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Volume 6, Issue 648:  Monday, May 24, 2004

  • "U.S. Nearing Deal on Way to Track Foreign Visitors"
    New York Times (05/24/04) P. A1; Lichtblau, Eric; Markoff, John

    A system to enable federal authorities to track foreigners in the United States via a global network of databases and biometric sensors raises questions about its feasibility as well as its impact on visitors' privacy. Three bidders are vying for the US-Visit contract from the Homeland Security Department, which could end up costing up to $15 billion. The system is designed to set up "virtual" borders where people seeking to enter the country are first screened by the database network, and are subjected to "real-time identification" at checkpoints to confirm their identity, after which they can be monitored within the United States, at least in theory. Under secretary for border security Asa Hutchinson calls the system an all-inclusive solution that "is hugely important for the security of our country and for the wise use of our limited resources." The company that wins the contract will be responsible for developing a standard that blends multiple tools, including photos, fingerprints, iris scanning, and others. Privacy proponents are concerned that the US-Visit program will give the federal government even more authority to track visitors' movements by exploiting databases that contain credit card data and other kinds of sensitive information, which could be construed as privacy infringement; what is more, civil libertarians claim the system could just as easily be employed to monitor American citizens. Furthermore, reports from the General Accounting Office indicate that progress to address issues related to the system's management and oversight has been moving at a sluggish clip, while report author Randolph Hite argues that the effort's cost and viability remain high concerns. Meanwhile, the system's effectiveness could be hindered if foreign countries as well as the U.S. intelligence community are reluctant to provide database access.
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  • "Fight Over E-Voting Leaves Election Plans as Casualties"
    CNet (05/20/04); Lemos, Robert; Festa, Paul

    Plans to use touch screen voting machines throughout the country are being disrupted as many states reassess their options in the wake of heavily publicized reports of security vulnerabilities, operational glitches, and oversight and obfuscation by manufacturers. "E-voting machines can only work if people have trust in them, and if we are in a situation where we lack trust, then we aren't going to benefit," warns California Institute of Technology political science professor Michael Alvarez. Revelations of software and hardware bugs have provoked a backlash against voting machine makers by state governments and voter organizations. Activists hope that drastic actions, such as California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's recent decision to ban or decertify e-voting systems in certain counties until election officials comply with stricter requirements and provide more training to poll workers, will spur the rest of the country--and perhaps the world--to make voting more secure. Documented voting machine failures and undercounts have bolstered the credibility of deploying a voter-verified paper trail to ensure accurate recounts: Over 12 states have enacted or are considering bills that require such paper trails, while Congress is mulling over a national mandate. Much of the bitterness toward e-voting manufacturers was engendered by Diebold Election Systems, which suffered an embarrassing security gaffe when its source code was leaked online, and later was upbraided when internal emails were disclosed revealing that the company was aware that its products were unreliable. In the final analysis, the switchover to e-voting machines since the 2000 presidential election has not eliminated many doubts about the accuracy of the voting system. "If we go with the electronic voting machines and we have a close election, we will have no way of knowing with any certainty who won," says Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Avi Rubin.
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    For information about ACM's activities regarding e-voting, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "A Modern Day HAL? IBM Says Anything But"
    InternetNews.com (05/20/04); Joyce, Erin

    IBM research executives at the inaugural International Conference on Autonomic Computing assured attendees that scientists are not developing equivalents to HAL, the self-aware, homicidal computer from "2001: A Space Odyssey," by making computer systems capable of self-diagnosis and self-repair; rather, this self-healing ability allows network administrators to concentrate on bigger network management problems. Steve White, IBM Research's senior manager of autonomic computing, likened the distinction between conventional systems and autonomic systems to how camera technology has developed from complex machines that require a lot of technical competence to simple point-and-click devices that have not eliminated any of the manual functions. Much of IBM Research's work is focused on diagnosis, and how one network can comprehend information in variable formats derived from problem event logs: "The end goal is homogeneity across heterogeneous systems," White explained. Standardizing how event data is read within networks was IBM's rationale for recently submitting a Common Base Event (CBE) format to OASIS. Corente, Singlestep Technologies, and NetFuel plan to roll out products that employ CBE format, and partner firms are also embedding IBM's Autonomic Management Engine into upcoming offerings. White mentioned the Change Management with Planning and Scheduling (CHAMPS) project, which was described by officials as a process designed to determine necessary configuration changes as well as their planning and execution. David Bartlett of IBM's Autonomic Computing Group asserted, "With improved methods of understanding data describing the problem, getting to the root cause of network issues and fixing them can go from weeks to days, even hours."
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  • "Europe's Semantic Web Projects Start to Mesh"
    PRWeb (05/23/04)

