|Volume 1: No. 33|
It isn't law yet, but the House voted to loosen export restrictions on computers and other high-tech products. The Bush administration considers the changes too broad. [AP. SJM, 10/31.] A particular point of contention is software with file encryption, which can be sold over the counter but can't be exported unless NSA knows how to break the encryption. Export approval currently takes 60 to 90 days, and won't be given for software using DES encryption. The house bill would move encryption software from the Pentagon munitions program to the Commerce Department's less-strict oversight, as recommended by the 17-nation Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls. [Don Clark, SF Chronicle, 11/1.]
European companies have again formed their multinational partnerships in order to tap Esprit III research funds. (Esprit is the European Strategic Program for R&D in Information Technology.) Projects must involve industry and academia from at least two EC countries providing at least 50% of the funds. Basic research is a small part of the $800M European Commission budget, although it is double that of past Esprit programs. Although 600 past projects appear to have done little for the likes of Bull, Olivetti, and Siemens-Nixdorf, the 13,000 information-technology companies in Europe have increased their market share from 47% to 55% since 1984. [Roger Woolnough, EE Times, 10/14.]
Nearly 50 companies demonstrated pen-based software at Comdex. Columnist John Dvorak is unimpressed (no surprise there), claiming that vendors have no answer to "Wouldn't it be easier to do that with a keyboard?" John is looking for full-color notebook computers with keyboards. [SF Examiner, 11/3.]
A trend at Comdex was the introduction of inexpensive "lite" or "RISC" business software with only commonly used features. Spinnaker Software Corp. (San Diego, CA) and Microsoft are among the leading companies targeting the home office and "less is more" market. [Lee Gomes, SJM, 10/27.]
DEC has announced aggressively priced VAX workstations starting at $3500. It also has new VAX 4000s and 6000s, with up to triple the performance of current models and twice the speed of IBM's AS/400. [NYT. SJM, 10/31.]
Although NeXT (Redwood City, CA) claims to be doing well ($60M in sales this year), it is planning to lay off 60 people -- about 10% of its workforce. [Ken Siegmann, SF Chronicle, 11/1.]
Boeing Co. (Seattle, WA) has implemented a year-end hiring freeze because of defense-program cutbacks. Boeing Defense & Space Group may lose 2,500 jobs. [Margaret Ryan, EE Times, 10/21.]
Fujitsu Ltd. was planning to donate a supercomputer to the Model Evaluation Consortium for Climate Evaluation, which includes NCAR researchers from the Electric Power Research Institute (Palo Alto, CA) and similar companies in France, Italy, and Japan. Fujitsu has withdrawn the offer under pressure from Rep. Richard Gephardt, who saw this as a case of dumping to gain market share. [SJM, 11/5.]
When Kubota Inc. bought 28% of Stardent Computer, critics worried that the Japanese were buying U.S. technology. Now Stardent is transferring its [unprofitable] Titan graphics-based supercomputer line to a Kubota subsidiary. Some of Stardent's former officers and employees have formed a new software company, AVS Inc. (Concord, MA), to sell Stardent's 3-D graphics programs and to develop visualization software. [Lee Gomes, SJM, 11/1/91.] (AVS is looking for Unix software engineers and graphics scientists.)
Unix Systems Laboratories Inc. (Summit, NJ) has released its multiprocessing Unix System V, Release 4.0 MP, for $115K ($50K for V.4 licensees). MP can do load balancing for up to 16 processors. Although the kernel, file system, etc., are multithreaded, it does not include an application programming interface (API) that would simplify writing multithreaded applications. (A multithreaded application can be split across multiple processors.) An API and a secure kernel will be available late next year. The competing OSF Unix is inherently multiprocessing, but the capability is not currently exploited. [David Lieberman, EE Times, 10/14.]
