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Volume 4, Issue 346: Wednesday, May 8, 2002

  • "High-Tech Job Growth Outpaces Other Occupations, Report Finds"
    Work Circuit (05/06/02); Gordon, Stephanie

    The National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 report forecasts that science and engineering (S&E) employment opportunities will grow at a rate that is about triple that for all occupations between 2000 and 2010. The report pegs an approximately 47 percent increase for S&E jobs, about 86 percent of which will probably involve computer-related occupations. Industry-wide employment in these occupations is projected to climb by about 82 percent in the decade; a 100 percent increase in computer software engineering positions is expected, while the number of jobs for computer systems analysts will swell from 431,000 to 689,000. The report anticipates that environmental engineering employment opportunities will increase approximately 27 percent, while computer hardware engineering will experience 25 percent growth. Overall engineering job growth will rise by fewer than 10 percent. Life science job opportunities will likely grow by almost 18 percent, while physical science occupations will enjoy approximately 18 percent growth.

  • "Hewlett-Packard Announces New Leadership and Strategy"
    New York Times (05/08/02) P. C10; Markoff, John

    Hewlett-Packard, newly merged with Compaq Computer, announced its new leadership structure and product strategy at a Flint Center meeting today that was broadcast to 100,000 of the company's 150,000 employees. The new company will be split into four business groups--enterprise systems, which will cater to large companies; an imaging and printing group; Hewlett-Packard Services, which will offer consulting and support; and a personal systems group. HP expects to save more than $2.5 billion from cutbacks because of the merger, according to chief financial officer Robert P. Wayman, mainly from streamlining the merged company's administrative and research and development efforts. Some products will be eliminated in favor of either the HP or Compaq name, while some competing lines--such as the Compaq Presario and HP Pavilion--will be retained so that retailers can offer more differentiated products, HP President Michael D. Capellas explained. He also said that for now HP plans to support both lines of the high-end Unix computer systems the two companies sell. Both he and HP CEO Carleton S. Fiorina said the company has had more than enough time to formulate the merged firms' integration. They also reiterated that the company's increased size will work to its advantage in the information technology market, and help it become the dominant or second-largest firm in a range of markets.
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  • "A Human Touch for Machines"
    Los Angeles Times (05/07/02) P. A1; Piller, Charles

    The affective computing movement is an attempt to invest machines with the ability to determine and understand human emotions to smooth their interaction with users. On a purely scientific level, affective computers could shed new light on intelligence and the mechanics of emotion. The principle behind affective computing--that logic is not the only path to intelligence--inverts long-held views about artificial intelligence. A team led by Javier Movellan at the University of California, San Diego, is compiling a massive catalog of facial expressions that a computer can reference using pattern recognition software to determine emotional states. Researchers are also giving computers the ability to infer emotions from body language, speech recognition, voice indicators, and metabolic cues; at MIT, for example, scientists have devised a setup in which a computer can read people's emotions based on blood volume pressure measurements from special earrings and electrical conductivity from their feet via special shoes. Perceptive devices could potentially reap billions of dollars by being marketed as tutors, advisors, robots, and even clinical and psychotherapy assistants. In fact, some primitive affective machines are already being marketed, an example being the robot dog Aibo, which displays joy or fear depending on how owners treat it. Ronnie Stangler of the American Psychiatric Association warns that perceptive computers could represent a serious threat to personal privacy, because corporations and governments will find the emotional state of those they monitor or profile to be an irresistible lure.

  • "Microsoft Cites Security Concerns in Arguing Against States' Proposed Penalties"
    SiliconValley.com (05/07/02); Phillips, Heather Fleming

    Microsoft this week in court argued that releasing the source code to Windows would allow hackers easier access to computer networks, virus writers access to critical information, and digital pirates tools for illegal copying. In response to litigating states' demand that the company release a configurable Windows, Microsoft VP Jim Allchin went so far as to say splitting up Windows into modular components would comprise a threat to national security. He said this even though hackers have already demonstrated their ability to peer into Windows' inner security workings and in the face of evidence that the Windows XP Embedded product is a working example of how a modular system would be possible. The nine states suing Microsoft for stiffer penalties succeeded in introducing one more witness, a computer expert who has transformed Microsoft's Windows XP Embedded program into a functioning PC operating system. A modular Windows is a primary goal of the states' continued suit because it would give software developers more incentive to write programs compatible with other vendors' applications and allow PC manufacturers to pre-install Windows versions without Internet Explorer. Allchin also defended Microsoft's .Net initiative, claiming it was meant to tie together disparate vendor applications.

