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Volume 3, Issue 198:  Friday, May 4, 2001

  • "Chinese Arrested for Tech Theft"
    Washington Post (05/04/01) P. A1; Goodman, Peter

    On Thursday, federal authorities arrested two Chinese scientists employed with Lucent Technologies and a man alleged to be their business associate, charging them with stealing product designs from Lucent and giving them to a company that the Chinese government controls. The U.S. attorney in Newark alleged in a criminal complaint that the scientists stole computer code used in gear that transmits voice and data traffic over the Internet. They are accused of planning to make an identical product in collaboration with Datang Telecom Technology, a key Chinese equipment maker. The business plan called for the alliance to become "the Cisco of China" and to be publicly traded in the United States and China, according to the complaint. The two Lucent scientists--Xu Kai of Somerset, N.J., and Lin Hai of Scotch Plains, N.J.--were Chinese nationals who had been seeking to make the U.S. their permanent home, according to the complaint. Cheng Yongqing, of East Brunswick, N.J., was born in China, but became a U.S. citizen, authorities noted.

  • "Microsoft Is Set to Be Top Foe of Free Code"
    New York Times (05/03/01) P. C1; Markoff, John

    Microsoft senior vice president Craig Mundie, in a speech at New York University on Thursday, explained the company's stance on the free-software movement, which he maintained is harmful to both innovation and the companies that base business models on it. Mundie specifically attacked the General Public License model, which requires all software that contains code covered by the agreement to be made available for free. He says companies that adopt such a strategy are short-sighted and will eventually pull themselves into a morass of "forked" software versions and unprofitable products. Mundie uses the example of the Unix operating system, which eventually developed into disparate and incompatible versions through "forking," or being continually tweaked by different vendors and companies. Although not addressing it directly, Mundie is criticizing the approach that IBM is taking toward the Linux operating system, which currently endangers Microsoft's ploy for the corporate software market. Eventually, open source leads innovation down a dead-end path because companies and initiatives depending on the model will run out of funding, Mundie says.
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  • "Populist Parade"
    Union-Tribune Online (05/01/01); Balint, Kathryn

    Although Linux, with its cult of dedicated, often Microsoft-hating users and its obscure vocabulary of programming terms, may not be known to the majority of computer users who still run Windows as an operating system, the open-source software is growing in importance and influence in the computing world. Estimates for Linux's presence in the desktop market fall between two percent and four percent, but it may run as many as a quarter of the computers that host Web sites, and it is also popular for running embedded systems, such as vending machines or the new TiVo digital video recorder. British software firm Idaya predicts Linux will become the dominant operating system in the Web server market by next year, and International Data has pegged its growth as being the fastest among Web server operating systems. The reasons for Linux's growing popularity are clear: it costs nearly nothing, and because it has a global network of programmers constantly upgrading and tweaking it, it is generally regarded to be more reliable than Windows. "My Linux Web server has been up for eight months without any interruptions, says Internet consultant Richard Greenwood, whose company hosts over 1,400 Web sites. "With Microsoft Windows, you have to reboot almost daily." Although the Linux operating system itself is free, tech firms believe that providing the machines to run Linux will be a lucrative market. IBM, for example, plans to spend $1.3 billion on Linux-related projects over the next three years.
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  • "Global IT Spending $1.4 Trillion by 2005"
    Newsbytes (05/02/01); Stone, Martin

    A just-released study by Dataquest on the global information technology services industry predicts that the market will expand to $1.4 trillion in 2005 from the current figure of $700 billion. The IT services industry expanded 9.7 percent globally last year and is expected to grow by 12.5 percent in 2001. In North America, IT services generated $345 billion in revenues, about 52 percent of the total market. By 2005, the continent is likely to generate $712 billion, still signifying 52 percent of the total industry. In Western Europe, IT services produced $173 billion in revenue last year and the figure is expected to climb to $326 billion by 2005. The biggest jump is predicted to occur in the Asia/Pacific area, whose IT services industry was worth $38 billion in 2000 and may balloon to $125 billion in 2005. Dataquest says the IT services market will continue to grow despite the current economic sluggishness. Industry observer Michael Palma believes that when the economy suffers a slowdown, it is the time for IT services firms to restructure their methods and boost output. The biggest money earners in the industry are the development and integration sector and business process management (BPM) services.