    The inaugural European Semantic Web Symposium held in Crete brought together international experts and showcased how semantic Web technology has moved from research into the mass market realm. W3C Web Ontology co-chair Guus Schreiber said in his keynote speech that the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and Web Ontology Language (OWL) standards will make semantic Web technology available for ongoing enterprise integration projects. The European Union is funding much of the work detailed at the symposium, including the three projects collectively referred to as SDK: Semantic Knowledge Technologies (SEKT); Data, Information, and Process Integration (DIP); and KnowledgeWeb. DIP project coordinator Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) is actively pursuing the application of semantic Web technology to enterprise application integration (EAI) projects in the commercial sector. Approximately 30 percent of worldwide IT budgets are estimated to go towards EAI currently, and semantic Web service technology can significantly reduce the time and cost associated with that work. With businesses now having automated standalone processes such as human resources and manufacturing they will be able to reap even more benefits by cross-functionally automating their enterprise systems. SEKT is aimed at making Web data more useful for knowledge management systems by enabling computers to make sense of the raw data, and SEKT technical director Rudi Studer said the program would benefit workers in a wide variety of industries. The KnowledgeWeb program, meanwhile, is meant to bring semantic Web technology to the areas of e-commerce and the electronic workplace.
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  • "China Trying to One-Up Technology World"
    Associated Press (05/23/04); Hoo, Stephanie

    Chinese companies are pursuing their own high-tech standards in order to throw off the yoke of foreign technology. University of Oregon professor Richard P. Suttmeier says cultural pride is at the center of this "techno-nationalism," born out of the country's frustration of lagging behind the Western world's technological progress since the 19th century. Another sore point is having to pay foreign fees for products manufactured and sold domestically, and the Chinese government is concerned that foreign computer operating systems such as Windows are insecure. China Daily reports that the Ministry of Science and Technology intends to funnel $1.3 billion into the domestic high-tech push this year, but experts are warning that without a cautious strategy the country could end up isolating itself further by creating domestic standards that cannot interoperate with the rest of the world. Among the tech standards China is attempting to develop domestically is enhanced versatile disc (EVD), a homegrown DVD technology whose success depends on the release of movies in EVD format; WAPI wireless encryption, whose rollout was delayed when U.S. businesses complained that the technology was incompatible with Wi-Fi-based chips; and TD-SCDMA, a third-generation (3G) mobile phone standard. Datang Telecom President Zhou Huan says 3G and related services could generate up to $2.9 trillion in mainland China alone. BDA China managing director Duncan Clark notes that China may be hoping to force foreign companies to cut back their patent fees just by threatening to roll out a domestic 3G standard.
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  • "Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes"
    New York Times (05/23/04) P. 18; Seelye, Katharine Q.

    Severe doubts about the infallibility of electronically cast votes has spurred critics to clamor for voter-verified paper trails, and support for such measures is growing throughout the United States among local governments due to the federal government's failure to establish national standards. Nevada has made it a requirement for e-voting machine manufacturers to add printers to their products in time for the presidential election, while California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has banned the use of touch-screen machines that fail to meet certain standards in a number of counties by November, while any machines that counties purchase after November must include a paper trail; Shelley notes that counties must also allow voters to use paper ballots if they so desire, even if touch-screen systems exhibit no apparent problems. "People are demanding this," says Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), who introduced legislation to make voter-verified ballots a national requirement by November. In the meantime, over a dozen other states are mulling bills to require printed audit trails. In an unusual move, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) recently passed a law in which all counties must furnish paper trails by November 2006, and yet they are permitted to use machines without paper trails this November. Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Ohio) convinced the Ohio Legislature to allow counties to delay the purchase of these machines, arguing that it made no sense to let an election go without printed ballots, especially if is it expected to be close. Stanford University professor and VerifiedVoting.org founder David L. Dill says just a few counties have tested voting models with paper trails, while only a small group of manufacturers supply paper ballots. Representatives of several large e-voting machine makers admit that they could provide paper trails under order, but they see little need for them.
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    For information about ACM's activities regarding e-voting, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "CMU Grad Student Develops Origami-Making Robot"
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (05/24/04); Spice, Byron

