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Volume 3, Issue 216:  Monday, June 18, 2001

  • "Microsoft Uses Free Code"
    Wall Street Journal (06/18/01) P. B6; Gomes, Lee

    Microsoft acknowledged Friday that it uses the FreeBSD open source operating system to support its Hotmail Web-based email service as well as its Windows operating system. The information followed several weeks of negative remarks from Microsoft officials concerning open source software, which the software giant believes is a threat to both intellectual property rights and computer security. Microsoft officials told the Wall Street Journal Thursday that FreeBSD was not used in the Hotmail service, which Microsoft acquired in 1997. The next day, though, company officials said FreeBSD was still used for certain critical functions that had not yet been switched to Windows. However, sources at the company said internal reviews found that FreeBSD was superior to Windows in several respects. Microsoft also apparently uses FreeBSD in parts of its Windows software, including the "TCP/IP" function that relates to Internet connectivity. Microsoft downplayed its apparent hypocrisy, noting that FreeBSD is not governed by the same restrictive open source policies as Linux, the main target of its recent comments. However, in those recent comments, Microsoft officials have made little distinction among various open source programs.

  • "Maxtor Disk Drive Breaks Storage-Capacity Record"
    Wall Street Journal (06/18/01) P. B8; Gomes, Lee

    Disk-drive maker Maxtor has set a new standard in storage capacity, announcing last week that it would ship a PC drive that holds 100 GB of data. Currently, the maximum storage capacity for PC disk drives is 80 GB, meaning that the new drive will increase capacity 25 percent. This falls below the 50 percent increases in capacity that disk-drive makers have averaged over the past few years. That rapid rate of increase is one reason why new, storage-intensive technologies such as MP3 music files have caught on so quickly. Now, disk-drive makers are running out of methods to produce those 50 percent leaps in capacity, industry observers say, meaning that capacity will likely double only every 18 months to two years. Still, this will not affect the average PC user, says International Data researcher Dave Reinsel. Reinsel says the average user has a 20 GB drive, with most of that drive's capacity unused.

  • "Techs Talk Inventory Correction"
    Investor's Business Daily (06/18/01) P. A6; Prado, Antonio A.

    Equipment and parts manufacturers such as Cisco and Intel continue to suffer from an inventory glut. Cisco laid off 8,000 workers and Intel 5,000 in an effort to boost profit margins hit hard by lowered demand for their products. The inventory-to-sales ratio maintained by the Commerce Department shows a 10 percent increase in March, meaning that companies have enough inventory to last one month and a half. PC industry officials predict a rebound of 4.6 percent growth in 2002 but say this year will see a 6.3 percent drop-off in sales. The Semiconductor Industry Association also expects strong growth next year at 20 percent but says the weakened demand will mean 14 percent lower sales figures this year.

  • "New Democrats Outline Tech Priorities in 'E-Genda' 3.0"
    Newsbytes (06/14/01); Krebs, Brian

    The New Democrat Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, has presented its platform for IT legislation for the remainder of the session. The third annual "E-Genda" repeats most of last year's platform, but some changes are notable. Wireless spectrum management and the naming of a national CIO to advise the federal government on IT matters are new topics, as are two privacy bills. The New Democrats voiced its support for House Resolution 159, which favors the adoption of the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) agenda to deal with Internet privacy. P3P lets Web users read a company's or government agency's privacy profile and compare it to their own preferences. The other bill in question would create a commission to study Internet privacy. The New Democrats also back tax breaks and more funding for projects--such as the Technology Opportunities Program and the Advanced Technology Program--that enhance IT education and training. The group also hopes to reduce the number of people who do not have access to the Web and provide equal standards for all by offering a 10 percent tax cut for businesses that provide broadband services in rural and urban areas. Not mentioned in this year's E-Genda were the subjects of Internet taxation and additional funding to combat Internet crime. The Republican "E-Contract" is expected to be released next week.
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  • "Tech Giants Update E-Commerce Standard"
    CNet (06/17/01)

    IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems are about to unveil the second version of their Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) e-business standard. Among the improvements are better foreign language support; improved searching capabilities; the addition of provisions for companies to describe their organizational structure; and the inclusion of more specific business categories. The companies created UDDI in order to give businesses a way to register themselves and advertise their services and the standards they support, as well as to search for potential partners.
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  • "Laid-Off Tech Workers Find New Homes in Government Offices"
    Washington Post (06/18/01) P. L1; Johnson, Carrie

