Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
November 21, 2007

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

Welcome to the November 21, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

IT Sector Faces Growing Skills Gap
Financial Times Digital Business (11/21/07) P. 3; Twentyman, Jessica

Children aged 14 and 15 have very little interest in entering engineering and technology fields, reveals a new survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. When teenagers aged 14 and 15 were asked what they would like to do, teaching, law, and professional sports were the most popular responses, while engineering and technology were not even ranked in the top 10. Although children today learn to use computers and technology earlier and faster than ever before, they have very little interest in learning how that technology works. Future employees will be more technologically savvy, but the industry needed to develop such technology will experience a more crippling skills gap than ever before. Microsoft Research Cambridge laboratory managing director Andrew Herbert believes the problem is how IT is being taught in schools. "At best, school kids will be taught how to send emails and use spreadsheets by a teacher who usually teaches another subject, and many of them will have taught themselves these things at home already," Herbert says. "To be passionate about IT, kids need to be taught by someone who is passionate about IT. How else will they know about the challenge of writing a faster algorithm or the complexities of human/computer interaction?" Much of the skills gap could be filled with educated foreign workers from China and India, but current U.S. immigration law limits the number of educated workers allowed to enter the country. Other efforts involve accessing dormant talent pools, such as women who may have left the industry for maternity leave or a career break and now feel that they have fallen behind the industry too much to return to work.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


New Submission Process and Deadlines for SIGGRAPH 2008 Call for Participation
Business Wire (11/20/07)

ACM SIGGRAPH has implemented a few changes to its submission process for SIGGRAPH 2008 in an attempt to save submitters time, eliminate confusion, and to allow for the best possible jury evaluation. By breaking down the borders of the traditional SIGGRAPH program, presenters will benefit from the opportunity to share work in more thematic submission categories and the audience will find it easier to navigate the conference, which will become a more fluid, interdisciplinary event. "We want to close the gap of separation to highlight the greatest works, innovations, and techniques across the globe," says Jacquelyn Martino, SIGGRAPH 2008 conference chair from IBM Research, Watson. "The end result will be a more streamlined and improved experience for the audience." For example, the single general submission format now requires submitters to describe their work just once and propose that it be evaluated for presentation in several different formats, which simultaneously can be an installation, a performance, and a talk. The format for the SIGGRAPH Technical Papers will remain the same, but there are new deadlines for technical papers (Jan. 23, 2008), general submission (Jan. 30), student volunteers applications (Feb. 24), general submission materials upload (Feb. 27), and late-breaking work (May 7). SIGGRAPH 2008 is scheduled for Aug. 11-15, at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IBM/University Collaboration to Develop Open-Source Accessibility Tools
Campus Technology (11/20/07) Nagel, David

Assistive technologies that will allow older people to remain productive members of the rapidly changing workforce are the focus of an IBM Open Collaborative Research initiative. As part of the project, experts at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine will research technology work settings, including the development of e-learning tools for older workers, while researchers from the University of Dundee's School of Computing in the United Kingdom will develop visualizations and interaction scenarios. Older people remain a key resource in the workplace, says Miller School of Medicine professor Sara J. Czaja. "However they need to have tools available to them to be able to compete in today's technology driven workplace," Czaja says. As an IBM OCR project, the research will be made available as open source software code, and the developed intellectual property will be released to the public or made available royalty-free.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Lack of Black Tech Professionals Hurts U.S., Bill Gates Says
InformationWeek (11/20/07) McDougall, Paul

A National Science Foundation study shows that less than 10 percent of graduates of computer science programs in the U.S. are black, a fact that contributes to the shortage of technology professionals, says Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. "The United States is not turning out from any group as many of the great engineers as there will be jobs for," says Gates, who notes that blacks are particularly underrepresented in the tech industry because high school dropout rates in the black community exceed 50 percent. "The shallow pool of skills is due, in part, to the lack of minorities being drawn into technology," says Carl Mack, the executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers. Microsoft is the top employer of black engineers according to the NSBE. Microsoft recently announced a software developer grant to the NSBE that gives its members a three-year membership in the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Carnegie Mellon Algorithm Identifies Top 100 Blogs for News
Carnegie Mellon News (11/19/07) Spice, Brian; Watzman, Anne

