The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 25

December 19, 2003

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

A Note to our Readers




Topic In Depth

A Note to our Readers

Goodbye to an Editor and Friend

All of us at Scout would like to extend our most sincere thanks to Cavin Leske [CL] for his two years of great service to the NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, Technology. The December 19, 2003 report marks nearly 50 reports logged by Cavin during his exceptional tenure as the MET Editor. With a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering in hand, Cavin is headed east to pursue job opportunities. After trying to coax Cavin to pursue another advanced degree so that he could stay with us longer, we wish Cavin the best of luck in the future and know that Scout is better for having had him on the team. Thanks. [JPM]


National Conference on Digital Government Research (DG.o2003) [pdf, QuickTime]

This website is home to the 2003 National Conference on Digital Government Research. Held in May 2003, the event brought together "researchers in computer and social sciences, government officials and employees, representatives of industry and members of the public to investigate how computers and computer networks can improve all aspects of interaction between citizens and government." Full proceedings from the conference are available online, including nearly 50 papers, many system demonstrations, and five papers from the student session. Common themes featured in the papers and poster presentations are Internet and Web Applications, Accessibility and Visualization, Data Sharing and Integration, and much more. [CL]

Project54 [pdf]

As part of the CATlab project at the University of New Hampshire, Project54 is an integrated system of electronic devices that allows police officers "to interact with equipment such as lights and siren, radar, etc. using speech input and feedback." This website offers a detailed description of the system and its purpose, an image gallery, and several publications and project proposals. Visitors to the site who complete a brief registration can download an interactive demonstration of the Project54 software. The site is regularly updated with news about the system's deployment in police cruisers. Links to media coverage of the project are also given. [CL]

Optical Storage in China: A Study in Strategic Industrial Policy [pdf]

This unique paper, published in September 2003, discusses the current state and development of the Chinese high-tech industry. The author "begins with a brief overview of industrial policy for the electronics sector in East Asia, then discusses the relevant policies for two successive generations of optical storage: Video CD and DVD." The analysis of Video Compact Disc technology and its use is particularly insightful, since it is relatively unknown outside Asia. A brief look at other areas in the technology industry is given, including next-generation cellular telephony, High-Definition Television, and computer chips. [CL]

Applied Mathematics E-Notes [pdf]

Applied Mathematics E-Notes "is a fully-refereed electronic journal that welcomes short original research articles that report interesting and potentially important ideas" in virtually any area of mathematics. Published annually and distributed freely online, it features works contributed by professional and academic mathematicians from all over the world. Each volume contains about 25 papers and is roughly 200 pages in length when complete. Visitors to the journal's website can download every paper published from the first volume in 2001 to the present -- papers for 2004 are already being accepted and made available online. Additionally, the Posters section of the website contains preprints of books, reports, and other documents. [CL]

Human Identification at a Distance [pdf, zip, Microsoft Excel]

The Georgia Institute of Technology is conducting research on Human Identification at a Distance, with an emphasis on gait recognition. Supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the project's development of gait recognition systems and algorithms is "an example of an activity-specific biometric: a method of extracting some identifying properties of an individual or of an individual's behavior that is only applicable when a person is performing that specific action." Several research papers, experiment descriptions, and data sets are available on the project's homepage. Some of links to the display software and subject data appear to be inoperative, however. A small number of related papers are also provided, addressing the topics of Facial Modeling and Activity Specific Background Subtraction. [CL]

Robotic Pets in Online Discussion [pdf]

Pet owners traditionally develop an emotional bond with their pets. However, in this unusual study from the University of Washington, researchers attempted to ascertain whether similar feelings can be evoked from Sony's robotic dog AIBO. The study's methodology involved analyzing "people's conceptions of AIBO through their spontaneous postings that occurred in 3 well-established online AIBO discussion forums." The results indicated that people tend to associate social characteristics to AIBO but not moral characteristics. Four papers related to the study can be downloaded from this website. A discussion about the use of robotic pets for children and the elderly is also given. [CL]


ACM Technology Guide [pdf]

This interesting guide introduces the concept of the adaptive computing machine (ACM), a proposed new circuit design that is highly reconfigurable. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the guide is its description of existing technologies such as microprocessors, application-specific integrated circuits, digital signal processors, and programmable logic devices. It looks at many of the challenges facing current and future computing designs, with a particular focus on cellular phones and mobile devices. Some of the issues addressed in the two chapters are the growing importance of reduced power consumption, better processing capabilities and performance, and lower costs. The guide is written for a broad audience and the language is easy to follow. Two chapters and a glossary comprise the guide, but additional material may be added in the future. [CL]

