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 221:  Friday, June 29, 2001

  • "Government Carefully Weighing Next Step"
    Los Angeles Times (06/29/01) P. A1; Menn, Joseph; Lichtblau, Eric

    Government lawyers must carefully weigh their options now that the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia has unanimously ruled that Microsoft illegally used its operating system monopoly. Because the ruling discouraged breaking up the company, the 18 state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice could seek an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, renew negotiations with Microsoft, or argue over remedies in a second trial court. If a new lower court hearing is pursued, state attorney generals say they plan to include Microsoft's latest alleged monopolistic practices in their arguments. Microsoft's current push for its new Web services initiative and its pressure on the RealNetworks media format in signing agreements with other companies over Windows XP would likely preclude any renewed negotiations, at least for the states. However, some state lawyers say an acceptable negotiated settlement would come only after the company shows it is willing to significantly change its anticompetitive practices. Other observers see the juncture as a test of the Bush administration's resolve towards antitrust issues.

  • "Ruling Has Dual Impact for AOL"
    Washington Post (06/29/01) P. E1; Klein, Alec

    Microsoft rivals such as AOL are left in an odd position in light of Thursday's unanimous federal appeals court decision that upheld Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling that Microsoft engaged in anticompetitive behavior. AOL now owns Netscape, the Internet browser company whose dominance was usurped by Microsoft's Internet Explorer after Explorer was given an unfair advantage due to Microsoft's heavy-handed tactics. In an agreement signed in 1996, for example, Microsoft agreed to promote AOL's Internet access service in exchange for limits on AOL's support for the Netscape browser. Many other Internet, software, and hardware companies were strong-armed into signing such agreements with Microsoft under the threat that the software giant, having absolute control of most users' operating systems, could suffocate them in the marketplace. Now, however, these individual companies could take Microsoft to court and seek up to triple damages, claims appellate lawyer Mark Levy--but only if they can prove that Microsoft's behavior actually caused them harm.

  • "India to Compute on the Cheap"
    Wired News (06/28/01); Iyengar, Swaroopa

    A group of scholars and engineers in India has developed an inexpensive alternative to PCs called Simputer. Short for simple inexpensive mobile computer, Simputer is slightly bigger than a Palm and runs on batteries. Simputer supports Internet access and email when hooked up to a phone line. However, the system's most salient feature is its smart-card reader, which allows different users to share the same device. A person could purchase a smart card and store personal data on his or her card. Swami Manohar, one of the developers of Simputer, hopes that the Indian government will distribute the computer among India's rural communities. To overcome language barriers, the Simputer supports text-to-speech technology that draws upon a collection of sounds. Simputer applications can be downloaded from the Simputer Web site.

  • "E-Commerce Lobby Formed"
    New York Times (06/29/01) P. C2

    E-commerce players have formed a Washington, D.C.-based lobby. Named NetChoice, the new lobby includes such firms as eBay, Orbitz, and the Electronic Commerce Association. The lobby's goal is "defending online businesses against efforts to stifle Internet-based competition with protectionist legislation or regulation," say lobby officials. The move has garnered praise from U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Rep. Gerald Weller (R-Ill.).
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "VA Linux to Quit Hardware Market"
    New York Times (06/28/01) P. C4; Stellin, Susan

    VA Linux announced Wednesday that it is leaving the market for Linux-based hardware. The company, which makes workstations and servers for the open source Linux operating system, said it instead plans to offer Linux software and consulting services. Specifically, the company will provide technology to allow software developers to collaborate on large-scale projects. The move will cost 436 VA Linux employees, or 35 percent of the company's total workforce, their jobs. In its third quarter, VA Linux posted revenue of $20.3 million but lost $110 million.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Lawyers Chip Away at Transmeta"
    Wired News (06/27/01); Glasner, Joanna