    Positions with government institutions may be one possibility for laid-off tech workers looking for new employment. Government IT jobs offer a greater level of stability that the dot-com and general tech sectors lack. Also, claims Arlington, Va., CIO Jack Belcher, government tech workers learn skills across a wide range of IT platforms, as opposed to the private sector, where he says, "If you work for a contractor and you're a good Visual Basic programmer, you stay in Visual Basic." Belcher says governments are aware that many tech workers tend to stay in positions only for two or three years. This, he says, does not irk him so much as candidates from the tech industry who have superior attitudes on account of their experience. Belcher suggests that public-sector IT positions will continue to grow, as more governments and their agencies turn to the Web to provide information and services. In Arlington, for example, nearly 90,000 of the area's residents are young professionals who rely on the Internet for many government resources, including maps, tax information, and libraries, Belcher says.
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  • "Indian IT Growth 'Will Slow Sharply'"
    Financial Times (06/15/01) P. 4; Donald, Angus

    The Indian IT sector will see diminished growth in the next year, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) forecasts. The Indian IT sector grew 44.9 percent from the year ending March 2000 to the year ending March 2001, from $5.7 billion to $8.26 billion. However, Nasscom says growth for the year ending March 2002 will be 35.6 percent, bringing the sector to $11.2 billion. Although the IT sector currently totals only 2 percent of the country's overall GDP, the country is counting on it to create investment from foreign firms. Nasscom estimates that by 2008, the IT sector will be worth $50 billion, or 8 percent of India's GDP. Nasscom also predicts that software will represent 35 percent of India's total exports by 2008, up from 14 percent this year. Although software exports are clearly booming, up 55 percent from last year, Nasscom says the domestic market is struggling, a main reason for the IT sector's overall slowdown. Growth in the domestic software sector for the year ending March 2001 was 31 percent, down from 45 percent the year before.
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  • "Alan Cooper of Cooper Interactive Design Sees Planning as Key to Downstream Dividends"
    InfoWorld.com (06/14/01); Vizard, Michael

    Alan Cooper, widely considered the "father" of Visual Basic and now the head of Cooper Interaction Design, believes that the dot-com bust validated many of his long-held beliefs, especially his argument that those who expect that the next technological breakthrough will solve our problems are deluding themselves. For example, he says those who think that voice recognition will make computers easy to use are wrong for the same reason those who thought the same thing about graphical user interfaces were--these developments introduced more, but not easier, functions for computers. In fact, Cooper argues, the Internet itself is not a new technology; instead, he points out, many components of the Internet have existed for the last 30 to 50 years and have entered the mainstream because of product developments, not technological innovations. Cooper says the main problem with much of the software available currently is that it is poorly thought out because its programmers did not take into account what users really want; programs may be more and more powerful, but they frustrate users to no end. Cooper does think that the open source movement has been of benefit to software, if only because it is removed the hallowed glow from code. Still, Cooper says, open source serves the needs programmers, not users, which is why he advocates the development of a new field, known as interaction design, whose members will make sure that users can actually manipulate new programs.

  • "Visual Basic.Net: Is It Too Complex?"
    eWeek Online (06/15/01); Holland, Roberta

    Microsoft is introducing a revision to the Visual Basic programming language, which has some 3.3 million users, to take advantage of its .Net Web services model. However, developers that have seen the Visual Basic.Net beta versions complain about the fundamental differences in the new release, such as altered data types and keywords, saying the company has abandoned its original intent to make Visual Basic a simple programming language for Windows. Other programmers say developers will not have much trouble once they get used to the changes. Rival software companies such as Borland and Sun hope that frustrated developers will migrate to their languages instead. Borland's Delphi language has a user base of 1 million programmers.

  • "Talking in Code"
    New Scientist Online (06/12/01); Knight, Will

    Transitive Technologies has developed a new code translator, called Dynamite, that enables computers to overcome language differences in PC chips. Dynamite enormously speeds up the process of rewriting code based on different platforms. Transitive CEO John Graham says Dynamite is so fast because it executes code prior to translation. It also boosts execution by identifying common commands for quick translation. Now, firms might not have to keep or manufacture older platforms just to preserve old software. Transitive intends to license the new technology to manufacturers to create their own products. PDAs, set-top boxes, and telecom equipment could be lucrative targets, the firm says.

