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October 18, 2006

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Welcome to the October 18, 2006 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Skills Gap Threatens Technology Boom in India
New York Times (10/17/06) P. A1; Sengupta, Somini

A shortage of skilled engineers could slow the growth of India's technology companies, despite the high number engineering graduates. Although India graduates 400,000 engineers annually, a new National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) study that found only one out of four engineering graduates to be employable, and predicted a shortage of 500,00 workers in the technology sector by 2010. Nasscom found that many graduates lacked the necessary technical skills, were not fluent in English, or are unable to work in a team. Those students who are qualified benefit from the skyrocketing demand: they have a choice between several jobs that are guaranteed before graduation and salaries beyond any experienced in past generations. India does not allow private investment in higher education, despite the technology industry lobbying in favor of it. The combination of a low availability of quality education and a service sector growing faster than that of China, expected to double to 1.7 million jobs in the next four years, has forced many companies to institute in-house training that can last up to six months. Institutions known as finishing schools have also emerged to help graduates become more employable. The best schools produce too few graduates, while the rest of the schools severely lack in quality. Brand new colleges, most of which are private, have sprouted up in an attempt to meet the growing demand, tripling the number of engineering colleges in the past 10 years. Higher education is still only available to 10 percent of Indians ages 18 to 25, while half of the population is under 25. Nandan M. Nilenkania, chief executive of Infosys, calls this situation "a golden opportunity...which can be frittered away if we don't do the right thing."
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Building a Better Voting Machine
Wired News (10/18/06) Zetter, Kim

Wired News consulted UC Berkeley's David Wagner and Princeton's Ed Felton in order to come up with a wish list for the ideal voting machine. The two computer scientists agreed that regarding the hardware used, a ballot marking machine is the best option. This device uses a touch screen interface that is universally useable, but instead of recording the votes onto a memory card, it prints votes onto a full-size paper ballot one at a time, rather than off a ream of paper. The ballots are then scanned by an optical reader, which digitally records each vote. The current removable memory cards must be done away with. Security measures are insufficient to assure no tampering occurs. Wagner is researching possible ways to store votes on a memory card so they cannot be changed once entered. As for the software, most voting machines were built for other purposes and converted. The result is code that is excessive and provides camouflage for malicious code. Wagner says the goal is to reduce the code to a minimum. Another problem with the code is that it is kept secret; judges have defended this right of the manufacturers. In order to ensure the integrity of an election, the code must be disclosed. Also needed are machines that can display the programs running on them and recognize if one does not match the approved program. Diebold itself was found to have installed a non-certified version of voting software onto machines in California. Mandatory audits are suggested as well: random spot checks of machines on election day, followed by post-election hand audits to ensure recording and counting is done correctly. The problem of post-election voter verification, however, is not easily solved. Cryptographer David Chaum is devising a system whereby voters would receive encrypted receipts that could be compared to results posted online after the election. While voting security can never quite be perfected, Felten says all we can do is take steps to "reduce the window of vulnerability." For information about ACM's e-voting activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm
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Girls Have the Geek Gene, Too
Toronto Star (10/17/06) Gerson, Jen

Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology President Telle Whitney, a key speaker at this week's Markham's Cascon 2006 Conference, one of the largest computer conferences in Canada, discusses why young women are tentative about the prospect of joining the male-dominated field. Whitney points out that at one point in the past, women received 40 percent of U.S. bachelor's degrees in computer science, a number that has recently fallen to 27 percent. Research institutes are made up of less than 20 percent female computer science students and 11 percent engineering students. Whitney says the data shows that "women and men are equally capable of creating and designing technology." While she acknowledges that "technology is less appealing to some young women," she thinks "that message just isn't getting out, that technology can be cool." There is currently a shortage of technology employees around the globe, and Whitney thinks that "one of the great untapped resources [to combat the shortage] are women." She points out that puberty is the time when girls become more concerned with role models and what others think of them, and consequently lose interest in math and science, so showing them women who are succeeding in technology could help reverse this trend. The purpose of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology is to "demonstrate that there are some really cool things that women are doing in technology right now," says Whitney. As far as marketing technology to women, the Star cites the pink Motorola Razr cell phone, but Whitney says products such as The Sims are a better example, because they get past the surface level of gender, and have a better understanding of what appeals to women.
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Rowan Software Design Aims to Banish the Missing Link
Rowan University (10/17/06)

