Welcome to the July 28, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Intel Makes Advance in Silicon-Based Lasers
Wall Street Journal (07/28/10) Clark, Don
New technology from Intel could lead to the development of computers that use light beams to move data. Intel says it has built a communications device using components from silicon, including lasers that operate at a very fast speed. Link, the prototype device, includes a transmitter chip with four silicon-based lasers that each send data at 12.5 billion bits per second, or 50 gigabits total. Some commercial networking hardware can send 40 gigabits of data per second, but the devices may cost hundreds of dollars or more per connection, says Intel's Justin Rattner. Intel believes it can reach prices as low as $1 per connection and achieve greater speeds--up to 1 trillion bits per second. However, the company must improve its techniques for producing the components in high volumes, says Intel's Mario Paniccia. Intel says the development could lead to new commercial products and change the way computers are designed.
Cut-and-Paste Simplicity for Computer Animation
ICT Results (07/27/10)
European researchers have developed cut-and-paste tools that enable developers to inexpensively and quickly create new animation content using complex elements such as emotion, tone of voice, and facial expression. The Salero project involved 13 European partners who created two dozen applications, tools, and showcases in an effort to improve audiovisual animation workflow. The main goal of the Salero project was to create systems that would enable audio and video content to be easily and quickly redesigned for many different scenes within one project, and for transferring and adapting content between different projects. The project focused on audio processing, computer animation, and semantic research. The researchers created tools that will enable existing media to be found and adapted to new content. Salero's animation tools can manipulate facial expressions, body mechanics, and a range of variables for character, such as gender, ethnicity, age, and weight. "Using other tools we have developed, the animator can then simply point to an area where the character must go, and the software chooses the path and animates the character variables, and the quality of the surface along the route," says Salero's coordinator Georg Thallinger.
Bringing Data Mining Into the Mainstream
New York Times (07/26/10) Lohr, Steve
A record number of corporate researchers and university scientists are attending an ACM conference on knowledge discovery and data mining, which offers papers and workshops that apply data mining to everything from behavioral targeting to cancer research. Although data mining has become a growth industry, profitably probing large data sets is still costly for companies and difficult for users. According to conference executive director Usama Fayyad, an institutional mindset that recognizes the value of data is needed to bring modern data mining into the business mainstream. The executive level must view data as a new strategic asset that can create revenue streams and businesses. Fayyad also says a translation layer of technology is needed to democratize modern data mining, and the underlying software for handling large data sets should be linked to software that ordinary people can use. Using Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet as a metaphor, Fayyad says the sophisticated data-handling layer should be "built in ways that Excel can consume the data and people can browse it."
A Smoother Street View
Technology Review (07/28/10) Simonite, Tom
Microsoft researchers have developed Street Slide, street-level imaging software that could help people find locations more quickly on the Web, as well as leave new space for online advertising. Street Slide combines image slices from multiple panoramas captured along a stretch of road into one continuous view. "[Street Slide] helps you actually navigate using street-side imagery," says Microsoft Research senior scientist Michael Cohen. Street Slide's panoramic view enables users to slide along the facades of buildings looking for places of interest, and can zoom back in to a classic bubble view at any time. A user also can flip the viewpoint to see the other side of the street, or turn corners onto new streets. Street Slide's wider view offers empty space on the screen below the image of the street that could be used to show logos of businesses, a small map of the area, advertising, or to display social information.
Group Led By UCLA Engineering Devises New Method for Securing Location-Sensitive Data
UCLA Newsroom (07/26/10) Chin, Matthew; Kromhout, Wileen Wong
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) computer scientists have shown that cryptography based solely on physical location is possible by using quantum mechanics. The method enables users to encrypt data at a secure location without pre-sharing any cryptographic keys. The concept behind location-based cryptography is that only a recipient at a precise geographic location can receive an encrypted message because the location itself acts as the credential required for generating an encryption key. "Securely proving a location where such a proof cannot be spoofed, and securely communicating only to a device in a particular location and nowhere else is extremely important," says UCLA professor Rafail Ostrovsky. The researchers have shown that if quantum bits are sent instead of classical bits, a secure protocol can be obtained such that the location of a device cannot be spoofed, which leads to a key-exchange protocol based solely on location. The method does not involve quantum computation other than creating and measuring quantum bits, which can be done with existing technology.
