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Volume 3, Issue 293: Friday, December 28, 2001
- "IBM Furthers Server Push With New Machine"
CNet (12/28/01); Kanellos, Michael
IBM's new x360 e-servers, now in early shipments, are the first servers to be equipped with Intel's new Pentium 4-based Foster chip, which is not officially scheduled for release until 2002. The new e-servers are the continuation of IBM's X Architecture strategy, combining Big Blue's mainframe expertise and cheaper Intel processors. IBM has made significant gains in the server market since three years ago, when Sun Microsystems machines were more popular. While other companies have lost or just managed to hold on to their market share during the economic downturn, IBM increased server revenue 7 percent, year-over-year, in the third quarter. One of the key differentiators of the new x360 e-server is IBM's Summit chipset, which will work with both 32-bit and 64-bit processors, and contains cache memory and "mirroring memory" features that boost performance and reliability.
- "Tech-Support Seekers Turn to the Web"
Washington Post (12/28/01) P. E1; Musgrove, Mike
An increasing number of computer users are surfing tech support Web sites instead of calling in. Over the past few years, nearly all computer manufacturers have stiffened their in-person offerings, either upping fees or cutting free tech support periods. At the same time, more people are going online, leaving the number of calls to tech support about the same, despite a huge rise in new computers and other devices. Microsoft says its tech support site received 200 million hits this year compared to just 4 million calls. Institute for the Future director Paul Saffo postulates that computer users are either more tech-savvy or resigned to hard-to-use machines. The Better Business Bureau says computers and software sales generate some of the most consumer product complaints, supporting Saffo's second hypothesis. Nemo Azamian, Gateway's VP of customer support, supports the first opinion, noting that the company does not get calls anymore asking things like where the "any" key is, referring to the "any" in "press any key to continue."
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- "A Passenger Whose Chatter Is Always Appreciated"
New York Times (12/27/01) P. F7; Eisenberg, Anne
Dimitri Kanevsky and Wlodek Zadrozny of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center have created a software system that can interact vocally with automobile drivers. Kanevsky, who is hearing impaired, got the inspiration for the invention when he realized that conversations on long car trips not only entertain drivers but keep them alert. The Artificial Passenger system he and Zadrozny devised would run from inside the car dashboard and use synthesized speech to tell jokes, play games, and keep the driver amused. The software would also pick up the driver's responses via microphones and speech-recognition technology, while cameras might be used to detect lip movement. The Artificial Passenger would be programmed to sense when the driver is nodding off and take appropriate action, such as suggesting a stopover to rest, or jolting the driver awake with loud noise or a spray of water. In addition, the system takes a cue from IBM cell phone technology, remaining silent when the driver is making critical decisions, such as changing lanes or braking. IBM is currently developing a repertoire of games for the Artificial Passenger to use.
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- "After 10 Years on the Web, Impact Keeps Unfolding"
USA Today (12/27/01) P. 3D; Kornblum, Janet
The Internet's effects on daily life and communications are still resonating a decade after its debut. Relationships are being forged on the basis of Web correspondence, commercial transactions are taking place online, and music and books can be instantly downloaded. "The Internet is simultaneously a huge consumer phenomenon and a major transformative influence on business," says Kevin Werbach, editor of the Release 1.0 technology newsletter. He says the Web allows people to access almost any kind of information at any time--something that would not have ever been possible before. Nielsen//NetRatings estimates that American Web users totaled 113.7 million in October, accounting for 62 percent of the U.S. population. Experts are predicting even more changes over the next 10 years, including: information that is available everywhere and in any chosen format, Web-enabled appliances and gadgets that better serve users, and an Internet that is as pervasive and invisible as electricity. Institute for the Future director Paul Saffo says the Internet revolution has "barely begun," and has yet to realize the most unusual developments first envisioned in the early 1990s.