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed an algorithm capable of either detecting contamination in a water supply system or selecting the blogs best suited to deliver the news. Assistant professor of computer science and machine learning Carlos Guestrin created a problem-solving method called the Cascades algorithm to compile a list of the best 100 blogs for finding the biggest news on the Web as early as possible. Guestrin and his students analyzed 45,000 blogs to compile the list, checking the time stamps to see where news was posted first. The algorithm was also used to determine the optimal number and placement of sensors for detecting the introduction and spread of contaminants in a water supply. The algorithm ensures near-optimal placement of sensors by adhering to a property called submodularity, which establishes a diminishing return associated with adding sensors, and the property of locality, or the idea that sensors placed far apart almost create independent information. Guestrin started working on the Cascades algorithm in 2004 to find a way to balance the cost of collecting information with the need to collect information early and near the source. The algorithm initially addressed problems involving sensor networks, such as those used to monitor water quality, building temperature, and the structural integrity of bridges. Guestrin and his group are now working on detecting pollution in lakes and rivers and ensuring the performance quality on citywide Wi-Fi networks.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


12 Spam Research Projects That Might Make a Difference
Network World (11/20/07) Garretson, Cara

Numerous antispam projects are being conducted to help make email a safer and more enjoyable process, with some projects aiming to close existing weaknesses such as image spam and phishing, while others work to prevent future vulnerabilities. The University of Pennsylvania has released a research paper that describes how filters can be adjusted to determine if an inbound message contains image spam, including the use of an algorithm that can select features for classification based on speed and predictive power. Princeton University researchers have proposed a detection system that relies on traditional antispam filtering, but duplicates the randomization algorithms image spam exploits to look like similar images. Georgia Tech is using a discriminative classifier learning approach to image modeling to identify image spam by analyzing images extracted from a body of spam messages and identifying key image properties. The University of Cagliari in Italy is using low-level image processing techniques to recognize content-hiding tricks such as character breaking and character interference. To fight phishing, Carnegie Mellon University has been examining why phishing attacks work and has developed an online game designed to teach Internet users about the dangers and techniques used in phishing attacks. Dartmouth has suggested using an anonymous credentialing system that can blacklist misbehaving users without requiring the involvement of a TTP, and Georgia Tech has proposed having blacklisting techniques adapt to changes in spam by using a filtering system called SpamTracker, which tracks email uses based on their sending behavior rather than their identity. IBM research is investigating combining global and personal antispam filtering systems. Another project by Carnegie Mellon, with assistance from the University of California at San Diego, is studying the underground economy that nourishes credit card fraud, identity theft, spamming, phishing, online credential theft, and the sale of compromised hosts.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IBM Links Researchers, African Students
Associated Press (11/20/07) Bergstein, Brian

Potential business opportunities in Africa have technology companies looking to strengthen their ties with the continent. For example, Google has sponsored business-plan competitions in Ghana and Tanzania, but industry experts say IBM is taking a different approach by offering a mentoring program for college students. Through the Makocha Minds project, engineering, math, and computing students at universities in Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda can regularly keep in contact with top IBM researchers. Two hundred and fifty researchers are participating in Makocha, which is the Swahili word for "teachers," and could eventually offer in-person meetings. Students currently use email or the telephone to ask for advice on becoming successful or pursuing advanced degrees. "We believe that Africa is that next emerging opportunity," says Mark Dean, head of IBM's Almaden Research Center in Silicon Valley and leader of the project. "We need to be familiar with different cultures and languages and operations in the African countries."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Better Computer Chips, Sooner
Technology Review (11/20/07) Greene, Kate

