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Volume 7, Issue 827:  Wednesday, August 10, 2005

  • "Critics Say Security Still Lags"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/09/05) P. A4; Howell, Donna

    Internet and computer security continues to face heavy criticism four years after Sept. 11, with industry organizations and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) urging the allocation of more federal resources to tech security. A CSO magazine poll of 389 security professionals finds that roughly 59 percent of respondents doubt the government can secure the U.S. information infrastructure, while 45 percent expect hackers or terrorists to launch the digital equivalent of a Pearl Harbor-style attack against the nation's critical infrastructure. The GAO has issued several studies finding fault with federal cybersecurity efforts, and Ron Ross with the National Institute of Standards and Technology says his organization has been developing a set of standards and guidelines designed to help agencies construct improved information systems and safeguards. "There's no long-term vision for what we ought to be doing in cybersecurity research and development," notes Cyber Security Industry Alliance (CSIA) executive director Paul Kurtz. "In the long term, we need to think about our information systems constantly being under attack...And the need to transfer over to other systems." In July, CSIA recommended the development of a 10-year federal plan to enhance the security, reliability, and resiliency of information technology, as well as additional funding for the issue. A recent restructuring of the Homeland Security Department resulted in the creation of an assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications; both CSIA and the ITAA praised this maneuver, though ITAA President Harris Miller still laments that some federal IT agencies' budgets remain flat. Unisys' Greg Baroni points to increased security audits encouraged by security guidelines mandated by the Federal Information Security Management Act, which will soon obtain a "compliance component."

  • "Panel: Open-Source Needs More Women Developers"
    Computerworld (08/08/05); Weiss, Todd R.

    A panel discussion at the seventh annual O'Reilly Open Source Convention last week focused on the severe underrepresentation of women in open-source projects. Panelists cited academic and private studies estimating that only about 2 percent of open-source software developers are female, compared to around 25 percent of proprietary software developers. Among the obstacles facing women in open-source development is chauvinistic male developers and the presence of an "old boys network" that discourages participation, according to panel members. Open Source Institute board member Danese Cooper said the establishment of women-focused groups in some open-source communities is one idea under consideration. Mozilla Foundation President Mitchell Baker noted that family obligations can limit the amount of time female developers spend on open-source projects, while panelist Zaheda Bhorat of Google concurred that open-source development requires a significant investment in time. Sun Microsystems' Claire Giordano reported that women can encourage other women to participate in open-source projects. Meanwhile, Perl Foundation President Allison Randal stressed the importance of being hardworking and assertive, and not worrying over how male developers might react.
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    For information on ACM's Committee on Women and Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.

  • "IBM Open-Sources New Search Technology"
    eWeek (08/08/05); Pallatto, John

    IBM has announced its intention to disclose the code of its new Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA), a search tool that probes unordered data, such as email, Web pages, and text documents for facts, trends, and relationships. UIMA surpasses keyword searches in its ability to interpret the semantic meaning of data. IBM, which has been developing UIMA for four years with major funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and in conjunction with several universities and private research groups, announced its plans to make the technology commercially available at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo this week. IBM's Nelson Mattos said the architecture will be available as open source in the hopes of widespread market adoption, allowing for easy, customized modifications and extensions. Because of its ability to interpret data, the search tool could be especially useful in business intelligence, where valuable information can be overlooked by keyword-based searches. Existing search tools produce information based on literal matches, but lack the ability to order data in terms of relevance. IBM is hoping UIMA will be adopted as an industry standard, which "could allow for real-time analysis of an entire corporate intranet," according to Interarbor Solutions analyst Dana Gardner.
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  • "Wanted: IT Professionals"
    ITworldcanada.com (08/05/05); Patrick, Ryan B.

    A recent spate of IT recruitment in Canada is a positive sign, primarily for seasoned as well as aggressive technology professionals. Two months ago saw the launch of a Communitech-led hiring initiative in the Waterloo Region whose participants include over 50 area tech firms and several local universities; Communitech CEO Iain Klugman indicated a general recovery in the IT sector, with the region in particular need of IT pros with at least five to 10 years of work experience. Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems and IT solutions provider Dinmar recently opened an Ottawa-based health care IT research facility with the goal of promoting open-standards-based technology and making health care IT systems more compatible, according to Sun's Charles Mair. And SAP Canada's SAP Labs Canada division announced plans in June to double its workforce with 100 new software developers who will work at its R&D center in Montreal to design and develop industry-specific business software products and applications. New Age Consulting President Sathish Bala believes the IT hiring boom may be partially attributed to companies consuming their budgets on outstanding technologies, with the end of the year looming. "Companies are getting more focused on cost control through technology innovations so they are hiring contractors and perm staff to help execute," he said. Toronto-based IT consultant Robert Fabian does not expect a major shift in entry-level employment trends in the near future, noting that outsourcing, off-the-shelf packages, automation, and other factors are limiting hiring opportunities to mostly middle- to senior-level staff.

