Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
June 13, 2007

Learn about ACM's 2,200 online courses and 1,100 online books
MemberNet
CareerNews
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the June 13, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Casting Ballot From Abroad Is No Sure Bet
New York Times (06/13/07) P. A1; Urbina, Ian

The Defense Department has spent more than $30 million over the past six years trying to find a way to help the 5 million American soldiers and civilians living abroad vote securely and efficiently, but no clear solution has been found so far. The Pentagon's current Web-based system is slow and confusing and filled with security and privacy problems, according to security experts and Congressional auditors, who say the system is vulnerable to undetectable hacking and vote tampering. Only 63 voters used it in the 2006 election to request and return ballots via the Internet, according to the Defense Department. Although the department is responsible for helping all overseas voters, civilians are not allowed access to the system. The traditional paper ballots sent to overseas voters have also caused problems, as voters often wait until the last moment to return the ballot, get confused because rules and deadlines vary state to state, and ballots are often lost or delayed in the mail. The end result is that anywhere from a quarter to half of all overseas voters fail in their attempt to vote, according to voting experts at the National Defense Committee and the Overseas Vote Foundation. Military officials say their voting system is merely a means of expanding options beyond the use of regular mail, and that voting assistance officers have been placed in military units worldwide. Department of Defense spokesman Steward Upton did not answer questions about the military's system, except to say that the Pentagon has asked for suggestions from the private sector on how to improve the system before the next election.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


House Committee Begins Examination of Offshore Outsourcing's Impact
Computerworld (06/12/07) Thibodeau, Patrick

At a congressional committee hearing focusing on the impact of IT offshoring, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) warned that soon the best jobs may all be located overseas. "If current trends continue, for the first time in our nation's history, our children may grow up with a lower standard of living than their parents," said Gordon, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology. The hearing included testimony from a four-member panel of policy analysts and industry representatives, and was the first in a series of "fact-finding explorations" on the impact outsourcing is having on U.S. workers and the domestic economy. Martin Baily, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration, said the United States is benefiting from the influx of talented scientists and technologists who want to study and work in the United States, but that such foreigners are not treated well by the U.S. government. Baily said the United States needs to do more to strengthen its educational systems and encourage students to major in science and technology. Princeton University economics professor Alan Binder testified that the outsourcing of IT services jobs is still in its infancy, but that it is impacting a demographic (white collar workers) that is not accustomed to competing with low-cost overseas labor. "This strikes me as a potentially potent political group," Binder said. Binder said the U.S. government needs to adopt policies to make the transition easier and to minimize the negative impact of outsourcing, including improving unemployment pay, health insurance, and job training for displaced workers.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Bailey Organizes Grant Program for Faculty of High Minority Enrollment Institutions
Hamilton College (06/12/07)

Various ACM special interest groups have matched a grant that Mark Bailey, an associate professor of computer science at Hamilton College, has secured from the National Science Foundation to help faculty from colleges with large numbers of minority students attend this week's Federated Computing Research Conference in San Diego. Bailey manages the program, which will provide support for travel so that the faculty members will be able to attend one of the 17 research conferences. The program hopes faculty members' attendance will help serve as a catalyst for the development of research programs at their schools, as well as to learn how to attract more students from traditionally underrepresented groups to computer science.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Purdue Creates Scientifically Based Animation of 9/11 Attack
Purdue University News (06/12/07) Tally, Steve

An animated simulation of the attacks that toppled the towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, has been created by Purdue University researchers so that structural engineers can study the buildings' collapse in order that future disasters may be avoided. "Scientific simulations restrict us to showing the things that are absolutely essential to the engineer," explains Rosen Center for Advanced Computing director Christoph Hoffmann. "This gives us a simulation that doesn't deliver much visual information to a layperson. Our animation takes that scientific model and adds back the visual information required to make it a more effective communication tool." The new animated visualization owes a lot to computer science professor Voicu Popescu, who devised a translator application that establishes a connection between computer simulations and computer visualization systems to automatically render simulation information as a three-dimensional animated scene. The animation clearly represents elements, such as fire and smoke, that were not included in the scientific simulation, imbuing the computer model with a previously absent level of realism, according to Popescu. The visualization shows that most of the damage to the towers was caused by the weight of the fuel carried by the aircraft that slammed into the buildings, and not the aircraft themselves. The National Science Foundation partially funded the Purdue research.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Tech Companies Set Goals for Energy Efficiency
IDG News Service (06/12/07) Gohring, Nancy

