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March 10, 2006

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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Md. House Approves Paper Ballots
Washington Post (03/10/06) P. A1; Marimow, Ann E.; Woodlee, Yolanda

In a unanimous vote, the Maryland House of Delegates endorsed the use of paper ballots in its next election, scrapping the state's touch-screen machines in a move supported by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich that represents an about-face for a state that had been at the forefront of touch-screen voting technology in 2001. Under the plan, the state would lease optical ballot machines for $13 million, while the $90 million touch-screen machines would be shelved for one year. It remains uncertain how the plan will fare in the Senate, and there is no money in Ehrlich's budget earmarked for the new machines. Diebold will demonstrate for lawmakers an updated version of its touch-screen system that produces a paper record. The challenges that Maryland has had in selecting a voting system are typical of the pains that election officials feel nationwide as computer experts question the reliability and security of touch-screen systems. Voter verification is now required in more than two dozen states as advocacy groups have lobbied to ensure that voters can have confidence in the accuracy of their ballot. Within Maryland, some officials have argued that optical scan machines are a step in the wrong direction, given that the hand-marked ballots can produce ambiguous results. "There is no evidence of anything wrong with Maryland elections," said John Willis, the former Secretary of State, pointing to the study conducted by the California Institute of Technology and MIT that identified Maryland as the state with the lowest voter error in 2004. ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee has issued a report on "Statewide Databases of Registered Voters: A Study of Accuracy, Privacy, Usability, Security, and Reliability." To read this report, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/VRD
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UCLA, UCB, UCSB and Stanford Join to Establish Western Institute of Nanoelectronics
UCLA News (03/09/06) Abraham, Melissa

The newly announced Western Institute of Nanoelectronics, the product of the partnership of the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of California, Los Angeles; and Stanford University, will be one of the largest collaborative research programs to focus on spintronics in the world. Under the direction of UCLA engineering professor Kang Wang, the institute will include almost 30 prominent researchers and collaborate with sponsors from the semiconductor industry. Wang notes that the institute, to be headquartered at UCLA, will provide a world-class environment for advancing semiconductors beyond existing CMOS processes that are fast approaching their scaling limitations. "With this new institute, we are talking about an unprecedented opportunity to help define a technology that can exploit the idiosyncrasies of the quantum world to provide key improvements over existing technologies," said Wang. "As rapid progress in the miniaturization of semiconductor electronic devices leads toward chip features smaller than 65 nanometers in size, researchers have had to begin exploring new ways to make electronics more efficient." Spintronics, a major focus of the institute, carries information through the spin of an electron, which could be used to create low-power next-generation electronic devices. Traditional electronic devices move electronic charges around, neglecting the energy contained in their spin. The institute is launching with the aid of $18.2 million in grants, $2.38 million of which comes from the Nanoelectronics Research Grant funded by Intel, AMD, IBM, Texas Instruments, Freescale, and MICRON. Intel is also contributing a separate $2 million dollar grant and $10 million in equipment.
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Outsourcing of Computer Jobs a Misconception
Daily Kent Stater (03/08/06) Whinnery, Megan

While the perception that computing jobs are migrating overseas dampens interest in math and science among college students, a recent ACM study has found that the widespread outsourcing of tech jobs is largely a myth. The fear that jobs are disappearing could sap the domestic labor supply, warns Robert Walker, associate professor of computer science at Kent State University. ACM's task force of computer scientists, economists, and social scientists found that between 2 percent and 3 percent of computer-related jobs are being lost to foreign countries, while new, higher-level domestic jobs are being created in their place. "The offshoring of jobs in the computer industry isn't a big problem," said C.C. Lu, computer science professor at Kent State. "No matter how offshore it's going, we still need a lot of software engineers here." The ACM study also found that Canada is the most popular destination for outsourced positions, followed by Ireland. India ranks third, though much of the work there is in low-level call center jobs. Call center work is considered a career in India, and Walker contends that the country lacks the infrastructure to establish the research required for advanced computer jobs. "I hope the guidance counselors and teachers don't give students wrong information," Walker said. "Things aren't bad now, there are plenty of good-paying jobs." Walker cautions, however, that fears of outsourcing could become a self-fulfilling prophecy if they discourage students from studying math and science, forcing U.S. companies to look overseas for skilled workers. The NSF has found that computer science graduates earn the highest median income among all science graduates. To view "Globalization and Offshoring of Software--A Report of the ACM Job Migration Task Force," visit http://www.acm.org/globalizationreport
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Breaking a Supercomputing Speed Record
Technology Review (03/10/06) Greene, Kate

