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Timely Topics for IT Professionals

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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


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Volume 4, Issue 333: Monday, April 8, 2002

  • "Theft of Data Tops Security Woes"
    Reuters (04/07/02)

    The financial cost of computer security breaches is increasing, with U.S. companies and federal agencies reporting a loss of $455.8 million within the last year, according to the seventh annual joint FBI/Computer Security Institute Computer Crime and Security Survey. The robbery of proprietary data added up to a $170.8 million loss, financial fraud accounted for $115.7 million, and insiders abusing Net access cost $50 million, according to respondents. Survey results conclude that most attacks originate externally--40 percent reported outside intrusions while 80 percent blamed most attacks on "independent hackers." The survey lists viruses as the chief means of cyber intrusion, responsible for an increase in financial losses from $45.3 million last year to $49.9 million this year. The results also seem to support the suspicion that computer penetration is more commonplace than people think, while the installation of security products is no guarantee of effective protection. The survey advises companies to keep their disaster recovery and business continuity plans up to date, and to join the Infragard information sharing venture.
    http://news.com.com/2100-1001-877427.html

  • "Microsoft Programmers Hit the Books in a New Focus on Secure Software"
    New York Times (04/08/02) P. C4; Markoff, John

    Spurred on by accusations that its software code is insecure and prone to failure, Microsoft ordered 9,000 programmers to take a retraining course on writing secure software. Corporate software security leaders Michael Howard and Doug Bayer say that customers were particularly incensed by the damage wreaked last year by the Code Red and Nimda worms. Since February, Microsoft employees have been reviewing Windows operating system code and reexamining their development practices. Howard, who prepared the course material, says the company will follow through on what Bill Gates promised in a January memo and "lead the industry in delivering secure software." To meet this challenge, Microsoft will have to weigh the pros and cons of sacrificing ease of use for new security, as well as cutting back its focus on adding new features. Its .Net initiative, with its distributed computing design, carries its own set of formidable security problems. Critics are finding fault with Microsoft's review process: Open-source developer and Day Software chief scientist Roy Fielding expresses concern that the programmers taking the security course are likely to nod off from studying the long lines of code. Meanwhile, Infidel President Rebecca Bace says, "I think that the reason that people are upset with [Microsoft] is the perception that Microsoft will always choose the extra feature, begging the issue of whether that feature is actually of high value to the user and damning the security impact it might represent to all users."
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/08/technology/ebusiness/08SOFT.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "Israel's Tech Ties to Valley Strained by Violence"
    SiliconValley.com (04/05/02); Ostrom, Mary Anne; Dunlap, Kamika

    Silicon Valley tech companies' business with Israeli firms could be seriously affected by the intense violence currently sweeping through the Middle East. Intel, Applied Materials, and Cisco are some of the Bay Area companies with Israeli subsidiaries, while at least 24 Israeli companies have U.S. subsidiaries in the valley; many of these companies are based in cities that have been the scene of suicide bombings. The conflict has caused many companies to halt travel plans and shift board meetings and customer demos to more secure areas in the United States and Europe. Foreign investment has also declined sharply: The Bank of Israel recently disclosed that venture capital for Israeli tech companies plummeted from $7.9 billion to $2.8 billion between 2000 and 2001. Business ties between Silicon Valley and Israel have expanded dramatically in the last 10 years, and Israel has evolved into one of the foremost tech hubs thanks to military computer training programs and the emigration of skilled tech workers from the former Soviet Union. Apax Partners consultant Isabel Maxwell is hoping that Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Israel will help diffuse the crisis and ease tensions among investors.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/news/local/3009786.htm

  • "How Mobile Chips Could Change Computing"
    Wireless Newsfactor (04/04/02); McDonough Jr., Dan

    Mobile devices are running vastly more complex applications with the rollout of high-speed mobile networks and the critical business applications delivered over them. However, mobile phones and PDAs need greater processing power to run these applications, while at the same time form factors are slimming down. Deloitte Consulting mobile expert Paul Lee notes that user adoption has ramped up proportionally as phones become more svelte. He says new high-speed technologies such as general packet radio service (GPRS) chips are being hindered by battery limitations, but more efficient mobile chips promise to break those barriers. Intel recently released its Pentium 4 processor-M chip for mobile devices, heralding the emergence of a huge market for processors that reduce power consumption while being able to handle complex applications. Gartner analyst Phillip Redman says memory will also play an important role in the development of mobile computing and predicts that small hard disks like the ones used in high-end digital photography will be put in virtually all mobile devices in the future. By 2005, he says, a one-inch hard disk drive will hold up to 10 GB of data, with 20 and 30 GB capacities enabled by 1.8-inch disk drives.
    http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/17108.html