  • "SIGGRAPH 2005 Summarized"
    Computer Graphics World (08/05); Maestri, George; Moltenbrey, Karen

    SIGGRAPH 2005 once again explored the integration of computer graphics technology and art, a theme that was reflected in almost every work accepted for the Emerging Technologies gallery. One reason such a convergence is being emphasized is to encourage new ideas for expanding the concepts or applying them to new methods and products. Demos of note include an image-correction technique from Bauhaus University researchers that can project stereo graphics or video onto sophisticated colored surfaces as if they were displayed on flat white screens, which could be employed to create immersive environments in a variety of venues; a machine that "projects" scents to make media presentations--films, games, artwork, etc.--more evocative; and an interactive virtual hang-gliding experience featuring 3D imagery, audio, and wind sensations that shift in accordance with the user's head orientation and movement. The conference also emphasized 64-bit computing, as evidenced by new-generation 64-bit processors and operating systems from Opteron and AMD. By far the coolest new technology demonstrated at SIGGRAPH was Avid/Softimage's Face Robot, a Softimage XSI tool that generates perfectly rigged faces from the selection of a face mesh and the highlighting of a few key facial areas. Face Robot can prepare faces for keyframing and motion capture, while Natural Motion's Endorphin 2.5 software offers an alternative to such techniques by producing realistic human animation through the use of neural networks and built-in physical dynamics.

  • "Pentagon's New Goal: Put Science Into Scripts"
    New York Times (08/04/05); Halbfinger, David M.

    The U.S. Army and Air Force are hoping to reverse the erosion of the domestic science and engineering workforce, which is critical to defense labs and industries, by training 15 elite scientists in the art of writing and selling screenplays. The reasoning is that films and TV shows depicting research and engineering as exciting and hip professions will encourage young people to pursue careers in those fields. The program was conceived by University of Southern California electrical engineering professor and Hollywood technical consultant Martin Gundersen, who recently reviewed screenplays for the Sloan Foundation and found most of them to be riddled with scientific inaccuracies. "My thought was, since scientists have to write so much, for technical journals and papers, why not consider them as a creative source?" he explains. Gundersen convinced Air Force program manager Robert Barker to approve the research grants for the screenwriting training program and similar efforts. The grants include a three-year, $300,000 commitment from the Air Force, with an additional $50,000 supplied by the Army Research Office this year. The training is provided by the American Film Institute, and Gundersen is also launching an AFI workshop for high school students. It is also his intention to enhance scientific conferences with seminars led by people from the entertainment industry as well as teach seminars to screenwriters on how to boost their scripts' scientific accuracy by consulting with researchers.
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  • "Where Are the Visionaries?"
    Computer Weekly (08/09/05); Bradbury, Danny

    There appears to be an absence of trailblazing pioneers in the computing industry, which has left analysts scratching their heads when searching for the next Jack Kilby or Vinton Cerf. Although true visionaries are indeed rare, the rise of committee thinking makes it even harder to identify them, and ACM President David Patterson says, "it is hard to recognize the visionaries when they are out there." The rise of team research is largely driven by increased specialization in the field of computing, as new advancements often involve the collaboration of a team of developers, each with a very localized area of expertise. Another force at work is what Accelerating Studies Foundation President Jonathan Smart calls the "diffusion curve," or the series of modifications and enhancements that follow an initial groundbreaking innovation and prepare it for entry into the market, followed by another wave of refinements that lower prices and improve the product's commercial appeal. Gartner researcher Steve Prentice sees legitimate value in the work done by developers further down the diffusion curve, as he believes the real merit of a technology lies in its practical application. Many of today's most influential technologies are not the result of a groundbreaking discovery, but rather the fusion of existing technologies by savvy and insightful marketers, such as Steve Jobs' creation of the Macintosh and iPod. The considerable lag time between landmark innovations such as the integrated circuit and the distant prospect of quantum computing highlight the importance of fusing existing technologies to perpetuate industry advancement. In the future, Smart envisions a demand-driven IT marketplace, where customers emerge from their roles as passive recipients of technologies to actually steer the direction of research through a dialogue with researchers and developers.
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  • "Robot Catcher Grabs High-Speed Projectiles"
    New Scientist (08/04/05); Knight, Will

