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 169: Monday, February 26, 2001
- "Mainframes Are Still Around, but Expertise Is Becoming Scarce"
Washington Post (02/25/01) P. L1; Johnson, Carrie
Numerous large firms still count on mainframe computers to run vital applications, a recent survey from the Cutter Consortium consulting firm found. However, the older tech workers responsible for running mainframes are reaching retirement age, and few young tech workers are learning the skills necessary to operate them. Moreover, Hitachi and Amdahl, two of the three makers of the iron machines, have announced they will no longer produce top-of-the-line mainframes. "There's a whole set of very important technologies for which there is no new blood and no huge investment," says tech consultant Ken Orr. Mainframe trainer and consultant Mike Chudasama says he has not been able to find work for several months. He notes that some companies and organizations, including many federal agencies, are still dependent on mainframes but adds that the industry is moving toward integration of the old and new. Several organizations have emerged for those who work with mainframes, including the Network and Systems Professionals Association and Share.
- "Congress Responds to Concerns, But Conflict Could Delay Action"
CNet (02/23/01); Ross, Patrick
Online privacy is a bipartisan issue that is drawing increasing interest in Congress, which has already introduced 19 privacy bills this year. Still, significant barriers remain before any of these privacy bills are turned into privacy laws, even though many have predicted it is all but a foregone conclusion that Congress will pass online privacy legislation this year. The biggest barrier seems to be the argument over whether online privacy law should include opt-in or opt-out language. Vince Sampson, vice president of the Association for Competitive Technology, says that this argument could very well keep Congress from passing privacy laws this year. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has promised that his Senate Judiciary Committee will produce a privacy bill that will equally protect free speech and the growth of e-commerce. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), and Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) have also promised to throw their weight behind privacy legislation this year. McCain and Burns support an opt-out scheme for privacy, while Hollings favors opt-in. Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) worries that an opt-in scheme would stymie the growth of the private sector, while Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) says he believes the Internet industry should have a say in the crafting of any privacy legislation. Information Technology Industry Council President Rhett Dawson urges Congress to take a deliberative approach to crafting privacy legislation. "Regulatory missteps could cause damage to the market," Dawson warns.
- "Brazilian Company Is Hacking Its Way Up"
New York Times (02/26/01) P. C5; Rich, Jennifer, L.
It took Rinaldo Ribeiro, a professional hacker with Brazil-based Modulo Security Solutions, three minutes to break into a Windows NT server designed specifically to keep him out at a conference sponsored by Sans Institute 16 months ago. When Sans, a leading research center for the security world, held a similar conference in Orlando last March, it took Ribeiro only eight minutes to hack into the system it had set up, and he was the only participant who was able to do so. Modulo Security is a market leader for information security in Brazil, with clients such as Microsoft and ABN Amro; with a revenue of $13.6 million last year, it has a long way to go to catch up with leaders like KPMG and Oracle. But following a string of recent high-profile attacks against business computers around the world, Modulo is optimistic about its future. In 1999, it opened up an office in Silicon Valley, Calif., where it decided to concentrate on its strongest area of expertise, electronic elections. In January 2000, it was invited to the White House to address an electronic-commerce working group, led by Vice President Al Gore's staff, on computerizing voting. Modulo wants to branch out in the United States to offer a full range of security services, using its method of security analysis and certification to evaluate a company's security risks, a process that involves everything from debriefing workers to staging mock hacker attacks.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)
- "Spam Oozes Past Border Patrol"
Wired News (02/23/01); McCullagh, Declan
Since 1997, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been attempting to find a legislative solution to the spam problem, but all efforts to this point have failed. Reps. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) and Gene Green (D-Texas) have offered up the most recent example of anti-spam legislation--a bill that promises to empower "consumers and their ISP with the ability to protect both their privacy and their resources." Even if Congress passes anti-spam legislation this year, the rising tide of spam originating from outside the United States promises to test the reach of any U.S. law. Evidence abounds that the foreign-spam problem is growing. For instance, more than half of the most egregious spam offenders are from overseas, according to a newsadmin.com list. Similarly, SpamCop finds that half of the most spam-lax network administrators are from overseas. Junkbusters President Jason Catlett and Ray Everett-Church of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email also note a rise in spam from overseas sites. U.S. legislation does not appear to offer a solution, analysts say. And the industry has its own criticisms of anti-spam legislation. The Direct Marketing Association is unhappy with "certain technical aspects of the [Wilson-Green] bill," but nonetheless supports the "general thrust" of the bill, says the DMA's vice president for government affairs, Jerry Cerasale. The bill fails to account for prior relationships and fails to define permission-based marketing and unsolicited commercial email, Cerasale says. "We don't think that their definition fully covers when someone opts-in," Cerasale says. The DMA is working with the House to tweak the bill, Cerasale says.
