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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Higher Pay Not Luring Women to Tech Jobs
Bloomberg (08/03/11) Jillian Berman
The percent of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related fields went unchanged from 2000 to 2009, according to a recent U.S. Commerce Department Economics and Statistic Bureau report, despite a smaller wage gap compared to other types of work. Women made up 24 percent of the STEM workforce in 2009, but they earned 14 percent less than their male counterparts compared with 21 percent less in other fields. In 2009 there were 2.5 million women workers with a degree in STEM fields compared to 6.7 million men. "We haven't done as well as we could to prepare young people, and particularly women, to prepare for STEM jobs," says acting Commerce secretary Rebecca Blank. Girls are more likely than boys to say that math is not for them as early as second grade, making grade school STEM education more important, according to Change the Equation CEO Linda Rosen. In addition, women who choose to get a STEM degree are less likely to pursue a technical career than men are, as 26 percent of women with STEM degrees chose a career in a related field compared to 40 percent of men.
Microsoft Kicks Off $250,000 Security Contest
Computerworld (08/03/11) Gregg Keizer
Microsoft has launched a $250,000 contest for security technology researchers that challenges them to find ways to defend against entire classes of exploits. "We want to make it more costly and difficult for criminals to exploit vulnerabilities," says Microsoft's Katie Moussouris. "We want to inspire researchers to focus their expertise on defensive security technologies." The contest, which runs through April 1, 2012, asks researchers to developing mitigation technology for preventing the exploitation of memory safety vulnerabilities. The winner will receive $200,000, the second-place winner will receive $50,000, and the third-place winner will receive a subscription to Microsoft's developer network. "Overall, it seemed to us that to take an approach to block entire classes was the best way to engage with the research community and protect customers," Moussouris says. The contest shows that Microsoft is looking for solutions to return-oriented programming, which can be used by attackers to breach current Windows security technologies such as ASLR and address space layout randomization, says nCircle Security's Andrew Storms. A panel of Microsoft employees will judge the contest.
Web Search Is Ready for a Shakeup, Says UW Computer Scientist
UW News (08/03/11) Hannah Hickey
University of Washington (UW) professor Oren Etzioni recently called on the international academic community and engineers to be more ambitious in designing how users find information online. The main obstacle to progress "seems to be a curious lack of ambition and imagination," Etzioni writes. "Despite all the talent and the data they have, I don't think they've been ambitious enough." When IBM's Watson supercomputer recently beat the best human players at Jeopardy, it showed how far the technology has come in being able to answer complex questions. However, as the ability to perform intelligent searches increases, so does the demand. "People are going to be clamoring for more intelligent search and a more streamlined process of asking questions and getting answers," Etzioni says. Instead of looking for strings of text, a Web search engine should identify basic entities, such as people, places and things, and discover the relationships between them, which is the goal of UW's Turing Center. The center has developed ReVerb, an open source tool that uses Web information to determine the relationship between two entities.
A Face Launches 1,000 Apps
Wall Street Journal (08/05/11) Emily Steel
Advancements in facial-recognition technology have led to a boom in consumer applications. For example, one app displays real-time statistics on the patronage of local bars. The app uses face detection cameras installed at the bars to show the number of people inside, the male-to-female ratio, and the average age of the patrons. Another app can instantly recognize the users' Facebook friends in a picture and post them to the Web. App developers also have created TV set-top boxes that are equipped with facial-recognition cameras and can identify who is in front of the TV and customize programming to that user's preferences. "We're at a tipping point where some of these face-recognition technologies are not just gimmicks but are becoming useful," says Viewdle's Jason Mitura. The vast number of new facial-recognition apps shows how far the technology has come in just a few years. For still frontal face images, the error rate fell to just 0.29 percent in 2010, from a 79 percent error rate in 1993, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. As cameras become more sophisticated and prices for the technologies fall, face-identification tools will become increasingly available to the public.
Women Hitting a Wall in IT
NextGov.com (08/02/11) Brittany Ballenstedt
Most women in information technology (IT) careers remain in junior or mid-level management positions, and many believe their male colleagues are being promoted ahead of them, according to a Women in Technology survey. Sixty-one percent of the respondents have more than 10 years of experience in the tech sector, but only 26 percent have reached senior management or board level positions. "These results indicate that the big strides toward equality that we had hoped for in 2007 have not yet happened and that the gender balance in the workplace still has a long way to go," says the survey's report. The latest findings are similar to the results from 2007, when the vast majority of respondents had not taken and did not intend to take a career break after maternity. The report also notes that there are several benefits available to women in IT. Eighty percent of employers offer remote working options and 75 percent offer flexible working hours. Salary, benefits, career opportunities, and flexible work hours are the top reasons why women apply for jobs with certain organizations.
Georgia Tech Proposes Internet Consumer Nutrition Label
Georgia Tech News (08/02/11) Brendan Streich
A recent Georgia Tech University study of Internet service providers (ISPs) concluded that ISPs should provide easy-to-understand information about service-limiting factors to provide users with better ways of measuring their performance. Many home Internet users run multiple applications at the same time that can affect performance, says Georgia Tech professor Nick Feamster. The researchers made their recommendations based on data from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and from Project BISMark, an independent study of an open source router platform that enables users to continuously monitor the performance they are getting from their ISP. In addition to proposing an Internet "nutrition label" that would detail network performance in terms of throughput, latency, and other measurements, the researchers have included mechanisms in the BISMark router to give priority to latency-sensitive applications so that they can function normally while other programs consume the remaining bandwidth. "Ultimately, we envision the platform enabling applications that solve a much wider range of problems, such as giving users the ability to manage usage caps that ISPs are now instating, to implement parental controls, or to diagnose performance problems inside the home itself," Feamster says.