Confesor Santiago, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student at Rowan University, and Dr. Adrian Rusu, a computer science assistant professor, have developed Real-Time Area-Efficient Synchronized Tree-Based Web Visualization & Data (RAST Web V&D), software that helps users browse the Web without getting lost or confused as to where they are, where they have been, or where they can go from a certain point. Users are provided with a view of where their browser began, and where it has taken them, using circles within circles, which represent "parent" (current site) and "children" (links in current site) sites. Inside each circle are all the sites that can be accessed from that particular location. This interactive graphic appears alongside the page currently displayed. "This is a proposed solution to the 'lost in cyberspace' problem as well as a method to find something easier...Looking back, you can see clearly where you've already been and looking ahead you can see if a page is worth visiting even before you go there," says Santiago. The depth of the program is only limited by a computer's memory; infinite "generations" are theoretically possible. While similar technology has been devised before, Santiago and Rusu's has "transitional animation," which morphs parent into child when a link is activated and changes back when the browser returns to the root site. The name and URL of a link can be read simply by moving the cursor over a link. Although anyone can use the "point and click" program, Santiago sees Web developers making use of the program to get a visual idea of the design of their creation. Future steps in the process will be to "import [the] technology to devices with small screens, such as cell phones and PDAs," as well as expanding into 3D to provide greater flexibility as to how the information can be presented.
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Helping the Dishwasher Talk to the TV
IST Results (10/18/06)

An IST-funded initiative known as the TEAHA project is working to make the "smart home" an everyday reality. "Until now the business model has not been clear, there have been too many different standards, and too many technologies that are not interoperable," says project coordinator Enrique Menduina of Telefonica I+D in Spain. TEAHA has been able to bring companies together from all sectors. The system in the works will be compatible with any device, regardless of brand. "Having your TV tell you when your laundry is done, or the dishwasher has finished, is just one application, " explains Menduina. The concept is based on having several appliances and devices running innumerable services. To allow such interoperability, TEAHA is developing a middleware platform that mediates between different appliances and communications systems. Its foundation is a software gateway through which information from all devices passes, no matter what network they use. The system has zero-configuration capability, meaning appliances would be discovered by the middleware. Different communications systems fit different devices better; for example, the TV would work best with Wi-Fi, but a smoke alarm would require lesser bandwidth. Two methods of interconnectivity are being developed: an advanced radio frequency (RF) system for transmitting information wirelessly, and a system to send packets of information between devices using power lines, requiring no additional wiring. Extensive testing is scheduled for December 2006, and the results will be incorporated in commercial systems in Europe that will improve home networking.
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Flapjax Simplifies AJAX Development
eWeek (10/16/06) Taft, Darryl K.

Brown University researchers have developed an AJAX-based programming language dubbed Flapjax for building Web applications. The researchers say Flapjax makes AJAX development easier to execute by hiding its complexity. "Its syntax is precisely that of JavaScript," says project leader Shriram Krishnamurthi, a computer science professor at Brown. "Flapjax is built entirely atop JavaScript, it runs on traditional Web browsers without the need for plug-ins or other downloads." The system is based on six principles: it is event driven and responsive; its template system does away with unnecessary code; all clients sharing a set of data are constantly updated by a persistent store; data can be shared; the data sharing is channeled by an access control feature; and it libraries to connect with external Web sites, making client-side mashups possible. "Instead of worrying about building low-level packets, etc., we give you a simple way of saying, 'This datum resides on a remote server--send all of my updates to it, and get all the updates from it to me.' That's what AJAX is typically used for, but never to that high level of abstraction," explains Krishnamurthi. Programmers can either adopt the technology as a novel language sharing the syntax of JavaScript but making the task of writing interactive programs more natural, or they can use it as a JavaScript library that helps in creating interactive programs. Flapjax is "interesting...it could help if teamed up with a framework like...[Ruby on] Rails," says Ajaxian.com founder Dion Almaer. However, others say Flapjax makes development more complex. Krishnamurthi maintains it is widely usable and has an "unobtrusive" mode that separates the application's presentation layer from its markup, functioning like aspect-oriented programming.
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It's a Shipping Container. No it's a Data Center in a Box.
New York Times (10/17/06) P. C3; Markoff, John

