All that matters is where you are going."
— Brian Tracy
BY GEORGEA KOVANIS •
Eatonia Williams was working for the Detroit Public Schools, doing lessons on conflict resolution and peer mediation, when she realized one of the junior high kids sitting at the front of the class had a problem.
"She did a lot of squinting," said Williams, 37, of West Bloomfield.
"Her work was just, really, she was failing. One day I asked her, 'Do you wear glasses?' She said, 'I don't have them, I lost them, my mom can't really buy them for me right now.' "
Williams also was working part-time at an optical shop. She and some of her coworkers there pitched in and bought the girl a pair of glasses.
The girl's work in class improved.
Excited about how big a difference a pair of glasses can make, Williams decided to create a charity that would give glasses to kids in need, because "you can't be successful in school if you can't see."
But one thing led to another and life went on.
Ten years passed -- Williams changed jobs and eventually took a computer job at EDS.
She didn't do much with her project until last fall when she got a call from an old friend.
Kirsten Bedard of Lake Orion told Williams the optometrist she works for had more than 300 pairs of never-worn kids' and adult frames to donate to a worthy cause.
"Why not do something like that with them rather than just pitch them?" said Joe Ales, optometrist and owner of Optik Birmingham, who donated the frames.
"This is one of the more needy communities in the country, this area, Pontiac, Detroit in particular."
Williams got her pastor, the Rev. Douglas Jones of Welcome Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac, involved in the glasses giveaway.
She put notices in the church bulletin and spread word around town: free frames for anyone who couldn't afford to buy them.
She got a lab and another optometrist to do exams at reduced rates. "Everybody pulled together and did their piece," she said.
As for the recipients: "They were just ecstatic. They were very excited."
Stacy Gay of Pontiac was one of the people who received new glasses at the giveaway in late November. Her old glasses were accidentally broken and then thrown away in October by her 5-year-old son, Rishard. "My insurance would not cover lost glasses and I did really need them," she said.
"When the announcement was made at church I knew this was a blessing. This way I did not have to wait until July to get a new pair of glasses. This saved me months of not being able to see," Gay said. "It was a super-duper great idea. It would be great if the program was ongoing."
Williams -- who was laid off from her job at EDS on Dec. 1 -- has recommitted to her project. She has time now and is thrilled so many people are happy with their new glasses.
She's been talking with her pastor about opening a discount eyeglass store in a church-owned building. She's working on a business plan.To donate or receive eyeglasses, contact Eatonia Williams at 313-622-0282.
A new IE7 exploit is now making the rounds. It has already been incorporated in toolkits that install information-stealing trojans. Read on to learn more.
A new zero-day Internet Explorer 7 exploit is now out in the wild. It’s a drive-by dropper that resides on malicious Web sites. Brian Krebs, the tireless security watchdog for the Washington Post, points out all the details in his blog “Microsoft Investigating Reports of New IE7 Exploit.”
iDefense, a Virginia-based security firm, made mention that the exploit may have been accidentally released by a Chinese IT security group that mistakenly thought Microsoft already patched the vulnerability. The following quote is from their Dec. 10, 2008, blog “Exploitation for Unpatched Internet Explorer 7 Vulnerability in the Wild” (pdf):
“On Dec. 9, 2008, security researchers found a previously unknown vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer 7.0 being exploited in the wild. This exploit has already been incorporated into Chinese exploit toolkits and is actively being used to install information stealing Trojans that target online games.”
Acknowledged by MS
Microsoft has finally acknowledged the problem in Security Advisory (961051):
“Microsoft is investigating new public reports of attacks against a new vulnerability in Internet Explorer. Our investigation so far has shown that these attacks are against Windows Internet Explorer 7 on supported editions of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2008.”
It’s important to know that the massive Windows update just released on Dec. 9, 2008, doesn’t have a patch for this vulnerability.
Domains hosting malicious Web sites
Shadowserver.org, a volunteer security group, has listed many of the domains that are hosting the exploit-carrying Web sites. The list is published on their blog “IE7 0-Day Exploit Sites.” They also mention some detection and prevention information as well places to get Snort rules for the current unmodified variants.