The Climate Savers Computing Initiative is a coalition of some of the largest technology companies committed to saving energy by improving the power efficiency of the equipment they make and use. Companies committed to the program include Google, Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Sun Microsystems. The group plans to improve power efficiency for computer and servers and encourage end users to apply underused power management techniques. Google's Urs Holzle said only about 50 percent of the power that leaves the outlet reaches a PC because energy leaks out of inefficient power cords. Climate Savers has established a series of standards for power efficiency in servers and PCs that members are suggested to adopt by July 2010. A more efficient power cord for a PC would cost about $20 more, and a power efficient server would cost an additional $30, according to Intel's Pat Gelsinger. Gelsinger said that over time the cost premium will drop as volume production increases, and that end users will save on energy bills, also helping to offset the cost. Climate Savers also will work to educate and encourage end users to take advantage of power management mechanisms built into PCs. "Ninety percent of PCs are capable but aren't utilizing power management techniques," Gelsinger said. Climate Savers standards for improving power supply efficiency and power use management techniques would reduce global carbon emissions by 54 million tons per year, and would save a projected 62 billion kilowatt hours of energy in 2010, worth about $5.5 billion in energy costs, according to the group.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


ACM GIS 2007 CFP Extended
O'Reilly Radar (06/12/07) Forrest, Brady

The 2007 ACM International Symposium on Advances in Geographic Information Systems is scheduled for Nov. 7-9, 2007, in Seattle. ACM says the series of symposia and workshops will foster interdisciplinary discussion and research among researchers, developers, users, and practitioners involved with novel systems based on geospatial data and knowledge. ACM GIS offers a forum for original research contributions involving all conceptual, design, and implementation aspects of GIS, extending from applications, user interface considerations, and visualization to storage management and indexing issues. The event has been held since 1993, but for the first time it will be held apart from its long-time host conference, in part to give it more name recognition in the GIS community. The event may appear to be academic, judging from last year's program, but there is a wide range of topics and they are very fascinating, and Microsoft and Google are sponsors. Topics include image databases and 3D spatial modeling under the category of modeling and querying, computational geometry and spatial data mining under systems and implementation, and earth observation and geosensor networks under applications. Reaching out to blogs might generate some real-world discussion. For more information about the ACM GIS 2007, visit http://www.cise.ufl.edu/dept/acmgis2007/
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


International Team Rebuilds Ancient Rome Digitally
UVA Today (University of Virginia) (06/11/07) Ford, Jane

An international team of archaeologists, architects, and computer specialists from Italy, the United States, Britain, and Germany have finished the largest, most complete simulation of a historical city ever created. The simulation, called "Rome Reborn 1.0," is the result of a 10-year project, based at the University of Virginia and started at the University of California, Los Angeles. The simulation was created using the same high-tech tools that are used for creating simulations of modern cities, such as laser scanners and virtual reality. Rome Reborn 1.0 is a 3D model of Rome in 320 A.D. that runs in real time, allowing users to navigate with complete freedom, even entering important buildings such as the Roman Senate House, the Colosseum, or the Temple of Venus and Rome, the largest place of worship in Rome. Rome Reborn 1.0 can be updated to include new information as discoveries are made, and future releases of the program will include other places in the evolution of the city from the late Bronze Age in the 10th century B.C. to the Gothic Wards in the 6th century A.D. Virtual modeling has allowed historians, archaeologists, and scientists to recreate buildings and monuments that no longer exists or to digitally restore sites that have been damaged. The models can be used to test new theories or to take students on virtual tours of historical sites. Rome Reborn project director Bernard Frischer, director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, says, "This is just the first step in the creation of a virtual time machine, which our children and grandchildren will use to study the history of Rome and many other great cities around the world."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


