Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
February 7, 2007

MemberNet
The ACM Professional Development Centre
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the February 7, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Congressman Renews Push for E-Vote Paper Trails
Computerworld (02/06/07) Songini, Marc L.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) has introduced his bill requiring a paper trail for electronic votes once again in Congress. A Capitol Hill controlled by Republicans did not act on the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act last year, but Holt hopes the outcome will be different now that Democrats are in power. "Until we require that voting systems produce a voter-verified paper ballot, the results of our elections will always be uncertain," Holt said in a statement. Under the bill, the auditing process would consist of routine random hand counts of precincts in every Congressional voting district. The proprietary software of e-voting vendors would come under scrutiny in examinations by independent inspectors, and voting officials would have to document their chain of custody during elections as a way to improve the transparency of the security of their hardware. The reintroduction of the bill comes at a time when a lawsuit filed by Christine Jennings, a Democrat in the 13th Congressional District in Florida, is still pending on whether the results of her race, in which there were 18,000 missing votes, will be invalidated and there will be a recount.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Internet Servers Handle Major Global Attacks
Associated Press (02/07/07) Bridis, Ted

Three of the 13 computers that help process global computer traffic were briefly overwhelmed on Tuesday, but due to increased distribution of workloads to computers around the world, the attacks were not as serious as those that confronted the same servers in 2002. UltraDNS, the organization that handles servers managing traffic for .org sites, was the target of the attack, which some suspect originated in South Korea. NeuStar, which owns UltraDNS, reported only that it had registered an unusual rise in traffic. There was no clear reason for the attacks, other than "maybe to show off or just be disruptive; it doesn't seem to be extortion or anything like that," says the Supercomputing Center in San Diego's Duane Wessels. Included in the targeted "root" servers were those run by the Defense Department and ICANN. "I don't think anybody has the full picture," said ICANN chief technical officer John Crain. "We're looking at the data."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


UM Study: Hackers Attack Every 39 Seconds
PRNewswire (02/06/07)

A study by University of Maryland researchers from the James Clark School of Engineering observed the activities of hackers as they try to gain access to a computer and exploit it. "Brute force" hackers were the focus of the study, which set up four Linux computers with weak security and Internet connections. The computers were attacked an average of 2,244 times each day, or every 39 seconds on average, confirming suspicions that the average computer is almost constantly under attack. "Most of these attacks employ automated scripts that indiscriminately seek out thousands of computers at a time, looking for vulnerabilities," says lead researcher Michael Culkier, an affiliate of the Clark School's Center for Risk and Reliability and Institute for Systems Research. The study documented the most commonly attempted user names, which were "root" and "admin," and the most attempted passwords, which were identical to, or variations of, the user name, as well as "123." After gaining access, hackers would typically check the computer's software configuration, change the password, check the configuration again, and download and install a program, which they would then run. "Often they set up back doors'--undetected entrances into the computer that they control--so they can create 'botnets,' for profit or disreputable purposes," Culkier says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Web-Based Programs Designed to Bolster Student Interest in Computing
Rensselaer News (02/02/07) Cleveland, Amber

A $300,000 NSF grant has been awarded to the creator of a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute project that uses specific cultural contexts to teach math to students, allowing for the design of a new interface that uses the same principles to teach computer programming. Science and technology studies professor Ron Eglash developed "culturally situated design tools" (CSDTs), Web-based applets that focus on aspects of African American, Native American, or Latin American cultures that involve mathematics. For example, students would learn about the role math plays in the design of cornrow hairstyles or Navajo rugs in a hands-on manner. Eglash will now shift his focus to computer programming and create programs that require students to use "pseudocodes" to create similar designs. When the three-year grant is over, Eglash expects to have developed a group of "programmable" CSDTs that make it possible for "anyone, anywhere to design their own culturally situated design tools." Further plans for the grant include training undergraduate students involved in the Student Leadership Corps (SLC) of the NSF-sponsored Students & Technology in Academia, research, and Service (STARS) Alliance to use hands-on techniques to teach computing skills to students in grades seven to 12. These SLC mentors will have the ability to create new CSDTs. "Use of these educational resources has the possibility to improve students' mindset toward computing, and the greater potential to foster in them a life-long love of computing," Eglash says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Researchers Seek Energy Efficient Nets, Devices
EE Times (02/05/07) Merritt, Rick

