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Welcome to the May 15, 2013 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE


Demand for IT Grads Is Driving Up Supply, Study Finds
NextGov.com (05/14/13) Brittany Ballenstedt

The high demand for information technology (IT) professionals is driving up the number of college students pursuing IT-related degrees, according to a Dice.com report, which says the number of IT-related bachelor degrees and associate's degrees rose nine percent and 16 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2011. The report also says the number of associate's degrees increased 36 percent over the past four years. "As the growing demand for tech workers meets a growing supply--a higher number of new two-year and four-year graduates entering the workforce--the result may well be more competitive pressure for job applicants and a tougher fight among the best and brightest for coveted jobs on the enterprise side of the tech world," the report notes. One major trend in IT-related degrees is an increasing emphasis on two-year degrees, as 19 states in 2010 and 2011 conferred more two-year degrees than bachelor's degrees. "Ask the leaders of top-drawer institutions, the mid-majors, and community colleges about creating [return on investment] for students, and they all talk about creating a range of payoffs for their graduates--empowering their passions, giving them current, saleable skills, and helping them navigate the pathway to fulfilling employment," the report says.


Multimillion Pound Project to Develop Next Generation Computing Systems
University of Manchester (05/14/13) Aeron Haworth

Researchers at the universities of Southampton, Imperial College, Manchester, and Newcastle are collaborating on the Power-efficient, Reliable, Many-core Embedded systems (PRIME) project, which aims to design an energy-efficient and dependable embedded system with many-core processors. "Our vision is to enable the sustainability of many-core systems by preventing the uncontrolled increase in energy consumption and unreliability through a step-change in design methods and cross-layer system optimization" says Southampton professor Bashir Al-Hashimi. A key aspect of the PRIME project is the close connection and interplay between cutting-edge research and the involvement of industry to identify and translate technology results from the program into commercial successes. "To maximize impact, suitable industrial and knowledge-transfer collaborators have been carefully identified that are best placed to influence and exploit the research," Al-Hashimi says. The project's participants say PRIME also will help create new researchers and leaders by exposing investigators, research fellows, and Ph.D. students to a highly stimulating environment.


Microsoft, IT Industry Push Software Security Standard
eWeek (05/14/13) Robert Lemos

The Software Assurance Forum for Excellence in Code (SAFECode) is supporting two initiatives that aim to make the process of developing secure software more attainable to smaller software makers. Meanwhile, Microsoft announced its support for ISO 27034, an international standard that defines how to structure secure software development programs. Microsoft's Tim Rains says the moves highlight the need for developers to start designing security into their products from the beginning. The ISO 27034 standard provides organizations with a foundation for setting security requirements for the purchase of software. "This is a standard focused on software development, and the first one of its kind to focus on processes and frameworks really needed to develop a comprehensive software security program around development," Smith says. SAFECode has released six training modules that introduce programmers and project managers to secure development practices, and forthcoming modules will offer more advanced instruction. "Having some manager folks--who may not be developers but help manage the groups--understand that this is not something that you build on later, but a necessity that you build in from the outset, is important," says SAFECode director Howard Schmidt.


Corporations, NSF Team Up to Improve STEM Retention Rates
Science Insider (05/13/13) Jeffrey Mervis

The U.S. National Science Foundation recently announced the Graduate 10K+ initiative, which includes $10 million in grants to nine university-based projects designed to lower dropout rates among minorities, women, and low-income students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The initiative is being funded by Intel and General Electric. The new effort, which is part of a broader push by the Obama administration for the private sector to supplement federal activities, is the result of a now-defunct federal task force launched in 2011 to improve U.S. competitiveness. The initiative is supporting a collaborative effort by the University of Washington and Washington State University to provide new students with an extra year of math and other basic courses before they proceed with a more advanced curriculum. It also is supporting a California State University, Monterey Bay (CSU-MB) effort to help students make the transition to a bachelor's degree in computer science. "Part of the problem of attracting students into computer science is that they have no experience with computational thinking and abstraction," says CSU's Sathya Narayanan. "Most of them have never taken a real computer science course."


