Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
September 27, 2006

MemberNet
The ACM Professional Development Centre
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the September 27, 2006 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Sponsored by Information, Inc.

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


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

ACM Security Experts to Urge Paper Trails for Electronic Voting
ACM (09/27/06) Gold, Virginia

Barbara Simons, an electronic voting expert and past president of ACM, will testify tomorrow that voter verified paper trails provide a significant step toward mitigating the risks and ensuring the public�s trust in the nation�s election process. At a Congressional hearing reviewing security for e-voting machines, Simons will cite a range of defenses against multiple security risks, including the kinds of human error that have recently plagued primary elections in several parts of the country. Also testifying will be Edward W. Felten, Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Two weeks ago, his research team released a detailed analysis of the security of one of the most widely used e-voting machines. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration will hold the hearing, which will be available via Webcast from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. Dr. Simons says there is a consensus among computer scientists that all computerized voting systems currently available carry risks. She will recommend that the widely used paperless Direct Recording electronic (DRE) devices produce a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) or voter verified paper ballot (VVPB) to mitigate these risks, and restore transparency to elections. Moreover, she will urge the adoption of policies and procedures that guarantee the integrity of the paper and the quality of the printers used for printed paper trails as well as open, transparent, mandatory manual recount if the manual count does not match the count produced by an e-voting machine. The link to the live Webcast will be available 15 minutes prior to the hearing at http://cha.house.gov/default.aspx
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


New 'Threads' for Computer Science
Inside Higher Ed (09/26/06) Jaschik, Scott

In an effort to reverse declining student interest in computer science, the Georgia Institute of Technology is scrapping its old computer science curriculum with its intensive concentration on hardware and software design, mathematics, and electrical engineering, replacing it instead with the more broad-brush Threads program. Under the first part of the program, students choose two of a possible eight "threads" of study. Collectively, the series of courses that make up the threads are as challenging as the old curriculum, though they deal more with the field's practical applications. The computational modeling thread, for instance, deals with the use of computer science to describe natural and physical processes; media concerns systems that "exploit computing's abilities to provide creative outlets." Once enrolled, students determine their "role," selecting an established professional in the field who could be a programmer, entrepreneur, or innovator. Their academic advisor then helps ensure that their chosen role supports their course selection, focusing also on non-instructional skills such as how to write a business plan. Professors developed the new curriculum plans out of the recognition that "the one-size-fits-all approach to computer science just isn't working anymore," according to Richard DeMillo, dean of Georgia Tech's College of Computing. "The really big change here is that we were willing to give up the idea of a core curriculum," he said. "If you have 90 percent of your courses occupied with the core, you don't have the flexibility to do anything creative." The faculty hopes that the new approach to computer science education will help prevent the students from losing out to foreign workers once they enter the job market. Freshmen entering the school this fall were informed of the Threads program, and enrollment has spiked 33 percent.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Vote Check-in Glitch Is Declared Fixed
Baltimore Sun (09/26/06) P. 1A; Harris, Melissa; Green, Andrew A.

Diebold Election Systems says a flaw in software customized for the state of Maryland was the source of the problem with check-in computers during primary elections earlier this month. The computer glitch caused delays for voters at precincts. Speaking at the state's election office on Monday, Tom Feehan, project manager in Maryland for Diebold, said it was "an oversight" that the company did not sufficiently test the software for its e-poll book. Diebold is scheduled to conduct a day-long test of the software for check-in computers next week. The machines also experienced two less-widespread problems during the primary election that Diebold has yet to fix. Feehan said a small number of poll books had communication problems, which would have enabled a voter to cast another ballot at a different poll book in a precinct. Diebold plans to provide a solution for this problem to the state before the end of the week. Moreover, Feehan said some of the voter access cards used to activate voting machines did not work. All of the fixes need to be installed on the state's 5,500 e-poll machines before the general election on November 7. State elections administrator Linda H. Lamone says that if Diebold can't prove that the machines are ready to go, she'll "pack them up and ship them back."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


