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Volume 5, Issue 574: Friday, November 21, 2003

  • "Smaller Computer Chips Built Using DNA as Template"
    New York Times (11/21/03) P. A22; Chang, Kenneth

    Scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have used DNA strands to create minute, self-assembling transistors through recombination, which is typically used to fix damaged DNA and swap genes. The process involves placing a single DNA strand in a solution with proteins and a double DNA helix: The single strand insinuates itself into the double helix where it matches the helix's genetic sequence, and then antibodies in the solution cause the DNA to bind to a carbon nanotube coated with another protein. Creating a transistor involves coating the uncovered DNA sections with silver and gold, forming wires that link to both ends of the nanotube. "The DNA serves as a scaffold, a template that will determine where the carbon nanotubes will sit," explains Technion Institute researcher Dr. Erez Braun. The Technion scientists discovered earlier that DNA can be stretched across a surface and act as a template to link the transistors into a circuit, and Braun says constructing the circuit is the next step. Scientists are working to harness biological self-assembly to create molecular transistors without relying on slow, inefficient fabrication techniques, and to circumvent the inherent limitations of silicon chip technology. Columbia physics professor Dr. Horst Stormer calls the Technion breakthrough a "good first step" toward self-assembling electronics. Meanwhile, Duke University researchers reported back in August the creation of ultrathin wires using silver-coated DNA.
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  • "Senate Approves $3.7B Nanotech Bill"
    InternetNews.com (11/19/03); Mark, Roy

    Congress has passed legislation that authorizes a four-year commitment of $3.7 billion to support nanotechnology research and development; the bill supplies a framework for coordination of research across agencies and stresses interdisciplinary research, the resolution of nanotech concerns, and external reviews of nanotech programs. President Bush is expected to sign the bill. Sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and George Allen (D-Va.) and in the House by Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the bill sets up an academic-industrial advisory board to establish performance metrics for the National Nanotechnology Initiative and clearly mark short-, medium-, and long-term nanotech targets. The board will send an annual report to Congress and the president detailing nanotech progress, as well as a review on funding levels for nanotech programs for every federal agency. "The nanotechnology program will be a model of how government, universities and industry can work together to advance science and bolster our nation's economy," stated Boehlert. The legislation also requires the president to create a national initiative to carry out long-term nanoscience and engineering research concentrating on comprehension of basic nanoscale elements, with a focus on potential advances in medicine and health care, materials and manufacturing, national security, computation, and information technology. In the IT field, nanotech could help the design, development, and fabrication of tools surpass the limitations of Moore's Law. The legislation has been endorsed by a wide variety of organizations and companies, including the Association for Computing Machinery.
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  • "SCO to Expand Its Lawsuit Beyond Linux"
    EarthWeb (11/19/03); Singer, Michael

    SCO Group CEO Darl McBride announced at the Enterprise IT Week cdXpo Conference in Las Vegas this week that his company is analyzing source code awarded in a nine-year old settlement between AT&T's Unix Systems Laboratories and Berkeley Software Design (BSD), trying to uncover evidence that the BSD community is infringing on SCO copyright by maintaining an open-source "genetic" version of Unix. SCO has already sued IBM and is planning legal action against other major Linux users, though McBride stated that suits against BSD will probably not be filed until the first half of 2004. Earlier this year McBride sent an open letter to Fortune 1,000 and Global 500 companies warning them that they could face litigation if they fail to pay licensing fees for components of the Linux operating system that allegedly infringe on SCO's copyright. McBride said that his legal team is contacting about 24 companies over the Unix infringement claim. During his press briefing at the conference, McBride advised companies to be cautious of seeing Linux as a "free lunch" and to fiercely shield their intellectual property. He said that his decision to reorganize SCO (then called Caldera) stemmed from a 30-day audit that listed the Unix operating system as the company's most important asset; SCO claims that its aggressive litigation is an attempt to capture its fair share of the Unix marketplace, which is valued at $21 billion. McBride anticipates the end of the General Public License that sometimes accompanies open-source software and the eventual legal victory of his company, and maintains that SCO is not out to demonize and destroy Linux and open source.
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  • "Republicans Back E-Vote Bill"
    Wired News (11/19/03)

