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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 666: Friday, July 9, 2004

  • "Feds Drag Feet on Cybersecurity"
    Medill News Service (07/08/04); Sullivan, Mark S.

    The Department of Homeland Security has not yet responded to recommendations on beefing up U.S. cyber-defenses that business and government representatives submitted back in March. The recommendations were made by the National Cyber Security Partnership Task Force on Technical Standards and Common Criteria, a coalition of five task forces created by a December 2003 summit of federal, academic, and software industry leaders. The task forces have called for the deployment of cybersecurity standards and best practices, unified software security configurations, and "code scanning" tools that look for software bugs; another suggestion is funding federal research to improve computer and network vulnerability analysis. "There has been a 'pregnant pause' waiting for a response," notes TechNet CEO Rick White, who says it is high time the DHS demonstrated its leadership and determined which recommendations should be followed and which should be rejected. Nevertheless, software vendors have started to move ahead on implementing the suggestions even without DHS counsel, points out Oracle chief security officer and Task Force on Technical Standards and Common Criteria co-chair Mary Ann Davidson. White says the Bush administration's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace takes "the right approach" by encouraging collaboration between the government, private industry, law enforcement, and education to improve cybersecurity rather than imposing strict federal regulation. Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller admits that measuring progress toward the national cybersecurity strategy's objectives is a difficult proposition, noting that the government's role in prioritizing cybersecurity goals in both the public and private sector is an important one.
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  • "Patently Unfair"
    Guardian Unlimited (UK) (07/08/04); Hammersley, Ben

    The issue of software patents is to be decided in the European Commission and European Parliament. Currently, the parliament and council of ministers disagree on changes that would either firmly establish or disallow software patents, which were introduced through a loophole in 1986; since that time, roughly 30,000 software patents have been granted by the European Patent Office, but opponents of software patents say the situation has become one heavily in favor of large companies with money to litigate. Large firms also have extensive patent portfolios they use to swap with other businesses, thus keeping smaller players with little leverage out of new markets. The software industry is much different than the pharmaceutical, electronics, or automobile industries because software is basically a series of steps, or methodology, that is explicitly unpatentable in other circumstances--companies cannot patent business plans, games, or philosophy, for example. But no matter which software language or technical implementation is used to print the programmer's greeting "Hello World," any patented code that does so would automatically cover all other code used to that same effect--as demonstrated by Louisiana Tech University's Hello World Web page (http://www2.latech.edu/~acm/HelloWorld.shtml). The technical implementation used is irrelevant with software patents whereas with patents in other industries, the technical implementation defines the patent exactly. In 1986, a clarification to European patent law allowed patents for software code that had a physical effect, such as improving computer performance or the way in which drugs are administered. Current European parliament members are deciding on whether to finalize legislation "on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions," and their decision will be crucial to the future of the technology field.
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  • "Make Computers More Fun Say Women"
    Tiscali.europe (07/08/04)

    The goal of the Strategies of Inclusion: Gender and the Information Society (SIGIS) study funded by the European Union's Sixth Framework Program (6FP) is to find a way to cross the chasm between genders that has locked many women out of the communication and media technologies sector. The 6FP's British contact for information society research, Peter Walters, observes that males have traditionally held the keys to computers, computer science training, and technical specialist employment, and notes that the lack of gender equilibrium has become a critical issue for both government and industry because of the associated threats of skills shortages, digital exclusion, and unexploited product markets oriented to female consumers. The SIGIS report finds that females no longer regard technology as complex or technical when they are exposed to entertaining offerings such as email and the Web. The gap between male and female computer usage is closing as new information and communications technology (ICT) applications such as the Internet and cell phones proliferate throughout the home, office, and education sector due to falling prices and greater ease of use. However, the predominance of men in specialist ICT training and tech design is acting as a cultural barrier to women. The British, Dutch, Irish, Italian, and Norwegian sponsors of the SIGIS study hope that its findings will spur more women to actively pursue a role in the future development of ICT. Education is seen as a key force for giving people of all genders and socio-economic persuasions access to computers and computing skills.
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  • "Copy Crime and Punishment"
    PCWorld.com (07/07/04); Yegyazarian, Anush

