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Volume 6, Issue 708:  Wednesday, October 20, 2004

  • "Homeland Security: Throwing Money at Technology"
    CNet (10/18/04); Lemos, Robert; Yamamoto, Mike

    The drive to purchase and implement technology as homeland defense solutions is being hampered by strategic clashes, bureaucratic torpor, rivalry among agencies, and election-year political pressures. The allocation of funds for specific security technologies has often led to the purchase of questionable products and services by law enforcement and other agencies, one example being facial-recognition systems employed by U.S. states, airports, and agencies whose effectiveness as a technique for spotting and apprehending criminals is unproven. The Total Information Awareness project was another questionable initiative that was shelved after groups including ACM testified against it before Congress. CNET News.com believes these obstacles could be overcome with a policy that addresses concerns mentioned by many interviewed government officials, industry executives, taxpayer proponents, and policy researchers: Successful deployment of this policy depends on revising the "target-based" approaches used to evaluate terrorist threats; administrating strict oversight of spending, particularly when public knowledge of contracts is constrained by secrecy regulations; and guaranteeing that technologies and communication networks are compatible across all government levels. Furthermore, the government must accommodate privacy concerns and constitutional privacy rights throughout the institution of these reforms. The Government Accountability Office disclosed in February that domestic defense terms outlined by the White House in the strategic reports it has issued over the last two years did not provide a "commonly accepted set of characteristics used for an effective national strategy," and this generalization left homeland security officials with little option but to identify so many potential attack sites that concise planning became impossible. Security and antiterrorism specialists recommend basing homeland security strategies on building specific capabilities rather than on defending certain areas from attack.
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  • "Knowledge Discovery Could Speed Creation of New Products"
    Purdue University News (10/19/04)

    Purdue University researchers have created a new computer-aided product design method that utilizes supercomputers, artificial intelligence, and large 3D displays. Purdue chemical engineering professor W. Nicholas Delgass explains that conventional computer-aided discovery is focused on data-mining where a small piece of relevant data is targeted; this model is well-suited for some tasks, but a better method is called "knowledge discovery," a process Delgass likens to sifting through a warehouse of mechanical parts and piecing together a complex instrument. In recent years, high-throughput experimentation--where researchers conduct thousands of small-scale experiments in a short time-span--has led to a data glut requiring this new knowledge discovery approach. The Purdue system immerses scientists in data and allows them to interact using the vernacular of their particular field. Neural networks and pre-loaded rules-of-thumb help create "forward models" scientists can use to find a particular type of molecule that provides needed characteristics, for example; genetic algorithms also play a role, helping to refine these models based on Darwinian selection. The system also makes use of supercomputing capability to quickly process complex models such as chemical reactions and visualize the results on a tiled wall, or a 12-foot-wide, seven-foot-high bank of integrated displays. Users wear special glasses that provide images in stereo, with slightly different images projected for the left and right eyes. The immersive environment and simulated experiments help scientists quickly determine which course to pursue and make the scientific process much more efficient. The multidisciplinary effort to develop the method included researchers from Purdue's School of Technology, Information Technology at Purdue, School of Science, College of Engineering, and the e-Enterprise Center in Purdue's Discovery Park, and originally began in 1988 with funding from the National Science Foundation.
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  • "Presenting Semantically Enabled Knowledge Technologies"
    IST Results (10/20/04)

    The purpose of the semantically enabled knowledge technologies (SEKT) project is "to equip European industry for a future of more effective knowledge management in the emerging knowledge economy," says project director Dr. John Davies of BT Exact. The augmentation of knowledge discovery, organization, and sharing that SEKT is concentrating on will be effected by the Semantic Web, the semantic annotation of online data to facilitate the creation and dissemination of information that machines can understand. The SEKT project will receive 8.33 million euros of funding over three years from the Information Society Technologies branch of the Sixth Framework Program. The SEKT consortium's member universities will conduct basic research in three areas, the first being ontology and metadata management, in which new techniques to annotate information will serve as a platform for knowledge-based searching. The second area, human language technology, will focus on automated extrication of pertinent metadata from numerous European dialects. The third area of concentration is knowledge discovery, in which only the most relevant information will be delivered to users. This research will form the foundation of software tools developed by SEKT's industrial partners--knowledge sharing systems, context-aware search engines, and semi-automated metadata extraction tools being a few examples; Davies also foresees personal software agents that search for data and deliver relevant results according to users' standards. Such tools' practical applications will be tested in large-scale case studies in Britain, Spain, and Germany.
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  • "The Wars of the Virtual Worlds"
    USC Information Sciences Institute (10/18/04); Mankin, Eric

