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 ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 3, Issue 285: Friday, December 7, 2001
- "Lawmakers Studying IT Response to Sept. 11 Attacks"
Computerworld Online (12/05/01); Thibodeau, Patrick
Although the IT community made valiant attempts to assist recovery efforts immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, not every initiative was successful and there was a pronounced lack of coordination. For example, some firms offered technology that was out of date, notes Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Joe Allbaugh. The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space has begun holding a series of hearings on the technology industry's emergency readiness and its response to the catastrophe. Specifically, legislators and federal officials are trying to organize a government strategy to tap into IT talent and equipment in the event of an emergency. Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has proposed the formation of a National Emergency Technology Guard (NET Guard) comprised of specialists who would be called on in times of crisis "not just to fix what's broken, but to create whatever systems are needed most." Meanwhile, Allbaugh is pushing for the creation of a centralized repository of technology resources that FEMA and other agencies can use.
- "Proposal for Volunteer IT Corps Debated"
InformationWeek Online (12/05/01); Gilbert, Alorie
Government leaders and IT executives on Wednesday discussed the merits of NetGuard, a proposed volunteer force of IT professionals who would help restore the nation's IT infrastructure should it come under attack. Senate Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) put forth the idea, which he says can be implemented with cooperation from both industry and government. Intel Chairman Andy Grove's technical assistant, Julie Coppernoll, who was helping rebuild at the World Trade Center, says industry can provide the support without NetGuard. Intel sent 15 employees to help with reconstruction efforts. Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller says a hodgepodge of IT workers would not be able to solve problems as well as the companies that built those infrastructures. Others have said that the government should set standards and protocols to enable currently existing IT bodies, such as the National Academies for Science, Engineering, and Medicine, to take on the role of NetGuard.
- "Bush Gets Trade Bill Victory to Tech Industry's Delight"
SiliconValley.com (12/06/01); Puzzanghera, Jim
So-called fast track trade promotion authority legislation allowing the president to more effectively implement trade deals passed by one vote on Thursday in the House of Representatives. The same power was granted five presidents since 1975, although it expired in 1994, and gives Congress the ability to either approve or reject trade deals, but not to amend them. High-tech groups had lobbied hard for the vote, although no Silicon Valley representatives voted for it, due to labor and environmental concerns. As a cornerstone to his trade agenda, President Bush said the bill will help create more high-salary jobs in the U.S. as well as give opportunities to foreign countries. Bush is set to enter a new set of global trade talks and wants to establish a free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere. The legislation now moves to the Senate, and opposition groups say they will continue to fight its passage.
- "In Digital Revolution, Mr. Selby Is a Kind of Wireless Guerrilla"
Wall Street Journal (12/07/01) P. A1; Tam, Pui-Wing; Thurm, Scott
Innovative individuals across the country are broadcasting their 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, high-speed wireless Internet signals for all to use. Jim Selby, a self-described ski bum in Aspen, Colo., set up a 45-square-mile network in just a few years, tapping a T-1 Internet connection his friends had in their office building and broadcasting from nearby mountaintops. After investing nearly $80,000, Selby sold the network to a small local ISP for $120,000 and plans to soon start charging an access fee. Shaun Gilmore, a VP at Qwest Communications, says people who share their high-speed Internet access through wireless networks are not specifically violating the law, but do impair their own Internet connection's performance. Moreover, hackers can tap into 802.11b networks, requiring users to encrypt their messages in order to make them secure. Similar Wi-Fi networks have been established in Seattle, Portland, and New York, taking advantage of unlicensed radio spectrum that was never intended to be used for such purposes.
- "What About Kamen's Other Machine?"
Wired News (12/07/01); Delio, Michelle
The unveiling of Dean Kamen's Segway Human Transporter has taken most of the spotlight off its precursor, the Independence 3000 IBot Transporter. A joint product of Kamen's company, DEKA, and Johnson & Johnson, the IBot is an all-terrain wheelchair that can switch between two- and four-wheel modes, lift users to a standing height, and negotiate stairs and other obstacles using an array of sensors, microprocessors, and gyroscopes. But the device is still awaiting FDA approval after three years. The FDA has ordered clinical trials that will determine if the vehicle's systems are redundant and that proper failure safeguards are in place, according to attorney Michael Abram. "It all should add up to a safe machine of course," he says. "The ironic thing, though, is that in making sure it was somewhat affordable for consumers via insurance coverage, they have probably sent their development costs into the stratosphere." Johnson & Johnson wants to have the IBot prescribed by physicians rather than sold directly to consumers. The Segway Human Transporter is expected to hit the market in late 2002, about the same time that Independence Technology expects the FDA will clear the IBot for consumer use.
