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Volume 3, Issue 259: Monday, October 1, 2001

  • "Spending on Computers Is Seen Slowing in Wake of the Attacks"
    Wall Street Journal (10/01/01); Bulkeley, William M.

    Computer-spending budgets are expected to slow down severely as a result of the terrorist attacks, according to a survey conducted by Ed Yardeni of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown and CIO Magazine. CIOs polled in the survey have downgraded their 12-month budget growth rate projections from 7.2 percent in August to 3.7 percent. The number of CIOs expecting increases in hardware spending has fallen from 40 percent the month before to 30 percent. Thirty percent expect hardware cutbacks, according to the latest poll. Capital spending may be even harder hit when the economic recession takes a bite out of corporate profits, says Yardeni, who does not forecast a rebound until March 2002. On the other hand, the slowdown seems to have triggered an upturn in the number of technically skilled people available. Whereas 55 percent of polled CIOs claimed skilled staff were "hard to find" at the beginning of the year, only 14 percent think so now.

  • "Hill Puts Brakes on Expanding Police Powers"
    Washington Post (09/30/01) P. A6; Lancaster, John

    The Bush administration introduced an anti-terrorism package a week after the terrorist attacks in New York City and the District of Columbia, and the bill had a lot of support from citizens who favored stronger police powers. However, there is bipartisan opposition to the package as members of Congress worry about its impact on the Constitution and their role as a check on executive branch power. Many legislators think that the bill gives police agencies too much power, especially when it comes to electronic surveillance, though they say they want to pass anti-terrorism legislation and have no problems with other parts of the bill. These legislators are sympathetic to the use of roving wiretaps, which cover all forms of electronic communication in terrorism investigations, but they are not as pleased with the idea of expanding law enforcement access to Internet communications, saying it could violate the privacy of innocent Web users if not designed carefully. They say that surveillance laws should be updated to handle new technologies like email.

  • "30,000 May Lose Jobs in Merger of HP, Compaq"
    Los Angeles Times (10/01/01) P. C3

    Merging companies Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard have announced 15,000 expected job cuts, but that number could double because of falling demand and similar products, according to investors. Analysts anticipate PC spending to decline due to the terrorist attacks. HP executives expect employee reductions to yield $2 billion in savings in 2003 and $2.5 billion in mid-2004. The companies expect that shareholders and federal antitrust regulators will approve of the merger by the middle of 2002. Dell Computer and Gateway, which have already made significant staff cuts, may also lay off more workers.
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  • "Software to Track Customers' Needs Helped Firms React"
    New York Times (10/01/01) P. C1; Gaither, Chris

    Customer relationship management (CRM) software proved its effectiveness immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, as businesses pulled up specific information about clients near the World Trade Center in New York City. CRM sales have slowed to only 17 percent in the second quarter--compared to more than 100 percent growth over each quarter of last year--as companies are discovering that good customer relationships take more than just technology. As Deloitte Consulting CRM leader Stephen R. Pratt says, "Your software doesn't create the relationships." Still, as was evidenced by the way firms such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard responded to the Sept. 11 crisis, CRM applications prove a significant advantage when salespeople and managers need a quick, unified view of their client company. Chubb Corporation, a casualty insurer in the New York area, quickly used its CRM software to pull up a list of all its policy holders near the World Trade Center, while its competitors without CRM--State Farm and New York Life Insurance--had to wait for their customers to call them.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Computer Robots Gather Intelligence"
    Associated Press (09/28/01); Krane, Jim

    The military is stepping up its development of software robots to sort through intelligence and automate some of the tasks traditionally handled by humans. Because the U.S. intelligence apparatus collects far too much information for human agents to quickly analyze, the software bots are necessary to pull together linked information and bring it to the attention of analysts. Military commanders could also use the Control of Agent-Based Systems software to quickly alert them of fast-moving, viable targets in Afghanistan, where human intelligence and processing methods often prove too slow to be effective. The cruise missile strikes at Osama bin Laden's camps in 1998 missed bin Laden himself by just a few hours due to latent human intelligence gathering, but the software bots could immediately alert nearby military commanders of an opportunity the instant one arises. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has also developed a meta tag for Defense Department Web pages so that agencies can use software bots to gather intelligence from across their hundreds of disparate systems. Experts say that such cross-agency sharing is critical to make full use of the gigantic U.S. intelligence gathering apparatus.

