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Volume 4, Issue 297: Wednesday, January 9, 2002

  • "Prof Renews Free Speech Fight Against U.S. Encryption Law"
    Newsbytes (01/08/02); Krebs, Brian

    University of Illinois computer science professor Daniel Bernstein has renewed a case he filed against the government's policy on export regulations for encryption research. Bernstein filed his original lawsuit in 1995, claiming the regulations unconstitutionally blocked the online disclosure of his "Snuffle" encryption program. Both a California court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Bernstein. President Clinton relaxed encryption regulations in January 2000, and both sides of the case agreed to bump it back to the district court. Bernstein can publish his encryption research, but now he says the regulations have become more complex. For one thing, any new material that scientists share with a foreign colleague must be sent to the U.S. government at the same time, a policy that Bernstein finds unworkable. "There's no way I can send a copy of something to the government at the same time that I'm having a conversation with a foreign colleague at an encryption conference," he complains. "The whole idea just makes in-person collaboration impossible."

  • "Searching for Next Big Thing"
    Investor's Business Daily (01/07/02) P. A7; Deagon, Brian

    Analysts expect the next decade to reveal at least four technology trends to reshape the economy and lifestyles, just as the PC, wireless communications, local-area networks, and the Internet molded much of the 1990s. Deloitte & Touche director of global technology Doug Tuttle says the current slump is indicative that new trends may be emerging, such as collaborative commerce. USB Warburg says technology will focus around the needs of business in the coming decade, and that companies should take a note from IBM, which CEO Lou Gerstner recast into more of a services provider in the 1990s. Its research also predicts the new decade will bring only four new paradigm technologies, compared to six in the last decade. Some technologies that have been tagged as hot sectors are broadband wireless, Gigabit Ethernet, Infiniband, and advanced wireless platforms such as 3G.

  • "Quantum Leap: Seize the Light"
    Wired News (01/09/02); Anderson, Mark K.

    Quantum computer research made two important steps forward recently, with the published discoveries of a new framework for enabling quantum computing and another for storing data using quantum methods. The first discovery, made by the Munich-based Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics and the Zurich-based Institute of Quantum Electronics, involves keeping a set of atoms carefully lined up and ready to conduct quantum computations. Quantum computing means manipulating individual atoms in a tightly controlled manner, so keeping them secure and in place is important. The technique involves temperatures near absolute zero and lasers defining tight boundaries for the atoms. Texas A&M, MIT, and South Korean researchers made the second discovery, which involves storing information in photons frozen in a yttrium-silicate crystal, a solid that could eventually be incorporated into devices. Previous efforts in quantum cryptography used gas to freeze or slow photons, which would be a difficult technique to use in computers. Work still needs to be completed in how to maintain data integrity using the photon technique, the scientists say.

  • "The Price Line"
    CIO Online (01/03/02); Berkman, Eric

    A recent study by Foote Partners shows e-commerce development, database skills, and project management skills are winning the best compensations for IT workers. By studying the bonuses paid to workers with different concentrations, Foote Partners found security certifications were appreciating the fastest in value, while enterprise application development skills lost ground as a result of corporate IT retrenchment. David Foote, president of the research firm, said companies are also trending toward soft skills in their workforce and are forming teams with leadership, business, and management skills along with technical expertise. Foote also said the fact that some employers were putting bonuses into base pay for areas such as networking shows those sectors are becoming even more essential and have a long-term future.

  • "Jobs at Microsoft Are Once Again a Hot Ticket"
    Wall Street Journal (01/08/02) P. B1; Buckman, Rebecca

    College graduates are flocking to the Microsoft booth at job fairs held at their university now, about a year and a half after Microsoft recruiter Colleen Wheeler said she was near tears trying to find job candidates. Exciting Internet startups and competitive benefits made it difficult to hire top talent at Microsoft, but the staid software giant is now benefiting from its preeminent stance in the technology field. It has $36 billion in cash reserves and enjoyed a 53 percent appreciation in its stock value last year. In 2002, the company is looking to hire 4,000 to 5,000 new workers, mostly through targeted channels, such as professor referrals or successful internships. In contrast, Microsoft human-resources workers say they are receiving almost 30,000 applications each month.

