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March 8, 2006

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Open-Source Bug Hunt Results Posted
Government Computer News (03/06/06) Jackson, Joab

Through a far-reaching analysis of open-source code sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, Coverity has found that there is less than one-half of one bug embedded in every 1,000 lines of code, with even lower rates in popular applications such as the Linux kernel and the Apache Web server. The results are the first to appear from the three-year, $1.2 million grant awarded to Coverity, Stanford University, and Symantec. DHS is hopeful that calling attention to the bugs will prompt developers will fix them, shoring up the vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers to disrupt or take over a system. Coverity CTO Ben Chelf noted that while the automated scan cannot detect every bug, it discovered some that are overlooked by in-house reviews. The scan found that XMMS is the cleanest program, with only six bugs in 116,899 lines of code. The Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver (AMANDA) proportionally had the most bugs, with 108 discovered in its 88,950 lines of code. The bug density for all the programs was 0.43 per thousand lines of code, with the LAMP stack registering just 0.29 defects per thousand lines of code. Chelf notes the difficulty of making comparisons between open-source code and its commercial counterparts, given that Coverity has only tested a few commercial applications. Coverity has concluded from its study that the size of a program is a poor indicator of quality, as Linux has comparatively few bugs, while a smaller program such as AMANDA may contain many. The number of developers at work on a project, in proportion to its size, is a better predictor of overall quality.
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Quality and Jobs Will Prevail in Offshoring Blitz
Computerworld Australia (03/07/06) Crawford, Michael

A report from the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) contends that more call center operations, fundamental research, and other IT functions are being outsourced, and 30 percent of the 1,000 largest companies in the world are now moving jobs to developed countries. For IT professionals to remain employable, the ACM report says they should train in areas that are less likely to become automated and develop a high skill level in these areas. Meanwhile, research firm Gartner predicts that 10 percent of IT departments will take a hit due to outsourcing over the next five years, adding that units will also shrink in size because of offshoring and the increasing commoditization of technology. However, IT managers in Australia are not fearful of the reports on offshoring, arguing that their expertise and quality of work will continue to be in demand. Moreover, they believe companies will eventually come to understand the importance of quality work, and will ultimately bring the IT work back in-house. Edward Hore, IT manager for automotive specialists Bob Jane Group, expects to see a reverse of the offshoring trend in three to five years. "Offshore support will clearly start to come back in housein 1999 Gartner said all support desks will be outsourced but in the last three years we have seen the exact opposite as IT departments are growing rapidly," says Hore. The report "Globalization and Offshoring of Software--A Report from the ACM Job Migration Task Force" is available at http://www.acm/org/globalization
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Good Idea: Reinventing Invention
Wired News (03/07/06) Glasner, Joanna

While the 1,000 companies that spend the most money on research and development are increasing their investment, many of the innovations that they produce are not intuitive to the average consumer. Analysts who study innovation agree that the best inventors are those who recognize that most inventions fail. Companies must also be able to look at the strategies that drive success for their competitors and evaluate how they could be implemented within their own organization. U.S. auto makers exemplify the consequences of ignoring the success of your competition, while Microsoft, in contrast, has responded with agility to competitive threats, frequently by purchasing potential rivals. With the body of innovation steadily growing, it becomes increasingly difficult to develop a breakthrough invention, which explains the declining return on research and development spending that many companies are experiencing. Ultimately, this trend will lead to increased specialization and more team-oriented research, according to Benjamin Jones, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management. "Whenever researchers look at innovation, they see this upward trend in collaboration," he said. "People are becoming more specialized over time and they need to work in bigger teams." While specialization will be a key driver of innovation, it will not necessarily require a higher level of education, as researchers in the future will break down large systems into manageable pieces, enabling developers to focus on improving one part of a product without having to understand the whole.
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Microsoft Gets Behind the Wheel
Financial Times (03/08/06) P. 10; Mackintosh, James

