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Volume 3, Issue 246:  Wednesday, August 29, 2001

  • "Linux Has Come A Long Way"
    SiliconValley.com (08/29/01); Ackerman, Elise

    Programmers gathered in San Francisco to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Linux at the LinuxWorld Expo. One of the most notable aspects of the conference was the presence of so many major technology corporations, including Compaq, IBM, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard. IBM VP Ross Mauri says his company has committed to spending $1 billion on Linux development, contributing to the recent release of a Linux version for its Websphere e-commerce platform. IBM has taken advantage of the free operating system to provide services and hardware that support Linux. Meanwhile, other Linux boutiques, such as Red Hat and VA Linux, have found it difficult to find a profit providing Linux consulting. IDC's Dan Kusnetzky says Linux has captured 27 percent of the server operating system market, compared with Microsoft's Windows 2000, which holds 41 percent. Analysts expect Linux to continue its strong growth, partly due to its price-competitiveness.

  • "You've Got Dissidents?"
    Washington Post (08/29/01) P. A1; Mufson, Steven; Pomfret, John

    A joint online venture between AOL Time Warner and Chinese PC provider Legend Holdings will ostensibly work through cooperation and compliance with government regulations. But whether AOL will disclose records of Chinese dissidents per government request remains a thorny and unresolved issue. The pressure is on from human rights groups for AOL and others to defend the basic right to free speech--a right that is virtually nonexistent in China, yet one that is essential to upholding the company's image as a firm that transcends the bottom line and contributes to the common good. AOL prides itself on complying with international policies against pornography and hate crimes in Australia and Germany, but Human Rights Watch's Tom Malinowski contends that the Chinese situation is much different, as government laws stifle democracy. AOL International President Michael Lynton says that negotiations with Chinese authorities will focus on privacy and free speech issues, but the company prefers to wait until the nation settles on an Internet agenda. The penetration of AOL's software and Internet services throughout China is dependent on the country joining the World Trade Organization, modifying its standards, and licensing the AOL-Legend venture; until then, AOL's offerings will be restricted to Hong Kong. Another hurdle AOL faces is paltry official approval for the venture, an issue that Lynton says must be settled before the company can concentrate on human rights.

  • "Brain Cells, Silicon Chips Are Linked Electronically"
    Washington Post (08/28/01) P. A3; Vedantam, Shankar

    Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry have successfully created the first biomechanical electronic circuit by grafting snail neurons onto silicon transistor chips. To prevent the nerve cells from wandering, the scientists enclosed them with polymer structures. Electrical stimulation proved that the neurons could communicate to the transistors and each other through synapse connections. "It's very primitive, but it's the first time that a neural network was directly interfaced with a silicon chip," declared biophysicist Peter Fromherz. Scientists say that this research could yield technology such as artificial retinas that enable blind people to see and prosthetic limbs that paralyzed people can manipulate by thought.

  • "U.S. Tech Firms Bank on Solid India, China Demand"
    Reuters (08/28/01)

    Technology firms are projecting significant growth in China and India, as the world's two most populous countries begin to ramp up their IT infrastructures. Strategic Intelligence analyst Paul Waide says India is now beginning to show the signs of becoming the booming market that it is projected to be in just two to three years. Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems' James Whitemore says the region makes up 23 percent of the company's revenue and that it expects its sales in China to grow up to 300 percent in the next few years. Cisco Systems currently generates 5 percent of its global revenue from China, according to Cisco VP Jia Bin Duh. As China's GDP is expected to grow at an annual 7 percent rate or better, infrastructure companies like Cisco see a high-growth opportunity.
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  • "Dot-Com Job Cuts Down, Shutdowns Double"
    Newsbytes (08/28/01); Kelsey, Dick

    Although dot-com layoffs are down, more Internet companies are folding, according to monthly data from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some 4,899 dot-com jobs have been cut this month, in comparison to July's 8,697, a decrease of 44 percent. However, 21 Internet companies shut down in August, a 133 percent increase from July's nine. In total, 248 dot-coms have shut down so far this year. Among them, 11 worked in Internet infrastructure market, says Challenger CEO John Challenger. Even large Internet firms are starting to cut jobs, Challenger notes. AOL said it will eliminate 1,200 jobs while Corning Cable Systems will lay off 900 employees. Portal companies have also been hit hard, says Challenger, with 1,700 job cuts.