- "Boeing Gets License for In-Flight Internet Service"
The FCC has granted Boeing a license to provide airline passengers with real-time, high-speed Internet service. Connexion by Boeing is designed to offer travelers the same speed and service users would expect on the ground, according to Connexion President Scott Carlson. Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines had originally signed aboard as Connexion investors back in June, but the Sept. 11 hijackings prompted them to drop out. In Europe, Deutsche Lufthansa will serve as a Connexion testbed in late 2002 or early 2003. Connexion is just one of several diversification initiatives by Boeing, which wants to rely less on the commercial jet enterprise for its business.
- "Can Powerline Technology Save Broadband?"
NewsFactor Network (12/27/01); McDonald, Tim
Telecommunications and utilities companies are investigating powerline technology as way to help bring broadband Internet to more homes faster. Powerline provides fast Internet access using medium voltage electrical connections, but does not mesh well with current electrical infrastructure in the United States. Companies will have to adapt neighborhood power distribution stations for the technology, says Yankee Group analyst Seth Libby. Europeans already use powerline as a solution to "last-yard" connectivity barriers, he says. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance advocates the technology in the United States and is comprised of 90 organizations, including Intel, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, and Cisco Systems. Intellon, which supplies powerline's supporting technology, also says it has solved the interference problem powerline connections have when household appliances operate.
- "Data Centers Shift Focus to Security"
Washington Post (12/27/01) P. E1; Spinner, Jackie
Rockville, Md.-based Fortress Development changed its name last month from DataCentersNow in hopes of attracting new clientele to its facilities, which were originally designed to provide telecommunications firms with backup locations. Over the past several years, hundreds of such sites have been constructed and fully equipped for Web servers and telephone network centers; however, when the telecom sector went bust, so did these businesses. Now, some are trying to remarket their services, promising secure facilities for private and government clients shaken by the Sept. 11 events. One problem that they face, though, is that most of these buildings were designed for computers, and not people, having concrete roofs, high-tech fire-suppression systems, high ceilings, and thick floors, but lacking windows and parking spaces.
- "Enterprise Technologies That Changed 2001: Part 1"
NewsFactor Network (12/27/01); Weisman, Robyn
Analysts list Internet and network security among the most important enterprise technology breakthroughs of the past year, according to an informal poll by NewsFactor Network. The Yankee Group's Matthew Kovar notes that security intelligence services, security management platforms, and remote end-point security services have had significant effects on company business processes. They help businesses protect against hackers and viruses through scanning, firewalls, and new threats as companies extend mobile and virtual private networks (VPNs). The Yankee Group forecasts a huge surge in the VPN security market over the next few years, says Kovar. International Data (IDC) analyst Alan Promisel points out that 2001 was the year that integrated biometrics were incorporated on notebook PCs, and expects this trend to continue as more and more notebooks containing critical data are deployed. "Biometrics offer another layer of security, and that's been on everyone's mind since September 11th," he explains. Some analysts say that VPNs, especially IP-based VPNs, came into their own in 2001. Zeus Kerravala, also from The Yankee Group, says that IP VPNs have emerged as a viable alternative to frame relay and asynchronous transfer mode networks.
- "For Federal Contractors, A New Tech Boom"
Washington Post (12/27/01) P. C1; Merle, Renae
IT providers are rushing to meet new demand from the government at local, state, and federal levels. Before Sept. 11, Federal Sources reported a $1.3 billion increase in federal IT expenditures this year, for a total of $46.3 billion. Estimates are that at least $750 million of the emergency funds ordered by President Bush will go towards increased IT, and the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association estimates a 15 percent increase in this year's federal IT budget as a result, reaching $65 billion in 2007. As a result, many IT vendors are touting their products for homeland security and military uses, even if they are not traditionally government suppliers. The Defense Department has received 12,000 proposals for anti-terrorism technology in response to its request for proposals last month. Demand for IT is strong on the local level as well because of heightened IT security awareness. Public Technologies President Costis Toregas says many county governments do not have firewalls protecting their computer networks, and the National Association of Counties is asking for $3 billion to help bolster city IT infrastructure.
