Association for Computing Machinery
Welcome to the November 5, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


Internet Privacy Could Be Priority in Next Congress
Washington Post (11/04/10) Cecilia Kang

Growing regulatory scrutiny on data breaches could make online privacy a key legislative priority in the next Congress, suggests U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). "I want the Internet economy to prosper, but it can't unless the people's right to privacy means more than a right to hear excuses after the damage is done," Barton says. Pressure is building for lawmakers to take action in the face of mounting consumer concern about the security of personal information online, while government regulators in the United States and overseas also are preparing to pursue privacy enforcement more aggressively. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has probed several recent instances of mishandled data and will soon issue a report recommending a framework for new privacy statutes and guidance for Web companies. Both Republicans and Democrats want consumers' personal information to be shielded, and this push could result in new legislation in the next several years, according to analysts. Analyst Paul Gallant says the biggest impact of the changes in Congress will be felt by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its effort to regulate broadband networks, with Republicans likely to call the FCC chairman in for hearings on regulatory initiatives and threaten to withhold appropriations.

EU Seeks Tougher Online Code in Bid to Safeguard Private Data
Wall Street Journal (11/05/10) John W. Miller

The European Union (EU) has proposed new privacy rights for citizens sharing personal data on the Internet. The proposed rules suggest the creation of an online "right to be forgotten," which would give users the power to tell Web sites to permanently delete already submitted personal data. The rules also state that users must give explicit consent for firms to use or process their personal data in any way. "The protection of personal data is a fundamental right," says EU commissioner Viviane Reding. "We also need to bring our laws up to date with the challenges raised by new technologies and globalization." The proposal recommends giving users the right to sue companies for privacy breaches and offers criminal penalties. The proposal, which would rewrite the EU's 1995 data-protection law, says a shift in focus is needed in online privacy rights because the "ways of collecting personal data have become increasingly elaborated and less easily detectable." The proposal will be submitted as legislation next year, which will enable EU members to debate and amend the proposal before it becomes law.

U.S. Says China Building 'Entirely Indigenous' Supercomputer
Computerworld (11/04/10) Patrick Thibodeau

China may soon be able to build a supercomputer using only its own technology. China is currently working on a petaflop-class supercomputer "using entirely indigenous components that is expected to be complete within the next 12 to 18 months," says U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) undersecretary for science Steven Koonin. "It is clear that DOE will not be the only organization working to push the limits of computer performance." University of Tennessee professor Jack Dongarra agrees with Koonin's timeframe, citing China's work on microprocessors, including the Loongson and Godson processors. China already is making waves in the supercomputer field. Its Tianhe-1A system is expected to head the list of the world's fastest supercomputers when the Top500 list is released later this month. Although that system is based on Intel and Nividia chips, it also features the FeiTeng 1000, an eight-core, Chinese-produced, Sparc-based processor that is used to operate service nodes. "Tianhe-1 is a great example of how capable and committed to research our economic competition has become," says the Computing Research Association's Peter Harsha.

Princeton Prof. Edward Felten Named FTC's First Chief Technologist
The Hill (11/04/10) Gautham Nagesh

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Thursday that Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten will serve as the agency's first Chief Technologist. A prominent researcher, Felten is founding director of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) and serves as a part-time consultant for the FTC. In his new role, which will start in January, he will advise the commission on consumer-related technology policy issues such as cybersecurity, online privacy, and antitrust matters. Felten will take a one-year leave of absence from Princeton to work at the FTC. "The trade commission is heavily involved with issues that touch on technology," Felten said. "Much of my research and the work of CITP focuses on issues of consumer protection and competitiveness. This is a chance for me to apply what I've been studying and see the policymaking process from the inside." Felten is an ACM Fellow, vice chair of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Council (USACM), and recipient of the Scientific American 50 Award.

