Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

About ACM TechNews

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 7, Issue 754:  Monday, February 14, 2005

  • "Washington Researchers Seek High-Tech Ways to Help Blind Students"
    Associated Press (02/13/05); Blankinship, Donna Gordon

    Researchers on the University of Washington's Tactile Graphics Project note that the visually impaired are often shut out of technical professions, given the difficulty in translating technical texts, diagrams, and graphics into formats understandable to the blind. The project aims to design better tactile interfaces and translation with input from visually impaired students at the university as well as local high schools. Elaine Akagi, who coordinates teachers of the blind for the Seattle School District, reports that high-school math students often have the most pressing need for tactile graphics, but the difficulty of representing colors and 3D objects in such a way is a major hindrance. Melody Ivory-Ndiaye of the University of Washington's Information School says tactile printers see little use because their software is obsolete and has a steep learning curve; the interdisciplinary Tactile Graphics Project seeks to automate the field using a National Science Foundation grant of $749,188. Principal project investigator and computer science and engineering professor Richard Ladner explains that making printed and online illustrations readable for the visually impaired is gaining momentum as children's textbook publishers integrate text and graphics to make the material more engaging. Ladner expects the project team to concentrate on developing a simple computer software interface as well as training to ease transcribers' transition into tactile graphics. He also says the wants to devise a scheme that allows schools throughout the country to exchange tactile graphics online, an achievement thus far thwarted by a lack of industry standards, among other things.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Forum to Address Low Enrollments in IT College Programs"
    IT World Canada (02/11/05); Pickett, Patricia

    The organizers of last November's National Information Technology Human Resources Forum (NITHRF) plan to hold a follow-up forum in May so that educational and industry players can reach a consensus on why enrollment in IT college and university programs has been falling, and what this trend's ramifications are. The first NITHRF led to the organization of the IT Affinity Group, a collection of deans and IT directors from various Canadian institutions whose objective was to convene and talk about shared problems. IT Affinity Group Chairman Morris Uremovich, dean of Algonquin College's School of Advanced Technology, said that falling IT enrollment often forces colleges to disband programs and produce fewer graduates, which makes ramping up IT graduate turnout to meet increased demands from business and industry all the more difficult. He reported that new IT program graduates, especially those with hardware and networking skills, have favorable job prospects, while the market is less favorable toward software development graduates. Algonquin has experienced its steepest decline in software development enrollments, and Uremovich thinks that concerns about offshore outsourcing may play a part; however, analyst John O'Grady believes perceptions of a weak IT labor market are a more likely culprit. The NITHRF organizers issued a press release warning that failure to raise IT college enrollment levels could lead to a labor shortage in the next decade as baby boomers retire, though O'Grady countered that "the IT workforce is generally younger than the workforce as a whole so the demographic factors are not going to have an impact on IT like they will on the other segments of the labor force." In fact, he said the IT labor market, particularly the computer hardware sector, is starting to bounce back.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Adding More Meaning From Place Searches"
    IST Results (02/14/05)

    The IST-funded Spirit project has developed a prototype "spatially aware information retrieval" system, currently being tested in Europe, that finds data related to a particular geographical location. Spirit is a collaboration between a national mapping agency and a quintet of European universities, and project coordinator Christopher Jones says the demo version encompasses a geographic ontology of about 20,000 location names, with plans to expand that collection to 100 million. The search engine comprehends what users mean when they look for data related to commonly given names of locations with no official borders, and can also pinpoint locations within locations without specific instructions from users. "This base is vital for geotagging or characterizing documents according to their geographical context," says Jones, noting that Spirit also identifies queries that involve free associations. The engine can retrieve alternative names as well as perform distance-based searches through relevance ranking. The demo version is being augmented with geotagging and spatial indexing, so that the ontology can recognize inaccurate and unclear names. Jones thinks Spirit will be especially helpful to people who work with geographical information systems, while other areas where the search engine could potentially find commercial application include digital libraries and location-aware mobile devices. "We are seeking a promoter to take this software beyond the project's lifetime," reports Jones.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "From High-Tech Driver's Licenses to National ID Cards?"
    CNet (02/14/05); McCullagh, Declan; Gilbert, Alorie

