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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.

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Volume 4, Issue 295: Friday, January 4, 2002

  • "IDC: Modest IT Growth This Year"
    CNet (01/04/02); Becker, David

    A new report from International Data (IDC) forecasts a midyear recovery for the technology sector. IDC chief research officer John Gantz says that this rebound will be partly fueled by rapid growth and modernization in China, spurred by the country's entry into the World Trade Organization. He predicts a 4 percent to 6 percent increase in U.S. IT spending this year, a 6 percent to 7 percent increase in Western Europe, and a 10 percent to 12 percent increase in the Asia-Pacific region. Spending on security software and services will continue to be robust, especially in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Gantz. "We think a lot of security functions will get embedded in hardware and applications," he says. Gantz adds that online authentication systems will gain acceptance thanks to pushes from Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. He also foresees notable strides for the Linux open-source operating system, particularly in the area of embedded applications. Furthermore, Gantz predicts that "bladed" servers will continue to make their mark, while Microsoft will sell 75 million licenses for its Windows XP software.
    http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-8354247.html

  • "Plugging In"
    Financial Times (01/04/02) P. 12; London, Simon

    Web services promise to change the corporate IT paradigm, allowing companies to realize what the Internet failed to bring. By tagging information with common codes and mark-up languages such as XML, SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI, companies using Web services would be able to interoperate with the computer systems of customers, partners, and suppliers. Moreover, it would eliminate the time-consuming task of writing custom software applications in-house, which programmers spend up to 65 percent of their time building, according to Gartner. That could result in a huge amount of savings for businesses, who often spend 50 percent of the capital investment budget on IT. Web services also promise efficiency in communications between suppliers, such as with the case of Dell, which keeps its suppliers current with its manufacturing schedule produced every two hours. As a result, suppliers can shave more costs by delivering exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. Xerox chief scientist John Seely-Brown warns that many CIOs will be resistant to the shift toward Web services, since it seemingly takes control away and gives it to third-party IT services providers.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Bush Lifts Speeds Limits on Computer Exports"
    Reuters (01/02/02); Sullivan, Andy

    President Bush has eased restrictions on selling high-speed computers to Tier 3 countries such as Pakistan, China, India, and Vietnam. U.S. technology firms can now export machines capable of as many as 195,000 MTOPS (millions of theoretical operations per second) without requiring government authorization. Intel's Chuck Mulloy says his company is pressuring the government to find an alternative metric to the MTOPS standard. A typical home computer is capable of 2,100 MTOPS. The ban on advanced computing power was originally instituted in 1979 to curb the proliferation of nuclear arms. High-tech companies favor the move, which they hope will boost sales. The Clinton administration relaxed the export limit to 85,000 MTOP from 28,000 MTOPS, and the Senate voted to remove the limit altogether on Sept. 6, but the House failed to vote on that bill and in November voted to extend the current arrangement until April.
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20020102/tc/tech_export_dc_2.html

  • "Opportunities in China Entice Overseas Chinese"
    San Francisco Chronicle (01/02/02) P. B1; Kirby, Carrie

    Chinese tech workers educated and employed in the United States are being lured back to their homeland in increasing numbers due to the double impact of the weakened U.S. economy and China's strong growth. Government incentives in China include offers of free office space and cash grants, and supplement other benefits, such as the opportunity to be owners and in China's top income bracket--despite usually taking a 10 percent to 30 percent pay cut. The government-controlled Xinhua News Agency says the number of students returning to start businesses in China has increased 13 percent each year recently. Estelle Lau, a VP with online search site 51job.com, says her site has received between 10,000 and 15,000 resumes from overseas Chinese looking to return since Sept. 11. Still, Chinese who have been acclimated to American lifestyles and business methods find China sometimes a difficult place to live and conduct business. Personal relationships, or guanxi, are more important in conducting business in China, and government bureaucracy can be inhibiting.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Just Beyond Our Windows"
    Los Angeles Times (01/03/02) P. T1; Hanson, Eric B.

