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Volume 4, Issue 321: Monday, March 11, 2002

  • "Women in Tech Scrutinize Fiorina's Struggle"
    SiliconValley.com (03/09/02); Quinn, Michelle

    Other women executives in Silicon Valley tech firms are watching Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina closely as she defends her plan to merge with Compaq. Although all agree the specific issue of the merger should be discussed on business merit, rather than Fiorina's gender, some say it does have implications for businesswomen in general. A recent Fast Company feature put the question plainly with its headline, "What if Carly were a man?" ProdexNet President Sujatha Bodapati says part of the controversy and resistance to Fiorina is because of her outsider status; she was appointed in 1999 as the first Hewlett-Packard CEO picked up from outside of the company. Others say her aggressive style of leadership is seen as unfitting for a woman, whereas men are afforded that quality freely. Forum for Women Entrepreneurs CEO Denise Brosseau says Fiorina's status in Silicon Valley and her current testing is important to the perception of women as capable business leaders.

    To learn more about ACM's Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "Tiny Technologies Slip Unseen Into Daily Life"
    New York Times (03/11/02) P. C1; Feder, Barnaby J.

    Nanotechnologies are already entering the commercial market as enhancements to existing products. Growth in the area was described in the most recent report on the sector, made by Spanish research firm CMP Cientifica, as "a snapshot of an explosion." Pure nanocomponents are still in the nascent commercial stage, but estimates have put the sale of materials employing nanotechnology at $26.5 billion for 2001. General Motors, for example, has begun using super-strong nano-composites in optional running boards for its family vans. One medical aid products manufacturer, Smith & Nephew, has begun selling wound dressing materials laced with silver nanocrystals that both kill microbes and lessen inflammation. Despite the opportunities in the area, investors are having a hard time deciphering the science and choosing which companies to go with. In addition, many nanotechnology applications require huge capital investments that only large companies can afford. Some smaller companies are getting around that barrier by licensing technology along with selling commercial products, and using nanotechnology to enhance existing technologies. NanoOpto, for example, is putting nanoscale filters and light manipulating devices on traditional silicon wafers used in telecommunications.
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  • "Embedded System Conference to Highlight Unique Capabilities of Non-PC Devices"
    InfoWorld.com (03/07/02); Schwartz, Ephraim

    Embedded systems developers have announced many new applications for non-PC devices for the Embedded Systems Conference next week. One of the most interesting is a USB chip from TransDimension that will allow devices such as cell phones, CD/DVD players, MP3 players, digital cameras, and the like to transfer data directly, without having to go through a PC intermediary. The company says the cable solution will be much faster than Bluetooth and work with common USB standards. Currently, there are more than 1 billion USB devices, according to the company. Cirrus Logic says it will unveil software and embedded chips for MP3 devices that will allow users to listen to their new CDs even as they download the songs onto their portable devices. The listen-as-you-download solution will work with new digital rights management technologies being developed by the recording industry. A multitude of vendors are preparing technologies that will link embedded systems to the Internet for applications such as local and remote administration. One manufacturer, CMX Systems, is developing software that will Internet-enable 8-bit devices; the technology has already been endorsed by companies making refrigerators and even milking machines for dairies.

  • "Researcher Sees Security Risk in Computer's Glow"
    Computerworld Online (03/08/02); Sullivan, Brian

    University of Cambridge doctoral student Markus Kuhn has written a paper stating that reflected light from a CRT computer screen can, under the right conditions, be measured and used to reproduce the CRT display. This can be accomplished by studying the light bouncing off a user's face or the wall behind the user, provided it is illuminated from 50 meters away. A filter or light collector can be used to capture screen shots, as Kuhn and his team demonstrate in the paper. However, there are limitations: The room in which the user is working must be darkened for the method to work, though Kuhn postulates that the presence of fluorescent lights may not inhibit the technique, since they tend to flicker regularly. He adds that a hacker would only be able to catch a limited amount of data this way, and would probably prefer more direct forms of electronic intrusion. Kuhn says this technique represents no significant threat to the general population of computer users, but suggests that organizations that rely on highly sensitive information should prepare for such a possibility. Kuhn will release his paper at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in May.