    The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would create federal standards for machine-readable identification, essentially requiring states to create compliant driver's licenses or risk having their citizens shut out from national parks, airports, or other services run in part by the national government. The Real ID Act mainly addresses immigration and identity fraud, but an important section on machine-readable standards for identification could be interpreted by the Homeland Security Department as including biometric data such as fingerprints, iris scans, or even DNA data. On the one hand, technological advances such as cheaper radio frequency identification (RFID) capabilities mean potentially enhanced security, but also increase the threat of irresponsible behavior on the part of governments since the technology enables Big Brother-style tracking. The Real ID Act was backed by a Republican majority and has presidential support, and also has some support from some Senate Democrats, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is a ranking member of a terrorism subcommittee. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was one of eight Republican representatives who dissented on the Real ID legislation and says the bill is a Trojan Horse that takes advantage of national security fears to push through what could become gross violations of liberty. Congress had previously passed a law that required the Transportation Department to create standard rules for machine-readable state driver's licenses, but the new bill goes further, even mandating data-sharing between state departments of motor vehicles. Other controversial identification technology efforts include proposals from the International Civil Aviation Organization on RFID-enabled passports. The U.S. State Department intends to begin issuing RFID-equipped passports to U.S. citizens beginning this spring.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "How to Stop Junk E-Mail: Charge for the Stamp"
    New York Times (02/13/05) P. BU5; Stross, Randall

    Author and historian Randall Stross suggests that re-thinking the email system along the lines of the postal service, in which the sender pays for sending messages, can plug up the flood of spam. He describes the Can-Spam bill as "worse than useless," noting that prominent experts such as John Marshall Law School professor David Sorkin say the measure has effectively legalized unsolicited commercial email. Can-Spam places the burden of authorizing or not authorizing direct marketers to send junk email on the recipients through its "opt out" system. Stross writes that the recently created Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, whose members include ISPs such as Yahoo!, AOL, and EarthLink, is a promising venture, in that members are sharing anti-spam methods and courting other ISPs to adopt protective measures by screening both incoming and outgoing emails. Stross also notes that ISPs have begun to attach digital signatures of their customers' domain names to outgoing mail, preventing forgery or alteration via open-source DomainKeys encryption software. However, he doubts that authentication technologies or legislation will solve the spam problem, and calls for a scheme to make spammers pay for sending email that forces legitimate companies to concentrate on the best business prospects and makes spamming unprofitable for the more flagrant abusers. One such scheme is an email "stamp" proposed by computer scientists Cynthia Dwork and Moni Naor, in which the sender is charged a levy of time for each message he sends by forcing his computer to solve a complex computational puzzle. The Penny Black Project system would be used on a voluntary basis, and not be needed when the sender fires off email to friends and relatives. Another anti-spam strategy backed by AOL's Carl Hutzler is "Port 25 blocking," which would deny individual PCs from acting as a mail server; all outgoing mail would be forced to go through an ISP, where spam mail could be easily identified and blocked.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    (Articles published within 7 days can be accessed free of charge on this site. After 7 days, a pay-per-article option is available. First-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "View from the High Ground"
    Technology Research News (02/16/05); Smalley, Eric

    In an email conversation, Xerox CTO and Xerox Innovation Group President Herve Gallaire cites materials science as a major driver of continued advances in computing and communications, while digitization and bioengineering will also have a profound impact on society and lifestyle. He notes that addressing the networking, security, ease-of-use, and privacy issues associated with these technologies will be a major challenge. The exponential growth of wireless device networks will require different approaches to satisfying these issues than encryption and lack of transparency: The former would only raise the cost of devices to prohibitive levels, and the latter restricts ease-of-use. Among the most critical technologies Gallaire recommends pursuing is systems engineering for better product design; imaging technology; less costly, more efficiently written software with higher quality; polymer materials; and systems controls to facilitate the replacement of mechanical controls with sensors and software. In terms of human-computer interaction, Gallaire perceives trends toward simplicity, the gradually increasing importance of voice, and technology that spans the divide between paper and digital documents. The Xerox CTO points to the data overload taking place in the information retrieval and document management space, and says solutions should be sought in the areas of more powerful, less keyword-dependent query tools; better search; improved response presentation; and integration to work processes. Tech-related social issues Gallaire thinks should be considered include the chasm between technology haves and have-nots, technology's long-term environmental effects, and the risk of overcomplexity canceling out technology's benefits. Gallaire says technology breeds more fear and distrust nowadays, and an effort should be made to change this attitude.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Gridless Enterprises Should Be Talking to the EGA"
    ZDNet (02/10/05); Berlind, David