"Just the Maths" [pdf]

Developed by a retired mathematics professor from Coventry University, this website "is a collection of separate units, in chronological topic-order, intended to service foundation level and first year degree level courses in higher education, especially those delivered in a modular style." Although there are separate sections for students and teachers, both contain essentially the same information except for the format of the material -- printable pages with slightly more detailed explanations and examples are provided for students, while slides are given for teachers. Each unit is intended to be self-contained, covering concepts of algebra, series, trigonometry, matrix operations, and many more. [CL]

Young Engineers: Tomorrow's Ideas Today

This is the official homepage of Young Engineers, "a UK educational charity whose purpose is to inspire young people to recognise the importance and excitement of a career in engineering." Being tailored to British and other UK students, the site contains information on engineering competitions in the region, including coverage of past competitions and details on entering future events. Despite having substantial resources for prospective engineers in the UK, there is plenty of additional material suitable for students across the globe. Notable engineers and inventions are highlighted, and links are provided to other sites encouraging careers in engineering. [CL]

Base Valued Numbers

Most basic math classes are taught using the decimal number system, but the concept of number systems that use a base value other than ten is rarely mentioned. This educational website attempts to shed light on this overlooked theme by illustrating some common number systems that have practical value or historic significance. The material is very well presented, helping the reader to understand how numbers are represented in binary, octal, hexadecimal, and many other number systems. It also demonstrates how using a base value other than ten can actually be simpler for certain purposes. [CL]

Deep Content: Guide to Effective Searching of the Internet

This outstanding website is, without question, one of the most comprehensive online resources for learning efficient Internet search techniques. The guide begins with some fairly non-technical background about the Internet and explains why searching such a massive amount of information is more complex than it seems. The general process used by search engines to rank webpages is described. After covering the fundamentals of search engine operation, the guide discusses some best practices to use when conducting a search. Keyword selection, phrasing, and Boolean operators are just a few of the concepts discussed to help users make their searching more effective. The guide also compares many top search engines, noting the supported features, coverage, and type of indexing associated with each. [CL]

The Brighton University Resource Kit for Students

The Brighton University Resource Kit for Students (BURKS) is an archive with "compilers, tutorials and reference manuals for dozens of different programming languages, a dictionary of computing with over 13,000 entries...a vast amount of useful software, information about the Internet itself, and much more." BURKS is primarily intended for individuals who do not have access to an Internet connection, which is why the collection mostly consists of resources from external websites. The collection is distributed on CD and DVD, but fortunately has been made available online for those with Internet access. Many of the items in the resource kit have been stored conveniently as a local version directly on this site, so as to keep such valuable material online even if the original site is deactivated. Spanning over four compact discs, BURKS is a remarkable compilation of useful computer-related information. [CL]


Two on Powered Flight

1. NOVA: Wright Brothers' Flying Machine
2. Air & Space: Peering into the Future

Although the centennial anniversary of the Wright Brothers' groundbreaking achievement has come and gone, these two sites provide a unique glimpse into past events and future prospects. First, the companion website to a December 16, 2003 NOVA episode offers a retrospective on the Wright Brothers' Flying Machine. Several interactive features and picture galleries are provided. Additionally, the site includes a description of the first media coverage of the historic flight and an interview with the senior curator of the National Air and Space Museum. Rather than looking back at an event from 100 years ago, the second site envisions what aviation and aerospace will be like 100 years from now. Specifically, the article considers several potential technologies that could be celebrated two centuries after the Wright Brothers' demonstration. Space elevators, offshore international airports, and personal flyers are just three of the developments described in the article. [CL]

Electric Vehicle History Online Archive

This website is self-proclaimed as the "first online archive created to encourage electric vehicle enthusiasts to help preserve the recent history of electric vehicles." A wide variety of information is presented, ranging from performance data and historical policy documents to retrospective articles and amusing forecasts of electric vehicle technology from decades past. The operators of the archive encourage electric vehicle drivers and enthusiasts to contribute anything they might have to the archive. The only shortcoming of the site is the very small number of historical electric vehicle photos, but this problem can be remedied by more submissions... [CL]

X Prize: 2003 Team Updates [pdf]

The X Prize is an international competition that seeks to develop an economically efficient space vehicle capable of carrying three people into space twice in two weeks. On December 15, 2003, the X Prize website released an update on the status of thirteen privately owned teams competing in the remarkable event. The document describes the fundamental design and operation of each team's vehicle. With participants from six countries highlighted in the progress report, the competition certainly seems to be intense. Pictures or conceptual drawings are shown for each team, along with a more technical look at the development process. [CL] Networking Defined and Hyperlinked [exe]

