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Volume 4, Issue 306: Friday, February 1, 2002

  • "Report: Dot-Com Job Cuts Hit 19-Month Low"
    E-Commerce Times (01/31/02); Regan, Keith

    Dot-com layoffs experienced a 25 percent decline between December and January, reaching their lowest point since June 2000, according to a study from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Job cuts have been shrinking since June of last year, although there was an upturn in October as a result of the Sept. 11 tragedy. CEO John A. Challenger contends that dot-coms have passed the bulk of the shakeout period, and are now cutting jobs to streamline their operations and become more efficient. Some 144,242 dot-com positions have been eliminated since December 1999, according to the outplacement firm. Most of the layoffs took place between October 2000 and July 2001. Challenger, Gray and Christmas reports that the technology industry let 1,079 employees go in January, followed by the consumer services sector (492 cuts), e-tail (121), Web portals (95), and Internet media (15). Challenger expects the dot-com market to stabilize, but job growth is likely to take longer. "The real job growth is happening in the back rooms of traditional companies all over the country," he says.

  • "DVD Hacker Vows to Keep Challenging Ruling"
    Reuters (01/30/02); Zeidler, Sue

    Eric Corley, the 2600 magazine publisher whose attempts to post DVD descrambling software online were muzzled by a court order, says he will continue to fight the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). He claims the law gives copyright holders an unprecedented amount of control over the distribution of digital content, while simultaneously taking away citizens' free speech rights on the Internet. Corley's lawyers have requested a rehearing by New York's Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and vow that they are prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court if their request is denied. Corley cites the arrest of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and the recent indictment of DeCSS code creator Jon Johansen as further cases warranted by the DMCA. "This kind of thing will happen more and more frequently which is why, no matter what, we are obligated to put as much effort as we can into overturning this massive mistake," he declares.
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  • "IT Industry Buoyed by Bush Address, Senate Action"
    Computerworld Online (01/30/02); Thibodeau, Patrick

    The high-tech industry received a confidence boost by President Bush from several references he made in his State of the Union address. His call for more security could translate into more federal spending in that sector, while Bush specifically said more technology needs to be recruited in the effort to secure national borders. The president also urged Congress to pass "fast-track" trade promotion authority, which technology groups say would help eliminate duties and constraints that are dulling the competitive edge of American companies. Overseas sales account for about half of the high-tech sector's revenues. Moreover, Bush restated his approval of the economic stimulus package, which includes a 30 percent accelerated depreciation bonus that is of prime importance to the tech industry, according to Ralph Hellman of the Information Technology Industry Council. The bonus, which the Senate approved on Tuesday, enables businesses to make bigger write-offs on equipment and software buys. Bush made no references to broadband, despite a major lobbying effort by top industry CEOs. A knowledgeable source says the White House is still considering the issue.

  • "Mobile Workforce Grows, Security Fears Persist--Study"
    Newsbytes (01/31/02); Bartlett, Michael

    A recent study by Cahners In-Stat/MDR indicates that the remote and mobile workforce is burgeoning. The percentage of remote or mobile staff in large companies (more than 100 employees) and small businesses (less than 100) this year will respectively be 55 percent and 63 percent, according to the report. However, more large companies offer remote access to their workers because they have the means and the manpower to do so, says Cahners director Kneko Burney. The study names email as the most frequently used form of mobile access. "Workers are going to telecommute, and businesses will set up remote offices, regardless of the economy," Burney postulates. "Businesses will do it to be competitive and to better reach customers." However, security issues remain one of the largest barriers to adoption, Burney notes; it is even easier to hack wireless connections and intercept critical data than it is with wired connections. The technical limits of wireless devices are another obstacle: Most can carry out short messaging services or transmit email, but they have difficulty accessing spreadsheets and other business planning applications.

  • "Valley Group's Growth Reflects Immigrants' Gains in Tech Industries"
    SiliconValley.com (01/31/02); Liu, Marian

    The Silicon Valley Chinese American Business Association is testament to the tremendous progress that the Chinese American minority has made in the tech industry over the last few decades. Its membership comprises 400 local companies, and hundreds more in Los Angeles, Canada, and on the East Coast. Other members include some 10,000 international businesses, with a heavy concentration in the Asia-Pacific region. Many U.S. members are Chinese immigrants, like chairman Saul Yeung, who turned building computers for his friends into a healthy business. The association was formed to help growing businesses in the Chinese American community weed out customers with bad credit. Today, the organization "is a bridge of Chinese-Americans in high tech with high-tech government officials in mainland China,'' says association vice chair Michael Chen. Yeung believes the association is successful because it integrates business principles from both China and the United States. The Bay Area members alone have a combined annual revenue of $70 billion.

