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Volume 5, Issue 468: Wednesday, March 12, 2003
- "Lofgren Bill Backs Digital Copying for Personal Use"
SiliconValley.com (03/11/03); Chmielewski, Dawn C.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) on Monday reintroduced the Balance Act, a bill that would allow consumers to make digital copies of books, music, and movies for personal use. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says legislation such as Lofgren's is needed to redress the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which the group says tramples consumers' fair-use rights so that entertainment companies are shielded from digital piracy. The Balance Act argues that consumers are entitled to make backup copies of digital works so they can play them on other devices. "When people pay good money to buy something and then they can't use it in the way they've become accustomed to, it makes them mad," Lofgren pointed out. Law school professor Pamela Samuelson of the University of California-Berkeley says the Balance Act seeks to restore balance to the DMCA, which has been eroded by certain court rulings. Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti voiced his opposition to Lofgren's legislation, claiming that it "legalizes hacking." Meanwhile, the Business Software Alliance warned that the Balance Act threatens to stifle technological innovation and restrict consumer options, and said in a prepared statement that the bill "would provide safe harbor for pirates who could easily claim that the 'intent' of their actions were legal."
For more information on DMCA ramifications, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Appeal of Instant Messaging Extends Into the Workplace"
New York Times (03/11/03) P. A1; Harmon, Amy
Forrester Research proclaims that instant messaging is surging even faster than email did when it was first introduced, and is starting to gain on both email and the cell phone as a favorite workplace communications medium. The abundance of freely available IM software on the Internet is one of the drivers of the tool's growth, and its migration into the workplace is employee-driven, rather than company-driven. Rutgers University student Nora Keomurjian says IM carries with it an informality that allows users to assert their individuality in environments that do not normally support it, such as the office. "Between colleagues I think it's great because it helps you establish a relationship where you might be too shy in person," she explains. Advocates also praise IM for allowing them to multitask, but the big draw for them is its ability to establish online presence. Forrester estimates that almost one-third of American adults use IM to talk to their kids, customers, co-workers, and each other, while Osterman Research reckons that the number of American employees using IM in the workplace has jumped from 8 percent to nearly 25 percent in the last two years. Its growth has been limited, somewhat, by a lack of interoperability between IM tools provided by major vendors, a situation that often forces users to use multiple programs simultaneously. Furthermore, some companies want to restrict IM-ing to prevent employees from using IM irresponsibly.
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- "Lawmaker Recycles E-Waste Bill"
CNet (03/07/03); Skillings, Jonathan
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) on March 6 introduced a bill calling for a national e-waste recycling infrastructure. The EPA estimates that 2 million tons of electronic products are discarded each year in the United States, while California's Integrated Waste Management Board reckons that over 6 million outdated televisions and monitors are currently stockpiled by state residents. The National Computer Recycling Act proposed by Thompson would require consumers to pay a recycling fee no higher than $10 for every new purchase of desktop PCs, monitors, and notebooks, while offering incentives to manufacturers that recycle. "The congressman wants this bill to keep the industry and public engaged and educated about the importance of getting to a national solution," explains Thompson spokeswoman Laura Dossa. Thompson presented a similar bill last summer that was killed before it could make much progress in the House of Representatives. Computer manufacturers and retailers, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Best Buy, currently have voluntary recycling programs that consumers and businesses can take advantage of. The majority of the consumer programs require a fee when an obsolete device is returned.
- "Five Reasons to Hope"
Los Angeles Times Magazine (03/09/03) P. 30; Piller, Charles
New technologies promise a brighter future for Silicon Valley, where experts say a convergence of innovation will lead to a revolution similar to the advent of the PC or commercial Internet. Already, 750 Silicon Valley life sciences firms and three surrounding universities together make up the largest concentration of biotechnology interests in the world. The intersection between life sciences research and technology has already begun to yield results, such as the decoding of the human genome done by Applera supercomputers, or microarray gene chips that identify treatable breast cancer, made by Affymetrix. Nanotechnology also promises a number of advances for other fields, such as wireless networks. University of California-Berkeley researchers say tiny wireless sensors built using nanotechnology could gather real-time environmental data for a variety of purposes, such as managing air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems more efficiently. At Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), researchers are building flexible plastic computer displays by spraying conductive polymers on plastic sheets. Besides larger, cheaper, and more efficient computer displays, the same plastic circuit technology could allow computer devices that are manufactured at just a fraction of the price of those using conventional computer chips. PARC scientist Raj Apte says technology would reach people previously left without computers or other devices like cell phones. Another emerging technology that promises to revamp Silicon Valley's fortunes are search analysis tools that identify media without using traditional metatags. Using these new search tools, for example, companies could gauge public perception of their firms by analyzing different media channels.