Microsoft unveiled the first cars to carry the full version of Windows Mobile for Automotive at last week's motor show in Geneva, and it is due to present a Volkswagen concept car with complete Internet access at Hanover's CeBIT technology exhibition tomorrow. After cornering the desktop market and launching initiatives in robotics, PDAs, and mobile phones, Microsoft is eyeing the automotive industry as the next major platform for growth. Microsoft is angling for control over the "infotainment" systems in a car, including the technology that powers satellite navigation, music, and mobile phone connections. Fiat, Microsoft's first partner in the auto industry, is offering a Blue & Me package, which includes a version of Windows, a USB port installed at the factory, and a wireless Bluetooth link for hands-free mobile-phone use. Fiat will offer navigation, including mapping devices, in future models, and the controls for every application will be voice-controlled. Microsoft has provided Windows to 19 car companies for several years, though the company's name has not been attached. Microsoft has a built-in advantage with its popular Media Player and other widely used software, and it is currently developing Internet-accessible telematics applications, as well as remote diagnosis for technical problems. Many car manufacturers have been reluctant to incorporate more technology into their systems after high-profile fiascos such as BMW's iDrive. Fiat's USB port comes in stark contrast to the tendency of many auto companies to make their software opaque out of a fear that their brand would be damaged if software malfunctioned. Fiat is debating whether to allow users to download and install upgrades on their own with the USB storage device. Fiat's first models already need an upgrade, as they can play music from an iPod but cannot play music from Apple's iTunes store because of Apple's proprietary compression technology.
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Software Shows Mona Lisa to Be Neither Man, nor da Vinci
News-Gazette (03/06/06) Kline, Greg

A team of University of Illinois researchers using facial-recognition software has concluded that Leonardo da Vinci was not the model for the Mona Lisa, and, moreover, that there is a 60 percent probability that the model was a woman. Last year the researchers used the software to assess the mood of the painting's subject, which they reported as happy, with tinges of anger, fear, and disgust. Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor Thomas Huang is also exploring facial recognition for multiple applications, including security systems and personalizing a computer by training it to react to its user's facial expressions. The technology could be used to create smart kiosks that recognize users or adaptive billboards that could change their message if a man or a woman walks by. Huang has applied the technology to Edvard Munch's "The Scream," identifying surprise as the predominant emotion, and a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh, which he found to convey profound sadness. In applying the gender identification feature of the facial-recognition program to the Mona Lisa, Huang and his students developed a scale of differences among faces from a database of facial photos and plotted the features of males and females. When applied to the Mona Lisa, the software reported a 60 percent probability that the subject was a female. When they plugged the Mona Lisa and a self-portrait of da Vinci into the database, they found that the images are more than likely different people.
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Flexible CRT Displays
Technology Review (03/07/06) Bullis, Kevin

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Northeastern University, and New Mexico State University have developed a technique that could produce flexible, flat-screen cathode ray tube (CRT) displays using a pre-patterned surface to direct the growth off the nanotubes. The researchers pour a liquid over the nanotubes, which is cooked until it becomes a polymer. The polymer retains the nanotube pattern after it is peeled off. The researchers claim that by isolating single nanotubes, they have yielded the most efficient electron emissions yet reported. Rensselaer postdoctoral materials science and engineering researcher Swastik Kar, the lead author of the study, noted that a working prototype display is still a few years away, as flexible nanotube displays still require the electronics to govern their individual pixels. Nanotube-plastic composites could lead to other nanotube-based devices, and their pressure sensitivity could lead to the development of nano-skin that would mimic the human sense of touch. Researchers are also developing nanotubes that can be used as adhesives based on the structures of a gecko that enable it to hold on to a wall. "Flexible nanotube-polymer films will find a large range of applications, not only for electronics, but also for sensing applications and even optical applications," said Liming Dai, professor of materials engineering and chemistry at the University of Dayton, Ohio. "It's an important area. Now is the time for people to push these things toward real applications."
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Europe's Fastest Supercomputer Turned On
IDG News Service (03/08/06) Niccolai, James

