Association for Computing Machinery
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 either Compaq or ACM.

To send comments, please write to technews@hq.acm.org.

Volume 4, Issue 305: Wednesday, January 30, 2002

  • "Women Significantly Cutting IT Wage Gap"
    InternetNews.com (01/29/02); Mark, Roy

    Online certification company Brainbench conducted a national survey of over 6,000 IT workers, drawing several conclusions about the effects of the recession on salary growth, the weight of IT certifications, and what wage gains women are making in the IT field. In the year 2001, salaries for more than 50 percent of the respondents grew less than 3 percent, whereas in the previous year 62 percent received increases upwards of 3 percent. This year, respondents are hopeful that their salaries will rise by 3 percent to 8 percent. In companies with more than $1 billion in sales revenue last year, more women than men earned over $150,000. Certified IT workers were about 30 percent more likely to get salary hikes, according to the survey. Furthermore, Brainbench CEO Mike Russiello says the poll demonstrates that employers are valuing online certifications as much as traditional certifications.
    http://dc.internet.com/news/article/0,1934,2101_963651,00.html

    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, please visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "Researchers Address Gender Gap in Computing"
    SiliconValley.com (01/28/02); Steen, Margaret

    Research indicates that the reticence that women often have toward computing careers begins at an early educational level, which explains why there are less female engineers than male engineers in the workforce. UCLA researcher Jane Margolis and Carnegie Technology Education CEO Allan Fisher studied computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University to trace the roots of this reluctance. Margolis found that technology does not hold the same "magnetic attraction" for girls as it does for boys. Fisher says that differences in background and objectives between men and women resulted in different approaches to computing. "The men were motivated primarily by their interest in and enjoyment of technology; the women tended to be motivated by what it was good for, how it could be used to help people," he notes. Several Silicon Valley organizations are seeking to infuse more women in the computing workforce. For instance, the Institute for Women and Technology in Palo Alto is hosting an outreach project that brings computer science students into contact with women in the community for the purpose of technology development.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/news/depth/women012902.htm

    To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, please visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "Linux Is Gaining on Microsoft"
    Investor's Business Daily (01/29/02) P. A5; Coleman, Murray

    Experts see Linux's share of the server operating market growing faster in the next few years, putting the open-source software head-to-head with Microsoft's Windows. Linux International executive director Jon Hall says Microsoft is preparing to undermine its rival, especially as Microsoft's antitrust case is proceeding in the company's favor. International Data analyst Dan Kusnetzky notes that Linux will be a different foe than Microsoft is used to, because it is not backed by any one company and has a unique development and distribution model. In terms of unit shipments, both Linux and Windows are growing while Unix and Novell's NetWare are in decline. However, Linux has grown the fastest, according to many market research firms. Gartner predicts more than $3 billion in Linux services and support alone in 2002, compared with only $7 million in 1999. Overall, the impact of the economic downturn and Linux's free license will cause server operating system costs to fall 10 percent over the next two years, according to Forrester Research analyst Carl Howe. In the next four years, Howe says an average business should be able to cut its costs allocated to running computer systems by 20 percent.

  • "Moscow Firm Seeks Dismissal of U.S. Copyright Suit"
    Reuters (01/28/02); Abreu, Elinor Mills

    Moscow software company ElcomSoft is charged with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for distributing a program that can copy and print e-books in the United States, but the firm's attorney is seeking a dismissal on the grounds that the DMCA is unclear, gives too much control to copyright owners, and violates the First Amendment. Attorney Joseph Burton of the Duane Morris law firm argues that ElcomSoft's products give people with lawful access to copyrighted material the ability to use the content in a way that satisfies the "fair use" provision. Furthermore, he contends that the DMCA cannot be leveraged against a company that operates in a foreign country and that does business exclusively on the Internet. Conspiracy charges based on employee communications are also invalid, Burton claims. If convicted of violating the DMCA, ElcomSoft could be fined $2.25 million.
    http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20020128/tc/tech_elcomsoft_dc_1.html

  • "Working on the Future Workers"
    Wired News (01/28/02); Frishberg, Manny

    Speakers at the New Human Capital Assets conference in Seattle last week discussed how technology and social advances are shaping the future culture of work. Institute for the Future director Richard Adler says that videoconferencing and telecommuting practices will become more commonplace and important as bandwidth constraints are eliminated. Instead of gaining new knowledge through classes, Adler predicts future workers will have software bots to record what they already know and deliver new lessons on an ad hoc basis. Watson Wyatt International's Jane Paradiso believes that job design, targeting where to put people and what technologies to enable them with, will be one of the most demanded consultant services in the coming years. Paradiso says that Watson Wyatt studies have shown a direct positive correlation between shareholder price and progressive workplace policies, such as telecommuting, flextime, and tying salaries and bonuses with company performance. IDC analyst Christopher Boone says that companies should begin to think of their employees entirely differently than they do now. He says that employees should be expected to move from one job to another as their needs and skills best suit them to different working situations. Companies should view their workers as future customers, partners, and employees, Boone says.
    http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,50053,00.html