- "Fresno Airport Is First in the Nation to Use Face-Scan Technology"
Contra Costa Times (12/27/01)
California's Fresno-Yosemite International is the first airport in the United States to use face-recognition technology to scan passengers, under a pilot program authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration. After walking through metal detectors, passengers are instructed to look into the lens of a digital camera. After their photo is taken, the image is compared to a database of 800 suspected terrorists, determining whether there is a match within seconds. The software compares 26 facial features, and then comes up with a score, 10.0 being perfect, and 8.0 being high enough to warrant closer inspections by security personnel. Critics of the technology say it is not effective, giving too many false-positives and false-negatives. They also point out to the fact that none of the 19 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would have been detected by the machine, since none were known to U.S. authorities.
- "Live Human Chat Across Different Languages Due In Europe"
Newsbytes (12/27/01); Gold, Steve
The NESPOLE project aims to enable multilingual communications between Web users and live human operators, with the Internet acting as translator. Administered by the European Commission, NESPOLE (Negotiating through Spoken Language in E-commerce) would allow users seeking information about certain countries to refer to a series of Web pages that facilitate interaction. Translation would be accomplished through what the EC calls "interchange formats." NESPOLE project partner Dr. John McDonough of Germany's Karlsruhe University says that entire concepts within a sentence can be expressed with interchange formats, as opposed to word-by-word translation performed at existing Web sites. "Once the concepts have been translated to the interchange format, we have another module that can synthesize speech in the target language," he adds. Funded under the EC's IT projects program at a total cost of $2.48 million, NESPOLE is expected to be ready by next summer.
- "New Features Planned for File Swappers"
CNet (12/27/01); Borland, John
MusicCity announced it would release version 2.0 of its Morpheus file-trading software, despite continued legal threat from Hollywood studios and music labels. Version 2.0 comes replete with Windows XP support and is able to join with the Gnutella file-trading network. Together, MusicCity, Kazaa, and Grokster comprise the largest file-trading network after Napster, but rely on no central servers and so cannot be shutdown the same way the Napster network was. Already, a Netherlands court, where the distributor of Kazaa software is based, has ruled that the company stop people from trading pirated files with its software--an impossible task. The three software programs are based on the same core technology that networks individual PCs in a decentralized manner, but automatically tags the most suitable PCs to be nodes for data requests. Gnutella, a slightly older open-source system, creates a similar network, but without the nodes, making trades inefficient and slow. LimeWire, a Gnutella-based file-trading software maker, has also recently released a new version of its software that will coordinate file-trading in the style of MusicCity, Kazaa, and Grokster.
- "Report: Postal Service Lags in Internet Ventures"
A new report from the General Accounting Office says the U.S. Postal Service is way behind in its efforts to bring some of its services online because of bad management, as well as poor accounting and disorganization. Grouping and focusing its Web-based and e-commerce projects has been particularly hard for the Postal Service, according to the report. The GAO suggests the Postmaster General restructure management and revise e-commerce policy to help improve the agency's accountability. For the fiscal year ended in September, the Postal Service posted a $1.6 billion deficit, the second-worst performance in its history. At the same time, the amount of regular first-class mail it processes will be negatively impacted by email and other popular means of Internet communications, according to the USPS.
- "Fight Against Terrorism Could Fuel Tech Rebound"
NewsFactor Network (12/26/01); Lyman, Jay
The war against terrorism and a new focus on homeland security could foster more IT innovation and investment, and lead to an economic recovery for the technology sector in 2002. Yankee Group program manager Andy Efstathiou says the Sept. 11 attacks and the impending retirement for half of the federal IT workforce within five years have heightened the focus on technology. As the federal government boosts its IT budget and outsources more IT functions, private industry will make its own contributions such as the reintroduction of smart cards and the ramping up of biometrics initiatives, according to analysts. For example, Applied Digital Solutions has rolled out the Digichip, an implantable device with potential defense and security applications. Meanwhile, Viisage has inked a deal with the U.S. Army to supply face-recognition technology. Efstathiou says the Sept. 11 attacks have also raised the profiles of disaster recovery and business continuity technology. In a historical context, the downturn itself may be an impetus for innovation, according to International Data (IDC) research director Stephen Minton.