    The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 has picked up its first Republican co-sponsors. Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), and Charles Bass (R-N.H), have indicated that they will sign on as co-sponsors of the bill introduced in the House in May by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). "I am confident that more Republicans will join me so that together we can pass this legislation and make sure that every vote cast in every future election is counted accurately," Holt said in a statement. Holt's bill is designed to boost voter confidence in the integrity of electronic voting systems by requiring a paper trail of votes wherever e-voting technology is used. For example, a touch-screen voting machine would have to produce a receipt that verifies that the correct vote has been recorded. Receipts also would be used as the paper trail in the event of a computer malfunction or irregularity in an election. The bill also requires a voter verification mechanism for disabled voters who use e-voting machines, bans the use of wireless communication devices to transfer votes from voting machines to election precincts, and forces vendors to open their software code to pubic scrutiny upon request.
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  • "Group Pushing E-Voting Security to Launch"
    IDG News Service (11/21/03); Heichler, Elizabeth

    The National Committee on Voter Integrity (NCVI) will hold its first press conference today in Washington, D.C., to promote "the integrity and reliability of electronic voting systems," according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Peter Neumann, a computer security and risk expert at SRI International and an ACM fellow is chairman of the new group, which also includes past ACM president Barbara Simons, Stanford University professor David Dill, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg, author Rebecca Mercuri, and Electronic Frontier Foundation legal director Cindy Cohn. The group was formed in response to the lack of consideration given to technology issues related to new voting systems and will work to ensure adequate privacy for elections and voter-verified ballots. A recent Congressional Research Service report noted an "emerging consensus" of opinion that existing direct recording electronics "do not adhere sufficiently to currently accepted security principles for computer systems, especially given the central importance of voting systems to the function of democratic government."
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    To learn of ACM's activities regarding e-voting, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/Issues/EVoting.htm.

  • "Computing Power Tries to Keep Up With Information Flood"
    USA Today (11/19/03) P. 3B; Maney, Kevin

    The University of California-Berkeley report, "How Much Information 2003," estimates that five exabytes of data--equivalent to all words spoken by human beings--was created last year, and reckons that the volume of information worldwide is expanding at a yearly rate of 30 percent. This information flood has been hastened by the Internet, writes Kevin Maney. He explains that data growth has been fiercely competing with Moore's Law--the tenet that computing power doubles every 18 months--but warns that Moore's Law is in danger of falling behind, which could lead to a situation in which massive amounts of information cannot be exploited because computing technology has hit a wall. "The good news is that in 18 months [a computer] will be twice as fast," says IBM Research scientist Bill Pulleyblank. "The bad news is that in 18 months, it will only be twice as fast." IBM and other companies are working to transcend Moore's Law with the development of machines such as IBM's Blue Gene/L, a supercomputer that promises to be 30 times more powerful than the world's fastest existing computer once it is up and running next year. At its current stage, Blue Gene is about the size of a dishwasher and is ranked as the 73rd fastest computer in the world. Maney writes that by the time a consumer version of Blue Gene is introduced, the amount of information generated annually could conceivably surpass 15 exabytes.
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  • "Open Source's Threat to Microsoft Is Growing"
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer (11/19/03); Bishop, Todd