    University of Tokyo researchers have developed a three-fingered robot that can catch a ball hurtling through the air at 300 kilometers per hour. The device's "palm" is equipped with an array of photo detectors to track the trajectory of the ball, whose movement is recognized almost instantaneously by specialized image processing circuits. High-speed actuators allow the robot's fingers to move through 180 degrees in less than 0.1 second. The device was built to test technologies that could increase machines' usefulness in situations where high-speed reactions may be necessary. "Such a system should be able to adapt to changes in its environment and we think that the concept of high-speed movement with real time visual feedback will become an important issue in robotic research," contends scientist Akio Namiki. Mobile robotics expert Ulrich Nehmzow of England's University of Essex says the device far exceeds the speed and accuracy of garden-variety industrial robots. "If you are able to locate a moving object so reliably that you can actually catch it, then picking an object up should be child's play," he notes. The robot's ability to grasp objects of various shapes has been demonstrated in other tests.
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  • "Annual Hacking Game Teaches Security Lessons"
    SecurityFocus (08/04/05); Lemos, Robert

    The annual DEF CON conference hosts a hacker version of Capture the Flag, and this year's bout emphasized more real-world skills, according to University of California at Santa Barbara computer science professor Giovanni Vigna, whose Shellphish team was the victor. "The game required skills that are also required by both security researchers and hackers, such as ability to analyze attack vectors, understanding and automating attacks, finding new, unpredictable ways to exploit things," Vigna explained. "It's about analyzing the security posture of a system that is given to you and about which you initially know nothing." This year the organizers courted controversy by running a central server on which each team's virtual server operated, whereas in past tournaments each team was permitted to run their own server; Crispin Cowan with Novell's SUSE division said this meant there was very little defense that could be implemented, and he doubted that anyone with a substantial interest in defense will participate in future tournaments if exclusive concentration on code auditing becomes the norm. One of the organizers defended his year's game with the argument that the bout was a hacking contest. He said finding and exploiting security flaws in custom software via reverse engineering, not just code auditing, is key to being a top hacker. The organizer insisted that defense was not sidelined, noting that some teams successfully deployed Tripwire, a data-integrity checker that can pinpoint altered files, and used an intrusion detection system to monitor traffic. Vigna said the winning team's strategy kept the discovery of flaws and the toughening up of systems services in balance.
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  • "CIGI Strikes Common Chord"
    Defense News (08/01/05) Vol. 20, No. 30, P. 16; Walker, Karen

    Boeing's Common Image Generator Interface (CIGI) is making progress toward becoming a common standard for simulator visual-systems compatibility as CIGI's user base expands rapidly. Major CIGI adopters include NASA, U.S. Naval Warfare Center research laboratories, and the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy; and even entrenched image-generator vendors such as CAE and Evans & Sutherland, which have long sworn by proprietary interfaces, are supporting CIGI. CIGI's foundation is a building block process in which each block is generalized and represents a related set of data, specifying elements such as high-level image generator commands, entities, out-of-the-window view portals, mission functions, special effects, and sensor simulations. At last month's IMAGE 2005 conference, Boeing Training & Support Systems' Bill Phelps said many military contracts require CIGI. "When the government says 'thou shalt,' everybody starts using it," he stressed. Phelps said Boeing's investment in CIGI saves a lot of money in the integration of visuals equipment: A recent PC-based image-generator integration via CIGI cost $50,000, whereas previous integrations could cost Boeing as much as $500,000. He declared CIGI to be mature enough for flight simulators, and his company wants to make the interface more capable for ground and sea simulations. CIGI's ultimate goal is to provide a plug-and-play capability standard for the image-generator community, and a CIGI study group has been established by the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization. The CIGI protocol is available to all users off the Internet, free of charge.

