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 3, Issue 160:  Friday, February 2, 2001

  • "Outsider Picked to Head ICANN"
    Interactive Week (01/29/01) Vol. 8, No. 4, P. 22; Gruenwald, Juliana

    M. Stuart Lynn was chosen to replace Michael Roberts as ICANN's CEO. "From what I know, he's coming in without any known enemies," says Barbara Simons, formerly the president of the Association of Computing Machinery. Lynn claims to have joined ICANN to help people worldwide in a position he considers a "public service job." Although consensus is the goal, Lynn stresses that this does not imply "universal agreement."

  • "Playing the Domain Game: Will ICANN Dump At-Large Membership?"
    InternetWorld.com (01/31/01); Murphy, Kathleen

    Last year ICANN held an election that brought five at-large board members to ICANN. Now ICANN is initiating a study that will examine its at-large membership. The study is simply being used as an excuse to reduce ICANN's at-large board representation in a move that shifts the power to businesses, according to critics of the study. The Domain Name Rights Coalition notes how ICANN obtained a contract to oversee the domain name system and summarily reduced the number of at-large board members from nine to five. ICANN stands to lose its legitimacy through this study, writes Kathleen Murphy. However, the real dilemma is that the general online populace could be silenced, says Murphy. The job will not be easy, as the ICANN committee that is in charge of the study will have to solicit the opinions of Internet users from around the world. Internet company stakeholders and regular Internet users ought to give ICANN input now to ensure their voices continue to be heard, says Murphy.

  • "Internet Workers' Union Plans Get Put on Back Burner"
    USA Today (02/02/01) P. 8B; Swartz, Jon

    Recent developments seem to have quelled the first stirrings of a labor movement in the dot-com sector, industry analysts say. A unionization vote at San Francisco e-tailer eTown.com has been postponed for at least six months while federal regulators examine employee charges that management has interfered with union activity. However, eTown workers and management may be close to making peace. "Management is making an effort to smooth things over," says customer-service worker Eric Anderson. "Everyone realizes that a company and jobs are at stake here." Workers at Amazon.com's Seattle customer-service center had been discussing unionization, but this week the leading e-tailer cut the 400 workers at the center as part of a 1,300-employee layoff. Analysts argue that increasing dot-com layoffs--almost 13,000 in January alone, Challenger Gray & Christmas reports--will likely stifle further labor activity. With jobs becoming scarcer, analysts say no one wants to risk losing his or her position. However, labor organizers say the dot-com downturn could be just the thing to spark interest in unions, as workers will want to ensure job security for the long-term. Labor organizers are also furious that Amazon cut the very workers who had been pushing for unionization. "It's outrageous," says Marcus Courtney, who co-founded the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers.

  • "Software Resales Entangled by Copyright Issue"
    Washington Post (02/02/01) P. E1; Musgrove, Mike

    Reselling computer software is not as popular as selling used CDs or books for a reason. At a recent eBay auction, Michael Jardeen was trying to sell his copy of GoLive 4.0 from Adobe when EBay shut down his auction at the request of Adobe, which said Jardeen needed license-transfer paperwork before he could resell the program. Although these types of objections occur infrequently--eBay continually operates about 30,000 auctions for Windows software and 2,400 for Mac--officials at the auction site say they take such piracy claims seriously. Through the company's Verified Rights Owners program, monitors can be appointed to scan eBay auctions for copyright violations. Tech attorney Chuck Lobsenz says the "first sale" doctrine releases the licensing rights for individual products to the buyer, who can then pass it on to whomever they like, as long as they do not keep any copies. He likens the resale of software to that of CDs. Practical Computer sales manager Allan Papkin says his company does most of its business in selling secondhand software, though it does not carry the licensing paperwork that some companies might require. Instead, it avoids legal wrangles by not accepting programs bundled together with hardware or trial software labeled "not for resale."

  • "Tech Groups Hope for a Do-Nothing Congress"
    TheStandard.com (01/31/01) Miller, Kate

    Many tech-industry lobbyists fear that Congress will finally bring the brunt of its attention upon the Internet and e-commerce this session. Although the tech industry has seen Congress adopt a "hands-off" policy toward it in the past few years, lobbyists say recent developments may lead to increased regulation of business practices on the Internet. Online privacy will likely be a major issue among members of Congress, as several high-profile instances of dot-coms seeming to use their customers' data in questionable, if not illegal, ways has sparked a great deal of public debate. Indeed, some tech-industry trade associations think that new privacy regulations are a given. "We just view it as something that is going to be inflicted upon us," Jason Mahler, vice president and general counsel of the Computer and Communications Industry Association. AeA (formerly known as the American Electronics Association) has already produced its own guidelines to improved consumer privacy online. Unlike other trade associations, it supports federal regulation of privacy because it will be more consistent than if each of the 50 states enacted its own regulation. The moratorium on Internet taxes, now up for renewal, will also cause much debate in the new Congress. Several states are pushing for the moratorium to end, fearing that e-commerce is draining their tax revenues. However, some tech-industry lobbyists are holding out hope that a downturn in the economy will persuade members of Congress not to impose taxes on customers of the struggling dot-com sector. Moreover, if the economy does not improve, some lobbyists say the tech industry could benefit because any stimulus package passed by Congress would likely include ample support for tech companies.

