Surfing with safety net; Sow `e’ and ye shall reap dividends; They ate companies for breakfast and lunch; All about bricks and clicks; Release career-lock with shift key

Books2Byte – January 2003

Surfing with safety net

D. Murali

`It’s better to leave one’s PC switched on rather than subject it to the `shock’ of frequent turning on and off.” Right? Check it out with what the experts say.

COMPUTER security is now everybody’s business, not just of the big players. But there is one thing that stands between people taking charge of their own machine’s safety – as also of the data and software that reside in it – it should be the techno-jargon. Users of the Net are more at risk. Here comes, therefore, “a plain-English guide to protecting yourself and your company online” from Douglas Schweitzer, a book titled “Internet Security Made Easy”. A few tips:

  • Many people are under the impression that they should leave their PC on all the time to prolong its useful life. The premise is that the `shock’ of turning the computer on and off will cause premature failure of sensitive electrical components. This is simply not true. Frequently powering a system on and off does not cause deterioration or damage to components.
  • Digital subscriber line (DSL) technology comes in about eight varieties. Often, consumers are unsure which `flavour’ of DSL is right for them. DSL is not accessible everywhere, and availability depends upon how close the consumer is located to a telephone switching station. DSL commonly uses the “three-mile rule” to determine availability.

If you are located more than three miles from your telephone switching station, the digital signal rapidly degrades, and DSL no longer becomes feasible.

  • Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) is a more secure means of user authentication.

Instead of sending passwords over the line, CHAP uses a three-way challenge/response procedure.

  • Your system cannot be hacked if it is not on. A shutdown buys you time to diagnose the attack more specifically. Sometimes the shutdown itself causes irretrievable loss of data. This includes data related to the attacker.
  • As the science of Internet security develops, the new protocol known as Ipv6 will be one of the most important influences. Ipv6 ensures with a high margin of certainty that data packets have originated with the host declared in the source address of the Internet Protocol (IP) packet and have not been tampered with or altered in transit.
  • The Internet Fraud Complaint Center is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). Their Web site provides a mechanism for victims of Internet fraud to report online fraud to the appropriate law enforcement and regulatory authorities.

Handy and readable.

Robot clouds

Michael Crichton’s new novel “Prey” is about a mechanical plague, a cloud of nanoparticles that has escaped from the lab. Programmed as a predator, the micro-robots that form the cloud are the stuff of nanotechnology and artificial distributed intelligence. “Sometime in the twenty-first century, our self-deluded recklessness will collide with our growing technological power,” warns Crichton in the intro. “One area where this will occur is the meeting point of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and computer technology. What all three have in common is the ability to release self-replicating entities into the environment.” Read on:

  • It was obvious that a single molecular camera was inadequate to register any sort of image. Therefore, the image must be a composite of millions of cameras, operating simultaneously. But the cameras would also have to be arranged in space in some orderly structure, probably a sphere. That was where the programming came in.
  • There is an old question in artificial intelligence about whether a program can be aware of itself. Most programmers will say it was impossible. People have tried to do it, and failed. But there’s a more fundamental version of the question, a philosophical question about whether any machine can understand its own workings… The machine can’t know itself for the same reason you can’t bite your own teeth.
  • Individual birds were not genetically programmed for flocking behaviour. Flocking was not hard-wired. It emerged within the group as a result of much simpler, low-level rules. Rules like, “Stay close to the birds nearest you, but don’t bump into them.” From those rules, the entire group flocked in smooth coordination. This is called emergent behaviour – that is a behaviour that occurred in a group but was not programmed into any member of the group. This could occur in any population, including a computer population. Or a robot population. Or a nanoswarm.
  • Ordinarily, genetic algorithms – which modelled reproduction to arrive at solutions – ran between 500 and 5,000 generations to arrive at an optimisation. If these swarms were reproducing every three hours, it meant they had turned over something like 100 generations in the last two weeks. And with 100 generations, the behaviour would be much sharper.
  • Distributed agent systems ran by themselves. You set them up and let them go. Typical corporate thinking when you are under the gun, but with technologies like these it was dangerous as hell.

