Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
July 2, 2007

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

Welcome to the July 2, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Undifferentiated Networks Would Require Significant Extra Capacity
Rensselaer News (06/29/07) Gorss, Jason

Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, AT&T Labs, and the University of Nevada, Reno say a new study indicates that an Internet that treats all traffic equally would require significantly more capacity than one with differentiated services. The study focused on whether application traffic that requires performance assurance, like VoIP, could be serviced differently, and what the impact would be if all traffic was treated in an identical manner. "We wanted to take one piece of the overall debate and approach it quantitatively," says Shivkumar Kalyanaraman, principal investigator and professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer. "The study makes clear that there are substantial additional costs for the extra capacity required to operate networks in which all traffic is treated alike, and carrying traffic that needs to still be assured performance as specified in service level agreements." The researchers used computer models to compare the current "best-effort" approach to a model that separates information into two classes, one for regular information and one for applications that require service-level assurance for high-bandwidth content such as video games, telemedicine, and VoIP. The study estimates that the "required extra capacity," the additional capacity needed for an undifferentiated network, could be 60 percent for even modestly utilized networks. Networks under heavy demand could have a required extra capacity of 100 percent or more of the total capacity required when differentiation is used. "Clearly an undifferentiated network in this context is less efficient and more expensive," says co-author K.K. Ramakrishnan of AT&T Labs. The researchers presented their findings at the 15th IEEE International Workshop on Quality Service.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Wall Street Battles Silicon Valley for Top Tech Grads
Bloomberg (06/30/07) Kassenaar, Lisa

Students with top grades in finance, math, and computer science, particularly those with bilingual ability, are highly sought after by Wall Street and Silicon Valley, more aggressively than any students since the dot-com boom in the 1990s. Due to an increase in mergers, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, and hedge fund investing, U.S. securities firms are having difficulty filling empty positions at investment banks, trading rooms, and in quantitative financing. "It's ferocious," says Merrill Lynch's director of campus recruiting Connie Thanasoulis. "You have to get the technology part right because that's become the guts of the organization." The most intense competition for new talent is over graduates who can write algorithms for computer-based trading and search engineers. Despite the high demand for computer science graduates, enrollment in computer science programs dropped 39 percent in the five academic years ending in 2006, according to the Computer Research Association. Marketing consultant William Strauss says that many graduates are smarter than their bosses were at the same age, and after seeing their parents struggle to balance work and family, many are not willing to work 80 hour weeks. Many financial institutions are also having trouble competing with the flexibility offered by technology companies such as Google. Flexible hours are a standard practice at Google, as well as other amenities that make the workplace feel like a college dorm room, including pool tables, scooters to navigate the office, three free meals a day, laundry and gym services, and free massages for employees on their birthday. Such luxurious offers are making it difficult for other industries to attract technology graduates. "Technology is the hardest to hire for," says Goldman Sachs' head of U.S. campus recruiting Janet Raiffa. "We really have to compete."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


The Vanishing American Computer Programmer
Christian Science Monitor (07/02/07) P. 15; Francis, David R.

The video posted on YouTube that shows an immigration lawyer talking to a group of business people about the process of hiring foreign workers over Americans has sparked outrage. "Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified U.S. worker," says the immigration lawyer for the firm in the video. University of California, Davis computer science professor Norm Matloff says such efforts to hire cheap labor through loopholes in immigration laws are "absolutely outrageous." Technology industry executives have lobbied lawmakers to increase the number of H-1B visas and other temporary visas for highly educated foreign workers, arguing the visas are necessary because of a shortage of Americans educated in computer technology and other sciences. Matloff says the H-1B debate is an example of how some companies have become ruthless in their efforts to get what they want from Congress. Proponents for increases in H-1B limits say there is a shortage of computer professionals in the U.S., which is reflected by an unemployment rate of 2.4 percent. However, John Miano, who runs his own programming firm, argues that wages in the computer industry have been stagnant after inflation for 10 years, which does not indicate a labor shortage, and that the low unemployment rate is the result of programmers and others leaving the industry because they are unable to find work. Matloff notes that while the United States debates H-1B reform, the country is losing considerable computer capabilities, as enrollment in university computing programs continues to drop.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


SC07 to Feature 'Doctoral Showcase' Activity
HPC Wire (06/29/07)

The SC07 Technical Program will include the Doctoral Showcase, which will give attendees of the supercomputing conference an opportunity to learn about the HPC research pursuits of Ph.D. students, and help organizations identify up-and-coming supercomputing talent. The inaugural forum will be open to Ph.D. students who will be graduating within a year after the conference, which is scheduled for Nov. 10-16, 2007, in Reno, Nev. The Doctoral Showcase will be open to as many students as possible, and they will have 15 minutes to present their latest results in HPC. Students have until July 31, 2007, to register at the SC07 submissions Web site. "These students represent the future of HPC and they are doing some incredible work," says Jeffrey Hollingsworth, SC07 Doctoral Showcase chair and professor of computer science at the University of Maryland. "We felt it was important to create a forum to hear about their ideas." For more information, or to register, visit http://sc07.supercomputing.org/
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Aldrich Receives Dahl-Nygaard Prize for Outstanding Work in Object-Oriented Programming
Carnegie Mellon News (06/25/07) Watzman, Anne; Spice, Byron

