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April 24, 2006

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Welcome to the April 24, 2006 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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U.S. Tech Lead Challenged by Globalization of Innovation
EE Times (04/21/06) Leopold, George

The globalization of innovation can provide benefits that outweigh economic and political risks, says Jeffrey Macher, an economic professor at Georgetown University. Speaking at a symposium on the impact of globalization on innovation last Friday in Washington, D.C., Macher noted that for semiconductor makers investing overseas gives them an opportunity to take advantage of new technologies that can help "extend and augment [their] capabilities." Macher says "process innovation is an essential complement to product innovation for [IC] manufacturers." Like the chip industry, PC makers have shifted R&D overseas, but innovative-related activities have largely remained in the United States. However, PC makers are not as focused on delivering innovation as they are on making cheaper laptops for consumers, noted Ken Kraemer of the University of California at Irvine, who added that job growth will continue to be an issue in the years to come. In the software development community, outsourcing has been the subject of much debate, but the United States remains the undisputed leader in innovation when it comes to patents. Chris Forman of Carnegie Mellon University wondered how long that would last, considering the declines in federal research dollars and U.S. computer science graduates. Meanwhile, venture capitalist David Morganthaler, a former engineer, questioned whether IT hubs will resemble Rust Belt cities in 40 years.
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Canadian Scientists and Microsoft Researchers Present New Ways to Use and Interact With Computers at Home and Work
PRNewswire (04/24/06)

At this week's ACM SIGCHI-sponsored CHI 2006 conference in Montreal, Microsoft will reinforce its commitment to academic research partnerships, as 92 percent of the company's papers that were accepted were written in collaboration with a university or industry partner. "Working with and sharing ideas with our academic and industry partners allows us to make the greatest impact with our research," said Microsoft's A.J. Brush, who also serves as a vice president for SIGCHI. CHI 2006 conference chair Gary Olson praised Microsoft for its longstanding commitment to the human-computer interaction (HCI) community. "Microsoft's continued contributions at CHI demonstrate the company's commitment to pushing the state of the art in the field," Olson said. Microsoft's active involvement in the field dates to 1996, with the arrival of noted HCI expert George Richardson, who will be honored with induction into the CHI Academy, following fellow Microsoft researchers Bill Buxton, Susan Dumais, and Jonathan Grudin, who have also been so recognized. One of Brush's papers, written on the subject of LINC with University of Calgary student Carman Neustaedter, details a digital, inkable calendar system for families juggling numerous events and activities. Digitizing the family's schedule enables members to access the information from a remote PC, a cell phone, or even a Web browser at a public venue. Another Microsoft paper describes a method for improving the way users access the information stored across their personal digital resources, such as computer files, email, and Web pages they have visited. Through a mix of keyword and property-valued search, the technology seeks to level the barriers between browsing and searching so that users can retrieve information from any environment through a common interface.
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Congress Readies New Digital Copyright Bill
CNet (04/23/06) McCullagh, Declan

Despite several years of pressure from technology companies and academics to moderate the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Congress is poised to move in the other direction with an expansion of the bill's prohibitions against software that evades copy protections. Major copyright holders such as the Recording Industry Association of America have already voiced support for the draft legislation, which also expands the wiretapping and enforcement powers of federal police. The proposed legislation, drafted by the Bush administration and supported by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), would create the new federal crime of intentionally bypassing copyright protections that would be punishable, regardless if the piracy was successful or not, by up to 10 years in prison. A bill calling for the scaling back of the DMCA restrictions in the name of fair use has been tied up in committee since being introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) in 2002. The draft legislation broadens the scope of Section 1201 of the DMCA that currently bars only the trafficking and distribution of copyright-circumvention software or hardware by making it unlawful for anyone to "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" any such tools that could be redistributed. Critics have issued a report charging the DMCA with stifling free speech and innovation. The draft legislation also authorizes wiretapping in copyright crime investigations, criminal prosecution of infringement on works not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, and stiffer penalties for criminal infringement than prescribed in the 1997 No Electronic Theft Act.
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Experts See Computers Getting Bigger and Smaller at the Same Time
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (04/23/06) Roth, Mark