A demonstration of the Julich Blue Gene/L (JUBL) supercomputer is expected to take place this week at the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany, according to the Julich Research Center and IBM. The research center in Germany went live about a month ago with JUBL for environmental and particle physics research, and about 30 users are currently accessing the supercomputer for 10 projects. JUBL has a peak performance of 45.8 teraflops, or 45.8 trillion operations per second, enabling the supercomputer to claim the title of the fastest supercomputer in Europe. The supercomputer is an IBM Blue Gene system that has more processors, which also are packed more tightly together, than Julich's JUMP (Julich Multi Processor) supercomputer, which has a peak performance of 8.9 teraflops per second. JUBL has 2,048 processors in each of its eights racks for a total of 16,348, compared with 32 processors in each of the 41 racks for a total of 1,312 processors in JUMP. "The performance of each processor is lower, but the architecture gives you more flexibility because you have less heat to transfer out of the machine," explains Dr. Norbert Attig of Julich's Central Institute for Applied Mathematics. Using the Linpack performance benchmark, JUBL has a peak performance of 36.5 teraflops, compared to 280.6 teraflops for the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Blue Gene/L System at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in California.
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UM Engineers Pioneer Digital Fingerprinting to Catch Cyber Thieves
Newswise (03/07/06)

University of Maryland researchers are developing new digital fingerprinting applications that could protect entertainment content and identify the sources of national security leaks without interfering with appropriate uses. K.J. Ray Liu and Min Wu, both professors of electrical and computer engineering at Maryland, are exploring new cyber forensics techniques to protect content and track the pirates who attempt to steal it through collusion attacks, where multiple attackers attempt to filch and distribute proprietary or classified materials, deleting or altering the original digital fingerprint in the process to avoid being traced. The new technology incorporates anti-collusion codes to safeguard content while still protecting legitimate uses. The technology could help Hollywood protect its copyrights as content passes over the Internet, and the researchers are also exploring techniques that could protect individual content items from inappropriate use without installing unwanted and potentially harmful products onto users' computers. The Maryland researchers' system embeds each item with a unique ID that can tell which users are involved in a piracy attack, and works with equal effectiveness for video, audio, and live multicasts, such as pay-per-view events. "The message our technology sends is: 'Don't bother to try anything, because we can catch you,'" said Liu. Anti-collusion codes could also help identify a person who leaks sensitive national security information embedded in a multimedia format.
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Machine Control Opens Up
IST Results (03/08/06)

The IST-funded OCEAN project, completed last year, has developed a standard for the creation of a broad range of new machine controls. Until the OCEAN project, machine controls were largely closed and their software stubbornly resisted customization. "Before, you got a machine that could perform one process with a complete software system and if you wanted to change the process you had to change all the software," said project coordinator Fabrizio Meo, who added that customizing software was often prohibitively expensive. The OCEAN developers used Linux, RTAI, and Real Time Corba to create a more agile development model. The manufacturer's unique software still resides in a black box, though it now communicates through a common standard, enabling the integration of different products. The standard also established a real-time communication protocol that harnesses distributed components into a single machine. Meo describes the continuous evolution of Linux and the other platforms that power machine controls as the biggest challenge in the project.
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Computers Aren't Just for the Guys
Times of Trenton (03/04/06) Landau, Elizabeth

Princeton Engineering School Dean Maria Klawe, former president of ACM, says the perception of computers as being toys for boys and the media image of computer scientists as being geeks are not the only reasons why fewer women are studying computer science today. Klawe also takes issue with the way the subject matter is taught. For example, Klawe says a curriculum of computing applications to video and sound files could focus less on the technical nature of coding language. "The way that computer science courses are set up focuses on the technical intricacies of computing rather than what computing is good for," says Klawe, adding that women want to know how they can apply such knowledge. Klawe is an advocate of the "pairs programming" teaching approach, in which students work in pairs--one as the program driver and the other as the navigator who reads along and notes errors--and switch roles every half hour. She believes pairs programming would appeal more to female students than working on assignments individually. Klawe adds that having women combine computer science studies with a major in art, music, or psychology is another way to boost the female presence in the field. Klawe says the number of women in computer science has plummeted from 30 percent to 15 percent over the past 25 years.
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NEC Develops Fastest Data Transmission Technology for Supercomputers
Asahi News Service (03/08/06)

Japan wants to have the fastest supercomputer in the world in five years, and a new development from NEC could help the government reach its goal. NEC says it has new supercomputing technology that delivers a data transmission speed of 25 Gbps, which is equivalent to amount of data on 100,000 newspaper pages. The previous record was 14 Gbps, which was reached last year by researchers in the United States who developed a supercomputing system for the U.S. Department of Defense. The optical interconnection technology from NEC makes use of a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser that is able to transmit an enormous amount of data between a CPU and a memory device. The use of optical signals promises to improve the performance of supercomputers because it facilitates fast speeds as well as lowers the noise associated with operating supercomputing systems. Japan's Earth Simulator, which uses electrical signals and was surpassed by a U.S. supercomputer in 2004, has a transmission speed of 0.5 Gbps. The Japanese government plans to start working with domestic electronics makers on developing the next-generation supercomputer starting in fiscal 2006.
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Aging Workforce a Concern for US Tech Firms
TechNewsWorld (03/04/06) Koprowski, Gene

