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 363: Wednesday, June 19, 2002
- "The Internet Gets Serious"
Washington Post (06/19/02) P. H1; Krim, Jonathan
Unresolved issues over securing the Internet and administering copyright law to the Web are some of the biggest obstacles to the growth of the U.S. technology industry. Security experts believe that it would be advantageous for the government to utilize open source software whose exposed code would allow potential flaws to be quickly identified, but private-sector companies such as Microsoft counter that keeping the code private is a better security strategy. Purdue University security expert Eugene Spafford believes that security must be a key issue on governments' procurement agendas. Meanwhile, the number of reported computer intrusion incidents has doubled annually since 2000, according to the CERT Coordination Center of the Software Engineering Institute, while corporate surveys estimate that such attacks have led to a cumulative loss of $12 billion between 2001 and 2002. The protection of digital content is an even more contentious issue: Content owners such as the music industry and film studios consider making unpaid copies of their content to be theft, even though technology inherently encourages copying. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other legislation has thus far favored the entertainment industry, but critics contend that such moves cut into "fair use" rights. Even more troubling are findings indicating that digital copyrights carry no weight with many Internet users, according to Pew Internet and American Life Project head Lee Rainie. In the meantime, Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig is leading a coalition of consumer activists and legal academics battling Congress over its extension of copyright terms, which they argue is unconstitutional and a threat to innovation.
Eugene Spafford is co-chair of the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the ACM. For more information, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Microsoft Case Has a Surprise Near Its End"
New York Times (06/19/02) P. C1; Harmon, Amy
Federal District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's sudden interest in structuring a mediation session indicates that she may be calling the proposed government settlement with Microsoft into question, just as both sides are about to make their closing arguments today. She noted that the proposal has been criticized for containing a large number of exceptions that the dissenting states claim would allow Microsoft to continue its domination of the computer operating systems market. Microsoft has countered that the states' proposals would force it to abandon its Windows operating system, elevate prices, and irreparably damage the computer software market. Kollar-Kotelly, in telling both parties she wants to know how their respective proposals could be altered, may be working to reach a middle ground that satisfies everyone and ends the four-year antitrust case. The alternative is to reject the government's settlement and prolong the Justice Department's litigation. Howard University antitrust professor Andrew Gavil says that Kollar-Kotelly "has accepted that there are loopholes in the settlement." The federal proposal calls for Microsoft to disclose more information to competing developers, and allow computer makers to remove the desktop icons to several of its Windows software programs. The nine states opposing the settlement want Microsoft to sell a streamlined version of Windows that would enable computer makers to replace Microsoft programs with rival applications, as well as broader disclosure regulations and the sharing of Internet Explorer's underlying code.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "'Spam' Multiplies, Spurring New Efforts to Curb It"
Wall Street Journal (06/19/02) P. B1; Mangalindan, Mylene
With unsolicited commercial email multiplying exponentially, lawmakers and regulators are supporting measures that would impose severe restrictions on spam. Anti-spam strategies are being floated or implemented by a number of entities, including the FTC and members of the Senate and House of Representatives. For example, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) has proposed a bill that would make spammers liable for falsely labeling their email solicitations and masking their point of origin with bogus headers: Under the bill, there would be a $10 fine charged for each offending email, while some penalties could go as high as $1.5 million. Also, mail marketing company MonsterHut was recently charged with false advertising and deceptive business practices in a lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Emailers who employ misleading subject lines or blatant untruths risk liability under existing fraud regulations enforced by the FTC. But despite these initiatives, spam's status as a form of commercial speech makes people reticent to open up a debate on First Amendment rights or make a greater effort to differentiate between legitimate and fraudulent advertising. Jerry Cerasale of the Direct Marketing Association claims that his organization's standards on proper email header and subject line labeling work well enough without proposed legislation that would allow ISPs to establish spam regulations and grant individuals the right to sue emailers. There is also conflict between federal legislation that favors "opt-out" policies in which spam recipients can ask to be removed from mailing lists, versus advocates of "opt-in" provisions requiring that spammers get recipients' permission before mailing to them.
