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 164:  Monday, February 12, 2001

  • "Software Genius Gets Into Groove"
    USA Today (02/12/01) P. 1B; Maney, Kevin

    Ray Ozzie, the software programmer who became famous for designing Lotus Notes, is now preparing to release Groove, a program that some industry observers say may surpass Notes not only in terms of what it can do, but also in how it will change the way corporate networks function. Groove, to be available next month or early in April, is based on peer-to-peer computing, in which computers share files and applications without moving the data through a central server. The computers within a specific network remain in communication with one another constantly, ensuring that everyone sharing a specific file over the network is, in fact, looking at the most recent version of that file. The new program also incorporates the latest in encryption technology, but it does so in such a way as to seem transparent to users. Security is key to peer-to-peer networks, experts say, because computers from inside and outside a company may share files, but that company will likely not want outside users to have access to all of its files. Ozzie, whom Bill Gates has identified as one of the best programmers in the world, sees Groove as a platform, a program that users will base their own operations on rather than an end unto itself.

  • "It's A Jimi Hendrix Experience"
    Investor's Business Daily (02/12/01) P. A6; Seitz, Patrick

    Microsoft plans to hold a preview for its Windows XP project this week in order to generate excitement over the new operating system software. Windows XP, short for "experience," will be demonstrated Tuesday in Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's new Experience Music Project building in Seattle, a rock and roll shrine dedicated to Seattlite Jimi Hendrix. Expectations for the system among industry analysts are low, following the lackluster sales of Windows 2000 for Microsoft's corporate and government customer base, which comprises 75 percent of Microsoft operating system sales. Gartner Group's Tom Bittman says the system will be more reliable than previous releases, although Microsoft needs to make a special effort to emphasize the value of the system. Consumers will be hesitant to change from Windows 95 or 98 unless they see significant benefits to installing XP, says Gateway's Brad Williams. PC makers are hopeful that the new operating system will stir demand for new desktop hardware that leverages the multimedia capabilities that XP touts, such as flash memory for MP3 file transfers to portable devices. Intel is already planning to configure its new Pentium 4 chip around Windows XP and is currently working around performance bottlenecks that, when solved, will make Pentium 4-based systems 40 percent faster than Pentium 3 systems.

  • "People Like Us"
    Wall Street Journal (02/12/01) P. R34; Sook Kim, Queena

    Online communities have proven an elusive goal for many e-commerce sites, although the few successes show the value of bringing customers together over the Internet. Even though many sites have spent considerable resources in hosting online communities, some find it nearly impossible. First, says RealCommunities CEO Cynthia Typaldos, companies must find a common purpose for the users gathered on their site. She says one reason Citibank's Internet community efforts fizzled in 1999 was because checking account holders did not really constitute a community, but was simply an aggregation of people. Sites such as Amazon.com, eBay, and Napster foster the common purpose of their visitors, whether it is to discuss books, make transactions, or trade music files. One reason these companies have been successful in this area is the ability to draw users who have something to offer. Amazon provides important product reviews in the form of readers' responses. IPlanet, provider of e-commerce solutions, lets its 100,000 registered programming professionals help each other with technical issues, saving $50 to $100 in customer support costs per question, iPlanet's director of interactive marketing Franz Aman reports. Aman says hosting the communities allows his company to gather vital information specifically focused on its most important customers' needs. For example, the company is now investing more resources toward the Solaris operating system after surveying the programmers gathered on its site. There are risks associated with online communities as well. When iPlanet's application server was released in June, many customers complained on the site's message boards about difficulties they met installing the software. But Aman says that is part of hosting a community, adding, "These days, if you don't give people a forum within your community to complain, they can build a place somewhere else on the Internet where they can."