This exploit is important, and sadly there’s no Microsoft solution at this time. Once again the simplest solution is to use an alternative browser such as FireFox, Chrome, or Opera. I doubt Microsoft would make that suggestion though.
President-elect Barack Obama vows to "renew our information superhighway" as part of a massive plan to invest in public infrastructure and stimulate America's flagging economy. Obama's immediate plans include large federal investments to bring computers and Internet connections to school districts and the health care industry.
Again pledging his commitment to technology, President-elect Barack Obama said Dec. 6 that investing heavily in computers and broadband connections for schools and hospitals will be part of his immediate economic recovery plans after he takes office Jan. 20.
Obama pledged during his weekly address over the radio and the Internet to make the single largest new investment in national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. In addition to infusing school districts and the health care industry with federal IT dollars, the plan also includes a massive effort to make public buildings and schools more energy-efficient.
The president-elect said he hopes a flood of federal cash to states for the projects will ultimately create 2.5 million jobs.
"We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient and put new computers in our classrooms," Obama said, "because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools."
Obama added that part of the plan is to "renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they'll get that chance when I'm president—because that's how we'll strengthen America's competitiveness in the world."
In addition to connecting schools and libraries to broadband connections, Obama promised a renewed push for health care IT, which President Bush has also touted as a key to saving millions in health care costs. Bush's health care IT initiatives, though, have failed to gain traction over costs, security and privacy concerns.
"We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting-edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes and help save billions of dollars each year," Obama said.
Obama didn't put a dollar figure on his initiatives, but he told Tom Brokaw on "Meet the Press" Dec. 6 that a federal deficit that could be as much as $1 trillion is not the immediate concern of his administration.
"We understand that we've got to provide a blood infusion into the patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilized, and that means that we can't worry short term about the deficit," Obama said. "The key for us is making sure that we jump-start that economy in a way that doesn't just deal with the short term, doesn't just create jobs immediately, but also puts us on a glide path for long-term, sustainable economic growth."
Josh Silver, executive director of public advocacy group Free Press, praised Obama's decision to include technology as part of any economic plan.
"In our 21st century society, having a connection to a fast and affordable Internet is no longer a luxury—it's a public necessity," Silver said in a statement. "But right now, more than 40 percent of American homes are not connected to broadband. This digital divide isn't just costing us our ranking as global Internet leader—it's costing us jobs and money at a time when both are urgently needed."
Pownce, a microblogging service started by Leah Culver and others back in May 2007, has been acquired by blogging software giant, SixApart and will be shutdown. Culver and other members of the Pownce team are going to work for San Francisco-based Six Apart, well known for products such as MoveableType and TypePad. What it means — negligible or no money changed hands.
Pownce seemed like a pretty cool idea, but it never got any major traction, losing out to the simpler and more popular Twitter. I used the service for a few months but then lost interest, and so did many of my friends. From Culver’s post, it seems that SixApart is going to incorporate Pownce’s microblogging technology into its blogging platforms. It makes a lot of sense for SixApart to buy a microblogging platform, since microblogging is one of the faster growing parts of the “social media ecosystem.”
Google may be preparing to lay off thousands of workers, if a Silicon Valley information service is to be believed. WebGuild cites anonymous inside sources as saying up to 10,000 Google jobs could be on the way out, with smaller scale layoffs already underway.
"Hundreds" of employees have been let go in the past few months, the company's sources claim -- and, they say, a loophole has allowed Google to keep quiet about the cutbacks. The trick, WebGuild reports, all comes down to categories: Google classifies about 10,000 of its workers as "temporary operational expenses," which means their positions are not official and could be eliminated without public notification. (Google officially reports having just over 20,000 full-fledged employees on staff. The additional 10,000 "temporary" positions speculated would bring the actual total to 30,000.)
"Google has hundreds of lawyers figuring out how not to get caught," WebGuild President Daya Baran suggests. "One of them is by moving workers from job to job every few months so that their status remains temporary. That is why you probably have never spoken to the same person twice at Google and that is also why there is somebody new on the job and most times you know more about their job than they do," he says.
Google has yet to publicly comment on any of the speculation.