    As computer data storage capacity increases, the once state-of-the-art graphical user interface becomes more and more cumbersome. Researchers are therefore exploring the possibilities of breaking through GUI limitations and developing more sophisticated interfaces. One such system is Data Mountain, an experimental project that stores data files into a 3D environment modeled after a mountain range. Even more useful would be a basic environment that can be customized to suit individual users' tastes through artificial intelligence, notes Daniel C. Robbins of Microsoft Research. "If you give people a more free-form space with rich cues, it lets them move things around and make ephemeral relationships that change over time, because really the way we want to look at our information completely changes depending on the task and the context of what we're doing," he says. Meanwhile, Yale University professor and Mirror World Technologies CTO David Gelernter has developed Scopeware, an interface that arranges data files in a chronological "stream." Other research initiatives include tangible interfaces that can run computer functions by physical manipulation, and mobile devices with voice interfaces that can also display data on any surface.
    http://latimes.com/technology/custom/techtimes/la-010302cover.story

  • "Pakistan Pulls Plug on Valley Tech Office"
    SiliconValley.com (01/01/02); Carroll, Chuck

    Pakistan's Silicon Valley IT office will close because opportunities in that area had dried up by the time it officially opened, according to the Pakistani government. The Consulate General's Office for Information Technology Development was established to help strengthen the relationship between the emergent Pakistani tech industry and technology firms in Silicon Valley, but the economic slump killed the venture. Consulate general for information technology development Toheed Ahmad says Pakistan's tech industry has also lost billions to the war in Afghanistan, while Bay Area business conditions have worsened. He adds that the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs in North America (OPEN) recently opened a chapter in Silicon Valley, indicating that Pakistan's U.S. tech interests will still be looked after to some degree. Dawn, the Pakistani newspaper, said the IT office was doomed even before the Sept. 11 attacks.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/news/depth/ahmad010202.htm

  • "W3C in Spat Over Web Patent"
    ZDNet (01/03/02); Kane, Margaret

    The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is questioning a Canadian company's patent claim to the technology underlying the W3C's Resource Description Framework (RDF). UFIL Unified Data Technologies says up to 45 companies may be currently infringing on its 1997 patent. The RDF technology in question allows programmers to access diverse Web content, including multimedia files, is based on the XML language, and was jointly developed as an open project by many companies before being approved by the W3C. UFIL also says its patent may also cover the RDF Site Summary protocol, originally created by Netscape Communications, and which enables Web content exchange for transactions including e-commerce. The W3C has fought before to protect technologies it has approved, such as against Intermind over the Platform for Privacy Preferences protocol. It is also currently debating a controversial new policy that would allow limited royalties to be paid to patent-holders whose technologies are included in W3C standards.
    http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,5101214,00.html

  • "Toward More Cybersecurity in 2002"
    Business Week Online (01/02/02); Salkever, Alex

    New computer security threats in 2002 should elicit tougher responses from industry, consumers, and the government. Microsoft alone plays an important part in increasing computer security, since 2001 saw numerous compromises to its products and even its router infrastructure, and recent flaws in its new Windows XP software expose users to the entire Internet. Routers should also begin implementing the secure border gateway protocol, the secure version of the common language used by routers of all different makes. The secure version would enable authentication and encryption technology that also keeps everything else safe on the Web. ISPs should move toward mandatory firewall installation for cable modem users, who are otherwise leaving their computers open for hackers to commandeer. Finally, the federal government should do more to ensure across-the-board network security, the lack of which was made apparent by the recent shutdown of the Interior Dept. Internet connections. Rep. Tom Davies (R-Va.) is working to rehabilitate the Government Information Security Reform Act and strengthen computer security standards.
    http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jan2002/nf2002012_6029.htm

  • "Killer Gap"
    Boston Globe (12/31/01) P. C1; Bray, Hiawatha

    Although few brand-new technologies on the horizon promise to rejuvenate the technology sector entirely, 2002 will see many existing technologies further refined. Microsoft and the alliance of competitors arrayed against it are set to hawk their competing sets of Web services to consumers. Microsoft's .Net has the advantage of the new Windows XP, which requires users to sign up for its Passport service--the key to .Net--if they are to take full advantage of XP's capabilities. Digital music will also prove to be an interesting arena, as music labels try to satiate consumers' appetite for online music while competing with free file-trading systems made possible by software from BearShare, Audio Galaxy, and the like. The industry's current efforts impose a substantial number of restrictions on users and do not offer a complete music library. On the commercial side, Intel's new 64-bit McKinley chip will give its Itanium line a big boost, especially against Sun Microsystems' UltraSPARC processor. Bluetooth, now with several products finally on the market, will also have its chance to prove itself as a revolutionizing technology, even if some of its purpose has been stolen by the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard. Wi-Fi, meanwhile, will ramp up to a second, faster version next year, with an even better third version to follow.