    Among the attendees of the GlobusWorld grid computing conference in Boston were members of the Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA), which aims to resolve interoperability, security, and other issues concerning enterprise implementation of grid technology. Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle formed the EGA about one year ago to address enterprise-specific grid issues that were not being addressed by the research community, and David Berlind reports that the GlobusWorld conference showed that grid computing standards are making good headway, especially with the Globus Alliance's GT4 grid toolkit that acts similarly to open-source efforts Apache and GNU Linux. As long as these standardization and open-source development efforts continue, grid computing will eventually form the cornerstone of enterprise computing and allow greater system performance at reduced cost, Berlind writes. Leading grid researcher Ian Foster said at the conference that grid computing was part of the same computing paradigm shift that also includes Web services, on-demand, virtualization, and utility computing. That confusing mix of terminology is one issue the EGA plans to address, along with grid security, data provisioning, financial metrics, and component provisioning. Standard financial metrics and common terminology are needed to stir market interest in grid technology; currently, vendors each have their own ways of accounting for grid computing deals, with standard units of processing power or storage being a possibility. Enterprise grid systems would also have to work well with enterprise security in order to ensure data and application protection when those things are provisioned over a grid. There are also issues of hardware interoperability that have been addressed somewhat by niche vendors such as Opsware and Altiris.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Customer Service Via Machine"
    Investor's Business Daily (02/14/05) P. A10; Tsuruoka, Doug

    In their book, "Best Face Forward: Why Companies Must Improve Their Service Interfaces With Customers," Marketspace Chairman Jeffrey Rayport and fellow strategist Bernard Jaworski argue that current machine technologies can deliver better customer service than their human counterparts. However, the authors also stress the value of hybrid systems in which both humans and machines work together. Rayport says hybrids exist already, citing examples such as FedEx delivery personnel who use wireless personal digital assistants, and Staples' in-store Internet kiosks that shoppers can use for product comparison and price and availability checking. The authors claim that troublesome management issues can be addressed by bolstering human-machine interaction: One issue is the difficulty companies have in finding literate and socially adept customer-service professionals; another is the increased demand for better service from Internet-enabled customers. Rayport predicts that successful businesses will integrate both people and machines, and notes that new mobile and stationary devices that can be more easily plugged into frontline customer service operations are on the horizon. In order to ready themselves for the human/machine interface wave, companies must carefully examine all their various customer and marketplace interaction strategies, according to Rayport. He says the coherent coordination of all points of interaction (Web sites, in-store displays, phone answering systems, and so on) into a single system is nonexistent at present, and customer relationship management software cannot fully tackle this challenge. Rayport expects the eventual emergence of software that can deliver better customer service via more effective human/machine interaction, probably in the form of middleware that links workers to systems that transport and track products.

  • "UMass Team Receives Grant to Aid Computer Improvement in Secondary Schools"
    Daily Collegian (02/09/05); Desillier, Sheyene

    The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.2 million grant to a University of Massachusetts research team to develop a computer programming framework that imitates experiential learning in order to enhance the education of secondary-school students. The core principle of the programming is that an educator's most advantageous quality is his ability to learn from previous student interactions as well as adapt to students' unique learning styles, and the research team wishes to make virtual tutors capable of recognizing students' learning habits and devising individualized lesson plans. This involves designing computer programs to take factors of speed and response into account. "Students will be more active and engaged if tutors can customize their responses to the student's learning needs," notes UMass computer science professor Beverly Woolf. The goal of the research is to enable computers to distinguish between novice and experienced students, which is currently beyond the abilities of computerized tutors. The project also seeks to make computers capable of assessing how well a student has mastered a subject. The software aims to provide a more effective educational experience for students than previous programs, and studies will target how students' competence and attitudes toward subjects are affected by more intelligent computers. Another focus of study could explore how educational success reflects differences is lifestyle and gender.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Christie's to Auction Computer History"
    IDG News Service (2/4/05); Rohde, Laura