    A collaborative project between the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and the University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute (ISI) harnesses supercomputing power to simulate a virtual continent upon which urban battlefield scenarios can be run so that military tacticians can better understand and formulate such strategies. The ISI-JFCOM team developed a technique for running the simulation software in a scalable way: ISI project director Dan Davis recalls that individual workstations on a local network were once incapable of supporting more than roughly 30,000 simulated vehicles, but thanks to an effort led by ISI's Dr. Robert Lucas, the system is now able to support 1 million entities at last count. The "Urban Resolve" simulation takes place in the year 2015, and involves a U.S.-led coalition force that must defeat an enemy operating in an urban environment; the adversaries are split into blue and red teams that control their respective forces from separate command posts where aides execute commanders' directives. The various teams' aides insert vehicles into the simulation by choosing from a menu of prewritten software code units that govern specific vehicle behavior, while the most complex vehicle bots use artificial intelligence to respond to changing situations. The three-phase Urban Resolve experiment employs the ASC and MHPCC military supercomputing clusters and will encompass approximately 100,000 entities. The first phase will combine human intelligence and advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) technologies to achieve "comprehensive situational awareness and situational understanding of the urban environment and the adversary forces," according to the Urban Resolve description. Phases II and III will respectively involve locating and tracking the enemy through the continued use of ISR technologies.
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  • "Study Finds Dramatic Loss of Tech Jobs"
    CNet (10/18/04); Frauenheim, Ed

    Announced technology job cuts have increased significantly in the last three months, rising 60 percent from the second quarter to hit 54,701, a 14 percent increase from the third quarter of 2003, according to a new report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Approximately 56 percent of the cuts--a total of 30,624 jobs--stemmed from computer companies. Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger attributes the cuts to a lack of pricing power among tech companies. "Even as demand increases, most manufacturers and service providers are getting less money for each unit sold," he points out, leaving them with little choice but to trim costs to uphold robust profit margins. High-tech firms have thus far announced 118,427 job cuts this year, which represents 16 percent of the 724,320 job cuts across all sectors through Sept. 30, a 2.5 percent increase over second quarter figures. There have been a lot of conflicting reports concerning the IT job market: Meta Group expects as much as a 15 percent boost in IT personnel salaries over the next three years, while the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that payroll employment in computer systems design and related services increased 32,700 between September 2003 and September 2004 to total 1.14 million; on the other hand, IT professionals' confidence in the job market declined in September, and a recent ITAA report found that hiring managers have scaled back their ambitions for filling IT posts this year compared to last year. Challenger notes that demand is healthy for network and IT security specialists and tech support staff, but he expects a considerable amount of time to pass before the creation of tech jobs returns to late 1990s rates.
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  • "Insects Could Hold the Key to Artificial Intelligence"
    North Texas e-News (10/19/04); Pace, Lorraine

    A team of scientists that has completed a $900,000 NASA grant is focusing on stimuli response and memory development in insects and primitive vertebrates in the hopes of reproducing such processes in robotics. Texas A&M University-Commerce professor Derek Harter reports that efforts to develop artificial intelligence in robotics initially concentrated on human intelligence, but scientists' failure to obtain the answers they wanted called for a new approach. Harter sees the value in studying insects and moving on to primitive mammals with a central nervous system such as salamanders, which have demonstrated long-term brain memory. He adds that psychologists are planning to analyze and assemble models of human cognition using robotic computer intelligence. Researchers are studying instinctual behavior and linking it into a sequence to recreate the same behavior in computers; chained connected sequences form behavior, and these behaviors are being integrated to build memory. Simple mammals can cognitively map out their surroundings, navigating by constructing representations of the environment to recall locations. Reaching goals and meeting requirements involves the application of long-term memory. Harter's work will ultimately be applied to the development of robotic space exploration and rescue vehicles that can more effectively operate in alien environments, although Harter believes his team's research could yield an even vaster array of applications.
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  • "HP Offers Peek at Future of Large, Plastic Displays"
    IDG News Service (10/19/04); Pruitt, Scarlet

