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Volume 4, Issue 323: Friday, March 15, 2002

  • "Tech Execs Oppose Anti-Piracy Plan"
    ZDNet (03/14/02); Bowman, Lisa M.

    Technology executives including Intel CEO Craig Barrett and Excite co-founder Joe Kraus are lobbying Congress to not pass measures that would require tech companies to install anti-copying technology in their electronic products, as per Hollywood studios' wishes. The Security Systems Standards and Certification Act would not only make such deployment a requirement, but would prohibit consumers from removing the safeguards. The executives made their case at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday. Barrett says the IT industry has been addressing Hollywood's concerns for over six years, and has made technological progress. But he argued that screening the Internet for illegally copied works is unworkable and should not be the responsibility of tech companies. Kraus represented the voice of DigitalConsumer.org, an organization dedicated to notifying consumers of industry efforts to impinge on their rights to share and distribute digitized content. Meanwhile, Recording Industry Association of America CEO Hilary Rosen argued in writing that digital piracy threatens consumers, and that legislation is badly needed. She wrote, "We fear that the marketplace may not be working to provide the incentives necessary for the development of such standards and to restore an appropriate level of effective protection for creative works."

  • "Should Geeks, or Governments, Run the Net?"
    Washington Post (03/14/02) P. E1; Krim, Jonathan

    With the evolution of the Internet into a global force permeating much of commerce and daily life, issues of Internet governance have evolved from technical questions involving protocol parameters and root servers to issues involving who should be allowed to register or sell domain names, what rules should surround domain name registration, and how the Internet should be run in general. Recently, ICANN President M. Stuart Lynn proposed that ICANN jettison public representation, define itself as a body responsible for more than just technical issues, and invite world governments to join. Considering that the Internet was created and nursed forward by a technical community that wanted the Internet to remain free from governmental influence, Lynn's proposal has gone off like a bombshell. Although Lynn has spent his professional career running the University of California's computer systems and ICANN Chairman Vinton Cerf is a computer scientist, ICANN itself has a board structure similar to a corporation, with members ranging from elected representatives to directors from Japan, South Korea, Ghana, and Spain. Lynn has written that "the original noble 'experiment' [of ICANN]...to see whether a purely private entity could successfully manage a critical global resource simply will not work." Decisions about ICANN's future will impact commercial entities worldwide, as well as issues of Internet access and privacy.

  • "High-Tech Senate GOP Agenda Tackles Taxes, Privacy"
    Newsbytes (03/13/02)

    Republican senators drafted their vision of what they plan to accomplish for the current legislative session concerning the technology sector. The High Tech Task Force reported on a slew of issues, including laying down some general policies, such as keeping government from controlling or defining lewd Internet content. The group also said it would back a permanent research and development tax credit for technology firms, a push that has bipartisan support. Republicans want to give President Bush more leeway in conducting foreign trade negotiations, which could significantly help the technology sector by quickening the approval of export deals. Although the task force did not give specifics on whether or not it would support the Tauzin-Dingell broadband bill, it did say it would support more broad efforts on the part of the FTC to improve competition in the sector, and would push tax credits for companies rolling out broadband infrastructure. Online privacy was addressed, though legislators avoided advocating sweeping reform, and the group said it would work to mediate differences between technology manufacturers and entertainment on the issue of digital piracy. On the cybersecurity front, the task force backed Republican-led legislation that protects companies that share information about computer security breaches with the government.

  • "NY Judge Narrows Terms in BT Internet Patent Case"
    Reuters (03/14/02); Auchard, Eric

    Lawyers for BT, formerly British Telecommunications, will have to clarify their definitions of technical terms before their case can go to trial, according to a federal judge presiding over the case. BT has launched what some call an overly broad and ambitious lawsuit that seeks to claim patent rights to hyperlinking technology now ubiquitous on the Internet. BT says a patent it filed in 1977 describes the Universal Resource Locator (URL) system subsequently used on the Internet, but opponents have argued that the basic research for such a system was developed by others as early as the 1960s. Prodigy, now part of SBC Communications and one of the earliest ISPs, is the target of the lawsuit, but BT could possibly require royalties from nearly all Web sites if successful. Defending lawyers said the judge's recent statements weakened BT's case so much they were considering filing a petition for dismissal of the case.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "D.C. Area Ranks Fourth in Software Jobs"
    Internetnews.com (03/13/02); Mark, Roy

