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November 21, 2006

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Task Force Advocates Innovation Focus in Military
National Journal's Technology Daily (11/16/06) Greenfield, Heather

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation presented President Bush with a request for basic defense research to be included in his American competitiveness initiative. Although military R&D spending is at a record high, recent expenditures have simply applied current technology to new equipment: "We have been under-investing in the basic research needed for the next-generation military technology," says the report. A pattern revealed by a report last year was confirmed and updated, showing further decreases in federal investment in physical sciences and engineering, says task force chairman Doug Comer of Intel. Also cited is the fact that China is now the largest technology exporter and that North American companies comprised only 41 percent of U.S. patents filed, while 59 percent were from Asian companies. Newt Gingrich, a member of the task force, warns that the U.S. must aim to take the lead in science through investment in national security advancements; "otherwise, we'll have opponents that have scientific capabilities we don't understand," he says. Although both President Bush and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) support more funding for basic research and programs to produce more science, technology, and engineering graduates, Gingrich says the bipartisan support has not produced visible gains, while the proposals are not enough to keep pace with other countries.
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CRA Calls for Advice on the GENI Science Council
Computing Research Association (11/20/06) Bernat, Andy

The National Science Foundation has invited the Computing Research Association (CRA) to establish a Computing Community Consortium (CCC) to help the computing research community build compelling long-term research visions and the mechanisms to realize them. One of the first responsibilities of the CCC is to create a council to help guide the design of the science plan for the Global Environment for Networking Innovations (GENI) initiative. The purpose of GENI is to enable the research community to invent and demonstrate a global communications network and related services that will be qualitatively better than today's Internet. The GENI Science Council (GSC) will provide broad research community involvement for GENI, and the CRA is now calling on the community to help set the GSC agenda. They are seeking input on such matters as the research areas the GSC should address; overall characteristics the GSC should possess; and recommendations of specific individuals deemed strong contributors to the GSC. Responses should be submitted to CRA Executive Director Andy Bernat at abernat@cra.org.
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U.S. Technology Czar Says More IT Workers Needed
eWeek (11/17/06) Gibson, Stan

The United States needs to produce more engineering graduates and allow more foreigners to work in the country in order to prevent a shortage of workers in its IT workforce, U.S. technology czar Robert Cresanti said during an exclusive interview with eWeek. On the issue of foreign workers, Cresanti, undersecretary of commerce for technology, expressed support for the H-1B visa program and for making it easier for students from other countries to obtain visas. A recent trip to China allowed Cresanti to see first hand the enormous amount of money that has been spent on research facilities and schools in the nation, and the observation helped him to realize that "math and science are ingrained" in the culture. "Virtually every senior government official I met was an engineer," he added. Trade with China remains an option, but the issue of intellectual property still needs to be addressed. He also answered questions on the topic of software patents, and said the patents need to be clearly defined. Looking to the future, Cresanti is very optimistic about nanotechnology and its potential impact on how things will be made in the years to come. However, he acknowledged that their needs to be further study of the potential health risks of nanotechnology.
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Hyperlinking Reality via Phones
Technology Review (11/20/06) Greene, Kate

Mobile Augmented Reality Applications (MARA) are being developed by Nokia researchers as a way to superimpose virtual information on a real-time cell phone video stream. Nokia Research Center engineer David Murphy says the technology could be used to locate and learn about nearby restaurants, hotels, or other MARA users, even providing hyperlinks to menus or blogs, if available, as more people and places are incorporated into the MARA system. The prototype uses GPS technology and a system of three sensors that pinpoint the phone's exact location and orientation. Murphy says that MARA's see-through annotation projects purely virtual objects on the screen, such as a mural superimposed on the side of a building, an improvement over past augmented reality technology. While Nokia does not plan to develop the technology into a commercial product because of power consumption problems, privacy issues, and other matters, it will open up MARA to outside developers who will be able to tweak it for their own purposes.
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A Quantum (Computer) Step
University of Utah News (11/19/2006) Siegel, Lee