The Energy Efficient Digital Networks initiative, a collaborative effort by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers working with the EPA's Energy Star program and academics in the University of Florida's Energy Efficient Internet Project, is ready to launch a number of projects intended to decrease power consumption in network and consumer systems. The group aims to create new power standards and practices for large network switches, wireless access points, set-top boxes, and other consumer devices. They estimate that 200 TeraWatt Hours of energy is used by electronic devices, which costs about $16 billion. The group has set a two-year time frame for all of the projects, but some will probably finish sooner, and others may not be a complete success. One project is a new proxy feature that could save up to 10 percent of the energy used by a single California home. Proxying enables a network card or external network system to keep a PC on the Internet when the computer is in sleep mode. The team may submit a proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force or the Distributed Management Task Force to make it into a standard. Another idea is to create a sleep mode for household devices that could be automatically controlled by OEMs or by a person using a remote control button. Two education efforts will involve informing the OEM community as to the low-power abilities of the 1394 interconnect, which is rarely used, as well as forming a list of "green" home control devices to inform builders on how homes can be built to use less energy. The Berkeley team has already been responsible for a new low-power Ethernet standard.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Bush Seeks Spending Increases in Research, Surveillance
CNet (02/05/07) Broache, Anne

President Bush on Monday announced his budget proposal for next year, placing priority on homeland security, the war on terror, and global competitiveness via the American Competitiveness Initiative. Under Bush's proposal the NSF would receive a 6.8 percent increase in funding, with a large portion of that being dedicated to "research and related activities." NSF's budget includes $390 million for nanotechnology research funding, a 4.5 percent increase, and $994 million for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, a 10 percent increase. However, some programs received less funding, or none at all. For example, funding for the National Institute of Technology's Advanced Technology Program, which explores "unproven, early stage technology," was completely left out of the budget. Homeland Security would get an increase of $21.9 million for its Science and Technology Office of Innovation, but the total funding for the Science and Technology directorate would drop from $848 million last year to $799 in the upcoming year. Bush also announced plans to considerably increase funding for Justice Department programs aimed at intercepting data and investigating international travelers. Bush's budget proposals were criticized by Democrats. House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) praised the funding increases, but said the overall proposal "lacks the priorities and consistency to ensure our competitiveness now and in the long run."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


MIT 'Optics on a Chip' May Revolutionize Telecom, Computing
MIT News (02/05/07)

MIT researchers have developed a way to mass-produce photonic circuitry on silicon chips, or "optics on a chip," a significant step toward bringing the speed and power of light waves to traditional electronics. "This breakthrough allows inter- and intra-chip communications networks that solve the wiring problems of today's computer chips and computer architectures," said electrical engineering and computer science professor Franz X. Kaertner. Key to the advancement is a technique for separating the two orientations of polarized light, a process called "molding" the flow of light. Molding involves dividing the light from an optic fiber into two "arms," horizontal and vertical, and rotating the orientation of one of the arms so they are oriented the same way and can pass through the same photonic structures. The importance of implementing optics into silicon fabrication technology "is already highly developed and promises precise and reproducible processing of densely integrated circuits," Kaertner said. "The prospect of integrating the photonic circuitry directly on silicon electronic chips is ultimately also an important driver." The technology is expected to reach commercial devices in five years, say researchers, who note that supercomputers could make use of the innovation to achieve high-speed signal processing, spectroscopy, remote testing, and other tasks.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Institutions Unveil High-Performance Computing
Network World Canada (02/02/07) Hughes, Greg

Seven Canadian regional computing groups have come together to form a pan-Canadian research network known as High Performance Computing (HPC), which is intended to maintain the competitiveness of Canada's economy by enhancing its research and development abilities. Backed by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the network will be primarily for university researchers and will allow them to share data throughout Canada; it will serve 60 universities and 600 researchers. HPC will include multiple dedicated light paths with a total bandwidth of over 10 Gbps and have a combined data storage capacity of 6.2 petabytes, according to CFI. Various tier-two systems will be distributed throughout Canada, with some potentially reaching hundreds of teraflops. "We will be installing capacity clusters with thousands of CPUs with much higher bandwidth interconnect and a vector computing platform [at the University of Toronto] for the most highly coupled jobs, which is required for climate solutions," says University of Toronto physics professor Dick Pelltier. He expects to see a refresh cycle for the resources every three to five years, so the "platform will operate in perpetuity" and provide maximum benefit to the Canadian economy. The network will also join nine other international networks that will serve as data storage centers for activities conducted by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Caught in the IT Pay Squeeze
Computerworld (02/05/07) Hoffman, Thomas