2006 Grace Hopper Conference Attracting Record Interest
Business Wire (09/26/06)

The 2006 Grace Hopper Conference of Women in Computing (GHC) is shaping up to be the most successful gathering in the history of the event. Registrations have reached an all-time high, with the number of pre-registrations having already exceeded the 899 women and men who attended the 2004 GHC, and sponsorships have shot up 50 percent, with 16 first-time sponsors helping the conference reach its new underwriting record. Moreover, the number of scholarships for students to attend the GHC has risen by 50 percent to 247. ACM is co-presenting the GHC along with the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI). The GHC is scheduled for Oct. 4-7, in San Diego, and will offer plenary sessions, technical papers, panels, poster sessions, workshops, personal and professional development programs, and award presentations. Sensor technology over the Internet and advanced robotics development are among the leading-edge topics that will be discussed during the four-day event. Keynote speakers include Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman and former astronaut Sally Ride; Technology Access Foundation director Trish Millines Dziko and Sun Microsystems engineer Radia Perlman are among this year's invited speakers. For more information or to register visit http://gracehopper.org/
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Google to Push for More Electrical Efficiency in PC's
New York Times (09/26/06) P. C3; Markoff, John

On Tuesday, two Google data center designers will present a white paper at the Intel Developer Forum arguing for a transition from multivoltage power supplies to a single 12-volt standard. The result, the paper claims, will be more power-efficient PCs and billions of kilowatt-hours of energy saved annually. Authors Urs Holzle and William Weihl wrote that the multiple voltage requirements of industry standard power supplies are not needed in modern PC designs, which relocate voltage control to the motherboards. The Google proposal's intent is similar to that of 80 Plus, a joint effort of several electric utility companies and Ecos Consulting to offer computer manufacturers incentives to design more efficient PC power supplies. "We now have 70 compliant designs from 15 to 20 manufacturers," boasted Ecos Consulting's Chris Calwell, a technical adviser for the 80 Plus project. Calwell said the Google proposal's overall goal is laudatory, but he was concerned that the overall efficiency may not be significantly boosted by redesigning and streamlining power supply design, as Holzle and Weihl suggest. EPRI Solutions estimates that more than 2.5 billion AC/DC power supplies are employed in the United States and 6 to 10 billion are used globally, while the current percentage of U.S. electricity consumption that power supplies account for exceeds 2 percent; such consumption could be halved with more efficient design, generating almost $3 billion in saved electricity costs, according to EPRI. Calwell and the Google engineers concurred that today's PC power supplies suffer from a design flaw known as "overprovisioning," which Calwell likened to "putting a 400-horsepower engine in every car, just because some cars have to tow large trailers every once in a while."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Microsoft's Interest in Research Is Healthy, Chief Says
CNet (09/27/06) Fried, Ina

In a recent interview, Microsoft Research chief Rick Rashid reflected on the development and future of the division that he founded 15 years ago. "When I first started Microsoft Research back in 1991, there were a lot of people that I don't think thought we would still be around 15 years later," he said. "I'm feeling good about that." At a time when other companies have been scaling back their basic research activities, Microsoft has been increasing its investment, Rashid said. At the end of Microsoft Research's fifth year, the division had come into its own, and had its graphics unit contributed a significant number of the papers presented at that year's SIGGRAPH, Rashid says, adding that from then on, it became much easier to recruit top talent. Rashid generally takes a hands-off approach with his researchers because of their high caliber, though he notes that the division has been focusing increasingly on trying to prove the properties of large programs containing hundreds of thousands or millions of lines of code. Microsoft Research is also heavily investing in areas such as computer vision and graphics, mobile technology, and robotics. Additionally, the division is working to accelerate the development of RFID sensors and to bring the costs down so the technology penetrates the consumer market. "People are looking at, for example, being able to create sensor networks just to keep track of the human body. We've been looking at technology for aiding people with memory disorders. There are all sorts of things that will be possible as you deploy these arrays of sensors. It will happen," Rashid said. One of the areas in which Rashid's team has contributed to the forthcoming Vista operating system has been device drivers. The Static Device Verifier enables developers to verify the properties of their drivers without testing. Looking down the road, Rashid sees great potential for Microsoft Research to improve areas such as health care and traffic analysis, and he sees no sign of the division losing steam.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Famed Inventor Ray Kurzweil to be Keynote Speaker at SC06 Conference
Business Wire (09/25/06)

Noted inventor Ray Kurzweil will be the keynote speaker at SC06's "Powerful Beyond Imagination" conference in November. In his address, Kurzweil will explain how the paradigm shift rate is doubling every 10 years. Among other inventions, Kurzweil is the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, and commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. He is the recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the 1999 National Medical of Technology award, and was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2002. SC06 General Chair Barbara Horner-Miller says, "Ray Kurzweil�s visionary thinking--and his ability to take his ideas from thought to reality--make him an ideal speaker to open SC06, which is as much a marketplace of new ideas as it is a showcase for new computing and networking technologies. Ray�s work embodies our theme of 'Powerful Beyond Imagination.'' The conference, sponsored by ACM's Special Interest Group on Computer Architecture (SIGARCH) and IEEE, will take place Nov. 11-17 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. For more information or to register visit http://www.sc-conference.org/
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