    Anush Yegyazarian notes how legislation favoring copyright owners and their chokehold over intellectual property continues to gain ground in Congress, while bills that aim to reverse the erosion of consumers' fair-use rights are gathering moss. The Senate has already passed the Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004, which grants the Justice Department the clout to file civil suits against suspected copyright violators while taxpayers foot the bill, and Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) recently introduced bill, S. 2560, authorizes the prosecution of parties that "intentionally induce" digital piracy by others. People such as Wayne State University law professor Jessica Litman criticize Hatch's bill as containing excessively broad language that could give copyright holders the power to restrict copying technologies overall, strangle technical innovation, and further invalidate fair-use rights. Some people could argue that peer-to-peer (P2P) technology would still exist had S. 2560 been passed into law a decade ago, only with safeguards designed to restrict its employment for digital piracy; but Yegyazarian wonders whether the technology would be widely exposed with such restrictions in place, and whether encryption, digital rights management, digital media, and services such as Apple's iTunes would have progressed without P2P-based piracy as a catalyst. The author notes that Hatch's bill does not specify how to assess a technology that can be used to infringe copyright while also having significant lawful applications. It cannot be denied that P2P networks simplify digital piracy, nor that this capability has contributed to the extensive use of P2P software, but Yegyazarian writes that Hatch believes this constitutes intentional inducement of copyright violations by P2P software vendors. Bills such as S. 2560 are moving quickly through Congress, but the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, which bolsters fair-use rights for consumers, has been stuck in limbo for 18 months.
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  • "Electronic Voting Machines Are Still Vulnerable, House Is Told"
    Philadelphia Inquirer (07/08/04) P. A2; Chatterjee, Sumana

    A panel of computer experts warned lawmakers in the House of Representatives on July 7 that e-voting systems are too vulnerable to hacking, malfunctions, and fraud to be relied on for the upcoming presidential election. "Given the gravity of the security failings the computer security community has documented...it is irresponsible to move forward without addressing them," argued Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute professor Avi Rubin, who added that it is impossible to guarantee that machines have not been infected by malicious code programmed to alter election results. He said the e-voting systems' source code is jealously guarded by vendors, who have repeatedly refused requests to open it up to public examination. Rubin also supports the provision of paper ballots in order to ensure accurate recounts. Maryland state administrator of elections Linda Lamone scoffed at the computer experts' criticism: She described the possibility of e-voting system tampering as "extraordinarily remote," noting that hackers would have to run a gauntlet of challenges, including gaining a working knowledge of the software's programming language and acquiring direct physical access to computer servers and voting machines. Election officials also praised e-voting systems' ability to significantly lower the number of voters disenfranchised by mechanical systems. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission will attempt to devise an approach for reducing security flaws and freeing up e-voting systems' source code for independent testing next week.
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    For ACM's activities involving e-voting, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm

  • "Undergraduates Participate in Collaborative Studies Abroad on Cyberinfrastructure"
    Newswise (07/09/04)