  • "IBM Plans Energy-Efficient Chip to Counter High Electricity Costs"
    Wall Street Journal (10/01/01) P. B6; Bulkeley, William M.

    IBM is touting an energy-efficient microchip that will be included in its new Regatta Unix server, which is slated to be introduced this week. The Power4 chip will be four times as fast as the Power3 but consume one-third less power, making the server twice as fast as the company's current top Unix server, according to IBM's Nicholas Donofrio. People close to the matter say that the server will outpace rival servers as well. This spells good news to corporate customers that are seeking to cut their electricity costs. In addition to the Power4 chip, IBM's consulting division is establishing a consultation service to help corporate data centers realize lower electricity bills. The company is also setting up the Low-Power Computing Research Center in Austin, Texas.

  • "New Judge Urges Microsoft, DOJ to Settle"
    IDG News Service (09/28/01); Garretson, Cara; Berger, Matt

    The district court judge now presiding over the Microsoft antitrust case has set a timeline for the two sides to reach a settlement and has urged the two sides to work around the clock to settle the case. Unless a settlement can be reached by Nov. 2, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she would begin the process for the remedy phase of the trial, which would then be approximately set for March 11. To give the Justice Department and Microsoft lawyers added impetus in reaching their own conclusion to the case, Kollar-Kotelly also asked them to find a mediator by Oct. 12 or she would appoint one herself.

  • "New Economy: Solidifying Trademark Protection In a Global Market"
    New York Times (10/01/01) P. C4; Chartrand, Sabra

    The Internet and other types of electronic technologies are helping to increase the value of U.S.-based brands and trademarks in the global marketplace. The International Trademark Association, a global organization comprised of 4,000 trademark holders from 150 countries, has been pursuing a policy of "trademarks without borders," says the group's president, Nils Montan, who also serves as senior intellectual property counsel for the Warner Brothers unit of AOL Time Warner. The group has made a priority of educating lawmakers across the globe about the economic benefits of protecting trademarks, an issue that takes on added meaning as seven new domain name extensions and 245 new country code domains are being added to the Internet. Although the United States has put cybersquatting laws on the books, other countries across the globe are only now beginning to address the problem, says Montan. "The main problem here is trademark hijacking by cybersquatters and others, and confusion among the public," says Montan.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Telecommuting Won't Increase Without High-speed Internet Access"
    ISP World Online (09/24/01) Vol. 1, No. 21,

    Telecommuting without high-speed Internet access is problematic, according to a techies.com survey of 1,953 technology professionals. Almost every telecommuter in the survey said technical limitations were their biggest grievance. Some 58 percent of the participants said they had some form of high-speed access at home such as ISDN, cable modem, DSL, satellite, or T-1. Among active telecommuters, 64 percent said they had high-speed Internet access, but only 49 percent of non-telecommuters had it. Cable modem was the most popular among those with high-speed access, followed by DSL and ISDN. Of the telecommuters in the survey, 75 percent said their employers provided a notebook computer, and slightly more than 50 percent said their employers supplied telecommuting software. About 32 percent of employers covered expenses for Internet access at home, and less than 20 percent supplied such tools as a printer, scanner, fax, or PC.

  • "Up and Atom With Latest: Nanotechnology"
    Investor's Business Daily (09/28/01) P. A6; Seitz, Patrick

    Nanotechnology, biopharmaceuticals, and bioinformatics are all hot areas of investment for venture capitalists looking for big payoffs. Much of that investment is risky, especially in nanotechnology, as the science behind them promises commercialized products that are years off. If nanotechnology proves a viable science, then it could allow engineers to design nanoscale computer chips and molecules that could target disease within the body. NanoOpto co-founder Howard Lee says the key lies in the mass production of nanodevices. Although most of the research in this area is being conducted in universities, companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard are also making significant contributions.

  • "Security Issues Overshadow Net Tax Debate"
    Newsbytes (09/27/01); MacMillan, Robert

    Congress is set to temporarily extend the Internet tax moratorium by at least six more months so that it can concentrate on more pressing legislative issues in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to sources in Congress. The Internet tax debate will be put off until 2002, say experts on both sides of the divisive issue. Part of the reason for pushing back the issue is that for appearances of political solidarity Congress does not want to deal with legislation that lacks broad support, says Stan Sokul, a former member of the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce. The Internet tax moratorium expires in October, but the House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a simple extension of the moratorium that is not burdened by the controversial issues of tax simplification and tax nexus reform. Congress will continue to talk about those issues, but no real action will occur until next year. Congress may attempt to extend the moratorium by anywhere from six months to more than five years, according to Sokul and Mark Nebergall, chairman of the Internet Tax Fairness Coalition.

