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May 26, 2006

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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Atlantic Partnership Brings Tech Researchers to Province
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal (05/25/06) White, Nathan

In a keynote address at the recent Communication Networks and Services Research conference, jointly sponsored by ACM, Vijay Bhargava discussed the future of wireless communication in Canada. Bhargava, the head of the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of British Columbia, noted that while 3G technology is still in its early stages in Canada, Japan's NTT DoCoMo is already developing 4G prototype technology. DoCoMo's 4G technology could lead to phones that can receive 100 Mbps while on the move and 1,000 Mbps while stationary by 2010. Although Canada may have been slow to develop its wireless communication infrastructure, it is catching up quickly, Bhargava said. A recent study found that two-thirds of Canadian households have mobile phones, while one-twentieth of the population have replaced their traditional phones entirely. There is still considerable room in the market for companies that offer location-based mapping services for mobile devices, Bhargava said, though he warned that data transmission is nearing its peak capacity. "We're talking about increasingly higher demand for such services. People want good quality and higher speeds," he said. "There's limitations to the data rate, how much water you put through the pipe or data you can communicate over the wireless channel." The myriad possibilities make it difficult to predict what the next "killer app" will be, though Bhargava anticipates that, like the iPod, it will come out of the blue when 4G technology matures. The conference, which attracted roughly 100 researchers from 14 countries, also addressed topics such as nanotechnology, disaster planning, and bandwidth management.
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Researchers Analyze HPC Potential of Cell Processor
HPC Wire (05/26/06) Vol. 15, No. 21,

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory tested the STI Cell processor in several scientific applications, comparing its performance with other processor architectures. They presented their paper, "The Potential of the Cell Processor in Scientific Computing," at the recent ACM International Conference on Computing Frontiers. "Overall results demonstrate the tremendous potential of the Cell architecture for scientific computations in terms of both raw performance and power efficiency," the researchers wrote. "We also conclude that Cell's heterogeneous multi-core implementation is inherently better suited to the HPC environment than homogeneous commodity multi-core processors." Cell, the product of a partnership of Sony, Toshiba, and IBM, combines substantial floating point resources with software-controlled memory hierarchy to process complex numerical algorithms. Unlike traditional multi-core designs, Cell uses a standard high-performance PowerPC core that runs eight SIMD cores called synergistic processing elements, each of which contains a local memory, a memory flow controller, and a synergistic processing unit. Though its architecture is a marked departure from traditional designs, Cell is especially intriguing because it can be mass-produced at a competitive price. The researchers evaluated Cell's potential to serve as the engine of high-end parallel systems by testing its performance in numerous scientific computing environments, including dense matrix supply and sparse matrix vector multiply. Cell has a three-level memory architecture that offers more predictable performance and greater memory bandwidth for long block transfers. On average, Cell tested eight times more efficient and powerful than Itanium and Opteron processors.
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Nature Offers Guidance on Organizing Dynamic Networks
IST Results (05/26/06)

As today's computer networks are beginning to strain under the weight of their own complexity, researchers working under the auspices of the IST-funded BISON program are looking to natural evolutionary processes for clues on how to handle the burden. "Complexity in computing is already a problem, and traditional methods are no longer adequate to address the problems," said Ozalp Babaoglu, BISON coordinator and a computer science professor at the University of Bologna. "And it's going to get worse as the Internet becomes increasingly complex. Biological systems, on the other hand, are incredibly resilient and amazingly robust, so we're taking inspiration from a system that we know works." The BISON project researchers created a load-balancing protocol to prove the viability of their modular approach. Having successfully created a technique for preventing any one node from being overwhelmed with traffic, the researchers hope that others will pursue similar projects. Babaoglu says the load balancing protocol is based on negative chemotaxis, a technique for prompting data to spontaneously disseminate across a network. The project focused on adaptive routing and radio power management to address the problem of a fluid topology in ad hoc networks. Nodes enter and exit the network, and the risk of running out of signal power threatens the connectedness of the entire network. The researchers employed the computer scheme Ant Colony Optimization (ACO), inspired by the way ants always find the shortest path to food. BISON's AdHocNet attempted to create an ACO routing algorithm to find the most efficient traffic pattern for data while also conserving energy. The researchers also looked to the way fireflies emit light as the basis for a synchronicity protocol that Babaoglu says could eventually become the core of the Internet.
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Microsoft Research India Partners With the University of California Berkeley and Others to Host Academic Conference on Technology
WebWire (05/25/06)

