Welcome to the March 19, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
China Drawing High-Tech Research From U.S.
New York Times (03/17/10) Bradsher, Keith
U.S. companies are being drawn to China as it develops a high-tech economy that increasingly competes directly with the United States. Western companies are attracted to China's less expensive and highly skilled engineers, as well as the subsidies that many Chinese cities and regions offer. Meanwhile, researchers from the United States and Europe have to be prepared to move to China if they want to conduct cutting-edge research, since many new research facilities are being built there, says Applied Materials chief technology officer Mark R. Pinto. For example, Applied Materials just built its newest and largest research labs in Xian, China, and Intel has opened research labs for server networks and semiconductors in Beijing. However, technological theft is a chronic problem for China-based Labs. Applied Materials has sealed its computers' ports to prevent copying data to flash drives, and employees are not allowed to take computers from the building without special permission.
Moscow State University Supercomputer Has Petaflop Aspirations
HPC Wire (03/17/10) Trader, Tiffany
Moscow State University (MSU) plans to triple the current processing power of its Lomonosov supercomputer to achieve petaflop-level performance in 2010. Lomonosov is currently the world's 12th fastest supercomputer and needs an additional 650 teraflops of performance to reach the petaflop level. Just two supercomputers have broken the Linpack petaflop barrier--Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Jaguar and the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roadrunner. MSU's supercomputer is based on the T-Blade2, which uses 2.93 GHz Xeon X5570 processors, and could be upgraded using the forthcoming T-Blade3 blades with Xeon X5670 2.93 GHz parts. Another possibility is using the upcoming NVIDIA Fermi GPU server boards. MSU president Victor Sadovnichy estimates it will cost $31 million for the petaflop upgrade.
New Touch Screen Technology in Works
Montreal Gazette (Canada) (03/18/10) Pilieci, Vito
Carleton University professor Robert Biddle is one of 12 scientists working on the Digital Surface Software Application Network (SurfNet) project, which is developing next-generation touch-screen technology. Biddle believes that by coupling new software with existing touch-screen devices, it will be easier for users to share ideas. For example, architects and engineers could use SurfNet to construct virtual buildings, which they piece together with virtual building blocks, enabling a new level of collaboration among professionals that is not possible today. "New multi-touch technology will allow big displays to be used by more than one person at a time," Biddle says. "People working around the conference table, sketching things, and showing them to one another in parallel. We think this has a lot of potential."
Government Asks Colleges to Enhance the Nation's Internet Capacity
Chronicle of Higher Education (03/17/10) Parry, Marc
The U.S. government wants colleges and universities to help bring ultra high-speed Internet access to more communities. The proposal is part of a federal blueprint for broadband, which aims to provide broadband access to the 100 million people who currently lack access by 2020. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission endorsed the plan, which would provide funding for about one third of the U.S.'s "community anchor" institutions, which includes colleges, libraries, and hospitals. The funding could be used to upgrade existing regional and national education networks. "The higher-education-networking community is being challenged to extend and serve community-anchor institutions," says National LambdaRail president Glenn Ricart. "How and when that all happens is still to be worked out."
ACM Council on Women Honors Leader in Improving Performance of Computer-Aided Design
AScribe Newswire (03/17/10)
ACM's Council on Women in Computing has named Pennsylvania State University computer science professor Mary Jane Irwin the 2010-2011 Athena Lecturer. Irwin received the award, which was created to honor women who have made fundamental contributions to computer science, for her outstanding work in computer-aided design (CAD), computer arithmetic, and computer architecture. Irwin designed novel computer structures that are used in laptops to vastly improve the performance of image and speech applications. She also developed techniques to automate CAD activities, which have been assimilated by the CAD industry. Irwin became an ACM Fellow in 1996, and served as vice president of ACM from 1997-1998. The 2010-2011 Athena Lecturer award will be presented at the ACM Annual Awards Banquet in San Francisco on June 26.
Dismantling of Saudi-CIA Web Site Illustrates Need for Clearer Cyberwar Policies
Washington Post (03/19/10) P. A1; Nakashima, Ellen; Priest, Dana; DeYoung, Karen
The dissolution of an intelligence-gathering Web site set up by the Saudi government and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), based on suspicions that it was being used by extremists planning attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, highlights the need for more transparent cyberwar policies. The use of computers to collect intelligence or to disrupt the enemy raises a number of issues, including under what circumstances a cyberattack outside the theater of war is permissible and whether dismantling an extremist Web site represents a covert operation or a traditional military activity. Current and former officials say that lawyers at the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel are engaged in a struggle to define the legal rules governing cyberwarfare. A key dilemma of cyberwarfare is that an attacker can never be sure that only the intended target will be impacted by an attack. A former official notes than more than 300 servers in Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Texas were unintentionally disrupted when the Saudi-CIA site was dismantled.