  • "Entertainment Firms Target Gnutella"
    Wall Street Journal (05/04/01) P. B6; Gomes, Lee

    With the number of daily downloads on the Napster file-sharing network having fallen 40 percent from February to April, according to the research group Webnoize, the entertainment industry is turning its attention toward Gnutella, a peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. Gnutella was created by Justin Frankel, a programmer at America Online, but has since evolved into multiple forms, such as Lime Wire and BearShare. Unlike Napster, which routes files through one central database--which gave the recording industry a convenient target for its attempts to shut the network down--Gnutella transfers files directly between users. This method of file-sharing has led many users to believe that they are immune to the sort of court action that has forced Napster to curtail trading. In fact, use of Gnutella exposes a user's IP number, unique to each computer, which any interested party, having obtained a court's permission, can trace. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is doing just that, finding users who it believes are trading pirated films through Gnutella-based networks. The MPAA then serves the users' ISPs with legal notices, requesting that they stop their customers' piracy. Although the Recording Industry of America Association has not acted on Gnutella use with the same speed as the MPAA has, its officials say they are watching developments and may act in the future. An RIAA official says shutting down Gnutella-based piracy may not be too difficult, as most Gnutella trading is centralized around a few users.

  • "Scientists Beam Light to Send Microscopic Objects Spinning"
    New York Times (05/04/01) P. A18; Chang, Kenneth

    Scientists at St. Andrews University in Scotland in the latest issue of the journal Science reveal that they have devised a method to spin microscopic objects using a beam of light. Among the objects the researchers have already spun using an infrared laser beam are a hamster's chromosome, a glass rod, and glass spheres. "The idea is that a small light beam tightly focused to a small spot can pick up small particles and move them around," says St. Andrews physics and astrophysics lecturer Dr. Kishan Dholakia. Because the action occurs on the microscopic level, the natural force exerted on objects by light bending around them is strong enough to move those objects. The new research will likely be of great benefit to the development of nanotechnology, which is focused on the use of micromachines--machines often as small as a few microns, or one-millionth of a meter.
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  • "U.S.: DVD Decoder is Terrorware"
    Wired News (05/02/01); McCullagh, Declan

    Attorneys for the federal government told a federal appeals court this week that DeCSS, the software code that breaks the encryption on DVDs, poses the same kind of threat as software that disrupts hospital systems or the navigation of airplanes. "That software creates a very real possibility of harm. That is precisely what is at stake here," said attorney Daniel Alter. The government is arguing on the side of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which last year convinced a federal judge to order the hacker magazine 2600 to remove a link to the DeCSS source code. The magazine is trying to convince the appeals court that forcing it to remove that link is a violation of free speech and that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 is unconstitutional. Although MPAA officials and their legal supporters remain confident that the original decision will be upheld, the appeals judges did raise some troubling questions during oral arguments. Judge Alvin Thompson wondered if a court order would have any practical effect, as information on DeCSS is available from more than 100,000 Internet sources. Alter admitted that removing it from the Internet completely would be difficult, especially because foreign Web sites outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law could post the code or links to it.

  • "Microsoft Warns of Vulnerability in Windows 2000"
    InformationWeek Online (05/02/01); Hulme, George V.

    Microsoft is advising users of Windows 2000 to install a patch or to disable Internet Information Services (IIS) version 5.0 because of a "extremely serious" design flaw that makes the software open to being hacked. A hacker could compromise any platform that runs the software because of an uninspected buffer, says Scott Culp, program manager at Microsoft security response center. He says IIS enables printing from the Web; turning the system off also protects the system. IIS is part of the Windows 2000 suite; other versions are not at risk. Microsoft posted the patch on May 1 but released information about the software earlier, the company says. A company called eEye Digital Security detected the problem around April 23 and alerted Microsoft at that time. Gartner analyst John Pescatore believes that the majority of people who have Windows 2000 have not taken action to safeguard their computer systems and should do so as soon as possible. Users of IIS can get the patch at Microsoft's Web site.

