Association for Computing Machinery
Welcome to the March 5, 2014 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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New Report Presents Recommendations and Initiatives to Address CS Education Challenges
Association for Computing Machinery (03/05/14)

A new ACM report urges states to provide more opportunities for students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete for high-wage computing positions. The report, "Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States," says state education professionals, business leaders, and public policy officials should collaborate in developing comprehensive computer science education and workforce development plans. The report offers suggestions to help these leaders create pathways that will expose all K-12 students to computer science, provide increased access to more intense computer science courses, offer more opportunities for students to pursue post-secondary degrees, and match up education pathways with computing careers. By 2020, 50 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will be in computing. "This concentration of computing positions in STEM makes it imperative for K-12 students in academic and career technical education programs to gain more opportunities to learn computer science," says ACM Education Policy Committee chair Bobby Schnabel. The report also calls on colleges and universities to help expand opportunities for computer science education by recognizing advanced computer science courses in their admissions process. In addition, the report says higher education institutions can reduce barriers to degree completion by adopting system-wide agreements that allow students to transfer course credits to complete their computing degrees more efficiently. The report is available at

2015 Budget Would Boost Investments in STEM Education (03/04/14) Brittany Ballenstedt

President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget blueprint includes several changes designed to improve and strengthen the quality and quantity of workers in science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The budget proposes a $170-million Education Department grant to fund a cohesive initiative to transform STEM teaching and learning, and to help meet Obama's goal of recruiting, preparing, and retaining 100,000 STEM teachers over the next 10 years. One of the proposed changes is a government-wide reorganization of STEM education programs, which previously had been spread across several agencies. The proposal would focus federal STEM education efforts on the five areas outlined in the government's five-year strategic plan: P-12 instruction, undergraduate education, graduate education, broadening participation in STEM to women and minorities, and STEM education activities that take place outside the traditional classroom. The budget proposal also includes $333 million to support STEM graduate student researchers that display leadership potential.

Workshop Report: Multidisciplinary Research for Online Education
CCC Blog (03/04/14) Douglas H. Fisher

The Computing Community Consortium recently sponsored the Workshop on Multidisciplinary Research for Online Education (MROE), which examined the research opportunities involving the learning sciences, computing, human-computer interaction, social computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, modeling, and simulation. The workshop was motivated and informed by high-profile activities in massive, open, online education (MOOE), writes Vanderbilt University professor Douglas H. Fisher. "Some of the particularly novel insights growing out of the workshop were attention to instructor support, instructor modeling, and instructional communities, particularly those that crossed institutional boundaries," according to an MROE report. The MROE report focused on next-generation massive open online courses, the evolving roles and support for instructors, the characteristics of online and physical modalities, and physical and virtual communities. "While workshop participants were keenly interested in and discussed STEM higher education, other relatively unique discussions at MROE were on technological and social concerns," the report says. An online addendum to the report is available, and additions to the addendum will include new venues for reporting scholarship on MOOE, such as the First Annual ACM Conference on Learning at Scale this week in Atlanta.

Feds Grapple With Big Data vs. Privacy
InformationWeek (03/04/14) Elena Malykhina

White House counselor John Podesta is leading a 90-day study examining the intersection of big data and privacy. The study will include a series of workshops hosted by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy that will feed into a study being conducted by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). "The study is fundamentally a scoping exercise," says Podesta, who was speaking at a workshop on Monday organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "We want to examine the administration's consumer privacy blueprint and take a harder look at existing policies." The study is part of a comprehensive review of big data and privacy President Barack Obama launched in January. The workshops will focus on the collection, analysis, and use of big data for privacy, the economy, and public policy. The results will be used to identify future technological trends and to determine whether further government intervention is required. Big data is about "creating new business models, innovation, and improvements in efficiency--from education to healthcare," Podesta says. Meanwhile, PCAST says it will continue to collect data from businesses, academia, and the public to promote the free flow of information in a way that does not threaten privacy and security.