  • "Intel to Push Faster Pentium 4 Chips"
    SiliconValley.com (08/26/01); Poletti, Therese

    Intel is gearing up for an aggressive marketing campaign that aims to convert users of older Intel chips or Advanced Micro Devices products into users of its new, faster Pentium 4 processors. The new chips will offer speeds of up to two gigahertz and will be available in PCs beginning this week. The "Planet Pentium" campaign will focus on the benefits of owning a faster chip, such as more rapid management of music, audio, and video files. Furthermore, Lehman Brothers analyst Dan Niles expects Intel to slash prices on older Pentium 4 chips by up to 54 percent at this week's Intel Developer Forum. Intel, not to mention the entire PC sector, is hoping that Microsoft's upcoming Windows XP operating system will complement the Pentium 4 and fuel much-needed PC sales. Sales of Pentium 4 chips so far have been sluggish, while AMD has raised the stakes even further by ramping up its rivalry; nevertheless, Intel expects the Pentium 4 to account for all of its mainstream chip sales by year's end.

  • "Sklyarov Boss to Skirt DMCA"
    Wired News (08/28/01); Rose, M.J.

    ElcomSoft programmer Dmitry Sklyarov was arrested in July for making a presentation in the United States, detailing the circumvention of Adobe e-book copy protection software, that allegedly violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Sklyarov's boss, ElcomSoft President Alexander Katalov, will make the same presentation on Nov. 22, in a country where the DMCA does not apply--the Netherlands. At a security conference in Amsterdam, Katalov will present an updated version of "EBooks Security: Theory and Practice at the Black Hat Briefings." Sklyarov is still awaiting trial in the United States.

  • "Eyes of the Storm"
    Boston Globe (08/27/01) P. C1; Stoughton, Stephanie

    To satisfy government regulations and quell consumers' concerns, companies have started to invest in technology designed to ensure customer privacy. For example, Zero-Knowledge Systems offers a privacy-rights management suite that determines whether or not customer data collection constitutes a legal breach or a violation of industry standards or privacy policies. Royal Bank of Canada will be trying out Zero-Knowledge's Freedom software, which is programmed to notify customers when someone is attempting to link to their PCs without permission. More protection is being offered to customers in the form of smart cards, such as those produced by RSA Security. Also under development is software that allows customers to access a company's system while keeping their location and identity confidential. However, privacy compliance is still a long way off for the corporate sector, according to privacy experts. The FTC is not satisfied with the level of protection some financial services firms are offering, while the medical industry will soon be under close scrutiny as well.
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  • "Technology Revival Will Take Time--Economist"
    NewsFactor Network (08/24/01); Beauprez, Jennifer

    Political, academic, and corporate leaders gathered at the Progress & Freedom Foundation's Aspen technology summit recently to discuss the future of IT in the United States and abroad. Consensus was that the tech industry would eventually rebound, although experts differed on when that would begin to happen. Siebel Systems' Tom Siebel expects his company's sales to turn around significantly by the third quarter of 2002, but warns that a continued economic depression will cause many companies to fail. Others say that the increase in productivity meant that at least some portion of the last three years' growth was real and that technology still had a vital role to play in the nation's economy. Private sector leaders such as Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina encouraged the government to focus on strengthening education because it is the foundation for the country's continued IT success. They warned that Japan and China are turning out 75 percent and 50 percent more engineers than the United States, respectively, and that this could mean the United States would lose its technological preeminence in the future.

  • "NZ Software Developer Bows to U.S. Threat of Legal Action"
    New Zealand Herald Online (08/28/01); Gifford, Adam

    A second case involving a U.S. company claiming infringement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act against a foreign software developer has come up. Beausoft, a New Zealand firm that sells Webcam watching tools, allegedly circulated software to circumvent the protection scheme of SpotLife, the broadcast subscription service of Logitech, a Webcam manufacturer. In July, Adobe petitioned the FBI to arrest a Russian programmer at the Def Con hacker convention because he had propagated software that allowed users to break Adobe's encryption scheme for e-books. SpotLife, which says it has a million registered users of its new subscription service, changed its site so that users could not log on with Beausoft's Webcam Watcher program running. After Beausoft quickly posted a new version that circumvented the block, SpotLife lawyers sent warning of legal action.