  • "Is Tech Making a Comeback in Your City?"
    ZDNet (01/28/02); Dignan, Larry

    Employment at U.S. high-tech hubs will recover at different rates in 2002, according to analysts. Economy.com forecasts that the San Francisco area's employment numbers will continue to decline for the first half of 2002 and then remain flat until the end of the year. Other technology centers focused on the PC and semiconductor industries should fare better because those sectors seem to be showing signs of a turnaround. James Lucier, a Prudential Securities economist, says those sectors will likely lead a technology rebound while other sectors such as telecommunications will remain depressed. Portland, Ore., home of Intel, AMD, and Hynix fabrication plants, will post gains in 2002, as will Austin, Texas, where Dell is based. Economy.com says the Washington, D.C., region will benefit from increased defense spending, deferring the impact on telecommunications companies PSINet and WorldCom's MCI. Software will be another area that should provide stability and some growth, making Microsoft home Seattle and Red Hat's Raleigh safe havens for tech workers.

  • "Shrinking the Cellular Phone, One Component at a Time"
    New York Times (01/31/02) P. E7; Austen, Ian

    Replacing passive components in wireless phones with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) could be the key to reducing their size while cutting down on interference and signal loss. MEMS-based filters have a higher level of selectivity than those based on surface acoustic wave devices (SAW's). This in turn reduces amplification and power requirements for cell phones, thus allowing them to be simplified, says Clark T.-C. Nguyen of the University of Michigan. MEMS devices are many times smaller than SAW's, and can take a lot of abuse, he adds. Dicera, a company co-founded by Nguyen, is attempting to commercialize his MEMS resonator. "In theory, it's possible that wireless phones could become a ring that you put on your finger," Nguyen boasts. Meanwhile, Agilent Technologies is working on a film bulk acoustic resonator. William Mueller of Agilent says that manufacturers of gadgets for wireless communications are particularly interested in the technology, and believes that the integration of MEMS devices with phone electronics in an individual unit will be an important step toward super-small cell phones.
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  • "Choosing Enlightenment Over Ignorance"
    IT-Director.com (01/28/02)

    One of the most sought-after IT skills in the coming years will be those of knowledge workers that can transform a company's data and information into knowledge that is accessible and useful at every level of the enterprise. Already, companies are beginning to implement enterprise information portals that gather this information in a useful manner, but more managers will be needed to upkeep these content management systems. These people should have deep insight into the company's direction and be able to provide executives and board members with a clear vision of where the company would best be headed. Often, a person in this position is not the IT director, but someone who helps set the course of the company by enabling the data/information/knowledge transformation process. One recent Accenture report showed how companies that highly value such knowledge workers are more successful than those that do not. The key is to retrain IT workers and a foster a culture of innovation and knowledge sharing so that IT drives the enterprise and not the other way around.

  • "State, Local Tech Spending Off"
    Washington Post (01/31/02) P. E5; Merle, Renae

    Despite increased federal technology spending to fight the war on terror, government technology vendors are hurting as state and local spending has been cut back due to the weak economy. Government technology research firm Federal Sources has lowered its forecast from $43.1 billion to be spent in 2003 to $41.7 billion, said president James A. Kane. The National Association of State Budget Officers says that 40 states predict a combined $40 billion in budget shortfalls for fiscal year 2002. Arizona CIO Richard Zelznak expects some of the $1 billion that needs to be cut from his state's $7 billion budget to come from technology initiatives, although he says many large projects will still continue. Even if main technology initiatives in California are not targeted, says CIO Elias Cortez, technology programs in individual departments could be rendered useless if certain functions of the department are cut back. However, one area that is sure to do well is security: The National Association of State Chief Information Officers is going ahead with a plan to centralize computer security data from all the states, but will ask for some federal support, especially if the program reaches down to the county and city level.

