Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

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

ACM TechNews
September 12, 2008

Learn about ACM's more than 3,000 online courses and 1,100 online books
MemberNet
CareerNews
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the September 12, 2008 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

U.N. Agency Eyes Curbs on Internet Anonymity
CNet (09/12/08) McCullagh, Declan

Technologists and privacy advocates are very concerned by the United Nations' (UN's) International Telecommunication Union's (ITU's) drafting of technical standards proposed by the Chinese government to define techniques of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially restricting the ability of users to maintain anonymity. "What's distressing is that it doesn't appear that there's been any real consideration of how this type of capability could be misused," says Electronic Privacy Information Center director Marc Rotenberg. One of the most disturbing aspects of the initiative is that it could institutionalize a means for governments to suppress their opposition, which conflicts with the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notes Columbia University computer scientist Steve Bellovin in a recent blog post. Countering distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is the most commonly cited rationale for IP tracebacks, but Bellovin says the method's usefulness in this regard has waned because few attacks employ spoofed addresses, there are too many sources in a DDoS attack to be useful, and the source computer inevitably would turn out to be compromised anyway. Technologist Jacob Appelbaum warns that a traceback system would offer malevolent hackers the ability to commit wrongdoing without being caught, thus abusing the very system that is designed to trace them. The official charter of the ITU's Q6/17 group states that it will work "in collaboration" with the Internet Engineering Task Force and the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center, which could supply a route toward widespread acceptance. A formal legal mandate to adopt IP traceback would likely be blocked by the First Amendment in the United States.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


U.S. Research Networks Link Scientists to Large Hadron Collider
Supercomputing Online (09/10/08)

When the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a giant particle accelerator spanning the French-Swiss border, starts running its experiments in full, multiple terabytes of data per second will be distributed through fiber-optic cables to thousands of researchers throughout the world, including more than 1,700 in the United States. The LHC research will greatly increase the amount of data the U.S. scientific community must transport and manage. To handle this massive amount of data, the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), Internet2, and USLHCNet, which provides transatlantic network connectivity from the LHC facility to the United States, have worked together to deploy networks with enough bandwidth and capabilities to reliably transport multiple streams of 10 gigabits of information per second, the equivalent of transmitting 500 hours of digital music per second on each 10-gigabit line. The LHC experiment will be the first to fully utilize the advanced capabilities of these networks. "As a physicist who has been preparing for the LHC for nearly 15 years, I am extremely excited about the milestone we have reached today in circulating the first beams at the LHC," says California Institute of Technology professor Harvey Newman. "The advanced networking and cyberinfrastructure resources created through partnerships among ESnet, Internet2 and USLHCNet make it possible for myself and my colleagues across the country to participate in the LHC experiments--which we believe will change scientific history."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Standards for Accreditation of Labs That Test Voting Machines Inconsistent
NextGov.com (09/10/08) Aitoro, Jill R.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should have stronger standards for accrediting laboratories that test voting machines, concludes a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The report says NIST continues to use generic international standards to make sure people testing the voting machines were qualified, rather than following the requirements of the 2002 Help America Vote Act. Four labs have met NIST's standards through May 2008. NIST has only recently started to detail what the labs need to demonstrate to earn accreditation, but still does not disclose a number of self-imposed steps. GAO says NIST should make sure testers are qualified and trained properly, and document each laboratory review. Also, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which receives recommendations from NIST, should demand full documentation of accreditation steps, defined qualifications for accreditation reviewers, maintenance of appropriate records, and create standards for determining the financial stability of labs. "Opportunities exist for NIST and EAC to further define and implement their respective programs in ways that promote greater consistency, repeatability, and transparency--and thus improve the results achieved," the report says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


D.C. Election Glitch Blamed on Equipment
Washington Post (09/11/08) P. A1; Stewart, Nikita; Silverman, Elissa; Flaherty, Mary Pat

