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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 367: Friday, June 28, 2002

  • "Cable Firms Faulted for Restrictions on Internet Service"
    Washington Post (06/28/02) P. E3; Krim, Jonathan

    The High Tech Broadband Coalition, a group of major IT firms including IBM, Microsoft, and Dell, has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent cable companies from imposing restrictions on the type of content viewed by broadband subscribers. Cox Communications and Comcast, for example, have begun including provisions in their user contracts prohibiting access to corporate intranets and bandwidth-intensive sites, as well as preventing users from adding certain hardware. Because of the new authority of the FCC under the Bush administration, the agency has become the focus of lobbying efforts. Currently, the FCC is looking to revise rules that require regional telecoms to share their infrastructure with smaller resellers, under the premise that it would encourage more infrastructure build-out. Under the Clinton administration, the FCC took a different tack by requiring telecoms to become wholesalers to their competitors in hopes that it would spur lower prices and competition. FCC Chairman Michael Powell holds that there is no longer a need for competition within different broadband technologies because users now have a number of channel options, including cable, DSL, satellite, and wireless.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58542-2002Jun27.html

  • "MIT Project Creates Smart Computing Environment"
    NewsFactor Network (06/25/02); McDonough, Brian

    The second annual meeting for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Project Oxygen Alliance highlights advances in interactive computing environments. Much like in Steven Spielberg's new "Minority Report" movie, users of these new technologies will be able to work with invisible computers through voice and body movement, instead of mouse and keyboard. MIT research scientist Ken Steele says decentralized networks and hardware will eventually have to configure themselves according to the user and operating environment. Already, one Project Oxygen experiment coordinates video tracking and voice commands so that users can say, for example, "Show me the video on that screen," while pointing with their finger. Steele says the initiative's industry partners have already brought some Project Oxygen technologies to market, including voice recognition developments, and that more advances will likely reach the market through those companies. Acer Group, Hewlett-Packard, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Nokia, and Philips all are Project Oxygen participants.
    http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/18363.html

  • "Using UWB to TurboCharge Cable TV"
    Siliconvalley.internet.com (06/25/02); Peretz, Matthew

    Ultrawideband (UWB) technology developer Pulse-Link says it has a new offering that couples UWB technology with existing cable infrastructure, doubling its capacity for interactive TV, VoIP, and Internet bandwidth. While the over-wire UWB technology makes use of current infrastructure, some additional equipment at the head- and user-end is necessary to convert and extract the UWB signals. Pulse-Link claims that data is not degraded in any way during the process and the technology adheres to recently approved Federal Communications Commission use of UWB parameters. Eventually, says company President Bruce Watkins, UWB wireless and over-wire technologies will converge to offer complete high-speed network coverage in homes and offices.
    http://siliconvalley.internet.com/news/article.php/1371281

  • "Lawmaker: Let Studios Hack P2P Sites"
    ZDNet (06/26/02); Borland, John

    Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) says the movie and music industries need protections against anti-hacking laws so that they can use technology to fight online piracy of their works. Currently, the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act prevents copyright owners from employing hacking techniques against peer-to-peer file-trading services and other venues of online piracy. Berman's legislation suggests that copyright owners could use several techniques to battle piracy if protected from anti-hacking law, including: flooding file-traders with false download requests so other users are blocked, spoofing users with corrupt song or movie files, and redirecting file-traders away from sites where pirated files are posted. The Recording Industry Association of America suggested similar protections be added to an anti-terrorism bill last October, but withdrew its request after severe criticism.
    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-939433.html

  • "Chip Platform Reduces Time to Market"
    InternetNews.com (06/26/02); Wagner, Jim

    Agere Systems has unveiled a new integrated circuit manufacturing technology that promises to double capacity on cell phone hardware while cutting six months from development time. Agere marketing director Cindy Genther says the new development means cell phones can take on new form factors--perhaps an earbud phone connected to a mini-keyboard--just as today's phones are different from the 1980's brick-style phones. The system uses Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation's 90-nanometer process, allowing for the smallest circuits possible and improved power efficiency. The new wafer production platform helps speed production by using templates to design communications chips that can then be integrated directly into circuits.
    http://www.internetnews.com/wireless/article.php/1377461

  • "Microsoft Wants Security Hard-Wired in Your Computer"
    Washington Post (06/27/02) P. E1; Walker, Leslie

