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Volume 6, Issue 634:  Wednesday, April 21, 2004

  • "Smalltalk Creator Wins 'Nobel Prize' of Computing"
    InternetNews.com (04/20/04); Wagner, Jim

    The ACM will honor Dr. Alan Kay with a 2003 Turing Award for his development of Smalltalk, the first complete dynamic object-oriented programming language and the template for Java and C++. Kay is also the recipient of a 2004 National Academy of Engineering Charles Stark Draper Prize and a 1987 ACM Software System Award. "It's hard to describe the last 20 years or so in a few sentences, but it's interesting that in spite of the enormous change downward in the kinds of machines that can run on it, dynamic languages like Smalltalk and [List Processor], both of these languages still hung in there," Kay noted. Smalltalk was conceived by Kay as a process in which "cells" of individual objects would solve problems by communicating with each other; as a researcher at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1972, Kay employed Smalltalk as a teaching tool for children, which led him to conclude that children are more receptive to learning when knowledge is presented in a graphical and audio format rather than just textual. Kay's PARC team developed the "Dynabook," a system with a graphical user interface and a three-button mouse that served as the model for the Xerox Alto. Many believe Smalltalk presents less coding difficulties because of its resemblance to English in terms of syntax and its employment of verbs and nouns. The Microsoft Windows operating system is indebted to Kay's work, as the "windowing GUI" Kay's team developed influenced a young Steve Jobs to apply the concept as the basis for Apple Macintosh's mouse back in 1979. Smalltalk Industry Council executive director Allen Davis praised Kay, noting, "From hobbyists to Fortune 500 companies, Smalltalk continues to be used today for traditional and Web-based applications."
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    For more information on the ACM Turing Award, visit http://www.acm.org/awards/taward.html.

  • "TCP Vulnerable, But Net Won't Go Down"
    InternetWeek (04/20/04); Keizer, Gregg

    Hackers could cut links between servers and routers by exploiting a basic flaw in the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), according to advisories from the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and Britain's National Infrastructure Security Coordination Center (NISCC). This announcement has thrown security professionals into a panic, though Chris Rouland of Internet Security Systems' X-Force Threat Group reports no immediate danger to the Internet, noting that there is plenty of time for Internet infrastructure providers to deploy patches and other safeguards to reduce the threat. TCP is designed to allow network sessions to be reset, which means a hacker can launch a denial-of-service attack by terminating the sessions using a spoofed source IP address on the packets. Such an approach was previously deemed impractical because the hacker would have to guess the identifying sequence number in the next TCP packet, an approximately one in 4.3 billion chance. The NISCC's advisory, however, claims such attacks are now viable because of researcher Paul Watson's discovery that the "probability of guessing an acceptable sequence number is much higher because the receiving TCP implementation will accept any sequence number in a certain range." Rouland explains that routers would probably be primary targets, because they update each other to sustain communication via the Border Gate Protocol, which is a key point of vulnerability. It is critical that router vendors release patches, though not all had done so by the afternoon of April 20. Symantec's Oliver Friedrichs suggests that enterprises should not simply wait for patches to become available and implemented: Deploying their routers' MD5 signature option should add another authentication layer.
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  • "Linux: Unfit for National Security?"
    EE Times (04/19/04); Murray, Charles J.

    Recent assertions by Green Hills Software CEO Dan O'Dowd that Linux open-source software constitutes a threat to national security were followed up by testimony from Purdue University professor Eugene Spafford and the Naval Postgraduate School's Cynthia Irvine contending that Linux is already being unsuitably deployed in critical security applications. Among Linux's security disadvantages implied by O'Dowd at the Net-Centric Operations Industry Forum is the use of foreign programmers in places such as Beijing and Moscow by Linux suppliers LynuxWorks and MontaVista Software. "What concerns me is that people have heard Linux is secure and they are starting to use it in tanks and bombs and planes," stated O'Dowd, who argued that his company offers a much more secure solution. Industry executives used this claim to accuse O'Dowd of exaggerating Linux's security risks by tapping into fears of terrorism and communism in order to hype his company's products. Spafford, the executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security And co-chair of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee, noted that Linux is not the only problematic operating system, but confessed that it contains "many elements of unknown provenance." He added that the use of Linux or other general-use operating systems for safety-critical control in power plants or defense aircraft was a chilling prospect. Irvine, meanwhile, described Linux as the antithesis of a "high-assurance" operating system that is immune to software subversion, in which hackers only need to insert a few lines of code to disrupt a major system. Both Irvine and Spafford agreed that the "many eyes" approach to open-source software development cannot ensure the protection of national-security-level applications because of inadequate training and motivation among programmers.
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  • "Grid Vendors Launch Interoperability Effort"
    IDG News Service (04/20/04); Niccolai, James

