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Volume 6, Issue 638: Friday, April 30, 2004

  • "Tech Jobs Start to Come Back in U.S. After Three-Year Slump"
    Wall Street Journal (04/29/04) P. A1; Thurm, Scott

    Technology companies are hiring more than they are firing for the first time in several years, raising hopes for job seekers, recruiters, and employees looking to get raises. Though the gains are small and executives remain wary of a possible drop in sales, staunching the downward trend is significant and could improve the national economy. Offshore outsourcing continues unabated even as U.S. companies add domestic jobs as well, but experts say concern over the issue will decrease as the job market improves; economists point to small firms as the most eager to hire new technology workers, and say U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recovery figures could be low because the government often misses smaller companies. Venture capital investment is also picking up after a virtual freeze, increasing 29 percent so far this year, according to Dow Jones Venturewire. Venture-backed firms usually take about six months to hire new employees using cash infusions, giving reason to look for more technology employment opportunities next year, says Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy director Stephen Levy. Despite the subdued attitude in Silicon Valley compared to several years ago, NOVA Workforce Board director Mike Curran says significantly fewer people are applying to his group for training and career counseling while more people are finding jobs. A few companies continue to lay off workers, but those layoffs are the exception, with 46 large technology firms tracked by Merrill Lynch reporting a 15.5 percent rise in revenue and 61 percent rise in profits for the first quarter. For the first three months of 2004, U.S. government statistics show 2,000 new jobs in the computer hardware sector, 14,400 new jobs for computer system design firms since last July, and a whopping 9 percent increase in the Internet publishing sector since May last year.

  • "Wringing the Changes"
    Financial Times-IT Review (04/28/04) P. 1; London, Simon

    New studies on the intersection of IT and business management show that process innovation and sound management are the real keys to unlocking technology's value. Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAffee was surprised when he visited the offices of European retailer Inditex, which designs clothes and operates a successful chain of 550 stores across the region; daily sales data was gathered on 3.5-inch floppies, uploaded to headquarters via a dial-up modem, and recorded on point-of-sale terminals running the DOS operating system. Yet Inditex, run by former IT manager Jos Mara Castellano Ros, is extremely flexible, is able to adjust its product line design throughout the year according to market demand, and is not tied to a seasonal schedule as other apparel companies. MIT Sloan School of Management professor Erik Brynjolfsson says IT does not produce a return on investment unless coupled with good management practices, and his studies show IT value is linked to how companies treat their employees--whether they tie performance to pay or have flexible management practices that encourage experimentation. Brynjolfsson says many IT innovations come about sometime after the initial investment is made and employees have a chance to adapt and test new ideas. Accenture studies support this view, and show companies that are more innovative in business reap larger benefits from IT investments than companies that are not structured to encourage innovation, for example. Innovative firms are open to ideas from any source and are flexible in terms of adopting new strategies and processes required by market demands. Another key to successful IT deployments is standardized business process, says McKinsey technology consultant Ken Berryman, who notes that it is more expensive to mold software to fit business practices than vice versa. Harvard's McAffee says changing business processes is difficult culturally for many companies.
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  • "E-Vote Devices Win Partial Favor"
    Los Angeles Times (04/29/04) P. B1; Pfeifer, Stuart; Mehta, Seema

    The state of California's Voting Systems and Procedures Panel recommended on April 28 that residents in 10 counties be permitted to use existing paperless electronic voting systems in the November election, while the option for paper-based voting should be available to voters who have no confidence in the machines. The panel also suggested that any additional counties that want to offer e-voting should be required to employ systems that provide audit trails for recounts. California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has until the end of the week to accept or reject the panel's recommendations. Orange County registrar of voters Steve Rodermund says, "What this recommendation shows is they looked at the systems and counties as individual entities. They didn't just broadbrush it." The panel advised Shelley earlier to ban the use of Diebold touch-screen voting machines for the November election in Kern, San Diego, Solano, and San Joaquin counties; this recommendation came in the wake of difficulties with the systems during the March primary, in which 43 percent of the state's voters voted electronically. Shelley himself has mandated that all voting systems in the state produce a paper trail by 2006. Although members of the advisory panel expressed concern about how replacing e-voting systems with paper ballots in November would impact poll worker training and entail extra costs, they acknowledged the need for paper receipts. The panel said that counties should be permitted to use paperless systems on the proviso that they deploy safety measures, including new tests, the submission of a security plan to the secretary of state, and the option for voters to vote by paper if they so desire.
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    For more on e-voting, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Intelligent Systems Researcher Wins IEEE/ACM Conference Honor"
    USC Information Sciences Institute (04/27/04); Mankin, Eric

