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 email@example.com.
Volume 4, Issue 311: Wednesday, February 13, 2002
- "Despite Efforts, Dearth of Women in Tech Continues"
SiliconValley.com (02/11/02); Krieger, Lisa M.
Despite gains in scientific fields such as medicine and biology, women still lag or are falling even further behind in hard science sectors, such as engineering, computer science, and physics. A recent gathering of the National Council for Research on Women, a collaboration of 95 women's research centers, found that fewer women go on to establish themselves in hard science academic circles because of an inhospitable and competitive culture. Cathy Ann Trower of Harvard University says that many women drop out of the system before attaining full professorship. Although girls' achievement in high school has equaled that of boys in biology and math, they still fall behind in advanced placement tests for computer science and physics. One of the hindrances for women looking to make the highest levels of academia is the pace of applying for grants and publishing research, which often conflicts with family interests and disconnects them from teaching. Also, because there are more male colleagues in the higher levels of science fields, the social interaction and quality of life for women is not as good, says Stanford University electrical engineering professor Teresa Meng. Stanford professor Patricia Jones says, "It is hard whenever you are a minority and your peers have their own way of socializing and interacting. You may not feel comfortable pushing your name or your work."
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Microsoft Is Putting Its Muscle Behind Web Programming Tools"
New York Times (02/13/02) P. C1; Lohr, Steve
Microsoft is launching its campaign to win software developers over to its new Web services programming platform, which it has spent $2 billion and three and a half years to complete. Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer are scheduled to speak to thousands of programmers to convince them of the new language and toolkit, which includes C# and VisualStudio.Net. Although the new .Net Web Services platform will allow developers to use whatever programming tools they like, including industry-standard protocols such as XML, SOAP, and UDDI, applications built using it can only be run on Windows. Competitors and opponents in Microsoft's government antitrust trial say Microsoft's new Web services effort is a scheme to lock corporate users into its Windows operating system. Other companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems have developed Web services platforms that allow applications written in them to run on all operating systems and hardware. Web services is one of the few remaining hot corporate technology sectors, even during the downturn, according to Gartner analyst David M. Smith. He predicts the Web services market will balloon five times its current amount to $21 billion by 2005.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Senate Chair Urges Stronger Sanctions Against Digital Piracy"
Newsbytes (02/11/02); Krebs, Brian
A report saying that anti-piracy measures need to be more strongly enforced both at home and overseas will be released on Tuesday by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.). "Only by being vigilant in investigating and prosecuting those who steal intellectual property will we be successful in continuing to nurture the development of the music, software, and entertainment industries, which employ so many people around the world," he writes. Biden's report also covers the proliferation of digital piracy and how high-speed Internet services relate to it. The release of the report will coincide with a committee hearing in which leading representatives of the music and entertainment industry will address the growing threat of digital piracy. The issue is also central to two other forms of legislation proposed by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.). Hollings' proposal calls for technology companies and consumer electronics makers to plant anti-piracy safeguards in CDs and DVDs, while Boucher wants to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so consumers can circumvent anti-piracy protections to make back-up copies of digital media without being prosecuted, in accordance with fair use rights.
- "Cybercrime Bill Ups the Ante"
Wired News (02/12/02); McCullagh, Declan; Zarate, Robert
Stiffer sentences for perpetrators of cybercrimes is among the issues a House Judiciary subcommittee will weigh today as it debates the Cyber Security Enhancement Act (CSEA) sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). When he introduced the bill last September, Smith said its purpose was to "combat cybercrime and cyberterrorism and send the signal that if you engage in cybercrime or cyberterrorism, you will be punished." Among the penalties cybercrime felons would face under the bill are life sentences for electronic attempts to kill or injure people. The CSEA would require ISPs to disclose the activities of their customers if there is reason to believe such crimes are involved, and immunize them from any related lawsuits if they make such disclosures in good faith. The ACLU is particularly troubled by this requirement, according to legislative counsel Rachel King. The bill would also elevate the Justice Department's Office of Science and Technology (OST), which would be tasked with researching counterterrorism and electronic surveillance technologies. The OST's primary goal would be redefined to "improve the safety and effectiveness of law enforcement technology," and federal sunshine laws would not apply to the office's advisory groups.
