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April 28, 2006

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ACM President David Patterson Elected to National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
AScribe Newswire (04/27/06)

ACM President David Patterson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as well as to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Patterson is a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the few computer scientists to achieve such recognition. He is the founding director of the Berkeley campus' new RAD (Reliable, Adaptive and Distributed Systems) Laboratory, which was announced in December 2005. The RAD Lab will strive to design computing systems that are more reliable, and is being underwritten by Google, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems. Patterson has also been instrumental in designing RISC 1, which formed the basis of the SPARC architecture used by firms such as Sun Microsystems. He also led the Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID) project, which has helped create reliable storage system for many firms. Patterson's teaching has also been recognized by the ACM, the IEEE, and the University of California.
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Pioneering Leaps in Technology: From Heart Surgery to Virtual Reality
Business Wire (04/26/06)

A total of 36 technologies will be displayed in Boston at the SIGGRAPH 2006 Emerging Technologies program, and attendees will be permitted to interact with the technologies. The three dozen technologies, which were chosen from a total of 110 submissions from 18 countries, provide insight into how humans and digital systems will interact in the future. The 36 technologies that were chosen represent the most thought-provoking and technically astute of the submissions, including an open heart surgery simulator, a forehead retina system, and a virtual humanoid "companion" that is capable of reacting to tactile interactions with its caregiver. The technology submissions come from universities, research labs, independents, and members of industry. The open heart surgery simulator, submitted by Denmark's University of Aarhus, is a virtual training program for complex surgical procedures in congenital heart disease, allowing surgeons to rehearse open-heart surgery. The virtual humanoid melds several technologies, including artificial intelligence and mixed reality, and is capable of distinguishing between petting, slapping, tickling, scratching, and other tactile interactions. It has future applications as a companion and automatic medical communicator. Some 25,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals from across the world are expected to attend the SIGGRAPH event. For more on SIGGRAPH 2006, or to register, visit http://www.siggraph.org/s2006/
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CFP: IEEE/WIC/ACM Web Intelligence 2006
Digital Opportunity Channel (04/28/06)

In the fields of artificial intelligence and advanced information technology, one of the most important developments today is Web intelligence (WI). This year, the 2006 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Web Intelligence (WI'06) will be held in December in conjunction with the 2006 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Intelligent Agent Technology (IAT'06) and the 6th IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM'06). The aim is to provide synergism within these three research areas. Participants will have opportunities for collaboration that go beyond those at previous conferences. The three meetings will have a shared opening, keynote, reception, and banquet, and participants are required to register only once to attend events at all three summits. Scheduled topics for discussion include distributed resources optimization, data stream mining, knowledge grids, Web information indexing, context aware computing, and soft computing. Papers related to WI can be submitted online and will be reviewed on the basis of technical soundness, relevance, and clarity, and the best papers will receive awards.
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Need More Engineers? Recruit Women
San Jose Mercury News (CA) (04/27/06) Wei, Belle

The United States produces 60,000 engineers per year, compared with 350,000 produced by India and 600,000 produced by China. President Bush recently visited Silicon Valley to address this disturbing gap, which threatens America's ability to remain competitive technologically, writes Belle Wei, dean of the college of engineering at San Jose State University. Bush and the Democratic Innovation Agenda are proposing to close the engineering gap with a plan that includes funding for advanced placement science and math teachers and grants and scholarships to needy students in science and engineering programs. While this initiative should be commended, it does nothing to encourage more women to become engineers. Women, the largest U.S. demographic group, remain a largely untapped resource for engineering, with just 0.5 percent of female freshman students majoring in engineering or computer science in 2003, compared with 4.25 percent in the early 1980s. "Overall interest in computer science among women fell 80 percent between 1998 and 2004, and 93 percent since its peak in 1982," says UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. The best way to attract more female engineering students is to show them that the field can be applied in ways that are useful to them and to the rest of society--it should be stressed, for example, that engineering has applications in the arts, education, and saving lives. This is important because, according to a Carnegie Mellon study, female students find computing more attractive when it is taught in a manner that emphasizes its social applications.
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Nokia Phones Go to Natural Language Class
Technology Review (04/27/06) Bourzac, Katherine

