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June 2, 2006

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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Association for Computing Machinery Elects Officers for 2006-2008 Term
AScribe Newswire (05/31/06)

ACM has announced the election of Stuart Feldman for a two-year term as president beginning July 1. Feldman has promised to broaden ACM's global influence, particularly in countries with rapidly growing technology industries. Feldman, the winner of the 2003 ACM Software System Award, also wants the association to exert greater influence on policy makers under his stewardship. Feldman currently serves as ACM's vice president, and has helped launch numerous programs offering technical and career assistance to computing professionals, as well as co-founding ACM Queue, ACM's publication targeting industry leaders. Wendy Hall was elected to a two-year term as vice president, and Alan Chesnais was elected to the position of secretary-treasurer. Hall, the chair of the Women's Forum of the British Computer Society, and a former society president, is also likely to bring a greater international focus to the association. Among Hall's research interests are advanced knowledge technologies, digital libraries, and the Semantic Web. Hall chaired WWW2006, a conference co-sponsored by ACM, and she is an active member of the Special Interest Group on Hypertext, Hypermedia, and Web (SIGWEB) and the Special Interest Group on Multimedia (SIGMM). Chesnais, who served as ACM SIGGRAPH president from July 2002 to June 2005, is also committed to improving ACM's international profile. Elected to four-year terms as Officers Members-at-Large were Bruce Maggs, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Google's Kevin Scott, and Jeannette Wing, head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon.
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Half of Tech Pros Planning to Look for New Jobs, Survey Says
InformationWeek (05/31/06) McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

The employment outlook for IT has improved, prompting more industry professionals to consider looking for new tech jobs. According to a new survey from staffing firm Spherion, 48 percent of IT professionals plan to look for a new IT job within the next year, an increase of 9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005. The Harris Interactive survey also reveals that only 36 percent of the overall workforce in the country plans to look for new jobs. "Tech workers tend to make job changes more frequently than other workers," says Spherion's Brendan Courtney. "They tend to be more mercenary, looking for more money, better work-life balance, working with new technologies." Tech workers were largely confident about their job security, with 70 percent adding that they did not believe their job would be eliminated within the next 12 months. During the 12 months ended March 31, tech industry employment in the United States reached a record 3.472 million workers, compared with the previous high of 3.455 million workers in the third quarter of 2001 at the height of the dot-com hiring boom. The survey is in line with an InformationWeek Research report conducted this spring that found 41 percent of IT staff were "somewhat" or "actively" looking for a new job.
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Internet Firms Told to Keep Records on Customers Longer
Washington Post (06/02/06) P. D5; Sherman, Mark

Internet companies have been instructed by leading law enforcement officials to hold onto customer records for a longer period of time in order to help in investigations of terrorism and child pornography, and a meeting between industry representatives and Justice Department officials to discuss the issue is scheduled for today. Privacy concerns were raised by ISP executives a week earlier at a conference with FBI director Robert Mueller III and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, where the issue of longer record retention was first brought up, according to Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand on Thursday. Gonzales has said that some child pornography investigations have been hampered because Internet firms do not keep records long enough. Brand said Gonzales has not yet decided how to move forward and that the Justice Department would give privacy consideration. She insisted that whatever proposal is presented would not mandate the preservation of customers' communications content. The information would be held by the companies, and could be acquired by the government through legal channels. No sweeping requirements exist for preservation of data, though federal authorities can request the maintenance of records for as long as half a year if there is suspicion of criminal activity. Google made an official statement that "Any proposals related to data require careful review and must balance the legitimate interests of individual users, law enforcement agencies and Internet companies."
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Digital Dialogue: And Now, the Answers
International Herald Tribune (05/31/06) Shannon, Victoria

Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee answered a series of online questions concerning the neutrality, accessibility, and future of the Internet during the International World Wide Web Conference last week. Berners-Lee addressed one query by stating the that Net is not free in terms of "zero-cost," but is free in terms of communication. He added that this openness is under threat in the United States by telecom companies seeking to establish a fastlane for video and other kinds of bandwidth-heavy content via high-speed Internet connections so that such content can be prioritized for a fee. Berners-Lee does not think the death of the Internet's neutrality--and thus its diversity--is unavoidable, and is confident that "the public will push for the real Internet." Several questions focused on the development of the Semantic Web, and Berners-Lee replied that Semantic Web technology is starting to permeate the mainstream, although its progress varies by field: He noted that the life sciences field is a particularly fervent center of development, while both large and small companies are rolling out products based on the Semantic Web. A related question prompted Berners-Lee to postulate that the proliferation of the Semantic Web is being hindered by the "network effect," in which its chief value--being able to link data to all kinds of other data--is largely unknown by the community at large because of its sparse presence. One person asked what the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) can do to ensure that international organizations and government comply with W3C guidelines for providing Web accessibility for the disabled, and Berners-Lee replied that the consortium can educate and coordinate discussions of the issue, but cannot enforce the guidelines. He responded to a question about the Net's status in the next one to two decades by offering an idealized vision of a system characterized by universality, collaborative spaces, access to all expected data on the Semantic Web, and a balance between privacy expectations and the transparency needed to enforce them.
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Q&A With IBM's Blue Gene/L Chief Architect
HPC Wire (06/02/06) Vol. 15, No. 22,

In a recent interview, IBM Fellow Alan Gara, the chief designer of the Blue Gene supercomputer, shared his thoughts about the Blue Gene architecture and the general nature of supercomputing. Blue Gene addressed the issue of power efficiency, which Gara believes is the fundamental constraint holding back the improvement of supercomputing performance. Blue Gene's combination of a smaller size, an inexpensive design, and low power consumption has opened a whole new set of applications for supercomputing. Gara describes the move toward massive parallelism in computing architecture as a paradigm shift, leading to systems that process computations of unprecedented complexity while only consuming a fraction of the energy required by the fastest systems that exist today. One of the most significant challenges Gara faced in developing Blue Gene was designing software that could be scaled to more than 100,000 processors. Gara says that his team followed the principles of simplicity, performance, and familiarity as they developed the Blue Gene software. The developers imposed a simplifying rule that ensures that a Blue Gene partition can only run one parallel job at a time. IBM is still committed to its goal of creating a petaflop computer, Gara says, noting that Blue Gene was the first step in that direction. Gara predicts a flurry of advances in supercomputing over the next 10 years, particularly as silicon ceases to offer improvements in energy consumption.
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Microsoft in India
Technology Review (06/01/06) Roush, Wade

Microsoft recently followed IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and other major computer companies in opening a research facility in India, though the country could be especially important for Microsoft as it tries to claim a greater share of India's rapidly growing desktop market for its Windows or Office software. In a recent interview, Microsoft Research India's Kentaro Toyama discussed the new center's operations and objectives. Toyama describes India as a unique research environment, home to a booming technology economy while much of its population still lives in poverty. India is a natural environment for Microsoft's research about the role of computing in poor communities, Toyama says. The center is currently focusing its research on six areas: photography, digital geographies, multilingual systems such as speech recognition and natural language processing, communications hardware, software engineering, and emerging markets. With 22 officially recognized languages, India is also an ideal setting for research into multilingual computer applications. In the area of software engineering, Microsoft Research India is examining the issues that arise when trying to create software while collaborating with teams in other parts of the world. When Microsoft researchers found that many rural schools do not have enough PCs for each child to use, they set about developing technology to enable multiple users to interact with the existing PC, such as the application that accommodates as many mice as there are USB ports on the computer. Engaging multiple children in the operation of a PC helps to do away with the common scenario of a group of children clustered around a computer watching a dominant child, usually a boy, monopolize the mouse and keyboard.
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Building New Cultural Knowledge Services With BRICKS
IST Results (06/02/06)

The IST-funded BRICKS project is developing the infrastructure for cultural institutions to preserve and share their digital content. Libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions will be able to use the open-source software at no cost. A recent conference highlighted the program's growing popularity. "Around 30 organizations attended the conference and all of them wanted to join the BRICKS community," said Silvia Boi, communications director of the program. "Many of them believe we can help solve some of their problems by increasing their visibility and helping them to do more with the cultural resources they have." The visibility of digital content can be limited because digital resources are often stored in centralized libraries, and many institutions have not made their content available on the open Web due to copyright issues. To address that issue, the BRICKS software provides an interoperable, vendor-neutral system for dealing with intellectual property issues. BRICKS will be especially beneficial for smaller institutions that often lack the resources to maintain their own systems. Each institution will be a node on an infinitely scalable network modeled after peer-to-peer architecture. Institutions that have their own systems for storing and distributing content can still deploy the BRICKS system because of the modular nature of the software. The project has developed four vertical applications based on the decentralized network structure, including an application that compiles and distributes information about different archaeological sites that enables them to be recreated online in multimedia formats. A Living Memory function allows users to annotate content with their memories or feelings, creating "new cultural knowledge" while providing access to existing content. Another tool allows for the retrieval and comparison of different historical texts. The other application is designed to help smaller institutions manage their collections more effectively.
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Experts to Discuss Future of Robotics
Indiana Daily Student (06/01/06) Cunningham, Matt

