Bits and Bytes

De-coder: Web WatchWEB WATCH
The online version of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition has puts its authoritative weight behind several relatively new tech-terms. Two of these words are: Wi-Fi, a mark used to certify the interoperability of wireless computer networking devices; and cybrarian, a person who finds, collects and manages information available on the Internet. MW also cleared the two words for use in the popular word game Scrabble. Other additions to the dictionary include chick flick and bikini wax. It takes about 10 years for a new word to get into the dictionary, but the timing can change depending on urgency and impact. Check it out at

The Inquirer, a technology-oriented Web site out of the U.K., reports that "Kiwi" movie director Peter Jackson's production company purchased 250 IBM Xeon blade servers, each with two 3.4GHz processors and 8GB of memory. The production company already owns 1144 blade servers with 2.8 Ghz processors, which the production company used while making the Lord of the Rings. The additional servers are needed to complete postproduction work on King Kong, Jackson's latest film. The blade servers are linked to create a supercomputer with the processing power of about 15,000 PCs. It runs on Red Hat Linux.


Online Content Has Big Impact on IT Exec Vendor Selection

The Chief Marketing Officer Council and KnowledgeStorm surveyed 1,400 business and IT executives across a range of industries and found 90 percent of respondents agree online content has a moderate to major impact on their vendor selections and preferences. Other findings include:
Analyst research reports52%
Product reviews54%
White papers58%
"Hype and puffery"53%
Poor communication of business value proposition46%
Lack of evidence of ROI45%
SOURCE: CMO Council, 2005

In the November 1995 edition of Application Development Trends, Apple fellow Guy Kawaski listed his top 10 ways to drive competitors crazy. Among his insightful nuggets: "Be prepared to seize the day; better yet, create your own day," and "Resist the known and defend the unknown."

The future of the mainframe seemed bleak to Sun President Scott McNealy. "The mainframe is dead," he said to editor John Desmond. "It will just take 30 years to bury the body."

Lou Russell, president of Russell Martin & Associates, offered her take on the current state of IT management. In "Career Ladder In Modern Era Leads to Object Architect," she claimed: "People skills seem to be the most scary missing thing, but there is an underlying concern that people skills can't be taught to technical people."

In the same article, Leiland Allen, a director with Tenex Consulting, had advice for those who can't seem to get their career on the fast track: "The career path is less likely to be a superhighway than a scenic trail," she said. "Let's try to enjoy the trip."

Some telecoms are lobbying to change time, but astronomers and scientists say they're looking to mess around with things they cannot comprehend. Because of a design flaw, global positioning satellite receivers become befuddled whenever time keepers add a leap second, a time unit used to keep atomic time-measuring systems in line with the Earth's natural rotation.

The International Earth Rotation Service, which decides when to add a leap second, plans to kick it up a notch at the end of 2005. What telecoms want to do is toss out the leap second rather than re-jigger their GPS code.

The sky watchers counter that abolishing the leap second would immediately disrupt other sat systems, and in thousands of years, 12 o'clock noon would fall in the middle of the night. "It's breaking the link between human time and the natural world," scoffs Mike Hapgood, secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"If nanotechnology maintains its current pace of development, it will give birth to a computer that has the information processing capacity equivalent to every human brain combined by 2060," claims Jeong Kim, Bell Labs' president.

In an interview published by Korea's JoongAng Daily, Kim says although communication technologies have mostly focused on speed, future advances will concentrate on convenience. Eventually, physical barriers will be eliminated and phones will respond to mental commands, Kim says.

Japan joins a growing list of governments and agencies migrating from Microsoft to open-source software. An official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications says Japan is developing guidelines for its ministries and is recommending open-source software, such as Linux, as a viable option in government procurement. The official says the suggestion reflects the increased reliability of open-source software.

Japan, China and South Korea are jointly developing a new Linux-based computer operating system as an alternative to the dominant Windows.

The city of Munich, Germany moved 14,000 city-owned PCs to opensource software, and the government of India moved its central and state offices and academic institutions to Linux. In the U.S., the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the city of Austin, Texas are planning a switch to open-source software as well.

"A service-oriented architecture is a framework for integrating business processes and supporting IT infrastructure as secure, standardized components- services-that can be reused and combined to address changing business priorities."

From Service-Oriented Architecture Compass, Business Value, Planning, and Enterprise Roadmap by Norbert Bieberstein, Sanjay Bose, Marc Fiammante, Keith Jones and Rawn Shaha, available from IBM Press.

