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Volume 4, Issue 381: Friday, August 2, 2002

  • "Grey Matter More Prevalent in Silicon Valley"
    GlobeTechnology.com (08/02/02); Walsh, Diana; Lynem, Julie N.

    A rise in the average age of technology workers over the last two years is becoming more and more apparent, especially now that Silicon Valley's dot-com boom is over. Corporate executives are approaching middle age, while the lower-level employees are also undergoing an age increase. Apple software engineer David Shayer reports that the average age of new engineers is at least 32, whereas it was 25 when he started out in 1986. Meanwhile, most executive managers of Sun Microsystems are about 49 years old. During the Internet boom, the older demographic hardly registered as thousands of grad students and other people under 30 flocked to the Valley to take advantage of business opportunities. The dot-com implosion led to layoffs, fewer benefits, lower starting salaries, and cost-of-living expenses that prompted many young employees to leave or be stuck without a job while older, more experienced workers took their place. Companies place a much higher value on "seasoned" professionals now; startup investor Joe Becker notes that "Nobody trusts kids anymore...I'm not going to fund a twenty-something entrepreneur unless he's willing to allow me to bring in an experienced CEO." Some experts, such as technology and product development professional Steve Weinstein, are worried that the age shift will impair Silicon Valley's competitive edge. Others, such as Ed Tecot of Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus, argue that a lack of innovative thinking does not necessarily come with age.
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  • "DMCA Defenders in Enemy Territory"
    CNet (08/01/02); Bowman, Lisa M.

    The debate between copyright holders, consumer advocates, and consumer electronics vendors was illustrated at a panel discussion in Silicon Valley on Thursday. Ronald Wheeler of Fox Entertainment Group and Mitch Glazier of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) pitted their arguments for proposed legislation that would give copyright owners more control over digital works against those of Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) members and other opponents. The legislation in question includes a bill from Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) calling for a federal mandate to install copyright protection measures in all new consumer electronic devices, and another from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) that gives copyright holders the right to hack into file-sharing systems to forestall copyright infringement. Wheeler contended that a balance between market forces and government oversight is essential to the rollout of entertainment technology, and cited the development of DVDs as an example. Glazier agreed, claiming that consumer advocates are using the notion that the proposals stifle fair-use rights to conceal the desire to steal digital content. CEA President Gary Shapiro countered that such measures would "put a chokehold on the free flow of information" and hamstring technological innovation. Another CEA member, Zoe Lofgren, regretted her earlier support of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is also hurting tech development. Meanwhile, DigitalConsumer.org's Wade Randlett added that copyright owners' push to control digital content is making it unlawful for students to excerpt copyrighted works for book reports, for example.

  • "Senate Approves Trade Bill Vital to Valley"
    SiliconValley.com (08/01/02); Phillips, Heather Fleming

    The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a bill granting the president the authority to negotiate international trade agreements that cannot be revised by Congress, a move that high-tech companies in Silicon Valley have fervently lobbied for. More and more companies are relying on sales to foreign countries as a result of the flat U.S. market, and the trade promotion authority legislation will eliminate high tariffs and other regulations that often limit international sales. Tech companies will be able to sell their products directly to foreign countries, while financial and insurance firms will have a wider opening to foreign markets. "The more foreigners buy American products, the more jobs there are for the American people," declared the White House's Ari Fleischer. Lobbyists say that this development will encourage other nations to pursue serious trade negotiations with America, and they expect deals with Chile and Singapore to be completed this fall thanks to the bill's passage. Negotiations with Latin America, which have been stymied by trade barriers, could be even more significant, since their tech markets are growing rapidly. The World Trade Organization has also been working to streamline barriers around the world that have hindered the sale of computers, telecommunications, and financial services, among other products. When the bill was being deliberated, many legislators expressed concern that it would actually eliminate jobs for Americans, so a 10-year, $12 billion provision was added to make more workers who lose their jobs because of trade eligible for financial and training benefits.

