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Timely Topics for IT Professionals

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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either HP or ACM.

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Volume 5, Issue 561:  Wednesday, October 22, 2003

  • "Congress Looks for Ways to Slow Offshore Hiring"
    IDG News Service (10/20/03); Gross, Grant

    Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, argued at a Oct. 20 congressional hearing that the U.S. government's continued purchase of foreign products will only perpetuate the offshoring of American jobs. "If the American people see how the U.S. government is using their taxpayers' dollars to destroy jobs here at home, what type of example does that set?" he inquired. To avoid this, Manzullo contended, Congress should make the purchase of American products a requirement for government agencies; he also recommended that Congress pass a corporate tax reduction to limit the outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs. The hearing placed particular emphasis on the offshoring of IT jobs, although Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller said both the media and the government have exaggerated the scope of the problem: He said that only about 5 percent of U.S. IT jobs will migrate overseas by 2015. "I don't want to diminish the angst felt by IT workers who have lost their jobs or are in fear of losing their jobs...but I also believe we cannot overreact to what, up until now, has been a short-term situation," Miller insisted. He also warned that if the United States institutes trade policies that frown on offshore hiring and outsourcing, outsourcing countries could be discouraged from buying U.S. products. Laid-off Palm employee Natasha Humphries testified at the hearing that the economic recovery period will only be protracted if offshoring continues unabated, and asserted that the chief reason U.S. companies are outsourcing is to cut costs by hiring foreign labor willing to work for less than their domestic counterparts. Meanwhile, Ronil Hira of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers urged that companies intending to outsource jobs should have the foresight to notify employees and the government in advance.
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  • "Balancing Utility With Privacy"
    Wired News (10/21/03); Baard, Mark

    Privacy proponents are concerned that technologies that are being more and more deeply embedded in people's everyday lives--ostensibly to improve the quality of life--could be employed by governments and enterprises as tools to monitor people without their consent. One such technology is ubiquitous computing systems, in which tiny sensors and transmitters are distributed practically everywhere to support wireless ad hoc networks for a multitude of services; designers of such systems acknowledge that the technology could be vulnerable to abuse. The recent UbiComp conference in Seattle was a focus for such concerns: An anonymous engineer there admitted, "The more awareness you have in the system, the less privacy you're going to have." Another UbiComp attendee, Carleton University sociologist Anne Galloway, posed that ubiquitous computing systems, with their promised ability to record and store virtually any human act, could furnish an archive of embarrassing or objectionable behavior. UbiComp systems designers expressed confidence that they will be able to uphold the privacy of their users' personal information by enlisting specialists in a wide spectrum of disciplines to co-develop their systems. Researchers and engineers attending UbiComp noted that people desire to have control over the amount and kind of data collected by ubiquitous computing systems, and this control was demonstrated--or promised--by projects showcased at the conference. University of Calgary scientists unveiled a system that enables telecommuters to blot out family members when they enter a home office in view of the camera, avoiding potentially embarrassing or privacy-infringing situations. Other developers are restricting their ubiquitous computing applications to art installations, hoping to evade privacy concerns for the moment.
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  • "The Web: Search Engines Still Evolving"
    United Press International (10/21/03); Koprowski, Gene J.

    The biggest problem with search engines is that they are not context-aware, which is why sometimes a search for a relatively simple subject can yield a massive volume of information on many unrelated topics. Solving this problem is the focus of computer scientists worldwide, who are pursuing potential solutions with the financial backing of government agencies as well as private investors. One context-aware solution under development is the Semantic Web, which combines artificial intelligence, new computer languages, heuristics, and statistical mathematics to enable users to carry out searches using more natural language queries. The project includes the participation of companies such as Sun Microsystems and IBM. LiveWire Logic Chairman James Lester notes that computers could be allowed to understand individual documents through agreed-upon encoding. Making online documents more machine-readable could make the Web more user-friendly: ClearForest, for instance, develops software "tags" that can be incorporated into information on a computer so that it is clearly recognizable to other systems. Such tools are being employed by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department to sift through old file systems, intranets, and computer hard disks to narrow intelligence searches. Meanwhile, the World Wide Web Consortium is promoting search technology such as Resource Definition Framework, which Metatomix's Karen Cummings notes is helping public health agencies track epidemiological information from different sources. Experts believe context-aware searching will yield tremendous benefits for health, bioinformatics, and regular consumers; the refined search engine paradigm will enable technology companies to offer new services, according to Lester.
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  • "Open-Source Audio in a Proprietary World"
    Linux Insider (10/21/03); Halperin, David

