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Volume 6, Issue 687: Friday, August 27, 2004

  • "New Passenger Profiling System to Be Tested"
    Los Angeles Times (08/27/04) P. A12; Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will make another attempt at revamping the passenger screening system used to identify terrorist suspects, abandoning the controversial CAPPS II program, according to TSA head David M. Stone. While the existing CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening) system flagged six of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, follow-up inspection of their luggage did not prevent them from boarding their flights. CAPPS has been criticized for producing too many false positives as well, and Stone promised the new "Secure Flight" system would be more accurate as well as less intrusive. Compared with approximately 15 percent of all passengers flagged under the current system, Secure Flight would only require follow-up investigation of 5 percent of passengers, he said. Secure Flight will require airlines to electronically send passenger information to the government for processing, instead of doing it themselves as under the current system. This would allow the inclusion of top-secret terrorist watch-list information in the process, data that is currently withheld from airlines because of fears of intelligence leaks. If a passenger's name closely matches a watch-list name, a more detailed electronic investigation will take place using provided information such as phone number, address, hotel, and car reservations. Stone said the new system would not use commercial databases to verify passenger identities unless ongoing testing proved it could be done effectively while protecting privacy. Secure Flight will also differ from CAPPS II in that it will not assign color codes to passengers, attempt to predict which passengers are terrorist suspects, or target wanted criminals who are not on terrorist watch lists. American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson Jay Stanley said the new proposal was better, but still required scrutiny because the system's inner-workings are secret.
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  • "Induce Act Draws Support, Venom"
    Wired News (08/26/04); Jardin, Xeni

    Until recently, technology enthusiasts viewed the Induce Act as an alarming, but unlikely piece of legislation that could restrict an infinite number of technologies. First proposed by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Induce Act would punish technology firms whose products induce or encourage unauthorized duplication of copyrighted material, possibly including products such as the iPod or DVD burners. But now the bill has nine co-sponsors, including the influential Sens. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who lead their respective parties in the Senate. Some of the co-sponsors have asked for critics to propose alternative language that would tighten the bill's scope, and several groups are working to develop alternatives before the end of the Congressional session in October. Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Fred von Lohmann says alternate versions are intended to uncover the real motives of the content industry. By drafting language that specifically targets businesses whose intent is to make money off of copyright piracy, von Lohmann says the Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of America will complain about the bill's weakness. Then the question will be: "How many legitimate technology companies do they want swept up in the web of legal uncertainty created by this bill?" von Lohmann says. The Induce Act has already undermined one of the legal tenets of technology development--the 1984 Supreme Court decision on Sony Betamax, which protects playback and recording technologies that had "non-infringing uses." In July, U.S. Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters said in Senate hearings about the Induce Act that the Betamax case should be "replaced by a more flexible rule that is more meaningful in the technological age." Peters is also assigned to be in charge of collecting public comments and preparing recommendations on the bill by Sept. 7.
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  • "Missouri Plan to Let Military Cast Votes by E-Mail Draws Criticism"
    Washington Post (08/27/04) P. A10; Becker, Jo

    Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt has proposed allowing military personnel in designated combat areas to send their votes in by email as an alternative to absentee ballots, which can sometimes be delayed in the regular mail and miss submission deadlines. Blunt, a Republican running for governor, says the system is different than an online voting pilot that was scrapped by the Defense Department earlier this year, after a security panel warned that the system was vulnerable to fraud. Missouri is a key battleground state in the upcoming presidential election, and computer scientist Bruce Schneier, also a board member for the National Committee for Voting Integrity, warns, "Missouri is setting itself up to be the next Florida." The Missouri plan involves eligible military voters filling out and signing ballots, which are then scanned and sent as email attachments to the Defense Department. The ballot scans will then be faxed to local Missouri election officials, who can compare voter signatures to those on file. Because the system involves actual ballots, signatures, and an auditable fax trail, Secretary Blunt says it is more secure than other online voting schemes. Voters will not be able to maintain vote confidentiality, however, and may be subject to pressure from commanders and colleagues, warns People for the American Way legal director Elliot M. Mincberg.
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  • "Self-Configuring Multifunction Mobile Terminals"
    IST Results (08/25/04)

