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July 12, 2006

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Association for Computing Machinery, IEEE Computer Society Award Computer Architecture Honors to James H. Pomerene
AScribe Newswire (07/10/06)

ACM and the IEEE Computer Society presented the 2006 Eckert-Mauchly Award to James H. Pomerene at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture last month in Boston. The top award of the computer architecture community was created to honor researchers who have helped advance computer and digital systems architecture, and Pomerene is a pioneer in the field. Pomerene was an early contributor to the concepts of cache, reliable memories, pipelining, and branch prediction. He was the chief engineer when the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., built the first electronic digital computer in the early 1950s, and helped IBM unveil the first supercomputer in 1962 and an early parallel machine in 1965. The Parallel Network Digital Computer (PNDC) led to his advances in highly available memory systems. The holder of 17 patents, Pomerene is the author and co-author of a number of technical papers. The Eckert-Mauchly Award comes with a $5,000 prize. For more information about the Eckert-Mauchly Award, visit http://awards.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=0261910&srt=year&year=2006&aw=148&ao=E CKMAUCH
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Data Miners Dig a Little Deeper
USA Today (07/12/06) P. 1B; Kessler, Michelle; Acohido, Byron

Many companies are using sophisticated data-mining techniques to compile information about their customers that are so advanced many people may not even know that they are being monitored. In an effort to remain competitive with their online counterparts, brick-and-mortar stores are ramping up their own data-collection initiatives. Companies claim that they preserve their customers' privacy by using information responsibly. Yahoo!, for instance, maintains a ban on selling information from its customer registration lists, and Microsoft claims that it only purchases average income data by ZIP code, rather than individuals' specific earning histories. But corporate data-mining activities pose a problem for privacy advocates. "How can you provide that kind of useful information without violating the privacy of individuals?" asks Stanford University professor Hector Garcia-Molina, who is developing tools to prevent databases from collecting too much information. Registered Yahoo! users, for instance, should know that their every move within the company's network is being monitored so that it can better target its advertising placements. Online retailers use cookies to track their customers' Web-surfing histories. Brick-and-mortar retailers collect basic customer profiles through loyalty cards. As companies amass ever-greater troves of information, the demand for data-mining software is on the rise, with sales up 30 percent since 2000. IBM's Jeff Jonas, who developed a software application that can identify patterns in relationships between people, a program that has been widely used by Las Vegas casinos, believes that the answer to privacy advocates' concerns is better disclosure. "I would like to do business with companies who are using my data the way I expect them to," he says. "I want to avoid surprise."
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Election Corrections
U.S. News & World Report (07/09/06) Brush, Silla

Nearly six years after the disastrous 2000 election, and four years after the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), significant problems remain in the nation's voting systems, despite the expenditure of billions of dollars to replace outdated equipment. "We've made some substantial progress," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who co-sponsored the 2002 election reform law, "but there is a lot left to be done." Much of the $3.8 billion earmarked under HAVA went to replace lever and punch-card machines, though $800 million has yet to be appropriated. Thanks to the new systems, around 1 million votes were recorded in 2004 that would not have been counted in 2000, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project found. While the improvements may be cause for celebration, the security flaws that have accompanied the new machines have touched off a fierce debate among lawmakers, election officials, and security experts. In at least seven states, activists have filed lawsuits to block the use of e-voting machines that do not produce a verifiable paper trail. With the passage of legislation requiring voter-verified paper trails, 26 states have tried to put security concerns to rest, though a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that the three most commonly used systems are vulnerable to more than 120 security threats, such as implanting malicious software in a machine via a wireless device. Another HAVA provision, the creation of statewide voter databases to ensure that no eligible voters are left off the registration lists, has taken a backseat to the security debate, though it too has turned out to be costly and time-consuming to implement. The absence of national oversight of the election process is also troubling, as the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, created under HAVA, is still struggling to solidify its funding and authority. For information on ACM's e-voting activites and recent report visit http://www.acm.org/usacm
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Trust in Global Computing
IST Results (07/12/06)