Carnegie Mellon University's Jonathan Aldrich, an assistant professor in the Institutive for Software Research (ISR) at the university's School of Computer Science, will receive the 2007 AITO Dahl-Nygaard Junior Prize for his work in object-oriented programming. Aldrich's research addresses one of the most important challenges in industrial software development--correctly structuring large-scale programs. Software programs can exceed 1 million pages of code, and software companies may have hundreds of thousands of programmers on multiple continents. If one programmer enters a single line of incorrect code, the entire system could fail. Aldrich's solution is ArchJava, an extension of the Java programming language that builds the high-level structure of a system inside the code and automatically verifies that the code is consistent with the overall structure. The objective is to summarize the architectural design of large-scale systems on a single page and automatically ensure that every page of code is consistent with the summary. "Jonathan's pioneering work on ArchJava was the first to mathematically link a blueprint of the overall architecture of an object-oriented system with the actual execution of the object-oriented code," says professor of computer science and head of ISR William L. Scherlis. "His work not only has theoretical interests, but it can also be scaled to real-world software systems."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Robot Works on Navigation Like a Human
Stuff (NZ) (07/02/07)

Auckland University of Technology researchers are researching ways to improve robotic navigation by studying how animals find their way around. Most robots use precise measurements to create detailed maps of their surroundings, which they then use to navigate. Animals and humans however, use spatial information that is often full of errors, but are still able to successfully orient themselves and find their way home, says professor Albert Yeap, director of the university's Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research. Yeap and his team wrote software to simulate how humans and animals navigate for their robot, "Albot." Albot was released in a corridor and instructed to move around using its sonar sensors instead of more precise lasers to map its location. Then it was instructed to find its way back to its starting position. Albot scored top marks every time it was released, using just a rough estimate of distances. Yeap believes this is how humans create mental maps. Yeap says the main objective of his research is to understand how humans create mental maps, but more adaptable robots could be a bi-product of the research. Yeap's next project will involve programming robots to use symbolic reasoning with concepts such as "home" to create more complex maps.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Star Trek Tech Will Let People Meet Virtually, Researchers Say
CBC News (CAN) (06/28/07)

Business people will one day use videoconferencing technology that makes it appear as if someone who is halfway across the world is present at their meeting, if Edmonton researchers successfully develop their three-dimensional virtual reality technology. Inspired by Star Trek's holodeck, which produced holographic computer-simulated environments that seemed real to crew members, the virtual reality technology will allow users to meet in a virtual space filled with virtual products, and give them the impression that they are meeting face-to-face in a room. Computer scientists at the University of Alberta have been working with Hewlett-Packard on the project for the past year. Their goal is to bring such a level of realism to the technology that users will be able to distinguish non-verbal cues of others, such as the twitch of an eye and beads of sweat. Non-verbal cues often influence business decisions, but current teleconferencing and videoconferencing technology are not able to render such detail for users. "It doesn't convey the sense of presence," says lead researcher Pierre Boulanger. "So in some ways, we are in the first phase of this telepresence revolution."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Computer Program Makes Night Sky Searchable
Exduco (06/28/07) Franca, Sara

Computer scientists at the University of Toronto and astronomers at New York University have developed a system that examines a portion of the night sky and determines which stars are in the picture. The purpose of the project is to use high-powered computing and machine learning to help manage huge astronomical data sets. "We call it a blind astronometry solver," computer science Ph.D. candidate Dustin Lang says. "It's a bit like going outside on a dark night and trying to find the constellations, except we're trying to recognize images that come from all kinds of cameras, amateur telescopes, large ground-based telescopes, and space telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope." Land says that because the project is processing information on about a billion starts everything needs to be done efficiently. The project is a part of astronometry.net, and will have a significant impact on both professional and amateur astronomers. "Amateur astronomers can take great pictures but they rarely record where their telescopes are pointing," Lang says. "We can figure out exactly where the image came from and combine images into a high-resolution picture of the sky that is always being updated." The system can also help correct possible telescope errors by checking information telescopes record. The next step for the project is to make the system faster, more flexible, and more robust.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Grid Computing Misses the Point, Says Academic
Computerworld UK (06/28/07) Knights, Miya