  • "Ubiquitous Computing Will Mean Multiple Devices"
    Computerworld Online (12/26/01); Gartenberg, Michael

    Former Gartner VP Michael Gartenberg predicts that future knowledge workers could carry up to three devices equipped with ubiquitous computing technology. He expects personal-area networks will come to the fore, while IT departments will play a more important role than ever in helping to solve user problems. One of the three devices Gartenberg envisions will be a tool about the size of current PalmPilot or Pocket PC models, with a 500 MHz to 800 MHz processor, LAN and WAN wireless connectivity, a high-resolution screen, and local storage and personal-area capacity of 100 GB. The device could also come with a voice-recognition, keyboard, or handwriting interface. Gartenberg writes that a second, multi-functional device will be descended from PCs and feature gigabytes of storage and hundreds of megabytes of RAM. Resembling a pad of legal paper, the device will function as a "personal server" that can store a user's entire digital content. Voice communications will be the main purpose of the third device, which Gartenberg predicts will be as small as Ericsson and Nokia mobile phones and boast a high-resolution screen, a constant 3G network connection, and network-based information services capability.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "As Corporations' Profits Dwindled Through 2001, IT Budgets Also Shrank"
    Investor's Business Daily (01/03/02) P. A5; Prado, Antonio A.

    IT spending shrank the most last year since 1975, according to the Commerce Department, while 500,000 tech jobs were cut, including 98,500 dot-com positions, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Government figures show that, by October, IT spending was down 8.3 percent year-over-year, compared to 20.6 percent growth during the same nine-month period in 2000. Deutsche Bank and CIO magazine's poll of chief executives shows that weak profits are the largest drag on IT budgets. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch reports that European business leaders are slightly more optimistic than American counterparts, forecasting 4 percent IT spending growth compared to just 2 percent expected by U.S. executives. Ed Hyman, chairman of the International Strategy & Investment Group, says a sooner-than-expected general economic rebound could lift the tech sector, and pointed to the online holiday season as indicating better times for IT. However, Deutsche Bank analyst Ed Yardeni remains cautious, saying that factory output figures show that, even should the general economy pick up, IT profits may lag.

  • "A Leg With a Mind of Its Own"
    New York Times (01/03/02) P. E1; Austen, Ian

    Artificial leg manufacturers are using embedded computers to allow patients to walk more naturally, as well as escape down stairs, as was necessary for Port Authority worker Curtis Grimsley on Sept. 11. Using his C-Leg, made by German firm Otto Bock, Grimsley was able to descend 70 floors of the World Trade Center as quickly as most others, placing only one foot on each step. Normal prosthetic legs require users to place both their artificial and real feet on each step. Sophisticated computers, software, sensors, and motor-adjusted hydraulics power the C-Leg and allow it to respond to the user's gait. A 30-hour battery allows for a full day of activity after a night of recharging. Other computerized artificial legs and knees have been pioneered, but the C-Leg is the most sophisticated, with a $40,000 to $50,000 price tag, compared to $15,000 for a traditional prosthetic leg.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/03/technology/circuits/03KNEE.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "Security Shopping Lists Made for the New Year"
    InfoWorld.com (12/31/01); Fonseca, Brian

    Computer security analysts expect corporations to look inwards in 2002, focusing on physical and internal access issues rather than protecting the perimeters of their networks. Biometrics, smart cards, USB tokens, and SSL cryptography will all be hot items this year for network administrators looking to bolster internal security and authentification, says IDC Internet Security analyst Charles Kolodgy. As Web services efforts ramp up, experts also say end users will see more security efforts in that arena. Hurwitz Group security strategies director Peter Lindstrom says corporations will also place more importance on ID management, and will likely adopt automated ID management frameworks in the new year. He says nearly every security software firm has a management framework in store and that it will be the new direction for enterprise security.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Industry Comment: The Necessary Demise of UCITA"
    InformationWeek Online (12/24/01); Rubin, Robert M.

    The Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) legislation is being pushed in a state-by-state campaign by an alliance of software vendors, but, if passed by just a few states, could drastically skew corporate software contracts. For one, it allows vendors to remotely disable applications in case of a dispute, such as over payment or the way the program works. UCITA also frees software companies from having to disclose bugs in their product to potential customers. Although many purchasers first supported the legislation because it standardized contracts, software firms soon took over control of its direction and content. Then, after Congress rejected it for its bias in favor of vendors, the software industry began a campaign to pass UCITA at the state level, which could affect all contracts attributed to those states. So far, only Maryland and Virginia have passed the legislation.
    http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20011221S0036

    For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit
    http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP.

