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Volume 7, Issue 741:  Wednesday, January 12, 2005

  • "Another Computer Security Official Quits"
    Washington Post (01/12/05) P. E1; Krebs, Brian; Krim, Jonathan

    Homeland Security Department assistant secretary for infrastructure protection Robert Liscouski has announced his resignation amid a flurry of criticism that the department's cybersecurity efforts have been too passive. Liscouski has been targeted by critics inside and outside the department for stalling cyber-division programs that could have raised the department's profile, a claim he has refuted. "I believe DHS has made tremendous first steps," he stated. Although former DHS cybersecurity division director Amit Yoran never publicly chastised Liscouski, he was reportedly disheartened by Liscouski's failure to make the agency take a more aggressive stance against cybersecurity threats. A provision that would have made the head of the DHS cybersecurity division an assistant secretary, although widely supported by technology executives, was ultimately struck from recent intelligence legislation thanks to the lobbying efforts of Liscouski and other administration officials. Liscouski has his advocates, among them departing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and New York cybersecurity director William Pelgrin, who praised Liscouski's work with state law enforcement to organize a 49-state network for exchanging information on cyber and physical threats. When Entrust CEO F. William Conner blamed Liscouski for the country's failure to stay ahead of threats, Liscouski retorted that the private sector has been ignoring or downplaying its own cybersecurity responsibilities while demanding more commitment from the government. RSA Security CEO Arthur Coviello Jr. declared yesterday that Liscouski "did not focus enough on cybersecurity during his tenure, and his resignation provides a window for the administration and the new secretary to get it right."
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  • "Computer Aid Ensures Speedy, High-Quality Translations"
    IST Results (01/12/05)

    TransType2 is a computer-aided system that provides quick, efficient, and high-quality textual translation by integrating the advantages of computer-assisted translation (CAT) and machine translation (MT), according to Jose Esteban with Atos Origin in Spain. CAT involves reciprocal human and computer participation to enhance translation quality, while MT makes translation wholly automated to boost productivity. TransType2 employs statistical models of translated texts used by MT engines to anticipate subsequent words and phrases; these models are used by human translators as a basis for suggestions to complete sentences as they type, and these suggestions can be incorporated quickly and easily in order to lower the number of keystrokes required to finish a translation. Canadian and Spanish trials of TransType2 are yielding results that appear to be exceeding the project partners' expectations: Esteban reports that whereas productivity gains of between 15 percent and 20 percent were originally anticipated, TransType2 has raised efficiency up to 25 percent or 30 percent in some cases. "Once translators have familiarized themselves with the system the productivity increases start to become noticeable almost immediately," he comments. The prototype TransType2 system currently helps facilitate translations between English, French, German, and Spanish, although it is relatively easy to extend the system to other European languages. "Literary documents are the most difficult to translate and where these systems have the greatest limitations given the wide range of variables in the language used in such texts," Esteban notes. Following the TransType project's conclusion, the project partners hope to continue the system's development with an eye toward rolling it out as a commercial product or service.
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  • "In Search of Personable Computing"
    Boston Globe (01/11/05); Johnson, Carolyn Y.

    Increasing PCs' sociability is a goal of MIT Media Lab researcher and psychologist Alex Pentland, who sees current technology as too socially isolating. Pentland, whose initial focus at MIT was developing machine vision technology comparable to human vision, has turned to the even more daunting challenge of imbuing machines with manners and social skills. He envisions the future equivalents of today's cell phones, beepers, and PCs as being able to anticipate their owners' needs and link people together in a world where traditional social networks are frequently dispersed or fragmentary. Pentland does not view sociable machines as a replacement for face-to-face interaction, but rather as a technology that "supercharges" those exchanges. Prototype personable technology developed in Pentland's lab includes a Nokia cell phone that monitors social encounters and movement, and will eventually record its user's mood. Pentland has also designed a wearable gadget that notifies friends and family if the user stops moving or seems to be evading social contact; not only does the device remind people to maintain social ties, but also monitors people who may be at risk for suicide. In addition, the MIT researcher has reported the discovery of an easy method for measuring social links by analyzing a person's speech patterns and tone of voice, which can predict with 80 percent accuracy which people will swap phone numbers at a bar or business cards at a meeting.
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  • "Video Organizes Paper"
    Technology Research News (01/19/05); Patch, Kimberly