IBM's new OS/2 2.0 appears to be an excellent graphical 32-bit multitasking operating system, great for running Windows or DOS as well as OS/2 programs. (In fact, it can run them all simultaneously.) List price will be about $195, or $149 for current DOS or OS/2 users. The only problems are size and software base. The program will take from 18 to 30Mb of hard disk (depending on options), and you'd better have a 486 or fast 386 system with 8Mb of memory. (IBM says that a 386SX, 4Mb, and a 60Mb hard disk are sufficient.) 700 OS/2 applications are in development for 1992, and about 25% should be ready when OS/2 2.0 ships in March. [Peter H. Lewis, NYT. SJM, 10/27.]
Future plans for OS/2 include migration to IBM's RS/6000, AIX, and Posix environments, as well as the Apple/IBM Power PC platform. IBM says that there are a total of 1,200 vendors working on 32-bit applications for OS/2, although only 700 expect to ship next year. Custom-crafted OS/2 applications run two or three times as fast as their [native?] Windows and DOS versions, and even Windows and DOS programs run 50% and 20% faster than in their native operating systems. Microsoft expects Windows to outsell OS/2 next year by at least 8 to 1, though, and the company is nearing distribution of Windows NT, Windows 3.1, and its Windows for Pens extensions. [Richard Doherty, EE Times, 10/28.]
NIST is planning to accept the Initial Graphics Exchange Specification (IGES) as a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) for CAD/CAM product-definition data. This will constrain CAD/CAM graphics systems paid for by the U.S. government. For information, contact Daniel Benigni at (301) 975-3266. [Brian Robinson, EE Times, 10/14.]
Silicon engineers are starting to have success in combining analog and digital functions on one substrate. In a similar vein, Sony Corp. has a prototype system for storing monochrome images on CD ROM in analog rather than digital form. Holographic format is used so that no focusing optics are required and there is no need for error detection and correction logic. Processing, transmission, and viewing could all be done with optical components. A 512 x 512-pixel image can currently be stored in a 500 x 500 micron-square region, compared to digital storage with 1-micron pits on tracks spaced 1.6 microns apart. The CD ROMS can be duplicated for under $1. [Richard Doherty, EE Times, 10/14.]
I was right about the graph reversal for EE Times' discussion of fractal compression. Iterated Systems claims reduced mean square error over DCT compression for all image sizes, with dramatic improvement on images smaller than 100 x 100. [EE Times, 10/14.] (Mean square error is a weak perceptual measure, though, and 100 x 100 is usually too small to be useful.)
The Independent JPEG Group has released preliminary free JPEG image-compression software. (Arithmetic coding is not included, due to software patent restrictions, but an alternative compression scheme gives results that are within 10%.) JPEG and PBMPLUS image formats are supported, with partial support for GIF. The C source code, documentation, and test files are available for anonymous FTP from file /graphics/jpeg/jpegsrc.v1.tar.Z on uunet.uu.net. [Tom Lane (firstname.lastname@example.org), comp.compression, 10/8.]
Bill Schneiderman, former strategic planning manager for IBM, has joined high-tech consulting firm Pittiglio Rabin Todd & McGrath (Mountain View, CA). [Lloyd Watson, SF Chronicle, 11/1.]
William Spaller, former multimedia development director for IBM's entry systems division, has joined Adobe Systems (Mountain View, CA) as VP of the systems division. [SJM, 11/5.]
John Chen has been promoted to executive vice president of Pyramid Technology (Mountain View, CA), with responsibility for hardware and software engineering, manufacturing, and MIS. [EDN, 10/3/91.]
John Lauffenburger admits to leaving a "logic bomb" that would have harmed national-security computers after he resigned from General Dynamics. Lauffenburger is expected to receive probation and 200 hours of community service. [SJM, 11/5.]
