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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 AutoChoice Advisor or ACM. To send comments, please write to technews@hq.acm.org.
Volume 6, Issue 647: Friday, May 21, 2004

  • "Conference Mulls Web as Personal Memory Store"
    Reuters (05/20/04); Auchard, Eric

    Leading researchers at ACM's World Wide Web conference this week are debating the implications of the Internet as an archive of people's lives that can be used as a memory aid. Technical papers presented at the conference, Taking place through Saturday, may 22 in New York City, cover such areas as how the Internet can be employed to take a tour through one's "life history," and how researchers can work together on demographic or life-sciences studies that span across the entire Web. Microsoft is investigating searches for documents based on their emotional connections to the user rather than just the date and time they were created: The "Stuff I've Seen" project, for instance, permits surfers to tag and annotate all useful Internet material they locate and retrieve it later to find their previous notes along with the information itself. Udi Manber, CEO of Amazon.com's A9 unit, demonstrated a technique that allows people to preserve the history of previous search results so that users can build annotated diaries of their Web-surfing activities. Microsoft research director Rick Rashid delivered a keynote speech at WWW2004 in which he claimed that with 1 TB of data storage, a user could archive a lifetime's worth of conversations, or take a picture with a 180-degree panoramic view of one's environment for every minute of every day for the remainder of his or her life. Other presentations at the conference are aimed at how to give Internet browsers a more intelligent "back" button; the publication of online textbooks capable of instant updating; the recording of a person's heart rate by sensors so that doctors could be alerted over the Internet of any abnormalities; and the simplification of email search and usage through research in Web semantics.
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  • "Banned E-Voting Systems Likely to Be Ready Nov. 2"
    Los Angeles Times (05/20/04) P. B1; Pfeifer, Stuart

    An upbeat California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley expressed confidence on May 19 that electronic voting systems banned in 10 counties will pass muster in time for the November presidential election. This optimistic prediction was made following a Senate Elections and Reapportionment Committee hearing on problems Orange County voters encountered in the March primary, which Orange registrar of voters Steve Rodermund blamed on staff errors and inadequate poll worker training. According to the Los Angeles Times, at least 7,000 voters received ballots from the wrong election precincts in the primary, while Rodermund estimated that roughly 2,000 voters cast ballots for elections in which they were ineligible. His solution to avoid these mistakes includes better training to ensure that poll workers know, among other things, how to generate access codes that voters must enter into machines so that ballots will appear on their voting screens. A representative for Hart InterCivic, the company that manufactures the $26 million e-voting system Orange County deployed, promised that Shelley would be issued a copy of its software source code that could be tested for accuracy and security flaws, thus complying with a mandate Shelley made for all counties that wished to use e-voting machines in November. Shelley also decided to forego a requirement that counties print and store paper copies of all electronically cast ballots, suggesting that electronic imaging and storage was acceptable. And rather than requiring voting machine makers to pay for printing the paper ballots, Shelley announced that his office would cover the cost should manufacturers refuse. However, Napa County registrar of voters John Tuteur doubted that Shelley can fulfill this pledge.
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    For ACM's activities regarding e-voting, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm

  • "Senate Hears Mixed Reviews of Anti-Spam Law"
    Washington Post (05/21/04) P. E5; Krim, Jonathan

