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 215:  Friday, June 15, 2001

  • "Shortfall of 600,000 IT Jobs Despite Dot-Com Bust--Study"
    Newsbytes (06/14/01); Bartlett, Michael

    The IT labor shortfall in the United States currently totals 600,000, according to a new report from the Meta Group, down from 1 million at this time last year. Retention is up this year, the report found, because the end of the dot-com boom has given IT staff less reason to abandon good, if not lucrative, jobs. However, the Meta Group says demand remains high for certain areas of IT, especially the supply-chain management, B2B marketplace, and networking sectors. Also in demand are workers in the database, wireless, Web development, intranet, extranet, and Java sectors. IT workers still enjoy an advantage in compensation over their non-IT colleagues, the report found. Of the companies surveyed, 68 percent say IT employees' salaries are between 10 percent and 20 percent higher than non-IT employees. Last year, only 48 percent of survey respondents made that claim. The report concludes that better cooperation between IT and human resources departments is needed to recruit the best IT staff and retain current workers.

  • "Just How Many Linux Users Are There?"
    InformationWeek Online (06/13/01); Ewalt, David M.

    Controversy has arisen among IT analysts attempting to discern what percentage of the server operating system market is covered by Linux. Gartner, in a survey of 724 IT professionals, found that 8.6 percent of server shipments in the United States in the third quarter ran Linux. However, Linux advocates dispute that low number, and other research firms are backing them up. International Data (IDC) has estimated Linux's server market share at 27 percent, and AllNetResearch says it is 39 percent. "I suspect that an awful lot of servers--and home computers--get counted as Windows machines because that is how they were sold, even if they now run Linux," contends Robin Miller on the open source Web site Newsforge.com. In many cases, say advocates, Linux users download the software and install it only after purchasing a server.

  • "High-Tech Hard Times Bring Rude Awakening For Foreign Workers on Three-Year U.S. Visas"
    Financial Times (06/14/01) P. 4; Townsend, Kerry

    H-1B visa holders fired during recent cutbacks are left in limbo as they search for a new job. Congress increased the number of H-1B permits issued last year to 195,000 per year, but the tech sector's slowdown has dramatically weakened the job market for those workers who have been laid off. The INS and industry groups blame each other for the confusion. Admittedly, the INS is very ambiguous about its current policy, saying it will review each case individually to ascertain how long a laid-off worker can remain "in status" looking for a job here, with suggestions ranging from 10 days to three months. Meanwhile, some laid-off H-1B workers are even taking their former employers to court, arguing that their green card applications were not pursued as diligently as they had been promised before joining those companies. However, Information Technology Association of America president Harris Miller says those workers knew they came to the United States under a temporary work program and should not have expected a permanent guarantee of legal status.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Linux Campaign Is an Uphill Battle for Microsoft Corp."
    Wall Street Journal (06/14/01) P. B10; Gomes, Lee

    Recent weeks have seen a concerted effort by Microsoft officials to damage the reputation of open source software, which the software giant views, in the words of its CEO Steve Ballmer, as "a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual-property sense to everything it touches." Microsoft argues that the General Public License (GPL) underpinning Linux and most other open source programs is harmful because it spreads the open source philosophy as if it were a virus. The GPL requires programmers who use GPL-based software in their code to make that code freely available to others. However, open source advocates say Microsoft is twisting the facts of open source policy to satisfy the needs of its argument. The GPL, advocates point out, is one of several open source licenses, and, while it is the toughest, it does not rule out the development of programs that work with GPL-based software but remain proprietary as long as those programs do not actually use any GPL-based code. Advocates add that some common open source programs, such as the FreeBSD operating system, do not carry such restrictions at all. In fact, Microsoft itself became a FreeBSD user when it took over the Hotmail Web-based email system in 1997. It tried to replace FreeBSD with its own software but found that Windows was not adequate for the service's needs; however, the company says Hotmail now relies on Windows 2000 and software from Sun Microsystems.

  • "Analysts: Tech Rebound Could be Stalled Until 2002"
    E-Commerce Times (06/13/01); DeLong, Daniel F.