Grid computing may not be the facilitator of e-science that it has been touted to be, according to David De Roure, a professor of computer science at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. De Roure will present a paper on the issue at the eResearch Australasia conference in Brisbane on Friday. Grid computing focuses on the raw power of a new infrastructure for bringing grid services to users. However, De Roure says there is more to new science than infrastructure, adding that the grid community should take a step back and consider the evolution of the Web. "If we want to enable new science then we need to empower the scientist," he says. "It remains a point of debate as to whether the functionality of the Grid can be delivered through the far simpler programming interfaces of the Web--I believe it can." De Roure is behind the Semantic Grid Initiative, which gives defined meaning to information and services through descriptive processes that get the most out of opportunities for sharing and reuse.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


See a City Change in Four Dimensions
New Scientist (06/27/07) Marks, Paul

Frank Dellaert at the Georgia Institute of Technology has teamed up with Grant Schindler and Sing Bing Kang of Microsoft's research lab in Redmond, Wash., to create software that offers a virtual historical tour of Atlanta by showing how the city has changed over time. The software, called 4D Cities, can automatically sort snapshots from Atlanta's past into date order, then construct an animated 3D model that shows changes, such when buildings were constructed or demolished. 4D Cities is designed to work with scanned historical photos that were snapped from similar vantage points, making it easier for the system to identify 3D structures within the images and break them down into a series of points, and then compare views to determine why some points are visible and others are not. A building may not have been in a shot, or it could have been blocked out by another building. "If we can rule out those two possibilities, then we know that the reason we don't see a building is because it didn't exist when the image was taken," says Schindler. "Either it was not yet built or it had already been demolished." The researchers want to develop models for other cities, and improve the software's recognition of photos, which would allow for the use of larger sets of time-sequenced images.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


An Agile Hypertext Design Methodology
University of Southampton (ECS) (07/01/07) Wills, Gary B.; Abbas, Noura; Chandrasekharan, Rakhi

Lead times for software are being reduced to a matter of months as a result of mounting pressure from customers, and organizations generally prefer an iterative, incremental software engineering strategy to alleviate the short lead time while supporting quality. Existing hypertext design models fail to consider the issue of the requirements and analysis process that usually fuels design, and the authors offer an agile, more holistic approach to hypertext application development to address this process. Elements of this method include personas (detailed descriptions of end users) and scenarios (textual descriptions of a persona's mode of interaction with the system and other personas); multimedia resources and ontologies, which require the knowledge of end users and stakeholders; storyboards that represent the user interface design; UML use cases built from the scenarios; and Web service design via the Service Responsibility and Interaction Design Method, which distinguishes abstract service profiles from their implementation. Agile software development methods are linked in certain principles, including the frequent delivery of functional software within a short period of time, intimate communications within the developer team and with clients, a greater focus on programming than documentation, and simplicity. The authors say their approach favors limited documentation that still guarantees effective communication within the team and with the customer. The process features a feedback loop via which developers continuously improve scenarios as the clients are refined. "In addition the use of Web service provides the rapid and flexible response to change, in that the complexity of the functionality can be delivered incrementally and at different iterations," the authors conclude.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


The Tech Lab: Bradley Horowitz
BBC News (06/29/07) Horowitz, Bradley

Yahoo's Bradley Horowitz envisions an "Internet of things" made possible by a universal resolver that covers any entity, real or digital, physical or conceptual. The challenge of transitioning to a world where everything boasts a digital identifier is classified by Horowitz's colleague Marc Davis as the "W4" problem, with who, when, what, and where representing the four "W's." "When" and "where" are already handled very well with innovations such as GMT and GPS, but resolving "who" (identity) and especially "what" is proving more difficult, according to Horowitz. An important question he asks is who or what should act as the authority for assigning a digital ID to real-world objects, and he wonders whether a standards body such as ICANN should be used to decide or arbitrate on the universal resolvers. Horowitz sees a lot of promise in an effort that involves crowd sourcing and tagging. "Where we find people codifying big blocks of entities--whether in a movie database or books or restaurants, or business entities--I am comfortable taking a pragmatic approach so long as the companies contributing their respective intellectual property are committed to open standards and strategies," he says. Horowitz notes that the addition of microformats--coded, machine-readable bits of structure--allows machine-to-machine communication and eliminates ambiguity over the entities being discussed, and is a significant advancement toward the Semantic Web.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


HP Lab University 2007: Future Promises 'Insanely Simple' Technology
ITPro (06/28/07) Holland, Maggie