  • "Senate, House Get Busy on Privacy Legislation"
    Newsbytes (06/15/01); Krebs, Brian

    Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Ohio) have introduced separate bills that aim to protect the privacy of Social Security numbers and other forms of consumer personal data. "Every American has a fundamental right to privacy no matter how fast our technology changes and I believe we must increase protections for this basic right," Feinstein said. Feinstein's bill, the Privacy Act of 2001, has opt-in and opt-out provisions. The opt-in part of the bill bars businesses from selling consumer's Social Security numbers and financial and health data to third parties unless they have consumers' permission. The opt-out part of the bill permits the sale of names, phone numbers, addresses, and other information unless consumers object. Sawyer's bill provides similar protections and also includes a safe harbor plan that would be overseen by the FTC. Sawyer also introduced a bill that would place restrictions on the use of statistical data collected by the government.
    For information regarding ACM's activities in the area of public policy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Alleged Israeli Hackers Deface UAE News Web Site"
    Reuters (06/15/01)

    The United Arab Emirates' Gulf News newspaper closed down its Web site on Thursday after hackers placed an Israeli flag and the words "You have been hacked...Long Live Israel" on its original content. Officials say that the breach has been traced to an Israeli Internet provider, and that the hacker used several U.S. sites to gain access to the paper's portal, which is based in the United States. The newspaper claims that its history of condemning Israel for its treatment of Palestinians brought on the attack, and that the hack was just a part of a "cyberwar" being waged against Arabs.

  • "Domain Names, E-Mail to Add Foreign Languages"
    San Jose Mercury News Online (06/17/01); Ostrom, Mary Anne

    Internet domain names and email addresses will soon be available in over 350 languages, but various commercial, consumer, and governmental interests have different ideas about how this change should take place. This week, VeriSign planned on moving into the final testing stage of its system for introducing non-English domain names and email addresses, but an oversight body convinced VeriSign executives to wait until engineering standards were clarified. Making a multilingual Internet is important, even though there is the potential pitfall of a fragmented network, says Internet infrastructure expert John Klensin. There is a good possibility that the engineering task force will develop a standard that complements VeriSign's system, according to VeriSign officials. "The big growth of the Internet is really outside our borders," says Chuck Gomes, vice president of policy and compliance at VeriSign. "There is a huge demand for this." Asian language domain names are in the highest demand, and Chinese will likely be the most used language online in 10 years' time. ICANN cannot stop governments or companies from issuing international domain names, according to its board members, but ICANN officials assert that the top global Internet players will likely agree on a standard that makes it possible for users from around the world to easily access the Internet.

  • "Mobile Phone Industry Adopts New Internet Standard"
    Reuters (06/13/01)

    The GSM Association, an organization representing the leading cell phone manufacturers and operators in the world, announced the launch recently of the Mobile Services Initiative (M-Services), an industry-wide initiative they hope will bring genuine Internet functionality to the next generation of cell phones. According to the association, M-Services would enable the faster GPRS networks, also known as 2.5G, to offer more efficient mobile Internet access. GPRS would not only provide continuous Internet access, but it would also provide a foundation on which to develop third-generation mobile services. In addition, M-Services is expected to bring consistency to such areas as games, video, music, and graphical displays to handsets supporting GPRS, and ultimately to even faster standards in the GSM family, such as 3GSM and EDGE. The association added that phone operators like France Telecom and Telecom Italia Mobile have endorsed the Mobile Services Initiative, as have phone manufacturers like Motorola and Nokia. With mobile operators investing huge amounts of money in new generation infrastructure and licenses, the industry needs mobile Internet to be a success.
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  • "The H-1B Catch-22"
    InfoWorld (06/11/01) Vol. 23, No. 24, P. 41; Zelsman, Michelle

    The current economic downturn has presented a difficult situation for H-1B visa holders, who face possible deportation if they are laid off. The H-1B visa program, which lets skilled foreign nationals work in the United State for a limited period of time, was a hot topic in Congress last year, with executives from the tech industry arguing that a greater number of H-1B holders were needed to meet the industry's labor demand. Congress obliged, raising the annual cap on H-1B visas issued to 195,000, but debate on the issue did not address how the program would handle an economic downturn and the layoffs accompanying it. Technically, H-1B holders become illegal aliens as soon as they lose their job and must leave the country, but many avoid reporting to the INS and instead seek new employment, hoping that their new employer will sponsor an H-1B application. However, a stipulation in H-1B policy requires that companies pay H-1B workers if their employment ends for any reason not directly related to them--i.e., they are terminated as part of mass layoffs, not because their individual performance was bad. For this reason, allege critics of the H-1B program, some employers will terminate a U.S. employee instead of an H-1B holder. This, admits John Trasvina of the Justice Department, could violate federal immigration law, as could the practices of companies that actively try to recruit H-1B holders laid off by other companies. However, tech companies continue to assert that H-1B holders are necessary to fill a labor gap that domestic tech workers simply cannot meet.

