Volume 4, Issue 329: Friday, March 29, 2002
- "Another Punch for Copy Protection"
Wired News (03/28/02); McCullagh, Declan; Zarate, Robert
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is planning to introduce legislation in the House that calls for the embedding of anti-copying safeguards in digital devices. He noted the similarity between his bill and the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act that Commerce Chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) recently proposed in the Senate. Schiff issued a letter on Capitol Hill declaring his need for co-sponsors and his intention to introduce his plan in April. The entertainment industry is pushing for such a bill, while the high-tech industry opposes it due to concerns that it will negatively impact computer and consumer electronics sales. Schiff lists Disney as one of his supporters, but notes that AOL Time Warner does not advocate his plan. The freshman congressman's proposal was also criticized by Greg Crist, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas). "You're essentially putting bureaucrats in the driver's seat to decide what the standards will be in protecting intellectual property," he noted. Schiff argued for his bill in the face of rising incidences of copyright infringement, which he said is growing in "enormous and staggering proportions."
- "Hewlett Heir Files Lawsuit to Overturn Merger Vote"
New York Times (03/29/02) P. C2; Gaither, Chris
Hewlett-Packard board member Walter B. Hewlett has filed a lawsuit against the company his father co-founded in order to prevent a $24 billion merger with Compaq Computer. In his suit, Mr. Hewlett accused the company of unfairly pressing a major shareholder into changing its votes and misleading shareholders about the prospects of the merger. HP won a huge victory before the final vote with a recommendation from Institutional Shareholder Services that the merger should go ahead, largely because several hundred HP employees have made significant progress in the integration. But Mr. Hewlett says that work had actually uncovered serious problems with the merger, including less shareholder value in return and more layoffs than previously thought. Moreover, Hewlett's lawsuit contends that HP used its financial relationship with a Deutsche Bank subsidiary to influence that group's votes. In a meeting just 30 minutes before the vote, Deutsche Bank switched over 17 million out its 25 million shares in favor of the vote. Legal analysts say that Mr. Hewlett's case is challenging, and likely will hinge on whether he can prove his allegations.
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- "DVD Wants Calif. Supreme Court to Reverse DeCSS Ruling"
Newsbytes (03/27/02); Bartlett, Michael
DeCSS, computer code designed to circumvent DVD copy-protection, remains protected under the First Amendment in California, but the DVD Copy Control Association is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse a ruling that makes it so. Lawyers for the trade group say their case received a significant boost after a ruling in New York that prevented hacker magazine 2600 from publishing the code or linking to it on its Web site. Moreover, industry lawyers argue that code meant to thwart copy-protection schemes is clearly in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and puts their proprietary technology at risk. An appeals court ruled last November that a number of Web sites did not have to remove DeCSS code from their sites because computer programs can be considered "pure speech" and that the industry's need to protect their copyright did not supercede free speech rights. The California Supreme Court will begin hearings in the case this fall and likely issue a verdict early next year.
- "'Web Services' Create Hype, But What About Applications?"
International Herald Tribune (03/28/02) P. Biz1; Oakes, Chris
Web services are touted as a revolutionary technology that will enable seamless, ad hoc transactions across the Internet between businesses and their customers. Meanwhile, the framework for such services is still in question and the purpose of such a system still vague in the minds of most people. While isolated Web services between companies have already been set up and shown to be successful, analysts say it does not validate the universal system that technology vendors are proposing, especially since it would open up businesses to fraud and security threats if not equipped with adequate authentication schemes. Currently, the Sun-led Liberty Alliance and Microsoft's Passport systems are the main contenders in this area. Despite reservations, the infrastructure for Web services is being built, using industry-standard XML, as well as IBM's Websphere, Microsoft's .Net, and Sun's Open Net Environment software platforms. Gartner projects a $28 billion market for Web services by 2005, but research director Milind Govekar warns that it will not serve as a panacea for tough business decisions, integration issues, and difficulties in forming partnerships; nor will it radically transform business.
- "Next Virus Exploit: Media Player?"