    Open-source audio standards face a list of entrenched standards such as MP3 and Windows Media Audio (WMA); new standards continue to emerge as well, such as the MPEG-4 standard, which is used by Apple's iTunes music store and includes Dolby-developed Advanced Audio Coding technology. Encoding digital audio files is a challenging task since just one minute of CD quality stereo sound takes up 10.5 MB. The first successful compression standard was MPEG-1 Layer III developed in 1992 using work that had begun even earlier in 1987 at the Fraunhofer Institut Integrierte Schaltungen in Germany. The later work became known as MP3 and helped spawn the online file-sharing phenomenon that now sees an estimated 1 billion music tracks downloaded each month. A number of open-source alternatives to mainstream codecs are available, including LAME, Monkey's Audio, and Exact Audio Copy. International Data senior analyst Susan Kevorkian says the open-source audio codec Ogg Vorbis stands to gain from MP3 player makers and chip firms that want to differentiate their products by offering more choices, and the key is the number of users and amount of music available for open-source audio standards. Although the quality of music compression standards depends on the listener, technical considerations include backward compatibility and third-party manufacturer support, as well as digital rights management (DRM). Kevorkian says many open-source developers shun DRM while music labels are promoting standards that offer more control, such as WMA, while one DRM scheme in testing includes protected normal CD files accompanied by WMA files that can be stored on a computer but not shared over the Internet.
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  • "Are IT Salaries Stuck in Neutral?"
    NewsFactor Network (10/16/03); Ryan, Vincent

    The soft economy has discouraged many IT professionals looking forward to an early retirement or higher salaries to leave or pursue other work, as job security currently has greater priority than more compensation; Janco Associates CEO Victor Janulaitus says IT workers currently have few options when it comes to raising their wages, and a survey of 6,000 IT workers from Brainbench indicates that about 42 percent of respondents expect no increases this year. Still, there are higher levels of pay to be found for creative workers: Brainbench CEO Mike Russiello notes that IT professionals can get more compensation by boosting their business knowledge and expanding their skills into such fields as modeling, systems analysis, capacity planning, and enterprise architecture. He cautions, however, that companies tend to place a greater value on experience rather than certification, and recommends that IT employees outline a personal study program and dedicate a reasonable amount of time to learn new technologies and gain new competencies. Once an IT worker has successfully attained new skills, he must ask his boss for the opportunity to apply those skills in the workplace. Russiello lists C++, Java, and VisualBasic as highly sought-after programming skills, and adds that knowledge of XML is becoming a requirement; administrators looking to elevate their salaries would do well to expand their skillsets to include .NET and Windows 2000. Meanwhile, Jeff Markham of Robert Half Technology reports that network security, database infrastructure, and enterprise resource planning are hot areas of expertise, though he points out that companies are seeking very particular skillsets, as well as workers who demonstrate that they have used technology to lower corporate costs and boost the bottom line. The Brainbench study indicates that small enterprises of $5 million or less and large firms of $5 billion or more often offer more cash and stock-option bonuses, but the survey also notes a significant salary disparity between male and female IT professionals.
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  • "Students Network at ACM Conference"
    Daily Illini (10/20/03); Berrigan, Dan