  • "Tech Firms Fiddle with Tiny Keypads"
    USA Today (01/30/02) P. 5B; Maney, Kevin

    Technology engineers are approaching the challenge of developing a workable method for entering data on small handheld devices from a number of angles. Thumb keyboards may operate on the same principle, but designs vary because seemingly minor details can be very important to users. Flat keys, for example, offer comfort, while raised keys lower the incidence of pressing multiple keys at the same time. The sound and feel of clicking when keys are pressed can also mean a lot to consumers. However, one of the disadvantages of thumb typing is the possibility of developing tendinitis. Air keyboards are another technology, and several were on display at the Comdex computer show; the products rely on sensor-based methods to anticipate what keys to hit based on finger movements, but reviewers say the offerings perform poorly. As for other technologies, voice-recognition is still in its infancy, writing on a touch screen with a stylus is cumbersome, and 12-digit touch-tone-style keypads are an unwieldy and outdated concept.
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020130/3812930s.htm

  • "Interpreting the Corporate Carpet"
    Financial Times (01/30/02) P. 10; Kehoe, Louise

    The evolution of Silicon Valley business has brought technology companies back full-circle to a sensible business model and a narrow focus on evolutionary technology. Such is the case with E2open, which creates Internet collaboration tools for electronics design and manufacturing. E2open's offices display none of the opulence seen in its preceding dot-com companies, but it does have a solid amount of financial backing. Seagate, E2open's largest customer, sees the Internet collaboration model as the crest of a fundamental shift in business IT. Seagate makes the data storage hardware that has changed the way business information is stored and distributed, pushing it to the end-user's PC. Now, the company sees collaboration technology such as E2open sells as a move back towards a centralized management of information. In fact, many see the rise of collaboration technology as a revolutionary step in the way people work, fundamentally changing the business environment as much as the rise of computer and memory chips did in the 1970s.
    http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=020130001203

  • "Intel's Plan B Chip Stirs Internal Debate"
    SiliconValley.com (01/24/02); Poletti, Therese

    Intel has a Plan B for its Itanium chips for computer servers, just in case the new technology flops. A small team of Intel engineers in Hillsboro, Ore., are building new features into the next version of the company's Pentium chip, code-named Prescott, that would allow the chips to easily handle older programs, and more advanced, memory-heavy games, database programs, and scientific applications. So far, customers and partners have been slow to embrace the first Itanium chips; Intel hopes that McKinley, the next chip in the family will do better. Intel would like to never have to use its backup plan, involving the Yamhill Technology, because not only would the move signal the failure of the Itanium chips, but it would also be an admission that small rival AMD has offered customers what they really want. The Itanium chips cost Intel about $1 billion to develop over a period of seven years. Intel's backup plan comes in response to AMD's upcoming Hammer family, 64-bit chips that are compatible with Intel's Pentiums and Xeons, as well as its own Athlons. The Hammer chips, code-named SledgeHammer and ClawHammer, could allow AMD to make up ground on Intel in the desktop PC market and the low-end server market. Intel is building the Prescott chip with the option of turning the Yamhill features on or off; the chips will first appear in 2003 or 2004, and Intel will assess market sentiment to determine whether it should activate the Yamhill code.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/news/depth/intel012502.htm

  • "Wireless Offices--a Hacker Boon?"
    ZDNet (01/25/02); Charny, Ben

    Although corporations are starting to realize that wireless networks offer hackers an easy opportunity to intercept company information, executives still are deciding to go with wireless as a way of discouraging employees from setting up rogue access points. Wireless networks--either official or rogue--can now be found at roughly 30 percent of companies that have a computer network, according to Gartner Dataquest. And at companies that do not have an official network, employees often create a rogue network out of inexpensive components that can be obtained at outlets such as Fry's Electronics. Companies with wireless offices also have to worry about whether the business next door has a wireless network, which would create more security problems; with wireless networks, information travels over a freely available and unregulated frequency range that lacks encryption protection. Security has become an important factor now that there is a recognition that wireless networks could serve as an open door for a hacker to gain access to a company's main computer. Such concerns have made more companies reticent about wireless network plans, suggests Inder Gopal, CEO of ReefEdge, a seller of wireless network equipment. "But a lot of IT guys are saying, 'Look, either I do it, or my employees are going to take the law into their own hands and set up a rogue access point,'" he adds. Companies are taking their chances with official networks, but are improving their security with solutions such as sniffers, encryption, 802i, and virtual private networks.
    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-823253.html