Computer Coding More in Demand Than Languages, Survey Shows
The Guardian (03/02/14) Ben Quinn

Software programming should take priority over modern languages in British schools, according to a survey of more than 2,000 adults across the United Kingdom. Fifty-two percent of participants selected coding as their top choice, compared with 38 percent for French lessons, 32 percent for Spanish, 25 percent for German, and 24 percent for Mandarin Chinese. offers the Hour of Code, a series of free tutorials designed to show students the basics of programming in an hour. The tutorials feature well-known characters from apps and games. "While we want to demystify the world of coding and make it fun for kids and their parents, the research shows that more and more people are realizing that these skills will be inherent as the digital world becomes the everyday," says Avid Larizadeh, head of Hour of Code UK. Games Workshop founder Ian Livingstone says programming is no longer a niche skill as computing has become essential knowledge. "Code powers innovation and creativity," Livingstone says. "Learning to code will enable children to become problem-solvers and digital-makers for jobs that don't yet exist."

Intel Designs a Safe Meeting Place for Private Data
Technology Review (03/03/14) Tom Simonite

Companies could eventually combine their detailed databases of information about people and analyze the data using a super-secure data locker under development at Intel. The two parties would need to agree on the analysis to be performed, feed in their data, and then they would receive results without the other party seeing their raw input. The original information is then wiped from the locker. "There are many companies and organizations that own data, and would like to share in a way that [ensures] it is not released or stolen," says Intel Labs' Sridhar Iyengar. "This is a neutral environment where parties can place their data and derive an answer without revealing their data to one another." When the system for the Reliance Point project boots up, a security chip is used to check that the BIOS, the lowest-level software on a computer that starts it up, has not been tampered with. The BIOS then makes its own checks before activating the next level of software, which in turn makes its own checks in a process that continues until the system is fully operational. Intel plans to test a larger version of its prototype with real data sets.

Women Talk Tech and Careers in Computer Science
Yahoo! United Kingdom & Ireland (03/03/14) Amy Freeborn

About 250 women from 32 countries attended the womENcourage conference on Saturday at Manchester University to promote and encourage women in the field of computer science. The event, the first of its kind in Europe, was organized by ACM-W Europe and sponsored by Bloomberg, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft Research, and Yahoo Labs. Newcastle University's Alice Wrenshall says the event could help dispel misconceptions about what could be achieved in the science and technology sector and who should be achieving it. "By engaging more young women and making them aware of the opportunities and many different aspects of a computing science degree, we will get more women who truly love the subject in the industry," she says. Wrenshall focused on human-computer interaction, and other topics and projects that were discussed at the conference included robots that synthesize emotions, software engineering methods for users with disabilities, and a facial recognition system for dogs. "It was an inspiring event, covering topics from politics to cybersecurity," says Newcastle lecturer Caroline Jay. "It was great to hear from current leaders in the field, but also to meet so many motivated young women, all of whom are intent on changing the future of computing."

Keeping Pace With the Data Explosion
Lehigh University (02/28/14) Robert W. Fisher

Two Lehigh University researchers have developed co-factorization machines that utilize mathematical analysis to study the interaction between social media users and tweets. "If we can better understand what you are interested in, we can decide what to filter, rank higher or flag for your attention," says professor Brian Davison with Lehigh's Web Understanding, Modeling, and Evaluation lab. Davison and fellow researcher Liangjie Hong at Yahoo Labs analyzed a surge of Twitter activity and then trained an algorithm to predict with high accuracy how frequently the tweet recipients would retweet the messages to their own followers. The method also reveals users' possible interests according to factors that include the regularity with which specific terms appear in their feeds. Davison and Hong's algorithms improve their predictions via machine learning, as the programs learn from the outcomes of past interactions and form a basis of rules for individual users. Davison expects algorithms will soon tailor a social media user's experience, while Hong notes users' response to information and their decision to pass it along or not is typically shaped by a combination of personalization and popularity. "We need to offer you the information that is most relevant to you while providing the popular stuff," he says.

The Next Wave of Cars May Use Ethernet
Computerworld (02/28/14) Lucas Mearian

Automakers are no longer using Ethernet in cars just for on-board diagnostics, and are now using the technology in advanced driver-assistance systems and infotainment platforms as well as to connect rear vision cameras to a car's infotainment or safety system. Automakers view Ethernet as a good way to provide the necessary bandwidth for connecting different data-streaming sensors, including two- and three-dimensional and infrared cameras, in addition to radar sensors for sophisticated driver-assistance systems. Industry experts also envision using Ethernet to connect a display head unit and telematic transceiver systems for global positioning systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. The Open Alliance and the IEEE 802.3 working group are leading the effort to create a single Ethernet standard, and the first draft is expected this year. The two groups are working to establish 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps Ethernet as de facto standards. However, Ethernet could increase the number of proprietary auto networking specifications ten fold or more. "By around 2020 or so, we estimate there will be about 100 million Ethernet ports worldwide in automobiles," says TE Connectivity's Patrick Popp. "Ethernet is here to stay."

