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Volume 4, Issue 382: Monday, August 5, 2002
- "Broadband Deregulation Urged"
Medill News Service (08/02/02); Chiger, Stephen
A new bill from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would deregulate the broadband market and hopefully boost broadband usage is being reviewed by the Senate Commerce Committee. McCain says his bill addresses the issue more comprehensively than others, and advocates repealing many of the measures imposed by the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Consumer advocates remain staunchly opposed to broadband deregulation, claiming that the unique dynamics of the broadband market mean that it does not regulate itself well. The FCC is also currently reviewing the government's policy, though FCC Chairman Mike Powell has indicated his support of deregulation. McCain's bill, the Consumer Broadband Deregulation Act, would free local network owners from necessarily reselling access to their infrastructure as well as eliminate government price-setting controls. Other broadband bills include the House-approved Tauzin-Dingell bill, which would deregulate the activities of "baby Bells;" and the Breaux-Nickles bill, which calls for DSL-only deregulation. None of the various broadband bills currently before is likely to pass this session, since only weeks remain before Congress adjourns.
- "Legislators Eye PC Recycling"
Computerworld Online (08/02/02); Thibodeau, Patrick
Electronic waste recycling has captured the attention of federal and state legislatures. For instance, the Electronic Industries Alliance notes that 24 states are mulling over technology recycling bills. Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) introduced a bill in July calling for the incorporation of a maximum $10 fee on the purchases of desktops, laptops, and monitors that would help fund new e-waste recycling centers. He also criticized the United States for handing disposal duties over to other nations by shipping discarded PCs overseas. Major U.S. firms currently contract with hardware vendors or waste disposal companies to get rid of used PCs, and industry officials note that disposal fees can run as high as $25 for every device. PCdisposal.com President Kory Bostwick says that companies can receive rebates if devices are resold, but resale prices are continuing to fluctuate. Rapid increases in processing power cause resale prices to sharply drop after one and two years, according to Alltel's Jim Tudor, but Gartner analysts say the economic slump is prompting many companies to use older models for up to four years. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters CIO Jim Prevo adds that a slowing down of upgrade cycles will slow down the discarding of obsolete PCs.
- "What are the Theories Behind Computer Technology Gender Gap?"
VOANews.com (08/02/02); Clements, David
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has documented a decline in the percentage of female IT professionals over the last 10 to 15 years; for instance, women accounted for 36.6 percent of U.S. computer programmers in 1987, whereas in 2001 they accounted for just 26.6 percent. Jane Margolis, who authored "Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women In Computing," studied male and female computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University, and her findings indicate that men and women experience computers differently: Boys often feel a "gravitational pull" toward computers early on, which is fostered by hands-on encouragement, often from their fathers, while girls receive less encouragement. Another discouraging factor Margolis notes is sexism, especially in classes where there are more male than female students. Encouraging more women to pursue IT careers is a challenge, but Allison Druin of the University of Maryland has one solution--providing courses that offer students a solid goal, such as solving real-world problems using computing skills. Meanwhile, Margolis advocates recruitment policies that give more consideration to students that show a desire to be computer scientists, have high grades, and want to contribute to the community, rather than focus on "kids that have been hacking away their entire lives." Mary Flanigan of the University of Oregon has designed computer courses that are tailored to young girls in order to boost their confidence and give them hands-on experience that equals that of their male counterparts. "Using the technology for a pleasurable activity or some way of communicating, some way of really tying into someone's life, is much more effective with girls," she explains.
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- "Computers Under Attack Can Hack Back, Expert Says"
AnchorIS CIO and SecurityFocus.com columnist Timothy Mullen told attendees at the annual DefCon hacker conference that an even more devastating computer-worm attack is inevitable, and noted that simply notifying administrators of such attacks is not enough to forestall them. He disclosed a technique he has developed that enables computers that have been attacked but not infected to trace the source of the assault and launch a counterattack that paralyzes the offending machine without damaging it. However, such a measure is currently illegal, and Mullen wants the law altered to accommodate it. Several U.S. officials criticized such a strategy--Mark Eckenwiler of the Justice Department claimed "There are more legally acceptable ways to deal with the problem than what is essentially hacking into their system." Meanwhile, C.H. "Chuck" Chassot of the Defense Department's Command, Control, Communications & Intelligence office warned that such vigilantism carries the danger of targeting and shutting down innocent computer systems. Still, some members of Congress are backing a "strike back" defensive strategy, as demonstrated with their support of Rep. Howard Berman's (D-Calif.) proposal to grant movie and music studios the right to hack peer-to-peer networks as a way to prevent online piracy.
