Welcome to the September 18, 2009 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Georgia Tech to Transform Unemployed Technology Workers Into High School Computing Teachers
Georgia Institute of Technology (09/17/09) Wilson, Stefany
The National Science Foundation has awarded $2.5 million to the Georgia Tech College of Computing to implement Operation Reboot, a three-year program that will train 30 unemployed information technology (IT) workers to work as high school computing teachers. Current computing teachers will work with IT workers for one year, sharing their classroom responsibilities and training them. In turn, computing teachers will learn important IT skills. At the end of the year, the IT professional will have earned an initial teaching certificate with a computer science endorsement. IT co-teachers will help high schools provide more computing courses, improve their curriculum, and generate more student interest. Georgia Tech predicts that the expertise IT professionals will bring to the classroom will lead to a 30 percent increase in the number of students with classroom computing experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will not be enough computer science professionals to meet the demands of the industry, which is expected to offering rapidly rising employment opportunities until at least 2016. Operation Reboot plans to provide improved computing education to 4,600 students over the next three years. The results of the program will be published and made available as a model for other states to follow.
Sending Science Down the Phone: New Technology Will Map Research Across the World
Imperial College London (09/15/09) Goodchild, Lucy
Research from Imperial College London scientists indicates that new smartphone software will help epidemiologists and ecologists in the field analyze data remotely and map findings across the globe. The study authors also say the software will allow the public to function as "citizen scientists" and gather data for community projects. The smartphone software lets users collect and record data, photos, and videos, and then transmit this material to a central Web-based database. The Web site uses the handset's global positioning system to record the user's location, and it can then display all the data collected on this subject across the world through Google Maps. The smartphones can additionally be used to request and see all the available maps and analyses. "This is the first time that we have been able to link all the functionality of smartphone technology to a Web-based database for scientists to use," says lead study author David Aanensen. "Our software is ideal for projects where multiple people collect data in the field and submit these to a central Web site for mapping and analysis." The researchers are currently using the software to assist in their analyses of the epidemiology of bacterial and fungal infectious diseases. Smartphones for the software employ the open source Android operating system, allowing software developers to create their own applications.
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Startup Founders
Slate (09/14/09) Manjoo, Farhad
Venture capitalist Paul Graham is proposing a new visa for immigrants looking to start new companies in the United States. The "Founder Visa" would allow 10,000 immigrants to create new companies in the U.S. if they can show they have a strong business plan. The current H1-B visa for skilled workers requires immigrants to work for U.S. companies and restricts them from starting their own businesses. Graham says the Founder Visa would forbid immigrants from working for U.S. companies and instead it would encourage the creation of new jobs for U.S. citizens. "If we assume four people per startup, which is probably an overestimate, that's 2,500 new companies. Each year," Graham writes in his proposal. "They wouldn't all grow as big as Google, but out of 2,500 some would come close." About a quarter of U.S. technology companies are started at least in part by immigrants. Moreover, a survey by Duke University professor Vivek Wadhwa found that more than 52 percent of Silicon Valley startup companies were created or co-created by people not born in the United States. Wadhwa calculated that in 2005, firms begun by immigrants earned $52 billion and provided jobs for 450,000 employees. On a global scale, Wadhwa found that one-fourth of all tech companies are founded by Indians--and yet the U.S. E2 visa, created in part for immigrant founders, blocks Indian entrepreneurs from entering the country. Graham says the U.S. government's immigration restrictions are "the biggest constraint on the number of new startups that get created in the U.S."
Researchers Using Parallel Processing Computing Could Save Thousands By Using an Xbox
University of Warwick (09/14/09) Scarle, Simon; Dunn, Peter
University of Warwick researcher Simon Scarle has demonstrated that an Xbox 360 chip could replace parallel processing hardware for a fraction of the cost. Scarle's original goal was to predict the emergence of cardiac arrhythmias by charting how electricity moves in cardiac cell models. However, although his study demonstrated that it was impossible to predict the rise of some arrhythmias, it was a breakthrough in parallel computing. With some adaptation of its code, the Xbox chip could provide researchers with the scientific modeling capabilities of an entire network of personal computers. Not only will Scarle's discovery help researchers cut their costs, the Xbox chip works more quickly than a traditional parallel processing computer. "Although major reworking of any previous code framework is required, the Xbox 360 is a very easy platform to develop for and this cost can easily be outweighed by the benefits in gained computational power and speed, as well as the relative ease of visualization of the system," Scarle says.