D.C. election officials say that a defective computer memory cartridge is responsible for what appears to be thousands of write-in votes that officials say should not exist. The malfunction generated inaccurate results in several contests, including two high-profile council races. In the Republican at-large race the glitch caused 1,560 write-in votes at 9:50 p.m. to drop to 18 by 12:16 a.m., and thousands of votes were added to individual candidates, inflating vote totals. At 9:50 p.m., 8,246 ballots were recorded cast in the at-large Republican primary, but the number of ballots cast shrank to 3,735 by 12:16 a.m. Board spokesman Dan Murphy says it was determined that a defective cartridge caused the vote totals to duplicate into multiple races on the summary report issued by the office; he says the board immediately caught and addressed the error. However, University of California, Berkeley professor Henry E. Brady questions the explanation that a defective cartridge caused errors across multiple races. He also wonders why so many write-in votes were released even as an unofficial count on election night because any experienced election official should know that write-in votes are never that frequent. "It is strange that a single cartridge would cause results to double across the District, and it also would be strange to have that show up in one race," says Election Data Services president Kimball Brace. "Why wouldn't it have duplicated other contests in that precinct or more than one race?"
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Barbara Ryder Elected Association for Computing Machinery's Secretary-Treasurer and Presidential Award Recipient
Virginia Tech News (09/11/08) Daniilidi, Christina

ACM has elected Virginia Institute of Technology professor Barbara Ryder as Secretary-Treasurer for 2008-2010. Ryder, head of the Computer Science Department in the university's College of Engineering, has been an active leader in the association. In June, she received ACM's Presidential Award for her involvement with the Federated Computing Research Conference, in which she served as 2003 FERC chair and 2007 FERC steering committee chair, and the Special Interest Group on Programming Languages (SIGPLAN) History of Programming Languages conferences, where she served as general and program co-chair of the third HOPL conference in 2007. Ryder also served from 1989 to 1999 on SIGPLAN's executive committee, and as its chair from 1995 to 1997. She was an elected member at large of the ACM Council from 2000 to 2008. Ryder also has served on the Athena Lecturer Award Committee, and became an ACM Fellow in 1998. "The leadership of ACM faces many challenges including expanding ACM into a truly international association, providing better services to our practitioner members, continuing good support of the special interest groups, encouraging students to become active ACM members, and remediating the lack of diversity in the computing workforce," Ryder says. "I look forward to working on the achievement of these goals."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Computational Biochemist Uncovers a Molecular Clue to Evolution
Florida State University (09/10/08) Ray, Barry

Florida State University (FSU) professor Wei Yang is using high-powered computers to provide scientists with a better understanding of how evolution occurs at the molecular level. Working with colleagues from FSU, Duke University, and Brandeis University, Yang has produced computer models of an enzyme called inosine monophosphate dehrydrogenase (IMPDH). Yang's IMPDH simulations enabled researchers to observe something that had never been seen before. "Previously, enzymes were believed to have a single 'pathway' through which they deliver catalytic agents to biological cells in order to bring about metabolic changes," Yang says. "But with IMPDH, we determined that there was a second pathway that also was used to cause these chemical transformations." Yang says the finding is important because it offers a rare glimpse of the evolutionary process at work on the molecular level, and also represents a significant advancement in the use of computational simulations of biological processes. "In this case, we first made a prediction of the enzyme structure via computer and later verified it through direct observation in a laboratory, rather than the other way around," Yang says. "This is a most unusual accomplishment, and one that indicates we are becoming more advanced in our ability to answer questions relating to biological functions at the molecular level."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


The A-Z of Programming Languages: Lua
Computerworld Australia (09/11/08) Hamilton, Naomi

Professor Roberto Ierusalimschy in the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro's Informatics Department says in an interview that the Lua programming language was born out of a desire for a configuration language that offered ease of use. Lua eventually found its way into unexpected applications, such as games like World of Warcraft. "I guess more people have learned about Lua through games than through any other channel," says Ierusalimschy, who sees games playing an important role in people's introduction to programming. He acknowledges that Lua's design entails lots of compromises, such as excessively verbose syntax for programmers, and says these compromises were made so the language would be good at scripting and controlling applications. Ierusalimschy says the growth of open source has had "a huge impact" on Lua, noting Lua's strong quality, popularity, and community as a testament to its open source status. He insists that corporate sponsorship, a recent phenomenon, has not affected the language's development in any way. Ierusalimschy says the future of Lua lies in scripting, and is particularly proud of Lua being a language that has achieved considerable popularity even though it was not created in a developed country.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Pervasive Games Promise to Spice Up Daily Life
ICT Results (09/11/08)

