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Volume 4, Issue 348: Monday, May 13, 2002

  • "Public Domain Info Under Threat, Say Groups"
    United Press International (05/12/02); Burnell, Scott R.

    Information accessible to the public domain, also known as the "information commons," is being threatened from patent and copyright enforcement, according to speakers at a conference hosted by Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation (NAF). "If the champions of the market are likely to talk about profitability and efficiency, the commons helps us talk about...democratic representation, access, openness, social equity and diversity," declared NAF Information Commons Project director David Bollier. "These values don't have adequate articulation in a lot of public policy debate." The purpose of the conference was to consider techniques that could save public interest access to the commons, which Bollier said applies to scientific research, the Internet, and public airwaves. Arti Rai of the University of Pennsylvania Law School noted that many researchers can be blocked from continuing or verifying important work because companies or scientists broadly patent basic information and investigation methods. New York University's Siva Vaidhyanathan said that digital copyrights have become stricter and carry stiffer penalties. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who delivered a keynote speech at the event, plans to introduce legislation that will benefit the information commons--namely, a bill that would sanction the copying of material protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for academic research and other "fair use" activities.
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  • "Vulnerability Is Discovered In Security for Smart Cards"
    New York Times (05/13/02) P. C2; Markoff, John

    Today a pair of Cambridge University computer security researchers plan to demonstrate a cost-effective technique whereby thieves can steal the information contained in smart cards. Sergei Skorobogatov and Ross Anderson have learned that exposing a smart card to an electronic camera flashbulb can disrupt the operations of its microprocessor. Exposure is a simple matter of scraping away the protective layer coating the circuit. The light can be precisely targeted to hit specific transistors by focusing it through a microscope, and the researchers have found that the card's secret information can be extracted by reverse engineering the memory address map using this method. Skorobogatov and Anderson say they have discussed the security flaw with several smart card manufacturers, but at least one of them, Atmel, believes its products are protected from such an attack. Both the Cambridge discovery and a second smart card vulnerability will be disclosed at an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers security symposium. The second security hole, reported by researchers at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Laboratory, involves a faster method of stealing data from current GSM-based cell phones.
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  • "Pentagon Alienating Elite Science Advisers"
    SiliconValley.com (03/12/02); Puzzanghera, Jim

    For over four decades, the U.S. government has looked to a group of academic scientists code-named "Jason" for advice on numerous national security issues, but that group may now be endangered. Jason members were outraged when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), its primary sponsor, tried to force them to accept three new members, two Silicon Valley executives and a D.C.-based engineer. Jason has traditionally kept its own counsel on who qualifies for membership. DARPA has since withdrawn its funding because Jason has refused to make itself more contemporary, according to DARPA media officer Jan Walker. Jason members have denied that accusation, and claim that almost 40 percent of the group's researchers work outside the field of physics. Jason steering committee chair Steven Koonin of the California Institute of Technology says the funding difficulties have caused important national security projects--some involving counterterrorism--to be delayed. Some say the Bush administration wants to get rid of Jason because some members of the group disagreed on certain national security issues, such as the need for more nuclear tests and the viability of a national missile-defense system. On a more positive note, Koonin claims that the Defense Research and Engineering Institute may take up Jason's funding.

  • "Wearable Computers Will Enhance the World We See"
    Associated Press (05/12/02)

    Researchers at Columbia University and elsewhere are developing augmented reality devices--wearable technology that allows people to enhance their visual perceptions by overlaying imagery and data over their view of the surrounding environment. Thus far, Columbia's effort involves a pair of computer goggles complemented by a bulky combination of Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, a laptop, a head tracking device, a small video camera, and a high-speed wireless Internet connection, all of which must be carried on the user's back. Project developer Steven Feiner believes it will be about 10 years before augmented reality is ready for the consumer market; in the meantime, the military will be the first users of the systems. Augmented reality systems could help soldiers better negotiate battlefields and other hazardous situations, which is why the U.S. Office of Naval Research is funding augmented reality development efforts such as Columbia's. Other potential uses for the technology include enhanced surgery and jet engine repair.