  • "Electrical Engineers Invent Wireless Internet Connection"
    Virginia Tech News (08/03/05); Nystrom, Lynn

    The 2.5 GHz helix antenna for WiFi invented by Virginia Tech researchers Warren Stutzman and Michael Barts has revolutionized wireless Internet usage and brought stable connections to remote locations such as hospitals, airports, and hotels. After many experiments with different shapes, the researchers came across the hairpin helix design in 1994, which they patented five years later, and has since reached production of 1 million units per year, according to Mohamed Raji with FRC Component Products. The tight winding of the wire occupies 70 percent less space than traditional helix designs, constituting "the first major improvement to the helix antenna since it was invented over 50 years ago," said Stutzman. One of the technology's major proponents, StayOnline, has used the antenna to establish wireless networks in urban centers where distances and buildings can often obscure signals. Hotels are some of the largest consumers of the antenna, which has caught on internationally, having patents awarded or pending in 16 countries. In addition to offering a strong, reliable signal, the antenna's circular polarization design minimizes its size and enhances its aesthetic appeal.
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  • "U.S. Goes High Speed, Slowly"
    Red Herring (08/03/05)

    A Forrester Research survey of over 68,000 U.S. households found that the percentage of Americans with high-speed Internet access expanded from 19 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2004, and the study projects that 62 percent of U.S. residents--roughly 71 million Americans--should have broadband access in five years. However, the percentage of U.S. homes with broadband by 2010 lags behind that of other countries: Seventy-five percent of South Korean households, for instance, already have high-speed access. A report from the Organization for Economic Development Information and Communication Technologies ranks the United States in 12th place in terms of broadband penetration. Forrester analyst Maribel Lopez credited the fast growth of U.S. broadband access to a surge in DSL availability, combined with affordable price points. However, she said the growth rate is too slow to meet President Bush's goal of giving all Americans affordable high-speed access by 2007. "Until we see true adoption of wireless technologies like WiMAX, along with broadband over power lines, which won't happen before 2008, it will be difficult to get much higher availability than 65 percent," she explained. Analysts are worried that the nation's slow rollout of broadband compared to other countries will mean lost opportunities for economic growth, investment, and innovation. The Forrester survey estimates that broadband-equipped households make significantly more online purchases than dial-up households, and spend more time engaging in tech-based entertainment.
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  • "Fixed-Mobile Convergence: An End to Confusion and Commoditization?"
    Business Communications Review (07/05) Vol. 35, No. 7, P. 52; Bellman, Bob

    The telephony infrastructure is inefficient and confusing for users, and traffic's migration to IP is threatening to slash revenues for facilities-based carriers while third parties and virtual network operators reap the big profits. But confusion and commoditization could end with fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) that makes the same voice, data, and video services accessible and controllable from all phones. With FMC, cable and DSL providers can take advantage of the quad-play opportunity; wireline providers can defend themselves against mobile substitution through wireless access to cheap VoIP services; mobile network operators (MNOs) can extend wireless coverage into offices and homes; and mobile virtual network operators can recapture traffic from MNOs. The consensus is that the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) will be the foundation of FMC: IMS facilitates fixed-mobile service convergence by using the Session Initiation Protocol and other IP-family protocols as the basis for everything, and supports fixed-mobile network convergence in which a single IP core carries all kinds of voice, data, and video traffic with Wi-Fi, WiMAX, DSL, cable, and 3G as access technologies. Fixed-mobile device convergence is currently beyond the scope of IMS, so while standards and architecture are being worked out, developers are focused on new services. Anticipation is high for cellular/Wi-Fi roaming, which solves the problem of too many phones by combining both cellular and 802.11 radios in a single wireless handset. Equipment companies are taking various approaches to cellular/Wi-Fi roaming services, ranging from premises-based solutions to server- or gateway-based solutions to IP-based application servers.

  • "Lucas Plans to Make Video Games with Artificial Intelligence"
    CBC News (CAN) (08/02/05)

    Lucasfilm founder and owner George Lucas made a keynote speech at the Last week's SIGGRAPH 2005 conference in which he announced his intention to imbue video games with artificial intelligence. He described such a breakthrough as the gaming industry's Holy Grail. He said he expected AI to transform first-person shooter games into "intelligent and challenging first-person shooter dramas." Lucas said he supported advances in AI and intelligent voice-recognition technology, claiming that such innovations will facilitate a new level of role-playing and bring the gaming experience closer to that of a movie. "I want to get to a point where you can talk to the game and it will talk back," he stated. Lucas expressed enthusiasm for incorporating new, evolutionary technologies into the movie and entertainment industries.
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  • "Maximizing Data Reliability in Wireless Sensor Networks"
    Sensors (07/05) Vol. 22, No. 7, P. 23; Rhee, Sokwoo; Liu, Sheng