Experts gathering at Carnegie Mellon University to celebrate the 50th anniversary of computing at the school offered glimpses of their various research projects that could appear within five to 10 years, but avoided making grand predictions about what the next 50 years will bring. Microsoft's Rick Rashid and Brigham Young University computer science professor Dan Olsen Jr. both pointed to the rapid increase in storage capacity. With a terabyte of memory now available for $700, the two men said the next challenge will be developing the ability to navigate and retrieve information quickly. Microsoft's Stuff I've Seen project will enable users to search for information that they cannot remember where they stored it by context clues, such as the month the item was created, or a person with whom the user may have spoken that day. Displays are getting larger, noted Stuart Card, a researcher at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, who believes larger screens could lead to more significant innovation. Computers are also shrinking, as processing power continues to increase while feature sizes scale down. Researchers at Xerox are taking advantage of the portability of processing power with the 3Book, a digital book that enables users to turn pages simply by touching the corner of a screen, provides a searchable index, and can create an abridged version of the text by highlighting select passages using semantic processing software. Because the device can store and download thousands of books, the 3Book can effectively make an entire library mobile. Computing portability is perhaps best illustrated by the cell phone and the iPod. Intel's James Landay noted that "the real potential for computing in our lives is all the rest of our lives that goes on when we're not in front of the computer." That sentiment has guided the Aware Home project at Georgia Tech, which uses sensors to monitor the elderly and help them remain independent longer.
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Green Grid Project Seeks to Save Energy, Money
TechNewsWorld (04/20/06) LeClaire, Jennifer

In response to a survey of 1,200 technology professionals commissioned by AMD in which 83 percent of respondents identified datacenter cooling and power consumption as the most critical issues they face today, a group of technology companies has launched the Green Grid initiative to cut down on datacenter energy usage. Sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun Microsystems, as well as AMD, the Green Grid is supported by the EPA and the Alliance to Save Energy. To identify and promote the best practices of datacenter design, construction, and operation, the project will seek to establish itself as an interactive resource for IT professionals, enabling them to share stories and practices and develop new energy-related metrics and standards. Only 20 percent of the respondents to the AMD survey reported that they have a plan in place to address rising energy use. "Datacenter power consumption is a growing global concern on both a business and environmental level," said AMD's Marty Seyer. The Green Grid project is partnering with power supply and energy companies, channel providers, and state and regional utilities in a sign of the maturing technology industry's growing concern with the world's most urgent priorities, Seyer said. In voicing its support for the initiative, the EPA claims that technological innovation is critical to addressing the environmental impact of rising energy consumption.
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Software Tracks Mood Swings of Blogoshere
New Scientist (04/20/06) Simonite, Tom

Researchers at Amsterdam University have developed software to monitor the mood swings throughout the blogosphere and identify the events that prompted the shift, with the ultimate goal of developing new approaches to search and analyze the Web. The university's Gilad Mishne said that the researchers began collecting information from the mood labels attached to postings on LiveJournal. Moodviews keeps track of the roughly 150,000 new LiveJournal posts that are created each day with a mood label (out of a total 250,000 daily postings) and records them in a graph to track shifts in the emotional state of the blogging community. A companion program called Moodsignals attempts to correlate these fluctuations with events happening in the real world by scanning for less frequently used words in blog posts when a spike in label usage is identified. Moodsignals found that the increase in usage of labels to convey excitement in July 2005 was related to the publication of the new Harry Potter book by recognizing the unusually common appearance of words such as 'Harry,' 'Potter,' 'shop,' and 'book.' The long-term goal of the research is to develop an emotionally-cognizant search engine for release later this year to measure bloggers' attitudes toward particular words, yielding a raft of data that is not innately machine-codable, despite the common disparity between bloggers' online personas and who they are in real life. The research could have more immediately commercial applications also, as an investment banker has expressed interest in the software as a vehicle for measuring consumer confidence in various products.
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National LambdaRail Launches Transit and Peering Project
AScribe Newswire (04/20/06)

National LambdaRail (NLR) sees peering and transit services as a way to improve its nationwide network fiber and optronics infrastructure as well as lower the cost of Internet services for member research universities and tech companies. The consortium is launching a project, National TransitRail, that will have the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) and Pacific Northwest Gigapop (PNWGP) oversee the initiative, using their experience in running the Pacific Wave distributed peering exchange facility. Front Range GigaPoP (FRGP), Mid-Atlantic Terascale Partnership (MATP), and Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) will also take part in the project. The peering and transit program will be designed to intelligently manage traffic, quickly directing it to the target network or organization, which would cut down on "hops" while in transition. The project will address the relationship of peering sessions and transit routes at geographically dispersed locations. "We believe that it is time for the research and education community to further exploit the reliability and redundancy that a national peering and transit infrastructure affords," says NLR President Tom West. After the first nine months, National TransitRail will be available to other NLR members.
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AJAX in the Spotlight Next Week and Beyond
InfoWorld (04/20/06) Krill, Paul