    Traditional software companies see open-source software as a growing threat to their business, which is based on proprietary products: Microsoft is so concerned that it has launched a wide-ranging campaign to show the public that its Windows OS cannot be matched. The open source movement is being promoted at this week's Apache Software Foundation conference, ApacheCon, being held down the road from Comdex. Open source software's influence is growing; the Apache Web server is now used on about 70 percent of the world's Web servers. Proponents say the open-source approach, in which source code is made publicly available for modification, promotes collaborative projects that in turn lead to better quality products; open source is proving very popular in academic institutions and is expanding its reach into countries such as China and Brazil through business arrangements with providers such as IBM and Sun Microsystems. Fuld & Co. President Leonard Fuld as well as open-source advocates think it is sensible for Microsoft to be more amenable to adopting the open-source model to some degree: Sun's Simon Phipps notes that open-source-oriented business models in which companies charge money for services and support rather than programs can be viable. However, the future of open source, especially on the desktop, remains murky from both a legal and technical standpoint. A SCO lawsuit against IBM for selling Linux, which allegedly includes SCO-owned intellectual property, is complicating matters, while George Kondrach of outsourcer Innodata Isogen reports that a relative lack of technical support for many open-source programs is also impeding the software's proliferation. Still, venture capitalist Patrick Ennis says such concerns are not an issue for many users. He says, "If you spend a lot of time walking the halls of universities and national labs...sometimes it seems like everything is Linux."
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  • "Study Warns of Lack of Scientists as Visa Applications Drop"
    New York Times (11/20/03) P. A24; Glanz, James

    Increasing American dependence on foreign-born scientists and engineers puts the nation's technology-driven economy at risk as heightened security fears since Sept. 11 has made it more difficult for foreigners to obtain working visas for the United States, concludes a new National Science Foundation study commissioned by the NSF's governing National Science Board. Office of Immigration Statistics analyzed by the board found that from 2001 to 2002, temporary worker visas issued for science and technology jobs fell from 166,000 to 74,000. Meanwhile, increased marketing efforts by other countries for international brainpower threatens to divert needed expertise. State Department spokesperson Stuart Patt notes that overall visa applications have fallen since 9/11, but he acknowledges that "we take a closer look at the technology-transfer issues involved in those applications." University of Texas at El Paso President Dr. Diana S. Natalicio, vice-chairwoman of the science board, says that key areas of science and technology in the U.S. may soon face a lack of scientists and engineers. She says too few American students are pursuing science and technology careers, particularly Hispanic Americans, the fastest-growing sector in the U.S. Experts say the U.S. must do more to make science and technology careers more attractive, including teacher training, financing science programs from kindergarten and on, and upgrading equipment.
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  • "IBM Donates Code to Open Source Project"
    CNet (11/18/03); LaMonica, Martin

    IBM has contributed source code that will act as a cornerstone of the Visual Editor Project, an effort by the Eclipse software consortium to advance the technology used to build Java-based graphical user interfaces (GUIs). IBM's Visual Editor for Java, a component of IBM's WebSphere Studio programming tools, will serve as the jumping-off point for the Visual Editor Project, according to Visual Editor for Java manager Gili Mendel. "By giving [this GUI builder code] to open source, we can build whatever we want on top of it," he explains. Up to now, Eclipse has supplied GUI-building tools based on Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) technology that lets developers take advantage of presentation features specific to each operating system; but a GUI builder for Swing user interfaces favored by Sun Microsystems will be included in the initial code for the Visual Editor Project. Swing provides a universal look for GUIs across disparate operating systems, but though Sun lauds the tool's inclusion, the company has yet to come to grips with other issues that, once settled, could make Sun more amenable to joining the Eclipse consortium. "We're still trying to get to a conclusion on what the Eclipse group is and what it stands for, what its new name is going to be, and what kind of positions they are going to have on how they operate," says Sun's Joe Keller. Mendel says a SWT-compliant GUI toolkit is also scheduled to be developed for inclusion in the Visual Editor Project, while RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady says support for both Swing and SWT should be an attractive lure for independent software providers. IBM founded the Eclipse consortium with a $40 million grant in 2001.
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  • "InterVal--Internet and Value Chains: Berlin Research Center on Internet Economics"
    InterVal Press Release (11/17/03)