Given the increasingly tight IT labor market, CIOs are challenged with courting top talent with attractive offers while not angering or discouraging current employees. Management is telling CIOs to keep labor prices down, as outsourcing has depressed salaries for some professions, so many are looking for ways to include incentives that have business rationale behind them such as trips to factories in other countries. A big danger for many IT departments are key employees leaving for higher-paying jobs, so many are giving new work or increased responsibilities to keep employees interested and feeling relevant. However, compensation is still respected as the most effective way to win over, or hold onto, the best employees. On the whole, IT salaries have not been keeping up with inflation, but the increasingly flexible market, partially the result of outsourcing, allows some savings to be rerouted into salary. The IT turnover rate is 15 percent, and 80 percent of those who have left recently have done so seeking higher pay, according to Hyundai Information Service IT president Rich Hoffman. The IT worker being sought out today is one that is skilled in a variety of disciplines, many not related to IT.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Mimicking How the Brain Recognizes Street Scenes
Newswise (02/06/07)

Researchers at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research made history when they were able to apply a computational model of how the brain functions to recognize objects in the real world, specifically a crowded street scene. Although the idea of computers mimicking the brain has long been discussed, "computer science and AI have developed independently of neuroscience," says project leader Tomaso Poggio. "Our work is biologically inspired computer science." The model was given random images so it could learn to identify objects commonly occurring in a street scene, and was then given images of street scenes from which it was able to label objects such as buildings, cars, and pedestrians, proving its superiority to traditional systems that can only label a single type of object. Object recognition presents researchers with a paradox: Computers need a detailed and particular model upon which to base their labeling of an object, but at the same time they need to be able to identify a specific object despite meaningless changes in size, lighting, or position. To mimic the hierarchy of the brain, Poggio's model uses "layers" that process input and output signals the same way neurons do; it is able to alternate between computations that create a representation of an object that is not influenced by changes in appearance and computations that create a representation that is very specific to an object. The system's success with a realistic scene is "concept proof that the activity of neurons as measured in the lab is sufficient to explain how brains can perform complex recognition tasks," says researcher Thomas Serre. The project will now focus on having the model also replicate the brain's feedback loops from the cognitive centers, a slower type of recognition that would allow understanding of context and reflection.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Not Your Grandma's Robot
Harvard Crimson (02/06/07) Singhal, Anupriya

Harvard robotics expert Robert J. Wood envisions tiny flying robots that operate autonomously and could be used for search and rescue missions. Currently, none of these robots have taken to the air, but the inspiration for Wood's Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) comes from insects and their ability to hover on a wingspan of less than two- or three-centimeters, Wood says. Hovering is both the most important and hardest-to-achieve characteristic of insect flight. Although the small size of MAVs would limit their processing power, Wood says his team is "developing decision-making procedures predicated on really simple control behavior--for example, avoiding obstacles or flying towards sensory stimuli." Wood works with biologists to learn the mathematics of insect flight, as well as how to recreate their biological features. "We've been using insights from biology as shortcuts to engineering," he says. Custom materials have been developed for the project, since the intricate machinery that can be used in large-scale devices wouldn't work in MAVs due to the effects of torque on a device so small. "It's kind of like a micro-origami process," Wood says. "By altering the geometry of layers of different materials, we can produce different joint structures." The project is not expected to produce a working MAV for at least a year.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Looking for Love on All the Right Web Sites?
Cornell University (02/05/07)

Men who use online dating sites tend to lie about their height, while women are not often truthful about their weight, according to a new study by behavioral researchers from Cornell University and Michigan State University. Eighty people who use Match.com, Yahoo Personals, American Singles, and Webdate participated in the survey, which involved letting the researchers look at their drivers' licenses and measure their height and weight. The researchers found that roughly 52.6 percent of men lied about their height, compared with 39 percent of women; and 64.1 percent of women did not tell the truth about their weight, compared with 60.5 percent of men. Also, 24.3 percent of men lied about their age, while 13.1 percent of women did. The deception in their online profiles appears to be a strategy for finding a partner with the physical attractiveness or social status they were looking for, says lead author Jeffrey Hancock, an assistant professor of communication at Cornell. "Participants balanced the tension between appearing as attractive as possible, while also being perceived as honest," he says. The April 2007 journal of the Proceedings of Computer/Human Interaction will feature the study, which will also be released during the ACM SIGCHI Computer/Human Interaction conference in San Jose, Calif., on April 28-May 3, 2007 (see www.chi2007.org).
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IBM Labs' Top-Five Research Projects
Network World (02/05/07) Leung, Linda

