The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 21

October 24, 2003

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison




Topic In Depth


Privacy Technology Center [pdf, postscript]

Carnegie Mellon University's Privacy Technology Center was established to create "technologies and related policies with provable guarantees of privacy protection while allowing society to collect and share person-specific information for many worthy purposes." Besides making many of the center's publications available for download, this Web site provides a general discussion of the issues surrounding data privacy. The online introduction defines many common terms and relates privacy to computer science. Some of the center's research thrusts include positioning technology, human recognition, and ubiquitous video and data sharing. [CL]

The Digital Michelangelo Project [pdf, RealOne Player, exe, Microsoft PowerPoint]

In an effort to create and archive three dimensional computer representations of some of history's most important cultural artifacts, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Washington have employed laser rangefinder technologies to scan items and preserve them digitally. The project has mainly focused on some of Michelangelo's sculptures, including the famous David statue, but has also "scanned 1,163 fragments of the Forma Urbis Romae, a giant marble map of ancient Rome." Visitors to the project's homepage can download the ScanView software, which lets users virtually fly around the models of the statues. Research papers about the technologies used in the project and the algorithms developed by its members are also available. [CL]

The Language of Machines [pdf]

The European branch of MIT's Media Lab hosts this paper that describes a system for speech-based human-machine interaction. The authors outline an approach to efficient "social interaction between man and socially capable machines, particularly with regards to a communication language suitable for both machines and people to support communication in the new, shared human-machine environment." Based upon this approach, an Agent Communication Language was developed and implemented in Joe, the social robot of Media Lab Europe. When combined with speech recognition technology, the robot is able to successfully interpret and respond to a human despite having a limited vocabulary. [CL]

Next Generation Fire Suppression Technology Program: FY2003 Progress [pdf]

The Next Generation Fire Suppression Technology Program (NGP) was initiated in 1997 and this paper presents the progress and results of its sixth year of research. The goal of the NGP is "to develop and demonstrate technology for economically feasible, environmentally acceptable and user-safe processes, techniques, and fluids" with a focus on military aircraft, land vehicles, and ships. Since the main fire suppression system used by the U.S. military is halon 1301, which has been phased out and replaced in many commercial operations, the paper states that continued research in this area is justified. Various chemical compounds used in NGP research are discussed and compared in this paper, as well as delivery methods and technology viability. [CL]

Performance Behavior of Unmanned Vehicle Aided Mobile Backbone Based Wireless Ad Hoc Networks [pdf]

Wireless communications between a mobile node and a fixed base station are adversely affected when the node moves out of range of the base station or into an area where direct transmission is fully or partially blocked; but what if the base station was also mobile? This is the question posed by two researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles. Their solution involves positioning unmanned ground or airborne vehicles in locations that maximize coverage and network connectivity. This paper formulates the Mobile Backbone Network and its underlying protocol, and shows simulation results for the system. [CL]

An Agenda for Robust Peer-to-Peer Storage [pdf]

One of the biggest problems facing modern scientific computing is data storage; large-scale experiments can generate unbelievable amounts of data in a very short time, and it is necessary to find some place to store it for subsequent analysis. This paper "proposes a novel decentralized infrastructure based on distributed hash tables (...) that will enable a new generation of large-scale distributed applications." The author notes the characteristics of peer-to-peer networks for managing large data sets across a distributed environment, and discusses the implementation concerns associated with locating objects within the system. [CL]

Evaluation of Extractive Voicemail Summarization [pdf]

This interesting paper outlines a framework for automatic summarization of voicemail messages and delivery as compact text messages. The proposed system, developed at the University of Sheffield, incorporates speech recognition technology and summary word extraction. An overview of the feature selection process is especially interesting, as it briefly describes how pitch, word duration, and pauses in the voicemail message are used to obtain a compressed subset of the most important features. A number of experiments were performed to determine the system's accuracy and usability, and the results are presented in the paper. [CL]

Paper by Erik D. Demaine [pdf, postscript, zip]

Although the Tetris video game may not seem like a normal topic of study for three MIT researchers, it served as the basis for an interesting paper that the group submitted to two conferences, as well as attracting the attention of news publications like Science News and Scientific American. The paper, which mathematically proves the computational complexity of the game, can be downloaded from this Web site. The authors used over 50 pages, including appendices, to formulate the problem and derive several necessary theorems. Links to the online news articles that discuss this unusual work are also provided on this site. [CL]


NetworkSolution: Introduction to Cryptography

This Web page provides a fairly non-technical introduction to some of the key principles and applications of cryptography. After a brief overview of the topic and a discussion of some basic terminology, the site addresses common cryptographic algorithms, their function, and how they work. A description of digital signatures follows, which is of particular interest to anyone who uses online identity certification. The last few sections deal with cryptographic hash functions and random number generators, encryption strength, and "attacks on cryptosystems." Scattered throughout the text are links to more in-depth discussions of particular algorithms and techniques. [CL]

Introduction to Programming Using Java [pdf]