    The University of Illinois hosted the ninth annual Reflections/Projections Student Computing Conference last weekend. Sponsored by the ACM, the computer conference featured guest lectures, a job fair for computer science students, and a programming and brainteaser contest. Former ACM President Barbara Simons gave the keynote address, focusing on the problems often linked with computerized and Internet voting. Simons suggested that computerized and Internet voting could be improved by embracing a process that makes use of paper and computerized machines, similar to the way in which multiple-choice tests are administered at the university. Having voters fill in bubbles is less susceptible to tampering than computer files because such an approach would produce a hard copy of the vote count. Computer security was another topic of discussion at the conference. The programming contest, "Mechmania IX," had contestants write a program in C++ for maneuvering a robot around a map to collect money and destroy other competitors. The winning team, "Nine CIA Ham Men," used the divide-and-conquer strategy--splitting their program into simple, specialized parts--to top the 14-contestant, double-elimination field.
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    Simons is the co-chair of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee. To read more about ACM's activities regarding e-voting and other public policy issues, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "A New Tech Battle Brews in D.C."
    CNet (10/20/03); McCullagh, Declan

    Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Howard Berman (D-Calif.), and John Conyers (D-Mich.) have drafted legislation that would impose harsh criminal penalties on companies or individuals who offer software for download that fails to include a warning that such products could constitute "a security and privacy risk." Declan McCullagh contends that the bill would cover secure, risk-free software, and would force Microsoft, Yahoo!, open-source sites such as SourceForge, and CNET's Download.com to comply, should their editors and executives wish to avoid jail time. Smith serves as chairman of the subcommittee that manages copyright laws, which gives him the clout to push such legislation into law, and aides say the Texas representative plans to hold a vote on the proposal soon. Digital Media Association director Jonathan Potter says his organization wrote to and met with the representatives to make them aware that member companies are worried that the bill's anti-peer-to-peer (P2P) provision is too broad. McCullagh doubts that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has frequently targeted P2P providers in an effort to stamp out digital music piracy, is the driving force behind Smith, Berman, and Conyers' efforts, noting that RIAA senior VP Mitch Glazier considers the current bill to be excessive. This leaves the Motion Picture Association of America as the likely chief supporter, a suspicion verified by lobbyists. McCullagh writes that this is yet another example of Congress' tendency to overreact to apparent technological difficulties. "Instead of taking a thoughtful, careful approach, clue-impaired Congress critters do things like enact the Communications Decency Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," he argues.
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  • "China's Technological Ambitions Take Flight"
    Los Angeles Times (10/19/03) P. C1; Flanigan, James

    China is fast becoming a world leader in technology, not just in low-cost manufacturing: As evidence, experts point to a rapidly growing economy, strengthened political will, and growing numbers of skilled workers in China. Milken Institute scholar Rob Koepp notes that China graduates 450,000 engineers each year, equal to the number of annual U.S. engineering graduates. Koepp also cites a "reverse brain drain," saying 75 percent of Chinese students who graduate in America are choosing to go back to China because of increased opportunities there, whereas in the past 75 percent would stay in the United States. He says China's goal is to bring the technological center of gravity back east so that it sets standards for the world; for example, the Chinese government is supporting development of a new 3G cell phone standard that will not only cater to 200 million domestic users, but will also be competitive elsewhere. China is also bullish about the next-generation Internet protocol that would give non-Western countries more addressing resources. Koepp has been hired by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Industry to offer advice on building its own technological infrastructure based on the model of Silicon Valley and other U.S. technology hotbeds. Currently, Chinese researchers are still building on technologies developed elsewhere, but fast-rising economic clout is upping its chances of discovering the next big innovation in electronics, biotechnology, or nanotechnology. Stanford University professor Shoucheng Zhang, who also teaches at Beijing's Tsing-hua University, says Chinese government leaders will eventually have to make decisions to protect intellectual property in the same way the West does.
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  • "Low-Cost Supercomputer Put Together From 1,100 PC's"
    New York Times (10/22/03) P. C3; Markoff, John

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute has constructed a supercomputer from 1,100 dual-processor Apple Macintosh PCs in under a month at a cost of approximately $5 million. This achievement is all the more impressive in light of the fact that the machine is poised to be ranked as one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, whereas efforts to build machines of comparable speed have taken years and cost between $100 million to $250 million. "We are demonstrating that you can build a very high performance machine for a fifth to a tenth of the cost of what supercomputers now cost," boasts Hassan Aref, dean of Virginia Tech's School of Engineering. The Virginia Tech supercomputer can calculate at 7.41 trillion operations per second, a speed topped by only three other existing machines. Virginia Tech officials claim that the final speed number, to be released next month at a supercomputer industry gathering, may be even higher. The high ranking is a significant breakthrough for Apple, which has taken a position behind Intel and Advanced Micro Devices for a number of years. More importantly, it is a sign that the supercomputer industry is on the brink of a resurgence. "It shows that the processors are getting to the point where this kind of performance will be quite common," declares University of Tennessee computer scientist Jack Dongarra, who maintains a list of the world's top 500 supercomputers.
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  • "A Tech Veteran's Security Warning"
    PC Magazine (10/16/03); Rupley, Sebastian