- "Companies Rethink Big Security-Spending Plans"
Investor's Business Daily (12/06/01) P. A10; Tsuruoka, Doug
Businesses looking to secure themselves against terrorist attacks and hackers may not have the resources available to adopt the latest IT security measures, but will likely consider alternatives, such as telecommuting and geographically dispersing their operations. The U.S. government is strongly backing the idea of telecommuting, promising a $500 tax break for individuals who install equipment necessary for telecommuting and use it a minimum of 75 days per year. Companies are also moving to digitize and back up their records since the Sept. 11 attacks. RBC Capital Markets says governments and businesses worldwide will spend over $30 billion by 2005 in order to secure themselves against hacker and terrorist threats. And although the new self-healing network technologies from IBM and Sun Microsystems are expensive, analysts also say those will be in demand in the future. Geographic dispersal can be handled in a number of ways, such as replacing large corporate headquarters with smaller satellite offices. Eliminating paper documents in favor of electronic ones is getting a lot of attention with new terrorism concerns such as the anthrax scare.
- "New Video Screen Is Like Paper"
Associated Press (12/05/01); Pope, Justin
Scientists at Royal Philips Electronics in the Netherlands report in Thursday's issue of Nature that they have taken a major step toward the creation of electronic paper with the development of a video display driven by plastic transistors. Other research efforts into flexible video screens have been hampered by a reliance on glass and silicon transistors, which are easily damaged. By integrating 4,096 polymer-based thin-film transistors into the device, the Dutch researchers claim they can produce a decent picture that supports streaming video because it refreshes at about 50 Hertz. The display is still mounted on glass, but the scientists report that it can now be placed on a more flexible surface. Furthermore, the transistors could be manufactured inexpensively.
- "System Suppliers Face Up to New Mood of Realism"
Financial Times-IT Review (12/05/01) P. 8; Fisher, Andrew
Enterprises today are being much more cautious regarding their IT investments, demanding measurable performance and specific applications. Tigris Consulting chief Brent Habig says managers should look for benefits such as lowered inventory and purchase costs, requiring IT investments to be closely aligned with business interests. PA Consulting conducted a study recently that showed many companies were disappointed with their IT investments and that only 40% of CEOs were confident in the business case for their IT investments. The research also found 72% of those surveyed thought the success of their IT investments was of even greater importance than the standing of their CEO, showing that IT has become a vital factor in businesses. Companies with a clear understanding and confidence in their IT investments will be able to make decisions more quickly quickly when the economy improves.
- "Web Copyright Treaty Set for March"
Associated Press (12/06/01); Higgins, Alexander G.
March 6 will be the day that a world copyright treaty to protect authors on the Internet goes into effect, according to an announcement from the United Nations. "By ratifying the WIPO Copyright Treaty, governments in 30 countries have shown their commitment to ensuring the future success of the music industry and many other creative sectors in the digital environment," declared International Federation of the Phonographic Industry Chairman Jay Berman. A second treaty designed to protect recording artists and producers currently has 28 ratifications, according to World Intellectual Property Organization director-general Kamal Idris. He added that both treaties must become part of national laws worldwide if they are to work. This will ensure the copyright protection creators enjoy in their own countries will extend to other countries, explained WIPO officials.
- "First Weave: In 1991, a Stanford Physicist's Site Put the U.S. on the Web"
San Francisco Chronicle Online (12/03/01); Baker, David R.