"IBM's Next Five in Five" is a list of innovations developed at the company's research & development lab in Silicon Valley that includes technology the company says could change people's live in the next five years. The first is FonePal, a way for customers to actually see their options when calling a call center. Rather than listening to the correct number to press, customers could actually see the menus and where each option would take them when FonePal sends the menu to the user's instant messaging client or phone. Translingual Automatic Language Exploitation Systems (TALES) is able to translate foreign news broadcasts into searchable English text. The system currently works with Chinese and Arabic. Another development is the use of sensors that allow remote diagnostics could be placed inside devices or worn on a person's body to monitor for unusual conditions and analyze data so doctors could more effectively predict illness. Meanwhile, Second Life is currently testing 3D Internet, where a user could navigate virtual space to find out about a company's products, or see what a certain product would look like in their home. Finally, nanotechnology is being utilized to address potable water shortages; the goal is to reengineer water molecules for filtration. IBM Silicon Valley Lab VP Dan Wardman says the biggest change in the last 20 years is that R&D now involves working directly with consumers to find solutions, rather than simply working on new technology.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Titillating Tech With Multi-Touch
Washington Square News (02/06/07) Schoenfeld, Dan

New York University computer scientist Jeff Han has developed new touch-screen technology that can handle input from as many fingers or objects as can fit on their surface. "There's no manual," he says. "It's natural. You just reach out and do it." The projection screens that Han has built have been as big as 16 feet wide, and are designed to be used by anyone. Han stresses the simplicity of the technology: "If you had a map on a table, this is how you would move it. Normally you would need a hand tool and rotate tool to do these functions, but now you can do it intuitively and not think about it." In one demonstration, he placed two fingers together on a map of New York, and by moving them apart he zoomed in on NYU's campus. He then placed two fingers on the side of the screen and with the other hand rotated the axis to get a better view into the windows of a building. Han's screens use rear-projection technology and are very durable. Han says, "The real promise is not for people who are experts and computer geeks. It's for people who aren't so great with computers and suddenly can do really advanced maneuvers."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Web Project Goes to the Dogs
Halifax Herald (02/06/07)

Acadia University computer expert Andre Trudel is able to use his computer to check on his 10-year-old English springer spaniel Twist. With the help of Danny Silver, a computer interface specialist at Acadia, and computer science master's student Fung Hu, Trudel has developed a computer and dog interface program that makes use of an automatic dog feeder, a ball-throwing device, stereo speakers, and a computer video camera. Trudel is able to watch Twist, and press various commands in his voice such as come, sit, stay, and "good girl." He can also press a button to activate the ball thrower, and when the well-trained Twist retrieves the ball and drops it into the throwing machine, he can press another button to release food as a reward. Trudel says producing a level of fidelity that would allow Twist to recognize his voice has been a challenge of the Human Computer Dog Interface project. He believes there is a commercial opportunity in allowing people to play with and feed their dogs from anywhere in the world, using a computer with an Internet connection. Trudel is seeking a research grant so he can continue to develop the program.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Fighting to Protect Copyright 'Orphans'
CNet (01/31/07) Terdiman, Daniel

A recent U.S. appeals court ruling dealt a blow to Internet activists' effort to stop the extension of copyright protections for out-of-print books and other orphan works by upholding the rejection of a lawsuit filed, among others, by Internet Archive co-founder and director Brewster Kahle. Nevertheless, the Internet Archive is by no means dead, as Kahle told an audience of listeners at a recent discussion. He explained that the mission of the archive is "to help build the Library of Alexandria version 2, starting with humankind's published works, books, music, video, Web pages, software, and make it available to everyone anywhere at anytime, and forever." The challenge, Kahle noted, lies in constructing a digital domain that permits the creation of and reimbursement for new works and their long-term preservation, while supporting access for the underprivileged as well as different types of access for journalism, scholarship, "and all in the new world." Kahle said resistance to the Internet Archive stems from an earlier copyright battle in which major media companies such as Disney, rather than simply extend terms of copyright for profitable works, lobbied for and got a major restructuring of copyright. This has set up what he called a "legal landmine" of which people are afraid of running afoul. Kahle said there is a clear need for aid in building an open content layer that has no central control, and the potential threat of ISPs violating Net neutrality by choking certain kinds of content is an issue of considerable importance. "I believe we can have long term storage and access--which is key--by building a set of International Libraries in different jurisdictions that have active trade agreements," the Internet Archive director concluded.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