Searching for Signs
Google's revenue and profit were up in the third quarter -- a rarity in Silicon Valley this season that could be seen as an indication the rumors may not hold much merit. Still, if one is searching for signs of possible scaling back, such indications can be found.
The search company is trading its traditionally lavish holiday bashes for more subdued and small-scale celebrations this year, reports released just before the weekend suggest. Known for its jam-packed parties complete with giant ice sculptures and virtual reality entertainment, Google this year has opted to go for "more economical" activities, such as group volunteering outings followed by casual dinner parties, sources have indicated.
It's worth noting that cutback rumors have surfaced at Google before, only to end up holding little to no actual truth. Just a few months ago, reports filled the blogosphere that Google was ending its famous free dinner program for employees -- a perk said to cost the company $72 million a year. It didn't take long for Google to knock the rumor down, however, insisting nothing had changed and it didn't know where the falsehood originated.
If a Google scaleback were in the works, what would it mean? Hypothetically speaking, one might suspect some of Google's less profitable projects could get less focus. The company has previously maintained a "20 percent time" policy for engineers, requiring them to spend one day each week on projects of their own choosing. Google is also frequently trying out random Labs projects -- everything from the new Gmail themes to the joke-inspiring Google Goggles program debuted in October -- not to mention its various gags and jokes pulled off throughout the year. The loss of 1,000 workers could theoretically affect these sorts of non-crucial endeavors.
At this point, though, it's all speculation, and all from limited and unidentifiable sources. Only time will tell whether or not the rumors prove to be true -- and, until Google decides to address the buzz, all the searching in the world will bring no definite answers.
Altair software manages 600-teraflop computer for NASA
Troy-based Altair Engineering Inc. Wednesday announced that the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has entrusted workload management of its huge new Pleiades cluster to Altair's PBS Professional software. Pleiades, an cluster with 51,200 cores across 12,800 Intel Xeon processors and 51 terabytes (trillions of bytes) of memory, has 609 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second) of peak processing power. According to a recent benchmarking that's good for No. 3 on the list of the world's fastest supercomputing systems. More.
The global economy is in as bad shape as we've ever seen. In the last two months, U.S. consumers have stopped spending money on discretionary items, including electronic gear, prompting this week's bankruptcy filing by Circuit City. Retailers are worried that Black Friday will indeed be black, as holiday shoppers cut back on spending and choose lower-priced cell phones and notebook computers.
Here's a synopsis of what experts are saying about the short- and long-term prognosis for the tech industry:
1. The global IT market is still growing, although barely.
IDC this week recast its projections for global IT spending in 2009, forecasting that the market will grow 2.6% next year instead of the 5.9% predicted prior to the financial crisis. In the United States, IT spending will eke out 0.9% growth.
IDC predicts the slowest IT markets will be the United States, Japan and Western Europe, which all will experience around 1% growth. The healthiest economies will be in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
Similarly, Gartner's worst-case scenario for 2009 is that IT spending will increase 2.3%, according to a report released in mid-October. Gartner said the U.S. tech industry will be flat. Hardest hit will be Europe, where IT expenditures are expected to shrink in 2009.
Overall, Gartner said global IT spending will reach $3.8 trillion in 2008, up from $3.15 trillion in 2007.
"We expect a gradual recovery throughout 2010, and by 2011 we should be back into a more normal kind of environment," said IDC Analyst Stephen Minton. If the recession turns out to be deeper or last longer than four quarters as most economics expect, "it could turn into a contraction in IT spending," Minton added. "In that case, the IT market would still be weak in 2010 but we'd see a gradual recovery in 2011, and we'd be back to normal by 2012."
2. It's not as bad as 2001.
Even the grimmest predictions for global IT spending during the next two years aren't as severe as the declines the tech industry experienced between 2001 and 2003.
"Global economic problems are impacting IT budgets, however the IT industry will not see the dramatic reductions that were seen during the dot.com bust. . . . At that time, budgets were slashed from mid-double-digit growth to low-single-digit growth," Gartner said in a statement.
Gartner said the reason IT won't suffer as badly in 2009 as it did during the 2001 recession is that "operations now view IT as a way to transform their businesses and adopt operating models that are leaner. . . . IT is embedded in running all aspects of the business."
