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October 2, 2006

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Welcome to the October 2, 2006 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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U.S. Loosens Its Control Over Web Address Manager
New York Times (09/30/06) P. B4; Shannon, Victoria

As part of the three-year renewal of its partnership with ICANN, the nonprofit group that manages Internet domains, the U.S. Commerce Department has agreed to loosen its control over ICANN and potentially release it from government oversight altogether. The agreement provides ICANN with greater autonomy and also provides for a midterm in 18 months that could lead to ICANN's release from government oversight. Though the Internet grew in large part out of U.S. government and university research, its growing worldwide importance has led other countries--particularly in Asia and the Middle East--to voice objections to the effective veto power the U.S. government has over ICANN. The latest "joint project agreement" between ICANN and the U.S. government is intended to be the last of six that, since 1998, have given ICANN the authority to maintain the Internet technically. Commerce Department official John M.R. Kneuer said the goal of the latest agreement is to enable ICANN to become a private-sector organization, saying, "Private-sector management of the Internet is demonstrably effective." Paul Kane, chairman of the country-code domain registry group Centr, agreed that the marketplace, rather than a government or group of governments, is the best way to serve the Internet's worldwide interests: "The Internet today is run by private networks interconnecting computers around the world," he said, adding that "it is not in the private sector's interests to have an inefficient Internet."
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NSF Awards Texas Advanced Computing Center $59 Million for High-Performance Computing
University of Texas at Austin (09/28/06)

The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) and its partners at Cornell University and Arizona State University have won a five-year, $59 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase, operate, and maintain a high-performance computing (HPC) system with the aim of providing scientists and engineers throughout the United States with unprecedented computing power. TACC has teamed up with Sun Microsystems to implement a supercomputer that will by its final configuration perform more than 420 teraflops, and boast more than 100 terabytes of memory and 1.7 petabytes of disk storage. "This Sun system will enable scientific codes to achieve greater performance on vastly larger problems, with higher resolution and accuracy, than ever before," comments TACC director Jay Boisseau. "It will be one of the most important scientific instruments in the world." HPC systems are allowing scientists to probe critical problems in almost all scientific fields, and HPC resources have become vital to knowledge discovery in geosciences, life sciences, engineering, and social sciences, with the results that they generate directly affecting society and the quality of life. With HPC, researchers can perform experiments that would be impossible under other circumstances, such as investigating the evolution of the universe.
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Grants for Advanced Computing Awarded
UC Davis News and Information (09/29/06) Fell, Andy

The U.S. Energy Department announced on Sept. 7 several grants for advanced computing projects led by UC Davis researchers. Department of Computer Science and Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization professor Kwan-Liu Ma earned a $1.6 million annual grant to set up an Institute for Ultrascale Visualization, which will develop tools to accommodate and analyze massive amounts of supercomputer-generated data, and educate researchers about these tools via conferences, outreach programs, and summer schools. A $1.2 million annual grant will go to Department of Chemistry professor Giulia Galli, whose project, "Quantum Simulations of Materials and Nanostructures," will focus on methods to model atomic behavior using basic quantum mechanical laws, en route to simulating materials and chemical reactions for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of materials' behavior under varying conditions as well as developing new types of materials. Four other grants for projects funded via the Energy Department's Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing program will involve the participation of UC Davis scientists. Among the projects is a University of Cincinnati-led initiative called "Modeling Materials at the Petascale," whose participants include UC Davis computer science professor and chair Zhaojun Bai and physics professors Sergey Savrasov and Richard Scalettar. Bai said researchers are starting to consider the use of petascale computers when they become available. The National Science Foundation sent out a call for petascale computing development proposals in 2005. A petascale computer's speed would beat that of BlueGene/L, the current world champion, by about tenfold.
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SC06 Conference Advance Registration Deadline Is Sunday, Oct. 15
Business Wire (10/02/06)

