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Volume 7, Issue 880:  December 19, 2005

  • "Guidelines Set on Software Property Rights"
    New York Times (12/19/05) P. C6; Lohr, Steve

    IBM, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Cisco have reached an agreement with seven American universities regarding principles under which software developed in collaborative projects will be made freely available. The agreement is intended to evade the legal complexities regarding intellectual-property rights that can create obstacles to joint research. Specialists say this legal maneuvering is slowing down the pace of innovation and leading some companies to seek university research partners in other countries where the legal jockeying is less time-consuming. Joining the four technology companies in the agreement are Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the universities of Stanford, California at Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Illinois and Texas. The effort stems from a gathering last August of university and industry researchers that was sponsored by IBM and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The agreement's guidelines and framework are to be posted at www.ibm.com/university and at the Kauffman foundation's www.kauffman.org site.
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  • "Valley Tech Push Reaps Results in D.C."
    San Jose Mercury News (CA) (12/16/05); Puzzanghera, Jim

    Efforts in the past year to convince Congress that the United States could lose its technological edge have begun to produce legislative proposals intended to remedy the problem. Based on recommendations made last December by the National Innovation Initiative, the "National Innovation Act" sponsored by Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) is the most comprehensive--calling, among other things, for a doubling of federal basic-research funding by 2011. Other provisions in the bill would promote innovation by U.S. companies and boost math and science education. The National Innovation Initiative is a group of powerful business, academic, and government leaders who have been urging a major federal commitment to improving the global competitiveness of the United States. Ensign and Lieberman's bill, which has 16 co-sponsors, would also create regional innovation "hotspots" around the country intended to mimic Silicon Valley, create a presidential "council on innovation" to develop a public-private strategy, increase the National Science Foundation's budget, and permanently extend the business research-and-development tax credit. Other provisions in the bill would boost federal support for graduate fellowships and trainee programs in science, math, and engineering, and establish a grant program to help primary and secondary schools create new math and science teaching techniques.
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  • "In Computer Science, a Growing Gender Gap"
    Boston Globe (12/18/05); Bombardieri, Marcella

    The computer field was once seen as a welcoming new field for women, lacking the male-dominated history common with other sciences and engineering, but today there is a growing gender gap as few young women enter the field. In the early 1980s, computer science had one of the science and engineering field's highest proportions of female undergraduates, but it has fast become one of U.S. society's least gender-balanced fields. Various, elusive cultural factors have played a role in this change, such as the difficult weed-out courses created during the tech bubble when huge numbers of students were pursuing computer science, as well as an unpleasant environment, poor teaching, and negative stereotypes. Some people, mindful of history, fear that the decline in the proportion of female undergraduates may be a harbinger of even more bad things to come, as the explosion of interest in computers in the past 20 years is similar to the explosion of interest in physics after World War II and the development of the atomic bomb. The creation of the atomic bomb was followed by a huge surge of physics undergraduates and decline in the proportion of women studying physics, but this physics-student bubble eventually burst, and today many U.S. physicists are foreign-born. Today, the U.S. has also been seeing a big decline in the number of computer-science undergraduates, and this could threaten U.S. high-tech leadership at a time when other countries, such as India and China, are preparing to face a whole new kind of competition. Various universities and organizations are embarking on efforts to boost the number of female computer-science undergraduates, including Tufts University and MIT. In addition, the National Center for Women & Information Technology has designated schools and groups including the Girl Scouts to identify solutions, and the National Science Foundation is creating a set of grants to universities, high schools, and industry groups to seek creative ways to address the problem.
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  • "The Internet Is Broken"
    Technology Review (12/19/05); Talbot, David