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has teamed up with AARP and several other organizations to help prepare employers for the graying of their workforce. In particular, the aging workforce has become an issue for technology companies in the United States, which will see a decline in the number of young workers in the years to come. According to CompTIA, in four years a third of employees in the country will be 50 years of age or older. In response, CompTIA has helped form the Alliance for an Experienced Workforce, which seeks to bring attention to the issue, assist employers in retaining and attracting older workers, and create more opportunities for older workers to utilize their experience, skills, and knowledge. "Organizations risk losing core competencies, in-house expertise and mentors for future talent," says CompTIA CEO John Venator. "The long-term impact of such a trend is a slowdown in innovation." Meanwhile, experienced technology executives stand to be compensated handsomely for their skills. According to Silicon Valley recruiting firm Trilogy Venture Search, salaries for senior tech execs will start at $250,000 and could well exceed $300,000 for some positions.
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Foster to Lead Computation Institute
University of Chicago Chronicle (03/02/06) Vol. 25, No. 11,Koppes, Steve

Grid computing pioneer Ian Foster has replaced Rick Stevens as the director of the Computational Institute, a joint project between the University of Chicago and the Argonne National Laboratory that focuses on computational and communication problems in the sciences, as well as in medicine, law, the arts, and humanities. Foster, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in computer science at the university and the associate director of Argonne's Mathematics and Computer Science Division, assumed his new position effective March 1, 2006. In 1995, he co-founded the Globus Project, an initiative that developed an open-source software package for building Grid systems and applications; and in 2004 he helped found Univa, a company based in Elmhurst, Ill., to promote the commercial use of the technology. Also, Jonathan Silverstein, assistant professor in surgery at the university, was appointed associate director of the Computational Institute. Silverstein has been an advocate of using grid computing to improve patient safety and academic efficiency in biomedicine. "Computation plays an increasingly central role in many disciplines in the sciences, medicine and the humanities," says Foster. "What we want to be about is not just doing bigger computations, but working out how to apply these computation tools in new ways and to new disciplines."
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Hey Neighbor, Stop Piggybacking on My Wireless
New York Times (03/05/06) P. 1; Marriott, Michel; Zarate, Andrea; Ruethling, Gretchen

"Piggybacking," or the unauthorized use of someone else's wireless Internet connection, is increasingly becoming an issue for people who live in densely populated areas such as New York City or Chicago or in apartment buildings, makers of wireless routers say. One of the reasons why piggybacking is becoming increasingly common is because so many users do not bother to secure their networks with passwords or encryption programs--which allows anyone with a wireless-enabled computer within the 200-foot range of a wireless router to gain access to the network, says analyst Mike Wolf. That assessment is backed up by Humphrey Cheung, the editor of a technology Web site, tomshardware.com. In April 2004, Cheung and his colleagues measured how plentiful open wireless networks have become by flying two single-engine airplanes over metropolitan Los Angeles with two wireless laptops. The project logged more than 4,500 wireless networks, with only about 30 percent of them encrypted to lock out outsiders, Cheung said. For wireless Internet users who fail to protect their networks, the consequences can be much greater than slower Internet access. Symantec Security Response's David Cole says savvy users could piggyback into unprotected computers to gain access to files containing sensitive financial and personal information, release malicious viruses and worms that could do irreparable damage, or use the computer as a launching pad for identity theft or the uploading and downloading of child pornography.
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Supercomputer Architectures Battle for Hearts and Minds of Users
Computerworld (03/06/06) P. 36; Ulfelder, Steve