    Legendary auction house Christie's International PLC is putting on the block a collection of documents that trace the evolution of computing from the 1600s to the 1970s. The sale of "The Origins of Cyberspace: A Library on the History of Computing, Networking, and Telecommunications," is slated for February 23 and will include 255 lots containing 1,141 items expected to garner over $2 million. Owner Jeremy Norman is selling his collection of computing books and documents, which he began collection in 1971. Items to be auctioned will include the business plan for the world's first computer company as written by J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly; the original Arpanet documents written by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn; and the deposition of Alexander Graham Bell in the suit brought by the U.S. to annul Bell's patents. There is also an estimable collection of work from Charles Babbage, including an open letter to Sir Humphry Davy dated July 3, 1822, on the application of machinery for the purpose of calculating and printing mathematical tables. The collection can be viewed online at http://www.christies.com/promos/feb05/1484/overview.asp.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Quantum Leap"
    Montreal Gazette (02/11/05); MacGregor, Alison

    Canada has become the world's premier center for quantum information processing research thanks to the efforts of Universite de Montreal professor Gilles Brassard and American physicist Charles Bennett, who together fathered quantum cryptography. Quantum cryptography supports a foolproof encryption scheme by transmitting data as polarized photons so sensitive that any attempt to eavesdrop disrupts their quantum state, scrambling the message and alerting both sender and receiver to the eavesdropper's presence. Brassard and Bennett's approach can even thwart a super-powerful quantum computer, which currently remains unrealized, from cracking the code. Though idQuantique of Switzerland and MagiQ Technologies in the United States have been selling commercial quantum cryptography systems since 2003, Brassard and Bennett have refused to patent their discovery so that fellow scientists can build on their work without impediment. However, authorities are worried that quantum cryptography could be used by terrorists and other criminals to communicate without fear of interception. Still, quantum-encrypted data transmission must overcome formidable technical challenges before it can become truly practical. Photons cannot travel over long distances without amplification at regular intervals, the feasibility of which is still unproven. An effective method for sending photons to satellites will clear the way for the establishment of a truly global, hacker-proof communications system.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Workforce Planning Key to Tomorrow's IT"
    IT Management (02/10/05); Bernard, Allen

    IT companies will need to take a proactive approach to stabilizing the workforce in the years to come, according to the people3 report, "The Incredible Shrinking Workforce: Addressing Tomorrow's Issues Today." The Gartner company calls for the implementation of a workforce planning process to guard against a shortage of the kind of highly-skilled people who are responsible for vendor and contact management, rather than increasingly outsourced staff talent. The report anticipates a 4 million shortfall in IT workers by 2012. The workforce planning process would include aligning an IT company's strategic vision and objectives with its current and future employment needs. Organizations would typically develop a supply and demand analysis, and a gap analysis, as well. The workforce plan should cover recruiting, succession planning, training and development, and other related HR programs. Also, the plan should cover about a three-year period, and should be monitored, reviewed, and revamped, while the issue of an aging workforce may need a longer outlook time frame of about 10 years.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Post-It Notes Go Mobile"
    IDG News Service (02/07/05); Blau, John

    Siemens has developed a new "digital graffiti" application that would allow mobile phone users to send a message to a specific geographic location, where it would appear on the screens of other mobile phone users who are passing through the area. The concept is similar to placing a Post-It note in a certain spot. The application also resembles SMS (Short Message Service), although the message would be directed to a defined radius and the mobile phone users who are in the area, rather than a specific person. The ability to post notes to a zone makes the digital graffiti technology more than just a mobile phone location-based service. "Imagine a foreman walking through a plant and making notes of things to check for the maintenance crew on the production floor, or a friend who really knows his way around an area leaving tips of places to go for less familiar buddies," says a Siemens spokesperson. Users can post text messages and pictures, and have the information expire at a certain date. Researchers at the University of Linz in Austria and the Ars Electronica Center in Linz assisted on the application, which could have a commercial rollout by 2007.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "EU Steps Into Digital Rights Debate"
    silicon.com (02/08/05); Best, Jo

    March 31, 2005, will be the last day for the public to comment on a European Union draft document on digital rights management (DRM). Software and music interests have used DRM to safeguard their copyrighted material, but its integration with digital watermark tags to identify and monitor individuals has caught the attention of the EU's advisory body on data protection and privacy. According to the working document the EU released, new technologies are facilitating the identification and tracking of people when information is exchanged at the platform level. For example, a music buyer may be required to enter account information and a unique identifier, and the identity and musical preferences would then be used for targeted marketing. The strategy has been used to crack down on file swappers by collecting their IP addresses; the information is added to data gathered by ISPs, and some rights holders request identities in order to send cease and desist letters. The document "deems it necessary, in this changing context, to recall the main data protection principles and the extent to which they apply in the framework of digital right management."
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Network Distributed Computing: Fitscapes and Fallacies"
    ITWorld.com (02/08/05); Gaskin, James

