ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Gateway Inc. or ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 3, Issue 267: Monday, October 22, 2001
- "DMCA Protester Cracks Microsoft's Copyright Protection Code"
Newsbytes (10/19/01); Bonisteel, Steven
An anonymous hacker has broken the code of Microsoft's digital right management (DRM) technology. In addition, the hacker has released a program dubbed FreeMe that can circumvent technological locks on some audio files. FreeMe is accompanied by its source code, and is intended to remove protections from Windows Media Audio (.wma) files. Operating under the name Beale Screamer, the hacker said in a manifesto that the moves were meant to protest the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The files were likely to have been released over the Internet Thursday. The DMCA restricts the use of copyrighted work, according to Beale Screamer. "When I buy a piece of music, I expect my traditional fair use rights to the material," the hacker writes. Beale Screamer reasons that content buyers should be able to copy music files to other PCs, laptops, and MP3 players.
- "The Tech Wasteland"
Fortune (10/29/01) Vol. 144, No. 8, P. 88; Schlender, Brent
The recent rebound in tech stocks is not a sign that the high-tech industry will lead the U.S. economy out of the recession. In fact, the high-tech industry is likely to remain in a funk long after the rest of the economy has bounced back. The tech industry's problem goes much deeper than the typical business cycle. The industry is suffering from a vicious environment in which standard technologies have reduced computer companies to selling indistinguishable boxes, with most of the innovation taking place at Intel and Microsoft, which are reaping most of the profits. Such a landscape has forced companies to differentiate themselves through manufacturing, distribution efficiency, marketing, or providing computer services. HP and Compaq hope their proposed merger will give them the economies of scale and the critical mass to survive as a provider of IT services, now that their hardware business generates little profit. The telecommunications-networking-gear industry will undergo commoditization similar to the computer industry, but makers of routers, switches, and repeaters are not likely to make the same mistake as computer companies because they have the benefit of seeing how common standards have created a tech wasteland, and because networking demands more customized technology. Like the computer industry, the networking gear industry will see many casualties, and a few bruised winners.
- "Comdex Expects Attendance to Falter"
USA Today (10/22/01) P. 1B; Swartz, Jon
Attendance at Comdex is likely to fall 25 percent to 150,000 due to the economic downturn and the terror attacks. The figure is the lowest in nine years for the trade show, to be held Nov. 12-16 in Las Vegas. Along with the demise of dot-coms, worries about travel, security, and anthrax have taken their toll as well. The city expects to lose about $65 million in lost revenue. Some 2,000 companies are expected to participate in Comdex, down from last year's 2,300, organizers say. Many small and midsize firms have opted not to attend. Larger companies are cutting back on their delegations and canceling promotional events. Still, such giants as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel are expected to attend in full force while Bill Gates and others deliver keynote speeches.
- "Controversial Encryption Plan Abandoned"
InfoWorld.com (10/19/01); Fonseca, Brian
The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) is relieved that Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has changed his mind and abandoned his support for legislation that would provide law enforcement agencies with backdoor access to all U.S. encryption products. The proposal triggered a wave of protest from the public and private sector. CCIA President Ed Blake says that key escrow would be too large a security risk and endanger people's sense that their private data was secure. CCIA VP Jason Mahler expressed his approval of Gregg's reversal in a statement. "Without strong encryption technology, all Americans would be at risk of exposure of their most sensitive information," he said.
- "Laptop Users Will Soon Print While Traveling"
Wall Street Journal (10/22/01) P. B5; Clark, Don
A coalition of document management companies have rallied behind a new effort to allow mobile workers access to any printer, possibly solving one of the major obstacles to the vision of a mobile workforce. Yahoo!, Adobe Systems, Xerox, and other companies say they are supporting a new service called PrintMe from Electronics for Imaging (EFI), a leading provider of print server technology. EFI's new service will allow users to send print jobs to printers through online print servers, and uses Adobe technology to bypass format compliance issues. The ultimate goal, according to EFI CEO Guy Gecht, is to put the PrintMe software in every new printer, but is currently focusing on retrofitting existing printer hardware at retail print shops. Hewlett-Packard, a printing technology giant, has yet to officially back the program, but is developing a similar service with mobile device makers Nokia and Research in Motion, which makes the Blackberry email device.