'Winners-Take-Some' Markets for Electronic Products Are Increasingly Common
University of Pittsburgh News (05/08/13) Adam Reger

Digital converters are reducing the risk of choosing formats that become obsolete, according to an article published in this month’s issue of Communications of the ACM. The paper's authors include the University of Pittsburgh’s Chris F. Kemerer, Carnegie Mellon University's Michael D. Smith, and the University of Texas, San Antonio's Charles Z. Liu. The findings are based on research showing that digital product rivalries no longer end with clear winners, and that a shift away from the standards wars of the past is taking place. Although markets have traditionally moved toward a single dominant standard, today's digital markets are moving toward a “winners take some” model instead of “winner takes all," as digital converters accept multiple formats and enable technologies to coexist. For example, Amazon’s Kindle books are compatible with iPads and iPhones, and flash memory cards are interchangeable among digital cameras, mobile phones, and audio players, underscoring the impact of digital converters on the marketplace. This compatibility enables consumers to seek product features, functionality, and design without concern over compatibility, and companies can benefit from cross-licensing products to expand their markets. “Managers should prepare to seize related opportunities rather than fight the last war,” the report says.


How to Mine Cellphone Data Without Invading Your Privacy
Technology Review (05/13/13) David Talbot

Researchers at AT&T, and Rutgers, Princeton, and Loyola universities have found a way to eliminate personally identifiable information in cellphone data, which could significantly improve data-mining potential by removing privacy concerns. The team used billions of AT&T phone call and text-message location data points to make a mobility model of Los Angeles and New York City. The model aggregates the data, generates synthetic call records, and mathematically conceals personally identifiable data. The model can quickly forecast the impact of new developments or telecommuting policies on transportation, says Princeton's Margaret Martonosi. In addition, the model could aid in town-level planning in which minimal mobility data exists, with planners now limited to road sensors and the handful of people who allow the use of their GPS position data. Call detail records (CDRs) are created by all phones and kept by mobile carriers, providing approximate user locations that can create an accurate trace of user movements over time. By offering an unprecedented picture of population movement patterns, aggregated CDRs could advance epidemiology research, ease traffic congestion, and guide development in developing countries. Eliminating privacy concerns removes the most significant barrier to using CDRs for research.


New Model to Recommend Media Content According to Your Preferences
Technical University of Madrid (Spain) (05/13/13)

Technical University of Madrid (UPM) researchers have developed a model that can recommend audiovisual content to users based on their media consumption and data from their images and videos. The model's recommendations can be produced without prompting the user and without interfering with them when they are watching other content. The UPM researchers analyzed the audiovisual features that can be influential for users, and found that some of them can be decisive when defining their tastes. The researchers used a database of more than 70,000 users and 1 million reviews in a set of 200 movies whose features were previously extracted. The researchers found that consumption data is more reliable than data from explicit ratings because they used objective measures, which enabled them to remove social and cultural conditioning. Once a user's preferences and the nature of content are established, the system can generate new recommendations by analyzing this data. The researchers note the system's recommendation algorithm culls information that users are not aware they know, and is able to determine a special aesthetic affinity with specific audiovisual contents.


Future of Free, Open Online College Classes Uncertain
Investors.com (05/10/13) Gillian Rich

Although an increasing number of colleges are offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) that allow anyone to participate, new questions are emerging about whether the courses should offer credits. The California state senate is considering a bill that would require public colleges and universities to accept credits from other schools, including MOOCs, in an effort to address overcrowding so severe that many students cannot enroll in introductory courses. The legislation could lead other states to follow suit, says Wells Fargo analyst Trace Urdan. Thus far, universities that operate for profit have been more willing than traditional universities to accept credits from online classes as a means of boosting revenue. Meanwhile, business models are in the nascent stages for MOOCs, which can make money by charging students for completion certificates, forming partnerships with businesses to recruit new hires, and licensing course content to other institutions, says the Gates Foundation's Josh Jarrett. Traditional nonprofit colleges do not have to answer to shareholders, but some alumni, students, and professors are concerned that the acceptance of free MOOC credits will devalue their reputation. Urdan says MOOC acceptance could happen more rapidly outside the United States.


Google Search Scratches Its Brain 500 Million Times a Day
CNet (05/13/13) Dan Farber

Google processes about 100 billion search requests a month, and about 15 percent of them take longer to process because the request is totally new to its search engine. Google crawls 20 billion websites each day to search for new data in an attempt to know more, and the Knowledge Graph is a key part of this effort. The Knowledge Graph is similar to the human brain in that it is a vast database that understands entities such as topics, people, and events, and the connections between them. The Knowledge Graph has more than 570 million entities and 18 billion facts about its connections. Because it can parse the meaning of a new query, the Knowledge Graph delivers more precise results than traditional search. For example, if a user searches for "the best place to see the kings," the Knowledge Graph could determine which "kings," such as the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, based on the profile of the user and other contextual information. However, the Knowledge Graph's actual knowledge still pales in comparison to the human brain. "Knowledge Graph has good coverage of people, places, things, and events, but there is plenty it doesn't know about," says Google's John Giannandrea. "We are at 1 percent."