    Hewlett-Packard Labs researchers have developed a prototype high-resolution paper-like display technology based on plastic instead of glass, whose potential applications could range from e-publications to electronic white boards. The liquid crystal display (LCD) prototype was unveiled on Oct. 18 at London's National Gallery, where HP Labs displays research manager Adrian Geisow noted that "We have a thousand times more disk space and a thousand times more computer power but we're still looking through a little display window that's essentially the same as it was 10 years ago." The prototype device, which measures 3 centimeters by 4 centimeters, can display 125 colors and boasts a "bistable" passive matrix that places no restrictions on the number of pixels researchers can build into a display. The display's development involved the creation of an entirely new manufacturing process that uses a print-like technique on plastic. Not only is the assembly method simpler and more affordable than photolithography, but the technology is appropriate for displaying art and text because it permits resolution levels of 200 or more pixels per inch. The researchers believe such displays will cost about five times less than current glass LCD displays once they are scaled to approximately 43 centimeters by 58 centimeters. "We think this is a substantial milestone for large, low-cost, quality displays," said HP Labs digital media department manager Huw Robson.
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  • "Montreal Rides Wave of Digital Movie-Making"
    CanWest News Service (10/18/04); Bruemmer, Rene

    The University of Montreal serves as a workshop and testbed for computer graphics software that is finding its way into computer-animated films and video games. "We give tools to the artists so they can play with it and put it in their movies or games," explains physics major Simon Clavet. The university's computer graphics lab plays host to 15 master's and PhD students experimenting with cutting-edge graphics technologies, their ultimate goal being one of publication and recognition rather than financial reward. University of Montreal professor and computer graphics lab co-director Pierre Poulin reports that students and faculty may earn private- or public-sector funding and fellowships for their research. The computer graphics explosion has fueled international competition between student teams to be the first to see their work published, but Poulin notes that finding truly innovative applications is a tough challenge. Papers submitted by the University of Montreal are frequently published by SIGGRAPH. Montreal has also become a center for computer game makers and animation software designers, who have a high interest in recruiting skilled computer graphics students, according to Poulin. "Where computer science has been slowing down in the last few years, computer graphics is speeding up," he remarks.
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  • "Q&A: Red Hat Exec Talks of Challenges to Open Source"
    IDG News Service (10/18/04); Ribeiro, John

    Red Hat VP Michael Tiemann says a paucity of open source developers and the job of getting more people interested in open source development represents the biggest challenge currently facing the open source community. Tiemann notes that the United States and Europe are leading the rest of the world in terms of open source developer turnout, but he expects South American countries such as Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela to make a splash as their mainstream government Linux projects gain momentum. Also significant is the growing participation of Indian developers in open source, and Red Hat is capitalizing on this trend by localizing the Fedora free open-source operating system initiative for a half dozen different Indian languages. Tiemann cites a study from Carnegie Mellon University's James Herbsleb that finds that 80 percent of an open source project is usually controlled by 10 to 15 developers; "What that math tells you is that open source scales by being able to have more and more projects," he explains. Tiemann doubts that Linux will fork as the ranks of open source developers swell, on the strength of the fact that such a development has never been witnessed. Tiemann believes his blog debate with Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz on Sun's commitment to open source "had the intended effect" by causing the open source community to voice their grievances at some of Schwartz's statements. Tiemann says the Free Standards Group's Linux Standard Base 2.0 (LSB 2.0) specification does not jibe with prior decisions Red Hat has made concerning C++, and he notes that LSB has promised to release a 3.0 standard in less than six months, which should sufficiently address the needs of Red Hat and everyone else.
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  • "Robots Invade the MSU Campus"
    Montana State University (10/18/04); Arthur, Jean

    Professor Rob Maher of Montana State University's College of Engineering has made robot-building a required course for new electrical engineering and computer engineering students in order to give them much-needed hands-on experience. Students enrolled in Electrical Engineering 101: Introduction to Electrical Fundamentals must assemble eight-inch tall robots out of a custom-designed printed circuit board, chassis, wheels, motors, and electronic components. "Creating the robots makes the math and the lectures all come together for practical experience," notes freshman Kurt Wood. The prototype robot the course robots were based on was developed by faculty and some undergraduates a year ago. They combined a self-contained power source, sensors, motorized wheels, and an onboard microcomputer chip. The cost of the initial parts purchases, hourly wages for an undergrad to help with the design of hardware and software, and the faculty time needed to write and edit the lab experiments were paid for by a Montana Space Grant Consortium Educational Enhancement grant. On Oct. 22, the robots will "invade" Shroyer Gym between volleyball games to negotiate a slow-speed obstacle course. The date is significant because it is close to the anniversary of Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of a bogus Martian invasion.
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  • "Accessibility Opens a New World"
    China Daily (10/20/04) P. 5; Xiaodan, Xu

