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Volume 4, Issue 366: Wednesday, June 26, 2002

  • "A New Twist on Light Speed"
    Wired News (06/26/02); Anderson, Mark K.

    A group of five researchers from Scotland recently discovered how to pack more data into a light beam. The discovery may lead to faster methods of delivering quantum information used in cryptography and communications, as well as new fiber optic applications. The experiment involves sorting photons by a property called orbital angular momentum. When a ray of light is in a shape of a spiral, photons can have several "strands" traveling together. So a three-stranded photon would have three lines twisted together, separated by 120 degrees. Although more information can be placed on a single photon, it is still impossible to recreate the experiment outside of the lab, says Gabriel Molina of the Unversitat Politecnica de Calalunya. His group is focusing on adapting the technology to fiber optics.

  • "Fastest WLANs on the Planet"
    Wireless Newsfactor (06/25/02); McDonough Jr., Dan

    Wi-Fi is a popular standard for wireless networking because of its high transmission speed, but depending on distance, speed is likely to be limited to 5 Mbps, says Forrester analyst Charles Golvin. Still, that is faster than DSL's typical 1.5 Mpbs, and future versions promise even more advances. A new Wi-Fi 802.11a standard has emerged running at an optimum 54 Mbps, and is useful for corporations or public access sites, not because of its speed, but for capacity, says Golvin. The new Wi-Fi standard can be important for home networking as well, experts say. For a DVD player to communicate wirelessly with a TV, for example, it would need a large amount of bandwidth, Golvin says. According to Golvin, the upcoming 802.11g will be popular because it has the speed of 802.11a while operating on the same 2.4 gigahertz frequency as the more ubiquitous 802.11b.
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  • "India Tech: What's the Matter U?"
    Wired News (06/25/02); Sinha, Ashutosh

    The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) has a reputation for nurturing highly skilled tech talent that have gone on to find success overseas, but the institution is currently suffering a faculty shortage. Throughout its branches in Delhi, Bombay, Madras, and elsewhere, IIT is having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill the void left by retiring faculty. In the Delhi school alone, 15 faculty members retire each year, while only 40 have come aboard in the last five years; meanwhile, the student population has increased 45 percent in the last eight years. For one thing, faculty do not make a lot of money: The senior-most instructors receive $674 a month, while 35 percent of the extra revenue they earn from consultancy projects goes to the IITs. Furthermore, the number of patents the typical IIT was granted in 1996-97 fell way behind those of Stanford Engineering and MIT Engineering, as did the number of faculty citations received for 1993-98, according to a McKinsey study. To alleviate the shortage, IIT Kharagpur has courted operating systems engineering expert Dr. Bruce Montague to teach as a visiting professor, while IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay are working on similar initiatives. IIT alumni and private-sector companies such as Cisco have also donated considerable sums to help fund efforts to improve IIT, such as wiring the IIT Kharagpur campus and establishing labs for research and knowledge sharing.

  • "Wearable Wi-Fi--the Wave of the Future?"
    ZDNet (06/25/02); Charny, Ben

    Firms such as Vocera Communications are hoping to combine telephone networks to Wi-Fi's short range networks. The company says it will team up with chip company Intersil to develop a pager system which will serve as an alternative to cell phones. Hospitals will be targeted later this year by Vocera, which will put the technology on wearable Wi-Fi "badges" that are attached to an employee's shirt sleeve or collar. The non-profit Internet Home Alliance, meanwhile, has been experimenting with alternative Wi-Fi uses, says the group's president Tony Barra. For example, a system undergoing trials in Michigan will let a car approaching a home automatically turn the home security system on or off, control lights, or adjust thermostats. And 150 homes in Houston have used a Wi-Fi-enabled device similar to a Web tablet to write notes, Barra says.
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  • "Crystals and Light-Speed Computing"
    NewsFactor Network (06/24/02); Lyman, Jay