    The creation of the Enterprise Grid Alliance, a consortium of some of the IT industry's largest vendors whose goal is to promote enterprise grid computing, was officially announced on April 20. The alliance's members, which include Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, EMC, Novell, Cisco Systems, NEC, and Sun Microsystems, aim to generate technology specifications that will allow their various grid products to interoperate, as well as set up test suites that will help clients find interoperable products. International Data's (IDC) Dan Kusnetzky reports that getting such a large group of vendors to agree on uniform standards will be a formidable challenge, while the absence of IBM and Microsoft's membership could make the task even harder. An IBM representative said his company is considering becoming a member, while Oracle VP and Enterprise Grid Alliance President Donald Deutsch notes that overtures have been made to Microsoft. Oracle essentially conceived the idea for the consortium, but other grid standards groups such as the Global Grid Forum were cool to the proposal; "There was some angst initially, but we've tried to assure [the other groups] that we will work with them," Deutsch explains. The Global Grid Forum's scope extends to academic and scientific computing, while Deutsch says his organization is concentrating exclusively on commercial grid applications. Still, whenever possible the consortium will collaborate with existing standards groups and adopt their specs. Deutsch notes that the specs produced by the alliance will be distributed free of royalties. The consortium will focus, among other things, on developing a common application programming interface for supplying systems in a grid environment, as well as a uniform security strategy and a new model for billing grid computing customers.
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  • "Researchers Envision the Linux of Routing"
    CNet (04/19/04); Reardon, Marguerite

    Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute are using private and government money to develop the Extensible Open Router Platform (XORP), which they want to become a Linux-like alternative to expensive, proprietary routing software. The first iteration of the software will be available for download in June, allowing people to create inexpensive routers from standard PC components. Researcher Orion Hodson says the ability to modify the code is the main purpose for XORP, not to be a competitive threat to Cisco and other routing vendors. XORP uses a modular process format favored by vendors recently because it allows one software component to fail without crashing others on the same hardware; Juniper Networks, Redback Networks, and Laurel Networks all use this modular format. But though XORP claims a respectable 700,000 packet throughput per second, it cannot compare to the performance of proprietary solutions that utilize specialized hardware. Analyst Dave Passmore says XORP may threaten the low end of the market, such as that claimed by D-Link and Linksys, but will not the high-end enterprise routers. XORP also lacks many of the features available on commercial products, such as built-in security and quality-of-service features, but the developers expect the open source community will provide those. Cisco's Jayshree Ullal does not see open source routing code as competition, but important for innovation in the sector. Hodson says the XORP effort is bankrolled by Intel and the National Science Foundation, with one of the funding requirements being the technology must remain open source.
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  • "Algorithms That Changed the World"
    E-Commerce Times (04/21/04); Diana, Alison

    Algorithms describe the way in which our technology works and are the basis for many of today's most important applications, including the Internet, the Web, secure e-commerce, digital music, Web search, and even clocks synchronized via the Internet. MIT computer scientist David Clark says many little known algorithms, such as the Internet synchronized clock algorithm devised by the University of Delaware's Dave Mills, nonetheless have a tremendous impact. One of the most important aspects to an algorithm's influence is its pervasiveness: The RSA security protocol developed by MIT researchers in 1977 was nearly squelched by the National Security Administration, which sent a cease-and-desist request to the researchers after they published information about it in Scientific American magazine; after finding there were no legal issues to stop them from distributing the information further, the researchers published the report in its entirety in the Communications of the ACM in 1978. RSA, which secures online transactions, was actually preceded by a similar British protocol five years earlier, but that algorithm had been classified. Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) was developed more as an academic exercise in 1974 for the ARPANET network; at that time, packet switching was an untested concept many people thought would not work because of problems in queuing behavior, according to MIT's Clark. In 1983, the protocol was mandated for all computers connected to ARPANET. The MP3 audio compression format is another important algorithm because of its impact on the consumer music industry, Internet, and consumer electronics. Clark says that as the demand for multimedia information transmission increases, compression algorithms will become even more important.
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  • "Teaching Robots to Herd Cats"
    Wired News (04/21/04); Delio, Michelle