  • "Digital Divide-Fighting Group Signs Agreement with UN"
    Newsbytes (08/27/01); Krebs, Brian

    The United Nations and the Global Internet Policy Initiative (GIPI) have forged an agreement in which both agencies will work together to help poor and developing countries narrow the digital divide. Under the auspices of the UN Development Program, GIPI will educate and offer guidance to policy makers in these countries on Internet policy issues. "This means that GIPI can avoid being seen as another U.S.-based organization promoting American values, but rather as one that comes in partnership with a truly international body," declared Center for Democracy and Technology deputy director Jim Dempsey. CDT and the European Internews agency formed GIPI in July. Firms that have contributed to GIPI include AOL Time Warner, Microsoft, the Markle Foundation, and the Soros Foundation. The UN Global Development Project's reach extends to over 100 countries. Several South American nations have expressed interest since the agreement was announced, according to Dempsey. He adds that GIPI may soon be able to respond to requests through agreements with non-profit and for-profit agencies.

  • "High-Tech Soldiers"
    Washington Times (08/28/01) P. B8; Hopper, D. Ian

    The U.S. Army will field-test wearable computing technology through its Land Warrior program, an initiative to outfit all soldiers with such technology by 2008. The integrated Land Warrior system will be embedded in uniforms and include a head-mounted display that shows data via a wireless LAN; a global positioning system unit and thermal-weapons sights to identify friends and foes and trace shot trajectories; a carbine rifle that also acts as a video camera; and a control unit positioned on the user's chest. The Navy is also mulling over a system from Xybernaut that transmits images from technicians to experts through a durable, head-mounted camera. Furthermore, wearable technology is under development for space missions. A simulated Mars mission conducted by NASA and the SETI Institute will utilize computers embedded in space suits.

  • "Machines to Talk Intelligently on Web"
    SiliconValley.com (08/25/01); Gillmor, Dan

    Web developers are working on the next-generation of tools that would encode Web information so that different computers and software could understand one another. Currently, there is little to unify the information displayed on the Web, and only humans can truly understand the complex interrelationships inherent to the Web. Getting computers to do so is the idea behind the "Semantic Web." Several companies and researchers are already working to build on current XML-based standards, such as the Resource Description Framework, to enable this new intelligent Web. One important application would be the enhancement of search engine technology so that results to a search query could differentiate between ideas, people, and objects. One company looking for a commercial product from Semantic Web technology is Alpiri. Alpiri aims to unify different companies' coding for music on the Web so that different databases could be interfaced and cross searched.

  • "RSI Revisited: Controversy Over Computer's Role"
    MSNBC (08/21/01); Stenson, Jacqueline

    A small minority of researchers have gained a significant amount of attention for arguing that there is no definitive scientific evidence that links carpal tunnel syndrome to computer use. The experts turned the Labor Department's hearings on ergonomics this summer into a contentious affair for suggesting that no one knows what causes work-related pain, and that stressful working conditions are more likely to cause discomfort than computers. Most researchers concede that the cause of work-related pain is complex, but are not willing to go as far and say that computer use is not a factor in the development of repetitive stress injuries. In fact, musculoskeletal disorders associated with computer use is now a national health problem that causes about 1 million workers to miss work each year, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine concluded in January. Some experts still believe more research needs to be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn. Researchers now acknowledge that a number of factors can contribute to work-related pain, including diabetes, pregnancy, sprains, traumas, age, poor posture, and job issues such as deadline pressure. The federal government could address the issue as early as September. Insiders have not ruled out the possibility that the Bush administration will introduce a voluntary standard on ergonomics that will be more affordable for businesses.

  • "Higher Form of Life"
    InfoWorld (08/20/01) Vol. 23, No. 34, P. 30; Leon, Mark

    Many IT departments are perceived as low-level utilities; transforming them into business units requires a tremendous amount of effort. A new set of performance metrics must be defined. "You can no longer measure IT success with internal cost accounting," explains IBM's John Connolly. "Success will be defined in terms of external, market-based, financial and customer measurements." IT must also earn respect from the rest of the company, says Pioneer Natural Resources CIO Tom Halbouty, who achieved this by hiring field experts to better calibrate IT with the company's business goals and establishing success criteria for each IT initiative. Former FMC CIO Craig Watson contends that IT must be strategically managed in order for it to make a significant impact on a company's bottom line--the value chain. He notes that of the four categories of IT, business processes and value chain are underserved in favor of desktop systems and networks. He advises IT units to dedicate more resources toward the generation of revenue and cost-cutting operations.