Applications for NASA's graduate fellowship program are due by 2/1/92. Awards include $16,000 stipend, $3,000 in travel, $3,000 for the department, and at least one trip to a sponsoring NASA organization. NASA has a strong interest in modeling and simulation, self-organizing information systems, AI, robotics, automata theory, neural networks, genetic algorithms, fuzzy systems, human-machine interfaces, supercomputer technology, information science, management systems, biological topics, etc. Grants are made through NASA headquarters in Washington, DC; Goddard Space Flight Center near Washington; Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX; and Ames Research Center at Moffett Field (Mountain View, CA). Contact John Lynch, GSRP Program Manager, Educational Affairs Division, Office of External Relations, Code XEU, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546; (202) 453-8344. [Cliff Joslyn (email@example.com), CYBSYS-L, 11/1.]
In V1 N30, I mentioned a recruiting ad from D.E. Shaw & Co. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Gary Dare says that Dave Shaw was his CS professor at Columbia, and should be a pleasure to work for. Dave is an easy-going Californian, fair and willing to let students follow their interests. His company now consults in current technologies for financial applications. [Gary L. Dare (email@example.com), misc.jobs.misc, 10/26.] (For other C/Unix financial jobs, talk to Pencom Systems.)
Armstrong State College (Savannah, GA) seeks a CS professor. Contact Ed Wheeler by 1/31/92. [Laurie White (firstname.lastname@example.org), m.j.o, 11/5.]
CMU's Vision and Autonomous Systems Group (Pittsburgh, PA) has an immediate need for a two-year postdoc in architecture- independent parallel image processing and computer vision. Jon Webb (email@example.com). [m.j.o, 11/5.]
SRI International (Menlo Park, CA) needs at least two MS-level software engineers for C/Unix speech-recognition R&D. Knowledge of DSP, linguistics, or a foreign language would be plus. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. [Goh Kawai (email@example.com), m.j.o, 11/5.]
The Barrett Group (San Francisco, CA) claims to have staffed programming positions at corporations, research institutions, start-ups, and consulting companies over the last ten years. (415) 677-0881. For recorded job listings, call (415) 677-9332. [Egil Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org), m.j.o, 11/1.]
The Center for Machine Intelligence (Ann Arbor, MI) has three Xerox 1186 Lisp machines they would like to donate to a public school or charitable organization. (At least two of them work.) Contact Kristina Fayyad (email@example.com). [comp.ai, 10/25.]
Joe Abernathy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is finishing a magazine article on how amateur and young scientists can use Usenet and Internet. If your company is willing to offer access to these groups, drop him a note with your address, level of connectivity (Usenet or full internet), and subscription rates. [com-priv, 10/30.]
How big is the internet? No one really knows how to estimate "bigness" (number of users, hosts, messages ...) from the things that are readily measurable. One statistic is the number of networks a default-free Internet router will know about. This was 400 networks in 6/88, 1,300 in 6/90, and almost 3,000 at present. If growth continues at 5% per month, we can expect it to reach 10,000 by 12/93 -- and that's not an end point. [Dennis Ferguson (email@example.com), com-priv, 11/4.]
There's been a change in network information center (NIC) administration on the Internet. Government Systems Inc. (Chantilly, VA), a joint venture of MCI and Infonet Services Corp., is taking over from SRI in supporting the Defense Data Network, or the DoD/DCA/MILNET side of the Internet. The new help desk for DDN and Internet users is DDN Network Information Center, 14200 Park Meadow Dr., Suite 200, Chantilly, VA 22021; (703) 802-4535 or (800) 365-3642; firstname.lastname@example.org. SRI will provide NIC services for NREN when it becomes operational; until then, NSF money is flowing through DCA to GSI to provide basic Internet services. [Telecommunications Reports. Stephen Wolff (email@example.com) et al., com-priv, 10/25.] There are reports that the new system is overloaded; Internet host-table services may be degraded for a time. Copies of the netinfo *template*.txt forms have been copied to ftp.3com.com:/netinfo by Mark D. Baushke (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Rep. Gephardt (D-Missouri) has halted joint Congressional action on the National Research and Education Network (NREN). He won't retract a "buy American" provision in the House version, and Bush plans to veto the bill if the provision is retained. At present, the bill is stalled in committee. A compromise bill must be passed by both houses before Christmas recess in mid- November -- Thanksgiving at the latest -- or NREN proponents will have to start again next year. To state your views on the High-Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991 (HR656/S272), contact The Honorable Richard A. Gephardt, 1432 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515-2503; (202) 225-2671. [John Clement (email@example.com). Susan E. Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), PACS-L, 11/6.] Or contact President Bush if you favor the buy-American policy.