    Several class-action law firms have filed suit against chipmaker Transmeta, charging that it did not inform investors that its highly touted Crusoe chip, promoted as greatly reducing power consumption, did so at the expense of performance. Only when running at far slower speeds than Intel or AMD chips does the Crusoe chip save battery life, the suit claims. The suit also claims that misleading financial statements from the chipmaker caused investors to overpay for the company's stock. Transmeta's November IPO was one of last year's biggest stock events, but the market quickly soured on the company, and its stock is now worth one-tenth of its all-time high. Earlier this month, the chipmaker said its revenue would fall as much as 45 percent below estimates. However, on Monday it announced the release of a new line of Crusoe chips that will improve performance by 50 percent while reducing power consumption by 20 percent. The chipmaker also said it would release a 1 GHz chip by next year. Although Transmeta officials have yet to see the class-action suit, spokesperson Phil Bergman dismissed it as "without merit."

  • "PC Expo Rides Wireless Waves"
    USA Today (06/28/01) P. 3D; Baig, Edward C.

    The highlights at this year's PC Expo included handheld devices and wireless products. Several laptops incorporating the Wi-Fi (802.11b) standard for wireless networking were introduced. Targus presented a tiny but powerful keyboard for handheld PDAs. Also, Hewlett-Packard revealed its forthcoming digital entertainment system with a storage capability of some 9,000 tracks. The system also supports Internet radio stations and MP3s. Compaq featured a keyboard that includes a smart-card reading device to improve online security. A firm called zTrace Technologies introduced a service that helps authorities locate stolen laptops. Also, Electric Fuel offers a $20 portable charger for PDAs that frees users from using electrical outlets.

  • "Caldera Now Charging for Each Linux System"
    CNet (06/28/01); Shankland, Stephen

    Linux vendor Caldera will begin charging customers for each copy of the open source software used at their workplace, the firm announced this week. Most Linux vendors charge customers a set fee and allow them to install it on as many workstations as needed. Caldera will still offer noncommercial customers a free version of Linux. Caldera vice president of server product management John Harker said he does not expect the firm's decision to have a negative impact on its customers, although several posters on Linux message boards have expressed dismay that the firm is taking such an action. While Caldera did hold its IPO before the current downturn in the economy, it has been struggling with the rest of the tech sector, announcing a $11.7 million loss for its most recent quarter. Harker says Caldera should return to profitability soon, with the release of its new server software, OpenLinux, as well as its new Open Unix 8 software.

  • "IBM Prods Linux Toward Bigger Servers"
    CNet (06/28/01)

    IBM released on Thursday several software components designed to improve the Linux operating system's performance when running on high-end computers. IBM released to the open source community a Posix-based multithreading software tool, which will allow Linux to better take advantage of multiple-CPU environments often found in high-end computers. IBM also released version 1.0 of its JFS software, which improves Linux's ability to store files. IBM has committed $1 billion to Linux-related development this year and continues to work the open source community to help advance the capabilities of Linux, particularly for high-end applications.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "German Court Fines Hewlett"
    New York Times (06/29/01) P. C2; Greenman, Katherine

    Hewlett-Packard must pay fees on CD burners due to a law passed last year, says a German court. The law demands that a $1.58 fee accompany each CD burner sold in Germany in the past three years. CD burners sold in the future require a fee of $5.28, according to the law. Hewlett-Packard will pay fees for its units sold in Germany over the past three years. The fees were created by a German copyright group to compensate for piracy-related losses faced by the music industry. P.J. McNealy of Gartner Group predicts that similar litigation will occur in the future.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Stock Options Can Be Taxing Issue For Tech Workers"
    Investor's Business Daily (06/28/01) P. A6; Howell, Donna

    Tech employees who exercised stock options near the end of the tech boom last year are left with a load of disappointments if they did not cash in at the right time. More painfully, some who exercised incentive options are left with huge debts to the IRS for paper profits they never realized. Some of them are gathering to bring attention to the injustice of their situation and the Alternative Minimum Tax law that makes sure they pay up, even on profits never cashed. Reform AMT is one group that has the ear of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who plans to take a tax relief bill before Congress that would help alleviate some of the burden on these tech workers. National Association of Stock Plan Professionals executive director Sandra Sussman says these situations are a result of companies being forced to dole out stock options in order to hire people, together with general misinformation about stock options among tech workers.