    Recent indicators suggest that the tech rebound may not come as soon as expected and that the overall economy is fairing poorly. May numbers showed retail sales stagnant, while the percentage of late mortgage payments is at an all-time high. America's slowdown is also spreading to Asia and Europe, where many tech firms had sought to expand. As a result, Federal Reserve officials are worried about the decimation of wealth precipitated by the Nasdaq crash and a weakened tech-sector job market. A new Janco Associates report reveals that IT managers at large firms have seen their salaries fall 37 percent from the peaks reached during the dot-com mania. Nearly 100,000 jobs have been cut in the tech sector in the first five months of this year, and tech-sector job growth has slowed to less than 5 percent.

  • "Embedded Chip Makers Tout Innovations"
    eWeek Online (06/12/01); Popovich, Ken

    Embedded chip manufacturers showcased their newest innovations at this week's Embedded Processor Forum in San Jose, Calif. The new designs show that the industry, while hurting in sales, has not slackened its research and development pace. PMC-Sierra announced a new multiprocessor cast on a single die, which runs two 64-bit processors at 1 GHz. Another breakthrough was LSI Logic's LiquidLogic system, which features the programmable capability of a standard PC chip while maintaining the reliability and speed of an embedded chip. The LiquidLogic processor promises to speed networking devices by up to 16 times current levels. Embedded chips run specific tasks in almost every electronic device--including MP3 players, PDAs, and cell phones--and represent 90 percent of all chip sales.

  • "Working Toward the Final Resource"
    SiliconValley.com (06/12/01); Gillmor, Dan

    Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and owner of the tech investment firm Vulcan Ventures, is reportedly planning to develop an all-encompassing digital knowledge resource. Allen invited a host of tech gurus to Seattle this month in order to brainstorm how to start such a project. They hope to lay out a mission statement, conceive a framework for such a system, and set out procedural tasks. Stanford University computer-science professor Edward Feigenbaum says Allen is likely looking for a commercial opportunity, although he agrees that an index of all human knowledge would certainly be good for everyone. Carnegie Mellon University researcher Raj Reddy, who is compiling a separate work, the "Universal Library," says Allen's project is "something worth doing, and doable."

  • "Armey to Press Opposition to Net Wiretaps"
    New York Times (06/14/01) P. C10; Schwartz, John

    House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) has dispatched a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking him to reconsider the government's use of the email-tracking system DCS-1000, formerly known as Carnivore. In the letter, Armey mentions the recent Supreme Court ruling that imposed restrictions on law enforcement agencies' use of thermal-imaging technology and contends that, in a similar manner, DCS-1000 violates the "minimum expectation" of privacy that the court assumed in that case. Opponents of the system, which uses packet-sniffer software to monitor traffic on ISPs' networks, say it should be subject to the same laws that govern traditional phone wiretaps. FBI officials say DCS-1000 is not substantially different from technology used to trace the phone calls made by suspects and should be subject to the relatively lenient restrictions imposed on those systems. Armey says he may challenge Justice Department funding for the system if Ashcroft does not provide him with a satisfactory answer. Critics of DCS-1000 were surprised and pleased by Armey's action, although the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Marc Rothenberg says, "The use of Carnivore should be suspended until the federal wiretap statues can be amended to protect the privacy of Americans." However, Catholic University law professor Clifford S. Fishman, an expert on wiretap law, says comparisons between DCS-1000 and the Supreme Court's recent decision were inappropriate.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Rivalry Heats Up in Cold Market"
    Investor's Business Daily (06/14/01) P. A6; Seitz, Patrick

    PC makers are taking different tacks to beat out their rivals, even as the market continues its sluggishness. International Data (IDC) forecasts that shipments of PCs in the United States will decline 6.3 percent this year and that global shipments will rise only 5.8 percent. Still, Gateway recently announced a price-guarantee program the company says is intended to bring customers into its Gateway Country retail stores. Gateway continues to rely on the stores as a basis for service and marketing and is focusing its new program on small businesses and individuals. Compaq, on the other hand, has signed deals with General Electric, Whirlpool, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and others, to provide PCs and services. Compaq says it is continuing to move away from its reliance on the PC revenue stream and grow in other related areas, such as services. Dell, recently ranked the top PC seller in terms of shipment numbers, continues to focus on offering lower prices than other major brands, although company officials maintain they are pinpointing cost reductions in order to keep the company profitable.

  • "Berners-Lee Aims to Fix Web Wait"
    Boston Globe (06/11/01) P. C3; Howe, Peter J.