    The SCOUT project has focused heavily on the regulation and marketing of software-defined radios (SDRs) across Europe, spurring debate in areas such as ad hoc networks' user, operator, and regulator requirements; protocols for managing the downloaded software on reconfigurable mobile terminals; And new business models for those terminals. "Telecom regulators have an interest in the deregulation of radio spectrum, which in turn could lead to new services and new ways of providing services, and which could drive the EU economy one step further," notes SCOUT coordinator Markus Dillinger of Siemens. "At the moment, frequency bands are allocated according to services, but one might consider refarming spectrum so that, for example, UMTS could operate in GSM frequency bands." Each nation supports individual regulation policies and focuses on its own issues, which complicates the formation of a consistent European perspective on frequency spectrum utilization and deregulation. However, SCOUT consortium member and German regulator Regulierungsbehorde fur Telekommunikation und Post has devised a manufacturer-targeted questionnaire that has helped give SDR a role in a wider public debate. The GSM standard's support by a small group of European interests led to relatively quick adoption, but the worldwide forum on UMTS has slowed that standard's adoption, and Dillinger says the standardization approach must be improved if fourth-generation technology is to be rapidly adopted. Dillinger points to potential benefits of cognitive radio, which enables SDR mobile terminals to adapt to the immediate environment and user preferences such as cross-network and cross-technology roaming. He explains that FPLAs, DSPs, and other reprogrammable devices are eminently applicable to mobile terminals in addition to standards such as GSM and UMTS.
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  • "Computer People Reopen Art History Dispute"
    New York Times (08/26/04) P. B1; Boxer, Sarah

    At this week's International Conference on Pattern Recognition, in Cambridge, England, two computer researchers tackled the theory early Renaissance painters used optical aids such as concave mirrors and camera obscura to accurately capture landscape perspectives. Microsoft researcher Antonio Criminisi and Stanford University computer scientist David Stork used digital image registration and a real painter to show that, not only were early Renaissance painters inaccurate, but that they did not need optical devices to capture the correct perspectives in the first place. The theory in dispute was postulated by painter David Hockney three years ago, when he published a book and gave interviews saying painters such as Jan van Eyck used concave mirrors to project scaled scenes onto their canvases, tracing the correct perspectives with pencil before filling in the outlines with paint. The accuracy afforded by such optical devices led to detailed realism in European painting, he said. But the presentation at the pattern recognition conference showed one of the main examples used by Hockney, a chandelier in van Eyck's "Portrait of Arnolfini and His Wife," was not in perspective. The team used digital image registration and projective geometry to show arms of the chandelier were not painted identical in their perspective. Then, just to make sure the misalignment was not due to a bent or imperfect chandelier, the researchers compared the painted chandelier image with an image of a real chandelier--showing the van Eyck chandelier to be very flawed. Finally, a real-life painter was asked to sketch and paint a chandelier as accurately as possible, and was able to produce a more accurate image than the example Hockney used. Columbia University art history Professor Jonathan Crary, however, was skeptical of both parties and said, "Scientists are preoccupied with imperfection. They are so out of touch with what making art is about."
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  • "Human Chips More Than Skin-Deep"
    CNet (08/23/04); Kanellos, Michael

    The idea of electronic ID chips implanted under the skin carries Orwellian overtones of privacy infringement, although proponents claim these fears are far outweighed by the technology's potential benefits, such as better medical care, identity theft deterrents, and the identification of disaster victims. But critics see privacy invasion as an inevitable consequence, and such concerns have led to the abandonment of radio frequency identification (RFID) tag deployments in products by several companies. The VeriChip is an implantable RFID tag sold by Applied Digital Solutions; VeriChips facilitate financial transactions or allow their users to enter secured areas by beaming an ID number when they come within range of a scanner. RFID chips' most popular application thus far is security augmentation: Mexico is looking into the technology as a kidnapping deterrent, while Technology Systems International in Arizona is using Motorola-licensed technology to boost security in prisons via location-aware wristband monitors worn by both convicts and guards. Ray Hogan of Princeton University's alumni association is considering the use of RFID tags so that event organizers can determine the most popular programs by tracking the movements of attendees. Both European and U.S. hospitals are testing ID bracelets with embedded chips so that medical staff can securely and rapidly access patient information from databases, as well as keep tabs on patients' whereabouts and respond quickly to emergencies. RFID advocates and detractors concur that implantable tags would elevate the volume and quality of personal data, but critics warn that such measures could increase the potential of police surveillance of innocent citizens, and make the massive amount of accumulated data susceptible to theft and abuse.
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  • "NASA: DOS Glitch Nearly Killed Mars Rover"
    Extreme Tech (08/23/04); Hachman, Mark