    With its new Palladium project, Microsoft is aiming for a redesign of personal computing that would bolster security and give more control over data to users. Under the proposed scheme, computer chip manufacturers like Intel would build special chips that would have security measures hard-wired on them. Once the system is ubiquitous enough, computer users would be able to authenticate other users, businesses, software, files, and even unsolicited email. Palladium would also provide a special protected area on users' hard drives for storing sensitive, encrypted data. Although critics say Microsoft is trying to gain more control over the computing industry, or that a pervasive authentication system could be misused by the government, the company insists Palladium is simply an architecture that would solve many problems with computing today. Some privacy and consumer groups have given tentative support to the proposal, including the Center for Democracy and Technology. Ari Swartz, the Center's associate director, says Palladium presents many potential benefits to user privacy and individual control. American Privacy Consultants CEO Robert Douglas says the system could encourage more use of the Internet--e-commerce, for example--by building trust into the system.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51780-2002Jun26.html

  • "In Remote Library Stacks, an All-Seeing, Scanning Robot"
    New York Times (06/27/02) P. E5; Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit

    John Hopkins University scientists say libraries may someday use robots to hunt down and scan portions of books for patrons. The scanned pages would be accessed from anywhere through an Internet-based system. These robots could also help libraries migrate to a largely digital format and help universities with remote book storage facilities. The future system is expected to consist of a robot on a moveable platform linked to an ultrasonic navigational device and infrared sensors. The robot's "arm" will be equipped with a mechanical gripper, which will scan the book's barcode to let the robot know it has the right book. Finally, the book is delivered to a second robot that places the book in a scanner. Catherine Nicholson of the Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries says these systems would need to resolve copyright issues regarding digitization. Johns Hopkins' Digital Knowledge Center director Sayeed Choudhury says fair use laws should guide such systems; he suggests materials have a time limit.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/27/technology/circuits/27NEXT.html
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "Deep Linking's Legal Link on Hold"
    Wired News (06/26/02); Manjoo, Farhad

    The Danish court's decision over the legality over the practice of "deep linking" has been delayed further as it considers a preliminary injunction against the defendant. The online news service Newsbooster is accused of violating the content copyrights of newspapers belonging to the Danish Newspaper Publishers' Association, the claimant in the case. The Danish case is of significance because of the few legal precedents regarding deep linking, and the fact that Danish law is based on that of the European Union. Whatever ruling the court decides upon could affect Web sites outside of Denmark. In the United States, Rodale Press, the publisher of Runner's World magazine, and the Dallas Morning News have sued to protect against deep links to their content, which they say harms their ability to sell advertising space on their Web sites. Last week, National Public Radio was found to have issued a new policy that requires third parties to contact the organization before linking to their content.
    http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,53501,00.html

  • "Europeans Demand Independence From U.S.-Based Internet Overseer"
    Associated Press (06/28/02); Mutler, Alison

    Some ccTLD representatives such as Nominet's William Black are voicing displeasure about ICANN's attempts to impose control over ccTLDs and say they would prefer autonomy from ICANN. Japan, Australia, Burundi, and this week, Malawi, have signed ICANN ccTLD contracts, and ICANN vice president Andrew McLaughlin says that ICANN should, for instance, be responsible for screening potential ccTLD registry candidates for competency and local community support if a country wants to change its ccTLD administrator. ICANN is expected to formally approve a new internal supporting organization for ccTLDs on June 28. New Zealand Internet Society Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, who heads the organization that runs .nz, says that ICANN's ideas for ccTLDs are top-heavy and impose global cookie-cutter solutions on local problems.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Nanotechnology: Small Stuff, Big Business"
    ABC News (06/26/02); Dizikes, Peter

    Venture capitalists and U.S. firms are betting on nanotechnology, which involves creating functional items on the scale of atoms and molecules, according to Mihail Roco of the National Science Foundation. For example, cancer-fighting drugs are as small as cells, PCs are the size of sugar cubes, and miniscule sensors pinpoint the presence of anthrax. NanoBusiness Alliance head Mark Modzelewski says a sensor could be used to identify food pathogens. Or a mail-sorting machine could be equipped with a sensor to detect anthrax, says Small Times editor Steve Crosby. Other uses for the small-scale devices could involve automobiles, metal coatings, and suntan lotion. The Bush administration hopes to provide $710 million toward nanotechnology research in FY03. Still, any innovations may still be at least 10 years away from becoming commercialized--even prominent applications like high speed chips and targeted drugs. Meanwhile, top firms such as IBM, Lucent, and Intel are conducting research on nanotechnology applications.
    http://www.technologyreview.com/offthewire/3001_2662002_4.asp