  • "Hand-Held Computers Get Second Life With New Features"
    U.S. News & World Report (06/18/01) Vol. 130, No. 24, P. 48; Rae-Dupree, Janet

    The market for handheld computers continue to grow, as thousands of applications and accessories become available that make the devices invaluable for job functions and lifestyles. There now are more than 10,000 add-ons for Palm handhelds, including Microsoft Word emulator WordSmith, note-reminding alarm packages, games, diet trackers, vehicle logs, city guides, financial managers, business applications, reference texts, conversion calculators, and document readers. Accessories include keyboards, printers, global positioning attachments, digital camera attachments, MP3 players, and AM/FM radio receivers. The Gartner Group projects that there will be 28 million users of handhelds in the United States by 2005, which would represent an increase of 300 percent. Professionals are expected to lead the way in adoption of the technology; for example, W.R. Hambrecht reports that 15 percent of physicians in the country use handhelds. Handhelds are also becoming popular on college campuses and are starting to be introduced at the high school level through pilot programs as a way to bring computer technology to more students. Even Microsoft has entered the category with its powerful, expensive Pocket PC--essentially a tiny desktop computer--and manufacturers licensing the Palm operating system are now starting to feel the effects of the huge competitor.

  • "Wooing Wired Workers"
    National Journal (06/09/01) Vol. 33, No. 23, P. 1739; Munro, Neil

    Republican Party members believe that tech workers are ready to join their ranks. Although tech workers are generally young with few children, are not religious, and grew used to a growing economy under Democratic leadership, Republicans believe that increasingly wealthy tech workers have many opinions common to small-government conservatives. The GOP achieved some success in reaching the tech community during the presidential election, but Republicans are determined to win more support from them over the coming years. Some party members acknowledge the difference in opinion on social issues that tech workers might have with the GOP, but suggest that the party can woo tech executives by challenging them to put the interests of shareholders ahead of their personal interests. The GOP, they say, could use the Senate to its advantage now that Democrats are likely to push for privacy measures that tech companies consider too demanding. Republicans also have identified the energy crisis in California and permanent normal trade relations with China as issues that can help the party build a bridge to wired workers. President Bush also hopes to accomplish closer ties with tech workers by continuing dialogue with the tech community through high-tech summits and visits to Silicon Valley and by placing tech veterans in key positions within his administration. Some Republicans admit that the party will not be able to win over tech workers with socially liberal views overnight.

  • "From Revolution to Evolution"
    Interactive Week (06/11/01) Vol. 8, No. 23, P. 23; Spangler, Todd

    Peer-to-peer (P2P) technology could force IT professionals to embrace new applications that appear to be chaotic, unstable, and uncontrollable. Some individuals in the tech community are already hailing P2P as the most important Internet development since the Web, and many companies are making plans for the technology. In particular, Microsoft and Intel view P2P as something that could rejuvenate the PC sector because it places less of an emphasis on servers. With P2P computing, users will need newer, faster PCs with more processing power and disk space that can handle the interactive applications of the technology. P2P lets PCs handle most of the processing and data transfer needs of applications, while the central server's role is to coordinate the activities of PC users. Napster, the music-swapping service that lets computer users share files with others on the Internet, has popularized the technology. Tech companies plan to use it in a similar manner so that users can find and exchange data more dynamically. In addition to content distribution, tech companies have identified real-time collaboration, distributed search capabilities, and business process automation as benefits of P2P technology.

  • "Building Careers, Not Just Jobs"
    Computerworld (06/11/01) Vol. 35, No. 24, P. 38; Watson, Sharon

    The companies cited by Computerworld magazine as the "Best Places to Work" in terms of career development potential offer employees the opportunity to grow their skills not only through company-supported training, but also with frequent evaluation and feedback between employees and their managers. "Career development is the IT employee's insurance policy," says International Truck and Engine vice president of IT Art Data. "If we can give them that comfort level, we get higher retention." The best places for career advancement have managers and mentors work in tandem with employees to develop a career plan and to meet at least two or three times a year to discuss employees' progress toward their plan's ultimate goal. This also requires that employers provide employees with a concrete description of each available position, the skills needed to attain that position, and--if the employee shows an interest--the training to attain those skills. How intense this process is a function of each company's needs. At Computerworld's No. 1 place for career development, TechieGold.com, the dot-com's need for employees to multi-task requires managers to evaluate and grow each employee's skills so that he or she can handle more, and more complex, responsibilities. At the CIT Group, No. 2 on the list, employees can have their peers and managers describe for them the skills and qualities necessary that are most needed for success through a Web-based survey. Rounding out the top five firms in Computerworld's rankings are The Home Depot, Mercury Interactive, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
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