Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
March 12, 2007

MemberNet
The ACM Professional Development Centre
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the March 12, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Is Computer Science Dead?
The Age (03/13/07) Timson, Lia

Some experts say IT professionals are a dying, increasingly unnecessary breed, and many undergraduates are focusing on careers outside of computing, even though Australia faces a national shortfall in IT personnel, a growing reliance on technology, and a population crazy for gadgets. IT school directors assign culpability for this decline on the dotcom meltdown and parents' concerns that a computer science degree will not assure their children stable or meaningful employment. De Montfort University computer science lecturer Neil McBride contends that people can now create complex business, science, and entertainment computing applications without a heavy university background in programming or mathematics thanks to high-level tools. CORE President and professor in the University of Technology, Sydney's IT faculty Jenny Edwards says the downturn in computer science enrollments and graduates is not isolated to Australia; other English-speaking Western countries are also suffering partly as a consequence of losing outsourcing contracts to India and other nations. Edwards remains convinced that computer science is ailing, but not extinct. "People forget our lives are now digital--sure there are tools that automate some of the [software] writing and some of the work is being outsourced to Asian countries, but still there is a demand for computer experts and now there are not enough graduates," she maintains. Monash University retiring professor John Crossley thinks young people's infatuation with technology hits a wall when it comes to learning computer science. Royale Melbourne Institute of Technology IT professor Justin Zobel sees a combination of trends contributing to the drop-off in computer science students, including a shift in the reasons people choose to enter the field. He notes that whereas two to three decades ago IT was regarded as "a science-fictional concept--this all-mighty and powerful thing that allowed people to create things like robots," nowadays the commonplace presence of computers and IT has discouraged people's attitude that they can create new technologies or cultures with computing.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Brochure Aims to Lure Fleeing CS Students Back
eWeek (03/08/07) Perelman, Deborah

To address the increasing number of students who, over time, lose their interest in computer science, ACM has created a brochure detailing exciting opportunities in the computer science world. Eric Roberts, Stanford University computer science professor and ACM's Education Board co-chair, has seen computer science at Stanford fall from the second-most popular major to the seventh; Roberts believes students transfer to other majors, such as economics and biology, in search of more money, cutting edge subjects, and stimulating problems. In response, ACM's brochure highlights the computer industry's involvement in modern areas such as robotics, gaming, online music distribution, and digital forensics, and emphasizes the variety in computer science, from theory to finding answers to "real world problems" to radical inventions. For students unsure as to which area would suit them best, the guide breaks down the areas of study: computer engineering for those interested in building progressive tools, information systems for natural-born "troubleshooters," and software engineering for "big picture" people. The guide is also intended to correct misconceptions about the industry; while many believe offshoring has hurt the number of U.S. jobs in the computer science field, there are actually more computing positions today than at any other point in the past, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also anticipates computer science jobs to be one of the fastest-growing careers over the next 10 years.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Peering Into Video's Future
Technology Review (03/12/07) Roush, Wade

Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks could offer salvation for an Internet on the verge of being inundated by digital video, according to Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Hui Zhang. He projects that video applications will comprise 98 percent of all Internet traffic within two years, and P2P networks' lack of central servers in mesh architectures will offer more support for additional users and take away the weaknesses of traditional networks that follow a tree-like architecture. Obstacles to the adoption of mesh architectures by ISPs and content distributors include the bandwidth requirements for reassembling files fragmented into blocks by P2P networks, and the fact that ISPs stand to lose money by carrying subscriber-generated P2P traffic. A combination tree/mesh scheme called Chunkyspread is being tested by Cornell University computer scientist Paul Francis. Chunkyspread arranges PCs in a tree configuration, but the branches have less weight to carry because the PCs can also link to each other; furthermore, the system can save bandwidth by reassembling files in "slices" instead of blocks. Zhang, meanwhile, says he is developing software at his Rinera Networks startup for the purpose of creating "an ecosystem such that service providers will actually benefit from P2P traffic." The software is designed to identify P2P data, allow ISPs to determine how much data they should voluntarily carry, in what amount and at what price, and then deliver it with the reliability of server-based content distribution systems while simultaneously tracking everything for accounting reasons. Zhang insists that it is not his intention to empower service providers to mandate the kind of traffic they will carry. "On the other hand, if P2P users benefit from transmitting and receiving more bits, the guys who are actually transporting those bits should be able to share in that," he says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Java Swing Technologies Highlighted
InfoWorld (03/09/07) Krill, Paul

