Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
March 16, 2007

MemberNet
The ACM Professional Development Centre
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the March 16, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Poles Win at ACM Programming Contest
CNet (03/15/07) Lombardi, Candace

Students from Poland's Warsaw University took first place in this year's ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). Students from China's Tsinghua University finished second, followed by Russia's St. Petersburg University of IT, Mechanics and Optics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Russia's Novosibirsk State University. MIT was the only U.S. university to finish in the top 10 this year as well as last year, when it finished eighth. However, the California Institute of Technology finished in 12th place and the University of Texas at Dallas was 14th. More than 6,000 students participated in the contest, representing 1,765 universities in 82 countries. ACM President Stuart Feldman said the contest has relevance beyond computing since "almost every major challenge facing our world calls upon computing for a solution, from fighting disease to protecting the environment to improving education." For more information on the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, see http://campus.acm.org/public/pressroom/acm_in_the_news/index.cfm
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


A Broad-Based Team of Stanford Researchers Aims to Overhaul the Internet
Stanford Report (03/14/07) Orenstein, David

Stanford researchers later this month will begin the Clean Slate Design for the Internet project, aimed at reconfiguring the Internet for maximum effectiveness. "How should the Internet look in 15 years?" asks electrical engineering and computer science professor Nick McKeown. "We should be able to answer that question by saying we created exactly what we need, not just that we patched some more holes, made some new tweaks, or came up with some more work-arounds." The researchers do not see the Internet as malfunctioning and needing to be replaced, but they believe that it must be modified to meet emerging and increasing demands. A 400-user wireless network has been created as a prototype of how a new Internet could work. The prototype is a more direct approach to designing a secure corporate network than those used today, because it prohibits all communications by default, so the administrator can open any necessary channels without having the demanding task of creating and implementing security and privacy rules. Another project is addressing the problems of decreasing network availability and increasing use of wireless devices to access the Internet by looking for ways for mobile devices to find unused pockets of spectrum. A third project, known as Lightflow, uses high-efficiency optical switches, rather than big routers, in the Internet's telecommunications backbone because the switches are more responsive to the needs of routers at the "edge" of the Internet and allow users to have the bandwidth they need. A final project aims to enhance theoretical research models for the Internet to provide better understandings of the network at larger scales than simulations are capable of.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Model Based Computing
HPC Wire (03/16/07) Vol. 16, No. 11, Feldman, Michael

RMS (recognition, mining, and synthesis) is an application software model for terascale computing that Intel thinks will be the future killer application. The manipulation of complex models--objects or events--is what RMS applications are designed for. Recognition is the definition of the model, mining is the discovery of instances of the model by going through datasets, and synthesis is the performance of "what-if" calculations on the model to find predictions or solutions. The applications' interactivity resonates on several levels: First, the kinds of applications being conceived usually must contend with real-time data input and then produce timely output; second, the software learns via the mining and/or synthesis operations' feedback. "The use of real-time feedback loops can make the software much more powerful than static applications," notes manager of Intel's Innovative Platform Architecture Microprocessor Technology Lab Pradeep Dubey. Among the technologies whose development is being informed by the RMS initiative is Intel's 80-core terascale processor, a prototype of which was demonstrated at the Integrated Solid State Circuits Conference. New software and software technologies are needed to make terascale computing applications a reality, and Intel is working with other organizations, including academic institutions, to reach this goal. There is also collaboration between Intel's Software Solutions Group and ISV community members such as Microsoft to help them gear up for the new application paradigm.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


The E-voting Question: To Open or Not to Open?
National Journal's Technology Daily (03/15/07) Martinez, Michael