    The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) lists Washington, D.C. as the fourth leading U.S. metropolitan area for software jobs, after Boulder, Colo., San Jose, and San Francisco. The list was based on the 2000 Occupational Employment Survey, and covers such positions as programmers, systems analysts, database administrators, software engineers, network administrators, and support specialists. This marks the third consecutive year that Boulder has held the number-one spot, and the fact that IBM and Sun Microsystems are located there lends considerable strength to its position. "The software industry has created a tremendous number of high-skilled jobs throughout the country," notes SIIA President Ken Wasch. "The array of cities in this list exemplifies the importance of software and technology to the U.S. economy." Other cities that made the report's top 10 were Seattle, Boston, Austin, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, Denver, and Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon in New Jersey.

  • "In a Seamless Image, the Great and Small"
    New York Times (03/14/02) P. E6; Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit

    People who wish to focus on detailed sections of maps or large documents without losing the overview may soon be able to do so thanks to display technology being developed at the Palo Alto Research Center. The display includes a large foam screen with a flat-panel monitor. A low-resolution image is projected onto the large screen while the user can focus on a more detailed section with the smaller monitor. The center conducted tests in which the focus-plus-context screen, as it is called, was compared to two other systems--a zoom-and-pan display and two separate monitors, one with an overview and one with detail. Users said they could work faster with Palo Alto's display, according to project coordinator Dr. Patrick Baudisch. "Their studies show that people are able to take advantage of information in the periphery, even when it is at a substantially lower resolution," says George Robertson of Microsoft Research. He says that such a device demonstrates that users can enjoy many of the benefits of wall-size screens, but at considerably less cost. Palo Alto researchers say the display could also be applied to 3D video games, classroom instruction, and videoconferencing.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "Linux Consortium Slows to a Waddle, Critics Say"
    EE Times Online (03/14/02); Murray, Charles J.

    Embedded Linux developers have just finished their Intellectual Property Agreement framework that will pave the way for the technical specification and boost embedded Linux applications and usage. Already, Linux is quickly gaining on other embedded systems, including proprietary software from Microsoft and Wind River Systems. At least one major embedded Linux company, Lineo, has expressed doubt over the efforts of the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC). "A year ago, some of us were concerned that the process would take too long," says Lineo CTO Tim Bird. "And our worst fears have been realized." But others, including ELC executive director Murray Shohat, say a careful course is needed for the legal framework and that the technical specification will go rather quickly. Some have suggested that the specification borrow from the Posix standards used in Unix. The important thing, according to Lineo, is that standardization go forward and dispel the myth started a couple years ago by competitors that Linux development was in danger of fragmenting, creating a mess of incompatible systems.

  • "Report: Monkeys' Thoughts Move Cursor"
    Washington Post (03/14/02) P. A10; Vedantam, Shankar

    Using electrodes implanted within the brains of monkeys, scientists at Brown University have demonstrated that a cursor on a computer screen can be controlled by thought. The researchers have started a private company to market the technology, which could one day be used to help paralyzed people manipulate robots and computers. Earlier experiments involved monkeys using a physical controller--a mouse--to move the cursor, but the latest experiment foregoes the mouse and improves the speed and accuracy of neural signal transmission. Program director of the National Institutes of Health's Neuro Prostheses program William Heetderks notes that the technology faces several challenges, including getting the electrodes to operate over prolonged periods, and whether their presence could impair the brain's function. Shifts in the electrodes' position could also cause problems, he adds. Neural Signals scientist Philip Kennedy says his team has discovered a process to grow the electrodes into the neurons so that their position is secure. Meanwhile, John Donoghue, who leads the Brown University team, says they are working on an external interface that obviates the need to run a wire between the electrodes and the computer. Researchers believe the electrode technology could be ready for paralyzed patients in 10 years.