Advance registration for the SC2006 conference, sponsored by ACM and IEEE and taking place November 11-17, 2006, in Tampa, Florida, closes Sunday, October 15, after which fees for the Technical Program registration and Tutorials increase. The annual conference will feature a number of sessions, lectures, and technical papers focused on issues related to advanced computing, networking, data storage, and analysis. The slogan for this year's conference is the "Powerful Beyond Imagination." Panel discussions will feature Keynote speaker Ray Kurzweil and other industry experts discussing high-performance computing issues. Information about registering for the event via the Internet is available at http://sc06.supercomp.org/registration/.
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Penn State Joins International Effort to Secure Wireless, Sensor Networks
Penn State Live (09/28/06)

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense has awarded as much as $135.8 million to the International Technology Alliance in Network and Information Sciences, a consortium comprised of 24 members. The money is designated for research efforts focused on high-tech secure wireless and sensor networks. IBM heads the consortium. Other participants include Klein Associates, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Maryland, Renssalear Polytechnic Institute, and Penn State's Networking and Security Research Center. The consortium's research efforts will cover secure systems, sensor information processing, and other areas. Penn State computer science and engineering professor Thomas La Porta, director of Penn State's center, says that research is focused on developing algorithms and protocols for timely data transmission. He adds that the algorithms need to work effectively when addressing the various requirements of multiple missions. He says, "The goal of this work is to create algorithms and protocols that ensure the required information is being delivered to the most important applications and people in time for it to be of use. The algorithms must consider requirements from multiple missions, each with different information needs, importance and timeframes, and dynamically configuring the network to gather, process and deliver the data to maximize the utility of the network. To meet these goals, the area team will define methods for quantifying and representing the 'quality' of information, the requirements and importance of each mission, and algorithms for configuring a sensor network."
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ODU Researchers to Develop Software for Supercomputers
Virginian-Pilot (10/01/06) Bowers, Matthew

A recent five-year, $7 million U.S. Department of Energy Grant will allow Alex Pothen, a computer science professor at Old Dominion University, and Assefaw Gebremedhin, a research scientist at ODU, to establish a research institute called the Combinatorial Scientific Computing and Petascale Simulations Institute (CSCAPES). Pothen, as the institute's principal investigator, along with Gebremedhin and fellow researcher Florin Dobrian, will develop software in conjunction with national laboratories in New Mexico and Illinois and with Ohio State and Colorado State universities. The software will allow scientists to take advantage of the growing power of the new generation of computers, some of which can handle nearly a third of a quadrillion calculations per second. Existing programs only make it possible to use a small percentage of a computer's maximum possible performance. The scientists hope to solve a variety of problems, such as linking machines, breaking bottlenecks in obtaining data, and figuring out which operations can take place simultaneously to save time and which must follow one another. The scientists hope that in doing so they will make it possible for "domain scientists"--chemists, physicists, and others--to achieve breakthroughs in complex areas that require an enormous amount of computing power, such as environmental decontamination and global warming.
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Google Researcher Speaks on Company's Latest Innovations
Daily Californian (09/26/06)

Google's latest advances in machine learning and information extraction was the topic of discussion during a recent talk at UC Berkeley. Peter Norvig, director of machine learning, search quality, and research at Google, talked about Statistical Machine Translation, a computer translation program that Google is developing with hopes of improving the accuracy of translation and giving it more human-like qualities. Norvig, an alumnus of UC Berkeley, said the translation program has the potential to give users the ability to take greater advantage of large amounts of data. Google also wants users to have the ability to type in a few different words and receive a list of several related words, and Norvig said the company believes these "sets" will help improve the accuracy of searches. Another focus of Google is user trend graphs, which can be used to follow the volume of different searches throughout the year. Google views user trend graphs as helping to provide a better understanding of users, said Norvig. "This is only an idea of new things we are working on, and the ways in which technology can be used," said Norvig. "There is so much data and there are so many things you can do with it."
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New Models to Improve the Reliability of Virtual Organizations
University of Southampton (ECS) (09/29/06) Lewis, Joyce

