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Welcome to the November 7, 2012 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
New Jersey's Email Voting Suffers Major Glitches, Deadline Extended to Friday
NBC News (11/07/12) Bob Sullivan; Talesha Reynolds
The emergency email system set up by New Jersey to enable citizens displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote by obtaining electronic ballots has suffered significant computer glitches, forcing the state to extend its email voting deadline to Nov. 9. Election officials report the system is being inundated by non-displaced voters, swamping county clerks with ballot requests. Problems delivering email ballots may be just one difficulty, as University of Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman says the three-step email voting process could bewilder voters. Voters must electronically request a ballot, email or fax it to the clerk, and then mail the original hard copy to the clerk. "I'm not sure that voters will understand they still have to mail the ballot," Halderman notes. Furthermore, he warns that hackers could tamper with the voting process electronically due to a lack of secrecy and integrity protection. "It's easy to spoof an email, intercept an email, find it in someone's outbox and alter it," Halderman says. "It's possible to hack email servers and change votes after they are received."
Broadband '2,000 times' Faster Aim of Bangor Scientists
BBC News (11/06/12) George Herd
Bangor University researchers have developed a method for sending 20 gigabits of data every second, and they are currently working on the Ocean project, a three-year study to make the new method commercially viable. "The focus for the Ocean project is really to find out if we can do it in a cost-effective way, and is it a viable way of doing it in a commercial setting," says Bangor scientist Roger Giddings. The method, known as Optical Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, involves changing some well-understood technology that is already being used in wireless networks and digital broadcasting. The process takes raw digital data, converts it to a series of physical electrical waves, and then into an optical signal that a laser sends through a cable. The researchers also have developed an electronic kit that can both code and decode the optical signals on the fly. "This is the only system that we know of in the world that we can demonstrate working in real time--with a real-time transceiver and a real-time receiver," Giddings says.
Toward the 'Future Internet', Experiment by Experiment
Europe's Newsroom (10/31/12)
The European Union's OneLab, an open, federated laboratory supporting network research for the future Internet, is a high-performance, adaptable, scalable, low cost, and easy-to-use initiative that scientists can use for research and experiments. OneLab offers telecommunications and Internet researchers access to a range of tools and testbeds, such as PlanetLab Europe. University Pierre et Marie Curie professor Serge Fdida says PlanetLab has more than 300 virtual server nodes and almost 2,000 researchers, constituting one of the most realistic platforms available for trial deployment and experimentation, with services such as distributed storage, network mapping, peer-to-peer systems, distributed hash tables, and query processing. "Our approach was to bring these testbeds and the organizations behind them together in a federation system, enabling technology to be reused, helping developers avoid repeating mistakes and reinventing the wheel, enabling them to share best practices, and aggregating funding to benefit from the multiplier effect," Fdida says. OneLab also established the NITOS testbed for real-time wireless testing, the ETOMIC testbed for high-precision measurement of network capabilities, and the DIMES testbed to study the topology of the Internet.
Why You Can't Vote Online
Technology Review (11/05/12) David Talbot
The lack of verifiable security in online voting systems due to unresolved fundamental problems is the main reason such systems are impractical, according to computer security experts at a recent Princeton University symposium. Such problems include the ability of malevolent hackers to intercept online communications, log in as someone else, and penetrate servers to rewrite or corrupt code. "Basically, it relies on the user's computer being trustworthy," says Stanford University professor David Dill. "If a virus can intercept a vote at keyboard or screen, there is basically no defense." The U.S. Department of Defense cancelled plans this year to permit military personnel posted overseas to vote online after the audit of the system revealed a vulnerability to cyberattacks. Although electronic-voting systems already seeing widespread U.S. use could be prey to theoretical hacking threats because they do not generate paper trails, they are not connected to the Internet and thus are vulnerable to a smaller spectrum of attacks. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Ron Rivest says Internet voting is seldom the best option for casting votes, given its complexity and the fact that it invites wrongdoing.
Study Reveals Challenge for Chip Designers of Future
McGill University (Canada) (11/06/12) Chris Chipello
McGill University researchers have shown that electrical current may be drastically reduced when wires from two dissimilar metals meet, which could present problems for designers of nanoelectronic devices. McGill professor Peter Grutter says that as the features of electronic circuits get smaller, their resistance to current no longer increases at a consistent rate. Instead, he says the resistance "jumps around," displaying the counterintuitive effects of quantum mechanics. The researchers studied an ultra-small contact between gold and tungsten, two materials used in computer chips to connect different functional components of a device. They used advanced microscopy techniques to image a tungsten probe and gold surface with atomic precision, and to bring them together mechanically in a specific way. The electrical current through the resulting contact was much lower than expected, according to the researchers. "The size of that drop is far greater than most experts would expect-–on the order of 10 times greater," Grutter says.
Supercomputing for a Superproblem: A Computational Journey Into Pure Mathematics
University of Leicester (United Kingdom) (11/06/12)
Mathematician Yuri Matiyasevich is focusing on finding a solution to the challenging mathematical problem of the Riemann Zeta Function (RZF) hypothesis, and he has published a research report through the University of Leicester that regards the zeros of the function. The paper details how supercomputers have helped mathematicians explore the hypothesis. "The goal of this paper is to present numerical evidence for a new method for revealing all divisors of all natural numbers from the zeroes of the RZF," says Leicester professor Alexander Gorban. "This approach required supercomputing power." Gorban notes previous evidence exists of prestigious mathematical functions utilizing massive computations. "Unfortunately, the Riemann hypothesis is not reduced to a finite problem and, therefore, the computations can disprove but cannot prove it," he observes. "Computations here provide the tools for guessing and disproving the guesses only." The RZF hypothesis appears on the list of Hilbert's Problems and also is one of the Millennium Problems listed by the Clay Mathematics Institute.
Inside Higher Ed (11/01/12) Alexandra Tilsley
Many universities are reaching out to community colleges to set up programs that encourage science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. For example, the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) announced that it will spend three years building and piloting a national model for increasing the number of community college students who earn bachelor's degrees in STEM fields. UMBC is working with various institutions to develop a pathway from a community college to a bachelor's degree in a STEM field. Meanwhile, the City Colleges of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) recently announced a partnership, along with a $100,000 grant for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities' Minority Male STEM Initiative, to support male minority STEM students at the community college system in transferring to and graduating from UIC. In addition, Mount Holyoke College recently received a $600,000 from the U.S. National Science Foundation to recruit and support female