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 251: Wednesday, September 12, 2001
- "Terror, Tragedy of Attacks Ripple to the Net"
PC World.com (09/11/01); Spring, Tom
Tuesday's terrorist attacks tested the strength of the Internet, both in terms of its technical capacities and its use as a medium for assistance and disseminating information. Major news sites were either heavily bogged down with traffic or completely shut down for short periods despite streamlining their content, as was the case with CNN.com and ABCNews.com. Other sites took measures to bring news coverage--Google posted archived versions of major news stories and individuals from around the world offered their bandwidth to CNN in order to free up its servers. Even X10 Wireless Technology, which sells Internet cameras via annoying pop-up ads on major sites like the New York Times, suspended its campaign "out of sympathy to the victims and families of this national tragedy." Meanwhile, chat rooms ran rampant with conspiracy theories and wild accusations, although some reflected a somber, sympathetic tone. ISPs Earthlink and AT&T WorldNet experienced server outages in some regions, and many telecommunications carriers lost important switches and circuits that were housed in the basement of the World Trade Center when the towers collapsed. WorldCom, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint all had to reroute their traffic. Despite the challenges, the Internet as a whole maintained its network integrity, reports Dan Berkowitz, director of corporate communications at Web-monitoring firm Keynote Systems.
- "Officials Call for More Net Security"
Los Angeles Times (09/12/01) P. C3; Piller, Charles; Kaplan, Karen
Many lawmakers quickly responded to Tuesday's terrorist attacks with calls for more advanced security technologies to be employed nationwide. However, civil liberties groups and technology experts say that such a knee-jerk reaction will not prove effective because of encryption techniques available to terrorists and the unreliability of mass scanning systems, such as those used to sift email and collect biometric data. San Jose State University biometrics expert Jim Wayman said that this year's Super Bowl attempt to conduct facial scans of the 100,000 fans gathered in Tampa would not have been effective enough to catch criminals in time. Rep. Bob Stump (R-Ariz.) advocated the increased use of human intelligence in infiltrating terrorist groups and gathering information as a more effective alternative to increasing security technology spending. Rep. Christopher Cox (R-N.Y.) also said that calls to pump more money into the National Security Agency's surveillance programs was haphazard.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Tech Firms Could Begin To Recover In Attack Aftermath"
Investor's Business Daily (09/12/01) P. 8; Graham, Jed; Prado, Antonio A.; Tsuruoka, Doug
The catastrophic terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. may not necessarily spell long-term disaster for tech companies. Security firms, for one, could benefit tremendously. California Technology Stock Letter author Michael Murphy anticipates increased spending on network security and defense technology as a result of the attacks. There will also be a change of attitude on how America views information technology and its vulnerability in the event of a physical attack, contends cyber-security expert Winn Schwartau. He expects security procedures to diversify. Furthermore, both business and government will probably have to spend billions on technology to restore the telecom and Internet infrastructure, according to Computer Economics analyst Michael Erbschloe. He adds that consultants and experts will also be recruited to determine the equipment in need of replacement at the areas demolished by the attacks.
- "Merrill Survey Confirms Slump in IT Spending"
Financial Times (09/11/01) P. 20; Foremski, Tom
A TechStrat survey of 50 American and 15 European companies conducted by Merrill Lynch indicates that IT budgets have declined, with the current growth average for this year falling to just 2.6 percent. This puts a damper on the hopes of a fourth-quarter rebound by U.S. technology companies. "There's little doubt that this is a global IT recession," says leading Merrill analyst Steve Milunovich. Roughly 40 percent of polled CIOs raised the possibility of further IT budget cuts. Forty-five percent were expecting IT budget increases in the second quarter of next year, but the survey forecasts a "tepid" recovery. Hewlett-Packard has been hit particularly hard, due to companies switching their IT systems to Sun Microsystems. Respondents also gave HP's service low ratings.
