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Volume 4, Issue 365: Monday, June 24, 2002

  • "Microsoft, Chip Makers Work To Create Built-In Web Security"
    Wall Street Journal (06/24/02) P. B8; Buckman, Rebecca; Clark, Don

    Microsoft has teamed up with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Intel to develop Palladium, a technology that would give PCs built-in Internet security and online content safeguards. Although Geoffrey Strongin of AMD admits that security technology is by no means unbreakable, Palladium's "lock-box" approach could make hacker intrusions all the more difficult. Palladium could prove particularly attractive to enterprises whose e-commerce operations are at risk due to security vulnerabilities, viruses, and other problems, while Microsoft adds that the technology could help users cut down on the amount of spam they receive and more easily limit personal data they share with others online. Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds says that the technology may be especially welcome in countries such as China, where software piracy is rampant. However, Palladium's bundling with the Windows operating system is likely to generate controversy, since the move could be seen as an attempt by Microsoft to increase its PC dominion; company officials also note that PC users would be required to update their systems. Intel's Howard High indicates that his company might equip PCs with more than one chip so that users can turn off the security features at their discretion. Microsoft Group Product Manager Mario Juarez acknowledges that "the introduction of the technology is years away."

  • "Breadth of Content on Web Could Improve Translation Technology"
    Associated Press (06/23/02)

    Computer translation software, which is based on dictionaries of words and phrases likely to occur in documents, as well as standards to help determine unfamiliar phrases, is limited: A lack of common sense often renders a computer unable to deal with proper nouns, laws, local currencies, dimensions, and dates. Some researchers have recently posited that mining Web pages for translated material could be a more effective approach, one that does not rely on a lot of programmed rules. For instance, a computer could poll millions of translated pages to deduce that the word "bank" usually refers to a financial institution, particularly when the world "account" is used in conjunction; moreover, the method requires less effort for users, offers access to more languages, and can keep abreast of usage changes. Still, University of Maryland professor Philip Resnik notes that the approach has challenges--computers need to be able to identify two documents that are translations of each other, and use perfect alignment. Resnik claims to have created a program that surveys the Web and identifies translations with more than 90 percent accuracy.

  • "AI to Assist Alzheimer's Patients"
    Wired News (06/24/02); Baard, Mark

    Human caregivers for people suffering from Alzheimer's Disease could one day be replaced by assisted cognition systems that use artificial intelligence software, global positioning system (GPS) technology, sensor networks, and infrared ID badges. One system currently in development is the Adaptive Prompter, a product of the University of Washington's (UW) Assisted Cognition Project. The Prompter is designed to help Alzheimer's patients carry out basic household chores such as completing tasks and taking medication. The system uses a network of motion detectors in conjunction with infrared ID badges, and is supplemented with wall speakers, PDAs, and special pendants for two-way communications. Meanwhile, the UW is also working on a prototype for the Activity Compass, a wireless handheld that records Alzheimer's patients' daily routines and directs them via GPS when they are lost. The device is "taught" by being carried around on trips by the user, in this case UW grad student Don Patterson, the Activity Compass's inventor; trip data is recorded and downloaded once a week into a lab computer so it can be used for future AI "training sessions." The device allows users to click on a picture of the destination they wish to reach, and gives them directions by displaying arrows. The Activity Compass can also offer destinations based on current time, users' location, and the direction they are traveling in.

  • "Panel Boosting Cyber-Safety"
    Investor's Business Daily (06/24/02) P. A6; Howell, Donna

    The President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board is working on a "national strategy for defending cyberspace" that it will issue in September, and the panel is hoping to convince the private sector to bolster computer security on a voluntary basis, rather than submit to government regulation. However, former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) notes that many firms are skeptical about the initiative, given that they devoted a lot of time, money, and effort to a similar mandate, Y2K compliance, only to face few problems when 2000 came around. "We are becoming more dependent on the free and uninterrupted use of the Internet," acknowledges Internet Security Systems CEO Tom Noonan. "We are intimately aware of how vulnerable this infrastructure is." The board is developing the plan using an array of questions posted at securecyberspace.gov, some of which hint at the possibility of government regulation. John Mancini of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae says that firms could ensure that their networks are safe by seeking certification of accepted security specifications. Banking and finance firms, which the board has already met with, are known for constantly updating their security through rigorous formal procedures; meanwhile, health firms are likely to impose similar measures as they adopt a law that requires all medical records to be appropriately guarded. The board's cyber-security initiative was driven by the horrific events of Sept. 11, while the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks and the billions of dollars lost as a result make the matter even more pressing.