    NASA scientist Robert Denise said at this week's Hot Chips conference that the real cause of a glitch on the Mars Spirit rover early this year was not corruption in the flash memory, but rather an embedded DOS file system that grew out of control. An undisclosed software vendor had required the flash memory that stored the directory structure in RAM, which was only half the size of the flash memory and eventually ran out of space. In addition, there was only 128 MB of DRAM compared to 256 MB of flash memory, virtually guaranteeing an eventual crash. The problem with the file system was that the DOS directory structure was stored as a file that did not reduce in size even when files were deleted from the directory tree, since special characters indicated where new data could come in. While that aspect alone was not dangerous, the Wind River embedded OS used a piece of third-party software that required the mirroring of flash memory in RAM. Denise admitted that during testing, an exception was made for the dynamic allocation feature, which is usually not allowed in embedded systems. When the system finally generated a memory allocation command to a nonexistent memory address, it crashed. The error did not manifest itself until Jan. 21, when Spirit fell into a continuous reboot cycle and could not transmit data through its antenna. After five days, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Flight Software Development Team solved the problem by using system RAM as simulated flash and then isolating the error. After flash memory was erased, the NASA team installed a file-system monitoring utility that tracked memory as a consumable resource.
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  • "KDE Developers Focus on Accessibility"
    ZDNet UK (08/25/04); Marson, Ingrid

    The KDE Community World Summit showed the commitment of open-source developers to building accessible software for disabled users. The upcoming 3.4 or 4 version of the KDE Linux desktop environment will support accessibility software that currently is only compatible with the GNOME Linux desktop. KDE developer Harald Fernengel showed off how he could use an on-screen keyboard called GOK to work with the Qt developer tool, and also demonstrated a Gnopernicus text-to-speech reader. Other accessibility features KDE developers want to incorporate in the next version include utilities that automate mouse functions, magnify portions of the display, and read text aloud. In addition, updates to the Qt developer tool would ensure KDE interfaces also support these enhanced functions. The summit, held in Ludwigsburg, Germany, also featured a Unix Accessibility Forum that brought together developers and disabled users. Representatives from GNOME, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Novell, and the Free Standards Group (FSG) also participated in the summit, with FSG Accessibility Workgroup leader Janina Sajka saying that disabled users would not use open-source solutions simply because of ideology, but rather because they offered practical advantages. In addition to being cheaper, open-source software is more easily customizable, she said. IBM usability and accessibility consultant Vanessa Donnelly said her company continues to roll out free accessibility solutions, including Web Adaptation Technology that gives users control over how Web pages are displayed, and Home Page Reader, a screen-reader product.
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  • "Career Path Boost Needed to Entice Women Into IT"
    VNUNet (08/20/04); Mortleman, James

    The U.K. Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) wants policymakers, employers, educators, and students to work together to increase the percentage of women in the IT field. The EOC recently found the percentage of women in the IT workforce has fallen from 23 percent to 20 percent. Programs such as e-skills UK's Computer Clubs for Girls helped promote IT to younger students, but a more concerted strategy was needed, said EOC chief executive Caroline Slocock. While the 20 percent of women in IT positions is certainly better than just two percent for construction or eight percent for engineering, it still falls far behind numbers represented in the overall economy. Slocock also noted that formerly male-dominated professions such as law and medicine now see greater numbers of women entrants than men, and that attributing the lack of women in IT to preference is not acceptable. Educators and other people who advise female students need to encourage them to pursue careers they might not think of as traditionally for women, and challenge students who might be limiting themselves. Advisors should let female students know the pay differentials between IT and other fields, for example. Slocock said there were fewer women in leadership positions in the IT field--with just 15 percent of women in IT management and 11 percent of women in IT strategy planning--so that, overall, women in the IT industry earned 18 percent less than male colleagues.
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  • "WA Supercomputing Gets $3.1M Boost"
    Computerworld Australia (08/17/04); Gedda, Rodney