Nearly 200 researchers from academic institutions and corporations around the world met on May 25 to discuss technology in the developing world at the International Conference on Information and Communications Technology and Development (ICTD) 2006. ICTD, founded by Microsoft Research India and the University of California, Berkeley, offered discussions on information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives in the developing world such as setting up shared-use PCs and incorporating cell phones into rural agricultural supply chains. "The focus of the ICTD conference is very much on scholarship and maintaining high-quality standards of academic research," said AnnaLee Saxenian, dean and professor of Berkeley's School of Information. One of the keynote addresses focused on the importance of microfinance, the practice of issuing small loans to underfunded entrepreneurs in developing nations. The partnership between Microsoft and Berkeley demonstrates the value of collaboration between academia and industry. Many of the presenters at ICTD are winners of Microsoft's Digital Inclusion request for proposals, with research addressing issues such as telemedicine and the use of cell phones to bring technology to impoverished communities. Other winning projects explored whether children's cognitive development is improved by using Wi-Fi-enabled phones to access Internet chat services. Microsoft Research India's Technology for Emerging Markets Group is studying the effectiveness of computer kiosks for rural villages to determine if and why they succeed or fail in broadening the reach of technology. Researchers have also been successful in creating an application that enables illiterate users to operate a computer on their own using cartoons, voice feedback, and a movie to explain the functionality of a particular application. The conference's sponsors include ACM's SIG on Computers and Society (SIGCAS).
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Improved Visual Search
Technology Review (05/25/06) Savage, Neil

Researchers at MIT's Center for Biological and Computational Learning (CBCL) are attempting to improve computers' ability to discern the properties of images. Visual searching is nowhere near as accurate and thorough as text-based searching, though if the researchers are successful, their work could eliminate the need for humans to monitor surveillance cameras at a military base or an office, for instance, though they admit that their work will not be easy. "The fact that it seems so easy for a human to do is part of our greatest illusion," said Stanley Bileschi, who was recently awarded a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at the CBCL. Interpreting visual data is a complex task for computers, notes Bileschi, adding that humans exert roughly 40 percent of their brains on that single task. The multiple variables that factor into identifying visual data include color, lighting, spatial orientation, distance, and texture. Traditional image-recognition systems rely on statistical learning systems to train computers to identify objects by examining each pixel in the image. Neurophysiologists at the CBCL are attempting to improve on this method by exploring how the human brain processes images, pointing to the way that a photoreceptor in the eye is stimulated by each pixel. The stimulus causes neurons to fire in a specific pattern, which the researchers track with mathematical models and train the computer to associate each neuron simulation pattern with its corresponding object. Just as a baby learns to distinguish trees from faces, the computer remembers the pattern when it encounters the same object again. Tests have shown that the computers can identify people and cars in a street scene with an accuracy rate between 95 percent and 98 percent.
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Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Coders
Content Log (05/23/06) Newton, John

The computer science curriculum needs to be made more enticing to ultimately attract more students for careers in computer science and software, says ACM President David Patterson. The West is headed for a shortage in tech-related skills, and an economic slowdown if the issue is not addressed. Patterson, also a professor at UC Berkeley, says people tend to view computer science as being only about programming, and that programming is something that would only interest nerds. He is attempting to change the curriculum at UC Berkeley. At a recent ACM contest, MIT was the only American university to place in the top 10, and Western European universities were nowhere to be found. Tech industry professionals are not encouraging their children to follow their career paths, and salaries for new graduates no longer look as promising. Some of the current problems have something to do with the dot-com fallout, writes John Newton, who expects salaries to rise as the demand for computer scientists becomes more acute.
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Europe: No Patents for Software
ZDNet UK (05/25/06) Marson, Ingrid