IBM claims to have broken its own speed record for sharing data over a network, reporting that its ASC Purple supercomputer transferred data at a rate of 102 Gbps using IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) software, shattering the previous record of 15 Gbps, which IBM also held. ASC Purple is a massive cluster of thousands of systems that store and process 1.6 PB of information, and is frequently used to model nuclear reactions or analyze the safety of weapons caches. "What this does is enable a new class of applications to become possible," said IBM's Rama Govindaraju, who worked on the data-sharing initiative, nicknamed "Project Fastball." The technology could be used to access or process any large body of data over a distributed area, with potential benefits for health care, homeland security, or video-on-demand providers. The open-source GPFS system, which IBM has made available since 2001, is at the center of the breakthrough, efficiently managing the numerous storage devices and executing multiple tasks simultaneously. Directing the flow of traffic is one of the central challenges for large supercomputer systems, which GPFS handles by compartmentalizing files into chunks of a manageable size and storing them on disks throughout the file system. When accessing a file, the system runs several pathways in parallel, unlike distributed systems, which transfer data through just one path. Dispersing the flow of information enables the system to heal itself, instantly redirecting data if one pathway fails. IBM manages each element of the ASC Purple system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, enabling it to refine and tinker with the hardware to integrate it with GPFS. IBM is also working with the University of Pennsylvania to use GPFS to develop a universally accessible repository for digital images of mammograms, enabling doctors to compare past and present images if a patient has moved.
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Computing With Light?
HPC Wire (03/10/06) Vol. 15, No. 10,Stuart, Anne

Hewlett-Packard Labs' Quantum Information Processing Group is seeking to unlock the mysteries of optical quantum computing that would process information with photons, instead of electrons, to produce faster, more secure systems. "Quantum processing can attack problems we can't attack with conventional computers," said Hewlett-Packard's Tim Spiller, who is heading the research. "Even a small quantum computer has the potential to enhance communications and information processing." While scientists have long agreed that light has the best potential for shuttling quantum information, they have yet to devise an efficient, practical technique to do so. Light's ability to transmit data over long distances with minimal interference makes it ideal for relaying telephone calls and other communication applications, but that same property undercuts light's ability to process information. To resolve this problem, Spiller and his team began exploring photon detection, and devised a technique to detect photons without destroying them in the process, while a probe light signal enables the photons to communicate with each other. The researchers see no limit to the extent of the interaction among photons, which could potentially serve as a scalable platform for optical quantum computing. If it reaches maturity, quantum computing could reinvent information technology by revolutionizing optical communications, sensing devices, and measuring technologies with small quantum devices. Larger quantum processors could be used in research settings, factor extremely large numbers, and potentially lead to quantum code-breaking.
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Tech Firms Say H-1B Visa Caps Create Shortage of Skilled Staff
Investor's Business Daily (03/09/06) P. A1; Mandaro, Laura

U.S. technology companies report difficulty filling their swelling number of positions, citing the limitations on H-1B visas as a constricting force on the high-tech labor supply that threatens to erode the United States' competitive edge. "The way our immigration system is acting, it's almost becoming a disincentive for these best and brightest individuals to come to the U.S.," said Hewlett-Packard's Leslie Nicolett. Since 2003, the yearly cap for H-1B visas has fallen from 195,000 to 65,000, which the industry is feeling all-the-more acutely now that hiring freezes have ended and skilled tech workers are in demand again. Immigrants are an essential component of the technology workforce, companies say, particularly in positions requiring specialized skills and advanced degrees. The Senate is considering a sweeping immigration bill that would increase the H-1B visa cap to 115,000 and exempt immigrants with advance degrees in technology, science, and engineering. President Bush reiterated his support for raising the cap in his visit to India, where the domestic software industry has called for the United States to relax its visa policy. Should the bill clear the Senate, it is likely to face staunch opposition in the House, where it will meet the objections of worker advocacy groups that claim that immigration takes jobs away from U.S. citizens and reduces pay, though studies to verify that claim are mixed. While the Center for Immigration Studies claims that H-1B visa holders are not as well compensated as their U.S. counterparts, the rate of increase in median pay for scientists and mathematicians has outpaced the pay rate for white-collar workers at large. Immigration restrictions can mean that companies have to settle for a less-than-ideal candidate if their first choice cannot obtain a visa, or lead businesses to move individual jobs or entire divisions overseas.
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EU Backs 'Invisible Computing' Research
silicon.com (03/07/06) McCue, Andy