    The Australian government has provided $3.1 million (Australian) in funding to Western Australia's Interactive Virtual Environment Center (IVEC) for high performance computing and visualization technology to help upgrade its supercomputing facilities. IVEC plans to spend $1 million of the funding on new HPC hardware and software. The improvements will allow the new IVEC, IVEC2, to meet its service capacity, according to Dr. Steve Harvey, deputy chief of CSIRO exploration and mining in WA. "IVEC2 will increase Western Australia's innovative capacity and economic development through the exploration, evolution, and exploitation of advanced computing technology, high-speed communications, scientific visualizations, grid technologies, and e-research infrastructure," says Harvey. "Specifically, IVEC2 will work with universities to develop high-quality graduate students trained in advanced computational skills; provide networked access to a range of HPC facilities within Western Australia and nationally; and promote and facilitate the uptake of advanced computing technology by industry." IVEC also plans to use the funding to make other improvement to existing infrastructure, and to connect new members to the network. Members already include Central TAFE, CSIRO, Curtin University of Technology, Murdoch University, and UWA.
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  • "Exhibit Features Viruses as Art"
    Wired News (08/27/04); Delio, Michelle

    The "I Love You rev.eng" art exhibit is set to begin a worldwide tour this September in the United States, featuring an historical analysis of hacker culture, hands-on exhibits where people can create and observe computer viruses, and art displays featuring computer code. The show is a second part to the 2002 presentation, "I Love You Computer_Viren_Hacker_Kultur," that was held in Frankfurt, Germany. Curator Franziska Nori says the aim of the show will be to document a range of hacker activities, but especially to highlight how hacker culture embodies the Buddhist teachings of the Dalai Lama. "'Share your knowledge and you will achieve immortality,' and, 'Learn the rules so that you will know how to break them,'" she quotes. Nori says hackers influenced the Internet's development more than any other group, and that there is a large distinction between the large majority of hackers and virus creators and a few that are intent on damaging property. "Most viruses remain to a large extent in private collections within the hacker community and were deliberately never made public," she says. "I Love You rev.eng" refers to reverse engineering, and is a variant from the first show's title as a tribute to virus writing. The show will feature a virus laboratory, called "The Zoo," where people can watch how malware affects computers, and another set-up where people can use virus kits to create their own code and release it on machines in the zoo. In addition to other art exhibits, the show serves as a starting point for Brown University's yearlong study of global networking and will feature a symposium. The show begins at Brown University in Rhode Island on Sept. 11, and will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, before possibly moving on to other destinations.
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  • "The Making of an Xbox Warrior"
    New York Times Magazine (08/22/04) P. 32; Thompson, Clive

    Video games have been tapped by the U.S. military as a tool for urban combat training, although the games being employed differ from commercial counterparts. The military game environments strive for realism so that players can be properly trained on survival techniques and strategies: For instance, the Institute for Creative Technologies' Full Spectrum Warrior game, developed with Army assistance, is free of commercial video game elements such as magic weapons and overprotective shelter. The military has actively sought out commercial game designers to help develop training tools because proprietary simulators have become too expensive and outdated, and some game designers have offered their services to the military in the wake of Sept. 11. Forterra Systems CEO Robert Gehorsam won a $3.5 million military contract last year to create a system that simulated urban warfare scenarios, using an environment pieced together from satellite data. Video games' replay features also make it easy for soldiers to analyze mistakes with little disagreement over what went wrong. Military-designed games are not only demonstrating value as a training application, but as a recruiting tool: America's Army, for example, is a first-person shooter game that over 10 million people have downloaded since it became publicly available, and 30 percent of a group of young people polled by I to I research credited the game with cultivating their positive perception of the military. However, skeptics think military games need an even greater degree of realism if they are to effectively train soldiers to avoid incorrect battlefield strategies that could potentially cost lives in real-world situations. There are also concerns that America's enemies could gain an edge over U.S. forces if they obtain the games, although some military experts contend that the games' benefits to the Army override potential security threats.
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  • "A Proactive Approach to Security"
    VNUNet (08/18/04); Thomson, Iain