    The National Science Foundation has granted $2.6 million to a multi-university project to develop software that will allow small robots to perform as a unified whole in order to better aid search and rescue missions. The project is led by Nikos Papanikolopoulos, who is coordinating the efforts of researchers at the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania, and Caltech. The software the teams are working on will enable robots to synchronize their actions as well as take commands from either a single human operator or a more intelligent robot. Papanikolopoulos reports that human operators suffer from information overload when they must control more than four robots. The robots his team is working on are dubbed Scouts, and are built from commercially available components: A typical Scout is 3.9 inches long and 1.4 inches in diameter, and is equipped with a video camera, a trio of infrared range finders, a pair of light sensors, a body heat sensor, and a two-way remote-control element that supports signal encryption and frequency hopping. Researchers can program the robots to carry out activities by themselves, but Papanikolopoulos says their size and urban surroundings complicate their ability to map out their environment. The teams envision a larger and more sophisticated "MegaScout" robot that would direct the actions of the smaller Scouts and report back to its operator. Papanikolopoulos says the researchers significantly underestimated the challenge of developing robot-to-robot and robot-to-human communications. The University of Pennsylvania team will focus on improving robotic vision, perception, and team coordination; Caltech will tackle sensor-based exploration and real-time mapping challenges.
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  • "Voters Unable to Have Printed Receipt"
    Miami Herald (04/20/04); Yanez, Luisa

    Miami-Dade county election officials rejected a proposal on April 19 to equip iVotronic touch-screen voting machines with printers in time for the November presidential election because the technology is not state certified. The iVotronic suppliers must wait for federal and state election officials to agree on standards before they can provide a prototype system: "They have to decide things like the size and weight of the paper used for the receipt, in what languages it will be printed, what would be on it," notes Meghan McCormick, who represents iVotronic manufacturer Election Systems & Software. Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood wants the National Institute for Standards and Technology to make a recommendation on paper receipts, while the financial investment for outfitting the county's machines with printers could total $10 million. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) filed suit in federal court earlier this month to spur Miami-Dade and other Florida counties with touch-screen voting machines to provide a voter-verifiable paper trail. The Election Center executive director Douglas Lewis believes a paper trail can actually increase the vulnerability of such systems. In addition, such machines can complicate the electoral process: Lewis points out that deciding whether to use the electronic vote or the paper vote to hold a recount can be a time-consuming process. The Miami-Dade Election Reform Committee not only decided at the April 19 meeting that paper ballots were unviable, but also noted an audit bug that called into question the accuracy of touch-screen voting machines.
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    For information on ACM's e-voting activities and concerns, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Industry May Benefit From First CAD Search System"
    Purdue University News (04/20/04); Venere, Emil

    Purdue researchers have created the first CAD database search tool that allows engineers to search out previously designed parts for reuse or important production information. Purdue mechanical engineering professor Karthik Ramani says companies have short corporate memories, with managers and engineers leaving and people forgetting project and file names; so unless there is a viable search tool, the information stored in computer databases becomes easily forgotten and worthless. The search system requires users to define a general description of the part they are looking for, either by entering in a sketch or another similar part. The CAD search tool uses the "skeletal graph" to find possible matches in the database. Importantly, Ramani says the search is a multistep process, allowing users to refine their results several times and allowing the search tool to learn what the user wants; this relevance feedback requires neural network technology that bridges the gap between the user's perception of the part and what is actually in the database. Previous attempts to create CAD search tools used single-step searches that are not as accurate as a multistep process. The research team is now working to improve the human interface with help from Purdue psychology expert Zygmunt Pizlo, who will offer insight into human perception. Currently, engineers spend up to six weeks per year searching for parts information in CAD databases, and the new tool promises to reduce that time by up to 80 percent; moreover, the system will let companies quickly build upon established knowledge, such as the production specifics and cost for a particular type of part.
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  • "TeamSpace = Collaboration"
    Stanford Daily (04/20/04); Lee, Su Fen