    China supports a handicapped population of 60 million people, many of whom still lack computer access, and the country's first Information Accessibility Forum was held this past weekend to highlight the problem. "Easy access to information is a critical change to a disabled person," maintained China Disabled Persons' Federation Chairman Deng Pufang, who called on the government as well as companies and organizations to invest in accessibility programs both financially and politically; he said that disabled people can use the Internet to build knowledge and skills that could translate into gainful employment and greater independence. Wang Luguang of the China Welfare Fund for the Handicapped declared at the Information Accessibility Forum that the foundation will initiate a program to provide computer access to 100,000 vision-impaired people using donated second-hand computers equipped with audio software. The Chinese government committed $600,000 to fund the development of Sunshine Software, China's first computer software for the blind. Sunshine converts all computer operations into audio instructions via keyboard commands, enabling users to browse Web sites, shop online, chat with friends on the Internet, and write emails in Chinese and English. Unfortunately, most blind people in China cannot afford Sunshine's $139 price. In addition, complicated Web sites can inhibit Sunshine's performance. Most accessibility software solutions for the disabled from IBM and other foreign IT heavyweights have yet to make their Chinese debut, but developed nations such as Japan and Australia make a clear case for accessibility technology as a tool to improve the disabled's employment and educational opportunities as well as a growth industry.
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  • "Tech Firms, Lawmakers Target Spam, E-Mail Fraud"
    Baltimore Sun (10/18/04) P. 1A; Bishop, Tricia

    Spam and email fraud have entered the crosshairs of legislators and technology companies, making Bill Gates' prediction that spam would be eliminated by 2006 seem less unlikely now. "I think you'll see some real changes within three years," declares Pew Internet and American Life Project researcher Deborah Fallows. The general consensus among experts is that spam now accounts for 70 percent to 80 percent of all email, compared to approximately 10 percent three years ago. Meanwhile, the Anti-Phishing Working Group reports that phishing--the practice of scamming consumers into revealing personal financial data by using bogus Web sites and logos that resemble familiar financial services firms--has increased by a factor of 17 since December 2003 to almost 2,000 distinct scams. "One very big fear about spam is it will turn off people from electronic commerce and using email in general," notes John Palfrey of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. One of the more significant anti-spam developments was this month's passage of a Maryland law that carries a maximum fine of $25,000 and a 10-year prison sentence for violators, although some experts say such measures lack teeth in the absence of an effective method for verifying email senders. However, a trio of email authentication techniques is currently being tested by Internet service providers: One method focuses on verifying the authenticity of the address posted on the email's "envelope;" another aims to confirm the legitimacy of the address listed in the "from" line of an email; and the third employs a digital signature for message authentication. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that it will intercede and prescribe an email authentication standard if the industry cannot.
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  • "India Noses Ahead as R&D Hot Spot"
    United Press International (10/19/04); Basu, Indrajit

    Multinational companies are building research and development laboratories in India at a frenetic pace, with the current count heading toward 150 research centers. Companies such as IBM, Texas Instruments, DaimlerChrysler, and Hyundai have spent millions of dollars to take advantage of India's vast talent pool. This investment puts India ahead of other international research hot-spots, such as Japan, Israel, Western Europe, or China. Japan's National Science Foundation conducted a survey that found 33 companies out of the BusinessWeek 1,000 had R&D operations in China. Many of the laboratories in India are focused on developmental work, not fundamental research of the type that leads to Nobel Prizes; but that does not mean Indian research is insignificant. Intel, for instance, filed 63 patents from its Bangalore facilities last year--outstripping its other labs in Israel and Malaysia. The international focus on India-based research has also spurred research investment from domestic companies as well, such as Tata Motors, which currently has a groundbreaking $2,400 car on the drawing board. Before economic liberalization in 1992, Indian firms had little incentive to innovate because markets were closed, but now the competition has awakened a need to compete and even develop new products. Geography also plays a role in India's popularity. Oracle's Murali Subramanian says the 12-hour time difference between the U.S. and India enables around-the-clock software development when synchronized with the company's developers in California. Although analysts say India's advantages may be temporary, move companies continue to open R&D offices there; Google is latest company to say it will establish an R&D base in India.
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  • "Split Ticket on IT Issues"
    Washington Technology (10/11/04) Vol. 19, No. 14, P. 42; Grimes, Brad