  • "Feature: Domain Hijackers Proliferate in Cyberspace"
    Reuters (02/11/01); Young, Doug

    The eGifts.com, eTickets.com, eRadio.com, and chatrooms.com domain names were hijacked from one Marc Ostrofsky, who summarily contacted Network Solutions, only to be told that it was not the domain name company's problem. The hijacker altered Ostrofsky's registration information to gain control of the names, and sold them for $1,100, which is far below their probable worth, according to Ostrofsky. Regaining control of the stolen addresses took five weeks and $15,000 in fees, including $3,000 to buy back the domain names. Hijacking a domain name can be quite easy. Hijackers can email or fax a note to the registrar claiming ownership and requesting the name be transferred. The registration information is changed often and there are so many domain names that registrars do not have the time to verify the identity of the entity requesting the change. Other hijackers change the information so that the domain name points to a different Web site. Sex.com was stolen using forged documents. Network Solutions claims that such cases occur only rarely considering the large volumes of requests to alter registration information, adding that it upgraded its Guardian security system. Now the system works quite well and can handle a demand for more than 15.1 million Internet addresses, according to Network Solutions' Brian O'Shaughnessy. "Since the Guardian system was updated, the incidents have dramatically decreased--to basically none," says O'Shaughnessy.

  • "Coalition to Urge Officials to Endorse Privacy Pledge"
    Los Angeles Times (02/12/01) P. C1; Sanders, Edmund

    Concerns about consumers' privacy online has prompted 15 organizations to form the Privacy Coalition. The coalition, which will announce its formation today, will work to ensure that Web sites disclose whether they collect consumer data and that the sites give consumers a chance to opt out of such a collection. Members of the coalition include the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Consumers Union, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The coalition will focus much of its effort on passing privacy legislation. Although the issue was expected to be a hot topic in the new session of Congress, so far the agenda of President George W. Bush has taken precedence. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who had sponsored an online-privacy bill last year, has yet to do so this year, concentrating instead on campaign-finance reform. The coalition has prepared a four-point guide for lawmakers crafting privacy legislation and wants to encourage states as well as the federal government to enact such legislation.

  • "First Line of Defense"
    New York Times (02/12/01) P. C1; Schwartz, John

    An increasing number of U.S. corporations beleaguered by privacy complaints, led by the likes of IBM, AT&T, and Eastman Kodak, are confronting the issue by hiring chief privacy officers. Privacy consultant and former Columbia University professor Alan F. Westin says there are currently at least 100 CPOs in American companies, with that number likely to rise to as many as 1,000 by next year. Although U.S. big business has been known to pick up and then drop trendy executive positions easily, IBM CPO Harriet Pearson says this development is more permanent and likens it to the emergence of the corporate positions devoted to overseeing environmental concerns. Recent privacy legislation has created a flurry of activity in Congress, with at least a dozen new bills now on the table. Before exiting Washington, the Clinton administration announced regulations requiring insurance and heath care companies to hire privacy officers. However, Stephanie Perrin of the Canadian company Zero-Knowledge says privacy officers are more than executives who simply ensure that their companies are in compliance with regulations. "You have to have a fundamental commitment to--dare I say it?--morality," she says, adding that by building good privacy policy, businesses are creating a vital component to a successful global information infrastructure.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "High-Tech Groups Urge Bush to Back Permanent R&D Tax Credit"
    Newsbytes (02/06/01); Krebs, Brian

    A coalition of high-tech and manufacturing companies is lobbying hard for President George W. Bush to reinforce his campaign promises with a permanent extension of the 20 percent research and development (R&D) tax credit. Industry leaders say their R&D projects are often ongoing processes. Also, they contend that uncertainty over the annual extension makes critical funding questionable. The coalition, which includes 34 technology and trade groups, wrote a letter to Bush urging him to include the tax credit in his upcoming budget proposal. They also asked that he increase the incremental research credit for firms not reaching the 20 percent mark. Congress voted for a five-year extension of the credit in 1999, which the Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated will reduce government revenues by $2.2 billion annually.