As part of a research collaboration with computer scientists at MIT, the Nokia Research Center Cambridge in Cambridge, Mass. is working on developing cell phones that can interpret and respond to written commands typed in English. The phones use a Web-based software system called Start, which was developed in 1993 by Boris Katz, lead research scientist at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Group, the principal group working with Nokia. The software interprets a question the user types into a text field by breaking it down into a series of relationships between object, property, and value. After Start interprets the question, it decides where to look for the answer--either in its database or another Web site--and responds with a written explanation, a link to a Web site, or an image. The cell phone version of this software, called MobileStart, has a number of potential applications, such as giving a lost user directions to his destination from his current location. MobileStart will also enable people to use their cell phones to communicate with other devices. For example, a user could tell a MobileStart phone to "remind my mother to take her medicine at three tomorrow," and the application would set up an alarm in the mother's phone calendar if she also has a MobileStart phone. However, the system may begin to bog down when called on to perform more complicated tasks, such as when a user tells it to "call Joe" when there is more than one Joe in the phone's address book. But perhaps the biggest challenge, according to Katz, is programming MobileStart to correctly interpret commonly used text-messaging shorthand, such as using the number "2" instead of the word "to."
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Your Thoughts Are Your Password
Wired News (04/27/06) Sandhana, Lakshmi

Researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, believe it may be possible to observe a brain signal that is encoded with thousands of bits of information in a repeatable manner. Julie Thorpe, Anil Somayaji, and Adrian Chan are pursuing the idea of developing a system that would enable people to log on by thinking "yes" or "no" to a "pass thought," such as the memory of a birthday, or a predetermined song, picture, or video clip. The biometric security tool would monitor the individual's brain activity, and unlike other biometric security devices, would also allow people to change their pass code occasionally. The project builds on the research of those working to develop a brain-computer interface (BCI) that would allow prosthetic devices to read the brain-wave signals of people who are disabled. The project has its doubters in Iead Rezek, of the Pattern Analysis Research Group at the University of Oxford, and Jacques Vidal, a BCI expert in the computer science department of UCLA. Rezek says picking up signals would be "akin to recognizing speakers from muffled voices because, for example, the speakers are some distance away." Vidal contends that "the link between thought and brain waves is immensely indirect." The Carleton researchers face other challenges, including designing a system that is able to recognize the changes in the signature of a pass thought over time, and making it more convenient to transmit brain signals without having to wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) cap, smeared with conductive gel, on the head.
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New Software Protects Confidentiality of Data While Enabling Access and Sharing
Penn State Live (04/27/06) Hopkins, Margaret; DuBois, Charles

Researchers at Penn State have developed new software called the Privacy-preserving Access Control Toolkit (PACT) that enables databases to communicate with one another automatically without compromising the security of the data and metadata. The software acts like a filter but is protected from eavesdropping and other attacks because the queries and other information are encrypted. PACT could prove to be beneficial to organizations such as government agencies, non-profits, and corporations, which frequently need to access data belonging to other organizations. Sharing data is normally difficult for these organizations because databases are usually constructed using different terms or vocabularies. As a result, organizations have to develop special-purpose applications in order to share data. But these applications must also address security, since organizations need to protect sources, intellectual property, and competitive advantages. These applications are often time consuming to develop, and are expensive since they have limited use. But PACT is more generic--which means that it can be applied to a wide range of scenarios, said Prasenjit Mitra, assistant professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State and a member of the research team that developed the software. In addition, researchers note that PACT is the first software to provide a framework that protects metadata while enabling "semantic operation" or sharing of information. Results from the researchers' experiments also demonstrate that PACT can be easily extended to large database systems in practical locations, Mitra said.
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Telecoms Groups Win 'Net Neutrality' Battle in Congress
Financial Times (04/27/06) P. 4; Waldmeir, Patti; Johnson, Jenny

Wednesday's defeat in the House Energy and Commerce Committee of a Democrat-sponsored amendment to prevent telecoms and cable companies from charging higher fees for priority access to high-speed networks represents a major win for big corporate interests in the battle over "net neutrality." The telecoms companies claim it would be impossible to build networks that offer broadband services without provisions to charge more for faster transmission speeds, while civil libertarians, Internet content companies, and consumer groups counter that such as move would endanger the freedom of the Internet and put a chokehold on innovation. Net neutrality amendment supporter Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) warned that price differentiation would erect insurmountable obstacles for startups that can ill afford to compete with established firms offering their services in the fast Internet traffic lane. Prior to yesterday's vote, the AARP, Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, and other influential consumer organizations sent a letter to the House committee arguing that net neutrality was "the first amendment of the Internet." They said American consumers had only a few broadband options open to them, and given the low level of competition, "it is imperative that consumers enjoy the fruits of a non-discriminatory marketplace."
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Virtual World Meets the Real World
MSNBC (04/26/06) Boyle, Alan