Created by a professor of computer science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, this online textbook "is suitable for use in an introductory programming course and for people who are trying to learn programming on their own." The free resource uses Java as a basis for discussing principles of data types, subroutines, and other program characteristics that are similarly handled in most common programming languages. Additionally, many topics that are specific to the Java platform are addressed, and the author has developed a number of Java applets that demonstrate underlying concepts. [CL]

From Theory to Practice: An Overview of MIMO Space-Time Coded Wireless Systems [pdf]

Published in the April 2003 issue of the Journal on Selected Areas in Communication, this tutorial paper introduces "multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) space-time coded wireless systems" and discusses recent progress in their design and performance. Hailed as a breakthrough emerging technology that has profound implications for digital communications, these systems have the potential to resolve current capacity limitations for wireless Internet traffic. The first section of this paper consists of background material and a high-level overview of MIMO systems. The remaining sections go into more of the technical aspects of the technology, describing a general system architecture, MIMO Information Theory, and communication algorithms. [CL]

The Math Page

The material presented on this Web site is primarily suitable for high school and early college mathematics courses. It is divided into four massive sections that are devoted to basic arithmetic, trigonometry, precalculus, and an in-depth look at real numbers. Each section covers almost as many topics as a full course in the subject. The author clearly describes each concept and combines figures with outstanding site design to create an excellent learning resource. Example problems are included to reinforce certain mathematical properties and methods. [CL]

The Basics of Color Systems and Color Management

Apple Computer offers this Web site that discusses the process of "managing color across input, display, and output devices." Color management is especially useful for developers who want to have greater control of colors on screen and in print. Many people can likely relate to the problem of the hard copy not looking identical to the soft copy, and that is precisely what this site addresses. The material occasionally refers to ColorSync, a tool developed by Apple, and some On-Your-Own Exercises are included with instructions for the Macintosh operating system; however, the site includes substantial information that is mainly geared toward a general audience without regard to a particular platform or software. [CL]

The Trillia Group: Basic Concepts of Mathematics [pdf]

Math students will find this online textbook to be a valuable study aid to complement their lecture notes and standard class text. It is intended to help students, especially those majoring in mathematics, make the transition from standard math classes to more rigorous, advanced topics and abstract theory. Spanning over 200 pages, the text covers "basic set theory, induction, quantifiers, functions and relations, equivalence relations, properties of the real numbers (including consequences of the completeness axiom), fields," and Euclidean spaces. The book is not free to everyone, so it is important to read the terms and conditions before downloading. [CL]

DevEdge Tech Central [Microsoft PowerPoint]

The folks at Netscape maintain this multifaceted site to help Web developers do their jobs more efficiently. Tech Central has nine separate sections devoted to Web standards and technologies like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), JavaScript, and more. Each section features educational articles written by expert developers that focus on a particular coding practice or authoring strategy. A small number of case studies and presentations are also included. Users who want additional information or general tutorials can follow one of the many links given in the sidebars. [CL]

Fractal Geometry [zip, mac-binhex, StuffIt Expander]

This is one of the best online resources about fractals, and is "meant to support a first course in fractal geometry for students without especially strong mathematical preparation." The site is incredibly deep, providing everything from the most basic definitions and non-technical discussions to involved mathematical formulations. Interactive Java applets, downloadable software for the PC and Macintosh, and laboratory activities are also presented. A particularly interesting section of the site explores about 100 places in nature and society where fractals are found.


New Buildings Institute [pdf, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint]

The New Buildings Institute promotes "energy efficiency in buildings through policy development, research, guidelines and codes." Substantial information about lighting, architecture, and mechanical systems is available on the institute's homepage. The online reports, tools, and suggested practices come from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the institute itself. A large section of the Web site that can easily be overlooked contains many additional resources about the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. A brief, free registration is required to access certain online publications, such as the 2003 edition of Advanced Lighting Guidelines. [CL]

Computer Security Resource Center (CSRC): History of Computer Security [pdf]

This Web site serves as a collection of seminal research papers that "every serious student of computer security should read." Mostly from the 1970's but also stretching into the '80s, the papers were first collectively distributed at the 1998 National Information Systems Security Conference but are now offered online to make them more widely available. Each paper contributed to computer security by providing an original theory or concept that many others would later draw upon. For instance, one paper proposes A Provably Secure Operating System and discusses implementation considerations. There are sixteen papers in all that are available for download. [CL]

Grid Computing Planet

Grid computing is a way of achieving high computational power by using the collective resources of many networked computers. This Web site serves as a news source for some of the latest breakthroughs in grid technology, major project announcements and milestones, and governmental initiatives. In addition to the regular news updates, the site offers many other resources. For example, the Frequently Asked Questions list defines grid computing and briefly touches on its importance and applications. Feature articles are added periodically and categorized into background information, grid implementations, standards, and other issues. [CL]

Manufacturing Engineering [pdf]