Researchers at the University of Southampton are working on models that will help improve the reliability and trustworthiness of virtual organizations. Such organizations consist of members who are geographically separated--frequently linked by computer networking--but are able to give the outward appearance of being single unified organizations with an actual physical location. The increasing prevalence of virtual organizations with computerized agents acting on companies' behalf is making it more important to ensure that the computerized agents behave responsibly, said Prof. Michael Luck. Luck and his team have been working with Cardiff University, the University of Aberdeen, and British Telecom on a project called Grid-enabled Constraint-Oriented Negotiation in an Open Information Services Environment, or CONOISE-G. "The trustworthiness and reputation of agents are significant issues, especially in the context of virtual organizations in which the agents must rely on each other to ensure coherent and effective behavior," says Luck, adding that there has been little work in this field thus far. The researchers are working to implement a prototype system that examines trust and reputation, standardizing communication, and policing within the virtual organization.
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Engaging SE Asian Research Talent in European ICT Research
IST Results (10/02/06)

Until recently, participation of countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand in the IST program has been low, but this problem is being addressed through initiatives such as the completed GAPFILL project, which spurred research groups in southeast Asian nations to start and contribute to more IST efforts through national promotional events, help services, and information Web sites. "European companies in IST consortia can certainly benefit from having southeast Asian participants, which bring not only technological skills but also know local political conditions and markets very well," notes director of GAPFILL project coordinator Sigma Consultants Roger Torrenti. Malaysia's Mimos Berhard, Thailand's National Science and Technology Development Agency, Singapore's Institute for Infocomm Research, and Taiwan's National Science Council are among the national research agencies that made up the GAPFILL project consortium. GAPFILL coordinated major cooperation events in each nation, featuring presentations, exhibition spaces for European delegations to confer with local organizations, technical visits, and informal social events; events in Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Malaysia were supported by dedicated Web sites. "The success of these events far exceeded our expectations, with substantial national media coverage and strong political support from the science and technology ministries," reports Torrenti. GAPFILL established help desk services with trained personnel in the four countries and Europe to aid groups with the development and submission of joint projects to the IST program. Torrenti estimates that 200 corporation research efforts have been identified and bolstered through GAPFILL. Torrenti says GAPFILL has surpassed expectations when it comes to generating interest and potential for cooperation in both Europe and southeast Asia, and with developing bilateral cooperation.
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What a Lot of Bots
The Engineer (09/18/06)

The Swarmanoid project is an effort sponsored by the European Union to build a distributed robotic system that is adaptable to building environments. "The name Swarmanoid comes from the idea that this type of robot is intended to take a different approach to the construction of robots, rather than creating humanoid robots," commented project leader Dr. Marco Dorigo of Belgium's Universite Libre de Bruxelles. "Although they will have a shape that is not reminiscent of human beings, these will be able to act effectively in human-made environments." The project involves 60 dynamically linked small autonomous robots that come in three varieties: Eye-bots, hand-bots, and foot-bots. The three types will operate in conjunction to create a heterogeneous robotic system that is functional in three dimensions. The eye-bots will be tasked with observation and environmental analysis while clinging to the ceiling and transmitting data to the hand-bots, which will climb walls and other vertical surfaces, and the foot-bots, which will negotiate uneven terrain and transport materials, including other robots. The robot swarm will be designed to organize into specific shapes to tackle certain problems. The Swarmanoid initiative will not just require the construction of robots, but also the development of distributed algorithms to ascertain the swarmanoid's actions and a communications architecture to enable system control.
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New Models to Improve Reliability of Virtual Organizations
Innovations Report (09/28/06) Murphy, Helene