- "Companies Urged to Report Computer Sabotage"
Network World Fusion (10/19/01); Gaudin, Sharon
More and more cases of corporate computer sabotage by angry employees are cropping up, according to the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service. Special Agent-in-Charge James Washington attributes 50 percent to 75 percent of such cases to insiders. Grady O'Malley, the federal prosecutor who successfully tried Omega Engineering network administrator Tim Lloyd for computer sabotage, says that companies are reluctant to admit such incidents take place for fear of embarrassment and disclosure of sensitive information to federal courts. "They don't want to admit they've been victimized, and if they do, they don't want to admit how serious the victimization is," he explains. One of the convincing arguments for companies to report such wrongdoing is the guarantee that the perpetrators will be punished, O'Malley notes.
- "Survey: Attacks Prompt IT Spending Gloom"
ZDNet (10/17/01); Dignan, Larry
CIOs are less optimistic about a recovery in IT spending in the wake of last month's attacks, according to a survey by Merrill Lynch. Some 73 percent of the CIOs said their businesses had been harmed by the attacks while 23 percent said the attacks affected their business directly. About two-thirds of the participants believed IT spending would pick up later than expected. In Merrill's last survey prior to the attacks, 45 percent of CIOs said they expected to increase spending in 2002's second quarter. Now only 32 percent have the same plans. About 17 percent of the CIOs predicted that IT spending would not recover until 2003. On average, American CIOs were more negative than their European equivalents. CIOs have also modified their spending priorities, targeting security software, disaster recovery, and remote access.
- "How Tech Goes Pop"
Wired News (10/22/01); Anderson, Mark K.
This year's Pop Tech conference was a confluence of futuristic catch-phrases and projected technologies that are several decades off. Northwestern University professor Don Norman presented a talk that championed the development of tangible design to make computers ubiquitous but less intrusive. "Make it invisible and get it out of the way," he urged. Meanwhile, Josephine Green of Philips Design predicted that by 2030 most houses will resemble those of the past, not those of today, with electronic appliances incorporated into furniture and walls. Microsoft VP Linda Stone showcased HutchWorld, a Web-based environment where cancer patients can interact with physicians and fellow patients. She said that future virtual environments will reflect the need for users to engage in multiple activities simultaneously.
- "Military Work Fostered Many Tech Innovations"
SiliconValley.com (10/21/01); Seipel, Tracy
Silicon Valley has had a long tradition of contracting with the U.S. Defense Department. In the late 1930s and 1940s, the defense department engaged the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Varian Associates to develop such breakthrough technologies as radar and electronic measuring systems. With the Korean conflict and the Cold War escalating, the government spurred the development of electronics for satellite, missile, and aerospace systems. This in turn fostered the growth of the semiconductor industry. Forbes ASAP editor Michael Malone notes that the mid 1960s saw the commercial electronics market overtake the military sector. The partnership between Silicon Valley and the U.S. military continues to flourish today, although the technology being developed is different. Collaborative Economics President Doug Henton says there is an emphasis on electronic surveillance and security, technologies that are likely to thrive as a result of the military operations in Afghanistan.
- "Canada Works on Terror Bill, Too"
Wired News (10/19/01); Mandel, Charles
The Canadian government on Friday announced a $47 million funding infusion for two of its security agencies. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communication Security Establishment (CSE) will use the funds for technological upgrades. Such technology includes high-speed fiber-optic modems, crypto units, collection systems and servers, secure fax machines, and other equipment for "cyber threat and vulnerabilities identification." The funding is part of the bigger Anti-Terrorism Act that could be approved as early as December. The proposed law would allow Canadian authorities to tap communication lines and censor the Internet, among other things. CSE powers are especially increased under the new bill. The agency would be allowed to investigate communications between Canadians and foreigners via fax, cell phone, and the Internet. Simon Potter, VP of the Canadian Bar Association, says the bill could limit the degree of freedoms hard won over time; the Canadian Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski also raised concerns over privacy rights.
