Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
March 7, 2008

Learn about ACM's 2,500 online courses and 1,100 online books
MemberNet
CareerNews
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the March 7, 2008 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

CHI 2008: International Conference Features Leading Voices on Improving Interaction Between People and Computers
AScribe Newswire (03/05/08)

CHI 2008, sponsored by ACM's Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI), takes place April 5-10 in Florence, Italy. A first-time Design Theatre at the conference will enhance the presentations on video navigation, mobile phones, text-to-speech, mobile learning, Wi-Fi hotspots, and human robot interactions for the audience. "The conference will focus on the need to balance the artistry and aesthetics that make the user experience meaningful with the practical technology applications that underlie today's computers and electronic devices," says Microsoft Research's Mary Czerwinski, co-chair of CHI 2008. The conference will feature hundreds of sessions led by internationally acclaimed experts in design, education, engineering, management, research, and usability. "These are the world's leading authorities, who are creating technology that harmonizes with human capabilities, goals, and social environments, and improves how users and computers interact by making computers more compatible with human needs," says CHI 2008 co-chair Arnie Lund, director of user experience for Microsoft's Mobile Platforms Division. Irene McAra-McWilliam, head of the School of Design at the Glasgow School of Art, will be the opening keynote speaker. For more information about SIGCHI, or to register, visit http://www.chi2008.org/
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Washington Prepares for Cyber War Games
Washington Post (03/07/08) Krebs, Brian

An upcoming series of cyber war games that includes the participation of IT experts and incident response teams from 18 federal agencies and about 40 companies will be held by the U.S. government to rate its recovery and response capabilities. The approximately $6.2 million "Cyber Storm II" will subject the U.S. IT and communications sector and chemical, pipeline, and rail transportation industries to mock assaults by nation states, terrorists, and saboteurs. The war games' planners are tight-lipped on what kind of attack strategies they will employ, although they mentioned the planned inclusion of a simulated Internet blackout. "The exercises really are designed to push the envelope and take your failover and backup plans and shred them to pieces," says McAfee chief technology evangelist Carl Banzhof. Organizers say the most fundamental goal of the exercise is to test the strength of relationships and trust between government officials and the private sector companies responsible for controlling over eight-tenths of the country's physical and cyber infrastructure. The growth of those trust relationships in the two years since the inaugural Cyber Storm exercise is reflected in participating companies' wide promotion of their involvement in Cyber Storm II, says Cisco Systems' Reneaue Railton.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


U.S. Universities Join Saudis in Partnerships
New York Times (03/06/08) P. A19; Lewin, Tamar

The University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University have entered into a $25 million, five-year partnership with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust), a graduate-level research university under construction in Saudi Arabia. The new school is scheduled to open next year with a $10 billion endowment. The mechanical engineering department at UC Berkeley, the computer science department and Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering at Stanford, and the Institute for Computational Engineering and Science at the University of Texas will help choose faculty members and develop curricula for the new university. Despite Saudi Arabia's massive oil wealth, the country lacks a world-class research university. Persian Gulf nations have recently started to worry about the eventual need to switch from an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, and have begun offering American universities lavish incentives to bring their expertise to the region. While men and women will be able to interact freely at the new university, faculty members at American institutions are concerned about the pitfalls of working in a socially restrictive society. The agreements contain an exit clause that allows the universities to leave with no penalty within 30 days, and Peter Glynn, director of the Stanford institute, says that Kaust understands "that if it wants to be a world-class, it has to be able to freely attract the best students and faculty from around the world."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


U.S. Worried that High H-1B Demand May Tempt Some to 'Game' Visa Lottery
Computerworld (03/07/08) Thibodeau, Patrick

The United States is worried that some companies may try to "game" the random H-1B visa lottery selection process in a desperate attempt to get a visa, the odds of which may be less than one in three this year. To prevent such interference, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is considering regulations that would penalize any company that attempts to seek an unfair advantage for its visa petitions in the selection lottery. Applications for H-1B visas for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, will be accepted starting April 1. Last year, the U.S. received 123,480 visa petitions, more than double the 65,000 available, and more requests are expected this year. One possible penalty from the USCIS will be the rejection of all visa petitions from a company if multiple petitions are filed for the same individual, and companies may also be penalized if they try to get their applications approved under the H-1B cap of 20,000 visas that are reserved for advanced-degree holders.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Optical Scan Voting Works in Ohio
Government Computer News (03/05/08) Jackson, William