    With funding from Intel and the National Science Foundation, University of Washington researchers have developed a system that employs a computer and a video camera to track paper documents on a desk and automatically connect them to the corresponding electronic documents. The integration of paper and digital formats was made possible by recent computer vision breakthroughs that facilitate rapid and reliable object recognition, says University of Washington researcher Jiwon Kim, who worked on the project with colleagues Stephen M. Seitz and Maneesh Agrawala. The system allows users to locate a specific document within a stack of papers on their desk, and pinpoint papers according to keyword, appearance, or how recently a document was moved. A photo-sorting application lets users sift through digital photos using printouts. The structure of a stack of papers is deduced with a mix of computer vision methods. The system can reconstruct the stack's architecture and be able to answer queries about the location of specific documents. Users can find documents by viewing a group of thumbnails on the computer screen, or through keyword searches on titles or authors; in addition, users can browse desktops remotely by clicking and dragging on an image of a remote desk. Kim says the video image's resolution is too low to make the text readable to the human eye, but documents with a similar layout can still be distinguished thanks to the Scale-Invariant feature Transform object-recognition method. Beyond tracking physical documents, the system could be used to inquire about document history, extract written annotations from document surfaces, recognize text, and tag documents with reminders; Kim adds that the technology could also be applied to locating lost objects and inventory tracking. The research was presented at the User Interface Software and Technology 2004 (USIT) conference in Santa Fe, N.M., in October.
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  • "Patently Open Source"
    Technology Review (01/12/05); Delio, Michelle

    Patents are gaining importance in popular culture as the slow development of patent law lags, and sometimes impedes, technological advances. New frameworks for sharing ideas and fostering open-source-type innovation are beginning to take hold, especially in the scientific field where the Web and other networking technologies have outmoded peer-reviewed scientific journals as the primary way scientists keep current on each others' research. In the more commercial realm of IT, open sourcers are gaining strength, with IBM recently releasing 500 patents to the open source community; IBM technology and intellectual property senior vice president John Kelly says IBM wants to help establish "an industry-wide patent commons in which patents are used to establish a platform for collaborative innovation." The Creative Commons system allows content creators to release their work into the public domain while retaining control over its distribution and usage. The newly launched Science Commons seeks to do similar things in the scientific community, and that, together with Google Scholar, will help pressure scientific journals to open up copyright and dissemination restrictions, says Bromberg & Sunstein intellectual property lawyer Bruce Sunstein. Scientists are naturally inclined to share their findings, but are hindered by the competition for funding. What newly created frameworks such as Science Commons do is allow for fair exchange of information and a method of reasonably monetizing the exchange, Sunstein says. Nevertheless, patents are almost certain not to disappear entirely, especially since industries such as pharmaceuticals invest billions in product development.
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  • "Rural U.S. Seeks Place on IT Map"
    Investor's Business Daily (01/11/05) P. A5; Tsuruoka, Doug

    Companies do not necessarily have to turn to overseas firms to handle their IT needs, according to Rural Sourcing President Kathy Brittain White. She says there are ample IT professionals in the rural United States who can provide quality work for 35 percent to 40 percent less money than urban IT personnel, as indicated in studies from Mercer Management Consulting and others. White further contends that using rural IT staffers will reduce the offshoring of domestic jobs and give rural regions' economic health a shot in the arm. She perceives a correspondence between the abundance of tech talent in rural areas and the location of major U.S. universities outside of cities; contributing factors to college grads' reluctance to move to urban areas include family reasons, familiarity and ease with bucolic settings, and a desire to return to their rural homes after working in major metropolitan areas. White sees no skills gap between rural IT grads and all other IT grads, and her goal is to open as many as 50 rural IT centers and create at least 2,500 IT positions over the next five years. She says the cost of living in rural areas is significantly lower than in urban areas, and claims that "When the cost of living is combined with the salary differential...we can provide you with the same high-quality IT services at lower cost, while still providing [our] employees with the same disposable income." White says rural IT outsourcing also circumvents hidden expenses of offshore outsourcing such as overhead, setup costs, long waits, and legal negotiations. Another advantage is the layout of a solid IT infrastructure that many rural governments or agencies have committed a significant amount of money to over the last several years.