FSF Clarifies 'Inaccurate' Information About GPLv3
eWeek (09/26/06) Galli, Peter

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is attempting to correct information regarding the second discussion draft of the GNU General Public License that it claims are inaccurate. The foundation is also trying to allay fears that it will require holders of the existing GPL to re-license their software under the updated version. The clarification comes in the wake of a paper signed by many prominent Linux developers enumerating their grievances with the proposed update and warning that it could undermine the entire open-source movement. Though he did not sign the document, Linux founder Linus Torvalds has made his own objections to the draft update well known. No one will be required to switch to the new version of the license, and developers will still be permitted to license their code under the GPLv2, according to the FSF's John Sullivan. "Contrary to what some have said, the GPLv3 draft has no use restrictions, and the final version won't either," he said, though he allowed that the update will bar some distribution practices that curtail users' freedom to modify source code. Those stipulations are intended to prevent companies from distributing free software while controlling how it is used. Sullivan also said that companies would not be stripped of their patent portfolios under the GPLv3. "It simply says that if someone has a patent covering XYZ, and distributes a GPL-covered program to do XYZ, he can't sue the program's subsequent users, redistributors, and improvers for doing XYZ with their own versions of that program. This has no effect on other patents which that program does not implement," he said.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Study Says U.S. Has Lead in Nanotechnology
New York Times (09/26/06) P. C6; Feder, Barnaby J.

The federal government is now devoting more than $1 billion a year for nanotechnology research, and the economic benefits of the investment in the field could still be decades away, says a new report from the National Research Council. In its latest review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative for Congress, the agency says improvements in government coordination are evident, but the potential risks of nanotechnology require more study. Last week, experts told the House Science Committee that $40 million is not enough to study the potential health and environmental risks of nanotechnology, which involves the manipulation of atoms and small clusters of molecules. The Research Council described nanotechnology as a springboard for other innovations, similar to the impact of computing and communications technology, which took 20 to 40 years to fulfill its promise. The report called for a smaller, dedicated group to set priorities for the government's technology managers, and to prepare students and workers for nanotechnology by providing cross-discipline training that includes biology, physics, and materials engineering.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


European Parliament Groups Reject Plan for Single Patent Court
Computer Business Review (09/25/06)

A plan that has the potential to clear the way for software patents in Europe has come under fire from several parliamentary groups. The European Patent Litigation Agreement would create a European Patent Court to determine the validity and infringement of patents. A year ago, the European Parliament soundly defeated a software patent directive on a vote of 648 to 14, with 18 abstentions. Technology vendors, business users, and politicians were divided on whether to have a standard technology patent law for the European Union. Internal market and services commissioner Charlie McCreevy plans to present the European Patent Office's EPLA in the European Parliament this week. "After the failure of the software patent directive, the EPO has come up with another proposal backed by McCreevy, and it's even more undemocratic and dangerous than the previous one," says Umberto Guidoni, Italian MEP and representative of the parliamentary group GUE/NGL. "That's why we don't want a new court that would be controlled basically by the same people as the EPO." In addition to software patents, critics are concerned about higher patent costs.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Industry Effort Aims to Advance Women in Computing
Computerworld Australia (09/19/06) Tay, Liz

The Women in IT Executive Mentoring (WITEM) program in Australia is an effort by eight top Australian technology leaders to help provide female mentors for rising IT professionals. In 2005, 20.5 percent of Australian IT workers were women, reports the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The lack of female leadership at the top makes it difficult for female IT professionals to find mentors, explains Dell Australia and New Zealand managing director Joe Kremer. "We're trying to create more balance in the organization, because I think if an organization under-represents women at senior levels, then they are at a disadvantage because they lose a certain point of view," he says. Dell launched WITEM in December 2005 along with participating members from Cisco, EMC, Intel, and others. Phase one of the program had each of the eight companies mentoring a female executive from the marketing, legal, sales, or channel management division of another company. Phase two, which began in July, focuses on mentoring women in IT departments of companies that are not necessarily part of the technology industry. Kremer says, "This program has opened doors. We have found more of a voice for women in the company."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Computer Scientist Spearheads $30 Million 'Open Science Grid'
University of Wisconsin-Madison (09/25/06) Mattmiller, Brian

The Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Science Foundation announced on Sept. 25 the five-year, $30 million Open Science Grid (OSG) initiative to supply an interconnected national computing infrastructure that will employ distributed computing methods to deliver a vast volume of computing power and storage capacity to researchers. More than 30 universities and federal research laboratories will contribute computational power to the grid, and University of Madison-Wisconsin computer scientist Miron Livny is serving as principal investigator of the project. Livny will also oversee the construction and maintenance of the OSG facility as well as the coordination of the software activities. "Grid computing has the capability to revolutionize research, but the tools remain challenging for many scientists," notes Livny. "Projects such as OSG are working to lower the barrier to individual scientists using advanced computing." The OSG project's funding will be split among 11 U.S. universities and four national laboratories, and Livny's team will get $1.2 million annually for OSG initiatives based at Madison. Livny's participation is a reflection of the success of UW-Madison's distributed computing projects, the Condor Project and the Grid Laboratory of Wisconsin (GLOW).
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


NSF Awards $3.3 Million Grant to Cornell to Bolster the Percentage of Women Faculty Members
Cornell News (09/25/06) Steele, Bill

Women are underrepresented in the faculty of the science and engineering departments at Cornell University, but university officials hope to make some significant changes in the next few years. In the next five years, Cornell plans to increase the percentage of women in the departments to 20 percent of all faculty members, and to one-third by 2015. A $3.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation and its ADVANCE program will be used to reach the goal. The ADVANCE program focuses on helping research universities in their efforts to become more receptive to women. Cornell is one of the leading research universities when it comes to graduating female students who go on to pursue doctorates in science or engineering, and producing women engineering faculty members. Women make up about 25 percent of science and engineering workers in the country, but less than 21 percent of science and engineering faculty at four-year colleges and universities, and minority women account for about 2 percent. "With a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant, Cornell can renew its leadership by demonstrating that reaching a critical mass of women scientists at an elite, research intensive university is not only possible, but critical to the quality of the institution," says Cornell Provost Carolyn Martin. "The presence of greater numbers of female faculty at Cornell will have a transformational impact at a national level."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Open Source Search Technology Goes Beyond Keywords
NewsForge (09/25/06) Stutz, Michael

The semantic search engine that academic researchers have quietly been developing for years has now been licensed under the GNU General Public License, and a version for the desktop is forthcoming later this month, according to Middlebury College's Aaron Coburn, lead developer of the initiative. The Semantic Indexing Project promises to be able to recognize synonyms or near matches of words, instead of simply retrieving results that contain the literal search terms. The entirety of the source code is available for download, which includes the central technology of the Semantic Engine, distributed in C++, Perl bindings, and all of the requisite code for creating the graphical user interface. One of the more impressive demonstrations of the project has been the ability to graphically visualize novels, an application whose origins began when the researchers partnered with a Spanish professor interested in developing a searchable e-book reader for Don Quixote. Coburn integrated a stable of Project Gutenberg texts with software to visualize semantic data in the database, which led to the ability to visualize plots, mapping the interactions of characters throughout the course of a novel. "And the algorithms seemed to do a really good job of detecting how the characters interacted," Coburn said. The origins of the Semantic Engine date to a National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) conference in 2001. Following the conference, where experts spoke on hot topics such as XML and Latent Semantic Analysis, NITLE conducted a study that had a college instructor create a syllabus and apply to it the appropriate Learning Object Metadata. Finding that it took the professor more than four times as long to apply the metadata than to create the syllabus, Coburn says that it then became evident that a tool to automatically produce metadata or retrieve information from collections with no metadata would prove extremely useful. NITLE researchers set to work building a semantic search engine around latent semantic indexing technology, working variously with Perl and C++.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Johns Hopkins Joins Effort to Boost 'Smart Tag' Security
Johns Hopkins Gazette (09/25/06) Vol. 36, No. 4, Sneiderman, Phil

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and RSA Laboratories are collaborating on a project to improve the security of smart tags. Some of the same features that make these devices easy and convenient to use are also potential security threats, researchers say, claiming that thieves can swipe sensitive information from the tags without the user even knowing. The security of smart tags is of increasing importance as the devices are being deployed for applications such as merchant payments and gaining access to medical records. At Johns Hopkins, assistant research professor in the Department of Computer Science Adam Stubblefield will use his portion of the NSF grant money to examine the protocol and architecture of the systems, which include RFID tags. "We want to make it tougher for unauthorized readers to communicate with smart tags, and we want to do a better job of preserving people's privacy," Stubblefield said. RFID tags work by transmitting coded data from a chip through the electromagnetic field of a reader antenna, which some scientists are concerned could enable a tech-savvy thief with the right equipment to swipe data from someone's back pocket or purse. The participants in the project, which has been dubbed the RFID Consortium for Security and Privacy, are also working with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District to develop the first open, publicly available software application for exploring RFID privacy and security.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Internet's Future in 2020 Debated
BBC News (09/24/06)