Google Breathes New Life Into Project Ara With a Developer Kit and Conference
Tech Republic (02/28/14) Conner Forrest

Google intends to revitalize interest in its ambitious Project Ara by releasing a developer kit and holding the first in a series of developer conferences for the modular smartphone, which is designed to let users upgrade individual components without purchasing a new phone. Motorola's Advanced Technologies and Projects group will host the conference in mid-April, and Gartner's Ken Dulaney says Google's strategy reflects its classical approach of opening new technology to the market for experimentation. "As an open project I think it has legs," he says. Project Ara's goal is to open-source smartphones' hardware elements and reduce electronic waste while giving control back to smartphone owners. There are questions as to whether Project Ara will appeal to everyday consumers, as well as whether the average smartphone user wants such a level of control. "This isn't going to be an average person's phone because they don't want that kind of complexity," says Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett. "But, this is an opportunity for innovation." Gillett also notes a modular model promises to offer some interesting mix-and-match opportunities as components continue to shrink and modular design gets better.

Ford Invites Open Source Community to Tinker Away
EE Times (02/27/14) Junko Yoshida

People will be able to customize and tinker with their Ford Motor vehicles using the automaker's OpenXC open source platform. OpenXC works like an application programming interface for cars and combines open source hardware and software in a way that will enable enthusiasts to extend their vehicles with custom applications and pluggable modules. OpenXC uses standard, well-known tools to open up a wealth of data from the vehicle. The idea is to make the car as easy to program as a smartphone. Ford engineer Zachary Nelson has used OpenXC to re-task the motor from a Microsoft Xbox 360 game controller to create a shift knob that vibrates to signal gear shifts in a standard-transmission Mustang. The prototype uses the OpenXC research platform to link devices to the car via Bluetooth, and shares vehicle data from the on-board diagnostics port. "We designed the platform such that people can have real-time access to the vehicle data and they can do whatever they want with that data," Nelson says. He also notes that people with smartphones can use OpenXC to connect with real-time vehicle data.
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Software Maps Ambiguous Names in Texts to the Right Person
Saarland University (02/26/14) Gordon Bolduan

Max Planck Institute for Informatics researchers have developed AIDA, software that enables accurate disambiguation of named entities by analyzing them with the help of Wikipedia. AIDA establishes connections between mentions in the Wikipedia text and potential persons or places. "The more references exist between a mention and a specific person in Wikipedia, the more words of the person's Wikipedia article can also be found in the input text, and the higher the score the mention-entity edge receives," says Max Planck researcher Johannes Hoffart. AIDA then checks this score and picks the mention-entity edge with the highest score as the correct mapping. The researchers have implemented a search engine based on their approach that makes it possible to combine the search for strings with the search for specific objects such as persons and locations, and to search on categories. "With our new technique we can not only build better search engines, but also make computers understand texts almost as a human does, in an efficient way," says Max Planck researcher Gerhard Weikum.

Mitsubishi Planning Predictive User Interface for Cars
IEEE Spectrum (02/26/14) John Boyd

Mitsubishi Electric recently demonstrated prototype technology that predicts in-car operations. Drivers will be able to use the Ultra-Simple human-machine interface technology to find alternative driving routes, change radio stations, make phone calls, and adjust climate controls. The suggestions of the predictive technology will be based on operational history such as past destinations, previous use of the radio, phone, and air conditioner, as well as time of day, location, speed, fuel level, and current traffic and driving conditions. The technology will display the three most likely operations, but users will be able to override them. Drivers will be able to operate the system in one or two steps using a set of three buttons on the steering wheel, while viewing three predicted operations on a 44-cm heads-up display on the windshield above the dashboard. The system includes voice-recognition technology for making voice commands. Mitsubishi plans to ship the technology to automakers by spring 2018.

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