The European Union-funded IPerG project is working to advance research into pervasive gaming, games that combine virtual experiences with the real world, and create the software tools needed for new games. IPerG project manager Jussi Holopainen says there is a great deal of confusion over what constitutes a pervasive game, mostly because of the enormous diversity of games and methods of game play. IPerG researchers' experimental pervasive games range from Insectopia, a treasure hunt in which participants roam around an area collecting virtual insects from Bluetooth devices, to Epidemic Menace, a whodunit in which players try to stop a scientist from spreading a virtual virus in a real-world setting. One of the most developed games is RiderSpoke, in which participants are given a bike with a Wi-Fi-enabled computer and instructed to ride around the city at will, being prompted to perform certain tasks and record their thoughts on different locations. Another game, Mythical: The Mobile Awakening, has players assume the role of high-tech wizards who perform context-aware rituals, such as entering the time of day or phase of the moon, to collect spells that can be used in virtual battles with human and computer-controlled opponents. IPerG researchers say that such experimental games will likely form the basis for commercial pervasive games in the future.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


U.S. Sees Six 'Disruptive Technologies' By 2025
Computerworld (09/11/08) Thibodeau, Patrick

The Global Trends 2025 report, prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies and expected in December, will likely include a list of six disruptive technologies expected to have a major impact on the world. The report defines a disruptive technology "as a technology with the potential to cause a noticeable--even if temporary--degradation or enhancement in one of the elements of U.S. national power." Six technologies were identified to have that potential. Biogerontechnology involves technologies that improve lifespan, which will challenge the economy and social policy as people live longer. Energy storage systems, such as fuel cells and ultracapacitors, could replace fossil fuels. Crop-based biofuels and chemicals will reduce gasoline dependence. Clean coal technologies can improve electrical generation efficiency and reduce pollutants. Robots have the potential to replace humans in a variety of professions, ranging from the military to health care. Lastly, Internet pervasiveness will expand to everyday objects, such as food packages, furniture, and paper documents, streamlining supply chains, lowering costs, and reducing dependence on human labor.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Easier-to-Hit 'Targets' Could Help Older People Make the Most of Computers
Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (09/09/08)

A new University of Reading study found that icons, menu headings, and links that automatically grow bigger when the cursor moves toward them, dubbed expanding targets, make it significantly easier for older people to use computers. The study found that targets that grow to twice their original size, providing a larger area to click on, reduced by at least 50 percent the number of mistakes older people made when using a computer mouse, and a 13 percent reduction in the time it took older users to select a target. The study, part of the Strategic Promotion of Aging Research Capacity initiative, will be discussed at this year's BA Festival of Science in Liverpool. Researchers say that many older people find it extremely challenging to position a cursor accurately enough to use a mouse, to the point that some people may avoid using computers completely. Automatically expanding targets could be added through simple changes to software products. Expanding targets also could encourage a wider use of computers among older people in general, researchers say, and greater access to computers could boost their quality of life and enable continued independent living. "The introduction of expanding targets could lead to substantial benefits because older people would feel more confident in their ability to control a mouse and cursor," says study leader Faustina Hwang. "A computer can be a real lifeline for an older person, particularly if they’re living alone, and expanding targets could help them harness that potential."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Pedal-Powered PCs Link Villages to the Web
Christian Science Monitor (09/11/08) P. 13; Telis, Gisela Angela

The Jhai PC is designed to withstand heavy rains and extreme temperatures and provide members of remote villages with reliable access to weather reports, current prices for village products, and contact with relatives in other villages or countries. Developed by the Jhai Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, the Jhai PC comes with a communications suite that both literate and illiterate villagers can use, and will eventually contain a videoconferencing kit for checkups with doctors. The PC contains a miniature motherboard and off-the-shelf parts contained in an industrial-steel case that is sealed with caulk and gaskets to keep floodwaters and humidity out. The PC uses flash drives to store information, and features small LCD panels instead of monitors to lower power consumption. It runs on one-tenth of the power of a typical PC and is built to last for 10 years. The $200 PC is powered by a battery connected to a stationary-bike generator. Jhai Foundation founder Lee Thorn says the computer has already gathered interest from 65 countries, but before a Jhai PC is distributed, the foundation requires a 10-year plan from each community it works with. A local entrepreneur must develop a business plan that will employ villagers, maintain the computers, and pay for Internet access and electricity. The Jhai Foundation provides business training and support, including classes on how teachers can integrate computers into local school curricula.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