    Analysts say neither presidential candidate's technology platform takes bold positions on the industry's most pressing tech issues, which James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies attributes to a decline in the tech industry's "sexiness." Though Bush and Kerry hold similar positions on such issues as universal broadband, cybersecurity, and wireless spectrum, their IT policies do differ: Software Productivity Consortium President Jim Kane notes that whereas Bush has focused on IT support of government operations, Kerry may emphasize research and development investment. Last June, the Democratic candidate delivered a speech in Silicon Valley in which he promised to boost funding in advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology, and other "curiosity driven, high-risk" areas; the Bush administration, on the other hand, is pushing budget cuts across most agencies--including the National Science Foundation--in its fiscal 2005 budget proposal. Home security-related IT issues the next president will have to contend with include the need to integrate 12 terrorist watch lists across nine government agencies, and the completion of the Homeland Security Information Network. The Kerry campaign criticizes the Bush administration's port security effort, giving rise to speculation from ITAA President Harris Miller and others that a Kerry administration could prioritize port security and allocate more funding toward a wider deployment of radio-frequency identification technology. Both the Office of Budget and Management and the Progressive Policy Institute have found the nation's e-government initiatives to be lacking, and experts expect the candidates' e-government programs to be distinctive, at least in principle. Funding new IT programs will be the biggest challenge for the next president, and Kerry's plan is to channel the revenues from spectrum auctions into several tech efforts.
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  • "E-Vote at Risk"
    Computerworld (10/18/04) Vol. 32, No. 42, P. 25; Verton, Dan

    IT security researchers worry that the November election will see as many as 50 million Americans using unreliable direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, which use software that is insecure and has not been tested and certified in a transparent process. State election officials insist their new equipment is sufficiently protected within the overall framework of the election process and that critics do not have the credentials to judge whether votes are vulnerable. Diebold Election Systems, which makes the majority of DREs currently deployed, had its software code reviewed last year, and researchers at Johns Hopkins University and other experts found numerous examples of inadequate change-control processes and documentation, as well as blatant technical vulnerabilities. SystemExperts founder Jonathan Gossels says the portion of code studied is only a small fraction of the software that might be used in Diebold DREs and back-end servers, and that there are likely many more vulnerabilities in the remaining code. Critics also complain that the three companies hired by DRE vendors to test and certify their products have refused to detail their testing methods or the results of those tests. Virginia State Board of Elections IT manager Barbara Cockrell says recommendations given by CACI International will be used to audit the November elections and that DRE models used in Virginia must have already been proven in an actual election. Maryland election board administrator Linda Lamone also disputes critics' assertions that the state's password and cryptographic protections are insufficient. Systems not connected to the Internet are therefore not vulnerable to many of the threats critics warn about, she says.
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    For information on ACM's e-voting activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.

  • "Just Say No to Poorly Designed Software"
    Chronicle of Higher Education (10/22/04) Vol. 51, No. 9, P. B16; Hannon, Charles

    Chair of Washington & Jefferson College's information-technology leadership program Charles Hannon writes that over the past decade he has worked with numerous academic information systems that were all consistent in their failure to deliver the advantages they promised because neither designers nor developers consulted users to determine what they desired from those systems before designing them. Typical results of such designer ignorance are inefficient user interfaces, marginally useful features, and a scarcity of applications that users assumed would be included. Hannon cites as a recent example an online registration-and-advising system Washington & Jefferson adopted last spring, which boasts a clumsy interface and cannot facilitate the delivery of emails to all the users' advisees, or schedule appointments to meet with new students. Hannon contends that designers often disregard users' wants because the customer who asks for the system in the first place is usually looking for an affordable, easily deployable solution that interoperates with other campus systems, rather than fulfills users' needs. "Ease of use" is not highly prioritized by the customer on the list of system requirements, while user satisfaction is hardly ever a major criterion used by CIOs to assess the performance of integration teams. Hannon refers to Alan Cooper's book, "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity," which posits that users either assume creating better software is impossible, or are willing to accept bad design as long as the software relieves them from the burden of dealing with paper-based systems. Hannon suggests that highest-level academic administrators should refuse to do business with software companies that do not interview potential users at the beginning of the design process, while users should only participate in feedback sessions held by systems integrators if they were interviewed during the design stage.
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  • "Picture This"
    New Scientist (10/16/04) Vol. 184, No. 2469, P. 24; Mullins, Justin; Biever, Celeste; Reich, Eugenie Samuel