Job Openings Continue to Rise in Technology
eWeek (11/03/10) Don E. Sears

The latest monthly reports from Dice and the Conference Board show that job openings for technology professionals have risen significantly over the past 12 months. Silicon Valley had more than 4,600 job vacancies, up 61 percent from November 2009, according to Dice. Other regions with significant increases in tech job openings include Chicago with 3,050, Seattle with 2,340, Atlanta with 2,329, and Dallas with 2,145. Dice also notes that several regions had increases in tech job vacancies in the 25 percent to 40 percent range, including Washington, D.C., with 8,392 job openings, the New York metro area with 8,545, Boston with 2,543, Philadelphia with 2,059, and Los Angeles with 2,931. Meanwhile, the Conference Board reports that job openings have increased across technology management and computer systems engineering. Computer and mathematical sciences jobs rose by 14,500, and systems analysts, software engineers, and Web developers also are in demand.

GENI: Toward the Future of Global Networking
Computing Community Consortium (11/03/10) Erwin Gianchandani

Researchers working on the Global Environment for Network Innovation (GENI) project, established by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2007, displayed their latest developments at the recent 9th GENI Engineering Conference. "The sorts of activities that [the GENI community is] undertaking are critical for the fortunes of the nation," says NSF's Cora Marrett. She says the work on GENI is "illustrative of the kinds of collaborations--the kinds of questions--that will link fundamental questions to the prevailing issues and concerns--not just now, but well into the future." During one session, nine research teams offered demonstrations of their current experiments, including improvements in packet-caching for streaming large volumes of data in real time over distributed networks. Other researchers demonstrated some of the most impressive GENI features, including deep programmability, a distributed, virtualized infrastructure, and interoperable, federated, and heterogeneous resources.

Moving Holograms: From Science Fiction to Reality
UA News (AZ) (11/03/10) Daniel Stolte

University of Arizona researchers have developed holographic telepresence technology that creates three-dimensional (3D) moving images without the need for special eyewear or other devices. "Holographic telepresence means we can record a three-dimensional image in one location and show it in another location, in real time, anywhere in the world," says Arizona professor Nasser Peyghambarian. He says the technology could lead to new applications in telemedicine, advertising, updatable 3D maps, and entertainment. "At the heart of the system is a screen made from a novel photorefractive material, capable of refreshing holograms every two seconds, making it the first to achieve a speed that can be described as quasi-real time," says Arizona professor Pierre-Alexandre Blanche. The image is recorded using a group of regular cameras that view the object from different perspectives. One of the system's major accomplishments is what the Arizona team calls full parallax. "As you move your head left and right or up and down, you see different perspectives," Peyghambarian says.

New Google Tool Makes Websites Twice as Fast
Technology Review (11/03/10) Erica Naone

Google has released mod_pagespeed, free software for Apache servers that could make many Web sites load twice as fast. Once installed, the software spontaneously determines way to optimize a Web site's performance. "We think making the whole Web faster is critical to Google's success," says Google's Richard Rabbat. The tool could be especially useful to small Web site operators and anyone that uses content management systems to operate their Web sites, since they often lack the technical savvy and time needed to make their own speed improvements to Web server software. During testing, mod_pagespeed was able to make some Web sites load three times faster, depending on how much optimization had already been done. The program builds on Google's existing Page Speed program, which measures the speed at which Web sites load and offers suggestions on how to make them load faster.

Money for Scientific Research May Be Scarce With a Republican-Led House
New York Times (11/03/10) Kenneth Chang

Many of the newly elected members of the U.S. Congress made campaign promises to reduce funding for scientific research. For example, GOP's Pledge to America calls for reducing discretionary non-military spending to 2008 levels. An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) found that such cuts would cause the National Institutes of Health to lose 9 percent of its research budget, while the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would be stripped of about 19 percent and 34 percent of their research money, respectively. However, AAAS' Patrick Clemins says "the pledge is very vague in terms of what programs will be cut." Clemins points out that President Obama had already asked federal agencies to brace themselves for a 5 percent budget reduction for 2012. Some Republicans have criticized the Obama administration's proposed cuts to NASA's budget as too draconian, yet the GOP's push to control spending could reduce the space administration's budget further. Another uncertain area is stem cell research funding, which a federal judge ruled constitutes a violation of a congressional edict. "I think everyone is holding their breaths and seeing what happens in the courts," says AAAS' Joanne Carney.