  • "ZeoSync: Data Discovery Can Shake Up Tech Sector"
    Reuters (01/08/02); Auchard, Eric

    ZeoSync, a small research firm, says it has developed a compression algorithm that would enable data compression rates of hundreds-to-one, compared to about 10-to-one for current data compression techniques. Current compression techniques include the MPEG and JPEG standards that involve stripping swaths of data from the file, but ZeoSync says it can compress files further while retaining 100 percent data integrity. Aberdeen analyst David Hill notes that the technology has yet to be proven and warns against staking too much on such extravagant claims. He says, "Either this research is the next 'cold fusion' scam that dies away or it's the foundation for a Nobel Prize. I don't have an answer to which one it is yet." ZeoSync says it expects commercial application of its technique by 2003, and boasts that scientists from Harvard, Stanford, and MIT have been involved in the project, along with renowned mathematician Steve Smale. If true, then ZeoSync's discovery would have tremendous implications for data storage and telecommunications because it would create a huge glut in capacity.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Many Companies at Risk for Cyber Attacks"
    Reuters (01/08/02); Shalal-Esa, Andrea

    A report released on Tuesday by the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board revealed that many corporate networks are vulnerable to a cyberattack simply because businesses do not make adequate use of existing technologies. Experts estimate that U.S. firms spent nearly $12.3 billion to clean up damage inflicted by viruses in 2001. Tuesday's report urged businesses to conduct more random tests of security policies, to put in place better authentication systems, and to provide more training and monitoring of IT systems, all of which could be done without having to invest in additional technology or research. By making computer vendors liable for serious breaches, the board suggested that they may have more incentive to sell systems with security features already included. Still, the report said that companies simply are not taking the appropriate steps to guard against cyberattacks, and the board's Herbert Lin noted that recommendations it made 10 years are still relevant today. He also says companies are making use of the best available technology today. For example, instead of widely used passwords, companies are advised to use more secure user authentication methods such as hardware tokens or smart cards in conjunction with PINs or biometrics.

  • "D.C. Plays a Little Lobby Music"
    Wired News (01/08/02); McCullagh, Declan

    The buzz at the Future of Music conference at Georgetown University was centered around various efforts by music distributors, politicians, and others to lobby for copyright legislation. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) announced his plans to introduce a proposal to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). His bill would modify section 1201 of the DMCA so that Americans would be allowed to bypass technological protection for the purposes of research, criticism, or fair use. Boucher faces an uphill battle: The House of Representatives is dominated by Republicans, while his fellow Senate Democrats do not think the law requires changing. Also causing a stir at the conference is another proposal from Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) that would deploy copy-protection controls in PCs and consumer electronic devices. General counsel to the Future of Music Coalition Walter McDonough is doubtful that Hollings' Security Systems Standards and Certification Act will pass. Meanwhile, music distributors are worried that digital piracy will run rampant unless stronger copyright protection is instituted, and some companies are looking into new laws and technology such as Microsoft's recently patented digital rights management operating system.

  • "No Fix in Sight for Software Fixes"
    MSNBC (01/08/02); Sullivan, Bob

    The saga involving the vulnerability of Windows XP demonstrates that security experts must come up with a better way to inform consumers of software glitches. The problems for Windows XP users began Dec. 20 when Microsoft warned consumers that their computers were vulnerable to hackers, and encouraged them to download a patch for protection. However, the next day, the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center responded by saying the patch would not work, and that Windows XP users would be better off taking a more dramatic step in disabling all Universal Plug and Play features. Meanwhile, a leading privacy expert, Richard Smith, announced in the following days that his findings show that some Windows ME and Windows 98 users need the patch as well. But then last week, the FBI announces that Microsoft was right all along. Security experts acknowledge that organizations have some work to do in improving their timing and coordination so as not to keep consumers in a bit of lurch. At the same time, they realize that most home users still do not bother to find a patch and install it. The number of announced security flaws could jump to 3,700 this year, up from 2,500 in 2001.

  • "Davis Seeks to Expand Wiretap Powers"
    Los Angeles Times (01/08/02) P. A1; Morain, Dan

    When Gov. Gray Davis (D-Calif.) delivers his State of the State speech tonight, he is expected to propose legislation to increase phone and email surveillance on Californians. The proposal would expand the powers of state and local police to implement court-authorized roving wiretaps that enable them to monitor any phone used by suspected criminals, as well as tap into email and Internet sites. The measure is similar to the Patriot Act signed into law by President Bush last October; like that law, its primary goal is defense against terrorism. "[Davis] wants to see California law enforcement modernized in their techniques in investigating terrorists," says George Vinson, the governor's security advisor. ACLU lobbyist Francisco Lobaco is opposed to Davis' plan, which he claims endangers the privacy of innocent people. Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) and Public Safety Commission Chairman Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) agree that the federal government already has the power to authorize such surveillance, and see no need for California to have its own authority.