A hearing held before the House Administration Election Reform Subcommittee on Thursday heard arguments both for and against making e-voting systems open to review. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) has authored a bill that would require election officials to implement an audit system using paper receipts and require e-voting vendors to submit their source code for inspection. Patent laws do not clearly protect voting-machine code, but violating the code's confidentiality should carry a penalty, says National Association of State Election Director's voting systems board member Brit Williams. Those in support of transparency included Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Matthew Zimmerman, who admitted that transparency alone will not cure all of the nation's voting problems immediately, but will "provide a legitimate, defensible basis for the return of voter confidence that is sorely lacking in the current generation of closed election technology." Opening up voting-machine source code could lead to a whole new set of problems, so specific rules would first have to be established, said Election Systems Acquisition and Management Services director Hugh Gallagher, who does not believe that transparency would lead to greater trust in the system. University of California at Berkeley computer science professor David Wagner also testified in support of code disclosure, but noted that the current regulatory system makes it problematic.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link May Require Paid Subscription
to the top


Announcing the Web3D 2007 Symposium April 15-18, 2007 at University of Perugia, Umbria, Italy
PRWeb (03/14/07)

Researchers, developers, experimenters, and content creators have until March 25, 2007, to sign up for early registration for the Web3D 2007 Symposium, and submissions to the Web3D Games workshop must be made by March 16. ACM SIGGRAPH is sponsoring the Web3D Symposium, in cooperation with EuroGraphics and the Web3D Consortium. This year's event is scheduled for April 15-18, at the University of Perugia in Umbria, Italy, and Dr. Kari Pulli, a research fellow at Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, will give the keynote address. An expert in mobile computing graphics, Pulli gave courses on OpenGL ES and M3G at SIGGRAPH 2005 and Eurographics 2006. With a focus on 3D and multimedia on the Web, the gathering will address topics such as 3D virtual worlds, languages for 3D communications, tools, rendering techniques, human-computer interaction, mobile devices, and innovative applications. Also, interactive 3D graphics and applications on mobile devices will be among the recent trends discussed.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


GENI Science Council Named
Computing Research Association (03/12/07)

UC Berkeley networking researcher Scott Shenker will chair the Science Council for the Global Environment for Networking Innovations (GENI), and Ellen Zegura, a Georgia Tech researcher of networking including wireless, will serve as vice chair. The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) and the National Science Foundation named Shenker and Zegura to the posts, and they also filled out the rest of the initial members of the team. CCC and NSF selected Tom Anderson, University of Washington (distributed systems and networking); Hari Balakrishnan, MIT (wireless networking); Joe Berthold, CIENA (optical networking); Charlie Catlett, Argonne National Laboratory (grid computing); Mike Dahlin, University of Texas (distributed systems); Stephanie Forrest, University of New Mexico (biological system modeling, security); Roscoe Giles, Boston University (educational technology); Ed Lazowska, University of Washington (systems); Peter Lee, Carnegie Mellon University (software); Helen Nissenbaum, NYU (social, ethical and political dimensions of IT); Jennifer Rexford, Princeton (networking); Stefan Savage, UCSD (networking and security); and Alfred Spector, IBM (ret.) (software). They will represent the research community as NSF pursues its Science Plan for GENI. The experimental facility is meant "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." At a later date, CCC plans to add specialists in building components and providing network engineering expertise for the alternative technologies.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Train More Workers, Say IT Industry Leaders
IDG News Service (03/14/07) Sayer, Peter

The dearth of skilled information technology workers was a focus of industry and government leaders during the opening ceremony of the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, on Wednesday, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel noting that the problem was not limited to her country or the European Union. Willi Berchtold, president of the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications, and New Media, said not enough IT specialists are being trained, and he added that the decline in the number of IT graduates has made it more difficult to find skilled workers. Nonetheless, IT companies can help their own cause by taking advantage of older workers, and retaining, recruiting, and retraining them. Alcatel Lucent CEO Patricia Russo called for a greater commitment by local governments to science, engineering, and other technical subjects in school systems. "A steady stream of innovative minds is vital to the future of our industry," said Russo. She also saw some potential in looking to populations that are underrepresented in technology. Bridging the digital divide "will lead to the discovery of new ideas from all over the world," Russo said.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Research Project Could Help Create Computers That Run on Light
University of Bath (03/14/07)

