Issue No. 12 - December (2009 vol. 42)
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MC.2009.387
The IEEE Computer Society offers a lineup of 13 peer-reviewed technical magazines that cover cutting-edge topics in computing, including scientific applications, design and test, security, Internet computing, machine intelligence, digital graphics, and computer history. Select articles from recent issues of Computer Society magazines are highlighted below.
Most software projects reuse components exposed through APIs, which provide developers access to implemented functionality. APIs have grown large and diverse, which raises questions regarding their usability. "What Makes APIs Hard to Learn? Answers from Developers," by Martin P. Robillard, in the Cooperative and Human Aspects of Software Engineering section of the November/December 2009 issue of Software, looks at a study of obstacles that Microsoft's developers faced when learning to use APIs. The study uncovered challenges and suggested implications for API users and designers.
Determining how to define, use, and promote productivity as it relates to IT work and the IT workforce is an important factor in organizational success. In "IT Productivity = ??," by Linda Wilbanks, in the CIO Corner pages of IT Pro's November/December 2009 issue, an experienced CIO shares her perspective, first from a serious point of view and then from a lighthearted one.
In "Unique Character Instances for Crowds," in CG&A's November/December 2009 issue, Jonathan Maïm, Barbara Yersin, and Daniel Thalmann of the VRlab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne propose a solution that allows each individual to look unique in a real-time large crowd simulation.
First, it provides a simple, efficient method for attaching accessories to individuals to modify their look. Second, it provides a new, generic technique based on segmentation maps for adding detailed color variety and patterns to human meshes as well as accessories. Both methods are scalable to suit all human levels of detail exploited in crowd simulations, that is, impostors and rigid and deformable meshes. Tests and comparisons show that the algorithm provides the crowd with an appealing visual aspect and is adequate for real-time simulations of thousands of unique individuals.
Security & Privacy
The Domain Name System is a critical piece of the Internet and supports most Internet applications. Because it's organized in a hierarchy, its correct operation depends on the availability of just a few servers at the hierarchy's upper levels. These backbone servers are vulnerable to routing attacks in which adversaries try to hijack the server address space.
The September/October 2009 issue of S&P features "Protecting the DNS from Routing Attacks: Two Alternative Anycast Implementations" by Ioannis Avramopoulos of Deutsche Telekom Laboratories and Martin Suchara of Princeton University. In this article, the authors evaluate the relative resilience to routing attacks of two alternative anycast DNS implementations.
The proliferation of "x-centered design" movements leaves us afloat in a soup of jargon: user-centered design, learner-centered design, client-centered design, designer-centered design, and so on. In "Once More, Into the Soup," by Pieter Jan Stappers and Robert R. Hoffman in the September/October 2009 issue of IS, the authors use a metadesign diagram that depicts the functional relations among many roles and goals of the design process.
Debate rages on as to whether the world is flat, spiky, or "post-American." But all sides should be able to agree that IT is at the root of these transformations, and succeeding in a digital world requires knowledge and innovation. In the November/December 2009 issue of IC, "The World Is Digital," by Daniel Castro and Scott Andes of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, examines the factors driving the world's shift to digital interaction.
If CMOS scaling continues to follow Moore's law, multicore systems could double the number of cores with every technology generation. However, other multicore resources don't scale as easily as cores, which complicates the specification of architectural mechanisms to manage them. In "Dynamic Multicore Resource Management: A Machine Learning Approach," in Micro's November/December 2009 issue, José Martínez of Cornell University and Engin Ipek of the University of Rochester argue that resource management will, in fact, drive the delivery of cost-effective, high-performance multicore products. They describe two case studies that use machine-learning techniques for DRAM scheduling and multiresource allocation. Their results show significant performance improvements over current methods, which depend on design-time specification by human experts.
The November/December 2009 issue of CiSE features "Next Generation Research and Breakthrough Innovation," a thought-provoking "op-ed" piece by Microsoft Research's Thomas McMail.
The article offers a glimpse into some of the activities that a major software company carries out to prepare for future changes in computing. Unlike CiSE's usual articles—which are typically popular versions of research articles or news reports—this piece reflects a broad industrial view that is concerned with the sociology of science, free flowing in its associations, and developed from a corporate perspective.
The July–September 2009 issue of MultiMedia features "Games in the Classroom at the Rochester Institute of Technology: A Case Study," by Andrew M. Phelps, Christopher A. Egert, and Jessica D. Bayliss. The article explores curricular approaches designed to motivate students in computing through the use of games as an application domain. The authors examine three approaches: a games-centric introductory programming sequence, the incorporation of game-based projects into core courses, and the creation of virtual environments that mimic multiplayer online games.
Design & Test
The typical interface between hardware components is a standardized bus. "A Generic Virtual Bus for Hardware Simulator Composition," in D&T's September-October 2009 issue, describes a virtual counterpart of this interface for simulated hardware components. Authors Martin Rucker and Axel Böttcher of the Munich University of Applied Sciences and Martin Hauser of GeNUA, a German IT security firm, have designed and implemented a virtual bus that supports the reuse of standard simulated components on a virtual motherboard. This makes hardware simulation less expensive and more flexible. It also supports full-system simulation using IP block simulators from different vendors.
In Annals' July–September 2009 Anecdotes department, Stanley Mazor recollects his work as liaison to Magnavox in developing the Intel 8244 custom chip for Magnavox's Odyssey2 videogame console. Mazor teamed with Intel chip designer Peter Salmon to deliver the 8244 on time to meet Magnavox's announced plan to release the console by the 1977 holiday season. Intel met its schedule, although the Odyssey2 system didn't appear until 1979.
Mazor joined Intel in 1969. He worked with Ted Hoff and Federico Faggin to deliver the first working CPU, the Intel 4004, in 1971.