The evolution and future of the World Wide Web will be discussed at "The Once and Future Web," a symposium at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center that celebrates the creation of the first American Web site 10 years ago. The bare-bones site was built by Stanford physicist Paul Kunz and consisted of little more than text, an email address link, and a database search link. Kunz was inspired by the work of Tim Berners-Lee, who helped create the first Web server and Web site. The physicist is amazed at the Web's progress since then. "I don't think, 10 years ago, anyone foresaw it would grow this fast," he says. Symposium participants believe the Web's proliferation will continue at a steady pace, despite the dot-com bust. In fact, Institute for the Future director Paul Saffo anticipates that in the next decade the Web will become so ubiquitous as to be transparent.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Matrix Offers Memory On the Cheap"
InfoWorld.com (12/05/01); Lemon, Sumner; Williams, Martyn
Matrix Semiconductor officials claim that a new single-use memory chip will find its way into consumer devices next year. The Matrix 3D Memory will allow users to store data that is protected from erasure. 3D design technology will enable the chips to be manufactured at one-tenth the cost of other types of semiconductors, according to officials. The market price will be so cheap as allow consumers to afford to use the chips only once. Some devices that use the memory chips may also go down in price as a result. The chip's transistors are arranged in layers rather than spread out in a horizontal array, which is what keeps their production costs so low. Matrix, which has received backing from Sony, Microsoft, and Kodak, says that devices expected to use Matrix 3D Memory include PDAs, digital cameras, mobile phones, and MP3 players; in addition, the chips could be used to store prerecorded material such as e-books, maps, and music files.
- "Report Foresees Valley's Recovery"
SiliconValley.com (12/06/01); Ostrom, Mary Anne; Delevett, Peter
A new report from Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network indicates that the convergence of IT and bioscience, the advent of molecular electronics, and Web-based productivity boosts will help Silicon Valley bounce back from its economic slump. The report says there is a historic precedent, as major innovations have often taken place in times of recession. "It's going to be painful for people losing jobs, but what it may actually do is push us into a new period of innovation,'' predicts report author and Collaborative Economics President Doug Henton. He and Joint Venture executives say the report's objective is to help business and civic leaders prepare the work force for the next wave of innovation. Joint Venture is also trying to recover from a sluggish patch with its new emphasis on economic development. The alliance has been without a CEO since February, and civic leaders are looking for someone to fill the void.
- "Senate Confirms Former Lawmaker as Patent Office Chief"
Newsbytes (12/04/01); MacMillan, Robert
The U.S. Senate has confirmed former California Republican Representative James Rogan as Commerce Department undersecretary and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Rogan dealt with a number of high-tech intellectual property issues during his two Congressional terms and supported various technologically-oriented legislative efforts. He supported Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble's (R-N.C.) database protections bill, for instance. There is still a gap between the desires of the info-tech industry and database and intellectual property holders, since the latter want more protection and the former more availability. The new chairmen of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees are trying to find a compromise. Rogan also pushed for a bill to relax the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976 and supported Microsoft in its fight with the Justice Department, and he supported a bill that gave income tax breaks to companies that offered free public Internet access. In addition, he supported bills to fine cybersquatters more heavily and to loosen encryption export regulations.
- "Asia Bucks Slump in IT Services Spending"
CNet (12/04/01); Tan, Michelle
The Asia-Pacific region, exclusive of Japan, is expected to see IT services revenue of $31 billion in 2001 and $60 billion by 2005, according to Gartner Dataquest. The firm predicts the region will see the strongest growth in IT services, reflecting 5.6% of total spending in 2001 and 6.9% by 2005. Worldwide, IT services revenue is expected to reach $554 billion in 2001 and $865 billion by 2005. Although 2002 will see diminished growth due to a sluggish global economy and the events of Sept. 11, demand will recover by 2003 to 2005 and cause double-digit growth, predicts Gartner analyst Jacqueline Heng. Among Asian-Pacific countries, Australia is expected to lead, with $12 billion in revenue this year and $21 billion in 2005. China comes second, with expected revenue of $4.3 billion in 2001 and $10.3 billion in four years. It is also the area's fastest growing market, but is responsible for a slowdown in Hong Kong's growth as the mainland attracts greater investment, says Heng. Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan are other major IT services spenders in the region.
- "Smile, You're on Candid Computer"
Computerworld (12/03/01) Vol. 35, No. 49, P. 50; Anthes, Gary H.