    At the 2003 meeting of the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) warned in a keynote speech that the security of the United States could be severely compromised because less attention is being paid to the security of the nation's cyberinfrastructure than its physical infrastructure, explaining that "An open but secure network is the key to a successful economy." EBay CIO Howard Schmidt, former chairman of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, concurred with Putnam, noting that cyberattacks in late 2002 and early 2003 could have been far more serious had they been sustained assaults. He also pointed out that basic utilities such as the power grid and the water supply are vulnerable to Net-based disruption because many digital control devices and Supervisory Control and Data Administration devices are deeply embedded within U.S. network infrastructure. Schmidt blamed network security lapses in the corporate sector chiefly on network intricacy and the failure of many companies to understand the interconnectedness of their systems. He said the major hardware and software vendors must continue to promote security, and saw value in all-in-one solutions that offer automated virus checking, patch monitoring, and other network security measures, as well as Web services that deliver automated vulnerability evaluations. Emergent technologies Schmidt considered as potentially effective blocks against cyberterrorism include Terabeam's Free Space Optics, which allows people to communicate at gigabit speeds over airwaves; 3G phones with short messaging system; instant messaging; and Wireless Priority System, which the Homeland Security Department was looking into. Schmidt expressed a desire to see the implementation of a "security dashboard" that displays the status of patches and system configurations so that operators could be continuously apprised of the state of network security.
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  • "The Stuff of Dreams"
    CNet (10/20/03); Kanellos, Michael

    Carbon nanotubes, whose advantages include superior strength and conductivity, promise to revolutionize many industries, including medicine, automobile production, and defense. But before that promise can be fulfilled, cost and manufacturing issues must be addressed--nanotubes have thus far evaded mass production, and this drawback has made the technology unaffordable for wide applications; in fact, some researchers tout silicon nanowires as an easier choice, at least for chip manufacturers. Most nanotube research focuses on one-dimensional, single-walled nanotubes on which electrons can be channeled without exhibiting leakage, a property that makes the nanotubes more heat-conductive than any other existing material, and capable of carrying light and even energy. Furthermore, the carbon atoms that make up the single-walled nanotubes form solid bonds with one another and self-assemble into stable, hexagonal rings; they also spontaneously fill in the gaps when atoms are removed, a property that could save chipmakers the cost of machines currently used to draw circuits. Stanford chemistry professor Hongjie Dai adds that the nanotubes' bonding property makes the material extremely flexible, and allows defect-free nanotubes to be extended up to four microns. Single-walled nanotubes are expected to show up in 2003 as electrically conductive or durable polymers in cars, while several companies are hoping to use the technology to reduce assembly costs for liquid crystal displays, plasma screens, and TVs within two years. Radar-deflective paint is another expected nanotube application. There are currently two methods to produce carbon nanotubes--laser ablation and the modified gas approach--but both suffer from lingering problems in controlling chirality, which determines whether the nanotubes are semiconducting or metallic (and therefore useless as electronics). Once that challenge is met, researchers will need to develop a workable methodology for positioning nanotubes between specific contacts for chips, and growing nanotubes on wafers is one possible approach.
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  • "German Chatty Bot Is 'Most Human'"
    BBC News (10/20/03); Twist, Jo