Watch out for swarms!

Books courtesy: Landmark.

Wednesday, Jan 01, 2003

Sow `e’ and ye shall reap dividends

D. Murali

Asia's Digital Dividends

DIVIDENDS are old stuff, digital dividends are what businesses want. And important things are happening in the Asia-Pacific region in spite of the hype about dotcom bust, argue David C.Michael and Greg Sutherland in “Asia’s Digital Dividends” – on `how Asia-Pacific’s corporations can create value from E-business’. The region will add over 150 million Net users in the next four years; overseas buyers are insisting that the exporters use electronic channels; online sales actually doubled in 2001, and in the travel and financial services sectors, consumers are moving online at an `unexpected pace’; over 80 per cent of online sales in the region belong to Asia’s large companies; and so on. That’s from the blurb, but there is more:

  • In computer manufacturing, cost savings of 5-10 per cent are forecast, as supply chains are optimised. Historically, global companies attempting to enter Asian markets have faced major barriers in reaching customers and distributing products. Asian companies now face renewed interest from global competitors who see e-business tools as a way to break into Asian markets.
  • Hong Kong and Singapore have 57 fixed phone lines per 100 inhabitants, while India has three. Singapore and Australia have 57 and 54 PCs, respectively, per 100 inhabitants, while Indonesia and The Philippines have less than one. Mobile phone penetration varies just as greatly, with 68 and 67 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants in Hong Kong and Taiwan, respectively, and fewer than one per 100 in India. By 2004, Taiwan would expand its mobile phone penetration from 68 per cent to 84 per cent, while in India it would increase from 0.3 per cent to 0.6 per cent.
  • Approximately half of Asian marketplaces are vertically organised, devoted to single-country markets. These are in a particularly precarious position. Since only 22 per cent of Asian marketplaces are industry-sponsored, most single-country verticals have little real power to drive adoption in their markets. Top incumbent competitors generally hold most of the market share and all the power that goes with it.
  • All companies with significant mobile work forces – such as car and truck fleets, sales forces, repair and maintenance teams, workers in large factories, and so forth – should benefit from the emerging mobile B2B and B2E (business-to-employee) applications.
  • In the past, airline engineers have spent much of their time searching for information in maintenance manuals and identifying the correct spare parts from catalogues. In one airline, the portal now delivers an online manual and catalogue system that has cut search time by 50 per cent. Employees now work faster, with much less frustration.

Frustrating, if you didn’t know the benefits of e-business.

Free fall if you ain’t wire-free

 Wireless Horizon

The author of “Nokia Revolution”, Dan Steinbock has written another book, titled “Wireless Horizon”, to chronicle the strategy and competition for leadership in the global wireless economy.Catch a few glimpses of the race in the `worldwide mobile marketplace’.

  • By 1999, GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) was the dominant cellular standard. The GSM-driven expansion provided the foundation for the explosive growth of Nokia and the Finnish mobile cluster, which soon became known as “Finland’s Wireless Valley.”
  • The first milestone in the changing global chessboard was on August 14, 2001, when China overtook the US as the largest cellular phone market.
  • Driven by 3G horizontalisation, future vertical applications and services are expected to draw together a multitude of wireless technologies in an ad hoc manner. Those elements surround the user through a number of concentric circles, from the personal area network (PAN), which represents the user’s closest interaction with the wireless world, to the outmost sphere of the cyberworld furthest from the immediate real world.
  • CDMA was not the first success of Qualcomm. In 1988, the company introduced OmniTRACS, a satellite-based system that tracked the location of long-haul truckers. Qualcomm’s initial expansion built on success in the road transit industry.
  • In the past, vendors and operators competed through gradual globalisation. Today, players are forced to globalise in order to compete, except for the downstream end of the value chain. New “born global” strategies promise great opportunities; but the dynamics of innovation, and the increasingly high entry barriers virtually ensure that most new start-ups and challengers will be absorbed by the industry leaders.