    University of Toronto scientists report in the June issue of Advanced Functional Materials that they have discovered a method for fashioning planarized, opal-based microphotonic crystal chips. UT chemistry professor Geoffrey Ozin boasts that "The breakthrough possibly represents a step toward the development of miniaturized optical components earmarked for the next generation of all-optical computers and telecommunications." He explains that photonic crystals synthesized via directed evaporation-induced self-assembly (DEISA) would be capable of directing and bending light in very small spaces, a significant development in the push toward light-speed computing. Fellow UT professor Edward Sargent adds that the university's research brings the development of the photonic integrated circuit--which he describes as "the Holy Grail of the optical communications industry"--one step closer. Professor Larry Dalton of the University of Washington says that the effects of optical computing will resonate throughout communications, defense, industry, transportation, and entertainment.

  • "Hot Technologies"
    Fortune (06/24/02) Vol. 145, No. 13, P. 162B; Koudsi, Suzanne; Bylinsky, Gene

    Wireless, calcium fluoride, and digital manikins are three technologies that are significantly impacting inventory management, production, and product design. The increasing use of wireless technology in industrial plants is producing numerous benefits: Faster communication, increased mobility, flexibility, more configurable assembly lines, and better monitoring and management of inventory are just some examples. On the other hand, wireless systems cannot carry as much data as wired systems, they are prey to interference, and there are unresolved security issues; and despite its sophistication, wireless is not expected to completely take over the factory, but continue to work alongside wireless systems. Meanwhile, the future of chipmaking will require machines that can project circuit patterns on wafers using 157-nanometer wavelengths of light, and only lenses made from calcium fluoride are transparent enough to allow such tiny line widths; they are also more robust than fused silica. However, there are a number of drawbacks to the technology, including intrinsic birefringence, long growth cycles, fragile crystalline structure, and a low level of viable material. The price for calcium fluoride is also high, considering the tens of millions of dollars that have already been spent on research and development. Using digital manikins, industrial designers can save costs on product development by eliminating or scaling back cumbersome real-world models and tests, refine products to suit customers better, and reduce work-related injuries caused by products. Virtual automobile design, disaster scenario simulations, and ergonomic studies are just a few digital manikin applications. Greater affordability and constant improvement are contributing to the technology's proliferation.

  • "PCs--Pay Now, Recycle Later?"
    ZDNet (06/24/02); Skillings, Jonathan

    PC and electronics recycling initiatives are gathering steam across the country as industry players try to prevent government-mandated fees and systems, either at the national, state, or local level. The National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI) has both government and industry support, and the group is holding a key meeting this week in Minnesota to discuss the implementation of a front-end fee imposed on a PC or cathode-ray computer. Hewlett-Packard environmental business unit manager Renee St. Denis says the NEPSI plan currently being drafted should eliminate the need for state legislation concerning PC and electronics waste, which is being discussed in six states. The discussions come at a time when cash-strapped local governments are having to deal with more and more expensive PC waste. At the same time, locally implemented plans, such as technology taxes, would not be as effective as a national plan, which would bypass tricky e-commerce issues and achieve greater efficiency of scale for the program. Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Best Buy, and most recently Dell have all launched or are announcing individual PC recycling plans.

  • "What's Next?"
    Forbes (06/24/02) Vol. 169, No. 14, P. 76; Daly, James; Boland, Michael

    The scientific community is brimming with ideas about upcoming innovations, as a dozen researchers will attest. AeroVironment Chairman Paul B. MacCready believes the energy crisis could be solved with the emergence of renewable resources and technologies such as vehicles powered by fuel cells. Ruth Rogan Benerito, a pioneer in the cotton, wood, and paper industry, anticipates three important developments: stem cell-based medicine, an environmentally friendly termite control method, and low-power mass transit systems. Technology maven Ray Kurzweil sees great potential in molecular computing and microscopic robots that can deliver drugs and augment the human body, while Moira Gunn of National Public Radio's "Tech Nation" argues for the need of inventions that are human-centric. Segway Human Transporter creator Dean Kamen believes that the developing world is entitled to the technology we enjoy, and new delivery systems and economic schemes must be established to make this dream a reality. Daniel Branagan of the Department of Energy's National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory expects nanotechnology-derived steel coatings that are highly durable and non-corrosive, while liquid crystal technology pioneer James Fergason believes in the advent of real-time automation that fully utilizes databases and computing speed. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell trumpets the development of mobile, labor-saving robots driven by advancements in cheap hardware and intelligent software systems as "the next major breakthrough." Seagate Technology co-founder Al Shugart anticipates innovations in the field of disease cures and preventative treatments, such as colloidal silver, and Andrew Heafitz, 2002 winner of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, thinks that a hybrid gasoline-electric automobile is a significant achievement on the horizon.

