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 [email protected].

Volume 2, Issue 85:  Wednesday, July 26, 2000

  • "High-Tech Visa Bill to Fill Labor Demand Hits Surprise Delay"
    Baltimore Sun (07/25/00) P. 4A

    Conflicts over illegal immigrants and amnesty threaten to derail bipartisan efforts to increase the supply of foreign high-tech workers who enter the U.S. thanks to H-1B visas. The H-1B is a six-year visa issued only to college-educated foreigners, and high-tech companies say they depend on holders of this visa to meet their demand for labor. Several variations of a bill now pending before Congress would raise or remove altogether the cap on the number of H-1B visas issued each year, which currently totals 115,00 for fiscal year 2000 and which, without legislation, will decrease to 65,000 over the next two years. However, Democrats, supported by the White House, have tied the legislation to a proposal to change the rule for when an illegal immigrant may apply for amnesty, a proposal that is unpopular with Republicans.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Rapid Growth Sparks Fight for Internet Control"
    Atlanta Journal and Constitution (07/24/00) P. 1A; Geewax, Mayilyn

    Internet use is expanding around the world, and with an expected 160 million registered Web sites expected to be located primarily overseas by 2003, Internet users will be seeking an easier and inexpensive method of resolving arguments over Internet addresses and trademark names. Originally, the U.S. government had given Network Solutions an exclusive contract to manage the increasing number of Internet addresses. At first, the task was not too daunting to Network Solutions. However, the desire to obtain lucrative domain names continued to expand, until the U.S. Department of Commerce transferred control of domain name management to ICANN. ICANN and Network Solutions agreed which companies would be permitted to enter into the business of domain name registration, and now over 100 organizations approved by ICANN compete with Network Solutions. ICANN's current goal is to create a permanent international board to oversee the system controlling Internet addresses and also to assist in settling trademark and domain name disputes. ICANN's global headquarters might be moved to Switzerland, a country known for its ability to remain neutral, to demonstrate its dedication to separate itself from the United States. ICANN's role to ensure that Internet addresses can be properly "read" will require coordination with organizations that deal with Internet standards and protocols, including the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Architecture Board. ICANN simultaneously faces funding issues as well as the need to expand the number of countries that should be able to obtain country and territory top level domain names.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Race Issues Shake Tech World"
    USA Today (07/24/00) P. 1B; Iwata, Edward

    Allegations of racial discrimination have surfaced in the high-tech industry. Several individuals have filed lawsuits against major corporations, including 3Com, NEC, and Oracle, charging that they were victims of blatant hostility based solely on their race. In one case, an employee claims that a warehouse manager stalked the office carrying a bullwhip, which the manager allegedly said was to keep black employees in line. In other cases, employees believe that their employers gave them impossible workloads or unjustifiably poor performance reviews in order to make it easier to fire them. Advocacy groups say minorities are significantly underrepresented in the high-tech world. The Coalition for Fair Employment in Silicon Valley reports that of the 250 major firms surveyed, only 8 percent of the employees were Latino and 4 percent were black. Black leaders in Washington, who believe high-tech companies are passing over qualified black and Hispanic applicants in favor of workers from abroad, are lobbying the government not to increase the number of visas issued to immigrants planning to work in the high-tech industry. Despite the denials of many of the companies involved, industry observers believe that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is now preparing itself for a full-scale investigation of Silicon Valley.

  • "FBI Makes Case for Net Wiretaps"
    Washington Post (07/25/00) P. E1; Schwartz, John

    The House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution focused its attention on the FBI's Carnivore email surveillance system for more than two hours yesterday, as lawmakers went on the offensive and forced FBI officials to defend the controversial system. FBI Assistant Director Donald M. Kerr indicated that Carnivore would be a useful defense against online fraud, online child pornography, hackers, and terrorists. "Criminals use computers to send child pornography to each other using anonymous encrypted communications," Kerr noted. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) spoke for many of his peers when he expressed his wariness over Carnivore's "tremendous" potential for abuse. Carnivore has drawn heavy fire from civil liberties advocates, who worry that the system will violate the privacy of innocent electronic transmissions. ISPs have also expressed concern about linking the system to their networks. Law enforcement officials said they would permit Carnivore to be reviewed by a neutral third party. Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) posed the toughest questions to law enforcement officials during the hearing.

    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "At-Work-Monitoring Bill Introduced"
    Associated Press (07/20/00); Holland, Jesse J.