    MIT's David D. Clark argues that the Internet's lack of built-in security and diminished ability to accommodate innovation has brought us to "an inflection point, a revolution point," and he foresees the stagnation of the Internet's utility without drastic intervention. The Internet's fragility and complexity of management is increasing on a daily basis, and Clark believes the Internet's fundamental architecture has to be re-imagined, perhaps by starting over from scratch. Just as critical is coming up with a valid strategy for establishing the new architecture's viability so that it has some hope of deployment. "It's not as if there is some killer technology at the protocol or network level that we somehow failed to include," explains Clark. "We need to take all the technologies we already know and fit them together so that we get a different overall system." The National Science Foundation is developing a plan to devise clean-slate Internet architectures that are secure, innovation-friendly, and simple to manage; the effort is expected to take five to seven years to accomplish and cost between $200 million and $300 million in research funding. It is also hoped that the resulting infrastructure will demonstrate the new system's superiority over the current system. Spyware, adware, spam, and botnets are flourishing thanks to the absence of an inherent security architecture within the Internet, and a 2005 report from the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee warned of the exacerbation of this situation as well as the IT infrastructure's vulnerability "to premeditated attacks with potentially catastrophic effects."
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  • "ASU Team Tries to Streamline Web Shopping"
    Arizona Republic (12/15/05); Larson, Jane

    Arizona State University computer science professor Hasan Davulcu and a team of computer science students won a $20,000 first-place prize and entry into last month's first-ever Intel-UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge at Arizona State University's Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge this fall. The team created Usuggest.com, a Web site that allows users to comparison shop via the Internet. The site also tracks how many users have searched for a particular product, and offers links to related items. Forrester Research says about 31 percent of North American online consumers use comparison shopping Web sites, an increase from 18 percent the previous year. Usuggest.com works by ranking suggestions according to their usefulness to others, and pays commissions to users whose suggestions result in new sales for vendors. "People were constantly shopping and failing to find things," says Davulcu. "So how can we get them to talk to each other? Then this idea of suggestions came up. Whenever they find something they buy, they just hit a button and submit it to a central Web site." The Web site currently has a team of 17 students at Davulcu's former school, the State University of New York-Stony Brook, who are putting the finishing touches on the technology behind the suggestions and rankings. Usuggest.com averages 10,000 hits per day and made more than $70,000 worth of sales a month for its vendors, says Tom Duening of ASU's engineering school.
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  • "Software: Mona Lisa Was Happy"
    Champaign News-Gazette (IL) (12/14/05); Kline, Greg

    University of Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor Thomas Huang has developed software that can interact with humans through expressions and gestures, rather than a mouse and keyboard, creating a more natural and meaningful relationship between human and machine. Through an analysis of facial features, the software can gauge its user's mood, which could enable it to understand whether the results it produced to a given query were satisfactory. Huang's colleague Nicu Sebe augmented the technology with its emotion-recognition component, and applied it to analyze the mood of the woman painted in the Mona Lisa. Sebe place the woman's face on a virtual mannequin to give it dimension and compared it with a photo of a Caucasian female showing no emotion. The results reported with 80 percent confidence that she was happy, an opinion shared by the Louvre. The experiment also found trace elements of fear, disgust, and anger, and no amount of surprise or sadness. Images have been central to Huang's research throughout his career. Huang, who co-heads the Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction group at the UI's Beckman Institute, is currently developing automatic cataloging tools for vast databases of images, video, and other non-textual content, searching for creative alternatives to text-based searches.
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  • "SETI@Home Project Ends; No E.T., But the Technology Continues"
    Network World (12/15/05); Hochmuth, Phil

    The SETI@Home project has officially ended, and is now being transferred to the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) open-source grid project. "The workunit totals of users and teams will be frozen at that point, and the final totals will be available on the Web," according to a Dec. 15 e-mail from SETI@Home administrators at the University of California at Berkeley, which is where the project was launched in 1999. The Search for Extra Terrestrial Life at Home (SETI@Home) project is a grid supercomputer project that sought to pick up signals of extra terrestrial life form in deep space using radio telescopes. The project made use of idle CPU cycles from Internet-connected computers around the world to analyze its data. More than 5 million users downloaded the SETI@Home software, which ran as a screensaver, to give the project 2 million years of CPU time, and more than 50TB of data, or "workunits" parsed. BOINC will use an open-source grid format to power the analysis of radio signals.
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  • "Facing the Future"
    Engineer (12/12/05)