  • "Can Computer Chips Take the Heat?"
    NewsFactor Network (06/21/02); Gill, Lisa

    In keeping pace with Moore's Law, computer chips not only get more powerful, but they generate more heat, making the need for a heat dispersal method all the more critical. Furthermore, Rob Enderle of Giga Information Group estimates that heat factors cause a 50 percent downgrade in chip performance, on average. Computer manufacturers are faced with the unenviable task of designing products that are more heat-resistant when chip makers cannot build cooler chips; an easy solution is to enlarge the size of notebooks, according to International Data (IDC) portable PC analyst Alan Promisel. The Aberdeen Group's Russ Craig explains that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) often build notebooks with a high conductivity surface to absorb heat, and adds that some computer makers are replacing the notebook's typically black surface with one painted white, silver, or some other color to more efficiently dissipate heat. Another possibility is recharging a notebook's battery by harnessing the heat generated by a laptop, but Craig notes that such a method is currently very expensive. Meanwhile, Enderle thinks that Apple's heat reduction technique for its PowerPC chips is especially promising: The notebook processors run slow and steady, boosting efficiency and keeping heat down. Promisel has high hopes for Intel's Banias, a mobile chip debuting next year that "is going to allow for thinner and lighter notebook computing, delivering higher levels of performance, better energy [efficiency], and lower heat dissipation without sacrificing performance." Craig believes that the heat issue will not be detrimental to semiconductor development over the next 10 years.

  • "Chips' Future Cast"
    Nature (06/20/02); Clarke, Tom

    With photolithography becoming increasingly limited as computer chips continue to keep pace with Moore's Law, new techniques must be developed so smaller circuit patterns can be traced onto silicon. One possibility is a laser-stamping method developed by Stephen Chou and colleagues at Princeton University. Chou has demonstrated that a laser pulse striking a transparent quartz die abutting a silicon wafer can liquefy the silicon long enough for the die's pattern to be impressed upon it. The procedure only takes 250 nanoseconds, and the imprinted features are just 10 nanometers wide. In contrast, features etched in by photolithography have a width of about 130 nanometers. Such high resolution could enable chips to support 100 times as many transistors as they can now, Chou says. He also thinks his method could be cheaper than photolithography, since it involves fewer steps and less expensive equipment. "According to Moore's Law we are taking things 20 years ahead of the current technology," Chou boasts.

  • "MIT Project Shows Future Interface Technologies"
    InfoWorld (06/20/02); Costello, Sam

    MIT's Project Oxygen Alliance is an initiative that aims to produce more advanced computer interfaces that Lab for Computer Science (LCS) researcher Stephen Garland hopes will usher in a new model of human-computer interaction. "Our hope is that people will get more useful benefits from technology, but be less aware that they're surrounded by it," he explains. Garland notes that as many as 200 to 300 scientists from the LCS and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are involved in the alliance. Technologies the alliance is working on include a computer-aided design tool that can extrapolate design applications from whiteboard images; a system that intelligently assigns streaming media resources; a multilingual, natural language conversation tool that comprehends normal speech; and a decentralized wireless network capable of self-configuration. The alliance receives partial funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and collaborates with Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, Koninklijke Philips Electronics, and other private-sector concerns, but Garland says many alliance projects will be made available to the public, although some may be patented as well. Furthermore, he believes that some of the technology stemming from the alliance is ready for the market.