  • "Harsh Reality Intrudes at IT Trade Jamboree"
    Reuters (03/15/02); Weir, Keith

    The mood at the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover, Germany, is downbeat, characterized by lower earnings reports from telecoms equipment manufacturers and a greater emphasis on improving network security and performance. For instance, Nokia's announcement of a new handset was undercut by reports of a sales drop-off from its mobile networks unit. CeBIT attendee and Bankgesellschaft Berlin analyst Simon Scholes described the industry as currently undergoing "retrenchment." A mass market for 3G technologies is not expected to develop before 2004, said Vodafone Group and mmO2's German subsidiaries; companies such as Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom are also gravitating toward partnerships in this atmosphere of uncertainty. Hewlett-Packard's Heribert Schmitz says there were few innovations at this year's show, while attendance is also lower than previous years, according to CeBIT veterans.

  • "Army Chooses MIT to Help Create the New, Nano-Equipped U.S. Soldier"
    Small Times (03/13/02); Stuart, Candace

    The U.S. Army will give MIT $10 million a year for five years to develop nanotechnology products that can boost the security and effectiveness of soldiers. The research will be conducted under the aegis of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (INS), which the Army chose MIT to create on March 13. The technology will be developed by MIT in conjunction with industrial partners such as DuPont and Raytheon, while physicians from Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital will also participate. Among the technologies to be investigated are lightweight uniforms that are resistant to bullets, sensors that can monitor the wearer's health, and other applications designed to offer threat detection, medical support, and improved safety and concealment. MIT's research will also be supplemented from other programs, such as the Nanostructures Laboratory and Microsystems Technology Laboratories. Many of the products MIT develops for the military are expected to be commercialized, according to the Army. The INS will be directed by Ned Thomas, an expert on polymer microstructures and a professor of materials science and engineering. MIT industrial allies such as DuPont are already working on nanotechnology projects to enhance soldiers, including nanoscale fibers that can adjust clothing temperature and fibers that can be used as wires in textronics systems.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Can Dot-Coms Still Attract the Best and Brightest?"
    E-Commerce Times (03/11/02); Grant, Elaine X.

    Dot-coms and their potential workforce have greatly changed in the last several years, according to Monster.com technology jobs expert Alan Hoffman. Prospective employees are more cautious and amenable to a regimented workplace, while dot-coms are less inclined to splurge on perks such as casual atmosphere and parties. Hoffman says the dot-com hiring process now resembles that of more traditional companies, with employers interviewing prospects more than once and conducting background checks. Meanwhile, prospects are checking out the companies, taking into account investors, managers, profitability commitment, and funds. People3 analyst Jamie McCleary notes that dot-coms are shying away from offering stock-option packages and are concentrating instead on base pay and benefits. "For people who are contemplating a switch to an Internet company, there is an interest in equity, but it won't be the primary factor," he comments. Older workers are more likely to be attracted to the security of the job, McCleary explains, adding that exposure to state-of-the-art technology may be another key enticement for potential workers.

  • "Point, Shoot and Translate Into English"
    New York Times (03/14/02) P. E5; Eisenberg, Anne

    A new technology affords quick translation of foreign text via a wireless phone or palmtop with a digital camera. The camera captures an image--such as a sign, train schedule, or menu--and the user frames the text. The image is compressed and routed to a server, which translates and superimposes the English version over the screen of the device. The prototype was assembled from off-the-shelf components by Dr. Ismail Haritaoglu of IBM's Almaden Research Center. Almaden's Dr. Dan Russell says IBM hopes that several companies might want to use the device for enhanced image analysis. "The translation service is a great application of augmented reality," boasts Dr. Seth Teller of MIT, who sees Haritaoglu's invention becoming even more useful in cell phones with global positioning systems (GPS) technology. Such an integration would provide information about one's location. Dr. Henry Fuchs of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill foresees even more advanced translation devices in five to 10 years, such as glasses equipped with both digital cameras and displays.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)

  • "NY National Lab Aids Nanotech Research"
    United Press International (03/11/02); Burnell, Scott R.