  • "In the Future, Eyes Are the Window to the Wallet"
    Associated Press (06/28/02)

    As technology allows consumers to tune out advertising, such as with SONICBlue and TiVo video recorders, marketers are also using technology to more effectively reach their target. Steven Spielberg's recent movie "Minority Report" illustrates the result of today's trends, where Tom Cruise's character is tracked by both retailers and government agents due to biometric scans. Spielberg hung on the idea of such technology-enabled marketing in 1999, when he convened a meeting of 23 futurists to get ideas on what innovations would come about in the next 50 years. Although the experts disagreed on many issues, "one of the several things they did unanimously agree on was that the entire advertising industry is going to recognize us as individuals, and they're going to spot-sell to us," he says. Already, Amazon.com uses Web technology to personalize customers' shopping experience, and supermarket chains produce targeted coupons based on buying patterns. New wireless technology allows retailers to send messages to mobile phone users when they near a store location. "Minority Report" production designer Alex McDowell says that the Sept. 11 events have brought a new tension to the twin uses of personalization technology in security and marketing. He says the movie also focuses on the trade-off between security and civil liberties, mirroring the current debate between privacy and convenience.
    http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/news/editorial/3562920.htm

  • "Digital Characters Learn to Move"
    BBC News (06/25/02)

    Researchers in the United Kingdom have come up with a way to naturally animate virtual characters, instead of programming their movements beforehand. As a result, digital avatars would more naturally respond to their environments and situations. NaturalMotion, the company behind the new technique, derived its technology from animation research done at Oxford University. NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil says the Active Character Technology uses artificial intelligence and virtual muscles to learn movements, such as how to walk. As the program gains experience, its movements become more fluid. The animation takes on a life of its own, leaving Reil admittedly befuddled as to how exactly the system operates. "We let evolution do the job and look at it afterwards," says Reil. "We don't know why it works, but it works."
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_2058000/2058040.stm

  • "IT Pros: Cyberraid to Hit U.S. Agencies"
    ZDNet (06/25/02); Kane, Margaret

    A survey sponsored by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) finds that nearly half of the IT professionals questioned believe U.S. government agencies will be subject to a major cyberattack within the next year. BSA President Richard Holleyman says the attack could be aimed at stealing sensitive data serendipitously, or it could come as an onslaught meant to bring down critical systems. Even if security perimeters are breached, the data should be encrypted so that outside parties would not be able to make use of it. Holleyman says his organization is currently in discussions with agencies and Congress about how to secure government IT, and he suggests that the new homeland security office focus on that task. Bill Conner, CEO for Entrust, a security firm and BSA member, says that the government needs to better implement policies and procedures that guarantee the safety of their data, besides technological safeguards. Cybersecurity should be receiving the same amount of time and resources that were allocated to stopping the Y2K bug, says Conner.
    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-939152.html

  • "Researchers Say Software Innovation Thwarts Piracy"
    NewsFactor Network (06/26/02); Lyman, Jay

    Purdue University researchers have developed a more sophisticated system of protecting software from being illegally copied. Instead of depending on a single mechanism, often just a simple line of code, to secure software, the Purdue team has created a network of many small security programs distributed throughout the software code. While Yankee Group analyst Michael Goodman says the scheme still depends on building protections around software, the new technique makes it much more difficult for potential hackers. Each of the small security programs performs a different function, such as repairing changes to code or deploying countermeasures against hacks. And because the programs are integrated with the software's function, it forms a much more complex system hackers must decipher and disable, according to Purdue computer science Professor Mike Atallah.
    http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/18400.html

  • "Fish's Sixth Sense Could Help Robots Navigate Oceans"
    UniSci (06/24/02)

    Scientists have created an artificial lateral line system for swimming robots and sea probes, mimicking the biological system fish and amphibians use to sense subtle water movements and navigate without visual aid. The team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have constructed a micro-scale lateral line with 100 tiny silicon hairs per millimeter. The hairs, like their natural counterparts, bend according to water pressure, and are attached to micro-hinge sensors that relay the data back to a central processor to be analyzed. The University of Illinois group published their research this week in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, and are also working with Massachusetts Institute of Technology marine researchers to construct ocean vehicles equipped with the sensory system.
    http://unisci.com/stories/20022/0624024.htm