Ruling Lets Owners Alter iPhone Software
Wall Street Journal (07/27/10) Worthen, Ben
The U.S. Copyright Office has ruled that it is legal for users to alter Apple iPhones, iPads, and iPods to install and run software not purchased from Apple. The ruling undercuts Apple's control over its mobile devices by legalizing jailbreaking and could open the door to third-party app stores, says the Electronic Freedom Foundation's Jennifer Granick. It is unclear how many companies will take advantage of the ruling, which affects the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Although the ruling applies to all smartphone makers, only Apple restricts what apps can run on its devices. Apple discourages jailbreaking, and one estimate found that just eight percent of iPhones have been altered. The Copyright Office ruled that Apple's objections to jailbreaking were rooted in the potential "harm to its reputation," which is not protected by copyright law. The ruling said that phone owners have the right to run whatever legal programs they want on their devices and that "modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses."
Programming, Development Skills in Demand
eWeek (07/26/10) Sears, Don E.
Java/J2EE is the programming and developing skill in most demand with more than 14,000 open job positions nationally, according to a July report from IT job board Dice. The survey of recruiters and human resource professionals also found very high demand for C#, .Net, Oracle, Sharepoint, and SAP skills, as well as security analysts, people with federal security clearances, and database administrators. New York leads the way with more than 8,200 openings, followed by Washington, D.C., with 7,400, Silicon Valley with 4,400, and Chicago and Los Angeles with more than 2,800 each. Atlanta, Seattle, and Dallas have more than 2,000 IT job openings each, and Philadelphia has more than 1,600 openings. Meanwhile, Pace University analyzed government figures for its latest quarterly Pace/Skillproof IT Index, and found the indicator of employment activity in Manhattan's information technology (IT) industry has risen 46 percent, from 74 to 110. The index report also notes that job openings for IT management and network communication analysts have risen by more than 60 percent. Meanwhile, demand for database administrators and network administrators has increased about 15 percent in the second quarter.
New Tool for Accessing Bioinformatics Resources
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain) (07/27/10) Martinez, Eduardo
Software that can discover and automatically classify bioinformatics resources derived from scientific literature is being developed by researchers at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM). The developed index of resources is available for free on the Internet. The system, developed by UPM professor Victor Maojo and colleagues, uses natural language processing and artificial intelligence techniques to retrieve and classify key information contained in scientific articles. Each article is analyzed morphologically, syntactically, and semantically in search of a set patterns, which are used to automatically identify the names, functionality, access URL, and the resource inputs and outputs. The resources are classified by either the application domain or the category of the resource. The researchers also developed a Web-based application to enable the scientific community to access the index and search for resources by name, category, and domain.
Italy to China in Driverless Vehicles
Associated Press (07/20/10) Barry, Colleen
University of Parma researchers recently embarked on an 8,000-mile, three-month road trip from Italy to China to test the limits of driverless vehicles. The researchers developed autonomous cars equipped with laser scanners and cameras that work together to enable the vehicles to navigate. "What we are trying to do is stress our systems and see if they can work in a real environment, with real weather, real traffic, and crazy people who cross the road in front of you and a vehicle that cuts you off," says project leader Alberto Broggi. The road trip involves two pairs of vehicles, each with a driven lead van followed by a driverless vehicle. The driverless vehicle takes cues from the lead van, but must respond to ordinary obstacles or dangers by itself. The researchers say the project's technology could one day enable driverless vehicles to transport goods across Europe. "We would like now to do a long experiment and try this technology for 24 hours a day, with diverse temperatures and traffic, to see if our systems recognize these situations," Broggi says. The researchers expect to gather 100 terabytes of data during the road test, which will be analyzed after completing the road test. The vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour and must be recharged for eight hours after every two to three hours of driving.
National Science Foundation (07/26/10) O'Brien, Miles
Researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) are developing several different types of robots. For example, the Robotic Air Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments robot uses compressed air to move and could help improve prosthetics. The Cable-suspended Limbed Intelligent Matching Behavior Robot was built for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and can scale steep cliffs and is designed to handle Mars' rugged terrain. The Intelligent Mobility Platform with Active Spoke System robot features a circle of spokes that individually move in and out, enabling it to walk or roll, which gives it extreme mobility. The Hyper-redundant Discrete Robotic Articulated Serpentine robot snakes up dangerous scaffolding so human do not have to. RoMeLa also is developing a robot hose that fights fires. "It's a robot snake so it slithers and props up like a cobra and it can fight fires," says RoMeLa director Dennis Hong. The researchers also are building soccer-playing humanoid robots. "It has two cameras on the head, looks around, searches for the ball, figures out where it is, and based on that, it kicks the ball to the goal," Hong says.