    The Jabberwock chatbot earned German programmer Juergen Pirner first place in the Loebner Prize competition when judges ranked it "most human." The Loebner competition pitted eight international finalists against each other to see which program could best convince the judges that it was human, using the Turing Test for machine intelligence as a model. Second place was given to Elbot, whose creator, Fred Roberts, is also based in Germany. Jabberwacky by Britain's Rollo Carpenter shared third place with U.S.-based programmer Vladimir Veselov's Eugene Goostman; Carpenter believes that the Turing Test will only be passed using a learning artificial intelligence such as Jabberwacky, which is "reliant upon its environmental stimulus, the chat of thousands of users on the Web." He also reports that Jabberwacky performed creatively during the contest, making jokes and even pretending to be a cat at one point. The high scores indicate a leaning toward European chatbots, which Lynne Hamill of the University of Surrey's Digital World research center says may be related to the predominantly European panel of judges. No competing chatbot was able to completely fool the judges that it was human, so the $100,000 grand prize was not awarded to anyone. Prize founder Hugh Loebner, who will host next year's competition, says he is "thrilled" with the results of this year's contest, but emphasizes that the goal of the challenge is to pass the Turing Test rather than determine the best chatbot.
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  • "Task Force Deploys IPv6 Pilot Network"
    InternetNews.com (10/20/03); Mark, Roy

    The North American Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) Task Force (NAv6TF) officially launched a collaborative IPv6 network pilot for the North American market, Moonv6, on Oct. 20. IPv6 is designed to improve on its predecessor, IPv4, through the addition of features such as routing and network auto-configuration, and allow a virtually limitless number of available IPv6 addresses. Over 30 organizations are involved in the IPv6 pilot network, which resides at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and extends from Durham, N.H., to San Diego, Calif. Moonv6 collaborators include UNH's InterOperability Laboratory, Internet2, the Joint Interoperability Testing Command, and other Defense Department agencies. "Moonv6 was a critical milestone and success for the North American IPv6 Task Force in our effort to demonstrate that IPv6 supports a robust core networking infrastructure that can be used to now begin IPv6 network infrastructure deployment," explains NAv6TF Chairman Jim Bound. It will be the task of the NAv6TF to maintain the operation of Moonv6 as a permanent North American IPv6 backbone. The Defense Department plans to have effected the migration of all inter and intra networking throughout the department to IPv6 by fiscal year 2008. NAv6TF business director Yurie Rich says that one of the task force's chief goals is to boost the knowledge and skill of IPv6 for North American members. IPv6 Forum President Latif Ladid says, "This massive call to action is unprecedented in the history of the Internet as IPv6 will restore the fundamental end-to-end model of the Internet, the prime enabling technology piece for growth and innovation for everyone and everything to be on the Net where it makes sense."
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  • "Experts Say New Biotech Age Looms"
    EE Times (10/21/03); Mokhoff, Nicolas

    Biotechnology and its technological and bioethical ramifications was the running theme at the recent PoP!Tech conference in Maine, where about 500 experts convened. A new era of biotech is expected to debut with the convergence of nanotechnology, IT, biology, and cognitive science. "Life is moving from the substrate of carbon to another substrate--that of silicon," declared Gregory Stock of UCLA's School of Public Health. He explained that it is important that the right questions about biotech are asked. Juan Enriquez of Harvard University Business School's Life Science Project forecast that progress in the area of semiconductor miniaturization could allow all data on a single human being to be stored on just one USB memory stick in less than a decade, and noted that the United States is already churning out more biotech patents than IT patents. Foresight Institute President Christine Peterson delivered a report on the current level of progress in the field of nanotech: The military, she said, is investigating how nanotech can be used to control biochemical weapons. Peterson also testified before Congress earlier this year, stating the need for "a basic feasibility review in which molecular manufacturing's proponents and critics can present their technical cases to a group of unbiased physicists for analysis." She argued that the failure of the United States, one of its allies, or some other democratic nation to be the first to achieve molecular manufacturing would be catastrophic from a military point of view. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's fiscal 2005 budget request calls for $120 million to be channeled into biotech research.
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  • "Beyond the VeriSign vs. ICANN Battle"
    Business Week (10/20/03); Salkever, Alex