Dave Schrader of NCR's Teradata division predicts machines that can read people's emotions through facial expressions will be on the market within three years. Such technology lies at the heart of E-Motions, a joint effort between NCR and USC's Integrated Media System Center. They are following two approaches in their experiments: One program defines certain features of the face and measures their movements over fractions of a second, then compares them against a database of emotional indicators. The second approach focuses on smaller regions of the face. The method is not foolproof--some computers may confuse an expression of happiness with one of sadness and disgust. In the meantime, IBM's Almaden Research Center is working on Blue Eyes, a project to develop algorithms for "affect detection." The company is also developing a mouse that can extrapolate the emotions of its user through the measurement of pulse rate, temperature, somatic activity, and galvanic skin response. University of Pittsburgh psychology professor Jeffrey Cohn says current technology can recognize the basic emotions of fear, anger, joy, surprise, sadness, and disgust.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Free For All"
Intelligent Enterprise (12/05/01) Vol. 4, No. 18, P. 60; Hamstra, Dirk
Open source software (OSS) is used by 56% of the Global 2,500 organizations, according to a recent Forrester survey. By allowing the free modification and redistribution of source code, OSS facilitates a collaborative development environment that extends product reliability and improves quality and user satisfaction. Through OSS, companies can deliver hardier projects with a higher value of differentiation. More and more OSS initiatives are focused on developing software to automate and integrate internal and external business processes. IBM, Sun Microsystems, and other IT vendors are embracing OSS through efforts and tools such as IBM's Apache Web server and developerWorks site. Banks, publishing companies, and other firms are also contributing to OSS efforts through software donations or sponsorships. OSS is more flexible, can solve problems faster, costs less, and can more rapidly implement features dependent on industry standards, compared to closed source software.
- "IT in the Ruins"
Governing (11/01) Vol. 15, No. 2, P. 38; Perlman, Ellen
Local governments around the country are renewing their efforts to work out disaster-recovery plans after the terrorist attacks in September. New York City's Department of Technology and Telecommunications acting commissioner Avi Duvdevani says the preparation the city made for Y2K had a profound effect in the response and recovery of the city's IT infrastructure. Additionally, the city made use of a previous collaboration of telecommunications carriers to quickly set up new phone lines for much of the city's downtown personnel. Monroe County, New York, still has a way to go in preparing for a similar disaster, says CIO Tim Bortree. He says county administrators allocated funds for an uninterruptible power supply only in 2001, long after Y2K requests were put in. IT administrators in Harris County, Texas, secured new money to build out that county's infrastructure after June floods displaced thousands of city workers. Harris County Central Technology Center director Steven Jennings says the actual event of a disaster underscored the absolute need for a disaster recovery plan.
- "Photonic Transistors No Longer Defy Logic"
Photonics Spectra (11/01) Vol. 35, No. 11, P. 66; McCarthy, Daniel C.
All-optical computers and network switching arrays could one day become a reality thanks to photonic transistor research in Tsukuba, Japan, and San Diego. Junji Tominaga of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has developed a photonic transistor based on DVD technology, while All Optical Networks in California is investigating holographic photonic transistors. The breakthrough both efforts are seeking is a way to control the flow of photons so they can enable logic functions. Transistors that can amplify or modulate light signals free of electrical conversion are key to this breakthrough, and both research groups have formulated their own approaches to amplification. In AIST's transistor, a 635nm laser beam strikes a spinning DVD, generating plasmons through the beam's interactions with marks on the disc surface; a 405nm laser beam amplifies the plasmon energy. All Optical Networks uses multiplex holograms--holograms partitioned into tiles, each of them capable of performing a separate but coordinated operation; separate beams from a multiplexed light source hit the tiles to form interference patterns that can be manipulated to carry out logic functions. Holograms have the advantage of no moving parts and offer significant reductions in heat and power consumption, while All Optical Networks CEO Ralph Bennett says 3D holograms remain stable despite changes in temperature, vibration, and light intensity. Challenges remain for both groups: All Optical Networks is trying to move from photoresist-coated quartz or glass substrates to a silica-on-silica platform, as well as develop a way to align multiple waveguides. Meanwhile, the Japanese group is collaborating with several commercial parties to convert its logic unit into a static mechanism.