    Legislation giving employees greater assurance that their email communications or Web surfing activities are not being secretly monitored in the workplace was introduced late last week in both chambers of Congress. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.) introduced a House bill on the matter, while Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a similar bill in the Senate. The bills mandate that employers inform employees if they are monitoring their email communications, computer keystrokes, or use of the Internet. Thus far, Connecticut is the only state that has a law requiring employers to be open about their employee-monitoring habits.

  • "Web Sites Allow Mischief by Unnamed E-Mailers"
    International Herald Tribune (07/26/00) P. 13; Dembart, Lee

    Anonymous email services are springing up on the Internet, allowing users to send prank messages that appear to be from someone else. Using sites such as ManicMail and Zoubidoo, for example, a user could send a message that seems to be from the boss informing co-workers that they are fired. ManicMail says most of its users are harmless pranksters, but the site warns users that it cooperates with police in tracing malicious or threatening messages. Recipients can trace a message to ManicMail by reading the full header, which instructs them to "email ManicMail with all instances of abuse." By contrast, Zoubidoo does not warn users against sending malicious messages, and the only clue in the full header to indicate where the message originated is the word "zoubidoo." Privacy advocates note that anonymous sites have legitimate uses as well, for example, for computer engineers who want to give truthful opinions on computer products. However, privacy advocates note that sites such as ManicMail and Zoubidoo are not completely anonymous, and one expert suggests that users seeking total anonymity send messages through two or more remailers.
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "Devices Free Workers From Disabilities"
    USA Today (07/25/00) P. 3D; Weise, Elizabeth

    Since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act 10 years ago, people with severe disabilities have benefited from the design of products that assist them in day-to-day living. Now technology originally developed to assist the handicapped has been adapted for just about anyone. These products offer tremendous advantages to people with and without disabilities, and it is hoped that standards of accessibility will be maintained so that new innovations will continue to do so. However, the Web is an example of how technology can sometimes be rendered inaccessible, especially to the disabled; with the implementation of images, frames, and sound in Web pages, the Internet became less accessible to the visually and aurally impaired. The World Wide Web Consortium has launched an initiative to correct this problem and make the Web universally accessible, such as placing an "alternative" text block next to images or sound clips. "If you don't have captions," says project director Judy Brewer, "you just lost everyone who can't hear it, whether they're deaf or just don't have their speakers turned on." Some recent developments of multipurpose, universally designed technology include Dragon Dictate, a speech-recognition program that allows users to control PCs by voice command; digital talking books created by the Digital Audio-Based Information Systems Consortium, developed mainly to help the visually impaired; and the Wyndtell from Wynd Communications, which can send and receive text messages.

  • "French Ruling for Yahoo! Deferred"
    Financial Times (07/25/00) P. 3; Eaglesham, Jean

    A French court will postpone making a decision on Yahoo!'s compliance with French laws regarding Nazi memorabilia until August 11. The court announced that it would use the extra time to mull over Yahoo!'s recent arguments that it is logistically impossible to block French users from accessing Nazi material at the service provider's U.S. auction sites. Legal experts are keeping a close eye on the case, which holds worldwide ramifications for Internet jurisdictional issues.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Domain Name Registrations Get Cheaper"
    Times of India Online (07/25/00); Chatterjee, Saikat

    Domain name registration fees are dropping in India. Net4Domains, a part of the Category A ISP Net4India, is offering domain registrations for about $9 annually, while domain registration companies with an international reach tend to charge about $35 annually, according to Net4India CEO Jasjit Sawhney. Net4Domains' reduced fee is the lowest currently available, with the company intending to draw revenue from value-added services such as Web hosting or server co-location, although these services are not mandatory, says Sawhney. The Web services company DelhiNet, a Gold Premier Partner of Network Solutions, is reducing its annual domain name registration fee to $22 for a limited time, but DelhiNet President GP Singh noted that reducing prices is not necessarily a good strategy. Since starting its service in March, Net4Domains has registered more than 42,000 domain names. Net4Domains, which has data centers in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune, intends to expand into Southeast Asia and West Asia, initially offering Web hosting, consulting, and domain name registrations.