    Alex Salkever articulates frustration with VeriSign's SiteFinder service, given the company's obligation to oversee the .com and .net databases, and wonders about VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos' characterization of the Internet. Salkever says Sclavos and others perceive the problems with the Internet as based in ICANN or "grumpy technical experts who, Sclavos & Co. claim, are holding the infrastructure that powers the Internet hostage by refusing to allow it to evolve and become more technologically stable andmore commercially viable." Referencing ICANN's move to have VeriSign remove SiteFinder, and the insistence of VeriSign executives that the service supported customer needs, the author asserts that ICANN and others viewed SiteFinder as potentially harmful to Internet stability as well as to spam-prevention systems and the DNS. Though VeriSign ultimately heeded ICANN's call and closed down the service, controversy continues between most in the Internet community who oppose VeriSign's position, and parties such as email outsourcing firm Brightmail and other large commercial groups. Salkever believes both sides may have merit. Although he agrees that VeriSign took advantage of its contract to oversee the .com and .net databases, the author also says of VeriSign that "its claims that the Net's pipes are stopping up and leaking is also on the money." Salkever agrees that VeriSign's concerns about ICANN's dependence on nonprofit and academic interests for maintenance of DNS root servers and the outdated nature of the Net's basic syntax have some merit. SMTP and DNS do not include mechanisms for authenticating senders of messages or data queries, respectively, while spam is becoming a larger and larger threat. ICANN and VeriSign, Salkever states, should be collaborating with other interests to strengthen the Internet.
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  • "CMU Team Tackles the Nuances of Building a Robot That 'Understands It Is in a Race Over Rough Country"
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10/20/03); Spice, Byron

    Among the research teams approved by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build robotic vehicles designed to race roughly 200 miles across the Mohave Desert for a $1 million prize is a team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) led by roboticist William "Red" Whittaker. Approximately four dozen CMU students are contributing their time and skill to the development of the vehicle, which will be required to run the race without human intervention. Whittaker outlined a 300-day development schedule for the robot, with time equally split between planning and organization, vehicle assembly and software development, and field-testing and revisions. The CMU team, known as Red Team after Whittaker's nickname, has enlisted the help of champion off-road racer Rod Millen, Fox Chapel race team owner Chip Ganassi, and Boeing executive Phillip Koon, while Intel, Caterpillar, Seagate, and others are acting as corporate sponsors; so far over $1.4 million has been poured into the Red Team's project. Whittaker balks at the assumption that Red Team is well-funded, insisting that the project has been highly dependent on student volunteers and corporate donations. Red Team is converting a 1986 Humvee into an autonomous vehicle by stripping away all nonessential equipment such as seats, installing computers that run on Itanium chips from Intel, and adding laser rangefinders, video cameras, and Doppler radar as navigation aids. The most critical component of the vehicle will be the control software, which must be intuitive enough to enable the vehicle to negotiate uneven terrain at high speed by considering vehicle dynamics and ground conditions. Another key element will be detailed maps of potential race courses culled from topographical representations as well as satellite and aerial data.
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  • "Save a Packet With Internet Telephony"
    New Scientist (10/11/03) Vol. 180, No. 2416, P. 24; Mullins, Justin

    Wireless Internet telephony has the potential to significantly cut costs for telecoms companies, but the technology, if made widely available, could also take a hefty bite out of phone companies' business. Conventional telephony establishes a direct connection between phones while the telecom company supplies the route of transmission; wireless Internet telephony is far more efficient because it eliminates the need for a dedicated connection--the conversation is transmitted as a series of data packets that are sent across the Internet like email and are reconfigured into speech at the receiving end. Voice data can therefore coexist on the same communications links as email and Web pages, without wasting bandwidth. New Hampshire's Dartmouth College has set up such a network, enabling any student with a headset, a laptop, and Cisco software to make phone calls from anywhere on campus to anywhere in the world. The college only charges students for international calls, and says that voice calls to destinations inside the United States are "too cheap to meter." In fact, Dartmouth claims that monitoring and billing U.S. Internet calls is more expensive than the calls themselves. Phone companies and cell phone networks could experience an erosion of profits if wireless Internet telephony catches on, since users would only have to pay for running a computer and maintaining an Internet connection. On the other hand, telecoms still have the advantage of superior call quality.