    Both public- and private-sector researchers will collaborate with the recently-opened Brookhaven Center for Functional Nanomaterials to further their knowledge of nanoscience and the various characteristics of nanoscale materials. The usefulness of such materials can be determined through such research. "One of the best ways to understand the constraints of the real world is to partner with the industrial labs, who've hit their heads against the real world several times," says Randy Issac of IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center. Harvard University's Venkatesh Narayanamurti adds that physics, mathematics, and chemistry are all valid points of entry into nanoscience. President Bush's fiscal 2003 budget earmarks $679 million for the National Nanotechnology Initiative; the Brookhaven Center is expected to receive $55 million in funding over the next five years. Although nanoscience can be applied to practically anything, Narayanamurti is urging that researchers maintain a narrow focus in their work. The government, on the other hand, must realize that too much research consolidation could inhibit the research process, he cautions. Tom Russell of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst demonstrated a process at the Nanocenter in which nanoscale organic polymer molecules are used to refine nanostructure assembly; his work reflects a holistic research model that Narayanamurti recommends.

  • "Group Looks to Join Life Sciences With Web Services"
    IDG News Service (03/12/02); Vance, Ashlee

    A consortium of life sciences organizations and IT vendors are working to foster a Web services approach to sharing scientific data over networks. The group is looking to model the collaboration within the airline industry for online ticket sales and registration, and within the banking industry, which successfully transmits data over worldwide ATM networks. Named the Interoperable Informatics Infrastructure Consortium (I3C), the group explains that it will not define any technological standards itself, but work on models using existing Web services standards such as XML, Java, UDDI, and SOAP. Jill Mesirov of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research says the focus will be on getting back-end legacy data transferred over disparate software and network platforms. Already, the group has signed on over 60 research and IT institutions, including IBM, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and Sun Microsystems.

  • "ICANN to Move Forward With Restructuring, Not Elections"
    Newsbytes (03/14/02); McGuire, David

    The ICANN board has declined to act on the At-Large proposal that would establish global elections for ICANN board seats and has decided instead to move forward with a restructuring plan that will be drafted by the newly formed ICANN Evolution and Reform committee in time for ICANN's June 2002 meeting in Bucharest, Romania. The development of the restructuring plan will be based upon proposed recommendations by ICANN President Stuart Lynn; the ICANN Evolution and Reform committee is instructed to work with Lynn and the ICANN staff and to also consider public feedback in drafting the plan. The ICANN board says in a statement that any reform plan will incorporate "workable mechanisms and procedures that enable meaningful opportunities for participation by the full range of Internet users, including individuals, academic institutions, large and small businesses, non-commercial entities (including consumer groups), and other non-governmental organizations." Of the At-Large elections, the ICANN board has said that "the board is not persuaded that global elections are the only or the best means of achieving meaningful public representation or the informed participation of Internet users in the ICANN process." The ICANN board also challenged the Internet community at large to create a mechanism that will empower and enable Internet users to participate in ICANN.

    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "The Sound of Words"
    Washington Techway (03/04/02) P. 22; Daniels, Alex

    The high-tech industry is making huge strides in speech recognition software now that computers are powerful enough to handle the technology, and now that the VoiceXML programming standard has emerged. Although IBM and Massachusetts-based ScanSoft have outdistanced themselves from other firms in the commercial market, dozens of companies continue to toll away with the purpose of providing speech products to selected clients. Straight translation software is designed to convert speech into text. However, many firms are pursuing other avenues, such as products that automate operator functions at corporate call centers, or products that allow users to issue commands to computers without having to type. The Cahners In-Stat Group says the U.S. market for voice recognition hardware, software, and services reached $500 million in 2000, and is on pace to soar to $2.7 billion by 2005. VoiceXML, which will determine how computer systems recognize voice files on the Web, could one day help turn the telephone system into a voice system. Instead of dialing a number, users would simply say the name of the business or person. Similarly, many observers expect the technology to transform computers from electronic typewriters to devices that can follow spoken commands.

