Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
March 19, 2008

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

Welcome to the March 19, 2008 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

David Patterson Recognized for Initiatives That Advanced the Computing Profession
AScribe Newswire (03/18/08)

ACM has named David A. Patterson as the winner of the 2007 Distinguished Service Award. ACM created the award as a way to recognize a computing professional with regard to their value and service to the computing industry, including their contributions to other computing organizations. In addition to serving as ACM president from 2004 to 2006, Patterson helped advance the computing discipline by serving as a member of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee under President George W. Bush, and filling a key role on the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Membership Committee. He is a member of both the NAE and the National Academy of Sciences, has been named a Lifetime National Associate of the National Academies of Engineering and Sciences, has served on the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, and has chaired the Computing Research Association Board of Directors, and the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer Architecture. Patterson is a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is the founding director of the Parallel Computing Laboratory. Patterson's research interests include computer architecture, parallel computing, and reliable, adaptive computing systems. He founded the Reliable, Adaptive, and Distributed Systems Laboratory. He will receive the award at ACM's annual Awards Banquet on June 21 in San Francisco.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Industry Giants Try to Break Computing's Dead End
New York Times (03/19/08) P. C2; Markoff, John

Intel and Microsoft yesterday announced that they will provide $20 million over five years to two groups of university researchers that will work to design a new generation of computing systems. The goal is to prevent the industry from coming to a dead end that would halt decades of performance increases in computers. The researchers' efforts could enable the development of new kinds of portable computers that will help computer engineers address a variety of challenges, including speech recognition, image processing, health care systems, and music. The research grant will be used to create independent laboratories at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Each lab will work to reinvent computing by developing hardware, software, and a new generation of applications powered by computer chips containing multiple processors. The research effort is partially motivated by an increasing sense that the industry is in a crisis because advanced parallel software has failed to emerge quickly. The problem is that software needed to keep dozens of processors busy simultaneously does not exist. Although much industry discussion has focused on centralized cloud computing, the new research labs will instead aim to create breakthroughs in mobile computing systems. Professor David Patterson, past president of ACM, will head the new Universal Parallel Computing Research Center at Berkeley, while the Illinois lab will be led by professors Marc Snir and Wenmei Hwu.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Researchers Create Next-Generation Software to Identify Complex Cyber Network Attacks
George Mason University (03/17/08) Edgerly, Jennifer

Researchers at George Mason University's Center for Secure Information Systems have developed CAULDRON, software that can prevent successful cyber attacks by identifying possible vulnerabilities in an organization's network. To protect an organization's networks, it is necessary to understand not only individual system vulnerabilities, but their interdependencies. "Currently, network administrators must rely on labor-intensive processes for tracking network configurations and vulnerabilities, which requires a great deal of expertise and is error prone because of the complexity, volume, and frequent changes in security data and network configurations," says university professor and center director Sushil Jajodia. "This new software is an automated tool that can analyze and visualize vulnerabilities and attack paths, encouraging 'what-if analysis.'" CAULDRON allows for the transformation of raw security data into roadmaps that allow users to prepare for attacks, manage vulnerabilities, and have real-time situational awareness. CAULDRON can show all possible attack paths into a network, can provide informed risk analysis, and can analyze vulnerability dependencies. Jajodia says the software is applicable to almost any organization with a network and resources that need protecting. The Federal Aviation Administration recently installed CAULDRON in their Cyber Security Incident Response Center, helping them prioritize security problems, reveal unseen attack paths, and protect large numbers of attack paths.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Call for Papers: Tenth International Conference on Electronic Commerce in Innsbruck, Austria, August 18-22
eMediaWire (03/18/08)

The International Conference on Electronic Commerce (ICEC) has extended the deadline for papers on the latest developments and innovations in e-commerce to March 28, 2008. The conference is seeking papers that focus on business-to-business e-commerce; business-to-consumer e-commerce; e-government, policy and law; business/enterprise architectures; mobile and pervasive commerce; electronic markets and multiagent systems; and semantic Web ontologies. Papers must be submitted in PDF, according to the ACM Proceedings Format, and those accepted will be published in the conference proceedings. In addition to paper presentations, ICEC will feature keynote presentations, panels on technology, business and public policy issues; tutorials and workshops in seven thematic areas; demonstration and posters; an exhibition; and a doctoral consortium. May 5 is the deadline for proposals for workshops and tutorials, papers for the Doctoral Consortium, and submissions describing demonstrations of cutting edge applications. ICEC, which is sponsored in cooperation with ACM's Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence (SIGART), is scheduled for Aug. 18-22 in Innsbruck, Austria.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Researchers Provide a Chill to Fan-Cooled PCs
IDG News Service (03/17/08) Shah, Agam