The desktop took precedence over the Web on Friday during the Desktop Matters conference in San Jose, Calif., as presenters focused on Java client application technologies such as Swing. "For certain types of applications, desktop's the only way to go," Captovation chief software architect Rob Abbe said, offering applications that need to interface with high-speed scanners and other peripherals as an example. The open-source Spring Rich Client Project, which seeks to offer a way to build rich client applications that leverage the Spring framework, supports Swing applications. "There are hundreds of major companies using this for very large and significant production applications," said Jim Moore, a consultant at Interface21. Another presentation focused on open-source jMatter, which features Swing and Hibernate object-relational persistence software, is built for developing applications for small businesses, and leverages Naked Objects Architectural Pattern. Meanwhile, the GUI generating engine for Swing applications, SwiXml, also was discussed.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Net Copes With Key Character Test
BBC News (03/12/07)

The results of an October 2006 test of international domain names that use non-English characters have been released. The test was carried out by ICANN with the eventual aim of introducing international domain names based on Chinese, Arabic, and other character sets. Work on the international domains is expected to be complete by 2008. ICANN's test pertained to current versions of the root servers that take users to the location of a domain name. Lars-Johan Liman of Swedish firm Autonomica AB commented about the tests, saying, "All answers were consistent with expected behavior, and no unexpected delays were discovered." Additional tests will examine how the system performs when used by real Internet users. Last October, Vint Cerf warned that it could be "risky" to implement IDNs, while ICANN must still address how IDNs will be adapted to existing governing Web addresses.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


NASA Backs Quantum Computing Claim
IDG News Service (03/09/07) Ames, Ben

Engineers at NASA's Microdevices Laboratory fabricated a quantum chip for D-Wave Systems of Canada, according to principal investigator of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's quantum chip program Alan Kleinsasser. During a Feb. 13 news conference at Mountain View, Calif.'s Computer History Museum, D-Wave claimed to demonstrate a prototype quantum computing device, although industry experts were skeptical upon learning that the demo was conducted remotely via wireless. "Businesses aren't too fascinated about the details of quantum mechanics, but academics have their own axes to grind," said D-Wave CEO Ed Martin in a Feb. 27 interview. "I can assure you that our VCs look at us a lot closer than the government looks at the academics who win research grants." Martin said the computer was a hybrid, running applications on a digital device and having the NASA-built quantum chip function as an accelerator or coprocessor. The back end was comprised of a rack-mounted PC with a commercially available processor, he explained. Martin noted that the chip used in the demo could run at a speed of 16 quantum bits, or qubits; D-Wave's plan is to increase that speed to 32 qubits by year's end and 1,024 qubits by the end of 2008. The D-Wave-designed quantum processor was manufactured by NASA from aluminum and niobium and chilled in a tank of liquid helium.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Last Month's Root-Server Attack Revisited
Register (UK) (03/09/07) Goodin, Dan

A factsheet released by ICANN shows that the Feb. 6 DDoS attack on six or more of the Internet's root servers only damaged two of the servers, both of which lacked a protective new load-balancing technology called Anycast. All of the other servers that were attacked had Anycast installed. ICANN's document states: "Anycast allows a number of servers in different places to act as if they are in the same place. So while there remains 13 locations on the network for root servers, the reality on the ground is that not only are there often dozens at one spot but dozens of servers in other locations that can also deal with requests." The Feb. 6 attack was a two-pronged assault, with the first assault lasting 2.5 hours and the second lasting five hours. Hundreds of zombies were responsible for the attacks, and while it is impossible to determine the geographic location of the attackers, experts believe they came from Korea or another location in the Asia Pacific region. The G-root (run by the U.S. Department of Defense and located in Ohio) and the L-root (run by ICANN and located in California) were damaged in the attack. Three other servers have yet to implement Anycast, but it is expected that they will now do so.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Network Science Is About More Than Computer Systems
Government Computer News (03/08/07) Wait, Patience

The Association of the United States Army held its winter symposium last week, with a diverse group of government researchers focusing on the similarities in the systems that they study, with hopes of applying common patterns to develop robust complex networks. The gathering brought together researchers in biotechnology, ecosystems, behavioral science, and other fields to discuss circulatory, respiratory, central nervous systems in fish and other biological systems. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, deputy director for laboratory management and assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology, says predicting the behavior of larger and more complex networks will be possible when researchers have a better understanding of biological, molecular, and economic networks. The researchers want to find the common underlying rules and determine whether the systems can have a common language, and whether their behaviors and relationships can be described in a mathematical formula. Lt. Col. John Graham, assistant professor of behavior sciences and leadership at West Point, said the search is important because "the bad guys are getting good at network science."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Rick Stevens: Connecting Computing to Science
HPC Wire (03/09/07) Vol. 16, No. 10, Feldman, Michael

