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June 23, 2006

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Keeping the Trust While Under Attack: What State CIOs Need to Know About Evolving IT Threats
Government Technology (06/20/06) Asborno, Kim

Information security threats such as identity theft, fraud, and malware were discussed during a NASCIO teleconference, keynoted by Dr. Eugene Spafford at Purdue University. More than $100 billion is spent every year to fight these attacks. Government legislation such as the Real ID Act and Help America make it even easier for information to be exposed on the Web. Spafford weighed in on the alarming statistics and what proactive methods need to be implemented to safeguard networks. "In 2003-2004 we saw about 4,000 vulnerabilities reported in those [commonly used software packages]," said Spafford. "In 2005 it jumped up to about 4,600, and so far this year we are averaging about 20 per day. That's an incredible load to try to keep up with." Spafford suggested that vendors need to release more products to businesses and the government that can be trusted and he insists that firewalls are not an effective solution. Organized crime, rather than terrorism is the biggest threat to the government and it is getting worse in Eastern Europe and Africa, according to Spafford. A long-term plan that consists of policymaking, education, and enforcement is the best solution for businesses and government to fend off attacks, said Spafford. Business and the government should consider how and where information is being stored and limit connectivity. Eugene Spafford is chair of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee; http://www.acm.org/usacm http://www.govtech.net/news/news.php?id=99943
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Tech Worker Group Files Complaints Over H-1B Job Ads
IDG News Service (06/22/06) Gross, Grant

The Programmers Guild has launched its legal attack against U.S. companies that advertise their preference for hiring H-1B workers, claiming that they are in violation of the U.S. Immigration and Neutrality Act, which mandates that U.S. jobs be available to U.S. workers. Since May, the group has filed about 100 legal complaints to the Department of Justice, with plans to file roughly 280 more in the coming six months, according to John Miano, founder of the guild. "Abuse of the H-1B program has become so widespread that companies apparently feel free to engage openly" in broadcasting their preference for H-1B workers over their American counterparts, Miano said. The complaints come as tech companies are lobbying Congress to increase the annual H-1B cap of 65,000, claiming that H-1B workers are needed for positions that cannot be filled by the U.S. workforce. The Programmers Guild says it is going after companies with wording in their ads such as "We require candidates for H1B from India," and "We sponsor GC [green card] and we do prefer H1B holders." So far it has only targeted ads for computer programmers, and has not yet compiled a list of the companies that it claims are breaking the rules, though Miano says they are mostly boutique operations. The Information Technology Information Council (ITI) claims that despite the potential abuses, the cap still needs to be raised. The ITI's Kara Calvert claims that the 40 or so vendors in the trade group are not violating the laws, and that companies that do should be punished. Though the 65,000 cap has been met for the 2007 fiscal year, a sweeping immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate is likely to raise the annual limit to 115,000.
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ICANN Needs to Clamp Down on Domain Name Abuse
CNet (06/21/06) Isenberg, Doug

A debate over the purpose of the Whois database is quietly taking place, with one side arguing that the database is essential to conducting business on the Internet and another side arguing that, for privacy reasons, domain name registrants should not be forced to enter personal information into the database. Meanwhile, ICANN, which meets in Morocco June 26-30, is also pondering the issue. ICANN requires that domain name registrars collect personal information about domain name registrants, including their names and contact data, and enter it into the publicly accessible Whois database so that cybersquatters, phishers, and other online crooks can be forced out of the shadows and identified. Ensuring that the information in the Whois database remains publicly accessible is important to protecting company brands and, by extension, consumers on the Internet, but others argue that the Whois database creates privacy risks. Some cybersquatters provide false Whois information to registrars--the registrant of one particular domain name is listed as "Meow," a cat--and it can be surmised that these domain owners are up to no good. Many cybersquatters now call themselves "domainers," and an entire industry of domain name "monetization" services has allowed domainers to make money off of parked domains, many of which are suggestive of well-known brands. These monetization services, along with other dubious practices such as "domain tasting," are causing economic damage to legitimate businesses, which must spend money and resources to protect their intellectual property on the Internet. If ICANN decides to place additional restrictions on the Whois system, these companies and their consumers will suffer even greater harm, and the integrity of the Internet will be compromised, writes attorney and WIPO domain name panelist Doug Isenberg.
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Lab's Supercomputer Sets Speed Record
Inside Bay Area (CA) (06/22/06)

Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons lab have set a new record for software speed, using the world's most powerful computer to simulate the quantum interactions of metal atoms at more than 200 trillion calculations per second. The simulation modeled the behavior of 1,000 atoms of half-molten molybdenum, a piece of matter smaller than a DNA strand and undetectable even under a microscope. Unlike traditional scientific simulations that rely on physical equations, the Livermore project delved into the curious properties of quantum mechanics as they relate to electrons and subatomic forces. The project demonstrates the potential of supercomputers to explore proteins, new strains of semiconductors, and new nanotechnology materials whose behavior is largely directed by the complex and sporadic behavior of their electrons. "The electronics are really the key," said Livermore computer scientists Erik Draeger. "How the electrons form bonds and how they interact determines the properties of the material so when you make predictions, you can be confident in them." Qbox, the software used in the simulation, was written by former Livermore researcher Francois Gygi. Qbox was written specifically for Blue Gene L, the Livermore supercomputer that consists of 131,000 processors. It took two years just to get the software to run on Blue Gene L, as the researchers had to coordinate the thousands of processors while working with 6,500 GB of data. That method of programming will become more common, however, as chip makers look increasingly to multiprocessor designs. "I imagine in five or 10 years when introductory computer classes are taught, maybe in high school, people may grow up with that sort of mental model of parallel computing," said IBM's John Gunnels. The team managed to coordinate all the processors so that they ran at better than half their theoretical peak power, a rare accomplishment for most supercomputers.
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Girls Love Science at Tech Camp
Inside Bay Area (CA) (06/21/06) Mills-Faraudo, T.S.

HP Labs held its fourth annual Tech Camp this week, drawing 20 grade-school girls from the surrounding communities of Redwood City and East Palo Alto. Taking on roles as scientists, designers, and engineers, the young girls participated in a number of activities, from taking apart computers to making GPS maps. HP sees the camp as a way to get more girls interested in careers in science and technology. "We're trying to introduce them to things that they haven't experienced in school yet or at home," says April Slayden Mitchell, a software engineer at HP Labs. According to the National Science Foundation, women account for only 18 percent of the scientists and engineers in the United States, and 20 percent or less of graduates with majors in computer science, engineering, physics, and other related fields. "I think it's really cool that they're [HP Labs] doing this event, because maybe girls think that science is just for boys," says Montse Zamora, 13, an eighth-grader at Adelante Spanish Immersion Elementary School. Volunteer teacher Nancy Baugher says more emphasis should be placed on how science is taught, adding that more hands-on activities would make the subject more interesting for both girls and boys. For information on ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://women.acm.org http://www.insidebayarea.com/sanmateocountytimes/localnews/ci_3962265
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"Red" Whittaker: A Man and His Robots
BusinessWeek (06/26/06)No. 3990, P. 19; Arndt, Michael

When it comes to robotics technology, William "Red" Whittaker is a big believer in designing a robot that will have a practical application. Whittaker, director of the Carnegie Mellon University Field Robotics Center that he founded in 1986, is widely viewed as leading the way in moving robots from the assembly line and setting them free in the field. He has gone from having robots tethered by command wires, such as the Remote Reconnaissance Vehicle that delivered images from inside the contaminated nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in 1984, to designing robotic technology that will allow a tractor to operate on autopilot in a field. Deere makes use of the latter technology, which uses GPS signals and laser scanners to determine the location of the tractor, in some of its high-end models. At the machine shop of the Field Robotics Center, a rover built to explore lunar craters and a laser-guided explorer for maneuvering through mines are on display. "A vision without implementation is irresponsible," says Whittaker, 57. Last year, his team of two driverless vehicles competed in a government-sponsored race covering 132 miles in Nevada's Mojave Desert.
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Lost in a Sea of Science Data
Chronicle of Higher Education (06/23/06) Vol. 52, No. 42, P. A35; Carlson, Scott

Purdue University chemical engineering professor James Caruthers warns that without an improved methodology to store and find research data, "we are going to be more and more inefficient in the science that we do in the future." Librarians are being called upon to archive massive volumes of scientific data, but this is a tough proposition because of cultural and financial restraints: For one thing, researchers often guard their data jealously, while traditional funding entities such as the National Science Foundation are less used to bolstering infrastructure. Dean of Purdue's libraries James Mullins was inspired to archive science data by his precious experience at MIT, home of the wide-ranging DSpace archival initiative. Purdue is practically the sole supporter of the archiving project, even though librarians are collaborating with scientists and technology personnel to apply for grants. The Purdue effort will not involve centralized data storage; rather, the data will be distributed across departmental servers, faculty members' hard drives, or the multi-university-run TeraGrid. Caruthers says this will make researchers more comfortable because the data will be close by, and he also recommends using a low-cost, risk-free, and voluntary participation model. The Purdue librarians will confer with researchers and analyze the data to generate metadata, which will be posted in an publicly searchable online catalog. The Purdue project aligns well with the "Towards 2020 Science Report," a study by prominent scientists which concludes that big, centralized archives "are dangerous because the construction of data collection or the survival of one's data is at the mercy of a specific administrative or financial structure; unworkable because of scale, and also because scientists naturally favor autonomy and wish to keep control over their information."
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Of Different Minds About Modeling
SD Times (06/15/06)No. 152, P. 27; DeJong, Jennifer