Purdue University and Intel researchers have developed heat dissipation technology that can improve chip-cooling systems by up to 200 percent. The researchers are developing ionic wind engines, which can work with conventional air-cooling technologies such as fans and heat sinks. The devices use an electrical current to agitate stationary air molecules, which leads to better air flow and dissipation of heat. Ionic wind engines can be used on a chip or laptop in addition to modern air-cooling technologies to improve heat dissipation and to avoid the need to switch to alternative, more expensive cooling technologies such as liquid cooling. Ionic wind is generated when electrically charged atoms stir air molecules. The ionic wind engines are small enough to be fabricated on a chip or laptop, and can be selectively positioned depending on desired airflow. The researchers are trying to shrink the device from the current millimeter-scale down to micron-scale dimensions. "We are currently dealing with challenges to demonstrate the viability of the technology at the micro scale, and these must be overcome before the technology can be brought to market, at least for the chip-cooling arena," says Purdue professor Suresh Garimella, director of the university's Electronics Cooling Laboratory.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Intel Plans to Pack Many Brains Into One Chip
Wall Street Journal (03/18/08) P. B7; Clark, Don

Intel recently provided new details on plans to produce chips that contain multiple processors on one chip to improve performance. So far, the company has primarily offered chips with two microprocessors, and it also has successful packed dual-processor chips together to offer what it calls "quad-core" products. Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices started offering competing products with four processors on a chip late last year. Intel plans on jumping directly to six processor cores for its popular Xeon line for servers using a microprocessor code-named Dunnington that is expected to be available in the second half of the year. Intel also has an entirely new chip design, code-named Nehalem, that is reportedly far more radical. The technology is expected to eventually be used in machines ranging from notebook computers to servers and will offer between two to eight processors. Another significant change will come from Larrabee, Intel's code name for a new chip line that will have "many" processor cores. Larrabee is designed to manage visual computing tasks, including graphics. Intel's Pat Gelsinger says the standard Intel circuitry used in most of its chips will do much of the work associated with graphics, though the chip will include a more specialized component called a vector processing unit. He says x86 technology provides more flexibility to programmers.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Finding Deep Roots, New Genomics Software Infers Ancestry With High Accuracy
Stanford Report (03/19/08) Orenstein, David

Stanford University computer scientists have developed new genomics analysis software that is better than previous methods at discovering the ancestry of individuals. The HAPAA system enables researchers to go back 20 generations in someone's ancestry and identify what continent or broad global region their ancestors were from. Going back only 10 generations enables the software to be much more precise, allowing it to make distinctions between traditional gene pools of nearby population groups. The software compares an individual to all those in the International HapMap database to see what distinct genetic snippets, or haploblocks, the individual shares with those in the database. Professor Serafim Batzoglou, who led a team of graduate students that created HAPAA, says it is more accurate than other systems because it is better at modeling individual variation. The researchers created an algorithm that compares the genetic information of the test individual to that of every individual in the database, while other systems rely on comparisons to a composite that represents an averaging of the data from many individuals. However, given the small size of the HapMap database, Batzoglou says HAPAA essentially serves only as a proof of concept. In the future, he says HAPAA will benefit from having more individuals available for comparison and from improved genomics technology that can differentiate between more genetic markers.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Voting-Machine Maker to Princeton Researcher: 'Hands Off'
Wall Street Journal (03/18/08) Kronholz, June

Sequoia Voting Systems has sent an email message to Princeton professor Edward Felten suggesting that the voting equipment maker would pursue legal action against him if he were to test the security of its e-voting machines. The Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey asked Felten to review Sequoia's equipment because it had concerns about malfunctions involving about 60 voting machines during the state's Feb. 5 primary. However, Felten said he received an email on Friday that said Sequoia had "retained counsel to stop any infringement of our intellectual properties, including any noncompliant analysis." The email also says the New Jersey counties would violate licensing agreements if they share their machines with Felten for testing. In a statement, Sequoia says customers have an opportunity to compare the codes of products with those it submits to the National Software Reference Library, and that Colorado, California, and the city of Chicago recently completed independent reviews of its equipment. However, it "does not support any and all unauthorized activities that violate or circumvent our produce licensing agreements," the statement said.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link May Require Paid Subscription
to the top


Voting for More Than Just Either-Or
MIT News (03/14/08) Chandler, David

MIT researchers are developing Selectricity, software that could make ranking systems as easy to use as traditional voting systems, creating results that would satisfy a greater portion of the population. Selectricity has been available online as a free service since last fall and is about to switch to an upgraded version with more advanced options. Using Selectricity, anyone can go to the Web site and set up a "Quickvote" in just a few seconds, and users anywhere can access the poll and vote, creating instant results. There is also an ultra-simple version that uses text messaging for voting by cell phones. Although the software is being used for simple tasks such as deciding where to go to dinner or when to hold a meeting, it is sophisticated enough to handle real elections. In February, a beta version of the upgraded software was used by a national student organization to elect their first board of directors, with each of the 16 campus chapters of the Students for Free Culture group receiving an equal vote to select five members for their governing board from a field of 13 candidates. In the election, the candidate that received the most first-place votes, also received the most last- or near-last-place votes, meaning in a traditional election the candidate would have won despite being unpopular with the majority of the voters.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Is the Future of American Science At Risk?
Medill Reports (03/12/08) Rao, Mallika; Bond, Shannon