While the supercomputing speed race has long been confined to the lab, the data-flow problems that supercomputer researchers face will become problematic for everyday IT managers within the next five years. Processors have evolved faster than data-movement technologies, as dual-core PCs have already infiltrated the marketplace, and experts predict that a standard chip could contain 64 processors, each capable of running four threads simultaneously. Clustered systems have propelled the supercomputer's processing ability to the outer limits of latency and bandwidth. IBM's Blue Gene, the world's fastest supercomputer, harnesses 131,072 clustered processors. "Clusters have completely changed the scientific computing landscape," says Jack Dongarra, a computer science professor at the University of Tennessee, who notes that more than 60 percent of the top 500 supercomputers are clustered systems. As their popularity grows, supercomputers are finding their way into an increasing number of practical applications. While the ascendancy of clustered systems has tilted the balance away from the exotic architectures favored by Cray, many scientists agree with Cray executives that the company's high-bandwidth, low-latency supercomputers will form an integral part of the future hybrid applications. Cray's Jason Silverman reports that the company will bring compilers to market by 2009 that can determine which code best suits its vector processors and which is more given to the less proficient scalar processors, saving programmers from the time-consuming allocation work. IBM is developing speculative multithreading, a technique for the impromptu reassembling of processors that have been allowed to run non-sequentially, which it hopes will be a breakthrough. DARPA is also working to advance the development of scientific computers through its High Productivity Computing Systems initiative that seeks to double performance every 18 months at least through 2010.
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Future Disruptive Technologies: The Perspectives of MIT & Stanford
Always On (02/01/06) Vol. 1, No. 4, P. 26; Byers, Tom

MIT vice president for research and associate provost Alice Gast and Stanford University dean of engineering Jim Plummer participated in a panel moderated by Tom Byers at the recent AO2005 Innovation Summit, where they discussed what disruptive technologies their schools are focusing on. Gast and Plummer agreed that universities, industry, and government have a shared responsibility to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and key to this inspiration is the emphasis on disruptive technologies. Plummer said the fields generating the most excitement among engineers and scientists--biotechnology, energy, nanotechnology, and environment--can not only lead to new knowledge, but can also establish a platform for new entrepreneurism. He explained that his university is attempting "to seed the future by trying out all the wild and crazy ideas and seeing which ones actually have the possibility of being successful." Gast said two keys of Internet-related research at MIT are "the human computer interface and the distributed cell phone everywhere environment." She noted that MIT and Stanford are also concentrating on the grand challenge of energy and its connection to the Internet, and that the various issues associated with energy--consumption, production, storage, and portability--can lead to the development of many disruptive products. At the same time, she emphasized that technical advances "must proceed hand in hand" with tough policy decisions. Both Plummer and Gast said interdisciplinary collaboration--not just between researchers, but between researchers, social scientists, and economists--is critical. However, Plummer said that "while business and policy and technology must work together, their foundation is technology."
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Is Deviant Behavior the Norm on P2P File-Sharing Networks?
IEEE Distributed Systems Online (02/06) Vol. 7, No. 2,Hughes, Daniel; Walkerdine, James; Coulson, Geoff

Most unlawful pornography mediated by peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks is generated by a small group within the P2P community, according to an analysis of pornography-related resource-discovery traffic in the Gnutella P2P network conducted by Lancaster University and York St. John College researchers. There are two competing assumptions about the effects of anonymity on computer-mediated communication: One posits that anonymity promotes and increases the probability of deviant online behavior by wearing down people's resistance to temptation, while the other contends that anonymity only nurtures deviant behavior if the norms related to a specific group identity permit it. The researchers' experiments, which concentrated on capturing and studying Query and QueryHit messages on the Gnutella network between Feb. 27 and March 27, 2005, showed a 1.6 percent average of Query messages associated with illegal pornography, and a 2.4 percent average of QueryHit messages. Determining whether individuals who share such material form a subgroup of the Gnutella community involved generating a ranked list of the 20 leading pornography-related search terms, and identifying peers who responded with QueryHits as likely distributors of illicit content. There was a strong indication that 57 percent of peers who share such material share nothing else, compared to 17 percent who share less than 50 percent illegal material. These findings suggest that the sharing of illegal pornography is not a common habit of most Gnutella users, and that anonymity cannot be blamed as the cause of deviant behavior. The researchers contend that, in view of these results, there is no need to severely police or prosecute P2P file-sharing networks if the deviant subgroup can be effectively targeted without infringing on the wider file-sharing community.
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