- "Don't Lose Valuable Files to Surges, Outages"
Investor's Business Daily (02/23/01) P. A6; Walford, Lynn
Power outages and surges pose serious threats to unprotected computer hardware and data. Although a blackout can lead to the loss of data that is being edited, surges that occur after the power is restored can lead to more permanent damage, frying motherboards, microprocessors, and other circuitry. DriveSafe Data Recovery President Scott Gaidano says the cost of recovering data on a damaged hard drive averages about $900. However, a number of preventive measures can be taken. Simply unplugging all computer equipment during a blackout will keep it safe from surges when the electricity returns, as will buying a good surge suppressor that routes excess electricity through the ground wire. However, suppressors do wear out over time, so it is a good idea to keep an extra one on hand. Other devices, like a uninterrupted power supply (UPS) can provide battery power during an outage, giving the user enough time to save data and shut down the computer.
- "E-Recruiters Swim Through a Sea of Resumes"
USA Today (02/19/01) P. 3B; Swartz, Jon
Online recruiting sites have tallied brisk increases in the number of postings on their sites. Monster.com, the largest job-placement site with 8.3 million resumes, says it is receiving 50 percent more incoming resumes than in December. Other e-recruiters--Headhunter.net, HotJobs.com, and CareerBuilder--are reporting similar increases. Part of the reason is the slew of recent dot-com layoff victims, who quickly turn to the Web for job-hunting resources. Other resumes are coming from "silent job seekers" who research better career opportunities and market themselves online while at work. Headhunter.net polled 1,000 workers in January, half of whom said that they were currently seeking other employment. This trend toward online job searching has led International Data analysts to predict e-recruitment revenue to jump to $4.5 billion in 2004, up from $500 million in 2000.
- "IT Advice: Knock Down Stovepipes"
Federal Computer Week Online (02/22/01); Frank, Diane
Both the public and private sectors are urging the Bush administration to reorganize federal IT technology policy, as evidenced by a study of over 20 reports from the General Services Administration (GSA). Suggested changes would have repercussions in the areas of access, funding and budgeting, performance management, privacy and security, procurement, government structure, and the workforce. Francis McDonough, deputy associate administrator of the GSA Office of Government-wide Policy's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions, notes that both public and private interests are in agreement concerning the basic problems that must be overcome and the proposed solutions. A study from the Council for Excellence in Government and the "Report to the 43rd President and 107th Congress," which was presented by seven private-sector organizations, could have the deepest impact because of the wide range of people and issues involved, according to McDonough. Key recommendations include a Web-based clearinghouse of educational material; better privacy and security interoperability through investment funds; $3 billion for multi-agency and government-wide solutions; the full implementation of the 1998 Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act in order to build a database; a resolution to mission fragmentation and program overlap; appointment of a national IT CIO or secretary; assessment standards for cross-agency programs and their impact; and cohesive personnel management strategies. The report summarizes the problem by stating that, "the government is organized to operate programs in vertical hierarchical structures, while the world around the government has already changed."