    Witnesses offered differing opinions about the effectiveness of the CAN-SPAM law at a May 20 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. FTC Chairman Timothy Muris praised the law, noting that his agency has filed 62 cases against spammers as well as cases against businesses that employ spammers to market their products. Laudatory views were also shared by FBI cyber crime division assistant director Jana Monroe, who said CAN-SPAM permits spammers to be prosecuted as felons by criminalizing their activity rather than forcing the government to pursue them as enablers of fraud; she added that the FBI is developing cases against about 50 targeted spammers with the assistance of the Direct Marketing Association. Negative views were voiced by Consumers Union President James Guest, who called for amendments to CAN-SPAM. He argued that the "opt-out" policy the bill supports overburdens users, particularly because many spammers are circumventing spam filters by using bogus opt-out mechanisms. Despite his support of the law, Postini CEO Shinya Akamine estimated that the amount of email traffic spam accounts for has risen from approximately 78 percent to 83 percent this year. One of CAN-SPAM's provisions authorizes the FTC to consider a do-not-spam list that would be similar in operation to the do-not-call list for telemarketers, but such a measure has been met with opposition from industry and strong skepticism from Muris. Consumers Union legislative analyst Chris Murray reported that his organization wants the option to be considered.
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  • "Self-Managing Systems Not So Self-Evident"
    InternetNews.com (05/19/04); Boulton, Clint

    Autonomic computing experts agree their field is still relatively immature, and that vendors still need to build out their product portfolios and educate people about self-managing technology. The first-ever International Conference on Autonomic Computing brought together lead software engineers from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon.com, and Microsoft, as well as one academic. The basic thrust behind autonomic computing is to manage systems so that they are more reliable and less costly to maintain. Although the vendors largely agreed on the end goal, their approach varied slightly, as when one audience member asked about a management standard. Microsoft senior architect Anders Vinberg said traditional methods of interconnecting systems were still useful, such as the data warehousing approach common in the financial services industry; he noted that systems management was too specialized a field to have a uniform standard. IBM on-demand infrastructure architect Jeffrey Frey acknowledged a management standard was probably too lofty a goal, but insisted that if different parties were more serious about promoting industry collaboration, then more progress would be made on all fronts. External business pressures often force software engineers' hands and limit standardization, explained conference panelist and Georgia Institute of Technology Professor Karsten Schwan. Another audience member pointed out the difference between Microsoft's and IBM's autonomic computing approaches: Microsoft focuses on the "low frequency" issues of configuration and change management, while IBM is focusing on "high frequency" aspects such as load balancing and constant system optimization. Frey said the reality was that enterprise systems and data are constantly in flux, and that management needs to be able to quickly address that fluctuation with rapid and autonomic decision-making.
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  • "Flaws Drill Holes in Open Source Repository"
    CNet (05/19/04); Lemos, Robert

    As hackers increasingly target Linux-enabled software, E-Matters chief security and technology officer Stefan Esser recently disclosed vulnerabilities in two widely used source code repository applications that could make open-source software projects susceptible to exploitation by hackers. One security hole is in the Concurrent Versions System (CVS), which is run by numerous large open-source projects to build servers that manage the iterations of a program under development; the source code databases are in servers used by groups developing the KDE Linux and Gnome desktops, among others, and Esser reported that these groups were alerted to the flaw earlier this month. An advisory issued by Esser indicates that the CVS bug affects all versions of the software released before May 19, and the occurrence of the flaw, dubbed "heap overflow," stems from inadequate vetting of data from the system's users. The other security hole noted by Esser affects the Subversion application, and its root cause is an error in the code's date-parsing operation; in his advisory, Esser warned that hackers could take advantage of the flaw to permit "remote code execution on Subversion servers and therefore could lead to a repository compromise." It is easier to exploit the Subversion vulnerability than the CVS vulnerability, while Linux is the operating system most often used with CVS. A May 19 alert from the Debian Project whose publication coincided with the e-Matters advisory included a patch for the CVS software. Debian Project developer Martin Schulze said the threat of the CVS vulnerability should be minor with the patch in place.
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  • "A Design Epiphany: Keep It Simple"
    New York Times (05/20/04) P. E5; Scanlon, Jessie