- "U.S. Backing for Guidelines on Fighting Cybercrime"
New York Times (02/12/02) P. C9; Feder, Barnaby J.
The FBI and the Secret Service have issued the first-ever guidelines for businesses to report cyberattacks to public authorities and several information-sharing partnerships set up by the government. The guidelines were developed with the help of CIO Magazine. Companies are often fearful of bad publicity should they reveal failures in their computer security. National Infrastructure Protection Center head Ronald L. Dick says businesses will be willing to share information if it is made clear what authorities will and will not do, such as not "seizing your server and putting yellow tape around it." The guidelines help outline procedures and encourage IT managers to develop relationships with the local government authorities in charge of investigating cyberattacks, such as the 65 InfraGard chapters set up around the country by the FBI. A survey by the FBI and the Computer Security Institute found that only 36 percent of companies hacked or hit by malignant code last year reported the intrusions to authorities.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Laid-Off Tech Workers Upset About Foreign"
NewsFactor Network (02/11/02); Rose, Barbara
American IT workers laid off during the recession are upset over the government's H-1B program, which allowed companies in the U.S. to hire 163,200 foreign workers in the year ending last Sept. 30 while at the same time high-tech businesses were laying off 520,000 people. The Immigration and Naturalization Service said that 57 percent of H-1B workers brought into the United States were headed for the technology sector; the agency is set to report on the breakdown of year 2000 numbers soon. META Group researcher Howard Rubin says there is a global movement that is eroding the U.S. share of global IT workers, as the number of offshore outsourcers grows faster than the domestic IT sector. He says 45 percent of Fortune 500 companies outsource programming tasks overseas to such places as India, Ireland, and the Philippines, where labor is much cheaper. Northwestern University professor Mohanbir Sawhney says companies are headed toward the example of GE Capital, which has a 10,000-person development center set up in India which provides programming for all of General Electric. He suggests American workers keep up with the latest skills as the tide of global outsourcing is inevitable. Still, U.S. government statistics show that some sectors of the technology job market are still very tight, such as for engineers, and experts say that IT workers on the whole still have a much lower unemployment rate than the rest of the population.
- "Digital Tech Corps Bill Revived"
Federal Computer Week Online (02/11/02); Matthews, William
Corporate and federal IT workers would be able to switch jobs while retaining their salary and benefits through the Digital Tech Corps Act reintroduced by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) presented the same bill to the House last summer, but it has stalled. He argues that the bill would revitalize IT efforts designed to improve the government's efficiency, while private-sector managers would gain insights that would help net government contracts. In the bill's favor is a renewed interest in public service helped along in part by the September attacks as well as a Bush administration campaign. President Bush is urging that Americans serve in a public capacity for two years, which fits into the job-swapping program's two-year window. Voinovich has been a leading proponent of government personnel reform, noting that over half of all federal workers will be eligible for some form of retirement by 2004.
- "Newest Suffixes Help to Increase Net's Population"
Los Angeles Times (02/11/02) P. B7; Frey, Christine
With the .com space containing 22.5 million domain registrations out of 35 million total domain registrations in the world, new TLDs like .name, .info, and .biz have come to the rescue, and in fact are proving helpful. "Each one of the [new] domains is going to acquire its own neighborhood feeling," says Afilias' Roland LaPlante. "People will want to have addresses in the right neighborhood on the Internet." NetNames' Jonathan Robinson predicts that 35 million worldwide registrations is just the beginning, considering that there are billions of people not yet fully utilizing the Internet. In terms of total registrations, .com is No. 1 with 22.5 million; followed by .net with 3.9 million; .org with 2.5 million; .info with 700,000; .biz with 500,000; .name with 150,000; .coop with 5,000; and .museum with 2,000. Domain Name Handbook author Ellen Rony thinks that both .info and .biz are basically placeholders because many .info and .biz TLDs simply route visitors to .com Web sites. VeriSign's Patrick Burns says that .com will remain "at least for the immediate future, the Park Avenue of Internet addresses." Dot-com has become part of the general language, says Burns, who adds that new TLDs may gain such currency and history with time.