  • "Where Hackers Teach the Art of Self-Defense"
    Los Angeles Times Online (01/29/02); Carpenter, Susan

    "Gray hat" hackers in Paris have established a school to teach personal computer users how to protect themselves from the security problems of the Internet. The Hackademy has become so popular that there are plans to teach courses in English, as well as to set up Hackademies in Spain and Israel. However, there are no plans to expand into the United States, where the Digital Millennium Copyright Act scrutinizes those who break into systems without permission or teach people how to do so. The gray hats--hackers who "do not do evil things"--who teach at the Hackademy say home computer users need to be more concerned about the Web and how it exposes their computers to all kinds of risks. The school offers courses in basic vocabulary, introductory hacking techniques, and how to secure Web sites and email to beginners, and makes classes on network vulnerabilities, exploiting network protocol, and intruding systems available to advanced students. Although it is understandable for large corporations to invest in computer security courses, Bruce Schneier, chief technical officer of Cupertino, Counterpane Internet Security, says there is no reason for the layperson to take such courses. He adds that people who are concerned about computer security should hire an expert, using the analogy that a person who is sick does not need to take classes at a medical school. The European Union is looking to create a law similar to the DMCA in the near future, and this could pose some problems for the Hackademy.

  • "Senator Pushes for Stronger Cybersecurity"
    IDG News Service (01/29/02); Costello, Sam

    Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) presented two cybersecurity bills Monday aimed at boosting government computer security and security-related education. If the Cybersecurity Preparedness Act of 2002 becomes law, it will establish a not-for-profit consortium of security experts who will develop a set of best practices. Those practices would first be applied to computers in the government sector and later targeted to the private sector. The bill may also require contractors who receive government funding to implement those best practices. Such a law should increase overall software security, predicts Alan Paller of the SANS Institute. Another bill, the Cybersecurity Research and Education Act of 2002, intends to provide educational opportunities for security specialists. The bill would offer fellowships to Ph.D. students in cybersecurity while the Distinguished Faculty Sabbatical Program would fund new projects and promote collaboration among researchers. A virtual university for cybersecurity training would also be developed.

  • "Government, Big Business Battling Another Foe--Liberty"
    SiliconValley.com (01/30/02); Gillmor, Dan

    SiliconValley columnist Dan Gillmor is perturbed that major corporations and the government seem set on stripping away American citizens' right to privacy. The corporate sector desires surveillance to keep track of consumers' spending habits, while the Sept. 11 disaster has sparked a federal fever to boost monitoring to ensure security. A proposal from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to create a national ID system based on driver's licenses is a particularly bad idea, Gillmor writes. The ID would likely be embedded with biometric identifiers and personal information, such as Social Security numbers, he postulates. "The lesson of Social Security--turning a retirement plan into a de facto national ID--tells us that such an ID would be misused, because the incentive to turn it into something larger would be irresistible," Gillmor writes. He doubts such abuses would be outlawed, since industries are keeping the government in their corner through campaign contributions, which Gillmor calls "legal bribes." To add insult to injury, he notes that taxpayers would have to shell out $100 million just to get the driver's license-based ID system off the ground.

  • "Has Internet Phone Service Come of Age?"
    International Herald Tribune (01/28/02) P. 11; Spurgeon, Brad

    Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) is taking off as companies realize cost savings after implementing the technology. Especially in Asia, where long-distance costs more than in Europe and North America, VoIP, which sends voice data over the Internet, is an attractive alternative to traditional phone systems. New VoIP technologies allow companies to keep their existing phone networks and end-user equipment, but supplement them with VoIP as well through gateways and "soft" switches. Although the technology downturn has hit some Internet telephony companies hard, experts say the foundation of basic VoIP telephony services could lead to more lucrative multimedia services in the future, such as instant messaging, videoconferencing, and email. Avaya's Karyn Mashima says companies are adopting the technology partially in order to guarantee the reliability of their phone systems, but also to capitalize on the cost savings aspects of VoIP. Although VoIP has made significant advances in terms of quality and reliability, it still is not as fail-safe as traditional networks, she notes.