    Favorable results during preliminary testing have prompted researchers at the University of Kent to proceed with an effort to develop a technique that would accurately render what a missing child in a picture would look like as time passes or as an adult. The researchers plan to begin the next phase of the project in February, and will receive assistance from experts at Dundee University on developing algorithms that can age a facial image. A statistical training process will be used to assess how the faces of children develop as they reach puberty and how facial features resemble those of the parents. "Essentially, a photograph is presented to the system, and a number of key facial landmarks such as the corner of the eyes, mouth, and nostrils are annotated," says Dr. Christopher Solomon of Kent's School of Physical Sciences. "Once these have been identified a calculation can be made and out comes the image." Users would be able to scan a picture, select an age, and receive an accurate image immediately; current methods take up to 30 hours and images are not always accurate. The system would produce images at a fraction of the current cost, and could be used over the Internet.
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  • "UMBC Students Will Do the Work of NASA Engineers Today"
    Baltimore Sun (12/15/05) P. 1B; O'Brien, Dennis

    NASA is providing access to an orbiting satellite to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to help students learn more about the work performed by the space agency. As part of a Sensor Networks class, students of computer science professor and sensor specialist Mohamed Younis are demonstrating projects that show how satellites, robotics, and the technology of fire and burglar alarm systems depend on sensor networks. NASA depends heavily on sensor networks for space missions, according to Dan Mandl, a NASA engineer who befriended Younis last summer while he completed a fellowship at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "These are the kinds of devices that are extremely useful if you want to get to the moon or to Mars, where there are no electrical outlets or plugs and you don't know what kind of terrain you're dealing with," says Mandl, who oversees the Earth Observer I satellite. One group of students has programmed sensors--each about the size of a matchbox--to communicate with a laptop, which will relay the message to the NASA Web site to direct the satellite to take images of the location and the rest of the campus. Another group demonstrated how sensors could send distress signals that direct the rover to take pictures when a sensor was turned off or failed. One of the students, Karthikeyan Ravichandran says sensors "have all kinds of applications. It's the kind of thing that if you learn it, you can actually use it."
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  • "IPv6 Voice, Mobility Tested"
    Network World Newsletter (12/14/05); Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

    A team of university, military, and corporate network engineers successfully demonstrated international voice calls and mobility applications running on IPv6, the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) InterOperability Laboratory and 10 companies--including Agilent, CheckPoint, HP, Hitachi, Ixia, Juniper, Lucent, Nortel, Spirent, and Symantec--participated in the tests, which were conducted on Moonv6, the world's largest native IPv6 backbone. In its tests, UNH focused on testing Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), security, and voice services. The tests involved passing missed voice and data traffic over IPv6 and demonstrated basic application-layer functionality. According to UNH officials, IPv6 is showing progress but still has a way to go, especially in applications. However, UNH engineers were able to successfully complete VoIP calls between New Hampshire and Korea using software from a Korean company called Mercury. The calls were routed through an IPv4/IPv6 tunnel from the Moonv6 network in New Hampshire. In addition, UNH engineers ran network management and interoperability testing between firewalls, hosts, and routers using IPSec. The engineers found that firewall functionality for IPv6 works at a basic level, but not all participants could support VoIP for IPv6.
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  • "W3C Publishes New Multimedia Spec for Mobile Devices"
    IDG News Service (12/14/05); Blau, John

    A new specification designed to facilitate multimedia presentations on mobile phones was published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Tuesday. The XML-based Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language 2.1 (SMIL 2.1) spec will enable authors to easily write interactive multimedia presentations and offers augmented visual layout features such as background image tiling as well as enhanced audio layout capabilities such as fade-in/fade-out, reported the W3C. Authors can also predefine reusable sets or parameters, which eases the drafting and maintenance of content and reduces the size of SMIL presentations. Mobile services offered over high-speed, packet-switched 3G networks, such as Multimedia Messaging and mobile streaming, are likely to benefit the most from the new SMIL 2.1 spec.
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  • "Internet TV at a Crucial Fork in the Road"
    New Scientist (12/10/05) Vol. 188, No. 2529, P. 30; Anderson, Mark

