorism have not put a halt to the booming offshore outsourcing market, although business is expected to slow in countries such as India. "There will indeed be a short-term dip in the signing of contracts or investigating these options because in the decision-making process for a fairly substantial project, many U.S. organizations that look at these options travel over to India," says Gartner analyst Frances Karamouzis. Still, large outsourcing vendors are very interested in international opportunities because of the growth potential. Gartner projects growth rates of about 35 percent, with offshore outsourcing generating a market of between $30 billion and $40 billion over the next few years. Offshore outsourcing experts say U.S. companies now see international opportunities as a way to create redundancy among applications development teams. The terrorist attacks in the United States have made U.S. companies fearful about the legal protections in politically unstable countries, and now they want greater control over assets such as application code. India-based outsourcers are responding by trying to acquire U.S.-based companies, which would serve as U.S. subsidiaries for housing code. However, large outsourcing vendors in the United States could head off India-based outsourcers by making acquisitions in India.
- "Agencies Prepare to Hit Back at Hackers"
Federal Times (11/19/01) Vol. 37, No. 42, P. 1; Tiboni, Frank; Robb, Karen
The head of the Joint Task Force-Computer Network Operations, Dave Bryan, wants to utilize new technology that can trace the origin of cyber attacks and retaliate immediately. The task force is working with the National Security Agency (NSA) to deploy a new Active Network Defense system that uses survey probes and mobile agents to scrutinize servers, and beaconing and tagging software to find origins of suspicious activity. NSA is in the process of compiling a database that will gather information on types and inclinations of hacker attacks. The agency says that recent efforts to bolster Defense network security have been effective, thanks largely to NSA's own efforts to break into military systems in order to find and fix vulnerabilities.
- "State of the Tech Union"
Upside Today (11/01) Vol. 13, No. 11, P. 68; Draenos, Stan
The top five U.S. states in the high-tech sector are listed in the American Electronics Association's (AEA) report, "Cyberstates: A State-by-State Overview of the High-Technology Industry." California still holds the number-one high-tech spot as a center for employment, with Silicon Valley at its epicenter; however, BEA Systems CEO William Coleman foresees that the state will experience a "massive exodus of manufacturing and production" over the next several years, driven by the general offshore migration of tech manufacturing services throughout the country. Texas, the second-highest high-tech state, counts Dallas, Houston, and Austin as thriving technology centers, and boasts a business-friendly atmosphere. Communications services, the leading job segment, is concentrated in Dallas, while San Antonio's heavy military presence fosters security services. Austin specializes in software, although Pervasive Software CEO Ron Harris notes that wages have significantly risen due to a scarcity of software developers. In New York, the next leading high-tech state following Texas, there is a greater emphasis on business than technology, though the latter is supported by excellent schools. The state also boasts the highest-rated transportation and communications infrastructure in the United States. But to maintain technology growth, New York will need to leverage the insight it has gained as a commercial player both on the street and global level. Massachusetts holds fourth place with a technology industry driven by a high concentration of intellectualism, a strong university infrastructure and global support system, and a deep linkage between the state's past and present. Florida, the number-five state in the AEA report, has become a center for the regional branches of major high-tech firms and a jumping-off point to the South American market.
- "Top Ten Trends 2002: Data Central"
Red Herring (11/01) No. 107, P. 48; Malik, Om
One of the top 10 trends for 2002 cited by Red Herring is the emergence of advanced data centers. In the near future, the Web-hosting industry will be transformed into advanced data centers that will serve as online communications hubs and usher in truly distributed computing. They will facilitate the outsourcing of computing power to companies as if it were a public utility. But first they must prove themselves 100 percent reliable through the development of blade servers. Until then, the central office is the most reliable kind of hub. Data centers that are easier to equip and cost less to manage are expected to emerge in 2002. This will put Web hosting on track to become a $28.5 billion industry by 2005, up from $3.5 billion in 2000, according to Tier 1 Research. Failure-proof data centers will be able to outsource supply chain, e-commerce, sales automation, and customer relationship management applications. Furthermore, data-center operators expect to spread out the total cost of ownership for their customers by reducing space and power requirements while serving hundreds of clients.
- "The Skills Imperative: Talent and U.S. Competitiveness"
Issues in Science and Technology (11/01) Vol. 18, No. 1, P. 51; Opstal, Deborah Van
The United States relies on skills and education in order to remain economically competitive. The demand for people with increased workplace skills--driven by globalization, technological advancements, and demographic shifts in the workforce--is overtaking supply, so the country has a duty to "give every American the tools to prosper in the global economy," according to former North Carolina Governor James Hunt. To do so, the United States must concentrate on bringing learning opportunities to three underserved segments of the population: Low-income minorities (the fastest-growing workforce segment), welfare-to-work groups, and prison inmates. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job openings for scientists and engineers will grow by 51 percent between 1998 and 2008, but America lags behind Asia and Europe in the number of S&E graduates it produces. To remedy this situation, the country must expand the S&E workforce to include more women and minorities, provide more financial incentives to institutions that improve their S&E programs, and allow graduates to choose fellowships based on career options rather than research funding availability. More workforce training opportunities can be created by deploying performance-based training programs; giving tax incentives for employer-provided tuition assistance a broader scope; and having administrators and teachers incorporate IT into K-12 learning. There should be special emphasis on science and math because of the need for highly skilled workers with independent problem-solving capability, coupled with America's low ranking in these areas compared to the rest of the world. Key reforms must be instituted, including more rigorous graduation standards, higher pay for instructors, and more professional development training.