Sun Microsystems has created Project Blackbox, a shippable data center intended for companies who need to expand computing capacity but do not have the time or resources to create such a system in-house. The "data center in a box" consists of seven racks of 35 server computers based on either Sun's Niagara Sparc processor or an Opteron chip from Advanced Micro Devices, and lies within a 20-foot shipping container that is equipped with a water-cooling system. Sun claims that after delivery, the data center can be operational in five minutes. Sun CEO Jonathan I. Schwarz says Operation Blackbox, which is five times as space-efficient as traditional data centers and 10 to 15 percent more power-efficient, is intended for projects that must come to market or scale up quickly, rather than all types of large-scale computing projects. Applied Minds co-Chairman W. Daniel Hillis, an independent computer designer who has done pioneering work in supercomputing and artificial intelligence, was selected for the project by Sun. Hillis realized that companies were wasting their time developing their own systems from smaller components. "It struck me that everyone was rolling their own in-house and doing manufacturing in-house. We realized that this is obviously something that is shippable," says Hillis. The box can be used anywhere there is electricity, chilled water, and an internet connection. University of California, Berkeley computer scientist and former ACM president Daniel A. Patterson says, "What an out-there idea...You could convert your warehouse into a modern data center." Five patents have been applied for by Sun, including one for the water-cooling technique, known as "cyclonic cooling."
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Kuff's World: Wallach Interview Transcription
Houston Chronicle (10/16/06) Kuffner, Charles

Rice University computer science professor and voting machine expert Dan Wallach discusses the security of voting systems, and concludes that voting machine vendors for the most part gloss over the issue, while certification and testing procedures are insufficient. He cites a Princeton study into the vulnerability of Diebold voting systems, noting that poll workers use memory cards to collect the results at the end of the day, and these cards could be used to infect the machines with a virus. In discussing mitigation of this problem, Wallach says there should be short-term and long-term solutions, with the former including not putting memory cards or voting machines in sole custody of one person. Including paper ballots is a long-term mitigation Wallach recommends, as such ballots can be used for recounts and other instances where the outcome is in doubt. The professor notes that some states have done a better job of analyzing electronic voting systems and requiring vendors to fix security flaws than others. Wallach's students test voting machine security by role-playing company employees trying to fix an election by subtly altering the system's software, and certification authorities trying to spot such modifications; this exercise has demonstrated the feasibility of a scenario in which actual voting systems' source code could be tampered with and released as legitimate software without being detected by the certification process. Wallach attributes the inadequacy of voting system certification and testing procedures to vaguely defined standards. Remedial action he suggests is to write standards for the threats the machines face rather than for how the machines are built, and for certification staff to be knowledgeable on implementing such threats. For information about ACM's e-voting activities, including the recent report on voter registration databases, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm
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A Bright Future for Spintronics
Technology Review (10/13/06) Greene, Kate

Rather than using simply electrical current, researchers are looking into using the spin of an electron, allowing for higher efficiency and greater computational ability. Arthur Smith, physics professor at Ohio University, and his colleagues have made the first step toward this goal by growing magnesium gallium, a magnetic metal, on gallium nitride, a semiconductor. Smith's team claims that the two materials are joined by a nearly seamless interface, which is necessary for electrons to retain their spin as they move from one material to the other. The system is also said to retains its magnetic properties at room temperature, whereas most require extremely low temperatures. There is no conclusive evidence that electrons will be able to travel between the materials as needed, but Smith says "we think there's a good chance that it'll work pretty well." Although today's electronics need current to operate, spintronic devices can be maintained even when a device's power is turned off, meaning less total power would be needed. Spin also allows for a greater amount of information to be stored and transmitted by electrons, creating faster microprocessors. While spintronics may not be in our near future, Smith thinks it could first be applied to opto-electronics, such as lasers and LEDs. Kannan Krishnan, professor of material science at the University of Washington in Seattle calls Smith's work "very promising," because the materials developed have "good properties." The next step is to test the functionality of this technology in actual systems, specifically, to study how effectively the spin of electrons in the magnetized material translates into polarized light.
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IU Study: More Internet Users May Be Taking 'Phishing' Bait Than Thought
Indiana University (10/12/06)