Virus hunters and anti-virus software vendors have gabbed for at least a decade about devising a common way to name viruses, although no one is entirely certain why it might be useful. Now, several vendors and the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team have proposed a Common Malware Enumeration initiative. The big idea is to assign a numerical identifier to a threat, giving the public a common method for cross referencing different virus names. A common naming convention would reduce confusion in general, and strengthen communication among anti-virus software vendors and the infosec community, the initiative's backers say.

The CME editorial board includes reps from MITRE, McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, Microsoft, Sophos, ICSA Labs, Norman, Kaspersky Lab, MessageLabs, F-Secure and CA.

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De-coder: Winners & LosersWINNERS & LOSERS
The Republic of Ireland invested $42.4 million of its taxpayers' money in MIT's Media Lab Europe-and doesn't have much to show for it. According to a report by the Irish public auditor-general, the Media Lab's execs rewarded themselves with large severance packages as the money ran out, reports say. The execs refused to refund taxpayers' money as required under an early agreement. The lab paid employees an average salary of $92,136, according to a government review.

The Media Lab Europe, launched during the height of the tech bubble in 2000, shut down earlier this year. It was supposed to be self-financing through sponsorship, private contributions, grants and research contracts from the industry within 5 years. The lab made $14.5 million from private investors; published 24 scientific papers; and filed for 12 patents that were useless, officials say.

The lab was the centerpiece of the republic's Digital Hub initiative, a center for knowledge and innovation that focused on digital content and technology enterprises. The liquidation left the Republic with just $363,737 in assets.

De-coder: Winners & LosersCOOL TOOLS
The MIT Media Lab has launched a new research initiative to develop a $100 laptop-a technology it says could revolutionize how we educate the world's children. The lab has launched, a new, non-profit association called One Laptop per Child. The $100 laptops are not yet in production and will not be for sale. The laptops will only be distributed to schools directly through government initiatives.

Brian Emmett, a software developer from Mountain View, Calif., won a trip into space in the Oracle Space Sweepstakes. The competition, launched last year with Space Adventures, required contestants to demonstrate their Java and service-oriented architecture expertise.

The technologies included Struts, code optimization, JavaServer Faces and Business Process Execution Language. Participants used Oracle JDeveloper 10g, Application Server Containers for J2EE 10g, BPEL Process Manager 10g and TopLink 10g to complete quizzes. Emmett, who works for Stryker, an Oracle customer, was randomly selected from a pool of qualified entrants. A slot is reserved for Emmett to take a commercial flight to suborbital space, where he'll experience weightlessness at 62 miles above the Earth's surface.

Virtualization-the idea that one computer can be tailored to the needs of different users-will revolutionize the IT industry in the next 3 to 4 years, but so far, no one is really paying attention, says Jurij Paraszczak, CTO of IBM's venture capital group and IBM Research Emerging Business Group.

Virtualization replaces the old concept of a computer as a single box running only its own operating system and storing only its own data in its own format, according to IBM. In place of the old model, virtualization allows a single computer to play different roles for different users. It also encompasses software that allows disparate operating systems and hardware to work together and file systems that allow access to information regardless of its form or origin. It even means virtual computers that are actually a collection of machines, some of which are called upon only when needed, on demand.

Locus Pharmaceuticals in Pennsylvania, for example, subscribes to IBM Deep Computing Capacity on demand. The company uses supercomputing power whenever it's needed and pays only for the resources it uses. "The combination of increased speed and access to computing power has expanded our project capacity by a factor of four, allowing us to consider even more critical disease targets," says Jeff Wiseman, a Locus vice president.

A survey of 250 SMBs found 60 percent do not currently use broadband, according to a study by Hughes Network Systems. In addition, 43 percent of SMBs who do not use broadband, think it's not available. Seventysix percent of SMBs in rural areas do not have broadband, compared to 44 percent in suburban areas and 35 percent in urban centers.

Dutch authorities arrested three men they allege ran a huge network of 100,000 zombie computers. The three men used the W32.Toxbot virus, released in February 2005, to infect home computers with bots and created a botnet of machines all over the world, the authorities say.

"With 100,000 infected computers, the dismantled botnet is one of the largest ever seen," the Public Prosecution Service said in a statement. The trio is accused of attempting to use the botnet to extort cash from an unnamed U.S. corporation by threatening to overload its servers with a flood of Internet traffic.

The three men also allegedly used the PCs to steal login Ids and passwords from auction sites and make unauthorized purchases using stolen credit card numbers.

The Dutch Computer Emergency Response Team, with the assistance of several Internet service providers, shut down the botnet in early October.