The same security concerns that plague the Internet also threaten to undermine the promise that access to distributed mobile resources holds for global computing. To shore up global-computing resources, researchers working under the MYTHS project have developed "type-based" theories that express an unvarying aspect of a program or code. "Your piece of software, alone and out there in the wild, doesn't know who to trust and who not!" says project coordinator Vladimiro Sassone. "That is why closed networks exist. In a global computing environment you do not have the reassurance of a closed network--you are dealing with agents that you cannot trust." Software agents face their greatest challenge in environments where they have limited information--environments where other agents might not be trustworthy. Improved security will be essential for the ongoing development of the Internet and agent-based services. Domains will have to restrict agents' access, while agents themselves will need to guard against attacks. Type-based security can be verified simply by inspecting the code, while in other applications the programs must actually be executed to ensure security, according to Sassone. The MYTHS researchers concentrated on the fundamental aspects of programming languages and the core elements that enable static detection of security violations. The team developed methods to control resource access, conduct crypto-protocol analysis, and manipulate XML data.
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University Gets NSF Grant to Figure Out Rubik's Cube
Computerworld (07/10/06) Fisher, Sharon

Researchers in the computer science and electrical and computer engineering departments at Northeastern University in Boston are getting 20 TB of storage as a result of a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will give them access to five times more storage capacity than they normally have for a single project. Gene Cooperman, director of the Institute for Complex Scientific Software, will use the large storage space to study how Rubik's Cubes can serve as a model for the combinatorial problems that arise in science and operations research. "Operations research is about efficiently using resources," says Cooperman. "The Rubik's Cube is the same kind of mathematical problem." He believes his findings will be helpful in addressing operations research problems with business applications, such as helping to discover the best way to deliver goods to consumers. Other Northeastern researchers will use the storage space for a security project that will involve tracking electronic messages to look for security-related trends and indicators in magnetic resonance imaging scans, analyzing viruses, and creating a honeypot computer to lure hackers.
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Design Automation Conference Professional Development Fund to Award More Than $165,000
Business Wire (07/10/06)

The electronic design automation (EDA) industry will award more than $165,000 in professional development funds to professionals and students in the EDA field during the 43rd Design Automation Conference (DAC). Up to seven high school students from underrepresented groups in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering will receive $4,000 each year, renewable for up to five years, through the P.O. Pistilli Advancement in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Program. ACM's Special Interest Group on Design Automation (ACM/SIGDA) will join DAC and EDAC in contributing $42,000 through the SIGDA/DAC University Booth Program to help the university community travel to DAC and set up demonstrations of EDA tools and projects. Also, the Young Student Support Program will provide $28,000 for registration fees, banquet tickets, and the travel expenses of students attending industry events; the DAC Graduate Scholarships Program will provide $48,000; and the DAC/ISSCC Student Design Contest will award more than $19,000 for promising electronic systems. Over the past 12 years, DAC and its supporting societies have awarded more than $3.57 million in professional development funds. "DAC has a strong commitment to supporting continuing education through the professional development fund," says 2005 DAC Chair William Joyner, overseer of the DAC Professional Development Fund. "It has a tremendous impact on the EDA community and helps contribute to the future success of the industry." DAC is scheduled for July 24-28, 2006, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. For more information on DAC, or to register, visit http://www.dac.com/43rd/index.html
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SIGGRAPH 2006 in Boston: New Technology Corrects Blurry Photographs
Business Wire (07/11/06)

Top researchers will present a method for transforming a seriously blurred photograph into a clear image during ACM's SIGGRAPH 2006, the 33rd International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. The ground-breaking technology will be presented as part of the SIGGRAPH 2006 Papers Program, which is scheduled to open July 31, 2006 at 8:30 a.m. and end Aug. 3 at 5:30 p.m. The research paper, "Removing Camera Shake From a Single Photograph," will be presented Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 3:45 p.m. Photographic examples of the technique, which assumes a uniform blur of an image and negligible in-plane camera rotation, are available upon request. Camera shake and image blur ruin the photographs of millions of people each year. SIGGRAPH 2006 will be held in Boston from July 30 through Aug. 3. The conference and exhibition are expected to attract nearly 25,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals from around the world. For more information about SIGGRAPH, or to register, visit http://www.siggraph.org/s2006/
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Game on: UCSC Will Offer Video Game Design Major This Fall
Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA) (07/11/06) King, Matt