When Cars Talk, This Is What They'll Tell Each Other
Computerworld (05/10/13) Lucas Mearian

Researchers at National Taiwan University and Intel are working on machine-to-machine connectivity between vehicles as a way to make roads more predictable and safe. The researchers are giving Internet Protocol addresses to all vehicles, which enables them to be instantly identifiable to nearby cars on the same network. The researchers also note that this type of system could use global positioning system signals to know other drivers' intentions and destinations. "I could [upload] my route to the cloud and, for example, let cars around me know I'll be on route 101 for the next 10 minutes, and then I'm going to exit," says Intel researcher Jennifer Healey. A sufficiently large cloud infrastructure also could support the addition of driver histories, enabling cars to adjust their distance based on the safety records of other drivers. "We're even imagining in the future cars would be able to ask other cars, 'Hey, can I cut into your lane?'" Healey says. "Then the other car would let you in." However, wireless communications vary by region, so although the system might work well in an urban setting, it might be more problematic in a rural area.


Floating Funding to Exascale Island
HPC Wire (05/09/13) Nicole Hemsoth

Japan has formally entered the exascale computer race. According to reports, the Japanese government plans to request funding for the first design phases of a replacement for its previous K Computer efforts. The funding request is expected to pay dividends by next year if approved. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology is not aiming much higher than other nations, considering one Japanese news outlet reported the cost would be about the same as K development, which is about $1.1 billion and would be a bargain compared to projects in India and the United States. Japan also is setting its exascale ambitions on the same 2020 target that is being pursued by other nations. At this point, the investment would fund the conceptual design phase in the country. Details about the partner institutions and the companies behind the research are still pending.


What the Obama Campaign's Chief Data Scientist Is Up to Now
The Atlantic (05/08/13) Alexis C. Madrigal

The chief data scientist of President Barack Obama's reelection campaign is headed to the University of Chicago to bring sophisticated data analysis to difficult problems. Rayid Ghani will work with the Computation Institute and the Harris School of Public Policy, and serve as the chief data scientist for the Urban Center for Computation and Data. Ghani says he got involved with the Obama campaign because he cares about societal problems and wants to improve lives. He says the move to the University of Chicago gives him another opportunity to have an impact beyond the corporate world. Ghani is running the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellowship, which pairs up to 40 computer science fellows from around the country with nonprofits who have data problems, such as identifying promising students who could use some assistance with the college admissions process. "You've got students with very high potential who are at risk of not applying to college or who apply to much worse colleges than they could get into," Ghani says. "You want to be able to look at students and see who is at risk of this behavior."


iPlant: It's Not Just for Plants Anymore!
University of Texas at Austin (05/08/13) James Koltes; Eric Fritz; Matt Vaughn; et al.

The U.S. National Science Foundation in 2008 launched its iPlant Collaborative to serve as a cyberinfrastructure for the plant sciences community to solve significant biological challenges. The project aims to create and provide tools that will help biologists leverage increasing data sets and new computational techniques. In addition, iPlant serves the animal agricultural community with iAnimal, a portal supported by iPlant cyberinfrastructure that offers computing resources to enable previously impossible analyses. In 2012, Iowa State University Reecy Lab researchers joined iPlant to test iAnimal using large data sets from the 1000 Bull Genomes Consortium and Buffalo Genome Consortium. The 1000 Bull Genome project collects sequence data from collaborators worldwide to identify the most biologically- and economically-viable DNA variants for molecular breeding programs and research. To enable researchers to progress rapidly from raw DNA sequence to DNA variants, Iowa State teamed with iPlant partner site Texas Advanced Computing Center to create software that enables sequence data to be processed in eight to 10 hours on high-performance computing systems, down from the three weeks required previously. The Buffalo Genome Consortium needed a genotyping platform for genetic diversity and molecular-breeding research and used iAnimal to identify 13.8 million buffalo specific variants across four water buffalo breeds.


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