- "Report Criticizes Monster.com"
Washington Post (09/11/01) P. E4; Johnson, Carrie
The Privacy Foundation is conducting a series of studies on the biggest job-search Web sites in the United States, and the first report is on Monster.com. The report finds that, contrary to Monster.com's claims, job seekers' resumes may be databased for an unspecified period of time. Furthermore, some companies using Monster.com to find employees do not clearly indicate their use of Monster.com technology or Monster.com servers to store applicants' work histories. "A job seeker conducting a traditional job search has more protection than a job seeker conducting an online search," argues Privacy Foundation research fellow Pam Dixon, who authored the Monster.com report. Some 20 electronic job-search sites were examined by the foundation; most sites allow job applicants to switch their resumes between active and inactive states, while some use aggregate data collection for marketing and other reasons, but notify seekers of this practice through a privacy statement. Privacy advocates such as Dixon maintain that Web sites should clearly display how the information they collect on job seekers will be used. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal agencies are working out a plan to make traditional hiring standards, including the utilization of collected data, applicable to the electronic job-search sector.
- "Judges to Rule on Digital Snooping"
IDG News Service (09/11/01); Berger, Matt
Judges attending the semi-annual Judicial Conference in Washington, D.C., will be deciding whether judges and other court employees should have their PCs and Internet use monitored while at work, and that federal court policy may affect other government employees and possibly workers in general. A panel of judges will vote on the issue after reviewing a policy on the use of site-tracking software on federal court PCs; the software can also monitor email and other digital correspondence. The Administration Office of the Courts has been monitoring employee computers for over a year, in a fashion similar to computer-use policies at various corporations and organizations, but judges from District Courts and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have protested its use, saying it infringes on employee privacy and is a security risk for judges who use email to send confidential court documents. Judges from the Ninth Circuit ordered some 10,000 employees to disarm the monitoring software on their computers early this year, and other critics have spoken up--including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which contends that computer monitoring could violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. The Administrative Office has asked for more study on the subject and requested that the Federal Conference postpone the implementation of an official policy.
- "Demand for Staff Falls as 'IT Recession' Kicks In"
silicon.com (09/11/01); Hayday, Graham
The demand for IT personnel in Britain, both permanent and temporary, fell in August, according to figures from Granville Baird. Growth is not anticipated until late 2002, although a flattening out could occur in the first quarter. "These figures bear out our premise that conditions are likely to worsen further this year, prompting cost cutting and more profit warnings," Granville Baird said in the Financial Times. In addition, the latest TechStrat survey conducted by Merrill Lynch indicates that IT budgets are declining in both American and European companies. Spending increases are not expected until the second quarter of 2002, according to 45 percent of respondents.
Click Here to View Full Article
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)
- "Feds, States Make Halting Progress Toward E-Gov"
Newsbytes (09/10/01); Krebs, Brian
- "Tech Downturn Sets Path for New Growth"
Los Angeles Times (09/09/01) P. C1; Flanigan, James
Technology and the Internet, despite going through a severe market correction, will continue to be the driver for the nation's economy, according to many far-sighted industry experts. IDC, for example, notes that the world's Internet population grew by 30 percent this year to 123 million people online. This presents companies with new opportunities to make use of the Internet medium. The Internet is also helping to boost productivity through cost-saving technologies such as online learning and Internet videoconferences. Former Treasury Secretary and Harvard University President Lawrence Summers says that IT will continue to provide productivity gains for the foreseeable future. Additionally, although much of the fiber-optic capacity built out over the last few years remains unused now, it will provide cheap bandwidth for new applications, such as music and movies streamed over the Web.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Tech Policy May Rise in Bush Agenda"
InternetWeek Online (09/10/01); Mosquera, Mary
The Bush administration is expected to focus more on high-tech issues within its agenda, according to a tech industry group. Bush and his wife recently launched a revamped White House Web site as a symbol of his dedication to technology. In the area of high-speed Internet access, Bush said that he will warn Congress against overspending, a tactic that will impact economic growth. The president also expects broadband access to extend its reach to rural regions with the advent of new wireless technologies. High on this fall's agenda will be the advancement of trade promotion authority, a factor that should spur high-tech industry growth, according to White House spokesman Tucker Eskew. Eskew says Bush has talked with high-tech CEOs, while Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill recently met with about 35 tech CEOs. Eskew says, "There's still a laissez-faire attitude. [CEOs] want trade, some immigration reform. They want an administration that gets it."