  • "Cure for South Africa's Ills"
    Wired News (04/08/02); Philipkoski, Kristen

    South African entrepreneur Tania Broveak Hide, CEO of Electric Genetics, believes that bioinformatics is the key to addressing major African health problems and expanding the job market. HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis are just some of the diseases running rampant in Africa, notes the European Bioinformatics Institute's Ewan Birney, who helped organize a "biohackathon" sponsored by Hide's company. Three novice bioinformatics researchers were selected to participate in the biohackathon with programmers from other leading institutions, such as MIT and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In order to make the most of bioinformatics, it must remain open source, according to Hide. "The more data you have, the better chance you're going to come up with the right answer," she explains. The South African government has also outlined a national biotech initiative to cultivate the country's biotech market. Hide projects that biotech venture capital funds such as Bioventures will increase. Electric Genetics has close ties to the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI), which aims to promote the development of domestic bioinformatics programmers. One example of this was a recent World Health Organization training course hosted by SANBI, in which students were encouraged to excel using state-of-the-art bioinformatics programs running on Linux.
    http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,51533,00.html

  • "Federal Officials Push for Defense, Public Safety Airwave Priority"
    Computerworld Online (04/05/02); Brewin, Bob

    The aftermath of Sept. 11 has led to a major reexamination of the federal allocation of radio frequency spectrum, according to speakers at the Spectrum Summit. The past 10 years saw large portions of federal spectrum sold to commercial wireless carriers, but the growing emphasis on national security should lead to a significant change in policy, say federal, state, and local officials as well as utilities executives attending the summit. Before allocating spectrum, the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration must determine if the allocation contributes to public safety and the security of the nation's critical infrastructure, insists Treasury Department official and co-chair of the Public Safety Wireless Network Julio Murphy. Deputy assistant secretary of defense for spectrum space and sensors Steven Price says the Defense Department should consider "the first national priority, [DOD's] constitutional mission to protect national security," before it sells more spectrum to commercial interests. The DOD owns the largest segment of federal spectrum, which cell phone providers are eager to exploit to deploy next-generation services. Diane Cornell of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet organization proposes that public safety agencies could contract out to commercial providers, thus giving both federal and private-sector users adequate spectrum.
    http://www.computerworld.com/storyba/0,4125,NAV47_STO69905,00.html

  • "Newest Storage Tech--Holographic DVD"
    ZDNet (04/05/02); Goodwins, Rupert

    InPhase Technologies, an off-shoot of Bell Labs, says its new holographic data storage technology will be ready for the market by the end of 2003. The company's Tapestry holographic technology, which will be unveiled at the National Association of Broadcasters show on April 8 along with other storage technology advances, uses a split laser beam and megapixel mirror array to store holographic images throughout a compact disc so that it can hold 100 GB, or the equivalent of 20 entire movies. Tapestry developers say the format is extremely durable and spreads the data out in the disc, not just writing it on the surface only. DVD players will be able to read the Tapestry data at a rate of 20 Mbps and the technology is expected to be built on smaller chip-size formats as well. Other companies are also pursuing high-density data discs, such as Matsushita, which has a double-sided rewritable disc that the company aims to build into next-generation DVD technology. And Constellation 3D says its Fluorescent Multi-layer Disc will initially hold 100 GB, but its capacity will increase to up to one terabyte.
    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103-876822.html

  • "Electronics Makers Await New Recycling Rules"
    Financial Times (04/08/02) P. 4; Mann, Michael