In the new market wars, what you need is not just agility that counts, but mobility.

Books courtesy: Landmark.

Wednesday, Jan 08, 2003


They ate companies for breakfast and lunch


eWorld invites readers to share their views on the latest IT books they have read. Please e-mail us at Books2Byte@


WHEN big boys gather round a dinner table, they don’t talk trivia, especially if they are the CEOs of tech companies. And, even if they did indulge in gossip, it is something that the rest of the world could hang on to for an insight into the workings of business. That’s how Shannon Henry enters the all-male club to gather the crumbs and put them together in “The Dinner Club”, which is about `how the masters of the Internet universe rode the rise and fall of the greatest boom in history’. There are several things most of the club members have in common, writes Henry. “They are not trust-fund wealthy, and many of them grew up poor and are self-made. Many of them were told at some point that they couldn’t accomplish a particular goal, and they have a passion to prove that naysayer wrong.” Here’s more:

  • Many of the group serve as a shadow cabinet to the US and world leaders, especially in areas of technology and finance. Jeong Kim is a member of an eight-person presidential task force on US intelligence issues. And Kim and Alex Mandl serve on the board of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital fund run by the CIA.
  • Mario Morino, called the “godfather” by Washington entrepreneurs, says: “If you are serious about starting a company, you should tape two words to your bathroom mirrors and look at them every day – Ego and Greed.”
  • According to former AOL executives, one suggestion that never moved much beyond the memo stage was for AOL to buy the five major papers in the country: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times, thereby giving it control over newspaper readers nationwide.
  • Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy is furious at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “If you retain an auditor you have the right to expect them to take responsibility for accounting technicalities. If you started a company and you trusted your auditors to help you manage this stuff and then the books blew up, and you found yourself being attacked left and right by every single person in the world, while your auditor basically backed into a corner and scampered off to a vacation in Tahiti and took no responsibility, wouldn’t you feel a bit mistreated?”
  • Raj Singh and his wife, Neera, mention in separate conversations that their current priority is “wealth preservation”.

Neera Singh says they’re not making any new investments in the stock market these days, but trying to keep as much as they can of the telecom fortune she and her husband built. She asks Andrew Sachs and his wife, Heather, what their current investment strategy entails.

This is one of those moments – like when everyone compares their private airplanes.

Want to join for dinner, if not the club?

How to do businEss?

Contrary to the hype that existed a few years ago, e-commerce transactions are still small compared to the size of the global economy. What is significant, however, is the capability of e-commerce to generate new business models, say M.P. Jaiswal and V. Ganesh Kumar in their new book “e-Business Models”. What does e-business involve? Basically, an Internet platform that links vendors, suppliers, banks, and customers. And what take place online are info exchange, price negotiation, order placement, delivery confirmation, billing and payments. Read on:

  • The supplier who commits and meets the target dates of supply wins his grade well above the competitors. Even an e-mail, replied within the specified time period, helps attracting and retaining consumers.
  • has innovatively adopted a payment collection system after delivery by cash.

This reduces the risk of credit card/ other payment modes that the consumer does not feel comfortable with.

  • is an Internet quality measurement firm, providing e-commerce consumer experience measurement, benchmarking and customer acquisition services to help firms build successful e-businesses.
  • If digital signatures are formed in the same way as handwritten signatures, by simply appending a fixed string to each message, then it would be very easy to forge the signature just by keeping the previous soft copy of someone’s signature.
  • Many e-business models are simply real world business models transplanted to the Internet. Only some native-born Internet models such as search engines which are infomediaries, comparison-shopping sites and the e-chain integrators are new and most others are hybrids.

Read this before going in for a transplant.

(Books courtesy: Fountainhead, Chennai.


Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003


All about bricks and clicks


BAM + CAO = BAC. That’s the new equation through which companies are gobbling up market share. Read on for the full picture.