  • "Hot Spots"
    eWeek (03/11/02) Vol. 19, No. 10, P. 45; Gohring, Nancy

    Wireless LAN (WLAN) hot spots are interfaces in common settings--hotels, restaurants, and the like--where business travelers can hook up to the Internet. With WLAN card prices falling and high-speed wireless networks becoming commonplace at home and in the office, WLAN operators and service providers expect an increasing need for such installations. However, issues over the technology's security, a fragmented market, and a lack of advantageous pricing schemes could seriously inhibit WLAN hot spot growth, although service providers say these obstacles are being looked into. The Wi-Fi standard that WLAN equipment is based on includes Wired Equivalent Privacy that has demonstrated security flaws, but the IEEE expects to fix that with the release of the 802.1x standard; other remedies for security holes include intrusion detection from GRIC Communications and a Secure Sockets Layer connection between a customer's device and the WLAN service provider's access gateway. Offering pricing plans on a per-hour or per-day basis is another obstacle, but operators are implementing corporate discounts and per-user fees. Meanwhile, Boingo Wireless aims to unify the many different WLAN operators by allowing users to pay only one bill and a use a single sign-on method. "We're taking fragmented, scattered services and creating a single high-speed wireless network accessible through our software," says Boingo's Christian Gunning. Hot spot growth is more likely to occur once IT departments start to centrally manage WLAN services.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "IT Goes to War"
    Computerworld (03/11/02) Vol. 36, No. 11, P. 40; Anthes, Gary H.

    Such disparate technologies as communications devices, robots, sensors, and computer displays will enable the U.S. armed forces to become totally synchronized on the battlefield of the future. Laboratories across the country are working toward embedding military assets with communications hardware and software that will allow the combat forces to quickly share, analyze, and act on information. The U.S. Navy calls this approach network-centric warfare (NCW), which relies on a self-organizing network and inferencing engines to analyze the wealth of information. NCW would involve having sensors, ships, soldiers, and other military assets connected to two-way ports for communication on a two-way basis. The computerized network will allow robots to crawl into caves, find people and explosives, and communicate to U.S. commanders miles away, and will allow bombs to act as sensors, computers, and communications devices as well. Boeing Space and Communications expects to unveil its technology as early as the end of the year. By 2010, Oak Ridge National Laboratory expects to see "a high-tech soldier with 20 times the capability of today's warrior." Observers say NCW depends on multidisciplinary skills, and that cost could pose a problem if missions will mean the loss of thousands of robots.

  • "A.I. Reboots"
    Technology Review (03/02) Vol. 105, No. 2, P. 46; Hiltzik, Michael

    The goal of A.I. projects appears to have changed in the 50 years since the field began: Research no longer seems focused on embedding consciousness in computers, but on developing practical uses that offer improved information retrieval, better analysis of the physical world, and enhanced human-computer communications, among other things. "For revenue-generating applications today, replacing the human is not the goal," says Ascent Technology cofounder and MIT computer scientist Patrick H. Winston. Streamlining A.I.'s original objectives has helped foster the development of useful real-world applications. For example, computer scientist Douglas B. Lenat's Cyc project aims to build a computer program that uses common sense to draw conclusions. Lenat foresees Cyc being applied to advanced search engines and data-mining tools, while this year will see the release of CycSecure, a program that can be used to detect computer network security flaws. Scientists at Microsoft Research are employing A.I. in several projects, including future versions of Microsoft Office software that can automatically handle low-priority tasks and prioritize information based on user preferences and observed behavior; and DeepListener, a program capable of sophisticated speech recognition. A.I. technology is also being used in robots programmed to search wreckage and collate data from multiple sensors that might help rescue efforts. The World Trade Center disaster was a perfect testbed for machines developed by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue.

  • ACM MemberNet Overhauled and Online ACM, Carol Wierzbicki (3/15/02)

    ACM has revamped its quarterly newsletter-MemberNet-to a contemporary online presence with interactive features and forum opportunities. The former print publication is now freely accessible to all ACM members as well as the computing community at large. It hosts new interactive options such as voting along with discussion forums on timely and controversial topics within the industry. The premier March issue includes a forum on national ID cards and a report from two organizers of an open source development workshop at the upcoming Computer-Human Interaction conference (CHI02) in Minneapolis April 20-25. Future installments of MemberNet will feature in-depth interviews with some of the industry's leading lights as well as continuous digital discussions on current events or business issues. The new ACM MemberNet is located at http://www.acm.org/membernet.

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