Recent congressionally-approved cuts in research funding could significantly reduce America's scientific contributions far beyond the immediate future, say the directors of Argonne National Laboratory and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Argonne director Richard Rosner says scientific milestones frequently take decades to penetrate the mainstream, and adds that a research crunch in the United States could mean that some future technologies will be developed in other countries. Rosner says European nations are "much better at consistent funding" than America, while Argonne material scientist Goran Karapetrov says researchers who lack financial security are distracted from their jobs. He notes that scientists are generally not very good at promoting their causes to the public, yet are highly reliant on public support because elected officials are responsible for funding allocations. Science is better funded in countries such as Japan and China because the citizenry has a clear understanding of the value of scientific advancements, according to Karapetrov. Furthermore, U.S. labs with longstanding traditions of drawing researchers from the international community could face increasing numbers of foreign workers who are competing against America rather than working with it. Rosner says major industries that use U.S. facilities to conduct research and development could turn to overseas labs if budget cuts force the American labs to downsize and scale back operations.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Identifying Manipulated Images
Technology Review (03/17/08) Naone, Erica

Researchers are working on a variety of tools to identify fraudulent photos, including analyzing the lighting in an image. Lighting analysis tools are particularly effective because it is hard to fake the lighting in a photo without leaving a trace, says MIT researcher Micah Kimo Johnson. Fake picture that may look perfect to the naked eye, for example, are likely to contain inconsistencies that can be picked up by software. Many fake images are creating by combining two or more photographs. When the photos are combined, the combination can sometimes be detected through differences in lighting conditions. Software is also able to analyze more complicated lighting patterns. A tool developed by Johnson works by modeling the lighting in an image based on clues gathered from various surfaces within the image. The user selects the surfaces the program should analyze, and the program returns a set of coefficients to a complex equation that represent the surrounding lighting environment as a whole. If the results are outside a certain variance, the user can flag the image as possibly being a forgery. Dartmouth College computer science professor Hany Farid notes there is no guaranteed way of spotting forgeries, and that different manipulations will be spotted by different tools.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Web Creator Rejects Net Tracking
BBC News (03/17/08) Cellan-Jones, Rory

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says Internet users need to be protected against systems that can track their activity online. Berners-Lee says he does not want his ISP tracking what Web sites he visits. "I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that's not going to get to my insurance company and I'm going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5 percent because they've figured I'm looking at those books," he says. Berners-Lee argues that his data and Web history belongs to him, and if companies want to be able to use it they need his approval. Facebook was widely criticized when it attempted to introduce an ad system called Beacon that tracked people's habits on and off the site to provide personalized ads, and the company was forced to give customers a universal opt out after negative coverage in the media. "I myself feel that it is very important that my ISP supplies Internet to my house like the water company supplies water to my house," Berners-Lee says. "It supplies connectivity with no strings attached. My ISP doesn't control which Web sites I go to, it doesn't monitor which Web sites I go to."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Algorithm Finds the Network - For Genes or the Internet
Washington University in St. Louis (03/12/08) Fitzpatrick, Tony

Washington University professor Weixiong Zhang and PhD student Jianhua Ruan have developed an algorithm that automatically identifies communities and their structures in various networks. Zhang says many complex systems can be represented as networks, including the genetic networks he studies, social networks, and the Internet itself. The community structure found in networks includes a natural division among the vertices in each subnetwork that are highly involved with each other, but connect less strongly than the rest of the network. A community in a genetic network usually contain genes with similar functions, while a community on the Web often corresponds to Web pages with similar topics. The researchers say their algorithm is more scalable than existing algorithms and can detect communities at a finer scale with greater accuracy. In genomics, the algorithm could be used by researchers to better identify and understand communities of genes and their networks, and how they interact to create diseases. In computing, the algorithm can determine how people interact in social networks and how scientists collaborate in scientific research.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Embedded Systems Get Smarter, Tougher
ICT Results (03/11/08)