    A paper co-authored by USC Ph.D. student Sundeep Pattem, a graduate research assistant in the Autonomous Networks Research Group, was one of three winners of a best paper award at this week's ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN). The paper, "The Impact of Spacial Correlation on Routing with Compression in Wireless Sensors Networks," was also authored by Bhaskar Krishnamachari and Ramesh Govindan, both faculty members of USC's Viterbi School of Engineering. ISPN accepted just 50 of 145 submissions for the conference. Krishnamachari says Pattem's paper "combines ideas from information theory and networking" and "yields a counterintuitive insight--that it is possible to construct very simple data gathering strategies that are near optimal even in the face of large environmental fluctuations."
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  • "Finding the Right Fit"
    SiliconValley.com (04/30/04); Ha, K. Oanh

    Stanford University scientists are piecing together an ancient sculpted map of Rome using a software program designed to mimic the cognitive process a human being uses to reconstruct a jigsaw puzzle, according to graduate student and program inventor David Koller. The challenge is formidable, as the map has been broken up into 1,200 marble fragments, and the rate of successfully matching pieces together without software is once every several years. The program, in contrast, finds an average of one match per month. "They've advanced farther and faster in the last months than we have in centuries," marveled Roman archaeologist Margaret Laird. The five-year project, the brainchild of Stanford computer science and electrical engineering professor Marc Levoy, is expected to wrap up by this summer. The program works by scanning the fragments into 3D models, and using algorithms to determine possible matches; the first iteration of the software only studied the sides of each fragment, but subsequent permutations noted components such as the veins running through the marble and the fragments' thickness. The Stanford team wants to boost the precision of the matching process by inserting algorithms used in the Human Genome Project to find matching pieces that are not obvious because of erosion. The study's findings and the 3D fragment models are available online at http://formaurbis.stanford.edu, and Levoy believes the project could help usher in a "revolution in computational humanities."
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  • "NASA Develops Decision Support Software for Mars Rover Mission"
    SpaceRef.com (04/27/04)

    The Mixed Activity Planning Generator (MAPGEN) software system developed by NASA Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has become essential to the success of the current Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission, according to researchers. MAPGEN can organize a potential plan of action out a group of desired activities for the rovers to carry out a full day in advance, notes NASA Ames research scientist Kanna Rajan. "It enables the human planner of these activities to generate a robust, conflict-free plan, and iterate on that plan numerous times to ensure the capture of the scientific intent of the planned activities," he explains. MAPGEN, which was created over three years at a cost of $3.25 million, consists of two previously developed planning systems--the EUROPA automated planning and scheduling system from Ames, and JPL's manually operated Activity Plan Generator. Rajan says that MAPGEN constitutes the first use of an artificial intelligence-based system for operating a software platform on another planet. Ari Jonsson of Ames' Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science attests that MAPGEN tackles required rule enforcement and certain mundane daily chores while leaving key decisions to human operators. MAPGEN weighs the potential conflicts associated with specific activities and works out a schedule to resolve them, as well as permits task prioritization. MER mission staff reckon that there has been a 20 percent to 40 percent increase in the generation of science thanks to the use of MAPGEN, and its success has raised hopes that the system will be employed in future visits to the red planet.
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  • "Scientists Envision Devices, Super Computer From Cutting-Edge Quantum Research"
    Dallas Morning News (04/26/04); Siegfried, Tom; Witze, Alexandra

    Devices that exploit the stranger qualities of quantum mechanics will revolutionize the world's economy and create unimagined technological applications, according to physicists now studying quantum effects. Interest in quantum technology has been increasing since scientists verified that the "spooky" effects calculated by Einstein were actually true: Einstein thought those effects, such as the ability of an atom to exist in two places at once, were too outlandish to be true, and designed experiments to disprove them; he was wrong, and now big research entities such as the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and NASA are working to use those effects to enhance cryptography, telescopy, computers, and other devices. A full-scale quantum computer could have the greatest impact, enabling the speedy design of new breakthrough technologies, said National Institute of Standards and Technology physicist Carl Williams. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February, Williams said such a machine was probably 25 years away from realization, but could conceivably be used to design such technology as a 90-percent-efficient solar power cell; such a cell would stop global warming, for example. Work in this area is ongoing, and recent developments include error-correcting schemes and optical lattices. Other applications are more near-term, such as quantum cryptography, for which commercial products are already available. Entangled photons allow for smaller wavelengths of light, and could be used in telescopy, microscopy, lithography, and super-precise measurement. Physicist Jonathan Dowling says detectors using shorter quantum-enabled wavelengths could sense subtle differences in gravity and even locate oil deposits from space.
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  • "Mozilla, Gnome Mull United Front Against Longhorn"
    CNet (04/28/04); Festa, Paul