A new study from researchers at the University of Indiana indicates that as much as 14 percent of Americans may be getting duped into giving up private information in "phishing" scams. The figure is much higher than the 3 percent of adults a year cited in several surveys by Gartner Group. Researchers from IU's School of Informatics settled on 14 percent after simulating phishing attacks, in which they sent emails with a link to eBay customers that appeared to be legitimate. When recipients clicked on the link, they were sent to the eBay site, and the researchers were notified of the log-in. The researchers also launched a simulated spear phishing attack, in which personal information available online is used to create a more personal message for targets. "We think spear phishing attacks will become more prevalent as phishers are more able to harvest publicly available information to personalize each attack," says Jacob Ratkiewicz, a computer science doctoral student. Markus Jakobsson, associate director of the IU Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, says, "Our goal was to determine the success rates of different types of phishing attacks, not only the types used today, but those that don't yet occur in the wild, too." "Designing Ethical Phishing Experiments: A Study of eBay Query Features" is the title of the study.
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Schoolgirls Challenge IT Stereotypes
Computerworld Australia (10/16/06) Tay, Liz

Worldwide IBM camps are giving girls the opportunity to explore IT career options. Exploring Interests in IT and Engineering (EXITE) camps were held in 50 locations this year. Activities included robot programming, digital music-making, and hands-on mechanical engineering. A mentoring program that will last the rest of the year has also been established. "A lot of these girls are from schools with career counselors who are from an older generation to us, and most often have got stereotypes that women should go into careers like teaching and nursing," says Saloni Jirathaneswongse, an IBM consultant who worked at the camp in Sydney, Australia. "It's really important that this mentoring program opens their eyes to other careers and opportunities, because they don't get that awareness from their backgrounds." The program experienced great success, inspiring many girls, according to Alison de Kleuver, who manages IBM's Australia and New Zealand Sales operations. "Girls at this age are quite idealistic," adds de Kleuver. "They come out of this [mechanical engineering activity] saying, 'Wow, if I'm an engineer I could change the world!'" EXITE's goal is to get rid of outdated stereotypes that can be harmful to generations of talented young women, as well as the IT industry. "There is no in-a-box description of a woman in IT," says de Kleuver. "We all feel that we're in an industry that's treated us very well, and we don't want girls to be making uninformed decisions."
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Clever Cars Shine at Intelligent Transport Conference
New Scientist (10/11/06) Simonite, Tom

The latest developments in vehicle intelligence were on display at this week's Transport Systems World Congress in London. German company Ibeo showed a prototype system that would enable a car to automatically follow the flow of traffic. The smart car has an infrared laser scanner in its bumper to track objects up to 200 meters away that are stationary or moving at speeds of up to 112 miles per hour, and makes use of a computer to keep it at a safe distance, stop, or start if it gets stuck in traffic. Other companies are focusing on alerting distracted drivers. Japanese automotive company Aisin has placed an infrared camera behind the steering wheel to detect when a driver has turned away from the road, as part of a system that delivers an audible alarm and vibrates the driver's seat, and a similar infrared camera developed by DENSO of Japan is designed to closely analyze eye movement. Meanwhile, Toyota showed off an intelligent parking system that uses ultrasonic sensors to guide cars into parking spaces, and requires drivers to only use their breaks to control the speed of the vehicle. "Future developments will probably see a system that lets you get out and leave the car to park itself," says a spokesman for Toyota, which expects some U.S. models to have the system by 2007.
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The GIMP's Next-Generation Imaging Core Demonstrated
Linux.com (10/16/06) Willis, Nathan

The Generic Graphical Library (GEGL), long slated to replace GIMP, was demonstrated publicly by GIMP developer Oyvind Kolas on Friday at the Piksel 06 festival in Bergen, Norway. GEGL, which had been first proposed in 1999, had been all but written off by critics, as GIMP had remained in place through several rounds of tweaking. After the summer of 2005, when it looked as if GEGL would never be introduced, Kolas, Sven Neumann, and Michael Natterer studied the code base and got it into functional shape again. This most recent demonstration displayed a new graphical interface from that shown in March 2006 at the Libre Graphics Meeting. Rather than implementing editing functions, the GUI allows the user to test out all of the core operations of GEGL on a live image. This version of the GUI tool has 87 total operations. Active operations are shown as a tree, and operations can be added as a "sibling" at the current level of the tree, or as a "child" of another operation. Such use of live compositing reveals one of GEGL's unusual design parameters: every image is a directed acyclic graph, an ordered, connected set of nodes, where each node consists of an input, operation, and output, rather than being simple pixel arrays. What this means is that all operations are equal, can be applied to any graph, and can be rearranged arbitrarily. Currently, the GUI tool is only experimental, as it cannot be used for editing, is prone to crashes, and is undocumented. Kolas hopes his progress on GEGL will attract the attention of other programmers, who can now search its architecture and capabilities.
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Digital Age May Bring Total Recall in Future
CNN.com (10/17/06) Gandossy, Taylor