Computer Matches Kidney Donors
The Engineer (United Kingdom) (03/18/10)
Glasgow University computer scientists have developed software that can quickly find potential living kidney donors for transplant patients. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is using the program when an original willing donor of a patient is clinically incompatible, enabling organs to be swapped anonymously between people on the same day in different parts of the UK. The Glasgow program conducts matching runs across the United Kingdom, and provides information on potential two- and three-way matches, within minutes of receiving an anonymous version of patient and donor data from NHSBT. The Glasgow team will now work to develop the program further so NHSBT can use it in-house. Glasgow senior lecturer David Manlove says that since donation-matching is just one key part of a much larger process, the team must ensure the program works quickly with the larger data set. "You really don't want to wait more than a few minutes, so we'll need to investigate new techniques and algorithms that will address this challenge," he says.
Creating Apps Just for Cars
Technology Review (03/17/10) Jonietz, Erika
Ford is working with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Microsoft to offer a computer science and engineering course called "Cloud Computing in the Commute," in which Michigan students will work in small teams to design, build, and demonstrate automotive telematics applications. "The services you care about when you're driving are different from those you use when you're walking around with your phone," says Ford software engineer T.J. Giuli, who is co-teaching the class with Michigan professors Brian Noble and Jason Flinn. The students are designing apps using Microsoft's Windows 7 and Robotics Developers Studio. Noble says the students are developing unique programs, such as a "green mileage" application and a crowd-sourced app to track road conditions and traffic.
Pushing for Software Quality Assurance
Network World (03/17/10) Kabay, M.E.
In a recent Journal of Computer Science research article, "Resistance Factors in the Implementation of Software Process Improvement Project in Malaysia," the authors discussed reasons why people resist software quality assurance (SQA). Experts say there are several categories of problems when integrating SQA into the software development process, including human, political, cultural, change management, and goals. Human problems include the failure to gain top-level, thorough support for process improvement, while political issues can involve leaders believing they will lose power as a result of SQA. A resistance to organizational change is a common cultural problem, while unclear, undefined, and unmeasured goals can leave people confused and uncooperative. A change in management also can affect the smooth implementation of SQA. ACM's Risk Forum offers many reports on the consequences of poor software design and SQA failures.
Women in IT: How to Combat Misconceptions
V3.co.uk (03/16/10) Marshall, Rosalie
Experts says the information technology (IT) industry needs to start appealing to women at a younger age to encourage more of them to choose it as a career. According to a recent V3.co.uk poll, women are disillusioned with the technology sector. Nearly half of the respondents said that men outweigh women in the IT sector, while about 20 percent said that women do not get the same pay or opportunities as men. According to IDC research, just one in five European IT practitioners is a woman, and this number is declining. "My experience is that the IT sector has moved on significantly, and we are at the stage now where it is a far more appealing career route for women than it has ever been," says Microsoft's Stephen Uden. IBM's Helen Cook says the IT sector needs an updated reputation. "Women need to want to be in IT and bring their personalities and skills to the industry and be confident about doing so," she says. Female role models also are essential for individuals to image their own participation in the IT field, says ThoughtWorks' Rebecca Parsons.
Computer Scientists Create a Multilingual Search Engine
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid researchers have developed a multilingual search engine that can query a data repository written in Interlingua using questions formulated in any language and provide an answer in that same language. The search engine requires an information base that is written in the Universal Networking Language, the only general-purpose Interlingua. The search engine works by deducing the answer from the question instead of just finding the answer. First, the system searches the text corpus for statements that could contain the answer. Second, it determines which statements actually contain the answer. Finally, it generates the answer in the same language the question was formulated in. The researchers used a biographical encyclopedia to test the system, and reported that 82 percent of the 75 questions they posed were correct.
Web Sites That Can Take a Punch
MIT News (03/17/10) Hardesty, Larry
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a system to keep Web servers running even when they are under attack from cybercriminals. The MIT system monitors the programs running on a computer to determine their normal range of behavior, and during an attack the system refuses to let the programs stray outside of that predetermined normal range. In sites with large banks of servers, the MIT system gets several chances to find the best response to an attack. The process of recognizing an attack, testing a number of countermeasures, and deploying the most effective methods, can be completed in a few seconds. "The idea is that you've got hundreds of machines out there," says MIT professor Martin Rinard. "We’re saying, 'Okay, fine, you can take out six or 10 of my 200 machines,' [but] by observing what happens with the executions of those six or 10 machines, we'll be able to deploy patches out to protect the rest of the machines."
Researchers at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles are training a computer system to analyze personal blogs to build a system that could gather aggregated statistics daily on large populations. Andrew Gordon and colleagues first taught the computer system how to distinguish narrative blogs from other types of blogs by having it focus on the common phrases of narrative storytelling. The team took the same approach to getting the system to recognize casual connections of narrative blogs by having it search for phrases often associated with cause and effect relationships. Gordon says that a system for analyzing the personal stories of blogs could operate in the manner of a larger version of the Google flu tracker program. He says mining the comments that people make about their daily lives would provide information on all kinds of emerging trends and behaviors. Tracking blogs also would reveal how ideas are spread and trends are set.
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