    Open-source projects Mozilla and Gnome are considering ways to merge their browser and desktop interface technologies in order to meet the looming threat of Microsoft's Longhorn operating system; Longhorn is said to integrate desktop applications and the Web far more powerfully than ever before, and could make Mozilla, Gnome, and other standalone technologies architectural relics. Representatives of the two open-source groups, including Ximian co-founder Nat Friedman and JavaScript creator Brendan Eich, met on April 21 to discuss a joint strategy. There are outside factors working in Mozilla and Gnome's favor: Microsoft recently said it would further delay Longhorn's release till the first half of 2006 in order to focus on a security upgrade for Windows XP, and the company's legal loss in the European Union last month could also pose obstacles to greater desktop integration. Technical problems make combining Mozilla and Gnome difficult, however, and experts say the current tools on hand may be inadequate to do the job: The Mozilla Extensible User Interface Language (XUL) is five years old and does not have the ability to discern exact operating system functions as Microsoft's Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) does. Ximian co-founder Miguel de Icaza recently wrote in his blog that Microsoft's XAML, .Net, and Avalon graphics technology threaten the viability of Linux on the desktop, commenting that "The combination means that Longhorn apps get the Web-like deployment benefits: Develop centrally, deploy centrally, and safely access any content with your browser." Part of the problem is that Mozilla and Gnome have been developing their respective technologies independently for several years and now need to bridge the gap, said open-source expert Bruce Perens.
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  • "For a Squeeze Play, Software Seeks Out Game Highlights"
    New York Times (04/29/04) P. E8; Austen, Ian

    Sharp Labs' Dr. Ibrahim Sezan has developed video analysis software that jumps to the highlights of sporting events, shortening a baseball game from three hours to eight minutes, for example. The developer explains that defining the color, shape, and semblance of the playing field was one of the first challenges, while baseball required a system of rules to account for variable stadium configurations. The team then had to establish repetitive camera positions and patterns in the way games are displayed by TV producers, followed by the definition of where action begins and ends. Sezan explains that it was relatively easy to determine the start of action in baseball, sumo wrestling, and football because the beginning of play in those sports is usually characterized by a lack of camera motion or player activity, while the end of play is usually marked by changes in camera angles. The next step was to give the software the ability to mathematically define an event's presence or lack thereof by searching for clues from the image's color, motion, structure, and camera angles. The software only searches for replays in the case of soccer games, because soccer plays usually have no obvious starting point. The software, which is called HiMpact Sports, replays the action on computer monitors and displays a progress bar underneath the image to indicate where events occurred throughout the game; HiMpact also employs text descriptions supplied by SportsTicker to prevent viewers from being confused by the accelerated action. HiMpact could be modified to examine other moving images, and be used for surveillance as well as for monitoring automated machinery to detect early signs of malfunction.
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  • "Robotic Traffic Cones Swarm Onto Highways"
    New Scientist (04/28/04); Glaskin, Max

    Roboticist Shane Farritor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has developed self-propelled robot traffic cones that position themselves to mark off repair zones and reduce the need for workmen to put themselves in harm's way by inserting and removing such markers manually. The devices, which consist of three-wheeled bases featuring two electric motors and a 12-volt lead-acid battery, can open and close traffic lanes faster than human workers, according to Farritor. The activities of each fleet of traffic cones is coordinated by a lead robot or "shepherd" that is controlled by an operator with a laptop. The operator views a camera image of the road and uses software to mark the barrel positions onscreen. The shepherd's position is calculated and wirelessly transmitted to the lead robot by the software, and once in place the shepherd tells the other markers where they should go. The cones under the shepherd's control employ dead reckoning to find their positions, and the shepherd uses a laser-based radar system to correct any positional errors and ensure that the fleet is properly located; the shepherd is also programmed to remove and deactivate any cone that continually deviates. The cones' cost must be lowered to make the technology commercially viable, and the development team expects to accomplish this by incorporating less expensive motors. The graphical positioning software on the PC must also be improved.
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  • "Quantum Computers Are a Quantum Leap Closer"
    Newswise (04/29/04)