Rick Stevens is head of the Computing and Life Sciences (CLS) directorate at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, which is attempting to build basic scientific knowledge, address energy-related environmental concerns, and devise and manage new sources of energy via the integration of information technology and biotechnology. Stevens is also a computer science professor at the University of Chicago, where his research chiefly focuses on computational biology. One of the pluses of Stevens' DOE job is access to supercomputers, whose vast computational resources he sees as critical to the analysis and resolution of systems biology problems; petascale systems could help simulate cells that incorporate genetic data, enabling researchers to predict how a cell will react to different environments and substrates, and carry out computations to understand the design shortcomings of natural and artificial biological systems. Stevens says there is already plenty of computing power to study such problems, but there is also a shortage of people with a combined computing/mathematics and biology background. The CLS directorate leader sees value in futurist Ray Kurzweil's controversial vision of a computer-biological convergence that facilitates "a technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history." Kurzweil predicts that this transformation, or "Singularity," will take place by 2045, but Stevens is more realistic. "To solve problems you need three things--time, money and ideas," he says. "If you have two, you can compensate for the other one. Kurzweil collapses time and money because of exponential processes. What's left are the ideas."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Aussie Video Surveillance Technology Leaves Rivals for Dead
Computerworld Australia (03/06/07) Pauli, Darren

National ICT Australia (NICTA) is developing intelligent surveillance technology that would be able to predict behavior and identify faces, even from a distance and if the angle is impaired. The operating system and software package makes use of sophisticated algorithms to analyze physical characteristics, appearances, and mannerisms from analog video data. The iBox is able to convert the data into a digital format for motion detection, facial recognition, and behavior prediction. David Snowdon, the operating system's developer, says public areas that demand high-level security such as airports and transit facilities would be a good fit for the system. "IBox overcomes the problems of traditional surveillance and sensory technology because it can be located at higher, lower, or more obscure angles while still making a positive ID with far less [facial] information," says Snowdon. "It could be used to detect whether someone is carrying a weapon-like object, or if they are planning to jump from a train platform and it can more accurately match facial characteristics to a database."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Engineering Loses Over Half of New Students
Guardian (Wright State) (03/07/07) Estes, Phil

Bor Jang, dean of the College of Engineering at Wright State, is not overly concerned about the large number of first-year computer science or engineering students who switch majors. "Many students change their major at least once during their college career and some change their major several times ... it comes with the territory," says Jang. "A lot of students graduating from high school feel that they have to have a major picked out before they start college, so they tend to pick majors that their parents or teachers think are good for them." Fifty-eight percent of computer science or engineering students at Wright State change their majors. In 2004, Wright State started offering EGR 101, which helped improve retention by 10 percent, and the university hopes to duplicate that percentage each year. Officials say the math and science demands usually give students some problems, adding that students must have a solid foundation in algebra, trigonometry, and physics. The university is also considering developing an EGR 100 class that would serve as a refresher course on trigonometry and algebra and help improve retention.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Getting a Grip on Virtual Reality
Ottawa Citizen (03/08/07) Campbell, Jennifer

A new graduate certificate program at the University of Ottawa is allowing recent graduates and tech professionals to mesh their technical and creative abilities in a hands-on approach to modeling and animation for video games. "The certificate will prepare them for the virtual reality and gaming industry because the five courses that the certificate is based on are both theory and application," explains University of Ottawa multimedia communications lab director Abdulmotaleb El Saddik. "This is the first step toward crossing the boundary [from engineering to arts and entertainment] because students will be learning how to deal with different virtual environments and do animations." The certificate program lets participants keep up with new technologies without abandoning their jobs. One state-of the-art technology the program exposes participants to is haptics. "We used to just have audio and visual and now we have the sense of touch on our computers," says student Rosa Iglesias, who plans to use the technology to help the blind use computers. "Instead of using vision, you can use touch to 'see' the graphics," she says. "I'd also like to develop a map explorer for blind people to find their way around a city." The program also focuses on marketing, using psychological profiles and evaluations of gamers.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link to Publication Homepage
to the top


British University Engages in Advanced AI Research
CPILive.net (03/08/07)