    The TV companies see the Internet as way to offer new episodes of popular programs or to rebroadcast old programs; however, small scale networks are emerging with hopes of bringing more viewing options to the public. The non-profit Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF) in Worcester, Mass., is behind the DTV network and its open-source strategy of allowing anyone to adapt and improve a free software package that includes a channel guide, video downloader, and viewer. And anyone can use the Broadcast Machine open-source video publishing tool to start their own channel thanks to PCF, which receives financial support from philanthropists Andy and Deborah Rappaport as well as Mitch Kapor, developer of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. DTV also uses the BitTorrent peer-to-peer distribution tool, which lacks a clearinghouse for policing copyright restrictions, raising concerns from Hollywood. The Open Media Network (OMN) in Sunnyvale, Calif., uses the commercial swarming system Kontiki, developed by former Netscape executive Mike Homer, for sharing files. The bandwidth burden on the Kontiki server is relieved because it pushes fragments of downloaded programs onto viewers' computers, but the server retains control over the content. OMN offers a free-to-download Internet TV browser and broadcaster, and already offers broadcasts that rival the quality of DVDs or even HDTV.
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  • "Net Goes Beyond U.S. Domain"
    ZDNet India (12/15/05); Yu, Eileen

    The global nature of the Internet could eventually lead to an international body claiming control over its root servers and other key aspects of the Internet's infrastructure that are currently controlled by ICANN. For now, the United States says it has no intention of giving up its control over ICANN, and Bryan Tan, a tech lawyer for Keystone Law in Singapore, says the country is not legally compelled to do so. However, the United Nations, and specifically its Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), is asking the United States to hand control over to an international entity. Ang Peng Hwa, a dean and associate professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and a member of WGIG, supports this solution. Ang also supports the creation of an international forum that would not necessarily have decision-making powers, but would allow different countries to discuss various issues pertaining to Internet governance. Many experts agree that the worst-case scenario would be for Internet governance to become fragmented, with different countries claiming control over different parts. Tan says the United States has not abused its powers over the Internet, and he believes that "peer pressure" is probably the only way the United States can be removed from controlling the Internet. Hwa says that despite the U.S.'s decent track record overseeing ICANN, "the fundamental issue is that ICANN is a California company under the authority of the U.S. Department of Commerce. What happens if the U.S. government is in a conflict with another government? Can that country be taken offline?" He says the situation is not politically acceptable.
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  • "The Lady and Her Robots"
    U.S. News & World Report (12/19/05) Vol. 139, No. 23, P. 34; Headden, Susan

    Ever since she saw the movie "Star Wars" Helen Greiner has been fascinated by robotics and has dedicated her life to the development of them as the cofounder of iRobot, a company that does more than $95 million in industrial, military, and consumer sales a year, and that raised $70.6 million in its initial public offering just last month. Greiner, along with Colin Angle and Rodney Brooks, founded the company in an MIT graduate lab. Since then, they have had several successful products, such as the Roomba vacuum cleaner, which is the best-selling consumer robot in history. Currently the U.S. Army is deploying 300 of the company's PackBots to Iraq and Afghanistan to sniff out and remove suspicious information. Greiner routinely networks with generals, secures government contracts, and is active in encouraging more women to enter the field of mechanical engineering. "Girls think it's geeky, but it's so creative and interesting," she says. "You can build a bridge or a robot or a new computer system." Greiner's belief that futuristic technology can do dangerous and often deadly work has paid off and her persistence has contributed to the success her of company's mass appeal.
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  • "Building a Better Web"
    Newsweek (12/19/05) Vol. 146, No. 25, P. E4; Guterl, Fred

