Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
May 3, 2006

MemberNet
The ACM Professional Development Centre
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the May 3, 2006 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Sponsored by Information, Inc.

http://www.infoinc.com/sponsorthenews/contactus.html


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Dissenting Opinions About Outsourcing
IT Management (05/02/06) Andriole, Steve

Different pundits disagree about the impact of outsourcing and offshoring, making it difficult to get a grasp on just what outsourcing is all about, writes Steve Andriole, the Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business at Villanova University. At heart, outsourcing is simply about companies identifying their core competencies, the distribution and segmentation of expertise, and managing costs. Many companies are deciding they no longer want to be involved in numerous technical businesses, and at the same time, IT expertise has been distributed all over the world, rather than being heavily concentrated in the United States. ACM's recently released report," Globalization and Offshoring of Software," which Andriole worked on, argues that outsourcing is a good thing that in fact creates more jobs than are eliminated. There is a tight connection between globalization and offshoring in the software industry, with both expected to grow, and economic theory and anecdotal evidence indicate that developed and developing countries can both benefit from offshoring between them. However, the outcomes of comparative advantage can sometimes be unpleasant, particularly when the trends and opportunities are badly managed by the parties involved. Offshoring can be expected to increase, but it is hard to determine the specifics of the increase; in addition, existing risks are magnified by offshoring and new threats to things such as privacy and national security are created. While standardized jobs were the first to be offshored, higher-end skills such as research are expected to rise in demand as global competition intensifies. To view a copy of report from the ACM Job Migration Task Force, visit http://www.acm.org/globalizationreport
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Innovation Key to U.S. Technological Edge, Say Panelists
InfoWorld (05/02/06) Krill, Paul

Panelists at the Microsoft Research Silicon Valley Road Show 2006 said that America's global competitiveness in computer technology will hinge on innovation and the search for future breakthroughs. "I view globalization as a challenge to really step up and identify, as was mentioned earlier, sort of the cutting-edge aspects," said George Johnson, associate dean for special programs in the engineering college at UC Berkeley; "One out of 10 of those next big things might actually be the next big thing. You have to be pushing and pushing and pushing." Silicon Valley defied predictions of Japan overtaking it in recent decades by farming out memory-chip production so it could focus on developing chips that were more interesting, said Carnegie Mellon West dean Jim Morris. The United States lacks the numbers to compete on commodity-only activities, said Johnson, and Morris disagreed with the notion that offshoring eliminates available jobs and makes computer science unattractive. Research indicates considerable demand for software engineers, said Morris, and panelists emphasized giving students the flexibility to look into technical disciplines. For example, a biology student could also study technology, according to UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denise Denton, who said that "People really surf through boundaries now." The show also included demonstrations of technologies Microsoft is developing in such fields as parallel computing and Internet search.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Another New Bill Tries to Raise Cap on H-1B Visas
InformationWeek (05/02/06) McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

A proposal from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) would decouple the issue of H-1B visas from the other immigration-related issues that have lately attracted controversy. The "Securing Knowledge, Innovation and Leadership" bill, known as the Skil Bill for short, would raise the annual ceiling on H-1B visas to 115,000 and would provide the option to raise the cap each year by 20 percent based on employers' needs. In addition, the bill recommends that any professional with a post-graduate degree from an accredited U.S. university be exempted from the annual H-1B cap, and it proposes that employers be allowed to pay a premium fee to expedite an immigrant petition's processing. Also provided for under the bill would be a "precertification system" for streamlining some petitions. Many of the Skil Bill's provisions are included in other legislation before Congress, but the other bills are more comprehensive, lacking the Cornyn bill's narrow focus on H-1B visas. A spokesman for the lobbying group Compete America, which supports the bill, said that it "helps set free the H-1B issues from other immigration reform issues that might have less chance of moving forward."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Robotic Auto Race's New Challenge: City Traffic
Associated Press (05/03/06) Chang, Alicia

