Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
June 20, 2007

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

Welcome to the June 20, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Immigrants Fuel Tech Boom
eWeek (06/19/07) Perelman, Deborah

A new Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation report that tracks the educational background of immigrant technology entrepreneurs found a strong correlation between education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and entrepreneurship. The majority of those surveyed were highly educated, with 96 percent of immigrant technology and engineering company founders holding bachelor's degrees, and 74 percent holding graduate or post-graduate degrees. Three-quarters of all degrees were in STEM fields, and 53 percent obtained their highest degree in U.S. universities. The survey, which examined key founders of companies in 11 different geographical centers of technology and engineering between 1995 and 2005, found that very few who came to the United States to study had any plans to start a company. Nearly 40 percent entered the United States for work, and only 1.6 percent intended to start a business. Most founded their companies after working and residing in the United States for an average of 13 years. The study is intended to make leaders more aware of the significant role immigrants have played in U.S. technological entrepreneurship, and argues that the United States could benefit from a more "enlightened" immigration policy that would attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers who could potentially become entrepreneurs. "The U.S. economy depends on these high rates of entrepreneurship and innovation to maintain its global edge," says lead researcher Vivek Wadhwa, Duke University's executive in residence at the Pratt School of Engineering. "We now face a choice--to encourage more Americans to complete higher degrees in these fields, or to encourage foreign students to stay in the United States after completing their degrees. We need to do both."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Court Prohibits Access to Touch-Screen Source Code
Computerworld (06/19/07) Songini, Marc L.

The dispute over the Congressional seat for the 13th district of Florida reached another milestone when a federal court ruled that it would not allow the examination of source code on supposedly malfunctioning touch-screen voting machines. Democrat Christine Jennings, who lost the highly contested and controversial election to Republican Vern Buchanan by only 369 votes, had asked that the software be examined to determine if flawed e-voting machines caused voting irregularities. Jennings claims the iVotronic touch-screen systems made by Elections Systems & Software did not count about 18,000 votes. A Jennings spokesman said that a three-member legislative task force appointed by the U.S. House Committee on Administration is investigating the vote count disparity. "They have the ultimate authority in this matter and are moving quicker than the courts ever have," the spokesman said. An investigation is also being conducted by the Government Accountability Office, and a preliminary ruling is scheduled for the end of July.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Prominent San Diego Researcher Ramachandran Announced as SIGGRAPH Featured Speaker
Business Wire (06/18/07)

ACM's SIGGRAPH 2007 has added Vilayanur S. Ramachandran as the third featured speaker for the 34th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. Ramachandran, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, who is also the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, will discuss his pioneering research in cognition and perception and its effect on his field of research and the world today. His research in neurology, cognition, and visual perception has brought Ramachandran international recognition, and he was recently named one of the most influential people of the 21st century by Newsweek. "We are honored to have such an internationally acclaimed leader at SIGGRAPH 2007," says Joe Marks, SIGGRAPH 2007 Conference Chair from Walt Disney Animation Studios. "V.S. is an excellent speaker and will provide unmatched insights in perception and cognition that are key areas in the SIGGRAPH research community." SIGGRAPH will have featured speakers this year rather than a single keynote speaker presentation. SIGGRAPH 2007 takes place Aug. 5-9, 2007, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego. For more information about SIGGRAPH 2007, or to register, visit http://www.siggraph.org/s2007/
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


You Down With SPP?
Shtetl-Optimized (06/17/07) Aaronson, Scott

At last week's Symposium on Theory of Computing, part of ACM's Federated Computing Research Conference, former Computing Research Association chair Ed Lazowska gave a speech titled "Computer Science: Past, Present, and Future." Lazowska highlighted some achievements in computer science, such as the fact that human beings produced more transistors than grains of rice for the first time in 2004. Lazowska also said that academic computer science research has more than paid for itself over the last two decades by producing at least 15 billion-dollar industries. Looking toward the future, Lazowska said computer scientists should be handling the biggest issues in the world, including climate change and third-world poverty. For example, he noted that thousands of sensors scattered in the ocean could turn oceanography into a computer science problem. He also said that computer scientists should turn self-driving cars into a reality, which could save 45,000 lives in the United States every year. Lazowska argued that the future of theoretical computer science lies in transforming other sciences, like math, physics, economics, and biology, into computational thinking. Lazowska also said that introductory computer science courses need vast improvement, along with efforts to recruit women to the field.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Mapping the Internet
Technology Review (06/19/07) Graham-Rowe, Duncan