Wired News (03/27/02); Delio, Michelle
Computer security researchers have found a new vulnerability in Microsoft's Windows suite of applications that bypasses the improved security on the Outlook 2002 email program by way of Windows Media Player. Richard Smith recently posted the vulnerability on the Bugtraq list, much to the chagrin of Microsoft, which had been contacted weeks before and was taking its time to address the fault, according to Smith. Microsoft says that published vulnerabilities threaten users if the company has not had enough time to issue a solution. The new exploit uses the Windows Media Skin (.wms) file format to automatically run malicious code on a targeted computer, since Outlook accepts all .wms files without question. Microsoft has said allowing executables to run on Windows Media Player is an important feature, and so the company has not built in a setting to deactivate scripting, as in Outlook and Internet Explorer.
- "Don't Point, Just Think: The Brain Wave as Joystick"
New York Times (03/28/02) P. E6; Eisenberg, Anne
Experiments have shown progress in the development of a brain-machine interface that could one day allow paralyzed or disabled people to control computers or artificial limbs mentally. At Brown University, researchers have implanted tiny electrodes in the motor cortex of rhesus monkeys that enable them to manipulate a cursor in a computerized pinball machine game through brain wave signals. The monkeys switch back and forth between hand and brain control, and their rapid adaptation to neural manipulation is evidence of the brain's flexibility in transitioning between functions, according to Dr. William Heetderks of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. He theorizes that at least 30 neurons in the human brain would need to be connected to electrodes if people are to use the same technology. The director of the Brown University experiments, Dr. John P. Donoghue, has founded the Cyberkinetics company and expects to test the neural prosthesis on people before the year is out. Meanwhile, Dr. Philip Kennedy of Neural Signals has already moved his own neural interface, which consists of two electrodes, to human trials. Dr. Richard A. Andersen of the California Institute of Technology and Dr. Mohammad M. Mojarradi of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory both agree that wireless chips planted directly into the brain could yield longer use. Donoghue's interface hooks into the computer via a wire threaded through the skull of the test subjects.
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- "Competition Puts Student-Designed Robots to the Test"
SiliconValley.com (03/28/02); Dunlap, Kamika
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) hosts a competition in which teams of high school students design and create robots with the help of professional mentors. The robots are then pitted against one another in a contest where they must demonstrate a specific function. This year's competition will focus on machines that can pick up soccer balls, put them into goals, and then move the goals into designated zones. Some 50 national teams are competing in the regional competition, and the winners will be entered into the championships to be held in late April. FIRST was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen for the purpose of getting young people--women and minorities especially--interested in science and engineering. American students have fallen behind international students in terms of science and math skills, and FIRST is one organization working to reverse that trend with its contests. FIRST competition participants can qualify for academic and corporate scholarships that total $1.7 million.
- "Nanotubes Self-Assemble into Circuit Elements"
EE Times Online (03/26/02); Johnson, R. Colin
Purdue University researchers led by Professor Hicham Fenniri report that they have created "parent" molecules that self-assemble into rings, then stack themselves into nanotubes. The tube configuration comes from a hydrophobic interior and a hydrophilic exterior. The size of the inner channel can be adjusted by changing the shape and size of the parent molecule. The nanotubes are unique in that they are toughened by rising temperatures, which also raises the level of self-assembly, according to Fenniri. He designed the parent molecule to form nanotubes by investing it with the same chemical components that DNA uses to sequence itself into long organic strands. Fenniri has been able to form two distinct parent molecules that could be used to fabricate electrical wires and light-processing photonic devices. He says the manipulation of the nanotube's dimensions is the next step, which could lead to the growth of electronic elements such as transistors.