  • "EBay Attacks 'E-Waste' With Electronics Recycling Program"
    E-Commerce Times (01/07/05); LeClaire, Jennifer

    EBay's Rethink Initiative seeks to increase awareness of the options for recycling and reusing e-waste among consumers and businesses through its Web site at www.ebay.com/rethink. "The Rethink Initiative represents an opportunity to get information about e-waste out to the more than 120 million people in eBay's user community," says Computer TakeBack Campaign Chairman Ted Smith. The program is a cooperative effort between eBay and participants that include Intel, Apple, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Ingram Micro, the EPA, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, the U.S. Postal Service, and UPS. Visitors to the Web site will be able to access information on available recycling and reusing options, as well as responsible product disposition services, some of which are offered by initiative participants. Also accessible from the site will be an array of eBay-related services such as assisted selling on eBay with local drop-off options, trade-in programs, charitable contributions, or local area recycling. The Rethink Initiative coalition promotes reuse and recycling as major steps in the purchase process, and eBay and Intel will cooperatively lead promotion and outreach efforts to additional business, government, and environmental organizations. "As the technology industry continues to develop new and exciting products, it's important that all parties--industry, government, business and consumers--work together to responsibly dispose of old equipment," says Intel CEO Craig Barrett. However, Smith notes that the Rethink Initiative alone cannot handle the disposition of the 400 million tons of e-waste being generated every year worldwide, and he cites the need for comprehensive e-waste reform.
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  • "First Digital Tools for Arabic Handwriting Being Developed by Biometrics Researchers"
    UB News Services (01/10/05); Goldbaum, Ellen

    Researchers at the University at Buffalo's Center for Unified Biometrics and Sensors (CUBS) are developing optical character recognition (OCR) software that can digitally scan documents written or machine-printed in Arabic for specific data or keywords, notes CUBS director and UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences professor Venu Govindaraju. Such a breakthrough promises to narrow the gap between English and non-English speakers by opening up access to modern as well as ancient Arabic documents and resources. "The whole Internet is skewed toward people who speak English," Govindaraju says. "The fear is that if an OCR is not developed for a particular language, then all the classic texts in that language will disappear into oblivion." The software is being developed with a two-year grant of $240,000 from the federal Director of Central Intelligence Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program. Govindaraju envisions the software as particularly valuable because of the intrinsic importance of handwritten annotations in the margins of machine-printed documents. He also thinks the software could help the UB researchers' investigation into the possible use of handwriting as a biometric identifier. Govindaraju says the many subtleties of Arabic (infrequently written vowels, inconsistent word separation, characters' variable appearance at the beginning, middle, or end of words, and so on) are challenging for computer science, and he expects the UB project to expand the boundaries of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and pattern recognition.
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  • "Group Aims to Capitalize on Firefox Success"
    Boston Globe (01/10/05) P. C1; Weisman, Robert

    Open-source software developers plan several new desktop software releases for 2005 that will continue to put pressure on Microsoft and other proprietary software. Advocates for open-source software hope to build on the recent success of the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Web browser, which has now tallied over 12 million downloads since its release two months ago, equaling 4.1 percent of the U.S. Web browser market. Among the scheduled offerings is a competitor for Microsoft's Outlook from Mozilla called Lightning, which would combine the group's Thunderbird email and Sunbird calendar programs. The Open Source Applications Foundation also plans to release an email/calendar program called Chandler late this year or early next year; a pre-release 0.5 version is slated for February. Microsoft says competition in the desktop software space is nothing new and beneficial for consumers, but open-source advocates such as Open Source Applications Foundation's Mitch Kapor say open source presents a new threat: "The irresistible force is open source, and the immovable objects the Windows operating environment," he says. "I would expect there would be increasing collisions over the next decade." Most Firefox users are seeking more security, but open source desktop solutions are also growing in tandem with the Linux operating system, which has recently made small inroads in the desktop space. Open source software such as Mozilla's products are often made to run on both Windows and Linux platforms, and are seen as a crucial bridge for consumers to cross over to Linux. IDC predicts the market for open source hardware, software, and services will grow to $35 billion by 2008, up from $15 billion in 2003.
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  • "Intel: Home Sensors Could Monitor Seniors, Aid Diagnosis"
    IDG News Service (01/07/05); Krazit, Tom