    Purdue University scientists have produced electron "puddles" or quantum dots in a semiconductor wafer of gallium arsenide that are linked together, allowing them to become part of transistors whereby the electrons' spin can be tapped to make logic gates for next-generation computer chips. The work, which was partly funded by the National Science Foundation, represents a significant breakthrough in the quest to build a quantum computer. Each puddle consists of between 40 and 60 paired electrons and a single additional unpaired electron that gives the puddle a net spin of up or down. Albert M. Chang of Purdue's School of Science says the unpaired electrons in each puddle, despite the similarity of their spins, are entangled through a "tuning" technique. "We believe this research will allow large numbers of quantum-dot switches to work together as a group, which will be necessary if they are ever to function as a computer's brain, or memory," he notes. In a quantum computer, its memory units or qubits can be in two quantum states simultaneously, which would theoretically allow the device to explore many solutions at the same time. Chang adds, "There also exists the potential to explore why there seem to be two kinds of reality in the universe--one of which, in everyday language, is said to stop when you cross the border 'into the interior of the atom.'" Chang notes that other methods have been employed to generate qubits, but his team's method facilitates more effective control over the qubits' behavior, thus adding scalability to the system. A commercial device cannot be based on the qubit produced by Chang's team because it operates too slowly, but Chang says his researchers will commit themselves to boosting the speed at which they can control electron spin.
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  • "You Call That a Standard?"
    CNet (04/28/04); LaMonica, Martin

    Veo Systems founder and University of California, Berkeley adjunct IT professor Robert Glushko argues that even the most high-minded--and supposedly impartial--tech standards organizations are vulnerable to corporations that wield money, power, and political influence. Glushko contends that the word "standard" is often misused, often by the media, as a marketing term: His view is that true standards are specifications borne out of agreement between all major players and for domain stakeholders, while the development of standards "has some open process and [the standards] are freely available and implementable." Corporate manipulation of standards bodies came to light when it was revealed in a New York Times article that Microsoft paid travel expenses for members of a United Nations technical committee on a Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (CEFACT) mission, which critics posit gave Microsoft an unfair advantage in the U.N.'s deliberation of whether to favor Web services over ebXML as the global e-business standard. Glushko deems Web services proprietary specifications, and adds that the development process of standards organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are exclusionary. "Effectively only the biggest players in the world can [participate]," he contends. Glushko says that most tech companies turn to the W3C or the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) because government standards bodies such as CEFACT, which are mostly comprised of volunteer delegates, must deliberate for a long time before reaching consensus--too long for companies' taste.
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  • "EC Tells Europe and ICANN to Make Peace"
    Register (UK) (04/28/04); McCarthy, Kieren

    European Commission Internet head Erkki Liikanen gave a recent speech in which he warned both ICANN and European top-level domain owners to settle their differences quickly: ICANN has backed away from unilateralism and made moves to open up its process, but owners of European country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) have boycotted ICANN's Country Code Names Supporting Organization. Without their support, Liikanen says ICANN will fail in its mission to coordinate global Internet governance and other governmental bodies will have to step in, most notably the UN's International Telecommunications Union. Liikanen cited lingering doubts about ICANN, such as the role the U.S. government continues to play in the group, but said that ICANN was the best option at this time; going forward, he suggested ICANN, national governments, and ccTLDs work together using the European Union's "subsidiarity" model, where consensus decisions are implemented individually. Paul Verhoef, ICANN's European point man operating out of the new office in Brussels, agrees with the subsidiarity model and says quick action is needed on important issues such as security and stability, compatibility, and technical decisions affecting operations and cost. After an agreement is reached, each country and national Internet authority would be able to implement those rules by themselves. Nominet executive chairman Willie Black, whose group controls the .uk domain, says the new ICANN approach is welcome, and notes that ICANN has already met with the entire Nominet board; but he notes that new ideas about consensus and multilateralism need to be written into ICANN's notorious by-laws before Nominet can have confidence in joining the organization's official efforts. Black also cites accountability concerns, such as whether Nominet dues paid to ICANN should be used to fund the current legal battle with VeriSign, which he says involves the .com and .net domains and is not related to Nominet's jurisdiction.
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  • "Game Programming Doing Well in Hawaii"
    San Mateo County Times (04/25/04); Hao, Sean

