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Volume 3, Issue 289: Monday, December 17, 2001

  • "National ID Card Gaining Support"
    Washington Post (12/17/01) P. A1; O'Harrow, Robert; Krim, Jonathan

    A system of national ID cards connected to a database is finding more and more supporters. This reflects a changing national attitude toward privacy and security, with the latter becoming more important to people, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent war on terrorism. The Pew Research Center conducted a poll in which 70 percent of respondents were in favor of a national ID card. The adoption of such a system faces enormous implementation costs and logistical difficulties, but other initiatives with similar objectives are currently underway: The Air Transport Association wants passengers to carry a voluntary travel card with biometric identifiers and a government database link; Justice Department and General Services Administration experts admit they are working on an ID system with vendors and motor vehicle officials; and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators plans to issue computerized, biometric driver's license cards. Security experts and high-tech executives believe that such a system can stop terrorists from operating in the country using fake IDs. If a national ID card system is implemented, the earliest users are likely to be immigrants and visitors from foreign countries. However, critics still say that such a system is too big to be workable, while others add that the potential for abuse is too great. ID card advocate and Harvard University law professor Alan M. Dershowitz writes that the "fear of an intrusive government can be addressed by setting criteria for any official who demands to see the card."

  • "Tech Investors Cautiously Return, Focusing on Hardware and Biotech"
    New York Times (12/17/01) P. C18; Richtel, Matt

    Venture capitalists are returning to their core technology investments and away from the retail Web sites so popular during the dot-com boom. Fields such as nanotechnology, wireless, biotechnology, and security are all drawing investment dollars even in the economic downturn. Still, the National Venture Capital Association shows that the third-quarter venture capital figures for this year show a 73 percent decline to $7.72 billion. New companies are having an even harder time attracting financing, since 81 percent of the third-quarter investments were in companies that had received previous funding. Ethan D. Ayer, senior associate with Allegra Partners, says wireless and Web services technologies are hot. He adds that the wireless sector is poised to take off and companies still have to establish market dominance.
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  • "IETF Debates Lawsuit Risks of U.S. Copyright Act"
    Network World Fusion (12/13/01); Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

    The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is worried that its members could be violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by researching and developing online copyright security. Many insights into developing tight copyright security are gained from circumventing copyright protection systems, acknowledges Thomas Hardjono, co-chair of the digital rights management research group. This practice could leave the IETF vulnerable to civil and criminal lawsuits under the DMCA. The arrest of Russian computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and the dismissal of Princeton professor Ed Felten's case against the DMCA for blocking the publication of his research have also generated concern within the IETF. Although the task force does not intend to cut back or close up its digital rights management research initiative, leaders are discussing changing the group's name to make it less exposed. Another possibility is to make companies that offer security products as potential standards sign a DMCA disclaimer. Still, IETF's Scott Bradner thinks that suing the IETF for trying to improve online security would damage a copyright owner's image. "Our lawyers have cautioned us not to disregard the threat, but the likelihood of the IETF being challenged under DMCA is very small," he says.

  • "IT Jobless Rate Hits 5.5% In November"
    InformationWeek Online (12/13/01); Chabrow, Eric; Swanson, Sandra

    IT job losses are increasing due to a faltering economy and the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks. In November, the unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent from 5.0 percent in September and October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, IT unemployment was 2.0 percent in the previous year. The rate could reach 6.3 percent or 6.4 percent within a few months, predicts Meta Group analyst Maria Schafer. Computer programmers experienced the highest rate of joblessness, with unemployment at 7.8 percent in November, compared to 1.7 percent in 2000. Next come computer systems analysts, with a rate of 4.5 percent from 1.8 in 2000. However, when the economy picks up demand will for IT workers will increase as projects resurface, Schafer says. Some firms are opting to furlough employees rather than fire them, hoping to get them back if the situation improves.

  • "As Chips Reach Speed Limit, Makers Tap Into 'Clockless' Logic"
    International Herald Tribune (12/17/01) P. 8; Spurgeon, Brad

    Asynchronous computer chip researchers are pushing for a new computing paradigm that would process data apart from the steady rhythm typical of clocked chips. Because normal microprocessors run at a steady speed whether or not they have work to do, they waste energy and create more radio interference that can affect other chip functions. Their loud, steady click also helps hackers draw a bead on signals and listen in. Intel has included some asynchronous chip functions in its Pentium 4 chip, but asynchronous advocates say the technology's near-term sweet spot will be in mobile devices, which are prone to hacking and the need to conserve power. University of Manchester professor and founder of Self-Timed Solutions, Steve Furber, says asynchronous technologies are likely to become more mainstream as they are used in conjunction with normal synchronous technology.