  • "In an Ancient Game, Computing's Future"
    New York Times (08/01/02) P. E1; Hafner, Katie

    The ancient board game Go has generated tremendous interest in artificial intelligence, at least for people who are trying to develop capable computer Go programs. A recent tournament for such programs was held in Edmonton, Alberta, and showed the relative complexity in creating for Go the type of strong game-playing program that beat chess champion Gary Kasparov five years ago. Whereas chess requires more pure calculation, Go involves intuition and pattern-matching, very difficult tasks for a computer. Dr. Michael Reiss, a computer scientist who wrote a previously winning program, says the challenge for a computer in recognizing patterns in the game of Go is the same posed when trying to distinguish the shape of a bicycle from that of a chair. That is, Go programs must be able to make decisions that people naturally make without much effort. Because of this, experts who write Go programs must necessarily be good Go players, and be able to decode their own complex thinking processes. "I think in the long run the only way to write a strong Go program is to have it learn from its own mistakes, which is classic AI, and no one knows how to do that yet," says David Fotland, whose Go program won the Edmonton tournament.
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  • "Forgery Bill Could Criminalize Copying"
    Medill News Service (07/30/02); Chiger, Stephen

    A bill proposed by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) originally outlawed the counterfeiting of any "physical feature" used to authenticate software, music, and movies, but a recent revision that removes the word "physical" from the proposal has critics and consumer proponents worried that it endangers fair-use rights, especially as they apply to digital works. "This is essentially an attempt to rewrite the Digital Millennium Copyright Act through the back door," declares Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Fred Von Lohmann. Biden's office claims that the bill is designed to patch a flaw in the DMCA so that it covers the trafficking of illegal authentication features. Although an aide to Sen. Biden says that consumers would still be allowed to make copies of digital material for private use, Morrison and Foerster partner Jonathan Brand contends that many other legitimate instances of copying could be restricted: For example, libraries that exchange digital content could theoretically be liable under the legislation. Biden's bill could be voted on as early as this week, although a Democratic leadership spokesman thinks the vote will probably be postponed until after the Senate's August recess. Meanwhile, a similar proposal, one that includes the "physical" qualifier, is working its way through the House of Representatives. If both legislations are approved, they will need to be resolved by a joint conference committee.

  • "Honey, Who Shrank the Circuits?"
    Wired News (08/02/02); Sandhana, Lakshmi

    Various nanotechnology research teams presented their breakthroughs this week at the 26th International Conference on the Physics of Semiconductors in Edinburgh. Three teams reported that they were able to fabricate nanowires that integrate layers of different semiconductor materials into an ideal heterostructure; this development could facilitate the manufacture of super-small double-barrier resonant tunneling devices (DBRTs), light-emitting devices (LEDs), photonic transistors, and quantum dot nanowires, according to Swiss researcher Lars Samuelson. Quantum dots were also the focus of three other teams--two from Britain and one from the Netherlands--who presented images of the devices so detailed that individual atoms were visible. Quantum dots could find potential use as quantum bits (qubits), ultrasmall semiconductor lasers, light detectors, and optical switches for future telecommunications networks. Meanwhile, David Whittaker of the University of Sheffield talked about the applications of terahertz radiation (T-rays), which produce images of superior resolution. In addition to the medical industry, where they would offer a safer alternative to x-rays, T-rays could be used for wireless communication and to scan baggage at airports. Rameshar Bhargava of Nanocrystals technology disclosed his work with quantum confined atoms (QCAs), which are atoms or ions confined within a nanocrystal cage that could serve as storage materials for data contained in ultra-high-density magnetic recording systems.

  • "Security Czar Points Finger of Blame"
    ZDNet (07/31/02); Lemos, Robert

    Speaking at the Black Hat Security conference is Las Vegas, White House cyber security advisor Richard Clarke cited five groups responsible for the vulnerability of the Internet: ISPs, software makers, wireless network makers and users, the government, and Internet security administrators (or the lack thereof). Hardware, software, and service providers must do a better job of making their products secure, he indicated. The software industry received the brunt of Clarke's derision; "[It] has an obligation to do a better job producing software that works," he said. He recalled the Nimda virus, which spread not because the vulnerabilities it exploited were unknown (they weren't), but because nobody applied the patches for them. Clarke declared that it is the responsibility of software makers to supply easy-to-install patches that are compatible with corporate software applications. Meanwhile, he said ISPs have made home users more vulnerable by selling them broadband connectivity without considering the security implications. He also listed wireless networks as one of his top five security offenders, urged the government to push for more secure Internet standards, and called on Net experts to create a group that oversees network security. He told his audience that, "You all have responsibility to be Winston Churchills, to be out there in front of anyone who will listen to say we are vulnerable."

  • "Technology Innovation: The Key to Recovery"
    NewsFactor Network (08/01/02); Hirsh, Lou

    The technology sector's research and development efforts are suffering due to the slump in corporate technology spending. Customers are focused on making their current IT investments work better and are not interested in implementing the absolute latest innovations. The Yankee Group says specific efforts have stalled as a result, including Gigabit Ethernet for the desktop, wireless LAN development, and better enterprise storage devices. Gartner analyst Barbara Gomolski says, "People are not focused on sexy new technology...they are basically looking to make what they already have work better." However, Forrester Research predicts that a revival in IT innovation will occur and spur a 10.4 percent increase in corporate IT spending by the end of 2003. Broadband and Web services technologies will be the first innovations out of the gate, with wireless sensors further out. The ability to build cheap integrated circuits that connect wirelessly to the Internet will allow manufacturers to include them in all types of machines so people can monitor their status remotely. Forrester analyst Bruce Temkin also predicts that the rise of broadband will "reinvent consumer electronics" as users connect digital cameras and video recorders to the Internet.