- "US Said Probing Sun Micro, Others on Patents"
USA Today on Monday reported that the FTC is investigating Sun Microsystems, Unocal, and Rambus for withholding patents while drafting industry standards. So far, the FTC has only confirmed that it is probing Unocal, which helped develop gasoline standards that oil companies claim authorize its clear-fuel formulations. The Sun investigation, according to the paper, focuses on whether the company drafted industry standards for computer memory modules while keeping patents secret. Meanwhile, Rambus is reportedly under investigation for seeking patent rights on a memory-chip standard it championed. The FTC received complaints of patent nondisclosure from firms that all three companies sued for patent infringement, claiming they owed them royalties.
- "Layoffs Spur Return to India"
SiliconValley.com (09/09/01); Quinn, Michelle
The economic slump has hurt many Indian workers who migrated to Silicon Valley on H-1B visas. As many as 10,000 laid-off workers may have returned to India or departed for other destinations. The downturn has also severely affected businesses that depended on these workers for their income, such as Indian restaurants in the Bay area and the Gandhinagar section of Sunnyvale, and cab services. Some fired H-1B visa holders still remain in the country, looking for new jobs or waiting for the tech sector to bounce back. Many workers are still employed, and the economic slowdown has not stopped a flood of new workers from arriving. The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that 50 percent of H-1B permits went to technology workers, and that 44 percent of 115,000 visas issued last year went to Indian nationals.
- "Unix Tick Tocks to a Billion"
Wired News (09/08/01); Manjoo, Farhad
Unix enthusiasts will celebrate the one-billionth second since the operating system first set its clock back in January 1, 1970. On Sept. 8, Unix fans will gather in Copenhagen to launch fireworks denoting the anniversary. Attention was drawn to the milestone in the Philippines, where one journalist warned that the number 999,999,999 on Unix clocks would cause some malfunction. Internet message boards soon quelled the worry, since more tech-savvy individuals pointed out that Unix computers do not differentiate between the numbers 1,000,000,000 and 1,000,000,001. Instead, they convert those figures into 32-bit binary integers. However, some experts have pointed out that there could be problems in the year 2038, when the 32-bit digit space is expected to run out of room.
- "Reading Your Mouse Movements"
BBC News Online (09/10/01); Hermida, Alfred
MIT researchers are developing Web programming techniques that would analyze users' mouse movements in order to anticipate what they will do next when visiting a Web site. The research is part of the context-aware computing effort that eventually will lead to computers that can communicate with humans without such interface barriers as keyboards and mice. One MIT professor on the project, Ted Selker, says that the new technology does not require any extra software on the user-end, but tracks the data and analyzes it on the Web server and could work to change the Web content according to the wants of the Web user. Content and navigation could be a more personal experience through real-time analysis of Web site movement, say MIT researchers.
- "Internet Board OKs 3 Domain Names"
Associated Press (09/10/01); Parker, Serena
The ICANN board voted to allow staff to finalize contracts with new TLDs .aero, .coop, and .museum, pushing .pro off until its November meeting when ICANN expects .pro will be ready for approval. ICANN officials say that there are disagreements between ICANN and .pro, and ICANN's Web site says the .pro registry is trying to reduce its financial commitments, but ICANN general counsel Louis Touton says all disputes have been resolved. The ICANN board also announced a freeze in .info registrations of country names after ICANN's Government Advisory Committee complained that many .info country names are being trademark-claimed by everyone except world governments. In other actions at the Uruguay meeting, ICANN finalized Australia's .au agreement, and formed a committee to investigate the multilingual domain name issue. An Asian keyword company executive, Netpai.com's Chang-hun Lee, criticized ICANN's moves on multilingual domains as "too slow."
