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Volume 4, Issue 301: Friday, January 18, 2002

  • "Tech Lobbyists Seek Bonanza in New Push For Speedy Internet"
    Wall Street Journal (01/18/02) P. A1; Dreazen, Yochi; VandeHei, Jim; McKinnon, John D.

    Computer and telecom firms stand to benefit tremendously if a government-backed initiative to make broadband widely available is pushed through. President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) are organizing separate broadband programs: Daschle favors a program that uses federal grants, loans, and tax credits, while Bush will detail his initiative in the coming weeks. A federal broadband strategy is testament to the intense lobbying efforts of high-tech companies and trade groups, which are trying to revive broadband after a disappointing performance characterized by billions of dollars lost, provider bankruptcies, technical difficulties, slow rollouts, and consumer indifference. They are hoping that a government broadband access program will lead to increased sales, but the cable industry and the Baby Bells are divided on how to go about widening broadband implementation. The Baby Bells, for instance, are pushing a bill that would eliminate provisions of the 1996 Telecommunications Act and allow them to sell long-distance phone and data services without having to prove that their "last mile" is open to rivals--a move that cable companies are against. According to a Bush advisor, the president is considering altering tax regulations so that companies can depreciate 30 percent of the cost of a capital expenditure in the first year it was bought. This could be a $20 billion boost for the high-tech sector. Bush's proposal is currently being weighed against other policy options, including funds to help increase rural broadband access; a national spectrum to provide more room for existing and third-generation wireless broadband service; and the deployment of unified broadband taxation and right-of-way access for firms laying new fiber-optic cables in metropolitan areas.

  • "Wording of Microsoft Deal Too Loose, Analyses Say"
    Washington Post (01/18/02) P. E1; Krim, Jonathan

    Attorneys and economists who oppose a proposed government deal to curb Microsoft's anti-competitive business practices say its settlement with the Justice Department has a loophole that works to Microsoft's advantage. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft is not required to disclose the code for application programming interfaces (APIs) to rival software developers. Brookings Institution economist Robert Litan says the company could bundle the middleware into its operating system and refuse to disclose the code. Litan, along with Yale University's William Nordhaus and Stanford's Roger Noll, submitted a brief advising the federal judge to throw out the settlement and split Microsoft into several companies. However, a breakup has not been favored by most people involved with the case. UCLA's John Shepard Wiley Jr. believes the language used in the deal is too vague, and goes on to say that doubts can only be allayed once Microsoft has filed a pleading with the court that validates the presence of middleware.

  • "Moving Beyond the Silicon Valley Model"
    Financial Times (01/17/02) P. 22; Campbell, Katherine

    European high-tech clusters are following a very different model from Silicon Valley, and they seem to be the better for it. Silicon Valley has been characterized by an overabundance of capital, a dynamic environment, and a large domestic market. European executives note that each of these has disadvantages: Atlas Venture partner Christopher Spray says that engineers are vulnerable to distraction in a dynamic environment, while companies must struggle to internationalize once the novelty of the domestic market has worn off. Another key difference between European tech centers and Silicon Valley is one of ambition. Valley executives often dream of creating billion-dollar businesses that can implement global changes, while Europeans have more sophisticated objectives. "Cloning doesn't appear to work very well in sheep yet," notes Benchmark Capital partner Bruce Dunlevie. "So it's really stretching a point to think you can replicate a delicate ecosystem."

  • "Computer Security, Biometrics Dominate NIST Agenda"
    Newsbytes (01/16/02); Krebs, Brian

    Recently appointed director of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Arden Bement says Sept. 11 and the anthrax scare that followed have prompted the agency to give top priority to security efforts, including those involving computer security and biometrics. "Our primary goal now is to take whatever technologies are available for application and to develop standards and test methods [that will] make them available to the public as quickly as possible," he explains. Bement says he expects NIST to take an even greater role in the development of federal computer security standards. NIST is also working on beefing up security for wireless communication networks and recently launched an standard upgrade for electronic transaction security. On the biometric front, Bement claims his agency will announce a new standard for verifying the identity of people entering the United States by visa or those who wish to secure visas. Furthermore, NIST is collaborating with the Biometric Consortium on new standards. Other initiatives NIST is following include new standards to secure critical infrastructures such as the national power grid, which still requires software integration. Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) plans to introduce legislation that would require all agencies to follow minimum technology and security standards set up by NIST.

