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Volume 7, Issue 746:  Wednesday, January 26, 2005

  • "Computer Scientists Identify Future IT Challenges"
    IDG News Service (01/25/05); Sayer, Peter

    The British Computer Society (BCS) issued a report on Tuesday detailing seven "grand challenges" proposed to influence future IT research. One of the challenges is the development of dependable computing systems, which could involve the construction of a verifying compiler to automatically confirm a program is correct before permitting it to run; another challenge is the creation of systems that simulate or behave in the manner of living organisms. Other challenges include establishing and applying design principles for scalable, ubiquitous computing systems, and creating a scientific foundation for the design and engineering of a global, ubiquitous computing infrastructure with reliable interactions between devices. Optimizing the management of digital memories--emails, photos, etc.--accumulated over a human lifetime while maintaining personal privacy constitutes another challenge, as does outlining the architecture of the brain and the mind (with computing machinery representing the former and a virtual software machine representing the latter) in order to further develop information processing systems. The final grand challenge is to explore nonclassical approaches to computation, such as metaphor-based classification; measuring the likelihood of the range within which an answer lies through statistical modeling; the application of biological principles to the development of auto-immune or evolving hardware; and calculations that tap subatomic- or molecular-scale material behavior. The BCS report details the kinds of research necessary to tackle each challenge over a 15-year period, and what disciplines are required. The genesis of the project dates back three years, when an early U.S. Computing Research Association initiative inspired the U.K. Computing Research Committee to launch the effort.
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  • "Digital Updates for Passports Hit Glitches"
    Wall Street Journal (01/26/05) P. B1; Bryan-Low, Cassell

    The United States and other countries implementing new biometric identification features in passports are facing serious technological hurdles, not to mention the trouble of coordinating standards and policies for the technology. International governments want tough identification procedures at their borders to help prevent criminals and terrorists from entering, but there are privacy worries as the radio-frequency chips used for the new systems could leak sensitive personal data; in addition, some of the biometric identifiers are more reliable than others. Digital pictures advocated by the United States and the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization are less reliable, but could be culled from existing pictures already on file. Iris-scanning offers the most secure and accurate biometric identification, but the equipment is costly and it would mean millions of people having to visit government offices to get their eyes scanned. Chipmakers involved in the U.S. program say data encryption and aluminum shields will prevent data-thieves from wirelessly sniffing out information. U.S. proposals will add an estimated $12 to the cost of each new passport issued, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars required to update border security equipment. The U.S. Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 mandates biometric identification included in passports from 27 countries involved in the U.S. visa-waiver program, while the European Union agreed in December to add digital photos to passports within 18 months and fingerprint scans after three years; the United Kingdom and Germany are conducting tests that include iris-scanning technology, with the U.K. program involving 10,000 passport holders. IBM emerging technology executive Peter Waggett notes that even biometric passports will not catch criminals and terrorists who are able to obtain passports using false names.

  • "It Makes Sense to Communicate With Computers"
    IST Results (01/26/05)

    Paving the way for future research into Multilingual and Multisensorial Communication (MMC) was the goal of IST's two-year PF-STAR project, which concluded in September 2004. PF-STAR coordinator Fabio Pianesi of Italy's Istituto Trentino di Cultura describes MMC as a technology designed to make human-computer interaction as seamless as human-human interaction. He says, "The PC needs to be capable of interpreting and reproducing your gestures and facial expressions, as well as the emotion expressed in your speech, in the same way as humans do." The project primarily concentrated on speech-to-speech translation, identification and expression of emotional states through verbal and non-verbal channels, and core speech technologies for children; PF-STAR was a multilingual effort involving the use of English, Italian, German, Swedish, and Spanish. An early phase of PF-STAR involved studying changes in speech tone and facial expressions as emotions were expressed, and feeding this information into databases that were used to develop onscreen "virtual agents" that interact intelligently with people, each other, or their surroundings. The agents can verbally or non-verbally replicate the emotions expressed as well as the message's semantics. Agents based on the faces of children rather than adults were employed to improve machines' recognition rates of children's speech. PF-STAR accomplishments cited by Pianesi include the creation of visual, gesture, and children's speech databases that project partners and others can access, as well as new machine-based communications schemes. A project for studying and assessing new machine-based translation approaches, TC-STAR, has been undertaken by some PF-STAR partners, while the CHIL project seeks to expand research into children's communication in schools.
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  • "W3C Issues Key Web Services Standards"
    InternetNews.com (01/25/05); Boulton, Clint

