Welcome to the October 22, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Pentagon Will Help Homeland Security Department Fight Domestic Cyberattacks
New York Times (10/21/10) Thom Shanker
The Obama administration has adopted new rules whereby the president would sanction the use of the military's cyberwarfare capabilities, guided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in response to an attack on essential U.S. computer networks. Officials who helped draft the rules say the goal is to guarantee a fast response to cyberthreats while balancing concerns that civil liberties might be endangered should the military assume control of domestic operations. The rules were designated as critical because the Pentagon houses the bulk of the government's computer network capabilities, while the majority of key targets reside on domestic soil. The Pentagon's Robert J. Butler says a memorandum of agreement detailing the rules was designed to bypass legal debates about the authority for operating domestically, and to concentrate on the best approach of response to cyberthreats. Butler says a cohort of lawyers would monitor for potential civil liberty violations, and that safeguards have been implemented. The Pentagon is expected to issue a full National Defense Strategy for Cyber Operations this year, while broader interagency guidance from the White House is expected to follow next year.
Chinese Chip Closes in on Intel, AMD
Technology Review (10/21/10) Christopher Mims
Chinese computer scientist Weiwu Hu recently revealed three new chip designs, including one that could enable China to build a homegrown supercomputer that ranks on the Top 500 list of the world's fastest computers. The latest designs consist of the one-gigahertz, eight-core Godson 3B, the more powerful 16-core Godson 3C, and the lower-power Godson 2H. China's Dawning 6000 supercomputer will debut in 2011 using the Godson 3B, according to Hu, the lead architect of China's Godson chip family. Analyst Tom Halfhill says the Godson 3B chip will be able to perform about 30 percent fewer mathematical calculations per second than the six-core Xeon processor, Intel's best chip. And forthcoming processors from Intel and AMD could widen that gap. However, Halfhill says the Godson 3C processor will leapfrog Intel's 32-nanometer process by using a 28-nanometer processor, which will likely increase its clock speed by a factor of two. Nevertheless, he says the Dawning 6000 could make the Top 500 list, which would be a worthy accomplishment for China's electronics industry.
White House Unveils STEM Campaign
InformationWeek (10/19/10) Elizabeth Montalbano
The Obama administration will use the White House Science Fair and the USA Science and Engineering Festival to promote education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The festival has signed up 300 elementary schools as participants, as well as more than 850 corporations, trade associations, federal agencies, colleges, and universities. The festival will feature more than 1,500 interactive exhibits, 75 stage shows, and 50 satellite events in 25 states, and the administration hopes to reach more than 1 million people. Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to launch the Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach program, which will donate design and fabrication tools to 1,000 high schools and offer prizes to student teams for designing and manufacturing go carts, mobile robots, and small unmanned vehicles. Another DARPA program will use games and computer simulations to personalize learning for 13-year-old students. In addition, Change the Equation, a nonprofit launched to promote STEM in underprivileged communities, will sponsor a contest that will have companies create videos about the job opportunities for people who excel in math and science.
Making Internet Faster
A EUREKA-backed project called Traffic Measurements and Models in Multi-Service (TRAMMS) networks was launched to solve the problem of Internet bottlenecks by accessing commercial networks in Sweden and Spain and monitoring traffic over a three-year period. The TRAMMS project was designed to get an overall view of traffic passing through the networks, including IP traffic, routing decisions, quality of service, and available bandwidth. The project's researchers developed tools that measured traffic and will make Web browsing much faster in the future. "For everyday users, this means better quality for multimedia services over the Internet, like streaming for example," says TRAMMS project coordinator Andreas Aurelius. The researchers, who collected 3,000 terabytes of data over the three years of the project, used a standard called Bandwidth Available in Real Time to monitor the available bandwidth between a sender and receiver in a network. Aurelius notes that a key to the project was the ability to access sensitive Internet traffic data. "Internet traffic measurements are very difficult to find if you are not an operator," he says. "We were using data in access networks, not campus networks as most researchers do."