- "Reporting Web Flaws Still Flawed"
Associated Press (06/18/02)
A partnership between the government and the private sector that should secure the Internet from attack is snarled up in infighting and rushed decision-making. For example, a lack of coordination between Apache software developers and Internet Security Systems (ISS) developers led to a hasty disclosure of an Apache vulnerability and the release of a fix that Apache developer Mark Cox says is only a partial solution. For one thing, the developers chose to report their findings to separate third-party groups--the National Infrastructure Protection Board in the case of ISS, and the Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center in the case of Apache. There is also distrust between Cox and ISS researcher Chris Rouland, who claims that Cox's company, Red Hat Software, stole credit for earlier ISS research. Advisors to President Bush have urged more openness between the technology community and the government in an effort to protect consumers. AtStake's Chris Wysopal believes that standards need to be in place if similar mistakes are to be avoided.
- "Israel's Tech Leaders Worried But Determined"
SiliconValley.com (06/17/02); Gillmor, Dan
Israel's technology industry, which was thriving four years ago, has been hit hard by the telecom meltdown, the Nasdaq crash, and the eruption of Mideast violence. The result of these combined factors include depressed tech sales and exports, companies forced to scale down or go bankrupt, and lower foreign investment and labor costs. Despite these troubles, business executives and others are confident of a recovery. For instance, general manager of Intel's Jerusalem plant Amir Elstein notes that his company continues to recruit Israeli workers. Israel and the United States still enjoy close technology relationships: Many Israeli tech companies have transferred their sales and marketing operations to America, while keeping research and development in the homeland--an approach that has proven to be more cost-effective. The country's security and defense sector is continuing to expand, and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres believes that the national economy will benefit from increased defense spending via civilian spinoffs and exported specialists who are no longer desired. "I see the downturn as a hiccup," says Elstein. "I just hope we will be focused enough to catch the upturn."
- "Conference to Focus on Future of Internet"
Washington Post (06/19/02) P. E5; McCarthy, Ellen
The Internet Society is hosting its 2002 INET conference in Arlington, Va., this week, where some of the world's leading technologists will meet to discuss the Internet's future. Tuesday's opening day featured workshops and educational forums on domain name issues, wireless security, and Internet regulatory issues. IBM director of Internet technology Michael Nelson says the 2002 Internet Society conference will focus on Internet policy and "how new technology would help solve these issues." INET speakers will include Vinton Cerf, Robert Kahn, Reed Hundt, and others. A one-day test deployment of IPv6 is also scheduled to take place during INET. The Internet Society, which boasts 6,000 international members, held the first international Internet conference 12 years ago. The conference's non-commercial nature attracts "a fairly broad group of people who might otherwise be disenfranchised," says Richard Perlman, Internet Society officer and Lucent Technologies software products director. In fact, roughly a third of the expected 600 attendees will participate in the conference as either instructors or speakers. Nelson says the Internet revolution is less than 5 percent complete, and the excitement is far from over.
- "What Supercomputers Can and Cannot Do--Yet"
NewsFactor Network (06/17/02); Gill, Lisa
The nation's scientists always need more supercomputing power in order to pioneer important new research. Recently, Indiana University and Purdue University announced they would join their supercomputing grids together to form a massive processing system with more than 900 individual processors capable of performing over 1 trillion calculations (1 teraflop) per second. They will use the system to simulate the response of millions of Americans in case of a national disaster, analyzing which escape routes would be most congested, for example. As computational power increases, supercomputing is pushing ever further into the realms of science, and now focuses on biology, medicine, and natural systems, as opposed to the mostly engineering and physical sciences work. International Data's Dr. Christopher Willard says proteomics is now on the cutting edge of supercomputing, allowing scientists to study what different proteins are created by a specific part of the gene. Ty Rabe, director of Hewlett-Packard's high-performance technical computing solutions unit, says 1,000 teraflops of computing power would be needed to achieve the level of detail scientists aspire to--systems modeling that would allow them to see how a cell wall functions on a molecular level, for example. IBM's Barbara Butler says supercomputing also follows societal priorities, as with the Indiana and Purdue collaboration, which is primarily meant to address national security threats.