    The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Jan. 25 released a trio of new standards--XML-binary Optimized Packaging (XOP), SOAP Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism (MTOM), and Resource Representation SOAP Header Block (RRSHB)--designed to improve Web services performance by easing the bundling of binary language into SOAP 1.2 messages. The new standards aim to address the slow performance that results when users attempt to run Web services software on computing devices, as encoding binary data as XML generates "fat" files that eat up bandwidth and impede applications. Yves Lafon with the XML Protocol Working Group explains that XOP and MTOM allow SOAP messages to be transmitted with greater efficiency: XOP packages XML and binary data together, and MTOM employs XOP to enable SOAP bindings to accelerate data transmission. Lafon's group knew that a single standard was not sufficient to encode binary data in XML, so the RRSHB parcel was developed to relay all the data required to process the message, regardless of whether slow bandwidth or lack of file access affected the data's rapid availability. Analyst Ronald Schmelzer says boosting XML efficiency is growing in popularity, as is the use of XML in new applications beyond its original design. Lafon cautions that XOP is not an all-encompassing solution to the problem of encoding binary data in XML, and reports that different concepts for binary data processing in XML are being explored by the W3C XML Binary Characterization Working Group.
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  • "Information Wants to Be Liquid"
    Wired News (01/25/05); Walsh, Jason

    University College London researcher Frode Hegland is the brains behind Liquid Information, a project to make each word in a Web document a potential hyperlink that can refer to multiple destinations as well as pull up a diverse array of background context from all over the Web. The home page of the Liquid Information project sums up Hegland's initiative as "an effort to turn Web 'browsers' into Web 'readers.'" The experimental system Hegland has devised is designed to enable users to establish links and change the presentation of information, or relate it to other data elsewhere online. The Liquid Information project's ultimate goal is to allow users to process data in any conceivable manner. Computer mouse inventor Doug Engelbart, who is collaborating with Hegland at University College London's Interaction Center, describes the Nordic researcher's work as "the next stage of the Web." Veteran programmer Bruce Horn notes that Google is following a similar path with recent strides toward its penetration of desktop search and its scanning of library books. Horn says, "There's plenty of information out there and Google gives us the tiniest fraction of an idea of what's possible." Hegland says Liquid Information will enable "deep legibility," an interactive Web that links data both explicitly and implicitly. He says "it's time...to help people navigate through information and get relevant information into their heads."
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  • "NSA Looks to Informatics to Connect Dots"
    Government Computer News (01/24/05) Vol. 24, No. 2; Jackson, Joab

    National Security Agency (NSA) research director Eric Haseltine recently told the Technology Council of Anne Arundel County, Md., that current commercial intelligence software cannot sufficiently mine the massive volumes of data the agency accumulates to generate "actionable knowledge," and made the case for new informatics software as a solution. NSA is after software that can distill trends out of large data sets with the least possible amount of data, and the Chesapeake Innovation Center of Annapolis has won a one-year, $445,000 NSA grant to look for informatics software and information assurance technologies under development by commercial and academic interests. Professor Mehmet Dalkilic of Indiana University's School of Informatics says the increased complexity of most IT products is making it harder for professionals to use the new software to the fullest, while most technology specialists have an incomplete picture of users' needs and do have more difficulty determining what capabilities to add to programs; informatics narrows the divide between them. Dalkilic leads a project to devise a "semantic thumbnail" approach for automatically condensing text documents by highlighting key sections through controlled domain vocabularies. Meanwhile, Rand Corporation researcher John Hollywood reports that his organization has engineered a new workflow architecture, Atypical Analysis and Processing, that could help improve data-mining for U.S. agencies. The scheme involves culling data about suspicious people, locations, things, and financial activities from external government databases and supplementing the data with field reports of atypical activity; the info is scanned for relationships by software agents that formulate relational theories, after which the system prioritizes its conclusions and notifies human analysts to the most significant results.
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  • "Internet Pioneer Cerf Brushes Up on Need for Better Cyberhygiene"
    Investor's Business Daily (01/26/05) P. A4; Howell, Donna