DARPA is sponsoring yet another self-driving vehicle challenge just seven months after a driverless Volkswagen SUV won $2 million for being the first out of 23 contestants to complete a 132-mile race over the Mojave Desert. The new challenge, scheduled for November next year, will pit contestants in a 60-mile test course simulating city conditions, replete with moving vehicles, sharp turns, intersections, and obstacles such as utility poles and trees. The first vehicle to complete the course successfully will win $2 million, with $500,000 going for second place and $250,000 for third. The winning cars must be able to obey traffic laws, change lanes, merge onto oncoming traffic, and park. They will have to carry out a mock supply mission within six hours. The eventual goal is to come up with a unmanned vehicle capable of functioning in battlefield conditions. Last year's winner, Stanford University computer scientist Sebastian Thrun, says the contest furthers the advancement of artificial intelligence knowledge that could be used to develop self-navigating ''smart cars'' on highways.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Top Robotics Scientist Calls for 100 Percent Global E-Literacy
Gulf Times (Qatar) (05/02/06)

During a keynote address at the second symposium in the Innovations in Education series this week in Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University computer science and robotics expert Raj Reddy, formerly co-chair of the U.S. President's Information Technology Advisory Commission under President Clinton, spoke of the need to develop multi-lingual interfaces, spoken language interfaces, and multi-lingual translation systems to ensure a global population of e-literates. "Developing programs to overcome language barriers and building of domain-specific capacity, content, and partnership for education should" should be on the agenda, said Reddy, who is currently working on the Million Book Digital Library project with the aim of creating a digital collection of all human knowledge and providing free access. It currently has some 600,000 books, but plans call for the Universal Library to offer a free-to-read, search collection of 10 million books within 10 years that anyone can access over the Internet at any time. Reddy says providing affordable, accessible education to the world's poor is one of the grand challenges of emerging economies, and he believes that inexpensive computing devices can help meet that goal. He says, "Soon PCs may break the $100 barrier and thus it will be possible to have PC access at rural homes or village schools for $3 or $4 per month." Current projects Reddy is working on include an all-in-one information appliance called PCtvt designed for illiterate users, Learning by Doing, and FTTV: Fiber To The Village Project. Reddy was awarded the ACM Turing Award in 1994.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Industry Support for Academic R&D in S&E Drops Again
CRA Bulletin (05/01/06) Vesgo, Jay

The National Science Foundation's InfoBrief says industrial financing for research and development (R&D) in science and engineering (S&E) sectors at colleges and universities fell 2.6 percent in fiscal year 2004, to $2.1 billion. This was the third consecutive year that industry funding dropped, having fallen 1.1 percent in 2003 and 1.5 percent in 2002. Industry financed 4.9 percent of academic R&D in fiscal year 2004, versus 7.4 percent in 1999. The report also found that R&D expenditures in the computer sciences rose 7.7 percent in present dollars, to $1.4 billion, and accounted for 3.3 percent of overall academic R&D expenditures in S&E. The NSF and the Department of Defense were the two biggest sources of funds for computer science, at $411 million and $303 million, respectively. Adjusting for inflation, academic R&D in S&E increased 4.7 percent in fiscal year 2004. Seventy-five percent of R&D expenditures were for fundamental research. The leading 20 institutions in terms of expenditures comprised 30 percent of overall academic R&D spending, and the leading 100 research performers comprised 80 percent of spending.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


BabyBot Takes First Steps
IST Results (05/02/06)