HP chief technology officer of personal systems Phil McKinney predicts that social dynamics will change between now and 2025 as virtual worlds such as Second Life become increasingly central to business and consumer activities by 2020 and eventually gain a legal status by 2025. Personal entertainment and smart devices will continue to become more popular, as will intelligent networks and seamless connectivity. However, since not everyone buys technology from the same supplier, it needs to be easier for consumers to buy devices that work cohesively. McKinney says consumers do not care what wireless technology a device uses as long as they are always connected, so the industry needs to work with standards organizations. "We believe that in the next two to three years consumers will have that always-connected experience," McKinney says. McKinney believes the answer to privacy and information overload problems is to create devices that are "insanely simple to use." He says today's devices force users to go through technology to get to the benefits, and the challenge will be to take technology and move it to the background.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Beating Congestion With Mobiles
BBC News (06/29/07) Reid, David

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are using data from mobile-phone networks to create real-time maps of people moving around Rome, a system that could help ease traffic congestion. Mobile networks track users to ensure signals stay strong, and because so many people have mobile phones, particularly in Rome, the network information can give an accurate picture of where people are in a city. "This is really the first time that you can take an urban system, like a big city, and try to see in real time how it lives, how people move, and what's happening in the city," says MIT's Carlo Ratti. "In the city, for example, you've got taxis with GPS, you've got buses with GPS, and also you've got mobile phones. If you take that information and you apply artificial intelligence and algorithms to it, then you can understand very interesting things about the urban system." The project, called Real Time Rome, could be used to help ease traffic congestion, help drivers find alternate routes, and help Italy's transport agency more efficiently allocate transportation resources by tracking where people are, which would allow for flexible and more efficient bus routes.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


'I Want to Reduce GUI as Much as Possible'--Toshiyuki Masui, Apple
Tech-On! (06/26/07) Nozawa, Tetsuo

Real-world graphical user interfaces have become the research focus for Toshiyuki Masui, a well-known software researcher in Japan who joined Apple in Silicon Valley last year. Masui says the goal is to limit the number of GUIs so that users can move more toward the direct operation of an item such as a home appliance. An alarm clock can be set by adjusting the hands, which means a complex GUI for setting the time to record a video would not be needed, according to Masui, who adds that the key is to actually touch the equipment, and not operate it indirectly. Turning off a ceiling light with a switch is an example of indirect operation. Masui believes different kinds of sensors and real-world interfaces can be used to reduce GUIs as much as possible. He joined Fujitsu in 1984 and was involved in the development of semiconductors, but his overwhelming interest in software led him to move to Sharp, where he participated in the development of proprietary GUIs for word processors. Masui is also known for his pioneering work at Sony Computer Science Laboratories in developing "predictive entry" technology, which is used by most mobile phones in Japan today.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Getting Data Centers to Chill
HPC Wire (06/29/07) Vol. 16, No. 26, McCann, Tim

The heat generated by increasingly dense rack systems employed in the quest for high-performance computing raises the risk of system failures and reduced equipment lifespans, and disbursing heat through water is becoming popular as a thermal dissipation solution, writes SGI chief engineer Tim McCann. One available solution is a closed-loop rack airflow system that employs water-chilled coils affixed within the rack to remove the heat after air flows through the computer's electronics, and then recirculates the cooled air back into the rack. Meanwhile, the open-loop rack airflow solution also cools the system's electronics with fan-circulated air, which is cooled via water-chilled coils and then exhausted at the rear of the rack. This solution tries to maintain the exhausted air's temperature at a slightly higher degree than the ambient data center's temperature, and lower the likelihood of hot spots. The growing deployment of water-chilled coil solutions is encouraging vendors to enhance the solutions' efficiency and convenience. One notable advancement is the containment of the water cooling mechanism in a hinged rear door that can be opened at any time to allow easy access to air-movers and cables, as well as the door itself. The implementation, maintenance, and servicing of racks can be greatly streamlined with this method.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Open Code and Culture at Merced's New Collaboratory
CITRIS Newsletter (06/07) Slack, Gordy

The School of Engineering at UC Merced's concentration on open source as a software infrastructure and as an engineering education tool is part of an effort to erase the intimidation students feel at the prospect of working with hardware or software, explains UC Merced's CITRIS director and Dean of Engineering Jeffrey Wright. The school's CITRIS-supported Collaboratory is an open-source computer teaching facility that can be run for just about 15 percent of the budget and less than 15 percent of the power consumption of a typical lab of its size, according to Wright. The Collaboratory is an entirely user-designed lab with absolutely no reliance on proprietary software; in addition to open-source software, it is supported by commodity hardware, requires only a modicum of administration, and boasts student-to-student and student-to-instructor interactivity as well as facile remote access and interaction. The lab is safely upgradeable thanks to its open-source nature, and Wright notes that "there is also an educational pedagogy here that drives our classes. We are trying to get our students to think differently about information technology by placing an extremely strong emphasis on information and its management rather than on the technology." The functionality of the Collaboratory is faculty-designed, removing a reliance on vendors. The lab is highly adaptive, which helps promote the school's CITRIS-sponsored agenda to craft joint ventures with local community colleges and high schools so students are better prepared for courses comparable to those offered at Merced.
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.