  • "Apple Gives Peek at OS X Update"
    IDG News Service (05/06/02); Vance, Ashlee

    Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Monday opened his company's developer conference in San Jose with a sneak preview of the next version of OS X and accompanying software. He urged developers to devote themselves to the new release, code-named Jaguar, and consider the previous iteration, Mac OS 9, defunct. Jobs also revealed that Jaguar will come with an email update, IChat instant messaging, Inkwell handwriting recognition, and Rendezvous technology that allows data-sharing between computers and devices. The email software features improved message categorization and spam filtering, while the Inkwell application boasts a virtual notepad and translates pen-entered text into a font the computer can identify. Also shipping with Jaguar will be QuickTime 6 with MPEG-4 support, according to Jobs. Furthermore, he said that Apple plans to announce a rack-mount server on May 14. The Quartz Extreme middleware application, which processes 2D, 3D, and video images, was also demonstrated at the conference. Jaguar is slated to become available before September 2002.

  • "House Bill to Tackle Net Privacy; Critics Have Doubts"
    Newsbytes (05/07/02); Krebs, Brian

    House Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) plans to present legislation that would require businesses to disclose their privacy policies and information-gathering practices to consumers, enable consumers to remove their personal data from customer marketing lists, and ban the sale of Social Security numbers. The proposal would also make existing identity theft laws tougher, preempt state privacy laws, and give companies "safe harbor" from civil lawsuits if they sign on to a self-regulatory agency approved by the FTC. However, privacy organizations are taking the Stearns bill to task. Center for Democracy and Technology policy analyst Ari Schwartz says that "this bill does not address some of the major concerns that most Americans have about privacy." Unlike legislation introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) last month, the Stearns bill does not require online companies to secure consumers' permission prior to collecting or sharing "sensitive" data such as health or financial information. Such protection is left to measures such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley financial services modernization law, which have come under fire for being poorly conceived. Electronic Privacy Information Center legislative counsel Chris Hoofnagle also notes that the Hollings bill ensures that consumers will be able to take a right-of-private action against companies that break their own privacy policies, while the Stearns bill does not.

  • "Visa Panel Will Focus on Science"
    Washington Post (05/08/02) P. A19; Thompson, Cherryl W.

    The Interagency Panel on Advanced Science Security (IPASS) has been formed to check foreign student visa applications for possible terrorist risks. The panel will evaluate as many 2,000 applications a year from researchers and students that seek to enroll in science and technology programs deemed sensitive by the panel. Kathryn Harrington of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy would not say which programs are considered sensitive, but the State Department has already identified 16 courses of study for inclusion on its technology alert list, including information security and nuclear and missile technology. The panel, which consists of representatives from the FBI, CIA, State Department, and the INS, among others, will review each applicant's area of study, country of origin, and type of work before making its recommendation; the INS and State Department will give the final approval.

  • "A Challenge to Dissect Some Code"
    Wired News (05/07/02); Delio, Michelle

    Security experts believe understanding malicious code is even more essential to combating it than merely flushing it out of systems, so the Honeynet Project has issued a challenge to participating system administrators: Download and dissect code captured by the project's servers, devise a way to fight it, and supply Honeynet with documentation of their processes and conclusions. If they can do so in a month's time, they will win respect from their peers, along with either a signed copy of a security book or admission to the Black Hat Briefings conference. Administrators who can furnish a profile of the code writer and predict his or her actions will receive bonus points. Analysis standards that network administrators should apply to rogue programs can be simulated in this way. "To defend against a threat, you have to first understand it," says Honeynet Project founder Lance Spitzner, who uses wisdom gained from his experiences in the Army as a model for studying malicious code. He argues that removing and deleting the code will only encourage the intruder to renew his attack, and also destroy evidence that could aid computer crime investigations. More than 30,000 people visited the Honeynet challenge Web site on May 6, and the binary code sample was downloaded more than 1,700 times.