    The first part of the Pacific Rim Undergraduate Experiences (PRIME) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Office of International Science and Engineering, its Division of Shared Cyberinfrastructure, and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology involves nine University of California, San Diego (UCSD) undergraduates participating in collaborative research projects on cyberinfrastructure in Asia and Australia. Each undergrad is assigned at least two mentors, one associated with UCSD, and another affiliated with the host institution, which is linked to the Pacific Rim Applications and Grid Middleware Assembly. The goal of the PRIME program is to help prepare more American scientists and engineers for work on international initiatives, and offer students experience in project-based international and collaborative research that will give them a firmer grounding for future scientific work. A trio of UCSD undergrads are working at Japan's Osaka University on projects that include adapting tools to combine data from disparate genomic databases related to cell function and investigating the IPv6 protocol and how it relates to the telescience infrastructure. Two undergrads are at Taiwan's National Center for High-Performance Computing: Among the projects they are working on is the development of large-scale, computer-assisted simulations of biological signaling and regulatory pathways; a graphical user interface for pathway editing and integration in Cytoscape; enhancement of the Collaborative Lake Metabolism Project software; and the installation of a wireless network in tandem with the extension of the Ecogrid in Taiwan's National Parks. The final three UCSD students are at Monash University's School of Computer Science in Melbourne, studying the impact of pacemakers around the heart with Nimrod and Continuity software and embedding Nimrod, GAMESS, and a Rock cluster into a ready system for scientific data computing.
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  • "Panelists Push Agencies to Boost Funding for IT Research"
    National Journal's Technology Daily (07/07/04); Wodele, Greta

    A July 7 briefing for a House Government Reform Subcommittee about the federal government's IT research and development investments illustrates the need for higher funding, according to policy experts and government officials testifying at the conference. Policy expert Edward Lazowska said that although the government's long-term IT R&D commitment with various partners is responsible for all current IT innovations, the lion's share of federal R&D funding is being poured into biomedical applications, and contended that innovations in this field would be hindered by low IT R&D investment levels. Lazowska also said the Department of Homeland Security is using a mere 2 percent of its $1 billion budget for cybersecurity R&D. The National Institute of Standards and Technology testified at the briefing that President Bush's fiscal 2005 budget request would apportion $7 million to the institute for cybersecurity R&D. RAND reported that the Defense Department spent $6.8 billion on IT R&D, while Human Health Services committed $2.2 billion, and the National Science Foundation invested $628.9 million. There was a decline in private-sector IT R&D funding between 2001 and 2002, with 2002 levels reaching $190 billion, compared to $198 billion the year before. The president's proposed fiscal 2005 budget for the National Coordination Office for Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program is $2 billion, and NITRD director David Nelson said the office is trying to improve information security and software reliability and quality, and develop computer modeling and simulations to nanotechnology, manufacturing, and medicine.
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  • "Prosthetics Operated by Brain Activity Move a Step Closer to Reality"
    Wall Street Journal (07/09/04) P. B1; Begley, Sharon

    A long-sought goal of neuroscientific research is the development of a "neural prosthetic" that will enable paralyzed people to control artificial limbs by thought through a series of electrodes implanted into their motor cortex. However, this process involves patients laboriously thinking step-by-step instructions to move the prostheses, and California Institute of Technology researchers led by Richard Andersen believe they have found a smoother, less cumbersome technique by implanting electrodes into the "parietal reach region" in order to access higher-level thoughts. Experiments with three monkeys trained to wait for the appearance of a green spot on a video screen and reach for it showed that the electrodes could pick up their sense of anticipation with intent to reach. Using such cues to operate mechanical limbs offers patients a much more natural mechanism for thought control, and Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis believes that "Sampling from multiple areas of the brain is more likely to be reliable and accurate, and to restore the motor function of paralyzed patients." Andersen says the experiments suggest that patients' moods and motivation, as well as their objectives, could be monitored, while fellow Caltech researcher Sam Musallam postulates that a more natural way to convert thought into speech could be accomplished by tapping signals produced in the brain's language centers. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the clinical trial of Cyberkinetics' BrainGate device, which translates premotor cortex signals into movements of a wireless pen on a digital keypad via implanted electrodes.