  • "Report: Customer Service Spending to Buck Economic Downturn"
    CRM Daily.com (06/26/01); Conlin, Robert; Saliba, Clare

    Businesses are ramping up their CRM initiatives during these economic hard times, say Jupiter Media Metrix analysts. Jupiter reports that 74 percent of companies are planning to spend 25 percent to 50 percent more on their CRM infrastructure this year, especially as the number of online customers looking for help is expected to increase from 33 million currently to 67 million in 2005. Jupiter analyst David Daniels says customers still expect high levels of service despite the ailing economy, noting that many firms see CRM as a major component in their business plans. A two-thirds majority of businesses evaluate their CRM efforts according to customer satisfaction, whereas one-third deems CRM initiatives successful if they save the company money. Jupiter warns those using customer satisfaction as a gauge against expecting quick ROI, adding that a more comprehensive, company-wide approach is needed for CRM projects in order to avoid cost duplication. Despite a greater upfront investment, comprehensive projects applied across departments save the company money, Jupiter claims.

  • "Palm CEO Extends His Hand to Corporations"
    CNet (06/26/01); Spooner, John G.; Fried, Ian

    Palm CEO Carl Yankowski on Tuesday revealed several new partnerships and technologies designed to pull the handheld maker out of its current slump. Palm will likely lose between $170 million and $190 million this quarter, with revenue totaling between $140 million and $160 million. One new partnership, based on a failed Palm acquisition, will offer Extended Systems' XtndConnect server software under the Palm brand so that information from large databases, such as a hospital's medical records, can be downloaded to handhelds. The other partnership will team Palm with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in an effort to extend handheld computing throughout the enterprise. The two firms will work to integrate ERP and CRM software, among other applications, with handhelds in order to improve employees' productivity. Yankowski noted that for employees--especially those on the road--whose most frequently used application is email, a handheld is a much better option than a notebook PC. Yankowski also discussed Palm's new Secure Digital slot, the product of a partnership between Palm and Panasonic, which uses flash memory to store databases on handhelds. The Secure Digital slot will also let users scroll through data with one hand by moving the handheld side to side, Yankowski revealed.

  • "Suit Yourself With a Wearable Computer"
    ZDNet UK (06/18/01); Wakefield, Jane

    MIT Media Lab scientist Stephen Schwartz proclaims that the wearable computer his PhD student Richard DeVaul has designed will "deconstruct the cell phone." This wearable computer, known as MIThril, is comprised of an eyepiece and a series of circuit boards connected together in a vest that its users wear underneath their clothes. Schwartz says MIThril is superior to the cell phone because the image projected by the eyepiece is far larger than that on a cell phone's screen. Moreover, using infrared tagging and GPS technology, MIThril learns where its user is and what the user is doing and then adapts itself to that situation; a cell phone, on the other hand, will ring no matter where its user is. The eyepiece has earned the title "Memory glasses," explains DeVaul, because it provide information based on its user's immediate circumstances. For example, if a user is at a conference, MIThril can broadcast the credentials of each attendee's so that the user can find just the person he or she is seeking; or, if the user is walking home from work, MIThril can remind him or her to buy a certain item. Although DeVaul has made information on how to build a similar device available online, Schwartz says wearable computers will likely be a bit less conspicuous when they enter the mainstream.

  • "Employees, Where Art Thou?"
    Interactive Week (06/18/01) Vol. 8, No. 24, P. 68; Gaskin, James E.