    Berlin's Humboldt-Universitat is hosting a new research center intended to study the long-term and macroeconomic effects of the advanced networked economy--specifically how XML, Web services, and the semantic Web affect industry supply chains. The Internet and Value Chains (InterVal) research center studies the design and analysis of supply chains, and focuses on measuring productivity, security, privacy, and the value of information and knowledge sharing. The productivity study will look at how advanced Web-enabled supply chains impact the overall economy, while the privacy and security research will work out technical details, such as how to cost effectively trade encrypted data over third-party Web services. Humboldt-Universitat Institute of Information Systems director and InterVal coordinator professor Oliver Guenther says finding ways to balance privacy and security demands with the requirements of open workflows is key to spurring full participation in new value networks. Another critical area of study are metrics and valuations used to define a successful supply chain network. For example, what information is needed to guarantee the smooth operation of the supply chain network, and what incentives are necessary to encourage free sharing of such information? InterVal will also study aspects of traditional markets that can be applied to Web-enabled value networks. InterVal involves researchers of different disciplines from Humboldt-Universitat, three other Berlin universities, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Software and System Engineering, and is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
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  • "Next-Generation Tech: Individuals First"
    SiliconValley.com (11/10/03); Gillmor, Dan

    Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems director Radu Popescu-Zeletin foresees the emergence of an individual-centric model for mobile and wireless communications technology in the next decade, one that is "intelligent enough to adapt to the individual, wherever you are--anytime, any place and according to your personal preferences." Such a development is already on its way to becoming reality: Telephone systems that route calls over the Internet are starting to penetrate traditional fixed-wire carrier markets, and Wi-Fi technology's penetration into the mobile phone sector will allow users to place voice calls without having to go through the cellular networks. Andrew Odlyzko of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis' Digital Technology Center believes "a variety of devices that will seamlessly connect to one of various networks, depending on the devices' features and on what networks are active in the area, and on pricing" will arrive in a few years' time, if current trends continue. "Ad hoc" networks capable of on-the-fly configuration have the potential to do away with traditional telecom carriers, and the FCC's recent opening up of radio spectrum is seen as an opportunity by certain companies to experiment with such technology. Engineers at DaimlerChrysler's Research and Technology Center are trying to build a continuously fluid ad hoc network by enabling cars to communicate with each other and various wireless access points through Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). Another DSRC application the FCC is encouraging is a "DriveBy InfoFueling" system that allows cars to automatically update street maps, accident information, and other data from wireless access points.
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  • "Sandia Labs Studies Phony Computer Network for Hackers"
    Oakland Tribune (11/19/03); Hoffman, Ian

    Network-security experts at the Livermore, Calif., campus of Sandia National Laboratories are protecting a supercomputer conference this week in Phoenix without the use of a main firewall. Instead, federal researchers have decided to use a "honeynet" to create a mirage of the network that will provide connections to supercomputers and videoconferencing systems every day during the public gathering. The honeynet concept is similar to the notion of a honeypot, which is a machine or software designed to act like an unsecured computer operating system, in that a fake network is created to distract hackers from a real network, and to give security experts an opportunity to study the actions and strategies used by hackers. "The ultimate goal is to deter them from your real computer system and delay them on a fictitious system so you have more time to figure out who they are and what they're after," says Tim Toole, a Sandia network architect working security for SC2003. The emergence of honeynets does not signal the end for firewalls, intrusion-detection systems, and other cybersecurity measures. However, Sandia cybersecurity co-manager Barry V. Hess envisions honeynets one day being built into the firewalls or modems of small businesses and home PC users, turning the Internet into a house of mirrors for hackers.
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  • "UF 'Smart Home' Demonstrates Concept of Automated Elderly Help and Care"
    EurekAlert (11/19/03)