The European Commission (EC) appears to have reversed its stance on software patents, according to a statement the EC made last week regarding the Community Patent legislation. A year ago, the EC said the European Patent Office (EPO) would continue to make patents available for computer programs that provide some technical contribution, but a week ago the EC said there would be no software patents under the new Community Patent legislation. "The draft Community Patent regulation confirms in its Article 28.1(a) that patents granted for a subject matter (such as computer programs), which is excluded from patentability pursuant to Article 52 EPC, may be invalidated in a relevant court proceeding," the EC said. The statement came in response to a question Polish European Parliament member Adam Gierek posed in April regarding the impact of the Community Patent legislation on EPO's practice of granting software patents. The new position was a surprising and confusing one for groups that oppose patents on computer programs in Europe. Pieter Hintjens, president of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, is just as concerned about having an independent appeal process as he is about the invalidation of software patents in court because of the potential cost of civil litigation for small companies. "Therefore, software patents not yet taken to court will impose an enormous burden on the industry," Hintjens says.
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Announcement: ICANN Call for Submissions of Interest for Leadership
ICANN.org (05/25/06)

ICANN is seeking statements of interest for leadership positions on its Board of Directors and its Supporting Organizations. The ICANN Nominating Committee is looking to fill the following positions: three members of ICANN's Board of Directors, one member of the Council of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), one member of the Council of the Country-Code Names Supporting Organization (CCNSO), and two members of the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC). Successful candidates will have the opportunity to work alongside colleagues from around the world and tackle technical coordination issues and associated policy concerns assessing them from a functional, cultural, and geographic perspective. The positions are voluntary, though travel and other expenses that arise from service to ICANN will be reimbursed. The positions offer the opportunity to make substantial contributions to public service, and may require frequent travel and regular communication via telephone and Internet. Qualified candidates should have strong experience with an international perspective and some familiarity with the Internet. Descriptions of the positions, selection and eligibility criteria, application procedures, and contacts can be found at www.icann.org/committees/nom-comm. For the complete Statement of Interest go to www.icann.org/committees/nom-comm/soi-2006.html. Applications will be accepted on a confidential basis until July 16, 2006, and selections will be made by the end of October. Service begins at the end of ICANN's General Meeting on December 8, 2006.
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Finding Computer Files Hidden in Plain Sight
Ames Laboratory (05/24/06)

While criminals or terrorists are likely to arouse the suspicion of government agents by sending encrypted files over email, software programs now enable a practice known as steganography, where files are hidden within other files, such as photographic images. Researchers at Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory have been exploring the emerging discipline of detecting those hidden files, or staganalysis. JPEG files and other electronic images are perfect for concealing such files because they can be found by the thousands in any given computer and can be emailed by anyone or found all across Web. With the aid of steganographic, or stego, techniques, users can make slight alterations to the color values of an image to conceal the bits of data that comprise a secret file, or payload, that can represent anything from unlawful financial transactions to child pornography. "We're taking very simple stego techniques and trying to find statistical measures that we can use to distinguish an innocent image from one that has hidden data," said Clifford Bergman, professor of mathematics at ISU. "One of the reasons we're focusing on images is there's lots of 'room' within a digital image to hide data. You can fiddle with them quite a bit and visually a person can't see the difference." Ones and zeros can represent the payload file, which the stego program compares to the ones and zeros of the image file's pixel values. The recipient can then retrieve the secret file by decrypting and reconstructing the payload's data string. The researchers are developing a system known as an artificial neural net (ANN) to help review and detect hidden files within images. They trained the ANN with a database of "clean" images and then altered them using stego techniques to greatly expand the database and provide a basis for comparison. The ANN identified 92 percent of the stego images in preliminary tests, while only flagging 10 percent of clean images, and the researchers hope to refine it further.
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Sensors: Living Off Scraps of Energy
CNet (05/24/06) Kanellos, Michael

Researchers are developing technologies that will enable sensors to harvest piecemeal bits of energy from sources such as the motion of a soldier's boot or an RFID reader. Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Zhong Lin Wang is developing sensors that could collect energy as the soldier walks that might be sufficient to charge batteries for a flashlight or a radio. Intel researchers exploring the potential of infusing a capacitor or other energy-collecting device into an RFID tag that could power a temperature sensor or an accelerometer. "You can imagine a moisture sensor. You could embed it into a building and literally never have to get at it again," said Intel's Joshua Smith. "Frozen foods are a big one. Security is another. Another one I heard of is blood. Blood plasma has to be kept at a certain temperature." Rather than the strictly theoretical perpetual motion machine, Smith describes his sensors as something close to perpetual computing, because they are powered by energy that they collect themselves and that would otherwise go unused. Batteries have long inhibited the utility of sensors, reducing the visions of scientists and futurists to glean energy from fault lines on the ocean floor or forest fires to hopeless impracticalities. Intel's research capitalizes on the declining power requirements of low-end microprocessors, Smith says. "Microcontrollers have gotten so low with their energy requirements that we can now power a general purpose microcontroller off an RFID reader. Compared to all power sources, an RFID reader is a relatively easy case." Wang's sensors harness energy from zinc oxide nanowires that, when bent by a probe, generate a negative charge on the outside of the surface and a positive charge on the inside. Wang's research is still in the experimental stages, though he says the military could put the technology to practical use within three to five years.
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Invention IDs Computer Users by Typing Patterns, UA Scientists' Discovery Pays Off 13 Years Later
University of Alabama (05/24/06)