  • "Net Voting? Keep Your Pants On"
    Wired News (02/07/01); Manjoo, Farhad

    Less than one year ago, voting experts were assuring the public that they would be voting from their kitchens in the very near future. However, in light of the Florida election debacle during the recent presidential election, those same experts contend that it will be another decade before voting from home becomes a reality. State and county election officials, under intense pressure from virtually everywhere, want to improve the equipment found in the polls so that a repeat of the Florida experience does not happen. Therefore, companies that used to be huge advocates of home-voting via the Internet--or voting "in your underwear," as the Internet lingo once had it--are now marketing their upgraded polling-place technology products to these officials and are not even considering Internet voting. The main problems, according to analysts, are that Internet voting is seen as too risky, fraught with the possibility of hackers or terrorists infiltrating the system and skewing the outcome, or the power going out, or the system losing votes with no recourse for the voter to get their vote back, among other nightmarish scenarios.

  • "Lawmakers Introduce E-Commerce Enhancement Bill"
    Newsbytes (02/09/01); McGuire, David

    Rep. James Barcia (D-Mich.) and several other lawmakers have introduced the Electronic Commerce Enhancement Act, legislation that aims to give small- and mid-sized companies a boost in placing their businesses on the Internet. The act calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create an e-commerce pilot program that would allow these businesses to utilize and integrate e-commerce technologies and business practices. The act also calls for NIST to conduct research on what is keeping small businesses from becoming e-commerce players.

  • "Global Currents: Europe Gets Smug, We Get Cyber-Serfdom"
    Red Herring Online (02/06/01)

    The European economy is on top for the first time in a long time. The United States' economy is being supported by the Federal Reserve, Japan is still in a decline, and the rest of Asia is recovering from financial turmoil, but Europe's growth is projected to outstrip the U.S. rate this year. Europe is more high-tech and confident, and it sports a common currency and market as well as privatization and weakening labor unions. Gianni Montezemolo contends in his book "Europe, Incorporated: The New Challenge" that the next two decades will see an economically integrated Europe becoming the center of the global economy. However, European online retailer Letsbuyit.com has laid off 60 percent of its staff and closed most of its European offices, even after a German entrepreneur gave it almost $2 million to stave off bankruptcy. French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault closed five European offices of his European Internet investment company EuropAtweb. The company will concentrate on Internet technology and wireless instead of the business-to-consumer arena. On the other hand, Forrester Research predicts that online advertising in Europe will grow 70 percent in 2001 to $1.08 billion.

  • "Getting to Domain Argument"
    Wired News (02/08/01); McCullagh, Declan; Sager, Ryan

    Thursday's House committee meeting on ICANN might be the first of several hearings pertaining to this issue, says House Energy and Commerce committee spokesman Pete Sheffield. Critics are particularly upset about the $50,000 application fee, which small companies would have a difficult time paying, says Sheffield. Register.com thought ICANN's selection process went "very smoothly," according to Shonna Keogan of Register.com. ICANN's choices were "arbitrary" enough to hamper competition and might even adversely affect the future of e-commerce, says Michael Froomkin, professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law. "Instead of considering the applications solely on technical merit, or indeed on any other set of neutral and objective criteria, ICANN selected seven winners on the basis of a series of often subjective and indeed often arbitrary criteria, in some cases applied so arbitrarily as to be almost random," says Froomkin. The U.S. government should do something about ICANN, as it does not properly represent Internet users, says Alan Davidson, the deputy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "E-Consultants Losing Ground to Larger, Traditional Firms"
    Associated Press (02/09/01); Pope, Justin

    Most small e-consulting firms have suffered greatly in the past year, the most notable debacle being the layoff of 1,750 workers from Marchfirst. Many of these failed e-consultants were too dependent on their own venture capitalists to provide them with customers as well as funds, explains Rodenhauser. The Meta Group's David Yokelson contends that larger firms can more easily support long-term engagements with end-to-end providers, the consulting wings of IBM and Hewlett-Packard being cases in point. However, not all the big companies have done as well: Accenture had to deal with several hurdles before successfully splitting off from parent Andersen Worldwide, while PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently downsized its consultant staff by 400.