The movie "Minority Report" features futuristic surveillance technology that may not be too distant a reality thanks to the work of researchers at the University of Southern California. The USC Geospatial Decision Making, or GeoDec, project integrates real-time data layering, live video, and existing visualization databases such as Google Earth and MSN Virtual Earth with querying capabilities. Using a haptic glove, images can be manipulated, depending on the needs of the user. "Once you have all the data about the area, in addition to just visualizing what's there with the 3D models and the video and so on, you can start asking questions," says computer scientist Cyrus Shahabi, one of the leaders of the USC research team. "You might say, 'I want to see all the accidents in this area." Or you might ask where's the best place to catch a bus to so and so or what trees need trimming due to proximity to power lines. The tool could be used for urban planning, emergency response, or even during war time. "It's Web-based," said USC graduate student Arjun Rihan during a demonstration earlier this month, "so you could have somebody in another aircraft or location looking at this on a PDA, so you're looking at the same information." But commercialization of the product is likely still years away, say project participants.
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Purdue Libraries, IT Team Up to Create Data-Management Solutions
Purdue University News (04/21/06)

The Distributed Institutional Repository project, a collaboration between Purdue Libraries and Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), is expected to enable researchers to store, sort, and archive data and information. The Web-based data portal will allow researchers to use available tools to manipulate and discover the origins of data, but first, researchers need to identify metadata, develop vocabularies for the system, test applications, and create and categorize data sets. Not only will the system use a single software, but also it will provide access to electronic dissertations e-prints and archival special collections. The repository will store data from traditional journals and books, Web pages, digital videos, electronic documents, and future data sources. The system should improve the ability of researchers to efficiently gather and use data from across the university campus. Researchers are hopeful that the project will reveal the best ways for the university and others to overcome interoperability issues of data, digital rights management concerns, how intellectual property should be shared, and the best length and format for digital data archival storage purposes. Krishna Madhaven, project leader with ITaP's Rosen Center for Advanced Computing, says, "Projects like this are another example of how we are bridging discovery and learning in non-traditional ways. We're starting to see the big picture of how large data computation, learning, research and network are coming together."
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Technology to Improve Learning for Visually-Impaired Children
IST Results (04/27/06)

Haptics and multimodal-human-computer interaction leaders in Europe and other parts of the world are using a common software architecture to develop interfaces and applications that visually-impaired children can use to handle data, work with and communicate with others, and be creative. The IST program is funding the construction of the multimodal software architecture, and participants in the MICOLE project have begun to test interfaces and application prototypes. The use of haptic technology will allow the visual applications to also take advantage of the sense of touch, and the multimodal capability enables the system to accommodate users' different levels of disability using touch and hearing. "The system adapts to the users," says project coordinator Roope Raisamo of the University of Tampere in Finland. "It is aimed at visually-impaired children, but because it facilitates collaboration among sighted and visually-impaired children, its also supports sighted children." An electronic browser, rhythm reproduction, post-its with a haptic bar code, virtual maracas (percussion instruments), a tactile maze game, memory games, a haptic version of Pong, and explorative learning of the internal layers of the earth are among the interfaces and application prototypes that have been developed or tested so far. A three-year initiative, the MICOLE project will continue until August 2007.
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Computer Engineers Look at Mona Lisa
Belleville News-Democrat (IL) (04/24/06) Kline, Greg

University of Illinois computer and electrical engineering professor Thomas Huang continues to receive requests to use facial-recognition software to analyze art work. The technology gained international attention in December when it was used to study the emotional state of the model in Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting. Among other examinations of paintings, the facial-recognition software has since been used to analyze Mona Lisa to determine the likely gender of the subject, which has come under question in the art world. Some art critics have speculated that the portrait may not have been of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a successful silk merchant from Florence, but possibly of da Vinci himself, his mother, a female friend, the Duchess of Milan Isabella of Aragon, or another man. There is a 60 to 40 probability that the painting is of a female, according to the recent test. When the Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction group at the university's Beckman Institute is not using the facial-recognition software for such exercises, Huang, his colleagues, and students are focused on applying the technology to security systems and to computers so that they can recognize individuals. Huang also believes banks could use the technology so that "smart kiosks" can determine the identity of the user and respond in a specific manner to the particular customer.
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Should Owners of Web Sites Be Anonymous?
Wall Street Journal (04/27/06) P. B1; Bulkeley, William M.

