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Acer Bases Million Dollar R&D Facility in China

Acer, Taiwan's leading personal computer maker, said today that it plans to invest US$4 million to construct a global R&D facility in western China. The center will focus on increasing Acer’s production of smartphones and tablet computers and will work in cooperation with China Mobile as well as the city of Chongqing. Within the funding, Acer says it has budgeted for market research to specifically discover more information regarding Chinese consumer habits. The announcement is a bit unexpected for the manufacturer after recent bad news that has included the repeated lowering of its shipments forecasts and the elimination of 300 jobs in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. ( Times)

Researchers Examine Accumulated Waste Data

Johns Hopkins University computer scientists contend computer data waste should be handled just as physical waste is. Cornell researchers found in 1999 that as much as 80 percent of a Windows NT system’s files written to the hard drive were deleted within five seconds. The Johns Hopkins research looked at three different systems – laptop, desktop, and server system -- and discovered the same was true. This type of waste not only slows down computers but also accelerates the burnout of flash drives and degrades storage performance. They propose that users adopt a strategy they devised for the reuse, reduction, and recycling of data to achieve zero waste. Data waste could be reduced, for example, by deduplication, which would allow unused data to be used for compression or for tasks such as machine translation. The paper is published online at arXiv. (“The Life and Death of Unwanted Bits: Towards Proactive Waste Data Management in Digital Ecosystems,” Ragib Hasan, Randal Burns, arXiv)

MIT Researchers Puzzle Through Optimization Problems

Finding the minimum value of a mathematical function is useful across many disciplines, including engineering, but it’s very difficult to find when complex functions are involved. Knowing whether the function is convex can also be useful. One of the seven outstanding optimization problems deemed one of the most important in the field some 20 years ago was whether the convexity of an arbitrary polynomial function could be efficiently determined. MIT researchers announced in May that they discovered that the problem is NP-hard. Another team from MIT found they can use another approach to address the problem and developed an algorithm for determining whether an arbitrary function is convex by using a sum of squares approach. Both findings were presented at the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Conference on Optimization. ( News)(“NP-hardness of Deciding Convexity of Quartic Polynomials and Related Problems,” Amir Ali Ahmadi, et al.)

Studies: Human Memory Adapts to Availability of Information Online

In a series of four different studies, a team of American researchers has determined that when asked difficult question, people are more likely to know where to find the information rather than actually know the answer to the question. Their research showed “when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.” The study doesn’t show that those parts of the brain related to memory have atrophied as a result, but shows humans are using technology rather than a network of friends and family to track information. The researchers are interested in determining whether no longer having to remember specifics can better enable people to answer conceptual questions. (PC Magazine)(PC World)(Wired)(Science “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips,” Sparrow et al.)

Queen Celebrates Visit to Bletchley Park with Teen Crypto Challenge

Queen Elizabeth II made her first-ever visit to Bletchley Park, the home of British World War II code-breaking efforts over the weekend to honor the code-breakers’ contributions to the war. To commemorate the event, the Queen has issued The Agent X Code Book Challenge, a series of six ciphers and a seventh question that contestants should be prepared to answer. The participants are provided a simplified version of the British Government Code & Cypher School codebook that would have been used in WWII. The challenge is designed to pique British teens’ interest in cryptography. (SlashDot)(United Press International)(Bletchley Park)(The Official Site of The British Monarchy)

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