AJAX has become such a hot technology that developers and designers will be gathering in San Jose, Calif., next week for the Real-World AJAX Seminar, and in Santa Clara, Calif., in October for the AjaxWorld Conference & Expo. The interest that independent developers have shown in AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) Web application scripting technology has already prompted plans at Microsoft for its Atlas technology. "One of the really [special] things about AJAX is that it is not a technology platform that was handed down from on high by some vendor, but it's this loose collection of browser-native technologies that the interest in which has really come from the bottom up," says Jesse James Garrett, a consultant with Adaptive Path who coined the term AJAX last year. Developers are turning to AJAX to create applications because it allows them to move away from the page-based interaction model of Web applications, he says. "It allows them to be more dynamic," says Garrett, who will speak in San Jose. The technology, which has been around for a while, still has its issues, such as a lack of tools and a framework to make it easier to use. Nonetheless, AJAX in many ways has come to serve as the client-side technology that was expected out of Java.
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Linux Desktop Growth Could Spur New Malware Activity
Computerworld (04/20/06) Lai, Eric

As Linux is implemented as a desktop OS in a growing number of organizations and institutions, including the Indiana Department of Education, experts say the platform could become increasingly targeted by malware. Right now, one of the main attractions of Linux is its relative immunity from malware as compared to Windows. However, the emergence of the cross-platform proof-of-concept virus Virus.Linux.Bi.a/Virus.Win32.Bi.a has raised concerns that actual malware will be launched inevitably. "I think we'll see an increase in virus activity as Linux becomes more mainstream," says Johannes Ulrich of The SANS Institute. The addition of new access controls to the upcoming Windows Vista may also push some virus creators to target other OS platforms, although Red Hat and Novell say they have enhanced their own access controls in their respective offerings Security Enhanced Linux and AppArmor.
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Cisco Looks to University Students for Ideas
CNet (04/19/06) Reardon, Marguerite

Cisco Systems has partnered with MTVu, MTV's college network, to develop the Digital Incubator program, an annual contest that will award 10 student teams with $25,000 each to fund projects that will enhance content for broadband users. "My biggest regret is that I haven't found the next Google of online content," said Cisco's Dan Scheinman. "The media business is in a disruptive era and consumers are being empowered to create and share their own content." The winning entries this year incorporated elements of gaming, social networking, instant messaging, podcasting, short-form programming, and mobile phone interactivity. Cisco, which earlier this year acquired Scientific-Atlanta to serve as a platform for the delivery of digital content from the Internet to the television, is banking on the disruptive potential of Internet Protocol technology as content owners such as Disney/ABC, CBS, and NBS increasingly are making their programming available on the Internet. Added to the trend are the race among the phone companies to build new networks and the increasing adoption of advanced new mobile gadgets that enable consumers to share more personal content on the Internet. While the proliferation of content clearly heralds a shift in the direction of the Internet, it is too early to determine which services will have staying power. Flickr and Myspace.com have become tremendously popular, but Scheinman is betting that the next killer application will come from university students. Scheinman views Cisco's program as an inexpensive and often better alternative to funding entrepreneurial startups. Though none of the winning entries has a business model yet, Scheinman sees commercial potential in several of the projects down the road.
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Mesh Nets to Become "Mainstream" Says Motorola
EE Times (04/19/06) Walko, John

An IEEE working group is developing the 802.11s mesh networking standard that could be ratified by early 2007, reported Motorola Mesh Networking Group executive Joe Hamilla. Hamilla said the IEEE task force has approved the 802.11s proposals, which are now open to comment. "With the standard will come ubiquity for the mesh networking concept, and we anticipate a major build up in demand next year," he said. "It will become mainstream in the near future." Approval for a mesh technology standard has been relatively free of difficulty, and a pair of competing proposals from the Wi-Mesh Alliance and the SEEMesh Alliance were integrated into a single specification. The meshing of Wi-Fi hot spots turns them into an interconnected network that can cover an area with wireless broadband connectivity, and mesh-enabled access points not only deliver Wi-Fi to users, but also function as routers/repeaters for other access points. This establishes a wireless broadband cloud that can organize and repair itself, lowering the cost of backhaul, implementation, and system engineering.
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Of Open Source, GUI Design and X Windows
SD Times (04/15/06)No. 148, P. 5; Handy, Alex