    The European Parliament will decide this week whether electronics makers will be required to pay for the disposal and recycling of discarded household electronic and electrical products. The parliament and EU governments are likely to be at odds over who has responsibility for disposal, a key issue of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. Manufacturers need to be individually responsible for their products, according to parliament, while governments want countries to have the power to decide for themselves whether to follow this mandate or institute a collective recycling fund. Another sore point for industry are plans to have manufacturers pay for the disposal of e-waste from competitors that no longer have a market presence. The rules under consideration call for the phasing out of toxic substances such as cadmium, lead, and mercury by 2007, unless there are no workable alternatives. Furthermore, the legislation also requires that at least 75 percent of large household goods' average product weight gets reused or recycled. Orgalime calculates that producers would have to invest about 15 billion euros if the directive is passed, while handling equipment already on the market would cost around 40 billion euros; annual industry costs would total 7.5 billion euros. The EU's 15 member countries produce over 6 million tons of e-waste annually, with an approximately 5 percent increase being recorded each year.
    http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/article.html?id=020408000650

  • "Sneak Peek: The Computer Screen of the Future"
    NewsFactor Network (04/04/02); McDonald, Tim

    Assorted technologies under development are paving the way for computer screens far more advanced than current models. Cambridge Display Technology is working on lightweight, ultra-thin flat-panel displays based on light-emitting polymer (LEP) technology. The advantages of LEP include sub-microsecond response time, low-voltage electricity requirements, malleability and flexibility, and temperature resistance. Cambridge's Stewart Hough says the displays could be viewed at any angle and would feature sharper contrast without smearing fast-moving images. Cambridge projects that the technology will appear in consumer electronics, cell phones, and virtual reality headsets, but could also find use as a replacement for cathode ray tubes. Meanwhile, Royal Philips Electronics and other companies are developing electronic paper products that could debut in a few years, once erasability and durability have been perfected; e-paper offers zero power consumption, since electronic ink does nothing but reside on the display. "You can imagine, therefore, that the initial applications will be mobile phones, e-books, and PDAs, where readability and power are crucial," explains Jeremy Cohen of Royal Philips. A UCLA team has also made strides in 3D display technology using crystalline molecules, while Canesta of Silicon Valley is developing a 3D vision system that computers can use to perceive the outside environment.
    http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/17066.html

  • "Giving Disabled a Voice"
    Los Angeles Times (04/08/02) P. C1; Colker, David

    Technology has given the 33 million severely disabled people in the United States, 12 percent of the population, a chance to use computers and surf the Internet. Many of the leading tech companies that cater to disabled users are small, including Words-Plus, which makes the communications devices that Stephen Hawking uses to send email, write books, and carry on conversations. The severely disabled market is very segmented, a factor that has kept large firms away but has encouraged many smaller firms to pursue market niches. A recent high-tech trade show for firms catering to the disabled, organized by Cal State Northridge's Center on Disabilities, filled two hotel ballrooms. Some highly useful products were not designed with the disabled in mind, such as Scansoft's Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition program, and Origin Instruments Co.'s head mouse, which uses infrared technology to enable users to control mouse movements using their heads. High support costs for these products is another factor that has kept larger firms out of the market. Words-Plus CEO Walter Woltosz says, "There are customers we have lost money on because of all the support time." Still, although technology advances have enabled the disabled to use computers, and have made it possible for those with acquired disabilities to continue working, those who were disabled at birth have had a harder time finding appropriate jobs.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Simple Silicon Trick Controls Nanotubes"
    United Press International (04/03/02)

    Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) report in Nature that they have devised a way to grow nanotubes on silicon dioxide in specific, rather than random, patterns. "The whole thing has become as simple as patterning silicon dioxide on silicon, which microelectronics people know how to do very well," declares Professor Pulickel Ajayan, who is directing the RPI research team along with Professor Ganapathiraman Ramanath. The team has been able to arrange nanotubes into conical, square, and flower-like structures using the technique. The method allows nanotubes to grow in several directions at once, and Ajayan projects that improved patterning tools should one day make single nanotube patterning possible. As for the immediate future, he sees the technique being applied to the creation of nanofilters. Physicist Mikhail Roco says this innovation could also pave the way for nanostructures as well as nanotube-based computer circuits. Ajayan says that as patterning tools improve, companies might also use nanotubes to make advanced video displays with field emitter arrays.
    http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=03042002-062955-3957r

  • "Could Digital Pen Kill Off Keyboards?"
    Reuters (04/03/02)