As transistors and chips continue to become smaller and more complex, hardware bugs continue to become more prevalent. Unfortunately, there is no quick, efficient way to test for these bugs, and debugging a prototype can take up to a year. "This is still an unsolved problem," says Carnegie Mellon University computer engineering professor Rob Rutenbar. Rutenbar says there is very little scientific literature on debugging silicon. "The sense that I get is that it's not very well automated," he says. Some testing methods include attaching the prototype chip to an electric probe that sends a series of signals through the chip to find errors, but often the solution creates more problems. University of Michigan researchers have developed software that not only finds bugs in new chips, but proposes the best way to fix them. Ideally, engineers would like to be able to test each individual transistor, but consumer electronic chips will soon have over a billion transistors, which would make such precise testing impossible. The Michigan algorithm tests several inputs across a large portion of the chip and narrows down the field of testing based on the output errors. The software also uses a similar method to propose solutions, running a series of simulations to find a design variation that is the fastest and most cost-effective fix. Rutenbar says one of the biggest advantages of the Michigan software is that it frequently proposes solutions that are counterintuitive. In case studies the software was able to automatically repair about 70 percent of bugs and the researchers claim that it can reduce the amount of time required to find a particular bug from weeks to days.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Report: Internet Data Glut to Be Unmanageable by 2010
TechNewsWorld (11/19/07) Webster, John S.

The Internet information glut could become unmanageable by 2010, concludes a new Nemertes Research report, which warns that avoiding such data transfer gridlock could require a $137 billion investment in global Internet hardware and software. Nemertes Research polled IT executives at enterprise organizations, equipment vendors, service providers, and investment firms and found that many firms will not be able to support demand as early as three years from now, particularly in North America. "We looked at investments in the Internet at several levels," says Nemertes analyst Mike Jude. "We asked how much investment will organizations have to make to close the bandwidth gap in bits transferred per dollar?" An inadequate infrastructure will also slow down innovation efforts, such as more efficient online shopping, search engines, and digital video Web sites, not because user demand will lessen but because the infrastructure will prevent the growth of more efficient applications. Forrester Research's Alex Cullen says software developers will need to find ways of making applications more efficient. "Smarter clients" that reduce interactivity, such as those found in rich Internet applications, will allow software to perform at a satisfactory level without consuming excessive bandwidth, Cullen predicts. The primary culprits behind the data gridlock are products and services associated with broadband communication and bandwidth intensive applications such as streaming and interactive video, peer-to-peer file transfers, music and video downloads, and wireless devices such as cell phones and PDAs.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Microsoft's New Multicore-Computing Guru Speaks Out
Network World (11/19/07) Fontana, John

Supercomputer expert Dan Reed has joined Microsoft Research as director of scalable and multicore computing. Reed says multicore computing presents a unique challenge that requires researchers to rethink software development. "How we develop code that runs in parallel and uses those processors has implications for a whole new set of developments but also for the existing software base," Reed says. He says the industry has a once-in-20-year opportunity to rethink some fundamental aspects in the way processors are designed and how software is supported. Reed says the scale of data centers being built for cloud computing is beyond anything that could have been conceived before, and scalable and multicore computing are among the most interesting technical problems in computing. "This aggregation of information and the ability to deliver computing in response to remote requests is the biggest thing that is happening since the Web," Reed says. "So, you put these two things together and we are about to realize the infrastructure to support the computing equivalent of the electronic power grid." Reed expects to see performance go into "warp drive," not only in desktop computing but with mobile devices and technologies that rely on vision and speech recognition and nontraditional interfaces.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


A New Model to Simulate Forest Growth
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (11/17/07)

The Universidad Politecnica de Madrid School of Computing Algorithm Engineering Group has developed Vorest, a simulator model for the evolution of a forest. Vorest is a forestry engineering research aid that allows researchers to examine what impact the space trees take up has on forest development. Vorest bases its simulation process on the fact that any tree is surrounded by an influence region of variable size that determines the future growth of the tree. Vorest automatically calculates the influence regions and offers a wide range of option for deciding how growth should be simulated based on the region. The simulation provides two types of visual representations. The first models the influence regions of each tree at any point during their lifespan. The second visual output generates a detailed representation of what the tree might really look like in its natural environment, including a detailed 3D scene of what the forest really looks like. Users can manipulate the scene using textures to improve soil appearance or by configuring the SkyBox representation, which produces a basic but effective 3D background effect. Forest simulation models are used by forest managers and forestry researchers to describe the dynamics of a forest, including changes the forest or tree may experience during its lifetime. The models also help predict the long-term effects a forestry management intervention is likely to have on timber production and the future condition of the forest.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Virtual Eve: First in Human Computer Interaction
Massey University (11/16/07)