    Entrepreneurs are hoping to turn the state of Hawaii into a Mecca for the video-game industry that rivals its status as a goldmine for the tourist trade and film industry. A key ingredient of that success will be cultivating a collaborative relationship between University of Hawaii-Manoa computer-science majors and the industry, according to former Columbia/TriStar executive Chris Lee, who now serves as co-director of the university's Academy for Creative Media. Hawaii's attraction to the video-game industry includes its weather and quality of life, its proximity to and close relationship with Asia, generous research tax credits, and almost instantaneous global information sharing thanks to technologies such as the Internet. In addition, video-game companies such as Blue Lava Wireless, Atlantis Cyberspace, Konami Computer Entertainment, and Backbone Entertainment are based in Hawaii. Backbone Chairman Mark Loughridge says the state could be even more attractive to the industry if a scheme is set up that allows business travelers to fly to the mainland regularly for a fixed cost. The NPD Group estimates that video-game industry revenues reached $10 billion in the United States last year, while MPA Worldwide Market Research finds that U.S. video-game use grew almost 42 percent to 75 hours per person per year between 1999 and 2003. Lee has discussed with Konami the possibility of hiring UH students as interns in the hopes that they will gain the experience needed to set up local video-game startups of their own. He says that video-game companies are "just as legitimate, if not more so than any motion picture that sets up shop here, especially if you're talking about research and development."
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  • "In Favor of Open Source in Industrial Systems"
    IST Results (04/27/04)

    The two-year INES project funded by the Information Society Technologies Program is a joint effort to promote the advantages of open source software (OSS) in industrial embedded systems between a half-dozen Technology Expertise Centers based in Belgium, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Experiments were conducted whereby embedded Internet networking was used to introduce new methodologies and techniques for users. "Industrial control, measurement, and monitoring systems are becoming increasingly more complex as the demand for increasing integration of the systems, remote access and improved reliability grow," notes project manager Lino Fiorentino of the Consorzio Roma Richerche. "INES' Best Practices case studies demonstrate how OSS, including embedded operating systems, GUIs [graphical user interfaces] and TCP/IP communications code, can be applied with off-the-shelf embedded hardware to deliver a cost effective mechanism for delivering improved business performance." Visitors to the INES Web site can access a wealth of practical information on OSS' benefits to firms with an online demo of its source code. Among such benefits are lower product costs, the elimination of software license costs, and faster market rollouts. Access to source code, the employment of scalable architectures, and open standards give products more flexibility and better performance, which can translate into higher sales revenues and profits for companies.
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  • "Cognitive Rascal in the Amorous Swamp: A Robot Battles Spam"
    New York Times (04/27/04) P. D3; Johnson, George

    George Johnson is suitably impressed with the SpamProbe software robot in its ability to weed out junk email using Bayesian inference, a statistical analysis technique. Johnson first trained SpamProbe, an open source program inspired by a spam filtering technique described by Paul Graham, to learn the characteristics of both spam and desirable email, which resulted in a database of 565,000 "tokens" consisting of words, word pairs, and email formatting symbols ranked according to how likely they were spam indicators. The author then turned off his old filters and let SpamProbe run overnight: The software filtered out all but two of 126 spams without generating any false positives, which encouraged Johnson to explore the tool further. Over a span of a few days, SpamProbe maintained a hit rate as high as 99.5 percent, allowing only five spams to slip by for every 1,000 junk emails received. In addition, the "dictionary salad" ploy--in which solicitations incorporate long lists of random words to thwart Bayesian analysis--did not seem to make a significant impact on SpamProbe's accuracy. However, Johnson learned that the software did not infer through experience that subject lines including words embedded with numerals or punctuation marks were signs of spam; it could only add each misspelling to its suspect token list. Furthermore, SpamProbe was only 94 percent effective in filtering out spam that used images instead of text. Johnson thinks that an advanced version of SpamProbe, if programmed with common-sense knowledge from the Cyc database, could learn more complex concepts.
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  • "Solid Money, Worried Minds"
    InformationWeek (04/26/04) No. 986, P. 30; Chabrow, Eric; Murphy, Chris