  • "Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared"
    Washington Post (06/27/02) P. A1; Gellman, Barton

    Intelligence gathered during the war on terrorism shows that Al-Qaeda had paid far more attention to the possibility of a cyber-attack against critical infrastructure than previously thought. In the fall of last year, the FBI was alerted to a suspicious pattern of surveillance of municipal and private utilities on the Internet tracing back to telecommunications lines in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Indonesia. In January, coalition troops discovered an Al-Qaeda computer in Kabul with software and dam designs that would enable users to model the destruction of a reservoir dam. Delegates from private industry and government attended the FBI's Infraguard meeting this month to discuss the threat, where National Infrastructure Protection Center director Ronald Dick said he feared that terrorists would remotely disable key infrastructure in order to exacerbate the effects of a simultaneous physical attack. Howard Schmidt, vice-chairman of the president's critical infrastructure board, said the private sector is key, since much of the nation's critical systems are in their hands. Industry collaboration with government, however, has a spotty record, since companies have serious reservations about sharing vital information with the government about their vulnerable systems and past break-ins.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50765-2002Jun26.html

  • "Crystal-Ball Display Renders Images in 3D"
    EE Times (06/26/02); Ohr, Stephan

    Actuality Systems' globe-shaped display allows viewers to look at images from any angle. The company hopes the product can be useful for medical and molecular modeling applications. In addition, the display might be adapted for gaming systems, but the company would have to reduce the display's $40,000 cost. Actuality Systems uses its Perspecta visualization platform to convert 3-D data onto a projection screen that spins at 600 rpm. The data is formatted by a Pentium 4 embedded processor on a Windows NT host, says the company's co-founder, CTO and platform architect Gregg Favalora. The version 1.5 Perspecta devices can project images into a 10-inch globe at a speed of 100 million voxels/sec. Users can use the globe to see different aspects of cell structures, CAT scans, or MRI data. So far, Actuality Systems has receive $3.8 million in venture funding.
    http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20020626S0037

  • "IBM Technologist Sees Convergence of Biology and IT"
    EE Times (06/27/02); Mokhoff, Nicolas

    IBM's senior vice president of technology and marketing, Nicholas N. Donofrio, says computer systems need to move toward a biological paradigm if people are going to maximize the efficiencies they bring. Currently, Donofrio says the IT industry spends far too much energy maintaining its systems, and suggests that those systems be designed to take care of themselves, like biological systems do. Donofrio says it is imperative for people in IT to look to other sciences, like biology, in order to continue the advances in computing brought on by silicon, which he predicts will be a viable computing material for another decade. In order to build a new type of self-maintaining system with less complexity, it is necessary to work out certain standards, such as establishing the Linux operating system as a common, open platform across the spectrum of computing systems. He compares the impact of Linux on applications to that of the Internet on communications.
    http://www.eetimes.com/at/news/OEG20020627S0022

  • "Betting on a New Idea"
    IEEE Spectrum (06/02); Savage, Peter R.

    Universal Display has a relationship with Princeton University in which the company develops and licenses enabling technology for the organic light-emitting diode (LED) devices created by a research group led by professor of electrical engineering Stephen R. Forrest. Princeton receives royalties for the licensed technology, and gets project funding from Universal Display in the form of equipment and student stipend provisions. Universal Display went public in 1996, raising $7 million in venture capital, while an additional $30 million has been raised since then to support intellectual property acquisitions. The partnership balances out the company's goal to make the most of resources and manufacturing processes with the researchers' desire to investigate the cutting edge of materials science. Forrest's research is also funded by the U.S. government and other industrial enterprises. Universal Display currently owns more than 400 approved or pending organic LED technology patents, with half of them taken from its Princeton and University of Southern California research alliances. The company's licensing partners include Aixtron, the world's leading provider of metal-organic chemical-vapor deposition gear, as well as Samsung, Motorola, and Sony. Organic LEDs have the potential to transform the display industry because they are lighter, more flexible, cheaper, sharper, thinner, and easier to produce than liquid-crystal displays.
    http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/careers/careerstemplate.jsp?ArticleId=i060402