Starting this fall, the University of California, Santa Cruz, will offer a major in computer game design, earning students a bachelor's degree in computer science. The program, the first of its kind to be offered in the UC system, will teach students about the technical, narrative, and artistic aspects of interactive games. "Millions now play massively multi-player online games, which constitute a new cultural force," said Warren Sack, assistant professor of film and digital media at UCSC. "Digital media courses will provide students with the tools they need to understand this cultural transformation." The new program is also seen as a way to boost enrollment in the school's computer science program. UCSC is developing a new lab to support the program, and has recruited renowned game-design professor Michael Mateas. With the video-game industry having tripled in the last decade, EA Sports is having difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill its positions, according to company spokeswoman Tammy Schacter. As the gaming industry continuously expands into areas such as education and cell phones, a solid background in computer science and game design could lead to a stable and well-paying job, according to Ailive's John Funge. Though gaming has grown into a $7 billion industry, some still consider the field frivolous. "That was a big concern for us," said Ira Pohl, chair of the computer science department. "I think the thing that mediates that is that the program is what we call computer-science heavy. We're creating a new degree that has the right amount of artistic creativity with rigorous computer science."
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This Is a Computer on Your Brain
Wired News (07/12/06) Sandhana, Lakshmi

Working under DARPA funding, researchers at Columbia University have developed a new brain-computer-interface technology that could enable people to search through images 10 times faster than human capacity will allow. DARPA says the technology, known as C3 Vision, or the cortically coupled computer vision system, will make the job of federal agent easier by allowing them to rapidly process hours of video footage. The system taps into the ability of the brain to recognize an image far more quickly than the person can identify it. "Our human visual system is the ultimate visual processor," said Paul Sajda, director of the Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing at Columbia University. "We are just trying to couple that with computer-vision techniques to make searching through large volumes of imagery more efficient." The signal that the brain emits when it observes something of interest can be detected by an electroencephalogram. The technology, which ranks images according to the neural signatures the brain emits as users comb through video footage or streaming images, is the first computer-vision system that links to the human brain. "The major weakness of computer-vision systems today is their narrow range of purpose," said Steven Gordon, professor of information systems and technology at Babson College. While existing computer systems are largely unable to spot suspicious activities, humans are quite skilled at detecting them. The system's strength comes from the synergistic combination of computer vision and human cortical vision.
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Open Source Casts New Mold for Type Design
CNet (07/11/06) Shankland, Stephen

Though traditionally devoted to programming, the open-source movement has also been extended to type design. Partnering with the GNOME Foundation, Bitstream released a font family called Vera in 2003. Intended for open-source use, Vera was available for anyone to use to create their own type, so long as the result was given a different name. Though Vera now is essentially dormant, one of its derivatives, DejaVu, has become the default font for the latest update to Ubuntu Linux, Dapper Drake, and it could soon be adopted as the default for Red Hat's Fedora. "DejaVu, from purely a user perspective, seems to be the one that has the momentum and benefits behind it," said Rahul Sundaram, a board member for the Fedora Project. Fonts are typically proprietary designs belonging to foundries, though developers working to improve GNOME and other graphical applications in an attempt to make Linux an increasingly viable alternative to Windows recognize the importance of having their own fonts. Updated monthly, DejaVu has characters that support a host of international languages, including Chinese, Cyrillic, and Arabic. Stepan Roh launched the DejaVu project in March 2004 because Vera was missing certain glyphs that he needed for the Czech language. Like many open-source projects, DejaVu began with its creator developing small programs that automated the work of others, and gradually a community developed. "Whenever I heard about or found a new Vera derivative and decided that it was worth merging (because) it had superior design or superior glyph coverage, I asked the author for permission," Roh said.
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WPI to Host Gathering of Indoor Personnel Location and Tracking Experts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (07/07/06)

Early next month, Worcester Polytechnic Institute will host a conference for researchers in the emerging field of indoor personnel location and tracking. Indoor positioning tracking has proved a unique challenge, as the signals from GPS satellites, though capable of pinpointing one's location to within a few feet, have trouble inside buildings, where their accuracy is degraded by bouncing off walls and other surfaces. The WPI's personnel location and tracking research group is developing radio and radar technology to determine the location of first responders inside buildings. The participants in the August workshop will include representatives from private industry, academia, and government agencies. Among the technological solutions the workshop attendees are investigating are enhanced GPS, inertial navigation and dead reckoning, which tracks direction and distance using gyroscopes and accelerometers, and RFID, though each technology has its drawbacks. Enhanced GPS, which augments GPS satellite signals with other positioning information, such as cell phone towers, has yet to achieve the level of accuracy required by first responders. The gyroscopes used in inertial navigation must be frequently realigned. RFID applications can only be used inside buildings that have preinstalled monitoring stations. The WPI research group is developing an alternative system that exploits the principles of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), which relays high-speed data over both wired and wireless channels, and integrates into the radio spectrum. First responders would wear transmitters that continuously emit OFDM signals, while vehicles surrounding the building would be equipped with receivers to detect and decipher the signals through complex, custom-made algorithms.
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The Shirt That Checks Your Heart, the Hat That Checks Your Brain
Financial Times Survey (07/12/06) P. 6; Cane, Alan