- "Study: Private Portals Changing the Face of E-Business"
E-Commerce Times (02/22/01); Mahoney, Michael
Eighteen percent of U.S. companies had a private portal by the end of 1999, while 32 percent planned to install one by the end of 2001, according to an International Data report, which predicts private corporate portals may soon outnumber public portals. Fifty percent of U.S. companies will possess their own portal by year's end should these trends continue. "There are only so many portals that are going to make it in the consumer domain...whereas potentially every corporation or division of a corporation may require or think it needs a portal," according to the report's author, Geoffrey Dutton. About 30 percent of companies planning to implement corporate portals will give them e-business capabilities, IDC reports. Corporate portals offer companies and their partners integrated business resources and processes from a single interface, and IDC lists user interfaces, search engines, authorization and access control, director services, knowledge capture and management, collaboration support, and application/process/data integration among their most common functions. IDC estimates that over 95 percent of companies with private portals also run an intranet. The proliferation of such portals does not necessarily imply new market opportunities for online business-to-business transactions, notes Dutton. "They can be set up to be portals, but it doesn't mean that each company's portal that participates in that marketplace is part of that larger portal," he explains.
- "Pretty Good Privacy Creator Resigns From Network Associates"
Computerworld Online (02/21/01); Verton, Dan
Philip Zimmermann, who invented Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) open source encryption technology, announced he will become chief cryptographer of Ireland's Hush Communications. He is leaving California's Network Associates (NAI) after working for NAI on PGP technology for the last three years. NAI bought Zimmermann's PGP company in 1997, but citing divergent directions and visions, Zimmermann has decided to work on other projects with Hush. Controversies surrounding "back doors," lines of code inserted into encryption technology that allow back door third party access, has swirled around PGP ever since 1997, but as Zimmermann was leaving he vowed PGP was still free of back doors. Zimmermann will work on Hush Communication's HushMail, its encrypted email service, as well as on incorporating PGP technology into Hush services and products. In terms of PGP, Zimmermann says he will remain hands-on, for he intends to start an OpenPGP Consortium to help venders work toward a uniform PGP standard in their PGP-applicable products.
- "Another Try at E-Tail Agreement"
Reuters (02/20/01); Sullivan, Andy
International e-commerce faces serious complications due to the inability of business and consumer interests to reconcile at the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction. As world participation in Internet trade quickens, analysts say a formal e-commerce framework is increasingly necessary, but Jeffery Kovar of the U.S. State Department sees no way out of the present morass. Basically, he told an FTC roundtable, there is little consensus on the important issues, although efforts are underway based on the agreement that a treaty is needed. Negotiators will gather in Canada on Feb. 26, with official talks set to resume at The Hague in June. The controversy centers on the ability of global consumers to sue an Internet company based in another nation without going to that nation to file a complaint. Consumer rights advocates say this is necessary in order to level the playing field between resource-weak individuals and global corporations, but business interests warn of a balkanization of the Web based on national and cultural boundaries if such law is passed. Marc Rich, a business lawyer representing the e-commerce industry, says the sides first must resolve basic tenets, such as defining e-commerce. He likens the current argument to drafting international divorce laws before international marriage rights are laid out.
- "Russian Internet Landscape Still Bleak"
eMarketer (02/21/01); Cohen, Nevin
Russia's lack of telecommunications infrastructure and stark economic prospects threaten to limit Internet penetration in that country to the single digits until at least 2004, according to eMarketer predictions. Those estimates also tag the number of current Russian adult Internet users at only 2.9 million in a nation of roughly 122 million adults. ROMIR Consulting, Moscow, says 48 percent of users access the Web from work and only 36 percent communicate via the Internet. Lack of economic prosperity has limited e-commerce in the country, where few hold credit cards and ISP access can cost anywhere from $120 to $1,500 per month, according to various analyst reports. However, Russian industries have begun implementing e-business solutions to streamline their operations, especially in the mining, metallurgy, refining, and oil-drilling sectors.