Researchers at the University of Bath are experimenting with photomaps technology that could allow computers to use light to transfer information. The research team is developing a new way of creating "waveforms" that use light photons with the same accuracy as electrons used in electronics. They have been experimenting with attosecond technology, the ability to send continuous series of pulses of light lasting one attosecond, or one billion-billionth of a second. Until now, photonics has been able to use light in the form of a sine wave, but by sending light of a single wavelength through a photonic crystal fiber that branches out into many strands, each with a different wavelength, the researchers can create a spectrum of light from ultra-violet to infra-red. Such a spectrum would allow the close control over the electric field that is the foundation for conveying large amounts of information. "Harnessing optical waves would represent a huge step, perhaps the definitive one, in establishing the photonics era," said team leader Fetah Benabid. "If successful, the research will be the basis for a revolution in computer power as dramatic as that over the past 50 years." The technology could also provide researchers with unprecedented looks at the inside of an atom.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Tiny Transistors: Better Things Come in Small Packages
TechNewsWorld (03/15/07) Noyes, Katherine

Moore's Law seems poised to hold true for several more years as new technology is developed to make possible increasingly smaller and more-capable devices. Intel and IBM have both displayed the ability to build chips using 45nm process technology and high-k metals have shown the potential to eliminate power leakage, which has been the most serious problem for chip designers and manufacturers in recent years. As geometries shrink, more room opens up for transistors, allowing devices to say the same size yet become more capable; smart phones are a prime example of this trend. "We're looking in a couple years to put 16 to 32 processors on a single chip," says In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor. "Imagine taking a rack of supercomputers and shrinking it down to the size of a PC." Home media consoles and wearable computers could be future beneficiaries of the increased computing ability brought about by shrinking transistors. "The more transistors you have, the easier and speedier the decision is to automate," says Gartner research director Stephan Orr. A major hurdle to such advancing capability is power consumption. "Battery technology is not keeping up with the rest of the technology, and that's a critical challenge," says McGregor. Software interoperability, another hurdle, must also be addressed using "standards and a better software environment," according to McGregor. "We need to start thinking more holistically about interoperability and the fit to consumer needs." He predicts that as consumers influence the market and more transistors can be fit into the same space, the handheld "true convergence device" will emerge, capable of doing anything a computer can.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Q&A: James Gosling, the Father of Java
ITPro (03/16/07) Holland, Maggie

Sun Microsystems VP and research fellow James Gosling, who is credited as the father of Java, says Java played an important role in two key industry milestones, the first being the take-up of Java enterprise software and the second being the incorporation of Java into mobile phones. "For the people behind the science the milestone isn't the end of the project as you slog away to get something to happen and then the thing takes on a life of its own," he explains. Gosling traces Java's appeal to businesses with their appreciation of having a consistent intellectual architecture where they can consider and integrate all the diverse aspects of network development. He says the number of tech graduates is declining due to factors such as the dotcom meltdown and offshore outsourcing, leading students to move away from IT because they perceive a shortage of jobs in that sector; the reality is that the IT industry is growing, but this could stop because not enough people with needed IT skills are available. Outreach is the key to solving this problem, according to Gosling. He argues that young people with an interest in computer science need encouragement from their parents to cultivate this interest, but parents often cannot keep up with the pace of technological change. "The issue is more about parents [needing] to have a positive attitude towards learning [in general]," Gosling says. He notes that many engineers in IT organizations use technology at home for leisure activities that keep them from becoming disillusioned and frustrated with the more rigorous technology applications they perform at work.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Can Computers Make Life-or Death Medical Decisions?
New Scientist (03/13/07) Khamsi, Roxanne

NIH researchers are experimenting with a formula that could be used to predict how patients would want to be treated in extreme medical situations. Since many people do not establish a living will, relatives must decide whether to keep them alive in a vegetative state. Previous research has found that surrogates are able to accurately predict what a person would want done in hypothetical medical scenarios 68 percent of the time. By analyzing data from surveys conducted on the U.S. population concerning attitudes toward medical care, the NIH researchers found that most people would choose potentially-life-saving treatment if there is at least a 1 percent chance of them being able to reason, remember, and communicate, but if there is less than a 1 percent chance of this, they would decide against the procedure. The researchers went back and looked again at the past research, and found that when surrogates were deciding what to do in medical situations they understood relatively well, they were able to guess another person's wishes 78 percent of the time; but by using the formula that a 1 percent chance of a favorable outcome is the deciding factor, the researchers were able to make predictions with almost the exact same accuracy. In hopes of reaching 90 percent accuracy for predicting a patient's wishes, the researchers plan to survey people from diverse backgrounds. The tool could take pressure off of family members faced with such a difficult decision, but many disagree with the use of a machine to make ethical decisions.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