    Israel-based OTM Technologies, in conjunction with Motorola, Microsoft, Siemens, and as-yet unnamed Asian electronics manufacturers, will develop a digital pen as an alternative to mice and keyboards. OTM says the Virtual Pen (VPen) would offer computer designers a less bulky, more flexible interface to incorporate into smaller, more portable machines. OTM's design contribution will be the minuscule optical laser reader installed at the pen's tip, while its partners will supply handwriting recognition technology. The low-cost VPen can be used on multiple surfaces, consumes little power, and will be initially marketed as a supplemental tool for the world's leading mobile phone, handheld, and consumer electronics manufacturers. OTM says the VPen will be an ideal accessory for smart phones, which integrate both handheld and mobile phone technology; officials also say gamers could use the tool as a joystick for games played over cell phones. Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin says the VPen has potential, since future mobile devices will need a good input mechanism if they "are going to become the ubiquitous data-handling devices the industry says they will be."
    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103-874850.html

  • "Italy Pushes E-Government"
    International Herald Tribune (04/03/02) P. 11; Friedman, Alan

    The Italian government is pioneering the first steps in bridging the digital divide between countries in the G-8 group and developing nations. Leaders from the G-8 countries agreed on such a course in Genoa, Italy last year, but have not yet acted, leading Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to give Lucio Stanca, the minister for technology and innovation, authority to build five e-government projects abroad. He will meet with representatives from developed nations, the United Nations, the World Bank, and leading technology providers next week in Palermo, Sicily. Stanca, formerly head of IBM's Europe, Middle East, and Africa group, says the projects are designed to help countries with some existent infrastructure modernize and pave the way for more foreign investment and aid. He says initiatives such as the real estate database in Nigeria and the e-procurement system in Tunisia will increase the transparency and efficiency needed to give foreign lenders confidence. Ideally, each of the countries in the G-8 would commit to building a similar number of e-government projects in emerging economies around the world, Stanca says. The countries currently working with Italy are Jordan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Albania.
    http://www.iht.com/articles/53307.htm

  • "ESI Does It"
    eWeek (04/01/02) Vol. 19, No. 13, P. 35; Korzeniowski, Paul

    The Edge Side Includes (ESI) caching standard is seen as a way to deliver dynamic Web content while reducing bottlenecks, hardware costs, and customer response times. Processing tasks are distributed among several servers, which can boost an IT infrastructure's scalability, reliability, fault tolerance, and security. The pioneering work that led to ESI was done at Akamai Technologies and Oracle, who collaborated first with each other and then with 15 more vendors to deliver the standard's first release last June. Participants include IBM, BEA Systems, Digital Island, Mirror Image, Macromedia, SilverStream Software, Open Market, and Art Technology Group. Once the World Wide Web Consortium assumed responsibility for the standard, the vendors had to be convinced to build ESI-enabled products. "Adding new features to current products usually takes six to 12 months, so I expect the number of vendors delivering ESI-compliant products to increase from the summer through the end of the year," predicts Yankee Group analyst Neal Goldman. One of ESI's earliest users was the Seattle Times new media department, which elected to deploy Akamai's EdgeSuite services in order to better process Web page requests when news is breaking.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Taking Bytes From Oblivion"
    U.S. News & World Report (04/01/02) Vol. 132, No. 10, P. 66; Tenner, Edward

    The potential for massive loss of digital data prompted Congress to set aside $100 million in 2000 so the Library of Congress could develop a program for archiving digital data. The Library of Congress, as well as other organizations, has its hands full considering floppy disks can start to lose data within 10 years, compared to paper made from wood pulp, which deteriorates after 50 years. Businesses, government agencies, and academic institutions also will have to face the prospects that certain reading devices no longer will be available, and that there will be a lack of documentation for file formats as software is updated. Digital data will need to be converted to new formats frequently, and the cost of maintenance and the needed infrastructure will be daunting, considering that server farms maintaining Web files have contributed to energy problems in California. The issue of whether to save everything must be addressed, even if the cost of digital archiving was affordable and there was an easy way to index and search for information. Internet pioneer Brewster Kahle is involved in an online archiving project, and realizes his collection makes up a fraction of the Web. Indeed, there would be too much useless data if the pack-rat approach was taken; things to discard must be identified. Libraries, companies, and the government will do their part in saving digital data, but individuals have key roles to carry out as well in determining what will be of interest to future generations.
    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/020401/tech/1digital.htm
    (Access for paying subscribers or a pay-per-view charge for the article.)