  • "House Bill Would Toughen Cybercrime Penalties"
    Newsbytes (12/14/01); Krebs, Brian

    House legislators on Thursday introduced "The Cyber-Security Enhancement Act of 2001," legislation designed to "promote cooperation between law enforcement officials and the private sector, add resources to combat cybercrime and cyber-terrorism, and send the signal that if you engage in cybercrime or cyber-terrorism, you will be punished," according to House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The measure advises the U.S. Sentencing Commission to put additional criteria into its computer crimes guidelines; such criteria would include how sophisticated a cyber-attack is, whether the attack is carried out for commercial or private financial gain, and whether government networks are targeted. The bill would also protect ISPs from liability if they cooperate with law enforcement agents in tracking down suspects over their networks. Furthermore, the bill would set up an Office of Science and Technology at the Justice Department that would oversee the development and technical support of new law enforcement methods. Smith introduced the bill with House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.).

  • "Tech Designers Rethink Toys: Make Them Fun"
    Wall Street Journal (12/17/01) P. B1; Swisher, Kara

    Toy designers are aiming to use state-of-the-art technology to improve the play experience rather than complicate it. They are focusing on the successes and failures of past products to build better, more innovative toys. "Like the dot-com boom, it has also been a learning curve for toy makers who use tech to think a lot more about the point of it all," says Klitsner Industrial Design founder Dan Klitsner, who has high hopes for incorporating technologies such as wireless into toys. Applications include toys that can be constantly upgraded to offer more entertainment and games that can be played between cell phones. Klitsner is using the lessons he learned in designing successful toys such as "Bop It," a game with a device that incorporates sound and word-processing technology; the toy came out of an unsuccessful design for a hammer-shaped remote control. The key to making more interactive toys, says Klitsner, is the realization that the technology needs to enhance the user experience. "Kids are not enamored over the long term by something that blinks and talks if they cannot build a real relationship and have an experience," he insists. Klitsner hopes that toy makers take his advice to heart.

  • "Research Tax Credit May Be Expanded"
    Washington Post (12/15/01) P. E2; Wells, Rob

    The IRS and the Treasury Department have proposed widening a research tax credit that would allow firms to deduct more development costs. Software firms have pushed for the removal of the credit's "discovery test" provision. The provision sanctions tax credits for a narrow range of projects. Few development projects by software firms qualified for the credits under the discovery test, says Mark Nebergall, president of the Software Finance and Tax Executives Council. Another proposed change to the credit involves reducing documentation requirements. Such a move would lessen administrative costs and controversy, says Gary Gasper of Washington Council Ernst & Young. The tax credit was renewed in 1999 for a period of five years. The credit benefits a number of businesses, including software and manufacturing, says KPMG's Robert M. Brown.

  • "Standards Advocates Move Into Hibernation"
    CNet (12/13/01); Festa, Paul

    The Web Standards Project (WaSP) is halting its operations. The advocacy group was created in August 1998 by a group of Web site designers who wanted browser makers to adhere to World Wide Web Consortium protocols. The designers disliked having to code different pages for various browser versions. Many felt the group was successful in making Microsoft, Netscape, and other firms implement more rigorous standards support. However, some also criticized the group for Netscape's premature launch of the Netscape 6 browser. WaSP later focused its attention on Web authoring code and tools. It blames authors for making the Web a confused jumble of "incompatible code fragments that leave millions of Web users frustrated and disenfranchised." WaSP says on its Web site that it will communicate in other ways if necessary.