Cuyahoga County, Ohio's new optical-scan voting system functioned without major complaints during the state's primary election on March 4. Although the county had replaced its touch-screen machines due to security and accuracy concerns, a research team from the universities of Maryland, Rochester, and Michigan warned that the optical-scan system has a greater risk of voter error than the touch-screen system. The researchers said that paper ballots are susceptible to stray marks and voter errors that can make them impossible for the optical scanners to read correctly. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections says the optical-scan system should be easy to use, but that common ballot problems can occur when people vote for too many candidates in one race or when they cast their ballots in the wrong precinct. Voters can also request replacement ballots if they realize they made a mistake. The election board has not released figures on uncounted or miscounted ballots yet, but according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, voters at the polls were more concerned about privacy. Most marked ballots were handled by poll workers and placed in ballot boxes without sleeves to hide them from view, and although some poll workers said not to fold ballots, some voters were advised to fold them to protect their privacy.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Rookie Robot Joins Crew of Space Shuttle
USA Today (03/07/08) P. 8A; Watson, Traci

The space shuttle Endeavor will be carrying a crew of seven astronauts and a robot when it launches on Tuesday. The robot, called Dextre, has two arms, each with seven joints that allow the limbs to flex and twist. Each hand has pincers to grip objects and built-in socket wrenches. Dextre, which will be able to manipulate objects ranging in size from a phone book to a phone booth, will be the most advanced robot to ever venture into space. Dextre will be assembled in space and placed on the International Space Station, where it will start work in 2009. Eventually, it will be able to perform tasks that would be dangerous for astronauts to do. The $210 million robot has been in development for 10 years and has a working life expectancy of 15 years. Dextre will be able to replace nearly 140 parts of the station, such as batteries and circuit boxes, thanks to a sense of touch that enables the robot to "feel" when more pressure needs to be applied. Dextre can be operated by either Mission Control or by the crew on the space station.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


DIY Robotics: The Rise of Open Source Hardware
Wired News (03/05/08) Singel, Ryan

Robotics enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers are utilizing a new generation of open source hardware platforms and rapid fabrication tools such as laser cutters to quickly create new hardware devices. Inventor Pablos Holman, for example, helped build Hackerbot, a robot that finds passwords on Wi-Fi networks and then seeks out the insecure user to show them the intercepted password. Hardware-hacking is one of the major themes at this year's O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference, where Holman plans to expand attendees' notions of what is possible in hardware hacking with his session titled "Hackers Built My Motorcycle." Make magazine editor Phillip Torrone says the market for open source hardware such as diagrams and self-assembly kits could expand 10 times within a year. Unlike open source software, the business model is fairly simple for open source hardware, with vendors polishing diagrams and documentation, selling parts in kits, and letting customers assemble the final product. Robotics programming is also going open source. Stanford University robotics researcher Steve Cousins, for example, has launched a company that plans to make 10 robots running open source code and make them available to researchers around the country in an effort to make home robots capable of mopping, emptying the dishwasher, and fetching beverages.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Researchers Develop Emotional Intelligence for Computerized Tutors
University of Massachusetts Amherst (03/04/08)

University of Massachusetts, Amherst researchers are developing interactive computerized tutors capable of sensing a student's emotional and motivational state while presenting information designed to appeal to a person's intellectual curiosity. The computer uses special sensors to monitor body language, attention, and other indicators to determine when a student becomes frustrated or bored. Professor Beverly Woolf says the emotion sensors help scientists respond to how people actually learn. "Sensors allow the computer to identify students who pay attention and those too tired or bored to learn," Woolf says. "Using these cues, the computer provides individualized instruction." The system includes a camera that views facial expressions. Woolf says certain expressions on a student's face or how they tilt or hold their head are strong indicators of the level of interest in what they are doing. A posture-sensing device built into a chair measures the amount of fidgeting, stillness, and other indicators of interest and concentration. Meanwhile, the computer mouse is built with a pressure-sensor to tell how hard the user is pushing down. During a learning session, the computer analyzes information from the sensors and adjusts how it presents subject material, which could mean halting the program and offering an alternative activity to stimulate interest or revisiting material that the student previously failed to master.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Model Predicts Chance of Software Flaws
IDG News Service (03/06/08) Kirk, Jeremy

German university researchers have developed a new model that can predict programming errors in software. Companies will be able to use the model to isolate parts of their code for testing. The model is designed to analyze the version history, bug reports, and source code of an application. The model also examines communications among developers, such as their email, instant message conversations, and discussions on forums. "We try to mine these sources and find out if there are certain patterns and behaviors of the developers that correlate with defects," says Kim Herzig, a researcher at the Universitat des Saarlandes in Saarbrucken. The model will not reveal a specific number or location of defects, but will suggest that there is a 70 percent chance that a section of code has a defect.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Intel Offers a Glimpse at its Technologies of the Future
CNet (03/06/08) Cooper, Charles