  • "New Chip Speeds HP Unix Servers"
    CNet (06/23/02); Shankland, Stephen

    On Monday, Hewlett-Packard will announce a new model of its Superdome Unix server that features PA-RISC 8700+ processors, a step up in speed from its 8700 chips; the old processors run at 750 MHz, while the new processors run at 875 MHz. This product will accelerate HP's rivalry with Unix server market leader Sun Microsystems and IBM. The company claims that the new Superdome system has broken performance records in several tests, including the Transaction Performance Council's (TPC) TPC-C test that measures database information reading and writing capability, and the SpecJBB2000 test of performance running Java server programs. In the latter evaluation, HP boasted that the Superdome beat out IBM's p690 and Sun's Sun Fire 15K with 594,000 operations per second. Two additional PA-RISC generations are on the horizon: Next year will see the debut of the 8800, which will embed two processors on a silicon wafer, while the 8900 will arrive the following year. Itanium processors will be used by all subsequent models, and HP expects to sell PA-RISC systems through 2006 and provide support through 2011.

  • "Danish Deep-Link Decision Due"
    Wired News (06/24/02); Manjoo, Farhad

    Danish online news service Newsbooster may possibly be kept from linking to articles deep within newspaper Web sites this week, depending on a court ruling in that country. The Danish Newspaper Publishers' Association has filed suit against Newsbooster because it is concerned that online newspaper sites will suffer if people are allowed to shuttle past their home page. Advertisers pay handsomely for front page real estate, the value of which is lessened if visitors skip directly to inside content. Because Dutch copyright law is based on that of the European Union, the Newsbooster case could affect other sites internationally. Recently in the United States, National Public Radio's (NPR) Web site was criticized for posting a change in its policy that required permission to link to the site's content. NPR said it will clarify the policy, which was meant to prevent people from setting up commercial online radio sites based on NPR programs and advocacy groups misconstruing NPR stories.

  • "High-Tech Security on Display"
    News Tribune (06/21/02); Blumenthal, Les

    According to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), small- and medium-sized high-tech companies from his state need some help in marketing their homeland security products to government. Smith invited more than a dozen such firms to Capitol Hill last week for a presentation to officials from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Department, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, and other agency leaders. Topia Venture showcased its tracking software that would be able to detect when a plane left its set course and force it into a safe, automated holding pattern. Coscomm Aerospace International of Bellevue says its embedded communications chip would beam data from the flight data recorder to a ground station in real time so that, in the event of a crash, details about the causes would be immediately available. Coscomm CEO R.J. McIntosh says the technology could have been used to alert air traffic controllers to what was happening in the cockpit of the Sept. 11 flights through the real-time data transmission. AIS also touted a virtual training environment which could be used to train sky marshals in a room with a display that covers a 210-degree range of vision.

  • "ICANN, Dotted With Doubts"
    Washington Post (06/20/02) P. E6; McGuire, David

    ICANN will decide whether or not to permanently cancel direct elections of ICANN board members at ICANN's upcoming June meeting, while at the same time many ICANN observers are also beginning to doubt whether ICANN reform can succeed. U.S. Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill) says that unless ICANN reforms dramatically, "we'll have to look at alternatives to ICANN." Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) notes that ICANN has failed to be consensus-based except in creating a consensus of criticism. U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) official Nancy Victory recently told a Senate subcommittee that ICANN should be allowed to reform itself, and that reforms can be evaluated in September when ICANN's DoC contract comes up for renewal. ICANN's approval of seven new TLDs drew criticism for allowing new-TLD applicants just three minutes to speak in front of the ICANN board, and for making final decisions on new TLDs without any appeals process. ICANN CEO Stuart Lynn says that ICANN must be an agile, private sector organization, and that introducing more process mechanisms will turn ICANN into a sluggish, government-like organization. Others caution that the U.S. risks international backlash if it pushes too hard for reforms. ICANN legal counsel Theresa Swinehart says, "The expectation is that ICANN is a global organization with equal input."