  • "Futuristic Small Technology Promises Big Changes for All of Us"
    San Jose Mercury News Online (05/06/02); Gillmor, Dan

    The Foresight Institute, a nonprofit nanotechnology booster, posits that the field could yield tremendous breakthroughs, such as the elimination of illness and the synthesis of any type of conceivable material. The other side of the coin is nanotech's potential for destruction, which could come in the form of relentless viruses and malicious nano-machines. Foresight Institute Chairman Eric Drexler believes that the nanotech community must improve its campaign to promote the science's benefits. He told those gathered at the institute's annual "senior associates" conference last weekend that the general community needs a "picture of the future--a world view--that is workable and appealing." He predicts two major changes will help usher in the inevitable nanotech revolution: The emergence of nanotech as a solid science and a perceptual shift in nanotech's favor. Meanwhile, inventor and author Ray Kurzweil foresees a time when nano-machines will be seamlessly integrated with biology.

  • "Opto-Chips Transmit Data at Light Speed"
    NewsFactor Network (05/06/02); Lyman, Jay

    Larry Dalton of the University of Washington's new Center for Materials and Devices for Information Technology believes that photonics research can be applied to the defense, satellite communications, telecommunications, and computing industries, as well as transportation and entertainment. He specializes in the development of opto-chips, organic polymers that can convert electronic signals into light 10 times faster than current methods. Dalton says opto-chips can manipulate electrons with less than one volt of power while offering terahertz-scale bandwidth. The UW photonics effort counts the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Ballistic Defense Organization as supporters, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently named the new UW center as one of six that could receive as much as $20 million in funding. Dalton says the work of major corporations, such as Boeing, Lucent, and Lockheed Martin, is being impacted by the UW center's technology research.

  • "Q&A: Ellen Ullman"
    San Francisco Chronicle Online (05/08/02); Moon, Amy

    Author and veteran programmer Ellen Ullman says technology is reaching a crucial point now that there is less focus on its money-making potential. As engineers and programmers work on innovative ideas without aiming to commercialize it as soon as possible, she says the next breakthrough in technology will come about in biology and robotics. Business technology, Ullman maintains, is stuck in a back-and-forth rut where the only real thing that progresses is the hardware specifications. After 20 years of experience in business applications, she says there is a definite ebb and flow of information and processes from the server to the client-side and back. Now, she says, content and operations are moving back to the centralized paradigm, as technology such as XML allows client-side browsers and computers to read information primarily stored on a central server. Ullman notes that the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has been an increased reliance on systems, rather than highly trained individuals given greater responsibility. Whereas U.S. airline security relies on baggage, ticket, and other screening systems, she says the ultra-high-security El Al Israeli airline depends on crucial human screeners to identify security threats.
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  • "Mutant Viruses Order Quantum Dots"
    New Scientist Online (05/03/02); Kleiner, Kurt

    Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have been able to create a three-dimensional grid of quantum dots using genetically-engineered viruses designed to bind to zinc sulphide molecules through a sequence of peptides at one end. When mixed with a zinc sulphide solution, the 880-nanometer-long viruses not only yield nanocrystals, but line them up to form a thin, transparent film. The structures are even smaller than circuits designed with optical or electron beam lithography, according to Cornell University's Christopher Ober. Quantum dots could be synthesized from other substances by changing the peptide sequence. The method could be applied to create smaller chips, very dense magnetic memory, and display screens. Research team leader Angela Belcher is now trying to devise a way to break the virus-quantum dot bond and substitute a conductive filament for the virus so that minuscule circuits can be created.