  • "Controls Rely on the Twitch of a Muscle, Not the Twitch of a Mouse"
    New York Times (02/08/01) P. E4; Greenman, Catherine

    NASA scientists are developing sophisticated tools that would allow pilots and astronauts to control computers through movements of their arms and hands, without touching any physical controls. The process is part of an effort to smooth the integration of people and computerized machinery, says Dr. Charles Jorgensen, who heads the neuroengineering lab conducting the studies. The lab has already applied for a patent on an armband that digitizes its wearer's movements, feeding a pattern-recognition program that can then translate the digital signals for any system's controls. Dr. Kevin Wheeler, another NASA scientist developing the software, landed a virtual 757 jet in a virtual San Francisco Airport using the technique. Jorgensen says the project has significant implications for air and spacecraft design, which has previously been limited in where it can place the pilot in the craft. He also touted the possible commercial applications of the technology, which could lead to a wristwatch-type device that could track a PC user's movements and digitally replicate signals as though they were coming from a physical mouse and keyboard. Another idea lies in finding a way to measure tongue movements to recognize people's speech patterns without them actually having to speak.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "How Do You Junk Your Computer?"
    Time (02/12/01) Vol. 157, No. 6, P. 70; Hamilton, Anita

    Old computers increasingly are gaining attention because of the dangerous components they contain, from lead and cadmium to mercury and other unwanted toxins. PCs that are not stored in garages or in closets have been placed in the garbage, and environmental officials now know that when these PCs end up in a landfill, toxins can leach into the soil. Overseas, the European Union has jumped on the issue by proposing legislation that would start holding computer manufacturers responsible for old computers starting in 2008. U.S. manufacturers do not want to see American officials follow suit and have started their own programs to recycle old computers. For example, IBM has a nationwide program that charges a $30 shipping-and-handling fee. Hewlett-Packard plans to launch its program in March. There are also regional programs that pick up and recycle old PCs. Still, the efforts have not eased the fears of critics. Only 10 percent of old machines are recycled. By 2007, there will be more than 500 million obsolete computers, and the Environmental Protection Agency says computers are now the fastest-growing category for solid waste. Manufacturers may have to give consumers more of an incentive to turn in their old computers. "The efforts in the U.S. have been chaotic and will not be successful until companies start picking up the excess costs," says Ted Smith of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

  • "Legislating Privacy May Hurt Bottom Line"
    Computerworld (02/05/01) Vol. 35, No. 6, P. 8; Thibodeau, Patrick

    Various tech groups are gearing up to fight against impending privacy legislation in Congress, saying such laws increase companies' marketing and IT costs. The Information Services Executive Council says allowing consumers to choose whether to let companies share their personal data with marketers will add $1 billion in costs to the $15 billion catalog and Internet apparel retailer market. This is because consumers will most likely decide not to share their personal data, forcing companies to spend more money and work much harder to collect the databases of marketing information that they build with relative ease right now. Observers expect that once the term of FTC Chairman Richard Pitofsky, a Clinton appointee, ends in September, President George W. Bush will name a Republican to the post. The FTC will then have a majority of GOP appointees and will likely be more sympathetic to industry self-regulation and more hostile to privacy regulations.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "New U.S. Innovation System Evolving"
    Chemical & Engineering News (02/05/01) Vol. 79, No. 6, P. 25; Schulz, William

    Data on U.S. patents shows that the center of innovation is shifting to the West Coast, although activity in all regions is increasing, reports CHI Research senior policy analyst Diana Hicks. She presented her findings last month at the National Science Foundation symposium. Hicks noted changes in the roles universities and both large and small business firms play in innovation. Altogether, she said health and IT patents rose 400 percent between 1980 and 1999. Hicks said the recent downsizing of large corporate laboratory operations at IBM and Bell Labs was not hampering technological advances, as some analysts had worried. Instead, she said multiple, smaller commercial laboratories have compensated for the cutbacks. This diversified research base is less susceptible to the shocks that forced restructuring at IBM and Bell Labs. She also marked a clear trend that shows the Pacific Coast as the center for new technological innovations for the past five years, whereas the East Coast continues to excel in developing traditional technologies. She also highlighted the increasing entrepreneurial activity of universities, especially around Boston, Washington, D.C., San Diego, and San Francisco. Universities contributed 15 percent of all health technology patents and surpassed government labs in overall levels of patenting.