- "D.C. Anti-Piracy Plans Fuel Culture Clash"
CNet (03/27/02); Borland, John
The technology and entertainment industry seem unable to resolve their differences fast enough to please Congress, which is showing more willingness to intervene in the situation as time goes on. New data shows that music industry sales contracted by 10 percent last year, likely at least in part due to online piracy and the failure of projects such as the Secure Digital Music Initiative. A new bill sponsored by Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) and five other powerful lawmakers would require electronics vendors to install copy-protection measures in their devices, showing there is a will in Congress to resolve the issue. Intel and AOL recently released a joint statement in which they defended their attempts to enjoin copyright violations and admitted that government will have to play a critical role in enforcing a consensus solution. Experts say the technology companies are relatively inexperienced in lobbying Congress, unlike the politically savvy music and Hollywood industries, and that the extreme legislation from Sen. Hollings is likely a ploy to gain a more advantageous bargaining stance in the future.
- "Inkjet Process Suggests Wide Spectrum of Innovations"
NewsFactor Network (03/28/02); Hirsh, Lou
As part of a large research effort to develop photonic materials with practical uses, Ghassan Jabbour of the University of Arizona's Optical Sciences Center is investigating the possibilities of the inkjet printing process. He and student Yuka Yoshioka are producing self-illuminated photos by printing an organic material onto a conductive surface. Materials that display other colors can also be printed out through the use of pre-programmed chemical reactions that adjust their conductivity. Although the project is still in an early phase, Jabbour theorizes that the method could be applied to wearable electronics, solar cells, and security products. Other potential uses include the production of minuscule heaters and micro-filters capable of more efficient ion separation. The Optical Sciences Center counts Agilent Technologies, Eastman Kodak, and Nortel Networks among its corporate partners. Industry and academia are engaged in a national research initiative to develop new technologies, including solar power cells, transistors, and nano-data storage.
- "Virus Industry's Research Center Runs Out of Money"
Newsbytes (03/27/02); McWilliams, Brian
Lack of money has forced Shane Coursen to abandon the WildList, an archive of active computer viruses that has become an important research tool for anti-virus companies. He says that compiling the WildList for its monthly issue to some 50 organizations is a time-consuming chore that involves considerable hardware. Coursen plans to seek full-time employment as an anti-virus researcher so that he can support himself and his family, but admits that such as move could hurt his attempts to cement cooperative relationships in the anti-virus industry. "[It] might be more difficult if some members perceived that I was not partial or independent," he says. Bruce Hughes of TruSecure's ICSA Labs is reluctance to lose the WildList, which has become essential to the testing of anti-virus scanners. He notes several possible ways to sustain the WildList after Coursen's departure, including anti-virus companies contributing to the WildList Organization in return for the rights to market themselves as WildList sponsors. Another possibility suggested by WildList Organization board member Sarah Gordon is for ICSA Labs to assume maintenance duties. Hughes expects anti-virus companies will return to arranging their own virus lists until a new support structure for WildList is in place.
- "Calif. Video Bootlegger Pleads Guilty in Rare Case"
Reuters (03/28/02); Abreu, Elinor
Mohsin Mynaf pleaded guilty to bootlegging movies in breach of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This is the second criminal conviction made under the DMCA, the first being a Nebraska case in which a Sony Playstation was enabled to play unauthorized copies of games with an altered computer chip. Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Robin Gross says this marks the first time the DMCA has been applied to someone who has committed an actual crime; previous cases in which the law was invoked involved individuals who were following legitimate pursuits--software programmers, Web publishers, researchers, etc. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krotoski notes that Mynaf could receive a 65-year prison sentence and be fined upwards of $3.5 million.
- "Speakers Call for Bridge-Building Between Research and Commerce"
Small Times Online (03/27/02); Mason, Jack
Stronger links between research, business, and government are necessary for dramatic progress in the field of nanotechnology, according to representatives from those sectors who gathered recently at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York. Harvard University engineering and applied sciences dean Venkatesh Narayanamurti said it was imperative for scientists working on pure research to interact with researchers in other disciplines and commercial researchers. On the relationship between technology, which benefits business, and research, he described a virtuous cycle, with technology feeding research and vice-versa. He also suggested the creation of small teams of researchers with a broad and deep knowledge to take on specific problems hindering nanotechnology. Other speakers at the conference, such as IBM's Randall Isaac, said national research laboratories such as Brookhaven have already offered help in solving key hurdles in chip development for IBM, such as the lowering of electric resistance when transistors are made smaller. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), who chairs the House Committee on Science, said that congressional support for nanotechnology being developed in national laboratories is broad, but not necessarily deep. He noted that nanotechnology was considered one of the nation's vital interests, along with anti-terrorism and information technology, and that research laboratories should do a better job of communicating why their work is important in order to secure more funding.