    Symantec chief technology officer Robert Clyde is also a founding member of the IT industry's Information Sharing and Analysis Center, as well as the group's executive committee treasurer. In an interview, he says virus threats will continue to drive the security business, and notes that malware attacks are increasing in frequency and complexity. He says reactive, signature-based security methods are becoming less effective, and more proactive and predictive security is needed, perhaps through behavior blocking and client compliancy. Clyde says, "The time from software patch to exploit is dropping below the time needed for companies to install the patch. Even if you start when the patch is released, most IT departments will take 30 days to test and patch a system and hackers are faster than that now." Hardware security is not enough, and software will continue to have vulnerabilities, Clyde predicts. He says an average of 53 software vulnerabilities are found each week, and most are high-severity. Although that number has leveled off, Clyde thinks that "we're at a knee in the vulnerability curve and the numbers will continue to rise as new, more feature-rich operating systems come on the market." Vulnerability scanners are useful for writing secure code, but they are by no means perfect, and Clyde believes that vulnerability will be a problem for the next 20 years or so. Outsourcing is a better option for some industries than others.
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  • "A Big Fly in the Open-Source Soup"
    Business Week (08/13/04); Wildstrom, Stephen H.

    While Linux and other open-source software such as the Apache Web server have dramatically increased in importance in the last few years, legal concerns have given many enterprise users at least a small pause. Linux is especially vulnerable because, unlike Apache, Mozilla, and the BSD licenses, it is sticking to the idealistically open-source General Public License (GPL), which causes problems for companies because it requires them to contribute modifications and derived software to the open-source community. Apple decided to use FreeBSD as the basis for its Mac OS X operating system instead of Linux largely because of the restrictions required by the GPL, for instance. Whether the GPL is too restrictive for companies or not is a point of debate, but enough reason for companies to rethink their Linux efforts. "At the end of the day, the unfortunate reality is that developers should check with the companies' legal departments before proceeding with any GPL-related development because the requirements may very on a case-by-case basis," wrote Wasabi Systems co-founder and lawyer Jay Michaelson in the May issue of ACM's Queue journal. Even though the most bold claim against Linux's legality, made by SCO Group, has lost its foundations, a new indemnity group called Open Source Risk Management says the software potentially infringes on 283 patents. IBM promised not to enforce its 60 patents on the list, but others belong to companies hostile to Linux, including 27 held by Microsoft. This report caused Munich, Germany, to halt a widespread Linux conversion until the patent threat is resolved. With the lack of a central governing body or way to collect licensing fees from users, perhaps one solution to resolving patent claims is to set up a fund that would pay any necessary licensing fees to patent owners.
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  • "Software Flight Plan"
    Computerworld (08/23/04) Vol. 32, No. 34, P. 24; Rosencrance, Linda

    Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul Nielsen is taking over the director post at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute, where he says software engineering efforts will help the commercial sector deal with greater levels of integration, produce higher quality software, and improve security. Nielsen's most recent military post was at the Air Force Research Laboratory, where he oversaw $3 billion in development funds. In an interview, Nielsen says the military is leading in large-scale integration, and is constructing frameworks where network-connected participants can link up to other groups regardless of the channel they are using. Someone using a UHF radio could link up to the main military network trunk and communicate with someone in the United States, for example. In the commercial realm, this type of cross-banding or cross-networking would allow cable TV providers to lease satellite services to one another on an as-needed basis. Another area the military is pioneering is noise reduction, which allows military linguists to listen in on conversations around the world, which often occur on noisy channels. Technology helps take that noise out, and the most recent developments even work to reduce the noise channeled through people's bodies and bones, which helps airline pilots. At Carnegie Mellon, Nielsen expects to work with a broad range of partners in the private sector, government, and academia. He says Carnegie Mellon stands to play a crucial role in standards-setting, because it has the backing of large government donors such as the Defense Department which leverage buying power to support new standards. Software engineering focuses such as security, supportability, and affordability are all very important for commercial entities, he says.
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  • "Technical Standards Facilitate Innovation"
    Speech Technology (08/04) Vol. 9, No. 4, P. 40; Fluss, Donna