    Technology continues to head down the path of complexity, but MIT Media Lab associate professor John Maeda has gathered a team to work on the problem. Though plug-and-play, ease-of-use, and one-click shopping have been touted widely, the fact is that companies are addicted to increasing sophistication, and Media Lab executive director Walter Bender notes that he has never seen commercial software that is simpler than its predecessor. To help with the problem, Maeda's Simplicity Design Workshop has collaborated with researchers for one year and come up with some basic principles on how to design truly efficient and effective products: The first principle is to factor in cultural trends, such as how the iPod MP3 player and accompanying iTunes service allowed people to cheaply and easily buy, store, and organize music; the second principle is to allow users to easily understand how a product works, which encourages its use. Designing simple products also means editing out nonessential features. Finally, prototypes that testers can interact with and respond to are vital to targeting people's exact needs. Maeda's collaborators include Ideo designer Bill Moggridge, graphics designer Alexander Gelman, and Blu Dot furniture designer Charlie Lazor, as well as colleagues from MIT. Besides the principles, the group has also latched onto several key technologies they say are important for simple design: Maeda says there needs to be a more engaging, visual, and immersive way to interact with applications ranging from email to genome-mapping. Besides the visual interface, ambient intelligence technology, such as that provided by various wireless and embedded technologies, is important in allowing people to interact with applications in other ways besides the keyboard and mouse; artificial intelligence has also been targeted, either by teaching computers basic truths (the sky is blue, for instance) or by imbuing them with sensors that can detect and respond to users.
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  • "Shape-Shifting Remakes Interfaces"
    Technology Research News (05/26/04); Smalley, Eric

    Variable functionality delivered by reconfigurability is the concept behind the Haptic Chameleon, a prototype video control knob developed by Sony that researchers plan to deploy initially in automobile and home entertainment controls. The interface combines changeable shapes and force feedback to give users a way to mentally link the device's operations to its feel. The knob is comprised of a pair of semicircles separated by a rectangle: The circular configuration in which the semicircles and rectangle remain undepressed allows the user to navigate the video frame-by-frame; depressing both semicircles while leaving the rectangle alone enables scene-by-scene navigation; and depressing one semicircle permits the user to move through happy or sad scenes. Georg Michelitsch, a researcher at Sony Corporate Laboratories Europe, predicts that the technology will lead to devices that shape-shift to mimic real-world objects, other interface devices, or symbols representing functions. He reports that testing of the Haptic Chameleon demonstrated "that a single, shape-changing control...can replace many traditional controls such as buttons and dials." The Sony researchers also tried out a virtual knob with a haptic interface, which Michelitsch concludes offered an improved shape-changing experience over the Chameleon, but was missing the realistic grasping action that is needed to handle the device. The ultimate goal, according to Michelitsch, is "to create Haptic Chameleon user interface controls that the user can mold smoothly into almost any shape you can imagine." A technical paper on the research was presented at ACM's recent CHI 2004 conference in Vienna.
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  • "New York College to Open OSDL Linux Research Site"
    Linux Insider (05/18/04); Kroeker, Kirk L.

    As the first higher-education institution to become an affiliate member of the nonprofit Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), New York's Marist College will serve as a mainframe resource for Linux developers to run qualified projects and test software, as well as further enhance school curricula and research activities with Linux. The vendor-neutral OSDL is committed to speeding up the growth and adoption of Linux in the enterprise. Linux applications and skills will be developed on the mainframe through the availability of an IBM zSeries 990 server, which Marist director of technology and systems Harry Williams said will allow thousands of centrally managed virtual Linux servers to be tested and deployed while keeping environmental, staff, and infrastructure costs within acceptable limits. "As our first higher-education member, Marist College will give OSDL insight into how colleges and universities use Linux today, and also a better appreciation for how it's being incorporated into computer science curricula," proclaimed OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen. Marist comprises one-third of the world's OSDL-affiliated research facilities, with the other two located in Japan and Oregon. "The lab...will allow Marist to work with businesses, government agencies, and other universities and research centers to help develop a skilled workforce and products that will spur economic growth and enhance America's competitive edge," exclaimed Marist President Dennis J. Murray. OSDL will start accepting mainframe project requests this summer, while Marist dean Dr. Roger Norton said the OSDL affiliation will expand students' opportunities to use Linux and work on open-source projects.
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  • "Disaster Drill Tests New Wireless Technologies Developed at UCSD and Cal-(IT)2"
    UCSD News (05/18/04); Ramsey, Doug