  • "Developers Embrace Mac OS X 'Jaguar'"
    NewsFactor Network (05/10/02); Wilson, Ben

    Macintosh developers are very excited about Jaguar, the upcoming Mac OS X release Apple CEO Steve Jobs previewed less than a week ago at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). "It's clear that Apple is listening to customers and developers and is actually excited about giving us what we want," declared Omni Group President Wil Shipley. Apple plans to use Jaguar as a platform for new features and enhancements that will benefit both Internet designers and end users, including an upgrade of the Sherlock search tool; stronger UNIX network foundations; and the new Quartz Extreme graphics engine. This last feature upgrades OS X's original rendering layer so that it can squeeze more out of acceleration hardware, and Deneba Software President Manny Menendez is especially hopeful that the Canvas Drawing Engine can support Quartz Extreme. Real Software's Lorin Rivers said the Jaguar previews show encouraging signs that Apple wants to achieve a parity between its Cocoa application programming interfaces (APIs) and Carbon APIs. Jaguar also promises to ramp up performance for Java deployment in OS X.

  • "The PC Needs Improvement, Microsoft Exec Says"
    IDG News Service (05/10/02); Lemon, Sumner

    Tom Phillips, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Experience Group, told a conference of Taiwanese hardware makers that desktop and laptop computers need to be significantly improved in order to spur consumer demand. Speaking at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Taipei, Phillips advised that PCs must boast an ease-of-use similar to that of widely used consumer electronics devices. Microsoft engineers are taking an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach to hardware improvements, and Phillips demonstrated such applications with a prototype Windows XP-based PC capable of automatically identifying different analog devices and where they can port. He also expressed the need to see laptop batteries that can last for days instead of hours, laptop models that produce less heat, and quieter desktops. Furthermore, Phillips suggested that hardware manufacturers should consider design changes that would serve the needs of different market segments. Microsoft is competing with companies such as Intel in the race to implement better PC designs. Intel's major initiative, code-named Big Water, uses PCI Express Technology to make PCs smaller, more flexible, and more capable of dealing with electromagnetic interference.
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  • "The Legal Theorist"
    Wall Street Journal (05/13/02) P. R12; Plitch, Phyllis

    Pamela Samuelson, law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, continues to shape the legal understanding of intellectual property rights in the digital age. Samuelson, also a board member for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, first was active in software copyright action in 1986, when she used her scholarly position to argue against a ruling that allowed software writers to copyright the structure of an application. In 1990, in a lawsuit between Lotus Development and Borland International, that premise was overturned because the court said a "method of operation" was not protected under copyright. Critics and supporters alike admit Ms. Samuelson's influence in that change, and say that her arguments have consistently pushed the edge of copyright definition. She maintains that copyright protection is needed for the work of programmers and artists, but that current laws are increasingly invasive, limiting legitimate and beneficial activities. Currently, Samuelson is preparing an attack on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which she says inhibits the established fair-use rights of consumers and encryption research, which often involves reverse-engineering existing systems.

  • "Vietnam Gets Technical"
    Associated Press (05/13/02); Tran, Tini

    Vietnam is shaping up to be a regional IT player as it works to overcome the obstacles hindering it now, such as limited Internet infrastructure and a relatively small IT workforce. The government-owned telecom monopoly, Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications, filters Internet data flowing in and out of Vietnam, which slows data transmission. This year, the government is expected to open up the Internet gateway to other domestic carriers, of which there are currently five, and foreign ISPs will be admitted by 2003. The Politburo is also working to establish Vietnam as a center for software outsourcing, a cheaper alternative than even India, where programmers' salaries are double those of their Vietnamese counterparts. IDC Vietnam says the country's IT sector is now worth $290 million, with the potential to double by the end of the year. And Quang Trung Software City, located just outside Ho Chi Minh City, also aims to serve as a startup incubator and will feature filter-free Internet access in the future. International technology companies have begun outsourcing to Vietnam already for software development, and Cisco, Oracle, and Microsoft have built vocational training centers, which help make up for the deficit in skilled workers.
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  • "Internet Governance Body Eases Off Government Involvement"
    Washington Post Online (05/10/02); McGuire, David

