Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
September 28, 2007

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

Welcome to the September 28, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

'Radical Rethinking' of Internet Routing Under Way
Network World (09/28/07) Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

A new networking architecture that would upgrade the Internet's scalability to support perhaps billions of new users in developing nations is being sought by the Internet Research Task Force. "The new focus of the [IRTF's Routing Research Group] is to work on a possible routing architecture that includes new ways of addressing, new ways of doing routing for the global Internet," says co-chair of the working group Tony Li. "The IP address has both the identification of the node and the location of the node. The question becomes: Can we separate the identification from the locator semantics, and can we still run an Internet with that kind of architecture?" Exponential growth in the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing table is a source of concern for experts because of the strain it places on the processing and memory needs of the Internet's central routers. "What CIOs really care about is the cost of their Internet connections, and if the cost of the service providers goes up because the routing table becomes unwieldy, that will lead to incremental costs for everybody," notes Li. Among the benefits that a slowdown in routing table growth would offer to enterprise network operators is a simplified way for multihoming their networks. Two alternative routing proposals have drawn the most attention at the working group thus far. The Locator/ID Separation Protocol delineates a method for splitting Internet addresses into endpoint identifiers and routing locators through the use of tunnel routers, while in the Six/One proposal each service provider would give provider-dependent IP addresses to the enterprise, while hosts would employ addressing spaces from all providers on an interchangeable basis. Another possibility is the Routing Research Group's complete jettisoning of BGP.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


US Video Shows Simulated Hacker Attack
Associated Press (09/27/07) Bridis, Ted; Sullivan, Eileen

A video made by the Idaho National Laboratory for the Homeland Security Department depicts an electrical turbine catching fire to illustrate what could happen if hackers launched an attack on the U.S. electrical grid. The videotaped simulation, known as the "Aurora Generator Test," was produced by researchers probing a hazardous vulnerability in U.S. utility companies' computers; the programming flaw has since been repaired. According to experts, the electrical equipment that runs the country's water, power, and chemical plants is "very old technology." Moreover, security issues were not taken into consideration when such systems were originally designed. Years ago, top telecommunications advisers to President Bush asserted that an organization could electronically carry out an attack on the electric power grid from a remote location and with a great deal of anonymity. The Idaho National Laboratory confirmed such a possibility, dubbing it "the invisible threat." However, other industry experts note that criminals would require specialized information--such as how to deactivate warning systems--to conduct such an attack. Regardless, the Homeland Security Department and electrical companies have been collaborating to improve security measures, and to date "we've taken a lot of risk off the table," says Robert Jamison of the Homeland Security Department. In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission put forward a series of standards in July 2007 that, if implemented, would safeguard the nation's electric power supply system from cyberattacks by mandating the creation of plans and controls.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Ohio to Test Its 5 Voting Systems Before Primary in March
New York Times (09/27/07) P. A24; Driehaus, Bob

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announced that all five voting systems used in Ohio, as well as next-generation systems, will be tested as part of an overall effort to identify and correct serious problems with the security and reliability of voting machines in time for the presidential primary in March. The $1.8 million study will take place at SysTest Labs in Denver, with assistance from professors and graduate students from Cleveland State, Pennsylvania State, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California Santa Barbara. "Part of what SysTest is doing is studying operating procedures in 11 counties," says Brunner. "Cleveland State will visit those same counties for a second point of view." A bipartisan group of county elections officials will add an additional layer of oversight. The Hart and Diebold systems decertified in California following an extensive test ordered by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen are also in use in Ohio, though Brunner emphasizes that with so little time before the March 5 primary, much of the Ohio study will focus on short-term solutions and safeguards. The results of the testing are expected by mid December.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