The Grid-enabled Constraint-Oriented Negotiation in an Open Information Services Environment (CONOISE-G) project this month is expected to complete its research into the reliability and trustworthiness of people who are part of virtual organizations. Michael Luck, a professor in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, says there will be a need to know that computerized agents are behaving responsibly as virtual organizations and agents grow. Southampton is participating in CONOISE-G, along with Cardiff University, the University of Aberdeen, and British Telecom. The researchers have developed models of how virtual organizations form and operate, and they are implementing the system, standardizing communication between agents, and policing a virtual organization. "Only limited work has been carried out in this area so far, with the majority of developers adopting the stance of complete trust," says Luck. "This, however, avoids the complex issues which are crucial for the reliability and dependability of these systems and which our research aims to address directly."
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Entanglement Unties a Tough Quantum Computing Problem
USC Viterbi School of Engineering (09/28/06) Mankin, Eric

The way can be cleared for error correction coding--an important breakthrough in quantum computing--by including entangled photons within the message stream, a trio of USC Viterbi School of Engineering theorists report in Science. "This method allows the use of highly efficient turbo codes, operating close to the theoretical limits of efficiency, something never before possible," proclaims lead author on the study and electrical engineering professor Todd Brun. Error codes are a critical requirement for quantum computing systems, which process quantum data carried on single light particles (photons), but Brun notes that not all measurements can be executed concurrently in quantum mechanics. "When most classical error correction codes are translated into quantum codes, it is no longer possible to measure all of their syndromes; measuring some of the error syndromes disrupts the measurement of others," he explains. The technique outlined by Brun and colleagues is to blend entangled and normal photons together, and use the entanglement property that allows two measurements that would be incompatible on a single quantum bit (qubit) to sometimes be performed by measuring both halves of an entangled pair. The USC researchers are attempting to determine the best combination of entangled and normal photons for optimal error coding performance.
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'Tower of Babel' Technology Nears
BBC News (09/27/06)

The development of software defined radio (SDR) "Tower of Babel" technology that will allow a single wireless product to understand any kind of radio wave signal through the use of software found on the device was discussed at the International Conference on Telecommunications and Computers at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. Now, most devices rely on hardware to convert analogue signals into digital format. But European space firm EADS-Astrium has developed software-based technology for military purposes capable of picking up radio signals passing through the air waves. The next step would be "cognitive" radio technology that has SDR capabilities and can also detect and utilize unused bandwidth. The University of Portsmouth's Dr. David Ndzi says, "SDR is what one could call a Tower of Babel-type technology, in that wireless devices that previously understood only one or a few languages, or standards, will suddenly be able to talk to each other freely regardless of frequency or conflicting protocols." Computing power and the ability to quickly convert analog radio waves into digital code are the two limitations holding SDR back right now, says EADS-Astrium's Francis Kinsella, but he says, "we have advances in both those areas that could really mean an explosion in the next five to 10 years for SDR."
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Garcia Looks to Raise Cybersecurity's Profile
Government Computer News (09/25/06) Vol. 25, No. 29, Wait, Patience

After a two-year vacancy, Greg Garcia has been appointed the new assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Garcia will be the first person to ever hold the position and seeks to increase the level of awareness of IT security. Garcia is also the vice president for information security programs at the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and has been with the group since 2003. "I think they picked the right guy," says Joe Tasker at ITAA. "This is his forte, translating real, hard-core technology into policy." Cyber Security Industry Alliance executive director Paul Kurtz also believes that Garcia was a good choice. He says, "Greg is a solid pick for the position. He knows information security issues and has good connections in the private sector. He is also earnest and focused. This combination, with consistent senior support within DHS, will enable DHS to move forward on critical information security issues." DHS National Cyber Security Division director Amit Yoran and other former cybersecurity officials, including Richard Clarke and Howard Schmidt, and emphasized the need for to raise the profile of cybersecurity in the administration.
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Energy Controlled Reporting for Industrial Monitoring Wireless Sensor Networks
University of Southampton (ECS) (09/25/06) Merrett, Geoff V.; Harris, Nick R.; Al-Hashimi, Bashir M.