    World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee envisions an Internet that serves as a method to create composite views of knowledge greater than any one part, rather than the search and recall of particular documents and Web sites that the Internet is primarily used for today. Berners-Lee, now a computer scientist at MIT, is working on creating a Semantic Web that he believes will change Web searching and the Internet on a fundamental basis. "I would like the CEO of a company to be able to answer, from the Web, any question to which his company collectively knows the answer," he says. "I would like a biologist working on a cure for cancer or AIDS to be able to meld his knowledge with that of geneticists and doctors and chemists in such a way that together the world gains the critical insight." Berners-Lee says his vision of the Semantic Web is different than Google because his vision goes beyond search and retrieval. Right now you can find all types of weather data online, but you cannot make a instant spreadsheet of that data through browsing. Google does not have to understand documents it retrieves; the Semantic Web will. Berners-Lee says the Internet is a Web, but not a connected web of data that would allow cross-data combinations. He says, "The killer app of the Web was making the phone directory accessible via a browser. It's likely a simple but profoundly useful feature or service which becomes possible with the Semantic Web that breaks it open. I dare not predict what it might be."

  • "Top 10 Trends for 2006"
    Red Herring (12/19/05) Vol. 2, No. 47, P. 12

    Among the 10 top technology trends Red Herring highlights for 2006 is a move to counter the increasing strain placed on supply chains as more and more goods get shipped; next year will see companies working toward more flexible supply chain management akin to Wal-Mart's, which involves customized software to simulate disaster scenarios to reroute computer-equipped vehicles and select emergency staging areas. PC online games are expected to come into their own by emphasizing inexpensive creation, viral adoption, interactivity, and user-directed game development. New innovations will come from the penetration of increasingly cheap flash memory into the consumer electronics market, though big hard drives will still be prevalent in PCs and next-generation media hubs, relegating flash to small and rugged products--at least for the present. The Internet video market is poised to explode in 2006 as movie studios and other content owners finally warm to the idea of decentralized peer-to-peer file-sharing, as the Supreme Court's Grokster ruling and increased consumer access to broadband open the floodgates for legal P2P applications. The maturity of location-based services is expected, with applications in gaming, entertainment, and new media driving consumer adoption, while the proliferation of wireless broadband technologies--WiMAX in particular--will make free wireless service more and more attractive to businesses. Electronic micro-payments could gain momentum in 2006 thanks to the ubiquity of cell phones, enhanced integration, and consumer incentives such as contact-less payments. The growing use of energy-efficient sensor "motes" for observing conditions and environments got a shot in the arm with the global standardization of the networking protocols for communications, which positions the technology for substantial growth next year.

  • "Service Discovery in Pervasive Computing Environments"
    IEEE Pervasive Computing (12/05) Vol. 4, No. 4, P. 81; Zhu, Feng; Mutka, Matt W.; Ni, Lionel M.

    To identify and elucidate open research problems for pervasive computing, the authors have devised a survey and taxonomy of existing service discovery protocols. Major elements of service discovery protocols include service and attribute naming, which can be template-based or template-based and predefined; an initial communication method that can be unicast, multicast, or broadcast; either query- or announcement-based discovery and registration; a nondirectory- or directory-based service discovery infrastructure; a soft or hard service information state, in which service announcements specify the service's life span in the former case and periodic polls or services by clients and directories are needed to ensure the current relevance of their information in the latter; and a discovery scope based on network topologies, user roles, content information, or a combination thereof. Another important component is service selection, which can be manual at one end of the spectrum and automatic on the other, although both modes carry shortcomings as well as benefits. Existing protocols encompass three distinctive service invocation support levels: Service location, communication mechanisms, and application operations. Service usage can either be explicitly released or lease-based, while service status inquiry can be accomplished via polling or service event notification, with the first technique recommended for services characterized by frequent event generation or rapidly changing status. Service discovery protocols should share sensitive data only with legitimate parties in the vicinity during discovery and registration; the authors propose a strategy in which legitimacy is ascertained by the progressive sharing of credential and service information between users and service providers. End-to-end encryption is also recommended for when clients invoke services over insecure networks.

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