MIT Launches Kerberos Consortium
MIT News (09/27/07) Richards, Patti

MIT on Thursday announced the launch of the Kerberos Consortium, a joint effort on the part of industry and academia to create a universal authentication program based on Kerberos to protect computer networks. "By establishing the Kerberos Consortium, MIT seeks to permit Kerberos to continue to grow and develop as a stable and universal 'single sign-on' mechanism for the users of modern computer networks," says Kerberos Consortium executive director Stephen Buckley. Kerberos Consortium chief technologist Sam Hartman says the objective is to make Kerberos more useful and available. "We foresee a day when Kerberos-based authentication and authorization will be as ubiquitous as TCP/IP-based networking itself," Hartman says. One of the consortium's primary objectives is to provide the solutions it promotes as open source reference implementations that can be used by consortium members in their products and organizations without licensing fees. "We see a number of our customers asking for open source, stable, and interoperable single-sign on technology, based on the Kerberos protocol," says Sun Microsystems director Kathy Jenks. "The MIT Kerberos Consortium is an outstanding way to address our customers' requirements, and a continuation of the work we have been doing within the Kerberos community over the last several years."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Yale Scientists Make Two Giant Steps in Advancement of Quantum Computing
Yale University Office of Public Affairs (09/26/07) Emanuel, Janet Rettig

Yale University scientists have accomplished two major steps toward achieving true quantum computing--sending a photon signal on demand from a qubit onto wires and transmitting the signal to a second, distant qubit. Applied physics professor Robert Schoelkopf and physics professor Steven Girvin have spent several years exploring the use of solid-state devices resembling microchips for use in a quantum computer. Their breakthrough means that quantum computing has moved past simply "having information" to "communicating information." Previously, information in quantum systems was only able to move from qubit to qubit. Schoelkopf and Girvin have engineered a superconducting communication "bus" to store and transfer information between distant quantum bits, the first step to making the fundamentals of quantum computing useful, according to Schoelkopf. The first breakthrough is the ability to produce and control single, discrete microwave photons as the carriers of encoded quantum information. "In this work we demonstrate only the first half of quantum communication on a chip--quantum information efficiently transferred from a stationary quantum bit to a photon or 'flying qubit,'" says Schoelkopf. "However, for on-chip quantum communication to become a reality, we need to be able to transfer information from the photon back to a qubit." The researchers accomplished that in their second breakthrough by adding a second qubit and using the photon to transfer a quantum state from one qubit to another.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Tech Giants Chart Research Goals
InfoWorld (09/26/07) Hines, Matt

Leading researchers from Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel at this week's EmTech Conference at MIT provided a glimpse into their top research projects, which included work on power consumption, parallelism, and mobile communications. Intel's vice president of research Andrew Chien says that despite the rapid development of the mobile space, Intel feels that wireless devices, applications, and service providers are not as intuitive and seamless as they could be. Chien predicts that future mobile devices will offer the "seamless presentation" of more useful information, including tools that use geolocation and onboard sensors to give users information about their surroundings. HP Labs senior vice president of research Prith Banerjee says HP is working in mobility, green IT, and parallelism simultaneously in an effort to make data centers more efficient in general. Some of HP's research focuses on improving performance, while other projects examine power consumption by building sensors into prototype servers to reduce costs and problems associated with cooling massive hardware systems. Banerjee also notes that HP is hoping to breakthrough some of the barriers surrounding parallel programming. "We're very aware in our research of the challenges of making parallel software applications; we need engineers who can start writing code designed for multi-cores and to help transition software designed to run on a single processor," says Banerjee, adding that the possible benefits could be enormous. "We're imaging a world where you plug in a computer and all the applications work automatically, and users don't have to worry about patches and updates."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Computer Science Faculty Explore Thermal-Aware Computing
Virginia Tech News (09/25/07) Daniilidi, Christina

Virginia Tech associate professors of computer science Kirk Cameron and Dimitrios Nikolopoulos will use a $350,000 National Science Foundation Computer Science Research award to develop runtime software support for proactive heat management in advanced computing systems. The reliability of computer processors can degrade rapidly when a "thermal emergency" occurs, or when the machine's temperature rapidly increases above a safe level. Some high performance processors can consume up to 100 watts and produce temperatures exceeding those of a hot plate. "What we want is to reduce the heat produced by large systems with lots of components in close proximity such as those in a data center," Cameron says. "By first studying the way applications produce heat, our hope is to identify places where we can reduce heat while maintaining the high-performance required by users." Cameron's research focus is on determining the thermal effects software has on a system, which is done primarily by observing the effects of various power reduction strategies on processors and system thermal behavior. Nikolopoulos is researching new thermal reduction techniques applicable to parallel scientific applications and systems. The ultimate objective is seeing if programs or system software can be modified to avoid a thermal emergency or react to overheating and try to control it without reducing system performance.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