UC Santa Cruz Team Developing a High-Tech Dictionary for the Classroom
UC Santa Cruz (09/03/08)

University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) researchers are developing Teach with Computers: Word Annotation for Vocabulary Education (tecWAVE), new dictionary software designed to help children build their vocabularies. "Students will be reading along, and when they encounter a word they don't know, they'll be able to click on the word and get the meaning right away," says UCSC professor Judith Scott. "It's a high-tech version of a dictionary, but it will be easier to use and better, because it won't interrupt the flow of their reading." The tecWAVE project has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Scott says the program will be particularly helpful to students that struggle with reading and those learning English. Definitions will be tailored to different reading levels, will be appropriate for the context the word is used in, and will include pictures to make meanings more accessible. The tecWAVE software will use artificial intelligence to automatically generate definitions that are appropriate for the context. UCSC professor Yi Zhang will work with a team of graduate students to develop tecWAVE over the next 18 months. The program then will be tested in seventh-grade classrooms in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Xerox Develops 3-D Visualization Software for Printing
InformationWeek (09/03/08) Gonsalves, Antone

Xerox researchers are developing software that will enable print shops to render three-dimensional (3D) visualizations of customers' brochures, flyers, and other jobs before they are printed. The technology will give printers the ability to show customers exactly what their document will look like, including texture, gloss, folds, and binding, before a physical product is produced. In a typical scenario, a marketing department would create a brochure using a document creation tool, which would then be exported as a PDF file that supports the Job Definition Format, a technical standard under development by the graphic arts industry for describing a project's attributes. The JDF-supported PDF file could then be delivered to print shops, which would use the Xerox technology to render 3D visualizations to send back to the customer. The 3D file can be opened in any Web browser with a standard plug-in for showing 3D pictures. Xerox prefers JDF because it is an emerging industry standard, but support for other formats is possible. The Xerox technology is still in the concept stage, and issues with performance, image quality, and platform support are still being resolved.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Local Software to Reduce Hospital Bottlenecks
CIO Australia (09/02/08) Gedda, Rodney

The Australian e-Health Research Center says the Patient Admission Prediction Tool (PAPT), its prototype software for forecasting the demand for hospital emergency services, has helped improve the prediction of patient presentation and admission at two hospitals. PAPT is designed to determine the likely patient load in an hour, for that day, next week, or for holidays that fall on different dates. Bed management, staffing, and scheduling for elective surgery all stand to benefit from the use of PAPT. "Emergency departments already know there's a pattern to presentations and admissions, but existing models are very simplistic," says David Hansen, research director at the center. "PAPT uses historical data to provide an accurate prediction of the expected load on any day." The center developed PAPT with experts at Gold Coast and Toowoomba Hospitals, Griffith University, and the Queensland University of Technology.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Quantum Computing With Ions
Scientific American (08/08) Vol. 299, No. 2, P. 64; Monroe, Christopher R.; Wineland, David J.

Quantum computers may one day be capable of executing computing feats once thought to be impossible--factoring a large number produced by two primes, for instance--through their ability to store and process data using atoms, photons, or fabricated microstructures. At the forefront of the quantum computing effort is the manipulation of captured ions, and researchers see no basic hindrances to the creation of trapped-ion computers. One technique for assembling a trapped-ion computer is to link the ions through their common motions, electrically levitating the particles between a pair of electrode arrays. The positively charged ions repel one another, so any oscillatory motions imparted to one ion will cause the whole string to move; the ion strings could encode and process data by focusing laser beams on them. The application of a specific laser force to the ions for a carefully adjusted duration results in the creation of a logic gate. It is a formidable challenge to scale such a system up to larger numbers of ions because of control issues with longer ion strings, since their collective modes of common motion would interfere with each other. Researchers are working on grid-like traps that allow short chains of ions to be shuttled from place to place on the quantum computer chip to perform calculations. An alternative area of research involves the linkage of trapped ions using the photons they emit.
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.