A new study of the Internet's structure by Israeli university researchers concludes that peer-to-peer network routing could improve the Net's efficiency and avoid congestion. The researchers' Internet mapping project, which involved the participation of 5,000 online volunteers who downloaded software to help identify connections between Internet nodes, paints a picture of the Net as a nexus of about 80 critical nodes surrounded by 5,000 sporadically linked, cloistered nodes that are highly dependent on the core nodes. The outer and core nodes are separated by some 15,000 self-sufficient, peer-connected nodes. In the absence of the core nodes, about 30 percent of the outer nodes become completely isolated, but the middle region has sufficient numbers of peer-connected nodes to keep the 70 percent of remaining outer nodes communicating. Bar-Ilan University physicist Shai Carmi thinks these alternate routes should be exploited to prevent the core nodes from becoming congested, thus boosting Internet efficiency. The distributed software strategy of the mapping project enabled as many as 6 million measurements to be collected daily over a period of two years, and each individual node was evaluated on how well linked it was to other, better connected nodes. Carmi explains that this approach allowed dead-end connections to be disregarded. The mapping project was detailed in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


CRA Names 16 to First Computing Community Consortium Council
Computing Research Association (06/19/07)

The Computing Research Association (CRA) has selected 16 computing researchers to serve as members of the first permanent Council for the Computing Community Consortium (CCC). The Council is charged with providing leadership as the CCC engages industry participants on the direction of computing research and large-scale computing research projects. Three-year terms on the Council will be served by Bill Feiereisen of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Susan Graham of the University of California at Berkeley, David Kaeli of Northeastern University, John King of the University of Michigan, and Peter Lee of Carnegie Mellon University. Two year-terms are to be filled by Andrew McCallum of the University of Massachusetts, Beth Mynatt of the Georgia Institute of Technology, David Tennenhouse of New Venture Partners, and Dave Waltz of Columbia University. And one-year terms will be held by Greg Andrews of the University of Arizona; Anita Jones of the University of Virginia; Dick Karp of the University of California at Berkeley; Edward Lazowska of the University of Washington, Chair; Fred Schneider of Cornell University; Bob Sproull of Sun Microsystems; and Karen Sutherland of Augsburg College. "Having representatives from such a wide array of sub disciplines, from schools both large and small, and from industry and government research labs should provide the diversity of thought necessary to enhance our community's ability to envision and pursue long-term, audacious computing research goals," said CRA Chairman and director of the Renaissance Computing Institute Daniel Reed. Terms begin July 1, 2007.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IBM to Show Stream Computing System Today
New York Times (06/19/07) P. C5; Lohr, Steve

IBM will demonstrate its System S stream computer system today at a conference for Wall Street technology managers. System S is designed to rapidly analyze data as it streams in from numerous sources, compared with the conventional approach of applying computer analytics and data mining to data that has been collected and stored in a database, a process that is tightly structured and can be time-consuming. Stream computing allows for business and science data to be handled and analyzed more quickly, and accommodates Web sites, blogs, email, video and news clips, telephone conversations, transaction data, electronic sensors, and other kinds of information in digital form. Data that is streamed into the database is analyzed by sophisticated algorithms, and text, voice, and image-recognition technology may be used to determine the relevancy of incoming data to a particular problem. "It's a computing system that can morph and adapt to the problems it sees," says Nagui Halim, director of high-performance stream computing at IBM labs. IBM says it could help users make quicker decisions involving everything from surveillance security to Wall Street trading.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