A group of University of Southampton School of Electronics and Computer Science researchers propose a method to add longevity to wireless sensor networks (WSNs) by combining energy management and information control. The Information manageD Energy Aware aLgorithm for Sensor networks with Rule Managed Reporting (IDEALS/RMR) technique is set up so that each sensor node locally decides the degree of its individual network engagement by balancing available energy resources with each packet's data content. The content is determined via a series of rules that characterize potential events in the sensed environment, and which particularize when reporting should occur as well as the importance of each packet. The rules include threshold, differential, feature, periodic, and routine rules, and these rules are also assigned a message priority tied to event importance. The researchers simulated IDEALS/RMR's use in an industrial WSN monitoring a water pumping station, and found that the network's lifetime and connectivity can be significantly increased. Furthermore, sustained operation can be achieved when the technique is paired with energy harvesting.
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Books Without Boundaries: A Brief Tour of the System-Wide Print Book Collection
Ubiquity (09/25/06) Vol. 7, No. 37, Lavoie, Brian F.; Schonfeld, Roger C.

As libraries continue to adopt to the increasingly networked digital age, print collections will see substantial transformations, with the bulk of the change coming at the system-wide level. Isolated library units will become aggregated into the combined collections of multiple libraries variously defined at the state, regional, or nationwide levels. As large-scale digitization projects such as the Open Content Alliance and Google Print take shape, aggregation could even come to encompass all libraries everywhere. Naturally, this will require librarians to adopt a system-wide perspective when making retention and preservation decisions to avoid unnecessary duplication. Though the forces driving this system-wide perspective have been underway for some time, the data required to support informed system-wide policy decisions have been largely unavailable. The closest existing library to the ideal of a totally system-wide collection is OCLC's WorldCat database, which contains some 60 million bibliographic records encompassing the collections of more than 20,000 institutions around the world. When assessing figures such as WorldCat's total, it is important to remember that a single work can have multiple manifestations, or physical embodiments of the work. In the case of WorldCat's system-wide collection, there are 32 million print book manifestations of 26 million works. Particularly in the age of digitization, collection overlap is a key concern for the system-wide library. A sampling of the WorldCat database revealed the difficulty of determining the uniqueness of individual works, owing to the limited data available. More than half the resources in the system-wide collection were published in English, while no sub-continental languages such as Urdu or Hindi made it in the top 25. In all likelihood, there are millions of books, all of them out of copyright, that are missing from the system-wide collection, though arriving at exact figures for the so-called "book gap" is problematic as well. In the end, to arrive at a satisfactory understanding of the preservation requirements of a system-wide collection, librarians will need better data to learn more about rare and unique titles.
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Connecting the Dots
American Scientist (10/06) Vol. 94, No. 4, P. 400; Hayes, Brian

Brian Hayes thinks a multidisciplinary focus on mathematics and social networking could perhaps give intelligence analysts the means to make reasonable assumptions about terrorist conspiracies based on surveillance data. Studies of the terrorist groups connected to major incidents such as 9/11 and the 2004 Madrid bombing uncovered patterns very similar to the prevailing social network structure suggested by Stanford University's Mark Granovetter, in which clusters or cliques tightly bound internally by strong ties between close members are loosely linked to each other by weak ties between casual acquaintances. Terrorist cells were found to consist of several dense clusters with strongly linked nodes, that communicate with each other only through comparatively loose and inconsistent couplings. The National Security Agency (NSA), meanwhile, appears to be applying graph theory to the analysis of a telephone call database in order to trace links among terrorist plotters, using only the phone numbers at the two ends of each call and the date and time of a call's beginning and end. News reports indicate that the NSA could be hoping to use the call graph to unmask plots without any previous guidance simply by sifting the archive for "patterns that might point to suspects." Such patterns, in conformance with social-network theory, would be dense subgraphs that exist in comparative isolation from their environment. Hayes writes that tentatively, the computational power necessary for analyzing call graphs seems to be readily available, but the main challenge is to enable algorithms to "somehow distinguish a few dozen people intent on mayhem from other groups of the same size and structure who are planning a family reunion, canvassing the neighborhood for a lost cat, running for city council or war-dialing to win free concert tickets from a radio station."
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