  • "Wireless Network Lets Objects Talk Back"
    New Scientist Online (01/24/02); Knight, Will

    Siemens researchers in Princeton, N.J., have developed a computer system that communicates via voice recognition technology. The system is intended to help engineers and others check the status of equipment by talking to it. Project researcher Yacop Genc says the system could be implemented in an actual setting by the middle of this year and could be useful in chemical, oil, gas, or nuclear plants that have thousands of parts. He believes the system could be combined with a headset and virtual reality technology to add a visual component to the system. In the system, each piece of equipment is attached to sensors that check its status and performance, and all the equipment parts carry an exclusive pattern for identification. A camera, attached to a small computer worn by the user, recognizes these patterns. The user points the camera toward a particular piece of equipment and asks how it is; the computer processes the question via voice recognition. A central computer then picks up the information wirelessly and responds with diagnostic information.
    http://www.newscientist.com/news/print.jsp?id=ns99991835

  • "Mapping the 'Dark Net'"
    SearchDay (01/24/02) No. 189,; Sherman, Chris

    Up to 5 percent of the Internet is fully inaccessible, say researchers at Arbor Networks. Empty spaces exist on the Internet that are not reachable by Web browsers or search engines. These results come from a three-year study targeting the topology, or connectivity, of servers linked to the Internet. Most computers with dark spaces are owned by broadband customers and the U.S. military, who apparently do not want outsiders to have access to their networks. Dark spaces often occur when parts of the Net are accessible from one ISP but unreachable through another. Also, failures and filter errors result from poorly configured routers. Contractual disagreements between ISPs can also cause blocks in Internet traffic; most providers have peering agreements for sharing one another's Internet traffic. Hacking activity can also produce dark spaces through spam, IRC battles, and address theft.

  • "Sweden Yearns for IT Hub Days"
    Agence France Presse (01/23/02)

    Swedish Trade Minister Leif Pagrotsky says the current condition of the IT sector and Sweden's fundamental IT strengths show that the country is well-positioned to advance on the global IT scene. He spoke at the recent ComdexNordic 2002 trade show, which sponsors say attracted 19,000 visitors and 260 firms from all over the world. Mobile phone makers Ericsson and Nokia are based in Sweden and the country has a stable economic and IT infrastructure, as well as a history of creativity and experience in the developing technology. Swedish technology research director Mats Eriksson says the country's "new technology" companies actually grew between 3 percent to 5 percent in 2001. Jalle Bakken of Network!, a customized computer vendor, added that the technology downturn actually helped to prune away weak companies, while the remaining ones are stronger from the experience.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Thin Clients Back in Spotlight"
    Investor's Business Daily (01/30/02) P. A6; Seitz, Patrick

    Thin-client systems are gaining popularity while PC sales have hit an all-time low. Businesses like thin-client systems because they save on hardware and maintenance costs, since each terminal does not contain its own applications and most of the processing is done by a server. The thin-client market is comprised mostly of retail stores, factories, call centers, hospitals, and other organizations that can make use of terminal-type computers. Last year, thin-client sales worldwide grew an estimated 30 percent to about 1.2 million systems, which is small compared to the total number of PCs sold, but important given the situation for business technology sales. Jeff McNaught of Wyse Technologies, by far the largest thin-client vendor, says the support of major PC brands has also helped the thin-client market. Wyse Technologies partners with Compaq, Dell Computer, and Hewlett-Packard, and is expanding into the Linux thin-client market, which is a niche IBM has cornered until now. Compaq offers thin-client systems as part of its Computing on Demand initiative that provides outsourced computing and services to companies on a per-month billing basis.

  • "LinuxWorld: Companies Push Open Source up Into Enterprise"
    InfoWorld.com (01/28/02); Scannell, Ed; Neel, Dan

    This week's LinuxWorld Conference & Expo shows the major technology providers' commitment to Linux in the enterprise. However, as each presents its Linux strategy, conflicts have already arisen as to how businesses should best take advantage of Linux. IBM has unveiled a new zSeries server that targets the lower-end market dominated by other vendors. The Linux-only Raptor mainframe will reduce overall costs for companies because its virtualization technology eliminates the need for mainframe-specific administrators. Sun Microsystems is following a distributed computing route with its new iPlanet Application Server and criticizes IBM's adherence to mainframe technology. Hewlett-Packard Linux business strategist Mike Balma announced a raft of new Linux offerings, including utility-type payments for Linux products and new Global Deployment and Outsourcing services especially for Linux.
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/02/01/28/020128hnlinuxworld.xml

  • "A Better Web Through Higher Math"
    Business Week Online (01/22/02); Wildstrom, Stephen H.