GMU Student's 'Pong' Makeover Is, Like, Wild
Washington Post (06/19/07) P. B1; Kinzie, Susan

Creating a psychedelic revamp of the classic video game "Pong" that places the traditional ball and paddles against a trippy background of swirling colors was no quick or easy challenge for George Mason University student Stephen Taylor, who called upon his skills with fluid dynamics, algorithms, and computer coding to realize "Plasma Pong." Taylor's labor of love took more than a year to develop, and the game's popularity and the admiration its creator has drawn from academicians is testament to universities' growing respect for video game design as a discipline that harnesses students' creative energies and focuses them on innovative pursuits. MIT and Carnegie Mellon University have set up video game technology research programs and facilities, and courses in game design are offered by various institutions. MTECH Ventures director Dean Chang predicts that universities and students will likely be the sources of tomorrow's technology-driving innovations. The increasing capabilities of video games is opening up new applications, including military and medical training and virtual exercises. Another skill that an academic emphasis on game design can nurture is entrepreneurialism, as illustrated by Taylor's plan to launch a company of his own based on the success of "Plasma Pong," which was downloaded so many times upon its debut that it severely congested the GMU server it ran on.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Getting Real
Indianapolis Star (06/19/07) Smith, Erika D.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) professor Karl MacDorman is focusing on the creation of life-like androids that can be used for human behavior and social interaction studies, and possibly serve as companions and social workers. MacDorman does not envision androids, which are designed to resemble humans, as mere menial laborers. He notes that Asians, particularly the Japanese, seem more open to potential android applications such as receptionists and museum guides, patient care, companions for the elderly, etc. MacDorman is intimate with the Japanese perspective on robots and androids, having lived in Japan and held several positions at Osaka University at a time when android science was just starting to move forward. IUPUI is the only U.S. university to offer instruction on android science, and MacDorman wants to create an android so realistic as to be agreeable to humans, thus overcoming the "uncanny valley," which is the point at which realistic robots start repelling people. The IUPUI professor understands that there are also ethical issues, such as how much autonomy humans should cede to androids, and at what point emotional attachment to androids becomes unhealthy.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


U.S. Should Draw Warning From Estonian Web Site Attacks
Congressional Quarterly (06/18/07) Berger, Matthew E.

After the statue of a World War II Soviet Soldier was removed in April, the Web sites of Estonia's prime minister, Parliament, banks, and newspapers were flooded with malicious data in an attack that some have linked to the Russian government. The attack, which lasted until mid May, was made worse by programs called bots, which took over computers and were manipulated to send additional messages to the government networks. Though such denial-of-service attacks are becoming less and less common, U.S. officials are nonetheless concerned that an attack similar to the one in Estonia could disrupt the federal government's networks. One potential threat is China, which has developed a highly sophisticated, broadly-based capability to attack and degrade computer systems in the United States, Maj. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove with the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the House Armed Services Committee last week. Former White House cybersecurity expert Paul Kurtz says the unorganized nature of the attack point's to the Internet's vulnerability. "The lesson is a more organized attack with advanced planning can really disrupt the critical information infrastructure," Kurtz says. Although he calls the U.S. "a big fat target," he says the U.S.'s infrastructure is better able to withstand such attacks. Still, Kurtz says the threat of cyberwarfare is a growing concern worldwide. Arbor Networks security researcher Jose Nazario says communication between Internet service providers and network users is crucial to withstanding such attacks. He says that many government installations are very well protected and have good contacts with the ISPs that are providing the traffic for them. He adds that good mitigation techniques are also in place.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Mitch Kapor on Virtual Worlds
InformationWeek (06/18/07) Wagner, Mitch