  • "A PC Pioneer Decries the State of Computing"
    Fortune (07/08/04); Kirkpatrick, David

    Hewlett-Packard Labs senior fellow Alan Kay, a recent recipient of the Association of Computing Machinery's Turing Award and a pioneer who has made impressive contributions to the development of the PC, PC networks, graphical user interfaces, and object-oriented computer programming, says personal computing is in a sorry state. "The sad truth is that 20 years or so of commercialization have almost completely missed the point of what personal computing is about," he contends, explaining that computers are coming up short in terms of their original purpose, which was as educational and creative tools. Kay laments that the primary user of PCs today is business, when in fact he designed them to enhance education during his tenure at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Laboratory. He argues that business users could employ PCs to simulate their companies and potential changes, but current PCs in use by business people are too busy replicating earlier instruments such as paper and ink. Kay is also disappointed in the Web, which he thinks should primarily function as a domain for authoring information rather than displaying it. The PC pioneer says his latest project is a complete re-imagining of communication through the creation of "a new way of doing objects, operating systems, and networks, that makes use of the infrastructure we already have." The system he envisions would be totally based on peer-to-peer machines, boast limitless scalability, and support immersive collaboration in real time. Kay has modified his Smalltalk object-oriented programming language into Squeak, a free, open-source program designed primarily to augment education for children by visualizing problems in an entertaining manner, which could help set a foundation for programming skills.
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  • "The Dawning Age of "Silver Tech"
    Business Week (07/07/04); Kharif, Olga

    Chipmakers, medical-device manufacturers, software developers, and network suppliers are pushing toward the development of technologies that can give elderly patients living at home better care and more independence while reducing costs for health-care providers. One example is a wireless sensor network that Intel researchers are testing to see how well it monitors the activities of a sample of home-based retirees with cognitive difficulties. Director of MIT's Home of the Future research project Kent Larson predicts, "The gravity of health care will shift from the hospital and clinic to the home." Studies conducted by Kaiser Permanente and others show that at-home technologies can theoretically cut health-care costs by as much as 30 percent, while analyst Bill Martineau estimates that the adoption of home-monitoring systems could add up to a $450 billion windfall for the medical-devices market by 2007. Intel, Siemens Medical, and other firms foresee the advent of a smart home that will automatically and inconspicuously gather and study data on residents' well-being, alert caregivers to any crises or suspicious interruptions in routines, remind patients to take medication, and guide people with memory problems through activities by voice command. Other systems being developed or undergoing testing include an animated exercise adviser from Boston University School of Medicine that uses empathy software to maintain a friendly, sympathetic demeanor while asking patients questions about their physical fitness regimes. Still other technologies aim to reduce hospital visits through telemedicine, or by monitoring the health of at-risk patients at home. However, technical and privacy issues still need to be addressed, and it remains to be seen whether patients will be willing to sacrifice the personal touch of face-to-face consultations with physicians.
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  • "Unleashing the Power of Information Technology"
    Jakarta Post (07/08/04); Mougayar, William

    Developing nations did themselves a disservice at the recent World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), where they rallied against the U.S.-backed ICANN Internet authority and passed a noncommittal declaration on open-source software, writes management consultant William Mougayar. The WSIS is convened by the United Nations in order to discuss the issues holding back IT development in poorer countries, but discussion focused too narrowly on the issues of Internet governance, open-source technology, and financial resources that an important report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) was ignored. The WEF report was published just before the WSIS meeting and matched countries' use of IT with economic success; it also laid out measurable metrics that could be used to spur greater IT development in poor countries, and detailed the steps some developing nations have taken to achieve IT-driven economic success. Countries such as Estonia, Malaysia, Slovenia, Chile, and the Czech Republic placed well in the WEF rankings and provide a template for other developing nations. Governments should work to free IT from intensive government regulation or state-ownership, lower international trade barriers, encourage grass-roots IT projects, and allow free expression; these conditions encourage open competitiveness and foreign direct investments to build up telecommunications infrastructure, for example. Such an approach would be especially useful in a country such as Lebanon, where 34 percent of young people are unemployed. However, Lebanon has a relatively educated population; the country's nascent IT industry currently accounts for 24 percent of national exports despite its small size. Non-governmental organizations such as South Africa-based Bridges.org also show a way forward for developing countries, such as with projects that encourage local physicians to use PDAs in their care delivery.
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  • "Accessing and Researching Great Art Online"
    IST Results (07/07/04)