- "For Intel, Hype Without Silicon Is Just Hype"
Nanotech Planet (06/17/02); Bernard, Allen
Intel has been working on mass-produced nanotechnology quietly and diligently for years, even as the technology makes headlines today as the next big thing. The most recent 2.53 GHz Pentium 4 chips, for example, house 55 million 60-nanometer transistors, while future chips will feature 10-nm transisitors that can run at 10 GHz; next year Intel will ship chips with transistor gate lengths so small that 50 could stack on a single strand of DNA. But as the company continues to scale down the components of its chips, it faces the necessity of adopting self-assembly nanotechnology to replace traditional lithography techniques and their associated shortcomings. And, as far as molecular computing is concerned, Intel Components Research Group director Gerald Marcyk says Intel's semiconductor factory infrastructure is in no danger from being made obsolete because molecular electronics will be integrated with silicon chips. He believes that startup companies pioneering the technology will also be pressured by investors to take this route, and that a standalone product would have few applications because of interoperability problems. Marcyk sees nanotechnology playing a more important role in pervasive, radio-networked computing systems and materials with embedded intelligence, such as door knobs that could identify a house owner's fingerprints.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "India Tech's Plea: Come Back"
Wired News (06/17/02); Joseph, Manu
India's software industry is launching a public relations campaign to allay fears about a war with Pakistan, which prompted many foreign companies to return to their native lands. Companies are going so far as to assure clients that they have solid business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place, guaranteeing that software projects will be backed up and safeguarded in other countries even in the event of a nuclear exchange, improbable as that may be. Tata Consultancy Services, for example, has sent "contingency measures" tailored to each of its approximately 100 leading clients, and keeps project backups in centers throughout India, the United States, and Europe. Meanwhile, Infosys is relaying to customers that fears of war are exaggerated via direct mails, teleconferences, and films, and has given 2,400 India-based workers visas that allow them to fly to safety upon client request. Such visas are standard for core workers in all major software companies. A group of companies have criticized the British High Commission and the American Embassy for creating panic that contributed to a mass exodus of foreigners. Onward Technologies Chairman Harish Mehta expects the hysteria to have "an adverse long-term impact" on the nation's software sector.
- "Colleges are Defending Against Computer Hacker Attacks"
Minneapolis Star Tribune Online (06/17/02); Peterson, Susan E.
College and university computer networks are ripe targets for hackers because of their openness, and the sophistication of such attacks has caused many schools to allocate more funds toward beefing up security. Hacker attacks have risen sharply in the wake of Sept. 11, making the need for security all the more apparent, says Sam Levy of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. He lists the three most frequent kinds of intrusions, in descending order, as denial-of-service attacks, virus implantation attempts, and assaults that target secure data, which is more commonplace in the corporate world or defense sector. Other trends being noticed include the increasing use of automated worms that attack systems with specific security holes, according to Ken Hanna of the University of Minnesota. He adds that the university must constantly strive to "stay even," while Mike Seymour of Anoka Ramsey Community College reports that security policy enforcement can cut into academic freedoms, such as closing off applications from the faculty because they make the network more vulnerable. Kenneth Niemi of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities says the organization's board of trustees earmarked $1 million last fall to improve security at 38 schools. The Software Engineering Institute says the number of reported hacker incidents has been doubling annually for the past few years. One such incident took place in March at Georgia Tech, where hackers breached the network and replaced 350 GB of sensitive data with 150 GB of bootleg movies.
- "Beam Me Up!"
Reuters (06/17/02); Goldsmith, Belinda
Physicists at the Australian National University (ANU) report that they have successfully teleported a laser beam from one location to another almost instantaneously; although approximately 40 labs around the world have been conducting teleportation experiments, the ANU effort was the first to do so with complete reliability. The breakthrough could lead to the development of communications systems that are ultra-fast and ultra-secure, such as quantum computers. Although teleporting human beings is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon, ANU project leader Dr. Ping Koy Lam acknowledges that a single atom of matter will probably be teleported within three to five years. The ANU experiment, which employs the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, involves the transmission of information about the particles' properties rather than the particles themselves. ANU researcher Warwick Bowen says the team not only successfully teleported the beam on May 23, but have done so repeatedly since then.
- "Microsoft, HP Join UN Effort to Deliver Technology to World's Poor"
Associated Press (06/17/02)
Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft have elected to join the CEO Charter for Digital Development, an effort to bridge the digital divide in developing countries organized by the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the United Nations. Both companies agreed to contribute 20 percent of their charitable donations toward the deployment of Internet and telephone service in poor nations; Microsoft's donation is expected to exceed $43 million, while HP is expected to give about $10 million. HP senior VP of corporate affairs Debra Dunn notes that these contributions are being used as a way to build markets in developing countries, a strategy the UN's Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen sees as a valid way to incorporate the world's citizens into the global economy. Microsoft director of community affairs Bruce Brooks also admits that his company's motive in joining the CEO Charter is to benefit from the "synergies" inherent in such philanthropic gestures. Microsoft and HP are the UN program's sole American participants, while Figueres-Olsen says 150 donor companies are expected to be on board by the end of the year.