Anytime, Anywhere

THE new equation: BAM + CAO = BAC

If that’s tough, read: Bricks-and-mortar plus click-and-order equals bricks-and-clicks. How? Because, companies that never stopped focussing on the customer are now gobbling up market share by combining the best of both physical and virtual worlds, as Robert Spector says in “Anytime, Anywhere”. “Call it Web resurrection, or reinvention. The book describes how experienced merchants are using the Web as the glue to give customers unparalleled access to their products and services,” reads a review. More:

  • Ironically, the Internet has made customer service more important than ever. In the old days – not that long ago, actually – shoppers stayed loyal to favourite stores for many years. No more. Today’s consumer is apt to be more loyal to the deal than the dealer.
  • Tesco claims 80 to 90 per cent of the UK’s online grocery trade, and further claims that 30 per cent of its million-plus customers shop nowhere else online.’s weekly sales is about $8 million. At $145, the average online basket size is four times the in-store average. Tesco, which levies an $8 delivery charge, says the profit margin on each delivery is 7 to 8 per cent.
  • Many banks have been discontented with the Internet because it has failed to deliver on the promise of significantly lowering costs. Although the estimated cost of online transactions such as checking account balances or transferring money is about a penny, while in-person transactions cost about $1 each, most online customers prefer visiting their money at their bank branch or ATM. That’s why Internet bank operations are not profitable on their own.
  • On the security page of, it is spelled out that customers’ names and other information are not shared with, sold to, given to, or traded to any outside company agency. Land’s End guarantees the security of its transaction system and assumes total liability in the case of fraud. As a safety precaution, all credit transactions occur in a secure area of the Web site to protect the customers from any loss, misuse, or alteration of the data collected.
  • Communication – whether internal or external – is the Achilles’ heel of most companies. Because internal and external communication often intersect, it is essential that all divisions of a company talk with each other all the time. If you can’t communicate among yourselves, how can you possibly hope to communicate with your customers?

Read it sometime, somewhere.

Data sniffing off cables on seabed

Cutting Edge

As fibre-optic cable is laid down around the African continent, two entities fight to control it. One is UpLink Communications, headed by Roger Gordian. The pan-African cable ring is his most ambitious and expensive endeavour. His nemesis, Harlan DeVane, is penetrating the network. Trading in black market commodities with terrorists and rogue states, the cable offers him unlimited access to a most valuable product: information. Thus reads the backcover of Tom Clancy’s “Cutting Edge”. A few excerpts:

  • In genetic science, a chimera is defined as an organism spawned of two or more genetically distinct species. Chimeral plants are propagated by horticulturists and fancied by collectors. Laboratories have created mixed-species test rodents in vitro. Fuelled by calls for artificially grown transplant organs and tissues, recombinant-DNA technologies have produced the means to spawn human-animal chimeras through manipulation of embryonic stem cells. Some have been given European patent approvals.
  • In Italy, the personals ran in l’Unita. In German, Die Zeit. TheLondon Times carried them in Great Britain, Liberation in France, El Mundo in Spain, and De Standaard in Belgium. Because Cyrillic script had to be avoided out of practicality, the ads were placed in English versions of Hungarian, Czech and Russian papers – the Budapest Sun, Prague Post, and Moscow Times, respectively. Also, for practical reasons, the Greek daily chosen to print them was the German language Athener Zeitung. As in eastern European nations, the character set unique to Greece’s alphabet would interfere with a consistent application of the simple code embedded within the messages. And a code without fixed rules amounted to no code at all.
  • At each parasitic siphoning off of the cable, its flood of raw high-speed data was transmitted from the submersible’s array of receiving/buffering computer terminals to Cray superprocessors aboard the Chimera using a direct, narrow-targeted underwater-to-surface Intranet link maintained via an extremely high frequency (EHF) acoustic telemetry modem and on-hull antenna about the size and shape of a carrot.
  • The coded e-mail message displayed in front of Kuhl said: “If the cuckoo calls when the hedge is brown, sell thy horse and buy thy corn.” In European folklore, the song of the cuckoo heard in September or October – when the hedge is brown – is an ill portent to farmers. An omen that the autumn food harvest is imperilled, warning them to be ready to take counteractive measures, and fill their stores with that which is most precious for survival throughout the long, cold months to come.
  • If you had taken the extra time on your computer, you would have found the Schutzhund USA registry’s online genetic database. It lists DNA-based evaluations of each and every certified dog’s pedigree, physical conformation, and susceptibility to hip dysplasia and other health problems going back five or more generations. It also would have shown you that pure black longhairs are quite scarce.