    The Information Society Technologies-funded ARTISTE project developed content-based retrieval algorithms that enable users to research and find artwork in assorted participating European collections online. The Fax Finder algorithm, for example, can retrieve and rank images that most closely match faxed copies of artwork from a database of 40,000 items, notes Kirk Martinez of the University of Southampton. Another search algorithm, tailored for London's Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum, seeks out color matches and displays the widest possible spectrum of original images that meet the query's criteria. The V&A's James Stevenson explains that text and image content can be combined in database queries, which greatly increases the system's power. Users can also refer to a color palette menu and query original images that contain, for example, 60 percent of the same tint. Distributed queries that span multiple art collections can also be carried out by ARTISTE. Other European galleries and art collections participating in ARTISTE include Florence's Uffizi gallery, London's National Gallery, and the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musees de France. Many search and retrieval methods developed for the ARTISTE project have been incorporated into SCULPTEUR, an IST-funded initiative designed to facilitate effective queries on 3D models and Quicktime movies.
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  • "Wireless Project Aims to Net C-U"
    Champaign News-Gazette (Il) (07/04/04); Kline, Greg

    Volunteers and community technology activists are working to install a large wireless network over downtown Champaign-Urbana, Ill., that would provide cheap broadband access to schools, businesses, and residents. The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network is pulling ahead of other similar efforts around the country, bringing to bear a number of recently won sponsorships, including a $200,000 contribution from the Open Society Institute in New York, according to project coordinator Sascha Meinrath. Tech-savvy volunteers from the local University of Illinois campus and local technology companies helped develop the group's sophisticated wireless networking software, which is freely available for download online (http://www.cuwireless.net) and has generated interest from much larger municipalities such as Chicago. With the infusion of money, the community network intends to install up to 80 wireless node machines throughout the downtown area and to the north and east; users would be able to connect to the local node, but would not be able to seamlessly roam throughout the network because the system is not configured for that use. "We're creating an open medium that can be utilized in countless ways," says Meinrath: Possibilities include live Internet broadcasts by volunteer radio stations such as the local WEFT, inexpensive voice communications, or communications networks for local emergency response personnel. The group's software is lithe and able to run on stripped-down node computers. Though pieced-together computers can be used as nodes, the community network decided to buy off-the-shelf machines that cost about $500 each and can withstand extreme temperatures and outdoor weather. One idea for the future is the formation of community cooperatives to buy broadband service in bulk.
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  • "Virtual Camp Trains Soldiers in Arabic, and More"
    New York Times (07/06/04) P. D3; Wertheim, Margaret

    The University of Southern California's School of Engineering is working on a realistic computer-game environment that can be used to train soldiers to speak Arabic and prepare them for scenarios they may encounter in the Middle East. The game, also known as the Tactical Language Project, uses artificial-intelligence software to direct the actions of virtual characters so that their behavior is autonomous and their reactions to the character representing the user are realistic. The actions of the user's avatar are controlled by keyboard commands, while the user speaks for the avatar via a microphone headset. The game, which will be tested by soldiers at Fort Bragg in mid July, is part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa)-sponsored program to devise new troop training techniques using existing technological infrastructure. Darpa launched the Tactical Language Project when it realized that nonverbal cues were just as important as language skills for effective communication in foreign lands; for this reason, meaningful gestures and body language are incorporated into the video game. Pronunciation is a particularly difficult obstacle for soldiers, because Arabic dialects vary across different regions and sound distinct from literary Arabic. To overcome this problem, the Center for Research in Technology for Education at USC devised a virtual tutor that employs AI software to teach students proper pronunciation, a task that involved the design of speech recognition software customized for language learners. So that game characters behave realistically, they are imbued with individual belief systems that trigger certain actions in response to those of the user's avatar; these belief systems include components such as trust and arousal levels, which can determine individual characters' reactions to appropriate or inappropriate user behavior.
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  • "Sharing Lightens the Download"
    New Scientist (06/26/04) Vol. 182, No. 2453, P. 26; McCarthy, Kieren