For the past five years, Microsoft computer engineer Gordon Bell has headed a project to create a new digital device that would enable users to record every moment of their life, and then search its database whenever they want to review a paper, fax, phone call, photograph, movie, Web site, IM conversation, or television or radio transcript. "The interim objective is to make this kind of system available, to gradually put these kinds of capabilities in all of our PCs," says Bell. He believes people would be interested in having such a surrogate memory because it would allow them to preserve analog and digital information forever. Q-Tech co-founder Sunil Vemuri is also focusing on a memory solution, but he is developing technology that would allow existing cell phones, computers, and other communications devices to serve as the memory aid. "Because you know, people carry mobile phones all the time, and I haven't heard of anyone lately calling it intrusive," says Vemuri. People would not be able to use his technology to find missing keys, a remote control, or other physical objects. Though Vemuri attempts to address concerns about privacy, security is as much a pressing issue for such recording devices.
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Wave of the Future Is Here
Daily Advertiser (10/17/06) Sills, Marsha

For researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, next-generation radio frequency identification means encoding RFID microchips with sensors, which would allow the chips to hold more data. "We're trying to develop chips that consume very low power, can read at longer distances, and are smarter," says Magdy Bayoumi, director of UL's Center for Advanced Computer Studies. UL is also focusing on making the chips more affordable, and Bayoumi adds that they would need to cost no more than 5 cents to be economical. Researchers are working to improve software for RFID so that the technology can be used in new ways, such as for tracking purchases of certain medications associated with an illness, which would be helpful for detecting potential health outbreaks. With RFID, which is expected to replace traditional bar codes in a few years, tags can be placed in commercial products or even humans, and data such as location or temperature can be transmitted via a radio signal to devices that can download the information. "The next level is to not only make more applications, but make it more secure," adds Soumik Ghosh, a doctoral student studying computer engineering from New Delhi, India.
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NASA Scouts Chips for Next Moon Mission
EE Times (10/16/06)No. 1445, P. 1; Merritt, Rick

Michael A Johnson has been assigned the task of choosing the microprocessor that will accompany astronauts back to the moon. Targeted so far have been CPUs with as much as 3,000 Mips of performance and 2,000 Mips/watt in energy efficiency. The CPU must handle a total-life-cycle radiation dose of 100 kilorads, and be virtually immune to any "latchups," or hard errors caused when a high-energy particle fires a chip with junction back-bias and excessive current draw. Construction of the manned lunar-exploration mission will begin in 2011, with the manned-mission occurring before 2020. Johnson says the excitement of going back to the moon should reinvigorate engineers, despite the recent cuts in the R&D budget and cancellations of entire projects. One hope of Johnson's is to collaborate on a chip with the military space program. Five years ago, a radiation hardened PowerPC 750 was developed for just this purpose. Constrained as he is, Johnson may have to choose a single chip, which presents problems. A general-purpose processor would benefit some applications, while others (a robotic vehicle) would be a better fit for a single- or multiple-instruction, multiple-data architecture. There is no telling whether the government will decide on a standalone processor or a system-on-chip (SoC) to serve a wide range of platforms. Various other solutions are being looked into by NASA, including three partially hardened CPUs in a system in which the chips "vote" on results, but in the past this type of system has shown to require too much power. Besides Johnson, other project managers at NASA are looking into low-temperature devices able to operate at -180 degrees Celsius, for environments such as the dark side of the moon, and reconfigurable systems that can be programmed as mission changes occur, or to manage faults during a long mission.
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An Uncertain Future
Computing Business (10/19/06) Flood, Gary