- "U.S. Patent Debate to Pit IP Rights Vs. Competition"
EE Times Online (02/08/02); Leopold, George
Justice Department antitrust chief Charles James and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Timothy Muris assured attendees of a forum on U.S. patent policy that the increase in patented technologies would not give rise to intellectual property monopolies. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been issuing dramatically more patents in recent years as a result of skyrocketing numbers of applications. Regulatory agencies such as the Justice Department and the FTC have generally been supportive of the expanding number of patents, despite worries that they are giving too much power to large corporations, especially in the technology and software sectors. In fact, the open-source software movement is dedicated to fighting monopolies in intellectual property. U.S. Circuit Judge Pauline Newman, who administers cases regarding intellectual property issues alone, said recent court rulings have tended toward more narrow definitions of patents. She said it was necessary for companies to maintain the standard of limiting their patents to "non-obvious" technologies and disclosing them publicly. In the near future, the National Academy of Science is also expected to release a study on the effects of technology patents on innovation.
- "Vandals Burn Out Defacement Tracking Site"
CNet (02/11/02); Lemos, Robert
Alldas.de founder Stefan Wagner has announced his retirement, attributing it to "total burnout and frustration." Wagner has grown tired of dealing with systems administrators whose sites were defaced by online vandals, and then blamed Alldas.de for their predicament. The site is an archive for digitally defaced Web pages, and also provides defacement statistics, an important resource for insight on how widespread the problem is. Originally the site sought out defaced pages to archive, but now vandals contact the site directly, alerting them to their latest defacements. Having administrators lay the blame for their defacements at the feet of defacement mirrors demonstrates that they are ignorant of statistical information that could help them, a frustrating situation for Wagner. Administrative email only adds to the burden, notes Brian Martin, a staff member of the defunct defacement mirror Attrition.org. In addition, defacers sometimes launch denial-of-service attacks against mirrors in protest of the way they are treated. Alldas.de, the last major defacement mirror on the Internet, has been shut down, but will resume its operations in March after moving to the Alldas.org domain name.
- "Will Anonymous E-Mail Become a Casualty of War?"
PCWorld.com (02/11/02); Spring, Tom
Anonymous email services are being questioned since recent events have shaken people's right-to-privacy conviction. For example, the kidnappers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl took elaborate steps to cover up their identities online, though three men connected with them were found due to computer traces. Although anonymous Web surfing and email services Zero Knowledge and SafeWeb shut down operations since Sept. 11 due to financial reasons, not political, the options available to people who want online anonymity are getting slimmer. Remailers, which process, anonymize, and sometimes encrypt messages before sending them to their intended recipients, are subject to subpoena. In such cases, they must hand over records that can lead to the email's source. Lance Cottrell, president of the popular Anonymizer service, says the free-speech benefits of anonymous email far outweigh the possible misuses, and gives the example of human-rights proponents in Yugoslavia that used Anonymizer during the Milosovec regime. However, the federal government is moving to make online identification easier and has been granted far greater tracking powers as part of the recently passed Patriot Act. The FBI's Magic Lantern project, which sought to plant eavesdropping bugs on suspect's computers, would have been foiled if investigators could not identify the possible criminals in the first place.