    Carnegie Mellon University graduate student Devin Balkcom has created a robot capable of folding paper into simple origami shapes for his doctoral thesis, and this accomplishment could be a significant milestone in the development of more dexterous and useful robots. The machine is basically comprised of an industrial robot arm and a work table with a long gutter. Finding a way to mathematically represent three-dimensional objects derived from seemingly two-dimensional material, as well as coordinating movement of the parts so that paper could be folded into some facsimile of a crease while its inclination to unfold would not hinder ensuing steps, were key challenges. The robot's approach to creating origami is distinct from that of a human's: Because it lacks fingernails to help separate the paper's layers, for example, the robot folds the wings of a paper airplane first rather than last. The machine is also designed to flip the paper every time it is folded. The creation of a 180-degree fold involves the arm positioning the paper over the gutter using air-controlled suction cups; the paper is pushed into the gutter with a straight-edge ruler attached to the arm, and the gutter then slams shut to fold and crease the material. Visiting professor Yasumichi Aiyama of Tsukuba University is developing a pair of robots modeled after human fingers in the hopes that they can fold paper without the need of a gutter. Balkcom and his professor Matthew Mason think robotic origami could become an instrument for gauging the progress of robotic manipulation.
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  • "Software Industry Seeks Greater Market Effectiveness"
    Granma Internacional (05/20/04); Riera, Lilliam

    The 10th International Computer Science Convention and Fair held May 10-15 in Havana, Cuba, focused on the official launch of the Cuban Software Industry (incusoft), notable achievements by Cuban institutions, and security issues, among other things. Deputy minister of Computer Science and Communications Nelson Ferrer noted that incusoft should enable the Cuban software sector to more effectively penetrate foreign markets: He explained that Cuba shipped software to over 20 countries last year, albeit in small amounts, which points to the need to more advantageously exploit software's potential in education, health, telecommunication, and art- and culture-related fields. Confidence was high that Cuban programs designed to spur technological development by introducing over 50,000 computers in 12,000 schools and educate tech professionals will generate solid returns. Among the accomplishments highlighted at the 2004 Fair was an automobile from SIMPRO that teaches people how to drive via a virtual reality software program, which is already in use in the National Automobile School and will be licensed to other nations. The convention hosted a review of the Project Cuba: Information and Communications Technology for All initiative, which involved specialists teaching free tech courses to people of all ages. Also held at the event was the first Congress of Bio-Computer Science and the first Cuban Symposium on Artificial Intelligence. The state of Cuban IT security was detailed at the 7th Ibero-American Seminar, where Segurmatica general director Jose Bidot reported that most cyber-intrusions in 2003 were traced back to users who failed to follow recommendations to install patches or heed warnings not to execute email-attached files. He stated that priorities to educate users about malware and ways to repel it will be maintained.
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  • "Integrated Project to Develop Programmable Artificial Cells"
    Cordis News Service (05/19/04)

    The ramifications of how living technology could be incorporated into the programmable artificial cell evolution (PACE) project will be the focus of a consortium of 13 companies from eight countries in Europe. Artificial cells capable of self-organization and evolution are a necessary step for next-generation self-healing computer and robotics technology. John McCaskill, a guest professor at Germany's University of Bochum, will serve as project coordinator; he says that "The project lies at the heart of the transition to a nanoscale information economy, in which the solution of technical problems happens foremost and most efficiently through information stored, optimized and applied at the nanoscale." The spectrum of expertise within the consortium encompasses chemical kinetics, robotics, computer interfaces, standards, learning services, embedded systems, evolution, statistics, microfluidics, physical simulation, control systems, complex systems, and organic and bio-organic chemistry. The PACE project "will provide theorists with a strong reality check on the significance of their results, and experimentalists with both direction and technical support," asserts McCaskill. The goal of the PACE project is to weigh the potential pluses and minuses of organic technology, and the research will partly deal with how evolvable and autonomous the cells can and should be. The European Center for Living Technology will also investigate the ethical implications of organic technology, and bring the technology to young engineers and researchers through an outreach and training program.
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  • "Evolution Trains Robot Teams"
    Technology Research News (05/26/04); Patch, Kimberly