  • "EU to Restrict Use of Spam and Cookies"
    IDG News Service (07/20/00); De Bony, Elizabeth

    In an effort to strengthen data-privacy rules as part of a new telecommunications regulatory proposal, the European Commission is considering limiting unsolicited email and data-collecting cookies on the Internet. If approved by the European Union's Council of Ministers, spam, or unsolicited email, could only be sent to consumers if they request it, a principle known as the "opt-in" method. Although the restriction on cookies--computer files that keep track of a user's visits to certain Web sites--has been urged since February 1999, no action has yet been taken. If this situation continues, a data privacy commission will propose cookie-restriction amendments. The current European situation regarding spam is confusing. Four member states follow "opt-in" procedures, while five have enacted "opt-out" methods, whereby users receive spam until they request that it be stopped. Six member states have no spam rules at all. The EU is also proposing a ban on services allowing mobile phone networks to track their phones--a ban that emergency services have requested to be exempt from.
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "For Web Phones, the Future Is Calling"
    Los Angeles Times (07/24/00) P. C1; Piller, Charles

    The preferred method for Internet access around the world may soon be the cellular phone, industry analysts predict. Already in Japan, cell phone-based Internet access is gaining users so quickly that it could surpass PC-based Internet access within two years. In the United States, cell phones are limited to displaying simple text messages and e-mail access, but the technology is developing so rapidly that makers of PCs and handheld computers are conceding the future of the Internet to the wireless phone. Many Internet companies are scrambling to adapt their services to wireless phones. Analysts believe that the key to wireless Internet will be concise, fast information that can fit on a cell phone's small screen. Because typing words with cell phone buttons is so time-consuming, services such as Yahoo are working to minimize how much data its customers must input to buy products or check balances, while AT&T is experimenting with voice-driven interfaces. Analysts agree that wireless Internet sites, in the short term at least, will be unable to display the rich graphics and snazzy design that characterize much of the World Wide Web. Wireless Internet services also face more serious challenges. It will be several years before wireless phones will work everywhere, and some observers question their security. Phone companies have access to a great deal of a user's personal information that they could make available to Web companies. But analysts believe that wireless Internet will overcome these obstacles as well, and the industry is looking forward to so-called 3G (third generation) phones, which promise even faster Web connections.

  • "Suits, Geeks Seek Open-Source Entente"
    Computerworld (07/24/00) Vol. 34, No. 30, P. 14; Deckmyn, Dominique

    Commercial firms hoping to discover ways to leverage open-source software met with open-source developers at last week's O'Reilly Open Source Software Convention in Monterey, Calif. Although the "hacker ethic" of open-source developers is in many ways at odds with corporate culture, vendors are trying to bridge the gap as they have grown increasingly interested in open source over the past two years. Sun Microsystems, for example, last week released the source code to its StarOffice productivity suite. Even if companies do not contribute to the open-source community, they stand to gain from free tools and methodologies provided by the open-source movement, says Brian Behlendorf of CollabNet, a startup that helps companies connect with open-source developers. Corporate IT departments could learn from the peer review process involved in open source, which provides fast feedback on code, Behlendorf says. However, Behlendorf cautions that companies relying on open source cannot maintain strict schedules or delivery deadlines. Some companies are reluctant to fully embrace open source, using open-source tools such as Perl and Apache only for development and switching to Microsoft and Netscape for production. Meanwhile, some open-source developers are disgruntled with the commercial interest in their technology and are likely to avoid mainstream open-source projects, says show organizer Tim O'Reilly.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Let a Hundred Search Engines Bloom"
    Industry Standard (07/24/00) Vol. 3, No. 27, P. 128; Abreu, Elinor

    Yahoo! recently announced that Google.com would replace Inktomi as Yahoo's consumer search provider--part of the wave of boutique search technology that is entering the search engine market. Many of the big portals are outsourcing searching functions, and surfers are getting tired of outdated and irrelevant search results. Taking up the challenge are new engines such as TopClick, which provides private searches without unsolicited banner ads or cookies, and does not sell customer data. Why.com ranks its search results based on Web site ratings. GenieKnows.com, a metacrawler, gets results from 24 search engines, while Copernic has downloadable search software in a number of languages. Meanwhile, Google President Sergey Brin says that since the engine was founded its searches have increased by 20 percent per month. Google has assembled the biggest database of searchable Web pages, averaging over 1 billion. NEC Research Institute research scientist Steve Lawrence says Google is indexing more of the Web than any other engine, and notes that the site ranks the highest in independent surveys. Yahoo! Phu Hoang says Google has good search relevance, yielding results that are important to surfers. Google analyzes sites and examines how prominent keywords are on the pages. Other up-and-comers include Direct Hit, which ranks sites based on the number of clicks they receive, and Fast Search Transfer, which uses spidering software to find new and updated sites.