- "U.S. High-Tech Firms Ramp Up Indian Operations"
Reuters (02/13/02); Madhavan, Narayanan
Bangalore, India, often referred to as India's Silicon Valley, is home to approximately 950 technology companies, while about 30 leading American tech firms have offices in Karnataka's capital. Two U.S. semiconductor firms, QuickLogic and Cypress Semiconductor, are planning significant staff increases in their Indian operations. QuickLogic plans to have 30 to 40 engineers on its Indian center's staff by the end of 2002, while Cypress has announced a two-year, $15 million investment to increase its Indian staff by 300 percent. Cypress' David Reed explains that the goal of the expansion is to develop state-of-the-art products for the burgeoning broadband market. QuickLogic CEO Thomas Hart says, "Cost is not the primary reason. It is the talent." Bangalore's high-tech industry swells with programmers who graduate by the thousands every year from Karnataka's 80 engineering colleges.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Governor Pitches Utah as Home for High-Tech Companies"
Los Angeles Times (02/12/02) P. A2; Cart, Julie
Gov. Mike Leavitt is courting high-tech executives and venture capitalists to bring their business to Utah through a series of seminars. Utah has received a lot of press about its suitability as a high-tech haven: The Progressive Policy Institute ranks the state sixth in its readiness to adapt to the tech-based new economy; its workforce exhibits a high level of tech readiness thanks to computer science initiatives at its colleges and universities; and 92 percent of its public schools and 70 percent of its households have Internet connections. Salt Lake City is the third biggest "high-tech hot spot" in the United States, according to a 2000 Dun & Bradstreet study. Furthermore, Intel, Iomega, and other high-tech firms have offices in Utah. The people who lead the seminars--established leaders from academia, politics, and the business world--also carry a lot of weight. Former U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, the dean of Harvard Business School, and five cabinet members are some of the session leaders. "We don't want to be a place of the past, we want to be a place of the future, that's why we're in biotech and new technologies," says Leavitt. However, critics contend that the state in not investing enough money to back the governor's hype.
- "Demo 2002 Pushes Serious Software"
InfoWorld.com (02/11/02); Schwartz, Ephraim
In addition to other technologies showcased at the Demo 2002 conference, such as wireless, new enterprise software promises to unify and simplify enterprise-level applications. Infravio's Web Services Platform uses XML to consolidate the development, management, and execution of different Web services. PushToTest says its Load enterprise software will give IT managers an easy way to view whether or not their services are meeting performance levels specified in the service-level agreement. AnySoft unveiled its Digital Cortex Software Sequencing System that creates APIs for any Windows-based application so that, for example, accounting information generated in Great Plains software can easily be ported into a Siebel CRM application. Two new CRM applications from Salesforce.com and Upshot also debuted at the Demo conference. Upshot's software uses business intelligence and a centralized data warehouse to produce targeted sales leads and marketing campaigns.
- "New and Improved"
Wall Street Journal (02/11/02) P. R13; Thurm, Scott
The Internet2 project has been hugely successful with the more than 190 universities and the small number of corporate users signed onto it, but has failed to deliver solutions applicable to the "old" Internet. University technology administrators first formed Internet2 as a way to pioneer new Internet technologies and create the atmosphere of invention that fostered the birth of the original Internet. They succeeded in developing many new uses for the Internet, including remote surgery, transmission of video and computer simulation, and 3D teleconferences. Cisco, an investor in Internet2, says its research on the network helped it develop the multicasting method of consolidating data streams. But Cisco's development is one of the very few enhancements to the commercial Internet that has come out of Internet2. Part of the problem is the complexity of the Internet, which has vastly more interconnections and interoperability problems than Internet2. Still, Internet2 researchers say they are forging ahead to lay more groundwork for the Internet2 and future high-speed networks, such as enhanced security and middleware products.
- "Brave New OS"
Computerworld (02/11/02) Vol. 36, No. 7, P. 38; Anthes, Gary H.
