Welcome to the March 18, 2009 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
ACM Awards Recognize Innovators in Computer Science Who Solve Real World Problems
AScribe Newswire (03/17/09)
ACM has announced the winners of several awards honoring innovations in computing technology that benefit society by altering how people live and work. The Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award goes to Corrina Cortes of Google Research NY and Vladimir Vapnik of NEC Laboratories/Columbia University for their revolutionary development of a highly effective algorithm called Support Vector Machines, a set of related supervised learning methods used for data classification and regression common in artificial intelligence research. The Software System Award was awarded to the Gamma Parallel Database System project for developing a prototype parallel relational database system, which was the first parallel database management system to publish results demonstrating the ability to run the same query with the same performance on larger data sets by adding hardware nodes. Harvard University professor Barbara J. Grosz and Cornell University professor Joseph Y. Halpern were both awarded the ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award. Grosz was honored for pioneering research in natural language processing and multi-agent systems, as well as leadership in artificial intelligence research. Halpern was awarded for fundamental advances in reasoning on knowledge, belief, and uncertainty, leading to groundbreaking applications in artificial intelligence, computer science, game theory, economics, and the philosophy of science. Stanford University professor Dawson Engler won the Grace Murray Hopper Award for groundbreaking research in automated program checking and finding bugs in complex software. The Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award was awarded to Cornell University professor John E. Hopcroft for his vision and impact on computer science as a prolific author of field-defining texts on theory and algorithms.
Computer Science Majors Increase at Most Significant Rate Since Dot Com Boom
Computing Research Association (03/17/09) Harsha, Peter
The number of computer science majors enrolled in U.S. universities rose 8.1 percent in 2008, the first increase in six years, reports the Computing Research Association (CRA) in its 2007-2008 annual CRA Taulbee Survey. Total enrollment in computer science classes, including majors and pre-majors, rose 6.2 percent. "The upward surge of student interest is real and bigger than anyone expected," says Peter Lee, CRA's incoming chair. "The fact that computer science graduates usually find themselves in high-paying jobs accounts for part of the reversal. Increasingly students also are attracted to the intellectual depth and societal benefits of computing technology." The survey polled the computer science and computer engineering departments of 192 Ph.D.-granting universities in fall 2008. The survey found that the average number of computer science majors per department is up 9.5 percent from the same period a year ago, as greater numbers of freshmen and sophomores are entering computer science programs. Meanwhile, computer science bachelor's degree production dropped 10 percent this year, after falling 20 percent last year. This year's graduating class will be the smallest in 10 years. "Competitive advantage, driven by innovation, has never been more important," says current CRA chair Daniel A. Reed. "U.S. businesses must continue integrating new computing technologies to remain globally competitive."
EC Calls for Energy Efficiency Through ICT
ZDNet UK (03/13/09) Espiner, Tom
The European Commission (EC) believes information and communication technologies (ICT) can be used to reduce energy use, which also would help in the effort to address climate change and help spur an economic recovery. The EC plans to introduce measures for using ICT to reduce emissions, ask the ICT industry to set targets for becoming more energy efficient, and have ICT work with major energy-using sectors on using its tools for energy-efficient heating, ventilation, lighting, and design. Businesses can improve on monitoring and managing their energy use with assistance from ICT, and smart metering can help consumers better use power, the EC says. At a Microsoft event in Brussels last week, EC information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding said she "had a dream of a totally green city" in which traffic management, energy supply, IT networks, urban infrastructure, and waste management were all connected and "optimized for green use." "This is how you get high growth out of the connected economy," she added. Although the carbon footprint of the technology industry continues to grow, Reding said she prefers allowing ICT, rather than legislation, to address the issue.
Hadoop, a Free Software Program, Finds Uses Beyond Search
New York Times (03/17/09) P. B3; Vance, Ashlee
Hadoop software has quickly become widely used by the top search engines and other Web sites to analyze and access the unprecedented amounts of data created by the Internet. The free program maps information over thousands of computers and offers a simpler method for writing analytical queries, thus enabling users to explore data by simply asking a question. "It's a breakthrough," says Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Mark Seager. "I think this type of technology will solve a whole new class of problems and open new services." Hadoop is based on MapReduce technology developed by Google. MapReduce, when paired with the file management technology Google uses to catalog the Web, can be used to index the entire Internet on a regular basis and analyze the vast amounts of information to determine the quality of search results and how people use the company's various services. MapReduce makes it possible to break large sets of data into small pieces, which can be spread across thousands of computers, ask the computers questions, and then receive cohesive answers. Google has largely kept the MapReduce technology a secret, but the company published papers on some of the underlying techniques, which software consultant Doug Cutting used to create Hadoop. Hadoop can track people's behavior to see what types of stories and content they view, and then match ads with that content. Microsoft uses Hadoop to improve its search system, and Facebook uses the program to determine how closely linked people are based on who appears in users' photographs.