  • "USB, FireWire Head to Battle"
    ZDNet (06/20/02); Spooner, John G.

    Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 and FireWire will compete for consumers who want high-speed peripherals for their PCs. USB 2.0 can transmit data at 480 Mbps, compared to FireWire's data transfer rate of 400 Mbps. International Data (IDC) analyst Roger Kay adds that USB 2.0's cost-effectiveness could endanger FireWire's popularity. USB 2.0 is basically free thanks to chipset integration and software support, while the addition of FireWire support to PCs usually tacks on another $50 to the retail price. Analysts project fast acceptance of USB 2.0, and a consequent upturn in sales of digital cameras and external CD-RW drives; more consumers should also back up data on external hard drives as a result. The major PC manufacturers are expected to have installed USB 2.0 by the holiday sales season: USB Implementer's Forum Chairman Jason Ziller predicts that up to 90 percent of Intel desktop platforms will feature USB 2.0 by year's end. Still, delays in the rollout of USB 2.0 gave FireWire a lead, and a new version of the FireWire technology boasting a data transfer speed of 800 Mbps is planned. The competing standards will probably coexist for a while, and In-Stat/MDR analyst Brian O'Rourke notes that both USB and FireWire ports are featured on many PCs and digital video cameras.

  • "Excuse Me, Is Your Tooth Ringing?"
    Wired News (06/21/02); Sandhana, Lakshmi

    On display at London's Science Museum is a tooth implant that can receive signals from radios and mobile phones. The technology, designed by MIT research associates Jimmy Loizeau and James Auger, explores the "endless" possibilities of biotechnology, according to Joe Meaney of the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts (NESTA). The device can be implanted during routine dental surgery, a relatively cheap procedure that raises minimal health issues. The hardware involved includes a wireless receiver and a micro-vibration device, while bone resonance enables the received sounds to be transmitted to the inner ear. Loizeau explains that "The vibrations are on a molecular level, so the user only experiences pure sound streaming into their consciousness." Signals can be sent to the tooth via a dedicated device or a modified mobile phone; the former allows reception to be switched on or off. Volume can be raised by implanting devices in additional teeth. The device was produced through a collaboration between the Royal College of Art and the Science Museum, and is supported by NESTA.

  • "China Wrestles Online Dragon"
    Christian Science Monitor (06/19/02) P. 6; Becker, Jasper

    The Chinese government is moving to close unregistered Internet cafes in Beijing after a cafe fire incinerated 24 people, but some Beijing Web users believe China simply wants to limit the flow of online information in China. Beijing itself is believed to have 2,400 unregistered cafes. China has 200,000 Internet cafes, and 250,000 China-based Web sites, and according to the People's Daily, 56 million Internet users. Only the United States boosts more Internet users: 156 million. China has moved aggressively to attempt to control its citizens' use of the Web without stymieing the Internet, IT innovation, and IT jobs. For instance, Web sites must maintain detailed records of who visits the site, including domain names used to dial in, user account information, user times and dates when logged-on, and other tracking information, all of which must be made available to police upon demand. China has also built a high-capacity computer network that is used to monitor email communications, Web sites, and other Internet activity.