- "DARPA Researcher Pursues 'Nanomemory'"
United Press International (08/04/02); Burnell, Scott R.
Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are developing nanotechnology especially for computing memory purposes. DARPA program manager Kwan Kwok says he expects to have a working moletronic device by 2004, offering four to five times the performance of today's most sophisticated memory technology. Moletronics is a subset of nanotechnology dealing with the manipulation of molecules so they work together as electronic circuits. Kwok's current research is studying how to create a 100 GB memory device that would eliminate many of the problems associated with dynamic random access memory (DRAM), such as heat production, power use, and space requirements. In addition, moletronic devices can be operated all the time with just a small amount of electricity so that computers and other electronic devices would not need to pull operating system data from the hard drive when they are "booted up." Kwok says that higher processing speeds, however, will be necessary to take advantage of moletronic memory technology, but that sufficient speeds of 10 GHz should be available about the same time his device is ready. Kwok, speaking at last week's DARPATECH 2002 conference in Anaheim, Calif., says his group's work is focused on a very specific application of nanotechnology, allowing them to "accelerate the development of this technology from perhaps a 40-year span to a few years to 10 years or so."
- "More Memory On the Way"
Wired News (08/05/02); Patrizio, Andy
Data IntensiVe Architecture (DIVA), developed by scientists from the University of Southern California School of Engineering, places four reduced instruction-set computing (RISC) processors on a DRAM chip, allowing 256 bits of information to be stored on each chip, compared to 32 bits for standard chips. Unlike traditional memory, in which only one operation can be performed on each chip, DIVA enables four operations to be carried out simultaneously. The DIVA chip receives instructions from the CPU, and in turns sends them directly to the RISC processors. The speed increase can bypass the memory bottleneck that plagues faster CPUs: Intel and AMD processors exceed 2 GHz, while the memory performance threshold is 533 MHz; but most systems run at 133 MHz or 100 MHz. Funding for DIVA chip development came from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), but there are plans for the technology to be commercialized. USC Information Sciences Institute researcher Dr. John Granacki notes that the chip will probably not be market-ready for about 18 months, and although Hewlett-Packard is reportedly interested, a business agreement has yet to be planned. Meanwhile, analyst Dean McCarron is doubtful that DIVA will find use in conventional PCs. "This is good for environments where you are performing a lot of repetitive processing, where you do the exact same operation over the same sets of words in [a] very repetitive manner," he says.
- "A New Wrinkle in Communication May Be in Your Clothes"
Scripps-McClatchy Western Service (08/04/02); Vorenberg, Sue
Clothes infused with a variety of electronic functions could be manufactured thanks to the development of a radical "smart thread" from Santa Fe Science and Technology. The thread, which is fabricated from a patented plastic-like polymer, has the texture of nylon but offers metal-like conductivity. Venture Development analyst Tim Shea notes that other firms are giving clothing computing capabilities by the inclusion of sensors and other attachments, but Santa Fe is the first company that will weave computing functions into the cloth itself. Potential wearable computing applications include integrated cell phones, temperature control systems, athletic health monitoring devices, and shirts that change color according to user preference. Santa Fe CEO Benjamin Mattes believes clothing based on his company's thread could reach the market in two to three years, while wearable cell-phone technology could emerge in three to four years. He says his company will need to increase its manufacturing effort to meet domestic and international demand for the product, and is thinking of opening new facilities in Albuquerque and other cities. In addition to carrying the same manufacturing costs as traditional fabrics, Mattes says the smart fabrics would prevent electrocution because they are insulated. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the company's initial research; Mattes says the material's military applications include lightweight telecommunications devices, while Shea says that medics could have an easier time of analyzing and treating soldiers' wounds.