Mitch Kapor, chairman of Linden Lab, which operates Second Life, said the moment when he realized the potential of virtual worlds was during an in-world Suzanne Vega concert. Vega performed in a recording studio, and people all over the world watched from their computers. While delivering the keynote address at the Virtual Worlds conference, sponsored by IBM and MIT, Kapor said, "A huge number of passionate early adopters had some kind of mystical experience." Beyond entertainment, virtual worlds can also provide practical business applications such as faster and more effective training opportunities and better lines of communications, said Rob Burns, president of Proton Media, which operates remote learning virtual worlds. Thomas Malone, a professor of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said virtual worlds can offer tools for leaders, as games create a structure that nurtures and encourages leadership by providing rewards, performance statistics, and communication channels. Such tools make it easier for people to manage themselves, which makes it easier to lead them. Malone said the possibility of such a system suggests that current real-world leadership development may be misplaced, and should focus on opportunities where leaders can naturally emerge, rather than leadership training. Kapor said virtual worlds have a long way to go before they become mainstream. Virtual worlds need to be decentralized to allow private spaces to be made, and user interfaces need to be improved to make virtual worlds easier to use.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


European Commission Backs New E-Skills Body
IT Week (06/19/07) Murray, James

The European Commission has thrown its support behind a new group that leading IT vendors, training firms, and certification bodies have established to find answers for the widening IT skills shortage. EMEA President at Global Knowledge Richard Pryor-Jones says the EC considers the IT skills crisis across the continent to be a competition issue, considering the demand for skilled IT workers is driving up salaries and IT professionals could also find appealing opportunities in economies where the cost structure is more attractive. Global Knowledge, the IT training provider, is participating on the new e-Skills Industry Leadership Board, along with exam groups such as CompTIA and Exin, and vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft, and Oracle. The board will serve as a forum for discussing ideas and initiatives. "We want to reflect on what is happening in different countries and start to establish some best practice sharing across different countries and companies," says Pryor-Jones. The body will identify effective skills programs for adoption on a more widescale basis, make recommendations to the EC by autumn, and encourage the European Union and individual companies to support the implementation of the programs. "We need to address why people don't find IT sexy and why even computer science graduates are leaving the sector," Pryor-Jones says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Linux Foundation Charts Linux's Future
DesktopLinux.com (06/19/07)

The Linux Foundation released a statement on June 19 to summarize the inaugural Linux Foundation Summit, where over 230 Linux leaders convened to discuss key issues, including the development of a better collaborative method for improving the Linux operating system and the applications, hardware, and people that rely on it. On hand at the summit were representatives from the foundation's Accessibility Workgroup to communicate to leading independent software vendors, end users, kernel developers, and Linux Standard Base (LSB) workgroup participants the model for writing accessible applications. Key representatives from the kernel community, end users, and vendors came together for a session on device drivers, in which the Linux model and a newly created program that offers free Linux driver development to all companies was explained. A meeting of desktop architects was held to unveil a new series of priorities for the community, including multimedia, software packaging, developer tools, power management, printing, and word typography. There was a conference between representatives from major printing vendors and Linux community leaders to discuss new printer driver support improvements and collaborate on future improvements. Efficient power management in Linux was also a major point of discussion, and meetings covering this topic prompted the Linux Foundation to form a "Green Linux" effort to enhance power functionality in Linux. A presentation of the LSB Test Framework and Testing tools was made by the LSB workgroup.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Warnings of 'Internet Overload'
BBC News (06/15/07) Kelly, Spencer

Doomsayers have long predicted that the Internet will inevitably buckle under the weight of ever-increasing data, and the explosion in demand for such services as concurrent video streaming and gigabyte-scale data downloading is rekindling this fear, writes Spencer Kelly. Though scientists believe each strand of high-speed optic fiber--whose abundance currently exceeds necessity--is capable of carrying almost unlimited volumes of data, there is concern that the routers may be overloaded. Phil Smith with the world's leading router manufacturer Cisco boasts that current routers can accommodate 92 terabits of data per second, adding, "We have enough capacity to do that and drive a billion phone calls from those same people who are playing a video game at the same time they're having a text chat." But Kelly notes that many of the Internet's end connections are copper, not fiber, and Net expert Bill Thompson comments that ISPs have begun to scale back the bandwidth that is available to households. "They do this because they have a limited capacity to deliver to 100 or 200 homes, and if everybody's using the Internet at the same time then the whole thing starts to get congested," he explains. There are other threats besides data overload facing the Internet, including damage to major links and routers from a variety of causes, which range from natural disasters to deliberate sabotage.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Saying It With Rooftops
University of Minnesota News (06/06/07) Moore, Rick