Marcus Brown, associate professor of computer science at the University of Alabama, and his former graduate student Joey Rogers were awarded a patent for a technique to identify a person based on the way they type their name 13 years ago. Rogers based his thesis on the technology, but until recently, when they sold the patent for around $15,700 each, the pair had received little recognition from the discovery. Brown drew part of his inspiration for the invention from Thomas Edison, who as a telegraph operator learned to identify who was on the other end of the wire by the patterns of dots and dashes. Any computer with a standard keyboard can identify who is using it with Brown's invention, which has obvious applications to improving security. "Rather than replace passwords, this technology would probably best be used to add another layer of authentication," Brown said. "It could reduce the need for measures such as changing your password every six weeks." To develop their program, which creates an individual "fingerprint" based on the exact time a user presses a key, Brown and Rogers trained a neural network, though Brown is still unsure if the technology distinguishes between the physical structure of the user's hand or the manner by which humans mentally break up words as they type, or a combination of the two, perhaps combined with other unknown factors.
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Computers' Mistakeover
Washington Post (05/25/06) P. D1; Walker, Leslie

While the term "glitch" is bandied about freely to describe any problematic situation that can be attributed to computers, its technical definition--"a false data output triggered by a sudden surge of electrical power"--is often overlooked. Technophiles prefer to consider computers infallible machines that run on pure mathematics, and deem glitches the product of programming errors made by extremely fallible humans. The fact that computers have begun to permeate almost every quarter of human endeavor, however, amplifies the severity of a glitch, regardless of its origin. Computer glitches come in all stripes, from the mildly irritating to the frightfully disastrous; they can variously be blamed for holding up the lines at the grocery store to erroneously releasing convicted criminals from prison. In Ohio, an automated phone system placed 3,000 calls to the families of crime victims, notifying them that their relatives' assailants or killers had been released. That glitch resulted from a routine computer upgrade that mistakenly sent the file containing the list of the inmates' names to the company processing victim notifications. The frequency of computer glitches and humans' growing dependence on technology has led some to campaign for greater emphasis on paper dictionaries and pen-and-paper writing in schools, so that children grow up capable of retrieving information from sources other than Google. In the end, the failures of computers reflect the failures of human beings, writes Leslie Walker, and they also serve as a reminder that humans are in control of technology, and that it is humans who decide the extent to which computers infiltrate their lives.
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All-Female Computer Game-Design Team Wins Unprecedented First Prize for Cornell
Cornell News (05/23/06) Clairborne, J.R.

A Cornell University computer game-design team won the national all-female Games 4 Girls programming competition in Urbana, Ill. Sally Huang, a film major who served as manager as well as programmer, says the team focused on the social nature of girls in designing the Mario-styled interactive, two-player game, "Green, Eggs, and Pan." In addition to the competition's judges, the games were evaluated by high school girls attending the Third Annual ChicTech Retreat at the University of Illinois, where middle school and high school girls spent a late April weekend learning and having fun. "What we have are some phenomenal female game designers here at Cornell," says David Schwartz, a lecturer in computer science and director of the Game Design Initiative at Cornell (GDIAC). "To win the contest shows Cornell has its foot in the door in terms of this new area in academia." The Cornell team competed against female students in other game-design programs at the Universities of Bradley, Buffalo, and California-Irvine, and Franklin and Ohio State Universities. Other team members included programmer Dora Helen Fraeman, an independent major with a concentration in computer science; artist Brenda Chen, a biological engineering major; musician Pamela Chuang, a computer and electrical engineering major; and artist Lisa Marie Allen, a biological engineering major.
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My Friend, the Robot
CNet (05/24/06) Krazit, Tom