    Boston-based startup Curl, founded by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and MIT Laboratory for Computer Science director Michael Dertouzos, is working on technology to lighten the data load of Web servers. This technology forces PCs and handhelds to use their existing capacities to help download Web pages, a technique that promises to speed up PC and wireless transmissions and that is already being used by Siemens AG and a division of the British utility BT. The premise behind Curl's work is that today's computers are only screens displaying what servers send, which slows transmission times from over-burdened servers. Meanwhile, PC and handheld capacities--used, for example, for desktop publishing--remain idle. Curl technology harnesses computers' idle capacities to enable them to display Web-transmitted data in many textual and graphical forms using Curl-enabled computer settings without having to download Web data repeatedly. "The end user is once again in control of the content," says Curl Bob Batty. BT intends to use Curl technology to facilitate wireless transmissions currently plagued by the low capacity of wireless networks. Curl offers its software for computer users at no cost but will charge business users to use the software to send its transmissions to users.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Future of Storage Eyed at Gartner Conference"
    Computerworld Online (06/12/01); Mearian, Lucas

    Gartner's Storage 2001 conference focused on network storage, which the firm predicts will be a $10 billion market in 2004. In the future, firms will use the Internet to link together corporate databases and remote offices, Gartner analysts forecast. Still, Gartner acknowledges that SANs have yet to catch on among most corporate clients, with under 10 percent of firms now using them. Conference attendees said their firms were still learning how to build a single network out of multiple storage devices and servers, with plans on using SANs to improve data transfer speed and range still down the line. However, in the time between now and the widespread use of SANs, Gartner analysts said there will be growing interest in new storage standards to build SAN infrastructure--the iSCSI proposal, for example, is already drawing interest from vendors, with over 200 startup firms in the market. Currently, however, there is a glut of storage devices, which has led to lowered prices and intense battling among vendors.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Oracle Unveils Database, Kills Pricing Plan"
    Wall Street Journal (06/15/01) P. B5; Buckman, Rebecca; Gomes, Lee

    Oracle announced its new Oracle9i database and a new pricing format the company says will help stave off challenges from rival Microsoft. Although analysts say the Oracle databases are of better quality than those from other vendors, consensus shows that Oracle's products are expensive. Part of the reason was Oracle's previous arrangement, which billed database customers according to the speed of their hardware. The company has now dropped the "power unit" plan and will charge per processor, following rivals' pricing strategies. Microsoft's database market share grew 25 percent last year, while IBM and Oracle grew their portions of the market by 11 percent and 19 percent respectively. Microsoft is also developing a new version for its SQL Server that will allow customers to store different file types in the same area of desktops and Web servers.

  • "Recycling Computer Parts: The Debate Rages on"
    TechRepublic.com (06/08/01); Walton, Mike

    Recycling computer parts is time-consuming and could lead to future failures, but not doing so would be to neglect a significant opportunity. IT staff would have to bear the main burden, spending time to pull apart used PCs to harvest old CPUs, RAM, hard drives, and collect peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, and mice. Detractors say resources would be better spent elsewhere--used computers are better suited for charity. Also, used parts might fail more often. On the other hand, managers at small firms claim that they do well reusing old equipment that is functioning normally and save money by bypassing the latest technology. In some locations, such as foreign countries where the exchange rate dampens buying power, recycling used parts savings considerably on shipping and other acquisition costs.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "That Dick Tracy Wristwatch May Be Closer Than You Think"
    USA Today (06/14/01) P. 11D; Vergano, Dan

    Physicists at the University of California at Santa Barbara have discovered a way to dramatically increase memory in electronic devices without adding a significant increase in power, the journal Nature reports. This could lead to smaller, smarter, and more efficient devices. By harnessing the natural spin on the electrons that pass through circuits, scientists say they now have a free method of storing bits of data. Electrons' spin can either be up, down, or neutral and can be changed through flashes of light. By managing the electrons' different modes, semiconductor makers would be able to store data on the electrons.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Roaming the World With a Translator in Your Pocket"
    New York Times (06/14/01) P. E9; Eisenberg, Anne