The concept of the wearable computer, a notion that dates to the wristwatch, has gotten new life as state-of-the-art electroconductive materials can now be woven directly into fabric. The sleeve of a firefighter's jacket could emit a warning of toxic materials, or a person's sweater could generate a feeling of warmth when a call comes from a loved one, for instance. Wearable computing could have unintended consequences for society, however, warns British Telecom's Robin Mannings. The mobile phone is the first ubiquitous platform for wearable computing, according to MIT Media Lab's Sandy Pentland. "With telecom operators' revenues from voice services dropping quickly, everyone is looking for digital data services to stoke growth. The model of a wearable computer is exactly that...and it is working." Pentland cites the migration of Google Maps, email, and digital cameras toward the mobile space, as well as the emergence of devices such as Oakley Bluetooth glasses. The interface, rather than the actual processors, has become the signature feature of consumer electronic devices, says Ken Blakeslee, chairman of Webmobility Ventures. Style is therefore an important aspect of new technologies, Blakeslee believes. "People don't want to be seen carrying chunks of technology." Medicine and health could see the most important applications of wearable computing technology, many experts believe, though privacy advocates are concerned about the prospect of devices that could track a person's movements around the clock.
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New Agreement With Leading Chinese University Will Strengthen Indiana's IT Efforts
Indiana University (07/10/06)

Indiana University and China's Tsinghua University have joined forces in a collaborative research project to focus on student exchanges and broadening global adoption of the Internet for scientific research. Tsinghua is considered by many to be the MIT of China because its students rank at the top of a rigorous admissions process. The partnership is expected to attract more funding for Indiana's supercomputing and information-technology projects, as well as bringing some of China's premier science and IT students to Indiana for advanced study. That, in turn, should help draw more U.S. students into technical programs. The partnership also establishes research projects in engineering, management, and security for high-speed broadband networks, particularly those that scientists rely on to transfer large volumes of data. Just as Indiana oversees the Internet2 network, Tsinghua manages a similar system known as CERNET. "Managing these networks is a complex and difficult matter," said Indiana Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael McRobbie. "IU and Tsinghua both have expertise in these areas, and we want to work together jointly in solving the problems that arise in the operation of international high-performance networks." The two universities are in the preliminary stages of conducting a joint China-United States conference on network security that will attempt to develop international standards on combating viruses, worms, and other Internet-born threats.
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Duke Professors Investigate Military Computing Challenges
Duke University News & Communications (07/11/06) Todd, James

Twelve computer science and engineering professors recently spent a day at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., as part of a Defense Department program aimed at introducing junior professors to the technical challenges that the military faces. The Computer Science Study Panel (SC2P) brings scholars from a variety of universities to military bases and provides briefings on the military's current and projected uses of technology. "They're getting good briefings and displays on a variety of operations," said retired Lt. Gen. Peter Kind. Duke University computer science professor Ronald Parr said that one of his objectives was to identify the military's research priorities. Parr noted the gap between the military's short-term requirements and the long-term research that is conducted in university labs, citing his own work developing algorithms for robotic navigation of unfamiliar territory. While it might not fundamentally alter researchers' methods, CS2P gives participating professors a sense of how their work could be practically applied in military settings. DARPA also allows each participant to apply for a $500,000 research grant.
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Swiss Ponder Future Role of the Internet
Swissinfo (07/08/06) Allen, Matthew

A group of Swiss Internet experts has developed a series of proposals for the UN-supported Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to consider at its inaugural meeting this October, though some are concerned that the forum lacks the clout to exact any substantive changes or that its influence could be undermined by politically motivated groups. The concept of the IGF was born at last year's UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) out of concerns that the United States plays too dominant a role in the maintenance of the Web through its control of ICANN. Swiss diplomat Markus Kummer warns against rehashing the same political concerns at this October's meeting, however. "IGF's first meeting should not get lost in procedural debates, repeat WSIS debates, or turn into a diplomatic conference," he said. Instead, he hopes that the meeting will provide a chance to work through the difficult issues of copyright, security, access, and the language of the Internet. Providing financial and technological assistance to developing countries looking to gain access to the Internet will likely be another issue at the top of the conference's agenda. Participants at a recent conference at Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology expressed their skepticism at the ability of a UN conference to carve through the debate and reach concrete decisions, particularly at a conference that will be addressing so many complex issues. "I hope that this will not be just another UN forum at which people find it easy to talk but difficult to reach decisions," said Wolf Ludwig of the Swiss Platform for the Information Society. "I am not sure the IGF really has the means to exert pressure on governments which is why we have to make the governance of the Web site a public issue."
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Tangled Net
National Journal (07/08/06) Vol. 38, No. 27, P. 28; Clark, Drew