In a recent interview, Trolltech's Matthias Ettrich, most famous in the Linux community for developing the K Desktop Environment (KDE), discussed his thoughts on GUI development and the current state of open source. Matthias says that in creating a GUI, developers cannot predetermine the platform on which it will be used, and that they must be mindful of users with disabilities and ensure that their applications can be modified and adapted to enlarge fonts or provide interfaces in specific colors. Adaptability must be worked in at the framework level, Ettrich claims, noting that no one will develop the perfect interface on the first try. He points to phone interfaces and argues that a single interface would ideally be able to integrate both a pen-based and thumb-based input method, but developers are often limited by time-to-market constraints. Usability studies have convinced Ettrich that software engineers need to be subjects in the testing process of any new interface, because the interface developers often fall victim to pique when their design encounters criticism. "But when they see that a person who's knowledgeable with software, someone they respect, struggling with these things, that's very eye-opening," he says. Open source is currently bogged down in configurability, Ettrich argues, claiming that the environment is overburdened with complex code because developers often cannot not agree on how an application should work. His solution is to establish "a strong maintainer who can kill things." Ettrich also defends X Windows because, despite its age, it supports thousands of programs for Linux users.
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Vint Cerf's Keynote at Domain Roundtable
CircleID (04/20/06)

At the recent Domain Roundtable conference, keynote speaker Vint Cerf, chairman of ICANN, weighed in on various topics important to the domain industry. On the topic of new TLDs, Cerf said that it's not that he opposes them but rather that he is seeking to revamp the process of approving new TLDs. He also touched on international domain names, noting that though they are needed there are technical and security challenges to their implementation, including the risk they present of phishing attacks utilizing domain names that include characters improperly displayed by browsers. Cerf admitted that ICANN's monitoring policy in regard to registrars was in need of tweaking and that ICANN needed additional options for disciplining violators of ICANN rules, not just the one it currently has at its disposal--disaccreditation. Referring to attempts by other countries to gain a say in oversight of the Internet, Cerf said that ICANN was not itself in charge of the whole Internet, only certain aspects, and that he did not think transferring oversight to the ITU was wise. Fielding questions from the audience, Cerf said that ICANN's controversial pact with VeriSign to settle litigation between the two was the best thing to do in the end.
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The Open Research Web: A Preview of the Optimal and the Inevitable
University of Southampton (ECS) (04/17/06) Shadbolt, Nigel; Brody, Tim; Carr, Les

The future capabilities of the Open Access (OA) Research Web hinge on the prediction, measurement, tracking, navigation, assessment, and augmentation of research impact, which is the degree of a piece of research's usefulness to other researchers and users in nurturing additional research and applications. Research impact is measured according to the publication of the research paper, the level in the journal quality hierarchy of the journal that accepts the paper, the degree of the paper's usage, and the work's citation as a component of further published research. Citebase is a Google-like search engine that ranks articles and authors by citation impact, co-citation impact, or download impact through the use of citation links rather than arbitrary hyperlinks. Research impact, ranking articles, authors, or groups can be compared by citation and download counts, which can also be tapped to compare an individual's own research impact with itself over time. A team of Southampton University researchers has devised and will devise software that, combined with the expanding OA article database and the data that will be collected and analyzed with it, will spur more researchers to supply OA through self-archival; diagram OA growth across disciplines, nations, and languages; navigate OA literature via citation-linking and impact ranking; gauge, outline, and forecast the research impact of individuals, groups, institutions, disciplines, languages, and countries; assess the performance and productivity of research; evaluate research funding candidates; map the trajectory of earlier research lines according to individuals, institutions, publications, fields, and nations; study and anticipate the path current and future research will take; and offer educational resources that enable students to navigate through OA research literature in a manner that far transcends the Google approach to Web searches.
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Next Generation Simulations? Not on the Internet You're Used To
Wisconsin Technology Network (04/19/06) Stitt, Jason

