Tech Trends That Should End

 
 
By eweek  |  Posted 2004-12-20
 
 
 

Tech Trends That Should End


 

Patented craziness


Patented craziness

Patents exist to foster innovation, but in 2004, it seemed as if the real innovation we saw was in the allegations made in patent-related lawsuits.

If Linux users werent being warned by attorneys that the operating system potentially infringes on 283 (unvalidated) patents, then it was Eolas vowing that its Web browser patent fight with Microsoft is far from over.

Part of the problem stems from unfounded patents. Amazon claims to hold a patent on a way of using browser cookies, while Apple wants to patent the iPod user interface. Enough already! Fortunately, Microsoft and Sun were able to end a patent dispute involving Java technology—at least for now.

Click here to read more about the problems with patents.

—Anne Chen

Next page: Patch work.

Patch work


Patch work

Software patches may be free, but software patching is expensive. Severe and continual exploits mean that software patching often must be done on the fly, which means that lots of time, energy and, yes, money must be spent fixing new problems that arise when patches are applied to existing issues.

Patching tools help, and vendors such as Shavlik Technologies, BigFix and St. Bernard Software have allowed IT managers to bring some manner of order to patching chaos. But the real answer to the patching problem is to obviate or at least decrease dramatically the need for patches. And the only hope for that is if applications are developed much more carefully from the get-go.

—Cameron Sturdevant

Next page: Brainless responses.

Brainless responses


Brainless responses

Spam is a pain, and the last thing we need is even more useless messages needlessly filling our in-boxes. Thats exactly what were getting, but it isnt coming from spammers or virus writers. Instead, its coming from well-meaning but confused administrators of anti-virus gateway systems.

Many of these systems are configured to respond to every e-mail they block that contains a virus. But these systems apparently havent gotten the message that, for years now, most viruses spoof sender addresses. This means that many of us get tens or even hundreds of automated responses every day, telling us that a message we never sent contains a virus.

Gateway administrators can do themselves and everyone else a favor by turning off these auto-response features.

—Jim Rapoza

Next page: Toothless technology legislation.

Toothless technology legislation


Toothless technology legislation

Things that dont mix: oil and water; drinking and driving; and, of course, technology and legislative solutions.

For example, as we predicted before it was even passed, the CAN-SPAM Act was ineffective at stopping spam, although it did protect all kinds of spam from large commercial companies.

In fact, this year IT advocates and watchdog groups have had to remain vigilantly on the lookout for new bills that would thwart technology innovation or just technology period, such as the Induce Act from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, which could have made hard drives illegal.

Weve also had to deal this year with the fallout from past bad bills, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, as well as negative and potentially far-reaching court decisions that affect the privacy of e-mail communications and Internet addressing.

—Jim Rapoza

Next page: DRM lockdown.

DRM lockdown


DRM lockdown

The proliferation of fast, affordable broadband Internet connectivity should be a dream come true for sellers of electronically deliverable content.

Unfortunately, the largest content owners—represented by the RIAA and MPAA—have chosen to interpret this dream as a nightmare and to engage potential customers with subpoenas instead of service offerings.

Too many content owners are opting to sit on their assets and wait for the coming of a perfect, unbreakable digital rights management scheme—one that cannot possibly exist. Any DRM scheme that would allow for the broad control over users that the entertainment industry craves would be far too intrusive for consumers to stomach.

The worlds conglomerate content owners should stop worrying and love the Net, opting for a more permissive, open path. The customers—and profits—will follow.

—Jason Brooks

Next page: Desktop deluge.

Desktop deluge


Desktop deluge

A 1984 PC-XT had a 10MB hard disk and a 360KB floppy drive. You could back up your entire mass storage on a stack of 30 disks.

The typical PC of 2004 has at least 40GB of storage. Backing this up on the typically provided recordable CD drive requires 60 media units. This growing imbalance in backup technology is dangerous, especially as a growing fraction of business and personal data is "born digital" and thus has no paper trail to reconstruct whats lost.

Its high time that PC users are offered machines equipped with hierarchical storage, combining automatic offline archival tools with intuitive backup aids that keep pace with growing storage demands.

—Peter Coffee

Next page: When anti isnt enough.

When anti isnt enough


When anti isnt enough

One of the lessons learned this year is that 95 percent effective is not effective enough when it comes to stopping spam, viruses and spyware. Vendors need to build better, more adaptive strategies and tools to combat these foes.

On the messaging front, far too many products leave it to administrators to deal with Day Zero messaging threats, through policies harried IT managers likely dont have time to create. And the complete absence of centrally managed applications for reversing the proliferation of spyware on corporate PCs has made it difficult for administrators to control yet another threat to corporate data.

—Michael Caton

Next page: ILM: In search of a standard.

ILM


: In search of a standard"> ILM: In search of a standard

Information lifecycle management solutions help IT managers analyze data and migrate it to cheaper storage tiers. The concept is basic enough, but that in itself is the problem because it encourages virtually any storage solution that migrates, preserves or analyzes data to call itself an ILM solution.

The storage industry must standardize the process of ILM and do it in a hurry. With standardization in place, vendors will be able to develop systems that are interoperable. As it stands now, any IT manager who wants to implement ILM will have to make a long-term commitment to a single vendor (and its partners), which should never be the case with emerging technology solutions.

—Henry Baltazar

Next page: Courting compliance.

Courting compliance


Courting compliance

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act does not regulate technology, but from the way vendors plastered "Sarbanes-Oxley- compliant" all over their products this year, youd think every application deployed in an enterprise was relevant to the law.

There is no doubt that the technology and business processes regulated by SarbOx are intertwined, and CIOs need to deploy solutions that provide transparency into business processes. But vendors helping companies with compliance are expected to reap $5.8 billion next year, according to AMR Research.

We cant blame vendors for trying to get a slice of the pie. But when we see things like Web survey software being pitched as a way to assess employees SarbOx compliance, we know theyre stretching things a little too far.

—Anne Chen

Next page: Maddening multimedia.

Maddening multimedia


Maddening multimedia

Site designers have had an adequate amount of time to figure out the difference between advertising (which has to engage a persons attention) and Web content (which ought to address the needs of someone whos already there by choice). A splashy multimedia home page is like a marching band at the entrance to a grocery store: It merely takes up space and wastes the time of someone whose only purpose is to find decision support information or have an opportunity to make a transaction.

The issue isnt merely aesthetic. Self-indulgent multimedia content makes it harder to screen sites for malware and to deliver content to alternative devices or to visually impaired users. Lets demand more focus on serving the content consumer.

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