mardi 28 février 2012

NSF Issues Advanced Computing Infrastructure Plan

CCC Blog (02/23/12) Erwin Gianchandani

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a vision and strategic plan for its Advanced Computing Infrastructure (ACI) designed to support NSF-funded communities and position them at the cutting edge of advanced computing technologies, hardware, and software. ACI is a key part of NSF's Cyberinfrastructure for 21 Century Science and Engineering framework. NSF "aims to promote a more complementary, comprehensive, and balanced portfolio of advanced computing infrastructure and programs for research and education to support multidisciplinary computational and data-enabled science and engineering that in turn support the entire scientific, engineering, and education community," the vision report says. NSF says it will promote human capital development and education in computational and data-enabled science and engineering to benefit all fields of science and engineering. NSF aims to achieve its vision by developing foundational and applications research to exploit parallelism and concurrency through innovations in computational technologies. NSF also wants to build, test, and deploy sustainable and innovative resources into a collaborative ecosystem. In addition, NSF wants to develop comprehensive education and workforce programs, as well as transformational and grand challenge community programs that support contemporary complex problem solving.

vendredi 24 février 2012

Single-Atom Transistor Is "Perfect"

University of New South Wales (02/20/12) Bob Beale

University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers have developed a transistor from a single phosphorus atom placed in a silicon crystal.  The researchers say the breakthrough could lead to a future quantum computer with superior computing efficiency.  "This is the first time anyone has shown control of a single atom in a substrate with this level of precise accuracy," says UNSW professor Michelle Simmons.  The device has tiny markers etched onto its surface so metal contacts can be connected to apply a voltage.  "Our group has proved that it is really possible to position one phosphorus atom in a silicon environment--exactly as we need it--with near-atomic precision, and at the same time register gates," Simmons says.  The researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to manipulate atoms at the surface of the crystal inside an ultra-high-vacuum chamber.  The researchers patterned phosphorus atoms into functional devices on the crystal and then covered them with a non-reactive layer of hydrogen, using a lithographic process.  Finally, the device was surrounded by a silicon layer, and it contacted electrically using a system of markers on the silicon chip to align metallic connects.

vendredi 17 février 2012

Wireless Voting Still Has a Long Way to Go

From ACM TechNews:
Wireless Voting Still Has a Long Way to Go
(02/14/12) Matt Hamblen

A Webcast featuring a panel of mobile campaign experts at the Brookings Institution recently addressed the prospects for mobile voting. Facebook's Katie Harbath says electronic voting over a wireless device such as a smartphone is "a long ways away" since paper ballots still dominate much of the voting in the United States. Revolution Messaging CEO Scott Goodstein agrees, noting the problems with electronic voting in previous elections. University of California, San Diego professor Clark Gibson says secrecy of the vote is important to U.S. citizens. He says "quadruple firewalls and a way to back-check a vote" might be needed to provide people with some real insurance against fraudulent votes. Brookings' Darrell West says surveys show that up to 70 percent of respondents oppose electronic voting due to concerns about fraud and cheating. As a result, he says it is unlikely that people will embrace wireless voting any time soon.

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Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission

From ACM TechNews:
Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission
New York Times
(02/15/12) Nicole Perlroth

Many smartphone applications for Apple and Android devices routinely gather personal address book information, often without notifying the user, and store that information on the app developer's computers. The U.S. Congress recently sent Apple a letter asking how approved apps were allowed to take that information without users' permission, especially when Apple's rules on apps expressly prohibit that practice. "We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release," say Apple's Tom Neumayr. Although Google forces Android developers to ask users for permission to access any personal data up front, they often are not told how the information will be used or how the company plans to store it. "It’s time for app developers to take responsibility for ensuring that users know what they’re doing, rather than leaving it to the platforms to play a game of Whac-A-Mole," says Future of Privacy Forum director Jules Polonetsky. Many developers are changing their apps before Congress steps in, making updates and warning users about how the information is collected.