Biologically inspired robots were the focus of much of the initial discussion at the International Conference on Development and Learning (ICDL), which got underway Wednesday at Indiana University. John Lipinski, a researcher at the University of Iowa, says combining linguistics and non-linguistic spatial learning has the potential to be very helpful in autonomous robots. In particular, Lipinski says his research could impact the vision systems of robots, and may be used to teach direction-oriented language to a robot so that it could coordinate in its environment. Co-sponsored by the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society, ICDL has drawn representatives from organizations such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the MIT Media Lab, and Microsoft Research to IU through June 3 to discuss the direction of artificial intelligence. IU psychology chairwoman Linda Smith notes that AI has drawn upon research from a number of disciplines, from robotics and neuroscience to computer science and engineering, adding that the areas have become more closely related. At IU, 69 graduate students in psychology are pursuing joint PhDs in cognitive science. "Although some AI systems are really good at some stuff like [older artificial intelligence technology] can play chess, to really move to the next generation of robots the idea is to use what we know," says Smith, who is involved in the Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures initiative of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). "Understanding the role of development will play a role in the next generation of robots."
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Military Getting High-Tech Help From SRI Lab
San Francisco Chronicle (05/29/06) P. E1; Abate, Tom

Researchers at SRI International have developed a two-way language translation computer for the Defense Department that could help U.S. soldiers communicate with native Iraqis. The department has already shipped 32 of the IraqComm systems to U.S. military personnel to test in the field. IraqComm has a vocabulary of 40,000 English words and 50,000 Iraqi Arabic words, and is not designed for complex or wide-ranging conversations. SRI demonstrated the system at its headquarters where computer scientist Harry Bratt played the role of U.S. soldier questioning Saad Alabbodi, an Iraqi immigrant posing as a civilian in his native country. IraqComm does not provide perfect translations, but its audio playback is close enough to convey the basic meaning of a conversation, at least in situations without a lot of background noise and where both parties speak in short sentences. The Defense Department and other agencies have ramped up funding for machine translation programs since the Sept. 11 attacks, with particular emphasis on Arabic languages such as Pashto and Dari. The system is housed in a durable laptop complete with a microphone and a host of SRI software. The project comes after another Defense Department-funded initiative called the Phraselator, a rugged handheld designed to recognize 800 to 1,000 English phrases. While IraqComm represents a big step forward, human interpreters are still vastly superior given their ability to determine from context which of two or more possible meanings of a word applies, such as whether the word "trunk" refers to an elephant or a car. SRI's Doug Bercow believes that it could be five to 10 years before two-way machine translation can be put to practical use, even in confined settings under ideal conditions.
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A Gem of a Language for Java and .Net
DevX News (05/26/06) Patrizio, Andy

Since the release of Ruby on Rails last year, the development community has given the Ruby programming language a fresh look. Originally developed in 1993 by a Japanese programmer, Ruby is a dynamic language that is five times more powerful than the static C++, according to the Burton Group's Richard Monson-Haefel. In essence, what Ruby can accomplish in one line of code would require five lines of code in C++. Two new projects are attempting to broaden the base of Ruby by bringing the language to the .Net and Java environments. "You get the productivity of a dynamic language and the extensibility of these ecosystems," Monson-Haefel said. "Dynamic languages don't have a lot of libraries. They often have trouble taking off because they don't have the library support you see with Java and .Net." Sun has unofficially endorsed the JRuby project to bring Ruby to Java, but Microsoft has shown no signs of support for the Ruby-on-.Net project Iron Ruby. IronRuby is the work of Wilco Bauwer, a college student in the Netherlands and a former Microsoft intern. His project rewrites Ruby in Microsoft's C#, compiling the code to MSIL. "I figured that if people love Ruby so much, why not let people write Ruby for .Net as well?" Bauwer said in an email interview. At the recent JavaOne conference, Sun expressed its interest in making the Java platform multilingual, according to Charles Nutter, one of the Java consultants who launched the JRuby project. Nutter and his partner Thomas Enebo presented their research at JavaOne with Sun's approval. The maturity of Java enables JRuby to connect to any JDBC database with the JDBC driver, while Ruby on Rails would typically need one driver for each database it tries to connect to.
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The Future of the IT Organisation
ComputerWeekly.com (05/30/2006) Bradbury, Danny