University of Utah physicist Christoph Boehme has accomplished "a breakthrough in the search for a nanoscopic [atomic scale] mechanism that could be used for a data readout device," as he explains, representing a major breakthrough in building a phosphorus-and-silicon quantum computer. "We have demonstrated experimentally that the nuclear spin orientations of phosphorus atoms embedded in silicon can be measured by very subtle electric current passing through the phosphorus atoms," says Boehme, an associate professor of physics. "For this concept, data readout is the biggest issue, and we have shown a way to read data." Boehme's team was able to "read" the net spin of 10,000 electron, and while a true quantum computer would read the spin of a single electron, the research represents a million-fold improvement over previous work, proves the possibility of reading a single electron's spin, and most importantly according to Boehme, shows that electrical techniques can read data stored on the more stable spins of atomic nuclei. He was able to "measure the spins of the nuclei of individual phosphorus atoms in a piece of silicon when the phosphorus is close [within about 50 atoms] to the surface," and should soon be able to "read a single phosphorus nucleus." However, Boehme says that if he were to compare current progress towards the goal of quantum computing to classical computer: "We would probably be just before the discovery of the abacus."
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Enrollment of Foreign Students Levels Off, Falls in CIS
CRA Bulletin (11/17/06) Vegso, Jay

For the third straight year, the number of foreign students pursuing degrees in computer and information science (CIS) in the United States has fallen, according to the 2006 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education (IEE). In the 2005-2006 academic year, there were 34,418 international students enrolled in CIS programs, which represents a 12 percent decline from 38,966 foreign students in 2004-2005, and a 41 percent decline from 57,739 in 2003-2004. In the latest academic year, international students in CIS programs accounted for 6.1 percent of all foreign students pursuing degrees in the United States, which is down from 6.9 percent in 2004-2005, and 10.1 percent in 2003-2004. The decline in foreign students in CIS programs comes at a time in which the total number of international students in the country was nearly the same as a year ago, at 564,766. The report also reveals that 88,460 foreigners were studying engineering, down from 92,952 in 2004-2005 and 95,220 in 2003-2004. International students in engineering programs accounted for 15.7 percent of all foreign students. And there were 11,200 foreign students in mathematics programs, which accounted for 2 percent of the total number of international students.
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Did Florida Foul Another Ballot?
Wired News (11/17/06) Zetter, Kim

Critics contend that touch-screen voting machines may have lost over 18,000 votes cast last week in Sarasota, Fla., for a congressional seat, and are calling the recount currently underway a joke because e-voting systems lack a paper trail and questions about the missing votes have not been addressed. A planned legal challenge that will probably be filed next week could help to finally, clearly demonstrate the unreliability of e-voting machines, according to critics. Voters who cast ballots before the election claimed the machines were not recording their selection in the congressional race, and noted that the screen seemed to record their vote when they cast it, but showed no vote cast on the review page. A potential calibration problem with the touch screens was also indicated by reports of vote-switching difficulties. "We're hoping this situation in Sarasota is going to show how absolutely insane it is to have these machines recording our votes...or not recording our votes," declared the Florida Fair Elections Coalition's Susan Pynchon. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and other lawmakers are using the Florida debacle as an opportunity to support a bill pending in Congress that would make voter-verified paper trails a requirement for all e-voting systems in the United States.
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Not YouTube, HUGETube: Purdue Researchers Stream Massive Internet Video
Purdue University News (11/16/06) Tally, Steve

Purdue University researchers have developed a technique that has allowed them to stream a 10 GB animation over the Internet in two minutes. The researchers at the university's Envision Center for Data Perceptualization demonstrated the project, which involved streaming cell structure animation at 7.5 Gbps over the super-fast National Lambda research network, at the SC06 conference in Tampa, Fla. They are unsure if there has been a larger video streamed over the Internet, and they add that the animation was not compressed. Moreover, the technique they used still allowed them to stop, replay, and zoom in in real time on the video that measured 4,096 pixels by 3,072 pixels, which is about 12 17-inch computer monitors organized in a grid three monitors high and four monitors wide. With a peak speed of 8.4 Gbps, the researchers could have sent another 12 movie DVDs during the same time. Laura Arns, associate director and research scientist at the center, says "the equipment could have been purchased off the shelf for less than $100,000." Though researchers could use the technique as a cost-effective way to collaborate on scientific visuals in real time, the film industry also could use it to produce movies and stream them to theaters.
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Converging Virtualization With Distributed Computing
HPC Wire (11/16/06) Vol. 13, No. 4,