    The Internet needs daily maintenance as it matures, such as PC users regularly updating their software protections and network administrators checking for internal threats, says TCP/IP co-author Vinton Cerf. He coined the term "cyberhygiene" as a metaphor to describe how computer users and network administrators should conduct daily cyberhygiene by checking to see if there is any illicit software installed on desktops, servers, mainframes, or routers. Anti-virus updates should be part of this daily routine, as well as network monitoring software that checks for possible virus activity on the network that was introduced by an inside user. ISPs are responsible for blocking illicit network traffic coming from the outside, such as distributed denial of service attacks. Because cyberthreats are constantly mutating and finding new ways to attack networks, users and administrators need to keep their protection constantly updated; Cerf says layered protection is also important because information can be accessed in a variety of ways. IPSec provides encryption for information being transferred, but also allows email-attached viruses to bypass network firewalls because it is enclosed in a secure packet--therefore, there needs to be some way of monitoring embedded HTML or XML and examining the attachments. When the technical foundations of the Internet were being developed at Stanford in the 1970s, Cerf was also working with the U.S. National Security Agency to develop a secure version of the Internet, but was prevented from sharing his insights with colleagues because of the work's classified nature; today, there are commercial versions of Defense Department technologies, such as cryptographic methods. Cerf says users and companies need to be educated about the need for better cybersecurity practices, but the government should not mandate cyberhygiene.

  • "How Legislation, Lawsuits Are Shaping Technology's Future"
    SiliconValley.com (01/25/05); Chmielewski, Dawn C.

    Consumer electronics manufacturers and technology companies are nervously anticipating the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of MGM vs. Grokster, as the future of technological innovation may hang in the balance. The lawsuit, which 28 entertainment companies brought against file-trading networks Grokster and Morpheus, will re-assess the precedent-setting 1984 Sony Betamax decision, in which the high court ruled that manufacturers of VCRs and other technologies could not be held responsible for acts of copyright infringement, provided their products had substantial legitimate applications. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the lawsuit in August, ruling that the file-swapping services did not exceed the boundaries of the Betamax decision. Attorneys for the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America challenged the appellate court's ruling when they filed their legal arguments on Jan. 24, writing that file-trading services deviate from the spirit of the Betamax decision by being used chiefly for digital piracy and deriving the bulk of their revenue from piracy. A brief has been filed by a large coalition of consumer advocacy and technology organizations, urging the high court to retain the protection the Betamax decision gives to innovators. "What it comes down to is...the Internet has flourished and technology has flourished to large part because of the freedom to innovate that Sony provides," says the Center for Democracy and Policy's Alan Davidson. Michael Petricone with the Consumer Electronics Association says consumer innovations such as the DVD and the iPod would never have come about without the Betamax ruling.
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  • "Games That Make Leaders: Top Researchers on the Rise of Play in Business and Education"
    Wisconsin Technology Network (01/20/05); Stitt, Jason; Chappell, Les

    Video games are increasingly finding use as skills-building tools for professionals and leaders, as demonstrated recently by a trio of University of Wisconsin-Madison professors. The professors, who work with UW-Madison's Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Laboratory, study popular commercial games such as Halo, Lineage, and Half-Life, and contend that variants of such products can be employed by schools for corporate training. Players can assume new identities, explore alternatives, and attempt to solve problems even though they lack competency; they get instant feedback on the results of their actions and can retry immediately, honing their performance. The U.S. military is a major consumer of games as training tools, and UW professor Kurt Squire says newer products such as America's Army and Full Spectrum Warrior are proving popular because they promote the Army as a sophisticated workforce rather than an organization of mindless soldiers who follow orders without question. The UW professors would like to produce similar offerings that allow players to assume the personas of scientists or other professionals. UW professor James Gee notes that players have an incentive to become more skilled because the games sustain a level of "pleasant frustration," and the desire to improve their skills and knowledge can extend outside the game environment. NeuronFarm COO Ankur Malhotra remarks that "[gaming is] the next big thing just because teachers have tried for the longest time to grab students' attention, teach them concepts such as science." Another advantage is the addition of "modding" capabilities into recent games, which allow players to assume more control over the plot-lines, scenarios, graphics, and characters.
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  • "Bush Didn't Invent the Internet, But Is He Good for Tech?"
    New York Times (01/23/05) P. BU5; Fallows, James

    President Bush's first term of office was marked by significant technological progress resulting from public-sector and private-sector collaboration, which is widely accepted to be a key driver of U.S. innovation. U.S. tech companies are thriving even more than their European counterparts, although the constant generation of new businesses means a few old companies are always put out to pasture, and handling the subsequent outcry is a problem each administration must contend with. The Clinton administration enacted an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recommendation calling for cheap, broad, and rapid distribution of information through the most modern available channels--in other words, the Internet--which the Bush administration has for the most part upheld. A major controversy has been the "fair weather" issue, which revolves around whether the National Weather Service should make its information publicly available online (as the OMB recommendation advised) or restrict it to commercial weather services. The service established public information sites such as the Aviation Digital Data Web, which has undoubtedly saved many lives by enabling pilots to easily understand storm system hazards; public comment on this strategy has been overwhelmingly positive, and the weather service declared its official acceptance of an open-information policy shortly after the recent presidential election. The Commercial Weather Services Association argues that taxpayers should continue to foot the bill for the equipment and systems needed to take weather readings, yet not be able to get the results directly from federal sites. In any case, it should become apparent this year whether President Bush plans to stand by the pro-technology choices his administration made in its first term.
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  • "Complex Systems, Complex Science: Meeting of Minds"
    IST Results (01/25/05)