Massey University researchers have developed Eve, a near-human virtual teacher that is capable of altering its performance based on the reactions of its audience. Eve is an intelligent or affective tutoring system that is capable of adapting to the emotional state of real people. The researchers say their teaching system, dubbed "Easy with Eve," is the first of its type. Lead Eve developer Dr. Hossein Sarrafzadeh says the researchers wanted to create a virtual teacher capable of reading and understanding body language and facial expressions to ensure that it has the attention of students. "With the rising demand for long-distance learning and online tutoring, a computer program capable of detecting human emotions may become a critical teaching tool," Sarrafzadeh says. To enable the software to tell if students are frustrated, angry, confused, or bored, the researchers observed children and their interactions with teachers and captured thousands of images of facial expressions, gestures, and body movements. The researchers then developed facial recognition and body movement recognition programs, including a program to monitor heart rate and skin resistance through a mouse. The system uses a network of computer sensors, primarily embedded devices, to detect student emotion and other significant bio-signals.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Microsoft to Translate Word Docs for the Blind
Reuters (11/13/07) Channing, Rory

Microsoft is working with the DAISY digital talking books consortium to develop a downloadable plug-in that the blind and otherwise print-disabled could use to turn Word documents into digital audio or other formats. They plan to offer the tool for free in early 2008. Documents based on Open XML would be translated into DAISY XML and then processed into other formats. Microsoft would like to see more public-sector organizations use Open XML, the default file-saving format in Microsoft Office 2007, but the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) turned it down as an international standard in September. The company has time to address the concerns that ISO members have about the open nature of the document format before the group's next meeting in February. DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) is a nonprofit based in Zurich, Switzerland, devoted to assisting in the transition from analog to digital talking books.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Female IT Pros Push for Flexible Workplaces
Computerworld Australia (11/14/07) Pauli, Darren

At the recent Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications event in Sydney, senior IT professionals from Optus and IT services firm ASI urged more than 70 female colleagues to pursue flexibility in the workplace. ASI director Maree Lowe emphasized that top-level management needs to endorse flexibility and a work-life balanced lifestyle to attract women to IT. Optus senior manager Narelle Clark says inflexible workplaces lose employees when career expectations conflict with external responsibilities such as family commitments. "Tele-working is difficult to manage but its success comes down to staff results; inflexibility should not be tolerated," Clark says. Red Rock Consulting's Dianne Phelan says flexibility is the most important cultural value of the workplace. "Management has to be flexible so part-time staff can work earlier or later, or work from home if it is feasible, otherwise business just loses staff," Phelan says. "There has been a mind-shift in the last few years, more so in the big IT companies, towards flexibility." Phelan says the stereotypical belief that IT involves "long hard hours of mathematics" has contributed to the industry's inability to recruit people into IT. Tauri Consulting's Belinda Leatham says pushing for flexibility is a difficult process in organizations that have an impersonal culture. "If it works in the business, you should only ask once; but have a business case and start a trail with staff who will work from home and not taint the idea because they stop producing results," says Leatham.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Cambridge Struggles to Find Computer Students
Guardian Unlimited (UK) (11/12/07) Shepherd, Jessica