While robotic technology is making ever deeper inroads into the commercial sector, robots are also being widely used in other areas, such as iRobot's PackBots, which the U.S. military uses to detonate roadside bombs in Iraq. In a recent interview, iRobot CEO Colin Angle shared his thoughts on the future of robotics. When iRobot was developing the Roomba robot vacuum, one of the more popular consumer robots, the designers consciously tried to make it more functional than cute to avoid the personification problem, though Angle says that some level of identification with the device is inevitable. "It's nearly impossible not to have these emotions as you observe Roomba," Angle said. "You want it to succeed, you're cheering for it, and it is a very emotional sort of experience." Angle references the Furby, which he says sold in excess of 20 million units, as proof that consumers look to robots for companionship, regardless of whether they are built in a human form or not. The greatest potential application for robots is to help the elderly who are disinclined or unable to hire a live-in nurse to remain independent and in their own homes for longer, Angle says. Roomba already helps in combating seniors' social isolation, Angle notes, citing the testimonial of an elderly woman unable to push a vacuum who was ashamed at how dirty her home would get between visits from a cleaning company. After purchasing Roomba, she could vacuum her home whenever she wanted, and she contacted iRobot to thank them for making her feel good about entertaining guests more often. While at the end of many people's lives they will need the close care that only a hospital can provide, Angle looks to the potential of robots to administer virtual nurse's visits and ensure that the patient is taking the appropriate medication as a way of extending seniors' independence.
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Security Expert Recommends Net Diversity
Network World (05/22/06) Vol. 23, No. 20, P. 19; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

Eugene Spafford, director of Purdue University's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, says the three biggest threats to information security that multinationals are likely to face are the deployment of cost-saving or feature-enhancing resources (such as VoIP and wireless) without careful consideration of the consequences; the erosion of the network perimeter through the advent of advanced communications technologies; and excessive dependency on a small set of suppliers, leading to a situation in which a weak or failing platform type can cripple an organization. Embedding diversity within every critical infrastructure can address the threat of network homogeneity, says Spafford. "This helps ensure that some of your infrastructure will be maintained so that you can send and receive email and surf the Web even if one of your common configurations is completely blown away by some kind of attack or some kind of bug," he explains. To minimize the other two threats, Spafford recommends instilling a thorough understanding of any new technology's risks and trade-offs, and a new emphasis among IT executives on shielding individual hosts or constructing well-defined sectors. Network diversity will obviate the need for an enterprise to shut everything down and restart in the event of an automated, unobserved attack. Spafford rates network attacks by insiders such as disgruntled employees as the most potentially damaging, although he says outsider threats are growing as law enforcement fails to keep pace with the increase in online criminal activity. He gives most big multinationals a B in terms of information security, and remarks that government agencies' security is "not particularly good," while that of charities, state governments, and universities is downright shoddy. Spafford is chair of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee; http://www.acm.org/usacm.
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Power Challenges Wireless Sensor Nets
EE Times (05/22/06)No. 1424, P. 43; Mokhoff, Nicolas

Mesh network applications require the presence of energy-efficient and, ideally, self-powered microsensor nodes, and progress in this area was reported by several universities at the Nanotech 2006 conference earlier this month. MIT researchers led by Anantha P. Chandrakasan have developed an analog-to-digital converter, DSP, and radio to enable sensor nodes that are energy-scalable and efficient. A power-efficient sensor processor employs a custom CPU and instruction set to keep the instruction memory footprint to a minimum, while ultradynamic voltage scaling optimizes energy by varying supply voltage and frequency. Kensall Wise of the University of Michigan's Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS) detailed a common architecture for microsystems for various applications at Nanotech 2006. His vision of WIMS includes a power source, an embedded microcontroller, front-end sensors/microinstruments, and a wireless interface. WIMS will run on a generic platform, and their chief difference will reside in the selected front-end sensors and their software. Wise expects microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) to become socially pervasive over the next 20 years, noting that such systems "will make the automated gathering of information a reality, extending the electronic connectivity represented by personal communications and the World Wide Web to information provided directly by the environment." Purdue University researchers are working on a minuscule, battery-free "passive wireless transponder" that can be implanted within tumors to gather and relay diagnostic information, with its activation facilitated by electrical coils placed next to the patient's body.
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MBAs Go High-Tech
InfoWorld (05/22/06) Vol. 28, No. 21, P. 18; Tynan, Dan