  • "Microsoft Leaves No Doubt in Blowing Off Judge's Order"
    SiliconValley.com (06/19/02); Gillmor, Dan

    Microsoft last week refused to consider a compromise in its ongoing dispute with the nine states that are suing the company for federal antitrust violations. During the final hearings in the case, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered both sides to list their priorities in the prosecution and defense, or what they would be more and less willing to compromise on. Steven Kuney, a lawyer representing the states, said that getting Microsoft to accurately disclose its plans for the PC software environment was the top priority, followed by preventing Microsoft from bullying other vendors, and unbundling Internet Explorer from Windows. The Microsoft lawyers, however, staidly refused to consider surrendering the terms of the agreement struck with the Justice Department last year. Microsoft's main lawyer, Dan Webb, also said that deal was crafted by experts who understood the way it would impact the PC industry, implying that Judge Kollar-Kotelly alone was not qualified to decide the matter.
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  • "Doom For the NIPC?"
    CIO (06/15/02) Vol. 15, No. 17, P. 38; Worthen, Ben

    The future of the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) has been in doubt since FBI Director Robert Mueller's appointment of Larry Medford as the newly created Cyber Division's assistant director on April 2. The uncertain nature of the division's charter has caused critics such as Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to assume that the NIPC will be controlled by the division. Grassley sent a letter to Mueller warning that such a maneuver would hurt the delicate sense of trust between the government and the private sector that the NIPC is supposed to nurture. Such collaboration is essential to evaluating threats to the nation's critical infrastructure, 90 percent of which is controlled by private-sector concerns. Grassley wrote that companies are already sensitive about disclosing security breaches to the FBI, and the Cyber Division's takeover could further sow distrust, prompting them to block all infrastructure data. Center for Democracy and Technology analyst Ari Schwartz adds that the establishment of a Cyber Division means more manpower for cybercrime information processing, but notes that this carries its own problems. "The upside is that there are more resources to fight crime," he explains. "The downside is more people working without oversight."

  • "URLs in Urdu?"
    Scientific American (06/02) Vol. 286, No. 6, P. 21; Grossman, Wendy M.

    In March 2002, 40 percent of 561 million Internet users were native English-speakers, reports Global Reach, which is why many researchers are working to create domain names in non-Latin scripts. VeriSign already claims to have registered 1 million international names, and IETF is working on a non-Latin domain name protocol. One problem with non-Latin scripts is that cybersquatters could begin registering non-Latin versions of popular domain names in order to divert viewers from intended destinations. Two Israeli students did just that in order to make an international point: They registered microsoft.com using the Russian Cyrillic "o" and "c," an international domain that looks exactly like microsoft.com in English even though it is in fact a different domain name. International domain names rely on Unicode, which enables them to resolve to an ASCII-compatible language string first, such as the domain "iesg--de-jg4avhby1noc0d," and then into IP addresses needed to find Web sites. Some observers would like these ASCII strings to be viewable so that Internet users could check them against ASCII domain names if confusion arises; the IETF proposal does not allow Internet users to view the ASCII string. Other solutions include having people use certification agencies such as VeriSign to obtain verification of Web sites, a certification process currently in use for most electronic banking transactions. University of Cambridge Professor Markus G. Kuhn, who is a native German speaker, does not believe non-Latin domain names are needed, and says that "familiarity with the ASCII repertoire and basic proficiency in entering these ASCII characters on any keyboard are the very first steps in computer literacy worldwide."

  • "Widely Applicable"
    CommVerge (06/02) Vol. 3, No. 6, P. 30; Schreier, Paul G.