  • "India Firms Rush to Build Data Pipelines"
    International Herald Tribune (02/02/01) P. 15; Elliott, John

    India's Internet backbone will be strengthened and extended, if the corporations planning to take advantage of New Delhi's loosened restrictions on building telecommunications infrastructure succeed. Currently, bandwidth in the country is abysmal--until quite recently, all Internet traffic had to be routed through the United States. However, now there is hope for India's active Internet users, who total 2.3 million, according to the Indian Market Research Bureau, as a few serious players are stepping up with plans for establishing fiber-optic networks. Indian corporate giant Reliance has begun construction on a $3 billion, 60,000-kilometer fiber-optic "pipeline" that will give it a dominant position in the future Indian Internet market. Managing Director Anil Ambani says Reliance plans to offer its customers "end-to-end solutions" through the network. Currently India has a demand for 40 Gbps Internet bandwidth, which far outstretches its capacity of only 325 Mbps. Although this number is poor even compared to other Asian countries--China boasts 55 Gbps capacity and Japan 160 Gbps--it highlights the booming Indian IT economy's hunger for infrastructure. Other big players with infrastructure plans already underway include Indian telecom leader Bharti, U.S.-based Enron, which already has utility operations in India, and India's Department of Telecommunications, which is partnering with international companies to build a primarily academic Internet network.

  • "Beyond Napster, Peer-to-Peer Enters Corporate Computing Realm"
    Bloomberg (02/01/01)

    In an effort to streamline operations, corporate enterprises are adopting the peer-to-peer systems made popular by consumer technologies such as Napster. In peer-to-peer computing, PCs on a network communicate directly, share information, and contribute idle resources via the Internet. "This thing is just exploding," observes IBM's Steve Burbeck. "This is going to bring the power of the distributed PC into the forefront. There are a lot of wasted resources." Peer-to-peer computing allows users to more efficiently collaborate and share files, deliver data more quickly, and access increasingly cheap storage space on PC hard drives. Although the technique is currently being hyped beyond its true value, agree Burbeck and Intel's Bob Knighten, it offers significant cost and time savings, and is likely to influence the next decade profoundly. The growth of peer-to-peer computing will place increased importance on data encryption and authentication, said Burbeck. In addition, new forms of gaming and business collaboration could arise.

  • "Survey: E-Commerce Budgets Outpacing IT Spending"
    CNet (01/31/01); Kawamoto, Dawn

    A survey of 50 CIOs of leading businesses and government agencies shows that e-commerce budgets will outpace IT infrastructure budgets in growth this year. Merrill Lynch vice president Thomas Diffely, who co-authored the survey, says the spending is more of a cost-savings investment than an attempt to generate new revenue. The recent downturn in technology markets and the dot-com crash has reduced pressure on e-commerce projects, meaning that companies will finish the remainder of their projects over time, rather than all at once. Generally, e-commerce projects have only been 50 percent completed, according to the survey. The expected 30 percent increase in e-commerce budgets--compared to a 6 percent increase in IT spending--comes from executives' anticipation of a relatively quick return on investment. E-commerce initiatives include significant benefits in supply chain management and customer relationship management that can lead to a 15 percent to 20 percent return-on-investment in the first 18 months.

  • "Crisis Focuses Attention on Energy Efficient Internet Data Centers"
    Daily Record (01/31/01) P. 1B; Fordahl, Matthew

    Data centers located in California may not have to worry about rolling blackouts shutting down their Web servers, but operators, such as San Jose-based Equinix, are considering long-term growth and sustainability in terms of energy efficiency. Equinix CIO Jay Adelson says his company, which boasts such clients as IBM and Yahoo!, is built with contingency plans for events such as terrorist attacks--so blackouts are not a big problem. However, server hosting centers do consume anywhere from 10 megawatts to 65 megawatts of electricity, one megawatt being enough to power 1,000 homes. These companies are quick to point out that they actually save resources by centralizing servers, since their clients would use much more energy if each hosted its own data center. Already, many server hosting center operators are considering how they might cut their core energy demands. FiberCycle Networks CEO Spiro Koulouras suggests that by switching system architectures and technologies, data centers can save up to 70 percent of their power bills. FiberCycle is planning to use Transmeta Crusoe chips that can adjust their speed, throttling down in megahertz when traffic is slow. Although these chips are generally slower than Intel's Pentium line, they do not create as much heat and so can be stacked more tightly, eventually yielding more processing power per square foot.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Handheld Programmers Hard to Come By"
    CNet (01/29/01); Barnes, Cecily

    Wireless Internet application companies are searching desperately for the programmers who will win them the lion's share of the emerging wireless market. With third-generation (3G) networks imminent and PDA sales estimated at 33.5 million by 2004, Brightpod CEO Don Shirley says the market is reminiscent of earlier days, when Mosiac and Netscape were battling to be the top Internet browser. John Miano, chairman of the Programmer's Guild, says tech workers who are well versed in writing code for wireless are not common because it is a new market. Companies are offering a 50 percent premium to coders who display a fast learning curve and have experience writing for systems with little memory, even if they lack direct experience with wireless technologies. PCs, which commonly have 64 MB to 128 MB of memory, can afford to run languages like Java and Visual Basic. In contrast, handhelds are limited to 4 MB or 8 MB of memory and require software written in simpler environments such as C, says AvantGo CTO Linus Upson.