New Technology Enables Mouse-Free Web Surfing
Stanford Daily (03/14/07) Mesher, Kelsey

A Stanford University computer science doctoral student has designed a system that enables users to interact with software using only their eyes. Gaze-enhanced User Interface Design uses eye-tracking technology: Infrared lights implanted in the computer that shine into the user's eyes and a camera picks up the reflection, which lets the computer know where the user is looking. Eye-tracking has been used in the past to help the disabled use computers and to tell Web and software designers what users look at on the screen and for how long. The system's creator, Manu Kumar, has developed approximately 10 unique applications for the technology. One application is a password-entry system in which the user simply looks at the correct letters on a keyboard that appears on the screen. "It�s really easy to see what [users] are typing, but hard to tell where they are looking," Kumar said. "[By using the eye-tracking software,] people can�t do shoulder surfing." Tests have shown that the eye-tracking software is easy to learn and to use.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IT Sector Must Attract Young Talent
IT Week (03/12/07) Bennett, Madeline

The information technology industry in the United Kingdom must do more to encourage the tech-savvy young people of today to put their skills to good use by pursuing jobs in the sector, writes Madeline Bennett. Although their knowledge of office applications, familiarity with MySpace and YouTube, and experience with gaming gives them more IT user skills than previous generations, potential employers would be more impressed if young people under 25 years of age knew how to debug source code or manage IT infrastructure. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that the number of computer science graduates nearly doubled in 2005 from 2000, but figures from Graduate Prospects reveal that only 42 percent of IT graduates in 2005 work in the IT sector. The results of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) 2006 innovation awards--only 4 percent of entries were from the IT industry--help shed some light on why IT graduates are not pursuing jobs in the industry. What is more, prize money was lacking. There are roles for IET, E-Skills UK, and the British Computer Society each to play in improving interest in the IT sector, Bennett says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


How Touching
Economist Technology Quarterly (03/07)

Although touch screens offer greater versatility for electronic devices, some people are concerned that these devices are too tricky to use without the assurance of actually pressing a button. The answer to this problem would be touch screens that are able to simulate the feel of pressing a button using haptics technology. Researchers working with haptics have developed a new method of simulating touch sensations by using "skin stretch" technology. The sense of touch has been found to rely far more on the way that skin is stretched than the amount of pressure applied to it. Just as the human eye can be "tricked" into seeing a range of colors on a TV when there is actually only red, green, and blue dots, the sense of touch can be tricked into feeling textures and shapes that are not actually there. A project conducted by Mexican and Italian researchers showed the ability to make a flat surface feel as if it were sharp. The researchers connected a thimble to a motorized arm and sent short bursts of very precise resistance through it, to stretch the skin of a fingertip laterally as it passes over the thimble. Eventually, haptics researchers hope to be able to simulate any material, but they must first find a way to simulate the miniscule ridges in the skin of the fingertips that interact with a surface, possibly using micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, but this technique has not been attempted yet. One innovation that has been developed is a sliding button for mobile devices that has haptic feedback capability. A user could "feel" icons or names as they scroll over them. The researcher responsible for this technology believes that people can learn to recognize symbols through touch alone.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Green Is Good
InformationWeek (03/12/07)No. 1129, P. 38; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