ICANN's control over the Domain Name System and the U.S. government's sway over Internet governance has many calling for international oversight. ICANN has recently come under fire for its deal with VeriSign that, despite opposition from 40 percent of ICANN's members, gave the latter control of the .com domain in essence forever, along with the ability to raise registration charges in exchange for an end to litigation over ICANN's forced closure of VeriSign's Sitefinder service. Critics are questioning why two or more companies can't be charged with overseeing dot-com. "The problem is that you cannot go faster than the speed of light," says ICANN CEO Paul Twomey. "If you set up two registries to operate .com, and you registered a domain in one and I tried to register one in the other, it is feasible that you could end up with a domain registered to two people." So what about a two-phase commit database? "Who pays for it?" asks Twomey. Meanwhile, some are taking the initiative to create their own domain naming system. New.net used a browser plug-in to translate non-standard TLDs such as .books into a domain-like .books.new.net, much to ICANN's disapproval. China has also used a plug-in to convert what looks like .com in Chinese into .com.cn. Another issue gaining attention on the world of the Web is "Net neutrality," though this transcends borders. Network builders want content providers to subsidize the cost of the cable and fiber systems they are laying down instead of having to pass on all of the costs to consumers. "Customers should not be the only ones to pay for this new world," says Deutsche Telecom CEO Kai-Uwe Ricke. "Web companies that use this infrastructure for their business should also make a contribution...If customers are not willing to pay and Google and [others] are not willing to pay, there will not be any high-speed data highways."
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Robot Hand Controlled by Thought Alone
New Scientist Tech (05/26/06) Knight, Will

Researchers in Japan have used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique to control a robotic hand through the power of thought. Yukiyasu Kamitani and colleagues at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto were assisted by researchers at the Honda Research Institute in Saitama in developing the fMRI scanning technology. In a demonstration, the researchers had a subject lay inside an MRI scanner, then make "rock, paper, scissor" shapes with a hand. The MRI scanner recorded brain activity as the subject made the movements with her hand, and delivered the data to a connected computer. A brief training period ensued before the computer made the connection between brain activity and the corresponding shape, and then commanded the robotic hand to mimic the rock, paper, and scissor hand movements. The real-time fMRI on brain activity is considered a breakthrough in research into prosthetics and the operation of computers using the power of thought. Although Klaus-Robert Mueller, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, has some concerns about the cost and complexity of the system, he says it produces higher resolution. "We will need several breakthroughs in related technologies, including those for brain scanning hardware, before this type of non-invasive systems will be used in daily life," says Kamitani.
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Mars Robots to Get Smart Upgrade
BBC News (05/28/06) Amos, Jonathan

NASA plans to provide its Mars rovers with new software in the next month that will enable the robots to sift through images of clouds and dust devils, and decide which pictures to send back to Earth. For the space agency's researchers, searching through the images for the most significant data is a task that requires an inordinate amount of time. "The idea now is to collect as much data as the instrument can, analyze them onboard for features of specific interest, and then down-link only the data that have the highest priority," says Rebecca Castano, who works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Later in the year, the Mars Odyssey orbiter, which has been mapping the planet for the past five years, will receive new autonomous flight software. The success of the implementation of Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment software on NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite has prompted the agency to seriously consider autonomous operation to be the future of its robotic craft. Though it would typically take several weeks to discover that a remote volcano was active, autonomous software reprogrammed the EO-1 camera to take more pictures of Mt Erebus as soon as it detected heat from the lava lake at the mountain's summit in 2004. "This has helped us reduce the operations cost of this mission from $3.6 million to $1.6 million a year--over half that reduction was directly attributed to the onboard automation that we're talking about," says Steve Chien, principal investigator for autonomous sciencecraft at JPL.
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Data Mining: The New Weapon in the War on Terrorism?
Federal Computer Week (05/29/06) Vol. 20, No. 17, P. 38; Sternstein, Aliya