  • "Same Job. Different Cubicle."
    Salon.com (07/31/02); Williams, Sam

    Former employees of VA Linux Systems say the company was doomed by its hugely successful IPO, which saw the company's stock shoot up 800 percent on the first day of trading. The stock market success was short-lived as the intense scrutiny and investor pressure led the company to abandon its promising hardware operations and lay off much of the engineering talent it had acquired. Now called VA Software, the firm does much of its technical work from Bangalore, India. Ex-VA Linux employees are now some of the most prominent open-source programmers and have used their fame working on open-source projects such as the Linux kernel and Samba to get well-paid jobs elsewhere. For example, Samba co-leader Jerry Allison now works for Hewlett-Packard and says he was confident that both his job prospects and those of his project remained sure even after his departure from VA Linux. Similarly, former VA Linux sales engineer Brian Finley found limited corporate backing for his SystemImager project, which is licensed as open source under the GNU Public License. Finley, like other former employees, fondly recalls the days at VA Linux before the IPO. He says, "It was one of the best jobs I ever had. You were basically paid to work with Linux and do whatever you wanted to do."

  • "Grid Computing Aims To Harness 'Clusters'"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/02/02) P. A4; Bonasia, J.

    Grid computing--in which PCs, servers, or other machines are connected in clusters--offers a low-cost way for companies to solve complex problems by tapping into a shared resource of unused computing power. In addition to cutting costs, grid computing could help companies accelerate product development and reinforce teamwork. "Grids have the potential to be far more important than the Internet," contends Rich Friedrich of Hewlett-Packard. Industry executives say the first corporate grid computing markets to emerge include the aerospace, financial, and life sciences industries, whose critical operations depend on having a lot of computing power available. HP, IBM, and Sun Microsystems are among the leading tech companies developing products and services to promote grid rollout, while lesser known companies such as Avaki and Platform Computing offer grid management software. The grid industry must develop common technical standards in order to progress, notes Mary Spada of the Global Grid Forum; the Globus Project, which involves the creation of a standards platform that allows different networks to interoperate, is one approach. However, Ian Baird of Platform Computing says that, "There is no real standard for grids today because there is not widespread use of grids anywhere in a commercial sense yet." Holding up grid computing's adoption among businesses are unresolved security issues and a corporate culture that tends to frown on resource sharing between departments, a barrier that Baird says could dissolve as the economy continues its slump.

  • "PC, Mac OS Updates May Spark Bluetooth"
    InfoWorld.com (08/01/02); Lawson, Stephen

    The adoption of Bluetooth support in upcoming Microsoft and Macintosh operating system updates should help the fledgling technology. Apple says its Macintosh OS X 10.2 operating system, due out Aug. 24, will feature native Bluetooth support, while Microsoft will deliver Bluetooth support for Windows XP in the third or fourth quarter of this year, rather than as part of Service Pack 1. Analysts say that having Bluetooth on the PC will help device makers standardize their interface and interoperability specifications, and will lead to a slew of new Bluetooth devices. Adapters that plug into existing USB or traditional serial ports are expected for peripherals, as well as pure-Bluetooth devices that are built without any wires at all. By the end of this year new wireless keyboards, mice, and cameras will be released, as well as modules for connecting handheld devices. Having Bluetooth support on the PC will also allow manufacturers to make plug-and-play devices and peripherals, just as many PC peripherals today can be used immediately without loading drivers. Another expected use for PC-native Bluetooth will be the use of mobile phones as dial-up modems. U.S. government IT researcher Dwayne Rosenburgh expects Bluetooth technology to eventually be used for wireless home LANs and a universal remote control. Still, Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney cautions that the new software likely will lead to "the first round of Bluetooth frustration" as users begin implementing the technology for the first time.