New Games Blur Reality, Fantasy
Associated Press (06/12/07) Bluestein, Greg

The latest advances in virtual reality gaming feature sleeker, more mobile, and more environmentally interactive experiences based on augmented reality (AR). For example, University of South Australia researchers have created a version of the popular shooting video game Quake that allows users with a wraparound visor and backpack to walk around streets and fight superimposed computer objects. The University of Singapore has created a human Pac-Man game that places virtual yellow dots along city streets, letting users play as either Pac-Man or one of the ghosts. Mark Billinghurst has created an animated children's book that turns into a 3D popup, changing with each page when viewed through head-mounted goggles. Billinghurst has also created an AR tennis game that allows players to use their cell phones as rackets on a virtual court superimposed on a regular table. "Within five years people will be able to easily experience augmented reality applications on their mobile phones, in their homes, schools, hospitals, workplace and cars," Billinghurst says. "One of the most exciting things is that the current generation of mobile phones have the processing power, display resolution, and camera quality necessary to provide compelling AR experiences." Georgia Tech researchers are developing AR Facade, an AR game that simulates an argument between a married couple. The player can chose to do nothing, try to settle the situation, or intensify the argument. As the player talks, a researcher types the words into a computer behind the set, which uses complex algorithms to determine the virtual character's responses. Georgia Tech human-centered computing Ph.D. student Steven Dow says the purpose is to gain a better understanding of how humans and computers interact.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Luring the Other 68 Percent Through the IT Door
eWeek (06/08/07) Perelman, Deborah

Penn State researchers report that women are underrepresented in the IT industry, and that increasing the number of women in the field would increase the ranks of the overall workforce and promote diversity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2004 women accounted for almost 60 percent of the U.S. labor force, but only 32 percent of the IT workforce. A 2005 Information Technology Association of America study also found that women who leave the IT industry are less likely to return than their male counterparts. The new research paper, "What Do Women Want?: An Investigation of Career Anchors Among Women in the IT Work Force," found that a recruiter's typical sales pitch emphasizing job promotion and security is not as attractive to women as it is to men. Professor of information sciences and technology Eileen Trauth says, "Human-resources personnel need to recognize that women have diverse values and motivations throughout their careers and tailor hiring and retention practices to fit those needs." Although researchers found that women's career anchors were fairly constant throughout their careers, some were subject to variation. For example, those that valued technical competence early in their careers generally placed value on it later in their careers, while lifestyle factors, such as the desire to balance life and work, were important to women with young children but less so as the children aged. "Addressing women's under-representation not only will help tackle the anticipated IT worker shortage but will help foster a diverse work force, a cornerstone of both innovation and economic development," Trauth says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Hardware Designed to Protect Data From Theft By Hackers
Chicago Tribune (06/11/07) Van, Jon

In an effort to make computers more secure and reliable, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have been working for more than a year on the Trusted ILLIAC project, an effort to develop hardware that is capable of configuring itself to give each application a unique signature. The hardware cannot be reprogrammed by hackers and creates a barrier to protect sensitive data. "Hackers cannot reprogram it, and even insiders cannot access this data," says Ravi Iyer, chief scientist of the university's Information Trust Institute. "If they try to access it, they crash the application. They cannot corrupt it or even touch it." The National Science Foundation provided funding for the project, and university researchers also worked with researchers from Motorola, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel. Iyer says prototypes of the hardware could be made into cards that could be inserted into computers, but incorporating the hardware in processors is a more likely use of the technology.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


That Price Tag Should Make Them Think Twice
Washington Technology (06/08/07) Lipowicz, Alice

Computer expert Peter G. Neumann suggested the federal government should be cautious about implementing the Electronic Employment Verification System (EEVS) on a larger scale, during a congressional hearing before the House Subcommittee on Social Security. Speaking on the behalf of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee, Neumann testified that vulnerability to a breach should be a concern, and that the consequence of identity theft would be devastating considering the verification system would contain all the main personal identifiers that are used in the United States. "Any compromise, leak, theft, destruction or alteration of the data would have severe consequences to the individuals involved, including, but not limited to, identity theft and impersonation," said Neumann, principal scientist in the computer science laboratory at SRI International. Security risks related to transmission of information, accountability for access to information, scalability to handle the increase in user volume, and accuracy of data are potential vulnerabilities, he explained. EEVS is an immigration control measure of President Bush, and employers would use the database to check Social Security numbers of workers. Bush wants to expand the verification system and make it mandatory for all 5.9 million employers. The verification system could cost $370 million to $470 million a year, reported Richard Stana of the Government Accountability Office. For more information about the hearing, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IU Data Capacitor Enables Collaboration for Faster, Better Science
Indiana University (06/12/07)

