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 307: Monday, February 4, 2002

  • "The Increase in Chip Speed Is Accelerating, Not Slowing"
    New York Times (02/04/02) P. C1; Markoff, John

    Desktop PC performance advances are likely to increase, not decrease, as chipmakers continue to develop advances that push transistors beyond the theoretical limits perceived by designers just a few years ago. For example, Intel says it has developed a microprocessor that runs certain functions at 10 GHz, showing that the increase in processing power has actually accelerated in the past two years. Moore's Law, the foundation of progress in the semiconductor industry, says the number of transistors able to fit onto a single chip doubles ever 18 months, increasing processing power as a result. Intel's breakthrough, announced at this year's International Solid State Circuits Conference, focuses on shrinking the size of the physical gate length to just 90 nanometers. Two years ago, consensus at the same conference said the size of the physical gate length would not be able to shrink below 140 nanometers by this time. Intel has also developed a new chip engineering method that permits transistors to switch faster by running a small current through them. Other advances involve lowering power consumption, such as a 1 GHz will IBM will unveil that can nearly instantly increase or decrease the amount of power it consumers, while AMD will show a single-chip, solid-state gyroscope.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/04/technology/04CHIP.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "'Dirty Dozen' Bills Reveal a Tech-Activist Congress--Cato"
    Newsbytes (02/04/02); Krebs, Brian

    The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, has pointed out 12 legislative bills that it calls "The Digital Dirty Dozen" for their egregious efforts to impose new regulations on the Internet and new technologies. Although both conservatives and liberals seemed to find consensus in an unregulated Internet before, the recent Cato report says 2001 saw hundreds of tech-related bills. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings' (D-S.C.) bill, that mandates breakup of the Baby Bell companies unless they reach certain performance standards, was the most outrageous example of unnecessary government regulation, according to Cato. Other targeted bills include another Hollings measure that would require copy-protection technologies be included in all new music, software, and other digital entertainment. The "Music Online Competition Act," introduced by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Chris Cannon (R-Utah), was also criticized for forcing recording companies to give the same license terms for digital music to all Webcasters. Congress is unlikely to pass any of the measures on Cato's list, however, according to one congressional aide who requested anonymity.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/02/174175.html

  • "Intel Will Unveil Chip Innovations Developed by Maverick Inventor"
    Wall Street Journal (02/04/02) P. B4; Clark, Don

    Intel will detail its Ovonics research effort at a San Francisco conference this week. Ovonics, the brainchild of inventor Stanford Ovshinsky, involves materials capable of changing their atomic structure from a disordered to a highly organized state. Intel is hoping the technology will solve the technical limitations of its nonvolatile flash memory chips, increasing the speed that data can be read and written, and offering virtually limitless storage capability in smaller cells. Intel VP Stefan Lai forecasts that flash chips in cell phones and other products could give way to Ovonics-based chips in three to five years. Intel partners Ovonyx and Azalea Microelectronics will release details about a prototype Ovonics memory chip with a storage capacity of four million bits at the conference tomorrow. Intel will also shed more light on its McKinley microprocessor, developed in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard and capable of twice the speed of Itanium chips. Meanwhile, IBM will discuss a multifunction chip that contains separate processors for computation and communication, the primary component of a supercomputer being developed for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/699350.asp

  • "Recipe for the Next Valley"
    Wired News (02/04/02); Hershman, Tania

    Experts are examining the reason's for Silicon Valley's success and trying to help other technology innovation and entrepreneurship centers around the world develop their own Silicon Valley cultures. One recent book, "Cloning Silicon Valley," looks at the measure of success six international technology centers have had in reproducing Silicon Valley. The analysis shows that Cambridge, Helsinki, Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Singapore, and Taipei all have some cultural inhibitions to implementing everything Silicon Valley has. Tel Aviv, for example, has a culture of self-confidence, but has not been able to emulate Silicon Valley's free-wheeling business culture. Palo Alto-based lawyer Richard Allan Horning says refining social attitudes is key; for example, he notes that failure has little stigma attached to it in Silicon Valley. Crescendo Ventures partner John Borchers says the key is fostering entrepreneurial businesses. But David Rosenberg, author of "Cloning Silicon Valley," says no compilation of ingredients will create another Silicon Valley, but he insists it will require a scenario similar to what was present in the late 1990s.
    http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,49954,00.html

  • "Online Recruiting Matures Into Tougher Ball Game"
    Washington Post (02/04/02) P. E1; Johnson, Carrie