    Believing that interactive team workspaces will be needed to adapt project collaborators to changes in Stanford University's academic requirements and programs, Armando Fox and Terry Winograd of Stanford's Computer Science Department are supervising the development of TeamSpace, a collaborative learning environment designed to eliminate the problem of having a limited number of workstations for group members to use, as well as avoid their dealing with overwritten or overlapping changes when they work simultaneously but on separate computers. "The long-term vision is to deploy Teamspaces across campus in residence hall computer clusters to offer students a value-add beyond basic individual computing," notes computer science major Clara Shih. TeamSpace is comprised of a pair of large flat-panel displays and a server that functions as a "group desktop." Collaborating students can work on the same presentation, paper, or project concurrently on the big screen, as well as instantly exchange or take back a document, image, or URL with any number of people operating in the workspace. Users will be able to drag and drop files between all TeamSpace machines, which are presented in the TeamSpace window in a similar configuration to a buddy list. TeamSpace's software and user interface will be tested through two types of studies. The first type of study will involve team members collaborating with three strangers to build a PowerPoint presentation using elements from each collaborator's laptop. The second type of study will involve pre-established teams who use TeamSpace technology in a collaborative project they are already engaged in.
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  • "Getting Real With Virtual Reality"
    IST Results (04/20/04)

    Information Society Technologies' BENOGO-Image Based Rendering (IBR) is an important step in the field of virtual reality technology because it allows a photorealistic 3D representation of actual locations to be rendered with fewer photographic images, according to project coordinator Erik Granum. "By acquiring the images in a systematic fashion you can compose some images that were never taken by combining small image parts from those that were taken," he explains. Users can "move" throughout these environments in real time with the aid of a PC, a head-mounted display set, and a head-tracking system. The BENOGO project builds on IBR research carried out by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and project partner Rod McCall of Napier University reports that participants in trials were very impressed. BENOGO could prove very useful to the leisure market, allowing travelers to tour holiday resorts and other destinations so they could get a feel for what such sites are like before booking a vacation, for example. BENOGO could also be used to provide virtual "outings" to elderly or hospitalized people, or to make computer games more realistic. Granum points out that the technology could also be employed for "recordings of cultural heritage for preservation for future generations."
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  • "New Technology Uses 'Glanceable' Objects"
    Associated Press (04/17/04); Felberbaum, Michael

    Products such as Ambient Devices' Orb are seen as the start of a new form of data presentation, in which computerized information is relayed through objects that more smoothly integrate into people's lives. The Orb is a plastic sphere that changes color and intensity to reflect the Dow Jones industrial average, to name just one application; other jobs the device has been programmed to do include tracking job openings and eBay auctions, informing people that a specific person is online, and measuring energy use. The Orb was conceived out of research at MIT's Media Lab, which is pursuing the replacement of the traditional graphical user interface with more tangible representations of information. Ambient President David Rose sees a time when Orbs and other objects are used by people at home, in the office, or in their cars to present preferred data. Data is routed to Ambient's products via a national wireless network that reportedly reaches over 90 percent of U.S. residents, and users can go through the Internet to register and tailor the data their Orbs represent. Ambient is also developing a picture frame that shifts colors to show that the owner is in their loved ones' thoughts; a watch that lights up to remind users to take prescribed drugs; and a pinwheel that spins when users receive email. Back at MIT, the Media Lab's Tangible Bits group is working on a force-feedback system that enables far-flung users to interact via networked physical objects. Institute for the Future research director Paul Saffo envisions such devices as tools that can relieve users from the burden of information overload.
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  • "Hollywood's New Lesson for Campus File Swappers"
    CNet (04/19/04); Olsen, Stefanie

    The music and movie industries are promoting a free system for automating network policy enforcement on college campuses: The Automated Copyright Notice System (ACNS) receives copyright infringement notices from the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), then automatically acts in accordance with a university's copyright infringement policies. Network users could receive warning emails or have their peer-to-peer privileges taken away without touching regular Internet access, for example. The system is intended to help universities comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which says ISPs may be responsible for illegal activity on their networks if served a "takedown" notice from the copyright holder. Commercial ISPs have argued they have no jurisdiction over what illegal material may reside on their customers' PC hard drives, only on what is hosted on their own servers; but universities are also trying to protect students from personal legal risk, as the RIAA last year began a massive campaign to sue individual file traders who offered copyrighted material to others. The music and movie industries have employed aggressive legal tactics, including an attempt to file fast-track subpoenas that targeted dozens of people at once--but a judge later invalidated those subpoenas, and the RIAA went forward with more expensive individual action. The system is similar to policy enforcement programs already being implemented at some universities, such as the University of California at Los Angeles, where IT policy director Ken Wada says the school will try to give students a chance to contest charges against them. Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Fred von Lohmann says the best solution would be for copyright holders to form some sort of broad licensing agreement with the schools, since students will find easy workarounds to technical enforcement schemes, such as tapping into peer-to-peer networks through wireless connections.
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  • "Robo Rehab"
    Technology Review (04/14/04); Bender, Eric