Almost a decade after its creation, the meaning of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) has widened, as demonstrated by discussions with five modeling experts on UML. IBM's Bran Selic and Microsoft's Jack Greenfield foresee a transition to domain-specific languages (DSLs) and the support of code generation, model execution and verification, and other model resident metadata applications. Telelogic's Jan Popkin expects modeling to "remain the accepted communications vehicle," while PivotPoint's Cris Kobryn has high hopes about the long-term prospects of Model Driven Development (MDD) and visual modeling languages while harboring concerns about the short-term effects of UML 2.0 language bloat. Object Management Group CEO Richard Soley not only expects UML 2.0 to be extended, but also anticipates the definition of new UML-based standards. The experts offered various opinions on how development teams can enhance software development by more effectively exploiting UML-based tools: Popkin suggested using UML in an increasingly strict manner; Selic advised developers to note the value of using models and modeling tools; Soley observed that development groups are primarily employing modeling languages as sketching languages; Greenfield supported a switch to DSLs, whose tool extensibility and user interfaces outclass those of UML profiles; and Kobryn recommended that developers first evaluate UML 2.0 and UML-based tools' advantages and shortcomings, and then find out how these technologies can streamline and automate parts of the development process. The experts agreed that modeling is an important tool for software security and regulatory compliance, with Soley remarking that the ability to define business processes with UML enables compliance, while Kobryn said MDD technologies can make the specification of security and regulatory compliance services more precise. Among the reasons the panel cited for why development teams are adopting UML tools were traditional code-centered techniques' inability to support modern software's complexity, team size, error rates, less tolerance for poor quality, compliance, failure, long-term maintenance, and the need for augmented productivity.
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RFID Tags: Driving Toward 5 Cents
EDN (06/08/06) Vol. 51, No. 12, P. 69; Murray, Charles J.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags have not reached the nickel per tag price point partly out of manufacturers' hesitancy, since lower-priced tags may be less capable than higher-priced ones. "We've been talking about the mythical 5-cent price point for years. Is it possible? Yes. But it may not necessarily be the type of tag you're looking for," says Venture Development's Mike Liard. The upshot of the lack of enthusiasm for pursuing 5-cent tags is the employment of current tags in previously undreamed of applications while makers simultaneously improve RFID technology and reduce costs at about 5 percent to 10 percent annually. Experts expect RFID tags to be embedded in everyday items, while their non-line-of-sight capability can thwart theft and forgery by facilitating the gathering of location information without individual handling. There is also confidence among experts that an "Internet of things," in which nearly all conceivable items are networked together, will be facilitated by RFID technology. This would allow the instant identification of all products by anyone anywhere. Researchers expect everyday objects to feature RFID via integration within the corrugate of cardboard boxes during manufacture, instead of on sticky tags. MIT mechanical engineering professor Sanjay Sarma believes RFID technologies will proliferate when production volume hits a tipping point, reducing costs enough to encourage RFID tagging of everyday objects. Sarma says, "The question now is the tipping point. When do you get to the percentage that causes you to say, 'I'm going to put the tag inside the corrugate?' In the next year, we could see it happen."
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Xerox Looks Into Role of Images on Decisions
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (NY) (06/20/06) Rand, Ben

Xerox and several other companies believe imaging technology will one day be literally everywhere similar to the vision that many in the high-tech industry have for computer technology. A number of ubiquitous imaging projects are underway at Xerox, which says the technology is an extension of its effort to develop document-related technology that boosts productivity. "The whole idea is to make documents smarter, and images are a part of it," says Siddhartha Dalal, vice president and manager of Xerox's Imaging and Services Technology Center in Webster, N.Y. The company has developed technology that would allow a Web page to automatically reformat itself for the display device that wants to load it, such as in full graphics for a personal computer screen or links for a cell phone or PDA. Another project involves allowing images to provide information on content and layout to printers so that they can configure settings to provide the best image and the most detail. The goal is take advantage of the information from images and use it in interactions and decision-making. The challenge of processing such data in digital form is more of a financial nature than technological, says Charles Bouman, professor of electrical engineering at Purdue University.
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Advancing Scholarship & Intellectual Productivity
Educause Review (06/06) Vol. 41, No. 3, P. 44; Hawkins, Brian L.