  • "Nano-Newt!"
    Red Herring (03/02) No. 111, P. 64; Herrera, Stephan

    Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich has a new role as advocate of nanotechnology, homeland security, and science education. Gingrich is now involved in a group, which includes Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and James Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense and Energy, that maintains terrorism is the greatest threat to national security followed by the low level of scientific aptitude by American youth. In an interview with Red Herring, Gingrich says America must invest in a real-time vaccine technology, which would serve as a system for quickly generating a vaccine in large quantities in the event of a bioterrorism attack. Nanotechnology is particularly important to Gingrich, who believes "there's no other investment you can make that will have as big a payoff over the next 50 years." In fact, he sees nanotechnology as the next cycle of science and technology that will determine which nations are competitive in the years to come. However, there are some concerns that America may not be able to take full advantage of nanotechnology, considering the state of math and science education in the country. Gingrich says that America must do what it takes to produce more homegrown math and science geniuses, even if it means tripling the education budget and paying high school students so they will have more of an incentive to study calculus than to flip hamburgers at McDonald's for extra money. If the federal government ran its programs and agencies more efficiently, by using distance learning for training and devising logistics chains similar to Wal-Mart, Gingrich contends the money saved could be put toward education.
    http://www.redherring.com/insider/2002/0318/2002.html

  • "Linux Turns Ten: Finding a Home in Corporate America"
    Business Communications Review (03/02) Vol. 32, No. 3, P. 48; Mancill, Tony

    Linux has made significant inroads in the last decade: Most hardware vendors offer some version of the operating system, while its security and Web server and clustering capabilities have an edge over many products. Linux use and acceptance is increasing thanks to its versatility, portability, stability, and being freely available. Yet it still has not cracked the commercial software developer market for a number of reasons. Developers do not like the fact that multiple versions of Linux exist, and also complain about its high rate of change, although the Linux Standards Base has made some progress in rectifying this situation; in addition, although corporate software vendors distribute or plan to distribute Linux-enabled products, many legacy applications exist that lack "official" Linux support. IT managers are also reticent to give up certified solutions from software suppliers, an attitude that comes into conflict with system administrators, who want to have a wider choice of Linux distributions. A lack of IT personnel who are familiar with Linux represents another challenge. But the GNU Public License is the biggest sore point for developers--companies cannot control Linux as intellectual property, and thus give up the right to hide source code from rivals and customers.
    http://www.bcr.com/bcrmag/2002/03/p48.asp

  • "Entrepreneurship 101"
    Maryland Daily Record (03/02) P. 4; Steinberg, Liz

    The University of Maryland, College Park, is hosting a new entrepreneurship program that aims to help students with business ideas formulate and execute their plans. Funded by alumni Brian Hinman, founder of Internet broadband equipment maker 2Wire, the Hinman Campus Entrepreneurship Opportunities (CEO) initiative has enrolled about 100 students so far, roughly half of which are pursuing technical degrees. Program co-director David Barbe says students without engineering or science backgrounds often join teams by helping to build marketing plans, and that faculty with ideas for a startup also can link with students through the program. Of the 15 businesses already launched through the CEO program, one selling ultraviolet sensor technology has already raised over $60,000 in funding from the university and contests. Karen S. Thornton, associate program director, says students will be able to draw on their connections formed through the initiative in the future.

  • "Supporting Community and Building Social Capital"
    Communications of the ACM (04/02) Vol. 45, No. 4, P. 36; Preece, Jenny

    Social networks such as communities are sustained by social capital, and the need for social capital is evident in the wake of Sept. 11, when survivors need the comfort of responsible communities. Communications tools such as the Internet are helping to build and strengthen social capital, and technology professionals must develop a comprehensive strategy in order to enhance and improve the effectiveness of such media. They must focus on developing inexpensive hardware, software, and infrastructure that is available to anyone regardless of social strata, income, and educational level. The challenges inherent in doing this include creating highly accessible technologies and making sure that the software supports online social interaction. Community leaders and moderators must also contribute if trust--the foundation of any social network--is to be engendered. A key component of generating trust is developing a system that can measure community members' presence and past interactions. Justifying the creation of online communities requires a wide-ranging solution for determining their development costs and advantages, while insight into social interactions and the concept of technology as a mediator will aid in their development. A successful online community must be built upon existing technology that can increase its power and be universally available.