- "Stand by for More Nasty Web Attacks in 2002"
Reuters (12/26/01); Abreu, Elinor Mills
Computer security experts warn of even worse virus and worm attacks in 2002; new blended threats, such as Nimda, exploit multiple vulnerabilities and combine virus and hacker techniques to propagate themselves and inflict damage. Some compromises have affected the privacy of targeted computers by exported documents as well, and while email viruses spread through clever "social engineering" techniques are popular, experts see viruses hitting more non-PC devices, as did the CodeRed virus which targeted Microsoft Internet Information Server Web software. Mobile devices may be next, especially as wireless networks connect and new devices download information--and infectious code--from PCs. Network Associates CEO George Samenuk warns that fewer than 5 percent of mobile devices have anti-virus protection and that the next wave of attacks will be focused in that sector. Graham Cluley of Sophos Anti-Virus, however, is more circumspect about diverting too many resources away from areas that are currently being targeted, since his firm has not tracked any mobile-focused viruses to date.
- "Government: Demand Exceeds Supply of Skilled IT Workers"
Computerworld (12/21/01); Rosencrance, Linda
Phillip Bond, the U.S. Commerce Department's technology undersecretary, on Thursday said the country still suffers from a shortage of IT workers. He said, "Employers are still having trouble finding the types of people they need...because the numbers of people who can fit [the criteria] are slim." Bond described the desired candidates as possessing skills in both business and communications as well as Internet security and networking. Massachusetts Software and Internet Council President Joyce Plotkin said businesses also want employees skilled in converging fields, such as IT and biotechnology. At a roundtable discussion in Waltham, Mass., Bond suggested ways that the government can help provide a steady high-tech workforce that companies can tap into. One suggestion he put forward was to promote careers in math, science, and technology to young people, especially girls. Other topics under discussion included e-government and privacy issues.
- "The Techno-Thrill is Gone"
Salon.com (12/21/01); Leonard, Andrew
Salon.com senior editor Andrew Leonard writes that the excitement of new technology and state-of-the-art gadgetry has become less important in light of Sept. 11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. He also notes that while computer games may be more interactive and engrossing than before, there's a feeling of pointlessness to the activity. Leonard points out that the replayability of such products extends to gadgets and new Internet features clamoring for consumer attention. "Even as the gadgets march on, and the resolutions get crisper, and the bandwidth pipes get fatter, I'm wondering, do I even believe, anymore, in progress?" he laments. Leonard states that he is not opposed to technology, but feels it could be put to better use. There is nothing wrong, he concludes, with well-designed or aesthetically pleasing technology, provided that it helps users spend time more meaningfully rather than engaging them in simple engrossment or distraction.
- "Next Generation Internet RFP $2.5 Million"
CommerceNet--with lead funding from the California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency, Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation---is requesting proposals for the Next Generation Internet (NGI) Application Development Program. California-based businesses, non-profit organizations, and public institutions are eligible to apply. A maximum of $2.5 million in state funds is available for awards. Funded projects are expected to begin in the spring. The focus of the program is on the Real-Time Value Chain defined as a set of intermediate supply and demand relationships working together to meet end user demands. The value exchanges between these suppliers and customers may broadly include services, physical, and digital goods. Of particular interest are innovative combinations of component middleware and application technologies that exploit the vast communication, computation, and storage capabilities and their pervasive and permanent availability to enable intelligent, highly dynamic and responsive businesses. Aspects include the supply side as well as the demand side of the value chain, the financial infrastructure, and post-sale services. The deadline for submission is January 15. For further information or to download the RFP, visit