  • "The BT Group Stakes a Patent Claim on Hyperlinking"
    New York Times (03/11/02) P. C4; Flynn, Laurie J.

    British Telecommunications (BT) claims that it owns the patent on the 13-year-old technology of hyperlinking, or linking Web pages through text. Officials say the ownership stems from its patent on the Hidden Page technology, uncovered during a portfolio review in 2000. An attempt to have ISPs license the hyperlinking technology proved unsuccessful, so BT sued Prodigy, the first commercial ISP, in December 2000. Federal District Judge Colleen McMahon in White Plains, NY, the site of Prodigy's original headquarters, will make a preliminary ruling soon; meanwhile, a trial has been scheduled for Sept. 15. At a hearing last month, McMahon stressed that the gap between when the patent was filed (1976) and when it was granted (1989), and the state of modern computing today might make its application difficult to prove. If the judge ultimately rules in favor of BT, the ISPs' licensing costs could trickle down to consumers. But critics claim there is evidence that hyperlink technology predates BT's patent application, such as within the NLS system demonstrated by Douglas C. Engelbart in 1968. Five years before that British computer scientist Ted Nelson invented the term "hypertext." Meanwhile, hyperlinking legal issues continue to surface, often involving cases where users are sent via hyperlinks to other Web sites without that site's permission, or to Web sites that contain copyrighted content.
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  • "Tools to Protect...Against Future Threats"
    Wall Street Journal (03/11/02) P. R10; Berman, Dennis K.

    The Homeland Security Office is in the process of deciding on a set of new technologies that could help save the country from future terrorist attacks. In all, President Bush has allocated $38 billion for the effort, prompting a flood of offerings from technology providers of all stripes, including proposals for solutions such as environmental-sensing chip networks that could give authorities immediate alerts to threats such as fires, earth tremors, and airborne pathogens. Biometric security is a looming topic for security, with proposals for all types of identification schemes that supposedly could not be bypassed by terrorists. But critics point out that facial recognition scanning technology would identify 700 people as suspects on an average day at Newark International Airport, even with a scant 1 percent failure rate to correctly identify people. High-tech security solutions have already been deployed for testing, such as the handheld computers that security officers carry at Boston's Logan International Airport that can be used to access the FBI's criminal database through a wireless link. Eventually such networks would provide access to other databases, including those of biometric information such as fingerprints.

  • "Sniffing Chip Is in the Wind"
    NewsFactor Network (03/08/02); Lyman, Jay

    UK scientists at the universities of Leicester, Warwick, and Edinburgh are engaged in a three-year project to produce a sensor-on-a-chip that functions in a similar manner to the human olfactory system. "The system mimics the delivery process of getting chemicals to the sensitive parts of the nose in order to detect them, as well as the processing of sensory information...by neurons in the central nervous system," explains Tim Pearce of the University of Leicester. University of Warwick engineering professor Julian Gardner says the chips, also known as "micro-noses," will be designed using nanotechnology and polymer physics. Meanwhile, the University of Edinburgh's Alister Hamilton is working on a way to integrate the sensor array onto a single silicon semiconductor, and notes that his team is developing low-power analog circuits that will plug into the array and transmit signals to more analog circuits. He adds that the team is following a biological model of parallel analog computation instead of digital processing, and using analog circuits in the hopes of saving energy. Unlike more conventional electronic noses, the nose-on-a-chip's neuromorphic framework improves the device's sensitivity to odor molecules. Pearce believes the technology could be used to sniff out land mines, detect disease in humans, monitor air pollution levels, and analyze food.

