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Volume 3, Issue 287: Wednesday, December 12, 2001
- "Bush Set to Name Advisory Panel To Help Shape Technology Issues"
Wall Street Journal (12/12/01) P. B7; VandeHei, Jim
As a display of his commitment to setting a comprehensive national technology agenda, President Bush is preparing to appoint the members of his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a panel of well-known chief executives that includes AOL Time Warner's Steve Case, Michael Dell of Dell Computer, Intel Chairman Gordon Moore, and Floyd Kvamme of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. Several scientists will also be appointed to the panel, according to officials. The appointments are scheduled to take place today. Bush has identified four key areas for the panel to concentrate on: A cost-effective acceleration of broadband development and deployment, scientific and technological contributions to the anti-terror initiative, energy conservation through more efficient technologies, and identifying areas that need federal funding for research and development. The president is expected to ask his panel to "come up with specific policy initiatives," says a senior White House aide.
- "U.S. Targets Software Pirates"
Washington Post (12/12/01) P. E1; Musgrove, Mike
U.S. government authorities, in concert with five other countries, are conducting a sweeping crackdown on software piracy. More than 100 searches have been authorized in the United States alone; officials say the primary focus is on hackers who illegally copy software or freely distribute pirated films over the Internet. "These are not your stereotypical teenage hackers," insists John C. Varrone of the U.S. Customs Service. Both companies and consumers suffer as a result of software pirates' actions, according to Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth Dam. Software companies innovate less frequently while consumers are forced to pay higher prices to offset the companies' revenue losses, he explains. Three separate undercover investigations comprise the crackdown: Operation Buccaneer, Operation Bandwidth, and Digital Piratez. Operation Buccaneer is an international effort to defeat the DrinkOrDie piracy group, which has manifested itself in at least 20 other nations, according to one official; Operation Bandwidth involves a government-run pirate software site that has been operating for two years; Digital Piratez focuses on "warez" site operators and involves FBI agents who infiltrated the distribution centers of pirated software Web sites. Customs officials say most top hackers are motivated by pride rather than financial gain.
- "House Subcommittee Revisits Online Copyrights"
Newsbytes (12/11/01); Krebs, Brian; MacMillan, Robert
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property will hold hearings on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss a U.S. Copyright Office report that votes against the suggested amendment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Section 104 report urges Congress not to add a digital "first sale" clause to the DMCA that allows copyright owners to resell or give away their works. If such a change were instituted, owners would have to either voluntarily destroy the original work or have it destroyed automatically. The Copyright Office says both possibilities "are unworkable at this time." The report also wants Congress to declare temporary "buffer" copies of online material invalid as additional copies from which copyright owners can collect royalties. Furthermore, the Copyright Office says Congress can allow consumers to make backup copies of software and digital content as long as they are not to be sold. DMCA critics claim that the law's "anti-circumvention" measure stifles fair use rights by making it illegal to create or use technology that supercedes copy protection. The report implies that the suggested DMCA revisions have nothing to do with allaying libraries' concerns that the law limits the sharing of electronic content.
- "Antivirus Firms Balk at FBI Loophole"
The FBI's Magic Lantern project will not have the cooperation of computer antivirus companies, who say creating an FBI-specific "back door" would be both a security risk and detrimental to their business. MSNBC reported last month that Magic Lantern would involve an email-borne virus, or "Trojan horse," that would allow FBI agents to record all the keystrokes on a suspect's computer. However, leaving a hole open for that virus would also let non-FBI hackers into systems running antivirus software, say vendors; foreign governments would not likely accept such a move as well, cutting off potential markets such as China. Symantec, Network Associates, U.K.-based Sophos, and Japan's Trend Micro all report that they would not comply with FBI demands, but add they had not been contacted by the government yet. Trend Micro's Barbara Woolf says, "I've heard reports that the government is upset this got out and is going back to the drawing board."
- "Court Forbids Former Intel Worker From Mass E-Mails"
SiliconValley.com (12/11/01); Mintz, Howard
Intel has won an appeals court decision barring a fired employee from spamming the company's email lists. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation backed Ken Hamidi in his defense, and said his ability to disseminate his opinion was protected under the First Amendment. But the majority of the appeals court judges ruled that Intel's email system was private property, and that Hamidi's mass mailings were trespassing. Defense lawyers are considering further appeals because of the case's important free-speech implications, which would bring it before the California Supreme Court.