IDC's Minton said that in 2001 many companies had unused data center capacity, excess network bandwidth and software applications that weren't integrated in a way that could drive productivity.
"This time around, none of that is true," Minton said. "Today, there isn't a glut of bandwidth. There is high utilization of software applications, which are purchased in a more modular way and integrated much faster into business operations. Unlike in 2001, companies aren't waking up to find that they should be cutting back on IT spending. They're only cutting back on new initiatives because of economic conditions."
"We're anxious about whether the economy will resemble what the most pessimistic economists are saying or the more mainstream economists," Minton said. "But we don't see any reason that it will turn into a disaster like 2001. It shouldn’t get anywhere near that bad."
3. Consumers won't give up their cell phones.
They may lose their jobs and even their homes, but consumers seem unwilling to disconnect their cell phones.
"I would sleep in my car before I would give up my mobile phone," says Yankee Group Analyst Carl Howe. "Consumers buy services like broadband and mobile phones, and even if they lose their jobs they need these services more than ever."
Yankee Group says the demand for network-based services -- what it dubs "The Anywhere Economy" -- will overcome the short-term obstacles posed by the global financial crisis and will be back on track for significant growth by 2012.
Yankee Group predicts continued strong sales for basic mobile phone services at the low end, as well as high-end services such as Apple iPhones and Blackberry Storms. Where the mobile market will get squeezed is in the middle, where many vendors have similar feature sets. One advantage for mobile carriers: they have two-year contracts locked in.
Telecom services "are not quite on the level of food, shelter and clothing, but increasingly it satisfies a deep personal need," Howe says. "When bad things happen to us, we want to talk about it. And in today's world, that's increasingly done electronically."
4. Notebook computers are still hot.
Worldwide demand for notebooks -- particularly the sub-$500 models -- has been strong all year. But that may change in the fourth quarter given Intel's latest warnings about flagging demand for its processors.
Both IDC and Gartner reported that PC shipments grew 15% in the third quarter of 2008, driven primarily by sales of low-cost notebook computers. Altogether, more than 80 million PCs were shipped during the third quarter of 2008, which was down from estimates earlier in the year but still represents healthy growth.
IDC said notebook sales topped desktop sales -- 55% to 45% -- for the first time ever during the third quarter of 2008. This is a trend that will help prop up popular notebook vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Apple. Apple, for example, saw its Mac shipments rise 32% in the third quarter of 2008, powered primarily by its notebooks.
The big unknown is what will happen to notebook sales during the holiday season. Analysts have noted sluggishness in U.S. corporate PC sales this fall as well as home sales, where most demand is for ultra-low-priced notebooks.
"The impact will come this quarter. People will be looking for cheaper products. . . . They will not be spending as much as they did a year ago," IDC's Minton said.
Intel said yesterday that it was seeing significantly weaker demand across its entire product line and dropped its revenue forecast for the fourth quarter by $1 billion.
The brunt of the slowdown in IT spending will hit servers and PCs, predicts Forrester Research analyst Andrew Bartels. Forrester is adjusting its IT spending forecast for 2009 downward, and plans to release new numbers after Thanksgiving, he adds.
"PCs and servers may see declines similar to 2001, but we're not going to be seeing that across the whole tech industry," Bartels says. "Software is a bright spot. Much of software spending comes in the form of maintenance and subscriptions. The licensing part may go down, but that's only a quarter of total software revenues."
5. Telecom carriers are cutting back, but not dramatically.
The biggest U.S. carriers -- including AT&T and Verizon -- are in much better shape going into this recession than they were during the dot.com bust. So while consumer spending will fall in 2009, it is expected to have less of an impact on the telecom sector than it did after 2001.
Yankee Group says the financial crisis will not significantly impact network build-outs by carriers because most of the financing for 3G, Fios, WiMAX and other next-generation networks is already in place.
"These are multibillion-dollar build-outs, and most of the financing has been arranged months if not years in advance," Yankee Group's Howe says. "We were projecting that in 2009 carriers would spend over $70 billion on these network build-outs in the U.S. Now we're saying that there will be $2 billion or $3 billion less in spending. . . . We're talking single-digit percentage declines, not wholesale cuts."
