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 IBM or ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 5, Issue 487: Friday, April 25, 2003
- "Linux Founder Opens Door to DRM"
CNet (04/24/03); Borland, John; Shankland, Stephen; Hansen, Evan
Linux founder Linus Torvalds posted a message on the "Linux-kernel" mailing list Thursday indicating that he sees no prohibition against developers deploying digital rights management (DRM) technology, even though some open-source advocates claim such measures infringe on their freedom. He argued that anyone is free to use the open-source Linux operating system the way he or she sees fit, even though he does not necessarily approve of DRM. In the debate that followed, Torvalds explained that the "trusted computing" project being undertaken by proprietary software and hardware developers and content owners' effort to embed rights-management technology into computing systems to better control digital content usage are interdependent. "I refuse to disallow even the 'bad' kinds of uses--because not allowing them would automatically also mean that 'good' uses aren't allowed," he declared. Opponents worry that building software authentication capabilities into hardware and operating systems could actually block open-source software from running on standard machines or working with standard programs. One respondent, Werner Almesberger, warned that Torvalds' endorsement of DRM could allow a plethora of "undesirable uses" to be deployed, while "desirable" applications would be "insignificant" in comparison. Meanwhile, one Tony Mantler posted that DRM-based Linux safeguards could easily be circumvented by using a version of Linux that only appears to be shielded. Torvalds later said that he could change his mind about DRM in Linux, if someone can make a convincing argument in response to his message.
- "Firms Call for Open High-Speed Net"
SiliconValley.com (04/25/03); Phillips, Heather Fleming
The Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators, whose members include Walt Disney, Amazon.com, and Microsoft, want the FCC to adopt guidelines that retain the Internet's basic open architecture, without which innovation could suffer. The FCC could institute rules in a few months that the coalition fears would allow broadband service providers to endorse particular services and Web sites, as well as restrict the kinds of devices that can link to their network. "Manufacturers' investment and willingness to innovate in this area undoubtedly will evaporate if network operators have the right to veto what devices their customers can attach," declared Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro. At the core of this debate are two distinct FCC actions that cover regulation of cable-modem and digital-subscriber-line service furnished by phone companies. Cable companies are allowed to select ISPs, while phone companies are required to give ISPs non-discriminatory network access. The cable-TV industry insists that it does not intend to discriminate against Web sites or restrict new technologies, so there is no reason for the FCC to adopt more stringent broadband regulations. However, the Consumers Union's Chris Murray noted that Cox Communications adopted regulations requiring subscribers to pay a higher fee if they want to use their cable-modem service to connect to their offices via virtual private networks, while Time Warner Cable sent "cease and desist" notices last year to subscribers who were using Wi-Fi networking gear outside of their homes.
- "Baby DMCAs Punish Copy Crimes"
Wired News (04/23/03); Glasner, Joanna
State lawmakers are proposing bills that limit digital copying and impose penalties on violators, leading opponents to label them super-DMCAs, after the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Van Stevenson of the Motion Picture Association of America refutes such assertions, calling the bills "amendments to existing communications or cable theft laws" that otherwise do not account for Internet-based technologies. Critics of the bills are concerned that they could ban certain devices merely because the possibility exists that they could be used for copyright infringement. Indeed, if passed into law, the state mandates could outlaw practices such as watching TV shows on a computer, argues Public Knowledge technology counsel Mike Godwin. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that seven states--Colorado, Delaware, Oregon, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan--have already enacted such statutes, while similar proposals are pending in Florida, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee. Tennessee's proposal, which the state Senate approved for passage on Tuesday, is serving as a template for most so-called super-DMCAs, and criminalizes "any communication device which is connected in such a manner that would permit the unauthorized receipt, interception, acquisition, description, transmission or re-transmission of a communication service." John Palfrey of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society claims that existing laws already outlaw many of the crimes covered in the proposed state laws.