- "Biz-Woman Mystique Dispelled"
Wired News (12/10/01); Mayfield, Kendra
A new report on the percentage of venture capital money awarded women-run businesses shows that misperceptions and a lack of connections hinder many women from receiving startup funds. The Diana Project, backed by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the National Women's Business Council, and the Small Business Administration, shows that women-run companies received only 6 percent of all venture funds doled out last year, even though women head 40 percent of all companies. Common misperceptions are that women do not start the type of fast-growing technology companies or are not capable of handling a fast-growing company, despite evidence to the contrary, says Boston University's Candida Brush, the study's co-author. Women's Technology Cluster managing director Kim Fisher says providing forum and networking opportunities to women entrepreneurs is another key to success. Venture One data shows the situation is improving--in 1985, just 2 percent of venture capital went toward women-run businesses, compared to 6 percent of $69 billion in venture capital funding in 2000.
- "A New Spin on Computing"
San Francisco Chronicle (12/10/01); Hall, Carl T.
Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have made an important step in harnessing electrons' spin for computing purposes. Quantum computing would process computations on a scale not possible with today's computing methods. UC Santa Barbara physicist and spintronics research director David Awschalom has developed a technique that sandwiches electrons in semiconducting material to more easily manipulate the orientation of the particles. Because electrons can spin in both "up" and "down" orientations simultaneously and affect the polarity of neighboring electrons, scientists say they can use those parameters to make quantum computations. Controlling the spin is difficult, though Awschalom's discovery is an important step because it would allow researchers to use "spin gates" to integrate quantum technology into existing systems. Awschalom's research was carried out for the California NanoSystems Institute, a joint venture between UCLA and UC Santa Barbara.
- "Man Gets 2 Years for Intel Copying"
Associated Press (12/11/01)
Former Intel employee Say Lye Ow has been sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to violating the federal Economic Espionage Act when he copied trade secrets before leaving the company in 1998. The confidential files about the Itanium processor, designed by Intel and Hewlett-Packard and launched earlier this year, turned up on Sun Microsystems' network before public release. Ow was hired by Sun after leaving Intel, although there is no evidence that anyone at Sun knew of his crime. Investigators say that the suspect planned to use information about the chip's design and testing to get even with a former boss at Intel.
- "I'll Be Hacked for Christmas"
Wired News (12/07/01); Shreve, Jenn
Electronic toys coming out this holiday season are being taken apart and modified by hackers and hobbyists who publish their findings and techniques on the Internet. A few do this to make a political statement, but most aim to improve and personalize the products. For example, Keith "Morton" Whitsitt has posted a how-to on altering an XBox video game console to support a mouse and keyboard as well as improve hard drive speed. Meanwhile, some companies offer upgrade kits allowing people who lack hacking skills to improve their toys; MediaFour, for instance, is developing an iPod-PC interface for Windows users. Some hackers hold competitions to see who can devise the best upgrade kits that offer the most useful advancements. Jeff Gibbons and Andrew Staats won the Furby Upgrade Challenge by reprogramming the talking doll to be more educational. Although companies are very protective of their intellectual property and proprietary code, they run the risk of alienating an important segment of their customer base if they clamp down on such hacking activity.
- "Most Interior Department Web Sites Still Off-Line"
Computerworld Online (12/10/01); DiSabatino, Jennifer
A U.S. District Court judge last week ordered the Interior Department to disconnect all of its computers from the Internet because of security lapses, effectively shutting down its Web sites. So far, several Interior agencies have already or are about to come back online after meeting security requirements, including the U.S. Geological Survey. The ruling came after recipients of the Individual Indian Monies Trust said the Interior Department systems were not secure. The Monies Trust contains millions of dollars collected to compensate Native Americans whose land was seized by the U.S. government in the 19th century. The Interior Department, which oversees the trust, hired Predictive Systems to beef up its system security. At the behest of a court-appointed investigator, Predictive Systems was able to break into the system undetected. Former Interior CIO Dominic Nessi also testified that there was little security in place at the Interior Department.