Internet2's New Leader Outlines Vision for Superfast Education Networks
Chronicle of Higher Education (11/02/10) Jeff Young

New Internet2 CEO H. David Lambert says superfast computer networks will enable universities to connect to global satellite campuses, noting that U.S. colleges and universities now have more than 160 campuses overseas. Universities also need superfast computer networks to participate in international research and to build better ties with communities near their campuses, Lambert says. However, he says there are many financial and cultural obstacles that stand in the way of the development of superfast computer networks. Lambert cites a need for better cooperation among various national and regional university networking projects as one of the many challenges. The project to bring broadband to communities, which received $62.5 million in federal stimulus money, will help universities show lawmakers that such initiatives are worthy of support, Lambert says. People in academe should continue to play a leading role in building the Internet, he says.

Researchers Expand Cyberspace to Fight Chronic Condition in Breast Cancer Survivors
MU News Bureau (MO) (11/01/10) Emily Martin

University of Missouri (MU) researchers are developing a place in cyberspace where relevant and timely information about breast cancer can be stored, searched, and reviewed with the goal of improving health care for cancer survivors through the availability of up-to-date, evidence-based research. "Merging all of the data into one virtual space and discovering clinically significant knowledge from the haystacks of data will make cutting-edge research and treatments available to patients sooner," says Chi-Ren Shyu, director of the MU Informatics Institute. The system will enable access to data, practices, literature, and research from around the world in a searchable online database. "Potential users include researchers, medical professionals, social workers, patients, and their families," Shyu says. "This cyberdatabase will help us unlock the door to more immediate access to the latest information on evidence-based treatment and risk-reduction," says Missouri professor Jane Armer.

New Voting-Machine-Allocation Method Could Reduce Voters' Wait Time by 36 Percent
University of Cincinnati (10/28/10) Deb Rieselman

University of Cincinnati researchers are using computer simulation models to help make voting wait times equal for everyone. Cincinnati researcher Muer Yang has developed a quantitative method for allocating voting machines that could significantly reduce the average wait time of voters. Yang tested his method using 2008 presidential election data from Franklin County, Ohio, and found that the average voter wait time was reduced by 36 percent using his allocation method. The goal is to make it so that all voters wait about the same amount of time to vote, regardless of their precinct. "We seek to provide equity to all voters so that no one particular group of voters is disadvantaged or disenfranchised," Yang says. "We use simulation models to consider realistic complications, including variables such as voter arrival time, voter turnout, length of time needed to finish a ballot, peak voting times, and machine failures."

Unlocking the Future of Cities
Charlotte Observer (NC) (10/31/10) Tyler Dukes

University of North Carolina, Charlotte (UNCC) researchers are using a combination of social, natural, and computer science to develop an interactive map-based simulation that can show the impact of future development and policy on land use. "Ultimately, our goal is to understand under what kind of combination can urbanization, forest, and farmland coexist," says UNCC professor Ross Meentemeyer. Working with UNCC's Charlotte Visualization Center, the researchers previously developed an interactive simulation model that compares general land use between areas. The new research will expand the model's ability to show how forests and green areas will react to policy changes and development, says UNCC's William Ribarsky. "We're setting things up so we can do this interactively, so it's a very powerful 'what if?' capability," Ribarsky says. Although the current research focuses mainly on Charlotte and the surrounding counties, the researchers predict its impact to expand farther. "There's a general feeling that if you have urbanization around green areas, it's going to result in a lot of pressures for those areas to convert, become urbanized," Ribarsky says. "We have a chance, using Charlotte as a test bed and using the powerful tools that we have already, to address that issue."

Researchers to Develop Cyberinfrastructure for Geography Software
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (10/28/10) Liz Ahlberg

The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded a $4.4 million grant to the University of Illinois to develop CyberGIS, an initiative that will combine cyberinfrastructure, spatial analysis and modeling, and geographic information science to create a software framework involving several research fields. Although geographic information systems are widely used for decision-making applications and spatial problem solving, current GIS software cannot handle the complex analysis required by some applications. The Illinois team, led by professor Shaowen Wang, will use the supercomputing power of cyberinfrastructure to augment GIS applications. "The overarching goal of this project is to establish CyberGIS as a fundamentally new software framework encompassing a seamless integration of cyberinfrastructure, GIS, and spatial analysis and modeling capabilities," Wang. He says CyberGIS "could dramatically advance the understanding of disaster preparedness and response and impacts of global climate change."

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