This doesn't mean that the network industry will emerge from the chaos unscathed. Carriers will squeeze their equipment providers, and companies like Cisco are already feeling the pinch. When Cisco announced its latest earnings last week, CEO John Chambers reported the company had seen its sales shift from solid-single-digit growth in August to a 9% decline in October.
Forrester says computer and communications equipment vendors will bear the brunt of IT cost-cutting from enterprise customers.
6. Corporate data storage needs keep rising during recessions.
Every segment of the IT market is weaker today than it was six months ago. But some segments are less weak than others, and one of the healthiest is storage.
“Storage is relatively stable because of the fact that companies are using a lot more of their storage capacity and they are still dealing with an increasing amount of data that requires storage on a weekly basis. That’s not going to change,” IDC’s Minton said. “It’s not just the hardware, but the storage software that will be relative bright spots in the years ahead.”
One storage industry bellwether is EMC, which continued to demonstrate strong demand for storage hardware and software in its recent quarterly results. EMC’s revenue grew 13% in the third quarter of 2008 compared to a year ago. Unlike many other network industry leaders, EMC is projecting continued revenue gains in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Similarly, this week Brocade issued a preliminary release indicating strong sales for the quarter ending in October. CEO Michael Klayko said the company will outperform its sales projections from August 2008.
“Storage needs are on the rise, and storage investments will continue,” Forrester’s Bartels says. “We don’t see cloud storage as having a meaningful impact yet.”
7. New IT markets will continue to emerge, although more slowly.
Emerging economies such as China and Latin America are slowing down, but they are still expected to have IT sales increases in 2009. The Latin American market, in particular, is a solid one for IT companies such as IBM, HP and Microsoft, which have a strong foothold south of the border.
“In the past two to three years, Latin America has had some of the fastest growth rates in IT spending,” IDC’s Minton said. “Brazil is the biggest market, and it has been growing at double digits. But all of the markets in Latin America have been growing by more than 10% a year. With some exceptions, the economies there are relatively stable and have had less political turmoil than in the past. . . . This is one of the regions that we think will bounce back pretty quickly.”
Other emerging markets that will continue to post growth in IT spending in 2009 are Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, IDC predicts. While these markets won’t experience double-digit gains next year, they will help offset sharp declines in IT purchasing in the United States, Japan and Western Europe.
Forrester warns that IT vendors shouldn’t count on so-called BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- to bail them out of the financial crisis altogether.
“The BRIC markets are performing better than the industrial markets, but they are also slowing down,” Forrester’s Bartels says. “Among those markets, China looks to be the strongest, then Brazil and Mexico. Russia is weakening, and India is weakening. They’re not going to go into a contraction, but the growth rates could slow to the point that they feel like a contraction.”
One issue for IT vendors is the rising strength of the U.S. dollar, which means U.S. tech vendors will bring home fewer dollars from their foreign sales when they convert currencies.
“The dollar has been strengthening against every currency except the Chinese currency,” Bartels says. “Even if a vendor is successful in sales in Brazil or Russia, they will bring back fewer dollars, which was not the case six months ago.”
8. Outsourcing helps companies stretch their IT budgets.
Many companies will freeze new IT initiatives for the next three to six months as they absorb the Wall Street crash. But one segment that’s likely to continue is IT outsourcing because it provides near-term cost reductions.
“While IT outsourcing will benefit from an economic slowdown in 2008 as companies turn to IT outsourcing vendors to help cut costs, trends toward use of lower-cost offshore resources and smaller-scale outsourcing deals will keep growth modest,” says Forrester Research.
Forrester predicts IT outsourcing will grow around 5% in 2009 and 2010.
“When you sign an outsourcing agreement, you’re locked into it barring going out of business,” Forrester’s Bartels says. “Outsourcing revenues are not going to be variable.”
On the horizon is cloud computing, which also holds the promise of reducing corporate IT overhead but requires more up-front spending than outsourcing.
“Over the longer term, we’re pretty bullish about cloud computing,” IDC’s Minton said. “But there will be a lot of hurdles for a bigger corporation. It’s difficult for them psychologically to give up control, and there are quite a lot of up-front costs to engage consultants, to roll out applications to a large number of employees, and there’s training involved. But ultimately these projects save money.”