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Volume 4, Issue 300: Wednesday, January 16, 2002

  • "Techies Turn to Public Sector"
    USA Today (01/16/02) P. 1B; Swartz, Jon

    Many IT workers are taking jobs at nonprofit organizations as corporate jobs dwindle. Some 696,131 tech and telecoms jobs were cut last year, according to estimates, and 762 Internet firms shut down over the past two years. Beyond those that have been laid off, other tech workers seek nonprofit jobs as a way to serve others, especially after Sept. 11. At the Peace Corps, inquiries in the last three months of 2001 increased 38 percent over last year to 31,024. Many of the applicants are former dot-commers. "A lot of people are turned off by materialism, and many believe high-tech is drying up," says David Batstone, executive director at advocacy group Sojourners. Last year, Joel Maske sold his Internet content site and founded PowerfulKids.org, a fundraiser for children. But he expects to enter the business world again someday and start another tech firm, he says.

  • "Does Fast Internet Need a Push?"
    Washington Post (01/15/02) P. A1; Krim, Jonathan

    High-speed Internet access is currently being publicized as a driver of economic recovery in the United States. For the last few years, the benefits of broadband have been touted to consumers--such as the fact that it is always connected to the Internet, eliminating the trouble associated with dial-up modems, and that it will eventually enable users to download such things as movies. However, consumers have been unwilling to pay the $40 of $50 a month it would cost to have high-speed Internet access, while another major problem is the fact that broadband technology is not fast enough yet to provide the video-heavy applications consumers want. Nevertheless, assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy Bruce Mehlman says the Bush administration regards the provision of more broadband as an economic priority. A couple of months ago, FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell launched an assessment of all regulations that have an impact on broadband implementation. Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) recently stated that universal broadband access should be one of the planks in the Democratic Party's recommendations for economic revival. The technology industry is now planning to lobby the federal government to establish national goals for broadband adoption and deployment. These companies are united in the view that the provision of universal broadband could lead directly to the next economic expansion.

  • "2600 Magazine Seeks Another Opinion in N.Y. DeCSS Case"
    Newsbytes (01/14/02); Bonisteel, Steven

    Lawyers representing 2600 magazine have requested that the full 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals re-hear the case against the magazine and publisher Eric Corley, who is forbidden from posting the source code for the DeCSS DVD-decryption software over the Internet. In November, three of the court's judges upheld the ruling by New York District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan, who deemed that DeCSS' potential for pirating motion pictures was more important than the magazine's right to publish the software. 2600 advocate and Stanford University Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan argued that the ban endangers the principles of free speech with "newly minted distinctions between pen-and-ink and point-and-click." Corley and his magazine are also prohibited from posting links to Web sites where the DeCSS software is available, and Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says this mandate threatens "the lifeblood of the Internet." Critics also argue that the Content Scrambling System (CSS) the software circumvents is designed to keep encrypted DVDs from playing in unlicensed players, and point out that people can copy and view DVDs without the decryption code. The EFF does not expect the appeals court to reach a decision on its request until the spring of 2002.

    For more articles related to DeCSS and DVD cases, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Congress Must Help Boost IT Security Ranks, Panel Says"
    InfoWorld.com (01/15/02); Garretson, Cara

    Congress should be a catalyst for promoting education and research in IT security, a panel discussion said Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The panel was sponsored by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and the Info-Structure Security Dialogue (ISSD). According to the panel, having more IT experts would result in easier hiring and retention of skilled workers. "There are too few Ph.D.s in information security," said Michael Gibbons, senior manager of e-security service at KPMG Consulting. Although law enforcement agencies have access to various tools, the investigations are hampered by a lack of trained personnel, said Glenn Nick, assistant director of the U.S. Customs Service's Cybersmuggling Center. Last December, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a bill promising loan forgiveness, graduate school fellowships, and cross-agency knowledge sharing, said Garrick Groves, a member of the Government Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services. Dubbed the Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act, 50 percent of the bill focuses on educating the private sector, said Jennifer Tyree, counsel for the Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services.