    This year's InformationWeek National IT Salary Survey finds that the economy is improving: Median base salaries this past year rose 7.9 percent to $68,000 for IT staffers and 7.1 percent to $90,000 for managers, while staff received $71,000 and managers $97,000 in median total compensation. However, the majority of respondents--56 percent of staffers and 68 percent of managers--cite job challenge as the most important consideration. Only 9 percent of staff and 8 percent of managers are aggressively seeking employment with other companies, which suggests that job satisfaction is high. Still, nearly 25 percent of staffers express dissatisfaction with their jobs, while 18 percent of managers feel the same way. Quandion IT VP Steve Paskach attests that IT has lost some of its mystique with the migration of IT operations to business units, while 75 percent of survey respondents strongly believe that offshore outsourcing is leading to a shrinkage of domestic business-technology jobs. Eighteen percent of polled IT staffers and 22 percent of managers say increased stress has been the biggest workplace change over the past year, and rate lower employee morale as the second-biggest change; in addition, only 30 percent of staffers and 40 percent of managers feel their jobs are very stable, and most respondents would not recommend IT as a career. Kurt Linberg of Capella University's School of Technology believes that career prospects are very good for properly trained IT professionals. There may also be higher levels of compensation for staffers with Microsoft Certified Professional certificates--or better yet, graduate degrees. General Motors CIO Ralph Szygenda optimistically forecasts that in the next several years demand for U.S. business-technology professionals will far outpace supply.
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  • "Plug-and-Play Robots"
    Scientific American (04/04) Vol. 290, No. 4, P. 100; Gibbs, W. Wayt

    Entrepreneur Thomas J. Burick has designed a mobile "PC-Bot" platform that can mate with commercially available plug-and-play PC peripherals and accessories to customize its functions. "I want people to use this platform like a blank canvas, to let their imaginations run wild," Burick declares. His company, White Box Robotics, is readying three versions of his product for mass production this summer. In its most basic iteration, the 912 PC-Bot is a wheeled chassis equipped with shelves that slide out and can be used to mount the electronics. One tray supports the motherboard, which features a 512 MB Intel-compatible processor, while another tray holds two inexpensive 12-volt batteries; the remaining trays can be used to mount virtually any PC plug-and-play device. Motorized wheels at the base give the chassis movement, and Burick notes that the drive assembly can be replaced with some other configuration--treads, for example--in a short time. The robot can be controlled remotely by adding a cheap Wi-Fi receiver to the motherboard, and programming the robot is simple thanks to control software Burick has licensed from Evolution Robotics. The 912 model has spawned two other permutations: The security-customized 912 HMV, which sports driving lamps and Webcams and can be used to patrol an unoccupied house; and the 912 MP3, an LCD-equipped leisure model capable of downloading music and playing DVDs by spoken command.
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  • "A Conversation With Matt Wells"
    Queue (04/04) Vol. 2, No. 2, P. 18; Kirsch, Steve

    Matt Wells, who plans to make a splash in the search engine sector with Gigablast, posits that current search engines face three primary areas of difficulty: Scalability and performance, quality control, and research and development. Wells says the scalability problem stems from the need to distribute the engine across many networked machines, which can affect data integrity and necessitate redundancy; not only that, but a search engine's functions must be uniformly distributed across the network, while the data in the core of the search engine--its index--needs to be processed as quickly as possible in order to minimize query times and maximize spider rates. Wells notes that the challenges to facilitating effective quality control in a search engine include algorithmically analyzing the neighboring link structure of a Web page to assign it a general page score with which to weigh all the contained terms, as well as balancing the weight of phrases in a query with the weight of single terms in the same query. The flipside of this equation is winnowing out bad results, which cannot be done with a 100 percent automated system. A particularly troublesome practice Wells alludes to is search engine spam, in which the ranking algorithm is manipulated in order to raise the score of a specific page or set of pages. Other quality issues are posed by duplicate content and mirrored sites, which good search engines must account for. Wells acknowledges that Google holds the search engine crown, but he does not attribute its success to its PageRank algorithm; instead he credits Google's index size, search speed, and cached Web pages. In the short term, Wells believes SQL could be replaced by search engines if they can index XML correctly, and he forecasts that future search engines will build upon current systems.
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  • "Fulbright Announces Award Offerings"

    The Fulbright Scholar Program is offering 27 lecturing, research, and lecturing/research awards in computer science worldwide for the 2005-2006 academic year. The awards for both faculty and professionals range from two months to an academic year. While many awards specify project and host institution, there are a number of "All Disciplines" awards allowing candidates to propose their own project and determine their host affiliation. Foreign language skills are required in some countries, however most Fulbright lecturing assignments are in English. Some of the awards include Benin: Computer Science and Statistics (#5036), and Computer Science and Physics (#5037); Japan: All disciplines (#5132); Nigeria: Computer Education (#5077), and Computer Science (#5078, #5079). The application deadline for traditional lecturing and research grants worldwide is August 1. For information and eligibility requirements, visit http://www.cies.org.

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