- "Tech Happens"
Boston Globe (03/25/02) P. C1; Denison, D.C.
Instant messaging (IM) adoption has taken business by surprise as new statistics show that more than 53 million Americans were using IM last September for home-use applications, while another 13.4 million were using IM from work. Those numbers from Jupiter Media Metrix show a significant increase and present a huge opportunity to companies that are now hatching all types of new business models based on IM, as seen at the Spring 2002 Instant Messaging Planet Conference and Expo in Boston. Many other rapidly adopted technologies have taken similar development routes as IM, including the Internet, Web, email, and peer-to-peer networking, leaving businesses wondering how to best make use of the new technology. Similarly, IM is maturing, with other major companies such as Yahoo! and Microsoft gaining ground on AOL, a pioneer and leader in the IM market. That increasing competition will eventually lead to integration of those services built on industry-wide standards, just as email and Internet browsers eventually established technological ground rules. Some analysts even point to the ominous footprint Microsoft is making in IM as proof of the sector's promise, now that IM is built into key Microsoft applications and the new Windows XP system. Although some entrepreneurs are looking to build entirely new business models on IM, marketing consultant Michael D. Osterman expects that IM will find its way into everyday applications such as Word and spreadsheet programs for collaborative purposes. Forrester Research senior analyst Jed Kolko foresees IM expanding the capabilities of mobile phones, especially in a U.S. market that has been unreceptive to short messaging services.
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- "Internet Software Firm Given Go Ahead to Distribute Program in a Blow to the Music Industry"
Reuters (03/28/02); van Grinsven, Lucas; Warner, Bernhard
Netherlands-based file-trading software firm KaZaA won an important legal victory when an appeals court ruled on Thursday that it could continue distributing its peer-to-peer networking client. A previous ruling in November supported Buma Stemra, the Dutch music industry group, and pressured KaZaA to sell most of its assets to Australia's Sharman Networks. Niklas Zennstrom, KaZaA founder and creator of the FastTrack software licensed to KaZaA and Grokster, says he continues to maintain control over the FastTrack software and praised the ruling, even if he had already sold most of the software firm. He called the ruling "a great victory...for the whole technology sector." Both KaZaA and Grokster as well as MusicCity's Morpheus are due in court in October to face a lawsuit brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America. The RIAA is looking to shut down those networks in the same way it put Napster offline last year, but the technology is fundamentally different, according to the defense. Whereas Napster ran a centralized network, the other groups are merely software distributors and cannot control the network, which links users' PCs directly. KaZaA lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm said the basis of the lawsuit would also affect other companies whose products could be used for content piracy, such as digital recording device manufacturers Philips, Panasonic, and set-top box maker TiVo.
- "Delivering a Network-Utility Vision"
InformationWeek (03/25/02) No. 881, P. 46; Scott, Karyl
Government and business sector researchers are studying Internet networking technology to develop distributed storage and computing systems. Such systems have the capability of pooling vast resources instead of relying on standalone, centralized systems. Canadian researchers are looking into a Wavelength Disk Drive that would store digital information in wavelengths of light. They plan to use the CA net 4 Internet backbone as the infrastructure for a supercomputing grid that would enable researchers in that country to complete massive computing projects, such as compiling genome research, modeling drug reactions, and forecasting weather. Microsoft's Farsite project would look at freeing up storage space cordoned off in office desktop systems and sharing it throughout the enterprise. Such a project, if successfully implemented in businesses, would dramatically change the way IT departments handle data storage. Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, is pioneering new security and self-management technologies that would be needed for these distributed systems through its iShadow initiative.