  • "Linux Breathes New Life into the Mainframe"
    IT Management (01/14/02); Orzech, Dan

    The Linux open-source operating system has taken off in America's corporate mainframe sector. Two years ago, a small group of IBM programmers ported Linux to the IBM S/390; since then, thousands of IT vendors have downloaded free versions of Linux off the Internet. IBM claims that over 300 vendors have bought hardware or support contracts for Linux on the mainframe. Both IBM and analysts say mainframe sales have jumped as a result: The last four quarters have seen double-digit growth for the Z-series mainframe. Giga Information Group analyst David Mastrobattista expects the use of Linux on the mainframe to increase 100 percent in 2002. Linux on the mainframe can also reduce costs for application software licenses. Companies are finding Linux very useful in reducing crowding in the computer room, which is being taken up by servers being used to handle email, Web serving, printing, and other everyday tasks. Linux allows companies to run a practically endless series of virtual servers on a single mainframe, and enables them to merge numerous applications onto one system.

  • "Cool Ideas for Overheated Chips"
    Wired News (01/15/02); Anderson, Mark K.

    Hundreds of engineers and scientists will gather shortly at the Thermes 2002 conference in Santa Fe, N.M., to discuss ideas on how to cool down overheated computer chips. At the moment, many computer chips are cooled through the use of exhaust fans and heat sinks, but these devices will not be able to sustain future hardware. During the conference, researchers will discuss a number of possible solutions to this problem, including the use of liquid cooling, thermoacoustic engines, piezoelectric fans, and thin-film refrigerators. Ali Shakouri of the University of California, Santa Cruz, for example, has developed a microscopic integrated circuit refrigerator that uses electrons instead of freon to transport thermal energy away from a microchip and dissipate it into the air. Orest Symko of the University of Utah has developed "rmacoustic engines" that use sound to transport heat from microchips to plates within a resonating chamber. However, Ken Goodson of Stanford is uncertain whether such cooling systems could ever actually be used, and he says the best way of cooling chips in the future remains liquid cooling. The only reason microchips are not being cooled through such a system today is because engineers had a lot of trouble trying to keep coolant flowing through hoses that were the width of a human hair. Goodson says this problem appears to have been solved through the development of micro-machined pumps, and as a result, liquid cooling will likely be used to cool the chips of the future.

  • "Striving to Push Storage Capacity Beyond Its Limit"
    Boston Globe (01/14/02) P. C2; Michaud, Anne

    Engineers foresee that hard disk storage capacity will reach its limits sooner or later. Some $21.6 million has been earmarked by the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program for a project to investigate heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). The project is being overseen by a consortium led by Carnegie Mellon University and Seagate Technologies. Robert M. White of Carnegie Mellon's Data Storage Systems Center says the initiative could expand current storage parameters a hundredfold and add another 10 years before capacity hits a wall. Magnetic recording involves the use of magnetic heads to read and write information onto revolving platters, but increasing storage density gives rise to superparamagnetism, leading to bit instability. Using a laser to heat the medium at the spot where data bits are being recorded eliminates superparamagnetism. The HAMR method could pave the way for smaller, inexpensive disks that can run new applications. "The risks are daunting, but the potential economic benefit is tremendous," says program manager David Hermreck.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "The Little Label with an Explosion of Applications"
    Financial Times (01/15/02) P. 8; Cole, George

    Smart tags are used to track the positions or presence of their wearers with radio waves, and the technology is being applied to many markets. Xerox uses smart tags to keep tabs on photocopiers shipped to Europe, while some Japanese factories tag workers' shoes so they can pass through automatic doors. Meanwhile, pharmacists are using smart labels placed on medicine bottles that enable a special reader to vocalize information such as a patient's name and general instructions, a significant help to vision-impaired and elderly patients. In a year, smart tag chips embedded in banknotes will start being mass produced. Other potential applications of the technology include automatic toll payment systems in cars. Sokymat is one of the largest smart tag technology manufacturers in the world, and Sokymat UK director Marie Glotz says the company is making products for cans and labels, automotive applications, industrial applications, and food and animals. One of the more unusual projects in this last category involves microchip-tagged bees that the U.S. Army uses to detect landmines. Glotz believes smart tags could supplant barcodes because "they don't have to be in sight of the reader; they don't become scratched and unusable; and they can be reused."