  • "Where Will the Dot-Com Jobs Be in 2002?"
    E-Commerce Times (01/16/02); Regan, Keith

    Challenger, Gray & Christmas recently issued a report stating that although over 100,000 dot-com jobs were lost during 2001, there should be a certain amount of job growth this year in some Internet sectors. The Internet is still expanding, and there are many still unexplored areas that will lead to new business opportunities and the job growth that automatically follows, says CEO John Challenger. Experts say the one area where there will be almost guaranteed growth will be in the field of security. The recent terrorist attacks on the United States made security the primary concern of many companies, particularly those that use the Internet to connect with partners, suppliers, and customers. Nirmal Pal, executive director of the eBusiness Research Center at Penn State University, says job creation will occur primarily in the fields of business continuity planning--i.e. planning for the possibility of another catastrophe--Internet privacy, and security. Analysts also say that each new Internet innovation will inevitably result in the development of new security risks, meaning that demand for people in the security sector will continue to grow. In a related story IDC chief research officer John Gantz says there will also be greater demand in the future for streaming media as Internet-enabled video conferences replace business travel.

  • "Europe--the Watchdog of the Net?"
    ZDNet (01/15/02); Konrad, Rachel

    The European Union is becoming more of a factor when it comes to Internet use and e-commerce initiatives. While the research firm IDC says $52 billion in Western European software sales last year represented more than 28 percent of the world market, Forrester Research says online sales in the market is on pace to reach $2.5 trillion by 2006. What is more, the adoption of the euro as a unified currency will give Europe more might to yield over the New Economy. The latest victory for European officials has been the World Trade Organization ruling that multibillion-dollar tax breaks for businesses are illegal tax breaks, which means the EU can impose $4 billion in punitive tariffs each year on imports from business such as General Electric, Boeing, and Microsoft. However, the rejection of several huge mergers, including WorldCom and Sprint, General Electric and Honeywell, and Time Warner and EMI, has more U.S. executives paying attention to European rules. While American companies are still struggling to comply with the European Data Privacy Directive, they will have to start collecting taxes on goods sold online to European consumers starting next year. Meanwhile, European officials are moving to shape global e-commerce law even further through the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments, which allows consumers to sue companies in their home country. "We're talking about a multidimensional chess board that businesses now confront when they participate in the global market," says Mark Bohannon, general counsel of the Software and Information Industry Association.

  • "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink"
    Wired News (01/17/02); Frishberg, Manny

    The handling of computer garbage was discussed at the 20th annual congress of the National Recycling Coalition, which had an estimated 1,200 attendees from local and state governments, nonprofit recycling companies, and the waste management industry. The U.S. recycling industry's workforce is virtually equal to that of the automotive industry and only slightly less than those of the food manufacturing and computer industries, according to the NRC. Obsolete computers are often dumped into landfills, where they can poison the groundwater and taint the soil. Scott Cahail of Kansas City, Missouri's Environmental Management Department said that session participants are considering the European model of computer waste management, which hands the responsibility of disposing of or recycling old computers to the manufacturers. An upfront financial incentive would encourage computer makers to make the effort, he adds. Meanwhile, the federal government is collaborating on recycling programs with private industry; one of the more successful initiatives is the Oak Ridge National Recycling Center, which has redistributed over 1,300 metric tons of electronics in the last year. Unicor remanufactures toner cartridges of equal or superior quality to current models, and sells them cheaper as well.