Sending Out Internet Warnings for Outages, Viruses
Science Daily (03/16/09)
An early warning system on the Internet could help Europe avoid deliberate or accidental outages, restrict the spread of new viruses, and ensure reliable services, say Malte Hesse and Norbert Pohlmann from the Institute for Internet Security at the University of Applied Sciences in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The researchers say there is a growing need to improve the reliability and trustworthiness of the Internet, and that raising awareness of critical processes and components on the Internet is essential, particularly among those responsible for the Internet's continued operation. The Internet's greatest asset is its decentralized structure, but that asset also creates a problem in that it consists of almost 30,000 autonomous systems, each managed by individual organizations primarily within the private sector, and there is no governing body for the network. Unfortunately, the private organizations are exposed to a high level of competition, which eliminates the possibility of sharing important management information. If an early warning system is to be built and implemented, a change in attitude is needed. "The cooperation of companies, organizations, and governments is important to create a global view of the Internet," the researchers say.
SC09 Announces Technical Program Focus
HPC Wire (03/17/09)
This year's SC09 conference will focus on the role of high-performance computing (HPC) in biological sciences, environmental sustainability, and the emerging three-dimensional (3D) Internet. The week-long conference, which takes place Nov. 14-20, in Portland, Ore., will feature technical papers, tutorials, invited speakers, panel discussions, and posters. "We chose these three focus areas for the conference because they are so fundamentally important to human health and the health of our planet, and, in the case of the 3D Internet, to how we share, interact with, and understand information," says SC09 general chair Wilfred Pinfold, Intel's director of Extreme Scale Programs. "The technical program will show how HPC technologies provide a powerful tool to support work in bio-computing, sustainability, and the 3D Internet and will help people make scientific and engineering breakthroughs in these areas." The Bio-Computing Focus Area will examine research that uses HPC to solve problems in the behaviors of genes and proteins that can trigger cancers or other serious diseases. The Sustainability Focus Area will explore how to maintain environmental quality, how to develop and deploy renewable and clean energy, and how to improve the energy efficiency of businesses, data centers, and homes. The 3D Internet Focus Area will examine how 3D visualization and immersive environments such as Second Life are changing how people communicate, share information, educate students, and explore scientific problems.
New System for Improving Decision Support Systems
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (03/13/09)
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid School of Computing researchers have developed a system designed to improve decision-making processes in complex situations. The system was tested on the restoration of Lake Svyatoye in Belarus, which was contaminated by the Chernobyl accident. Professors Antonio Jimenez, Alfonso Mateos, and Sixto Rios, from the Department of Artificial Intelligence's Decision Analysis and Statistics Group, aimed to account for incomplete information and any possible effects those gaps could have on decision making. Multi-Attribute Utility Theory is often used to solve decision-making problems. The theory says that after building a hierarchy of objectives and identifying a set of alternatives and each alternative's value for impact on the objectives, the decision maker's preferences are quantified. The new system uses two approaches to manage incomplete information, which occurs when the impacts of some alternatives and attributes are unknown. The first approach redistributes criteria weights with missing values or impacts throughout the objectives hierarchy and across other criteria, which means the criteria hierarchy and its assigned weights vary when each alternative is analyzed depending on the criteria with missing values. The second approach associates the citerion range, the set of possible values, as the impact for a criterion with missing values, which means the entire range of values are considered possible and equally likely.
Georgia Tech Professors Predict Final Four Match Ups
Georgia Institute of Technology (03/16/09) Fernandez, Don
The Logistic Regression Markov Chain (LRMC), a computer-ranking system designed by Georgia Institute of Technology professors, predicts that the basketball teams from the universities of North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Louisville will reach the NCAA Final Four. The ranking system predicts that the finals will be between North Carolina and Memphis, with North Carolina winning the championship. "There are a few instances where it disagrees with the seeding," says professor Joel Sokol, one of LRMC's developers. "On the other hand, our system agrees with the awarding of fewer at-large bids for mid-majors than in the past." LRMC was developed by professors Sokol, Paul Kvam, and George Nemhauser. So far, the program has proven to be impressively accurate at predicting tournament results. Last year, LRMC correctly identified all Final Four participants. It also correctly predicted that Kansas would defeat Memphis in the championship. The LRMC formula accounts for scoreboard results, which teams are competing, home-court advantage, and previous margins of victory. In addition to predicting winners, LRMC offers insight into teams that hold more, or less, potential than the NCAA seedings would indicate. For example, the 2008 predictions identified overrated teams such as Duke, Vanderbilt, and Connecticut, which all lost in the early rounds, and identified West Virginia and Kansas State as potential spoilers.
Future Shock: The PC of 2019
Computerworld (03/16/09) Pratt, Mary K.