  • "Submerging Technologies: Five That Are Sinking Fast"
    Computerworld (10/20/03) Vol. 31, No. 48, P. 29; Anthes, Gary H.; Mitchell, Robert L.; Hall, Mark

    Cap Gemini Ernst & Young technologist John Parkinson claims that few companies regularly review their technology to determine the best time to replace obsolete systems, while a Computerworld survey of corporate IT managers and analysts has uncovered five key technologies that firms should consider sunsetting. Companies should migrate from Windows 9X to Windows 2000 or XP in light of falling support and reliability, security issues, and incompatibility with new applications, though International Data's Dan Kuznetsky estimates that most Windows 9X installations are on business PCs. Kuznetsky says companies will face less long-term cost headaches by upgrading to Windows XP. Client/server computing is another technology falling into obsolescence as Web browser clients, Web services, and n-tier systems offer improved data and processing power distribution for ease of maintenance, flexibility, business continuity, and disaster recovery. "Also, a lot of that software was built with second-generation client/server tools, like [Sybase's] PowerBuilder and SQL Windows, and things have moved on a lot since those days," notes Parkinson, who adds that there is a growing shortage of people with client/server skills and increasing difficulty in getting the object code to perform reliably on newer technology. Magnetic tape has begun to decline as a medium for day-to-day backup and recovery jobs as disk technology becomes less costly and more sophisticated, though Gartner analyst Bob Passmore figures tape still has a long life left, given people's unfamiliarity with alternative technologies. TCP/IP is displacing IBM SNA and proprietary networks with its power and presence, and support and interoperability issues will be addressed with the switchover; Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice observes that TCP/IP has gradually taken over the functions of proprietary protocol stacks, and will continue to do so as TCP/IP products are upgraded with multigigabit switches, quality-of-service methods, etc. Visual Basic 6's popularity as a programming language may be at an all-time high, but New Technology Solutions President Dan Mezick forecasts a mass migration to Visual Basic .Net in the next few years as Microsoft gradually abandons VB 6 support.
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  • "TR100: Computing"
    Technology Review (10/03) Vol. 106, No. 8, P. 57; Verity, John

    Among 2003's 100 most brilliant young innovators selected by Technology Review are computing researchers whose work often demonstrates the increasing convergence of infomatics and biology: Examples include genome-deciphering software developed by Stanford's Serafim Batzoglou; computer security algorithms modeled after the human immune system by Sana Security's Steven Hofmeyr; software that generates realistic 3D animation of human figures from MIT's Jovan Popovic and NaturalMotion's Torsten Reil; and expressive robots created by MIT's Cynthia Breazeal that learn how to relay emotions by studying human expressions. Ted Sargent of the University of Toronto has focused on how molecular self-assembly can be tapped to fabricate unique nano-devices and materials for data storage, while Centeye's Geoffrey Barrows has developed optic-flow sensors designed to augment unmanned reconnaissance planes with insect-like depth perception. Cloudmark founder Vipal Ved Prakash is working to commercialize spam-filtering software for individuals and companies, and Tim Sibley of StreamSage employs computational-linguistics methods to automatically build an index of audio or video recordings that can be searched using sequences of spoken words. Other 2003 TR100 honorees in the computing field include Crossbow Technology's Mike Horton, who is working on tiny microelectromechanical sensors that can self-organize into wireless networks; Kevin Lee and Desmond Lim of LNL Technologies, who have merged photonics and optoelectronic microchips for communications and computing; and Holosonics founder Joe Pompei, whose "Audio Spotlight" can narrowly direct sounds for consumer use. Alex Vasilescu of New York University is trying to advance facial-recognition systems through the use of TensorFaces, innovative recognition algorithms that have potential applications in counterterrorism, medical diagnosis, video games, and movies. Perimeter Institute researcher Daniel Gottesman pioneered a technique to stabilize quantum computers by correcting quantum errors, and is currently writing protocols to securely encrypt data via quantum mechanics, while Kathryn Guarini has led 3D circuit development at IBM since 1999. Ayanna Howard of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has devised software to more intelligently guide robots, and Caltech's Andre DeHon is contributing to the development of practical molecular computers by redesigning integrated circuit architectures.