Chris Welty (email@example.com) is the Acting Director of the RPI Computer Science Lab, which entails teaching, advising, and managing a staff of six. He is also a part-time Ph.D. student in knowledge-based software engineering. Chris started as a UNIX systems programmer about 10 years ago, moving to OS design, compilers, and then networking. He helped in the formation of NYSERNet, now PSI, a company that provides internet services internationally. His current interests in AI, NLP, and knowledge representation led him to start NL-KR Digest, a very popular information channel. Chris is helping to organize and publicize next year's KBSE conference. After he gets his Ph.D., he says he plans to join the Kremer Group C racing team.
A speech at the Business/Professional Advertising Association portrayed the typical engineer as follows: "As a child, he had an innate sense of spatial relations, a good memory, and a need for logical, precise answers. He was not gifted athletically, and intuitive social discourse was not easy for him. He often had difficulty dealing with the emotions and seemingly irrational interpersonal demands of parents and peers ... He learned to avoid social intimacy and, over time, he developed feelings of inadequacy, a lowered self-esteem and problems with his sexual identity. ... Under the surface, we find that his psycho-social development appears to have been arrested in his early teens, thus his humor is coarse and his values are superficial. ... He is not a leader, a risk-taker, or a creator. He is not good with people ..." [Lon Cantor. EE Times, 10/14.] There's truth to this, especially for young engineers and scientists in technical positions. (OK, OK ... I used to be a nerd.) Letters to the EE Times editor have been outraged, however, pointing to many well- rounded, eclectic engineers in management.
How often can you expect to change employers? One survey of EEs showed that 28% never change. 17% change once, 16% twice, and on down to 13% changing more than four times. [EE Times, 10/14.] AFSM International, an association of high-tech service executives, says that the average worker should expect to change jobs/careers five or six times. The fastest-growing workers group will be technical assistants for scientists and engineers, and 85% of the labor force will be working in firms of 200 or fewer. [EE Times, 10/28.]
In a survey of EE design professionals, only 29% said their companies had well-developed technical career paths and only 36% said they had a management career path available. 59% say their companies don't make the best use of engineer's time, and only 33% said their companies will retrain them for open positions. [Donna Coco, EDN, 10/3.] (Readership may be concentrated in a few large companies, though.)
From the same survey, EEs note that it remains difficult to match trained engineers with specific job requirements. Still, 78% say there's no shortage of engineers. Hires are down, salaries are stable, and layoffs have risen. 88% of design EEs are interested in continuing education classes, and 69% would switch disciplines to match company needs. Engineers are also willing to act as mentors (83%) and to work longer hours (69%). [Donna Coco, EDN, 10/17.]
Not that there isn't demand. IEEE says that the unemployment rate for engineers has been a third of that for the general workforce over the last 30 years -- 0.3% in 1966, 3.8% in the recession of 1983, and 2.2% in July of 1991 (and declining). A recent survey of 645 companies by Hudson Institute showed that 65% had experienced shortages of skilled workers and that a shortage of gold collar workers was the biggest concern of most corporations. NSF predicts a shortfall of 700,000 by 2011. George Lazano of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers predicts a shortage of 45,000 engineers by 2000; other experts estimate 100,000. [James Coppens, EDN, 10/17.]