  • "Dear New Employee: Welcome, and Goodbye"
    New York Times (05/04/01) P. C1; Glater, Jonathan D.

    This spring's college graduates and MBA students are receiving some unusual welcomes at companies they interviewed with during the fall. Tech firms such as Cisco and Intel as well as consultant firms such as Boston Consulting and Charles Schwab are either rescinding job offers or are asking new recruits to delay their starting dates until as late as next January. Many of these firms are enticing perspective workers to delay their work with compensation packages or, in the case of Boston Consulting, the offer of an intensive second-language class. Others are reducing or eliminating summer internship programs, a channel that provides many new employees for firms. The reason, says A.T. Kearney global recruitment director Bob Chrismer, is that there is not enough work to go around for new hires, a result of the confluence of a tightening job market and slowing tech demand. However, Lawrence S. Abeln, director of the MBA program at Georgetown University, remarks that this could lead to an unstable job market two years in the future, as employees who eagerly grabbed the first job offer reconsider the appropriateness of their position. Indeed, consulting firms A.T. Kearney, Boston Consulting, and Bain & Company all report a higher percentage of students accepting job offers than a year ago.
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  • "Women Are Geeky People, Too"
    Wired News (05/01/01); Scheeres, Julia

    As part of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County's Center for Women and Information Technology, director Joan Korenman uses the Internet to highlight issues related to women and IT. "The center's mission is to achieve women's full participation in all aspects of IT," says Korenman. She designed a discussion list that has grown to 4,400 members among 47 countries. The center's home page has links to 600-plus Internet sites that provide substantial information targeted to women covering a wide range of topics. Included in the list is girlgeeks.com, which talks about such topics as PC platforms and displays high tech job offers. Updates on her 1997 book, "Internet Resources on Women: Using Electronic Media in Curriculum Transformation," are posted on the Web, as the technology changes so quickly. The center also invites noteworthy female IT experts to UMBC to inspire students to get involved in the IT sphere, and offers computer training to economically disadvantaged women. Korenman is also an English and Women's Studies teacher at UMBC, and received a Women on the Web award this year. She is concerned with the diminishing number of women who hold IT jobs; according to the U.S. Office of Technology Policy, in 1994 only 27.5 percent of computer science graduates were women, compared to 35.8 percent in 1985.

  • "Search Engines Ready to Learn"
    Technology Review Online (04/24/01); Aquino, Stephen

    Tom Mitchell, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and the chief scientist at WhizBang Labs, recently described new advances in the technology behind search engines. These advances could assist users in the increasingly difficult task of finding relevant information when searching the at least 2 billion indexable Web pages now in existence. Mitchell said the current focus point of search-engine development is in "entity extraction," the ability to build databases from collections of specific entities--names, addresses, and phone numbers, for example--extracted from Web pages. "This kind of record extraction is where we are driving the evolution of tools for managing the information flood," he told a recent meeting of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Mitchell said there are three types of search algorithms used to build these databases, including the Naive Bayes model, which focuses on topic-word frequencies. Also in use are "maximum entropy" algorithms, which focus on word combinations and how frequently within specific Web documents they are associated. The most promising algorithm, Mitchell explained, is the "co-training" model, which studies the information on a certain Web page as well as the pages that link to that page, building an association of correlations from the linked pages. Mitchell says the co-training algorithm has a hit-accuracy of 96 percent, while the other algorithms' accuracy is only 86 percent.