    ICANN has published a working paper that endorses many of ICANN President Stuart Lynn's reform proposals, though it is ambivalent about Lynn's suggestion that world governments select some of the organization's leaders. In March, ICANN decided to restructure itself, but dropped a plan to establish a way for Internet users to directly elect some of ICANN's leaders. "We explore alternatives to direct government involvement in board selection because of the practical difficulties that have been expressed in implementing that idea in the near future," the reform committee wrote, but it did not reject government involvement, and some critics say that such involvement would not match direct, public board elections. Lynn and some ICANN insiders contend that officials elected by world governments would do better at representing public interests than those elected through online elections, on the grounds that online elections could be "captured" by special interest groups. The paper suggests a wider group of Internet stakeholders for the nominating committee structure. ICANN board member Karl Auerbach criticized the working paper as "a rubber stamp of gargantuan proportions."
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  • "Computer-based Artificial Societies May Create Real Policy"
    United Press International (05/12/02); Bourge, Christian

    Policy analysts and social scientists are slow to embrace agent-based computer models as a way to test their policies and theories. Instead, they are relying on empirical models that use existing data. Agent-based modeling creates numerous agents that react in different ways depending on other influences in the simulation, so that researchers can find out, for example, how a change in Social Security policy might affect retired workers. Although the results do not prove a model, they are convenient ways for policy makers to test different scenarios, says Ben Goodrich, who works for the Institute of International Economics. Manchester Metropolitan University's Scott Moss, who is currently involved in a agent-based modeling project for the European Commission, says that studies are testing the reactions of the model's software agents against those of real participants. Stephen Bankes of the Rand Corporation believes think tanks and policy researchers are not adopting agent-based modeling because there is no set methodology for creating the programs, which prevents critical analysis of the models.
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  • "Lawrence Lessig: The "Dinosaurs" Are Taking Over"
    Business Week Online (05/13/02); Black, Jane

    Stanford University law professor and digital rights activist Lawrence Lessig says corporate entities are threatening the future of e-business. For one, Lessig says that network infrastructure operators are creating biased systems that favor certain content providers. Cable operators, for example, are building frameworks into their systems that allow them to monitor content and give speedier transmission to certain types of data streams. He says that startup companies and other innovators need to worry about a growing number of such factors, driving up the cost of innovation. Content owners, such as Hollywood studios and the recording industry, are also litigating any company that proposes a new model for content distribution, enabled by the Internet. The fact is, Lessig maintains, the old model of content creation and distribution is outmoded and made unnecessary by Internet technology. He suggests Congress do away with punitive legislation such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the proposed bill by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) that would involve copyright protection mechanisms in every digital playback device. Also, flat-rate compulsory licenses should be granted Web radio and other innovative delivery models, such as the Napster file-sharing network, on the same basis as licenses granted traditional broadcast radio and television.

  • "Supercomputing Platform Built for Gaming"
    New Scientist Online (05/09/02); Knight, Will

    IBM has launched grid computing technology for the online gaming world, helping gaming software firm Butterfly to set up a scalable network with unlimited capacity. The Butterfly network will provide a scalable platform for online game developers to launch massive continuous games that can support millions of players simultaneously. In traditional online gaming, dedicated servers supported games, but those rigid structures could not scale beyond set limits, and the game had to pause offline if infrastructure was expanded. With the grid system, Butterfly will be able to add servers and share storage and processing power between the different games on the network on an ad hoc basis, in the same way IBM's other grid computing networks make resources available to researchers. Jason Rutter, computer gaming expert at the University of Manchester, says the online gaming industry is growing at a rapid clip, and that the system Butterfly envisions will meet the demand of next-generation games.