The data-mining technology needed to support a massive government initiative to ferret out terrorists through analysis of phone records will be costly and computationally intensive, and could compromise the privacy of ordinary U.S. citizens. While it is uncertain if the government is actually using data-mining techniques to sift through the tens of millions of records it has collected from Verizon, BellSouth, and AT&T, it would need supercomputers comparable to IBM's Blue Gene to derive meaningful information from a dataset so large, says Nathan Hoskin of Planning Systems. Hoskin estimates that such a system would cost between $20 million and $50 million. To effectively mine the data, the system would use clustering algorithms to focus on relationships between similar data, link analysis to find connections between disparate data, and rule mining to find patterns within the data. Privacy advocates warn that giving the government unfettered access to citizens' phone records, even in the name of fighting terrorism, could lead to a host of civil rights violations without ever producing a lead. Critics have compared the possible data-mining initiative to the aborted Total Information Awareness program envisioned by the Defense Department to preemptively combat terrorist attacks by analyzing patterns within a huge repository of electronic data. Data-mining experts say that even if the phone companies are not turning over customers' personal identifying information such as names and street addresses, the government could easily retrieve that information from other databases and services. While data mining does not go as far as wiretapping, privacy advocates warn that the threat is very real. "Listening to the content of calls is more intrusive, but nobody should underestimate the privacy invasion that's involved in tracing who's talking to whom," said the ACLU's Jay Stanley, adding that mining records of phone calls for terrorists is inefficient and tantamount to labeling the entire U.S. population as suspects.
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U.S. Holds Own vs. China, India Engineer Grads
EE Times (05/29/06)No. 1425, P. 1; Riley, Sheila

The Duke University researchers who debunked the often repeated fear that the United States is falling behind China and India in the number of engineering graduates it produces each year testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce last month. "It's contrary to what everyone else is saying," said Vivek Wadhwa, an adjunct professor at Duke. The study found that China and India are not producing nearly as many graduates as is widely believed, and that U.S. engineers are most likely better trained, because China and India both include graduates of two- and three-year school in their totals, and China has a looser definition of what constitutes an engineer. When a visiting Chinese scholar told the Duke researchers that the numbers they used in their original December report were inaccurate, they began contacting China's engineering schools directly and found that the reporting varied from school to school, rather than from province to province, as they had earlier assumed. Ultimately, the researchers were unable to make a meaningful comparison between the United States and China, though the 2005 data showed that 77 Chinese universities demonstrated "significant increases" in the number of engineering graduates compared with 2005. "The ambiguity of numbers is a problem with Chinese statistics and business in general, because of the really top-down nature of the Chinese government," said George Haley, a professor of industrial marketing at the University of New Haven. Haley said the government issues a quota of engineers which the universities find a way to meet, and often exceed, though that does not translate into qualified engineers by U.S. standards. "My conclusion is that China is graduating more engineers than the U.S. in raw numbers, and that those numbers are very high," said Wadhwa. "However, their focus is on quantity, not quality."
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Code Warriors Battle On
Washington Technology (05/29/06) Vol. 21, No. 10, P. 20; Beizer, Doug

In an effort to update the methods of encryption used by the intelligence community, the NSA and the Defense Department have implemented an ongoing program called the Cryptographic Modernization Initiative. "In the encryption world, probably on a timeframe of every seven to 10 years, there's a need for new encryption algorithms," says SafeNet Chairman Anthony Caputo. "Because every year, the enemy or hackers' tools are getting better, periodically you have to increase the strength of the encryption algorithms. That's what the Cryptographic Modernization [Initiative] does." A major change in the encryption world came when the National Institute of Standards and Technology adopted the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) in 1991, according to Alan Sherman, associate professor of computer science at the University of Maryland. The old system was designed for 56-bit technology, while the current AES is fixed at 128 bits with key sizes of 128, 192, or 256 bits. SafeNet has received approval from the NSA to develop a classified version of its 10-Gigabit SafeEnterprise Sonet Encryptor for use in federal intelligence agencies and defense and civilian groups. SafeNet's system consists of small, special-purpose computers that encrypt and decrypt traffic at the endpoints of communication nodes. Cryptography experts claim that while software-based encryption is sufficient for most IP traffic, only hardware encryption protects both the algorithm and the encryption key. "Our devices in the field today have encryption algorithms much stronger than commercial encryption algorithms, but you still need to periodically strengthen algorithms to make sure the communications links continue to have good security," Caputo said. In addition to intelligence, government agencies use encryption to protect information such as health and tax records, and Sherman notes the potential applications in securing e-voting systems.
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Predict the Future--Or Try, Anyway
InformationWeek (05/29/06)No. 1091, P. 38; Whiting, Rick

