Welcome to the January 27, 2012 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
SOPA's Big Brother Signed by EU Nations Amid Widespread Protests
IDG News Service (01/26/12) Jennifer Baker
The European Union (EU) recently signed the controversial Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) despite widespread opposition. The worldwide agreement aims to enforce intellectual property rights and fight online piracy and illegal software. However, ACTA's opponents claim it goes beyond the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act because it encourages Internet service providers to police the Internet without any legal safeguards. The most controversial part of ACTA allows countries to introduce a three-strikes rule, which would require Internet users to be cut off if they continue to download copyright material after receiving two warnings. The agreement still must pass through the European Union's ratification procedure and digital rights groups are pushing for the European Parliament to reject it. ACTA has been controversial from the start due to secrecy imposed by the U.S. and data privacy issues. Opposition to the agreement already has broken out in Poland, where more than 10,000 people took to the streets in protest, and the Polish branch of the Anonymous hacktivist group attacked government Web sites. ACTA already has been signed by the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Stanford Software Allows Aero-Engineering Students to Focus on Aircraft Design Instead of Computer Code
Stanford Report (CA) (01/24/12) Andrew Myers
Stanford University researchers have developed Stanford University Unstructured (SU2), an open source computational fluid dynamics application that models the effects of fluids moving over aerodynamic components. The researchers say SU2 incorporates everything engineers need to develop a complete design loop for optimizing the shapes of aerospace systems. The software was designed as an alternative to commercial programs, which offer similar capabilities but can be prohibitively expensive. "The commercially available software is out of reach for most students, and does not allow for modifications to the source code that are needed for doctoral-level research," says Stanford's Francisco Palacios, who led the SU2 development team. SU2 is a freely customizable program, and developers, designers, and engineers are encouraged to customize it to fit their needs. "We welcome corrections, additions, and improvements to our application," Palacios says. Documentation and training also are available via Stanford's Aerospace Design Lab Web site, which includes a public forum where users and developers can seek advice and post questions.
Big Victory on Internet Buoys Lobby
New York Times (01/26/12) Somini Sengupta
The recent successful protest movement by both consumer groups and companies to defeat antipiracy legislation in Congress lends credence to the possibility that the Internet industry and politically active Web users are a force to be reckoned with. It is highly unlikely that corporate lobbying by itself could have influenced political opinion in Washington, D.C. about the antipiracy bills. "It's the first emergence of a broad-based Internet community that brings together not only tech giants and the users, but all the young innovators and investors," notes Center for Democracy and Technology president Leslie Harris. Debate is brewing online over what issues the movement should focus on next. For example, some activists want to block legislation that would force Internet providers to retain data on users' online travels. "No one can predict what will catch on," says Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. "If [the Stop Online Piracy Act] and [the Protect Intellectual Property Act] are any indication, if it's something that threatens the Internet, I believe we can recreate this." New America Foundation fellow Rebecca MacKinnon says the protest movements signaled that the Internet as well as digital rights and liberties are clearly perceived by many people as political freedoms.
DMCA Jailbreaking Provisions Up for Renewal, Possible Expansion
BYTE (01/26/12) Serdar Yegulalp
An important part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which allows users to circumvent protections on smartphones, will expire later this year. However, if the U.S. Congress renews the DMCA, circumvention could be broadened to cover other devices as well. The U.S. government granted an exception to the DMCA for jailbreaking in 2010, after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other groups petitioned for one. The EFF stated that jailbreaking was a form of fair use under U.S. copyright law, and the U.S. Library of Congress agreed. However, Apple says jailbreaking results in copyright infringement because it allows pirated copies of Apple copyrighted content and other third-party content such as games and applications to play on the iPhone. A circumvention expansion would allow the DMCA exception to cover personal computers protected by a UEFI secure-boot system. However, Apple argues that increased jailbreaking would make it easier for either facet of the devices to be compromised. The EFF is soliciting people to speak up in favor of the jailbreaking exemption, as is the Software Freedom Law Center.
Patent Office Expands Outreach for Innovation Honors
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is working to build on the diversity of last year's honorees for the U.S.'s highest award for technological achievement. For the 2012 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, USPTO is expanding its nationwide call for nominees. In 2011, honorees were awarded the medal for a wide variety of achievements. "We want to honor this nation's creative geniuses," says USPTO's Richard Maulsby. "This medal goes to innovators whose talent helps guarantee U.S. leadership in technology across the board." The congressionally authorized medal highlights the national importance of technological innovation to inspire people to pursue technical careers and keep the United States at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership. “There are thousands of U.S. inventors who have produced great ideas," Maulsby says. "This is an opportunity to recognize them and showcase their work.” Detailed information on the requirements for submitting a nomination is available for download at www.uspto.gov/about/nmti/guidelines.jsp. Completed nominations must be submitted to USPTO by March 31.
Contest Aims to Inspire Students to Create Healthcare Apps
Healthcare IT News (01/25/12) Bernie Monegain
The Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering have launched the Go Viral to Improve Health contest, a competition to spur undergraduate and graduate students to create health-related applications. The contest is the second annual collegiate challenge designed to inspire students to work in interdisciplinary teams and transform health data into mobile apps, online tools or games, or other innovative products that solve health problems. The team that designs the best application will receive a $10,000 prize, and the second and third place teams will receive awards of $5,000 and $3,000, respectively. Entries will be rated on their design, usability, and how well they integrate public health data. Participating teams must have between two and five members, including at least one undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a health-related degree and one undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a degree in computer science, engineering, or a related major. Teams must use data from the Health Indicators Warehouse, a large collection of health data and indicator sets made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
USAID Posts Draft RFA With Emphasis Spanning Analytics
CCC Blog (01/24/12) Erwin Gianchandani
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is calling on universities and research institutions as it looks for novel ways to define and solve developmental challenges. Computing will likely play a key role for a new program that seeks "to advance evidence-based analysis and test new solutions, to champion and incubate creative approaches to accelerate solutions to traditional development challenges, and to encourage universities to assist in addressing development problems through sustainable, creative, multidisciplinary approaches," according to a draft request for applications. The program will fund new development centers that will address USAID's need for development data and analysis, as well as test and scale new models and technologies for development. The initiative also will engage new solvers, incentivize new solutions, and foster new approaches for development. The agency will fund single-university centers, at $1 million to $2 million annually for five years, and will fund consortia centers comprising three to four academic institutions and including developing country partners, at $5 million annually for five years.