- "To Print or Not to Print: California Studies Electronic Voting Security"
IEEE Spectrum (04/23/03); Riebeek, Holli
A special task force appointed by California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley in February is studying the security and dependability of touch-screen voting machines to see whether they should provide a printed audit trail to ensure an accurate vote count. The federal courts ordered that the state must replace punch-card systems with electronic ones by March of next year, so the task force needs to make a recommendation soon, says Stanford University professor David Dill. Dill's recent opposition to electronic voting and the support he has accrued played a significant role in Shelley's appointment of the task force. Dill's resolution argued that the integrity of elections could be compromised without printed ballots, especially if the machines are tampered with or a software bug crops up. "We're talking about basically subverting democracy in this country," says Barbara Simons, who co-chairs the ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee. Voting machines are certified for state elections through outside testing, but this is no guarantee that all technical flaws will be caught, Dill notes. Adding fuel to this argument is a recent lawsuit filed against VoteHere by former senior test engineer Daniel Spillane, who alleges that he was laid off so that he would not tell the Independent Test Authority and the General Accounting Office that he found errors in certified voting software. A decision to include printed ballots in electronic voting machines throughout California could influence policies across the United States, claims University of Iowa computer science professor Douglas Jones.
To learn more about USACM, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm
- "The Eyes and Ears of War"
Los Angeles Times (04/24/03) P. A1; McFarling, Usha Lee
In Iraq, U.S. military technological capabilities have far surpassed any demonstrated in past wars: The United States has brought to bear on the battlefield a lethal menagerie of IT, much of it developed in the commercial sector. Pentagon Office of Force Transformation director and battle group commander Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski cites Wal-Mart and its IT-heavy operations as an inspiration. Whereas in the 1991 Iraq war, U.S. commanders could only realize changes on the battlefield in hours, today it requires just minutes to reprogram precision bombs or relay other crucial information. Experts say the most dramatic new technology is not the laser-guided munitions or automated drone planes, but the network of about 100 satellites feeding all types of information to troops and commanders at all times of the day. U.S. forces receive weather information, exact locations of forces through GPS, and communication links through satellites such as the 10,000-pound "Milstar" satellite, which the Air Force Space Command uses as switchboard-in-the-sky for voice and data transmissions worldwide. Analysts credit the greater use of IT in the military for the relatively small number of troops in the recent conflict, but also worry that dependence on IT can lead to greater vulnerability should systems be shut down or outpace humans' capability to manage them. One reason a group of U.S. troops ran into an ambush after their helicopter was downed in Afghanistan was because they lost voice communications with commanders. And the Pentagon is studying the "automatic engagement mode" used in Patriot missile systems that shot down two coalition fighter planes. Another downside is that the same off-the-shelf technology is also available to U.S. enemies, such as al Qaeda, which uses satellite phones and Internet encryption.
Click Here to View Full Article
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "The PATRIOT Software Bonanza"
Salon.com (04/23/03); Mieszkowski, Katharine
Software vendors are rushing to help financial services firms, universities, and others comply with the USA Patriot Act, which requires, among other things, more robust anti-money laundering efforts. Other markets opened wider by the Patriot Act, as well as the Total Information Awareness project, include systems for closer reporting on international students for universities. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) also found that 23 technology entities, including the University of Southern California, are colluding with the Defense Department to create the infrastructure needed for monitoring citizens. Observers say this unseemly rush to provide better monitoring tools makes the commercial sector the main driver behind future privacy invasions. EPIC policy analyst Mihir Kshirsagar says his group's investigation of Defense Department contracts, which involved Freedom of Information Act requests, was meant to decipher the government's motives and tactics in monitoring civilians; the released contract documents were ambiguous but involved storage, collaboration, and integration technology. Sybase's Bob Breton puts such systems in a nicer light when speaking of his company's more capable anti-money laundering systems, nothing that the Patriot Act challenges companies to know their customers more intimately. The new requirements for financial and educational institutions do not lay down technical requirements for systems, leaving much of that to be hashed out by the software industry. But even without strict technical specifications, companies have an incentive to strengthen their capabilities anyway, largely to avoid the reputation of facilitating illicit transfers, such as eBay's PayPal and Western Union have gained.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Giving PCs the Boot--Responsibly"
Boston Globe (04/22/03) P. F1; Gaither, Chris
The National Safety Council estimates that discarded computers in the United States will total 315 million by 2004, yet only about 11 percent of computers are being recycled. Manufacturers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard are developing and implementing recycling programs and publicity campaigns so that they can avoid the institution of tougher mandates that environmental groups and legislators are pushing for. Such laws differ from state to state, and Computer TakeBack Campaign organizing director David Wood says, "The prospect of 50 different state requirements is perhaps the biggest fear in industry's mind." The nonprofit Product Stewardship Institute, a joint venture between the EPA, environmental organizations, and computer makers, aims to devise a national recycling standard in collaboration with governments and PC producers, but the standard's rollout has been delayed by bickering over who should foot the bill for recycling programs. "We're still trying to develop a system that will financially cover the cost to collect and process this equipment," notes Product Stewardship Institute director Scott Cassel. Dell's recycling program involves charging computer owners a $15 mail-in recycling fee, and through the end of April HP will offer a $100 coupon for HP products purchased over the Web to anyone who pays to have their old hardware recycled. HP also oversees a California-based recycling center in partnership with Noranda, but less than 1 percent of HP-produced hardware is reclaimed by the plant. Meanwhile, Dell's recycling program, which enlists imprisoned convicts to disassemble computers, has been criticized as unsanitary by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.