Researchers involved in the ADAPT project are calling their effort to test a model of the human sense of presence a success. Using a robot modeled on the torso of an infant, the researchers initially focused on the emergence of the perception of self in the environment in the development of a human baby, then developed a process model of consciousness. The model for BabyBot was one of action, cognition, and perception, and was equated with how the perception of an object is ongoing for a baby. A young child learns perspective if he or she is unable to reach an object that is seen, and babies that are able to reach an object are likely to taste it or shake it to learn more about it. In the experiments, the researchers had BabyBot touch an object, which showed that the robot was able to distinguish objects from the background, and then grasp the object, to learn about the specific properties of the object. The ADAPT project will now give way to another IST project in ROBOTCUB, which will focus on giving the robot the ability to see, hear, and touch its environment, and later crawl. The research has the potential to apply how humans understand perception to machines, giving them the ability to perceive and interact with their environment in a similar manner. "Ultimately, this work will have a huge range of applications, from virtual reality, robotics and AI, to psychology and the development of robots as tools for neuro-scientific research," says Giorgio Metta, ADAPT project coordinator and assistant professor at the Laboratory for Integrated Advanced Robotics at Genoa University in Italy.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Coding for Fame, and Dollars
CNet (05/02/06) Krazit, Tom

Sixty-four finalists will vie for $150,000 in prize money at the 2006 TopCoder Open starting Wednesday at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. The finalists are the best of the best among the thousands of script coders who have been competing for months online. This year's event is being sponsored by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), which hopes to push multicore development strategies. Intel has been sponsoring the monthly online competitions in which program developers solve problems that stress techniques for systems using chips with multiple processing cores. The heat generated by fast single-core processors is too much for systems to handle anymore. Companies such as Intel and AMD are releasing chips with two processing cores that run at slower clock speeds than single-core products. This means that software written in a single-threaded manner will run slower on these new chips, which require software written in independent threads running parallel rather than in sequence. This will be a focus of the competition. Analyst Dean McCarron says, "If you want your application to continue to scale in performance with the PCs that are being sold, your application needs to incorporate more parallelism." TopCoder has about 80,000 registered developers from around the world, 35,000 from the United States. TopCoder will select winners in various categories, including algorithm, component design, and component development.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


New Software Protects Confidentiality of Data While Enabling Access and Sharing
Penn State Live (05/01/06)

Penn State researchers presented the paper "Privacy-preserving Semantic Interoperation and Access Control of Heterogeneous Databases" at the recent ACM Symposium on Information, Communication and Computer Security in Taiwan. In the paper, the researchers describe the development of new software that allows databases to communicate with each other without jeopardizing the security of their data and metadata. The Privacy-preserving Access Control Toolkit (PACT) is designed to act in the manner of a filter by encrypting queries, data communicated, and other information. "The software automatically regulates access to data, so some information can be exchanged while other data remains confidential and private," explained Prasenjit Mitra, assistant professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State. "Often when we implement security, we decide not to give access to data." The researchers took a more generic approach to designing PACT compared with the special-purpose applications that organizations develop for sharing data, which are expensive, take more time to develop, and do not address security issues. Research on PACT will continue with the development of a new rule language to enhance interoperability as well as improvements to boost the performance of query processing.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Intel to Offer Its Own Plan for Global Internet Access
New York Times (05/02/06) P. C3; Markoff, John

Intel plans to develop a below-$400 Eduwise laptop for educational use, and also invest $1 billion in global education as part of its "World Ahead" initiative to expand access to computers and expand its own market presence. Intel's five-year, $1 billion investment will go toward wireless Internet infrastructure and teacher training. Intel CEO Paul Otellini plans to detail Intel's vision in a speech on May 2, 2006, at the World Congress on Information Technology. Advanced Micro Devices also is designing an inexpensive laptop for debut in 2015. MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte is developing a sub-$100 notebook that can be used for education in third world areas. Intel's commitment will double its current financing for similar programs, and will encompass teacher training for 10 million teachers around the world. Intel says its Eduwise computer will be able to run Microsoft software, while other inexpensive computers in development are being designed for open-source software or reduced versions of Microsoft tools.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Mentoring Is Key to Drawing Girls to High-Tech Field, Good Jobs
San Jose Mercury News (CA) (05/02/06) Horan, Jeanette