ICANN appears to be on track to adopt revised rules concerning the disclosure of Web site registrants' contact information in the Whois database. Privacy advocates convinced the ICANN committee that oversees Whois to restrict such information only to people who can fix technical "configuration" problems with a Web site, rather than including the name, phone number, and street address of staffers to resolve technical as well as administrative problems. Supporters of the rule changes say the disclosure regulations were designed to ensure the availability of someone to address Web site problems that were disrupting the broader network, and the revisions dovetail with the Web's original goals for allowing free-wheeling communications. The Electronic Privacy Information Center's Marc Rotenberg says the changes uphold privacy and make bloggers and other individuals who run their own sites less vulnerable to stalkers or lawsuits, but government and corporate investigators worry that reduced disclosure requirements will make it harder to identify the owners of fraudulent sites and trademark violators. ICANN's decision to restrict disclosure in Whois is a sign "that ICANN isn't under the control of trademark interests and the U.S. government," according to Syracuse University professor Milton Mueller, who warns that the government may attempt to bypass the amended regulations. A member of an ICANN task force says the U.S. government wants more disclosure, not less. Rotenberg says the government desires the U.S.-based ICANN to govern the Internet rather than the United Nations, which makes it vital for ICANN to operate as an independent body.
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IBM Eyes Programming for the Masses
CNet (04/26/06) LaMonica, Martin

IBM vice president of emerging technology Rod Smith will tout QEDwiki, or quick and easily done wiki, at the PHP Web development conference on Wednesday. The tool enables users to create their own Web pages by dragging and dropping online content onto a pallet. Thus, businesspersons can create their own applications without the need for professional programmers. The platform uses AJAX scripting and a wiki on a server to gather and disseminate data. "These ideas of enterprise mashups are getting a lot of attention from IT shops," Smith says. "All of a sudden, we're seeing a new generation of applications come out." Smith the says the end-user programming tool should be released on the company's emerging technology Alphaworks Web site this year.
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France Launches 'Quaero' Search Engine Project
EE Times (04/25/06) Pele, Anne-Francoise

Google is expected to have a new search engine rival in a multimedia offering from France. "Quaero," which means "I search for" in Latin, is part of a new technological, industrial, and economic development program that France is investing about $2.5 billion in to ensure that the nation remains competitive in the years to come. France has teamed up with Germany to develop multimedia software that people will be able to use on computers and mobile phones to conduct searches. "Quaero, defined as a digital information process and an easy access to multimedia content, is a major Franco-German project built with Thomson, France Telecom, and Exalead," French President Jacques Chirac said on Tuesday. "Faced with exponential growth of search engines, France, with its German partners and tomorrow, I hope, its European partners, had to draw level with this key challenge." In addition to funding from France and Germany, the Quaero project will receive another $110 million or so from the French Agency for Industrial Innovation (All), which is managing the implementation of the development program. France announced five other projects, including an effort to develop a standard for bringing television to mobile phones. Sagem Communications, Aliena Space Philips, and the National Center for Scientific Research are all participating on the approximately $120 million Mobile TV Without Limits (TVMSL) project, which is receiving roughly $47 million from All.
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Google's China Problem (And China's Google Problem)
New York Times Magazine (04/23/06) P. 64; Thompson, Clive

Google is taking a lot of flak from U.S. lawmakers for complying with the Chinese government's directives to censor Internet content and stifle free speech in China. Domestic Chinese Internet firms such as Baidu appeal to young people who are nationalistic and attracted to pirated online content, which is so commonplace in China that there are few protections against it, while Google has been a hit with big-city, white-collar Chinese professionals with more cosmopolitan attitudes. However, access to Google was blocked by the Chinese government for two weeks in 2002, and it has been speculated that the driving force behind the shutdown was a domestic competitor--perhaps Baidu--that wanted to get Google out of the way, and complained to the government that the U.S. search engine was allowing people to access illicit content. Google decided that it would adhere to the government's requirement to block access to politically sensitive Web sites, pornography, and other content deemed objectionable by Chinese authorities while alerting users that such information is being withheld through disclaimers displayed on google.cn. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has argued that Google's Chinese operations still uphold the spirit of self-empowerment his company embodies by giving users access to other information. The Chinese government uses vague language to describe material that should be censored, leaving Internet companies to decide for themselves what content falls into this category; through a combination of self-censorship and hard penalties for offenders, the government ensures that Chinese Internet executives attempt to censor as much content as possible. Chinese censorship practices are not concealed from the public, which may have helped contribute to a general disinterest among Chinese citizens toward democracy. Kai-Fu Lee, director of Google's China operations, believes the Internet by itself will sow the seeds of democracy in China by giving young, apolitical users a platform for public speech.
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Average IT Manager Makes $99,000, Staffer $73,000, Information Week Survey Finds
Information Week (04/24/06)No. 1086, P. 55; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