    New technology developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University is being deployed in a trial run in U.S. Army. U.S. Army chaplains in Croatia use the customized Toshiba Libretto notebook to translate Croatian to English, and vice versa, on the fly. The linguists working on the project report that the translation is not perfect, but functional. The translator is programmed with 5,000 to 10,000 Croatian words and a similar number of English words--enough to facilitate rudimentary communication. Employing phrases instead of individual words, the program uses a voice synthesizer and headphones. Researchers say the advanced PDA technology should enable even better versatile, on-the-spot translation programs in the future.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "CW Salutes IT Pros Who Dare to Dream"
    Computerworld (06/11/01) Vol. 35, No. 24, P. 22; Rosencrance, Linda

    Computerworld bestowed a 21st Century Achievement Award to the Bridge School of Hillsborough, Calif., for its innovative use of technology. The school provides training for physically disabled children via augmentative and assistive technologies. The students improve their communication and expression skills, enabling them to return to their local school districts. The Bridge School beat out Microsoft and JP Morgan Chase, among others, in the Education and Academia category. "It is an acknowledgment that technology is not just for the dot-commers but even for children with disabilities," says the school's executive director, Catharine Sementelli. A total of 12 other individuals, institutions, and organizations were honored at the 14th annual Computerworld Honors Program.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Gene Machines"
    Industry Standard (06/18/01) Vol. 4, No. 24, P. 38; Couzin, Jennifer

    The biotech industry has supplanted nuclear weapons research as the prime customer of supercomputer makers. Spurred by the industry's mapping of the human genome last year, IBM and Compaq are both working on new machines to process the enormous amount of data that could answer fundamental questions on the nature of life. IBM researchers are developing Blue Gene, which will have a processing power of 1,000 trillion calculations per second, or 1,000 teraflops, upon its completion in 2004. Blue Gene, which will cost at least $100 million, will specialize in one process: determining how proteins change their shape in a process known as protein folding. Meanwhile, Compaq is working on Red Storm, a supercomputer that will have a processing power of 100 teraflops but that could one day ramp up to Blue Gene's processing speed. Red Storm, which will cost as much as $150 million, is being built with assistance from Celera Genomics, the private-sector that won the race to map the human genome, and will be broader in its biotech applications; unlike Blue Gene, the components of which are being built from scratch, it will be constructed from existing components. Both IBM and Compaq face a unique problem as they embark on their bio-supercomputer work: the market for their machines is unknown and may not exist. However, analysts say building such projects, even if they do not immediately--or ever--show a profit, are valuable because they improve high-end biotech computing in general and raise the makers' profile within the industry.

  • "Read All About It"
    New Scientist (06/09/01) Vol. 170, No. 2294, P. 19; Graham-Rowe, Duncan

    E Ink says its electronic paper displays can now support full color. E Ink's Dan Button also announced that rigid electronic paper displays are poised to enter the electronics market in two years. Electronic paper works by reflection, not through a back light, and uses power only when images are changed. E Ink's electronic paper consists of millions of clear microcapsules in a layer between two sets of electrodes. Each microcapsule houses white particles suspended in a dark, oily liquid. When electrodes on the upper layer receive a negative charge, they attract the particles, making the surface appear white, while a positive charge causes the particles to go to the bottom, making the surface seem black. The format produces a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi) in monochrome. To add color, E Ink adds a filter on top of the e-paper: white pixels appear red, green, or blue; black pixels hardly reflect any light, so only black is seen. The process reduces resolution to 80 dpi, but adjusting electrodes and filters can rectify the problem, says Button. E Ink believes electronic paper will vie with LCDs and upcoming organic LEDs in laptops, PDAs, and wireless phones.

  • "Unresolved Issues Dog Fed's Data-Tap Efforts"
    Interactive Week (06/11/01) Vol. 8, No. 23, P. 13; Brown, Doug

    Communications firms that use packet data are required to prove that their systems will let law enforcement agencies perform wiretaps by Sept. 30, according to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). When that law was enacted, packet-data technology was just being introduced, but it has now become the main way of conveying voice and data. Executives in the communications industry say they will need years to develop a way to separate headers in the packet from content before their systems can meet CALEA's goal, adding that they are not willing to spend the money necessary to complete the costly project. They are also afraid that allowing agencies such as the FBI to decipher packet data could lead to lawsuits over privacy concerns. Officials are waiting for newly appointed members of the Bush administration to voice their opinions before they proceed. Some CALEA experts criticize the FBI because technology already utilized to perform digital wiretaps are costly, while others claim that CALEA was only designed for voice exchanges--therefore, media such as emails and other forms of Internet communications should be exempt.

[ Archives ] [ Home ]