|Ken Novak's Weblog
Purpose of this blog: to retain annotated bookmarks for my future reference, and to offer others my filter technology and other news. Note that this blog is categorized. Use the category links to find items that match your interests.
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Sunday, February 15, 2004
US software labor market info: "After two years of slight declines, the number of professional software developers rose in the United States last year to 2.35 million, according to IDC, a research company. Today, America has more than four times as many software developers as India, and nearly seven times as many as China. "
From a review in NYT, "such jobs are not about to disappear from the United States. Statistics on the current job flight are estimates. Forrester Research in a frequently cited study, predicted in late 2002 that 3.3 million services jobs in America would move offshore by 2015, about 500,000 of them in computer software and services. For all the alarm that report generated, a shift of that size over the next 11 years would be small, given that the American labor force has more than 130 million workers and normally creates and destroys millions of jobs every few months. " 11:12:15 PM
Instant message spam package:
"Some users of the popular AOL Instant Messenger program were bombarded Wednesday with messages seemingly from friends that linked to a humorous Osama bin Laden game. Downloading the game, however, installed a piggybacking program that broadcast the advertisement from the infected computer to all correspondents on its AIM buddy lists.
The software, called Buddylinks, is not technically a virus because users must accept its terms of service before it's installed. The small-print legal disclaimer states what's being installed, though users tend to click through such legalese without reading it. And that's one of the keys to its success.
The program is also clever in its use of social engineering to spread, extending a personal invitation that appears to come from what is typically a trusted friend. ..
Anti-virus expert Ken Dunham at iDefense called Buddylinks a worm, for its self-propagating properties, and said it was "gaining ground in the wild and may prove to be a serious pest over the next few weeks."
On Wednesday, Buddylinks' Web site contained a message denying the program is a virus. The home page also makes no mention that the program would in the future send out additional advertisements using the same method. "Our games interact with instant messengers by promoting the game among the user's network of buddies," it reads. "Please understand, our flash games are in no way a virus. We simply combine peer-to-peer, social networking, and instant messaging into one spectacular technology." 10:55:24 PM
Solar wireless road devices: "There are "wireless applications that are also emerging that aren’t personal, but may eventually constitute as important a market—self-powered, embedded, networked, wireless devices. Like the ones that SPOT Devices Inc is bringing to market. ..Road Spot, their product, integrates high-efficiency solar cells with ultra-bright light emitting diodes (LEDs) to create a completely self-contained inroad light that flashes brightly upon activation. Unlike existing inroad lighting solutions, Road Spots install easily without trenching or saw-cutting road surfaces. Furthermore, since Road Spots do not need wiring or external power, they can be used in a multitude of locations. All of which makes them dramatically less costly than existing solutions. .. provide pedestrians about to enter a crosswalk with warning of [They can] approaching vehicles, and can give motorists advanced warning for road crossings, stop lights..
Road Spots communicate with a controller, and with each other, over 2.4GHz, which makes them easy to control, customize, and upgrade—without ever having to dig up the roadway. Even more importantly, wireless communication provides alerts about battery changes or replacement, as well as providing a copious database of operational statistics, such as how often each unit flashes, and how traffic varies by day and by time of time—data that’s otherwise extremely expensive to obtain."
Once on the net, why not these apps: "as part of automated farming solutions, for municipal airports who are currently limited to daylight hours of operation because they can’t afford to install runway lighting, concert venue traffic control, automated parking meter payment, and many more. Not to mention many potential military and homeland security and surveillance applications."" 10:49:59 PM
The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime
: "We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions. Crime began to fall roughly 18 years after abortion legalization. The 5 states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines earlier than the rest of the nation, which legalized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. States with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime reductions in the 1990s. In high abortion states, only arrests of those born after abortion legalization fall relative to low abortion states. Legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime." 10:10:10 PM
Commercial Software Aided Reboot on Mars
: Cool article on the hardware and operating system in use on the Mars rover. Turns out they have more flash memory than ever used on these computers before, and had accumulated too many files at boot time to allow a proper boot. A bit of file cleanup restored the rover to normal operation. The operating system, vxworks, has an interesting history starting with Francis Ford Coppola in 1987, and many commercial applications at present. 10:07:34 PM
Researchers create ethanol-to-hydrogen reactor: "Lanny Schmidt, University of Minnesota professor of chemical engineering and colleagues make hydrogen from ethanol .. An automotive fuel injector clicks away as ethanol is pushed through and mixed with air.
"So now we have a gas," Schmidt says, "And the catalyst is right there which I don't want to touch because it's glowing." The catalyst is glowing because it's very hot from the chemical reaction. The catalyst is a gizmo the U researches have created using the metals rhodium and ceria. It's a white, porous plug about the thickness of a thumb. When the ethanol oxygen vapor is forced through the catalyst it strips off the hydrogen atoms." The unit is compact, about 2 feet long and a few inches thin. It could be used soon in stationary off-grid or automotive applications. 9:54:36 PM
Grid computing project hones smallpox research: "the Smallpox Research Grid Project harnessed the idle cycles of 2.5 million PCs in 190 countries. The grid effort, after 39,000 years’ worth of donated CPU time studying 35 million molecules, resulted in the identification of the most-promising 44 drug candidates that could be studied further in traditional laboratory experiments. Each of the 35 million molecules had at least 750 different shapes, resulting in more than 26 billion combinations that had to be studied, said Scott D. Kahn, chief science officer of Accelrys Inc. of San Diego." On an average day "176 years worth of CPU processing was utilized. It took roughly 13 hours to generate the results for each of the 35 million molecules evaluated."