    Film cameras are being driven into obsolescence as the size and cost of digital cameras shrink and their resolution increases, while next-generation digital camera technologies are being developed to effect further resolution improvements, as well as facilitate completely new applications. Varioptic is working on liquid lenses whose configuration can be adjusted via electrowetting, while Germany's Frauenhofer Institute for Applied Optics is developing an array of light-sensitive diodes whose individual images can be integrated into a single picture using software. Varioptic founder Bruno Berge foresees digital cameras that can function as smart photocopiers, barcode scanners, or fingerprint readers. Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon University's Simon Baker believes cameras could soon be able to assemble 3D models of scenes from images taken at various angles with high-performance image processing, while images from multiple cameras could be combined into a continuous 3D model of events through virtualized reality technology. The growing popularity of digital photography is resulting in a deluge of pictures, and managing these massive archives will constitute the digital imaging industry's most formidable challenge. Technologies designed to meet this challenge include Nokia's Lifeblog, a program that lets the user tag photos with more suitable labels besides time, date, and location, and smart software from Microsoft that can predict tag information using the labels affixed to other photos taken at around the same time. Hyperspectral imaging is being touted as a surveillance technology far superior to current methods because it allows cameras to take pictures ranging from the ultraviolet to the far infrared. This ability can reveal vastly more detail than conventional spy satellite cameras and see through camouflage as well. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is probing the application of hyperspectral cameras to image interior views of the human body.

  • "Is Your RTOS Safe and Secure?"
    Military & Aerospace Electronics (09/04) Vol. 15, No. 9, P. 28; Ames, Ben

    Real-time operating systems (RTOS) suppliers must face rising customer demands for cheaper products, greater security, and additional safety certification that covers one or all of three standards: ARINC 653, which requires dedicated time, space, and resources for each operating system; DO-178B, the FAA-stipulated software security standard for commercial aircraft; and the National Security Agency's Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL)-7 standard for gauging an operating system's security and handling of classified and unclassified data on the same machine. Wind River Systems' Marc Serughetti reports that defense contractors have started requiring ARINC-certified platforms to support higher security levels, and Wind River is meeting that directive by extending its VxWorks AE653 product to be DO-178-certifiable. Plans are also afoot to make the platform EAL-7-certifiable by employing a Multiple Independent Level Security architecture to store and transfer data at various levels of security. RTOS providers are competing to build separation kernels enabled for time and space partitioning, which would allow each partition to run its own individual OS. Vendors are also considering certification to the Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) standard, which would allow an RTOS to run software from any other system, provided it uses the same application programming interface. The advantages of POSIX certification for developers include accelerated time to market, cross-OS and cross-generational software sharing, and the elimination of vendor lock-in. U.S. Navy experts are particularly insistent on POSIX certification in order that all future software complies with their Open Architecture Computing Environment. Military contractors are eager to embrace open standards because they streamline support for system compatibility, application portability, and software reuse.
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  • "European Union Struggles With New Rules for Software Patents"
    Software (10/04) Vol. 21, No. 5, P. 101; McLaughlin, Laurianne

    The European Union Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions passed by the European Parliament in September 2003 was approved by the EU Council of Ministers four months ago, on the proviso that the bill was amended to better support the award and enforcement of software patents for large companies. Whereas the Council's version considers protecting patents for software that supplies a technical contribution, which computer science patent attorney Guy Gosnell says is more in keeping with software patentability tactics employed by the United States and others, Parliament's version mandates tougher restrictions on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions. "The [Council's] directive...appears to recognize the investment that is generally required for software development and to provide a mechanism for securing patent protection on the resulting software, such that the developer can recoup and perhaps make a return on its investment," Gosnell notes, adding that Parliament is unlikely to approve the Council's version. Open source groups and veteran software industry members such as Catalyst Software's Robert Cochran applaud Parliament's position: Cochran considers copyright the better approach to protecting software, as it is almost free to deploy and shields the original author's rights while still offering a wide latitude for innovation and development. He explains that patent rights are assigned from the date of the initial patent claim rather than the date of invention, which is problematic for software; in addition, many companies cannot afford the costs of patenting, while properly assessing software-related applications is a tough job for patent examiners. Cochran warns that the Council's version of the directive carries with it the threat of "preemptive patent-based attacks" on software. Both the Council and Parliament versions ban the patentability of business methods.
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