New Search Method Tracks Down Influential Ideas
Princeton University (10/20/10) Chris Emery
Princeton University computer scientists have developed a method that uses computer algorithms to trace the origins and spread of ideas, which they say could make it easier to measure the influence of scholarly papers, news stories, and other information sources. The algorithms analyze how language changes over time within a group of documents and determines which documents had the most influence. "The point is being able to manage the explosion of information made possible by computers and the Internet," says Princeton professor David Blei. He says the search method could eventually enable historians, political scientists, and other scholars to study how ideas originate and spread. The Princeton method enables computers to analyze the actual text of documents, instead of focusing on citations, to see how the language changes over time. "We are also exploring the idea that you can find patterns in how language changes over time," Blei says.
NTU Researchers Develop World's Smallest On-Chip Low-Pass Filter
Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) (10/20/10) Edgar Lee
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researchers have developed an on-chip, low-pass filter that they say is 1,000 times smaller than existing off-chip filters and could revolutionize wireless communications. A low-pass filter is a circuit that allows low-frequency signals to pass through while reducing unwanted high-frequency signals from passing through. Unlike bulky off-chip filters, on-chip filters require just a small area on an integrated circuit, making them suitable for use in mobile phones, laptops, and other portable devices. "This new low-pass filter can lead to a significant improvement in signal quality as it removes nearly all unwanted interferences and noise in the environment," says NTU professor Yeo Kiat Seng. "The filter also consumes less power and can be easily incorporated into existing integrated circuit chips at almost no cost." The new filter could lead to the development of high-performance integrated circuits and wireless communications devices.
New UMD Cybersecurity Center Aims at Public-Private Partnerships
UM Newsdesk (10/20/10) Neil Tickner
The University of Maryland is launching the Maryland Cyber Security Center (MC2), which will focus on the cultivation of private-public alliances and the resolution of national vulnerabilities. The center will convene experts in engineering, computer science, business, information sciences, public policy, economics, and social sciences to create new educational and research programs, while also tapping the campus' technology commercialization resources. MC2 will harness wide-ranging cybersecurity research already underway at the university, including wireless and network security, cryptography, secure programming, mechanisms for guaranteeing citizens' privacy in social networks, cybersupply chain research, attacker behavioral analysis, cybersecurity policy and economics, and multimedia forensics. The research is expected to yield both commercial and national security applications, with MC2 projects having particular relevance for health care information technology along with the utility, telecommunications, and banking industries, which are especially susceptible to electronic disruptions.
All-Electric Spintronic Semiconductor Devices Created
New Scientist (10/20/10) Kate McAlpine
University of Minnesota researchers are developing spintronics devices that incorporate standard semiconductors and use electron spin to perform both magnetic memory and computer processing, which would accelerate a computer's load and boot times. The Minnesota team, lead by Paul Crowell, developed an all-electric method to generate and detect spin currents with a standard semiconductor. The researchers sent a current through a gallium arsenide semiconductor, doped with silicon impurities and indium to boost the spin-splitting effect. Crowell took advantage of silicon's impurities to generate spin currents inside semiconductors. Electrons will veer left or right, depending on the orientation of their spin, after encountering an impurity, a phenomenon known as the spin Hall effect. "Electrical [techniques] allow for a more direct measurement of the spin Hall conductivity and would also be more practical for device applications," says University of Michigan's Vanessa Sih.
Culturally Inspired Mobile Phone Games Help Chinese Children Learn Language Characters, Carnegie Mellon Research Shows
Carnegie Mellon News (PA) (10/19/10) Byron Spice
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers, working on the Mobile & Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE) project, have developed mobile phone-based games designed to offer a new way to teach Chinese language basics to people living in rural areas of China. The researchers developed two mobile learning games that generated promising initial results in tests with children in Xin'an, an underdeveloped region in China. "The results of our studies suggest that further development of these games could make inexpensive mobile phones important learning tools, particularly for children in underdeveloped rural areas," says CMU professor Matthew Kam. MILLEE researchers analyzed 25 traditional Chinese games to identify elements that could be transferred to the design of educational mobile phone games. In one game, children must recognize and write a correct Chinese character based on hints provided for pronunciation or other multimedia context. In another game, children practice writing Chinese characters and pass the mobile phone to one another to the rhythm of a drum beat played by the device. MILLEE researchers also are developing mobile phone-based games for teaching English literacy to rural children in India and Kenya.