MIT Creates Nanotube Process That Could Shrink, Speed Chips
Computerworld (09/16/09) Gaudin, Sharon
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers may have found a way to replace computer chips' copper wires with nanotubes. As computer chips grow smaller, their copper wires are less able to sustain an electric current strong enough to work properly. Replacing copper wires with nanotubes is one proposed solution, but the heat necessary to connect carbon nanotubes to metal could change the metal in such a way that it cannot support nanotube development. However, MIT researchers have come up with a solution to the problem--they first vaporize tantalum and iron, which fix themselves to a silicon wafer. Then they place the metal-covered wafer inside a tube and insert that container into a furnace. By sending ethylene gas into the container, they trigger a chemical reaction--the gas breaks down and reacts with the wafer's iron, encouraging nanotubes to grow on top of it. Because a similar technique is used for semiconductors, the process would be easier and cheaper for computer chip companies to use, says MIT scientist Gilbert Nessim. In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor says that once nanotubes replace copper wires, the next step is to use them to replace computer chip transistors. Intel, which helped fund MIT's study, recently said that it might make the switch to nanotubes after 2015. McGregor is less optimistic, predicting that the switch won't be made for another 15 years. He says most companies won't change their designs until they absolutely have to. "We don't move at revolutionary steps," he says. "We move at evolutionary steps."
Is It E-Government's Saviour? An Automatic Knowledge Filter
ICT Results (09/17/09)
Addressing the information overload that many public administrators in European Union member states must contend with was the objective of the SAKE research project, which set out to devise a knowledge management system capable of proactively updating public administrators on developments about their jobs as well as communicate any revisions to data and documents with contextual background. "We follow an ontology-based approach for modeling information resources, context, and preferences, implemented on an event-driven architecture," says SAKE scientific coordinator Nenad Stojanovic. "The architecture supports the processing of events that relate to changes in information resources and the working context of the user, increasing the system's responsiveness." Components of the SAKE Knowledge Management System include a content management system for the creation, exchange, and editing of documents, and a groupware system with discussion forums, messaging tools, shared calendars, and a workflow system. Also included is an Attention Management System (AMS) that semantically filters and aggregates data especially relevant to the user's requirements. Context is generated by the AMS via the integration of data from all three systems in an information bus, and SAKE project manager Konstantinos Samiotis notes that all the technologies are transparent to the end user. He says the next step is the creation of a generic domain ontology for all public administrations.
Rome Was Built in a Day, With Hundreds of Thousands of Digital Photos
UW News (09/15/09) Hickey, Hannah
Historical Roman landmarks are being digitally reconstructed using a new computer algorithm developed at the University of Washington that uses hundreds of thousands of tourist photos. The system can automatically reconstruct the entire city of Rome in about a day. The digital Rome was constructed using 150,000 tourist photos on the site Flickr tagged with the word Rome or Roma. The program analyzed each image in about 21 hours and combined them to create a three-dimensional digital model of the city. The program also has been used to create a virtual model of the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, processing 60,000 photos in less than 23 hours using a cluster of 350 computers. Meanwhile, it took a cluster of 500 computers 65 hours to process 250,000 photos of Venice, Italy. Previous versions of the software matched each photo to every other photo in the set, but as the number of photos grew that technique became too complicated. The new program establishes likely matches and concentrates on those parts, and uses parallel processing techniques to run on numerous computers, including some remote servers connected through the Internet. The technique could be used to create online maps to provide users with a virtual-reality experience, or to automatically create cities for video games and digital effects. The program also could be used for the digital preservation of cities and landmarks.
The A-Z of Programming Languages: Groovy
Computerworld Australia (09/14/09) McConnachie, Dahna
Groovy project manager Guillaume Laforge says the Groovy programming language was designed to make life simpler for developers through its seamless integration with the underlying Java platform. "There's really no impedance mismatch between Groovy and Java," he says. "That's why lots of projects integrate Groovy, or why companies adopt the [Groovy on Rails (Grails)] Web framework." Laforge says that Groovy finds frequent use as a superglue for tying together various application elements, and he points out that Groovy is often the preferred language when developers must integrate and employ an additional language in their applications. Laforge says that Grails offers an advanced integration of the best-of-breed open source software components to provide a pleasant experience for developers while also addressing various other aspects such as the project build, the persistence, a rich view layer, and an extensible plug-in system. Laforge says Groovy's support for closures is his favorite feature. "With closures, you can start thinking differently about how you solve your everyday problems, or create complex algorithms," he says. "Closures give you an additional layer of abstraction for encapsulating code and behavior, and even data [thanks to Groovy builders]. Also, with various helper methods added to Java collections, in combination with closures, you've got the power of functional languages at your disposal."