  • "Web-to-Phone Patent 'Infringed'"
    Australian (06/18/02) P. 31; Mackenzie, Kate

    Brisbane, Australia-based company ProjectE has two Australian patents and a pending U.S. patent application for a method of reaching Web pages by phone numbers that is similar to the Enum standard in development, says ProjectE CEO Doreen Acworth. ProjectE says that VeriSign's WebNum service that uses software to translate phone numbers into URLs--much like ProjectE's phURL program--may be infringing upon the Australian company's patent. However, ProjectE does not intend to sue because ProjectE is a small company, says Acworth. "ProjectE has communicated with VeriSign about the patents and invited VeriSign to have discussions with ProjectE if its business plans are affected by the patents," says ProjectE lawyer John Swinson. "These are patents on technology developed by an unassuming Australian Internet genius." VeriSign's WebNum service is mainly geared toward wireless customers, and was launched in Australia and New Zealand in April 2002 through eSign. ProjectE's phURL employs browser-client software that can target particular Web pages, and has drawn interest from Nortel and Telstra, but has not generated significant profits. Acworth says that her company is interested in some form of partnership or licensing agreement as compensation, and is not willing to be ignored.
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  • "Back to the Future"
    National Journal (06/15/02) Vol. 34, No. 24, P. 1792; New, William

    Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director Anthony Tether aims to make his organization the technology research and development leader it was 25 years ago, when it was responsible for creating the underlying architecture of the Internet and the Global Positioning System. Today, DARPA is more of a customer for technologies stemming from private-sector R&D efforts because of economic growth triggered by DARPA innovations; Tether says Bush administration officials want to return the agency to the cutting-edge spirit of the early '70s and '80s. For example, with DARPA's help, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants the United States to take the lead position in controlling space "[so] we could get there anytime we want, to protect our assets," according to Tether. He notes that some of DARPA's top pursuits include the development of learning computers and smaller, faster machines, as well as a laser-based next-generation Internet that boasts better security and improved robustness. Since Tether took over a year ago, the agency has instituted two new offices: An Information Awareness Office that is working on an anti-terrorist technology called "total information awareness," and an Information Exploitation Office that develops technology that detects and watches enemies targeted by weapons under development, and then controls the weapons once they are delivered. Other DARPA projects that Tether has touted include the Brain Machine Interface, the Continuous Assisted Performance program, and the Metabolic Engineering program. In his 2003 fiscal budget, President Bush raised DARPA's budget by $400 million.

  • "Untangling the Future"
    Business 2.0 (06/02) Vol. 3, No. 6, P. 72; Saffo, Paul; Parks, Bob

    Research in disciplines such as infotech, materials science, bioscience, and energy could intersect in the future, spawning a host of new trends and technologies. The convergence of materials science research efforts such as nanotechnology and high-performance materials and infotech initiatives such as cognitive computing, quantum computing, advanced analytics, and sensors may yield significant breakthroughs in molecular manufacturing, quantum nucleonics, and cognitronics. Likewise, energy sector research into biofuels and bioscience sector research in biomanufacturing and bioenvironmental management could lead to the development of biofuel production plants, or fuel farming. The marriage of bioscience's genomics research with cognitive computing from infotech and smart materials from materials science could give rise to biointeractive materials. Meanwhile, bionics could come from the convergence of mobile power research from energy, biomanufacturing research from bioscience, and sensor research from infotech. Technology advances predicted to take place within the next 20 years include heat-resistant steel used to build cleaner plants (a product of next-generation fuel research); a nuclear-powered PDA (from mobile power efforts); wireless communications between appliances and wireless transceivers implanted in the brain; smart material breakthroughs such as self-repairing vinyl and special suits for soldiers that offer automatic camouflage and medical care; gene screenings to detect potential cancers; biomechanical replacement organs such as ears; and human cloning.

  • "Looking Ahead"
    CRN (06/17/02) No. 1000, P. 95; Cerf, Vinton

    Vinton Cerf, writing for CRN magazine, predicts that the number of Internet-enabled devices will swell dramatically between 2006 and 2010, and notes as examples initiatives in the Netherlands and Japan to develop Internet-enabled cars that use the Internet to connect and interconnect instruments and devices. In this scenario, sensors will supply data about devices' operations to cars, and also transmit geo-positioning information to devices to make devices aware of their physical positions, an innovation that could lead to new types of services. The Interplanetary Network is another innovative, ongoing project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that is intended to extend the Internet into the solar system, in part by designing and standardizing an architecture for deep-space communication. Protocols are being developed to support interactions between assets in deep space and Earth-based Internet sources. Approaching 2010, Cerf predicts that there will be some 2.2 billion Internet users and between 5 billion to 20 billion connected devices, which means that this huge system will demand IPv6 in order to manage an Internet between three and 15 times as large as today's telephone system. Voice and perhaps gesture will be used to interact with technology, and most devices will be controllable through remote servers.