  • "U.S. Hopes to Unplug Cybercrime in N.Va."
    Washington Post (01/15/02) P. B1; Masters, Brooke A.

    The FBI, working with the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Va., is set to step up the fight against cybercrime in the high-tech area of North Virginia. Four additional lawyers, added to the two current ones, will help in prosecuting cases involving terrorist attempts to disrupt critical infrastructures, software piracy, economic espionage, and other crimes involving computers. The staff changes are part of a federal plan to add as many as 60 new prosecutors to 10 offices across the United States. Meanwhile, a taskforce has been created, under the direction of the FBI, to bring together local, state, and federal prosecutors and other law-enforcement officials, as well as the private sector, in an effort to prevent cybercrime. The two moves indicate the new focus on terrorism as the biggest threat to America's computer networks due to the interconnectivity of various systems.

  • "FreeBSD to Change Hands"
    CNet (01/14/02); Shankland, Stephen

    Wind River Systems has returned control of the open-source FreeBSD Unix-based software to Bob Bruce, the founder of original FreeBSD publisher Walnut Creek CDROM. Wind River wants to divest itself of its FreeBSD assets, including FreeBSD Mall, formerly Walnut Creek CDROM. Walnut Creek was previously acquired by Berkeley Software Design (BSDi), which was in turn bought by Wind River in April of last year. Wind River will continue to control BSDi's BSD/OS assets, and Wind River's Larry Macfarlane says the company plans to integrate the software with FreeBSD. FreeBSD Mall will have control over the FreeBSD product trademark, an existing customer base, hardware, and four code programmers, according to Macfarlane. Daemon News announced in October that it would take over the FreeBSD assets, not FreeBSD Mall. This statement has placed the CD-ROM publisher in an "awkward" position, but CEO Chris Coleman expects the company to go ahead with its commitment to publish and sell FreeBSD.

  • "Education Challenges Hinder Future Tech Workforce-Study"
    Newsbytes (01/15/02); MacMillan, Robert; Krebs, Brian

    Results from a study conducted by the AeA and the Nasdaq Stock Market show many teachers are unable to integrate the Internet into their everyday curriculum. According to the study, only 27 percent of public school teachers surveyed believed they were well prepared to use computers and the Internet for education. The study also found a connection between poor math and science achievement test scores in states that have the highest and lowest PC-per-student rates, which were the District of Columbia and California. Geographically, the highest-scoring states in terms of math, science, and SATs were mainly in the Northern United States. State educational requirements also show a disparity; although the report finds that more high school students finished higher math and science courses last year, many states only have a minimum requirement of two math courses. "There is a shortage of kids coming out of high school who can go directly to the college level engineering program," says AeA President William Archey. "We sense that there's an awful lot of kids who are in high school now who will not take these programs because they believe they do not have the necessary math and science education to complete college engineering programs." This is turn means fewer workers for the tech industry.

  • "Apache 2.0: What's New and Who'll Benefit?"
    InternetNews.com (01/11/02); Liu, Bob

    The forthcoming freely available Apache 2.0 Web server software promises several advantages over Apache 1.3. Apache Software Foundation VP Ken Coar says the new version offers better scalability, while its filtering mechanism allows users to run the output of a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) script through several processing modules. Both Coar and Covalent Technologies' Bill Rowe agree that version 2.0's Apache Portable Runtime (APR) is also notable, since it can help ease switches between Windows, Unix, or Mac platforms. People close to Apache single out the Multi-Processing Modules (MPMs), which enable administrators to manage traffic requests using the Windows method on a Unix platform, or the other way round. Rowe is also enthusiastic about version 2.0 being compatible with NT's unicode file names, allowing file requests to access file names in Arabic, Hebrew, or Chinese. Microsoft, Apache's main competition, is the one who stands to benefit the most from Apache 2.0. Windows users will have a Web server that is compatible with the Windows XP operating system while also boasting greater security and reliability. However, the final version is not likely to be released before March, says Coar.