    University researchers are creating fine-tuned robot control systems using artificial evolutionary processes. North Carolina State University and University of Utah researchers used the Capture the Flag game to develop artificial neural networks that can control mobile robots: The first several hundred generations were developed solely using simulation, but were directly loaded onto real robot onboard computers when they were sufficiently competent, says University of South Florida researcher Andrew Nelson, who notes that at the beginning stages the neural networks were terrible at simple navigation, not to mention game play. The goal of the project is to develop robot control systems for any situation that lends itself to evolutionary development, such as clearing minefields or searching for heat sources in disaster rescue. Although the project has shown progress, the artificially evolved control systems are still not as efficient as human-designed programs for most simple tasks; more likely, robot controllers will be made more adaptable, fine-tuning their responses to changes in their operating environment, says Nelson. Eventually, evolved systems could be used for robots that face unpredictable situations or circumstances that human designers do not understand well, but that goal is still at least 10 years off. Surprisingly, the researchers found that larger, evolved neural networks were more easy to train than large, unevolved neural networks; also, larger populations of competing neural networks did not always result in a better trained population. The researchers are currently trying to improve the process, and possibly find out if there is a limit to artificial evolution based on environmental interaction alone.
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  • "U.S. May Get a Privacy Czar"
    Wired News (05/21/04); Zetter, Kim

    House Select Committee on Homeland Security members Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and Jim Turner (D-Texas) have introduced a bill to establish the position of federal chief privacy officer and similar positions at all federal agencies and departments. The Shield Privacy Act would also establish a commission to oversee civil-liberty and privacy freedoms relating to homeland security initiatives. "We're trying to be proactive in heading off major privacy violations," Meek explains. The privacy czar would be appointed by the president and placed in the Office of Management and Budget, and would have the primary responsibility for privacy policies throughout the federal government--guarding privacy protections, evaluating regulatory and legislative proposals, and reporting annually to Congress about agencies' privacy-related actions. The act is modeled on the E-Government Act of 2002. Currently, only the Homeland Security Department has a federally mandated privacy officer, while a couple of other agencies have appointed their own voluntarily. Center for Democracy and Technology executive director Jim Dempsey has said that agency privacy officers are needed to advise on privacy issues for new projects, and associate director Ari Schwartz says the officers would create accountability for government actions. Meek says the bill would also push technology firms to build privacy safeguards into their products. He says, "This will send a stronger message to Silicon Valley and the private sector that the government holds high individual privacy."
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  • "Researchers to Develop Intelligent Wheelchair"
    Innovations Report (05/21/04); Cleveland, Kate

    Researchers from the University of Essex have teamed up with scientists from the Institute of Automation in Beijing to develop an affordable robotic wheelchair to be used by the elderly and people with disabilities. Funding for the intelligent wheelchair, RoboChair, which will have a user-friendly man-machine interface, a new vision system, and a 3G wireless communication system, will come from grants from the Royal Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Human-Centered Robotics team from the University of Essex will build algorithms for sensor fusion, map-building, intelligent decision-making, and tele-operation through the Internet over 3G mobile phones. And researchers at the Institute of Automation will build prototype hardware and control software, such as servo drivers, DSP-based control systems, sensor systems, and motion control algorithms. RoboChair will enable caregivers and relatives to monitor and communicate with the user remotely at any time. "Today's technology development in general and pervasive computing technology has reached a stage where we can envisage a solution which allows the elderly and disabled to have necessary mobility to both stay at home and go out independently with the monitoring and services provided from the remote sites," says professor Huosheng Hu, who will head the Essex computer scientists.
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  • "New Bill Proposes Tech Training Tax Credit"
    InternetNews.com (05/20/04); Mark, Roy

    Helping information and communications technology workers update their skills is the goal of new legislation by U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.). Weller has introduced the Technology Retraining And Investment Now Act of 2004 (TRAIN), which would provide a tax credit of up to $8,000 per year to cover the expenses of individuals who want to further their IT education and training. "Investment in computer education and information technology skills training is the best long-term solution to meet the shortage of skilled IT workers and keep technology-based jobs here in the United States," says Weller. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has thrown its support behind Weller's initiative, which would offer tax credits to employed and unemployed workers, as well as employers, for use toward college course work, certification training, vocational classes, and other programs. "Perpetuating a culture of updated and dynamic skill sets is the best way to stay employed, and, where displacements occur, reduce the time lost searching for the next job," says CompTIA's Martin Bean. Weller says the bill is unlikely to pass on its own, but could be added to other legislation, particularly the Jumpstart Our Business Strength (JOBS) Act that the Senate approved last week. Weller says, "TRAIN represents R&D for the American worker." He says the bill would not only help programmers, but anyone else "who must continuously upgrade their skills to keep up with changes in technology."
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  • "DARPA Grand Challenge Entrant Talks About the Event"
    Gizmo.com.au (05/21/04)

