Welcome to the April 29, 2011 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Rutgers Team Proposes Net Alternative
EE Times (04/28/11) Rick Merritt
Rutgers University researchers recently launched MondoNet, a wireless network initiative designed to create a more open alternative to the Internet. MondoNet aims to use mobile ad-hoc wireless mesh networks (MANETs) to create a system that provides more freedom and privacy for individual users than today's Internet. "MondoNet aims to be as fast and feature-rich as the Net while being more immune to censorship and spying," says Rutgers professor Aram Sinnreich. "All the information [on the Internet] has to go through the eye of the needle of a few companies beholden to their governments. What we need is a new network." MondoNet will incorporate technologies developed for use in MANETs, including a Better Approach to Mobile ad-hoc Networks and the Babel distance vector routing protocol. It also will use Daihinia, a tool that converts Wi-Fi devices into a mesh network, the Freedom Box Linux server for distributed networks, and the GNUnet software framework for peer-to-peer networking.
Australian-Led Research in Nanotechnology a Huge Breakthrough
University of Sydney (04/27/11) Kath Kenny
Researchers in Australia and Europe have made a breakthrough on a quantum light source that will help make future information systems safer and faster. Individual pairs of photons have been generated in the smallest device ever using silicon photonic crystals to slow down light. The nanoscale of the quantum photonic device means potentially hundreds of the devices could be incorporated into a single chip. The development is a key step for building practical quantum technologies that will improve communications, says the University of Sydney's Chunle Xiong. "Current systems use classical light to carry information, which hackers can easily tap into and use to their advantage," says Macquarie University professor Michael Steel. "Single photon devices will ensure communication and information systems are secure from hackers, guaranteeing peace of mind for the users."
Where Man and Machine Will Meet
Irish Times (Ireland) (04/29/11) Marie Boran
University of Reading professor Kevin Warwick envisions a future in which people will use technology to transcend humanity by becoming cyborgs. Warwick has already taken a step in this direction by having electrodes surgically attached to nerve fibers in his arm, allowing two-way communication between his brain and a computer. He also has a chip implanted in his arm that interacts with smart buildings to open doors and turn on lights, among other things. Warwick believes that humans will inevitably use technology in this manner for self-enhancement. He has conceived of advances that include the growth of human brain cells in a robot body and the termination of the university education model in favor of direct data downloads into the brain. "Some people are upset because it takes science fiction into science life," Warwick says. "Some philosophers get angry at me for testing the nature of human/robot consciousness. All I ask for is an open mind."
Toward an Open mHealth Ecosystem
Computing Community Consortium (04/26/11) Erwin Gianchandani
A group of experts have outlined an open mobile health (mHealth) framework in which an ecosystem of reusable, substitutable modules of basic mHealth functionality would engage with each other via defined interfaces adapted from existing systems and data exchange standards. The architecture is distinguished by a construction scheme that supports and promotes evidence-based approaches to care delivery, and catalyzes the scale, coherence, and efficacy of mHealth. Three core functional dimensions were identified in applications that will be employed as mHealth drivers and that ultimately will become the greatest mHealth beneficiaries--behavior change, effectiveness assessment and adherence promotion, and personal strategies. The second dimension involves a potential mHealth killer app in which therapeutic efficacy is enhanced by exploiting mobile-facilitated temporal resolution data on patient-reported symptoms and side effects, especially if integrated with improved adherence to interventions.
Top Chinese Supercomputers Point to Aggressive HPC Strategy
HPC Wire (04/26/11) Michael Feldman
Liang Yuan, a researcher at the Institute of Software, Chinese Academy of Sciences, recently discussed China's aggressive adoption of graphics processing unit (GPU) technology, which propelled China's recent rise to the number one spot of the Top500 supercomputing list. In 2002 China had just five systems in the Top500. Since then China has developed 39 computers that rank in the Top500 and five in the top 100, including the number one and number three-ranked supercomputers in the world. China's top three systems are all heterogeneous central-processing unit (CPU)-GPU machines, based on Intel Xeon and NVIDIA Tesla processors. Overall, 51 percent of Chinese systems are derived from U.S.-based vendors, while the remaining 49 percent are built by Chinese manufacturers. Two of China's largest machines, the Tianhe-1A and the Mole 8.5 cluster, were constructed by government organizations. China now is working to deploy the domestically designed Godson CPU technology on supercomputers. Yuan says China plans to deploy a 10-petaflop Linpack system by 2013 and a 100-petaflop system two years later.
Origami: Not Just for Paper Anymore
MIT News (04/27/11) Anne Trafton
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, led by professor Mark Bathe, have developed CanDo, software that makes it easier to predict the three-dimensional shape that will result when DNA strands are folded over on themselves. "In order to make this technology for nanoassembly available to the broader community--including biologists, chemists, and materials scientists without expertise in the DNA origami technique--the computational tool needs to be fully automated, with a minimum of human input or intervention," Bathe says. CanDo interfaces with software developed by Harvard University's William Shih, which enables users to manually create scaffolded DNA origami from a two-dimensional layout. CanDo should enable all DNA origami researchers to test their DNA structures more thoroughly, says California Institute of Technology's Paul Rothemund. The software could be used to develop a DNA carrier, which transports drugs to specific destinations in the body where the carrier would release the cargo. "Once you have an automated computational tool that allows you to design complex shapes in a precise way, I think we're in a much better position to exploit this technology for interesting applications," Bathe says.