    Max Goff, technologist and author of "Network Distributed Computing: Fitscapes and Fallacies," explains the key points of his book in an interview with James Gaskin, stating that the book's core audience includes software developers, intelligent people, and people who are sensitive to the direction humanity is headed in and the role technology plays. Goff describes a fitscape, or fitness landscape, as a Darwinian environment that has certain properties in order to test how well autonomous agents function in that environment; he advocates the fitscape model as an approach to network software development. "I believe that what we're seeing with the marriage of network systems and Moore's Law...[is] an environment in which artificial intelligence isn't something that we'll necessarily program, it's something that will emerge, that will allow for that sort of evolutionary behavior," Goff says. Though the author characterizes his book as a technical philosophy text, he notes that it has business applications as well, citing his discussions of Sun Microsystems' self-healing JINI network technologies. Goff believes that self-healing and similar capabilities will become increasingly necessary as network and application complexity grows. The technologist reports that the book covers Peter Deutsch's eight fallacies of distributed computing--a first for any book--and adds a few fallacies of his own. Goff says the book's unusual perspective came out of his realization that the autonomous entity fitscape model would have a benevolent effect on software. He reasons that "there is a certain amount of philosophical seasoning that's necessary if one is to consume this play of technology that we're faced with."
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Inventor Plans New Computing Platform for Students"
    TechNewsWorld (02/12/05); Germain, Jack M.

    Frustrated by the Treo and BlackBerry's "user-unfriendly" design, TanCher CEO Mark Menarik is developing a new personal digital assistant (PDA) for the educational market with built-in peer-to-peer networking and full Internet browsing. The wireless TanCher Internet and Mobile Platform (TIM), which will be custom-built and licensed to other developers, will enable students to answer questions in the classroom without raising their hands, take tests, receive homework, and acquire notes. Menarik says the handheld will run on a new TanCher operating system that delivers the power of a full graphical desktop OS; its display will be smaller than a laptop's, and viewing quality will be closer to that of a desktop. TanCher's core engineering and management team comes from the Cybiko startup, which created a wireless PDA/gaming platform, and Menarik describes TIM as a derivative of the Cybiko technology. The CEO expects the handheld to spark a revolution in new educational approaches that penetrate students' homes, while a report from a consultant to TanCher states that no competitor has yet released a product "for a student device that will meet the needs of the student, education, parents and focus on services that have a shot at eRate approval." The report envisions no technological obstacles getting in the way of the product's success, as TanCher can easily develop portable devices to satisfy both the students and the schools' needs. Students should not have any foreseeable difficulty in embracing popular handhelds to enhance the educational experience, as demonstrated by the accelerated rate of children's adoption of technology. The TanCher report concludes that the educational handheld revolution could be ramped up with federal funding and a rechanneling of textbook funds.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "ICANN's .Net Evaluator Under Scope"
    InternetNews.com (02/10/05); Wagner, Jim

    ICANN is standing by its appointment of Telcordia Technologies to the task of designating the next administrator of the .net domain, despite the company's indirect connections to two of the five bidders for the domain. Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), Telcordia's parent company, once had controlling interest in Network Solutions, the registrar company that was acquired by current .net administrator VeriSign in 2000. SAIC has since sold all of its shares in VeriSign and has no direct connection to the registrar, which is hoping to re-gain control of .net when its contract expires in June. However, Telcordia entered into another short-lived partnership with VeriSign in 2000, when the two teamed up to create an Electronic Numbering directory; that partnership dissolved after six months. Telcordia also has an indirect connection to .net bidder NeuLevel. The registrar's parent, NeuStar, is mostly owned by Warburg Pincus, which is currently seeking to purchase Telcordia. Despite these connections, ICANN says "substantial safeguards have been established to ensure that the members of the Telcordia evaluation team who review and analyze the applications [for .net] do so in an objective manner independent of inappropriate influences." None of VeriSign and NeuLevel's rivals for .net-- Afilias, CORE++, and Denic--have officially objected to Telcordia's role in choosing .net's next administrator, but Wayne State University law professor Jonathan Weinberg says ICANN has opened itself "up to some possible criticism." VeriSign's current contract to run .net expires in June, and ICANN is expected to award a six-year or longer contract to the winner in March.