    Berkeley University's entrant into the recent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Grand Challenge was an autonomous motorcycle created by a team led by 23-year-old Anthony Levandowski, who says he learned valuable lessons despite the bike's crash early in the event. He blames human error on the vehicle's failure: On the day of the race the DARPA representative who was originally trained to launch the cycle was unavailable, and the replacement failed to activate the stability control software to keep the bike upright. Levandowski says the incident illustrates the importance of the user interface, even for autonomous machines. Another conclusion the Berkeley team leader made is that the larger teams had a competitive edge in terms of organization, while the best-performing vehicles tended to be those modified from existing vehicles rather than those created from scratch. Competitors that Levandowski was impressed with include the Israeli team, whose entrant was small and relied on ultrasonic sensors, and the Carnegie Mellon University team, which performed well under pressure when it had only three days to rebuild a vehicle that navigated via Lidar. Levandowski says the trick to winning the Grand Challenge is to have sufficient funding and to perform sufficient testing. "Vehicles failed for two main reasons this time: They hit something or they we not able to start again after being paused by DARPA," he observes. Levandowski predicts that the Grand Challenge will not be won until 2006, and reports that his team met its goal to demonstrate the bike concept as well as prove its viability. He adds that he is developing the technology so that a single track vehicle can be used as a robotics platform.
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  • "Driving By the Seat of Your Pants"
    The Engineer (05/14/04); Glaskin, Max

    Haptic technology is being added to motor vehicles so that drivers can process information--such as recommended turns--without being distracted from the road by audio or visual input from dashboard displays and voice recordings. Jan van Erp of TNO Human Factors in the Netherlands has spun off his haptic vest technology for spatially disoriented jet pilots to create a satellite navigation system that does not assault the driver's eyes and ears with irritating data: The system involves a car seat embedded with actuators that vibrate on certain sides to alert motorists when a turn is suggested, and whose vibrations become faster the closer the car gets to the turn. Average consumers will have to wait two years to avail themselves of this technology. Meanwhile, Alain Muzet of the French national engineering labs is incorporating sensors into a steering wheel to monitor how strong and constant the driver's grip is so that the car can tell when the motorist is nodding off. If Muzet and van Erp's technologies can be integrated, then sleepy drivers could be jarred back into wakefulness by the vibrating seat actuators. Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler has built an S-Class Mercedes that tells drivers when to ease off the gas via a vibrating accelerator. "Haptics is appealing because it is instinctive, like a tap on the shoulder," notes van Erp. The technology will undoubtedly crop up in other consumer products once its integration into cars has been widely adopted over the next 10 years.
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  • "Planetary Rovers Cure Their Own Ills"
    New Scientist (05/08/04) Vol. 182, No. 2446, P. 24; Chandler, David L.

    NASA and the European Space Agency plan to include intelligent fault-protection technology in future space rovers. Space agency officials want to add the self-preservation technology to their robotic rovers after observing how NASA was able to revive the glitch-stalled Mars rover Spirit in early January. Spirit was able to maintain its communications link, power, and thermal management to protect against the freezing nights on the Red Planet, giving NASA scientists enough time to discover its software glitch and fix the problem. "I can't name one spacecraft that could have survived what Spirit went through," says Gentry Lee, a systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It took NASA two weeks to determine the problem from Spirit's self-diagnosis, and agency officials completed the recovery process in late April when it sent software patches to the rover and installed them over the course of three days. NASA plans on incorporating sensors and artificial intelligence software for self-diagnosis into the Mars Science Laboratory, which is scheduled to launch in 2009. And ESA plans to have a similar fault-protection system in time for a Mars rover mission scheduled for 2011. Lee says, "You cannot fly this kind of mission without a fault-protection system that is very, very, deep."