  • "Net Video's Obstacle to a Steady Stream"
    CNet (05/07/02); Olsen, Stefanie

    Apple, RealNetworks, and Microsoft have announced enhanced streaming media systems that aim to eliminate video hiccups and delays, but analysts contend that it will still be a while before the quality of Internet video equals that of television. The three media giants have polished their systems to push more data down the broadband pipe using excess bandwidth capacity. TurboPlay from RealNetworks gives broadband users the capability to play back audio and video almost instantaneously and fast-forward rapidly. The company reports a more than 800 percent performance gain on corporate LANs and a 600 percent gain on DSL connections. Microsoft's offering is called FastStream, which will be deployed on the forthcoming Corona media player. Meanwhile, Apple's Frank Casanova says the Skip Technology in QuickTime "uses pyrotechnics to shift down to smaller video when bandwidth is constrained." Rajeev Sehgal of EdgeStream maintains that Microsoft's and RealNetworks' technologies do not work when faced with congestion and latency on the public Internet, and touts his company's intelligent routing as a more effective solution. Furthermore, high-speed connections claim only a small portion of the Internet populace--dial-up modems are still the access technology of choice for as much as 80 percent of wired users.

  • "Another Click in the Wall"
    Boston Globe (05/06/02) P. C1; Denison, D.C.

    Businesses are beginning to deploy extranet technology in order to collaborate with colleagues, business partners, and customers. Extranets, which fall somewhere between the very public Web site and a more private intranet, usually require a simple login and password, and can be designed according to the needs of participants. Clients and law firms can log on to review online material in real time from remote locations, as in the case of Boston-based Gadsby Hannah, which employs extranets for established client relationships as well as ad hoc sites that serve as online repositories for documents used in court. Other businesses, such as seafood vendor Gorton's, use extranets to consolidate the massive amounts of industry news, sales reports, and new product updates all directed at a nationwide sales force. Still, most companies have yet to implement an extranet, according to NerveWire, whose chief technology officer, Sanjiv Gossain, says extranets provide the most benefits when equipped to automatically share information online. He notes that extranets provide a view into some part of a company's inner workings, making fast and efficient internal processes important.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "The Computer Virus of the Future"
    NewsFactor Network (05/03/02); Gill, Lisa

    Analysts portend that computer viruses of the future may be capable of inflicting even more damage; with more business, government, and military systems migrating to the Internet, Symantec research director Stephen Trilling predicts that infrastructure systems such as power generation, transportation, and telecommunication will become even more vulnerable. Meanwhile, SecurityFocus senior threat analyst Ryan Russell thinks that hackers and virus scripters may assign more "payload" to their cyberattacks. Experts are saying that the Nimda virus, which can move throughout the Internet on its own, contaminate multiple varieties of computer systems, and exploit relatively new security flaws, is one possible model of the future. Russell foresees "super" viruses that will invade systems through security holes that are even more obscure or have yet to be disclosed. However, a GartnerG2 study predicts that, for the next three years, the majority of cyberattacks will be made through known flaws that already have solutions or patches. Trilling offers the Trojan Horse-powered Code Red as another virus model, and envisions a worst-case scenario in which millions of machines are infected, effectively crippling the business-to-business transactions of all Fortune 500 companies. Both he and McAfee.com's April Goostree also expect to see more viruses being transmitted via instant messaging and peer-to-peer file sharing platforms. Despite these grim predictions, analysts believe that user awareness and anti-virus tools will also grow and become more sophisticated.

  • "Computer Science Attracting Fewer Applicants"
    Education Week (05/01/02) Vol. 21, No. 33, P. 5; Cavanagh, Sean

    The economic recession may be partly responsible for a drop-off in the number of high school seniors applying to some of the country's leading undergraduate computer-science programs. For example, fall applications to Carnegie Mellon University's computer-science program have declined 28 percent in the last year, while California Polytechnic has suffered a 24 percent decrease. International Technology Education Association executive director Kendall Starkweather says that high school students are following a different path than they were a few years ago: More graduates are going after degrees in the liberal arts, and then training at specialized schools or community colleges. "People are not dumb--they realize where they're being pushed out of, and where they're not," he says. Although the difficulties technology firms are facing do exert considerable influence on high school students' future educational plans, Greenfield Central High School teacher Gary L. Wynn notes that the push for standardized testing means schools are spending less time and resources on computer training. Declines in applications do not necessarily translate into a negative impact on university computer-science programs. Many programs have very stringent qualifying criteria, so that overall student enrollment is only minimally affected. Furthermore, Georgia Tech undergraduate admissions director Deborah Smith says that some fears on how the economy's condition can threaten one's career choices are overstated.