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- "Canada Wrestles With E-Waste Fix"
Wired News (03/11/03); Mandel, Charles
E-waste recycling laws are nonexistent in Canada, but the nonprofit Electronics Product Stewardship (EPS) Canada initiative, which has the support of 16 multinational computer and electronics companies, plans to remedy the situation by recycling old TVs, laptops, and computers. Environment Canada predicts that Canadian e-waste will pile up to roughly 67,000 tons over the next five years; the electronics industry founded EPA Canada in response to new legislation being hashed out in several provinces. EPS Canada President Dave Betts explains that 50 million out of 500 million computers discarded over the next three to four years will come from Canada, and notes that most Canadian e-waste is dumped into local landfills, or exported to Asia for dumping. He adds that launching a national e-recycling program will be complicated, given that the Canadian provinces "typically have their own ideas as to how things need to be done." Furthermore, the next 12 months will witness seven provincial elections that could make the introduction of new legislation difficult. Betts also acknowledges that a proposed $25 recycling fee added to the cost of new computers will probably not sit well with consumers, but he feels that they will accept it if the reason for the extra cost is properly explained. He describes the Canadian recycling initiative as positioned in between the European effort, which is largely government-regulated, and the U.S. effort, which mostly consists of industry-led voluntary programs. "What we're looking for is an industry-led program with the help and support of government regulators," Betts notes.
- "Wireless Takes Center Stage at IT Industry's Leading Extravaganza"
Financial Times--FT-IT Review (03/12/03) P. 1; Harvey, Fiona
Wireless technology will be the highlight of the annual CeBIT trade show in Germany for the third consecutive year. Spurring the broader focus in wireless is growing interest in WLANs and mobile devices throughout the corporate sector, as well as the imminent penetration of third-generation mobile networks in Europe. Sony Ericsson will be on hand to demonstrate handsets, while vendors such as Lucent and NEC will showcase hardware and software for operators. Microsoft will tout Smart Displays, wireless touch-screen monitors that enable consumers to access their home computers in different rooms, and Intel will promote its Centrino product line. With war and fear of terrorist attacks looming, wireless security products will be a major component of this year's CeBIT. Utimaco Safeware and Securepoint will offer anti-hacker products, both American and European firms will display secure smart cards, and Novell will showcase identity management tools. On the other hand, attendance at CeBIT is expected to be lower than in previous years, partly because of security concerns among U.S. exhibitors and visitors. However, on a more positive note, the number of countries represented at the conference is increasing. Giga Information Group's Rob Enderle believes more technology vendors should use events such as CeBIT as regular launching pads for new products and updates, which could help eliminate the caginess customers often feel because of sporadic product releases symptomatic of the tech industry in general.
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- "How Politics Will Reshape IT"
ZDNet (03/10/03); Caldwell, French
The maturation of the IT industry and the growing effect it has on other areas of society and economy mean the government will play a more active role in the future. Legislation and political discussion between countries will focus on five fronts: Industry regulation in terms of quality, security and critical infrastructure protection, privacy, jurisdiction and taxation, and the movement of knowledge workers internationally. Just like in mature oil and auto industries, the government will soon step in to improve the quality of IT vendors' offerings, either by leveraging its buying clout to demand better quality or through regulation. Most IT contracts and licenses now prevent customers from openly discussing problems with the purchased product, which hampers competitiveness based on quality factors. The government, insurers, and investors are also likely to mandate tighter security in the face of terror threats to infrastructure, which is increasingly reliant on IT. Government also needs to address privacy issues as IT continues to remove the "practical obscurity" that previously protected personal information--driver's licenses and other such documents are more accessible on the Internet, for example. As the use of the Internet continues to grow, it is becoming an increasingly difficult political issue, especially as it transcends normal jurisdictional boundaries. Finally, the movement of knowledge workers and industry to more inviting environments will inevitably mean a radical redistribution that will have to be addressed by government. Politics will demand tighter restrictions on the flow of knowledge jobs either in or out of the country.