- "Like a Swerving Commuter, a Selfish Router Slows Traffic"
New York Times (04/24/03) P. E5; Austen, Ian
Cornell University researchers Tim Roughgarden and Eva Tardos have formulated an analogy between Internet traffic and highway traffic that equates motorists with routers: Shortcuts in both systems serve the selfish interests of individuals that result in a general slowdown. The scientists estimate that certain variables can slow the optimum speed of data packets by 33 percent. Dr. Roughgarden speculates that selfish routing has the deepest impact on crowded road systems or communications networks operating at or almost at capacity. He and Dr. Tardos discovered that doubling a communications link's bandwidth could restore optimum traffic speeds, as could the introduction of "altruistic" routers that consider the delays they might cause for other data packets in taking a shortcut. Fellow Cornell researcher Eric Friedman discounts the magnitude of selfish routing as it applies to Internet traffic, arguing that congestion controls are already built into the Internet's architecture. In his opinion, a more likely consequence of selfish routing is Internet instability. He analogizes this situation to two bars representing Internet routes--one empty, one crowded; in all likelihood, most of the patrons of the crowded bar will try to avoid the crush the following night by going to the empty bar, consequently bringing the crowd with them and starting a back-and-forth cycle that could go wildly out of control. Dr. Roughgarden says, "Even if [altruistic routing] would tremendously improve the Internet, the logistics of getting it deployed may be insurmountable."
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Where Spam Comes From"
BBC News (04/24/03)
Researchers at the Center for Democracy and Technology conducted a study to determine how exactly spammers get hold of email addresses. The project, which commenced last summer, involved the establishment of 250 addresses that were posted on Web sites and newsgroups; some of these addresses were posted in response to services on eBay and other popular sites, as well as auctions, discussion boards, and jobs. In addition, the researchers published addresses in the Whois domain-name owner database. By studying the emails these addresses drew over a six-month period (over 10,000 messages total), researchers concluded that 97 percent of spam was sent to addresses that were posted on public Web sites. They also found that organizations connected to popular portals such as Yahoo! and AOL received more spam. The study outlined a number of effective spam evasion techniques, including rendering addresses in HTML or human-readable format, such as replacing "@" with "at." The research determined that most Web sites were respectful of consumer requests to opt out of commercial email receiving lists. More than 8,000 emails, which were excluded from the final tally, were sent to addresses that were never posted or used via "brute force" attacks.