    Many companies that wanted to deploy speech applications to improve the service experience for their customers were impeded by technical limitations of what were then proprietary environments that significantly raised the cost of entry and discouraged corporate investment in such applications. However, the emergence of technical standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is enabling programmers to create platform- and even vendor-independent applications that reduce the total cost of ownership and spark innovation. As part of its Speech Interface Framework initiative, the W3C issued a pair of new speech "recommendations" in March: The recommendation for Voice Extensible Markup Language (VoiceXML) Version 2.0 and Speech Recognition Grammar Version 1.0. The consortium touts VoiceXML as a tool for building audio dialogs that boast synthesized speech, spoken and DTMF key input recognition, digitized audio, spoken input recording, telephony, and mixed initiative conversations, while the chief objective of VoiceXML 2.0 "is to bring the full power of Web development and content delivery to voice response applications, and to free the authors of such applications from low-level programming and resource management." The Speech Recognition Grammar Specification Version 1.0 recommendation defines spoken words and the configurations they might be arranged in, as well as the spoken language of each word that speech recognition engines may receive. Other standards that could ease the development and deployment of speech applications the W3C is considering include the Call Extensible Markup Language, which is designed to give VoiceXML or other dialog systems support for telephony call control. The Speech Application Language Tags 1.0 specification is designed to facilitate multimodal and telephony-enabled access to Web services, information, and applications from a wide array of devices.
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  • "Looking Good--A Lesson in Layout"
    Embedded Systems Programming (08/04) Vol. 17, No. 8, P. 14; Murphy, Niall

    Niall Murphy, user interface designer and author of "Front Panel: Designing Software for Embedded User Interfaces," explains that programmers can improve the quality of their UIs by applying standard layout methods employed by graphic designers, and he outlines a number of them in this article. He recommends nesting boxes as a measure for communicating the information's hierarchy, while combining indentation with heavier fonts to individualize section headers reduces clutter. The Western standard of top-to-bottom and left-to-right ordering can also be applied, one example being a box with icons positioned on the left, setting names in the middle, and values to the right. Murphy notes that the text baseline must be maintained for readability, and points out that most GUI building tools overlook this requirement. The author remarks that vertical listings are more effective than horizontal, and suggests that a symmetrical layout configuration establishes balance and is also visually appealing. The interface designer advises against display overcrowding, and recommends that the programmer carefully review overcrowded dialogs and remove unnecessary features, and then split the dialog into multiple dialogs; Murphy also notes that 3D effects may add clutter in situations where it must be applied to a number of objects that are displayed concurrently. Questions should be immediately followed by a series of possible answers rather than intermediate information, and Murphy writes that repetition of labels indicates that the information might be better displayed in a column. The author observes that UIs, like printed media, are generally arranged along a grid for consistency, and writes that horizontal and vertical divisions are equally important in GUI dialog-box layout; "You may use a grid to enforce symmetry and order on a single dialog, or you may be designing multiple dialogs and using a grid will help maintain consistency," Murphy notes.
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  • "Virtual-Reality Therapy"
    Scientific American (08/04) Vol. 291, No. 2, P. 58; Hoffman, Hunter G.

    Immersive virtual reality technology is being tapped for its therapeutic value in such areas as pain management and overcoming phobias. Hunter G. Hoffman of the University of Washington Human Interface Technology Laboratory and David R. Patterson of the university's School of Medicine tested several artificial 3D environments, such as SpiderWorld and SnowWorld, to demonstrate their applications for pain control: SpiderWorld, originally developed to help people deal with arachnophobia, presents a virtual kitchen with interactive objects, while SnowWorld gives users the perspective of a person flying over a snowy landscape with targets to shoot at. Both environments relieved burn victims during the excruciating process of getting their wounds cleaned by providing a distraction that took their minds off the pain and the injuries, and psychologically reinforcing comfortable feelings through elements such as SnowWorld's glacial terrain and absence of flame. Studies have also shown that pain can be reduced even further by enhancing the quality of the virtual reality system. Tests using functional magnetic resonance imaging on people engaged in virtual reality imply that the programs actually lower the amount of pain-related neural activity. Virtual reality is also being employed for exposure therapy, in which patients are introduced to objects and/or situations that trigger phobias so that they can be treated. Patients using the SpiderWorld program wear a special glove that accurately translates position and movement to a virtual hand as they reach out to touch a virtual tarantula, while later sessions incorporate tactile experience with an toy spider that patients can feel. Hoffman and Cornell University's JoAnn Difede have also demonstrated how virtual reality could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder by having patients immerse themselves in realistic environments that recreate traumatic experiences, such as the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
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