For more information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "'Other Priorities' Send PC Market Tumbling"
International Data (IDC) has downgraded its projections for the international consumer PC market, in a large part because of declining shipments in the United States and Japan. The worldwide consumer PC market is now expected to fall 9.6 percent this year, rather than grow -0.2 percent. "With a large base of fairly powerful computers installed and a relative lack of processor-hungry applications, many businesses are postponing PC upgrades and new purchases," says IDC's Loren Loverde. "Both business and consumer buyers are simply finding other priorities right now." IDC forecasts that U.S. commercial PC shipments will fall 25 percent in 2001, while shipment growth will flatten out from 2000 figures of 39 percent. Between 2000 and 2001, worldwide shipment growth will dip from 10.5 percent to 3.2 percent. There is little reason to believe that the second half of 2001 will see any significant market improvement, according to IDC. The research firm predicts that the international consumer market will start to recover by mid to late 2002 with the advent of Microsoft's Windows XP, while the U.S. market will begin to bounce back in 2003.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Technically Speaking"
InformationWeek Online (09/03/01); Kontzer, Tony
Thus far, speech-recognition technology has not lived up to its hype and made little impact on our daily lives. Processor speed and memory capacity is not sufficient to cover all the nuances of speech, thus restricting recognition and requiring PCs to be extensively trained to recognize speech patterns. Forrester Research principal analyst Carl Howe says that ViaVoice from IBM is the only trustworthy voice-recognition product for PCs currently on the market; the other major vendor, Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products, has been rocked by financial scandal and has filed for bankruptcy. Server-based voice-recognition services offered by the likes of Nuance Communications and SpeechWorks International have made the most significant market gains, and are being utilized for phone-based Web browsing, package tracking, online brokering, and flight arrival and departure data access. Telematics will be the next big voice-recognition application, predicts SpeechWorks CEO Stuart Patterson. However, some company executives are resistant to the technology, claiming that it will never offer the same level of convenience as live voice portals. INetNow, for example, is retaining its call center rather than automating it. Nevertheless, Allied Business Intelligence forecasts that the voice-recognition technology market will skyrocket from $2.3 billion to $50 billion between 2001 and 2005, while Cahner's In-Stat Group anticipates $2.7 billion in speech-engine sales revenue by 2005.
- "Study: Who Needs Privacy Laws?"
Wired News (09/05/01); McCullagh, Declan
Pacific Research Institute (PRI) has released the results of a new privacy study that urges Congress to refrain from legislating online privacy. The report concludes that privacy-protecting technologies are a better fit than regulations to protect consumer privacy on the Internet. Indeed, the author of the report, Sonia Arrison, claims that new privacy laws would cause consumers to lose interest in privacy technologies altogether. The PRI report recommends several privacy technologies, including Pretty Good Privacy, SafeWeb, Zero Knowledge's Freedom, and Anonymizer.com. "American privacy regulation advocates want to legislate their own privacy preferences, which are much more extreme than those of the rest of society," the report says. Many prognosticators speculated that this would be the year Congress finally passed an online privacy law, but it now appears they were wrong, although many Democrats in the Senate are still pushing for privacy regulations.
- "Taming the Web"
Technology Review (09/01) Vol. 104, No. 7, P. 44; Mann, Charles C.
Many Internet proponents argue that the flow of information throughout the Net can never be controlled, but current evidence suggests the opposite to be true. One of the leading arguments is that the Internet is too widespread globally, but remote places lack the required equipment, while those that have infrastructure in place can easily be discovered. Furthermore, national law is widening its influence through organizations such as the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Another argument is that the high rate of interconnectivity places the Internet beyond control; the embrace of peer-to-peer network technology is a reflection of that assumption, but the flood of traffic that results from search requests can bog down the network. One way to fix this problem is to establish a backbone of centralized machines that can be easily found and challenged by copyright owners, who hold sway with ISPs. The third major assumption about the Internet's uncontrollability rests on the contention that there will always be hackers to circumvent security measures, but the hardware can be modified to make hacking increasingly difficult; adding to the trouble is the fact that hardware design is determined by a company's marketing department, rather than the technological end. The overriding issue then becomes how the Internet can be regulated and who should have the authority to do so. Continuing to claim that the Net cannot be controlled only opens it up to corporate regulation that may skimp the democratic process.
© Copyright 2001 Information, Inc. This service may be reproduced for internal distribution.