    University of Florida researchers have designed and built a 500-square-foot "smart house" that employs state-of-the-art computer and sensor technology to automatically provide assistive-living services to elderly residents. The many devices and sensors in the living area are sensitive to residents' needs and whereabouts via connections to a centralized computer network. Cutting-edge innovations and services this smart home offers include notification of detected water leaks by cell phone; vocal control of lights, doors, window curtains, stereo, and television; location-tracking technologies that automatically trigger devices--TV screens, for example--whenever the resident moves into another room; and microwave ovens programmed to recognize foods and determine their cooking times. "What this home demonstrates is the evolution from assistive devices to assistive environments," declares UF associate professor of computer and information science and engineering Sumi Helal, who believes such a home might one day be capable of remote health monitoring. The need for money- and labor-saving assistive technologies is a pressing one, especially in Florida, where people 75 and up account for 9 percent of the state's population. William Mann, director of the National Institute for Disability, Rehabilitation and Research, notes that assistive care needs and costs will skyrocket in the next 20 or so years as 78 million baby boomers approach old age. Studies show that elderly people who do not acquire and use assistive devices become debilitated much faster than those who do--and are more expensive to care for, Mann asserts. Furthermore, elderly people are more inclined to embrace technology than stereotypes would suggest.
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  • "Web Regulator Too American, UN to Hear"
    National Post (11/19/03); Vincent, Isabel

    Though ICANN's board of directors encompasses members from all over the globe, a number of developing countries still believe the United States has inappropriate power over the Internet and they advocate oversight by a more intergovernmental group. Not everyone agrees with this view. "Increasingly, ICANN has been setting policies on issues that will have a significant impact on the free expression and privacy rights of Internet users, for example, by crafting policies that favor commercial interests over those of non-commercial speakers," states the Internet Democracy Project, which wants ICANN to become more accountable to Internet users. British technical consultant Bill Thompson says of ICANN, "It has never shown that it is able to represent the majority of interests of Net users." Supporters of ICANN argue that U.N. groups would be incapable of overseeing the Internet and support ICANN's approach of limited regulation. ICANN President Paul Twomey advocates a system that would include management by ICANN along with government regulation, pointing to ICANN's experience and opposing the notion that ICANN is too tipped toward the United States.
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  • "Breaking the Glass Firewall"
    Network World (11/17/03) Vol. 20, No. 46, P. 38; Radcliff, Deborah

    Alta Associates CEO Joyce Brocaglia thinks women are excellent candidates for information security management because "They're good at communication, relationship management, team-building and multitasking--all of which are essential traits for executive-level positions." Foote Partners co-founder David Foote adds that information security organizations will combine technology, communications, and behavioral sciences, giving women trained in the technical and social sciences more opportunities for advancement. Women's success in the security workforce--about 12 percent of security personnel are female, according to a 2002 salary survey--was the premise behind the recent Alta Associates Executive Women in Information Security Forum. Discussions revolved around the importance of people skills: Guardent CEO Maria Cirino emphasized the need to manage compassionately in times of crisis, while CYA Technologies founder Elaine Price said women managers must keep the company's best interests in mind when hiring or firing staff, even if letting people go is a difficult job. Many attendees and panelists followed unusual career paths or hailed from atypical backgrounds. Trident Capital Partner Becky Bace railed against traditional female roles even as a child, and said information security was the first area she found interesting. During her tenure at the National Security Agency, Bace supported academic and federal research in cryptography and IDS that helped lead to first-generation intrusion detection, while later accomplishments included providing computer forensics training materials for intelligence agencies and a stint as a computer security officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Attendees agreed that there should be no male panelists at next year's forum--AOL's Patty Edfors remarked that an all-female conference allows women to more deeply discuss their work and related subjects.
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  • "The Next Chapter: Predictions About Storage"
    Computerworld (11/17/03) Vol. 31, No. 52, P. 58; Betts, Mitch