    Although consolidation has helped the online job industry mature in the last few years, challenges remain. Even HotJobs.com and Monster.com, the leading Internet recruitment firms, face the same hurdles. Giga Information Group research director Bob Klehm notes that more rivals are crowding the marketplace and threatening the leaders' domination. Furthermore, antitrust investigators at the Federal Trade Commission have turned their eyes to Monster, which has posted profits and acquired competitors. Meanwhile, HotJobs will be bought by Yahoo! for a cash and stock settlement of $436 million. VeriSign communications manager Kristina Ackley also says that users are becoming increasingly frustrated with the response rates of online job boards, and demanding additional options and improved security for the personal information they entrust to them. The sites are competing to attract business from companies that are scaling back external spending while at the same time boosting their budgets on internal efforts to better their corporate sites. January advertising campaigns at events such as the Super Bowl are designed to take advantage of a time when people are considering changing jobs and corporate budgets have been inflated.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18509-2002Feb3.html

  • "The Swiss Refuse to Stay Neutral in Small Tech, Will Visit U.S. to Learn"
    Small Times (02/01/02); McIntyre, Jo

    A team of Swiss officials, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors in MEMS, microsystems, and nanotechnology fields are touring the United States in order to learn about how their American counterparts do things. Sponsored by the government-funded Swiss House for Advanced Research and Education and several other public and private institutions, the tour is meant to study how U.S. businesses are able to turn their small technology discoveries into commercial applications so quickly. Christian Simm of the Swiss Science and Technology Office says one aspect lacking in Switzerland is the acceptance of failure, especially financial bankruptcy. Additionally, he says the Swiss investment community and business culture is not technology-savvy enough. Another aim of the tour is to encourage Swiss researchers and entrepreneurs to return to their home country. Simm, who founded the 2,000-member SwissTalents Web directory, estimates there are between 3,000 to 5,000 Swiss scientists and engineers outside the country.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Enron's Lessons Can Be Applied to Web Issues"
    Wall Street Journal (02/04/02) P. B1; Swisher, Kara

    The Enron collapse brings several issues to the fore that mirror mistakes made in the Internet boom. Going forward, the technology sector would do well to keep a careful eye on hyped companies such as Excite@Home, whose example should encourage the Bush administration not to deregulate the broadband industry as many technology leaders would like. More oversight from state and federal regulators, as well as from the media and the investment community, could have helped to avoid the disintegration of Excite@Home. Accounting practices that inflate earnings also need to be pointed out so that investor confidence is restored in companies such as Homestore.com, the online realty site that recently admitted some of its managers had skewed earnings reports. Finally, AOL's litigation against Microsoft for destroying its AOL's Netscape subsidiary through monopolistic practices deserves more attention from the technology community. Such issues must be dealt with, especially since federal courts have already found that Microsoft abused its Windows monopoly to elbow competing products out of the market.

  • "Looking for a Few Good 'Code Demons'"
    ZDNet (01/31/02); Lebihan, Rachel

    A single Australian programmer is single-handedly building the Linux-based Portable.Net software that will allow developers everywhere to write Linux programs compatible with Microsoft's .Net Web services infrastructure. Rhys Weatherly, founder of Southern Storm Software, has been working full-time on the project for DotGNU, a free software platform, but now is trying to enlist more contributors to finish Portable.Net in just six more months. Portable.Net, as envisioned, will enable .Net on a variety of operating systems and will provide basic, non-proprietary .Net infrastructure to anyone. Weatherly says Portable.Net will not support all the features as Microsoft's Windows-focused version of .Net, but that other organizations can build their own features onto Portable.Net. In the future, Weatherly would like to work on merging Java Virtual Machine and Common Language Infrastructure platforms to provide more freedom to programmers everywhere.
    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-826895.html

  • "Need for Big Push on Technology Front"
    Financial Times--Survey (02/01/02) P. 2; Guthrie, Jonathan

    More and more, only the financially well-off can access PCs and the Internet. For instance, the United States accounts for 77 percent of the world's total e-commerce income, compared to just 0.5 percent for Latin America. Such a digital divide contributes to an IT skills shortage and unemployment among young people in Latin America, says Don Terry, manager of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank. The MIF has pledged $10 million to Entra 21, a project in conjunction with the International Youth Foundation (IYF) intended to increase IT skills among youths in Latin America and the Caribbean. So far, IYF has collected about $1 million of the $10 million needed for the project from such sponsors as Lucent, Cisco, and Unocal. The private sector should seek out and support such projects, says Terry. He says, "You do not have to be a brain surgeon to see that the digital divide, an IT skills shortage in the business community, and youth unemployment are related problems." In this vein, Mexico's Universidades Technologicas and the U.S.-based Cisco Learning Institute hope to provide network administration training to 1,200 youths in Mexico.
    http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=020201001708

  • "Whatever Happened to Domain-Name Expansion?"
    SiliconValley.com (01/30/02); Plotnikoff, David