(A world-wide shortage of R&D people means less R&D or less- efficient R&D, not necessarily bidding wars for scarce talent. Companies tend to slight research unless out-paced by their leading competitors. Companies large enough to buy the best talent are usually too large to exploit internal research effectively, and innovative start-ups pay in high-risk equity rather than top salaries. What we are certain to see, however, is competition for new graduates plus a big market for intelligent tools to increase the efficiency of available personnel.)
In Arizona and New Mexico, the electronics industry is having trouble finding specialists in AI, object-oriented programming, and systems integration for industrial automation. (Intel needs AI and OOP for logic design, embedded controllers, and military applications.) There are plenty of unemployed engineers in the area -- due partly to layoffs at Hughes Missile Systems Group, Loral Defense Systems, Motorola Government Electronics Group, and Honeywell Defense Avionics Systems -- but 30% are finding jobs matching their skills by moving elsewhere. The rest are finding work at small companies. [Kate Colborn, EDN, 10/17.]
The problems of U.S. industry are not due to technically ignorant management. A recent survey of Fortune 1000 CEOs showed 33% from engineering and science backgrounds, 27% from finance, 12% marketing, 10% law, and 18% other disciplines. [Bob Bellinger, EE Times, 10/28.] (Input from the engineering side may be even higher if you include founders, chairmen, board members, and non-CEO presidents.)
With companies shaving middle-management positions, there are now fewer opportunities for engineers to move into management. Companies are compensating with increased lateral mobility, or "open systems" instead of dual-path career ladders. An individual may move back and forth between managerial and technical stints. [Peggy Hutcheson. Robert Bellinger, EE Times, 10/21.]
Once you're a manager, it's very hard to make the transition back to technical engineering. Managers must have an overview, while engineers have to understand the details. It's not enough to know about a technology; you have to know the technology -- and that takes years of hands-on experience. The higher you rise as a manager, the less chance there is that your technical knowledge will still be useful. Social integration is also difficult, as coworkers will view you differently once you've been a manager (and had access to confidential files). Finally, there's always the stigma of the "fallen manager." [ibid.]
When technical companies do have managerial openings, they tend to fill them with powerful communicators who "exude confidence, charm and assertiveness." These people are "bright, articulate, sensitive, likable, aggressive, energetic, participative, communicators -- but neither leaders nor managers." They tend to be influencers rather than leaders, responders rather than initiators, individualistic rather than team-oriented, not risk takers, and not profit-oriented. They use the "smile factor" to get ahead. (And some of them are not above lying about their accomplishments. Check them out.) [Marlys Hanson, Hanson & Associates, Livermore, CA. ibid.]
Jean Hollands, Growth & Leadership Center (Mountain View, CA), stresses that you must always sell yourself. In other countries, CEOs are often technical. In the U.S., only engineers who communicate well can make it to the top [in large companies]. You must sell your goals and needs at all levels, and you must be willing to take risks and to accept rejection. [ibid.]
Minority engineers and professionals have been reluctant to take personal risks, according to one black personnel specialist. Much of their early success came through assimilation. In a corporate environment, though, success doesn't count unless it's visible success. [Amy Bermar, EDN, 10/17.] (Until your work is seen to be done, it isn't done. Visibility is an important dimension of any project.)
I mentioned DRA last week. DRA is Data Research Associates, Inc., a vendor of VMS-based automation systems for public and [mostly small] academic libraries. DRA shareholders have sought investment from other firms, but president Mike Mellinger (firstname.lastname@example.org) denies that it is negotiating a sale to AmeriTech or anyone else. [PACS-L, 10/31.]
I've had a request for information on two IS companies. One is Software AG, which is developing a library-automation product called Tapestry. The other is AmeriTech, which purchased NOTIS. Does anyone know how these companies view the library market, or who the project leaders and funding authorities are?
Bill Cavnar (email@example.com) has been working on OCR and inexact matching for record retrieval. He'd like to talk with other Computists who are working on document storage and retrieval.