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To learn more about ACM's work in the area of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "A Patch for IT Security Strategy"
Boston Globe (03/09/03) P. C3; Tippett, Peter S.
Dr. Peter Tippett of TruSecure praises the original draft of the
White House's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace for providing a solid foundation for government, businesses, and individuals to make a proactive effort to shore up the country's cyber-defenses, as well as emphasizing the importance of better intelligence-sharing between these parties. However, he writes that the strategy itself contains the biggest hindering factor--namely, its philosophical emphasis on finding and patching IT vulnerabilities as the best defense. Had organizations been more focused on deploying and maintaining basic security measures than scanning and patching holes, the impact of malicious code such as the SQL Slammer worm would have been dramatically lessened, Tippett suggests. He also characterizes the find-and-fix strategy as a time-consuming process that wastes millions of dollars each year. "Today's approach to information security is the equivalent of recommending that everyone in the United States be inoculated for every known disease at the earliest possible moment, without respect to whether or not we are likely to be exposed or to the health cost of exposure," Tippett declares. He also notes the increasing importance of a good IT security initiative in the face of mounting international tensions in Iraq and North Korea. Tippett recommends that the White House plan needs to primarily focus on finding and dealing with security risks rather than every vulnerability, however minor, that crops up. He thinks the strategy should foster efforts to gauge, anticipate, and highlight risk by spurring the categorization of security flaws that enable users to respond to fewer than 10 percent of them while taking a proactive stance on vital security components.
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- "Chips Losing Some Antipiracy Support"
CNet (03/11/03); Borland, John
Chipmakers' plans to build anti-piracy controls into hardware, known as "hard coding," have been laid aside due to confusion in the marketplace and the public policy arena. Instead, consumer electronics companies are going with a second-best alternative in software-based digital rights management technology. Hard coding promises more control over how consumers use copyrighted digital material, as well as increased protection against hackers and computer viruses. But the complexity of negotiations between the consumer electronics industry and the entertainment industry has not yielded any solution acceptable to both sides. At least one piece of legislation has proposed government-mandated digital content controls, a move that elicited harsh reaction from technology firms while elating Hollywood and music conglomerates. For the long term, large technology players such as Intel and Microsoft still have plans for trusted computing initiatives that put content controls on the chip itself. The benefits of hard coding include faster and more efficient chips. Texas Instruments, however, eschews hard coding altogether because it restricts the flexibility companies have to respond to the marketplace. The complexity of chip designs already mean chips usually take 18 months to get to market, meaning tremendous risk for chipmakers testing hard-wired digital rights management technology. Texas Instruments Internet audio chief technologist Randy Cole says, "Our philosophy has always been that DRM should be software," noting that compromised software-based controls can be restored through Internet connections. Still, chip firms are working on designs that support DRM technology, such as faster decryption of protected files.
- "Indian Programmers Still Dream of Jobs in the U.S."
Sydney Morning Herald (03/11/03)
Many Indian software programmers are waiting for the global economy to bounce back so they can pursue their dreams of working in the United States. India churns out 350,000 engineering graduates yearly, many of whom want to go the United States for various reasons, not the least of which is to make money. They are also attracted to U.S. employers' "freedom of work" and the opportunity to use state-of-the-art technology, according to Indian engineer Abhishek Bagchi. The downturn forced many U.S.-based Indian engineers to return home rather than accept major salary cuts. The economic situation has also spurred Indian programmers to reevaluate their job goals. "[Software engineers] are becoming wiser and looking for a firm which gives them job security and stability," notes engineering student Nitesh Khadiya. However, outsourcing is generally frowned upon by students, who consider it beneath their talents. "The challenging jobs are ones which involve core technology, which you can only find in the U.S.," declares computer graduate Vijay Shivaramakrishnan.
