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News 11-05-2002

Sponsor: Programmers Report

This twice monthly newsletter serves development professionals versed in using myriad object technologies to build both simple and complex applications. It offers up-to-date information on the latest tools, methods and tactics for finding everyday solutions to the corporate development challenge.

Over 20 Schools Test Web Authorization System

Early deployment of Shibboleth, an emerging Web authorization architecture and software, by over 20 institutions is proving the possibilities of the open, standards-based federated authorization system. Working Shibboleth implementations were demonstrated at the Fall 2002 Internet2 Member Meeting held last week.

Shibboleth enables inter-institutional sharing of Web resources subject to access controls, as is often required in classes offered jointly by multiple universities. It permits off-campus students with broadband connections to access licensed, digital-library content transparently, and allows scientists and faculty to share research Web sites securely with remote colleagues.

"After two months of using Shibboleth to manage Web course material at North Carolina State University, we saw an 80 to 85 percent drop in our help desk calls," said John Hopkins, physics instructor at Pennsylvania State University. "That's an incredible return, freeing up instructors and staff for other responsibilities."

The architecture emphasizes federated administration, access control based on attributes rather than identity, and active management of privacy to provide a scalable and extensible framework for inter-institutional authorization. Though similar in function to Microsoft's Passport and the Liberty Alliance effort, Shibboleth has had privacy considerations engineered in from the beginning.

"The Shibboleth software was developed under the auspices of the National Science Foundation's Middleware Initiative (NMI). The software is expected to ship in early December 2002. The National Science Digital Library, a major NSF educational initiative, will use Shibboleth in its infrastructure for accessing customized or restricted content and services.

Institutions currently involved in the pilot test program include: Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Georgetown University, the London School of Economics, New York University, Ohio State University, Penn State, the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin Madison, the University of California Office of the President, EBSCO, Elsevier, OCLC, SFX, WebAssign, and WebCT.

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Iowa State to Test Most Powerful Supercomputer

Iowa State University agreed to test software developed by Cray Inc. for its new X1 system, expected to be the world's most powerful supercomputer. A two-year agreement calls for Iowa State's High Performance Computing Group to develop advanced software analysis tools, and to use these to test the performance and functionality of the software Cray is creating for the new supercomputer. In return, Cray will donate a variety of high performance computing equipment to Iowa State. The Cray X1 will be formally announced later this year. Last week, Cray announced that five early-production Cray X1 units were shipped to undisclosed customers, and that real work was already taking place on the new supercomputers.

Online University Offers Masters in Instruction Tech

American InterContinental University Online (AIU Online), an online university with more than 1,700 students enrolled, said it will offer an online Master's of Education in Instructional Technology degree program. The company said the program is the first 100 percent online program to integrate rich multimedia and interactive learning tools throughout the curriculum. "From traditional classroom teachers to military trainers to corporate learning specialists, the degree will [give] graduates ... an understanding of the latest technological theories and practices as they exist today and how they will evolve and be applied to learning models of the future," said Robin Throne, the provost at AIU Online. Classes begin Feb. 1, 2003.

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MIT Professor Honored by Speech Tech Group

Dr. Victor Zue, director of the Laboratory of Computer Science at MIT, last week was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Speech Technology magazine. Zue, who heads the Spoken Language Systems Group at the university, is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of speech research. The group is a community of MIT researchers and students devoted to exploring the development of interactive conversational systems. These are systems that can interact with users with natural, spoken language, in order to solve problems such as travel planning and geographic navigation. They are on the cutting edge of developing natural language applications. While generally an enthusiast about speech recognition and natural language, Zue acknowledges that solving speech-related problems is a daunting task. He has joked that the research effort required to create conversations between people and machines "will keep me and my family fed for years to come."

CyberMentor Program Picks Collaboration Software

The University of California College Prep Initiative (UCCP), a program to mentor and assist online high school students to achieve academic excellence, picked vClass, a collaboration software environment, to help provide low-income high schools students with live, online access to University of California undergraduate tutors and mentors. The software, from Elluminate Inc., contains important features for tutoring, including online chat, interactive whiteboard, voice over IP, graphing calculator, importing of PowerPoint presentations, and the ability to record tutoring sessions. The software provides UCCP students the ability to access qualified mentors over the Internet with full, two-way audio, chat online, and share whiteboards.

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