Stories by Maryfran Johnson

Securing privacy

What happens when you ask the CIO at the US State Department, the chief privacy officer at the US Postal Service and a room full of security experts, lawyers and thought leaders to talk about privacy? You get a roller-coaster ride through one of the fastest-moving emotional landscapes in e-commerce today.

Watching Wireless

Last week, I watched a hapless marketing executive struggle through a keynote speech that relied on a series of demonstrations of new wireless gadgets and technologies. While thousands of techies looked on hopefully, the poor guy proved my new theory that the scope of a demo failure is directly proportional to the size of the audience. And it was one huge crowd. II

Those of you who've recently launched or relaunched your Web sites would recognize the look in our eyes here at Computerworld. It's that slightly crazed, distracted gaze. Optimistic yet worried, hopeful yet somewhat panicky. You jump at the sound of your Web developer's every expletive. You obsess over type sizes and page-loading speeds. Why does the site work so well on Internet Explorer but crash on Netscape Navigator? (You suspect Bill Gates and his monopolistic minions, but then chide yourself for paranoia.)

Seize the Data

If the writing on the wall in Washington gets much bigger, Uncle Sam will need to start renting billboards on Pennsylvania Avenue to display it all. The government is clearly unimpressed with the high-tech industry's self-serving arguments that it can self-regulate to protect online consumer privacy. No surprise that politicians are buzzing around this issue like wasps on cotton candy.

Future Watch

In visiting one of IBM Corp.'s research labs some time ago, I was entertained by all manner of cool gadgets and various works in progress. Many will never see the light of product rollout or have fairy-tale marketing copy penned in their honor. The one I vividly remember - and keep watching for - was a car phone that could access your e-mail or your favorite Web site and read the contents back to you. It responded to voice commands such as "delete" or "read the next one." It was something that I never knew I always wanted.

Spotlight on Leaders

Leadership can be an elusive quality to pin down. But we know it when we see it, don't we? It can be a single shining moment of victory over adversity. Perhaps it's an opportunity neatly seized, or a teachable moment well used. However it manifests itself, the single common thread is always the human one. Companies don't lead. Technologies don't triumph. People do.

Collector's Items

"Wireless doorbell," read the subject line, and I had to smile in anticipation. It was yet another missive from that vast community of loons flocking around the Net and sending forth what I fondly consider the finest comic relief available from that curse we call e-mail. I'm talking about weird e-mail here - genuinely strange communications from the genuinely strange (who, strangely enough, all seem to have AOL accounts).

Intel Scoffs at 'Post-PC' Computing, but Prepares

Intel Corp. executives may dismiss the notion of a "post-PC era," but in their six-hour briefing yesterday with New York financial analysts, their focus was sharply trained on e-business growth areas far beyond the PC market.

Dot-com Bashing

Times are suddenly tough for the dots. A volatile, punishing stock market has cast an unflattering light on some rapidly deflating paper fortunes. Consumer and retail sites are being eulogized and dissected while their little hearts are still pounding. Law firms are staffing up to handle bankruptcies (so nice to know the lawyers won't go hungry).

The No-Spoof Crusade

In a show of instructive mischief, a reader not too long ago sent me e-mail that arrived from myself. I'd been spoofed. This fellow (clearly a man with time on his hands and a mission in his heart) intended me no harm. But he wanted to show me how pitifully easy it was to slip into my e-mail system and borrow my online identity.

Dear Security Diary

Meet "Pat Rabbinsky," a newly promoted security manager who's in over his head and eager to tell you all about it. He works at a $500 million company with no established security policies and has just been promoted - ready or not - from network administrator to security manager. He's young, inexperienced, irreverent and a bit overwhelmed by his new responsibilities.

Not-Dot Kids

Step right up and meet your company's future workforce, the newest IT people on the job. They're twentysomethings seeking diverse assignments and creative challenges. They like working in small, informal teams, the kind that inspire people to yell questions across the room to one another. They're looking for a little freedom and a ton of responsibility.

The signs are unmistakable: The dot-coms are growing up. They're struggling into adolescence at the same warp speed that ushered them into the world just a few years ago. In short, they're becoming real companies with real problems. Problems like mergers and acquisitions.

Transmeta's Crusoe: The Blair Witch Chip

Cloaked in the same media-savvy secrecy that kept teen-agers enthralled by last summer's hit movie The Blair Witch Project, an innovative chip for mobile computing made its surprisingly splashy debut last week. Why surprising? Try to name the last time a microprocessor introduction made it to CNN Headline News or caught anything like the media wave that surged around Transmeta Corp.'s Crusoe chips.