An MBA is becoming an increasingly vital tool for IT professionals seeking to further their progress in the enterprise or to prevail in a global economy. More and more schools are offering high-tech MBA programs geared toward students rigorously versed in computer science and who have heavy work experience, with an emphasis on the novel issues associated with the integration of continuously fluctuating technology within core business functions. Northeastern University College of Business Administration professor Marc Meyer touts the project-based nature of courses taught within the school's high-tech MBA program as an advantage: "Students can apply what they learn to real live projects inside their own companies, and not to some generalized Harvard Business School case," he notes. Mixing tech with business skills is becoming a necessity in certain industries--telecommunications, for instance--due to the transition of IT's role from operational infrastructure to center of revenue. "Our students feel limited if they don't understand the marketing, market development, and sales processes behind the IT-enabled services their companies are making," remarks Meyer. The threat of offshore outsourcing is also spurring IT pros to pursue MBAs in order to increase their value to the company, making it less likely for them to lose their jobs to lower-priced workers overseas. Such personnel will probably be picked to manage teams of offshore programmers, and knowledge transfer and multiple time-zone communications are just some of the skills they need to become proficient in. Cultural disparities between workers in different countries is one aspect of globalization that is often overlooked in training programs, according to Yong Zhao with Michigan State University's U.S.-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence.
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Meet the Hackers
BusinessWeek (05/29/06)No. 3986, P. 58; Ante, Spencer E.; Grow, Brian; Olearchyk, Roman

Russian computer hackers distinct from their predecessors for their youth, organization, and brazenness are among law enforcement's most wanted cybercrooks. Factors contributing to their notoriety and success include their country's strong technical universities, low salaries, and beleaguered court system. Political tension can also hinder local law enforcement's cooperation in bringing these criminals to justice. Dmitry Golubov, a 22-year-old Ukrainian, was arrested last year for a series of cybercrimes, including credit-card fraud, allegedly perpetrated by an international gang of hackers he masterminded; yet he was released on a personal recognizance bond from two Ukrainian politicians who defended his character. Russian-born Leo Kuvayev, 34, was named in a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts last May accusing him and six accomplices of sending millions of spam emails to peddle illicit products through American and international Web-hosting servers, in violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. State officials think Kuvayev, who Spamhaus ranks as one of the world's three leading spammers, may have taken refuge in Russia, where antispamming laws are nonexistent, before he was sued. Federal law enforcement officials believe Kuvayev was making over $30 million annually through his spamming business, and he and his co-defendants were ordered by the court to pay $37 million in civil restitution for sending approximately 150,000 illegal emails. The 2005 FBI Computer Crime Survey estimated that $67 billion is lost every year to computer crime, while 87 percent of the 2,066 surveyed companies admitted to a security incident.
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The OLIN Experiment
IEEE Spectrum (05/06) Vol. 43, No. 5, P. 30; Guizzo, Erico

The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering bills itself as a place that takes a nontraditional approach to engineering education by stressing practice over theory braced by design exercises, interdisciplinary studies, and teamwork. "The urgency of reform of engineering education has been heightened in the last two or three years as we've slowly begun to recognize that we really are competing on a global playing field," says National Academy of Engineering President William Wulf, an advocate of the view that an upgrade in the U.S. engineering workforce's quantity and quality is critical if the country is to continue riding the leading edge of innovation. By tightly integrating basic disciplines with practical projects, Olin supports a model of engineer training that focuses on interdisciplinary learning, communications skills, and entrepreneurship. The establishment of Olin is one indication of a curriculum shift from theory-based learning to project-based learning. "Students start out with an audacious project, which would in many institutions be heretical, except we do that deliberately," notes Olin President Richard Miller. "Because, after all, when you get hired in a corporation, that's the first thing that happens to you: They give you a challenge for which you've not had the prerequisites." The sophistication of the design projects Olin students work on grows throughout their education, climaxing in their assumption of real engineering challenges from companies and other groups that partner with the college. Olin's advantages include its small community of exceptional students and charismatic, diverse, and mostly young teachers, which makes for enthusiastic teamwork among people who have a mutual respect and camaraderie because of similar intellects and interests.
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