Manufacturing Engineering is a monthly publication of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. It is targeted primarily at manufacturing professionals, but it can also be of use to anyone with an interest in the field. This Web site posts between six and ten in-depth articles from each issue of the magazine. Examples of some topics that have been addressed in past issues include turbomachining processes, computer-aided design and manufacturing, and robotic assembly. The online archive maintains all previous monthly postings back to January 2000. [CL]

Columns & Editorials

A computer science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is the author of these Digital Village columns that occasionally appear in a publication of the Association for Computing Machinery. The latest column, scheduled to appear in the December 2003 issue, discusses the Malware Month of the Millennium. This curious title refers to the month of August, when the W32/Blaster and SoBig.F worms severely affected Internet traffic. The author makes many interesting points about the rise of malicious software, including noting the "four fundamental principles of hacker 'social engineering.'" Several other columns are also available on this site, but they are mostly older and the author no longer writes them. [CL]

North American IPv6 Task Force [pdf, Microsoft PowerPoint]

A revolution in addressing Internet-connected devices is taking place; the aging Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is being replaced by the next generation IPv6. The change is due to the lack of capacity of the old version, which could only support about four billion distinct addresses. This will soon be inadequate with the explosive growth of the Internet, and hence the movement toward IPv6. The North American IPv6 Task Force homepage is frequently updated with news of deployment efforts, technology tests, and other issues. Presentation slides from the 2003 North American IPv6 Summit can be downloaded. Tutorials and background documents can also be viewed online. [CL]

UNECE: World Robotics 2003 [pdf]

This Web page of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe contains seven press releases that summarize some of the findings of the 380-page World Robotics survey for 2003. The first press release looks at worldwide investment in robots and projects strong growth over the next three years. Some interesting statistics, such as the size of the robot workforce and the number of household service robots, are also included. The remaining documents are specific to robot markets in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. [CL] America's Most Connected Campuses

In October 2003, the Princeton Review released the findings of a study designed to rank 351 U.S. college campuses on their investments in computer and Internet resources. The results of the study are available exclusively at this Web site. Each campus's ranking was based on a number of areas of technological sophistication, including online registration and courses, computer proficiency requirements for graduating students, and presence of a wireless network. In addition to the complete results for all 351 campuses, the methodology used to collect the data is discussed. [CL]

Topic In Depth

Embedded Systems

1. iDLab: What is an Embedded System?
2. Controlling the Real World with Computers
3. An Embedded Life
4. Private Circuits: Securing Hardware against Probing Attacks [pdf]
5. Embedding Robots Into the Internet [pdf]
6. Wind River and NASA - Embedded Development for the Extreme Demands of Space Exploration [pdf]
7. ACM Queue: Embedded Systems
8. How Many Microchips are in Your Future? [pdf]

Embedded systems are dedicated computers designed to perform a specific task. They are usually fairly simple devices that are used in areas where powerful, customizable computers are unnecessary; however, they can also be quite complex on occasion. Embedded systems can be found almost anywhere, including automobiles and cellular phones, and their importance is reflected in their near omnipresence.

An excellent introduction to embedded systems can be found in the first three pages of this online course material (1). The educational module gives a thorough definition of embedded systems, several examples of where they are used, and a discussion of their common components. For a more detailed explanation of how these devices are used to control various appliances, motors, and other real world products, this site (2) is worth a visit. Sixteen sections comprise the site, and each includes background information and an example experiment. Although certain equipment is required for the experiments, much can be learned simply from reading the introductions. This enlightening essay (3) documents the history and development of embedded systems. Despite being somewhat specific to the author's life, it effectively illustrates the evolution of embedded systems and their incorporation into many facets of everyday life. A paper presented at the 2003 International Cryptology Conference (4) considers the vulnerability of embedded cryptosystems to side channel attacks, which are different from normal security violations because they involve monitoring parts of the hardware system instead of the software. The authors propose the design of private circuits that are resistant to such attacks. The Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems at the University of Southern California is the source of this paper (5) about networked robots. Although it is somewhat dated, the paper provides some valuable insights into how robots can be used in human environments and how they can be controlled and coordinated with wireless communications. An article from Dedicated Systems Magazine (6) highlights the role of embedded systems in NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, which were launched in June and July 2003. The technologies that enabled the rovers to have powerful, reliable operation are described. The April 2003 issue of ACM Queue (7), the online magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery, is dedicated to embedded systems. Seven articles are included in the issue, dealing with the design and construction process of embedded devices and the hardware/software interface. Lastly, a short paper that was presented at a computer architecture symposium in January 2003 looks ahead to the realization of ubiquitous computing (8). This technology revolution, which has been predicted for many years, promises to make tiny computers embedded in virtually everything, even clothing and walls. The author focuses on the area of intelligent vehicles and wheeled mobile robots. [CL]

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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2003. The Internet Scout Project (, located in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides information about the Internet to the U.S. research and education community under a grant from the National Science Foundation, number NCR-9712163. The Government has certain rights in this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the entire Scout Report provided this paragraph, including the copyright notice, are preserved on all copies.

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