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mercredi 15 février 2012

Computer Programs That Think Like Humans

University of Gothenburg (Sweden) (02/13/12)

University of Gothenburg researchers have developed software that can score 150 on a standard IQ test. IQ tests are based on progressive matrices, which test the ability to see patterns in pictures, and number sequences, which test the ability to see patterns in numbers. "We're trying to make programs that can discover the same types of patterns that humans can see," says Gothenburg's Claes Strannegard. The researchers used a psychological model of human patterns in the computer program, integrating a mathematical model that follows human-like problem solving. "Our programs are beating the conventional math programs because we are combining mathematics and psychology," Strannegard says. The researchers also have started working with Stockholm University researchers to develop new IQ tests with different levels of difficulty. "Now we want to divide them into different levels of difficulty and design new types of tests, which we can then use to design computer programs for people who want to practice their problem-solving ability," Strannegard says.

lundi 13 février 2012

Log Onto Facebook, Contribute to Scientific Research

Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) (02/09/12)

Researchers at Victoria University of Wellington, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Cardiff University are developing a cloud computing-based Facebook application that enables users to donate their computing resources to scientific projects. Victoria researcher Kris Bubendorfer says integrating cloud architecture with an existing social network such as Facebook has advantages over other options, such as commercial cloud services, which some research teams use on a pay-as-you-go basis and can be very expensive. "If we can recruit even one percent of current Facebook users to become volunteers, that will have a significant impact on resources available for research," Bubendorfer says. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology researchers are developing rewards and incentives that will encourage Facebook users to sign on for volunteer computing while Cardiff University researchers are developing a business model to support the initiative. "Social networks offer an easy and quick way for scientists to find each other and agree to share resources for the duration of a project," Bubendorfer says.

dimanche 12 février 2012

New Global Portal for Cyber-Physical Systems Research Launched

Vanderbilt University (04/14/11) Brenda Ellis 

Vanderbilt University's Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) recently launched the Cyber-Physical Systems Virtual Organization (CPS-VO), a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)-backed portal designed to unite researchers, educators, and students. CPS-VO is part of a larger NSF project called Virtual Organization for Cyber-Physical Research (VOCYPHER). Cyber-physical systems are smart technologies that combine the physical world with computerized environments. They have a variety of scientific applications, including aerospace research, civil engineering, and medicine. CPS-VO wants to connect basic researchers with the potential to solve problems to those in the field that need solutions, says VOCYPHER's Chris vanBuskirk. CPS-VO enables researchers to post problems, publish results, perform online experiments, and exchange ideas. The goal is to find out "who's out there working on techniques that can be applied to the really grand challenges of our age," vanBuskirk says. ISIS researchers are currently working on several CPS-related projects, including ways to normalize the types of conveyance used in military vehicles, and networking technologies that will help medical devices interact in hospitals.

jeudi 9 février 2012

Engineers Boost Computer Processor Performance By Over 20 Percent

NCSU News (02/07/12) Matt Shipman 

North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have developed a technique that combines graphics processing units (GPUs) and central processing units (CPUs) on a single chip, boosting processor performance by an average of more than 20 percent. "This approach decreases manufacturing costs and makes computers more energy efficient," says NCSU professor Huiyang Zhou. He notes that GPUs are capable of executing many individual functions very quickly, while CPUs are better at performing more complex tasks. "Our approach is to allow the GPU cores to execute computational functions, and have CPU cores pre-fetch the data the GPUs will need from off-chip main memory," Zhou says. He points out that the approach is more efficient than traditional methods because it enables CPUs and GPUs to do what they were designed to do. During initial testing, the researchers found that their approach improved fused processor performance by an average of 21.4 percent.

mardi 7 février 2012

Embodiment, Computation and the Nature of Artificial Intelligence

Technology Review (02/06/12)

Although many artificial intelligence researchers have adopted the idea that true intelligence requires a body, known as embodiment, a growing group of researchers, led by the University of Zurich's Rolf Pfeifer, say the notion of intelligence makes no sense outside of the environment in which it operates.  Pfeifer and Zurich's Matej Hoffmann not only want to redefine artificial intelligence, they want to change the nature of computing itself.  The researchers recently published a paper outlining several case studies that examine the nature of embodiment in different physical systems, such as the distribution of light-sensing cells in a fly's eye.  The fly's computation is the result of simple motion-detection circuitry in the brain, the morphology or distribution of cells in the body, and the nature of flight in a three-dimensional universe.  The researchers say that this, and other low level cognitive functions, such as locomotion, are actually simple forms of computation involving the brain-body-environment triumvirate, which is why the definition of computation needs to be expanded to include the influence of environment.