    University of California, San Diego, (UCSD) students tested their new wireless technologies at an emergency response drill conducted by San Diego County officials: The drill involved more than 250 people, simulated two consecutive radiological explosions, and brought together paramedics, the Red Cross, the fire department, police, SWAT teams, and hazardous-materials crews from the region. Innovative wireless technology was deployed for the first time at the drill, after being developed by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering. The two groups are collaborating on the Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters (WIISARD) project, funded with $4 million from the National Institutes of Health. A CyberShuttle served as the wireless Internet hub and allowed on-site officials to monitor video of the disaster site, victims' vital signs, and location of participants. The WIISARD network was a compilation of high-speed Wi-Fi, cellular, and Web connectivity, allowing continuous communication between field workers and the command staff. Hazmat crews tested a helmet-mounted camera that fed live video back to the command center while victims were fitted with a finger clip that measured their heart rate and blood oxygen levels, with that information relayed to the network by a wireless PDA for each victim. Network connectivity on the field was enabled by a briefcase-sized Wi-Fi hot spot device that can support up to 40 first responders within a 1,000-ft. perimeter, sending their transmissions out to the Internet via a 3G cellular network at up to 500 Kbps. WIISARD researchers plan to improve on their system by developing a first-responder computer system that would give each participant situational awareness via a PDA, which "would allow them to see the field, where the plumes are, where the victims are, and help them to organize better their own responsive care," according to WIISARD principal investigator Leslie Lenert.
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  • "OS X Security Flaw Plagues Web Browsers"
    MacNewsWorld.com (05/19/04); Warrene, Blane

    The Macintosh OS X operating system allows malicious Web sites to launch downloaded applications via URLs, but can be fixed by changing the Internet preferences. The flaw was discovered by Mac enthusiast "lixlpixel" and published on a Swiss Macintosh Web site, where it was picked up and distributed by Danish security firm Secunia. "Lixlpixel" said in an interview with Technewsworld.com that he did not want to be seen as attacking Apple, but had contacted the company in February and received no response since; because the flaw was dangerous but easy enough to fix, he figured users would benefit more from knowing. "Lixlpixel" was building a Web site using PHP and AppleScript in conjunction when he realized the Mac OS X allowed Web sites to use the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to either download and execute scripts through the "disk" URI handler, or to launch an "arbitrary local script (.scpt)" using the "help" URI handler. Secunia CTO Thomas Kristensen says all Mac browsers that support the OS X URI handler are vulnerable, though his company has only specified Safari 1.2.1 and Internet Explorer 5.2 vulnerabilities. "Lixlpixel" first disclosed the flaw along with a solution, which was to download a freeware preference panel called More Internet that allowed users to designate unprivileged applications as Internet protocol helpers. Secunia's Kristensen says every operating system that emphasizes a graphical user interface and usability will have security loopholes, but Mac OS X is actually more secure than most because it is based on FreeBSD Unix. MI2g conducted a study of 17,500 hack attacks and found the Mac OS X and FreeBSD Unix accounted for just over 4 percent of all exploits.
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  • "Smart Glasses Detect Eye Contact"
    New Scientist (05/19/04); Graham-Rowe, Duncan