  • "German Judge Puts SuSE Linux on Hold"
    ZDNet (01/08/02); Wearden, Graeme; Mueller, Dietmar

    In Germany, a judge has ordered SuSE to stop distributing Linux software containing the program Krayon. An unnamed plaintiff claims that Krayon, which is bundled on SuSE's Linux CDs, infringes copyright laws. The plaintiff is believed to hold the copyright to a program called Crayon, according to a SuSE spokesperson based in the United Kingdom. However, the judge's order does not affect CDs already in dealers' shops. In addition, the injunction only applies to CDs distributed in Germany, the spokesperson says. Negotiations between the two parties are continuing, and they hope to come to an agreement in a few days. Although Linux is freely distributed under the GNU Public License, companies such as SuSE usually combine Linux with many other applications and utilities that can be proprietary.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Mini-Lasers Take Chips to 'Light Speed'"
    NewsFactor Network (01/07/02); McDonough, Brian

    Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have developed a data-transfer process that uses lasers rather than wire. This could pave the way for more efficient chips that are far faster than silicon semiconductors. The approach involves a synthetic sapphire substrate on which a thin layer of silicon is grown for high-speed, low-power transistors and circuits; this array converts wire-based signals into light, which is beamed through the substrate via a mini-laser. The light beam is directed along the chip by microlenses and other optical elements, while optical fiber is used as a chip-to-chip medium. The process is particularly promising for multichip systems that involve longer transmission distances, according to JHU graduate student Alyssa Apsel. "[The process] really promises to revolutionize how computer systems for homes and businesses are put together," says JHU Professor Andreas Andreou, who directed the project. Apsel does not believe the optical chip's assembly costs would exceed those of conventional chips, but mass production is still some time off.

  • "Report Warns of Possible Cyberattacks"
    Computerworld Online (01/04/02); Verton, Dan

    Last month's report by the Canadian Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Services raised the possibility that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network could be plotting a cyberattack. Although al-Qaeda has not yet used electronic methods of terrorism, the Saudi exile's vast fortune would make it easy for him to assemble the technology and expertise needed to quickly launch attacks aimed at critical systems, such as electric and telecommunication grids. However, doing so from Afghanistan would be virtually impossible, due to a lack of telecommunications infrastructure. The warning comes amid an ongoing campaign involving the public and private sector in the United States to better understand the interdependency of various networks, and how an attack on one critical infrastructure could affect many others. Security experts warn that more attention needs to be paid to network security in light of America's dependency on technology.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Getting to Know OS X and Liking It More"
    SiliconValley.com (01/05/02); Gillmor, Dan

    Apple's Mac OS X has improved considerably from its launch early last year, and it promises even more growth to come, writes Dan Gillmor. Because it is built on the Unix platform, it is more stable than previous Mac operating systems. However, Gillmor notes that the main drawback, besides some annoying incongruities with OS 9, is the lack of software written especially for OS X. This is less important now that many computer users are working off of Web-based programs, but one solution Gillmor suggests could be enlisting the legion of Unix and Linux developers to tweak their software for the Mac. The Unix core of the Mac also paves the way for the use of Intel chips, which would eliminate some of the hardware disparities between Macs and PCs.

  • "Upgraded Driver's Licenses Are Urged as National ID's"
    New York Times (01/08/02) P. A13; Lee, Jennifer 8.

    As an alternative to national identification cards, some officials are calling for the various state agencies that regulate driver licensing to make licenses uniform in appearance and to take the same security steps before giving them out. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is calling for the use of bar codes and biometric technology on cards, and suggests that state agencies need to link databases and share information in order for security measures to be effective. Minimum requirements of providing place of residence, legal status, and identity would be mandated before licenses are issued, and the U.S. Social Security Administration, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and various law enforcement agencies would be given access to state agency information. Currently, there are over 200 different license and identification formats in the United States.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "Anticiparallelism"
    Computerworld (01/07/02) Vol. 36, No. 2, P. 43; Anthes, Gary H.