- "Web Arbitration Makes Dispute Settlement Quicker"
Washington Times (02/26/01) P. D12; Uehara, Lee
In the past, arbitration has been used as a less expensive alternative to lawsuits, and now a smattering of companies including ClickNsettle.com and SquareTrade are working to move arbitration online. Online arbitration takes less time, sometimes as little as 10 minutes, and eliminates the need to travel, according to entrepreneurs. Network Solutions, AOL Time Warner, Dell Computer, AT&T, Microsoft, IBM, and Visa U.S.A. are all cooperating in an effort to introduce industry standards for Internet arbitration, according to FTC attorney Maneesha Mithal, who asserts there has been a noticeable rise in the use of Internet resolution services over the last 18 months. Proprietary software from clickNsettle permits parties to trade offers, computing the difference once the figures come within 30 percent of one another. This difference is then put forward as a compromise. If no deal can be made, the dispute can always be taken before the company's hearing officers. ClickNsettle normally receives a commission of approximately $160 to $220, depending on the number of bids made. Using the Internet to resolve legal issues is also helpful in other areas, including international disputes. However, there are critics of using the Internet to handle arbitration. The plaintiffs usually desire more than money, according to Stanford Law School Professor Deborah Hensler. Plaintiffs might want an apology or they might want the dispute to be heard publicly, notes Hensler. Toysrus.com considered using online arbitration, but chose face-to-face mediation instead.
- "The Quest for Quality"
InformationWeek (02/19/01) No. 825, P. 55; Goodridge, Elisabeth
Despite the U.S. economy's apparent downturn, industry observers have found that many companies are continuing to grow their IT budgets and staff. For example, manufacturer Textron, despite losing $218 million in the fourth quarter and cutting 3,600 jobs, plans to increase hiring and spending for its IT department this year. "From a hiring standpoint, little has changed over the last six months," says John Sullivan of the College of Business at San Francisco State University. "Most firms still plan the same increase in hiring as last year. And no matter what happens to the economy, certain jobs, like IT and communications design, will be relatively exempt from any hiring slowdown." Several recent studies appear to support Sullivan's claims. A recent survey of CIOs by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter found that nearly three-quarters of them had not reduced their IT spending. However, observers say companies still face a shortage of IT workers to meet their demand. A report from the Gartner firm People3 found that, over the next four years, the demand for IT workers will be 20 percent larger than the supply. Companies looking for IT workers in the immediate future may find a plethora of available workers from the dot-com sector's many victims. Last month, 12,828 dot-com workers lost their jobs, the outplacement firm Challenger, Grey, and Christmas reports. However, many executives say it is still a challenge to find workers who meet their exact needs, which are often upper-management positions overseeing crucial e-business or systems-integration projects, and some executives even admit to a slight bias against dot-com workers, whom they perceive as being job-hoppers out for the biggest paycheck they can get.
- "Business Gets the Message"
Industry Standard (02/26/01) Vol. 4, No. 8, P. 58; Pressman, Aaron
The U.S. Navy will soon become the latest user of instant messaging, the real-time, text-based communication method that has been embraced by users from high-school classrooms to corporate boardrooms. "Instant messaging has allowed us to keep our crew members on the same page at the same time," says Lt. Cmdr. Mike Houston. "Lives are at stake in real time, and we're seeing a new level of communication and readiness." Despite the increasing popularity of instant messaging--Media Metrix reports that 53 million U.S. households sent an instant message in January, with another 11 million using the technology from work--no universal standard for instant messaging exists, preventing users of competing systems from talking to one another. Although former FCC Chairman William Kennard said the government should consider stepping into the matter, his successor, Michael Powell, has advocated a free-market sensibility that does not lend itself to forcing standardization on the market. Talk of a universal standard usually leads back to America Online, which owns the two dominant instant messaging services, AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ. Although AOL's competitors, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and AT&T, have called for standardization, AOL has resisted, saying it wants to ensure that any universal standard protects its users' security. Despite's Kennard's views, the FCC did not force AOL to open its instant messaging services as a condition of its merger with Time Warner. Only if AOL Time Warner includes multimedia features in its future instant messaging offerings must it open up to other systems. AOL's competitors hope a move toward interoperability will eventually force the company to change its position.
- "Labor Laws Apply to Dot-Coms? Really?"
