Association for Computing Machinery
Welcome to the July 15, 2011 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Science, Tech Jobs Pay More, Lead in Growth
USA Today (07/14/11) Paul Davidson

Jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields pay an average of 26 percent more than other occupations and grew three times faster over the last 10 years, according to a U.S. Commerce Department study. The study found that from 2000 to 2010, STEM jobs grew 7.9 percent to 7.6 million. In addition, the Commerce study predicts that STEM jobs will grow 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to just 9.8 percent for other jobs. STEM skills are important for the United States to remain competitive in the global market, which places a premium on innovation, according to Commerce officials. "Folks that have these skills are going to prosper--they're going to be creating the jobs and opportunities of the future," says Education secretary Arne Duncan. The earnings difference between STEM and non-STEM workers is even greater for the less educated, as STEM workers with a high school diploma or less earned $24.82 an hour in 2010 compared to just $15.55 for other employees.

Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011 Winners Tap Windows Phone, Cloud and Bing
eWeek (07/14/11) Darryl K. Taft

Microsoft recently announced the winners of the ninth annual Microsoft Imagine Cup, which honors student innovations that address global challenges. More than 400 students from 70 countries were chosen from a field of more than 350,000 entrants from 183 countries to travel to New York for the finals. "We are in awe of the students' solutions for addressing social and real-world challenges, and want to help them take their projects to the next level with the financial, technical, and business support they need to change the world," says Microsoft's S. Somasegar. Team Hermes, from Ireland, won the Software Design competition for a device that plugs into a car and monitors dangerous driving behavior and road conditions. Team NTHUCS, from Taiwan, won the Embedded Development category, with the Right This Way project, which uses a real-time wireless sensor network to compute the safest fire escape routes. The 2011 Imagine Cup featured more female competitors than ever, including four all-women teams. Microsoft Research is using the competition as a way to promote recruitment of women in technology, says Microsoft senior researcher Jane Prey.

U.S. Cyber Approach 'Too Predictable' for One Top General
Washington Post (07/15/11) Ellen Nakashima; Jason Ukman

Prior to the presentation of a Pentagon cyberstrategy that favors defense over retaliation, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman Gen. James Cartwright criticized the current U.S. approach to computer system protection as "way too predictable," citing its lack of penalties as a major oversight. The U.S. Department of Defense's new approach depends on deploying sensors, software, and special code that spots and halts breaches before they affect operations. "If an attack will not have its intended effect, those who wish us harm will have less reason to target us through cyberspace in the first place," says Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III. Cartwright characterized the cyberstrategy as an initial step, noting that more aggressive cybermeasures, along with legal and diplomatic tactics, would eventually be needed to "raise the price" of attacking. Lynn says the United States has yet to be struck by an act of cyberwar and that remaining ambiguous about what would constitute such an act has a certain deterrent value. However, ultimately the president and Congress will decide whether the severity of the human and economic cost of such an attack is tantamount to an act of war.

Moving Data at the Speed of Science: Berkeley Lab Lays Foundation for 100 Gbps Prototype Network
Berkeley Lab News Center (07/13/11) Jon Bashor

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers recently launched the Advanced Networking Initiative (ANI), which they say is a major step toward creating one of the world's fastest scientific networks that could accelerate research in fields such as advanced energy solutions and particle physics. The prototype ANI network will connect the Berkeley Lab, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, and Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, in addition to the Manhattan Landing International Exchange Point. The ANI prototype network will serve as a bridge to a planned nationwide 100 Gbps scientific network that will support thousands of U.S. Department of Energy scientists. The national network will work with Internet2, which will use fiber strands on Level 3 Communications' Tier 1 fiber-optic network, as well as optical networking equipment from Ciena. "We believe the new ANI network will not only play a vital role in helping our community fulfill their research, education, and service goals, but will create a host of economic opportunities and assure the U.S. a leading role in global science for many years to come," says Internet2 CEO Dave Lambert.