  • "Hackers' Next Target? Cell Phones"
    SiliconValley.com (03/10/02); Krane, Jim

    Hackers will soon be targeting cell phones as more sophisticated operating systems and new capabilities are built into mobile devices, predict computer security experts. For now, warns F-Secure CTO Ari Hypponen, platforms are too diverse and the user base for smart phones is too small for hackers to see it as a promising challenge. But companies making software for handhelds, such as Palm and Microsoft, have warned of viruses and trojan code targeting their products, which are being incorporated into newer smart phones. Older phones that are not connected to the Internet and able to receive downloads are much more secure, and the United States has not seen any significant cell phone hacking because Americans are stuck with outdated mobile technology. Hackers in Japan have caused disruptions in the national emergency phone line there by sending Internet links to users who inadvertently download a virus on their mobile. Short message service users in Europe have had their phones crashed by small bits of code sent to them, requiring them to power down and reboot.

  • "Reversible Computing Could Pinpoint Network Congestion"
    EE Times (03/05/02); Johnson, R. Colin

    An assistant professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is working on reversible computer algorithms that can speed network simulations by six times and reveal the exact causes of network congestion. For the first part of his research, Christopher Carothers will create a million-node network simulator by reversing the computational process of traditional simulators, which have been regulated to just about 150,000 nodes. In doing so, Carothers expects to lay down the fundamentals of this new computing process so he can build an entirely reversible simulation, a goal still about two years out. Normal network simulations track bottlenecks using forward processing, then have to use stored data to compute backwards to the bottleneck. Administrators then use guesswork to tweak network design until they find something near optimal performance. Reverse simulation, in contrast, would not have to use any residual data and instead rely on completely reversible computation that would lead directly to the point of congestion. Network researchers would have a more comprehensive view of the network traffic with reverse simulations as well, helping them to craft better fixes, says Carothers.

  • "'Poor-Friendly' Simputer Set for May Rollout"
    Reuters (03/06/02); Daga, Anshuman

    A $250 handheld computer that runs on the free Linux operating system will be available to poor rural Indian users starting in May, according to Encore Software CEO Vinay Deshpande. The Simputer (simple, interactive, multilingual) could help spread computer penetration among two-thirds of India's population, which numbers one billion people. The device features speech recognition technology that could help illiterate people translate English and regional languages, while farmers could get a jump on commodity prices. The Simputer connects to the Internet and can support multiple users through a smart card interface. The device was co-developed by the nonprofit Simputer Trust and a group of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Deshpande says that Encore expects to have 50,000 Simputers produced in the first year and 500,000 in the next couple of years, adding that health care and cooperative banking firms have placed orders for 1,000 units.
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  • "Apple's OS X: What Linux Wants to Be?"
    NewsFactor Network (03/07/02); Weisman, Robyn

    Apple's OS X is in direct competition to its open-source cousin, Linux, on the desktop market as each struggle to claim the second-place prize for most viable desktop operating system after Windows. The competition is not going to be fierce, according to many analysts, because Apple has sequestered itself onto a proprietary hardware platform that proves a hindrance to many consumers already tied to the Microsoft PC system. Switching over to Mac OS X involves a complete change in hardware, not just software. Linux, on the other hand, is successful on the enterprise level, but lacks the finesse of Mac OS X's user interface. "Until a single standard GUI and a strong office suite exist and are packaged by a large vendor, Linux on the desktop is still destined to remain a favorite only for developers and other technical aficionados," says the Yankee Group's Neal Goldman. At least one analyst, Aberdeen Group's Bill Claybrook, says Linux is likely to take over every realm previously dominated by UNIX systems by 2008 or 2009.

  • "This Is a Real Quest for Maps"
    Wired News (03/07/02); Mayfield, Kendra

    Cartography Associates President David Rumsey decided to put his collection of 150,000 19th and 20th century maps on the Internet instead of donating it to the Library of Congress. The site offers free access to the maps using a GIS-based browser Rumsey developed using visualization software from Telemorphic. In addition to search, zoom, pan, and printing capabilities, users can overlay multiple historical maps with up-to-date features and information using the GIS browser. These customized maps can also be saved and printed so that users can use them to track historical, cultural, or demographic shifts in geographic areas. Rumsey says he made GIS freely available over the Internet in order to "keep access open and free" to his collection, and plans to have 500 historical maps available in GIS by the end of 2002. Meanwhile, he expects to have 50,000 maps digitized in the next five years. There are currently over 6,500 high-resolution digital images scanned into Rumsey's archive, supplemented with modern geospatial data via rectification. 3D visualization capabilities will eventually be incorporated into the maps.