Because the European Union views embedded systems as being key to the industrial competitiveness of the region, it wants its member states to do their part in helping to fund the Advanced Research & Technology for Embedded Intelligence and Systems (Artemis) program, which is trying to raise $3.24 billion so more research can be conducted on technology that has had an impact on household appliances, consumer gadgets, and automobiles. The EU and industry will also help fund the embedded computing systems research over the next 10 years through Artemis, which is backed by 20 technology and automotive companies. "It should be open to all players, and it is crucial that it accelerates the pace of innovation," says Viviane Reding, European commissioner for Information Society and Media. Embedded systems are found in everything from wireless telephones, DVDs, airplanes, and cars; a focus on embedded systems could add 600,000 new jobs to this sector, says Artemis. "The tools and design methods to be jointly developed as part of Artemis will enable us to increase the functionality of mobile devices to meet future customer needs without sacrificing usability or operating times," says Yrjo Nuevo, Artemis chairman and senior technology advisor at Nokia.
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UTD Professor a Step Ahead With Research Into Anticipation
Dallas Morning News (03/09/06) Hughes, Kristine

Mihai Nadin, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, is pioneering the discipline of anticipation through his studies of how human actions are motivated in an attempt to develop machines that consider the future as they make decisions. Software could help devices overcome the limitations of poor reaction time and vision by weighing the consequences of actions and changing their behavior accordingly. Nadin created an eight-legged robot with built-in sensors and dispatched it to negotiate a pile of rocks by anticipating the outcomes of its actions. The robot used its sensors to create a map of the ground from its topology. The first time, it struggled to walk over the rocks. The second time was easier, but the third time the robot avoided the rocks altogether by walking around them. Nadin says anticipation software could lead to robots capable of helping humans in more complex settings, such as managed health care, though practical applications could still be several years away. Nadin's work is based on his theory of pre-understanding--that humans can physically act before their brain receives a stimulus. By quantifying the anticipation process, Nadin plans to distil its essence into a model for the software that powers adaptive control mechanisms. Nadin is recording the movement of test subjects in milliseconds with motion capture devices, while physiological sensors and brain imaging measure anticipation. Nadin wants to determine if a physical or mental reaction comes first when his subjects have to respond to a condition, such as having a ball thrown at them.
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You Have to Spend Money to Make Money
Computing (03/09/06) Flood, Sally

The European Commission has found that Europe's research and development spending has been in steady decline since 2000, having dropped to 1.9 percent of GDP, or around half of China's proportional investment. Many European companies are cutting their investment in IT in an effort to rein in costs, while BoozAllen found in a recent survey that there is no definitive link between corporate performance and research and development spending, calling into question the value of research spending for many companies. Research spending is akin to a black hole for many in the business community, says Forrester's Navu Radjou, given that many projects are poorly managed and fail to align with business goals. Research facilities such as Accenture's in southern France are forming closer partnerships with the business and academic communities. Oracle has partnered with Icon Ventures, a corporate financier, to identify startup companies that look promising, bringing the experience and skills of Oracle consultants to work with developers at the startup. Successful research and development programs must align their efforts with the business' larger strategic goals, merge short- and long-term projects together, and advertise the value of their work. "Every company has the power to be innovative," says NVP's Harry Berry. "The secret is in creating a culture in which engineers are valued, and their contribution to the business is tracked and supported." Google has recently decided to open a research and development facility in London to develop new wireless and mobile platforms, as well as other applications. Google wants to tap into Europe's vibrant academic community and the mobile and wireless expertise of its research community. Philips, which spends 10 percent of its revenues on research and development, has invested heavily in its HomeLab in the Netherlands, where researchers are exploring ambient intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies.
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Can Computers Be Aware of Their Surroundings?
University of Ulster (03/08/06)