    Academics and top technology business executives predict many significant advances in the field of digital storage by the end of the decade. M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers' Dana Gross forecasts that continued progress in multilevel cell technology and flash silicon will enable cell phones to store a terabyte of data by 2007, and Colorado Software Architects President Dave Howard expects current data backup techniques to become unnecessary with the advent of time-enabled, versioned file systems within four years. James W. Gabberly of Pace University thinks the emergence of massive databases of information collated by enterprise workers will give rise to job opportunities for "corporate librarians," while Winchester Electronics President Michael Driscoll foresees the obsolescence of CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and floppies thanks to increasing wireless access speeds that will facilitate data access from virtually anywhere. Contoural CEO Mark Diamond believes companies will choose to save nearly all their data on centralized enterprise data archives that use low-cost storage systems by 2006 in order to comply with a welter of regulations and discovery requests. 3ware VP Barbara Murphy projects that the entertainment industry's digitization of movies and other content will represent tremendous revenue opportunities for storage vendors--in fact, the film industry alone will produce far more stored data than the current corporate storage market. Meanwhile, Critical Technologies CEO Scott Klososky predicts that bots, also known as agents, will find wide use for enterprise data-mining by 2005, and OuterBay Technologies CEO Michael Howard anticipates the ubiquitous 2004 emergence of smart file systems that employ object-based storage.
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  • "From Artificial Intelligence to Artificial Biology?"
    Technology Review (11/03) Vol. 106, No. 9, P. 37; Tristram, Claire

    A fundamental shift in the perception of computing, from artificial intelligence to artificial biology, is a topic of interest among a growing cadre of scientists. Rather than pursuing bug-free software, the researchers argue that bugs should be considered a natural part of the software, much like bacteria naturally affects biological systems; thus software should be designed with self-healing functions that add resiliency and redundancy to keep the system working properly, similar to how an immune system fights off infection. Both academic and commercial projects are undergoing dramatic changes with the emergence of this philosophy: So-called "self-healing" database programs and Web servers have been introduced by IBM and Oracle, while programs such as Microsoft's Windows XP operating system store models of their original configurations that can be reinstated if they are corrupted by bugs. IBM Research director Paul Horn's seminal 2001 white paper urging the computing research community to start designing "autonomic" systems has been very influential. Autonomic computing seeks to automate system operations typically carried out by people, such as reboots and other types of repair and regulation. A more biological approach to programming could lead to software capable of repairing some of its own bugs to complement catch-all fixes that miss core problems. "We need to move towards a programming philosophy where we look at the global system and understand what properties it needs to have, rather than thinking about programming as a sequence of instructions," explains David Evans of the University of Virginia.
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  • "The Best New Technologies of 2003"
    Business 2.0 (11/03) Vol. 11, No. 10, P. 109; Pescovitz, David; Orenstein, Susan; Maier, Matthew

    A number of broadly applicable technologies with the potential to change the home and workplace have been selected by Business 2.0 as the best new technologies of the year. Canon, Cornice, Hitachi, and Rio are marketing or developing micro hard drives that can store more data in smaller packages, which promises to dramatically boost the data storage capacity of personal digital assistants, cell phones, and camcorders, as well as increase computing's mobility. Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which have started to show up in automotive systems and consumer electronics, are being driven by cheap, simple fabrication methods; the technology has the potential to penetrate the medical industry as drug delivery systems and the telecommunications sector as tools to lower the cost and complexity of fiber-optic networks. Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) now competes with traditional circuit-switched calls in terms of voice quality, due to breakthrough data compression and prioritization software that reduces lags and voice distortion. In addition to costing far less than circuit-switched calls, VOIP boasts an easier switchover process. The 64-bit computing age has been ushered in with the introduction of new chips such as Apple's G5 and AMD's Athlon 64, which are capable of processing up to 16 billion GB of data at a time; this means that companies with large databases will be able to significantly reduce their IT costs, while researchers and visual-effects experts will benefit from 64-bit computing's expanded memory. Business 2.0 also lists a set of promising technologies that could make their market debut next year, including LED light bulbs, ultrawideband, magnetoresistive random access memory, bioinformatics, gecko tape, organic light-emitting diodes, effective antispam software, WiMax wireless broadband, micro fuel cells, and radio frequency identification tags.

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