    Complex system experts plan to publish a roadmap document that identifies and focuses on future complex system research and funding opportunities before the IST-funded EXYSTENCE Network of Excellence for Complex Systems initiative wraps up this year. Complexity science, a relatively new discipline, covers the study of systems comprised of simple elements that exhibit complex overall behavior; examples of such systems include the human brain, the national economy, and the Internet. Meanwhile, the goal of the DELIS project coordinated by professor Meyer auf der Heide is to devise a way to facilitate the distributed management of information systems using knowledge of biological and social behavior, statistical physics, market mechanisms, and computer science to create decentralized procedures for ensuring globally accepted complex system behavior. The IST-funded DIMES project, which is analyzing the architecture and topology of the Internet, presented early results on complex systems research; project manager Dr. Yuval Shavitt says the project's objectives range from the creation of an accurate Internet map to the production of new understanding that could, for example, be applied to the simulation and prediction of Internet growth. The project involves globally distributed volunteers running a software agent on their PCs. "Within three months of operation, we already discovered 25 percent more links between the networks comprising the Internet [termed AS links] compared to that previously known," Shavitt reports. He thinks the research will lead to the development of mapping tools that will lower online congestion and allow Internet users to identify the closest available source when attempting to download files.
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  • "Is Today 23/01/2005, or 01/23/2005, or 2005/01/23?"
    Toronto Star (01/23/05) P. D1; Kidd, Kenneth

    Creating a standard for numeric dating is problematic as different dating systems are used on forms and computer programs throughout the world. The "English" or American format follows one format, while the "French" format is slightly different. Although Europeans and most of world besides the U.S., Japan, and Canada use the French format, the English format is gaining in popularity, mostly because it's widely used in software programs. The lack of a worldwide standard creates confusion. The International Organization of Standardization has come up with "ISO 8601, Data elements and interchange formats--Information interchange--Representation of dates and times." ISO favors moving from left-to-right, starting with the year, which represents the largest element, then moving to the smaller elements. The ISO system would consist of YYYY-MM-DD, separating the year, month, and day by dashes; and YYYY-MM-DDThh: mm: ss represents the addition of time, including the hour, minute, and second, to make dating more precise. The Canadian Standards Association's Anthony Toderian says, "Numeric dates must be clearly designated and not open to misinterpretation." The ISO has also sanctioned YYYY-Www-D as an alternative, which would indicate that 2005W14-2 represents the second day of the 14th week of 2005. However, the CSA says the ISO protocol has not gained momentum among banks, and that there seems to be more support for the American and European numeric formats.
    "Panel Urges Government to Increase Spending on the Study of Cybersecurity"
    Chronicle of Higher Education (01/28/05) Vol. 51, No. 21, P. A38; Foster, Andrea L.

    A report from the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee finds cybersecurity protection for the nation's critical infrastructure networks to be seriously lacking, and recommends that the federal government commit more funding to cybersecurity research as well as encourage university students and faculty to study the problem. "We hope that by raising the issue and providing some of the documentary evidence that we have that people will take this seriously and attempt to address it in some meaningful way," stated Purdue University professor Eugene Spafford on the committee's cybersecurity panel, which publicly disclosed the report's key findings and recommendations in a presentation to the full committee this month. The study finds that federal agencies expect the money and grants for cybersecurity research to come from other agencies: For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency assumes that the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be cybersecurity research's sole supporter, while the Homeland Security Department believes the NSF and industry should be responsible for funding. The report indicates that researchers are reluctant to apply for cybersecurity grants via the Defense Department because it chiefly provides funding for short-term projects, while most academic institutions are discouraged from participating in such programs because of their increasingly classified nature. The panel finds that cybersecurity research currently entails the active involvement of less than 250 U.S. faculty members, and calls for a doubling of cybersecurity scientists by 2010 through a greater federal effort to hire researchers and students.
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  • "An Award-Winning Project: Making the Visually Impaired Read Text Messages"
    ABS-CBN.com (01/15/2005); Reyes, Rizal Raoul