Companies in every industry are getting into the "green" movement more out of a desire to save money rather than the planet by slashing operating costs, but the scale of energy consumption is so immense that policymakers are considering additional regulation, and a cadre of government and industry leaders is attempting to establish a clear green computer standard that IT execs may have to comply with. Companies and government agencies' desire to embed green criteria in IT requests for proposals inspired an IEEE council to create the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), and the president signed an executive order in late January requiring 95 percent of all electronic products purchased by federal agencies to adhere to EPEAT standards, so long as a standard exists for that product. EPEAT standards currently encompass just PCs and monitors, but it is probable that they will be extended to servers, routers, printers, and perhaps cell phones. Data centers are a major issue in terms of both energy consumption and the attention they are drawing from policy makers, and starting this summer the EPA must inform Congress how much energy data centers are guzzling on a national scale, and make recommendations for cutting consumption; the president's mandate that EPEAT inform government purchases will build momentum for the standards. EPEAT's energy-consumption criteria use the EPA's Energy Star requirements for PCs as a foundation, while its "sensitive material" criteria require companies' adherence to the EU's Restriction of Hazardous Substances standards for cutting dangerous chemicals and elements out of products. Tapping a cheaper source of energy for data centers, such as hydroelectric power, is a solution some companies are pursuing, but most companies are focusing on efficiency-boosting measures, which can be found in innovations such as multicore processors, server virtualization, grid computing, blade servers, and better cooling technology. Other green initiatives underway include a push to facilitate telecommuting through IT, which could lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Exabytes for Defense
Military Information Technology (03/08/07) Vol. 11, No. 2, Gerber, Cheryl

High-performance systems that exceed the capabilities of today's fastest supercomputers are being developed by Department of Defense research labs and their industry collaborators. The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is working on the Large Data Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration (LD JCTD) with SGI and its third-party providers, with a focus on the ability to recover, store, and exchange huge amounts of information among global users. The demonstration will involve remote access, manipulation, and viewing of massive federal and commercial data sets and a mingling of technologies and operational concepts. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's High Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS) program has entered its third phase of development, and DARPA partners IBM and Cray will supply highly scalable systems that will convert petabytes to exabytes of data and vastly improve application development productivity. Accuracy, speed, and ease of use are the core areas of concentration in HPCS Phase III, and among the DoD applications the systems will support are computational materials science for the discovery of new, superior substances, operational weather and ocean prediction, aircraft/seacraft engineering, weapons design, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance processes that call for multiple sensor outputs. Cray's contributions to the project include the Chapel high productivity language, an enhanced performance analysis tool, and new software debuggers, while IBM is supplying Power 7 servers with development tools for productivity and performance usability augmentation, the Advanced Interactive eXecutive operating system, the General Parallel File System, a high-performance computing HPC software stack, and interconnect and storage subsystems. Exciting growth in the HPC market is one of the central goals of the DARPA program, while both the DARPA and NRL efforts aim to employ current technology to realize the maximum viability of large data systems.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


A Digital Life
Scientific American (03/07) Vol. 296, No. 3, P. 58; Bell, Gordon; Gemmell, Jim

Microsoft Research's MyLifeBits project focuses on the development of systems that may enable people to record all aspects of their daily lives and store these recordings in a personal digital archive for use as memory aids, historical chronicles, and information for preventative medical treatment, among other things, write Microsoft Research scientists Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell. Digital recording can become easier through advancements in sensor and data storage, including the stunning growth of digital storage capacity, the production of cheap sensors, and the emergence of processors that can efficiently retrieve, examine, and visualize immense volumes of data. Using software to practically apply the collected information is the foundational concept of MyLifeBits, whose goal is the creation of a database that would allow users to not only carry out full-text searches of PCs, but also to rapidly retrieve memories through the use of metadata attributes. Bell, one of the driving forces behind the project, is also a willing test case, using the innovations the project has yielded to construct a personal digital archive of his life. One such technology is the SenseCam, a camera that automatically shoots pictures when sensors detect changes in light levels or people in close proximity. The archives' security must be ensured if digital memory technology is to succeed, while another challenge lies in guaranteeing that digital memory files will remain accessible despite format obsolescence. An even more ambitious goal is the creation of software that can turn computers into personal assistants capable of anticipating their users' needs by harnessing the information in the digital repository. The application of artificial intelligence to digital memories has possibilities in fulfilling this objective, and Bell and Gemmell's research team is exploring the concept.
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.