White House Unveils Cloud Computing Initiative
CNet (09/15/09) Terdiman, Daniel
The Obama administration has introduced a cloud computing policy that aims to lower infrastructure costs and reduce the environmental impact of government computing. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra says the plan is the administration's first formal effort to launch a broad system designed to leverage existing infrastructure and cut federal spending on information technology, particularly expensive data centers. Kundra says the government has built numerous, redundant data centers, which has resulted in a doubling of federal energy consumption between 2000 and 2006. Some aspects of the cloud computing policy already have been released, such as the new Apps.gov Web site, which is a clearinghouse of business, social media, productivity applications, and cloud IT services. The administration hopes the site will become a one-stop shop for many services that previously required extensive IT spending. The second phase will involve budget reform. For fiscal year 2010, the administration will be pushing cloud computing projects in the hope that many lightweight workflows can be moved into the cloud, and in fiscal 2011 the administration will be issuing guidance to agencies. The final phase will include policy planning and architecture that will involve centralized certifications, target architecture, and security, privacy, and procurement concerns. Kundra says the ultimate goal is to make it easy for agencies to procure the applications they need and to avoid having the government pay to build infrastructure that may be available for free.
Google Lets You Custom-Print Millions of Public Domain Books
Wired News (09/17/09) Singel, Ryan
Google Book Search will join On Demand Books in a project to print books in the public domain for a modest price using its Expresso Book Machine. Google has scanned millions of books whose copyright protections have expired and posted their text on the Internet to be downloaded for free. Google will now return the books to print at a dollar-a-book profit (proceeds will be donated to charity). Individual bookstores can use the Espresso Book Machine to print the books, which can produce a medium-sized paperback every four minutes. Stores around the world have already signed up to provide the service, including the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, the Blackwell Bookshop in London, and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, and the independent Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass. On Demand Books CEO Dane Neller says the new partnership could change everything. "We believe this is a revolution," Neller says. "Content retrieval is now centralized and production is decentralized." He also says the new printing method could help private bookstores compete with large competitors. "We think people should be able to find and read these books," says Google's Jennie Johnson. "We don't care how people end up reading them." Neller hopes that users of Google Book Search will find not only the book they're looking for, but information on the nearest bookstore that could print it for them.
Hamburg Internet Technologists Propose Roadmap for Future Internet Design
Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (09/04/09) Schmidt, Professor Thomas C.
Hamburg University of Applied Sciences computer scientists led by professor Thomas Schmidt have received a three-year grant for the Hybrid Adaptive Mobile Multicast (HAMcast) project, which seeks to develop a multiservice Internet architecture designed for mobile users. As Internet applications become more elaborate due to new network developments, the existing Internet Protocol framework gets bogged down with information and becomes error-prone, which prevents the Internet from evolving as it should. "We want to break this long-term innovation freeze by assigning higher communication intelligence to end systems," Schmidt says. "Peer-to-peer technologies and other forms of distributed intelligence should become part of the communication process, as well as mobile networking schemes." HAMcast will use a multiservice Internet system to promote group communication. Its middleware will work independently from both providers and application programmers. The researchers say that HAMcast's multiservice architecture will particularly benefit emerging applications such as Internet television, online games, and online conferencing tools.
What Traditional Academics Can Learn From a Futurist's University
Chronicle of Higher Education (09/14/09) Young, Jeffrey R.
The Singularity University program combines technology, futurism, and corporate support to question well-entrenched perspectives on learning and technology. The program has a specific focus on how technology is changing society with futurist ideas that include the advance of artificial intelligence to the point where it outdistances the human intellect--a notion espoused by program co-founder Ray Kurzweil. Singularity University takes a unique approach to education that is more in line with a fast-paced startup than an institution. In keeping with Singularity University's precept that people should be proactive in shaping the future, the students wielded sizable influence over the program's progress and the configuration of the agenda. Most of the sessions focused on technology's potential positive effects on the world. A small number of universities have departments or centers dedicated to "futures studies." James A. Dator with the University of Hawaii-Manoa's Hawai'i Research Center for Futures Studies says that such studies have the benefit of challenging the "pro-growth" assumptions of universities themselves. Stanford University professor Paul Saffo says that technology appears to have had very little transformative effect on higher education, and notes that "it hasn't had the, 'Oh my god, the world is different from now on.' Higher education is still pretty much the way it was in the 1950s."
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