System Enables Any Digital Camera to Produce Interactive, Multibillion-Pixel Panoramas
Carnegie Mellon News (09/26/07) Spice, Byron; Watzman, Anne

Carnegie Mellon University researchers, working with NASA Ames Research Center scientists, have developed an inexpensive robotic device that allows any digital camera to take gigapixel panoramic photographs, known as GigaPans. The technology is being used by students to document their communities and by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to make Civil War sites accessible on the Web. The system uses a tripod-like mount to allow digital cameras to take hundreds of overlapping images of landscapes, buildings, or rooms. Software developed by Carnegie Mellon and Ames is used to arrange the images in a grid and digitally merge them together to create a single image that could contain tens of billions of pixels. Carnegie Mellon has also created a Web site so users can upload and interactively explore the panoramic images in any format. "An ordinary photo makes it possible to cross language barriers," says Illah Nourbakhsh, an associate professor in the School of Computer Science's Robotics Institute. "But a GigaPan provides so much information that it leads to conversations between the person who took the panoramas and the people who are exploring it and discovering new details." Nourbakhsh hopes that GigaPan will help develop a community of producers and users. "GigaPan is not just about the vision of the person who makes the image," Nourbakhsh says. "People who explore the image can make discoveries and gain insights in ways that may be just as important."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Researchers Double Cell Phone Memory Through Software Alone
Northwestern University (09/26/07) Fellman, Megan

Northwestern University and NEC Laboratories America computer engineers have developed a technique that doubles the amount of usable memory on cell phones and other embedded systems without changing the hardware or applications on the device by altering the operating system software. The researchers say the technique, dubbed CRAMES (compressed RAM for embedded systems), has a minimal affect on performance and power consumption. "The technology we've developed automatically takes data and reduces it to less than half its original size without losing any information while the embedded system is running," says Robert P. Dick, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science in Northwestern's Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. "It is like putting twice as much memory in the phone without increasing its cost or power consumption." CRAMES works by dividing the memory into two different regions, one for regular data and one for compressed data. When an application needs data from the compressed region the hardware pauses the software while the operating system accesses and decompresses the data and transfers it to the other memory region where the application can access it.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Gloomy Forecast for IT Work Force
eWeek (09/25/07) Mark, Roy

Participants in an Institute for a Competitive Workforce workshop this week expressed serious doubt about America's ability to produce a skilled technology workforce to remain competitive in the years to come. Microsoft's Fred Tipson called the situation "dire," and panel moderator James Whaley, president of the Siemens Foundation, said, "We can no longer assume the talent pipeline will be here." Meanwhile, Judy Moog, national program director of the Verizon Foundation, cited statistics that show the reading skills of eighth graders, the quality of high school graduates, and the literacy skills of the adult population are declining. Literacy is key to competitiveness because of the vast amount of information people will encounter over different devices, Moog said. Americans are failing to turn basic digital know-how into advanced skills, and forcing companies to rely on the H-1B visa program to find tech workers elsewhere. Still, some participants said the business community could do more to support school and training programs that focus on digital literacy, math, and science skills. Whaley added that a lifelong "earning account" would make it easier for workers to update their skills from time to time.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Toward a Music Search Engine That Lets You Type in Regular Words and Returns Songs
University of California, San Diego (09/26/07)