    Intelligent robotic technology is being employed to help rehabilitate victims of debilitating strokes, sometimes with better results than traditional therapy. Rehab robots have been researched for over 10 years, and are currently being tested on patients in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Rehab robot providers include Interactive Motion Technologies, whose robots are based on work by MIT researchers that yielded a robotic arm designed to help people recover shoulder and elbow movement by repeatedly and tirelessly guiding their disabled arms through the correct motions, using a video game to motivate them. Patients using the robot have exhibited twice as much functional improvement than patients with conventional therapy. Robots can also adjust physical therapy on the spur of the moment, and MIT researcher Neville Hogan says that thanks to this ability "we should be able to accelerate learning by the reward schedule." MIT has partnered with rehab clinics to carry out trials of new devices that extend the robot arm's scope to include vertical and wrist motion. Phybotics President Richard Mahoney notes that research has been lacking in the simultaneous study of recovery procedures and associated neural activity, but MIT plans to address this oversight by using magnetic resonance imaging to monitor a patient's brain activity while he works with the robot arm. Advocates believe robots' therapeutic applications can include treatment of neurological diseases and sports medicine, while H.F. Machiel Van der Loos at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Palo Alto Rehabilitation Research and Development Center says personal robots should emerge out of greater understanding of how to construct machines that interact safely with people.
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  • "Effort Afoot to Exempt 20k from H-1B Cap"
    Computerworld (04/19/04) Vol. 32, No. 16, P. 1; Thibodeau, Patrick

    Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) American Workforce Improvement and Jobs Protection Act aims to increase the number of foreign workers with H-1B visas by as much as 20,000 by exempting those who earn advanced degrees from U.S. universities from the current 65,000-visa cap. Smith's bill is backed by Complete America, a group of IT vendors, academic organizations, and manufacturers whose members include Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems. The bill has no Democratic co-sponsors, and the outsourcing issue has drawn heavy criticism recently. American Electronics Association (AEA) VP Thom Stohler reports that most H-1B holders being recruited by U.S. companies are graduating from American universities. He explains, "It's the position of the AEA that individuals who possess a master's or Ph.D. degree are not stealing American jobs; they are creating American jobs." Stohler adds that these workers are often hired for research and development. Any H-1B increase will be met with resistance from labor organizations, most notably IEEE-USA, which claims that its members are already dealing with an unprecedented degree of unemployment. Immigration attorney Vic Goel believes there will be enough H-1B applications between now and Oct. 1 to deplete the visa cap for fiscal 2005.
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  • "The Rush to RFID"
    InfoWorld (04/12/04) Vol. 26, No. 15, P. 36; Margulius, David L.

    Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology's purported benefits include more efficient and cost-effective inventory and supply-chain management, less difficult product tracing and recalls, fewer cases of product interference, and reduced labor costs--but only if hardware, software, standards, and business model issues are resolved. AMR Research's Kara Romanow says RFID readers still cannot read tags accurately enough. In addition, there are two tag standards--short-lived, battery-powered active tags and low-range, long-lived passive tags--vying for dominance, as well as two competing transmission protocol standards with various regulatory requirements, effective ranges, and resistance to interference. In terms of software, Romanow says manufacturers face the challenge of overhauling current order processing and fulfillment systems to work at the pallet, case, carton, or item levels, while Microsoft's Javed Sikander points out that readers lack standard interfaces as well as a management and maintenance infrastructure. Once this is addressed, the readers must be outfitted with middleware to filter data from tags, while rapidly piping the data to the appropriate applications and business processes will be another formidable task. Two potential standards for making the most of RFID's advantages by sharing tag-generated data among business partners and all companies throughout the supply chain have come forward, and analysts predict they will be quickly integrated; it remains to be seen how universal the hybrid standard will be, and how many collaborations it will facilitate. The final challenge for most RFID implementations will be justifying the investment with a valid business case, and Tig Gilliam of IBM Business Consulting Services reports that most companies are opting for either a "slap and ship" strategy in which they spend just enough money to affix tags onto a subset of outgoing shipments to satisfy existing regulations, or a larger upstream investment not just to comply with mandates but to also make internal operations more efficient.
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  • "Electronic Waste: Be Part of the Solution"
    Electronic Design (04/04) Vol. 52, No. 8, P. 47; Schneiderman, Ron