Computer Coding: Not for Geeks Only
Bloomberg Business Week (01/26/12) Barrett W. Sheridan; Brendan Greeley
Virtual Projection Team Puts iPhone Writing on the Wall
PhysOrg.com (01/26/12) Nancy Owano
Researchers at the University of Calgary, Columbia University, and the University of Munich have developed Virtual Projection, a method for using a handheld device to project images on a display. The researchers say Virtual Projection is based on tracking a handheld device without an optical projector and allows selecting a target display on which to position, scale, and orient an item in a single gesture. A user holds the phone to the target computer screen while the device's camera captures and compares images from the screen to determine the location. The information is then passed back to the computer screen via Wi-Fi to place the projection on the screen. "While Virtual Projection has the clear downside that it requires a suitable display and does not work on any regular surface, we can at least fix some of the downsides of its real-world mode," says Calgary's Dominikus Baur. The Virtual Projection system consists of an unmodified iPhone, a server that runs on a Windows PC, and a Wi-Fi connection. The researchers say Virtual Projection could provide a pervasive, everyday opportunity for communication.
IT Salaries Rising for Experienced Employees: Dice Report
eWeek (01/24/12) Nathan Eddy
Technology professionals enjoyed their largest annual salary growth since 2008, according to Dice's 2012-2011 Salary Survey. Technology professionals on average received salary increases of more than 1 percent, raising their average annual earnings from $79,384 in 2010 to $81,327 in 2011. In addition, the average bonuses were up 8 percent to $8,769, and the number of technology professionals receiving bonuses was up 32 percent in 2011. The industries most likely to pay out bonuses were telecommunications, hardware, banking, utilities and energy, and software. Silicon Valley’s annual salary of $104,195 was the highest in the United States, and was 5 percent year over year. However, the Dice survey also found that 12 of the top 20 cities for technology jobs had above average wage growth. "Compensation has mustered some momentum, as more and more top tech markets are notching increases in pay," says Dice's Tom Silver. "Silicon Valley’s compensation moved first and wrote the playbook for highly qualified tech professionals to ask for more--whether that be in Seattle, Houston, or Raleigh." For example, Dice found that average salaries were up 5 percent in Chicago and Seattle, and they were up 4 percent in Denver and Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Ten Technologies That Will Shake the CE World
EE Times (01/24/12)
Ten technologies showcased at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) could alter the industry's landscape in 2012. In 2012 mobile device makers will begin integrating complete inertial navigation units with pre-calibrated accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers. Meanwhile, graphics processing unit-based computing will get a boost from system- and software-level support due to the addition of application programming interfaces, as well as parallel-capable programming languages such as CUDA, DirectX compute, and OpenCL. CES also highlighted the importance of Google Android, which likely will be the software platform that enables many of the most interesting and diverse devices to emerge in the next decade. Windows 8, the first version of Microsoft's operating system to support both ARM and X86 processors, also will have a big impact. In addition, companies such as Microsoft, Texas Instruments, and FlashScan3D are developing touch-free human-machine interfaces, building on the success of other interfaces such as the Xbox Kinect. Other promising technologies include talkative intelligent agents, such as Apple's cloud-based Siri, which can answer questions in a naturally conversational way and could make search engines obsolete.
Lenovo to Launch App Programming Class
U.S. News & World Report (01/24/12) Jason Koebler
Lenovo is collaborating with the National Academy Foundation to teach teens how to design, program, and market their own Android apps. Lenovo and the foundation will offer an app programming class in five U.S. high schools in the spring, and expand the pilot program to 70 schools nationwide in the fall. Students will be required to take an introductory programming course before they are admitted into the 12-week program. Participants will work in small groups, use the standard Android developer toolkit to create their own app, and eventually release their app on the Android market. "We want to make sure they have a good experience doing something that is potentially marketable at the end of the course," says Lenovo's Michael Schmedlen. "We want students to be prepared for the future." A Lenovo survey found that 80 percent of teens are interested in learning how to create apps, and nearly 25 percent believe app development will be the most marketable technology skill in the future. The program will make the curriculum, materials, and lectures available free online for teachers who want to emulate the class.
Could the Internet Ever Be Destroyed?
Scientific American (01/12) Natalie Wolchover
There are many aspects of the Internet that are under threat of loss or ruination. Although the Net can survive and recover from in-country physical damage, it is possible that one country could hinder another's access to its share of the Internet via severance of the cables that relay data between nations, warns Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) computer scientist David Clark. More potentially harmful to the Web's status quo existence than physical damage is government suppression or censorship, although experts such as Clark and MIT economist William Lehr note that workarounds to such blockage will inevitably surface, as the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt demonstrated. In fact, such developments have sparked an Internet arms race, and Lehr points out that "the tools for fighting the war are mostly defensive, but also can be offensive." Imposing a tax on Internet access or raising the price of access so most people cannot afford it is an even more subversive measure that governments could apply toward crippling Web use. Lehr also warns that the openness of the Internet could be lost or greatly reduced through poor regulation, and he says new security models should be developed to ensure privacy and security without impeding the Web's functionality.
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