- "A Device to Track Missing People"
New York Times (08/05/02) P. C4; Chartrand, Sabra
Several patents have been approved for global positioning system (GPS)-based tracking devices that keep tabs on people's location. Single mother Jennifer Durst originally thought up a GPS transceiver as a way to keep track of runaway pets, and together with Eugene Fowler and Joseph McAlexander has patented a device that she says can be "form-fitted into a backpack, a baseball hat or a belt." The Patent and Trademark Office has issued three patents--one for a "pet locator" and two for a "mobile object locator" for pets and people--and approved a fourth. The devices weigh roughly seven ounces and feature rechargeable batteries and a flat antenna that receives GPS signals. If anyone wearing the devices moves out of preprogrammed perimeters, the devices relay messages and constantly updated geographic data (text, figures, graphics, or numbers) to a two-way personal assistant, cell phone, traditional phone, pager, or an email address. Alerts and last-known locations are also posted in the event the device is removed, while Durst says she has conceived of a gadget with a "panic button" for users to send location information in emergencies. She notes that the devices could help children and adults who wander off or lose their way in crowded areas as well as the wilderness. Durst and her partners have developed a prototype device that could be incorporated into fanny packs that amusement parks could rent out, as well as one for the military.
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- "'Cambridge Phenomenon' Threatened by IP Changes"
ZDNet UK (08/01/02); Broersma, Matthew
Cambridge University has decided to assert ownership of intellectual property (IP) generated by researchers and employees starting on Jan. 1, 2003, if IP work is created during "the normal course of [an employee's] duties," according to report released last week by the university's Council and General Board. Today, Cambridge researchers maintain intellectual property rights unless IP work is generated during sponsored research. This policy is a change for Cambridge, and some researchers fear the change will stifle IT and engineering research, which has led to the creation of many Internet and IT companies located around Cambridge. The board report says Cambridge is acting in order to protect researchers from making bad deals with commercial operations, and to ensure that "the benefits to society are not lost." Cambridge's current rules are in line with Stanford's and MIT's, and all three schools have generated IP work that has led to a panoply of startups. Cambridge security engineering researcher Ross Anderson argues universities such as John Hopkins that assert blanket control of intellectual property fail to produce commercial spinoffs, a theory Cambridge University rejects. Anderson also notes that a provision on copyrights proffered by Cambridge will prevent Cambridge employees from releasing open-source software. He notes Cambridge's No. 1 private donor is Microsoft, and believes open-source software is the best defense against Microsoft monopolization; he also plans to fight Cambridge's new policy.
- "Creative Coding"
CIO.com (07/31/02); Surmacz, Jon
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analyst Karim Lakhani says open source software programmers undertake programming because they enjoy it. According to a BCG survey, 57 percent of open source software programmers are IT professionals and 20 percent are students. The average age of the programmers is 30. Lakhani says four distinct groups of programmers exist. "Community believers" believe source code should be open, "professionals" program for corporate needs, "hobbyists" program for non-work related reasons, and "learners" program to enjoy themselves and build skills. Intellectual stimulation was the prime reason (45 percent) given for why they undertake open source programming, followed by skills building (41 percent), work functionality (34 percent), and open source ideals (33 percent). Only 11 percent cited propriety software as a driver for open source programming. Most programmers work at open source programming while on the job; 37 percent do it with the approval of supervisors, while 17 percent work secretly.
- "Taking the Web to Infinity and Beyond"
ABCNews.com (07/29/02); Jacobs, Larry
Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf, along with other engineers and NASA scientists, are working to develop the Interplanetary Internet, or IPN. His team is working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop the interplanetary network that Cerf believes will allow astronauts to cheaply and reliably communicate with each other and Earth. So far, the team has designated separate Internet addresses for each planet, satellite, and spacecraft that circles the Earth, Cerf says. Eventually, IPN could be connected to the terrestrial Internet, allowing students to someday explore distant objects via robots linked to the IPN. Although Cerf cautions that such features are likely to be decades away, he says the team is working hard to deploy some aspects of IPN today. Later this year, the team expects to develop some of the software to test the project. NASA may install the software on space probes and robotic rovers targeted for Mars explorations as early as next year.