The project ran from Feb to Oct 2003. "When United Devices announced the smallpox project in February, the company already had 1.75 million computers using its screensaver to search for cancer and anthrax remedies. Another 100,000 computers downloaded the screensaver in the first 48 hours after the smallpox announcement" 9:38:40 PM
The Zarqawi Rules: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi .. apparently wrote a 17-page planning memo from Iraq to his Al Qaeda colleagues that was obtained by U.S. forces and revealed this week in The Times. If you read the memo properly, you can extract what might be called "Zarqawi's Rules" — maxims for winning the war on terror.
Massive retaliation works. We now know that Saddam Hussein felt free to defy the international community because he thought that casualty-averse Americans would never actually invade his country. At worst, we'd drop a few bombs, which he could survive. Now our enemies know us better, and respect us more. "America, however, has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes," Zarqawi warns his colleagues. This shift in perceptions should deter some attacks all by itself.
Hard power isn't enough. The extensive coalition effort to hunt down terrorists is clearly making progress. "Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation!" Zarqawi laments.
But he also says only an indigenous Iraqi security force, backed by a legitimate democratic government, can truly put him out of business. Americans are easy targets. But when Iraqis take control, "you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood and appearance to people of the region. How can we kill their cousins and sons and under what pretext? This is the democracy; we will have no pretext."
Going into the war, many American planners assumed that first we would establish stability in Iraq, then introduce democracy. But it's now clear that democracy is the stability. You can't establish order unless locals are invested in their own self-rule and thus are eager to chase bad guys. The lesson is that the so-called soft-power programs — the democracy-building seminars, the civil society efforts, the town hall meetings — are not the gooey icing on the cake of law and order. They are the substance of law and order itself.
Soft power isn't enough. Though Zarqawi senses that his time in Iraq is running out, he is already preparing for the next battle: "If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again, where we can raise the flag or die, if God chooses us."" 9:26:08 PM
Grids in a computing hierarchy: "Researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., have a hierarchy of distributed computing resources, with supercomputing at the top, six 48-node Intel/Linux clusters in the middle and a 2,300-PC grid running on United Devices software at the bottom. The goal, says David Moffett, associate vice president for research computing, is to move jobs down the hierarchy, where computing is cheaper.
"I have very high hopes that we can move the whole stream of jobs out of the cluster space down into the United Devices space," Moffett says. Although the PC grid requires a United Devices software license and two dedicated grid servers, "those are close to free cycles," he says. Moffett plans to expand the grid to include PCs in faculty and administrative offices. And he says he'll make the compute cycles on research computers that have been freed up by the existing PC grid available to business applications. "We've cleared off enough resources high in that stack that they will run up there". 11:17:33 AM
Europe Exceeds U.S. in Refining Grid Computing
: Concerns are cited about European research establishments being able to deploy large scale grid computing faster than the US, because it is more centralized. Also mentions, "Novartis used software by United Devices of Austin, Tex., to link 2,700 desktop personal computers to help create drugs. This summer the company said that it had discovered several promising new chemical molecules with its grid and it planned to expand the system to its entire corporate network of 70,000 personal computers." Elsewhere
, it is reported that "the Novartis drug research software is loaded onto the desktops by way of a server running Grid MetaProcessor software from United Devices Inc. in Austin. By investing $400,000 in grid technology, Novartis avoided spending $2 million on a new Linux cluster. .. [Novartis found] 5 trillion floating-point operations per second of unused capacity in 2,700 desktop PCs at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland .. to run number-crunching supercomputer applications that model the interactions between proteins and other chemicals that might be used in drugs. " That works out to about $160 per PC. 11:15:04 AM
Regional Terrorist Groups Pose Growing Threat:
"The shifting picture of the terrorist threat flashed before the authorities in Australia last fall when Willie Brigitte, a 35-year-old French citizen, was arrested on terrorism charges. Mr. Brigitte hardly fit the terrorist profile. He was recruited after Sept. 11 and had never trained in the Afghanistan camps, officials said. His name was not on any country's watch list. He entered Australia without being detected, lived for five months in a Sydney suburb and was believed to be selecting targets for attacks, officials said.
But the most unusual part of the case is that the authorities believe that Mr. Brigitte was a low-ranking member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Pakistani group that was formed a decade ago with help from Pakistan's intelligence service to fight against India in Kashmir. The group was not known to have operations outside that region. Before the Taliban were driven from power, Lashkar-e-Taiba trained its men at camps in Afghanistan alongside Qaeda camps. Banned by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, it continues to exist with training camps in Kashmir, officials said. Mr. Brigitte had contacts with Lashkar-e-Taiba members in the United States, Canada and Europe, a senior law enforcement official with knowledge of his interrogation said..
The blurring of boundaries is also the case in Algeria, where the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, better known by its initials as the G.S.P.C., is growing more powerful and expanding its geographical operations, officials said. A year ago, G.S.P.C. kidnapped a group of European tourists, including nine Germans. The hostages were released after the German government paid a ransom of more than $1 million, a European official said. The money, the official said, has allowed the group to buy weapons, including antiaircraft missiles. The group has increased its activities in Mali and Niger in recent months, officials from several countries said. They say the group's leaders are suspected of setting up training camps in West Africa and of plotting attacks there. But a senior Western official said finding the camps would be nearly impossible. "That's no man's land," he said." Ansar al-Islam's expansion into Europe is another regional expansion cited by experts. 11:01:35 AM