Business Week (02/26/01) No. 3721, P. 96; Conlin, Michelle
Market observers expect the recent tide of disappointment litigation against New Economy companies to continue, in part because the current legal climate favors employees. Several measures crafted to protect workers from employer discrimination became law in the 1990s, and, with courts now sympathetic to employee discrimination claims, David Larson of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., says, "There's a recognition that employment-at-will is a harsh rule." Many in the high-tech community were introduced to the Worker Adjustment & Retraining Act (WARN) for the first time when Connecticut's attorney general cited the sleeper statute in a suit against Walker Digital. WARN protects workers at companies that have more than 100 workers by forcing employers to give 60 days' notice of mass layoffs or give 60 days' worth of back pay and compensation for benefits. These days, smaller dot-coms as well as major high-tech players such as Oracle, Broadcom, and Qualcomm are facing lawsuits from former disgruntled workers. Charges range from labor law violations, fraudulent inducement and breach of contract for worthless stock options, to conspiracy for firing workers so their stock options cannot vest. Many new companies were more interested in being the next market-leading Amazon.com and never took the time to write the human-resource policies and the airtight contracts that would protect them from the rash of disappointment litigation, observers say.
- "An Unhealthy Tension"
Network World (02/19/01) Vol. 18, No. 8, P. 38; Bradner, Scott
The House Telecommunications Subcommittee hearing on ICANN's selection of new top level domain names is problematic, as the U.S. government might restrict an organization that was meant to be nongovernmental, has board numbers from a variety of different countries, and even deals with a global medium, writes Scott Bradner. Despite ICANN's international scope, the U.S. government continues to act like the Internet is under the control of the United States. This hearing is similar to the Italian court that claimed it had jurisdiction over the Internet and the French court that made Yahoo! censor its material. Although the Wall Street Journal's assertion that Congress will probably accept ICANN's selections might be true, the hearing demonstrates that there are members of the U.S. government who believe they could deny ICANN. And ICANN is located in the United States, so it is possible that Congress could tell ICANN what to do. If Congress makes a decision over ICANN, it will successfully demonstrate that one country can control the Internet. Soon, all the other countries in the world would follow suit with their own regulations, and this would hurt e-commerce. Congress ought to let ICANN make its own decisions, concludes Bradner.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Playing Fair With Copyright"
Newsweek (02/26/01) Vol. 137, No. 9, P. 60; Levy, Steve
The entertainment industry appears to be employing a strategy of using the law and technology to gain even more control of creative works and possibly to do away with fair use, observers say. The recording industry and the Motion Picture Association of America already have the law on their side, in the form of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which has made it illegal for anyone to supply someone with technology that circumvents anti-copying controls or even to publish information about such technology. More technology is likely on the way this year, including Safe Audio, by the Israeli company TTR, which allows music companies to press CDs in a manner that prevents digital copying. As a result of the latest technology the entertainment industry is adopting, consumers may no longer be able to make copies of songs, even for personal use. Electronic Frontier Foundation's Lee Tien sees the content industries ultimately trying to get away with a pay-per-view model for all intellectual property. Every time a consumer rereads a book or replays a song, says Tien, he or she may have to pay for it. Content providers may even attempt to use technology, for example, to prevent consumers from fast-forwarding past commercials on digital video players. Still, there remains an entity--some 62 million Napster users who believe there is nothing wrong with copying content--that could just as easily use the law to foil the plans of the entertainment industry.
For information regarding ACM's work in the area of copyright issues, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP.
- "IT Project Planning: Adult Supervision Required"
CIO (02/15/01) Vol. 14, No. 9, P. 74; Cramm, Susan H.
In the fervor to upgrade their IT systems, many companies rush to commit millions of dollars to projects without considering whether or not it will create any return-on-investment (ROI) value for the company. Placing emphasis on the ROI potential of IT projects will help win the support of business managers, whose primary concerns are revenue and profit. Some tips to consider in the support of any potential IT investment: clarify and justify the rules and reason behind the project; apply operational procedures that identify the real drive behind project success; ask for the impossible to effectively get the best; propose staggered funding to initiate a cycle of validation for the project; focus on customer relations and business partnerships first as those influence the bottom line; evaluate the company portfolio, allowing for IT investments, research and development, and risk.
© Copyright 2000 Information, Inc. This service may be reproduced for internal distribution.