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- "Wireless 'Cloud' May Offer Silver Lining"
CNN.com (07/31/02); Walton, Marsha
The University of Georgia and the city of Athens, Ga., have joined forces to create WAG, or the Wireless Athens Group. The group plans to a develop a "cloud" of wireless network connectivity over a limited area in the city's downtown so that anyone can access the Web for free. Currently, the network covers three blocks, but is expected to eventually cover a 24-block area. To connect to the Internet, users must have the appropriate equipment, such as an 802.11b card, laptop, or PDA. Users can access the Internet only while they are outdoors and in range of a WAG network node. "We're essentially giving the Wireless Athens Group 10 poles in the downtown area and power for them," says Sandi Turner, Athens/Clark County Public Information Officer. This fall, students at Georgia's School of Journalism and Mass Communications will work with area retailers to suggest how wireless technologies could be used to boost business. Scott Shamp, director of the University of Georgia's New Media Institute says it's compelling uses, not technology, that is slowing wireless development; WAG was created to experiment with new uses for the technology.
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- "China Set to be World's No. 2 Market for Web and PCs"
Reuters (08/01/02); Auchard, Eric; Greenberg, Jonah
China now ranks as the second most active Internet population, passing Japan in its share of global Internet traffic. Still, Japan retains a lead in the number of individual Internet users, largely because of strong growth in mobile phone connections. According to Web monitoring firm WebSideStory, China represents 6.63 percent of all Web traffic, compared to 5.24 percent for Japan. The United Kingdom and Canada follows Japan with about 3.9 percent each, while Germany lags behind them with 3.64 percent. The China Internet Network Information Center reports that China added 12 million new Internet users in the first half of this year and now has 45.8 million Internet users, while the number of Japanese users is set to grow to 59 million by the end of this year, according to International Data (IDC). Separately, Intel's Christian Morales says China will pass Japan as the second-largest PC market this year, two years ahead of previous projections. The United States accounted for 42.65 percent of the world's Internet traffice in July, down from 45.02 percent in the same month last year. Meanwhile, IDC says wireless phones have surpassed PCs as the biggest driver of new Internet growth, as 70 percent of all new Internet users go online via handheld devices.
- "The High Hurdles Facing Wi-Fi"
Business Week Online (07/30/02); Black, Jane; Kharif, Olga; Harbrecht, Douglas
Rapidly growing Wi-Fi connectivity could face a spectrum bottleneck if it spreads too fast, unless technological improvements are made or the FCC can come up with a new spectrum allocation model. One alternative is spread-spectrum technology, in which spectrum is parceled out on a moment-to-moment basis by cognitive radio devices. The military has used spread-spectrum technology for over two decades, while high-tech companies such as Motorola are building cognitive radios. However, Ramesh Rao of the California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technology says the FCC has had a poor track record in anticipating future trends and instituting regulations that fuel progress. He and other wireless proponents are turning to tech innovation to resolve the difficulties of Wi-Fi. It is possible for anybody to establish wireless broadband connectivity using off-the-shelf products, but the lack of a hierarchy presents its own problems. No connectivity between Wi-Fi hotspots means that users must find and log on to a new hotspot every time they pass out of one, while a dearth of network management means no preferential access. Rao and a research team are investigating a solution called ABC (Always Best Connected), which would outline the pathways any given user has to the wired Internet and select the most efficient one. High-speed Wi-Fi might be the pathway used within the network, while cellular service might be the best pathway outside the network, but connection transitions must be seamless.
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- "Virtual People Help Bridge Digital Divide"
BBC News Online (07/31/02)
Lewisham in London and three other European cities hope avatars can help bridge the digital divide for residents who are not so computer savvy. The borough is currently testing avatars, or computer-generated people, as part of its effort to bring its services online by 2005. Instead of using complicated Web forms, residents would have the option of holding conversations with the avatars about local services, whether they qualify for benefits, and to get views on local issues. "In general people do not like interacting with machines, they would rather have a body, but an avatar is the next best thing," says Antoinette Moussalli, head of European and international affairs for the London Council. Lewisham is also developing a conversation engine that would eventually allow residents to talk directly to the avatars, rather than typing their questions. The success of the current test, which involves a double-decker bus traveling through Lewisham to allow residents a trial of the system that includes avatars that look human as well as cartoons, could determine whether Edinburgh, the Kista suburb of Stockholm, and Ventspils in Latvia adopt the technology. The system is expected to be up and running in the autumn.