- "Nanocomputer Skips Clock"
Technology Research News (04/30/03); Smalley, Eric
Computing power could be ratcheted up tremendously through the advent of nanocomputers that use molecule-sized components, and researchers at Japan's Communications Research Laboratory (CRL) have formulated a low-power, highly reconfigurable nanocomputer design that emits less heat and needs less wiring than other proposed systems. The design incorporates cellular automata, which can be inexpensively manufactured in high volumes via simple chemical reactions. Each cell is arranged in a square configuration containing 4 bits, while cellular interaction is dictated by nine rules that are combined to form a for-loop. The advantages of the schematic over other nanocomputer proposals is the absence of a central clock to synchronize all signals; the circuits are instead designed to handle randomly timed signals. "We were able to [design] delay-insensitive circuits that are more efficient for our purposes than the delay-insensitive circuits used with solid-state electronics," notes CRL senior researcher Ferdinand Peper, who calculates that computers based on this design would be able to reach 1 billion times the parallel processing speed of current systems. The asynchronous nature of the cellular automata ties in well with the clockless system. Peper says the researchers' long-term goal is the construction of a reconfigurable defect- and fault-tolerant computer that uses 20-nm by 20-nm cells; over the next two years the scientists will attempt to make the cells even more manufacturable, while a prototype system built from conventional technology should be complete within five to seven years. Peper postulates that a practical nanocomputer will not emerge for at least two decades, although the asynchronous cellular architecture could be deployed sooner with the help of more developed technologies such as molecular cascades or quantum dots.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Microsoft Research Gives a Glimpse of the Future"
PC Magazine (04/18/03); Rupley, Sebastian
Microsoft Research has 55 distinct research efforts underway, including those involving machine interface design and software development technologies. Rick Rashid, who started the group in 1991, heads operations in Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus and in satellite installations around the world. Emerging technologies ready for commercial release are brought to Microsoft product teams for integration: Examples include the Tablet PC, ClearType in Windows XP, and SQL Server's data-mining technology. Rashid recently demonstrated some of the group's more recent inventions, including Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) that imbues wearable devices with online and customized intelligence. Fossil and Citizen already make watches with SPOT, which sends and receives data through the FM radio band. Rashid says this built infrastructure will provide SPOT with over 80 percent coverage in North America. Rashid also showed off online query technology called AskMSR, which combines natural-language parsing with powerful search and statistical analysis to provide answers to natural-language questions. Microsoft Research also invests heavily in new software development tools that can help Microsoft produce better software more efficiently--SCOUT, for example, divides programs into smaller blocks of code for faster and more transparent bug-checking. Stuff I've Seen is a storage interface technology Rashid says is designed to accommodate huge amounts of stored personal information; because computer storage is becoming so cheap, Rashid says Stuff I've Seen's map-like graphical representations of stored files can help people sift through saved data.
- "Perspective: A Mosaic of New Opportunities"
CNet (04/22/03); Ozzie, Ray
Groove Networks CEO Ray Ozzie asserts that the potential of what tech visionary Mark Anderson terms the "Global Computer"--a vast network consisting of all worldwide transistors interconnected by the Internet--has barely been tapped. He writes that many people feel that the Web and email are shackles, and current support tools cannot handle the deluge of information they receive; the future will be a world where society, individuals, organizations, and the economy are interdependent, and systems and technologies must evolve accordingly. Ozzie believes systems and tools will subscribe to a new design and usage paradigm in order to accommodate elevated levels of information input and online interaction. He expects practically all Internet data and transaction providers to reveal a multitude of events that users can access via standardized protocols. Those subscriptions and subsequent notifications will be managed and classified using a wide array of desktop and server-based tools, while workspace participants will be able to correspond and interact in whatever fashion is needed to complete tasks. The status or result of online work will be posted in central databases or systems. Ozzie forecasts the transformation of PCs into interpersonal computers over the next decade, which will be ushered in by several developments: The transition of personal productivity tools into online joint productivity tools that support collaborative writing, media management, presentation, and consumption applications; the appearance of a third, "virtual workspace" layer residing between the productivity and operating system layers that links an individual's computers to those operated by collaborators; and the conversion of the PC operating system into a tool that allows dubious Internet-based software to be loaded and used safely and securely, and handles rich multimedia presentations, interchange, and storage.