    The entertainment industry has doggedly pursued sanctions against peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks and their users, arguing that this must be done to stave off a digital piracy explosion of epidemic proportions. But this attitude may change with the success of projects proving that P2P is a highly efficient and cost-effective tool for large-scale data distribution. The BBC will test its P2P-based Interactive Media Player (iMP) software for downloading and watching TV broadcasts via a broadband Internet connection over the next three months. The downloading process is distributed via swarming, in which files are chopped into segments while a central directory responds to file requests by telling the user's computer where each fragment can be found; iMP chief architect Ben Lavender says the P2P technology is based on principles employed by BitTorrent, which helps the system dramatically accelerate downloading times. Linspire was so taken with BitTorrent and its potential cost savings that it cut the cost of its software in half for anyone who downloaded the program with BitTorrent. "P2P allows us to serve more customers faster than previously possible and at a huge saving, which we are able to pass on in lower prices," comments Lindows CEO Michael Robertson. Ross Anderson of the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory has opted for Chord, a P2P system that employs distributed hash table methodology whereby a simple equation is applied to pieces of data to split them into identifiable groups. His project, in conjunction with the University of Cambridge Library, aims to supply distributed storage for a collection of ancient manuscripts, while Frans Kaashoek of MIT is constructing an alternative distribution system for Usenet with Chord, which he co-created.

  • "Where Oh Where Does All the Data Go?"
    Federal Computer Week (07/05/04) Vol. 18, No. 22, P. 40; Olsen, Florence

    A report on federal data-mining activities prepared by the General Accounting Office (GAO) and submitted to Congress shows a clear need for oversight and protections, according to Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who requested the study. The dark side of data mining first appeared in the public consciousness with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Total Information Awareness project, a initiative that sought to mine public and commercial databases to uncover patterns that might indicate terrorist activity, but which was harshly criticized by privacy advocates and eventually killed by Congress. Center for Democracy and Technology staff counsel Lara Flint says the statistical rarity of terrorist attacks makes the use of pattern-based queries to anticipate the next incident difficult, and adds that the GAO study demonstrates the need for additional legislative safeguards. Georgetown University law professor Jeffrey Rosen says staving off privacy abuses that can occur in federal mining of unregulated data requires a two-part strategy. The first step is the development of improved data-mining technologies, and the second step is the congressional institution of new legal security measures. GAO officials have started to prepare a follow-up report that will present federal data-mining efforts in more detail, while legislators and citizens are attempting to better understand the potentially sinister aspects of data mining. Akaka is weighing the virtues of proposing laws to restrict privacy infringement that could stem from data mining.
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  • "Speak Easy"
    Computerworld (07/05/04) Vol. 32, No. 27, P. 21; Anthes, Gary H.

    The usability of automated speech systems is expanding thanks to technology whose intelligence, ease of use, and integration with other applications is increasing, while products are being introduced that enable mainstream developers to more easily deploy the technology. Speech products have mostly been relegated to niche markets such as medical dictation and PC navigation by the handicapped, but these systems have started to connect to enterprise systems to make use of other applications and facilitate transactions. For instance, Verizon Communications has rolled out a speech application that can be used to initiate a line test, bring customer accounts up to date, schedule repairs, and create trouble tickets. Verizon has set up a National Operations Voice Portal that enables customers to access data-center services through calls that are directed from point to point with voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology. The increasing sophistication of natural-language understanding has made callers more receptive to automated speech systems, according to organizations that have implemented the technology. T. Rowe Price Group, for example, uses a free-form speech system that features natural-language understanding, and VP Nicholas Welsh reports that the company has saved money in telephone charges because transactions that once took several minutes can now be done in half a minute. Mining databases of voice records is also easier with the linkage of speech systems to mainstream corporate IT systems and the use of VoIP.
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  • "The Next Information Superhighway"
    Chronicle of Higher Education (07/09/04) Vol. 50, No. 44, P. A29; Kiernan, Vincent