Although women comprise 50 percent of the workforce and 30 percent of physicians and attorneys, less than 10 percent of women are engineers, writes Jeanette Horan, IBM's senior location executive at Silicon Valley. However, she writes that "I believe that we are now at a tipping point for women of all ages in technology," adding that the opportunity for a larger number of women to have successful engineering careers is greater now than previously. Horan explains that this is because technology firms badly need skilled employees. She thinks that with the right encouragement, young women will go after analytic subjects in school and technical careers. She says there are an increasing number of corporate measures directed at enabling female students in kindergarten through the 12th grade to evolve academically, and to offer girls the skills they need to get high-paying technical jobs. "And enlightened companies will create succession plans for women at the top and throughout the employee ranks," Horan writes. She relates how Silicon Valley's MentorNet teams undergraduate and post-doctorate students studying engineering and science with mentors from academia, government, and industry, reaching over 12,000 students from 100 higher education institutions. Horan adds that IBM has 400 volunteer mentors linked with MentorNet.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Big Holes in Net's Heart Revealed
BBC News (04/28/06) Ward, Mark

Cornell University researchers have found that the Web's addressing system is archaic and needs patching if not replacement. In a study of some 600,000 computers, the researchers found that more than a third of Internet sites are susceptible to simple attacks--a number that could increase to 85 percent if a more sophisticated denial-of-service attack were launched concurrently--due to the Net's reliance on an average of 46 computers each holding different information about the components of a net address that must be consulted when a site is visited. This chain of dependency creates vulnerabilities. "The growth of the Internet has caused these dependencies to emerge," says computer science professor Emin Gun Sirer of Cornell. "Instead of having to compromise one you can compromise any one of the three dozen...The domain name system has been incredibly successful so far but it is showing its age. We need to re-think the entire naming infrastructure of the Internet." One solution would involve utilization of a peer-to-peer type structure for domain addresses. The research also found that 17 percent of the servers that host Net address books are vulnerable to attack from well-known threats. Sirer says, "Because of these dependencies about one-third of the Net's names are trivially compromisable by script kiddies." For example, Sirer found that one of the five computers that act as the first reference point to the fbi.gov domain still has not been patched to protect against a common bug. Although the FBI fixed the problem once informed, Cornell researchers say hundreds of thousands of sites remain vulnerable.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


RFID Standards Released IT by Vendors, Privacy Groups
IDG News Service (05/01/06) Gross, Grant

A group of technology vendors, radio frequency identification (RFID) users, and consumer groups issued a series of best practices about RFID tags on Monday to allay consumers' worries about the technology. Privacy advocates have warned that RFID could facilitate corporate and government surveillance of people's movements and transactions as the technology's scanning capabilities become wider-ranging. The Center for Democracy and Technology's (CDT) Working Group on RFID recommends that companies using RFID tags notify customers in all cases, tell customers if they can turn off the tags, and embed security. In addition, the group advises companies that collect personally identifiable data via RFID tags to disclose how that data will be employed to customers; the working group's best practices report says options for customers to opt out of sharing personally identifiable information and to destroy the tags "must be readily available." The report goes on to say that "consumers should know about the implementation and use of any RFID technology...[but] it is important to recognize that notice alone does not mitigate all concerns about privacy." According to the CDT report, companies using RFID should give customers "reasonable" access to the information collected by the tags, and should notify customers of their RFID use prior to the completion of transactions. "These new guidelines show how RFID can provide great benefit to society, while treating customers' privacy with respect," declared Microsoft researcher Steve Shafer.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


One Fine Day a Cellphone Could Find You a Parking Spot
USA Today (05/03/06) P. 3B; Maney, Kevin

Cell phone companies are starting to use technology that uses signals from cell towers and occasionally global-positioning satellites to find the location of cell phones, while cities such as San Francisco, Houston, and Philadelphia are planning to build citywide Wi-Fi networks. This new technology and data may change urban planning and the way residents interact. It may also help cities become more efficient. The disadvantage of this is that it may be an invasion of privacy since it can track where people are at all times. The data can be put on a map to show how a city's population moves and changes throughout the day, which technologists think is a good idea. "We're trying to create a human-computer interface with cities," says MIT graduate student Assaf Biderman. City planners, real estate developers, and retailers will be able to see where people go at what times, which will help them make better decisions about roads, buildings, and services. Traffic patterns will also be able to be detected. This past April, Houston approved a contract to install 1,500 parking meters that will connect to the Net via Wi-Fi, which will help locate parking spaces. There is a downside to all this, such as hackers and spam, but experts say it may help solve some old problems.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Power Management for Mobile Devices
Dr. Dobb's Journal (04/26/06) Dey, Sabyasachi

