Master's Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Welcome to the May 6, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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ACM awardees m from left, Mark Allen Weiss, Erik Altman, Judy Brewer, and Dame Wendy Hall. ACM Recognizes Luminaries Whose Service Benefits All Who Participate in Computing
May 4, 2022

ACM announced the recipients of four awards for outstanding service to the computing field. Florida International University’s Mark Allen Weiss receives this year’s Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award for his influential textbooks, research, and curriculum design, and for supporting diversity in computing. ACM also named IBM Research's Erik Altman to receive the ACM Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his leadership in computer architecture communities, and his contributions to ACM organizational development. The ACM Policy Award goes to the World Wide Web Consortium's Judy Brewer for leading the Web Accessibility Initiative and developing multiple Web accessibility standards adopted globally that have enhanced accessibility for millions. ACM also named Wendy Hall of the U.K.'s University of Southampton to receive the ACM Presidential Award for her technical contributions to developing the Semantic Web and the Web Science discipline.

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A working circuit created through a TronicBoard. Making STEM Accessible for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Monash University (Australia)
May 4, 2022

Intellectually disabled persons could access science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) knowledge using customized color-coded electronic toolkits developed by researchers at Australia's Monash University. Monash's Hashini Senaratne said the TronicBoards "can be combined with conductive tape and other electronic components, including LEDs [light-emitting diodes], vibration motors, buzzers, and push buttons, etc., to create and demonstrate working electronic circuits." She added that in workshops during the development of the TronicBoards, participants with intellectual disabilities were able to "logically interact with the boards, complete workable circuits, and in some cases were also able to add creativity and craft personally meaningful objects."

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The Problems with Elon Musk's Plan to Open-Source the Twitter Algorithm
MIT Technology Review
Chris Stokel-Walker
April 27, 2022

Elon Musk’s announced plans for the Twitter social network include open-sourcing its algorithms, which experts say would do little to boost transparency without access to their training data. Said Jennifer Cobbe of the U.K.'s University of Cambridge, "Most of the time when people talk about algorithmic accountability these days, we recognize that the algorithms themselves aren't necessarily what we want to see—what we really want is information about how they were developed." There also are concerns open-sourcing Twitter's algorithms would enable bad actors to identify vulnerabilities to exploit and could make it more difficult to defeat spam bots.

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POPagenda, an NFT collection created by artist Simon Fong, depicts life under the COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai, China. Shanghai Residents Turn to NFTs to Record COVID-19 Lockdown, Combat Censorship
Josh Ye
May 4, 2022

Residents of Shanghai, China, are minting videos, photos, and artwork created during the city's COVID-19 lockdown as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to avoid losing the data to Chinese censors. They have turned to NFT marketplaces because data recorded on the blockchain cannot be erased. As of May 2, OpenSea, the world's largest NFT marketplace, was offering 786 NFTs related to a video called "The Voice of April," which was targeted by censors, along with hundreds of other NFTs tied to the Shanghai lockdown. Much of the content minted as NFTs involve Weibo posts from residents venting their frustrations over the lockdown, images from inside quarantine centers, and art inspired by life under lockdown.

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Interactive tools may help users better understand relevant information and disinformation, researchers say. Interactive Tools May Help People Become Big Data Journalists
Penn State News
Matt Swayne
May 3, 2022

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) researchers say people could use interactive tools to navigate, save, and tailor online content to extract meaning from big data. The researchers found people more engaged with news websites that offered modality, message, and source interactivity tools than with sites that did not. Penn State's S. Shyam Sundar said user experience is shaped by how these tools may be combined and how engaged users are in the topic; for example, the most engaging sites boasted a high concentration of modality tools and message interactivity. "The types of interactivities we are talking about here can help users find information that they find personally meaningful and that they care about," Sundar said.

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CyLab Researchers Investigate Apple's Privacy Labels
Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Security and Privacy Institute
Daniel Tkacik
April 28, 2022

A year after Apple's introduction of privacy labels in its U.S. app store, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)'s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute have measured its compliance. The researchers crawled the app store weekly from April to November 2021, gathering data on more than 1.4 million apps. CMS' Yucheng Li said more than half of the apps found in the store still lack privacy labels, while "the speed of compliance on older apps is on a downward trend." CMS' Tianshi Li said inaccurate labels are likely more harmful than beneficial, and errors and misunderstandings remain pervasive, despite developers' positivity.