With the average IT manager earning $99,000 a year, and the average staffer pulling in $73,000, technology workers are not going hungry, though it is only through bonuses, rather than base pay, that IT pay is keeping up with inflation, according to a recent survey. While median base salaries only increased by a little more than 1 percent this year, overall compensation increased 3 percent for staffers and 4 percent for managers, finally surpassing the median pay rate of 2001. The median pay for managers exceeded $100,000 in 10 categories, compared with just six last year. The most lucrative areas for managers are data mining, human resources IT, Web infrastructure, ERP, and enterprise application integration. At 8 percent of total pay, bonuses accounted for the largest portion of IT managers' salaries since 2001, when they capped out at 18 percent of overall compensation. Staff received 4 percent of their compensation through bonuses, well off the 2001 mark of 16 percent. Personal performance accounted for 60 percent of bonuses, with the remaining 40 percent coming as a result of profit sharing programs. Networking, training, and IT support were the sectors with the weakest levels of compensation. The median pay for staff members with the titles of architect and sales support engineer topped $100,000, while project managers netted a median compensation of $93,000. The increasing use of middleware will eventually eliminate the positions of many software workers. "A lot of our staff knows the writing is on the wall," said Damon Bollin, an IT executive at a Georgia frozen foods manufacturer who expects to prune his staff by as much as one-third over the next two years. The gap between men and women increased this year, with male staffers earning a median $70,000 while women earned $64,000.
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Rebuilding the Legacy--Modernizing Mainframe Code
Computerworld (04/24/06) P. 27; Mitchell, Robert L.

Legacy mainframe code primarily written in Cobol is not well-aligned to modern-day distributed systems, and rewriting all that code entails a massive effort; in addition, programmers with expertise in Cobol are a vanishing breed. A code transition plan is a balancing act involving decisions over what applications to update, how to modernize them, and where they should be located. Gartner analyst Dale Vecchio says the scale of applications determines what systems they end up in: Applications under 500 MIPS are going to distributed systems, applications with 1,000 MIPS or higher are usually in mainframes, and applications between 500 and 1,000 MIPS are more often being incorporated into a service-oriented architecture (SOA). Rewriting applications is not always a practical solution, according to MIB Group CIO Bob DiAngelo, whose company has set out to re-engineer its system in Java using a three-tired framework, which operates within a single logical partition on a 210 MIPS uniprocessor IBM zSeries 880 with a z/OS Application Assist Processor (zAAP) that deals with the workload. "Doing a rip-and-replace is a big thing," DiAngelo notes. "There are things you can't afford to re-engineer, and they will probably always sit in the place where they were developed." There is no universal solution to modernizing legacy applications, says Share President Robert Rosen, who adds that trying to force-fit a solution is an invitation to trouble. "Taking the best of both worlds, that's the key," Rosen advises.
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An Antiphishing Strategy Based on Visual Similarity Assessment
Internet Computing (04/06) Vol. 10, No. 2, P. 58; Liu, Wenyin; Deng, Xiaotie; Huang, Guanglin

City University of Hong Kong researchers propose an antiphishing strategy that identifies potential phishing sites and evaluates suspicious pages' resemblance to actual sites registered with the system through visual cues. The SiteWatcher system employs two sequential processes: The first process runs on local email servers and watches emails for specific keywords and questionable URLs, and then the second process matches the potential phishing pages against actual pages and determines visual similarity by focusing on key regions, page layouts, and overall styles. SiteWatcher sends a phishing report to the customer if the visual similarity between the Web pages exceeds the corresponding threshold. The system represents block-level similarity as the weighted average of the visual similarities of all matched-block pairs between two pages. Layout similarity is defined as the proportion of the weighted number of matched blocks to the number of total blocks in the true page, and this similarity is measured by identifying a few blocks with identical contents and then matching other blocks based on the spatial relations of all blocks on the page via the neighborhood relationship model; two blocks are considered to be matches if both bear a high visual resemblance to one another and fulfill the same position constraints with corresponding already-matched blocks. The similarity in overall style between two pages is defined as the correlation coefficient of the pages' histograms of the style feature values. The researchers built a prototype SiteWatcher system whose results showed promise, and they are currently focusing on making the system more efficient and weighing the possibility of deploying commercial applications. The researchers believe the SiteWatcher strategy could be a component of a larger enterprise antiphishing solution.
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