  • "The Tech Sector's Latest Discovery: Managers Must Lead"
    Washington Post (09/30/01) P. L1; Johnson, Carrie

    Technology companies are discovering the value of skilled managers in light of the current economic environment. Business pressures are revealing another mistake often made by tech companies--promoting technologically adept, but not necessarily managerial people to supervisor positions. FirStep human resources consultant John Putzier says companies were often at fault for this because the only option for greater salary and benefits was most often associated with management positions. Balanced managers are now greatly in demand in the technology sector. David Overbye of the Keller Graduate School says night classes for telecommunications and IT management have enrolled increasing numbers of working professionals in those fields. However, Putzier suggests that tech workers first try leading several team projects in order to experience the pressures of management so they can make an informed decision on whether that type of job is right for them.

  • "Networks at Risk: Assessing Vulnerabilities"
    Interactive Week (09/24/01) Vol. 8, No. 37, P. 11; Coffield, Dana; Spangler, Todd; Smetannikov, Max

    The terrorist attacks underline the vulnerability of the global telecommunications network. But although U.S. intelligence and security policy experts have long bemoaned the unpreparedness of the Internet, little progress has been made to lessen the potential effects of attacks. The private sector has had better luck in implementing security measures such as redundant systems, wide Net distribution, and locating switching gear in secure buildings. The Internet's most vulnerable point is in the network edge, an issue that Yankee Group analyst Matthew Kovar says has been widely ignored; the network edge is prey to viruses, worms, and distributed denial-of-service attacks. Geographic diversity can mitigate the effects of a physical attack on a telecom hotel, cable headend, carrier-neutral peering point, or mega central office. The metro Ethernet is one of the least vulnerable networks, thanks to its ability to reroute and quickly allocate data in the event of a crisis; circuit-switched networks, on the other hand, are vulnerable in the first few miles when their data is routed to a single central office, and Equant's Jack Norris suggests diverse local loops as the best solution. A disruption in the cable network would affect video service, phone service, and broadband Internet access in American homes, but the dispersion of its vulnerabilities makes it a difficult target, according to Mike Paxton of Cahners In-Stat Group. Circuit-switched wireless networks can be seriously impaired by excessive call volume, so some mobile voice operators are planning to migrate to packet-based networks.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Machines With a Human Touch"
    Economist--Technology Quarterly (09/22/01) Vol. 360, No. 8240, P. 24

    Neuromorphic engineers are taking cues from millions of years of evolution to create more efficient robots. The researchers "look at brain structures such as the retina and the cortex, and then devise chips that contain neurons and primitive rendition of brain chemistry," according to the Economist. In addition to biological short-cuts, their work makes use of wholly analog machines, rather than digital machines, to incorporate artificial intelligence into robots. Neuromorphic systems played a key role at the recent three-week workshop held in Telluride, Colo., as researchers demonstrated their new approach to artificial intelligence. One project was modeled on certain processes of the brain of a fly to detect motion in its vision field (and avoid obstacles and predators), as researchers built a vision chip and attached it to a robot that could walk and take stock of its surroundings. Another project used sensory feedback for a walking robot built from the principle of the "central pattern generator" (CPG)--a flexible pacemaker humans and other animals use for locomotion; this robot can learn to walk, and the lamprey (an eel-shaped jawless fish) is the biological model from which it was developed. Meanwhile, researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich are focusing more on giving robots selective visual attention that will allow the machines to pay attention to their surroundings. Although such analog systems are difficult to design, further advances in this area could enable researchers to finally achieve efficient "adaptive intelligent" control systems, smart sensors that could find their way into all kinds of consumer electronics products and the human body.

  • "Wizard of Redmond's Magic Show"
    eWeek (09/24/01) Vol. 18, No. 37, P. 29; Galli, Peter

    The 10th anniversary of Microsoft Research offered market experts a glimpse of what the software giant envisions for the future of computing. Microsoft appears to be placing a heavy emphasis on distributed processing and intelligence to include mobile and disconnected computing devices. "The tectonic shift over the next 10 years will concentrate on a new approach: the idea of distributed computing where different parts run on different applications," says Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. The strategy includes the company's .Net vision of delivering software as a service over a network. With the Loader.Net project, users will no longer have to download an entire application before using it because Microsoft plans to transmit large applications in bits over narrow bandwidth instead. Microsoft also unveiled the Sensing Pocket PC, which uses sensors for touch, tilt, and motion to change applications, as an example of how monitors, cameras, Pocket PCs, and cell phones could evolve. The MiXP project is considered to be groundbreaking in that the prototype records the life experiences of the user, stores the information in a single database, and categorizes the data on mobile phones and other devices, which would enhance the consumer market and enterprise customer. If any advanced distributed processing research makes it into regular products, the company does not expect that to happen anytime soon.