  • "Electronics Industry Girds for New Rules"
    InformationWeek (05/17/04) No. 989, P. 34; Sullivan, Laurie

    Complying with European, Asian, and U.S. directives to reduce the amount of environmentally hazardous materials in their products will require electronics manufacturers to change their cost structure, business models, and relationships with suppliers, customers, and merchants. AMR Research calculates that it will cost companies an average of $2 million to $3 million and devour up to 6 percent of IT development budgets over the next three years to support compliance with environmental mandates. The European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directives, which will go into effect in early July and late December of 2006, respectively, will force companies to set up IT systems and audit and reporting mechanisms to track each component number and the chemical quantity within each component. To satisfy e-waste restrictions being enacted in the United States, Hewlett-Packard is collaborating with suppliers to establish systems and procedures to facilitate easy and complete access to materials and compliance data on tens of thousands of products; "The money spent on research and development to comply with customer environmental requests and government legislation will eventually go into the price of the products," notes Renee St. Denis, director of product take-back and recycling in the Americas for HP. Reporting hazardous materials in electronic parts is becoming an industry unto itself: The Green Initiative recently launched by i2 Technologies features a Hazardous Material Management Database that furnishes information on components to help find substances labeled as dangerous in America, Europe, and elsewhere. Other businesses are offering help with compliance through services such as Design Chain Associates' BOM Transition Service and Agile Software's Agile Environmental Compliance.
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  • "Contents Under Pressure"
    Intelligent Enterprise (05/01/04) Vol. 7, No. 7, P. 18; Winter, Richard; Auerbach, Kathy

    The results of Winter Corp.'s 2003 TopTen Program indicate that the scalability of online transaction processing (OLTP) and decision-support databases has increased dramatically in the last two years. Winter records an almost 100 percent expansion in the size of the largest transaction-processing database, from 10.5 TB to 18.3 TB, while 2003's biggest decision-support system (DSS), at 29.2 TB, is about 300 percent larger than the leading DSS of 2001. Significant growth in row count for all OLTP and DSS database platforms is also documented: The average row count in Unix DSS databases experienced a six-fold increase, average row count for Windows OLTP systems expanded 14 times, and Windows DSS systems' average row count rose from 1,176 two years ago to 11,112. There was a 44 percent rise in the number of concurrent in-flight queries processed by the average DSS database between 2001 and 2003, while transaction-processing workloads experienced 54 percent growth. Aggregate storage was upgraded from 632 TB in 2001 to nearly 2 petabytes in 2003, and the number of poll respondents indicates that the average database, regardless of whether it is a DSS or OLTP system, boosted its storage requirements 3.5 times. Windows has significantly penetrated the OLTP sector in the last two years, according to the TopTen Program: Unix captured about 60 percent of qualifying OLTP databases in 2001, but Windows-based databases comprised 43 percent of OLTP databases by 2003. Winter expects Linux to expand its presence in databases thanks to its portability, openness, global support, and lower cost of ownership. The largest OLTP databases and emerging large databases chiefly opt for symmetric multiprocessing server architecture, while cluster systems are generally favored by midsize OLTP databases. Projections for the next several years include a rise in transaction processing to 8,000 tps against 25 TB of operational data, and around 1,500 concurrent in-flight queries.
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  • "Woz Goes Wireless"
    Technology Review (05/04) Vol. 107, No. 4, P. 42; Hiltzik, Michael A.

    Steve Wozniak's latest project continues his personal drive to take a sophisticated technological concept and whittle it down into products that deliver value to everyday consumers. The core component of his latest company, Wheels of Zeus, is the ubiquitous deployment of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology so that consumers can keep track of their children, pets, automobiles, and anything else via a wireless connection. The device Wozniak's company is developing will probably be unable to make and receive calls like GPS-equipped cell phones, but Wozniak wants to make the products so inexpensive that subscribers will implement them en masse. He plans to construct a low-speed, low-power network, the wOzNet, that will enable the devices to transmit their data to end users by integrating local "hot spots" with an individual range of about three kilometers. Wozniak says Wheels of Zeus' profitability will stem from the licensing of its technology and the collection of subscriber fees for the use of its location service. Wheels of Zeus' investors are confident that Wozniak can prove the wOzNet's credibility to the tracking services he foresees by showing that it is singularly applicable to short-distance GPS uses. Wozniak says the services he envisions are in keeping with his personal ethic to streamline a schematic to its bare essentials while maintaining performance. "Efficiency is what drives technology in the world," he asserts.
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