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A Monarch butterfly fitted with a tiny tracking sensor. Mission to Monitor Migrating Monarchs
University of Pittsburgh Swanson Engineering
May 2, 2022

University of Pittsburgh researchers have developed a tracking system to monitor the migration of millions of monarch butterflies to specific mountain peaks in central Mexico. The mSAIL wireless sensing platform features a tiny chip attached to each butterfly's back to measure light intensity and temperature, and wirelessly communicate that data to the researchers. After the butterfly reaches its destination, its migration trajectory will be reconstructed using a deep learning-based localization algorithm. Said Pitt's Inhee Lee, "Migrators travel long distances across entire continents, and it can give us unprecedented insight into their migratory paths, how the environment around them is changing, and how species interactions are impacted by changing movements and distributions."

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A swarm of drones navigates a forest. Swarming Drones Autonomously Navigate Dense Forest, Chase Human
Devin Coldewey
May 4, 2022

Researchers in China demonstrated the ability of an autonomous flying drone swarm to navigate a thick forest it had never before encountered. The Zheijang University team used commercially available technology to assemble a trajectory planner for the swarm that relies on data from sensors onboard the drones, which the 10-drone swarm processes locally and shares collectively. The swarm three-dimensionally maps its environment to navigate, and also can perform tasks such as pursuing a human. These achievements could advance progress toward using swarms for aerial surveillance and disaster response.

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Illustration of a person using futuristic technology to interact with data. Cisco Preps Technology to Predict Enterprise-Network Problems
Network World
Michael Cooney
May 4, 2022

Cisco researchers have developed a predictive analytics engine which they claim would help network operators predict and prevent network issues. The predictive engine collects telemetry data from routers, switches, servers, and other equipment and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to learn patterns in the data, predict user experience issues, and offer options for remediation. Cisco's Chuck Robbins said, "The future of connectivity will rely on self-healing networks that can learn, predict, and plan." The company plans to offer the technology via software-as-a-service.

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Illustration of a new method for generating random bits. Ultrafast All-Optical Random Bit Generator
SPIE Newsroom
May 2, 2022

An all-optical random bit generator (RBG) developed by a research team from China and the U.K. quantizes chaotic pulses into a physical random bit stream in the optical domain using highly nonlinear fiber. Using the new RBG, the researchers were able to produce a 10 Gb/s random bit stream in a single channel. The researchers indicated that transmission rates of more than 100 Gb/s could be achieved with sufficient chaotic entropy source bandwidth. The researchers found that the rate limitation of electronic signal processing can be overcome using all-optical random bit generation.

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Illustration of a hacker using a giant magnet to pull data from a laptop. Gear from Netgear, Linksys, 200 Others Has Unpatched DNS Poisoning Flaw
Ars Technica
Dan Goodin
May 3, 2022

Researchers at security firm Nozomi Networks identified an unpatched vulnerability in third-party code libraries used by 200 hardware and software vendors, including Netgear and Linksys. The flaw enables hackers with access to links between an impacted device and the Internet to poison Domain Name System requests used to translate domains to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses; they can funnel false IP addresses to target devices and force end-users to connect to malicious servers masquerading as trusted sites. The vulnerability, reported to vendors in January and publicly disclosed this week, is embedded in uClibc and uClibc fork uClibc-ng, which support alternatives to the standard C library for embedded Linux. The Nozomi researchers said the affected gear constitute "a range of well-known IoT [Internet of Things] devices running the latest firmware versions, with a high chance of them being deployed throughout all critical infrastructure."

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A traffic jam on a bridge. Method Makes Traffic Prediction Faster
Matt Shipman
May 5, 2022

North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers modified an algorithm developed to help simplify complex computing tasks to better anticipate traffic patterns in a specific place and time. The algorithm segments a bigger traffic forecasting model into a series of smaller problems that can be solved simultaneously. The process shortens the forecasting model's run time, while more complex questions tend to lead to higher levels of improved efficiency. The tweaked algorithm also enhances run time by allowing the model to realize when it has reached a solution that is within 5%, or even 10%, of the optimal solution. NC State's Ali Hajbabaie said the modified algorithm uses much less computer memory, and runs orders of magnitude faster, than a benchmark algorithm.

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A caregiver holds a patient’s arm to assist with walking and standing. AI Aids Diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment that Progresses to Alzheimer's
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya News (Spain)
Jesús Méndez
April 27, 2022

Using artificial intelligence, researchers at Spain's Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) have developed a method to predict which patients with mild cognitive impairment will progress to having Alzheimer's disease. The researchers used a multi-stream convolutional neural network to compare magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of the brains of healthy patients with those with Alzheimer's disease to identify distinct landmarks. The system, trained using nearly 700 images from publicly available datasets, achieved an accuracy rate of nearly 85% in distinguishing and classifying the two forms of mild cognitive impairment. UOC's Mona Ashtari-Majlan said the process "overcomes the complexity of learning caused by the subtle structural changes that occur between the two forms of mild cognitive impairment, which are much smaller than those between a normal brain and a brain affected by the disease."

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