  • "Patently Absurd"
    Forbes (06/24/02) Vol. 169, No. 14, P. 45; Reback, Gary L.

    Patents are no longer invention stimulants, but have become widely abused revenue-generating vehicles. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has aided those who abuse the system by allowing anyone to get a patent for almost anything, especially since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1980 that expanded the list of patentable objects and ideas to include human-made, genetically engineered bacteria. Too many patents limit competition within vast sectors of the economy. The USPTO realized that by granting most patents, it could profit. Economists speculate, however, that too many patents are a bad thing--patents can actually slow or eliminate the introduction of new products into the market, and diminish competition. The USPTO should reexamine its focus, and realize that a different patent policy, while not producing as much profit right away, will benefit the economy later, writes Silicon Valley entrepreneur and lawyer Gary L. Reback.

  • "U.S., Russian Nanotechnology Finally Come In From the Cold"
    Small Times Online (06/17/02); Fried, Jayne

    Warmer relations between the United States and Russia could lead to a new era of technology sharing, particularly in the field of nanotechnology. For example, a Russian Technology Investment Showcase will be held in Silicon Valley on June 18, with Siberian Research and Development Center Spectr director Oleg Khasanov one of the guests. In early September, the Nano and Giga Challenges in Microelectronics symposium will be held in Moscow, and the event is attracting many American attendees who hope to build productive relationships with their Russian counterparts. Speakers from the United States, Russia, Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Japan, and elsewhere will be on hand to discuss quantum computing, nanostructure fabrication via atom removal, and other topics. NanoBusiness Alliance founder Mark Modzelewski calls Russia one of the world's top five nanotech leaders, and says that major nanotech innovations such as quantum dots would not have been possible without Russian research. But he laments that "their arcane patent/publishing procedures have caused them to not get the credit they deserve." Los Alamos National Laboratory's Sig Hecker says that Russia's alliance with the United States in the war on terrorism following Sept. 11 represents a major change in attitude, although he notes that the Russian scientific establishment is still tightly controlled by the nation's security services.
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  • "Silicon Is Slow"
    Popular Science (06/02) Vol. 260, No. 6, P. 44; Tynan, Daniel

    Researchers seeking to significantly boost computer speed are looking into other materials and technologies that operate on a much smaller scale than silicon, and promise to avoid power-limiting factors such as the sequential nature of silicon chip operation. One form of computing being researched takes its cue from DNA, which encodes vast amounts of data and can be used to generate all solutions to a problem at the same time. Molecular electronics, in which circuits are built from carbon and other elements, can speed up computing while still adhering to classical computing architecture, and machines that combine both silicon and molecular circuitry could be designed before the end of the decade. Research by IBM and Bell Labs scientists last year respectively yielded a single-molecule logic gate and a minuscule molecular transistor, with the latter reportedly able to amplify signals; this discovery could lead to the development of smaller and more cheaply produced chips, according to Stan Williams of Hewlett-Packard. Molecular electronics and the parallel processing of DNA could be integrated in the quantum computer, which recruits atomic nuclei as quantum bits, or qubits. One of the nucleic quantum states can represent 0 and 1 at the same time, which means that a single qubit can carry out the work of two. Researchers are also working on ways to maintain the superposition state of nuclei, which is the key to performing quantum calculations. Potential uses of all these nanoscale computing efforts range from superior data encryption to simultaneous data processing to database management; such advances could yield new drugs, biomedical implants that can monitor the human body, biosensors that detect pathogens in the environment, and more accurate weather forecasts.

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