  • "Intel Releases Software that Lets PCs 'See'"
    NewsFactor Network (12/12/01); McDonald, Tim

    Computers will be able to add depth perception to their capabilities through new open-source software that Intel is releasing to the public. "Like speech recognition, giving computers rudimentary functions of sight will make them more aware of their surroundings and therefore more responsive to the needs of a user," says Intel's Kevin Teixeira. The software, 2.1 OpenCV, will allow developers to create computers that use a pair of cameras and "stereoscopic code" to pick out individual objects and surfaces in the same way that eyes do. The software gives developers and software providers a common set of program functions, Intel says. The company hopes the software will spark interest in other electronic vision applications such as object tracking and face and gesture recognition. The technology could pave the way for camera-equipped desktops and laptops that react to users' expressions and gestures. 2.1 OpenCV is available through the Open Source Computer Vision Library laboratory in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

  • "EU Plans ICANN Study"
    Heise Online (12/11/01); Ermert, Monika

    The European Union's (EU) Information Organization plans to conduct a study of ICANN, which to some signals a growing interest by the EU in having a formal role in ICANN. Many countries, including European nation-states, see ICANN as being too U.S.-centric. The EU study will focus on the process of ICANN's move toward a finalized governing structure--which will be decided in March 2002--in addition to the possibility of ICANN introducing more TLDs. If the ICANN board votes to have fewer than nine board seats electable by the public, it is believed the EU will press to create an EU public representative. "ICANN is, in my opinion, in the best position to solve this task" of having the DNS administrator be responsive to global concerns, says ICANN director Jonathan Cohen.

  • "Is Open-Source Security Software Safe?"
    Business Week Online (12/11/01); Salkever, Alex

    Guardent, a security software firm, is bundling open-source security applications in hopes of capturing some of that pricey market with a low-cost security package. Other large vendors, such as EDS and IBM, are offering open-source security products, but the exact penetration into the market is hard to ascertain since open-source software is never reported through purchase orders when used by companies. Open-source security software is easily updated and has passed the inspection of thousands of programmers, but businesses seem guarded against using it to protect ultra-sensitive data, says Oracle chief security officer Mary Ann Davidson. Guardent, however, says one of the top 10 banking institutions in the country is beta-testing its open-source product, though not for any sensitive business processes. Open-source security products face a rocky path unless they can get seals of approval from bodies such as the National Institute of Standards & Technology.
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  • "California Supreme Court Will Hear DVD-Copying Appeal"
    Newsbytes (12/13/01); Bartlett, Michael

    The California Supreme Court says it will review the case of an out-of-state open-source programmer being sued by the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA). That group is bringing charges against a number of Web site owners who posted DeCSS code on their sites, but Michael Pavlovich argued that he was outside the jurisdiction of California courts when he operated his Web site from Purdue University in Indiana. DeCSS overcomes the DVD CCA's scrambling encryption protecting DVD files produced by the movie industry, making the case a test of copyright law, but Pavlovich's case has taken on new significance. The California Supreme Court last December said the appeals court had to present reasons why Pavlovich falls under California state jurisdiction, but their willingness to review the case shows that the lower courts did not do so. The case has the potential to help define jurisdictional scope on the Internet.

  • "Enterprises Continue to Drive Wireless Applications"
    CyberAtlas (12/10/01)

    Corporate software development managers say wireless applications are a more pressing concern than even B2B e-commerce applications or network security, according to a new survey from Evans Data. Although the study found only 38 percent of all developers surveyed planned to work on wireless, 42.7 percent of those in enterprises said they would. Evans Data analyst Joe McKendrick says companies are realizing the ground swell in demand for wireless among their employees, as many workers are bringing their personal devices to work to increase productivity. Evans Data reports that 77 percent of development managers say platform integration is of most concern when choosing the brand of wireless device, and 71.7 percent cited security features. Insight Research says wireless will take off faster in the corporate market because it is less finicky than consumers about access speeds and reliability.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "IETF Wraps Up Foreign-Language Domain Name Effort"
    Network World Fusion (12/12/01); Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

    The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is wrapping up its development of technical specifications for supporting non-English language domain names. The Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) specifications will open huge markets in Europe and Asia, and multinational companies are expected to employ them in order to present Web sites in various countries' native language. The IETF's IDN working group is ready to send the specifications to the IETF body and leadership councils for review and final approval. IETF Chair Harald Alvestrand, who is also a Cisco Systems engineer, says the architecture work is complete, though not the perfect, ideal solution the industry was dreaming about. VeriSign has been offering foreign-language domain names since last year that rely on software add-ons and keywords, but VeriSign plans to translate the 1 million such domain names sold so far to IETF's IDN standard once IDN is public. IETF participant and Alice's Registry software developer Rick Wesson says that VeriSign's network of roughly 20 registries that are running the VeriSign multilingual program will enable VeriSign to move its system to IETF's quickly. VeriSign engineer Michael Mealling supports the Internet Resource Name Search Service (IRNSS), which he claims will take roughly a year to develop. "IRNSS solves the IDN problems, solves the whole problem with domain names and makes trademark lawyers happy," says Mealling.