Argonne National Laboratory scientist Kate Keahey, who is currently working on the Globus Toolkit and other aspects of Grid technology, took some time to discuss developments in virtualization as it is used to implement Grid computing before the first IEEE/ACM International Workshop on Virtualization Technologies in Distributed Computing was held at SC06 on Friday. Her work focuses mainly on techniques to "dynamically provision well-defined execution environments--a.k.a., 'virtual workspaces'--and the various resource and policy management issues that it entails," she says. Keahey explains virtualization "as a vehicle to realize the dream of Grid computing...virtualization introduces a layer of abstraction that turns the question around from 'let's see what resources are available and figure out if we can adapt our problem to use them' to 'here is an environment I need to solve my problem--I want to have it deployed on the grid as described." She even envisions portable "pluggable virtual environments" existing in the future. Convergence would create an unprecedented degree of "simplicity, making resource sharing easier, greater manageability--in other words things that improve your 'quality of life,' as a Grid user and make on-demand resource provisioning applicable to a broader set of applications." The Virtualization Technologies and Distributed Computing workshop is her way to bringing together these two communities, which rarely interact, into a common forum that "lead to better understanding of the challenges [facing the industry], increase the synergy and iterations on solutions--and most of all, provoke new ideas," said Keahey.
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Software Distinguishes Between Online Namesakes
New Scientist (11/16/06) Simonite, Tom

Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan have developed a new search tool that has the potential to be beneficial for language processing and the Semantic Web. The software is designed to conduct a search of someone with a common name on the Web, and automatically analyze the details of the results to determine which individual is the correct one. The system would be able to distinguish the pop singer Michael Jackson from the many other people with the same name in the search results, and suggest the use of certain keywords such as "music" to obtain the results for the entertainer. Developed by Danushka Bollegala and colleagues Yutaka Matsuo and Mitsuru Ishizuka, the program analyzes the first 100 results in a Google search, looks for common words in summaries, clusters results together for each individual, and finds words and phrases in full-page results that are relevant to each person. As a result, ambiguous information does not confuse the program. "We are working to extend the method to disambiguate other types of named entities, such as products, organizations, and geographical information," says Bollegala. The Semantic Web needs computers to understand the meaning of information online, adds Victoria Uren of Britain's Open University. The accuracy rate of the algorithm is between 70 percent and 95 percent so far.
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Cracked It!
Guardian Unlimited (UK) (11/17/06) Boggan, Steve

UK Identity and Passport Security claims that the new passports it is issuing are sufficiently encrypted to prevent fraudulent activity, but some experts have found flaws in the new system. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) set new standards for passports in 2003 that mandated a RFID microchip included in passports that can only be read with a key consisting of the passport number, the holder's date of birth, and the passport's expiration date, all of which are printed on a "machine readable zone" of the passport; when the passport is swiped by an immigration official, the key is fed into the scanner that is then allowed to read the RFID chip; the passport holder's information is displayed on the official's screen. Bunker Hosting Security technical director Adam Laurie explains, "The information in the chip is not encrypted, but to access it you have to start up an encrypted conversation between the reader and the RFID chip in the passport." He was able to write software in 48 hours that allowed him to communicate with the chip; Laurie says that although the Home Office used state of the art encryption technology, it also used non-secret information (actually written in the passport) as a "secure key," a potentially fatal, and foolish, flaw. The Home Office points out that the information that can be extracted from the chip is that which is already on the passport and in order to access it you need visual access to the passport, but German DN-Systems Enterprise Solutions founder Luke Grunwald has been able to create a RFID clone that could be used to enter a country illegally, a technique others agree is a dangerous possibility. Pictures on the RFID chip cannot be altered, but simple visual confirmation of a person's appearance has not been proven as an effective security measure.
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What Do Robots Dream Of?
Science (11/17/06) Vol. 314, No. 5802, P. 1093; Adami, Christoph

A testbed for self-awareness models could be supplied by robots capable of devising and updating internal models of their own physical structure, which yields more robust navigation of their environment and better autonomous injury recovery, according to Christoph Adami of the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences. He cites the work of J. Bongard et al., which seeks to prove that a robot's robustness in surroundings that may include damage to the machine can be improved, using a four-legged robot that builds an internal model of itself by first executing actions on a flat surface and recording responses. "The robot then computationally tests candidate self-models, by re-imagining the actions it just performed and comparing the behavior of the model with its memory of the results--that is, the robot tries to explain the observed relationship between sensory data and leg actuation by making assumptions about its own configuration," Adami notes. The robot plays a dynamic role in ascertaining its optimal self-model. Bongard and colleagues employed an algorithm that utilizes the important information theory tenet that maximum predictive power can be yielded from the minimization of entropy. Adami reasons that through the use of such algorithms, the robot could "dream up" strategies for successfully navigating its environment. "We ought to be able to record the changes in the robot's artificial brain as it establishes its beliefs and models about the world and itself, and from those infer not only its cognitive algorithms, but also witness the emergence of a personality," he writes. "Thus, perhaps the discipline of experimental robot psychology is not too far off in the future."
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Communicating Even When the Network's Down
Network World (11/16/06) Cox, John