Business intelligence is migrating to the predictive analytics model, in which historical data is run through mathematical algorithms to outline trends and patterns to make educated guesses about future outcomes. Predictive analytics is being embedded by vendors into common business decision-making processes, and IDC is projecting an 8 percent annual increase in predictive analytics software sales revenues to $3 billion by 2008. Domains where predictive analytics tools are finding use include marketing, health care, inventory and supply chain management, law enforcement and crime deterrence, and accident prevention. Companies' growing interest in these tools is based on the ever-increasing amount of data they collect via more powerful and affordable computers. Tibco Software CEO Vivek Ranadive foresees the broad adoption of predictive analytics software to improve customer retention, boost the efficiency of the supply chain, and keep inventory up to date. And, although University of Rhode Island computer science and statistics professor Lutz Hamel cautions that predictive analytics could never be used to predict the outcome of the stock market due to the overwhelming number of variables, the technology is already being profitably employed to predict short-term trading trends. Perhaps the ultimate application of predictive analytics will be to mine unstructured Internet content. However, vendors must be careful not to overhype their products' predictive abilities, since their accuracy varies with the complexity of the scenario being evaluated, the variables that come into play, and the volume and quality of the supporting data. There are also ethical concerns about predictive analytics, such as whether the technology will facilitate discrimination based on mass profiling; but responsible employment will reside with equally responsible deployment.
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TinyOS: Operating System Design for Wireless Sensor Networks
Sensors (05/06) Vol. 23, No. 5, P. 14; Culler, David E.

TinyOS, an operating system specifically designed for wireless sensor networks (WSNs), supports structured event-driven execution and component-based software that focuses a great deal of concurrency in a small footprint, augments robustness, and maximizes energy efficiency while effecting deployment of refined algorithms and protocols. Structured event-driven execution supports the evolution of hardware through the replacement of components, while the modular architecture affords flexibility, stability, and programming simplicity. TinyOS is usually configured as a quintet of subsystems--sensors/actuators, communications, storage, timers, and processor/power management--that serve as a platform for higher-level services. Networking tiers aimed at disparate applications with different methods for discovery, routing, power reduction, reliability, and congestion control have been developed by the TinyOS community, and they supply embedded applications with higher-level communication services via a TinyOS programming interface. Reliable dissemination, aggregate data collection, and directed routing constitute the most broadly used WSN services. The TinyOS community has an international reach, and its members include academic and industrial researchers and developers. The maturation of WSN technology carries with it the ability to observe points and phenomena that previously could not be observed because of access, mobility, or distance limitations.
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A Broadband Utopia
IEEE Spectrum (05/06) Vol. 43, No. 5, P. 48; Cherry, Steven

In a perfect world, broadband subscribers would receive their phone, TV, and Internet services from their own pick of providers, and the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (Utopia) is realizing this vision by delivering such services to customers in 14 Utah cities at data rates that are at least 10 times that of the local incumbent phone company's DSL service. The Utopia network can deliver services that are cheaper and richer, as well as faster. Utopia's lower costs will be a definite plus for businesses, and the ability for multiple services providers to peacefully coexist on the network will supply them with a vast reserve of bandwidth, giving consumers the luxury of choice. Utopia, which is a nonprofit government agency identified as an offshoot of the municipalities that made it, owns the physical network, while the for-profit DynamicCity of Utah is contracted to operate and maintain the network; being a municipal project allows Utopia to be funded by bonds, whose long maturation period and lower interest compared to commercial capital financing offer considerable advantages. Utopia reimburses its bonds by taking a fee whenever a service provider signs up a homeowner for one of its services, and Utopia believes it can sustain itself if one-third of the qualifying homes sign up for at least one service. The legislation that cleared the way for Utopia was Utah's Municipal Cable Television and Public Telecommunications Services Act of 2001, which included an exemption that permitted the construction of municipal networks, provided the municipality does not sell retail services to homeowners. The Utopia network is designed so that individual homeowners own the bandwidth traveling the last few hundred meters to their households, and the network is dramatically streamlined by its reliance on the Ethernet standard to relay Internet Protocol data packets to the individual subscriber from the central office. DynamicCity CTO Jeff Fishburn reports that Utopia's cost per subscriber will hold steady even as homeowner rates approach 1 Gbps, and the network would have to undergo few modifications for each subscriber to have up to 1 Gbps now.
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