The Java language has evolved!

String in switch. Binary literals integer. Underscore in numbers. Diamond generic.

dimanche 5 février 2012

Smartphone Apps for Day-to-Day Work

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (01/27/12) 

Fraunhofer Institute researchers are developing several smartphone applications, including one designed to help farmers organize their harvest and one that provides support for business travelers. The farming application will help farmers keep track of how large their fields are, how much time the workers need, and which seed and pest controls they should use. The app also will describe the technological services that harvesting machinery provides and where mobile devices can be effectively used. The researchers tested the application at different times, which helped them design it to the farmers' specifications, says Fraunhofer's Ralf Carbon. Another Fraunhofer-developed application is designed to simplify the management and recording of business travel expenses. When travelers arrive at their place of employment, the app is activated and the smartphone stores the data, time, and location, while assigning the data to the correct business trip. Normally travelers must save all their receipts from public transportation and meals. However, the app enables users to take pictures of their receipts, and then it automatically assigns and stores the photos.

Google look to seed up the internet

Google Looks to Speed Up the Internet
InfoWorld (01/24/12) Paul Krill

Google researchers want to overhaul the Internet's Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) transport layer and have suggested ways to reduce latency.  According to the company's Make the Web Faster team, the key to reducing latency is saving round trips.  The researchers recommend increasing the TCP initial congestion window to improve TCP speed.  "The amount of data sent at the beginning of a TCP connection is currently three packets, implying three round trips to deliver a tiny, 15K-sized content," says Google's Yuchung Chen.  "Our experiments indicate that IW10 [initial congestion window of 10 packets] reduces the network latency of Web transfers by over 10 percent."  Google also wants the initial timeout reduced from three seconds to one second.  The company has developed the TCP Fast Open protocol, which reduces application network latency, and proportional rate reduction for TCP, and the team is encouraging its use.  Google's work is open source and disseminated through the Linux kernel, Internet Engineering Task Force standards proposals, and research publications to encourage industry involvement.

vendredi 3 février 2012

Understanding Open Source Licensing

"Arguably, the prime reason why developers tend to opt for open source licenses is that it lets their software roll on as a group or community exercise, and this in turn enhances productivity manifolds. For instance, Acquia Network, the parent organization behind Drupal, currently consists of 160 employees. Obviously, a company of that size cannot sustain a mammoth project such as Drupal. However, Drupal itself being open source, is helped by the numerous volunteers from the community. Similarly, WordPress rides the wagon of a super-active community while its parent organization, Automattic, concentrates on select issues.
"Open source licenses nowadays come in multiple versions. Wikipedia has a rather incomplete list of some of the major free licenses at While all such licenses cater to diverse purposes with the same goal ('freedom'), we shall restrict ourselves to only the major ones for the sake of simplicity. From a small/medium enterprise's point of view, the noteworthy licenses include GPL/LGPL, MPL, Apache License and BSD License."
  Complete Story

mercredi 1 février 2012

Computer Coding: Not for Geeks Only

Bloomberg Business Week (01/26/12) Barrett W. Sheridan
               ; Brendan Greeley

People in traditionally non-technological careers increasingly are embracing software programming as a way to advance their careers.  Programming is becoming "a much more fundamental piece of knowledge, similar to reading or writing," says Union Square Ventures' Andy Weissman.  The number of college students pursuing computing science degrees rose 14 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to the Computing Research Association.  Meanwhile, non-college students are accessing new resources, such as Codecademy, to develop their software development skills.  Codecademy, which was founded in 2001 by former Columbia University students Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski, offers free interactive tutorials that guide users as they write and test lines of JavaScript code directly in their browser windows.  "We wanted to mirror the experience of what developers go through, learning by doing," Sims says.  "There's a cohort of hundreds of thousands of people who are all learning at the same time, and they'll be conversational in how to build basic Web applications and sites at the end of the year."  Free online classes from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also are encouraging people to learn about computer science.  "The introductory computing class has, on YouTube alone, over 2 million hits for the videos," notes Stanford professor Mehran Sahami.