  • "The Service Provider Shuffle"
    InformationWeek (02/05/01) No. 823, P. 42; Greenemeier, Larry; Maselli, Jennifer

    As the pace of IT development continues to increase and businesses' increasingly adopt e-business applications, more companies are turning to service providers to meet their IT needs. The outsourcing market for IT services reached $100 billion last year, according to Cutter Consortium analyst Michael Mah, with IBM Global Services, EDS, and Computer Sciences controlling the bulk of that money. Customers are increasingly contracting with separate service providers for different applications and technological needs. Insiders agree the first decision companies need to make--no matter how many service providers they intend to work with--is what application functionality they want to outsource. Outsourcing should free the business to concentrate on the things it does to provide value for its customers. From there, service-level agreements must be crafted that leave no doubt as what is expected of service providers and how their performance will be measured.

  • "Tax Proposal Pluses Will Come Slow to IT Industry"
    Washington Technology (02/05/01) Vol. 15, No. 21, P. 18; Gildea, Kerry

    The IT industry has thrown its support behind the new 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax-cut plan that President George W. Bush sent to Congress in January because it views the cut as something that could aid the development of both e-commerce and e-businesses. Bush's plan offers across-the-board relief, Small Business Survival Committee economist Raymond Keating says, and small high-tech companies will be among the small businesses that benefit from the package. However, the IT industry should expect Democrats to put up a good fight that will likely result in a compromise, possibly later in the year. "The one thing we don't want to do is to repeat the incredible problem we created for this country in 1981 when we passed a tax cut we couldn't afford," says Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) "It caused incredible and unnecessary havoc in our economy and in our fiscal policy." The IT industry also is optimistic about a bill Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced in January that would make tax credits for research and development permanent and offers increases in tax credit rates for research. Meanwhile, the IT industry could receive special tax credits for bringing high-speed Internet access to rural and urban areas as the result of the Broadband Internet Access Act of 2001, a bill unveiled by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

  • "Study Says IT Starting Salaries to Increase 8.4 Percent in 2001"
    IT Professional (02/01) Vol. 3, No. 1, P. 7

    The starting salaries of IT professionals are a good indicator of the hiring outlook of the IT industry, suggests Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of RHI Consulting (RHIC). RHIC has released a new report that projects that starting salaries for IT professionals will rise an average of 8.4 percent this year. In comparison, the increase last year was 6.8 percent. In 2001, database administrators will see the largest increase, up 11.8 percent, with starting salaries ranging from $72,500 to $105,750, followed by business systems analysts, up 11.2 percent, with starting salaries ranging from $55,750 to $80,750, and Internet developers, up 10.8 percent, ranging from $56,250 to $76,750. The annual starting salaries of chief technical officers will jump 10.6 percent, ranging from $98,750 to $152,500, while e-commerce specialists will see their starting salaries rise by 10.1 percent, ranging from $59,750 to $89,500, and network firewall specialists will see their starting pay increase 8.4 percent, ranging from $59,750 to $82,750. In particular, the finance, insurance, and real estate industries, in addition to business and professional services, will show a strong interest in adding IT professionals, according to the report.

  • "Herbert A. Simon, Nobel and Turing Winner, Dies at 84"
    New York Times, (2/10/01); Paul Lewis

    Herbert A. Simon, winner of the Nobel in economics (1978), ACM's A.M. Turing Award (1975), and the National Medal of Science Award (1986), died Feb. 9, at the age of 84. Simon was recognized as an American polymath who won the Nobel with a new theory of decision-making and who helped pioneer the idea that computers can exhibit artificial intelligence that mirrors human thinking. Dr. Simon was the Richard King Mellon University Professor of Computer Science and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon---a title that underscored the breadth of his interests and learning.

[ Archives ] [ Home ]