- "Industry Downturn Hasn't Killed Tech's Big Appetite for Top Talent"
Los Angeles Times (12/09/01) P. C1; Kaplan, Karen; Pham, Alex
The Information Technology Association of America says the tech industry could only fill 475,000 positions out of an available 900,000 this year even as more than 600,000 technology workers lost their jobs. Not enough workers have the right skills for the job, say companies, which need salespeople to boost revenue, operations and supply chain management experts to cut costs, and highly educated researchers to help create new products. Last year, the U.S. government approved over 163,000 H-1B workers and schools graduated only 16,000 engineering and computer science majors, but it was not enough to fill the void. To exacerbate the problem, new doctorate degrees in engineering and computer science have decreased in recent years due to students leaving for entrepreneurial companies. Many of the tech workers that have been laid off are experts in fields that are passe, or not of much use in the economic downturn, such as Web designers, marketing experts, and dot-com consultants. Skills that are in demand include disaster recovery specialists, Java programmers, database administrators, systems engineers, and network engineers. Many companies are looking for highly-specialized people, or what EarthLink's Rich Fino calls "purple squirrels."
- "The Crackdown on IP Crime"
Recorder (12/05/01); Hoppin, Jason
Authorities have stepped up their focus on intellectual property crimes ever since former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said the Justice Department would do so in July 1999, while looking into an IP dispute between Adobe Systems and Russian computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov concerning the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Justice Department has established its first CHIP (Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property) unit, which will be replicated in nine other jurisdictions, and 48 federal prosecutors will soon be charged with focusing on IP crimes exclusively. Although government prosecutors are ready to protect intellectual property and what it means to the American economy, civil lawyers advise authorities to move with caution on IP disputes. Civil lawyers already know how uncooperative victims can be when faced with the prospects of losing control over a case, exposing sensitive information, or trying to put the company on trial. They also know companies can backpedal when activists fight back, even when they do not fully comprehend how the Internet and new laws have changed what can be considered fair use and criminal activity. "What we're now seeing is that the U.S. Attorney is now willing to be the enforcement arm of the copyright industry," says Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Cindy Cohn. IP experts still have some issues to address, such as how to proceed if a software engineer with trade secrets leaves one company for another, which then intends to compete with the previous employer. Furthermore, they must consider whether businesses want the protection and whether they need taxpayers to pay for it.
- "Scrollable Screens"
ABCNews.com (12/07/01); Eng, Paul
Portable, paper-like displays could one day be a reality thanks to research from a group of scientists at Royal Philips Electronics. They report in the Dec. 6 issue of Nature that they have developed flexible polymer transistors that can be produced cheaply and simply. Instead of stacking silicon and metals in a clean room, as is the case for silicon transistors, the polymer transistors are sprayed onto a substrate. The transistors are more uniform and can be manufactured with less heat than their silicon counterparts, according to Philips. The transistors allow for better reproduction of video images on flexible screens, since they can be placed behind each pixel rather than at the edges. Philips has a deal with E Ink to jointly develop flexible displays, and E Ink's Russell Wilcox says Philips' flexible transistor technology and his company's resources "could work together nicely." Philips researchers have produced a prototype 2-inch display composed of over 4,000 polymer transistors.
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- "A Vision of Systems That Can Look After Themselves"
Financial Times (12/10/01) P. 10; Foremski, Tom
The huge growth of the global IT industry will require 200 million people to manage it in 10 years, predicts IBM head researcher Paul Horn. He is promoting a self-healing concept for computer systems, likened to the healing capacity of the human body, that would reduce the number of people needed to administer data centers and other IT infrastructure. Already, IBM offers eLiza technology with its most sophisticated systems. IBM Almaden Research laboratory head Robert Morris says the idea of automated computer systems would increase upfront costs, but save money spent on IT staff. Hewlett-Packard is also pursuing a self-healing computer ideal, named "planetary scale computing," which aims to provide a global data center infrastructure which would distribute computing on a utility basis. This would partly be made possible through a data center operating system, dubbed "fabricOS," that also reduces staffing requirements. HP is working with the Cern European research laboratory to construct a virtual data center housing 100,000 servers and 20 petabytes of disk space.
- "Mightier Than the Pen?"