It is a formidable challenge for designers of wireless mobile devices to reduce power consumption while augmenting system performance to satisfy consumer demand for more applications and functionality. They must consequently explore power management issues from a holistic perspective that encompasses both hardware and software. Software architecture is a key determinant of system-level power management. Many software power management algorithms fulfill the design objective by facilitating some form of voltage or frequency scaling synchronous with hardware support, but power reduction only satisfies half the requirements of high-performance, power-sensitive applications. Dynamic system adaptation enables high performance with lower power consumption, and this goal can only be reached by creative new power reduction methods that span functional blocks and incorporate multiple processing cores. Texas Instruments' SmartReflex technology, which optimizes power consumption on silicon intellectual property, SOC design, and systems software levels, offers the system-wide perspective necessary to deliver dynamic power management. SmartReflex technologies support multiple cores, hardware accelerators, functional blocks, peripherals, and other system elements, and are open to OS-based and high level power management algorithms that enable the development of a collaborative and cooperative power/performance environment.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


The Next Bright Idea
Federal Computer Week (05/01/06) Vol. 20, No. 13, P. 18; Hardy, Michael

America's maintenance of its global innovation leadership depends greatly on what roles industry and government play in research and development. Kei Koizumi of the American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that federal R&D budgets are on a general decline, while the Office of Personnel Management finds that the number of federally employed scientists has experienced a slight drop in recent years. Institute for Defense and Homeland Security executive director Hugh Montgomery says the government is taking less of a lead role in applied research, and cites the diversion of funding from federal research organizations to the Defense Department for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative and the peace dividend fueled by Soviet Russia's implosion as critical factors in the reduction of applied research spending. Meanwhile, James Decker with the Department of Energy's Office of Science points to a fall-off of basic research investment among industrial labs. National Security Personnel System program executive director Mary Lacey says the government-industry relationship has become less of a one-way street as a result of a shift in the driving forces underlying innovation. Whereas the government used to permit industry to commercialize many federally-developed technologies, nowadays companies often develop commercial technologies that the government can adopt. The difficulty proponents of higher government R&D investment encounter in convincing cost-conscious lawmakers to allocate more funding is significantly attributable to a lack of quantifiable data on how important federal spending is to innovation, according to Koizumi. George Washington University professor Nicholas Vonortas notes that the nonprofit nature of government organizations makes it difficult to gauge the impact of R&D.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Computer Science Looks for a Remake
Computerworld (05/01/06) P. 26; Anthes, Gary

Computerworld recently asked six leading computer science professors what they think the future holds for computer science. Overall, the professors have an optimistic outlook on the future of the CS discipline despite falling enrollments, a lack of concentration on real-world issues, and fading prestige. Cornell University professor Kenneth P. Birman views CS as a "universal science" whose ubiquity is growing, while Princeton University professor Bernard Chazelle says CS provides a "conceptual framework for other disciplines." Chairman of UC Berkeley's electrical engineering and computer science department John Canny says how people use computers and what can be done to improve that use must be studied. "Since most people are doing knowledge tasks, that means machines understanding their owners' work processes much more deeply, finding semantically appropriate resources with or without being asked, critiquing choices and suggesting better ones, and tracking synergies with other groups within a large organization," he explains. The professors offer a range of suggestions on what areas of CS will boast the most important and intriguing advances in coming years, including artificial intelligence, algorithms, statistical data processing, databases, and service-oriented architectures. To counteract students' disinterest or downright antagonism toward CS as a career choice, the professors recommend reforming educational curricula to focus on CS' "big ideas" rather than tedious programming, particularly in high school. Also key is debunking the idea that domestic, well-paying CS jobs are scarce or in danger of being outsourced. The professors agree that CS needs the equivalent of Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking to popularize the field and rekindle public interest. Carnegie Mellon University director of the Language Technologies Institute Jaime Carbonell, Carnegie Mellon University dean of the school of computer science Randal Bryant, and Stanford University Chairman of the department of computer science William J. Dally were also interviewed.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