New operating systems being developed by IBM, Microsoft, and Carnegie Mellon University researchers will enable secure data storage pools, more efficient mobile computing, and operating systems that respond to applications' needs. Microsoft Research is currently working on an operating system that would allow networked computers to share data storage and computing power without a central server, yet maintain privacy and security at the same time. The Farsite project uses Byzantine fault-tolerant protocols to protect against abuse of the system, which would store multiple encrypted and digitally signed copies of files throughout the system. IBM researchers working on the Blue Gene project are pioneering new work in scalable computing. Building a 65,000-processor computer like Blue Gene is testing the principles of IBM's Autonomic Computing initiative, which would create an operating system that would heal, optimize, and configure itself, much as a human body's nervous system does. Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Mahadev Satyanarayanan is developing an operating system that would sense the needs of mobile computing applications, and adjust tasks to make the most of battery life and processing power, for example. Satyanarayanan says mobile computing will become so pervasive in a few years' time that it will require new thinking in operating systems.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Many Working Together"
CIO (02/01/02) Vol. 15, No. 8, P. 114; Hapgood, Fred
Massively parallel processing (MPP), which recruits thousands of processors to solve complex problems, would seem to suit enterprise computing, which needs a scalable infrastructure to handle ever-expanding resource demands and virtually limitless growth. However, many of the MPP product lines that were around in the early 1990s are defunct now because of programming requirements. To send a message from one MPP processor to another requires approximately 100 instructions. Furthermore, using off-the-shelf chips to save money proved to be unworkable, since performance was already affected by the "communications tax." The introduction of new chips meant a complete reprogramming. But rather than abandon MPP altogether, providers decided to move toward storage applications. Storage cost is falling, and company databases are rapidly expanding; the capacity of parallelized storage is theoretically infinite, while the communications tax for writing one disk is less than that for processing an instruction. A smaller-scale version of parallel processing that relied on fewer processors came about with the introduction of new relational databases in the mid 1990s. These "modestly parallel" devices are starting to make a noticeable impact in the IT sector, and are approaching commoditization.
- "Re-engineering in Real Time"
Economist (02/02/02) Vol. 362, No. 8258, P. 15
Information technology could radically change business processes as it ushers in the era of the real-time enterprise. The ultimate architecture of the real-time enterprise is still up in the air. For example, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ray Lane expects real-time technology to eventually eliminate hierarchies, employees who carry out paper-based processes, and departmental boundaries. Vivek Ranadive of Tibco foresees firms that are run by machines capable of automatic problem-solving to a certain degree. Yet not all offline activities related to a company's information flow will be easily replaced, particularly those long-standing traditions that do not always register on a conscious level, says Oslo University's Ole Hanseth. The perceived deconstruction of the company by IT into "virtual firms," spurred by falling transaction costs and rising outsourcing, may not necessarily come to pass because companies still place a lot of importance in trust and social bonds, while lower organizing costs may encourage firms to expand rather than contract. Real-time technology should allow business processes to be revamped continuously, at any rate, while Hal Varian of the University of California at Berkeley says contracts with suppliers ought to improve as IT lowers the cost of monitoring. The economy will become more efficient and firms will become more specialized as IT advances.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Losing the Code War"
Atlantic Monthly (02/02) Vol. 289, No. 2, P. 33; Budiansky, Stephen
Virtually unbreakable encryption technology available to just about anyone with an email or Web-browser program has given code users the upper hand, making it even more difficult to trace the communications of America's enemies. Encryption software has become much more powerful thanks to increases in computer processing power, while the Internet has proven an ideal vehicle for the software's spread. Most Web browsers are standardized on 128-bit encryption, which rebuffs the "brute force" approach. Meanwhile, email encryption software pretty good privacy (PGP), with its options of 2048-bit or 4096-bit keys, is also an effective security measure. Code-breaking techniques in the 20th Century have progressed in parallel with the increasing sophistication of mathematics designed to identify non-randomness. But the proliferation of computers among the public, which received stimulus funds from the National Security Agency, heralded the favorable shift toward the code users. If federal intelligence efforts are to achieve positive results, then the information gathered from encrypted signals must be supplemented by more clandestine investigations.