- "Argentina Makes Its Software Play"
Wired News (03/10/03); Rabinovich, Eleonora
Cheaper labor, a reputation for creativity, and a domestic recession are positioning Argentina to become a major software development provider to outside markets. The Chamber of Software and Computing Services Companies (CESSI) estimates that sales of Argentine computing products and services to the foreign market skyrocketed from $45 million in 2001 to over $100 million in 2002, and are expected to reach $200 million by 2004; the chief markets for Argentine software exports are Spain, Mexico, the United States, Chile, and Brazil. "We are considered to be intelligent, creative and quick to put out fires, something we are forced to do all the time in Argentina," notes Gartner Argentina research director Maria Luisa Kun. "Now we have to prove that we are also reliable and foreseeable." Last November, the Argentine government earmarked $20 million for the Argentec program, which will provide grant subsidies, training scholarships, and company loans. So that software companies will be encouraged to establish a track record, the National Congress is considering a bill that would make such companies eligible for various tax incentives. Kun says that the most daunting task is preventing Argentina's tech talent from defecting to other countries where they can earn bigger salaries and take advantage of better educational systems. Meanwhile, the low labor costs are spurring multinationals that already have Argentine subsidiaries--IBM and Intel among them--to leverage those branches further in order to capture a piece of the foreign market.
- "Australian Top Pick for Global Internet Body"
Newsbytes (03/07/03); McGuire, David
Former Australian government official Paul Twomey is the top candidate to succeed Stuart Lynn as ICANN's president, say anonymous insiders; the ICANN board has reportedly given its search committee approval to negotiate a contract with Twomey. If ICANN cannot seal a deal with Twomey, an inside source says that auDA CEO Chris Disspain is the board's second choice. ICANN intends to announce Lynn's successor before the next ICANN board meeting on March 23, 2003, in Rio de Janeiro. Twomey, 41, has served as an Australian cabinet-level minister for technology and policy from 1998 to 2000, and was ICANN Government Advisory Committee (GAC) chair from 1999 to 2002. Today, Twomey partners with well-known U.S. idea-man Ira Magaziner in a Sydney-based IT incubator and consultancy called Argo Pacific. ICANN Chairman Vinton Cerf says the next ICANN president must have "thick skin" and respond to interlocutors with a non-inflammatory style. Twomey's political background may help Twomey navigate with a smooth hand, says ICANN observer and law professor Michael Froomkin. Froomkin also notes that the GAC often met in secretive closed meetings, and that Twomey's past ICANN experience partially comes out of this background.
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- "Nanocomputing: Simple Optoelectronic Devices Based on Electroluminescent Silver Nanoclusters Perform Logic Operations"
Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have demonstrated quantum devices based on batches of individual electroluminescent silver nanoclusters that can perform sophisticated logic operations and could provide the building blocks for specialized, molecular-scale computing. Each cluster contains between two and eight silver atoms, and emits light when electrically excited by a specific voltage. Operating the device requires a pair of separate electrical pulses, the second of which generates electroluminescence when specific nanoclusters are activated according to voltage level. "In effect, we are demonstrating optoelectronic transistor behavior," explains Robert Dickson of Georgia Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who developed the system along with colleague Tae-Hee Lee. He goes on to say that a basic addition operation can be performed by analyzing the emission output of a pair of associated molecules and adding the pulses together; individual clusters can also operate as logic gates with AND, OR, NOT, and XOR functions via the application of different pulses, while more complex operations can be performed by increasing the number of clusters. Isolated electrical links to each nanocluster are unnecessary, so assembling the system at the nanoscale is much easier than it is with electronic devices that follow traditional design parameters. Dickson believes the devices could be particularly useful for highly specialized operations that are beyond the capabilities of traditional computers, and hopes that the breakthrough will inspire other researchers to reconsider nanometer-scale computing. The scientists' work is funded by the National Science Foundation.
