31 March 2012
29 March 2012
From ACM TechNews:
A Surge in Learning the Language of the Internet
New York Times
(03/27/12) Jenna Wortham
The market for online classes in programming, Web construction, and application development is booming. Many people are finding that the jobs they have held for years now require being able to customize a blog's design or manage an online database. "Inasmuch as you need to know how to read English, you need to have some understanding of the code that builds the Web," says investment manager Sarah Henry. Many Web sites and services catering to the learn-to-program market have been launched in recent years, such as Codeacedemy, which walks users through interactive lessons in various computing and Web languages, showing them how to write simple commands. "People have a genuine desire to understand the world we now live in," says Codeacedemy co-founder Zach Sims. The growing interest in programming is part of a national trend of people moving toward technical fields. The number of U.S. students who enrolled in computer science degree programs rose 10 percent in 2010, according to the Computing Research Association (CRA). That figure has been steadily climbing for the last three years, notes CRA's Peter Harsha. "To be successful in the modern world, regardless of your occupation, requires a fluency in computers," Harsha says.
24 March 2012
From ACM TechNews:
Scale-Out Processors: Bridging the Efficiency Gap Between Servers and Emerging Cloud Workloads
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) professor Babak Falsafi recently presented "Clearing the Clouds: A Study of Emerging Workloads on Modern Hardware," which received the best paper award at ASPLOS 2012. "While we have been studying and tuning conventional server workloads (such as transaction processing and decision support) on hardware for over a decade, we really wanted to see how emerging scale-out workloads in modern data centers behave,” Falsafi says. "To our surprise, we found that much of a modern server processor's hardware resources, including the cores, caches, and off-chip connectivity, are overprovisioned when running scale-out workloads leading to huge inefficiencies." Efficiently executing scale-out workloads requires optimizing the instruction-fetch path for up to a few megabytes of program instructions, reducing the core complexity while increasing core counts, and shrinking the capacity of on-die caches to reduce area and power overheads, says EPFL Ph.D. student Mike Ferdman. The research was partially funded by the EuroCloud Server project. "Our goal is a 10-fold increase in overall server power efficiency through mobile processors and [three-dimensional] memory stacking," says EuroCloud Server project coordinator Emre Ozer.
21 March 2012
From ACM TechNews:
Q&A: The Origami Geometer
(03/15/12) Jascha Hoffman
Computer scientist Eric Demaine has advanced computational geometry and produced art by harnessing the principles of origami, and the results of his research include an algorithm for folding any three-dimensional (3D) shape out of a single sheet of paper. One project he is engaged in seeks an algorithm that can generate any 3D shape using a method in which the material is pulled into the shape naturally by the force of the creases. "We have devised a grid-based crease pattern that would allow a microscopic sheet to self-fold into any shape, in theory, by making cubes that stack together like 3D pixels," Demaine notes. He says he is currently exploring origami configurations with curved creases, in collaboration with his artist father. Demaine notes that the creation of the physical models involves paper scoring by a robotically controlled laser, while the final folding is always done manually. One focus of Demaine's research is balloon animals, which he says could be perceived as outlining the edges of a flat-sided 3D solid. This notion led to the discovery of an algorithm that provides the number of balloons needed to construct a given solid.
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18 March 2012
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is examining whether it could double the computing power for its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) by using cloud computing resources. The LHC generates 22 petabytes of data a year, and CERN already supplements its processing with a network of 150 computing centers. CERN's Bob Jones says the additional computing power and storage space provided by the cloud could help researchers analyze LHC data more quickly. CERN also is participating in the Helix Nebula initiative, a pilot project designed to jump-start the European cloud computing industry by carrying out scientific research in the cloud. As part of that project, data from the LHC will be handled by different European Union-based cloud providers over the next two years. Other research agencies testing cloud-based research as part of the Helix Nebula project are the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). "If we can demonstrate that it is technically and financially feasible for world-leading research organizations like CERN, the ESA, and EMBL to make use of these resources then that will attract others," Jones says.
17 March 2012
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16 March 2012
14 March 2012
Despite the rising popularity of cloud-based computing, the risks of a full-scale cloud migration have yet to be properly explored, says Yale University professor Bryan Ford. He notes that in the worst-case scenario, a cloud could experience a full meltdown that could seriously threaten any business that relies on it. "This simplistic example might be unlikely to occur in exactly this form on real systems--or might be quickly detected and 'fixed' during development and testing--but it suggests a general risk," Ford says. He notes, for example, that a lack of transparency between different cloud providers could lead to conflicting internal control loop cycles. "Non-transparent layering structures ... may create unexpected and potentially catastrophic failure correlations, reminiscent of financial industry crashes," Ford warns. A more general risk occurs when systems are complex because unrelated parts become intertwined in unexpected ways. He notes that only recently have industry experts begun to realize that bizarre and unpredictable behavior often occurs in systems consisting of networks of networks. "We should study [these unrecognized risks] before our socioeconomic fabric becomes inextricably dependent on a convenient but potentially unstable computing model," Ford says.
12 March 2012
World Wide Web Consortium CEO Jeff Jaffe says HTML5 will be among the most disruptive elements to hit organizations since the early days of the Internet. "We're about to experience a generational change in Web technology, and just as the Web transformed every business, [HTML5] will lead to another transformation," Jaffe says. HTML5 features cross-browser capability, improved data integration, and a better way of handling video. Jaffe says HTML5 makes Web pages "more beautiful [and] intelligent," and also provides for improved accessibility for disabled users. "It won't really be a standard until 2014, but in the Web ecosystem, nobody waits," he says. "They'll make minor adjustments once the standard is done." For example, TeamLab recently launched the TeamLab Document Editor, an online word processing program. Document Editor uses Canvas, a part of HTML5 that allows for dynamic, scriptable rendering of two-dimensional shapes and bitmap images. Jaffe says HTML5 could benefit a range of industries, including retail, air travel, and the automotive industry.
07 March 2012
06 March 2012
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02 March 2012
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are studying how to build a cloud computing infrastructure that recognizes and eliminates a cyberattack under normal operating procedures. The goal is to continue cloud operations even while under attack, which is a different approach from other security measures that disable a system and create outages. "Much like the human body has a monitoring system that can detect when everything is running normally, our hypothesis is that a successful attack appears as an anomaly in the normal operating activity of the system," says MIT's Martin Rinard. "By observing the execution of a 'normal' cloud system we're going to the heart of what we want to preserve about the system, which should hopefully keep the cloud safe from attack." The researchers will try to map how cloud networks are created and operate, and then create a set of guidelines for a cloud network to constantly assess whether it is working under those parameters and return to normal operating procedures if it is not.