- "Silicon Valley: Using Caution, But Moving On"
Wall Street Journal (10/22/01) P. B1; Swisher, Kara; Thurm, Scott
Despite the fears engendered by the terrorist attacks, the tech industry is continuing to move ahead with industry events and product launches. "It's important for the industry and the country to get back to normalcy," insists Fred Rosen, director of Key3Media Group. Key3Media still plans to host the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas next month. Meanwhile, Microsoft will roll out its XP operating system this week in New York; the location is intentional, according to lead product manager Jim Cullinan. "We see [New York] as a symbol of America going back to business and so we wanted to be there, no matter what it takes to make it safe," he says. However, experts such as Hal Varian of the University of California at Berkeley urge the tech sector to become more vigilant, especially since the economic infrastructure of the United States makes such an inviting target to later terrorist strikes.
- "Indian Tech Firms Returning to Normal After Attacks"
India's software industry appears to be returning to normalcy a month after the U.S. terrorist attacks brought corporate spending to a halt. "The kind of shock and numbness that we saw in the first two-three weeks after the attacks is slowly fading away," asserts Zensar Technologies CEO Ganesh Natarajan. However, Indian businesses must contend with a significantly altered environment. Companies have started conducting checks on prospective clients to see how hard they were hit by the disaster, according to Sujit Baksi of HCL Technologies. Videoconferencing has been implemented as an alternate way to communicate with overseas clients rather than traveling by air. Furthermore, companies have advised staff who work in the United States to skirt political issues in their discussions. There is also a growing emphasis on the European sector as a source for new clients.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Brain Waves"
tele.com (10/15/01) Vol. 6, No. 20, P. 28; Haldar, Joyita
Cellonics in Singapore hopes to revolutionize data transmission across networks by emulating the way in which the brain sends signals between cells. The company has developed a new way to code bits into waveforms based on the mathematics used in nonlinear dynamical systems and observing biological neurons firing. "We believe that the revolutionary change is the move from traditional linear methods of decoding to the nonlinear way that will make the circuits needed to perform the high-speed modem function extremely simple," says Cellonics CEO Lye Hoeng. The strategy has enabled the company to develop new demodulators, which retrieve an electrical signal from a carrier signal, that are designed to work 1,000 times as fast as current demodulators. What is more, Cellonics' goal is to enable networking systems to transmit multiple bits per radio frequency cycle, allowing more information to be sent per wave signal. Wireless local-area networks (LANs), cable modems, ultra-wideband wireless (UWB), telecom backbone networks, and military radio would be able to take advantage of the receiver technology. Still, Cellonics will have to show that its new technology can overcome interference, and perform better than existing linear receivers at an attractive cost. A decline in chip size could lower Cellonics' manufacturing costs.
- "Storage Virtualization"
InfoWorld (10/15/01) Vol. 23, No. 42, P. 42; Neel, Dan; Jones, Mark
The theory behind storage virtualization is that users can add extra storage capacity with cheap tape and disk drives that can be managed as virtual resources. Storage virtualization has long been offered at the disk array or hardware level as well as the host level, but the more recent virtualization at the network level has been fraught with problems. Vendors have wildly divergent opinions on network-level virtualization, which leads to frustration for end users. They also have their own definitions of virtualization and the way virtualized data is distributed across multiple disks. In addition, there is dissent over whether in-band or out-of-band storage virtualization is the best method. IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and other computer giants will launch storage virtualization products, a move that will aggravate the fight between in-band and out-of band. Enterprise Storage Group analyst Tony Prigmore believes that education is the only way for virtualization to mature. "Small companies with real products and real solutions created the initial energy around appliance-based virtualization," he explains. "And shortly, the big companies with their virtualization offerings will help educate customers and help companies deploy virtualization."