  • "Teaching Machines to Hear Your Prose and Your Pain"
    New York Times (08/01/02) P. E9; Eisenberg, Anne

    Speech recognition software's ability to detect prosody in human speech is severely limited, and researchers around the world are working to make programs more capable of interpreting pauses, timing, pitch, volume, and other cues that can be translated into punctuation, jokes, questions, etc. Some speech synthesis programs incorporate prosody to evoke a feeling of friendliness to people who listen to electronic messages, but recognizing prosody is a far more complicated matter, notes Mari Ostendorf of the University of Washington. SRI International psycholinguist Elizabeth Shriberg is leading prosody detection initiatives, including one involving how changes in pitch indicate sentence boundaries. Another project involves studying false starts and disfluencies--"ums," "ands," and "oops"--that are common in natural speech but may confuse speech recognition programs. The applications for software that can identify prosody include intelligence gathering, such as analysis and transcription of monitored broadcasts and conversations, which could prove critical in espionage and security initiatives. A more prosaic use for such technology is being looked into by Anton Batliner of the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg in Germany. His team is developing programs that can detect cues that indicate frustration, or even inebriation. Automated customer service and call centers could benefit from such software.
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  • "Nanotechnology Backers See Trillion-Dollar Industry"
    Hackensack Record Online (08/01/02); January, Brendan

    The establishment of the New Jersey Nanotechnology Laboratory was announced on Wednesday by government, industry, and academic leaders. The not-for-profit lab, formed by a consortium of private and state interests, will initially receive $4 million in funding from the state budget and the House Defense Appropriations Bill. Supporters believe the nanotech industry will earn $1 trillion in annual profits within 15 years. The N.J. facility will reside at Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs. Bell Labs President Jeff Jaffe said the lab will be run by a 12-member board, while Gov. James E. McGreevey, speaking at a press conference, predicted that the lab's annual budget could reach $12 million. The nanotech facility will feature extremely clean rooms that contain fewer than 100 particles per cubic foot. The consortium that formed the lab includes Lucent Technology and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, while future participants could include the Stevens Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and Picatinny Arsenal's military research and development center. Other states--New York, California, and Indiana, for example--are also undertaking nanotech lab initiatives.

  • "Arguing the Case for a Smarter Disk Drive"
    NewsFactor Network (07/31/02); Wrolstad, Jay

    Gordon Hughes, associate director of the University of California, San Diego's Center for Magnetic Recording Research, believes that computer and disk drive manufacturers could realize significant cost savings by building smarter drives capable of carrying out functions usually performed by central processing units. He notes that the addition of extra processing power would enable drives to perform encryption and data mining. Unfortunately, such potential is restricted by the standard consumer interface that manufacturers follow. Hughes says that standards such as the advanced technology attachment (ATA) and the small computer system interface (SCSI) may need to be revised to build smarter drives. He adds that modifications to operating systems and application software may also be necessary. This development requires the involvement of standards groups such as the American National Standards Institute, as well as PC makers. Hughes has made it his mission to educate software developers, businesses, and consumers of the benefits of smarter drives. "We need companies like Intel working on the computing side, and we need customers asking for new functions before any changes occur," he explains.

  • "China in Giant Software Push"
    South China Morning Post (07/31/02) P. 12; Nairne, Doug

    China Software Industry Association President Chen Chong says that China plans to capture about 3 percent of the world software market by 2005, which would allow software companies to control over 60 percent of the domestic market while earning $3 billion annually from exports. International Data (IDC) software analyst Dorothy Yang says the fast growth of the mainland domestic market supports such projections. A June report from the Software and Information Industry Association notes that government regulations, piracy, and a greater priority on hardware have hampered the Chinese software industry, but the government has since implemented anti-piracy strategies and preferential tax treatment to give the industry a shot in the arm. Chen expects this approach will foster "hop skip and jump-style growth" for the sector, which will concentrate its efforts on fundamental applications for business management, e-commerce, and consumer software. The Software and Information Industry Association Report projects market sales will reach almost $20 billion by 2005. Furthermore, China also foresees the establishment of 20 large software firms that generate more than $100 million in revenues, up to $2 billion in software exports, and the building of over 100 famous software brands. Such ambitious plans are worrying industry insiders in India. National Association of Software and Service Companies President Kiran Karnik told a Hindu newspaper that China's infrastructure is much better than India's, adding that mainland firms were raising skill levels and cutting costs to the point where they could compete with Indian companies.