Cambridge University recently acknowledged that since the start of the decade applications to study computer science have dropped dramatically. In 2000, 500 students applied, but last year only 210 students applied. Professors say that unless recruiting efforts improve it will be difficult to sustain a quality department. To boost application numbers the department is launching a publicity campaign to attract students, including building a Web site to dispel myths about computer science. Professors blame the dwindling applications on the "geeky" image of computer science and the misconception that all graduate jobs are based in China and India. "We don't portray ourselves to potential applicants in a contemporary way," says professor Andy Hopper, head of Cambridge's computer laboratory. "We don't show that computer science knowledge can help solve some of the world's global problems." In the United Kingdom in general, computer science applications fell 42 percent between 2001 and 2004 and rose only 0.1 percent in 2007. The British Computer Society's Mike Rodd describes the national picture as "of great concern," adding that there are more vacancies in England than ever before. Dr. Paul Garrett, course admissions tutor at University of Southampton, where computer science applications rose 20 percent in November, the biggest increase in five years, says the program's success is due to integrating electronics into computer science.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


U.S. Control of Internet Remains Issue
Associated Press (11/16/07) Astor, Michael

The Internet Governance Forum concluded its annual conference in Brazil on Nov. 15, no closer to any change in the United States' control over the Internet. Many countries have called for an end to U.S. control over domains, with Russian representatives calling on the U.N. to take steps to put Internet governance in the hands of the international community. Brazilian officials are pushing to make ICANN completely independent of the U.S. government. However, ICANN supporters say that U.S. control is necessary to keep the Internet stable during a time of growth, preventing a country from censoring Web sites. "I think (there are) a small number of countries that are very agitated and almost don't care what the facts are," says former ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf. "It's a very small vocal group bothered by this issue. ICANN has existed for eight years and done a great job with its plans for internationalization." ICANN is taking steps toward appeasing the international community, testing the use of domain names in other languages and replacing Cerf with the organization's first chairman from outside the United States. The forum, which has no decision-making authority, will meet again next year in New Delhi, India.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Columbus Police Go Virtual
Government Computer News (11/08/07) Hickey, Kathleen

Ohio University in Athens will develop virtual technology for the Columbus Police Department that will help improve the effectiveness of officers who are involved in emergency response operations. Researchers in the university's Telecommunications and Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab will develop interactive models of 30 buildings and sites in Columbus that would be likely targets for terrorist attacks or other violent incidents. First responders in the field will be able to use wireless laptop PCs to access the models and related data. They will be able to view immersive video of the sites from every angle, control the real-world scenes at different speeds, and even track the positions of key entities if GPS satellite links are not available using inertial guidance systems. Video-game technology will be incorporated into the software, enabling users of the virtual-reality system to move images around as if they were avatars. The GRID team will also provide a backup server and train officers and staff on the virtual-reality system. The project will be paid for with a $702,000 federal grant, and the police department expects to have the technology fully operational by 2009.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Software Group Gets Online Textbooks to the Developing World
Chronicle of Higher Education (11/16/07) Vol. 54, No. 12, P. A28; Foster, Andrea L.

The Global Text Project, an initiative to generate and freely circulate 1,000 original textbook titles online to students in developing nations, is the brainchild of University of Denver professor Donald J. McCubbrey and interim head of the University of Georgia's department of management information systems Richard T. Watson. Volunteer professionals and professors are recruited to write at least one chapter without compensation through the use of wikis; a scholar reviews each chapter and the chapters are then organized into an online textbook. Watson says the Global Text Project distinguishes itself from other wiki efforts by giving scholars editorial control of the product, and by assembling complete books rather than smaller units of learning content. The project's creators are relying on students to suggest to editors ways to improve the text and include locally applicable information as well as help translate texts and promote the books globally. Once sufficient numbers of books are online, McCubbrey hopes the project's continued expansion will be financed by sponsors. "It might be worthwhile for some companies because of the exposure and the good will," he says. Watson notes that the Global Text Project is planning to publish books in Spanish, Arabic, English, and Chinese. He also says publishers could perhaps contribute old textbooks to the project in return for tax incentives.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: technews@hq.acm.org

To be removed from future issues of TechNews, please submit your email address where you are receiving Technews alerts, at:
http://optout.acm.org/listserv_index.cfm?ln=technews

To re-subscribe in the future, enter your email address at:
http://signup.acm.org/listserv_index.cfm?ln=technews

As an alternative, log in at myacm.acm.org with your ACM Web Account username and password, and follow the "Listservs" link to unsubscribe or to change the email where we should send future issues.

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.