  • "Analysts: Apple's in LCD Squeeze"
    ZDNet (03/06/02); Wilcox, Joe; Kanellos, Michael

    Analysts say Apple's inability to meet surging demand for its new iMac computers is going to hinder Windows-Intel users from switching platforms, although an order backlog probably will not affect loyal Mac enthusiasts. The 15-inch LCD monitor the iMac ships with is the source of the problem. Last year, the market for LCDs doubled, and similar growth is expected this year, according to Stanford Research. Making the problem worse are the high standards necessary for the iMac flat-panel display, which further limits the sources from which the company can get more monitors. Analysts had expected Apple to ship 200,000 new iMacs by the end of the second quarter, but March will have to see a huge influx of shipments for that to happen. Still, NPD Intelect analyst Stephen Baker says the revolutionary industrial design makes the iMac a contender in the market, even as comparable flat-panel PC systems sell for about $300 less.

  • "IT Star Power"
    CIO (03/01/02) Vol. 15, No. 10, P. 38; Berkman, Eric

    I.c. stars is a nonprofit program based in Chicago that offers inner-city students between the ages 18 and 25 the opportunity to learn skills that could land them high-level IT jobs. Organized and run by social worker Leslie Beller and alternative educator Sandee Kastrul, the program counts Intrinsic, Lante, and Verizon Wireless among its benefactors. Students are organized into classes of 10 and exposed to project simulations for 80 hours a week; courses last 90 days. Students learn the tricks of corporate leadership and survival along with IT competence. For instance, in addition to learning how to complete projects on time and on budget, they can gain insight on social protocols at meetings with leading executives. Beller says that 40 percent of I.c. stars' graduates have secured high-level consulting and development positions at Arthur Andersen, CNA Insurance, Spirian Technologies, and other companies. Other graduates are pursuing a college education.

  • "All Charged Up Again"
    InformationWeek (03/04/02) No. 878, P. 43; Kontzer, Tony; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

    The U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates almost 300,000 defections in the IT workforce in the last year, sparked by the economic recession as well as by employees' unfulfilled desires to have meaningful careers. But some IT professionals say their passion has been rekindled by the events of Sept. 11, the aftermath of which has shown how important IT can be for the nation's security and well-being. Former IRS CIO Paul Cosgrave decided to funnel his IT skills into a project at the U.S. Transportation Department that aims to improve airport security. Meanwhile, KPMG Consulting managing director Darryl Moody wants to work on another Transportation Department initiative to build an infrastructure for the Transportation Security Administration, one that would enable information sharing with law enforcement officials and other outside parties. Special agent Andrew Black of the FBI notes that recruiters are seeing more interest from IT professionals who are both patriotic and searching for better job security. However, Moody warns that commercial IT professionals who transition to government positions may find themselves slowed down by the bureaucratic process or alternately under high pressure to work faster. IT workers who may not want permanent government jobs may also have the opportunity to make a difference in the short term, through organizations such as a proposed national corps of IT volunteers that would help fix infrastructure problems during a crisis. Another possibility is a proposed program in which private- and public-sector IT managers can swap jobs for a few years.

  • "Nano Futures"
    Network World (03/04/02) Vol. 19, No. 9, P. 45; Gaspar, Suzanne

    Nanotechnology often prompts discussion of futuristic applications such as microcomputers that are more powerful than today's bulky devices and atmospheric wireless sensor networks. The difference between reality and predictions, says Hewlett-Packard researcher R. Stanley Williams, director of Quantum Science Research, is whether a nanotechnology application is active or passive. Passive applications, such as material enhancers, already exist, but scientists are still working on ways to build usable nano-size circuitry. Currently, research is focused on self-arranging molecules that would automatically build usable nano-size structures that could then be assembled in a manufacturing process. At the recent Nanotech Planet Conference and Expo, boosters predicted nanotechnology used to make terabyte storage devices on the molecular level within 10 years. Keynote speaker M.C. Roco, who heads a Nanotechnology Science and Technology Council subcommittee, says the federal government this year is spending $570 million on nanotechnology, up 35 percent from last year.