    Microsoft researcher Eric Horvitz is working on making computers faster by finding ways they can anticipate users' needs and complete computing tasks ahead of time. He calls it "continual computing" and says the concept promises the best results in networked applications that require a lot of computing power. Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe says the greatest rewards for this concept would be if it were enabled at the software level, and points out that Intel's new Itanium chip is already pioneering the idea on the hardware end. Metcalfe says "anticiparallelism" could help make use of what he estimates to be the 99 percent of computing power that is wasted worldwide, but says developers need control structures built into programming languages to more easily make use of idle computing power. IBM is working on self-managing software that has some aspects of what Metcalfe and Horvitz envision, restructuring itself continually to perform better.

  • "Save Or Spend?"
    InformationWeek (01/07/02) No. 870, P. 44; Hayes, Mary

    The prevailing economic winds have dictated that companies be more miserly in their IT budgets, focusing only on technologies that promise a rapid return on investment. Expectations of higher revenues from most managers are tempered by a rise in unemployment, falling manufacturing output, and fears that another U.S. terrorist attack would ravage the economy even further. Last year, 72 percent of respondents to InformationWeek Research's Outlook survey were expecting budget increases; now just 33 percent are anticipating boosts, while 50 percent expect their budgets to match those of last year. Complicating business-technology executives' decisions is the possibility that their companies' competitive edge could be dulled if certain IT projects are eliminated. Meta Group analyst Shawn Bohner is worried that executives may jettison IT system maintenance agreements in order to get more funding for technology projects, and adds that businesses that are too cautious now could lose to rivals when the economy rebounds. The InformationWeek survey shows that network security is the top technology priority, while better customer service is the highest-ranked business priority. Achieving the latter goal will require some creative thinking on the part of IT executives, since companies are under the gun to produce solid results using existing projects and without incurring heavy technology costs. Most economists are predicting that the economic recovery will commence in mid 2002.

  • "What's New for 2002?"
    CIO (01/01/02) Vol. 15, No. 6, P. 117; Lindquist, Christopher

    CIO lists eight emerging technologies that are likely to have a big impact on business this year. Security technology firms are likely to experience significant growth, given the security-conscious environment fostered by numerous virus and hacker attacks as well as Sept. 11. Depressed air travel fueled by security fears and less convenience will probably spell a boom for collaborative technologies such as videoconferencing, while peer-to-peer tools still have a chance, provided IT managers can find a use for the anywhere connection they offer to employees. Voice over IP will make an impact through improved quality offerings such as Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, while telecoms are starting to offer VoIP services as well. Speech recognition is going to hit its stride, and Gartner forecasts that almost one-third of call center phone lines will use the technology by 2003. Storage technologies that debuted last year will come into their own, including IP storage products, Infiniband, and storage virtualization software. Wireless 802.11b LANs are experiencing rapid growth even though security issues persist, notes Jack Gold of Meta. Finally, 2002 will see more XML-compatible products that achieve solid results.

  • "Game Engines in Scientific Research"
    Communications of the ACM (01/02) Vol. 45, No. 1, P. 27; Lewis, Michael; Jacobson, Jeffrey

    With their advanced graphics, multiplayer play, and programmability, the engines for cutting-edge PC games are finding their way into scientific research projects. The game engine is a modular array of simulation code that directs input, output, and physics/dynamics for virtual worlds, but does not directly control the game's behavior or environment. Immersive, first-person games such as Doom and Quake pioneered the use of 3D graphics, texture-mapping, multiuser interaction, and reprogramming behaviors. The current level of game sophistication is epitomized by Quake III Arena and Epic Games Unreal Tournament, both of which support hardware acceleration and user modifications. Researchers are choosing one or both of these game environments for certain projects. Gal Kaminka, for example, tests simulated robots using the Unreal Tournament library, while John Laird and his University of Michigan team employ both platforms to develop and evaluate artificial intelligence. Game engines lend themselves to certain kinds of research better than others; they may not suit material stress-tests or precision-control systems, but they are sufficient for projects that either only require continuity of player, object, and terrain locations, or detailed ecological simulation. Furthermore, game engines can enhance VE applications by facilitating 3D bookkeeping and networking and synchronization.

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