- "Nano-Diamonds Sparkle One Photon at a Time"
NewsFactor Network (03/10/03); Martin, Mike
French scientists led by physicist Philippe Grangier of the Laboratoire Charles Fabry de L'Institut d'Optique are using nanoscale diamond crystals as a single-photon source, a breakthrough that could help bring quantum computing and cryptography closer to reality. Photons come in two opposing spin states that could be used as the zeroes and ones of a digital programming language for a quantum computer, explains Emanuel Knill of Los Alamos National Laboratory. He adds that this would be accomplished by channeling single photons through left or right slits to a high-efficiency detector, with the left-slit particles representing zeroes and the right-slit particles representing ones. Grangier says the super-small diamonds can yield single protons when excited by a laser because they contain dilute impurities that give rise to an optically active nitrogen vacancy, also known as an "NV center." Another advantage of nanocrystals is the reduction of background light or sparkle. Grangier notes that quantum cryptography will eliminate cryptographers' dependence on strongly attenuated but unreliable laser pulses. "Quantum cryptography is a way to distribute a perfectly secret key between two corresponding partners by encoding the required information on photons," he says. "The laws of physics guarantee the security of this setup, provided the photons are sent one by one in a perfectly controlled way."
- "Tech's Love-Hate Relationship with the DMCA"
CNet (03/10/03); McCullagh, Declan
Intel and Hewlett-Packard appear to be both friends and foes of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits the copying of copyrighted digital content, ostensibly to curtail piracy. Both companies are members of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which recently distributed a press release opposing DMCA amendments proposed by Reps. Rich Boucher (D-Va.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would give consumers the right to bypass anti-copying measures for fair use. However, Intel is a top sponsor of Boucher's bill, while HP's Pradeep Jotwani said at a February meeting with CNet that recent uses of the DMCA are "stretching it." Intel's Bill Calder commented that, had his company owned a seat on the BSA board, it would have opposed the BSA's stance on the amendments, while BSA attorney Emery Simon acknowledged that the organization votes by consensus rather than unanimity. Meanwhile, Intel is at the forefront in Silicon Valley when it comes to finding fault with extensive copyright propositions--Intel co-founder Les Vadasz warned the Senate last year that embedding anti-copying technology in virtually all electronics would seriously inhibit innovation, and the company decided not to leverage the DMCA when cryptographer Niels Ferguson disclosed vulnerabilities in Intel's High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection specification. Intel's support for revising the DMCA will make little difference unless many more companies come aboard. Software companies are eager advocates of copyright protection laws such as the DMCA because they are at greater risk of Internet piracy than hardware companies.
- "Untapped Networks"
Technology Review (03/07/03)
Businesses and computer engineers should learn from the complex, adaptive human networks everyone takes for granted, argues Columbia University sociologist Duncan Watts. Watts is working on analytical frameworks for such human networks that can be adapted for other areas. He says Microsoft, for instance, could actually benefit from breaking its business into smaller groups because separating its software code would tremendously boost resilience to hacker and computer virus threats. He specifically cited the Code Red virus, which spread throughout the world in just minutes because of the homogeneity of Microsoft's software. Watts contends the uniformity and centralization that lends itself to easy software component sharing also means greater risk in terms of software security. On the other hand, Google is one firm that has leveraged the strengths of human networks by ranking Web sites according to references from other Web sites rather than content on that page alone. Watts says human networks work in the same way to build ties according to shared information. Similarly, he says peer-to-peer networks need to have more robust forms of conducting searches, other than the traditional ways of searching central indexes or replication. Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, Watts says he observed the power of human networks in action as displaced companies with a total of 100,000 workers became operational again in under one week.
