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Timely Topics for IT Professionals

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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 either Compaq or ACM.

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Volume 4, Issue 318: Monday, March 4, 2002

  • "Computer Viruses Still Proliferating; E-Mail Risk Rising"
    Wall Street Journal (03/04/02) P. B5; Clark, Don

    Computer virus attacks are growing at a steady rate; TruSecure unit ICSA Labs polled 300 North American companies and found that they suffered 1.2 million virus attacks during the 20-month period that ended Aug. 31. Monthly virus infections rose 13 percent, averaging at 103 infections per 1,000 computers the respondents operate, compared to 91 infections a month in a 2000 survey. The percentage increase between 1999 and 2000 was about the same. Virus disasters, in which 25 or more PCs or servers are infected at the same time, were reported by 28 percent of respondents in 2001, compared to 51 percent in 2000. Email and the Internet are the primary drivers of virus and worm proliferation, but the ICSA poll indicated that the transmission of viruses via email attachments may have peaked, partly due to the deployment of filtering software by companies. On the other hand, TruSecure's Peter Tippett and ICSA's Larry Bridwell are concerned that virus authors are also finding new ways to spread email-borne viruses, such as through scripting. "The basic message [of the survey] is: The world is getting worse," says Tippett.

  • "The Corner Internet Network vs. the Cellular Giants"
    New York Times (03/04/02) P. C1; Markoff, John

    A new paradigm for Internet access is emerging in wireless mesh routing, which transfers Internet data packets from one wireless node to another. The local networks being constructed by hobbyists and semi-altruistic entrepreneurs around the country could one day form an expansive network of cheap, high-speed wireless Internet access. Built on the common 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless standard, these networks are formed as people link and overlap their wireless access points, which usually extend about 200 feet. Antennas can extend that coverage or push out wireless access for a land-based connection. Groups such as the Bay Area Wireless Users Group are pioneering concepts such as neighborhood area networks (NANs), or nanny networks, by buying up access rights to the best transmitter positions across town. Proponents of this movement point out their networks' performance and robustness improve with more users and links, giving them the same economies of scale that benefit the Internet. So far, at least 19 startups have been launched to provide proprietary technologies to enable wireless mesh networking, many based around the San Francisco area.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/04/technology/04MESH.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "Rights Groups Press Council of Europe on Cybercrime Treaty"
    Newsbytes (03/01/02); Krebs, Brian

    The 30-member Global Internet Liberty Campaign has sent a letter to the Council of Europe secretary general asking him to release documents detailing a proposed addition to a cybercrime treaty signed into law in November. The accord, which defines computer-related offenses and outlines the penalties for each, covers such crimes as hacking, fraud, child pornography, and copyright violations, and also includes stipulations for cooperation among member nations in searching for and intercepting the Internet communications of suspected terrorists. A new provision, which will make the publication of racist or anti-foreign material on the Web a criminal offense, will soon be voted on, along with an added protocol on decoding terrorist email messages, which has worried privacy and civil-liberties advocates.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/news/02/174911.html

  • "Questions Dog ZeoSync's Compression Claim"
    IDG News Service (03/01/02); Costello, Sam

    Serious credibility issues have dogged ZeoSync after it announced in January the discovery of an algorithm that would enable tremendous data compression with zero data loss. If true, the technology would be a huge breakthrough, but CEO Peter St. George recently said ZeoSync would not conduct the open test he had previously promised, and instead said the technology would be tested soon by six semiconductor companies that would then publicly validate the data compression scheme. However, a survey of leading chipmakers showed that consensus practice for companies such as Motorola, Intel, and Cisco usually does not include announcements of a technology's promise without a specific deal in the works. ZeoSync has also had to retract statements that it had 30 international scientists working on its project after those claims were disputed by some of the researchers themselves. Only five of the original researchers are still listed on the ZeoSync Web site. John Post of Arkansas Tech University says he cannot confirm ZeoSync's assertions about its compression algorithm. "I've never seen the compression work," he notes. "I don't know how they came up with their results."
    http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,86986,00.asp

  • "Antipiracy Bill a High-Tech Threat, Hollywood-Style"
    Boston Globe (03/04/02) P. C3; Bray, Hiawatha

    The Security Systems Standards and Certification Act touted by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), which would require electronics manufacturers to incorporate copy-protection technology into all their hardware, could raise development costs and slow product cycles, writes Hiawatha Bray. Intel executive VP Leslie Vadasz told a Senate committee last week that "any attempt to inject a regulatory process into the design of our products will irreparably damage the high-tech industry." Apparently, Vadasz's warnings fell on indifferent ears. Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti praised the bill for giving the IT and the consumer electronics industries an impetus to come to some agreement about standards, although he admits that he has not read the legislation. Bray is concerned that the Senate panel's deliberations are leaving the consumer out of the equation, and are ignoring laws that allow the public to make "fair use" copies of copyrighted content. "The proposed alternative would turn our personal computers, and all our other personal technologies, into digital busybodies that probably would forbid even legal copying," he writes.
    Click Here to View Full Article

    For information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP.