CEOs Urge States to Raise Public School Math and Science Standards
Diverse Education (04/22/11) Jamaal Abdul-Alim
Change the Equation, a newly created organization of CEOs, seeks to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education through focused philanthropy and advocacy. The organization recently released a series of STEM Vital Signs reports, which aim to show how states can improve math and science education standards. The reports highlight math and science assessments on a state-by-state basis and track how well the scores match up with the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD's) Programme for International Student Assessment recently ranked U.S. 15-year-olds 13th in science literacy and 18th in mathematics out of the 34 OECD countries. Change the Equation recommends finding math and science teachers that have mastered their subjects, and relaxing teacher licensing requirements so that accomplished individuals from STEM fields can teach math and science. Change the Equation's Craig Barrett says CEOs are tired of the lack of progress on improving science and math education, which he says is vital to remaining competitive in technological innovation.
App-Specific Processors to Fight Dark Silicon
Technology Review (04/28/11) Tom Simonite
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers working on the GreenDroid project have developed software that scans the Android operating system and its most popular applications to create a processor design tailored to their needs. The software can be 11 times more efficient than conventional smartphone chips, say UCSD's Michael Taylor and Steven Swanson. Chip designs for mobile devices need retooling for two reasons, according to Taylor. "One is to improve their use of the limited energy available to a phone, and the other is to attack a problem called dark silicon, which is set to make conventional chip designs even less efficient," he says. The software will make it easier to incorporate dark silicon, which is expected to become necessary to create smaller and faster chips. The GreenDroid design surrounds a processor's main core with 120 smaller ones that manage a piece of code that is frequently used by applications. "If you fill the chip with highly specialized cores, then the fraction of the chip that is lit up at one time can be the most energy efficient for that particular task," Taylor says. The researchers also developed software that automatically translates source code into processor cores.
Open Source Group Seeks Support From Higher Ed for Mobile Initiative
Campus Technology (04/25/11) David Nagel
Jasig, a worldwide consortium of higher education institutions and commercial organizations formed to promote the educational use of open source software, recently launched the uMobile project to develop portal-like functionality for mobile devices. The uMobile project will be built on uPortal, an open source enterprise system developed by Jasig that provides a framework for building portals with standards-based integration, single login, and customization. UMobile will use the uPortal framework to provide campus maps, directories, RSS feeds, calendars, course schedules, and campus news. Jasig is "requesting the participation of colleges and universities as contributing stakeholders or early adopters in incubating this new open source project," according to a recent announcement. "UMobile will boast technologies and development tools for authentication and authorization, user and group management, and layout management capabilities."
Digital Legacy: The Fate of Your Online Soul
New Scientist (04/23/11) Sumit Paul-Choudhury
People generate digital legacies for themselves on a daily basis when they document details of their everyday lives online. This trend is likely to spark a struggle between two schools of thought--preservationists who believe in maintaining such records as a service to future descendants, and deletionists who think such records should be ephemeral. Amateur preservationists are leading a movement to ensure the persistence of digital legacies, which are threatened with loss as the technology used to archive the information becomes outdated, or the companies hosting the information go out of business or decide to terminate the service for financial reasons. Aiding preservationists' agenda is the emergence of social networking services that enable users to organize their data while also maintaining control over it. One of the deletionists' arguments for not preserving personal details online is the possibility of the Web being inundated with dead data, and advocates for digital forgetfulness suggest that files should be assigned expiration dates, or be designed to disappear after a certain point.
DARPA Launches Translation Software Initiative
InformationWeek (04/26/11) Elizabeth Montalbano
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals for new technology that will enable the U.S. military to translate various dialects of Arabic and Mandarin Chinese and accurately decipher intelligence and communications data in voice, video, and print. As part of the Broad Operational Language Translation (BOLT) program, DARPA also wants to develop machine-translation software that will enable military personnel to translate face-to-face conversations in real time. Part of the BOLT program will evolve the agency's Spoken Language Communication and Translation System for Tactical Use, a tool that translates short phrases for spontaneous two-way communication. Other goals for BOLT include the capability to retrieve information from a variety of multilingual sources using natural language English queries, and to research both deep semantic language acquisition and basic technologies such as parsing and language modeling. The three technical areas involve developing algorithms and integrated systems to support translation, data collection, and evaluating the solution. Each phase will last about 12 months.
NSF Puts Supercomputing Power Into Japan Quake Recovery
Government Computer News (04/26/11) William Jackson
The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is using its Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program to provide emergency one-year grants of about $50,000 for research on the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. The grants could include processing time on NSF's high-performance TeraGrid distributed computing platform. The TeraGrid community of researchers has already made computing and storage resources available to Japanese colleagues who lost infrastructure in the disaster. TeraGrid's Barry Schneider says that although the amount of resources that are going to flow out will have no impact on U.S. researchers, it could have a big impact for Japanese researchers. "I think this is going to be a long-term issue for the Japanese," Schneider says. TeraGrid's distributed nature allows its resources to be available to affected Japanese programs, helping to create models to predict the distribution of radioactivity.
Diamonds Shine in Quantum Networks
University of Calgary (04/26/11) Leanne Yohemas
University of Calgary researchers, in collaboration with Hewlett-Packard (HP) Labs, have developed a method to use impurities in diamonds to create a node in a quantum network. The researchers say the breakthrough could lead to more powerful and secure networks, as well as create powerful new platforms for applications in biology. The impurity, which is made up of a nitrogen atom and a vacancy in an otherwise perfect diamond lattice, has quantum properties that can be used in different applications. The researchers created photonic microring resonators on diamond chips. The microrings are designed to efficiently channel light between diamond impurities, which act as nodes and can connect to quantum impurities in other locations on the chip. The research "involves many of the same concepts being pushed by companies such as HP, IBM, and Intel who are beginning to integrate photonics with computer hardware to increase performance and reduce the major problem of heat generation," says Calgary's Paul Barclay.
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