  • "Opportunity: Hot IT Jobs for 2002"
    eWeek (12/31/01) Vol. 18, No. 50, P. 31; Vaas, Lisa

    Although the economy is in a downturn, some companies continue to make IT hires as they pursue their e-business initiatives. However, these companies are searching for certain skills that may force IT professionals to obtain additional training. According to eWeek, the hottest IT jobs this year will be senior Internet/intranet developers, database administrator/database managers, network engineers, and corporate security managers, which reflect the IT skills set that companies now demand. Market experts expect IT hiring to pick up during the first quarter of the year, and laid-off workers may need to upgrade their skills to fulfill the needs of companies. IT workers should view obtaining leading-edge skills as a transition to a new career, experts say, and they can boost their prospects for landing a new job by networking or even volunteering. In addition to having the desired skills, IT workers can attract the attention of employers by demonstrating the returns they delivered to their previous employer. IT workers should also know which industries are currently thriving. "If you know where the fish are biting, there's tremendous demand," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at RHI Consulting, an IT recruitment company.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Lawmakers See Need for Experts on Science, Technology"
    Hill (01/02/02) Vol. 9, No. 1, P. 1; Gerber, Michael S.

    Science-oriented members of Congress say now is a critical time to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was disassembled in 1995 under the Contract with America legislation. Issues ranging from cloning, anthrax investigation, and missile defense often confuse lawmakers, who resort to experts at the National Academy of Science or ad hoc groups of groups of scientists and technology experts. Many lawmakers now say they need sound scientific advice. The OTA sometimes provided ammunition for partisan fighting, but nonetheless was regarded for its scientifically and politically unbiased reports, important to lawmakers faced with conflicting findings from different sources. Former Princeton physics professor Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) proposed resurrecting the OTA last year, but failed to get his legislation to a vote.
    http://www.hillnews.com/010202/experts.shtm

  • "Off With the Lid"
    CommVerge (12/01) Vol. 2, No. 12, P. 28; Suydam, Margot

    More Internet addresses will be needed for pervasive computing to become a reality, and that is where Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) comes in. IPv6, or Next-Generation Internet protocol (IPng), offers larger address space and plug-and-play using auto-configuration; and most importantly, peer-to-peer computing is an impossibility without IPv6. Billions of users and access devices can be handled by the Internet courtesy of IPv6's 128-bit addressing, and it is interoperable with the IPv4 protocol. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) lists two main criteria for the transition from IPv4 to IPng: A flexible deployment and communications between IPng-only hosts and IPv4-only hosts. Dual-stack and tunneling IPv6 over IPv4 pipes are the two principal methods of transition for Internet access devices, and IETF participant Brian Carpenter notes that all major network-equipment providers support both techniques. He expects that the first big rollout of IPv6 will be in third-generation (3G) cellular phones. "If...we can get a substantial IPv6 deployment in the 3G market--it isn't there yet and the economic downturn may delay it a little bit, but it will certainly come--the incentive for the rest of the market to start taking IPv6 as a serious operational question becomes much higher," Carpenter says. Early IPv6 adopters include national research networks, military and federal agencies, and the home-networking industry; companies working on IPv6 acceleration include Cisco Systems and its strategic alliance partners IBM, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Sun, and Microsoft.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "The Top Ten Trends in the Future of Security"
    Journal of Business Strategy (12/01) Vol. 22, No. 6, P. 4

    The San Francisco-based Institute for Global Futures recently unveiled 10 trends to look for in future security technologies. They include economic information warfare, bioattacks, and agri-terrorism that will attempt to bring down economies and pollute food and water sources. A system of satellites and other surveillance equipment will be used to track people's whereabouts, as will national identity cards imbedded with smart chips. Computer viruses will be generated with the capability of mutating to cause even greater chaos. To assist in locating possible victims of kidnappings and stolen products, tiny bio-reactive nano-chips, and GPS location monitoring will be used. Biometric technology will be in more demand for use in securing facilities and limiting access to computer systems. All these measures will step on individual rights to privacy, and will cause new laws to be enacted to deal with the loss of freedom.

  • "May the Source Be With You"
    Wired (12/01) Vol. 9, No. 12, P. 78; Lessig, Lawrence

    Although copyright laws protect software code, the result is the stifling of creativity and innovation, writes Stanford Law School professor and Electronic Frontier Foundation board member Lawrence Lessig. The copyright system that safeguards software is unlike the rules that protect creative writing. For example, an English department has access to the writings of Hemingway, which is then used to train students to improve their writing. However, the computer science department cannot train students in better coding because it does not get to examine Apple's operating system. While creative works as far back as the 16th century can be accessed, one would have a difficult time trying to access some software programs from the 1990s. Under such a system for software, destroyed knowledge will be the result. The reason why copyright law does not require companies to release source code is because they believe that software would become unprotectable; however, the open source movement has shown that this is not true. Lessig believes software companies should be permitted to have perfect control over source code only if there is reason to believe this will do some good for the overall society, and if monopoly control is extended to firms, society should get something in return, such as access to the source code once the copyright expires.
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/lessig_pr.html