  • "Robot Wars"
    Nature (02/08/05); Ball, Philip

    Leading technology figure Ray Kurzweil envisions warfare evolving into a predominantly decentralized, non-biological practice in which robots monitor, reconnoiter, fight, and strategize. He forecasts that machines' pattern-recognition ability will be equal to that of human beings within 25 years, and this capability will be integrated with machine intelligence. Kurzweil views the unmanned, laser-equipped Predator aircraft as a preview of a time when people will be taken out of the weaponry equation; he also foresees nano-engineered swarm devices such as the Defense Department's Smart Dust becoming capable of executing offensive maneuvers within 10 years. Decentralizing the military communications infrastructure by having strategists convene first online, and later in virtual-reality environments, will reduce the disruptive potential of suicide bombers, as will the utilization of decentralized power sources such as nanoengineered fuel cells and nanotech solar panels. A key component of decentralization is investing machine intelligence with tactical authority, and Kurzweil predicts that in two decades' time machine intelligence will have advanced to the degree that a commander will simply issue an order to a swarm of weapons, which will think strategically. He also expects the integrity and security of software to become a major tactical issue as it is incorporated into people's brains and bodies. Kurzweil says the frequency of classical wars as well as the size of the conflicting groups will decline with technology-driven decentralization, because "Decentralized communication...is inherently a democratizing force, and has been behind the move towards greater democracy in the world." He predicts that future wars will be primarily against fundamentalism.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Ten Guidelines for Designing a Successful Voice User Interface"
    Speech Technology (02/05) Vol. 10, No. 1, P. 51; Larson, James A.

    A speech application has the greatest chance of enjoying rapid and favorable return on investment with a well-designed voice user interface (VUI) that follows a series of suggestions outlined by numerous speech experts. Questions about what functions should be automated and how the interface can be optimized should be addressed at the outset of the VUI design phase. The first guideline is to model the automated transaction to determine its requirements, taking task and business goals from multiple perspectives into account, and balancing them with a thorough understanding of customers and their needs. Caller-centered design techniques must be applied to ensure that callers are not inundated with distractions during transactions, and considering multiple usage environments can help accommodate a wide spectrum of callers. Another VUI design rule is to choose the technology most suited for the task and use it appropriately, while designers should make sure the interface leverages the caller's natural "language instinct" with such features as familiar wordings, pronouns, acknowledgements, transition words, and contextually appropriate prosody. Defining the personality of the interface's voice to mirror both caller preferences and corporate brand image early on is recommended, as is establishing success criteria and testing against them to rate system performance and usability; care must also be taken to choose the best voice actor to record the prompts, and the best director to ensure that the VUI captures all the nuances of spoken language. Providing easy access to customer service representatives is less likely to antagonize callers than blocking such access, while employing "context awareness" to drive the conversation forward can also avoid adverse caller opinions. Finally, the interdependence of all the interface's components requires the establishment of a process that involves the VUI designer in even the slightest system change.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Terror's Server"
    Technology Review (02/05) Vol. 108, No. 2, P. 46; Talbot, David

    Terrorists have a diverse array of online tools and techniques at their disposal with which to fund their causes, spread their messages, swell their ranks, orchestrate malicious acts, and generate fear. Examples include the ghoulish posting of murder imagery; terrorist Web sites, which University of Haifa professor Gabriel Weimann says have exploded in recent years; and coded communications via email or chat rooms. Filters that block offensive Web content are available but imperfect, while Internet content regulation faces both legal challenges such as First Amendment rights and technical challenges such as filtering tools' tendency to sometimes shut out needed content. Still, the public and private sectors are aggressively developing and deploying new technologies for detecting and monitoring terrorist activity so that more effective anti-terrorism strategies can be formulated and implemented. A Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute research group is working on an algorithm that targets online social networks that could be used to plan terrorist activities. Industry efforts to combat spam and other forms of cybercrime also have anti-terrorist applications, as terrorists often use such scams to get funding; defensive measures in this vein include new email authentication schemes and moves by major ISPs to more conscientiously enforce their terms of service, which include provisions to remove objectionable content upon request. However, SRI International computer scientist Peter Neumann reports that these various efforts come up short because the cultural impetus to create trustworthy systems is lacking. Experts also think a cyberterrorism incident or the emergence of concrete connections between online fraud and terrorist attacks could provoke an overreaction in which government and industry transform Web content into a rigidly controlled and monitored resource.
    Click Here to View Full Article