  • "The Paper Chase"
    Electronic Business (09/01) Vol. 27, No. 9, P. 37; Harbert, Tam

    H-1B visa holders continue to wait for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to decide on whether to grant a grace period to visa holders who are out of work. Although the INS was considering giving H-1B visa holders 60 days to find a new job or lose the legal status that allows them to remain in the United States, most immigrant groups would like to have anywhere from three months to six months to find work. An out-of-work grace period for H-1B visa holders has become an issue now that companies such as Lucent Technologies are laying off thousands of workers. Eyleen Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the INS, says the process of revoking an H-1B visa takes her agency about 60 to 90 days, and once that process is completed, the individual can no longer remain in the United States. "It's confusing because there's no policy, because basically there hasn't been this [massive-layoff] situation before," Schmidt says regarding the lack of a set time for when laid-off H-1B visa holders have to leave the country. Immigration attorney Sheela Murthy says most laid-off H-1B visa holders have been able to find new jobs. However, more foreign workers are returning to their homelands and are applying for consular processing with the U.S. consulate in their native land in an attempt to receive a green card. Still, Murthy says consular processing poses risks, including denial of request.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Virtual Teams, Real Benefits"
    Network World (09/24/01) Vol. 18, No. 39, P. 45; Gaspar, Suzanne

    Companies can save money, raise productivity, and extend resources by organizing their IT professionals into virtual teams that can concentrate on specific problems. For instance, Bechtel used a virtual team of system administrators to manage a global network of 28,000 users; server management costs fell as a result. Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers' decision to assemble a virtual team enabled its staff to remotely perform just about any router or switch maintenance task. PricewaterhouseCoopers director of integration services Ivens Mendonca adds that virtual teams act very quickly in times of trouble, such as when the Code Red virus broke out; a global IT team was organized to exchange methods for accessing switches and blocking traffic from infected servers. Projects are assigned to those who have the requisite skills. Collaborative technologies and solid relationships between team members are a must, as are information-sharing tools. Mendonca also stresses the importance of face-to-face communications at major meetings.

  • "The Dangers of Modularity"
    Harvard Business Review (09/01) Vol. 79, No. 8, P. 20; Fleming, Lee; Sorenson, Olav

    Harvard Business School assistant professor Lee Fleming and Olav Sorenson of UCLA propose that true technological innovation depends on products whose components show a certain degree of interdependence. But most companies favor modular designs so that product development can be better predicted, and the authors argue that this approach results in a more gradual--and sluggish--rate of breakthrough. Their conclusions are based on data culled from two centuries' worth of inventions from the U.S. Patent Office and the study of the relationship between the number of components in each product and their interdependence on one another. Fleming and Sorenson write that products that have intermediate levels of interdependent componentry are often the most useful, and suggest that engineers try, through standardization, to adopt a more modular scheme for highly interdependent technologies. However, at the same time they recommend that inventors be encouraged to experiment with interdependent systems so as to not modularize their designs too much.

  • "Putting It Together"
    netWorker (09/01) Vol. 5, No. 3, P. 13; Zook, Matthew

    The Internet, rather than removing geographic boundaries, is establishing them: Certain people are being positioned into highly interactive networks, while much of the world's population remains disconnected for lack of money or skills. A survey across 20 countries between July 1998 and January 2001 indicates that the United States has the greatest concentration of domain names, thus the highest concentration of Internet access. Some 25 percent of the world's domain names are concentrated in just 10 cities housing 1.5 percent of the global population, but there are segments of the urban population who do not have Net access. As a result, not all countries with an Internet presence have experienced equal growth rates; Argentina and South Korea, for example, have expanded more relative to their starting positions than the other countries surveyed. Internet dispersion may be increasing in the United States, but the more sophisticated manifestations of Web access--e-commerce, for example--are proceeding at a slower rate, according to the dispersion of secure socket layer software (SSL).

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