  • "Bavaria's Booming High-Tech Economy Remains Envy of Germany"
    Associated Press (03/03/02); McHugh, David

    Germany's Bavaria province is weathering the high-tech downturn much better than other areas of the country, and doing well on the international scene as well. Its two major tech presences, Infineon and Siemens, have laid off thousands worldwide, but Infineon is building a new 7,000-worker factory locally. Bavaria's jobless rate is 6.8 percent, below the 8.3 percent average for all of western Germany and far below that of the former Communist half of the country. Bavaria governor Edmund Stoiber is also running for chancellor in the upcoming elections, putting the local economic success under the spotlight. Key factors, such as international business acumen and entrepreneurial venture capital, have been encouraged under Stoiber's governance. Bavaria has led an aggressive campaign to encourage private tech growth by setting up a state-funded venture capital company and selling off $3.8 billion worth of state-owned companies. These measures have made Bavaria the fourth-largest software development center in the world after Silicon Valley, the Route 128 corridor near Boston, and London.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/news/editorial/2787241.htm

  • "New Nanomaterial Could Make Way for Fast, Cheap Optical Components"
    Small Times Online (03/01/02); Machlis, Avi

    Professor Uri Banin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Nir Tessler of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology report in the latest issue of Science magazine that they have devised a new way to enable polymers to carry out optical data transmission. Banin says that "a very rudimentary device" prototype has been fashioned by integrating indium arsenite nanocrystals with conjugated polymers. The device allows light to be transmitted in the 1.3- to 1.5-micron range, a range previously unattainable for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) made from plastics. The technology is not yet ready for commercialization because its efficiency only reaches 2 percent to 3 percent; researchers hope to elevate it up to 30 percent. The process could yield a cheap assembly procedure in which plastic optical devices are printed out with ink-jets. Banin foresees such devices being used in households that require high-speed data connections. "Since these materials can be easily applied over a variety of substances and substrates they open up new possibilities for integration," notes Lambda Crossing CTO Moti Margalit. Meanwhile, John Prohaska of the Center for Advanced Fiberoptic Applications says that Banin and Tessler's breakthrough could offer price or performance advantages for optical communications.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Courts Starting to Recognize Software and Web Fine Print"
    Philadelphia Inquirer (02/28/02) P. F3; Jesdanun, Anick

    Legal recognition for electronic contracts commonly employed for software, computer devices, and Web sites is firming up, according to industry insiders. Although standard form contracts are common in other industries, using them online presents problems. Some companies have had to retract their policies, such as Verant Interactive, which reserved the right to scan the computers of Everquest players. Recently, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit against Network Associates for its contractual obligation placed on users that kept them from writing unauthorized reviews of Network Associates' software. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Fred von Lohmann says electronic agreements, if presented correctly, can carry weight in court and that consumers should not be blase about clicking through them. Some companies, in an effort to make their contracts more noticeable, even require users to scroll through the legal text before accepting. Company lawyers say the general terms required of users usually are meant to protect the business, not restrict the user.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "If ICANN Can't, Who Should?"
    Wired News (02/26/02); McCullagh, Declan

    ICANN President Stuart Lynn's proposal to radically restructure ICANN has thrown the organization into turmoil. Lynn considers the current ICANN structure "flawed from the beginning...noble but deeply unrealistic...fatally flawed," and his proposal is a hefty 17,000 word argument to replace the current ICANN structure with one that relies more on governments, and operates like the Council of Europe or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Lynn foresees an annual budget of $43 million for ICANN, which will be raised from ccTLD operators and governments. In addition, Lynn complains that the root server system is staffed by volunteers, and that ICANN has no influence over ccTLD operators. ICANN's staff is inserting Lynn's proposal into the March 2002 ICANN meeting-agenda. The Web-based link for "ICANN Restructuring," which used to link to the At-Large proposal, now links to Lynn's revamping plan. Previously, Lynn had been worried that disagreements between ICANN and Congress could prevent a U.S. handover of the root server system to ICANN. In July 2000, congressional investigators concluded that it may be illegal for the United States to simply hand over the root to ICANN.
    http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,50670,00.html

  • "Military Transformation Opens Up New IT Market"
    GovExec.com (02/25/02); New, William