  • "Smaller Va. Firms Are Bigger on Ethics, Survey Finds"
    Washington Post (05/03/01) P. E7; Irwin, Neil

    A Marymount University survey of tech firms in Northern Virginia found that small firms, those with less than 100 employees, weigh ethical issues more heavily than large firms do. The survey of 43 Northern Virginia tech CEOs also found that employees at small firms are more likely to have a balance between their personal and work lives. "The smaller-company CEOs felt they were better able to influence the ethical culture of the organization," says Paul Byers, director of the university's Center for Ethical Concerns. A firm that promotes an ethical culture faces less turnover and can reap financial benefits from that culture, the survey found. Survey respondents also addressed specific ethical questions, with 39 percent saying monitoring employees' email accounts was an unethical act, while 37 percent said it was ethical. When asked whether it was unethical to block employees' access to non-work-related Web sites, just 7 percent said it was, while 47 percent said it was ethical.

  • "Chip Sales Set to Remain in the Doldrums"
    Financial Times (05/03/01) P. 22; Foremski, Tom

    Semiconductor sales in March totaled $14.4 billion, a 7 percent drop from February's sales total, the Semiconductor Industry Association reported on Wednesday. The association said its customers still had backlogs in their chip inventory. A drop in demand for the computers and other hardware that use those chips has meant that it is taking chip customers longer than expected to deplete those inventory backlogs, the association noted. Chip demand was weakest in the Americas in March, with a 13 percent drop from the previous month, while Europe and Japan both posted declines under 5 percent. Sales drops were particularly steep for microprocessors, which fell 24 percent from February to March. The association maintains that a turnaround will occur in the fourth quarter, a notion supported by Salomon Smith Barney chip analyst Jonathan Joseph, who speculates the industry's situation could not possibly get much worse.
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  • "You Will Be Reprogrammed. Your Toaster Too."
    New York Times (05/03/01) P. E1; Wallace, David J.

    An underground movement of people who tinker with gadget hardware and software has arisen, developing innovative new creations and uses well beyond manufacturers' intentions. Companies are trying to adapt to the growing number of inquisitive people who hack their home appliances, cell phones, computer peripherals, and digital organizers. A number of Web sites serve as resources for these individuals to obtain and share information about successful hacks, encouraging more of the same activity--although at least one hacker Web site is being sued for publishing information on how to break encryption on DVDs. For some companies, the surprise of having their products hacked has been especially unwelcome. Netpliance's i-opener hardware, meant to connect users to the Netpliance Internet service, sold for $99 but was easily morphed into a Internet-enabled PC that could route through any ISP, not just Netpliance's service. Hackers spread the information widely, and Netpliance responded by raising the price of the i-opener to $299 and has since handed its subscribers over to Earthlink. Digital television recorder TiVo has taken a hacker-friendly stance, encouraging purchasers to report new hacks with the reward of free service. TiVo's Richard Bullwinkle says 1 percent of the company's 150,000 users have reconfigured their machines, mostly to increase storage capacity.
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  • "New Media Player Escapes Windows"
    CNet (05/01/01); Wilcox, Joe

    Internet sites offering an unauthorized, downloadable version of Windows Media Player 8 may face litigation from Microsoft if they do not remove the files. The program was apparently taken from the latest beta release of the up-coming Windows XP operating system. Microsoft has said that Windows Media Player 8 will be integrated into XP and will not be offered as a standalone product. Microsoft's Jonathan Usher says the unauthorized version of Media Player 8 is not fully functional since some features such as the DVD player and CD recorder do not work in the absence of the Windows XP operating system. Forrester Research industry watcher David Gillett believes that the modified Windows Media Player 8 could be a form of protest against Microsoft for not offering the Media Player as a separate program compatible with previous Windows versions. Microsoft itself is unsure of which features the new Media Player will have since it must get clearance from authorities concerning its antitrust appeal. Dave Fester, Microsoft's general manager for digital media, states that Microsoft has no plans to offer a solo Media Player 8 since that would reduce a number of features from the system, reducing the desirability of the product.