  • "Patching the Whois Database"
    New Architect Online (06/02); Asaravala, Amit

    When the Whois directory was structured in the early 1980s, it was intended to be an information-resource about IP addresses, but today marketers can use accurate Whois data to smother domain name owners with sale pitches and other tedious marketing solicitations. In August 2001, an ICANN study revealed that 92 percent of respondents wanted stricter protections surrounding Whois data--for instance, an opt-in policy similar to what is offered by some credit card companies. ICANN has yet to formulate an updated Whois policy. Trademark owners and the FBI support today's Whois structure as a way to hold cybersquatters and others accountable, but these legitimate concerns do not expunge the legitimate concerns of domain name owners who have qualms about exposing contact information to marketers, stalkers, hostile governments, and racist organizations. ICANN does allow third parties to enter contact information on behalf of domain name owners.
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  • "Government Seeks E-Job Hunters"
    InformationWeek (05/06/02) No. 887, P. 83; George, Tischelle

    The U.S. government is using the Net to find qualified candidates for IT positions by retooling portals and hosting virtual job fairs in order to better compete with the private sector. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is upgrading its USAJobs portal as part of a larger e-government effort called Recruitment One-Stop. USAJobs lists 17,000 federal positions, but only about 10 percent of those jobs can be applied for directly through the portal; the rest only take applications by mail or through other Web sites. Recruitment One-Stop makes it possible for job searchers to apply to multiple agencies online while federal human resources personnel can track applicants' progress, according to One-Stop project manager Clare Gibbons. OPM's Karen Leydon says her agency has teamed up with other federal agencies to simplify and improve the online recruiting process, and is planning to adopt the recruiting industry's best practices. OPM recently held an online job fair that generated over 17,000 applications for less than 300 IT job openings.

  • "Five Uneasy Pieces"
    CIO (05/01/02) Vol. 15, No. 14, P. 109; Lindquist, Christopher; Levinson, Meridith; Berkman, Eric

    Five technologies--biometrics, collaboration tools, business process outsourcing, grid computing, and open-source software--are being heavily promoted, but it is essential to separate fact from hype. Biometric security systems that recognize biological identifiers are touted as a solution to hard-to-remember or easily guessed passwords, but Meta Group analyst Earl Perkins estimates it will be four more years before the technology really catches on, given that hardware and software developers have yet to agree on a standard programming interface; implementation costs and logistics are also significant barriers. Collaboration tools are supposed to integrate the supply chain by allowing partners to share product information, when the fact is that this requires a radical change in accepted business culture that many companies are reluctant to implement. Business process outsourcing promises to make companies more efficient by handing off responsibility for noncore operations to third-party vendors, but its broad definition can confuse potential clients; many vendors are actually supplying applications rather than actual processes, says Gartner analyst Rebecca Scholl. Grid computing, or distributed computing, professes to help companies solve computing problems by harnessing the computing power of idle processors, but making applications more granular is a tough challenge. Furthermore, security issues need to be resolved and Web services technology needs to mature before grids can truly proliferate. Open-source software such as Linux could reduce companies' reliance on monopolistic corporations, but its cheapness and easily modifiable code does not sit well with conservative companies.

  • "Waiting For Broadband"
    eWeek (05/06/02) Vol. 19, No. 18, P. 22; Hicks, Matt

    IT managers are keeping their pockets tight when it comes to purchasing new networking equipment, thanks to discouraging financial trends. The market is undergoing a switch as more and more enterprise customers work toward providing more effective online connections to remote telecommuters, offices, clients, and consumers at speeds equal to those on internal networks. "In the next wave of investment in enterprise networks, [spending] has to be tied to the customers getting the services and having broadband access," notes Network Strategy Partners' Michael Kennedy. Experts predict that the development of next-generation network services--videoconferencing, streaming video, storage area networks, etc.--will hinge upon fast, resilient WAN and Internet access via metro Ethernet and other technologies. Enterprises and backbones not only need faster, more flexible connections, but an easier way to link to customers outside the network. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of broadband services to homes. Until broadband fully emerges, IT managers say they will only purchase networking gear for improved security and other essential network features. Furthermore, they will be on the lookout for the cheapest models available.