Who Gives a Tweet? Nuanced Feedback for Microbloggers
University of Southampton (ECS) (07/27/10) Lewis, Joyce
The University of Southampton's Paul Andre is researching how to improve social media's personal and social awareness. Andre is collaborating with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology on a Web site--Who Gives A Tweet (WGATweet.com)--that will offer Twitter users a free analysis of their tweets. The analysis will include ratings from both followers and strangers. The use of "favorites" enables Twitter users to show they like their friends' updates. Twitter updates still are widely considered to be boring, inane, or largely sandwich-related. "But this ignores the value that could be gained from understanding which updates are disliked and why," Andre says. According to Georgia Tech's Kurt Luther, "The site allows us to gather a more nuanced type of feedback than is currently available, and offers users an insight into how their updates are perceived by different groups, helping them understand what their impact really is."
The Web Means the End of Forgetting
New York Times Magazine (07/19/10) Rosen, Jeffrey
The Internet's permanent retention of information posted online can leave a trail of details that could compromise a person's reputation and endanger their job or travel prospects, to name just two examples, if such information is deemed by institutions to be unwholesome or undesirable. A recent Microsoft survey found that 75 percent of U.S. recruiters and human resource professionals say their companies require them to do online research about job candidates, sifting through personal Web sites, social engineering sites, and other sources for details that could make or break their candidacy. Protecting one's reputation from being haunted by past indiscretions and other regrettable activity that could be taken out of context is likely to become even harder as Web 2.0 segues to Web 3.0, and user-generated content is integrated with a new layer of data aggregation and analysis and live video. To insulate people from the reputation ratings that may govern their future personal and professional interactions, Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain has proposed "reputation bankruptcy," a scheme in which people are allowed to erase certain categories of ratings or sensitive information and start over every decade or so. Analysts say the most effective solutions to online threats to reputation may be technological rather than legal, with one example being embedding expiration dates within data.
System That Senses Danger
Deccan Herald (07/27/10)
Louisiana State University researchers S S Iyengar and Supratik Mukhopadhyay have developed the Cognitive Information Management Shell (CIM Shell), an intelligent disaster and accident management system that can be applied to a wide range of disaster and security scenarios. CIM Shell records the events that lead to disasters, compares them with a database of similar previous events to create a common operation picture, and acts on the information to prevent or predict a disaster. CIM Shell involves multiple sensors and distributed databases that constantly detect and store events, which can be cross-checked against a database of past events. "In order to achieve what we call the 'goal' (successful prediction or prevention), the AI, or artificial intelligence, autonomously and continuously adjusts parameters in system rules to bolster the accuracy of the result," Iyengar says. The researchers say the system uses human-readable declarative language for defining rules and goals, which enables sophisticated user interfaces to be developed as a layer on top of the declarative configuration language.
Science (07/23/10) Vol. 329, No. 5990, P. 399; Evans, James; Rzhetsky, Andrey
Manually tracking all the published science relevant to a scientist's research is an impossible task, but it is predicted that computers capable of generating many helpful hypotheses with little human input will emerge within a decade. New computational tools can broaden the range of concepts and relations used for producing automated hypotheses by tapping a greater portion of the massive archive of published science, and by synthesizing new higher- and lower-order concepts and relations from the existing body of knowledge. Researchers can productively trim the multitude of low-quality hypotheses generated by a bigger pool of concepts and relations by employing a selection process that draws on insights into the social, cultural, and cognitive creation of science. The number of possible hypotheses could be vastly enlarged if researchers could computationally map concepts across different scientific communities' distinct languages. This would flag parallels in theories from different domains, as well as changes in meaning with time and multiple meanings. These distinctions could be computationally mined to uncover unique conceptual connections. By assigning priority to hypotheses containing concepts spanning existing scientific theories, cultures, and languages, investigators could profitably concentrate on the most novel.
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