- "Wired by a Kindred Spirit, the Disabled Gain Control"
New York Times (04/24/03) P. E7; Marriott, Michel
Farleigh Dickinson University computer scientist Eamon Doherty is integrating computers and robotics into tools that can significantly improve the everyday lives of severely disabled people. Routine tasks that healthy people take for granted--telephone dialing and Internet browsing, for instance--are beyond the capacity of persons who have little mobility or have lost the use of their hands. Dr. Doherty and his team have restored such functions to handicapped people by disassembling toys and retooling them with computer components and programming. One tool he designed and recently tested is a communications system for a quadriplegic man that consists of a computer-linked sensor attached to the man's forehead. The system enables the man to talk via telephone, for example, by furrowing his brow to type out words or choose words and phrases from a chart that are spoken by a voice synthesizer. Another project Dr. Doherty is working on involves reprogramming a hydraulically-powered Army surplus robot arm so that it can also be controlled with a facial electrode. His desire to use electronics for hands-free computer manipulation stems from a teenage accident that temporarily cost him the use of his hands, and was solidified by the tribulations of a quadriplegic tutor and friend. "[Doherty is] getting kids while they're in college seeing the technology and the possibilities," remarks Images SI research director John Iovine.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "Engineers Aim to Make Average Singers Sound Like Virtuosos"
Purdue News Service (04/23/03); Venere, Emil
Mark J.T. Smith of Purdue University's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has teamed up with Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student Matthew Lee to devise computer algorithms for voice analysis and synthesis so that human singing voices can be modified to sound more like professional singers. "Our ultimate goal is to have a computer system that will transform a poor singing voice into a great singing voice," Smith declares, adding that at this point the algorithms can refine vocal components such as pitch, duration, and vibrato. Once the original voice is deconstructed by the system, the fast Fourier transform is employed to quickly rebuild it. Smith explains that singing is first transformed into a sequence of numbers, then changed into another sequence that represents the improved singing voice, which is then fed into a digital-to-analog converter and a speaker. The system is based on Smith's work on a sinusoidal model that allows the human singing voice to be split into sine wave segments; improving voice quality by tweaking sine wave parameters in the segments became possible thanks to a technique recently developed by Smith and Lee. Smith notes that this process is complicated by the wide array of voice types and singing styles. Besides altering singing voices, the sinusoidal model could be used to simulate musical instruments, improve the quality of text-to-speech programs, and enhance the auditory capacity of hearing-impaired people. Lee will demonstrate the system at the 145th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Nashville, Tenn., on April 30.
- "Critical Path"
InformationWeek (04/21/03) No. 936; Hayes, Mary; Soat, John
Discouraged by layoffs, increasing outsourcing, and downturns, both employed and unemployed IT professionals are losing faith in the IT career path, and are advising the younger generation to develop more marketable skills; this could lead to a scarcity of IT talent and jeopardize the United States' standing in the international IT community. Seventy percent of over 15,000 IT pros polled in InformationWeek Research's 2003 Salary Survey reported that IT's career potential has declined dramatically in the last five years. "If [one has] the engineering aptitude, go into other areas, like designing airplanes, cars, bridges," suggests jobless database administrator Christopher Connor. "Anything but software." IT workers are especially frustrated at the surge of offshore outsourcing, while Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller says that foreign IT competition is a fact of life, and the U.S. IT industry must adjust to it accordingly. Another challenge for business-technology executives is retaining top talent through incentives that promote job satisfaction, now that double-digit salary growth is a thing of the past. Such options include training programs, staff retreats, and opportunities to update one's skills, all the while encouraging IT pros to align their work more closely with business goals rather than technology. Technological advancements could alter the IT career landscape even further by streamlining or eliminating certain processes as well as allowing IT staff to devote more time to system design.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Will Ceiling Fall?"
eWeek (04/21/03) Vol. 20, No. 16, P. 56; Vaas, Lisa
Tech workers are increasingly incensed over the perceived loss of jobs to foreign companies and workers, and are pressing politicians to lower the ceiling for H-1B visas issued each year. A number of legislators have already responded, including Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is key to setting H-1B visa quotas. Sensenbrenner recently addressed a group of Indian businessmen and warned of a tightened H-1B visa program. Other members of Congress have been more open in their opposition to immigrant high-tech workers, many of whom hail from technology-heavy areas hard-hit by the downturn. Industry experts anticipate that the H-1B cap of 195,000 per year will drop back to the default level of 65,000 visas on Oct. 1, 2003, largely because only 79,100 visas were issued last year. Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, which in the past lobbied to increase the number of H-1Bs issued each year, says the fire against the program is misdirected. He says job losses are due to offshore outsourcing, not to H-1B workers who work for roughly the same wages as domestic workers do; offshore outsourcing, on the other hand, promises significant savings based on wages just one-third or one-fourth of those paid in the United States. Meanwhile, tech workers are increasingly joining pro-labor groups such as the Programmer's Guild in an effort to gain a voice in issues involving technology jobs.