  • "Enter the Cyborgs"
    U.S. News & World Report (05/13/02) Vol. 132, No. 16, P. 56; Boyce, Nell

    Implants that deliver feedback to the brain have opened up an ethical can of worms, with ethicists debating over whether such implants could turn human beings into remote-controlled robots, as demonstrated by a recent experiment in which scientists used electrical impulses to guide the movements of enhanced rats. Another scenario that is cause for concern is the creation of a race of cyborgs that have gained superior abilities through technological enhancements, although much more research and work must be carried out before such technology is ready. "We have to set up criteria so that there is transparency, accountability, and peer review," declares Cornell University medical ethicist Joseph Fins. Such technology has its benefits: A long-term goal has been to devise a way in which paralyzed people can control prosthetic devices and receive neural feedback. Neurologist Philip Kennedy has installed electrodes in paralyzed human subjects that enable them to manipulate a computer cursor by thought. Other successful mind control experiments include monkeys that can move a robot arm via microelectrode arrays implanted into the motor cortex. Progress has also been made with electronic devices that act on the brain or nerves to restore hearing or reduce tremors in Parkinson's patients.

  • "We've Only Just Begun to Use IT Wisely"
    InformationWeek (05/06/02) No. 887, P. 116; Kappelman, Leon A.

    Enterprise architecture will help businesses reap the true benefits of IT systems, writes Leon A. Kappelman, director of the IS Research Center and University of North Texas professor. Currently, IT is focused on optimizing parts instead of the whole, resulting in waste and complete system replacements. If businesses can reorganize their organizational structure properly, where the form matches the purposes of the company, then they will be able to use IT more effectively to meet those purposes. Kappelman compares this change in thinking to how Henry Ford matched different technologies and innovations to create modern manufacturing. Previously, assembly lines, division of labor, and interchangeable parts had not met in the way that optimized benefit for the whole process. Today, Kappelman says the best plans for enterprise architecture are being pioneered by federal agencies and groups, such as the General Accounting Office and the Federal CIO Council, both of which have produced important studies on the subject.

  • "Grid Computing"
    Technology Review (05/02) Vol. 105, No. 4, P. 31; Waldrop, M. Mitchell

    Grid computing--the organization of computers into interlinked networks that can be tapped for processing power--has even more growth potential than the Internet explosion of the 1990s, according to California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology director Larry Smarr, who expects it to provide an infrastructure that will eventually support the entire economy. He foresees a future that features interconnected grids of all sizes, running the gamut from supercomputer clusters to mid-sized nodes of desktops and laptops to PC-based "micronodes." Grid computing projects are initially being established to provide data-crunching power for scientific and academic research, but Ian Foster of Argonne National Laboratory believes that they will also serve as testbeds for commercial applications. Notable grid computing initiatives include the TeraGrid project, which will compute up to 13.6 teraflops and connect four sites at 40 Gbps; and the European DataGrid, which is used to analyze high-energy physics, bioinformatics, and environmental science data. The open-source Globus Toolkit has become the standard of choice for many of these projects, and the TeraGrid in particular promises to be a significant test of the Toolkit software, according to Charles Catlett of Argonne National Laboratory. Interoperability between Globus and other grid computing standards is being pushed by the Global Grid Forum, while grid pioneers are also forging partnerships with their commercial peer-to-peer equivalents. Meanwhile, Microsoft's announcement that it will integrate Globus with Windows XP is symbolic of the connections being made between grid computing and Web services.

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