    New top level domains have yet to rise to prominence among domain name addresses, even though six of the seven new TLDs are operational. The .biz and .info domains launched in Sept. 2001 and Nov. 2001, respectively. With 580,000 registered .biz names and 700,000 registered .info names currently live, one would expect to find people using these suffixes, but few users, including Mercury writer David Plotnikoff, have ever used .biz or .info to find a Web site. Of course, .biz and .info are simply one wave in a sea of roughly 30 million registered .com, .net, and .org addresses. In addition, many .biz and .info addresses are inactive or only have "coming soon" Internet banners, according to Plotnikoff's informal research. Afilias' Heather Carle says that Web sites, like Rome, are not built in one day. "First, people need to know the new options exist, then they need to find the right names for their needs, then go from there," Carle theorizes. An ICANN committee is currently evaluating the new-TLD launch, while registries are hoping that the situation foreshadows a future market organized around new TLDs, instead of proving to be another Internet speculation gone flat.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/opinion/daveplot/dp013102.htm

  • "Giving Hackers Their Due"
    InternetNews.com (01/31/02); Wagner, Jim

    People working in the computer and network security industry cannot keep up with the growing number of malicious hackers, according to convicted hacker Robert Lyttle, aka Pimpshiz. Lyttle, who is awaiting sentencing for hundreds of Web site defacements, recently wrote that the security community must forge ties with the hacker community in order to protect systems. He said the media does little to enlighten people to the intricacies in hacker culture, whose members either cause or help solve problems to some degree. Lyttle also warned that an almost infinite number of "script kiddies" pose the biggest threat to computer security because security experts and law enforcement does not have sufficient resources to clamp down on their illegal activity. Such amateur hackers borrow code from famous exploits or download pre-fabricated hacking tools from the Internet to cause damage. The FBI recently teamed with the Computer Security Institute in a survey that found 65 percent of government and financial institutions said they had incurred financial loss due to hacking. On average, these organizations lost $378 million per year. Security service firm Riptech says hacking attacks have increased against targets like high-tech companies and financial companies by 79 percent from July to December 2001.
    http://www.internetnews.com/dev-news/article/0,,10_965531,00.html

  • "When Screensavers are a Crime"
    BBC News (01/28/02); Hermida, Alfred

    Two years ago, the state of Georgia charged computer technician David McOwen with computer theft and computer trespass for installing a distributed computing client on PCs at DeKalb Technical College without permission. He never went to trial thanks to a recent plea agreement, but many members of the distributed computing community are worried that his case will set a precedent that could lead to further prosecution. McOwen has protested his innocence throughout the case. "There's a very large difference between people who go out and do crimes on purpose versus someone who is innocent and has good intentions and you get attacked under the law," he insists. Distributed computing clients such as the one McOwen set up utilize idle computing power to carry out projects; the program running on DeKalb's PCs was part of a code-breaking initiative. McOwen believes that the resolution came out in his favor. "This is really a defeat for the statute, not a win, because it shows the statute needs fine tuning," he says.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1782000/1782050.stm

  • "Interoperability: Big Challenge for Mobile Messaging"
    InternetNews.com (01/30/02); Woods, Bob

    A recent Frost & Sullivan report detailed the interoperability problem slowing the adoption of mobile-messaging services in the United States. Because carriers use a mixture of three different network technologies--global system for mobile communications (GSM), code division multiple access (CDMA), and time division multiple access (TDMA)--they cannot send text messages between their networks. Moreover, most carriers use the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) for short message services (SMSs), which also does not allow for inter-platform messaging. The Frost & Sullivan report also said other wireless Internet technologies, such as wireless email, were being pioneered separately by different device manufacturers without ensuring interoperability. Interoperability, said Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Kshitij Moghe, would be the "cornerstone" of growth in the U.S. mobile messaging market, which the study predicted to bring in $5 billion in revenue by 2007, up from $571 million in 2000. Currently, standard protocols for messaging interoperability in the United States are being developed by wireless infrastructure firms.
    http://www.internetnews.com/wireless/article/0,,10692_964591.html

  • "The Future of Patent Law: Decision Pending"
    Washington Business Journal (01/25/02) Vol. 20, No. 39, P. 45; Kady II, Martin

    A case currently before the Supreme Court could change the course U.S. patent law has followed for the past 150 years by changing the "doctrine of equivalents" that protects patented technologies from imitation. Supporters of the change include large companies such as Ford Motor, 3M, and IBM, which experts say could benefit from the new patent law because their patents are specific enough to prevent other companies from creating similar products. Meanwhile, critics and defenders of the equivalents doctrine warn that it could undermine the financial incentive companies have to innovate as well as cause major upheaval as companies everywhere seek to revise their patents. If current patent law is changed, it would allow competitors to avoid infringing on patents by adding mostly cosmetic changes to the products. Software products would be especially affected because changes to software products occur so frequently, invalidating a strictly defined patent. Arthur Neustadt, the lawyer defending an earlier appeals court decision supporting the change, says patents need to be more clearly written and that the current patent system encourages too much litigation.
    http://washington.bcentral.com/washington/stories/2002/01/28/focus1.html

  • "Warning: Complexity Ahead!"
    Computerworld (01/28/02) Vol. 36, No. 5, P. 41; Anthes, Gary H.