An Impending Massive 3-D Mashup
GeoWorld (04/06) Vol. 19, No. 4, P. 20; Limp, Fred

There is increasing interest in geospatial initiatives that utilize 3D data, and Fred Limp with the University of Arkansas' Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies reports that the 3D boom is being fueled by the "push" of technology and the "pull" of business reasons behind the use of the technology. The core drivers of 3D technology include basic computer system refinements, such as better memory, disks, display, and graphics performance. These are needed to support such things as stereo viewing. Another major technology push is the fast development and expanding use of LIDAR, which for many offers a quicker and more precise elevation data acquisition methodology. The 3D explosion is also being spurred by advancements beyond the traditional geospatial market, such as significant growth in the CAD 3D data generation tools and the visualization and animation software sectors. "Motion capture" is yet another key 3D technology that is driving up interest. Product lines and professions associated with 3D content are just as diverse as the content itself: Geospatial software generates and maintains geographical data; HDS and terrestrial photogrammetry document the existing world's features in detail; animation software places all inputs within a narrative framework; and motion capture inserts active humans in the resulting environment. Gaming and high-end simulation software engines possess, in addition to the above components, the capability to define visual processes based on underlying physics and object interaction.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Identifier Interoperability
D-Lib Magazine (04/06) Vol. 12, No. 4,Paskin, Norman

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is undertaking a pair of complementary efforts that could potentially augment digital library content management and provide the means for substantially enhanced identifier interoperability. The first effort is an investigation into interoperability's practical ramifications across the ISBN and related identifiers, and the second effort involves the deployment of an ontology-based data dictionary that could supply a mechanism for the ISO/IEC 21000-6 standard. A brainstorming session between an ad hoc group of representatives of TC46 SC9 registration authorities conducted under the aegis of the ISO TC46 technical committee yielded several possible approaches to more in-depth exploration of identifier interoperability issues, including probing into requirements for additional identifiers and requirements for typed links between identifiers; creation of a taxonomically organized glossary to support the development of all TC46 SC9 standards; extension of the glossary's relevant components into a "starter set" of reference descriptive metadata that can be customized for application to specific identifier standards; and advancement of a plan to enable interoperability between descriptive metadata sets. The work already carried out in the -based interoperability studies and development for ISO/IEC 21000-6 corresponds precisely with the above activities. The project outlined a methodology for semantic interoperability that facilitates rich interchange between metadata schemas. The ISO/IEC 21000-6 MPEG Rights Data Dictionary (RDD) has one clear initial function: To support the MPEG Rights Expression Language (REL). The adoption of ISO/IEC 21000-6 could be promoted as a solution to other projects that face the same semantic interoperability challenges.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: technews@hq.acm.org

To unsubscribe from the ACM TechNews Early Alert Service: Please send a separate email to listserv@listserv.acm.org with the line

signoff technews

in the body of your message.

Please note that replying directly to this message does not automatically unsubscribe you from the TechNews list.

ACM may have a different email address on file for you, so if you're unable to "unsubscribe" yourself, please direct your request to: technews-request@ acm.org

We will remove your name from the TechNews list on your behalf.

For help with technical problems, including problems with leaving the list, please write to: technews-request@acm.org

to the top

News Abstracts © 2006 Information, Inc.


© 2006 ACM, Inc. All rights reserved. ACM Privacy Policy.

About ACM | Contact us | Boards & Committees | Press Room | Membership | Privacy Policy | Code of Ethics | System Availability | Copyright © 2014, ACM, Inc.