Mobile disruption tolerant networks (DTNs) are being developed by researchers, who note that the sustained communications such networks provide entails slower data transmission and reception. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing $8.7 million into BBN Technologies' SPINDLE DTN research project; BBN has devised a network protocol and code that transfers data between nodes as connections become available, and can store data persistently until a connection is open. To compensate for the unavailable or broken-down infrastructure that is typical of a disrupted network, the BBN researchers are blending the new routing protocol with the late binding method. A new DTN caching model is also being studied by the researchers, so that cached content can be tracked and information requests can be responded to even when disruptions make search-and-access capabilities unavailable. A DTN scheme in which information requests pass through the network and encounter information advertisements is visualized by SPINDLE project manager Stephen Polit and Internetwork Research Group chief scientist Rajesh Krishnan. Meanwhile, the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Privacy, Internetworking, Security, and Mobile Systems Lab has created a working DTN, DieselNet, that integrates commercially available single-board computers, GPS receivers, and radios on 40 UMass Transit System buses. Since DieselNet was launched, the median data transmitted between buses fell from 1 MB in 10 seconds to about 0.5 MB in eight seconds, and researchers are using stationary, standalone wireless nodes or "throw boxes" to boost throughput.
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'To Microsoft, We're a Source of Smart People'
Guardian Unlimited (UK) (11/16/06) Schofield, Jack

Microsoft's Cambridge Research Lab is a unique and vital part of the company's $6.6 billion a year R&D budget, says the lab's head Andrew Herbert. When Herbert began his new job at the lab, its areas of focus were programming languages and tools, machine learning, and systems and networks, but since his arrival, they have added applications. Among many current projects in the lab is SenseCam, which can be worn all day to record experiences, and is being tested with memory-loss patients. Microsoft Research's technology transfer team is integral in making sure researchers and product developers are aware of what each other are working on and the challenges they face, allowing them to help each other when needed, says Herbert. When Microsoft decides to get into an already established market area, it is the Research lab that tackles the problem. For example, when Microsoft decided to build a search engine, it was the lab that said, "Here's how to build one," according to Herbert. "We clearly a source of new technology and we're a source of smart people. We also see one of our roles as to give the company agility, by researching things that don't relate to current products. As a research lab, we're allowed and encouraged to go off on those tangents, because you never know."
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Of VPNs and Peer-to-Peer SIP: IETF Chair Speaks Out
Network World (11/02/06) Vol. 23, No. 43, P. 1; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

Internet Engineering Task Force Chairman Brian Carpenter spoke with Carolyn Duffy Marsan about recent projects and happenings before the group's 67th meeting in San Diego. Carpenter identified peer-to-peer session initiation protocol as "the most interesting thing" to be on the table in San Diego; "SIP was originally designed as a session protocol, and it assumes there is some sort of SIP service provider," Carpenter says. "Skype came along, and people started asking, why can't we do SIP in peer-to-peer mode? That's generating a lot of interest." In other topics, a working group known as Network Endpoint Assessment was recently chartered to address issues of security for determining when a system shows up on the network whether or not it has necessary security configuration, in hopes of defining an information exchange protocol regarding the system or network's security protocol. In the past year, the IPv6 working group announced that it had finished its job, no longer needing to meet in person, and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol working groups have also finished their task of creating Version 3 and extension documents. Currently, tunneling and VPNs are receiving a lot of attention, but according to Carpenter, "the work is spread over a bunch of working groups." In the future, he said, IETF has "a lot of scaling ahead in routing and addressing," and while the task will be a challenging one, requiring extensive communication within the field, Carpenter is confident that it will be handled.
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Malware Goes Mobile
Scientific American (11/06) Vol. 295, No. 5, P. 70; Hypponen, Mikko