Intel Invests $30 Million in Cloud, Embedded Research Centers
eWeek (08/03/11) Jeffrey Burt
Intel is investing $30 million in two new research centers at Carnegie Mellon University that will focus on cloud computing and embedded technology. The two Intel Science and Technology Centers (ISTCs) are part of a $100 million research effort Intel launched in January designed to produce technological advances that can be used throughout the industry. The ISTCs use open intellectual property models, and the research results will become publicly available through technical publications and open source software releases. The cloud computing center is part of Intel's Cloud 2015 initiative, which is designed to push innovation to enable businesses and consumers to share data securely across public and private clouds. The researchers will pursue extending the cloud to the network edge and client devices and cloud technologies such as built-in application optimization. "In the future, these capabilities could enable a digital personal handler via a device wired into your glasses that sees what you see, to constantly pull data from the cloud and whisper information to you during the day--telling you who people are, where to buy an item you just saw, or how to adjust your plans when something new comes up," according to Intel.
Evolutionary Computation Offers Flexibility, Insight
Ohio Supercomputer Center (08/02/11) Jamie Abel
Franklin University professor Esmail Bonakdarian has developed an evolutionary computation method that provides researchers with more flexibility to search for models that can best represent experimental data compiled from many types of applications. Bonakdarian used the flagship system of the Ohio Supercomputing Center (OSC) to test his computation method by analyzing data from well-known economics problems. "It is always fascinating to see how our research clients employ our supercomputers to address issues in broader fields of interest, such as we find in Dr. Bonakdarian's work in economics and evolutionary computing," says OSC's Ashok Krishnamurthy. Although regression analysis often has been used to find and establish statistically significant relationships in research projects, Bonakdarian warns that if the number of independent variables is large, the researcher may have to guess at which independent variables are the most important. However, he says the evolutionary algorithm can evolve the best minimal subset with the largest explanatory value. "This approach offers more flexibility as the user can specify the exact search criteria on which to optimize the model," Bonakdarian says.
Reports of Flash's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
Technology Review (08/04/11) Christopher Mims
Parliament's Next Top Model: Simulating Elections
University of Auckland (New Zealand) (08/02/11)
Voters in New Zealand will be able to understand the consequences of a referendum vote using an election simulator developed by researchers at the University of Auckland's Center for Mathematical Social Science. "A lot of descriptive information about the upcoming referendum has been made available to voters, explaining, for instance, that coalition governments are more or less likely under particular voting systems," says Auckland professor Mark Wilson, who created the simulator in collaboration with professor Geoff Pritchard. "But as scientists interested in collective decision making, we wanted to know more precisely what the voting systems would mean in terms of seats in parliament and we think that voters should have this information too." The simulator is designed to calculate the distribution of seats in parliament based on the party votes. Users can estimate the level of support for each party or use pre-programmed results from previous elections. They also can adjust the number of electorate seats won by minor parties.
European Security Group Issues Warning on HTML5
IDG News Service (08/01/11) Jeremy Kirk
New standards under development as part of HTML5 neglect important security issues, according to a European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) report. ENISA examined 13 specifications within HTML5 and found 51 security issues. The specifications are important because application designers and Web developers will use them as a guide for several years. "I think this is special in that it's the first time anyone has look at those suites of specifications together from a security point of view," says ENISA's Giles Hogben. Some of the issues can be fixed by making minor changes to the specifications, while other risks are based on features that users should know about. The HTML5 specification allows for a submit button for a Web-based form to be placed anywhere on a Web page, which makes it possible for an attacker to inject other HTML onto the page and cause the information in the form to be sent to the attacker rather than the legitimate Web site. The World Wide Web Consortium, which curates HTML5, plans to revise the specifications by January 2012.
Researchers Give Robot Ability to Learn
PhysOrg.com (08/02/11) Bob Yirka
A type of self-replicating neural technology developed by researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology can give robots the ability to learn and perform new tasks. The neural technology, called the Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network, determines what to do next in a given situation by storing information in a network that is designed to mimic the human brain. In a demonstration, the researchers asked a robot to fill a cup with water from a bottle, which it performed using predefined instructions. The researchers then asked the robot to cool the beverage while in the middle of carrying out the same instructions as before. The robot, which is holding the cup in one hand and the bottle in the other, paused to consider what it must do to carry out the request. It set the bottle down, reached over to retrieve an ice cube, and placed it in the cup. The researchers say the technology enables a robot to learn from its experiences, use the Internet to research how to do things, and potentially learn from similar robots that have already performed the tasks it wants to do.
Research Targets Computational Experiments in the Cloud
HPC in the Cloud (07/27/11) Nicole Hemsoth
A St. Andrews University research team recently launched an investigation into the viability of running computational experiments on virtualized hardware. Researcher Lars Kothhoff says in an interview that reliability and reproducibility of results is critical to such research, especially when it involves deploying complex systems that solve artificial intelligence problems. "Our results show that there is no inherent disadvantage to using virtualized resources for such experiments as long as the results are carefully evaluated and statistical methods used to identify outliers and establish confidence in the conclusions drawn from the results," he notes. Kothhoff says the best case for running central processing unit (CPU)-intensive tasks on cloud resources is likely one that involves many experiments or experiments that can be easily distributed across multiple virtual machines when there are not sufficiently available physical resources. He says that getting reliable CPU timings is a substantial difficulty only for the small types of virtual machines in a cloud. "For larger types, the reliability becomes as good as on physical hardware or even better," Kothhoff says.
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