  • "New Legislation Calls For Federal CIO"
    Newsbytes (05/01/01); McGuire, David

    Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) have introduced legislation to establish a permanent federal CIO post within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The White House would appoint the CIO. The measure is long overdue, says Sen. Burns, who recently gave details of the bill, which also includes plans for a national online library, a Web-based federal phone book, and other digital government services. The federal CIO post would wield a $200 million annual budget and coordinate federal agencies' e-government initiatives. Additionally, the CIO would assume responsibilities that are currently handled by different officials in the OMB. Backing the bill are a number of tech firms, including IBM, Microsoft, and EDS, and organizations such as the American Library Association and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

  • "Future Computing: Faster Than Silicon"
    E-Commerce Times (05/03/01); McDonald, Tim

    IBM scientists are working on the next generation of microprocessors--molecular electronics, or "molectronics," as some have coined it. Carbon nanotubes, only a few molecules wide, are folded together to form long strands of circuitry. When packed onto a chip, carbon nanotube technology would yield billions of times more computations than would silicon transistors. Discovered in 1991, carbon nanotubes have undergone slow progress due to a barrier that has only recently been overcome. Researchers struggled to separate metallic carbon nanotubes that are enmeshed with the good, semiconducting ones. IBM scientists effectively burnt up the metallic strands by placing the bundle over a silicon base, insulating the semiconducting nanotubes and adding an electronic charge sufficient to overload the metallic nanotubes. Phaedon Avouris, head of the IBM team, says they are now looking for hybridization applications with silicon technology so that the industry will not have to waste trillions of dollars in preceding silicon development. Pure molecular electronic devices will probably not be marketable for another 10 years or so, about the time silicon technology will have reached its maximum usage.

  • "Salary Strongholds"
    InformationWeek (04/30/01) No. 835, P. 40; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

    The latest InformationWeek Research National IT Salary Survey, which covers some 20,000 staff and managers in the IT field, found that for February and March, the median annual salary for IT staffers was $71,000, an 8.5 percent increase over last year, and for IT managers it was $97,000, a 10 percent increase. However, analysts note that salary figures usually fall behind general economic indicators, and the InformationWeek survey suggests that the IT job market may not be booming in the same way it has been in recent years. IT job seekers say new jobs are not as easy to find nor as financially rewarding as they once were. There is also some indication that the demand for IT workers, while still high, is not nearly as intense as in previous years--for example, the number of IT job vacancies has fallen from 850,000 to 425,000, reports the Information Technology Association of America. Analysts attribute this to a number of causes, such as the reluctance of firms to hire new people during economic downturns as well as firms asking current staff to work more hours. However, as Meta Group analyst Maria Schafer points out, demand is still strong for tech workers in numerous fields--old economy firms entering e-business, for example--and many firms are convinced that because of the slowing demand for IT workers, they can be more confident that the IT workers they do hire will be the best available. The InformationWeek survey also indicates that the hallmarks of the dot-com boom--high salaries, stock options, and perks--are not that important to today's IT workers. Those surveyed report that the most important benefits to salary packages are 401(k) plans and health insurance and that the two most important qualities of a job are its challenges and its flexibility.

  • "March of the A.I. Robots"
    Interactive Week (04/30/01) Vol. 8, No. 17, P. 46; Lorek, Laura

    Steven Spielberg could do wonders for consumer robotics this summer with A.I, his new movie that features supersensitive, superhuman robots. Japan is much further along than the United States in commercial success with robots--service robots can now be found in its warehouses, hospitals, nursing homes, and offices, and Honda is set to introduce one of the world's first humanoid robots this fall. The Japan Robot Association believes that there will be 11,000 service robots in use next year and that personal robots will be commonplace in the nation within 10 years. In the United States, the view of robots is more negative, thanks in part to movies that have shown such machines possessing brutish strength, grim personalities, and remorseless logic--many technology experts still see robots as a danger to humankind. Nevertheless, ActivMedia Research projects that the number of humanoid machines and the amount of money spent on "robo sapien" development globally will soar by 3,500 percent and 2,500 percent respectively over the next five years, with sales rising from $665 million in 2000 to more than $17 billion by 2005. Computer experts have been calling for robotic applications in computers. They envision a world in which computers will use robotic applications to adopt humanlike qualities, which would improve how people interact with computers.

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