    The Defense Department is planning a strategic shift toward technology to help it operate more like a top-notch business. In response, technology companies are leaping to offer their products and services for homeland defense and security. Two of the largest areas of growth will be interoperability and information assurance, or verifying identification and securing data communications. Biometrics, which will help with biological warfare, will also be in demand. Defense Department director of force structure, resources, and assessment, Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, says the Pentagon calculated a $600-million loss for fiscal 2002 due to interoperability problems. Focusing on technology will also mean dealing with inefficiencies in buying, developing, and deploying new technology, Carlson said. Other industry insiders see creating secure intranets, such as the new Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, as a big growth sector. Information Technology Association of America strategic initiatives vice president David Colton said the recent war in Afghanistan saw the deployment of ground-breaking new war technologies, such as the instantaneous data feeds streamed from unmanned drone planes to aerial gunships.
    http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0202/022502td1.htm

  • "Clusters Put Security at Risk"
    Australian IT (02/22/02); Fitzsimmons, Caitlin

    Australia has been the site of several clustered supercomputer efforts, including a research cluster from Australian National University (ANU) connecting 100 Intel-based PCs at a fraction of the cost it would take to build a single unit. However, Bob Edwards of ANU's computer science department warns that clustered supercomputers could be used to launch denial of service attacks (DoS). He notes that ANU's project and similar efforts pose less of a security risk because the machines reside behind a firewall with a single IP address, which makes pinpointing the origin of DoS attacks easy. A clustered model with multiple IP addresses makes DoS detection a harder proposition, Edwards explains. On the other hand, the single-address model would slow the system down by congesting the bandwidth with traffic, as U.S. research groups learned when they tried the ANU approach. Furthermore, some U.S. systems run at 40 Gbps while the ANU system runs at 100 Mbps, or 2 Mbps with a corporate link.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "O Bluetooth, Where Art Thou?"
    Wireless Newsfactor (02/27/02); McDonough Jr., Dan

    Bluetooth has arrived, but without the hype that surrounded the technology when it was still in development. Significant barriers, such as price, interoperability, and the availability of devices are just beginning to come down, say analysts. The result will be that Bluetooth will change lives, but 10 years down the road, according to Gartner Dataquest analyst Phil Redman. He says consumers should not expect broad rollout until 2005. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group's Mike McCamon says Bluetooth development and rollout has actually been quite fast compared to other technologies, such as digital cameras. Already, established firms such as the Sony Ericsson collaboration, Nokia, and Sony itself have released products with real Bluetooth capabilities. And despite rumors, Bluetooth will not directly compete with the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard because they offer different and complementary applications. While Wi-Fi is ideal for extending the corporate network, Bluetooth is better suited for personal technology applications and multiple-device scenarios, McCamon says.
    http://wireless.newsfactor.com/perl/story/16531.html

  • "Collaborative Software Helps Build National Science Digital Library"
    InformationWeek Online (02/26/02); George, Tischelle

    Cornell University has adopted SourceForge, a collaborative software development application from VA Software, formerly VA Linux, to use in the National Science Digital Library. The project is headed by the National Science Foundation and also involves software developers from Columbia University, the University of California at San Diego, and others, with a slated release date of Dec. 1. The SourceForge program Cornell purchased is the proprietary version of VA Software's open-source initiative, but senior Cornell research associate Dean Krafft said the school bought the proprietary version because the free download was too difficult to install. Cornell also added its own enhancements to the software, including bug tracking and access-level authorization support. For project collobaration the developers rely on free instant messenger programs, but Krafft says it would be better if SourceForge had those functions built-in. Previously, the developers relied on discussion boards and email, but those methods did not give a full view of each project segment's history.
    http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20020226S0006

  • "Industry Slump Steadies Federal IT Work Force"
    Federal Times (02/25/02) Vol. 38, No. 4, P. 9; Robb, Karen

    Faced with the possible retirement of up to half of the federal IT workforce by 2005, agency IT heads at the Chief Information Officers Council say the weakening of the private-sector IT job market has provided temporary relief, but the long-term outlook is still bleak. Turnover has slowed, but workers with highly prized skills still choose lucrative private-sector jobs, says Agriculture Department CIO Ira Hobbs, who jointly heads the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital Committee. The CIO Council recently launched a new Web site to help agencies prepare for what some worry may be an exodus from the federal IT sector after 2005. Among the recommendations the Council supports, based on a report from the National Academy of Public Administration, are more competitive salaries and performance-based pay raises. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has proposed such changes to federal pay schemes for IT and procurement specialists.