Health Care of the Future
Computing Community Consortium (07/15/11)

A new system developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) can provide clues about the condition of a patient by scanning unstructured medical records. The technology makes use of natural language processing techniques and is comprised of several programs that parse through pages of electronic nurses reports and intensive care unit (ICU) discharge summaries searching for certain keywords and phrases. MIT's William Long used information from the Uniform Medical Language System, a compilation of more than 150 medical dictionaries, to program the system to identify a comprehensive list of terms and key concepts. The technology has been used for clinical research and diagnostic purposes so far. MIT professor Peter Szolovits is looking for new ways to use artificial intelligence in the diagnostic process. One CSAIL researcher has used data collected on ICU admissions to a Boston hospital to create predictive models that estimate how patients are likely to fare in the future each time there is a significant change in their health condition.

Research Brings Cloud Costs Back to Earth
Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) (07/13/11) Crystal Ladiges

Swinburne University of Technology researchers are developing ways to reduce the cost of Internet data storage and retrieval in cloud computing. The researchers, led by Swinburne professors Yun Yang and John Grundy, are developing more cost-effective models for cloud computing's heaviest users by studying the management of raw data and intermediate data sets. The process of finding a balance between storage and computation cost "is complex, and there are currently no decision-making tools to advise on whether to store or delete intermediate datasets, and if to store, which ones," Grundy says. The researchers developed a mathematical model that factors in the size of the initial datasets, the rates charged by the service provider, and the amount of intermediate data stored in the specified time. "The formula can be used to find the best deals for storing data in the cloud," Yang says. The researchers also have developed an Intermediate Data-dependency Graph (IDG), which helps users decide how to spend their money. "IDG records how each intermediate dataset is generated from the one before it and shows the generation relationship between them," Grundy says. The researchers also are working on models that will enable users to determine the minimum cost in real time.

Internet Bill Could Help Hackers, Experts Warn
National Journal (07/14/11) Sara Jerome

A group of computer science experts is opposing the PROTECT IP Act, which aims to crack down on Web sites that sell copyrighted and counterfeited material, because the new legislation could inadvertently help hackers. "On a deep architectural level, we have to fix this or our economy cannot work," says security consultant Dan Kaminsky, who along with other Internet architecture experts, object to a specific part of the bill that requires Internet service providers (ISPs) to use domain name filtering, a controversial technique that directs traffic away from Web sites selling copyrighted or counterfeit materials. The filtering mandate could undermine online safety initiatives that need Web addresses, according to the experts. The new law also would prevent providers from using Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), a new security system that sends credentialed messages between browsers and ISPs to make sure that users are directed to the right Web site. Without a functioning DNSSEC, hackers can offer workarounds to private users. The group's members recently issued a white paper warning that the proposal would quickly increase hacking, which would negatively impact businesses that rely on secure connections.

Alberta Research Aims to Keep Information Secure
CBC News (Canada) (07/13/11)

Researchers at the University of Calgary and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology recently tested a system designed to encrypt information for quantum computers. The team used the quantum technology to send data between the two universities over traditional telecommunications lines, and said the information could not be hacked. Calgary professor Wolfgang Tittel says the signal can be locked and the system will notify the user of attempts to copy or eavesdrop on the transmission. Tittel notes that the system uses an unbreakable key when transmitting information. "That's a very powerful thing that you do not generally get in the traditional key distribution world, in the traditional telecommunications world," he says. The researchers plan to focus on extending the system's transmission limit beyond 100 kilometers and finding firewalls that would prevent information from being hacked through a back door.

Computerized System to Prevent SIDS Developed by Ben-Gurion University Students
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Israel) (07/12/11) Andrew Lavin

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have developed BabyBeat, a new video and computer software system designed to monitor infants and prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The system uses algorithms to analyze video footage of a baby's heartbeat and skin tone, which if found to be abnormal can be indicators of SIDS. The program, developed by BGU's Tomer Apel and Anava Finesilver, will work with a basic video camera and home computer, minimizing its cost. "We have developed algorithms to interpret the discoloration recorded by the camera and translate them into pulses," Apel says. The system also can be used to monitor babies while at day care, or to provide telemedicare for patients online. "These innovative students may ultimately have a solution to saving precious lives and alleviating parents' angst about their child succumbing to this mysterious infant killer," says BGU's Doron Krakow.