    Mathematicians are continuing to further the science of the Internet and help it become faster, more useful, and secure. Already, two important Internet technologies got their start in pure mathematics: Akamai technologies' content delivery network and Google's relational Web search methods. Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center are continuing this trend by looking into the way Internet communities naturally connect in a graph model, in which each site is a vertex and each hyperlink a line between them. Their research is helping to develop new Internet search methods that would be able to identify the most authoritative sites for any given subject. Mathematics is also being used to help solve the problem of denial-of-service attacks that are plaguing the Web. University of Massachusetts-Amherst computer scientist Micah Adler proposes adding just a small header to each packet of data that would enable authorities to track its source. Currently, there is virtually no way to track perpetrators of denial-of-service attacks because Internet data packets lack the simple header information that Adler's research suggests.
    http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jan2002/nf20020122_8839.htm

  • "Pentagon Has Long-Term Plans to Boost Tech Spending"
    SiliconValley.com (01/28/02); O'Brien, Chris

    Chief financial officer for the Pentagon Dov Zakheim says that the agency is planning to give the military more access to technology by increasing the tech spending portion of the defense budget from 2.5 percent to 3 percent. President Bush has submitted proposals to double homeland security spending to $38 billion and give the Defense Department an additional $48 billion in 2003, putting the total defense budget in the vicinity of $375 billion. Zakheim has not disclosed how much will be apportioned to science and technology, although he notes that further details should be provisioned following Bush's State of the Union address on Monday night. He says the war in Afghanistan has given a new priority to military technological initiatives, which could lead to more partnerships with Silicon Valley. One such project is "Transforming the Military," which focuses on unmanned air and sea vehicles, more sophisticated battlefield communications, and artificial intelligence. Bay Area leaders are excited about potential tech spending gains, although they have yet to see a dime.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/news/svfront/defen012902.htm

  • "Follow the Bouncing Ball to Storage"
    InformationWeek (01/28/02) No. 873, P. 20; Ewalt, David M.

    An attempt to create high-temperature superconductors has yielded an organic magnet that could find significant use in electronic storage and semiconductors. Russian physicist Tatiana Makarova says she was working to produce a superconducting material by joining buckyballs together, and instead developed a carbon-based sheet that is magnetic at room temperature. Furthermore, its magnetic properties can be maintained up to 200 degrees Celsius. Magnets such as the one Makarova created weigh considerably less and are more flexible than their metallic counterparts, and could be used to make inexpensive, strong, highly dense storage devices. Makarova's team has also discovered that light can change the material's magnetic properties, leading to optical storage applications. The carbon sheets could be incorporated into the manufacture of semiconductors because of their insulating and semiconducting traits.
    http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20020125S0005

  • "Dawn of the Real-Time Enterprise"
    InfoWorld (01/21/02) Vol. 24, No. 3, P. 34; Margulius, David L.

    In an economy where managing information in a timely manner is key, batch processing comes up short, forcing decision-makers to make do with data whose age can range from several days to several months. On the horizon are new technologies and services that offer affordable straight-through processing and real-time operations, while tools that optimize real-time business processes and establish connections between applications, information, and users are making a significant impact. Companies with real-time applications could sharpen their competitive edge, responding to data faster and becoming more involved with key business processes. Protocols such as Java Connector Architecture, Java Messaging Service, and Java 2 Enterprise Edition applications servers are easing the implementation of application integration inside the firewall, while real-time integration outside the firewall has started to emerge through the advent of private networks and light, inexpensive devices that can substitute for electronic data interchange (EDI). Leading vendors of application servers and enterprise application integration (EAI) tools are working to augment their workflow management and business-process automation programs so companies can get the most out of their real-time data. Meanwhile, early adoption of real-time technologies is shifting away from trading-related applications and moving toward product development and supply-chain programs.
    http://www.infoworld.com/articles/fe/xml/02/01/21/020121fetca.xml

  • "Recruiting Balance"
    Maryland Daily Record--TechLink (01/02) P. 11; Cortright, Jill

    Several Maryland colleges and universities are working to boost the number of minority students taking computer science and information technology classes. The historically black institution of Coppin State College offers incentives to minority students, such as discounted computers with free instructional software and paid jobs with the Office of Information Technology. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is receiving an annual stipend of $100,000 for three years from the Pre-college Awards for Excellence in Mathematics, Science, Engineering and Technology, which funds efforts to boost the number of minority undergraduates from the ranks of K-12 students in local school districts. Meanwhile, Bowie State University promotes its computer science courses at high schools and helps students get financial support, secure internships with local labs, and participate in undergraduate research projects. Barbara Mento of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland says that the Internet holds a special appeal for women. Notre Dame has added Internet systems to its women's-only undergraduate college in the hopes of increasing its women students.
    http://www.mddailyrecord.com/specialpubs/techlink/0102j-minorities.html