    Many academic research projects generate a vast amount of data that cannot be processed over existing computer networks, but a coalition of colleges aims to change that with the creation of National LambdaRail, an $80 million national fiber-optic network sponsored by colleges, higher-education organizations, and state governments. The coalition is setting down several "dark fiber" fiber-optic routes: One spans the coasts between New York and Seattle, with connecting nodes in Chicago and Denver; four travel north-south from Seattle to Los Angeles, Denver to El Paso, Kansas City, Mo., to Houston, and New York to Jacksonville, Fla.; and a sixth passes through Jacksonville, Houston, and Los Angeles. These routes have been influenced by the various entities offering funding and dark fiber access to LambdaRail in return for certain concessions, with the result that some U.S. regions, most notably the Midwest and upper West, are not covered. Institutions participating in LambdaRail can use a "lambda," or light wavelength, to establish a private, specially-tailored link between two locations that is protected against cyberattacks and other problems associated with the Internet. Three lambdas will be made available to member institutions of the National LambdaRail organization, while a fourth will be used exclusively by the Internet2 consortium to research technologies that could eventually succeed the Abilene high-speed network. In addition to data processing for research, LambdaRail could also be used for bandwidth-heavy applications such as high-quality videoconferencing. Some smaller institutions have elected not to buy a LambdaRail link: Some cannot afford the costs, including a $5 million National LambdaRail organization membership fee and fiber-optic connection setup expenses, while others have too few large-scale research projects to justify joining the network. Administrators and researchers agree that they could capture more research grants with a LambdaRail connection because of its ability to facilitate international scholarly collaboration.
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  • "The Ninth Annual Search Engine Meeting"
    Information Today (06/04) Vol. 21, No. 6, P. 30; Garman, Nancy

    The ninth annual Search Engine Meeting brought together specialists in search engine research and development, indexing, categorization, natural language, and computer science to network, exchange ideas, and discuss their work, although international delegates far outnumbered American delegates. Cambridge University's Karen Sparck Jones delivered a keynote presentation in which she attested that the previously isolated realms of search research and Web search engine development have converged in the last decade thanks to the proliferation of the Web and the conference: She said this convergence promises to benefit researchers, developers, implementers, and end users. Search from the researcher's point of view was detailed by TREC's Donna Harman and Syracuse University's Liz Liddy, who concentrated on how the value of textual retrieval can be enhanced by affect-mining. The search engine developer's perspective was presented by Verity's Prabhakar Raghavan, who said there is a pressing need to devise tools to build or squeeze out and then take advantage of structure, given the huge volumes of unstructured data in current business organizations. He thought that a research focus on XML, textual retrieval, and information integration would be helpful, while Peter Bell of Endeca suggested that faceted navigation was a more efficient alternative to taxonomies. CEA's Gregory Grefenstette said that English is still the predominant language of the Internet, but he anticipated significant growth in non-English languages as broadband access proliferated, which made a strong case for the development of multilingual search and retrieval. Sue Feldman from IDC made a presentation on enterprise search, and forecast near-future developments such as the incorporation of linguistic capabilities into other applications, universal access to data plus content, and interactive visualizations of information spaces, results, and relationships. Ethan Munson of the University of Wisconsin, LTU Technologies' Sebastian Gilles, and Dublin City University's Alan Smeaton clarified search-and-retrieval development by leading discussions on image searching, access-to-video archives, and visual-content-analysis technology.
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