    In an interview with Gary H. Anthes of Computerworld, writer and consultant Clay Shirky argues that decentralizing technologies such as peer-to-peer (P2P) are difficult to understand. In enterprises, such technologies can raise productivity and at the same time take control away from the IT department. IT managers no longer have an overall, global picture of the business, Shirky says. Using biological systems as a template is one possible solution, because they follow a local context, he explains. "Your kidneys only know what's going on in the kidneys, yet the whole organism functions," Shirky elucidates. He adds that converting applications into objects can give computer systems the same operational scheme as biological systems; these applications will be more protocol-based than API-based. As a result, mysterious system failures will increase in number but will be less disastrous, Shirky says.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Addressing the Anti-Crisis"
    Telephony (01/21/02) Vol. 242, No. 3, P. 51; McElligott, Tim

    An IP address shortage is inevitable, if not imminent--at least in the United States. Some do not expect a major address shortage for 10 years, but such outlooks would make the United States very short-sighted in regards to the rest of the world. Deploying a third-generation (3G) network that supports IPv6 may be a quick way to prevent such a shortage, especially in less domain-rich markets where such a possibility looms on the horizon. However, an extensive infrastructure upgrade is necessary for 3G implementation, and while foreign operators are greatly interested in IPv6, U.S. operators need convincing that an IPv6 investment will yield positive results. Return on investment could be demonstrated if there was a way to solidly measure a trio of enhanced capabilities offered by IPv6, including more efficient message routing for mobile users through the elimination of triangulation, the automatic assignment and configuration of IP addresses to end-user devices and network elements, and financial benefits. "Yes, [IPv6] has scalability and security and there are features and benefits that can be sold around that, but it has to be part of a longer-term strategy from a telco perspective," argues Intel's Andrew Myall.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Teleworkers Embrace Instant Messaging"
    Network World (01/28/02) Vol. 19, No. 4, P. 25; Zbar, Jeff

    Instant messaging is rapidly catching on among remote or dispersed professionals such as frequent teleworkers. Workers can boost their productivity with IM, according to International Data (IDC) analyst Robert Mahowald, provided they use the service properly. He notes that IM is a matter of personal preference, adding that it is mostly favored by teleworkers who rely on continuous communications, fast data sharing, and a steady sense of teamwork. Still, there are several unresolved issues, security being one of the most important. IM lacks uniformity, and many workers often use IM for both work and informal conversation, which could lead to security breaches if the people they are talking to are outside the corporate firewall. Moreover, a plethora of IM products currently on the market results in an insecure, chaotic environment that cuts into productivity. As the service gains favor and companies invest in "champion" products such as IBM/Lotus' Sametime and Microsoft Exchange 2000, uniformity and differentiation standards will be implemented. IDC reports that corporate IM users are projected to swell from 18.4 million to 229.2 million between 2002 and 2005, while spending will surge from $133 million to $1.1 billion in the same period.
    http://www.nwfusion.com/net.worker/news/2002/0128networker.html

  • "Federal Funds Boost Telework Initiative"
    Washington Technology (01/21/02) Vol. 16, No. 20, P. 14; Emery, Gail Repsher

    The Telework Consortium plans to focus on improving the penetration rate of residential broadband access to the Internet as a way to grow the trend of working from the home. The nonprofit, which has received $3.4 million in federal money, has reached an agreement with Spectrum Access to lower broadband costs, and the consortium plans to sign on several other broadband providers. "We think that the cost will be at a level that most corporations will see the value in paying for this service for their employees, and in the very near future most people will be willing to pay for it themselves," says John Starke, a consultant to the consortium. At about $250 a month, the expensive cost of high-quality video is a barrier to widescale penetration of residential broadband service. Lower-bandwidth transmission does not offer the TV-quality video that is needed to make desktop videoconferencing with the boss true-to-life. The Telework Consortium is also determined to demonstrate how teleworking enhances the productivity of workers, which is what companies really want to hear. Until now, advocates have promoted teleworking as something that will benefit work and family life, and cut down on pollution. The three-month-old consortium has telecommunication firms, systems integrators, and hardware and software vendors among its members.
    http://www.washingtontechnology.com/news/16_20/federal/17703-1.html