- "Mass Bluetooth Use is Years Away, Industry Group Says"
IDG News Service (06/17/02); Evers, Joris
Bluetooth Special Interest Group executive director Mike McCamon admits that widespread use of Bluetooth technology is eight years away, and that only techies and other early adopters are using the technology now. McCamon says it takes about 10 years for new technology to become commonplace, and he estimates that Bluetooth is now in its second year. McCamon believes that Bluetooth use eventually will be pervasive, much like infrared technology is today. TDK Systems Europe managing director Nick Hunn says Bluetooth is still plagued with interoperability problems and a lack of understanding, the result of overhyped promises. He says large vendors such as Intel and Ericsson intentionally created a buzz about the technology in order to get manufacturers and other companies on board for the wireless specification. Today, more than two dozen manufacturers create Bluetooth chips, while the price has dropped, leading to the introduction of new devices with the chips built in. Hunn says Bluetooth version 1.2, expected next year, will address interoperability issues as well interference problems with 802.11b (Wi-Fi) WLAN traffic. Meanwhile, FedEx and DaimlerChrysler AG are leading the commercial use of Bluetooth. FedEx is pioneering the use of Bluetooth in a commercial setting, using it to replace the infrared data sync stations in its vans. Now, the handhelds used by package delivery workers will automatically sync with on-board systems whenever they are brought within range. FedEx will also use Bluetooth to extend the reach of its Wi-Fi WLAN to handheld devices, which have too little battery power to sustain a Wi-Fi connection for a long period.
- "PC Expo Becomes Solution-Centric TechXNY"
InfoWorld.com (06/17/02); Neel, Dan
Next week's TechXNY trade show (formerly PC Expo), will emphasize practical technology solutions rather than state-of-the-art products, according to Shoreline Research industry analyst Tim Scannell. He says these consumer- and business-centric solutions aim to deliver immediate returns and rectify existing problems. "I think the underlying theme of the show will be more staples, like security, things that deal with the industry environment the way it is now," comments Giga Information Group Rob Enderle. Scannell says there will be a large concentration of wireless technology, and expects attendees to show special interest for notebook systems equipped with integrated wireless applications. Sources report that Intel original equipment manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and IBM will probably introduce new laptops that run the faster Pentium 4-M chip at TechXNY. Show representatives say that a keynote speech from Microsoft's Jeff Raikes will focus on an increase in knowledge worker productivity the company anticipates within the next 10 years, and involve a demonstration of new Tablet PC applications. Enderle expects many vendors to unveil new Tablet PCs at the show. There should also be a big security push, since the protection of sensitive corporate data will be a hot issue with companies that wish to implement wireless systems.
- "Scientists Chart a New Path Toward Quantum Computing"
Small Times Online (06/14/02); Brown, Doug
Researchers at MIT, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the University of Michigan have collaborated on a paper published in Nature magazine that details what they consider to be the most logical approach in the building of a quantum computer. Their research involves the use of ion traps, which are electromagnetic devices that snare and manipulate ions. The proposal would make use of interconnected traps; changing the voltage within each trap would not only capture ions, but allow them to be shuttled between traps. The latter process would enable different regions to be developed for logical processing and memory. Research at the NIST laboratory in Boulder, Colo., proves that ions could be transferred between a pair of ion traps 1.2 millimeters apart. The stability of the electronic states with the device indicates that a quantum computer could be constructed with such a technique. Paper co-author David Wineland of NIST admits that the approach is not without technical obstacles, "but at least we have a straightforward concept of how this might work." He notes that one of the key challenges is shrinking ion traps down, while another is manipulating ions better.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Questions Surround Domain Names"
New York Times (06/17/02) P. C4; Stellin, Susan
During the recent congressional hearing on ICANN, the issue of ICANN's management of the domain name system was spotlighted. Although everyone agrees that the DNS is functioning technically, ICANN is seen as bungling domain name policy issues. Domain name policy was never part of ICANN's explicit mandate, but these issues have fallen into ICANN's lap due to the lack of other suitable forums, and as ICANN CEO Stuart Lynn points out, no one yet has been able to offer a credible alternative forum for deciding TLD issues. One main domain name issue is the launching of new TLDs, and ICANN plans to evaluate its launch of seven recent new TLDs in the near future. There are credible doubts about the effectiveness of these new TLDs considering that .coop only has 6,000 registrations; .museum has 2,000; .name has 75,000 addresses sold; .biz, 700,000; and .info, 850,000. In contrast, VeriSign reports current .com registrations at 21.3 million, .net at 3.5 million, and .org at 2.4 million. Many have begun to wonder how many domain name buys are being made by speculators and as defensive registrations compared to those TLDs actually being used, and ICANN CEO Stuart Lynn says that ICANN needs to have a better understanding of this issue. Some registrars for new TLDs have pitched their TLDs to trademark owners in the context of defensive registrations.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "The Fast Track to 10GbE"