'Virtual Satellite Dish' Thanks to Lots of Tiny Processors Working Together
University of Twente (Netherlands) (10/18/10) Wiebe van der Veen
A microchip with relatively simple processors that can interact and communicate flexibly would allow for future applications, such as satellite TV reception without a receiver dish and digital radio reception on a mobile phone, without the batteries quickly running down, according to University of Twente researcher Marcel van de Burgwal. He says it would be possible to receive satellite signals using stationary antennae arrays made up of grids of simple, fixed, almost flat antennae that can fit on the roof of a car. The grid of antennae would form a virtual dish, and the entire grid would carry out the aiming of the virtual grid. Van de Burgwal says a complete computer network could be constructed that takes up just a few square millimeters. He used an efficient infrastructure based on a miniature network in which software defines a TV or radio receiver instead of coils and crystals. "Software-defined radio may seem much more complex, but we can pack so much computing power into the space taken up by, for example, a coil that it more than repays the effort," Van de Burgwal says.
Biology Rides to Computers' Aid
MIT News (10/19/10) Larry Hardesty
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Scripps Researcher Institute, and the University of Rochester (UR) recently demonstrated that gold particles and protein-based virus-like particles, both attached to strands of DNA, will spontaneously organize themselves into a lattice-like structure. The distances between the particles are exactly the same as those that would allow a photonic crystal to guide light in the visible spectrum, technology that could lead to optical computers. MIT's Abigail Lytton-Jean and Chad Mirkin, together with UR's Sung Yong Park, showed that attaching DNA strands to gold nanoparticles would cause them to self-organize into crystals. Lytton-Jean says that although gold and protein cannot be used to create photonic crystals, "if we can do this with these two types of materials, you could do this with almost any type of material." She says future photonic crystals could use combinations of metals and soft materials. "I think that the more exciting application is the joined co-assembly of organic and inorganic particles into a single structure," says North Carolina State University professor Orlin Velev.
Inter-Cloud Data Security Technology Developed by Fujitsu
Fujitsu Laboratories researchers have developed security technology that enables confidential data to be safely shared among different computing clouds. The technology masks confidential information before it is processed in the cloud, transferring applications from the cloud to inside the company, making cloud services available without transmitting actual data. The researchers say the system allows users to transmit sensitive data in the cloud and encourages new uses of cloud computing such as cross-industry collaborations. The masking technology deletes or changes confidential parts of the data before it is transmitted to an external cloud. The technology's information gateway also can transfer cloud-based applications to in-house sandboxes for execution. The sandbox will block access to data or networks that lack pre-authorized access. The data traceability technology uses the logs taken from data traffic to make the data in the cloud visible to the user.
National Smarter-Car Research Network Established at McMaster
McMaster University (Canada) (10/15/10)
Canada has announced a national research network that will develop advanced software for vehicles. The Network on Engineering Complex Software Intensive Systems for Automotive Systems (NECSIS) will use innovative approaches, such as model-driven engineering, to develop technologies for building smarter cars. "Computer systems in vehicles are managing more and more operations and increasing in complexity," says McMaster University's Tom Maibaum, who will lead the effort. "That adds up to tens of millions of lines of software code that must work flawlessly and seamlessly together, and achieving this is becoming increasingly challenging using current approaches to software development." NECSIS will receive $10.5 million from Automotive Partnership Canada over five years, and industry and academic partners will contribute $6.1 million. Network partners include Industry Canada, General Motors of Canada, IBM Canada, Malina Software of Ottawa, Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montreal, McGill University, Queen's University, and the universities of British Columbia, Toronto, and Victoria.
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