  • "Copyright as Cudgel"
    Chronicle of Higher Education (08/02/02) Vol. 48, No. 47, P. B7; Vaidhyanathan, Siva

    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a serious threat to fair use rights, but few academics have raised their voices in protest, even when the law was still being deliberated. The law essentially allows ISPs, content hosts, and search engine owners to police their sites and censor any online content or persons that are allegedly infringing on copyright owners' intellectual property; at the same time, its prohibition against the bypassing of electronic safeguards for online works could be extended to include portions of works that reside in the public domain. Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Wisconsin at Madison provides several possible reasons why most academics have failed to make a significant outcry, including taking for granted that both Congress and the American people place a value on education and research, and too much focus on the individual implications of copyright rather than the broader implications for academia in general. The cartel of copyright owners has attacked each anti-censorship aspect of copyright law--fair use, limited copyright duration, first sale rights, and a ban on the copyright of ideas. Vaidhyanathan notes that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other public-interest groups are struggling to mitigate the effects of laws such as the DMCA, but their interests would be better served if there is a broad, academic grass-roots movement to support them. There are two rhetorical strategies that activists are focusing on--the need for an information commons and spreading awareness of potentially harmful legislation among users of copyrighted material. Vaidhyanathan suggests that academics can institute such approaches to illustrate the benefits of copyright and bluntly communicate how it is being abused by copyright holders.

  • "Fun & Games--and Business Insight"
    Computerworld (07/29/02) Vol. 36, No. 31, P. 36; Solomon, Melissa

    IT workers are using business simulation tools to help them better understand companies and their place in them; executives say that employees can follow corporate goals better, think more cost-effectively, and be encouraged to pursue potentially profitable ideas using the applications. For instance, Kimberly-Clark has developed games as the cornerstone of its Go To Market training initiative in order to improve product manufacturing, distribution, and marketing. One of its games involves the supply chain, arranged as a board game and divided into four sections: Section 1 discloses key business drivers to players; Section 2 details product development and launch, and associated challenges for teams to overcome; Section 3 involves cross-team visualization of an idealized supply chain; and Section 4 encourages players to work out how to standardize, synchronize, or streamline supply-chain processes. Michael Fischer of Kimberly-Clark says the company has saved $275 million thanks to the training project. Some 120 managers also used simulation tools to better understand shareholder value and its place in their day-to-day work at three sessions held in January by Ameren: The activities featured board-game-like maps that imparted critical information about the company, such as external variables that impacted Ameren and positive and negative strategies the company has followed over the years. The participants were later split into teams that competed in computer games that simulated the manipulation of financial factors over a 10-year period, with the winner producing the best results.
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  • "Going Hybrid"
    Economist (07/27/02) Vol. 364, No. 8283, P. 57

    The open-source software movement is starting to reveal its limitations and opportunities as it becomes more pervasive. Although many startup firms and Linux-only businesses have gone bankrupt trying to make money off open-source, a number of institutional technology firms, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, are continuing to spend money to promote its development. At the same time, Linux creator Linus Torvalds is under increasing pressure to farm out more of his managerial tasks as the maintainer of the Linux software kernel. As a result of these pressures, Linux firms such as Red Hat and VA Linux Systems are now beginning to release partially proprietary Linux packages in order to stabilize profits. Enterprise software vendors Oracle and SAP are likewise tailoring their applications to run on Linux. The business logic behind the adoption of open-source software, especially the Linux operating system, is that it makes the operating system a commodity. This lowers the overhead of such products as IBM's server hardware while undermining the control of Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, companies that make money from their proprietary systems. Microsoft has made some concessions as to the benefit of open-source software, such as the closer connection between users and programmers, and launched its own Shared Source initiative for its business customers.

  • "Silicon-Germanium Gives Semiconductors the Edge"
    Industrial Physicist (07/02) Vol. 8, No. 3, P. 22; Ouellette, Jennifer

    Silicon-germanium (SiGe) technology is fueling the current expansion of optical networking and cheap, lightweight personal communications devices because of its many advantages, which include reduced electronic noise and power consumption, faster operating speed, and increased integration support--all of which is boosting chip functionality. The processing of SiGe, which is accomplished via a low-cost, low-temperature chemical-vapor deposition technique, is relatively simple because the two elements possess similar chemistry. Garden-variety silicon can only operate at frequencies no higher than several gigahertz, whereas SiGe chips can run as high as 120 GHz. Many companies have adopted SiGe technology from IBM, which has led SiGe development with such breakthroughs as the world's fastest semiconductor circuit announced in February. Strategies Unlimited forecasts that SiGe wireless and digital semiconductor device sales revenues will skyrocket from $450 million to $1.8 billion between 2002 and 2005; wireless and satellite-based voice and data services will account for 79 percent of SiGe demand, while 16 percent will be driven by high-speed computer networking. However, industry insiders such as Agere Systems R&D technical manager Cliff King do not think SiGe will ever dislodge CMOS. "What we will displace are III-V compounds such as gallium phosphide and indium phosphide," he predicts. "And as CMOS marches down its scaling curve, it is eventually going to displace us."

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