    The downturn in the economy and the crash of dot-coms has made tech companies more selective in their hiring approach. Although the demand for IT workers has fallen off considerably over the last year, there are still a great many jobs available, and many candidates are seeking employment opportunities in the IT industry. The Information Technology Association of America reports that U.S. companies will need to fill some 900,000 IT positions this year, almost 50 percent of which will go unfilled. Essentially, IT companies have matured as a result of their experiences in the business world and have raised their hiring standards. Cars, on-site massages, letting employees bring their dogs to work, and other perks dot-coms often offered to lure young workers to accept jobs that demanded long hours are not as commonplace now. IT companies are also starting to hire accounting executives, a new trend that signals that the new economy is serious about making a profit. Brett Walker, vice president of marketing at career site FlipDog.com, says, "It's the return of the adult to the business world."

  • "Raising In-House IT Expertise"
    eWeek (06/18/01) Vol. 18, No. 24, P. 54; Hicks, Matt

    Businesses are finding that they can save money and expand sales by building up an in-house consultant group. National Oilwell, an oil field supplier, decided to undertake such a strategy one year ago. By employing in-house consultants to service customers for free, the company has been able to drive almost $25 million in sales from customers whose purchases used to total only $3 million. Such consultants, often labeled "business technologists," help business lines rethink processes to make best use of technology and assist IT departments in developing strategies that meet the needs of business. Experts say it is important to bridge IT and business lines in an organization and that in-house consultancies need to represent the right mix of IT and business savvy. Foote Partners director David Foote notes that business people from other parts of the company who have technical skills are often good choices for in-house consultants. He emphasizes the importance of consultants with business-related skills as opposed to those who have technical ability only.

  • "The Monitor Has Two Faces"
    Washington Technology (06/18/01) Vol. 16, No. 6, P. 1; Emery, Gail Repsher

    The number of employers using technology to determine how workers are using company computers continues to swell. A recent survey from the American Management Association in New York found that the number of major U.S. firms monitoring employees is up 4 percent from one year ago to 78 percent. International Data (IDC) analyst Brian Burke says by the end of next year, 70 percent of all employers will have the tools to monitor their workers. Although employers first took to monitoring, filtering, and blocking software as a way to ward off negative publicity and lawsuits associated with harassment and discrimination, firms are now investing in the technology to determine the productivity of their workers. Employers are also turning to such applications to secure their Web and email networks. Still, some information security experts, including KPMG Consulting's Tom Patterson, say technology can go only so far--firms need to have clearly stated privacy policies. Firms also need to inform employees that computers are the property of employers--that they do not have any privacy rights at work--and also to provide examples of acceptable and unacceptable use of computers. Nevertheless, Elron Software's Adam Bosnian says employers should keep in mind that they always can reach an employer who shops online during their lunch hour, but that will not be the case if a worker leaves their desk to go to Barnes & Noble.

  • "Computers Will Save Us"
    Discover (06/01) Vol. 22, No. 6, P. 53; Lemley, Brad

    Tech prophet James Martin, who in his 1977 book, "The Wired Society," foresaw the rise of the Internet, e-commerce, and wireless communications, is still a champion of technology. He argues that the next step technology will take is the evolution of artificial intelligence, but not toward computers that are more like humans, as many futurists have long predicted. Instead, Martin argues, the computers of the future will be better at humans at very specific, processing-oriented tasks. For example, already there are field-programming chips that can be, in a sense, taught to improve themselves; importantly, they do so in iterations much quicker than any humans could provide. Martin thinks that the near future could see the rise of "breeding factories" in which such chips, powered by supercomputers, produce better chips and new software. The rise of smarter software will remove many tasks from the everyday lives of human beings, Martin argues: software will be able to recognize individuals' identity on sight, to scan individuals' entire DNA code and provide a potentially life-saving medical diagnosis, and to scan the behavior patterns of children in an attempt to prevent them from acting out in the future. Martin admits that such a technology-dependent future is open to trouble, either from those determined to hack into the technology or from authorities who abuse technology in ways that would make Orwell shudder. However, he argues that human beings' better natures will prevail, saying, "We are forced to play God, and we are forced to be good at it."

[ Archives ] [ Home ]