Edgy, pace-y stuff.

How to face megabytes of muggers?

 Hacked, Attacked & Abused

Looking for expert advice on how to make your computer system secure? Peter Lilley has the answers in “Hacked, Attacked & Abused” where he exposes digital crime. The back cover teases prospective readers with facts such as: The Love Bug virus cost $8.7 billion globally in lost productivity and clean-up costs; a Texas professor began to receive death threats because someone had `stolen’ his e-mail address and sent 20,000 racist messages from it; in 1986, there was only one recorded computer virus, but now there are over 50,000 and that number is still growing. Read on:

  • While `Russian Mafia attack Western firms through cyber crime’ is always good media copy, a far better story is `Foreign government hacks national confidential information’. It appears to be entirely logical and totally probable that the greatest threat of all might not come from teenage males, terrorists or Russian crooks but from governments themselves.
  • Five years ago – or even two years ago – to open a `secret account’ you would either have had to travel to a bank that still offered that facility or hunt out a company that provided the service through numerous telephone calls or hunting through the ads in a newspaper. Now all you have to do is click on the button that says `Order my secret account now’.
  • The wonderful world of viruses is further complicated by hoax viruses together with various e-mail security bulletins which purport to alert the user to new viruses but in fact contain a virus themselves.

One such e-mail tells users that their PC contains a virus called sulfnbk.exe, which should be deleted – the drawback being that this is a perfectly legitimate file in Windows, which is a utility that restores long filenames. The Web site www.vmyths.comcontains many more examples of similar incidents.

  • The two words that send shivers down the spine of digital privacy advocates are Echelon and Carnivore. The latter is a piece of online detection software used by the FBI.

A `surgical’ that intercepts and collects digital communications that are the subject of a lawful order, comparable to commercial sniffers used by ISPs.

The Echelon system – the subject of conjecture, fantasy, paranoia, controversy, and hundreds of Web sites – is a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications, run by the intelligence bodies of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

  • In non-technical terms, authentication establishes who system users are; authorisation establishes what each user can do; administration is the physical processes needed to ensure that users have access to the appropriate resources, and audit is the process of establishing what happened (or didn’t).

A book to read before you are hacked, attacked and abused.

Books courtesy: Landmark.

Wednesday, Jan 22, 2003


Release career-lock with shift key

D. Murali

There are two types of people. Some are always jumping. Some never jump — they settle down too easily and get stuck. Self-renewal takes a bit of both. Don’t you agree?

CAREER change is usually top on the minds of tech workers, thank their brothers in the old-economy jobs. Herminia Ibarra’s book “Working Identity” from Harvard Business School Press is about unconventional strategies for `reinventing’ your career. Why reinvent? Because “feeling unfulfilled, burned out, or just plain unhappy with what we’re doing, we long to make that leap into the unknown.” Things that seem to gel with most IT staff, but there is more:

  • Most people experience the transition to a new working life as a time of confusion, loss, insecurity, and uncertainty. And this uncertain period lasts much longer than anyone imagines at the outset. Ample financial reserves and great family support do not make the emotions any easier to bear.
  • Research on how adults learn shows that the logical sequence – reflect, then act; plan, then implement – is reversed in transformation processes like making a career change.

Why? Because the kind of knowledge we need to make change in our lives is tacit, not textbook-clear; it is implicit, not explicit; it consists of knowing-in-doing, not just knowing.