Indiana University's Data Capacitor demonstrated a single client transfer rate of 977 MB per second across the TeraGrid network. The data was copied from a single computer equipped with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet card at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the Data Capacitor at IU's Bloomington campus. The demonstrated transfer represents nearly 80 percent of the 10 Gigabit network's theoretical capacity, according to Stephen Simms, who gave a presentation on the Data Capacitor. "This technology has the potential to significantly change how scientists collaborate across distance," Simms says. Since launching the Data Capacitor in April, the file system has supported several high-profile projects, including the Linked Environment for Atmospheric Discovery Science Gateway, which provides meteorological data, forecast models, and analysis tools, as well as the international federation of crystallography labs under the Common Instrument Middleware Project. Data Capacitor principal investigator Craig Stewart, the associate dean of research technologies and chief operating officer of the Pervasive Technology Labs at IU, says, "The wide-area capabilities we have demonstrated for the Data Capacitor and the TeraGrid will enable IU to better support scientific workflows--the end to end transformation of data into knowledge through use of advanced cyberinfrastructure."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


DAC Panelists Call for IP Reuse Standards
EE Times (06/08/07) Mokhoff, Nicolas

Standards for silicon intellectual property (IP) was a focus of a panel discussion at the Design Automation Conference on Thursday. Most participants said IP reuse standards were needed, with Songjoo Yoo, senior research manager at Samsung's SoC R&D Center, noting that a common approach to transferring IP between provider and receiver would boost design reusability and lower development costs, especially as the industry moves to design complex SoCs at process technologies of 45 nm and below. However, the panelists did not offer much detail for specific steps to take for reaching such a level of data exchange. John Goodenough, director of design technology at ARM, said IP interoperability standards have been beneficial at this architectural level, and added that representation of IP use within design flows needs to be consistent. Though ARM supports IP-XACT, Laurent Lestringand, IC design manager at NXP Semiconductors, saw the specification as a good start but ultimately may not offer the level of alignment for IP providers and EDA vendors to maximize the benefits. "The challenge is to enable a level of abstraction that allows system architecture tradeoffs to be done together with the software and hardware engineers where the software and future application is still being developed or is speculative, and the IP is also in flight," said Loic Le Tournelin, manager at Texas Instruments.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


University of Portsmouth Scientists Reinvent the Wheel
University of Portsmouth (06/08/07)

University of Portsmouth scientists are developing an artificial intelligence (AI) system for steering wheels that use microcomputers to learn how the car is being driven and make adjustments according to traveling speed and road conditions. The microcomputers perform 4,000 calculations per second, communicate with each other, and use AI to create a safer and smoother drive. The driver remains in control of the car, but the tires automatically adjust to changing conditions and speeds. These intelligent tires mark the first time AI has replaced fundamental mechanics within a motor vehicle. Artificial intelligence is used to control the suspension, steering, and braking system, and is used to adapt to bends in the road, potholes, and other potential hazards by adjusting the car's reactions. Information gathered is retained in the computer's memory and used the next time the car encounters similar road conditions. Dr. David Brown of the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Industrial Research says electronic traction control and suspension will counterbalance the drop and drag effect of manual driving, "but the driver won't even know it's there. It means a faster car but a safer one."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Laws Threaten Security Researchers
Dark Reading (06/08/07)

The Computer Security Institute (CSI) recently formed a working group of Web researchers, computer crime law experts, and U.S. Department of Justice agents to discuss the possible effects laws might have on Web 2.0 vulnerability research. The group's first report highlights the fact that some Web researchers said that if they accidentally find a bug on a site, they may not inform the Web site's owner for fear of prosecution. While security researchers are freely able to find bugs in operating systems, device drivers, and other applications on their own machines, Web researchers trying to find bugs on Web servers are dangerously close to violating laws designed to prevent hackers from tampering with Web servers' machines, and are afraid of the repercussions. The report analyses several methods of Web research, including off-site information gathering about a Web site, testing for cross-site scripting by sending HTML mail from the site to the researcher's Web-mail account, intentionally causing errors on the site, and conducting port scans and vulnerability scans. A Justice Department representative said that using only one of these methods might not provide enough evidence for a case against a hacker, and that it would require evidence of several of these techniques, along with evidence of attempts to hide such activity, to create a case. The CSI working group's next objective is to explore disclosure policy guidelines and mirrored-site guidelines for Web site owners. The group is also creating a list of research methods so lawmakers and law enforcement can have a better understanding of Web research methods.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