  • "MEMS Are Slowly Finding Their Way Into the Coolest Consumer Gadgets"
    Small Times Online (01/11/02); Karoub, Jeff

    Cahners In-Stat Group analyst Marlene Bourne notes that over 20 exhibitors had MEMS-enabled devices at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, up from just one last year. More than 30 products using Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology were on display, including portable projectors and big-screen TVs; Bourne observes that prices have also fallen. DLP technology features embedded MEMS that increase product portability and make for a clearer picture, she says. Meanwhile, Essential Reality says its second-generation P5 Glove game controller will likely feature MEMS technology, and Bourne notes that the company is looking into its applicability for flight simulation programs. Also on hand at the conference was a plug-and-play chipset module from Motion Sense. Plugging the module into a Palm personal digital assistant enables the user to manipulate the screen or the icons on it by moving the device. Bourne says the module, which contains MEMS accelerometers and sensors, has enormous potential as a gaming application. Although Bourne believes that MEMS has made significant strides in the consumer electronics market, she says it still has a long way to go before it comes into its own.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "China to Support Research on 12 Key Technologies"
    AsiaBizTech (01/11/02)

    China plans to use research to break up the monopolies of foreign firms in 12 key technology areas, says Xu Guanhua, Minister of Science and Technology. Addressing the National Conference on Science and Technology, Xu said China should be a leader in emerging technologies, especially after its entry into the WTO. The ministry says it will spend $600 million on research for the 12 key technologies through the end of 2005 and encourages businesses to help it achieve its goal. Some of the key areas to be investigated include information security systems; super-scale integrated circuits and computer software; e-administration and e-finance; functional gene-chips and bio-chips; electric cars; and magnetic levitation trains. Information technology will get the most attention, says Xu. He hopes China's researchers will produce innovative central processing units, network computers, and network software. The ministry expects China to excel in the development of super-scale integrated circuits over the next five to 10 years.

  • "'Google Effect' Reduces Need for Many Domains"
    SiliconValley.com (01/12/02); Gillmor, Dan

    Although analysts say the Internet is shrinking due to a slowdown in domain name speculative buying, another phenomena that is also affecting TLD purchases is the so-called "Google effect," a term that refers to the search site found at www.google.com, writes Dan Gillmor. Indeed, improved search engine tools can direct users to the Web sites they want, obviating the need for highly specific domain names. For instance, in the old days if one wanted to find the Web site of Via Technologies one would have typed in www.via.com and gotten there, but today one goes to google.com and types in "Via Technologies" to find the Web site at www.viatech.com--a domain name that would be hard to guess. Gillmor rarely guesses these days, going instead to search engines such as Google, AllTheWeb.com, and My Opera's www.opera.com to locate Web sites. The Google effect also reduces the power of the domain name database as the main guide to finding Web site addresses, which is a good thing, considering that the domain name database is controlled by VeriSign's Network Solutions, a company that has tendencies to over-flex its monopoly powers, and whose influence needs to be reduced. Gillmor used to believe that adding new TLDs was the only way to bring competition into the domain name system, but now he says the Google effect may make the "naming" value of domain names less crucial for finding Web addresses and renders TLDs less important in general.