- "Hearing Is Believing"
Newsweek (08/05/02) Vol. 140, No. 6, P. 44; Reno, Jamie; Croal, N'gai
American Technology CEO Elwood "Woody" Norris's newest invention, the Hyper-Sonic Sound System (HSS), can reportedly convert audio signals into an ultrasonic frequency that can be focused onto a target as far off as 100 yards. The technology foregoes the vibrating membrane typical of conventional speakers; audible tones are transformed into two ultrasonic signals that run at frequencies far above the range of human hearing. Norris has hit upon a fairly inexpensive way to combine the signals and recreate the original sound. Developed over a period of more than 10 years at a cost of approximately $30 million, HSS devices will initially be marketed to retailers and the U.S. military. Possible retail applications include vending machines that address people walking by them, while military applications include a 150-decibel sonic "gun" that subdues enemies but does not affect users. Furthermore, "it can send the tape-recorded sound of a tank or explosion to another area to throw the enemy off," notes U.S. Marine Capt. Todd Gillingham. HSS devices could cost between $600 and $900 each, according to size. However, critics such as ex-MIT Media Lab researcher Joseph Pompei, who has developed a competing technology called Audio Spotlight, allege that Norris takes other people's credit and conducts questionable business practices. Norris denies the allegations, but acknowledges that his inventions have not made money so far.
- "Moving Into the Real World"
Electronic Business (07/02) Vol. 28, No. 7, P. 68; Purvis, Gail
European research labs are branching out from their government customer bases and establishing relationships with industry, and some of these relationships extend beyond national boundaries. A 2000 survey conducted by England's Higher Education Funding Council finds that 12.3 percent of higher education institutions' research income came from business and industry. Belgium's Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC) earned over 70 percent of its $108.8 million in 2000-2001 revenue from contract research, 44 percent of which was international. IMEC has spun off some 20 companies, offering photoresists and chip-mask creation, infrared image sensors, and design software and hardware systems for satellite navigation, among other things; the lab has also set up offices, partnerships, and R&D programs in China, North America, and Japan. Meanwhile, Germany's Fraunhofer Institute earned $31.2 billion in industrial funding in 2000, and has branches in Asia and the United States. England's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), whose infrastructure is currently being revamped, receives as much as $14.5 million in funding from industry, and its international deals include the provision of products and expertise to other labs. Industry accounted for 70 percent of 2001 revenues for France's Laboratory of Electronics, Technology, and Instrumentation (LETI). The lab has spun off 23 firms producing integrated optics, silicon-on-insulator wafers, flat-panel displays, silicon wafer carriers, and digital recording services; other LETI initiatives include the creation of a nanotechnology innovation center and a facility for system and technology integration for complex IT systems and instrumentation.
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- "Are Vendors Doing Enough to Improve Software?"
Optimize (07/02) P. 15; Parker, Bob; Guttman, William
Bob Parker of AMR Research and William Guttman of Carnegie Mellon University's Sustainable Computing Consortium (SCC) offer differing opinions about whether enterprise software vendors are making enough of an effort to improve the quality of their products. Parker attributes many problems in software quality to external factors, such as overcustomization of applications, conflicting standards from multiple standards bodies and infrastructure vendors, and project complexity. He also thinks that the perpetual-license model enterprise software markets rely on is flawed, and must be modified with higher initial prices, larger annual fees, and renewable licenses. Guttman, on the other hand, says the fault lies with a software industry that freely admits that its system of rushing new products to market first and delivering patches second is unworkable. "We need to make software as reliable as water and electricity, but we know there's no quick fix," he notes. Guttman asserts that the SCC was formed as a platform where the creation of secure, sustainable, reliable, and high-quality computing can be discussed. Its goals include the development of solid sustainability measurement techniques and tools; the organization of empirical models for studying public policies and how they affect sustainable computing; and the creation of reliability metrics. "The goal is to quantify those best practices and make them more widely available, changing the model from 'release and patch' to 'develop, test, fix, and release,'" Guttman says.