  • "Do We Still Need as Many H-1B Visas?"
    Optimize (02/02) P. 15; Miller, Harris N.; Tancredo, Tom

    Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) President Harris N. Miller and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) disagree over whether the cap for H-1B visas for foreign workers needs to be lowered. Miller does not think so, and refuses to believe that jobs are being filled by foreigners mainly because they work cheaper; if they were, he argues, the 195,000 visa cap would have been reached. The purpose of the H-1B program, Miller writes, is to provide IT managers and other employers with access to skilled personnel regardless of nationality, a key ingredient for a company's commercial success in a turbulent high-tech environment. Unless employers have the flexibility to fill in needed tech positions, they face losing contracts, productivity, and competitive advantage, he warns, adding that U.S. companies will sharpen their edge on the competition by employing the brightest talents, wherever they are. Tancredo, on the other hand, wants Congress to scale back the H-1B visa cap, especially now that the tech explosion has subsided; he further claims that the visa cap set in 2000 has been surpassed, when one factors in visas granted to nonprofits and universities. He calls the industry-led assertion that the visas are a stopgap measure so American high-tech workers can be retrained a lie that allows companies to hire "cheap and docile" workers, as evidenced by studies from such sources as the Wall Street Journal and the National Research Council. Foreign workers do not make waves because it may jeopardize their chances to become permanent residents, contends Tancredo, who also finds it suspicious that a software labor shortage is indicated in tech-industry studies but not governmental and academic analyses. In addition, he writes that American IT talent is out there, but is being denied its chance to work because of ageism.
    http://www.optimizemag.com/issue/004/squareoff.htm

  • "VOIP: Coming to a Desktop Near You"
    eWeek (02/25/02) Vol. 19, No. 8, P. 43; Wallace, Bob

    Voice-over-IP (VOIP) is poised to take off throughout the enterprise because of several developments. Microsoft's Windows XP operating system includes Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) support, which could prove very useful to call centers and customer relationship management (CRM) applications. "XP will eventually be on 90 percent of PCs, which means developers will have to take SIP very seriously," declares Sells Printing IT manager Robert Hammen, who expects VOIP deployment to reach "critical mass" in about five years as a result. Forrester Research analyst David Cooperstein notes that VOIP is both cost-effective and of better quality than other applications, and service providers such as Genuity and AT&T are building desktop-accessible, network-based VOIP services to keep up with anticipated demand. "Now service providers can go well past offering VOIP transport services to develop network-resident applications and capabilities that offer solid business value to companies, their workers and consumers," says TeleChoice VP Tom Jenkins. Meanwhile, VOIP is being embedded in products from enterprise application providers such as Siebel Systems and SAP. But although VOIP promises significant toll savings, other issues--quality, reliability, availability, management, and costs, according to a Forrester survey--will block adoption among IT administrators unless they are resolved.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Augmented Reality"
    Popular Science (02/02) Vol. 260, No. 2, P. 36; Ditlea, Steve

    Augmented reality (AR) is technology designed to supplement one's view of the world through the overlay of digitized data such as text, 3D animation, graphics, and sound. A wearable AR prototype developed by Columbia University--the Mobile Augmented Reality System (MARS)--is a bulky apparatus consisting of glasses and other gear, as well as a large antenna situated on the shoulder; it is hoped that the system will be slimmed down to a more manageable glasses and PDA-type unit. To work properly, the MARS system relies on the Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine the user's location, while other equipment measures the direction of the user's vision. The line of sight must be calculated on a continuous basis if the graphical elements are to be correctly aligned, but registration difficulties, such as the system's susceptibility to magnetic field variations, need to be solved. AR will also have to wait until wearable computing is refined to the point where small PCs are as powerful as their desk-bound counterparts, a development that leading AR and corporate researchers say is at least two years away. AR technology is already being employed by the military, where it provides soldiers with tactical overlays through advanced vision systems; projects such as the Battlefield Augmented Reality System (BARS) aim to develop even more sophisticated gear. Meanwhile, AR's medical applications are being tested at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where radiologists study patients using headgear that superimposes ultrasound images over their bodies. AR could also have many personal uses, such as repairing cars without thumbing through a manual, negotiating intricate social interactions with data enhancement, or providing assisted memory services.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Councils of War"
    Atlantic Monthly (02/02) Vol. 289, No. 2, P. 29; Fallows, James

    Civilian technology and Web services are being spun off into the military sector, including email, online auctions, and advanced navigation technology. These three applications are examples of how the civilian tech world is influencing military technology--they are relatively inexpensive and do not attempt to supplant human intelligence decision-making. Email is being applied to the military through efforts such as the Access Intelligence network, a free open-source resource that circulates nonclassified information in the form of electronic messages from defense, intelligence, law-enforcement, academic, and corporate personnel; these messages can be used to supply timely data in times of crisis. Development Space takes its cue from eBay to enable government agencies, foundations, and altruistic parties to view and fund proposals for international aid that do not entail high costs and red tape. The importance of such a service becomes clear with the inevitable need for foreign aid as a result of military conflicts. Meanwhile, Athena Technologies' GuideStar is an airplane navigation system that can be used in both a civilian and military capacity. The device can pilot aircraft too unstable for human operators while sensing and responding to changes 50 times per second. It can also execute vertical takeoffs and landings, corner maneuvers, and low-altitude flight. Furthermore, GuideStar could be used to prevent intrusions into restricted airspace and building collisions.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2002/02/fallows.htm