  • "Linux TCO '80 Per Cent Lower Than Unix'"
    VNUNet (01/17/02); Middleton, James

    A recent three-month comparison of the total cost of ownership (TCO) between Linux and Unix has found that running the Linux operating system works out as much as 80 percent cheaper than running Unix. The IDC study found that it was between 45 percent and 80 percent cheaper to run Linux on Intel than it was to run Unix on Risc. As a result, the study says that Linux has definitely developed into a solid, cost-effective substitute to Unix for enterprise computing across the extranet, intranet, internet, and collaborative workloads. However, in order to take advantage of Linux's potential, companies must pilot Linux and then work out a game plan for longer-term deployment that may include the migration of some current workloads over to re-deployed or new systems running Linux, or expanded infrastructure or application workloads supported by new systems. The study also found that obtaining benefits from Linux depends on managing expectations, careful study of where to use Linux, understanding why to use it in these roles, and monitoring the results.

  • "'Roll-Up' Transistors Set for Mass Production"
    NewsFactor Network (01/16/02); McDonald, Tim

    Rolltronics and Iowa Thin Film Technologies claim they can mass produce flexible semiconductors. Using "roll-to-roll" technology, silicon patterns are stamped on a sheet of flexible polymer being unrolled from one spool to another. The method is said to be cheaper and less environmentally hazardous than traditional semiconductor assembly processes, since fewer solvents and cleaners and more recyclable elements are involved. Products fashioned from the new technology should become commercially available in two years, according to the company. Other firms working on flexible transistors include IBM, Bell Labs, and Lucent Technologies. IBM's flexible circuits are produced by spraying organic and inorganic materials onto layers of plastic. Bell Labs has created a rubber-stamping technique to print plastic transistors onto flexible polymer as part of its initiative to manufacture flexible computer screens. And Lucent has married Bell Labs' transistors to sheets of electronic ink developed by E Ink; the result is an "electronic paper" prototype.

  • "A Cop in Every Computer"
    IP Worldwide (01/16/02); Godwin, Mike

    The content industry is pushing for an initiative to embed a system for protecting copyright in all computer hardware, software, and digital devices, as well as distribute it throughout the Internet at any point where copyright infringement could take place. The industry's technology of choice are digital watermarks that would be incorporated into all content in order to prevent its free exchange. Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who is leading the content companies' charge, says the lack of Internet copy controls threatens the very future of the industry. However, this initiative is at odds with many high-tech companies, who believe current regulations such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) are sufficient, and do not like being told how to design their products. Proposals such as Sen. Fritz Hollings' (D-S.C.) Security Systems Standards and Certification Act are being rejected by technology firms, who balk at the huge restructuring effort they would entail. Some companies are caught in the middle: AOL Time Warner, for example, has many content distributors that would no doubt support a move toward firmer copy controls, but the company and some of its cable subsidiaries prefer the DMCA. Meanwhile, IBM, Microsoft, and other technology companies are developing their own digital rights management tools, which generally use encryption rather than watermarks. A wide philosophical gulf in the way technology and content producers view their customers--the former call them "users" while the latter refer to them as "consumers"--lies at the heart of the debate over copyright controls; they go against the tech companies' credo that their products should empower people.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Your .Name Here"
    Boston Globe (01/17/02) P. E1; Bray, Hiawatha

    Dot-name is pretty cool, cooler than you can guess, and .name may one day become not just a TLD but a personal ID that lasts from birth to death, one that acts as a communications portal for an unlimited diversity of electronic devices. Although .com remains the Internet's No. 1 address, and while naming choices abound with TLDs such as .gov, .org, .us, .info, and .biz, .name makes sense because of how easy it will be to keep up with family and other contacts through .name addresses. For people who live by email, .name's cradle-to-grave usefulness extends beyond whatever job or place of residence is of the moment. Of course, .name addresses may become a sitting duck for spammers, which is why registry GNR is cooking up an email-filtering service for .name users. "We have a real shot to become the long-term universal naming system," says GNR CEO Andrew Tsai.