The personal computer (PC) is expected to advance in both intelligence and form factor over the next 10 years, evolving into a merger of computing devices and peripherals that can help carry out "the higher cognitive tasks of what people do to get their jobs done," says Intel research director Andrew Chien. The laptop form factor is expected to transition from the current book-like configuration to more diverse paradigms dictated by function, says Dan Siewiorek with Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. BT Group executive Wen Xiao forecasts that smallness and ubiquity will be key characteristics of tomorrow's PC, while access control and communications, rather than computing, will be its primary applications. He says the push toward greater PC mobility will be hastened by virtualization and cloud computing. Xiao predicts that "the computing [and] data-storage functions will all be virtualized--device-independent, location-independent data and applications stored somewhere in the cloud, and on-demand software applications." He also envisions users becoming responsible for supplying their own computing devices while the corporate information technology department would establish a secure enterprise cloud and oversee the access and authentication of individual users. Physical flexibility is another PC advance that experts are anticipating, with innovations that include foldable, rollable, stretchy screens, and material programmed to change shape according to user needs. Xiao believes physical keyboards, mice, and monitors may be phased out in favor of projected controls and displays, perhaps even holograms. Among the technologies expected to replace wires in the PC is magnetic-induction charging. Xiao says the need of data input will be significantly reduced thanks to advancements in Semantic Web and artificial intelligence.
Consortium to Make Technology 'Faster, Better, Smarter'
SMU News (03/12/09) Cobb, Kim
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is providing support for the Net-Centric Software and Systems Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, a new research group that will focus on technology integration. The center will find new ways in which communications networks can be used by connected people, devices, information, and services to solve problems. The FedEx package tracking system is a commercial application of net-centric technology that links employees, customers, suppliers, and partners to address the timing demands of the delivery business. NSF says the next wave of net-centric solutions will be beneficial for the defense, commercial, healthcare, education, communication, social networking, and entertainment industries. Researchers from Southern Methodist University (SMU), the University of North Texas, and the University of Texas at Dallas will work with a wide variety of industry partners. "We envision this consortium becoming a leading research alliance in the United States," says SMU's Jeff Tian. "Because we can cooperate with the expertise of academic institutions and high-tech companies, we have much greater research capabilities than any one institution working alone."
Studying the Female Form: Math Could Lead to Sexier Lingerie, Safer Labcoats
Researchers at Japan's Kyoto Institute of Technology and Osaka University have developed a computerized model for identifying body shape components that can be used to design close-fitting products. The researchers have developed a technique that allows them to extract a person's body shape components from three-dimensional (3D) data and then link that data to a classification of trunk shapes. The researchers measured 560 Japanese women aged 19 to 63 using laser metrology to map control points at specific places on their trunks. The data was applied to a generic 3D trunk model to create a database of body shapes. The researchers then used statistical and cluster analysis to classify trunk characteristics into five different groups, each depending on slimness, breast size and angle, neck type, and shoulder slope. The researchers say their analysis will be helpful in the production of clothes that fit better for each size and shape, and in improving practical functional clothes used for body adjustments and posture improvement.
Cyberattack Mapping Could Alter Security Defense Strategy
SearchSecurity.com (03/10/09) Howard, Alexander B.
During a recent seminar at Harvard University, researchers from Sandia National Laboratories presented maps they developed of massive cyberattacks against large computer networks. The maps—which are made up of a series of colored dots, lines, and graphs—simulate a type of cyberattack known as a root attack, in which hackers try to gain control of a computer at its most basic level. Sandia's Steven Y. Goldsmith says the maps could help IT security professionals protect their networks from attacks. Goldsmith also has created intelligent white hat software agents that look for suspicious requests from internal or external sources. When the agents detect an attack, they cut off malicious agents from the group, which only authorizes authenticated data. He says the technology will enable networks to defend themselves. Goldsmith says that both aspects of Sandia's research could someday be used together to improve the effectiveness of enterprise intrusion-detection software.
What's the Score?
Economist (03/14/09) Vol. 390, No. 8622, P. 83
In the 20 years since its foundation, the World Wide Web has helped reshape science. World Wide Web Consortium director Sir Tim Berners-Lee originally developed the concept of the Web as a solution to the problem of keeping track of the vast volume of scientific data that would be produced by CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Not only has the Web allowed journals to be published online and links between papers to be formed, but it also has enabled professional scientists to enlist thousands of amateurs to aid them in research. The Web also is facilitating previously unheard-of experiments in social science. For instance, a study of human social networks conducted by Bernardo Huberman of Hewlett-Packard's HP Labs focused on Twitter, a social networking Web site that lets people post short messages to long lists of friends. Huberman and colleagues learned that the apparent enormity of Twitter networks was deceiving, and that in fact Twitter users direct many of their messages to a few particular friends. Although journalists have embraced the vetting of their papers by peers online, scientists are less amenable to the idea, mainly because a compelling incentive for online scientific peer review does not exist, says quantum computer expert Michael Nielsen. There is currently no known way to gauge the impact of a blog post or the sharing of a good idea with another scientist in a collaborative Web-based workspace, and Nielsen speculates that if similar measurements could be set up for the effects of open commentary and open collaboration on the Web, then commentary and collaboration would thrive to the overall advantage of science.
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