In a recent interview, Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), discussed his thoughts on emerging technologies and collaborations that are reshaping the information landscape. CNI has partnered with the U.K. Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and, more recently, the SURF foundation in the Netherlands. Lynch touts the prospects of recent large-scale digitization projects, though he cautions that it is not enough simply to make digitized materials available, but that new systems must transform the way that information is presented so that people can actually interact with their cultural heritage. Lynch broadly defines institutional repositories as any service at the institutional level that oversees intellectual works, including the results of e-science and e-scholarship, and makes them available to the community. Initiatives to create and implement institutional repositories vary widely among different nations, Lynch said, noting that countries have different visions of how centralized and integrated their institutional repositories should be. Lynch is a vehement opponent of digital rights management, and indeed argues that the name itself is misleading, while the practice can actually violate people's legal rights. Lynch also distinguishes between mass-digitization programs and the Google Library Project. While Google's is one of the largest projects in the world seeking to digitally preserve resources, and certainly the best-known, it is scanning copyrighted materials, unlike the efforts of the Open Content Alliance, the Million Book Project, and others. Digitization is not limited to printed resources, Lynch says, adding that there are several initiatives currently underway to preserve video, sound, and images. The ability to search these collections will be a determining factor in how Lynch's vision of human interaction with resources materializes.
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An Impending Massive 3-D Mashup (Part II)
GeoWorld (06/06) Vol. 19, No. 6, P. 28; Limp, Fred

A analysis of the various techniques used to create and deliver 3D products and data reveals that the domain for such products does not reside in any traditional markets or business/technology sectors, but rather in the space between them. As a result, people who devote most of their attention to "core" business initiatives or current technology orientations will probably miss out, which is why a shift in U.S. higher education is called for. Most geospatial workflows use "standard" photogrammetric solutions for their primary input source, but as the level of detail increases, photogrammetric techniques are replaced by CAD systems and traditional surveying methods; LIDAR, aerial-mapping systems, high-density surveys, terrestrial photogrammetry, and CAD are currently the main sources of 3D data. 3D data extracted from LIDAR is the most rapidly expanding type of 3D data, while the aerial-mapping process is undergoing significant changes through innovations such as multi-push-broom sensors on aircraft. With a push-broom solution, each line of the sensor constitutes an individual image for processing, which requires the use of specialized software in order to combine the onboard GPS and Inertial Measurement Unit data. High-density surveys are becoming more prominent as a source of extremely large-scale 3D data, and the systems to facilitate such surveys are consistent in that they generate point clouds rather than information. Time-of-flight units are usually employed for larger buildings and city elements, while triangulation systems are typically used for smaller objects. Terrestrial photogrammetry is a "traditional" technique for producing fine geographic details, requiring each surface or feature of a structure to be visible in multiple images.
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Could the Internet Fragment?
IEEE Spectrum (06/06) Vol. 43, No. 6, P. 20; Minkel, J.R.

The use of native-script and alternative domain names could conceivably balkanize the Internet, according to one theory of thought. Countries such as China are pushing for the introduction of native script domains, but there are questions about whether users of Roman alphabets would be able to access such domains. "There shouldn't be any kind of local name that works only in some places, from some ISPs," cautions Paul Vixie, one of the architects of the domain name system. Alternative roots in particular have some observers worried about a fragmented Internet, but former ICANN board member Karl Auerbach indicates that there is little justification for these fears. Any root system operator that failed to carry .com would lose visibility, he says, adding that the substitution of another .com would likely prompt a successful trademark infringement lawsuit. Syracuse University's Milton Mueller scoffs at the idea that competing roots will ever rise to the level of mainstream popularity, arguing that no matter how popular they become, they will be little more than add-ons to the classic top level domains. The challenge of coordinating several hundred roots would be formidable, but not as hard as some Internet purists say it would be, according to Mueller.
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Debugging ZigBee Applications
Sensors (06/06) Vol. 23, No. 6, P. 16; Wheeler, Andy

The complexity of ZigBee wireless sensor networks lessens the effectiveness of traditional debugging methods, but new tools are emerging that can help. Greater numbers of sensors and a wider distance between them makes the collection of information via standard techniques increasingly cumbersome, which can give rise to inaccurate readings of where a malfunction is taking place, or can cause new faults to crop up. Most issues with a ZigBee HVAC system can be attributed to information overload or the failure to obtain required information because of the size of the system. Information overload can be minimized by network analyzers, which come with traditional packet sniffer capabilities in addition to support for multiple data sources and sophisticated packet activity analysis tools. Replacing traditional in-circuit debug and serial printing functions with analyzers calls for close links between the tools and a vendor's hardware, and ZigBee nodes use MCUs and radios that feature direct hardware support for network debugging. This allows for the creation of tools that can resolve many problems associated with sniffer-based tools, as well as the enablement of access to more traditional network debugging methods; the debugging integration can be executed through the use of ZigBee systems-on-chip. Among the challenges that are still unmet is the provision of processor halt/step debugging functionality in a network, and the creation of new techniques for the presentation and filtering of data collected by debugging tools as network size expands.
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Operating Systems on the Rise
Embedded Systems Design (06/06) Vol. 19, No. 6, P. 53; Turley, Jim