  • "Internet Adulthood"
    Telephony Online (01/07/02)

    ICANN Chairman Vinton Cerf says the Internet has grown far beyond his initial expectations. Cerf says he is surprised that the Internet has become embroiled in political turmoil, particularly in regard to domain names. "Domain names have turned into an enormously contentious concept, although I'm pretty sure that it's temporary," says Cerf. "If alternatives are found to represent Internet addresses with some form of symbolic identifier, it may be that the role of the domain name will diminish." Cerf says that in terms of Internet security, the Internet should not be compared to telephone systems, but that many peoples' attempts to make this comparison reflect increased expectations for the Internet under conditions of duress, such as those experienced on Sept. 11, 2001. Security on the Internet will continue to get better, reducing the threat from hackers, Cerf predicts. Cerf predicts the 21st century will see the linkage of biology and technology, and says he is interested in the possibilities of nanotechnology.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Gloomy IT Job Market May Perk Up in 2002"
    InformationWeek (01/07/02) No. 870, P. 60; Goodridge, Elisabeth

    It will be harder to find IT jobs and competition among job seekers will be fierce this year. "At a time like this, when the economy weakens, companies are all ROI-based," says RHI Consulting executive director Katherine Spencer Lee. "They look at saving time, saving money, cutting costs and expenses, while trying to increase revenue." Only 15 percent of 1,400 CIOs polled by RHI Consulting are planning to expand their IT staff, while about 4 percent are expecting layoffs and almost 80 percent expect no hirings or firings in the quarter. Finding a job will be especially tough for entry-level workers, and graduate degrees do not guarantee employment either, according to Kristi Mitchell of the University of California, Berkeley. She adds that internships are also scarce, since they involve training time that fewer and fewer employees have. The best places to look for work, according to Lee, are industries experiencing revenue growth or that are untouched by the recession; she lists biotechnology, health care, and pharmaceutical industries as examples. There are small signs of improvement: Six months of declining tech job postings on Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's index ended in early December, while Gartner research director Barbara Gomolski notes that there are a growing number of IT security positions being created.

  • "Security Takes a Pragmatic Turn"
    Government Computer News (01/07/02) Vol. 21, No. 1, P. 6; Daukantas, Patricia; Jackson, William

    Government heads are considering IT-related security with great seriousness after the Sept. 11 attacks, with many proposals yet to be sorted out, and the appropriate ones given funding. One interesting phenomena immediately after the attacks was the deluge of Web traffic directed at previously obscure government sites, such as the FBI's financial crime tip site, which was made the ad hoc terrorist tip site by Attorney General John Ashcroft on the night of Sept. 11. "Some agency sites saw traffic increases of 2,000 percent," says Akamai's Christopher S. Carlston. Government agencies revived and strengthened their contingency plans crafted for the Y2K transition and also saw the need to share information, most likely through a centralized database. Making use of that information in ways that will really be useful to agencies requires data-mining technologies that are currently not available, says Lawrence E. Brandt of the National Science Foundation. Other popular ideas have included using biometric data to screen public places for criminals and for use in national ID cards. President Bush's cybersecurity advisor, Richard Clarke, has also proposed building a standalone GovNet federal intranet because of fears over a concentrated network attack on U.S. systems.

  • "The Computer Inside You"
    Popular Science (01/02) Vol. 259, No. 7, P. 24; O'Malley, Chris

    Miniaturized transistors have the potential to impact the world in more ways than just making computers more powerful. With transistors one-millionth the size of a grain of sand or smaller, scientists will be able to fashion more transistors on a chip, which allows for speedier microprocessors or memory chips with greater storage capacity. As a result, one can expect industry to try to get the most out of such miniaturization by incorporating computer technology into all sorts of devices found throughout homes and offices, via a network that is connected to the Internet. Molecular-scale computers could even be woven into clothes. There is a chance miniaturized computers one day will be embedded into people, considering that pacemakers, cochlear implants, and other electronics are already implanted into the human body. Miniaturized computers could be used to monitor heart rate or blood pressure, and communicate such vital stats to a hospital. Inner-body computers also could be used to overcome blindness, deafness, Alzheimer's, depression, schizophrenia, and mental retardation. However, the use of internal computers in such a manner, to improve intelligence, or to make better athletes will become an ethical dilemma.

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