Jesse Vig, a computer science graduate student at the University of Minnesota, created GeoGreeting.com, a popular Web site that offers unique greetings. GeoGreeting enables users to send free electronic messages that are spelled out via images of letter-shaped buildings and landmarks. The Web site has been visited by over 800,000 users since it was launched in November 2006. In addition, GeoGreeting became popular in other countries, and was nominated for the Best NetArt Web site in the 2007 Webby Awards Competition. Vig thought up the concept after working on various Google Maps projects for an advanced Internet programming class and observing how many buildings were shaped like letters. Vig says he spent roughly 100 hours finding enough buildings and landmarks to cover the alphabet. "I've gotten emails from all over the world, like India and Japan," Vig says. "It's been interesting how international the response has been."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Re-Engineering the Engineer
Business 2.0 (06/19/07) Myser, Michael

The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering is a five-year-old educational experiment, chartered with a $460 million endowment by the F.W. Olin Foundation, that is radically altering how engineers are trained. The Needham, Mass., school, only 17 miles from MIT, has no academic departments, no tenure track, no tuition fees, and no fixed curriculum. The school focuses on a hands-on, project-based, interdisciplinary approach. "We've redefined what engineering is and what engineering means," said Olin's founding president Richard K. Miller. "We want to be an irritant that will cause other to make changes." Miller and a handful of faculty members designed and tested a new course of study and enrolled the first class of undergraduates in 2002. Olin's curriculum is focused on courses such as User Oriented Collaborative Design and Design Nature. Miller says traditional engineering programs are like music schools that teach music history and theory, but never allow students to play an instrument. In addition to an unconventional engineering education, Olin students spend more than a quarter of their time studying business and entrepreneurship, humanities, and social sciences. Students can also participate in Olin's senior consulting program for engineering. This year 12 corporations paid Olin a combined $700,000 to have groups of five seniors work as consultants on some of the companies' technological and engineering problems. Olin's approach appears to be working. Olin's retention rate is 91 percent, about 50 percent above the average for U.S. engineering schools, and the schools first group of graduates have taken an impressive array of jobs and graduate school placements, including two Fullbright scholarships and four National Science Foundation fellowships.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Teaching Wireless Sensor Networks at the University of Melbourne
IEEE Distributed Systems Online (06/07) Vol. 8, No. 6, Tanin, Egemen

Sensor Networks and Applications is a postgraduate course taught by Egemen Tanin in the University of Melbourne's Master of Engineering in Distributed Computing program that focuses on wireless sensor networks (WSNs). The course had to contend with the challenge of addressing students' misconception that WSNs are a fairly recent development, educate students in various hardware and software layers, and face the complexities inherent in lab facilities for teaching WSNs. Tanin notes that a WSN course is advantageous on a number of levels: There is a definite interest in this subject among postgrads; many academics in various engineering and computer science disciplines participate in WSN-related research and activities and are happy to share their experience and expertise; and the course's demos and projects could easily feature concrete teaching probes and tools that could potentially enhance students' attention span. Among the topics covered by the syllabus are introduction to WSNs, network setup, data collection and processing, software engineering, case studies, and student projects, and while Tanin focused for the most part on introductory material, lectures by academics and industry partners were also incorporated to provide specialist expertise for certain topics. At the start of the semester, Tanin gives basic rules and expectations about student projects, and encourages students to devise a topic by themselves while also offering a list of possible topics to choose from if they lack inspiration. Interaction with sensing devices for in-class demos and student project support was another component of the course. "In the future, we plan to extend our laboratory facilities to involve some fixed infrastructure so students can connect their projects to a large-scale deployment of sensors with the devices that they already can check out from the department," notes Tanin.
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.