- "New Life for Old PCs"
PC World (10/01) Vol. 19, No. 10, P. 143; Heim, Judy
Consumers no longer have to store their old PCs in attics, closets, or throw them in the trash. Charitable organizations now take old PCs off the hands of individuals and businesses, and many donated PCs end up at schools and nonprofit organizations that are looking for computers. Giving PCs away is a welcome trend because it can help close the digital divide and help computer penetration in the country. For PCs that are too old to give away, consumers can choose to recycle their computers. Although only California and Massachusetts ban PCs from landfills to contain the toxic substances in the machines, an increasing number of states are looking at the issue of old computers more seriously; select states plan to participate in the Electronic Industries Alliance's recycling project that starts this month. Manufacturers such as IBM, Gateway, and Hewlett-Packard, and retailers such as Best Buy have started their own recycling programs. But although consumers primarily have to pay the cost of recycling PCs, lawmakers in Europe hope to pass legislation early next year that would make manufacturers assume recycling costs; San Francisco officials have already placed the burden on PC makers. The National Safety Council estimates that 63.3 million desktop systems will be taken out of commission this year, and the figure does not account for the millions of notebook PCs, personal digital assistants, and cellular phones that will be thrown away.
- "Optics Could Push Chips Beyond 10GHz"
PC World (10/01); Vance, Ashlee
Optical fiber could remove barriers to processor speeds, such as overheating and I/O restrictions, once those speeds reach the 10 gigahertz expected by 2005. Chipmakers continue to increase processor speed by squeezing smaller components closer together, but fiber-optic technology would allow them to place those objects further apart, thus reducing the heat produced. Data sent through optical transmission uses just one-tenth of the power used by electrical data signals and travels ten times as fast. Intel is currently researching optical connectors for its chips, but industry experts say implementation would involve in-depth cooperation between computer manufacturers and chipmakers on system structure. Current chip-making methods will yield densities like those found in nuclear reactors as soon as 2010, according to one Intel executive.
- "Code Red for the Web"
Scientific American (10/01) Vol. 285, No. 4, P. 42; Meinel, Carolyn
Researchers worry that hacker assaults attributed to a few malicious individuals, such as the Code Red worm outbreaks that caused billions of dollars in damages, are merely a preview of concerted attacks waged by groups of hackers or governments. Experts warn that such attacks could render the Internet unusable; computer worms are more insidious than viruses and can spread exponentially by turning other systems into zombies that can be used to coordinate attacks. Code Red and Code Red II used this method to proliferate and conduct distributed denial of service attacks. Also unsettling was a clash between American and Chinese hackers triggered by the collision of a Chinese fighter jet with a U.S. Navy spy plane in April; it sparked a series of Web site defacements, threats, and insults across the Net that clearly demonstrated a viable method of cyberwarfare. Furthermore, there is speculation that the U.S. government is covertly recruiting domestic hackers to fight Web-based battles, and commentators are casting a suspicious eye on developments such as the NSA's Secure Computing arm becoming a sponsor of DefCon, a controversial hacker convention. In addition, the U.S. Space Command now runs the Defense Department's Computer Network Attack mission, illustrating that the government is willing to wage online war in an official capacity.
- "Intel Revamps R&D"
Technology Review (10/01) Vol. 104, No. 8, P. 24; Buderi, Robert
Intel's research and development arm is being reorganized under the leadership of research director David Tennenhouse to more closely resemble the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He is doing this so Intel can devote more of its multibillion R&D budget to "disruptive research" in such eminent technologies as ubiquitous computing, biological computing, and wireless networking. Tennenhouse also believes that such research could help retain and recruit employees. Intel already has several disruptive research projects in the works; Tennenhouse wants to supplement them and give them greater long-term value with his R&D restructuring. The reorganization involves the creation of a "virtual laboratory" in which program managers detect and fund internal and external projects that are aligned with company goals, as well as the establishment of six to eight "lablets" adjacent to major universities. Tennenhouse's five areas of concentration are microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), distributed systems, biotechnology, statistics, and machine vision. Those projects that Tennenhouse approves will receive annual budgets of $2 million to $3 million for two to four years, and be coordinated by teams of five or six people; in comparison, most of Intel's semiconductor efforts can involve hundreds of people per project. Tennenhouse reckons that at least five years will pass before the restructuring can be considered a success or failure.
© Copyright 2001 Information, Inc. This service may be reproduced for internal distribution.