    Wireless sensor networks cannot support real-world applications unless their various interrelationships are understood and addressed. To avoid potentially crippling overhead, wireless sensor nets need to be scalable, reliable, responsive, mobile, and power-efficient, and these traits' effects on data reliability must be appreciated. Scalable ad hoc nets will lose some reliability as they become incapable of sustaining the overhead due to interference or a changing environment, while both scalability and reliability will suffer as the net releases and exchanges more control packets in order to achieve high responsiveness. A mobile wireless sensor net must have high responsiveness to address mobility, which makes sustaining reliability an even tougher challenge. Finally, increasingly power-efficient wireless nets can negatively affect scalability, responsiveness, and reliability because they lower the exchange of control packets and delay the packet delivery. Persistent dynamic routing (PDR) can support high levels of data reliability without giving up scalability and power, cultivating reliable packet delivery while also enabling highly efficient topology discovery and rediscovery, tremendous power efficiency, and scalability. High-capacity wireless sensor nets can improve scalability and throughput without losing reliability. These systems are often used together, depending on the given real-world application.
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  • "The Future Is Here. Can It Be Managed?"
    Chief Executive (07/05) No. 210, P. 38; Holstein, William J.; Mitchell, Russ; Rothfeder, Jeffrey

    Panelists at the first annual World Information and Communication Technology Summit say the technologies for making ubiquitous computing a reality are either already available or nearly ready. "As the [IT and telecom] industries come together and this capability of embedding invisible computing around the world starts to change how we communicate and how we interact with out services, there will be a lot of challenges to promote an open standards-based environment," said Lucent Technologies' John Giere. Korea-based ubiquitous computing initiatives of note include Siemens' "Life Works," an effort to deliver a universal user experience for businesses and consumers. Siemens' Josef Lorenz thinks services such as interactive entertainment, video, and gaming will be integrated via residential gateways in homes. Korea will be a major epicenter of technological breakthroughs such as converged broadband networks, which are expected to support the integration of voice, data, video, audio, and computer animation via high-speed Internet access. Convergence applications could conceivably deliver cost savings and productivity increases to nearly any industry, but companies will need to forge new partnerships to offer convergence products. Another panel focused on the tension between open source and proprietary software, and Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency CEO Hyun Jin Ko stressed that Korea is hoping to offset its reliance on Microsoft and cultivate IT competition and innovation by introducing some open source computing. Aztec Software's Shirish Netke argued for the inclusion of open source software within enterprise IT systems with the assertion that it will help create effective, customized applications.
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  • "Smart Surveillance Has Alarm Bells Ringing"
    ABC Online (Australia) (08/02/05); Skatssoon, Judy

    Western Australia's Curtin University of Technology is developing a smart surveillance system that flags suspicious behavior to allow law enforcement to take pre-emptive steps. Curtin University professor Barney Glover says the system identifies unusual activity via behavior recognition technology, and could be used with other security measures, such as facial and unattended baggage recognition systems. He acknowledges the system cannot recognize fine detail, but could spot more obvious behavioral cues, such as pickpockets' habit of shifting from seat to seat on a bus. Glover admits such technology has privacy implications, but asserts that it could be an effective deterrent for crime and terrorism. Australian National University visiting computer science professor Roger Clarke argues that the technology would violate civil liberties and generate innumerable false alarms. "It's a horrendous proposition in terms of interfering with the way the world works," he insists. "It's completely naive to suggest that any workable process could result from this kind of analysis, human behavior is just too complex." Glover says the university has also developed a system for a house with built-in "anxiety" levels that alerts minders if an elderly resident exhibits prolonged abnormal behavior, for example.
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  • "Car Computer Systems at Risk as Viruses Go Mobile"
    Reuters (07/29/05); Virki, Tarmo; Shields, Michael

    In-vehicle computer systems could be threatened by malware as hackers' interest in authoring viruses for wireless devices grows, according to automotive industry officials and analysts. Automakers' tweaking of on-board computers to allow consumers to transfer data with mobile phones and MP3 players also increases the cars' vulnerability to mobile viruses that hop between devices through the connective Bluetooth technology, which is employed in car electronics interfaces for service and monitoring. The worst-case scenario is that the computer would no longer be able to control engine performance, emissions, navigation, and entertainment systems, and Symantec mobile virus specialist Guido Sanchidrian says this should not prevent motorists from driving their cars on their own. Thus far there have been no reports of viruses in auto systems, but carmakers say they are giving the matter serious consideration, even though research shows transplanting a virus into a car is not a simple proposition. A BMW representative says such transplants are a possibility, and addressing this problem has been an area of concentration for many years. A Siemens representative claims her company uses systems that screen out unwanted programs and data via encryption. Automakers' growing emphasis on computer security could be a windfall for antivirus firms, and IDC projects that the mobile security software market will skyrocket from $70 million in 2003 to $993 million in 2008.
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