  • "New Way to Work"
    InformationWeek (01/28/02) No. 873, P. 42; Ricadela, Aaron; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

    Emerging office technologies being researched in the laboratories of technology and office-equipment firms are starting to interest IT management. These technologies are being influenced by trends such as increased collaboration and concentration, and responsibility for more information. BlueSpace from IBM and Steelcase could foster collaboration without sacrificing personal privacy: The prototype cubicle is equipped with sensors that can control lighting and temperature, as well as alert workers that a colleague is available--or unavailable. Other collaborative features include a projector that displays documents onto surfaces. Meanwhile, Microsoft Research software architect Gary Starkweather is exploring the possibilities of a large computer display to enhance meetings; his concept includes microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) that yield good image quality, and a software controller that inputs data from multiple computers into shared output. Other meeting enhancements from Microsoft include forthcoming Tablet PCs that read speech and handwriting, and an omnidirectional digital camera/microphone combination that can benefit from cheap components and storage. Also under development at Microsoft is MindNet, a sophisticated database designed to learn relationships and draw conclusions using common sense; the potential applications include more precise Internet searches and language translations. Digital rights management is also taking hold in the office, but technologies must mature before they can take advantage of this trend.

  • "Transforming the Datacenter"
    InfoWorld (01/28/02) Vol. 24, No. 4, P. 34; Neel, Dan

    Forthcoming server blade products from IBM, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and others promise to restructure the computer data center. In addition to saving companies space and power, server blades clear the way for the convergence of all network and database elements, according to Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. The current architecture consists of multitiered server networks divided into front-end servers, application servers, database servers, and storage; the transformed data center will be a single rack of dense, interchangeable server blades. This week, Compaq introduced its ProLiant BL blades, while IBM's Brendan Paget says the company is developing blades to handle hardware and software applications. Both companies plan to expand the reach of server blade architecture into the database. Meanwhile, HP will debut blades for storage, switching, and network management in a few weeks. However, interchangeable blades will not become a reality until providers can settle on a standard for server blade backplanes, according to Gartner research director John Enck, who predicts a standards battle over the next year and a half. HP plans to lead the charge for this standard through its "Blade Program," which advocates basing server-blade architectures on the Compact-PCI and NEBS standards.

  • "Surviving the Pink Slip"
    Computerworld (01/28/02) Vol. 36, No. 5, P. 30; Melymuka, Kathleen

    Layoffs in the high-tech sector are teaching hard lessons to IT professionals struggling to get by or find new jobs. Marguerite Payne, who lost her job as a program manager at License Online, blames ageism and precise skill requirements as reasons why she was passed up for many jobs. She values networking above all else, saying that contacts are more important than skills when it comes to securing a job; all the same, she views her current position as uncertain. Losing his job at Motley Fool taught software developer Stephan Koledin that skepticism is a healthy thing. Optimistic financial aspects do not always reflect the truth, he explains, adding that he finds targeting specific employers to be more effective than casting a wide net via headhunters and job-search engines. Getting laid off in a corporate restructuring gave Richard Wren the opportunity to reevaluate his career path: He decided to seek a position that allowed him to use both his naturalist skills and his IT management knowledge, thus giving him more personal satisfaction. His advice is, "If you're a tech person and want to continue to be, the key is to be closer to the real work, not just management."
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  • "Taming the Wild West"
    Internet World (01/02) Vol. 8, No. 1, P. 56; Wallraff, Dean

    Although largely decentralized administration and operation, and open, non-proprietary standards are the kinds of technical features that enable the Internet's widescale use, such a design prevents the technology from gaining the security that is needed today, writes security consultant Dean Wallraff. In order to make the network more secure, new standard applications are needed, based on input from public debate and consensus. Mandatory authentication, where participants are required to have Net accounts, is a model for a more secure Internet that could work by dividing the Internet into three zones: The government/industrial zone, the commerce zone, and the public zone. The government/industrial zone, heavily authenticated and controlled, would be accessible to governments and large corporations; only countries that have tough cybercrime laws would have access to it. The commerce zone, using similar technology, would be open to businesses and individuals willing to sign usage agreements and verify their identities; this would make the Internet safer for e-commerce. The public zone would be nothing more than today's Internet, with a few technical and regulatory changes to give users the privacy and anonymity they need to feel comfortable using the network. Dividing the Internet into three zones would require a government/industrial ISP for government/industrial accounts, a commercial ISP for commercial accounts, and a public ISP for public accounts. As for GOVNET, such a government-only TCP/IP network is unlikely to work because it would not offer enough security.

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