File System, Power and Instrumentation: Can Linux Close Its Technical Gaps?
LinuxWorld (06/06/07) Marti, Don

A major development push is necessary to close three technical gaps that Linux developers perceive in the open source kernel project: The file system, power management, and instrumentation, which developer Andrew Morton cited last month in a "State of the Kernel" talk at Google. Morton said a new file system is in order, while file-system developer Val Henson projected 16 percent growth in disk capacities, 5 percent growth in bandwidth, and 1.2 percent growth in seek time by 2013; this translates into longer and longer running times for the file-system-checking utility (fsck). Henson added that there will be a greater frequency of fsck because I/O errors are increasing. As for power management, Morton complained that Linux cannot support anything other than on and off, and even managing these two states is problematic. Director of Intel's Open Source Technology Center Imad Sousou noted that some of his developers are focusing on the power problem, and one effort in this vein is power-saving functionality for multicore processors. Morton said the initiative to close the instrumentation gap is probably the most intensive, and he listed per-task I/O accounting and per-process footprint monitoring as good signs of progress. Linux founder Linus Torvalds concurred that the file system and power management gaps must be addressed, while the instrumentation can already sufficiently address real-world performance problems. He sees "development flow" as another gap in need of resolution, explaining that "We've always had issues with how certain subsystems end up having development problems due to some infrastructure issue, or just personality clashes, or some methodology being broken. Sometimes it's not 'subsystems,' but hits at an even higher level, and we end up having to change how we do things in general."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Exploring the Deep Web
Government Computer News (06/04/07) Vol. 26, No. 13, Robb, Drew

Conventional search engines cannot plumb the depths of the deep Web, where about 94 percent of the Internet's content resides, according to Deep Web Technologies President Abe Lederman. Professional research needs the information that can be found in the deep Web, and it cannot afford the information overload symptomatic of public search engines. Federated search engines can probe the deep Web by searching multiple databases at the same time, and they can eliminate information overload by only mining those databases required by a specific kind of information customer. The Energy Department's Office of Scientific and Technical Information hosts federated search sites such as E-Print Network, Science.gov, and EnergyFiles to accelerate research. The Defense Technical Information Center has installed the Science and Technical Information Network Federated Search site that the Defense Department community can use to find research information located in databases from sources that include other federal agencies and periodicals from the Air University Library and Joint Forces Staff College. Lederman cautions that deploying a federated search system is no simple matter, and the first step is determining precisely what kinds of searches users will carry out and in what databases the desired data is located. Furthermore, the user interface must be intuitive, easy to use, and have sufficient detail so that users can pinpoint the exact source of relevant data. Additional challenges include setting up connections to data sources and keeping them updated, as well as guaranteeing the relevance and comprehensiveness of the returned data.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Automatic and Versatile Publications Ranking for Research Institutions and Scholars
Communications of the ACM (06/07) Vol. 50, No. 6, P. 81; Ren, Jie; Taylor, Richard N.

Rankings are the usual methodology for evaluating academic and industrial research institutions and their scholars, and among the recommendations to improve assessment is the adoption of more quantitative measures such as research and student output. Publications comprise one such measure for research output, while the disadvantages of existing publication-based rankings include their limited scope because of their reliance on manual input, and the restriction of reported rankings to specific fields. Google software engineer Jie Ren and director of the University of California, Irvine's Institute for Software Research Richard N. Taylor have devised a framework for automatic and versatile publication-based ranking that taps electronic bibliographic data to process a wider spectrum of journals and conferences that extend over longer periods of time, and that can adapt to various policy choices. These choices include what fields and entities to rank, the importance of journals and conferences in the field, the weight to assign papers from different conferences or journals, the number of years of publications that should be included, and how the score should be distributed among contributors for a paper by multiple authors. Ren and Taylor's framework supports the choice of field or subfield; the inclusion of proceedings of conferences and workshops; unrestricted conference and journal selection; the latitude for evaluators to assign equal or divergent weights to papers from different publications; ranking of scholars and institutions, both academic and industrial, and from inside and outside the United States; the use of any preferred year range; and either equal or variable score distribution among multiple authors. The researchers selected INSPEC, which consistently supplies author affiliation information, as the data source during the framework's design and experimentation phase. Ren and Taylor used the framework to rank U.S. computing graduate programs and the software engineering field.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link to Publication Homepage
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.