It was inevitable that increasingly sophisticated mobile phones or smart phones would become susceptible to malware, writes F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen. More than 300 kinds of malicious programs that target smart phones, including worms, spyware, and Trojan horses, are at large today. Hypponen says there must be a unified effort by the security community, cellular network operators, smart phone designers, and phone users to check the spread of mobile malware before it reaches epidemic proportions. The decreasing cost and increasing sophistication of smart phones is boosting their popularity to the point where such devices could conceivably comprise most of the world's computers in the near future, and this will offer an irresistible target to malware creators seeking to exploit smart phone users' unfamiliarity with computers and their vulnerabilities. "Carriers would be wise to begin educating cellular customers now about how to identify and avoid mobile viruses, rather than waiting until these infections become epidemic," Hypponen suggests. "Phone makers should install antivirus software by default, just as PC manufacturers now do. And regulators and phone companies can also help avoid the monoculture problem that plagues PCs by encouraging a diverse ecosystem for smart phones in which no single variety of software dominates the market." Hypponen also supports the inclusion of firewalls into phones, and argues that governments should play a more prominent role in addressing the threat of mobile malware.
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A Conversation With Douglas W. Jones and Peter G. Neumann
Queue (11/06) Vol. 4, No. 9, Jones, Douglas W.; Neumann, Peter G.

Examining the security of electronic voting machines yields insights on the challenges of developing and running trustworthy systems for other applications, and advocates of election process integrity Douglas W. Jones and Peter G. Neumann discuss the matter. Jones notes that "any attempt to scientifically investigate elections has unavoidable political implications" regardless of the technologies in use. He says the need for a transparent election system lies at the root of much of the technological difficulties inherent in assuring election integrity. Jones contends that "the entire system must be sufficiently open and comprehensible that nontechnical observers can believe the results." Redundancy itself offers no assurance without carefully planned placement and transmission of copies, and clear techniques for spotting and addressing discrepancies between copies; Jones also calls for the support of auditability in voting system design, secure authentication methods to prevent fraud as well as accidental error, trusted ways to transport all system elements, and a way to assess how well the systems fulfill design requirements. Jones observes that while the Help America Vote Act has spurred migration to statewide voter registration databases, the trade-off is statewide ramifications for mismanagement. When asked by Neumann to elaborate on embedding transparency into the electoral process, Jones cites the need to make voting-system failures a matter of routine investigation and to publicize the results of such investigations, as well as ensure that the documentation needed to interpret any public records is also public. As far as using the Internet is concerned, Jones thinks it is a viable option for functions that currently employ wireless systems or other public networks, but he urges more use of satellite voting places for early voting rather than unrestricted postal voting.
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Scaling System-Level Science: Scientific Exploration and IT Implications
Computer (11/06) Vol. 39, No. 11, P. 31; Foster, Ian; Kesselman, Carl

System-level science involves the integration of heterogeneous sources of knowledge concerning the constituent elements of a sophisticated system in order to comprehend the system's properties as a whole, and the trend has significant implications not only for many scientific disciplines, but also for information technology; this is because system-level science usually blends software systems, data, computing resources, and people in addition to multiple disciplines, write Ian Foster of Argonne National Laboratory and Carl Kesselman of the USC Information Sciences Institute. Addressing the challenge of building the people, infrastructure, software, and policies needed to accommodate a complex system-level problem entails the determination of what can be done to scale system-level science in terms of the extension of the problems addressed, the number of engaged resources, the population of participants, and the span of its application. System-level science's end-to-end nature calls for the provision of independent and persistent science capability services that can be incorporated into a wide array of larger-scale investigations, and the authors note that extremely large amounts of computation and data are required for certain questions and components. The performance of scientific investigation in a system-level science context carries certain consequences that impact the infrastructure undergirding the process: The need for multidisciplinary, collaborative, and distributed team-oriented exploration, which makes sharing essential; dynamic variance of the resources the team employs over the investigation's lifetime; and the dynamic range of the problem. The need to support these requirements is fueling a migration toward service-oriented architectures (SOAs), according to Foster and Kesselman. Successfully applying SOA methods involves erecting a partition between the tasks of deploying a scientific capability from the details of hosting that capability. "If researchers can adopt SOA technologies successfully, then they can, in principle, decompose our monolithic application over the network, with different groups developing and operating different components," the authors write.
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