    Canadian researchers have developed a pair of sunglasses that use infrared to determine whether someone is making eye contact with the wearer, an ability that could prove useful in video blogging. One of the glasses' inventors, Roel Vertegaal of Queen's University's Media Lab, says the device enables video bloggers to automatically detect and record conversations and interactions with other people, which can help mitigate the problem of editing out dull sections of the video diary. The glasses are outfitted with a miniature CCD camera on the bridge between the lenses, which is linked to a handheld computer that processes images. The perimeter of the lenses is dotted with light emitting diodes that beam infrared light, generating a "red eye" effect in the eyes of anyone facing the camera. The light reflected off the cornea produces a glint that the system looks for; if the glint is positioned in the very center of the pupil, then the system infers that the person is looking directly at the wearer. People must be no more than one meter away from the wearer for the system to be effective, but the researchers are trying to expand its range to four meters in the next iteration. Vertegaal's team is investigating whether eye-contact detection technology could be used to determine whether a person is too busy to take a phone call, and have designed an icon that would be displayed on the caller's phone to signal that the person they are trying to contact is occupied.
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  • "Want to Charge It? You'll Have to Talk to Your Credit Card"
    New York Times (05/20/04) P. E8; Eisenberg, Anne

    Credit card fraud could be significantly reduced with the new Beepcard device that uses speech recognition technology to verify the owner's identity before allowing a phone- or Web-based transaction. The prototype card features a microphone that the owner must utter a password into, while a built-in voice recognition chip attempts to match the voice to a recorded sample; if a match is made, the card emits a series of beeps through a loudspeaker, thus authorizing a transaction over the phone or via a microphone on the owner's computer. "This system turns a card-not-present transaction into a card-present transaction," exults PGP CTO Jon Callas. Beepcard CEO Alan Sege thinks the card could have uses outside of authentication, such as a memory prompt, but AT&T Labs researcher Patrick McDaniel notes that the device will have to become ruggedized enough to endure heat and cold as well as wear and tear. Beepcard engineer Nir Dvash explains that card owners can adjust the system's ability to tolerate variations in voice and specify the security level, while McDaniel cautions that the voice recognition program could be taxed by loud background noise. David Nahamoo of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center points out that current voiceprint systems have a 2 percent error rate of false rejection and false acceptance. IBM has developed a voice authentication system that not only confirms the user's voice, but asks a series of random questions the user must answer correctly in order to access an account. The system uses a server, and thus is not constrained by a chip's limited processing power.
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  • "Executives Criticize the Tech Industry"
    Associated Press (05/19/04); Bridis, Ted

    Members of the Business Roundtable say the technology industry sells software that is vulnerable to hackers and too complicated for consumers to use safely. The trade group comprised of executives from the top 150 U.S. corporations estimates more than $1 billion is spent addressing computer worm and virus threats. The Business Roundtable is lobbying for better software design, greater ease of management, and support for older versions, but the group also says that corporate directors and executives should be involved in making their networks more secure. Business Roundtable security task force director Marian Hopkins says that, up to this point, IT vendors have continually passed the onus of computer security onto end users, and that it was time for them to take more direct responsibility. Cyber Security Industry Alliance head Paul Kurtz says that Internet security needs both good products and good user maintenance. Some security experts and consumer groups agree with the Roundtable's complaints, but technology representatives contend that their companies are spending a lot of money to make products easier to defend and more resilient. "Cybersecurity is everyone's responsibility, including the vendors, the users, enterprises, and government agencies," says the Information Technology Association of America's Greg Garcia. However, both the Roundtable and the association oppose government security mandates.
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  • "West Urged to Share Internet Governance"
    Toronto Star (05/17/04); Geist, Michael

    Since the World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS) meeting last December, the international debate over Internet governance has revealed three areas of legitimate concern, writes University of Ottawa law expert Michael Geist. First, there needs to be greater involvement of developing-world nations through forums such as the WSIS and other organizations. Although the United States and other developed nations say there is no need to change a system that is working already, it is true that ultimate authority of the domain name system resides solely with the U.S. government. The second issue is that, because of the Internet's growing influence in commerce and society, technical aspects of Internet governance often have serious policy implications; there needs to be mechanisms for transparent and fair policy debate concerning issues such as intellectual property and censorship. Lastly, nearly every country is struggling to adapt its legal system to the Internet, which almost by definition ignores legal and physical boundaries. Since the December WSIS meeting, the International Telecommunications Union and U.N. ICT Task Force have convened to continue the debate. The three issues detailed above are at the core of the debate, which is portrayed by the wider media as mostly concerning the domain name system. The Internet community needs to recognize the legitimate concerns developing-world nations have about the current situation and work to address those concerns over the next 18 months, before the next WSIS summit in Tunis in the fall of 2005, Geist writes. He thinks that a cooperative approach to Internet governance could be started by focusing on shared problems, such as spam.
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  • "Innovation That Leaves No One Behind"
    Business Week (05/17/04); Robitaille, Suzanne