The number of U.K. graduate students enrolling in computer science has fallen precipitously; not only are fewer graduates with IT skills entering the job market, but employers complain that the quality of graduates is declining. According to the Confederation of British Industry, over one-third of adults in the United Kingdom lack a basic school-leaving qualification, while one-third of employers are having to send staff for remedial training in English and mathematics. Practical hands-on experience and grammar are deficit areas that employers often cite. "The real problem is that it is getting harder and harder for IT managers to take on entry-level people and investing the two to three years needed to get them productive," says Toshiba U.K.'s Sandra Smith. She adds that this reinforces the appeal of outsourcing IT jobs to workers outside of Britain. "We need to see more U.K. employers taking in entry-level people here, and giving them time to gain the commercial skills they need, because surely we can't let it all go offshore?" Smith argues. More young people may be encouraged to study computing and other sciences if the cost of a U.K. science degree is slashed, according to LogicaCMG CEO Martin Read.
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Back to Nature for Next-Gen Semis
Electronic Design (09/28/06) Vol. 54, No. 21, P. 42; Harris, Daniel

Next-generation semiconductor technologies will have to overcome issues of scalability and cost, and manufacturers are investigating natural structures for solutions. Scaling to 32 nm and below will require high channel doping, giving designers the challenge of lowering gate-induced drain-leakage current and threshold voltage variations while scaling the supply voltage; lithography processes will also need to be overhauled, while signal isolation in RF, analog, and mixed-signal design for wireless will present challenges. Other issues of concern to manufacturers include the expected move to 450-mm wafers by 2012, which will require the adoption of wafer, metrology, and processing equipment standards, and the need to minimize signal propagation delay and power consumption through the use of a low dielectric constant material of about 2.0. Among the areas of technology research that focus on solving such problems are carbon nanotubes, which have very high current densities, and their use in electric circuits requires a reliable method for controlling the type of nanotube generated. Superconducting circuits are another area under investigation, since their advantages include perfect conduction, no interior magnetic field, frequency-independent magnetic penetration depth, extremely low operating power, zero dc electrical resistance, and super-low power dissipation. Three-dimensional trigate transistors are also a possibility with their promise of better standby current, less leakage current, and potential scaling to the 15-nm range. Semiconductor packaging companies have challenges of their own when switching to greener materials and new standards, and redistributive chip packaging (RCP) and quad flat no-lead (QFN) technologies are being considered. RCP reduces packaging costs and shrinks the size of high-pitch packages by half, while QFNs offer compact size, reduced weight, and outstanding electrical and thermal properties.
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The Long Road to 64 Bits
Queue (10/06) Vol. 4, No. 8, P. 24; Mashey, John R.

The long, laborious transition from 32-bit microprocessors to 64-bit microprocessors contains key lessons illustrating the axiom that design decisions made decades ago will shape future software. Insights derived from such lessons include the fact that real restraints may drive bad decisions; decisions that were reasonable 20 years ago turn out to have been less than optimal; certain decisions may have short-term advantages but long-term shortcomings; and predictable trends are disregarded, or transition initiatives poorly estimated. It was established that address bits are in short supply and are eventually used up, even in successful computer families, while thinking ahead can help deal with the constraint of upward compatibility. Also demonstrated as the transition continued was the lesson that it takes a prolonged period of time to convert an installed base of hardware in a successful computer family, while software has an even longer cycle; furthermore, switching from 32 bits to 64/32 bits constitutes a long-term coexistence prospect. The heating up of 64-bit in the early 1990s brought attention to the fact that standards are frequently generated in nonstandard ways, and de facto standards long precede official standards in many cases. In addition, disagreement between reasonable people can happen, particularly when different sets of data are studied, while sometimes taking a reasonable step involves collaboration with rivals. Also, programmers exploit extra bits or specification ambiguity, and most arguments occur because of differing implicit assumptions made by application programmers. Another lesson is that although code can be recompiled, once data gets written somewhere, any new code must still be capable of describing it cleanly. It is probably a wise course of action to devise a notation for 128-bit integers, since the integers' generated code on 64-bit CPUs is close to identical to 64-bit code on 32-bit CPUs. Finally, it pays to think ahead about software decisions, as the ramifications of those decisions are longer-lasting than hardware decisions.
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