  • "Security Breach Hits Internet Sites"
    Financial Times (02/01/01) P. 5; Foremski, Tom; Heavens, Andrew

    A survey by Iceland-based security firm Men & Mice found that almost 600 of the world's leading companies may be hacked through a recently discovered weakness in key Internet infrastructure software. The problem lies in a common core component that directs email and Internet users to Web sites. Potentially, hackers could manipulate the system and gain access to sensitive customer and corporate information and accounts. Software patches to prevent such attacks are already available for download from the Internet Software Consortium, but it requires a two-hour system shutdown. John Magdych of PGP Security, the company that discovered the faulty code, said there is evidence that hackers were already developing tools to exploit the flaw.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "EU Seeks Comment On Cyber-Crime Initiatives"
    Newsbytes (01/31/01); MacMillan, Robert

    Several European Union (EU) strategies for fighting cyber-crime are on the horizon, and the European Commission (EC) is seeking public opinion about these initiatives. The EC has submitted documents to the European Parliament in which Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen and Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino argue that "combating computer-related crime to create a safer Internet is one of the objectives of the eEurope 2002 Action plan, and is vital for the further development of e-commerce in Europe and for the information society as a whole." The EC seeks to create a protected Internet environment that does not hamper e-commerce and respects user privacy. Citizens will be able to view and comment on the parliamentary documents online for two months, say Liikanen and Vitorino. Among the EC's recommendations are penalties for those who sexually exploit children online, an online/offline anti-racism effort, improved high-tech crime training programs for law enforcers, and an EU public awareness forum designed to disseminate information about cyber-crime and encourage the implementation of IT security measures. "There is...scope for action both in terms of preventing criminal activity by enhancing the security of information infrastructures and by ensuring that the law enforcement authorities have the appropriate means to act if prevention fails," claim Liikanen and Vitorino.

  • "Web Increasingly World Wide"
    InternetNews (01/29/01)

    A new WebSideStory survey indicates that 54.95 percent of Web users are not Americans, with 5.6 percent in Germany, 5 percent in Canada, 4.6 percent in South Korea, and 4.3 percent in Japan. As the Internet develops, English will give way as the dominant language. Chinese, French, German, and other languages will generate webs of their own, available only to those who speak the language and understand the culture.

  • "Presumed Guilty"
    Industry Standard (02/05/01) Vol. 4, No. 5, P. 68; Essick, Kristi

    Catherine Tasca, cultural minister of France, recently caused an uproar when she proposed that a copyright tax be affixed to the cost of PCs. The tax, similar to taxes already imposed on recordable media, including video and audio cassettes, and recording devices such as CD burners, would earmark a certain amount from the price of each PC for a general fund for the associations that represent artists. The tax is meant to compensate for illegal copying of the artists' work. Although its existing copyright taxes will likely generate $214 million in revenue for France this year, French politicians as well as PC manufacturers were outraged by Tasca's proposed extension. Tasca withdrew the proposal, but her supporters say the PC is as guilty as any device of violating copyright protections. Opponents say the tax would slow PC sales, harm France's technological progress, and penalize all consumers for the transgressions of a few. Also, the opponents contend that little of the money collected would go to the artists themselves but instead to the companies that own the copyrights to the artists' work. In spite of the controversy surrounding Tasca's proposal, copyright taxes are now employed by 12 of the European Union's 15 member countries. The World Intellectual Property Organization, while not supporting them outright, views the taxes "with a favorable eye," a spokesperson said.

  • "Make Way for the 'Browserless Web'"
    Network World (01/29/01) Vol. 18, No. 5, P. 1; Cox, John

    The staggering number of business transactions now conducted over the Internet has led to the development of the "browserless Web." The browserless Web refers to Web-based applications that can interact with one another without the need for a traditional Web browser or human input. Such applications would greatly speed Web transactions while reducing the chance for error. Driving the move toward the browserless Web is the XML data standard, a format that allows a seamless exchange of information between programs that may have been written in different programming languages. Developers say companies will be able to trade XML-based information through APIs, interfaces that provide other computers with the necessary data and applications to facilitate communication. Standards such as Single Object Application Protocol (SOAP), ebXML, and Universal Description, Discover, and Integration (UDDI) are also leading toward the browserless Web. Companies that have implemented at least some of these standards are already seeing results. At Lucent, for example, officials say XML-based information has reduced the time needed to select components by 50 percent. EBay has deployed API-based applications that allow partner companies to develop tools that can integrate eBay's auction services. However, some developers warn that the move toward a browserless Web could be slowed if companies do not reformat their data in the new standards. These developers recommend that companies select a common standard for their internal systems and for interactions with their partners.

[ Archives ] [ Home ]