University of California, San Diego electrical engineers and computer scientists are collaborating on a search engine that will allow people to search for music using ordinary language descriptions. This "Google for music" search engine allows users to enter searches such as "high energy instrumental with piano," "funky guitar solos," or "upbeat music with female vocals" and get corresponding music. Instead of manually entering annotations for as many songs as possible, the UCSD researchers have developed a series of algorithms that allow a computer to automatically annotate songs. Before the computer can annotate songs, however, it needs to be trained through a process of machine learning, which requires a significant amount of data. The developers launched an online matching game to collect data to use in the process. Much like image matching games being used to create annotations for pictures, the Listen Game asks players to describe a piece of music they just listened to, awarding points for every matching answer. Annotations created by Listen Game players are used to teach the computer how to annotate previously unheard songs. "If you look at a music review, there are so many words that are not relevant, you want to filter them out to get the quality training data, to get words that are acoustically describing the song," says UCSD computer science master's degree student David Torres, an author on the paper.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Online Biometrics Flaw Gives Hackers a 'Fake Finger'
New Scientist (09/24/07) Ananthaswamy, Anil

Researchers in Germany have discovered that the "fuzzy vault" cryptographic scheme requires too much computing power and can be broken in a day using a desktop computer. The biometrics strategy was seen as a way for people to use their fingerprints to log into online bank, email, and other accounts. A more advanced level of cryptography, the "fuzzy vault" made the transmission of an encrypted fingerprint possible because the print scanned by a user's PC would not have to look exactly like the match stored by a Web site. The system is designed to store a user's fingerprint on a secure database as a list of coordinates for specific features, create a list of number pairs comprised of the real coordinates and their encrypted partners, and generate thousands of fake versions to disguise them. Researchers had believed that a hacker would not be able to pick out the real coordinates among the numerous fake pairs. However, an analysis by Preda Mihailescu at the University of Gottingen that involved about 500 fake versions suggests otherwise. A hacker could use the coordinates to create a fake finger and impersonate someone "for a lifetime," says Mihailescu.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link May Require Paid Subscription
to the top


IBM's Booch: The Developer's Developer
CNet (09/26/07) Bridgwater, Adrian

Grady Booch, one of IBM's most respected authorities on programming and one of the original authors of the Unified Modeling Language, is an active participant in IBM's quest for next-generation software engineering, including experiments with Second Life and mashups. Brooch believes that Second Life and other virtual programming environments provide an opportunity to change how companies do business, and could provide significant economic and environmental benefits. For example, instead of having to fly to conferences or meetings, a company representative could go to the events virtually, saving the company thousands of dollars in airfare and reducing the carbon footprint. "Mashups are on the edge, and service-oriented architectures at the core are the economically viable and technically viable choice for a large set of problems now," Booch says. "Remember, the mashups themselves must be well-architected if they are to endure, and remember also that SOA is really just a particular manifestation of the classic message-based architectures." When asked how he would respond to developers who distrust the simplicity of UML because it does not convey the complexity of the underlying code, Booch responded that "Models are always an abstraction of reality and, thus, to expect that models address the complete truth of code and vice versa represents a fundamental misunderstanding and misuse of models."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Happy Birthday, Sputnik! (Thanks for the Internet)
Computerworld (09/24/07) Anthes, Gary

The launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellite half a century ago led to the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to "prevent technological surprises" by funding research and development into new technologies. IT innovations cultivated by ARPA included computer graphics, graphical user interfaces, workstations, very large-scale integration design, time sharing, parallel computing, microprocessors, and the Internet, because leaders such as inaugural IT research director J.C.R. Licklider had the talent to attract the brightest minds, a large budget, and virtually no bureaucratic restrictions. "Licklider set the tone for ARPA's funding model: Long-term, high-risk, high-payoff and visionary, and with program managers, that let principal investigators run with research as they saw fit," notes Internet pioneer Leonard Kleinrock. Licklider wrote an influential paper in 1960 that anticipated a "man-computer symbiosis" that would be founded on such advances as "networks of thinking centers," indexed databases, machine learning in the form of programs capable of self-organization, dynamic linking of programs and applications, speech recognition, tablet input and handwriting recognition, and improved input/output techniques. Many experts warn that the United States may be in for another technological bruising because the special culture that made ARPA so successful in spawning revolutionary technologies is currently absent from government. ARPA was renamed DARPA, and Kleinrock and other researchers say the agency now concentrates primarily on practical, short-term, classified military projects being developed by contractors rather than university researchers. Such views are countered by Jan Walker, a representative of DARPA director Anthony Tether, who insists that "DARPA has not pulled back from long-term, high-risk, high-payoff research in IT or turned more to short-term projects."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Wanted: Foreign Tech Workers
Fortune Small Business (09/26/07) Zimmerman, Eilene