Researchers in Europe hope to bring sensory perception to intelligent computer systems, but a better understanding of biological sensory fusion and how to incorporate it into artificial systems is needed, according to Martin McGinnity, director of the Intelligent Systems Engineering Laboratory (ISEL) at the University of Ulster's Magee campus. McGinnity coordinated the SENSEMAKER project, which brought electronics and computing engineers, neuroscientists, physicists, and biologists together to create a silicon-based version of the way in which the brain picks up data from the various senses, and combines the information to gain a comprehensive view of its surroundings. "The ultimate aim is to create machines which can capture information through sensory perception, process it in a way similar to the brain and then act intelligently on that information," says McGinnity. The researchers were able to create a theoretical model for certain processes, and demonstrate a system that brought vision and touch together. "This type of research teaches us a lot about how we can translate the principles of living biological systems into artificial computer systems; while the primary focus is to create intelligent computational systems, this field of research may also lead to new ways of treating people with sensory-related disabilities with more advanced prosthetics," says McGinnity. The FACETS project is involved in similar research involving machine perception and vision. And the creation of a Center for Excellence in Intelligent Systems would allow the Magee campus to focus more on research in this area.
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Web Tools Employ the Human Factor
Washington Post (03/09/06) P. D1; Walker, Leslie

Presenters at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, held this week in San Diego, echoed the refrain that as humans and computers converge, social computing will become increasingly important, noting the raft of new social networking and social media sites that have emerged in recent years. Participants pointed to sites such as Memeorandum and Netvibes that provide content-filtering and group-editing services. The major Internet players were on hand to pitch new applications to software developers, such as AOL's revamped Instant Messaging service, which will allow companies to customize the application and integrate it into their own operations. Yahoo! announced that it would open its photo, calendar, shopping, and bookmark services to developers, after already having provided access to its travel, music, mapping, and Web-search applications. Root Markets presented its new Root site, a mix-and-match service that allows users to pull their Web history from selected sites, detailing online activity in an "electronic dashboard." Root compiles a log of the time spent at each Web site, and allows users to compare their online activity with that of their friends. Root Markets is still fleshing out its business model, though it plans initially to market the service as a lead generator for insurance companies and mortgage brokers. Amazon and eBay, which have long shared their data with other sites to attract new customers, were both on hand to present their latest Web services to developers. Tim O'Reilly, the host of the conference and CEO of O'Reilly Media, noted that human intelligence powers all of these new applications, such as Flickr, Yahoo!'s photo-sharing and tagging service, and even Google's search algorithms, which evaluate the choices that people make in choosing links on the Web. "The idea of people inside the machine is something we are going to have to get used to," said O'Reilly.
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Intel Developer Forum Panel: Hurdles Remain on Road to Faster Wi-Fi
IDG News Service (03/08/06) Lawson, Stephen

The upcoming IEEE 802.11n standard, which has been promoted as the key to wirelessly sharing high-quality multimedia content throughout a home, must overcome a number of obstacles if it is to make that vision a reality. The standard, still under discussion, can be used in both the 2.4 GHz radio band currently used for 802.11b/g and the 5 GHz band currently in use for 802.11a. In addition, the 802.11n standard is intended to be backward compatible with those existing specifications while delivering greater range and real throughput of 100 Mbps, twice or more the speeds of the current technologies. However, it remains to be seen whether 802.11n networks will use the two frequency bands, according to vendor executives who participated in a panel discussion Wednesday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. Motorola's Miguel Pellon says the standard could mandate that every product have radios for both bands or allow companies to sell 802.11n products that work in just one band. In addition, the 2.4 GHz band faces more interference from existing WLANs as well as microwave ovens and Bluetooth short-wave wireless connections, said Sanyo Electric's Yoshiharu Doi. For that reason, Japanese companies have decided that the standard is not ideal for entertainment applications such as high-definition video streams, Doi said. The new standard also cannot support high-quality video streams by itself, a feat which will also require several other pieces such as the 802.11i standard for security and 802.11e for guaranteed quality of service, as well as the Wi-Fi Alliance's quality-of-service specification, WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia), according to Intel's Mark Grodzinsky. However, all those will be available when 802.11n products hit the market, he said.
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Microsoft Research: How to Help Illiterate People Use Computers
Associated Press (03/01/06) Linn, Allison