    A quartet of electronics and communications engineering students at De La Salle University in Manila have developed a mobile phone application that allows visually impaired users to read text messages, which earned the group second prize in the collegiate level of the Sibol Award in the Department of Science and Technology's 2004 National Invention Contest, as well as the "most promising invention award" from the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce. Presently, blind people can only retrieve text messages on mobile phones via voice recognition, which can be especially frustrating when hearing different accents or reading condensed text messages. Being hearing impaired as well as blind is an added disadvantage, and the researchers' prototype is even more helpful in such situations, according to De La Salle student Alexander Tabac. The students' Short Messaging Service (SMS) for the Blind Using the Braille System, which exists separate from the phone, enables text messages to be read from the phone inbox and converted into a refreshable Braille format. The system boasts four functional buttons--Menu, Enter, Prev (Previous), and Next--that can be discernible to blind users as unique tone alerts and to blind and deaf users as Braille. The menu command supports three functions: The reading of text messages from phone memory, the display of art via ASCII, and automatic new message alerts in Braille and via ring tones. Tabac notes that the refreshable Braille display permits 14 out of 150 characters to be displayed at one time; pressing the Next button moves the display to the next message line when more than 14 characters are received, while the Prev button returns to the previous display. "We realized, in moving toward [this] research, that we would acquire additional technical knowledge and also create a social impact for the visually impaired community," says Tabac.
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  • "The New Idea Labs"
    Time (01/31/05) Vol. 165, No. 5, P. A7; Adiga, Aravind; Thottam, Jyoti; Forney, Matthew

    U.S. corporations are increasingly outsourcing their research and development operations overseas to India and China, but some experts worry that this shift could siphon innovation away from the United States in the future. Overseas R&D operations are another step away from the old Bell Labs model of corporate research, where centralized facilities served a gamut of basic science and product development purposes, says Rochester Institute of Technology public policy professor Ronil Hira. Today, companies rely on university collaborations for basic science and are moving their design and development operations closer to manufacturing, and to overseas technology outsourcing providers such as Wipro Technologies, which last year grew its R&D outsourcing business by 55 percent; client firms do not rely on Wipro to develop their core products, but use the outsourcer for document and testing duties or creating foreign language versions, says Wipro CEO Vivek Paul. German business software firm SAP is one of the biggest investors in Indian R&D with an 1,400-employee facility outside of Bangalore that now files more than 10 percent of the company's patents. English-speaking Indian software engineers are transforming the culture of the company and making it more dynamic, says SAP Labs India joint managing director Martin Prinz. However, cost is still the basic driver for moving R&D to India, whereas in China multinationals are also hoping to find an entry point to one of the largest consumer markets in the world. Motorola's Chinese research group created a Chinese-language version of the A760 mobile phone, for instance. Although tapping overseas talent is definitely a plus for multinationals now, locating foundational R&D resources overseas will feed innovation in those countries and eventually take away benefits from the United States, says Hira.
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  • "Q&A: Marla Ozarowski"
    Computerworld (01/24/05) P. 38; Melymuka, Kathleen

    The most active program in the nonprofit Women in Technology organization is Girls in Technology, an initiative chaired by Marla Ozarowski that supports academic and community efforts to get girls interested in technology- and computer-related learning. Ozarowski notes in an interview that girls' aptitude and interest in math and technology is usually on an equal level with boys' until middle school, when social factors come into play and a "nerdy" perception of IT as well as doubts about their technological skills set in. She cites Girls in Technology's attempts to reverse this trend through outreach efforts, including after-school programs that feature challenging and interesting hands-on activities to educate elementary and middle-school girls about IT, and high-school-level mentoring programs demonstrating that an IT career can be fun as well as a path to independence and self-sufficiency. Ozarowski points out that although young people have become more cognizant of the economy and outsourcing and offshoring's potential impact on future job availability, they are still generally convinced that it is within their power to have any career they desire. "The trick is to get them hooked on IT early and develop a sense of the many doors that IT will open for them in the future," she says. Ozarowski remarks that Web development and graphic design can be particularly appealing to girls with creative or artistic leanings, although she adds that all technological areas can be interesting when properly presented. "What I tell girls...is that no matter what their personal and career interests might be, they need to develop a sound understanding of, and appreciation for, computers and IT, because computers will touch every aspect of their lives," she says.