  • "New ICANN Chief Stresses DNS, Addressing Stability"
    Network World (08/20/01) Vol. 18, No. 34, P. 10; Marsan, Duffy

    ICANN's top future challenge is ensuring the stability of the Domain Name System (DNS), said ICANN president Stuart Lynn in a recent interview. Lynn says ICANN's strong advocacy for one authoritative root is meant to address this DNS problem, and that one root ensures Internet users can surf towards intended destinations. Other paramount challenges Lynn listed were transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6, improving ICANN's "governing structure," and making ICANN internationally based. Concerning the approval of new TLDs, Lynn seemed to sympathize with critics who felt the process was arbitrary and imply that future processes will be different. "I wasn't at that [final decision-making] meeting," said Lynn, "but I understand it was very chaotic meeting."

  • "European Commission Tackles Computer Concerns"
    National Law Journal (08/20/01) Vol. 23, No. 52, P. C10; Baumann, Timothy

    The European Commission will attempt to improve computer security, but it will try to do so without trampling on privacy. Officials will have to consider legal documents such as the Telecommunications Data Protection Directive, which requires member states to keep communications over networks confidential, and outlaws the use of surveillance equipment without legal authorization. What is more, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights also take privacy very seriously. The European Commission announced in early June its intentions to deal with security problems such as unauthorized interception of communications, network disruptions, malicious software, and malicious misrepresentation. The commission proposed to educate computer users about security issues, to have European Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) work together to develop a common security platform, and to create a central body to coordinate security measures, among other recommendations. However, the proposal raises concerns such as what will the CERT groups do with confidential information, how will they share the data, and how would it handle information on users from the United States. A draft of the security legislation could be ready by the end of the year. Ultimately, the initiative is likely to lead to anti-hacking laws for the EU.

  • "Open Source and Information Security: A Legal Perspective"
    E-Commerce Law (08/01) Vol. 1, No. 8, P. 17; Slutsky, Brad

    There are schools of thought that open-sourcing one's software may actually be an invitation to hackers, which is why some companies are resistant to implementing open source code for security-dependent applications, writes Intellectual Property and Technology Practice Group partner Brad Slutsky. He recommends that companies considering open source software should also consider whether the code will be viewed more by people with malicious intent than those with benevolent intent. They must also evaluate whether more qualified people will be viewing open source or closed source code in a given situation. Installing upgrades and patches is a long process that can give hackers a timing advantage, so companies should assess just how often they should be released and installed. At a certain point, open source software reaches a level of complexity that may cause qualified programmers to shy away from reviewing and improving it; furthermore, open source software will eliminate the point of security through obscurity. Responsibility for security breaches in open source software is generally murky, making liability a difficult area to navigate.

  • "The Do-It-Yourself Supercomputer"
    Scientific American (08/01) Vol. 265, No. 2, P. 72; Hargrove, William W.; Hoffman, Forrest M.; Sterling, Thomas

    The cluster concept is enabling researchers with little funding to turn a network of inexpensive PCs into a powerful machine that can handle the kinds of problems that are fed to the fastest computers on the face of the earth. Supercomputers cost tens of millions of dollars and can perform billions of calculations in a second. When researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee needed to draw a map of the nation's environmental conditions, the scientists built the Stone SouperComputer, a computing cluster based on parallel processing, the system of ultrafast microprocessors working together to solve complex problems in use in most conventional supercomputers. ORNL based the Stone SouperComputer on the Beowulf approach, which is the first cluster of PCs built in 1994 by NASA researchers for about $40,000. Of the 500 fastest computers in the world as of last November, 28 were clusters of PCs, workstations, or servers. The computer cluster is now seen as the concept that will bring high-level computing to research groups, colleges, high schools, and small businesses. What is more, projects such as [email protected], by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, are bringing millions of PCs and their processing power together to analyze radio signals for signs of intelligent life. One day computer users will be able to access a "computational grid" for processing power, experts say.

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