At a recent Intel open house at its Berkeley, Calif.-based research lab company executives emphasized a vision of a tech landscape increasingly occupied by products that include sensors and situational awareness, or inference capability. Intel started an experiment last year to measure air pollution in Ghana's capital of Accra by attaching sensors to taxicabs, which sent back information on pollution levels across the city. The project was so successful that starting this spring San Francisco will equip street sweepers with similar data collectors. Another project features a software tool that runs inside the Web browser and can help nonexperts assemble mashups on the fly while they surf the Internet. Using a PC, users can copy and paste data from one Web page to another to write widgets. Intel also displayed a software security project called Proteus that compares how viruses behave in the virtual and biological worlds. Intel researchers believe that making each computing platform in an IT setup sufficiently different will prevent viruses from spreading. Intel is currently working on algorithms that would automatically configure those differences within an IT department. Lastly, Intel showed off its rural connectivity platform, a low-cost way of providing roughly 10 megabits-per-second connectivity to remote areas. The platform needs a clear line of sight to work, but when there are no obstructions the wireless, long-distance nodes can connect every 60 miles.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Microsoft Invites Researchers to Tinker With 'Singularity' OS
TechNewsWorld (03/05/08) Adhikari, Richard

Microsoft recently released a research development kit for Singularity, an operating system research project focused on constructing dependable systems. Singularity is written in Sing#, an extension of C# that provides verifiable, first-class support for operating system communication primitives and strong support for systems programming and code factoring, according to Singularity developers Galen C. Hunt and James R. Larus. They say the research project aimed to extend programming languages and develop new techniques for specifying and verifying program behavior. Singularity, a free but not open source program, achieves its strong performance by reinventing the environment code it executes in, the developers say. Singularity processes start empty and only add features as needed, unlike current language runtimes that come with large libraries and expressive, dynamic language features that can cause massive overhead. Singularity uses type-safe languages and an abstract instruction set to create what the researchers call Software Isolated Processes. The researchers say SIPs "provide the strong isolation guarantees of operating system processes," such as isolated object space, separate garbage collectors, and separate runtimes, without the overhead caused by software-enforced protection domains.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IT Industry Faces Unprecedented Shortage of Women
Gateway (03/05/08) Climenhaga, Natalie

A widespread shortage of IT graduates has companies scrambling to find employees, but the overall shortage of employees, and the declining number of computer science students, is being overshadowed by how few women are entering the field. Gail Powley, vice chair of Women and Scholarship in Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) at the University of Alberta, says that 20 years ago, 30 percent to 40 percent of computer science students were women, but now those numbers have been cut in half. University of Alberta computer science professor Eleni Stroulia says two correlated phenomena are happening in North America. First, there is a general decline in undergraduate enrollment. Meanwhile, the number of women studying the subject is dropping even faster, widening the gender gap. Stroulia says the growing gender imparity is a problem because different perspectives are an important factor in making good decisions, and as more women leave the IT industry, the field becomes increasingly uniform. No one is sure why computer science programs are not attracting more women, Stroulia says, but part of it may be because IT is perceived as a geeky subject, or that women want to make an impact in society and are turned off by the idea of sitting in front of a computer all day. Stroulia stresses that there are numerous opportunities to mix interests in other areas with computing science. She says that more women involved in technology should be featured in the media, noting that criminology programs got a significant boost when the CSI series became popular.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Balancing Computing Power and Storage Demands Is the Goal of Virginia Tech CAREER Project
Virginia Tech News (03/05/08) Daniilidi, Christina

Virginia Tech computer science professor Ali R. Butt has received a $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation. Butt's CAREER research objective is to address the widening performance gap between computing power and storage technology, particularly in high-performance computing environments. Modern scientific computations often require information analysis from multiple devices, such as measurements from temperature and humidity sensors distributed over a wide area for climate monitoring and forecasting. Such complex applications require powerful computing resources and involve managing an increasingly large amount of data. "Soon computing systems will have the capability of processing a petabyte--or 1,000 terabytes--per second," Butt says. "Unfortunately, this is not matched by a corresponding improvement in the input/output systems that enable the processors to interact with external devices, such as disks and networks." Butt is attempting to develop a data storage framework that meets the demands of modern high-performance computing environments by employing a Scalable Hierarchical Framework.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Mobile Grids Nurture Virtual Organizations
ICT Results (03/04/08)

European researchers have demonstrated how grid technology can be used to share a common information space for emergencies and routine business needs, granting access to both mobile and fixed collaborators. During an emergency, for example, establishing efficient communications between responders is critical to managing an effective response. The European Union-funded Akogrimo project aims to develop a grid that would allow for easy communication between different organizations. Akogrimo is designed to link organizations and individuals, including the use of mobile devices, and can accommodate either virtual organizations that are set up in advance or emergency organizations that are created on short notice. Akogrimo can accept many different devices, including fixed workstations or Pads, and can also track people switching from one device to another without a lapse in communication. Akogrimo could allow diagnostic techniques usually only available in hospitals to be brought to a patient through the grid, or give service technicians access to tools and expert advice wherever they go. Akogrimo could also be used for everyday purposes, such as allowing students to share gathered information on field trips.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Prototype File-Sharing Technology Combines Fiber Optics, Green Computing
Network World (03/04/08) Bednarz, Ann