  • "More IT Funds Going Toward Web"
    Business Communications Review (07/00) Vol. 30, No. 7, P. 8

    U.S. companies will more than double the percentage of their IT budgets earmarked for Web projects between 1999 and 2003, says International Data (IDC). In the next three years U.S. firms will spend more than $282 billion on both internal and external Web initiatives, says IDC analyst Christian Silva. The fact that Web spending is claiming a larger share of the IT budget reflects the growing importance of Web technology in internal IT infrastructure as well as external e-business efforts, Silva says.

  • "The E-Gang"
    Forbes (07/24/00) Vol. 166, No. 3, P. 145; Corcoran, Elizabeth

    The new phase of the Internet Revolution will be dominated by large companies that are making their products, services, and operations compatible with the Web. Fortune has reviewed 12 executives of corporations who are leveraging the Internet to contribute to the growth of their companies, including: GE CEO John F. Welch; John Chambers of Cisco Systems; Enron's Jeffrey Skilling; Charles Schwab; Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard; Delta Airline's Leo Mullin; E-GM's Mark Hogan; David Dyer of Land's End; Jeanne Jackson of Wal-Mart.com; Dan Nordstrom of Nordstrom.com; Ross Dove of Dovebid; and Per Lofberg of Merk-Medco. Each executive has overseen an infusion of the Web into traditional processes, with positive results. GE's Welch, who became personally familiar with the Internet less than two years ago, believes larger and more established companies will eclipse the new successful dot-com businesses with the Internet. Welch emphasizes that the Internet can help companies reduce costs and increase sales; GE has decreased many of its transaction expenses by 10 times from last year. Like Welch, Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina believes that established firms have an edge over dot-coms in the Internet sector. "People who concluded in the first couple of years of the Internet boom that the large companies would fail and only the new ones would succeed fundamentally misunderstood the true transformation power of the Internet," she says. Fiorina believes that the key to Internet success among established firms is reinvigoration. Companies must sharpen their strategy, focus, and execution, she says. Cisco's John Chambers echoes Fiorina's message, saying that innovation provides a competitive edge over rivals. The first company to leverage a new technology will collect the greatest reward, says Chambers.

  • "Coffee With Your Peers"
    Network World (07/17/00) Vol. 17, No. 29, P. 50; Bort, Julie

    Speaking in a roundtable discussion, five IT executives from different industries shared their thoughts on technology, management, and general business issues with Network World's Julie Bort. Discussion participants included Don Springer, vice president of Internet strategies for WholePeople.com, Art Krulish, CIO of apparel manufacturer Aris Industries; Brett Thomas, vice president of technology for EMusic.com; Isaac Applebaum, CEO of Concorde Solutions, the technology arm of Bank of America; and Richard Glasburg, director of data communications for government network Massachusetts. With regard to important emerging technologies, there was general agreement among the executives that companies should build in-house any IT solution that will be core to the business, and only outsource solutions that support the core business. "If it's your core business--like your commerce engine, databases, profiling, how you interconnect, the personalization piece--you build it yourself," said Springer. The executives also promoted common methods to attract and retain good employees: pay them well, treat them with respect, and delegate responsibility to keep them interested. Predictably, the executives from old-line companies said the extent to which the Internet has affected them is less than that of those working for Internet startups or spin-offs.

  • "Immense Potential"
    Business 2.0 (07/25/00) Vol. 5, No. 14, P. 83; Orestein, David

    Internet protocol (IP) networks are challenging today's telephone system by providing a cheap and innovative way to make telephone calls. IP networks transport data packets composed of voice, text, video, audio, and other data. IP telephony is cheaper than traditional networks because of its high-bandwidth, data compression, and simultaneous data transmission capabilities. IP networks also feature independent code units that are distributed throughout the network, making IP telephony more flexible and easier to fit into existing applications. Net2Phone may be known as the largest retail provider of IP-enabled phone calls, but COO David Greenblatt declares that cheaper telephone service is only the beginning. "There is an infinite number of [applications]," Greenblatt declares. "We don't know them all yet." Future applications may include smart services via set top boxes and digital television, complete with remote-control shopping options. IP technology is still trying to match the quality of real-time voice and video data streams, as well as improving its scalability and interoperability. Yet GartnerGroup forecasts that non-voice IP services revenues will account for half of the overall $85 billion by 2004. In fact, Musicland's use of Qwest International for its IP network needs has slashed its voice call costs as much as 50 percent, with even more cost savings in sight. In-store audio samples and television marketing, and as well as an intranet, are also in the works for Musicland.

[ Archives ] [ Home ]