Economist (12/08/01) Vol. 361, No. 8251, P. 24
Several companies have set their sights on improving the pen so that it can serve a more useful role in an interconnected world. Anoto CEO Christer Fahraeus says, "Apart from our voices, the pen is the most common communications technology we have--and it is the only one that is not digital." Anoto is fast at work on developing a pen equipped with a camera at the tip, which is to be used with special paper and a Bluetooth wireless chip for transmitting writing to a nearby base station or personal computer for processing, storage, or transmission over the Internet. Anoto is competing with Digital Ink, which has developed the N-Scribe pen, which has an on-board infra-red transmitter designed to work with triangulation technology embedded in mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and other common devices. Another competitor is OTM Technologies, which is developing a pen that makes use of a tiny interferometer placed at the tip and software to help recognize letters and turn writing into a stream of digital information. Consumers may be put off by early versions of the wireless pens, which are slightly larger than the average pen. There is also the possibility that eventually the pen may become an unnatural way to create text, considering computers are being introduced to young people before handwriting. Some observers wonder if wireless digital pens will discourage writing or lessen the act of taking notes, which focuses the mind intensely on what one is recording.
- "Women's Work"
Telephony (12/03/01) Vol. 241, No. 23, P. 60; Carlassare, Elizabeth
Elizabeth Carlassare, a proponent for women in technology, says that securing capital funding is the biggest hurdle women face, but there are signs of improvement: They are becoming familiar with techniques for wooing venture capitalists, and as more women assume leadership positions, there will be more opportunities for mentoring. She believes that the shakeout that startups are currently going through is a painful but necessary step. "[G]oing forward, the pain will shift into normalcy, and investing will be more like it was before the dot-com boom with more criteria applied to funding," Carlassare predicts. She also notes that young women need more exposure to technology during their education, especially as many girls consider technology careers boring or associate them with a "nerd" stereotype. Carlassare says that developments are on track to make 52 percent of the communications workforce female. She cites the latest U.S. census, which finds that the number of women starting businesses are three times the national average.
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- "Mixing Science and Business"
National Journal (12/01/01) Vol. 33, No. 48, P. 3683; Vaida, Bara
In an interview with the National Journal, John H. Marburger III, the new director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), says the war on terrorism is the top priority of the OSTP. Marburger, who received Senate confirmation in late October, says information technology--from intelligence, to detection, monitoring immigration, data-mining, and connectivity--will play a key role in the fight against terrorism. He has already called on the science community to help identify technologies that could help prevent further terrorist attacks and improve security at airports and borders. Marburger, who was head of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., when he was nominated for the post, envisions the OSTP as becoming the final word on science policy for the Bush administration. "We are really charged with forming partnerships, with coordinating and assessing the effectiveness of science and technology activities sponsored by the federal government, and with bringing science together within the administration," he says. Marburger believes creating a balance in the way the government allocates research and development funds is part of his role as science advisor. He adds that he could learn something from an Energy Department pilot program that focuses on mission-oriented parts; the goal is to bring a business approach to the government R&D efforts. Another concern of Marburger's is to have the OSTP respond to issues in a more timely manner, so that science can have a greater impact on society.
- "The IT Budget Squeeze"
Computerworld (12/10/01) Vol. 35, No. 50 , P. 40; Anthes, Gary H.
Many corporate IT budgets are down or flat for next year, according to reports. Forrester Research says senior executives in October expected 5.7 percent cuts in their IT budgets for next year, on average, while they had previously anticipated an average drop of only 0.3 percent in May. According to a Computerworld survey, 68 percent of IT executives predict their budgets will remain level or drop next year. Many CIOs are focusing on projects that promise a quick return on investment. Suzanne Krupa, CIO of Furniture maker Rowe, says only disaster recovery and business continuity budgets are up, in response to the terrorist attacks, but other projects are solely focused on the bottom line. Rowe implemented voice over IP systems, for example, because they were cheaper than office phone lines. "Instead of looking at new technologies, we are taking an introspective look at each of our businesses," Krupa says. Companies that are increasing their IT budgets are typically focusing on projects that either boost revenues or cut costs. Eastern Bank will boost its IT budget slightly next year, but will focus its efforts on projects to reengineer existing processes to save money.