    As Internet technology becomes more of a core component for national communications infrastructure, the FCC is looking at mandating accessibility for disabled people: The Commission's Internet Policy Working Group (IPWG) held a summit in early May that showed the potential of new Internet-capable technologies to improve access. The sales of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) devices have surpassed those of traditional phones, according to research firm Gartner, and the multimedia capabilities are especially a boon for hearing- and visually-impaired people. Though traditional telecommunications providers have been required since 1996 to operate relay services to disabled users, new Internet communications firms say imposing similar regulations on their nascent industry could stifle innovation and prevent the release of helpful products; the VoIP industry has fiercely opposed telecommunications-type regulation, but disabled advocates such as the American Foundation for the Blind called for VoIP to be designated telecommunications at the recent IPWG summit. T-Mobile USA offers a good example of how Internet technologies can increase communications access: The company's Sidekick cellular PDA service offers Web, email, voice, and text messaging and says about 10 percent of subscribers are hearing-impaired. Similar devices in the future could offer "total conversation" capabilities where disabled users could use keyboards, Braille devices, audio jacks for hearing implants, video screens, and other communications media simultaneously. Santa Clara, Calif., firm 8x8 offers such a service for Internet-connected home PCs, but President Barry Andrews says telecommunications regulation would bury his company. Suppressing helpful technologies, however, is not the goal of disabled advocates, according to American Foundation for the Blind vice president Paul Schroeder.
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  • "The Age of Purposeful Machines"
    Betterhumans (05/18/04); Bailey, Patrick

    Truly conscious machines may be the stuff of fantasy, but researchers worldwide are making significant strides in the creation of machines that exhibit purposeful behavior thanks to breakthroughs such as teleo-reactive programs (TRPs) designed to set up behavioral rules in changing environments. Nils Nilsson of Stanford University's AI Lab says that TRPs establish a system that logically executes in reverse; "You define all of the conditions required to meet an ultimate goal, or super-goal, then move backwards and define all the conditions required to meet the steps of individual goals that get you to the super-goal," he explains. TRPs are distinguishable from previous AI programs in several ways: Rather than processing everything concurrently, TRPs employ a hierarchy of continually executing specialized programs that concentrate on smaller, specific processes. TRPs also perform durative actions (those that can be executed indefinitely until the goal is either met or prohibited by environmental conditions) instead of discrete actions. TRPs are used to determine the rules that 3D AI agents follow to play soccer in the TRSoccerbots program, and users can employ a TRP editor to tweak and erect behavioral rules, a configurator to map out the virtual soccer field and the agents' positions, and a simulator to start the game simulation and trigger interaction between the agents. Another notable TRP breakthrough is Goal and Re-source Using architecturE (GRUE), which enables AI agents to pursue multiple goals simultaneously through the use of four main elements: A memory, a series of programs that can generate goals, a filter to prioritize goals, and an arbitrator. The goal generator allows AI agents to create their own goals, which GRUE's inventors note is critical to establishing genuine autonomy.
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  • "E-Health on the Horizon"
    InformationWeek (05/17/04) No. 989, P. 53; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