The Internet of 2020 will be an inexpensive mesh of billions of devices, according to a Pew Internet and American Life survey of 742 computing, political, and business experts. "Key builders of the next generation of Internet often agree on the direction technology will change, but there is much less agreement about the social and political impact those changes will have," noted lead author of the Future of Internet II report Janna Quitney Anderson. "One of their big concerns is: Who controls the Internet architecture they have created?" Microcost President Louis Nauges projected mobile Internet as becoming predominant, with most mobile networks supplying a minimum speed of 1 Gbps by 2020. Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe wrote, "Many more of today's 10 billion new embedded micros per year will be on the Internet." Some experts were skeptical that a universal Internet will emerge because of issues with interoperability, commercial interests, and government regulation. Australian Internet Mark II Project leader Ian Peter wrote, "The problem of the digital divide is too complex and the power of legacy telco regulatory regimes too powerful to achieve this utopian dream globally within 15 years." Nearly 60 percent of the Pew survey respondents warned of the emergence of a Luddite counterculture whose resistance to technology could get violent. "Today's eco-terrorists are the harbingers of this likely trend," wrote Internet and education expert Ed Lyell. Some experts believe such outbursts will be related to the technology's societal impact and not the technology itself. Most respondents thought that more and more people will be living and working in "virtual worlds" and enjoy more productivity online than offline by 2020. There was disagreement as to whether the increased transparency and decreased privacy resulting from the growing online presence of people's personal details and dealings would be a positive force.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Future of Broadband Networking: Less Complexity, More Flexibility
InformationWeek (09/25/06)No. 1107, P. 63; Hoover, J. Nicholas

The future of broadband will allow users to stay connected no matter where they go through mesh networking, say several tech visionaries. "Conversations won't stop and people won't understand that you've changed technologies," says Mark Francis, vice president of enterprise architecture at AT&T Labs, which is developing a new delivery platform that twill change the way network traffic is labeled to make the current model that requires device integration with directory clients obsolete. National Science Foundation computer and network system division program director David Goodman sees a day when mobile devices use peer-to-peer networking that will allow phones to borrow a signal from other phones' wireless connections when its signal is weak. Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president at Cisco Systems, envisions a time when user identities, settings, and preferences are transferable across networks and devices. Meanwhile, work on the Internet2 is proceeding among the various universities involved, designed to improve networking capabilities for scientific research purposes. However, eventually businesses will benefit from the Internet2 technologies, says Steve Corbato, associate director for the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute at the University of Utah. He says, "As we learn how to mine data and apply visualization techniques better, and if we demonstrate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of these techniques, it drives down the cost of these services for a standard computing environment."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Tapping the Power of Text Mining
Communications of the ACM (09/06) Vol. 49, No. 9, P. 76; Fan, Weiguo; Wallace, Linda; Rich, Stephanie

Demand for text mining technology and applications will be fueled by the increasing amount of data that is placed online, and the inability of data mining tools to sift through massive collections of unstructured or semi-structured data. Text mining offers a much better solution for companies that require the merger and management of large volumes of diverse information, and it is critical to text mining that technology is created that mates a computer's speed and accuracy with a human being's linguistic proficiency. Advances in the field of natural language processing are yielding technologies that allow computers to learn natural language to support their analysis, understanding, and generation of text, while text-mining technologies such as information extraction, topic tracking, summarization, categorization, clustering, concept linkage, information visualization, and question answering are also important components. Information extraction technology analyzes unstructured text and spots key phrases and relationships within text by seeking predefined sequences, while a topic tracking system retains user profiles and predicts other documents that may arouse the user's interests based on the documents the user views. With summarization, users can determine whether a long document fulfills their requirements and is worth reading, and categorization tools identify a document's central themes based on how frequently certain words appear in the document. Similar documents can be grouped together by clustering, which diverges from categorization in that it does not rely on predefined topics; connecting related documents through the identification of common concepts is the mechanism of concept linkage tools, and information visualization hierarchically arranges large textual sources and makes them browsing-capable. Finally, question answering tools employ multiple text mining methods to help computers find the best answers to given questions.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link to Publication Homepage
to the top


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

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

signoff technews

in the body of your message.

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

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

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

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

to the top

News Abstracts © 2006 Information, Inc.


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

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