Companies at every level of the tech industry rely on foreign workers to fill the skills gap, but small companies, unable to hire away talent from bigger companies, are particularly struggling due to the talent void. Elizabeth Charnock, CEO of Silicon Valley software company Cataphora, tried to hire several foreign tech workers to keep her small business growing. "We did everything you're supposed to do," Charnock says. "We hired an immigration lawyer. We filed the first day. It went into a lottery. Five of our eight hires got visas." Two of the three potential employees that did not get visas had already sold their homes in Europe to move to California. "Their lives were turned upside down. They are stuck," Charnock adds, "and so are we." Charnock says the ability to hire H-1B workers is critical to small businesses. A survey by the National Foundation for American Policy for the National Venture Capital Association found that one-third of private venture capital-backed companies say the lack of visas influenced their decision to place more employees in facilities abroad, and among respondents using H-1B visas nearly 40 percent say the cap has "negatively impacted their company when competing against other firms globally." Foreign-born engineers and computer scientists are critical to growth and innovation in the United States, according to a report by The Kauffman Foundation, Duke University, New York University, and Harvard. The study found that immigrants founded one in every four engineering and technology companies between 1995 and 2005, and by 2006, those companies employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in revenue.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Purdue Project Will Help Attract Girls to Computer-Related Careers
Purdue University News (09/19/07) Medaris, Kim

Purdue University professor and assistant head of the Department of Computer and Information Technology Alka Harriger will lead SPIRIT (Surprising Possibilities Imagined and Realized Through Information Technology), a project designed to increase the number of young women interested in computer-related studies. "Through the years, I and others have witnessed the male-to-female student demographic shift from 50-50 to 90-10," Harriger says. "When our 2004 freshman incoming class of nearly 100 students included just one female, it was like a slap in the face to wake up and take action." Funded by a $1.19 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Harriger, along with associate professors Kyle Lutes and Buster Dunsmore, will work to educate high school teachers and counselors about a variety of options available to women in computer fields, erase misconceptions people have about careers in the computer industry, and instruct participants on how to use computer software to create storyboards that convey technical material in an interesting and engaging manner. SPIRIT will also include summer programs that will bring high school teachers, counselors, and students together to teach them how to use Alice, a 3D interactive software program created at Carnegie Mellon University designed to help students understand concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math. "We've found that a lot of girls are turned off by careers in computer-related fields due to the misconception that these jobs are boring, that they don't interact with anyone, that they do the same work every day, and that people who hold these jobs don't benefit society," Harriger says. "With this project, we'd like to present a different view of information-technology careers and show girls that there is a place for them in information technology and that they can make a difference."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Does Our Universe Allow for Robust Quantum Computation?
Science (09/28/07) Vol. 317, No. 5846, P. 1876; Bacon, Dave

The problem of quantum decoherence is a thorny one for scientists seeking a large-scale quantum computer, although a theoretical solution exists in the form of a "threshold" theorem stating that multiple quantum systems can be employed to simulate a single quantum system that is free from error, writes Dave Bacon of the University of Washington's Department of Computer Science & Engineering. But he notes that the theorem excludes the question of whether robust quantum computation is permitted by the universe. This question is compounded by the fact that the number of experiments required to characterize the properties of quantum systems useful for fault-tolerant computation increases exponentially with the number of quantum systems. Bacon points out that some researchers have proposed a new scheme involving the symmetrization of a quantum system's time evolution to eliminate undesirable operations, so that what remains is a smaller subset of more relevant data. The lab method for characterizing a quantum system's evolution over time is called quantum process tomography. "As more devices are fabricated in which quantum theory dominates, accurate understanding of quantum processes becomes vital," Bacon concludes. "The quantum process tomography techniques ... represent a first step toward accurately assessing the powers and limits of these new quantum machines."
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link May Require Paid Subscription
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.