  • "Feds Fight IT Worker Shortage"
    Potomac Tech Journal (12/10/01) Vol. 2, No. 50, P. 1; Hubler, David

    The number of federal IT employees needed to fill in vacancies over the next decade is expected to reach 16,000, according to a study by the National Academy of Public Administration. The report further estimates that 30 percent to 53 percent of the current federal IT workforce will reach retirement age in three years. Getting new workers to offset the inevitable shortage is problematic because of several bureaucratic factors: For one, the hiring process can be tedious because of federal regulations such as Title V and highly competitive Civil Service requirements, notes Ira L. Hobbs, chairman of the Workforce and Human Capital Committee of the CIO Council. Meanwhile, Fred Thomson of the Department of the Treasury's Chief Information Office says that advertised job descriptions are often vague and "not very user friendly for people in the private sector." He reasons that this is due to a lack of familiarity with private industry among most agency officials. Tina Strickland of the Office of Personnel Management posits that the hiring process would go faster if only agencies availed themselves of automated systems. Federal salaries and compensation packages hardly compete with those offered by private companies. On a positive note, Thomson says a government position provides "some stability that you don't see in the dot-coms sector or many of the small business type jobs."

  • "GovNet Proposal Sparks Plenty of Ideas, Debate"
    Washington Technology (12/10/01) Vol. 16, No. 18, P. 16; Wait, Patience

    The General Services Administration is set to review industry comments on creating a secure intranet for federal agencies, GovNet, but some observers believe the federal government should focus more on improving the security of existing systems. "I'm not convinced the best use of government funds is to build yet another infrastructure," says Riptech CEO Amit Yoran. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy, has similar concerns and has asked the General Accounting Office to review the government's plans for GovNet. Still, the government has not made a commitment to building such an intranet. According to the GSA's request for information on Oct. 10, which elicited proposals from 167 companies, administration officials are seeking a standalone intranet with no interconnections to the Internet or public and private networks that would offer commercial-grade voice communications capabilities and the potential to add video communications. Security will be a major issue for such a project, along with the cost. A GovNet project could cost $1 billion or more, according to Federal Sources President Ray Bjorklund. In addition to indicating how much it would be willing to spend, the government must determine how many federal agencies would be connected to GovNet.

  • "Wanted: Wireless Know-It-Alls"
    Computerworld (12/10/01) Vol. 35, No. 50, P. 24; Deakin, Michelle Bates

    Many wireless companies are searching for programmers that are skilled in more than one technology. "We're finding that the people we interview are skilled in one area of mobile and wireless but not in others, and we want our resources to do more than just one thing," says Wayne Fleming, professional services manager of Optimus Solutions. Desirable candidates are open to learning new skills as well, he adds, noting that the wireless market is in a constant state of flux. Knowledge of more than one language is also desired, but agile minds are highly sought. "You have to find people who really understand what wireless is going to be," explains GeePS COO Jim Wells. The current hiring atmosphere is mixed: Some wireless companies are after multi-talented programmers who are in short supply; others are playing a waiting game for wireless demand to accelerate and for standards to be developed. The most jobs can be found at firms that provide wireless products, software, and applications tailored to companies that are implementing wireless tools.

  • "The Transformed Workplace: How You Can Survive"
    Futurist (12/01) Vol. 35, No. 6, P. 24; Challenger, John A.

    Numerous market forces have radically changed the way the American workplace is run in the last 20 years, including globalization, technology and automation, antidiscrimination, industry deregulation, shareholder activism, and mergers and acquisitions. For efficiency's sake, the employment system is more flexible than it used to be, with temps, contractors, and consultants filling out the workforce. Just-in-time employment and the likelihood of being downsized due to economic pressures rather than personal performance has given employees the impetus to act as free agents. The concept of lifetime employment is no longer valid, and many companies are more willing to relocate since the local community is given less strategic consideration. CEOs are more beholden to shareholders over returns on investment, and take the heat when earnings fall off. Future changes to the workplace could include cooperation between companies and more staff with specialized training as a result of the dissemination of knowledge; greater distribution of labor through globalization and telecommuting; the formation of a new global community as voice-recognition programs and automatic language translators break down cultural and technological barriers; and more respect and allowances for experienced workers, such as professionals remaining employed past the current retirement age of 65.

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