Advanced research into artificial intelligence that would allow computers to discuss problems among themselves and come up with solutions on their own is being pursued by the British University in Dubai (BUiD). One question the researchers want to answer is whether computers could debate and negotiate in an automated market, similar to the traditional processes of influencing the price of goods and services. "Argumentation and negotiation are key elements of human communication and if we are able to replicate these processes in computer networks, we will have the potential to have a fully-automated marketplace which achieves compromise through dialogue," says Iyad Rahwan, lead BUiD researcher. Artificial intelligence-led argumentation and negotiation could have huge implications for business and communities worldwide. The implementation of artificial intelligence in such a manner could be useful in legal disputes, business negotiations, labor disputes, scientific inquiry, risk analysis, scheduling, and logistics. The research's impact could even extend to democratic debate or unmanned space exploration. "Applying argumentation in artificial intelligence is a very challenging problem and requires the construction of very sophisticated mathematical models of dialogue," Rahwan says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Girls Just Wanna Be Geeks
NOW (03/08/07) Silverberg, David

Although science and technology have long been male-dominated, there are increasing instances of passionate women finding ways to enter this club. Co-editor of "She's Such A Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology And Other Nerdy Stuff" Annalee Newitz is encouraged by a rise in female computer-science Ph.D graduates between 2003 and 2004, while the National Science Foundation estimated six years ago that 56 percent of engineering and science graduates were female. Yet just 25 percent of science and engineering jobs were held by women, and Newitz points to several obstacles women face, such as a lack of women to support them in the sci-tech domain, and lingering if understated sexism. Newitz cites a 1997 Swedish Medical Research Council report that women in the sciences had to have productivity levels more than twice that of their male equivalents in order to obtain grants or funding. But she says more women are being hired by software development companies now. "Sometimes people think that a woman doesn't know her tech stuff," notes Amber McArthur of Toronto, who wears multiple hats as Citytv's new media specialist, host of the CommandN weekly vidcast, and co-host of the net@nite podcast. "But as soon as you show them that you do, you should just hold your head high and support other women who do the same."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Carnegie Mellon to Celebrate Accomplishments of Robotics Pioneer
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (03/08/07) Templeton, David

Dr. Takeo Kanade of Carnegie Mellon University will be honored for his many achievements in the field of robotics at the TK60 symposium, which will also coincide with the Helen Whitaker professor of computer science and robotics' 61st birthday. Kanade developed the first direct-drive robotic arm and first complete face-recognition system, which are still in use today, while his EyeVision system facilitated "virtualized reality" of action from any angle through a combination of cameras and computer software. During Kanade's tenure as its director, Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute became the premier center for robotics research, recalls Dr. Robert Bolles of SRI International's Artificial Intelligence Center; the world's first robotics doctoral program was initiated by Kanade at the institute. Kanade is the author of 250 papers detailing his research, and the owner of over 20 patents. He co-directs Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh's Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, whose focus is the use of robots as assistants to the elderly, sick, and handicapped. Kanade envisions future houses equipped with embedded sensors that can aid people in the performance of their day-to-day activities, and foresees a time when a house will be able to track the whereabouts and activities of its occupants. The professor is busy perfecting his face recognition software, and is most proud of his "basic theory of vision" that most computer video programs use.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Graph Theory and Teatime
Scientific American (03/07) Vol. 296, No. 3, P. 37; Stix, Gary

The Theory Group of Microsoft Research is a team of about 20 mathematicians and theoretical computer scientists led by mathematical physicists Jennifer Chayes and Christian Borgs who meet every day to discuss any subject of interest. "Their list of visitors reads like a veritable who's who of theoretical computer science," notes Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Lenore Blum. The existence and purpose of the group reflects Microsoft Research's mission to concentrate on basic computer science research as opposed to applied research, which most industrial labs are emphasizing. There is an intentional disconnect between the Theory Group's domain of research and the products under development at Microsoft. Notable participants in the group include Oded Schramm, who developed a mathematical proof demonstrating how certain random 2D objects retain the same statistical attributes when distorted; Michael Freedman, who has investigated the creation of a quantum computer with low error rates through the application of topological quantum field theory; Henry Cohn and Abhinav Kumar, who have done illustrious work on how densely spheres can be clustered together within eight and 24 dimensions, and Chayes and Borgs, who have elaborated on their research with phase transitions and graph theory. "All of a sudden the stuff we were doing has become relevant," observes Chayes. For instance, modeling Web complexity is a job that graph theory is well suited for.
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.