    Intel researcher and social scientist Eric Dishman detailed the progress his company has made in developing a home sensor network for monitoring elderly residents and keeping doctors, family, and friends apprised of activities and problems at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 6. The network, which would tap the PC for its processing power, could not only enable people to keep track of the resident's whereabouts, but also remind patients with memory problems to take their medication as well as help seniors maintain contact with relatives and friends. The appeal of such technology becomes clear as increasing longevity and swelling elderly populations start to tax assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. Dishman said Intel wants a home network that can help people with incipient cognitive disorders stay inside, and noted that such networks could aid physicians and scientists in the diagnosis and treatment of elderly patients before illnesses become too serious. For example, sensors reading the pressure and rhythm of a person dialing a telephone could determine the start of mental difficulty. Dishman concedes that such networks raise privacy concerns, but argues that the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act would keep the networks well guarded. The researcher says Intel is primarily interested in developing other applications where processing power is a necessity; for example, Intel's upcoming VT technology would enable PCs to run these applications by harnessing a separate virtual environment. Dishman expects home sensor network products to begin shipping in Asia and Europe over the next several years.
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  • "Penn State Senior's Digital Photos May Aid Blind"
    Valley News Dispatch (01/10/05); Seben, Larry

    Visually handicapped people might eventually be able to perceive digital photos through a process chiefly developed by Penn State electrical engineering senior Jason Donnell, whose work stemmed from an assignment he received as a participant in the Milwaukee School of Engineering's (MSOE) Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Donnell was challenged to devise a way to raise a 2D photo into a 3D piece that could be "read" by blind people using their fingers. The process involved a rapid prototyping system that constructs 3D products using computer-aided design programs. Donnell says that MSOE computer science major and fellow research program participant Josh Mueller pointed him toward a partially developed but buggy program authored by a Carnegie Mellon professor that "covered about two thirds of what I needed." Donnell himself created the processing component, and the program was used to generate three samples. Results were promising but more development was needed; Donnell thought a battery-powered embedded circuit would improve the system by allowing the picture to communicate with the reader, but the MSOE program ended before the Penn State senior could go forward on this concept. Donnell reports that MSOE is attempting to obtain a development grant from the National Health Foundation to further develop his program, and the school has requested that he court the National Institute of Health in Virginia for additional funding.
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  • "Talking to Smart Homes to Improve Quality of Life"
    IST Results (01/11/05)

    The goal of IST's 30-month INSPIRE project was to develop an interactive computer system that allows homeowners to control lights, appliances, and other equipment through voice command, although its initial target market will be elderly and disabled people. The system utilizes microphone arrays mounted on walls to pick up spoken commands, while voice mail over mobile and fixed-line communications facilitates remote access. The system can be programmed to function in any language, and was tested in five pilot programs in Greece and Germany involving about 100 users. "The greatest difficulty we faced was enhancing the speech recognition technology to an acceptable level, although we managed to ensure it would recognize voice commands successfully in more than 85 percent of cases," notes INSPIRE scientific coordinator Anastasios Tsopanoglou. He says most users gave the system a score of 5.5 on a scale of one to seven. The system's considerable cabling requirements carry a hefty price tag, although Tsopanoglou believes pre-installed cabling or Bluetooth wireless connectivity technology could address this problem. He reports that most average users did not consider the system to be a critical component for the household, although they saw some value in owning such a product. The INSPIRE project partners expect a commercial version of the system to make its market debut within two years.
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  • "$6.7 Million for Bionic War on Disabilities"
    University of Utah News (12/29/2004)

    The National Institutes of Health have awarded nearly $6.7 million in grants to researchers at the University of Utah's College of Engineering and Health Sciences Center to develop wireless electrodes that would help blind people see and disabled people walk, speak, or control a computer with neural impulses. Spearheading the project is bioengineering professor Richard Normann, who created the Utah Electrode Array, a silicon chip equipped with 100 miniature electrodes that is placed under the dura. Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems included the device in its BrainGate System, which allowed a paraplegic to control a computer screen cursor by thought last year. Normann aims to expand the array's intelligence and make the device wireless, and one of his goals is to implant the array in the brains of visually impaired people, who would wear an eyeglass-mounted camera that transmits images to the visual cortex via the array. The NIH grants are allocated to four initiatives, with Normann a key participant in each. The largest will go toward the development of the wireless array, which Normann says "will have electronic circuitry integrated into it to amplify the signals from each of the 100 electrodes, do signal processing on those signals [to filter out noise and other unimportant information] and send those signals wirelessly to a receiver located outside of the body." The second-largest grant will be employed to implant the array on peripheral nerves in a paraplegic's legs in order to stimulate motor function. A third grant will be used to extend the array's biocompatibility so that the patient's immune system does not inhibit its operation, while the fourth grant will go toward studying the feasibility of reanimating vocal cords via nerve stimulation by the device.
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  • "Devastating U.S. Cyber-Attack Within 10 Years"
    ClickZ News (01/09/05); McGann, Rob