On the Record, All the Time
Chronicle of Higher Education (02/09/07) Vol. 53, No. 23, P. A30; Carlson, Scott

The continuous recording of images, conversations, and other key moments in one's life through electronic devices is predicted to become a widespread trend by some researchers, most of whom are engaged in "lifelogging." Microsoft Research's Jim Gemmell envisions a "personal corpus" of recorded information that can be mined like a search engine so that people can "be more reflective and come up with better ideas," and this is the core concept of Microsoft's MyLifeBits project. Researchers think lifelogging tools would be a tremendous aid to physicians and their patients in terms of health management, especially in cases of memory impairment. Academic lifelogging projects currently underway include an effort at Ontario's Queen's University to develop a camera that starts recording when the wearer establishes eye contact with someone; meanwhile, MIT Media Lab professor and wearable computing pioneer Alex Pentland expects major electronics firms to make lifelogging devices and tools available for retail later this year. Lifelogging's potential implications for personal privacy, scholarship, and society are a matter of considerable concern, not least for the controversy of recording traumatic or embarrassing moments. George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen says the possibility of undesired surveillance is enough to hurt a person's sense of privacy. "It's the uncertainty about whether our intimate moments are going to be observed that makes us more inhibited and less likely to let down our hair," he says. Other issues lifeloggers must contend with include whether the lifelogging of copyrighted material makes one liable for infringement, or whether authorities should be allowed to subpoena private details from lifelogging records. Attorney Emilio W. Cividanes says most state laws allow people in public places to be recorded without their permission, while some researchers believe lifelogging has the potential to forever eliminate crime and deceit.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link to Publication Homepage
to the top


What Makes the Cut?
InformationWeek (02/05/07)No. 1124, P. 38; Babcock, Charles

Companies need to know the difference between open source projects that make lasting contributions and those that are doomed to obscurity if they wish to avoid tangling themselves up in a miasma of support difficulties and out-of-date software. Falling-outs with project leaders can become a serious impediment by eroding the trust that open-source developers need to encourage participation. A leader who inspires and guides developers and asks the right questions--a sort of benevolent dictator--is essential. Other tell-tale signs of successful open source projects include a robust community consisting of a small group of lead developers, a large number of contributors, and a driving user group that originates ideas to be explored. The code generated by an open source project must innovate in a manner that is considerably superior to commercial code. There must be transparent decision-making, with an airing of discussion threads, active mailing lists, and positive and negative comments. A good project is marked by forums that encourage civility and keep primary objectives paramount, while documentation is critical. The license must be transparent, while full-time paid developers are another necessary element of a successful open source project. Another important characteristic of the best open source projects is a protracted incubation period and delayed returns, and there must also be commercial support.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IDNs: Straightforward Technical Problem or Machiavellian Nightmare?
Internet Computing (02/07) Vol. 11, No. 1, P. 11; Goth, Greg

Governments, organizations, and individuals unhappy with the Internet's current governance architecture have cited the technical difficulties of internationalized domain names (IDNs) as a major issue, and they have become more vocal in their complaints since the United Nations and its International Telecommunications Union (ITU) started stressing the need to expand the Internet's technology and governance structure on a global scale. With the departure of ITU secretary general Yoshio Utsumi, a critic of ICANN and its procedures, it is hoped that the ITU will be more open to working with ICANN, the IETF, and regional and governmental organizations to accelerate the implementation of IDNs. "Things the new ITU secretary general [Hamadoun I. Toure] is saying sound a lot more cooperative and less competitive than his predecessor--and as a consequence, rather than reading the worst possible case into the resolutions, I'm hoping we see a more sensible way forward," comments ICANN Board Chairman Vint Cerf. Andrzej Bartosiewicz of the ITU's IDN working group says in the best case scenario the ITU would advise member governments and Internet registries on IDN rollout and compatibility, while former Internet Architecture Board Chairman John Klensin and Swedish Museum of Natural History Internet strategy and technology director Cary Karp contend that some of IDNs' most vociferous opponents would attempt to divide the Domain Name System using the ITU so that domain administration would become a function of the ITU and not ICANN. Klensin says governments that are cynically opposing internationalization initiatives should be permitted to sever themselves from the worldwide network. Cerf and Klensin think the potential for "phishing attacks" on IDNs could be more effectively addressed by letting Unicode characters use a more limited set, and having regional registries accountable for establishing and enforcing IDN registration policies.
Click Here to View Full Article
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 © 2007 Information, Inc.


© 2007 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.