    Industry reports suggest that the United States could be inundated by a "tsunami" of electronic detritus, much of it toxic, between 2006 and 2015, and this is prompting manufacturers to pursue the elimination of lead and other hazardous materials by designing more recyclable and environmentally friendly products. Nokia, for example, furnishes a list of harmful or prohibited materials to suppliers. "By having a grasp of the average material content in a cellular phone, it is easier to create trends and define future targets toward more eco-efficient products," contends Nokia technology manager of environmental management Minna E. Lindholm. American efforts to bring e-waste under control lag behind those of Europe and Japan, and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) recommends in a recent report that the United States take a cue from Europe by placing the responsibility of paying for e-waste recycling on the shoulders of original equipment manufacturers, which would spur them to design recyclable products and cultivate recycling markets. The Computer TakeBack Campaign sponsored by the GrassRoots Recycling Network aims to advance legislation to have brand owners assume waste-management costs. SVTC also indicates that public awareness of e-waste's health and environmental risks is practically absent, while people's knowledge of and access to recycling programs is also constrained. The coalition supports building waste-management costs into the price of electronic products, while public, private, and trade organizations are working to raise public awareness. Increasing numbers of major American electronics manufacturers are either participating in consumer electronic recycling initiatives or developing their own recycling programs, while a score of e-waste bills--many of them even stricter than European edicts--were proposed in many U.S. states last year.
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  • "An Evolving Architecture for the Management of Digital Identity"
    Business Communications Review (03/04) Vol. 34, No. 3, P. 42; Peterson, David M.

    Security concerns have grown along with the increase in complex network-aware applications, with companies trying to determine how to provide external and internal users controlled access to corporate resources. Identity and access management (I&AM) solutions started with single sign-on (SSO) capability and have gotten more sophisticated. Though most identity verification is still based on passwords, this results in multiple versions of user identities and increases management complexity. I&AM vendors have added practical system management to their products, including password administration, access control techniques, policy definition, and business procedures, among other things. Many solutions offer SSO, which lets businesses track users and gives them easy access to resources, improved security, and reduced administrative costs; however, it can also bring more security concerns and can be complex. A proper SSO implementation usually outweighs accompanying disadvantages, but it requires a flexible and extensible architectural foundation. Federated identity is an alternative to centralization, and the next step on identity management evolution--it involves the loose coupling or association of separate entities to pursue a common goal. Federated identity management (FIM) distributes authentication and access authorization, with each organization operating autonomously yet sharing identity data. The most important identity management standards are within work managed by the Web Services Security partnership, the Liberty Alliance Project, and OASIS.

  • "New Technology That Changes How People Interact With Computers"
    Speech Technology (04/04) Vol. 9, No. 2, P. 6; Larson, James A.

    The separation of user interfaces from computers will revolutionize computer-user interactions and establish portable computing, writes James A. Larson, Intel's manager of advanced human input/output. Expected to emerge in the future is a personal server with built-in computer memory and Bluetooth communication capability that can store backup PC files, pictures and video from a digital camera, music files taken off the Internet, frequently visited Web sites, and a geographical and chronological recording of content received from other Bluetooth-enabled devices. Users will interact wirelessly with the personal server via user interface devices such as pens, displays, microphones, and speakers: The pen interface is equipped with a camera to capture pen-strokes made on specially printed paper, while the author's voice could be recorded by a microphone. The display options include small, portable displays that can be worn around the wrist or neck; conventional computer and TV screens that can show information via wireless communication; rollup displays that are controlled electronically and are power-efficient; display-outfitted eyeglasses; and a micro projector that shines images onto surfaces. Handheld computers with microphones and speakers will serve as a multimodal user interface that can be employed to communicate with software agents as well as other users. Such technology will facilitate many new applications: For instance, users will be able to locate objects by vocally querying the portable server as to their whereabouts; the device could remind users to replace items when they are in a store; and relevant information about a landmark or object the user encounters could be provided by the server via spoken command.
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