  • "Researchers Pursue Post-PC Future at HP Labs"
    EE Times Online (01/16/02); Merritt, Rick

    Researchers at Hewlett-Packard Labs are engaged in a variety of projects in the anticipation that computers are quickly being commoditized, while handheld gadgets will drive tomorrow's computer industry. HP Labs director Dick Lampman believes consumer systems represent "the next big opportunity." He says that high-volume technologies and general-purpose computing are coming together, and that a new generation of embedded non-general-purpose platforms is on the horizon. Lampman is also optimistic about HP's proposed merger with Compaq, despite the controversy. He thinks the lab's staff and annual budget will get a significant boost from the deal. Other engineers are also positive about the development. "I like the idea of becoming the second-largest information technology company in the world, with all the entailments that includes for innovation, reach and research," says HP's Bernardo Huberman. Among the products HP engineers are developing are magnetic RAM that could replace flash memory in certain applications in a few years; a molecular-level silicon substitute that could be available in five to 10 years; software capable of automating electronics design on the system level; and atomic-sized storage technology that could increase a chip's capacity to that of several disk drives.

  • "DVD Crypto Defendant Appeals to California Supreme Court"
    Newsbytes (01/16/02); McGuire, David

    Mathew Pavlovich, a former resident of Indiana who is being sued for taking part in an online forum dealing with the decryption of digital video discs (DVDs), recently asked the California Supreme Court to rule that he cannot be forced to stand trial in California. Pavlovich, a former student at Purdue University, is fighting a lawsuit filed against him three years ago by the movie industry-backed DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA). The association is suing Pavlovich under California trade secrets law, and in particular for helping post DVD decryption codes that could have enabled Linux users to watch DVDs on their computers. Allonn Levy, Pavlovich's lawyer, however, is arguing that Pavlovich should not have to defend himself in a California court simply because he placed information on a Web site that could be viewed by people living in that state. A number of civil liberties advocates regard this case as an important precedent in the field of cyber-jurisdiction.

    For more articles on DV court cases, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Going to the A.T.M. for More Than a Fistful of Twenties"
    New York Times (01/17/02) P. E7; Margulius, David L.

    ATM machines will shortly be able to provide greater personalization and more services than just dispensing money, thanks to an Internet-based retrofitting. In trials involving approximately 4,000 ATMs, customers are already able to obtain Web-enabled services such as coupon printing and news updates. The ATM machines are able to scan a deposited check and show the image of the check on the screen, and many of the ATM machines are also able to provide a text-to-speech synthesis for the blind. In the near future, ATM machines will also be able to offer electronic bill payments, directions, maps, sports scores, personalized stock quotes, and ticket purchasing, as well as be able to show an image of a canceled check from the customer's account. Moreover, the technology exists that would allow a customer to insert his or her card into a Web-enhanced ATM machine and get screens with that customer's preferred language, content, frequent transactions, and account information. The banks are hoping that all these services will entice customers to sign up for other financial products such as loans while they are waiting for their cash. Other improved services from Web-enabled ATMs include surveillance and maintenance, but there may be bandwidth difficulty ahead. Newer ATM machines based on Windows NT that support Java, HTML, C++, and video files are what's making the new services possible. Older ATM machines mostly use IBM's OS/2 and as a result are must harder to upgrade with new applications.

  • "Turning Script Kiddies Into Programmers"
    ZDNet (01/16/02); Vamosi, Robert

    "Script kiddie" is a mainly derogatory term referring to young people who unwittingly exploit Internet security flaws, usually using someone else's tools, writes Robert Vamosi. He notices that script kiddies with the most exposure in the press are those who commit computer crimes out of inexperience or youthful enthusiasm. Vamosi cites the teenage creators of the Goner worm, who set it loose unintentionally while using another worm created by someone else. But there are script kiddies who have turned their interest in computer security into positive results, and he lists two examples. Namit Merchant used his experience to become one of the youngest Certified Information Security Professionals in the world, while Ankit Fadia wrote a book called "The Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking." Vamosi suggests that computer professionals can take an active interest in young people in the hopes of funneling their talents into good works. Becoming involved with computer clubs at local high schools is one way to go about it, he writes.