- "Getting Legal"
eWeek (03/25/02) Vol. 19, No. 12, P. 53; Fixmer, Rob
Internet- and technology-related liabilities have opened up a legal can of worms for companies and their IT staff, according to risk management experts in the insurance and legal sectors. Marsh's Emily Freeman warns that IT professionals engaged in e-business efforts are becoming increasingly entangled in a miasma of "multifaceted risks associated with legal issues, regulatory issues, security issues, business continuity issues, marketing behavior issues--you name it." Approximately 90 percent of e-commerce-related lawsuits revolve around intellectual property issues, and Alan Sutin of Greenberg Traurig says business methods patents are a particularly strong point of litigation; Chubb Group's J. Leib Dodell adds that enterprises that establish a Web presence must equip themselves to deal with the minutiae of the publishing world, and that includes legal liabilities. Security holes are another point of liability, and Freeman explains that corporate leadership will take the blame for any security failures, unless all departments--IT, legal, etc.--are synchronized on a solid security strategy. A wide variety of experts agree that there will be a surge of privacy-related lawsuits in the next five years due to a number of factors, including ignorance of privacy legislation such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and the Financial Modernization Act. Brian Casey of Lord Bissel & Brook points out that employment-related liability is on the rise because of email and its potential to be abused by workers. Meanwhile, Dodell argues that bots and agents that tailor online advice to people could lead to malpractice claims, while Casey notes that confusion over the validity of e-signatures and how digital communications could be construed as a written contract muddy the waters further.
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- "The End of Voting as We Know It"
California Journal (03/02) Vol. 33, No. 3, P. 8; Lesher, David
The tech industry is scrambling to introduce voting machines that offer significant improvements over the punch card ballot process that caused so much trouble in the last presidential election; but although rumblings from lawmakers have made this goal a priority, experts urge that election officials exercise caution and wait for standards to mature and prices to drop. Congress is debating the apportionment of $2.5 billion for new election machines, while the state of California wants voters to pay for new equipment with a $200 million bond. However, the terrorist attacks and the economic recession have dampened enthusiasm for such initiatives. Voting machines with touch-screen technology were highlighted at last year's Election Technology Expo in California, but they boasted different designs and competing features. They are also expensive--Los Angeles county estimates acquisition costs alone will total $100 million. But some California counties want to invest in touch screen computers because they promise significant savings in printing costs, faster vote counts, and multiple district ballot support. Complicating things are outdated national standards for testing voting machines, conflicting studies about the viability of the touch-screen market, and the unfilled need for a test that measures the security of computerized voting against hacker attacks.
- "Open Source Security: Opportunity or Oxymoron?"
Computer (03/02) Vol. 35, No. 3, P. 18; Lawton, George
There is a growing interest in open source security tools among large enterprises, security consultants, and service providers, and users are evaluating the pros and cons of the technology. Open source applications are offered for free or at dramatically lower prices compared to proprietary software, but critics argue that this is no guarantee of security. Open source software proponents also claim that the tools have superior quality, because errors will be found faster when free code is exposed to a wide number of viewers; closed source software advocates counter that proprietary software experts may be lesser in number, but are better trained to find flaws. They also say that open source firms do not offer resources to support users when problems crop up, while open source code is more vulnerable to hackers. Among the more popular open source security tools is Snort, a multi-platform program that can detect network intrusions by analyzing packet protocols and performing content searches and matches; and the Nessus vulnerability scanner, which conducts remote audits of Web site security. The proliferation of open source security may be hindered by a number of obstacles, including hesitancy because of firms' unfamiliarity with the technology, the worry that hackers could install back doors in open source tools, a lack of government-certified technology, and implementation and maintenance difficulties. Computer Associates' Simon Perry does not think there will be much use of open source security among large enterprises, since open source organizations lack the means and applications to perform multi-platform systems integration. Service and consulting companies familiar with the technology are more likely to use them, says security consultant Paul Robichaux.