  • "Nanotech Dreams"
    Scientist (03/04/02) Vol. 16, No. 5, P. 34; Perkel, Jeffrey M.

    Most nanotechnology projects are still in the development phase, but increases in federal funding, more advanced technologies, and knowledgeable scientists have helped popularize the science. At the same time, experts hold conflicting views of what kinds of nanotech applications are and are not possible. Diagnostic and therapeutic technologies are likely to benefit the most from nanotech in the short term: Devices based on cantilever deflection, nanoparticle probes, and denser microarrays are examples of the former, while internal drug delivery systems that are keyed to specific cells or tissues are an example of the latter. Other nanoscale therapeutic applications include water filtration and implantable cells resistant to immune rejection. Nanotech is already significantly impacting molecular research; for instance, it allows scientists to study individual molecules rather than aggregations. Experts are split on the feasibility of nanorobots--some say such a goal is reachable, while others argue that the technical challenges are insurmountable. Such challenges include embedding on-board intelligence, sensors, motion control, and functionality in a device no bigger than a human cell. Progress is being made in the construction of a nanoscale propulsion system from biological elements, as well as nanofabrication. However, the need for real-world interfaces to nanoscale devices may pull such devices out of the nanoscale realm, although microscale devices could incorporate nanotechnology.
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  • "Putting Voice into Wireless Communications"
    IT Professional (02/02) Vol. 4, No. 1, P. 62; Srisa-an, Witawas; Dan Lo, Chia-Tien; Chang, J. Morris

    VoiceXML is emerging as a voice markup language that could be used by PDAs, telephones, and desktop PCs to facilitate Web-based applications that incorporate speech recognition and dual-tone, multifrequency (DTMF) key input. The language, based on XML, utilizes speech-to-text (STT) for inputs and text-to-speech (TTS) for outputs. VoiceXML assists in the streamlined creation and delivery of customizable voice response services, the enablement of phone and voice access for integrated call centers, company intranets, and Web sites, and the plugging in of new voice-capable products. Voice queries are sent through an implementation platform--mobile phone, PDA, PC, etc.--to the VoiceXML gateway, which carries out the query through STT conversion. The response generated by the document server goes through the gateway, and is converted from text to speech by the VoiceXML interpreter. The gateway handles the speech recognition process, rather than the mobile device, thus affording more power and memory, and multi-platform availability. A voice-enabled ISP can be set up using a dial-up gateway capable of STT and TTS and a VoiceXML generator for Web server integration or collaboration.

  • "Intellectual-Property Ecology"
    Technology Review (03/02) Vol. 105, No. 2, P. 87; Shulman, Seth

    The "Conference on the Public Domain" at Duke University last November could serve as a turning point in the debate over intellectual property. Until now, various groups have always approached intellectual property issues from their own, separate agendas. However, experts at the conference encouraged those in attendance to envision their efforts to balance the private and public needs of intellectual property with those who were determined to improve the condition of the environment in the 1960s. The speakers suggested that conservation groups never saw water pollution, overpopulation, the misuse of pesticides, and other issues as part of the same problem until the first "Earth Day" in 1970. The Duke Law School meeting has the potential to do the very same thing for the various groups that are concerned about "the public domain," and how it applies to intellectual-property law, technology, and social practice. Members of the open-source movement attended the conference, as did first-amendment and copyright lawyers, academic scientists, biomedical experts, and even compilation artists who were concerned about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Whether the parties were concerned about "business method" patents, proprietary interests, secrecy, material transfer agreements, licensing arrangements, the sharing of research materials and results, or the DMCA, the experts tried to show the groups that they really have common interests. Still, only time will tell how the various interests will come together in an organized movement on intellectual property rights.

    For information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP.

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