  • "Groupthink Gets Smart"
    InformationWeek (01/14/02) No. 871, P. 38; Konicki, Steve; Greenemeier, Larry; Gonsalves, Antone

    Manufacturers are rolling out new products faster thanks to online product development. The Web-based technology enables collaboration between designers worldwide, and can reduce the time it takes to share design changes with suppliers by a third or more. As a result, manufacturers are getting quick payback and giving more responsibility to suppliers. Design-collaboration and product development-management software is on track to earn as much as $1.6 billion this year, according to Gartner research director Marc Halpern. Johnson Controls' John Waraniak says online design is "a product innovation revolution" that is supplanting face-to-face meetings. Leading design collaboration software vendors MatrixOne and Parametric Technology say the technology is expanding from the aerospace and automotive industries into the electronics, high-tech, medical equipment, and consumer packaged goods sectors. However, neither vendor is immune to the economic recession--both MatrixOne and Parametric are experiencing slowdowns in revenue growth. Still, online product development is gaining momentum, and consulting firms such as EDS are investing in collaborative design and product management services.

  • "Training: Spending to Rise for Business, Security Skills"
    Computerworld (01/14/02) Vol. 36, No. 3, P. 30; Dash, Julekha

    Although corporate budgets are tightening, IT managers are expected to spend more on IT training in 2002, compared to last year. IDC analyst Cushing Anderson says spending on corporate IT and business training is expected to increase 6.5 percent to $23.8 billion. IT managers are expected to focus most on training to improve business skills and security. David Foote, managing partner of Foote Partners, a workforce consultancy, says IT managers want IT workers to have better project management skills, which should help keep IT projects on schedule and within budget. Some managers are expected to offer more advanced and company-specific project management training than ever before. As for security training, cybersecurity and disaster recovery training are likely to be two areas of particular interest for IT managers, according to Jerry Luftman, executive director at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. The well-publicized troubles that Microsoft had with breaches in its Web servers and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have IT managers focusing in this direction. "If you're perceived as weak in security, it could affect whether people want to do business with you," says Luftman.

  • "Your Secret's Safe"
    New Scientist (01/05/02) Vol. 173, No. 2324, P. 20; Brooks, Michael

    There are various ways to keep encrypted messages private, such as public key cryptography, frequently disposed keys, and one-time pad systems; but these techniques can be complicated, impractical, or overridden by hackers or governmental authority. Harvard computer science professor Michael Rabin is working on a method that ensures absolute secrecy that anyone can use. By tapping into the deluge of data that fills the airwaves, whether delivered by satellite, mobile phone mast, Internet, or other source, users can build a key to an impenetrable code. The program would assemble the encryption key out of random bits of data. Furthermore, the transient nature of the data stream makes decoding futile, even if someone gets ahold of the key. Rabin envisions satellites that can transmit streams of random bits, and is collaborating with electrical engineer Woody Yang to design a broadcast beacon. The professor says the satellite network's enormous setup costs would be fronted by corporations that wish to use the system to hold secure business meetings. The National Security Agency is sure to be unhappy if Rabin's vision comes to pass, notes Brad Templeton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

  • "Web Tolls Ahead?"
    Technology Review (01/02) Vol. 105, No. 1, P. 20; Roush, Wade

    The World Wide Web Consortium, the MIT-based industry forum devoted to promoting interoperability, has come under heavy criticism after its Patent Policy Working Group proposed a formal policy that would allow member companies to collect licensing fees on patented technologies that get built into next-generation Web standards. The proposal drew more than 2,400 public comments, with most of the responses coming from independent software developers and open-source advocates who oppose fee-based licensing. The W3C proposal from last August is seen as an incentive to get companies to disclose up front all patents relevant to standards being developed by the working groups. "It's perfectly possible for the W3C to adopt a policy that requires their members to disclose any patent, but there's no reason why they must adopt both the defensive patent disclosure policy and the ill-considered [fee-based] scheme at the same time," says Steven Champeon of the Web Standards Project, a group that lobbies browser makers to provide uniform support for the W3C's standards. Other critics add that the policy would lead companies to create proprietary and closed software, resulting in a pay-as-you-go Web for users with higher prices or usage charges. A new draft of the proposal, which will address the concerns of critics, will be ready in the spring.

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