    A large majority of respondents in a Pew Internet & American Life and Elon University survey believe a devastating attack to the U.S. national information network or power grid will happen in the next decade. The survey of more 1,286 experts found 66 percent believed one of the following scenarios would play out, wreaking havoc on cyberinfrastructure: serious physical attacks to the Internet's infrastructure, cyberterrorist attacks on key utilities, continued attacks from hackers using worms, viruses, and other techniques. Hackers will eventually circumvent security measures and deliver a devastating attack, experts fear. Lee Rainey, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, says, "What's surprising is the number of experts with the general sense that the more important the Internet becomes over time, the more juicy of a target it will become for terrorists and people wishing to do harm." The survey also found a growing number of experts believe the government and enterprises will increasingly infringe on individual privacy rights to collect information in the name of protecting Americans from cyberattacks. Jane Anderson, co-author of the report, says, "Both the government and corporations are growing more able to intrude on our lives in new ways a lot of people in the public aren't aware of. They are able to collect more information about our behavior on- and offline that is stored in increasingly large databases."
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  • "Who's the Smartest of Them All?"
    Computerworld (01/10/05) P. 28; King, Julia

    A team led by Bernardo Huberman at Hewlett-Packard Labs' Systems Research Center is developing social software designed to uncover natural "communities of interest" within an organization that can be leveraged to improve business forecasting and decision-making. By analyzing scores of emails according to the route they followed in certain HP divisions, the team learned that day-to-day work was frequently carried out by self-selected teams of experts rather than formal experts, which led to the theory that members of the self-selected groups make better business decisions than the official experts. The team had 15 globally distributed HP managers make forecasts on projected monthly revenue and profit figures for an HP division, and gave the managers a small amount of cash that would increase or decrease according to the forecasts' accuracy; an algorithm that considered variances in the managers' attitudes toward risk was created. The team concluded that the group's predictions were more consistently accurate than those provided by the expert financial software the division had been employing. New Jersey Institute of Technology professor Brian Whitworth comments that Huberman's work outlines a model in which all software is "group aware," and exploits the fact that the Internet is both a physical and social system. Huberman says he wants to develop "an enterprise knowledge navigator" through which organizations can tap all of their personnel's knowledge, "and not just what's in documents that are stored on a server somewhere." His team has devised a peer-to-peer system that automatically profiles users based on the flow of their emails, the Web sites they visit, and the documents they access, and stores those profiles in their PCs so that users can contact "undeclared" experts. "The idea that guides our work is to go and uncover all that implicit knowledge in order to gain an understanding and then to use it in interesting ways," Huberman notes.
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  • "Mobile Expert Predicts a Brain Storm"
    EE Times (01/10/05) No. 1353, P. 1; Merritt, Rick

    PalmOne CTO Jeff Hawkins says he is on the verge of creating technology that allows computers to operate as biological neural systems do, a capability he says will spawn thousands of new applications and change people's lives similar to the introduction of digital computing and electricity. Hawkins is creating computer vision systems at the Redwood Neuroscience Institute that demonstrate this ability to mimic brain functions. The basis for this new style of computing is an algorithm that lets computers recognize objects in different variations, such as drawn in line figures or shown in black and white; eventually, this will lead to computer vision systems that can easily differentiate between a cat and dog and car, for example, and help improve other areas where variation recognition is important, such as speech recognition. Computer vision was chosen as the platform for this revolutionary new algorithm because the sensors are easier to deal with and the field is well understood. The next step is promulgating knowledge about the technology and spurring academic and industrial interest; Hawkins is considering a conference to demonstrate his new computer vision system. Hawkins believes this new technological space will open up an entirely new industry, and that the next Microsofts and Intels for this new industry will be founded in the next two years. In terms of his work with PalmOne, Hawkins says he is working on a new mobile technology that will be completely different than what has been created before, and that should be introduced between one and two years from now; he says mobile phones are undergoing rapid technological change, similar to how desktop computers evolved from text-based interfaces to graphical interfaces. One thing that hinders mobile development is the different approaches each carrier takes, requiring mobile system firms to dilute their product development efforts.
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  • "Who's Spying on You?"
    Popular Mechanics (01/05) Vol. 182, No. 1, P. 56; Cooper, Simon