A Microsoft research and development lab in India is exploring ways to bring technology to that country's illiterate domestic workers. Microsoft is gearing the technology, presented at the company's Research Techfest, to illiterate women in search of work by connecting them with families in need of domestic help. Creating the system, which relies heavily on pictures, voice commands, and video, challenged Microsoft's development team to shed their preconceived notions of what technology should do and how it should operate. Test subjects helped the researchers refine the system, introducing a level of abstraction into images that the domestic workers had interpreted too literally, and adjusting interactive maps to rely more on landmarks than actual addresses. To convince the women that technology was a more efficient way to find work than word-of-mouth, the researchers created a video depicting a scene where a woman complains to her husband that she needs a new job, and then finds one by using a computer. Carnegie Mellon professor Raj Reddy, who is advising Microsoft in its work in India, notes that companies are often out of touch with the computing needs of people in rural areas with poor literacy skills, and that the most effective uses of technology will be in applications that have a familiar feel, such as videoconferencing with family members or watching videos on the PC. Microsoft is also considering a public kiosk in a community center as it struggles with the logistics of deploying technology in areas where most people do not own computers. Raj Reddy is co-recipient of ACM's 1994 A.M. Turing Award http://www.acm.org/awards/citations/reddy.html
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FCC Brief on Electronic Surveillance Calms Colleges' Fears About Costs
Chronicle of Higher Education (03/10/06) Vol. 52, No. 27, P. A30; Foster, Andrea L.

The FCC has filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. that could be good news for colleges in the United States who feared thy would have to spend an average of $9 million to $15 million each to comply with an FCC post-9/11 mandate that broadened the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to allow federal monitoring of broadband networks and Internet-based telephone services. Originally, colleges thought they would have to overhaul their entire networks, replacing every router and switch so emails originating from within and without campuses and those moving between students and staff could be intercepted. But the FCC, in its brief, says only those emails flowing in and out of campuses, and not those moving within, would be monitored, necessitating modification or replacement only of equipment that connects college networks to the Internet, according to one school of thought. The FCC's original mandate was challenged in court by the American Council on Education, eight post-secondary education groups, and two academic library groups, as well as others.
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Promoting Python
eWeek (03/06/06) Vol. 23, No. 10, P. D1; Coffee, Peter

In a recent interview, Python creator Guido van Rossum described his views on the current state of the language and its development prospects. Van Rossum recently joined Google's technical staff, where he devotes roughly half his time to Python, which enjoys extensive use in Google's operating system, particularly in the maintenance and support of its advertising and other back-office applications. Van Rossum describes Python as Google's primary scripting language, improving the efficiency of its Java and C++ applications by dispensing with redundant bookkeeping through a more concise and expressive notation. In retrospect, van Rossum says Python has suffered from some choices that he made concerning the semantics of integers that interfered with programmers' codes in applications such as bitwise operations. Van Rossum's team is currently developing Python 2.5, which is slated for a final release in September or October, and will contain a conditional expression and a "with" statement, which van Rossum views to be the more important of the two new features. Van Rossum notes that the "with" feature has been in development for a long time, but that balancing the goal of a universal application with security has been challenging. In the longer run, van Rossum has found the time at Google to begin developing Python 3000, which will provide a final solution to the integer problem, as well as resolving issues arising from division. Van Rossum expects to have an executable version of Python 3000 within the next three years, and he believes that as its popularity grows, Python will draw on compilers to execute programs significantly faster than it can today.
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Interfacing Electronics to People
EDN Magazine (03/02/06) Vol. 51, No. 5, P. 55; Cravotta, Robert

Electronic subsystems are more closely interfacing with medical systems, which is enabling advances for both intrusive systems with implantable elements and less intrusive systems. Such developments face technical and regulatory challenges: For instance, regulators require end-product integrators to answer for electronic medical systems' compliance or noncompliance with standards such as low power consumption. Life-sustaining systems are subject to more stringent regulations in comparison to diagnostic and monitoring systems. A number of methods are being investigated to meet the low-power-consumption requirement, including systems powered by body heat or movement. A crucial component for life-sustaining systems is closed-loop control, an example being prosthetic limbs that receive input from nerves and muscle movements detected by myoelectrode sensors. The increased penetration of medical devices into the home calls for lower medical care costs through remote diagnosis, which is prompting investigation into various commercially available communications technologies, such as USB and Bluetooth. Solutions to the problems of technological obsolescence and upgrading are also being explored by designers of electronic medical systems; possible answers to the upgrading problem include software-programmable control systems and wireless communication between the implanted components and an external controller. The cell phone could emerge as the principal form factor for master controllers of semiautonomous implanted systems.
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Just-in Time-Information: Is It in Your Future?
Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science & Technology (03/06) Vol. 32, No. 3, P. 14; Travis, Irene