IBM researchers say new optical network technology under development could deliver bandwidth to devices ranging from cell phones to supercomputers at speeds of 8 terabits per second while using only 100 watts of power. The technology integrates optical chips and optical databuses in a single package with standard components to create optically-enabled circuit boards, or "Optocards," that use polymer optical waveguides to conduct light between transmitters and receivers. IBM says that each waveguide channel is smaller than a human hair, and the Optocards are densely packed on the databus to create an integrated optical module, or "Optochip." IBM also developed a parallel optical transceiver module with 24 transmitters and 24 receivers that each operate at 12.5 Gigabit/sec. IBM says the new optical technology could save significant amounts of power in supercomputers. For example, over a 100-meter long link optical technology consumes 100 times less power than modern electrical interconnects and saves 10 times the power of current commercial optical modules. IBM says the new technology could be used to download and send high-definition videos, allow medical personnel to exchange large images for real-time analysis, and provide greater bandwidth for data interconnects that will enhance massively parallel supercomputers.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


SDSU Research: Better Sensors for Detecting Odors and Toxic Gases
South Dakota State University (02/28/08)

South Dakota State University researchers are trying to mimic the way humans and animals detect odors. SDSU professor David Galipeau says the research could lead to improved sensors for use in homeland security, medical diagnosis, and applications such as measuring the odor from livestock operations. "Right now human or biological olfaction and taste are far superior to the artificial methods," Galipeau says. "There's a lot of interest in those areas because of applications in defense and homeland security." He says a new theory argues that smell is based on what is called "inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy," which could lead to significant improvements in technological smelling. "Tunneling" involves a phenomenon of quantum mechanics that was discovered only in the past century, Galipeau says, which involves electrons passing through a barrier, which if made from certain molecules, will result in certain energy levels and vibrations. Inelastic electronic tunneling spectroscopy involves reading and interpreting the spectra of vibrations produced by these collisions and recording voltage responses.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


The Cyborg Animal Spies Hatching in the Lab
New Scientist (03/06/08)No. 2646, P. 40; Marshall, Jessica

Cyborg animals remote-controlled by implants are being developed by scientists for the purpose of surveillance and reconnaissance. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) project focuses on the cybernetic augmentation of winged insects, whose aerodynamic skills are unparalleled. The goal of the project is to implant the minute control systems within the host during the pupa stage, so that by the time the insect has completed metamorphosis the connections between the devices and the host's neural or muscular tissues are seamless and stable. HI-MEMS researchers have created extremely thin neural probes from flexible plastic and doped them with metal to complete the electrical connections. Although progress has been impressive, the ultimate challenge is to miniaturize the implants so that there is no outward sign of the insect's enhancement. Another research area being explored revolves around finding a way to run the systems by drawing energy from the insects themselves. Guiding the insect spies to a target is a problem that has yet to be addressed, with radio control and GPS signals among the tools under investigation. The animal world is being tapped for such applications because animals' sensory abilities are far superior to artificial sensors, while the concealment of cybernetic systems within the host's body offers perfect camouflage.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link May Require Paid Subscription
to the top


Science 2.0
Science (03/07/08) Vol. 319, No. 5868, P. 1349; Shneiderman, Ben

The transformation of social systems by technological advances is giving rise to complex issues that call for a rethinking of traditional scientific methods in order to study them effectively, writes University of Maryland computer science professor Ben Shneiderman, who labels this new breed of scientific disciplines "Science 2.0." The design challenges of secure voting, energy sustainability, global environmental protection, and international development are just some of the goals that cannot be met without Science 2.0, he says. Traditional scientific tools and methods such as hypothesis testing and predictive models are still a requirement of Science 2.0, but laboratory conditions are not an adequate venue for studying Science 2.0 challenges because controlled experiments fail to capture the rich context of Web 2.0 collaboration, according to Shneiderman. Issues that are the focus of leading Science 2.0 researchers include trust, responsibility, empathy, and privacy; defining, measuring, and predicting how these variables will interact so that scientific discovery, engineering innovation, education, and e-commerce can be expedited is the great challenge for the next four centuries, Shneiderman maintains. He notes that practitioners of Science 2.0-based research are embracing observational and case study techniques as they compile quantitative and qualitative data to build support for their theories about whether empathy is increased by trust and whether responsibility is upheld by privacy. "Advancing Science 2.0 will require a shift in priorities to promote integrative thinking that combines computer science know-how with social science sensitivity," Shneiderman writes. "Science 2.0 researchers who develop innovative theories, hypothesis testing based on case study research methods, and new predictive models are likely to lead the way."
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 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 © 2008 Information, Inc.


© 2008 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.