- "Untethering the Enterprise"
InfoWorld (03/03/03) Vol. 25, No. 9, P. 34; Rist, Oliver
Wireless communication that allows professionals to access information on the go is key to the untethered enterprise, and the proliferation of such an environment is moving forward thanks to the steady deployment of WLAN technology. The Yankee Group's recent Wireless/Mobile Technologies Survey finds that 41 percent of polled enterprises have already installed Wi-Fi, and 27 percent plan to do so over the next year; 88 percent of the latter percentage expect to achieve operational efficiencies by deploying WLAN, while an additional 48 percent aim to lower bandwidth costs and other capital expenditures. Without proper planning and process, it does not matter if the company's chief technologist is implementing a new wireless infrastructure from the ground up or simply tweaking an existing WLAN, notes Callaway Gardens Resort IT director Carson Holkey. Other factors that should be considered include the environment and bandwidth, according to Brian Nevins of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The Wi-Fi Alliance's Sarosh Vesuna explains that IT network management is not currently a primary concern of his organization, which is focused on interoperability and ease of use; as a result, enterprise-class wireless management applications will either stay basic or be proprietary to a specific vendor's product line. Meanwhile, Brian Chee of the University of Hawaii's Advanced Network Computing Lab observes that there is a large volume of technical support calls using wireless, particularly just after a network has been implemented. So that WLANs can continue to reap bottom-line savings, network managers must study future trends in wireless technology, one of the major ones being the integration of voice over IP phones and 802.11 infrastructure. Multimode switching between wireless specifications is another projected trend worth considering, although compatibility complications will arise as standards evolve.
- "A Slow Death for Viruses"
HP World (02/03) Vol. 6, No. 2, P. 1; Elgan, Mike
Matt Williamson of Hewlett-Packard's Biologically Inspired Complex Adaptive Systems group is one of several researchers developing a virus throttling software filter that limits the propagation of computer viruses in much the same way that the human body's immune system restricts damage from unknown microbes. Williamson explains that the virus throttle first impedes the initial intrusions from an infected machine, then builds an easily identifiable backlog of intrusion attempts that system administrators can handle. One of the virus throttling methodology's biggest pluses is its ability to lessen or prohibit false positives, one of the common problems of more traditional antivirus techniques such as shutting down programs or isolating files. Throttling supports the continuance of programs--even those that may be viral--at a rate so slow that effective propagation is eliminated. HP Labs researchers have been running the virus throttle on their own computers for three months without any negative performance effects. Williamson and other HP Labs researchers have tested the virus throttling method against the Nimda virus and proven it to be effective. Williamson observes that the only apparent way viruses can fool the throttle is to slow down, which would be a positive development.
- "Great X-pectations"
Computer Technology Review (02/03) Vol. 23, No. 2, P. 34; Lakhanpal, Naresh
Forrester Research principal analyst Carl Howe has criticized the Internet for its relatively slow user interactions, and cited the X-Internet concept as gaining speed in a report he furnished a year ago. The X-Internet, which Howe claims can "eliminate the world wide wait," involves software that is more efficient at shifting code to user PCs and other devices, and will encompass myriad forms of hardware in order to extend Internet access to a wide array of devices. Helping usher in the X-Internet's "executable" aspect are companies such as Altio: Altio CEO David Levett notes that his firm's platform supports rich Internet applications that run quickly and resemble tools such as Outlook or Quickbooks in both form and function; no installation is necessary because the platform temporarily downloads applications with only the features needed to perform a specific task. "The application requires no downloads or plug-ins, it runs through firewalls and can deploy to people in your extranet without having to go out with a CD and do support for them, and it provides diagnostic information for people using the product," says Levett. Delphi Group senior adviser Larry Hawes explains that such tools can shorten development time and time-to-market while increasing user productivity. Products and initiatives that aim to make the Internet more extended include MIT's Auto-ID Center and Sun Microsystems' Project JXTA: The former's goal is to embed microprocessors into every manufactured object so that computers can perceive their surroundings without human assistance, with the Internet, rather than the objects themselves, acting as an information storage medium. Meanwhile, the open-source Project JXTA establishes connections between services via peer-to-peer technology, enabling what Sun's Matt Reid calls "collaboration across multiple computing environments and multiple physical networks." The appeal of these technologies is offset by the inherent security issues, and the need to address their business value and deployment implications, notes Deloitte & Touche's Gene Monacelli.