    Applications that can run on any wireless device are key to the maturation of the market for 2.5G and 3G products, and several firms and organizations are striving to develop standards for such applications. Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) from Qualcomm is an end-to-end distribution system whose functionality includes handset operations, telephony, and back-office services. Its application programming interface (API) resides on the operating system and reveals the handset chipset's functions, which include a management application for provisioning that controls the downloading and deletion of applications; BREW is distributed to handset manufacturers and developers for free, with Qualcomm making money either from activation fees or a piece of the revenue from consumer downloads. Programmers write BREW applications in C/C++, although Qualcomm is collaborating with several vendors to add Java capabilities. Meanwhile, Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME)--hardware and software standards for smart cards, set-top boxes, and other small devices--is proving very popular, because the specs run on any operating system enabled for data services. The Open Mobile Architecture (OMA) is an industry group that uses global open standards as a template, according to Nokia's Timo Poikolainen; this does not pigeonhole the technology into a single company. Finally, Microsoft's .Net Compact Framework allows developers to write Web services applications based on Windows that can run on Windows CE- or CE.Net-powered wireless mobile appliances.
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  • "Crystal Ball Gazers"
    Network Magazine (06/02) Vol. 17, No. 6, P. 34; Greenfield, David

    Networking hot spots in the next three years, as predicted by tech heavyweights such as WorldCom's Vinton Cerf, AT&T Labs' Hossein Eslambolchi, and Juniper Networks founder and CTO Pradeep Sindhu, include virtual private networks (VPNs), supply chain automation, and network security and mobility. "I would say that we will see a revolution on the systems side of what we do [that is, operations and high-level services]," asserts Eslambolchi. Corporate networks will be chiefly interconnected via VPNs driven by the advent of peer-to-peer technology or grid computing, as well as an integrated voice-data IP network. A convergence of mobility and IP is anticipated, one that will yield a vast array of Internet-enabled mobile appliances and facilitate many new products and services, according to Cerf, who also predicts that the ENUM initiative will revolutionize the telephony market. Business process automation shows great promise through such developments as Web services, and Eslambolchi says a variety of technologies--artificial intelligence, information mining, and software dependability--will be combined to facilitate fundamental business changes. However, IOAN Technologies' Mike Rosen foresees a number of challenges to inter-corporate integration, such as Internet security issues, shared context, and reliable message delivery. Corporate security systems will be required to deal with threats from both within and without: Such dangers include more mobile code attacks as a result of increased network homogenization. Sourcefire founder and CEO Martin Roesch says that awareness of these threats must be increased among the corporate and government community, with the government taking a nominal role in dealing with these issues.

  • "Open Secret"
    CIO Insight (06/02) No. 14, P. 49; Kirkpatrick, Terry A.

    Nine panelists familiar with the open-source software model agree that it follows a philosophy of software development and ownership that clashes with the dominant proprietary software model. Some of the panelists agree that the initial price for open-source software is a small consideration for CEOs compared to other value propositions, while IT budget changes in the last 12 months are making the deployment of open-source software such as Linux advantageous, according to KMERA CEO Stuart Robbins. Steve Yatko of Securities IT believes that industry support and investment will ensure Linux a long life, while Red Hat's Paul Cormier cautions that "the open source model actually lends itself to a great degree of testing just because of the nature of the model, the number of eyes that are on it." The open-source philosophy advocates a community effort rather than dependence on one vendor's organization, says Gartner analyst George Weiss; but he admits that confidence in the open-source model is a little shaky when it comes to whether the community can creatively target its initiatives. A number of panelists expect future IT shops to follow a blended model of open- and closed-source solutions. In the next three to five years, Giga Information Group analyst Stacey Quandt expects open source to become more deeply embedded within the enterprise, as does Cormier; Mike Sutten of Royal Caribbean Cruises projects that source code will be shared over the Internet, although he does not believe Linux will be widely adopted for low-end enterprise tasks until support and sustainability issues are worked out; Microsoft's Jason Matusow states that "for all independent software vendors...a very healthy process is under way in which we're looking at source code access and what it means for customers and partners, and I think that trend will continue." Weiss anticipates increased acceptance of the open-source model by consumers and software vendors, although he does not think it will supplant proprietary licenses as the chief commercial software licensing model, at least through 2006. Jonathan Eunice of Illuminata is of the opinion that open source works better as a developmental philosophy than as a business model.

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