The telephone/cable sector and Internet companies are on opposite sides over the issue of network neutrality, and have collectively spent over $50 million in making their respective cases before Congress. Net neutrality is the idea that carriers should be regulated by the government to ensure that their networks are open to traffic from all broadband content providers. The phone and cable companies claim such a measure goes against the principles of the free market and the trend toward deregulation, while their Internet company counterparts say a lack of net neutrality encourages discriminatory pricing that hurts competition and the innovation that comes with an open Internet. The Bell companies promised not to block traffic on the Internet by agreeing to adhere to connectivity principles established by the High Tech Broadband Coalition, but at the heart of the net neutrality debate is the issue of whether those companies can set up an Internet "fastlane" into which the content of companies willing to pay the toll could be diverted, leaving the rest stuck in slower lanes. Internet companies that were already paying network operators a heavy bandwidth fee saw a two-tiered system as a vehicle for extortion, and harbored fears that it would give operators the keys to the Internet, empowering them to hinder or even destroy entrepreneurial firms through discrimination. Bells do not want net neutrality rules to be established out of concern that they would threaten their ability to gain a national video franchise without going through municipal regulators. The Senate Commerce Committee recently passed a telecom reform bill that contained no net neutrality provisions, but a lawmaker has promised to block the measure with a filibuster on the basis of the provision's absence. Amazon's Paul Misener warns that "the phone and cable companies will fundamentally alter the Internet in America unless Congress acts to stop them." However, Cisco Systems' Jeff Campbell counters that the Bells simply "want the freedom to be able to negotiate commercial deals."
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The Plot to Hijack Your Computer
BusinessWeek (07/17/06)No. 3993, P. 40; Elgin, Ben; Grow, Brian

IT-Harvest estimates that spyware accounts for 11 percent of all Internet ad business, but its method of attracting business--by surreptitiously installing advertising programs, which then cause pop-ups to appear on the screen and inhibit, even cripple, the computer's performance--has engendered a great deal of public scorn and triggered a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer against one spyware company for false advertising, trespassing, and computer tampering. It is feared that spyware and its practitioners could seriously, perhaps irreparably tarnish the online ad industry. Critics charge that the people who run spyware companies--one of the most infamous being Direct Revenue, which Spitzer's lawsuit targets--are greedy opportunists who cynically exploit consumers, as demonstrated by widescale ignorance of consumer complaints. Spitzer says he discovered instances in which Direct Revenue spyware was downloaded with misleading user agreements or a complete lack of disclosure. Though Direct Revenue has made reforms, notably dropping its most devastating spyware programs, as verified by computer security firms and anti-spyware activists, the company is still considered to be the root cause of many irritations. Trend Micro spyware research manager Anthony Arnott reports that Direct Revenue is still rated by the public to be one of the 10 most-despised spyware firms. Savvy consumers can lower the risk of their systems getting infected by spyware by using widely available security software and avoiding online offers of free products.
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Mobile Web Services: A New Agent-Based Framework
Internet Computing (06/06) Vol. 10, No. 3, P. 58; Adacal, Mustafa; Bener, Ayse B.

Mustafa Adacal and Ayse Bener of Bogazici University propose an agent-based mobile services framework designed to adapt Web services to mobile environments through the use of wireless portal networks, the elimination of XML processing on mobile clients, and the provision of dynamic service selection and quick application development and implementation for Web service providers. The framework retains the standard Web service architecture's three core supports--a service provider, requestor, and registry--with the addition of a service broker, a workflow engine, and a mobile Web service agent to bring the scheme into compliance with wireless portal networks and address the processing overhead on mobile devices as well as the data load on wireless connections with restricted bandwidth. Adacal and Bener split the framework's operational model into three processes: Service development and publication, service discovery, and service execution. Experiments with several test applications demonstrate that the removal of XML processing on mobile clients and SOAP-message transfer over wireless connections yield improved response time and data load. However, Adacal and Bener deduce that the framework has two shortcomings--a lack of support for background processing and the preparation needed due to the framework's receipt of user input from a Web page. The researchers are currently focused on inserting an interface layer into their framework, and one possibility under investigation is a way to integrate interface modules within the workflow document.
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