  • In the reinventing process, we make two kinds of changes: small adjustments in course and deep shifts in perspective. Often the first changes we make are superficial… Small choices accumulate within a harder-to-change framework of ingrained habits, assumptions, and priorities. But after a while, the old frames start to collapse under the weight of new data.
  • Many professionals work on pet projects or outside professional activities that, over time, take on a life of their own.

Intriguing possibilities often materialise from new clients, pro bono projects, and board memberships. By the time the actual break occurs, the “new” is well defined and the decision is informed by the fact that the new career is already launched.

  • “There are two types of people. Some are always jumping. Some never jump – they settle down too easily and get stuck.” Self-renewal requires some jumping and some settling back in.

Full of ideas that can make you jump.

A new god called DoCoMo

Within three years after launch, a telecom company could command 30 million users. Which one? John Beck and Mitchell Wade give the answer in their book titled “DoCoMo” which is about Japan’s i-mode, the wireless revolution. There were six factors behind DoCoMo’s success, says the blurb – love and strength, impatience and inequality, fun and even luck. Read on:

  • An April 2001 study by Japan’s Ministry of Public Management reported that 34.5 million subscribers access the Internet through their cellular service – almost matching the 37.2 million people accessing it through fixed-line connections.
  • The i-mode story teaches that to get attention in a hyper-crowded environment, to vault over the many barriers to adoption, your product has to grab customers beneath the sensible surface level of value propositions. Don’t depend on what customers say, especially in answering structured questions; watch what they are doing, and understand why.
  • Alexander Bell started hawking his new invention, the telephone, immediately after its invention, but it was two years before the first switchboard was installed – with eight subscribers. Bell’s recommendation that the phone should be answered with the word “Ahoy” never caught on.
  • By the beginning of 2002, there were more than 400 financial institutions delivering services on i-mode, each one providing DoCoMo with not only revenue, but also a compelling reason for consumers to begin using the service.
  • Fun drives innovation. Making sure that you have innovation, of course, is Very Serious Business.

In an era of rapid change, innovation becomes a required core capability… In times like these, if you’re not part of the innovation steamroller, you absolutely will become part of the road.

Read it before the road-roller drives in.

Cut off the wires with a carving knife

If you want to be completely in the know about wireless, this is the book to buy, screams the back cover of “Going Wireless”, a book by Jaclyn Easton, who is “one of the world’s only business technology futurists.”

The blurb announces that the book “delivers the unexpected” by showing how wireless is transforming every type of enterprise. And the `acknowledgements’ wrap with `profound gratitude to the Siddha Yoga Meditation lineage’. More:

  • The biggest producers of adult entertainment are also turning in to the wireless wavelength. Penthouse magazine, for example, offers centrefold photos for downloading to hand-held devices because people are saying that now they can takePenthouse to the beach discreetly.
  • While v-commerce is about transactions through voice-automated systems, usually accessed by wireless phone, it is also about buying time directly, which are referred to as services – such as appointment scheduling.
  • RFID stands for radio frequency identification – a technique that can be used to read as far as 100 feet away and doesn’t require line of sight, one of the biggest challenges of bar codes. Up to 50 tags can be read per second, which beats bar codes by a swiftness of 40 times.
  • Despite the miraculous way wireless LANs work, the technology is extremely simple.

The information is passed back and forth through radio signals. The signals transmit on average 300 feet, and as far as 1,000 feet with certain antennas; and they can pass seamlessly through non-metal barriers like walls and ceilings.

  • You have two choices for wireless asset tracking: chips and tags. Cellular-enabled chipsets are far more robust and equally more expensive. You can send a message to the chip asking where it is, and in a second it will respond. With tags, you don’t necessarily know exactly where the item is, but you know where it was last seen.

For instance, you might learn that your package has been loaded onto the delivery truck, but you have no idea where the truck is.

Recommended for those who are clueless about wireless.

Books courtesy: Landmark.

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2003



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