Linktionary is an online dictionary of Internet technologies, networking hardware and protocols, and general Web terminology that "includes extensive links to help you further your network research and training." Users can perform keyword searches of Linktionary or browse the material via alphabetical indexes or topic listings. Most of the entries in Linktionary are explained in detail, and several links to white papers or other external sources on each subject are provided. As an additional resource, the Encyclopedia of Networking is an electronic book that can be freely downloaded from the site -- although it is somewhat dated, the original hardcopy version received substantial recognition within the industry. [CL]

Toward a Universal Order of Cyberspace: Managing Threats from Cybercrime to Cyberwar [pdf]

Although the danger of cyber terrorism and other forms of Internet-related crime is the subject of great debate, this report from the World Federation of Scientists does not downplay the potential consequences of such attacks. Developed by the organization's Permanent Monitoring Panel on Information Security and released online in November 2003, the report "offers a convincing analysis of the damaging potential of cyber attacks on almost all aspects of human endeavor." After some background information and motivation relevant to the study, a set of thirteen recommendations are offered. Directed primarily at the United Nations, the recommendations relate to policy implementation and cyberspace protection. Especially noteworthy is the call for assigning the UN with the leading role in Intergovernmental Activities on Cyberspace -- the recommendation is accompanied by an excellent justification. [CL]

White Paper on Corporate Computer Disposal Issues [pdf]

This white paper does an excellent job of raising awareness about computer disposal security issues. Although it is presented as a resource for corporate entities, the 24-page document makes some good points that can be useful to any computer user. A common misconception is that simply formatting a computer's hard drive permanently deletes the data contained on the disk. Data cleansing is described as a very involved process in the document, and the consequences of improper disposal of sensitive storage media are outlined. The report mentions various options for disposing of computer equipment, as well as discussing the finer points of identity theft and other security issues. [CL]

Topic In Depth

Electronic Voting

1. The Free E-Democracy Project
2. Caltech-MIT/Voting Technology Project [pdf, RealOne Player]
3. Electronic Voting and Counting [pdf]
4. The Open Voting Consortium
5. Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems (DREs): Analysis of Security Issues [pdf]
6. Electronic Voting: What You Need to Know
7. Can Voting Machines Be Trusted?

Electronic voting has garnered significant attention in recent months. Controversy abounds over whether e-voting machines are secure and reliable, while strong movements toward expanding their use have arisen. India, for instance, announced in July 2003 that it would use exclusively electronic polls in its future elections. This trend and its associated security risks are examined in this Topic in Depth.

The Free E-Democracy Project (1) offers an educational guide that addresses the issues relevant to using information technologies for voting purposes. Several different voting methods are considered and their levels of fairness are defined. An excellent look at electronic machine and remote voting follows, providing both arguments for and against the technologies. A joint effort by the California Institute of Technology and MIT strives to evaluate current and proposed voting systems (2). While much of the material presented on the project's homepage is somewhat dated, a number of very current working papers can be found in the Reports section. One such paper proposes a system with built-in redundancy to achieve high levels of reliability. Australia is another country that has employed electronic voting in past elections. To ease security concerns, the software used to implement the interface and vote counting was developed as open source software. Details about the system's development and operation are given on this site (3). An interesting paper, titled Politics of the Future: The Internet and the Electoral Process, is also available. A related open source project is being developed by the Open Voting Consortium (4). The group's homepage has news and history of the project, as well as links to download the ballot software. A report published in November 2003 through the Congressional Research Service looks at the security issues of electronic voting systems (5). Beginning with a background of direct recording electronic touchscreen voting machines, the 40-page report proceeds to outline the threats and vulnerabilities of such a system and recommends potential solutions. This site (6) provides a transcript of an interview with three computer professionals. The three individuals have been deeply involved in discussions about the development and implementation of electronic voting systems, and they share their insights into the pertinent issues. The credentials of each interviewee are also given. Lastly, a November 11, 2003 news article (7) highlights some of the common concerns about the introduction of voting machines in the U.S. [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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Internet Scout Project Team
Cavin Leske Editor
John Morgan Managing Editor
Rachael Bower Co-Director
Edward Almasy Co-Director
Rachel Sohmer Contributor
Max Grinnell Contributor
Debra Shapiro Contributor
Rachel Enright Contributor
David Sleasman Internet Cataloger
Todd Scudiere Assistant Internet Cataloger
Barry Wiegan Software Engineer
Justin Rush Technical Specialist
Michael Grossheim Technical Specialist
Andy Yaco-Mink Website Designer
David Mayer Website Designer

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout Project staff page.