Embedded Systems Design's annual survey of embedded systems developers finds that around 28 percent of all embedded systems currently under development will have no operating system (OS), and this absence is especially prominent among developers of consumer, automotive, and industrial electronics; conversely, computer peripherals are most likely to feature OSes. A lack of need was the top reason provided by respondents for not including an OS, followed by the pressure an OS would put on the system's processor and/or RAM, cost, and difficulty of use. According to the poll, OSes are more likely to appear in products at larger companies than at smaller companies, while more experienced developers tend to use an OS in the current project. Of the respondents who do use an OS, 51 percent employ a commercial, off-the-shelf system; 21 percent use a proprietary, in-house, or internally developed OS; 16 percent use an open-source OS; and 11.8 percent use a commercial Linux distribution. From these findings, it can be surmised that the popularity of commercial OSes is growing dramatically, and that such OSes are taking the place of in-house OSes. Developers who opted for a commercially available OS said the choice of OS was most heavily influenced by the software staff, although the software manager also ranked highly as a decision maker. Top-ranking criteria for assessing OSes include real-time performance, processor support, software tool availability, a lack of royalties, cost, memory footprint, simplicity, and middleware availability. The survey indicates a precipitous drop in commercial and noncommercial distributions of open-source OS usage over the last year, with poor performance and/or real-time capability, support concerns, memory usage, legal ambiguousness, the state of development tools, and price cited as reasons for the decline. Over 36 percent of respondents said they would use a different OS in future projects than the one they currently use, while around 63 percent said they would keep using the same OS.
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DARPA Honors Decker for Work in Computers
UDaily (University of Delaware) (06/20/06)

DARPA has recognized University of Delaware researcher Keith Decker for his contributions to complex computer organizations, particularly in the methods by which large numbers of machines coordinate to solve problems. Praising his "foundational research in generalized coordination technologies," DARPA said that Decker's "superior research efforts and vision fostered the development of a new paradigm which enables loosely coupled distributed autonomous systems to work effectively together," noting the special significance his research has had on the Department of Defense. His research is aimed at helping military units make coordinated decisions in the field, with a parallel application for civilian responders in emergency situations. Coordination is difficult amid the chaos of the battlefield, Decker said, adding that he is attempting to develop computer systems that can monitor the status of a plan and propose alternatives, if necessary. The complex system is also intended to inform military commanders of the impact that various setbacks can have on individual units and furnish them with alternatives, and has an automated decision-making function that could be extremely helpful when a unit comes under fire. DARPA will test the technology over the next three years, at which point it could contract the system to a manufacturer for further improvements and production. Coordinating decentralized activities to solve problems is one of the central challenges for both humans and computers, particularly in an environment where circumstances change so quickly, such as a combat zone. In addition to the obvious implications for military activities, Decker sees applications in coordinating civilian activities, such as the botched response to Hurricane Katrina where the competition between agencies, policies, and authorities impeded rescue and recovery operations.
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43rd Design Automation Conference Announces Second Integrated Design Systems Workshop
Business Wire (06/19/06)

A workshop on integrated design systems will be offered at this year's Design Automation Conference (DAC) in San Francisco. The workshop is titled, "How Can We Solve the Challenges of Design System Integration?," and top design system managers and design system providers in the industry will discuss how to develop effective integrated design systems. ACM's Special Interest Group on Design Automation (ACM/SIGDA) is a sponsor of DAC, which has slated the workshop for two sessions to address the current state of integrated design systems, and to discuss persisting challenges and potential solutions. Design automation professionals who integrate and develop design systems will have an opportunity to participate in the discussion and ask questions during a closing panel. "Last year's workshop drew attention to the need to streamline integrated design systems in today's industry and was a very successful event," says John Darringer, an organizer of the workshop. "We are happy to offer this workshop again this year and look forward to discussing integrated design systems and coming up with solutions to meet these challenges." The workshop is scheduled for July 24, 2006, the first day of DAC. For more information on DAC, or to register, visit http://www.dac.com/43rd/index.html
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