    New technologies that enhance safety and convenience for users are costing them their privacy and raising the risk of surveillance and exploitation. Critics are concerned that this trend might lead to a society where people's job opportunities and other aspects of their livelihood could be determined by massive repositories of data collected by monitoring systems. Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse warns that Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabling cell phones to make U.S. cell phone networks E911-compliant, in accordance with a federal mandate, turns the phones into tracking devices that can be used for more nefarious ends; in fact, incidents of abuse have already been reported. Complaints lodged against car rental firms that use GPS tracking to enforce their contracts and penalize customers have prompted certain states to prohibit such practices. The National Transportation Safety Board's desire to install event data recorders (EDRs) in all new vehicles has sparked fears among privacy proponents that lawyers could use EDR data as evidence in civil suits, while insurance companies could use them to justify premium hikes or cancellations. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging has been widely publicized for its ability to enhance inventory management and shopping checkout, but some consumers see the technology as a threat to privacy, especially if RFID tags continue to track items outside of stores; and implanted RFID technologies such as the VeriChip evoke nightmares of Orwellian population surveillance. Private "data aggregators" keep files on most Americans in vast databases, and the federal government appears to be these aggregators' biggest client. Experts are worried that such databases will inevitably surrender to function creep, the tendency to adopt new applications that may eventually deviate from their original purposes, especially with the emergence of swarm intelligence technology.

  • "The WiMAX Anticlimax"
    Network Magazine (12/04) Vol. 19, No. 12, P. 38; Dornan, Andy

    WiMAX is touted as the foundational infrastructure for a wide array of products and services that will allow enterprises to establish their own wireless access networks and set up mobile data systems, among other things. However, not all of these applications are likely to be rolled out in one fell swoop, and the ultimate goal of true mobility may never be realized because WiMAX cannot circumvent high-speed mobile data systems' dependence on a dense network of access points or base stations. Indeed, there are few things truly revolutionary about WiMAX as far as its pedigree is concerned: The technology traces its roots to the 802.16 group of standards, enthusiasm for which was less than stellar until the emergence of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), which supports higher data rates and eliminates line of sight limitations. The WiMAX Forum promises that WiMAX client radios will eventually be cheap enough to make consumer and portable applications practical, while the forthcoming 802.16e standard will provide the foundation for true WiMAX mobility. Unfortunately, WiMAX faces an uphill climb, what with former supporters opting for competing technologies such as 3G, Wi-Fi, and Flarion's 802.20 dedicated mobile system, any one of which could beat WiMAX in the race to become the predominant type of network access by the end of the decade. Airgo Networks CEO Greg Raleigh is skeptical about WiMAX, arguing that OFDM fails to deliver long-range signal transmission. But WiMAX also has Software Defined Radio to fall back on and enable easier network buildout. Another advantage WiMAX has over 802.20 and Wi-Fi is its support for traditional voice.
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  • "Languages, Levels, Libraries, and Longevity"
    Queue (01/05) Vol. 2, No. 9, P. 32; Mashey, John R.

    The proper functioning of software is playing an increasingly vital role in people's lives, and technology company consultant and Computer History Museum trustee John Mashey writes that the choice of a programming language will always be a core component of software quality, usability, and understandability. He says small groups in academic institutions or industry, commercial vendors, or consortia are continuing to devise successful languages, and notes that current software and CPUs dramatically simplify the creation of unique languages by individuals. Mashey observes that computer performance and storage have grown at a rate equal to that of code, and recounts that programmers in all computer classes had a tendency to initially write assembly code for performance, and then employ higher-level languages as each class' power expanded. More powerful languages are usually later-binding, transferring more decisions to execution time. The author points out that the Web dramatically reduced the difficulty programmers encountered, as well as the skills they needed, in coding distributed applications. Mashey writes that programmers all too easily fail to organize and document the code they write in order to make it reusable and modifiable--and though improvements have been made in this area, still more are needed. He cites Bell Labs researcher Doug McIlroy's conclusion that "Software components (routines), to be widely applicable to different machines and users, should be available in families arranged according to precision, robustness, generality, and time-space performance." The key to ensuring a language's longevity, in Mashey's view, is to ensure that it addresses some new problem; accommodates new data types that existing languages do not adequately handle; increases abstraction, simplifies a programming task, and emerges at a point where additional performance consumption is tolerable; or might be backed by a major consortium or vendor.
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