InfoWorld (06/17/02) Vol. 24, No. 24, P. 27; Shafer, Scott Tyler
The 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) specification was finally approved by the IEEE regulatory body last week, over three years after its introduction as a standard. Although early adoption is likely to be limited, experts say they expect equipment prices to fall similar to what happened with Gigabit Ethernet equipment previously. By deploying 10GbE, Spirent Communications' Mark Fishburn predicts that companies will achieve much better network performance than their current multiple Gigabit Ethernet links provide. Business applications with heavy bandwidth needs, such as disaster recovery mirroring and IP-based storage, will likely be the first to adopt 10GbE, as well as operators currently running metropolitan area networks and employing costly SONet technology. Although most enterprises currently do not have the financial means or the need for 10GbE deployment, some believe such a high level of bandwidth will be desired later on. Meanwhile, many vendors have already announced components and network interface cards that support 10GbE, as well as interoperability with network devices.
- "Apache: Few Checks on License, Registration"
SD Times (06/01/02) No. 55, P. 1; Rubinstein, David; Zeichick, Alan
Apache software has an open code, but the "corporate-friendly" terms of the Apache Software License have come under fire from Free Software Foundation (FSF) founder Richard Stallman for allowing companies to modify the code and pass it off as proprietary software. This defeats the purpose of open source, he says. Stallman says, "Proprietary software is anti-social and shouldn't exist." By contrast, the FSF's GNU Public License requires the free distribution of any altered software code. Apache users can create their proprietary versions of the popular Web server, which Stallman says risks "forking" the software in much the same way Unix has. Apache co-founder Brian Behlendorf says the more liberal licensing terms encourages more people to use the software and serves to balance the interests of businesses and open source developers. Macromedia product manager Libby Freligh defends the Apache license, arguing that "you need to protect yourself in some way by keeping your intellectual property protected." Sun Microsystems has tried to avoid forking by releasing pieces of its Java platform code as open source, but Stallman and NewsForge.com and Linux.com editor-in-chief Robin Miller believe this is not enough. "The people doing the innovating and doing the creative work will never see the code," argues Miller. "Its really just a way to tighten the locks by a few companies, and its more cynical rather than truthful." Many of Apache's most popular projects use Java as a platform.
- "They Want You for a Safer Infrastructure"
CIO (06/15/02) Vol. 15, No. 17, P. 76; Scalet, Sarah D.
Critical Infrastructure Protection Board Chairman Richard Clarke and Vice Chairman Howard Schmidt aim to beef up the nation's cybersecurity by promoting cooperation between competing technology vendors, businesspeople, and bureaucrats. The public-private Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security, mandated by the creation of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, encourages companies to help secure the nation's information infrastructure on a voluntary basis: Clarke says that "economic self-preservation" is the motivating force for participants, since IT security will promote industry growth. He prefers voluntary cooperation over regulation, as the chances for better security are improved "if people think they're doing it in their own best interest." Clarke stresses the importance of a provision that exempts companies that disclose information about computer attacks to the federal government from the Freedom of Information Act; under current law, many companies have been afraid that revealing network vulnerabilities will shake customer confidence, and this reluctance has led to what Clarke calls "an inadequate perception of what's going on in the American information infrastructure." He hopes that President Bush's proposal to divert over 8 percent of the federal IT budget to IT security initiatives will serve as a model to companies and encourage them to devote more to their own security effort. Another of Clarke and Schmidt's roles is to start dialogues between critical infrastructure procurement people and vendors so that the latter group will build more secure products. Clarke is a proponent of a security approach in which people concentrate on fixing vulnerabilities rather than wasting valuable time trying to figure out who exactly has hostile intent toward the critical infrastructure.