  • "What Makes IT Workers Tick"
    Computerworld (05/06/02) Vol. 36, No. 19, P. 26; Copeland, Lee

    Companies are using employee development programs to boost the skills of their IT workers and maintain competitive advantage. When Home Depot implemented Java a few years ago, it cross-trained existing developers on the system, thus keeping operational costs down. Vice president of information services Mike Anderson says that making IT workers more familiar with both the business and the technology side of things encourages flexibility. Technology professionals put a lot of stock in exposure to business sectors pertinent to IT and keeping skill sets up-to-date. Mentoring is highly regarded among companies as an important tool for furthering the careers of IT workers: Comerica and State Farm Insurance boast mentoring programs that have helped staffers move up from technology to the management level. An openness between staff and management is essential so that assignments, schedules, and training needs can be properly aligned with IT workers. "We pay attention to people and try to stay attuned to what makes them tick," explains Francisco De Armas, a Comerica employee who has himself benefited from the company's mentoring initiative. IT staffers project a high degree of job satisfaction in companies where all employees feel their contributions impact the business.

  • "Defender at the Gate"
    CIO Insight (04/02) No. 12, P. 16; Epstein, Keith

    Geo-encryption technology being pioneered by Georgetown University professor Dorothy Denning is a cryptographic method by which data is scrambled and stays that way until it reaches specific locations with the aid of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. For instance, a movie studio could send encrypted content to a video-on-demand distributor without disclosing the decoding key. Denning is co-developing the location-authentication technology with the assistance of Internet entrepreneur Barry Glick and Hollywood film executive Mark Seiler, but intellectual property owners are not the only ones who could benefit from it. The Pentagon could use it to keep coded messages secret, while medical records could be transmitted with patients' privacy ensured. The company Denning and her two partners formed, GeoCodex, aims to develop geo-encryption devices, and currently has three joint ventures in the works: One of them will protect entertainment broadcasts, while the others will safeguard medical records and classified information. Denning's partners say the GeoCodex chip could also be incorporated into HDTV sets, although Denning estimates it will be years before they become widely distributed. Denning, who has been branded "America's cyberwarrior" by Time magazine, has pioneered many hackproof technologies and exerts influence on national security and technology policy. She also sits on the new White House Advisory Group on Homeland Security.

  • "Hollywood Versus High-Tech"
    Business 2.0 (05/02) Vol. 3, No. 5, P. 40; Lardner, James

    The threat of digital piracy and the entertainment industry's determination to stop it is putting copyright owners and technology companies at odds. Not even collaboration to develop copyright technology standards has helped bring about a reconciliation between these two camps, alleges Intel Chairman Andy Grove. This is despite the fact that DVDs, digital audio recorders, and other devices and media have built-in, congressionally approved copyright safeguards that were developed with the help of computer and consumer electronics companies. Hollywood is increasingly leveraging copyright law against perceived infringers, and seeking additions and amendments that further its authority. Some major tech players are eager to remain in the movie industry's good graces, hoping that their efforts will increase online video content and spur the highly desirable proliferation of broadband. But both sides clashed over recent legislation: At a Senate hearing in February, Hollywood heavyweights such as Disney CEO Michael Eisner and News Corp. CEO Peter Chernin vouched for a bill from Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) that would require all digital devices to include piracy-detection systems, a move that Intel's Leslie Vadasz predicted would bring innovation "to a screeching halt." Such products could also impose limits on consumers, much to their frustration. "You have to wonder how the movie industry weighs the value of maintaining the status quo for a few more years against the value of being the first to exploit a technology that gives them frictionless transmission of their product with near-perfect fidelity," posits Grove.

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