UC Irvine Study Points to New Approach to Influenza's Antiviral Resistance
UCSD News (CA) (07/13/11) Jan Zverina

University of California, Irvine researchers used the University of California, San Diego Super Computing Center's (SDSC) Trestles system to develop a new approach for creating customized therapies for virulent flu strains that resist current antiviral drugs. The approach could aid in the development of new drugs that exploit flu-protein pockets. The researchers used the SDSC's Trestles system to predict how pocket structures on the surface of influenza proteins promoting viral replication can be identified as the proteins evolve. "Our results can influence the development of new drugs taking advantage of this unique feature," says Irvine professor Rommie Amaro, who led the research with Robin Bush and SDSC's Ross Walker. The researchers created molecular simulations of flu proteins to predict how the structures move and change. Walker developed a customized version of the AMBER software to run the specific simulations on Trestles.

Cracking the Code of the Mind
American Friends of Tel Aviv University (07/12/11)

Tel Aviv University researchers have developed a type of lab-on-a-chip platform that can show how neuronal networks communicate and work together. The researchers, led by doctoral student Mark Shein, applied mathematical and engineering techniques to connect neurons with electronics in order to understand how neuronal connections communicate. The tool could be used to test new drugs, advance artificial intelligence, and develop better artificial limbs, according to the researchers. The device enables researchers to see how neural circuits operate under different conditions and explore activity patterns of many neurons simultaneously. The researchers focused on studying how several groups of neurons communicate with each other, according to Shein. The researchers cultured different sized networks of neuronal circuits and found that neural networks have a hierarchical structure in which large networks are composed of smaller sub-networks.

DVD Alloys Help Make Computers That Think Like Us
New Scientist (07/12/11) Paul Marks

Two separate research groups, one at the University of Exeter and the other at Stanford University, have developed artificial nerve cells using an alloy made from germanium, antimony, and tellurium, known as GST. GST is a phase-change alloy because, when heated, it can change its molecular structure from a crystalline to a disordered amorphous phase. Exeter researcher David Wright has developed a GST neuron that can mimic actual neurons because GST's electrical resistance drops suddenly when it moves from the amorphous phase to a crystalline state, which is similar to the way neurons fire when a certain informational threshold is reached. GST's ability to change its resistance has allowed researchers to program it to dynamically modify the strength of the nanoscale artificial synapses, which are similar to the natural process of spike-timing-dependent plasticity, according to Stanford researcher Duygu Kuzum. The Stanford researchers created a nanoscale electronic synapse that could offer the lower power that brain-like computers require. "Phase-change devices may indeed capture the right essence of the behavior of the brain," says University of Manchester researcher Steve Furber, who is building a brain-like computer from conventional microprocessors.
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WebCL: New Hardware Power for Web Apps?
CNet (07/11/11) Stephen Shankland

WebCL, a browser-based interface for general-purpose graphics processing units (GPGPU), could help boost a graphics chip's processing power, improving the performance of Web applications such as image editors and advanced games. The technology, which is being developed by the Khronos Group standards body, is part of a larger trend to incorporate the operating system functionality into Web browsers. "Providing millions of Web developers access to high-performance graphics and parallel computation will unleash a wave of creativity that will result in amazingly innovative Web applications that we haven't even imagined yet," says NVIDIA's Neil Trevett. WebCL technology is designed for mathematical tasks, such as image-processing algorithms and video-game engines, which can be broken down into independent pieces running in parallel. WebCL also enables programmers to move some computing work to background processing tasks so the user interface does not slow down. WebCL supporters are working with hardware companies to make sure the drivers are protected against vulnerabilities, Trevett notes.

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