The national Internet2 network is helping educational institutions throughout Wisconsin meet their high bandwidth needs, according to David Lois, executive director of WiscNet, an alternative to the regular Internet. WiscNet operates as a statewide segment of Internet2 that has brought high-speed Internet connections to all University of Wisconsin and technical college campuses, and 75 percent of K-12 districts. This week, Steven Senger of UW-La Crosse used WiscNet to provide a real-time demonstration of a virtual cadaver in 3D for an audience in Madison during the WiscNet Future Technologies Conference. The audience was able to watch images on PDAs. WiscNet not only meets the greater connectivity needs of such exercises and tools, but is flexible and quick in delivering high-bandwidth. "Some connections I might need for a week, and I can't just get that from my telephone company," says Patrick Christian, who works on WiscNet for UW-Madison. Officials affiliated with WiscNet still have not figured out how to bring high-bandwidth applications to the greater public, and home DSL connections are not fast enough to take advantage of tools such as immersive 3D.
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Danger: Authenticating Email Can Break It
CNet (04/19/06) Evers, Joris

Email authentication schemes such as SenderID and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) have drawn attention as ways to guarantee email senders' identities, but experts warn that improper implementation could simply break an email system. Microsoft, the biggest backer of the Sender ID system, says the number of Fortune 500 companies that sent authenticated mail was up to 20 percent at the end of March from just 7 percent in July 2005. SenderID has seen more adoption so far than DKIM, but it relies on ISPs, companies, and other Internet domain holders to identify their mail servers with published Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records. Meanwhile, Yahoo! and Cisco Systems are backing DKIM, which uses public-key cryptography to attach digital signatures to outgoing email. While the SenderID concept usually does not require companies to put new hardware or software into place, it does require them to do inventories of all their mail servers and to keep their records up-to-date, which can produce onerous IT costs. "If you are a large multinational organization, you may have email gateways in 10 countries, you may have marketing companies that send email on your behalf," said Paul Judge of the email security company CipherTrust. This complexity was a big problem at Bank of America, whose Erik Johnson warned at the Authentication Summit in Chicago that companies must "deploy smart" to keep from breaking their email systems.
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Research on the Rails
Network Computing (03/16/06) Vol. 17, No. 7, P. 39; Hohlhepp, Robert J.

The National LambdaRail (NLR) project, a high-performance fiber backbone that can link over 25 U.S. cities at 10 Gbps or faster, was sponsored by a consortium of universities and nonprofits to fulfill their bandwidth and performance requirements, which far outstrip what commercial network providers can affordably offer, notes Robert Hohlhepp with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's College of Engineering. NLR can place multiple wavelengths or lambdas on each fiber pair through dense wave-division multiplexing (DWDM), giving each subscriber its own wavelength, equal to 10 Gbps of bandwidth, and facilitating network-provisioning to multiple subscribers on a single fiber pair. Regional and metropolitan alliances have taken a cue from NLR's collaborative investment strategy to serve connectivity needs in localized markets, writes Hohlhepp. For instance, the Northern Tier Network Consortium intends to deploy the fiber structure across the northern states so that education and governmental institutions, communities, and nonprofits can enjoy high-speed connectivity throughout the region. The regional Boreas Net consortium, meanwhile, is securing private fiber links between numerous connecting points in Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. UW-Madison uses a DWDM optical link to carry the school's Internet2 traffic over a 10 Gbps connection that the university shares with its WiscNet partners. DWDM enables the provision of additional capacity for a fraction of the initial deployment cost.
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Computing With Quantum Knots
Scientific American (04/06) Vol. 294, No. 4, P. 56; Collins, Graham P.

A practical quantum computation methodology might be realized with a machine based on odd quasiparticles called anyons that defines a calculation as a series of braids moving through space and time. Current technologies that follow conventional quantum computer designs cannot provide the low error rates quantum computers need to function, but a topological quantum computer would implement quantum computation by tapping topological properties that are not changed by slight perturbations. Such a system would be inherently immune to errors like those generated by random interactions with the ambient environment. The uniqueness of anyons, which are theoretical at this point, lies in their ability to exist in two dimensions, and topological quantum computers would put these particles to use. Recent fractional quantum Hall physics experiments have hinted that anyons exist in special, ultra-cooled planar semiconductor structures immersed in strong magnetic fields. If thermal fluctuations in the substrate material produce a stray pair of anyons that intertwine with the braid of the topological computation before they self-annihilate, then errors will be introduced and the computation will be corrupted; the likelihood of error decreases exponentially with the distance that the anyons travel. It has been demonstrated that there is no standard quantum computer computation that a topological quantum computer cannot simulate, the tradeoff being that it is an approximate simulation. The theory that a topological quantum computer could be more powerful than its conventional equivalent is disputed by another theory suggesting that any sufficiently advanced computer that exploits quantum resources has identical computational abilities.
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