Speaking at the second plenary session at the ASIS&T Annual Meeting last November in Charlotte, MIT Media Lab's Pattie Maes discussed just-in-time information and the related projects that she has worked on for 10 years at the Media Lab. The goal of just-in-time information is to create and enhance interpersonal connections without disrupting the user's experience. Maes notes that just-in-time information applications must be able to detect the user's mood, model his interest and preferences, and run recommendation algorithms. The first desktop systems included features such as recommendation, remembering, and mentoring, while subsequent systems triggered information through location or embedded electronic information. The 2005 RichMedia project investigated mobile interaction with enhanced objects by equipping the user with an RFID-enabled wristband. Each time the user touched an object with an RFID tag, information appeared on a smart phone, which then relayed the message that the object had been moved to a server. A hands-free option enables users to transmit information in auditory form. Maes identified user profiling, user context, and recommendation algorithms as the central challenges facing just-in-time information. She added that to be useful, the system must be easy to access through unobtrusive interfaces. Unlike in the desktop environment, detecting context in the physical world requires sensors, and may need background information to infer the meaning behind the subtleties of human interaction and behavior. Recommendation algorithms can be implemented with the aid of cases or prototypes, content patterns, and collaborative filtering. Maes emphasized that transparency is critical for any just-in-time information system. She also stressed that the purpose of just-in-time information systems should be to help people retrieve information, rather than to find it for them.
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P2P for Communications: Beyond File Sharing
Business Communications Review (02/06) Vol. 36, No. 2, P. 36; Jennings, Cullen; Bryan, David A.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) for communications has applications beyond mere file sharing and free telephony, according to Cisco Systems distinguished engineer Cullen Jennings and SIPeerior Technologies founder and CTO David A. Bryan, who acknowledge that illegal file swapping and other forms of misuse could give P2P a bad reputation that will be hard to shake off. Examples of P2P use outside of file sharing include the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) for the exchange of email between servers; the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) processes used between routers to bring routing information up to date; the IETF's service location protocol for announcing and uncovering new network services; and the Rendezvous protocol, Apple's enhanced, open-sourced version of TCP/IP. P2P technology can also be employed for distributed registration and resource location, for shared storage, for extending the coverage area of wireless communications devices, and for building ad hoc networks. In a distributed storage application, peers could securely store encrypted backup versions of critical files for each other, and easily switch between devices without manually updating configuration files, relocating address books, etc. The wide implementation and adoption of Internet standards will significantly improve these technologies' chances for success, write Jennings and Bryan. Bringing both security and scalability into the mix, unresolved emergency call issues, and the difficulty of applying centralized policy challenge the realization of highly useful P2P systems.
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Let There Be Wi-Fi
Washington Monthly (02/06) McChesney, Robert; Podesta, John

The United States is falling behind other countries in terms of the deployment of high-speed Internet access or broadband; in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Thomas Bleha called U.S. broadband "the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world." In contrast to broadband heavy-hitters such as Japan, the U.S. government has allowed political issues to muzzle the encouragement of competition and the construction of municipal broadband networks or "community Internets." The authors write that competition from the public sector virtually guarantees the maintenance of quality service and reasonable prices from private companies supplying important public services, and many policymakers already realize that access to advanced high-speed telecommunications services is essential to U.S. communities' future. The city of Philadelphia has launched the construction of a city-wide wireless mesh network to provide universal and affordable Internet access. The project will be underwritten by $10 million to $15 million in bonds and private investment, but such access will be blocked from the rest of the state as part of a sweeping telecommunications bill rushed through by industry lobbyists. The major cable and phone companies are trying to discourage and outlaw municipal broadband by promoting basic untruths: That municipalities do not belong in the "free market;" that municipalities are too "lazy" or inefficient to maintain complex systems and adjust to changing technologies; and that municipalities will muscle out more efficient private enterprises. The FCC must reinstate broadband competition, while opening up more "unlicensed spectrum" would make community Internet systems less costly to implement and much faster. And the federal government must set up checks and balances to prevent the suppression of community Internet projects by private industry.
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