  • "Linux Inc."
    Business Week (01/31/05) No. 3918, P. 60; Steve Hamm

    The Linux open-source software community has matured into an efficient, meritocratic organization that both independent and commercial parties contribute to, and whose products have begun to steal thunder from Microsoft's proprietary Windows operating system. Microsoft has been so rattled by this development that it has launched a publicity campaign hyping Windows' so-called security and cost advantages over Linux, even though clear proof of Windows' lower total cost of ownership has yet to surface. In addition, supporters such as Mark Seager of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory claim Linux offers better security than Windows. Sources say Microsoft executives are sowing doubt and uncertainty by warning corporations that Linux may infringe on Microsoft patents. However, legal threats such as SCO Group's lawsuit have solidified the Linux community and tightened the coordination of their efforts. Linux's development initially focused on the efforts of one man, programmer Linus Torvalds, but since then Torvalds has delegated responsibility to others. Among the companies contributing programmers and other resources to the Linux effort are distributors such as Novell and Red Hat, which are already seeing increased revenues from products and services created around Linux; and computer manufacturers such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which are reaping even larger rewards by selling machines preloaded with Linux without an upfront charge for the operating system; furthermore, software companies are selling products that run atop Linux. Setting Linux priorities and raising money to protect customers from potential claims of copyright infringement is the job of the Open Source Development Labs' board of directors, after which Linux distributors such as Novell package the latest version of the Linux kernel with related open-source programs.
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  • "Knowledge Management--Past and Future"
    KM World (01/05) Vol. 14, No. 1, P. 8; Pelz-Sharpe, Alan; Harris-Jones, Christopher

    Ovum VP Adam Pelz-Sharpe and principal analyst Christopher Harris-Jones anticipate a resurgence of knowledge management (KM) in the workplace over the next year and a half, although the practice is expected to be re-classified as "information management." The authors foresee little momentum for generic KM initiatives and tremendous momentum for projects that aim to reduce waste and make transactions more efficient; however, making a business case for KM will be just as difficult, while return on investment and total cost of ownership will play major roles in securing KM project buy-in in coming years. Pelz-Sharpe and Harris-Jones predict adoption of KM among major IT vendors and consultants, though they will implement KM projects as part of more comprehensive information management and re-engineering efforts. IT vendors and technology service providers' attempts to accelerate KM activity over the past 18 months have had generally better returns than five years ago, since customers rather than the KM community are propelling the KM revival. The authors maintain that KM practitioners and IT vendors alike should probably focus on enabling more efficient and effective data management for their clients in order to sustain their growth. Pelz-Sharpe and Harris-Jones have observed significant corporate-level consolidation of portal, collaboration, and content management (CM) groups over the past 24 months, and note that technological consolidation has begin to take place as a result. Despite signs of convergence, size and complexity issues will block the bundling of CM, portal, and collaboration tools into a single piece of software, while visualization technologies are expected to wield a significant influence on KM technologies over the next several years, partly due to users' vocal dissatisfaction with data navigation concurrent with demands for more seamless information exchange and management.
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  • "Life, Reinvented"
    Wired (01/05) Vol. 13, No. 1; Morton, Oliver

    The field of synthetic biology was spawned from the efforts of MIT engineers to model the biological world, and notable MIT projects in this field include counters fabricated from DNA and embedded in bacteria, bacteria programmed to generate polka-dotted colonies, and blinking microorganisms. Synthetic biology essentially involves blueprinting an organism's DNA to shape its form and function in a controlled, predictable way so as to "reimplement life in a manner of our choosing," according to MIT professor Drew Endy, who teaches a month-long Independent Activities Period (IAP) he developed with fellow MIT researcher Tom Knight. Students in the course design DNA circuitry, which is subsequently synthesized by an outside firm and then inserted in specimens of E. coli; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsors the DNA synthesis. The IAP's first year yielded a DNA circuit comprised of three repressor genes that flashed on and off when one gene was mated to a fluorescent protein, but the project was dogged by replication and compatibility issues. Endy discovered that the biobricks--the modular DNA fragments that serve as biological equivalents of electronic components--used in the experiment integrated physically, but were not always functionally compatible. To solve this problem, Endy and Knight started standardizing biobricks, and employing the polymerase per second rate as a consistent interface between the modules. To prevent the intentional and unintentional abuse of synthetic biology, Endy recommends an open-source approach enforced by a large community of technologists. Advocates believe synthetic biology can be a route to discovering the governing principles behind biological systems, as well as mass-synthesizing drugs and constructing more complex organisms and structures.
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