    Physicians and hospitals are treating diseases, avoiding complications, and saving patients' lives more efficiently with telemedicine technologies, whose appeal and necessity are growing as e-health equipment becomes less expensive, broadband connections spread, tech-savvy baby boomers age, and the pool of nurses and specialists shrinks. Nancy Lugn of Partners HealthCare System notes, "Because of the proliferation of the Internet, boomers know more about their health [than previous generations], and they do a lot more research on their own," which can benefit the adoption of telemedicine; Partners HealthCare telemedicine director Dr. Joseph Kvedar adds that boomers are placing more demands on health-care services because of the rising costs of health-care benefits. Government regulations that Medicare patients who suffer from chronic illnesses participate in disease-management programs and the provision of electronic health records for most Americans within a decade are also spurring e-health technology forward. There are, however, hurdles to overcome: Some patients may resist telemedicine because it reduces or eliminates one-on-one personal care, while doctors and caregivers may be averse to the cultural and workflow changes that remote medical diagnosis and treatment entail. Meanwhile, insurance companies may be unwilling to reimburse for various e-health services out of fear that new forms of fraud or billing abuse will be encouraged. Still, a number states are leading telemedicine initiatives--Arizona and Alaska, for instance, have been funding remote vision-screening services to Native American residents for four years. The program involves routing photos of patients' eyes over the Internet to specialists in several U.S. eye centers. One of the most popular telemedicine services offered by some major health-care providers is remote consultation for second opinions on treatments for patients with terminal diseases.
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  • "The Yoga of the Software World"
    SC Magazine (04/04) Vol. 15, No. 4, P. 44; Jervis, Julie

    The business value of deploying open source software (OSS) solutions resides in whether their cost and flexibility advantages outweigh various burdens related to installation, maintenance, and security. McAfee research scientist Robert Watson believes open source offers consumers more transparency, control, and independence from vendors, while the cost benefits offset problems stemming from tardy revision, unresponsive vendors, and other factors that are also endemic to closed source. On the other hand, John Vance of the University of California Los Angeles External Affairs makes a case for proprietary systems, arguing that installing and supporting OSS eats up a lot of time and labor, while OSS is generally less secure than closed source. Interland's Jeff Reich keeps OSS-based security management solutions to a minimum, and contends that "The use of existing personnel and resources to support open source solutions often matches or exceeds those of proprietary solutions." Louisiana-Pacific IT manager Cathy Mankus is concerned that the open source community is too diffuse and disjointed to provide support in a timely, round-the-clock manner. USDA cybersecurity manager Thorne Graham says open source demonstrates solid returns, but cautions that "unless there's a formal code review, I can't trust the open source community to show the right level of diligence." He adds that proprietary software is more secure than OSS because commercial companies are required to be accountable to their clients. Open Source Initiative VP Russell Nelson admits that software security goofs are a fact of life, but says open source makes up for this by giving people the ability to easily perform a security audit on the source code.
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  • "Experts Concerned About Future of Invention"
    IEEE Spectrum (05/04); Guizzo, Erico

    Invention is one of the driving forces of national competitiveness and quality of life, but too little attention is paid to fostering invention in schools and in poorer regions, according to a report sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Lemelson-MIT Program. The report, composed by 56 experts from different fields, was presented at the National Academy of Sciences gathering in Washington, D.C., just before optoelectronics pioneer Nick Holonyak Jr. was awarded a $500,000 prize for inventing the light-emitting diode (LED) in 1962. Instead of taking invention for granted, schools and public officials need to create a learning environment that encourages invention and boosts inventive thinking skills. MIT Professor Merton C. Flemings said adventure, excitement, and mystery are just as important as analysis and technical skills for invention. Today's schools basically teach in the same way schools did 40 years ago, said University of Virginia computer science professor William Wulf, suggesting that traditional curricula be covered more rapidly to make room for new inventive course aspects. Poor countries face a significant challenge in that they lack research and development funds and collaborative opportunities, but those obstacles can be overcome through education reform focusing on inventiveness as well as contributions from multinationals and other local business. Other suggestions included modifications to the patent system and public awareness campaigns. Holonyak, now 75, discovered that an gallium arsenide phosphide alloy produced visible light when charged; his invention led to many other LED uses as well as the development of alloy lasers.
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