The Embounded project team has successfully increased both the intelligence and the hardiness of embedded systems with the development of software to control the RobuCab, a robot vehicle that drives itself. Programming embedded systems is getting tougher as the tasks they are designed to do grow more sophisticated and the risk of failure increases. "An embedded system's memory might only run to 10 or 20 bytes of information, but these tiny systems must be more reliable than normal desktop computers," notes Embounded project coordinator Kevin Hammond. The project's starting objectives were to set up precise controls to augment safety and create a more refined programming language at a higher level of abstraction. First the project devised Hume, a more sophisticated programming language for embedded systems, and then developed a programming methodology that boosts system precision and performance using certificates to restrict resource utilization. The next step was the creation of a "costing-by-construction" technique for sandboxing the functional modules within a computer program, so that the availability of required resources for each module would be guaranteed. This was followed by the development of a suite of tools to examine prototype-embedded systems and ensure that a given system design will operate as intended.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


The Future of Voting IT
Government Computer News (03/10/08) Jackson, William

Information technology is the latest trend in voting technology, and could even allow people to vote over the Internet from their homes. However, the debate over how technologically advanced we want our voting systems to be has yet to be settled. Many want to return to a more simplified voting system with mandatory paper audit trails. Advocates of paper trails say that touch-screen systems have not been proven secure. Supporters of electronic voting say that paper ballots have not been proven secure either, and that adding paper ballots to electronic systems adds another layer of complexity. As for whether we will ever feel comfortable voting entirely online, experts are still largely unsure. University of Ottawa PhD student Aleks Essa, who helped demonstrate a system that makes optical-scan voting more transparent, says that whether or not we like the idea of Internet voting, we should still be doing our best to developed the best online voting systems. University of Waterloo PhD student Jeremy Clark, who also participated in the demonstration at a recent forum on new voting technology, says studies show that online voting actually decreases voter participation because engaging in civic responsibilities is more likely when the process is visible.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Research Team at the University of the Basque Country Develop Systems That Process and Understand Spoken Language, Especially Basque
Basque Research (03/10/08) Bulegoa, Prentsa

Researchers from Polytechnic University and the University of the Basque Country are developing systems that can process and understand spoken language and automatically find relevant information. To teach the system to understand the spoken word, the researchers, led by Basque lecturer Miren Karmele Lopez de Ipina, used television clips from Basque Television news. The system does not need to understand every single word, but instead tries to comprehend the relationship between the words and the sounds. Most language-recognition systems are based on more popular languages such as English, giving developers a much larger database to work from when teaching the system. The Basque researchers, who are building the system to understand Euskera, Spanish, and French, are focusing on developing new techniques that take better advantage of the minimal amount of data available to them. To obtain greater precision, mathematical equations are used that help determine the most important characteristics that will provide the most suitable information for the audio files.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Web Community Gains Momentum
Software Development Times (03/01/08)No. 193, P. 5; Feinman, Jeff

IBM's Project Zero is an incubator project that focuses on dynamic Web applications. Project Zero includes a scripting runtime for Groovy and PHP, APIs optimized for producing REST-style services, integration mashups, and rich Web interfaces. IBM Project Zero chief architect Jason McGee says recent efforts have focused on how applications are built with Zero, and some capabilities have been built in, such as the Active Content Filtering framework that helps developers manage SQL injections and other security problems. Project Zero Web developers can contribute to the online community by offering criticisms and suggestions, and McGee says IBM has received positive feedback on the REST-style architecture and how easy it is to build an application that adopts the principle of REST. Developers are encouraged to use Eclipse as an IDE for Zero applications, and to download sample applications from the project's Web site. Project Zero's source code is available for registered developers, but IBM has not released it under an open-source license.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


America's Robot Army: Are Unmanned Fighters Ready for Combat?
Popular Mechanics (03/08) Vol. 185, P. 58; Sofge, Erik

Lockheed Martin's Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) is part of the Army's Unmanned Ground Vehicle program, which began in 2001. MULE, a six-wheeled robot equipped with articulated legs, is designed for battlefield operations such as equipment transport, mine clearance, and armed combat, and the U.S. Army has ordered more than 1,700 units for 15 brigades. MULE is currently driven by remote control, although the ultimate goal is to make the robot self-guiding. The machine is expected to be ready for combat within six years, at which time it will boast armaments such as missiles and will be capable of tracking moving targets visually so operators will be able to zoom in for a closer look before firing. The Army and Marines have already deployed more than 6,000 robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, and although unmanned aerial vehicles have been armed since 2001, combat-ready ground vehicles are still a work in progress. Last year, three armed unmanned ground vehicles called Special Weapons Observation Remote Direct-Action System (SWORDS) robots were deployed by the Army in Iraq, but it was decided that the machines would not be sent into combat situations due to technical issues. SWORDS developer Foster-Miller is developing a larger and more adaptable machine called the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS), which will require a human operator to function. One of the advantages of weaponized robots is their disposability, which is especially useful in urban-warfare scenarios where the potential for close-quarters firefights and collateral damage is high.
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 © 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.