- "Wi-Fi Means Business"
Business Week (04/28/03) No. 3830, P. 86; Green, Heather; Rosenbush, Steve; Crockett, Roger O.
Four years after its debut as a tool primarily for enthusiasts on the network fringe, wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) has started to penetrate the corporate sector. Buoyed by its ability to provide cheaper high-speed Internet connections, firms are embracing Wi-Fi to optimize processes in the retail, manufacturing, trucking, and medical industries. Wi-Fi growth began mainly as a grass-roots movement, with advocates setting up makeshift hot spots to facilitate free and geographically unbound Web communications; the current worldwide Wi-Fi user population tops 18 million. If these hot spots can be turned into reliable, unified networks, the scope and extent of the Internet will be significantly broadened, thus laying the foundation for next-generation Internet services. Intel has taken a vanguard position in the race to standardize commercial Wi-Fi with a $300 million marketing commitment to its Centrino line of Wi-Fi-enabled computer chips, and co-founded Cometa Networks with AT&T and IBM to establish a national hot-spot network. UPS, IBM, and Cisco have all made sizeable Wi-Fi investments, as have smaller companies. But before Wi-Fi can go national, security, interoperability, and standards issues must be resolved, and there are arguments that the technology's costs are too high while its 300-foot range is too limited. Wi-Fi's immediate return-on-investment is expected to be marginal, but in the long run the technology should give the cloistered tech industry a much-needed, invigorating boost of growth.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "TeleLiving: When Virtual Meets Reality"
Futurist (04/03) Vol. 37, No. 2, P. 44; Halal, William E.
New technological trends are bringing TeleLiving--conversational human-machine interaction that facilitates a smoother, more comfortable way to educate, shop, do one's job, and even socialize--closer to reality. High-speed broadband communications will supply TeleLiving's backbone, while increasing computational power through the advent of two-dimensional and later three-dimensional chips will also be beneficial. However, there is little consumer demand for broadband or additional computing power because of limited functionality and overcomplicated technology. The key to boosting demand lies in the development of a killer app, and George Washington University's William E. Halal believes TeleLiving's killer app will be the conversational interface. Such a tool will combine animated digital characters or avatars with speech-recognition technology, while the interface itself will be accessible wherever a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen can be installed. Roles the conversational interface is expected to play include a virtual assistant that can help a person set up doctor appointments and consultations remotely, for instance; an enhancement to audiovisual communications that supports high-fidelity real-time images; and a bridge across the digital divide between technological haves and have-nots upheld by the elimination of the need for computer literacy. For TeleLiving to come to fruition, artificial intelligence must advance to the point where a computer can model the cognitive capacity of the human brain, a goal that conservative estimates expect to be reached by 2020.
- "The State of Desktop Speech"
Speech Technology Magazine (04/03) Vol. 8, No. 2, P. 6; Baker, Janet M.
The growing sophistication of desktop speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies will open up new markets and boost economic returns for users. Doctors and lawyers represent a steady customer base for desktop dictation products, given their reliance on transcription and their desire to operate more efficiently by eliminating common transcription errors. Another major market for text-to-speech are physically disabled or impaired users who have found the technology essential to their participation in the workforce, while injured users can re-enter the workplace faster with such tools. Increasing numbers of mobile workers who use handhelds to document information on the fly have come to rely on desktop transcription to automatically furnish an accurate text record. Later innovations will make it easier for small devices to handle email, word processing, and other tasks. Expected trends include the elimination of linking to servers and networks for speech processing; the porting of server-based applications into desktop platforms; and desktops that support local audiomining, multispeaker meeting and telephony transcription, more natural language database inquiries, and real-time spoken language translation. The major suppliers of speech technology--IBM and Microsoft among them--subscribe to different technology standards, a strategy that will splinter the industry and drive prices up. Integrating these multiple specifications into a single standard would be advantageous to all concerned parties--vendors, developers, customers, and markets.