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News Update :: Tuesday, February 13, 2007


MIT IS Staff: Windows Vista Not Ready for Prime Time

MIT tech staff have advised school administrators not to upgrade yet to the enterprise version of Windows Vista, Microsoft's new operating system, because key security and productivity tools are not compatible with it, according to an internal memo reported on by Information Week.

MIT's IS&T department said it was concerned about the operations of Vista with Cisco's VPN client, Mathematica's technical computing software, MIT's Athena Clusters authenticated printing environment, and SAP's SAPgui graphical user interface for SAP R/3.

The memo says MIT as a whole will begin to migrate to Windows Vista once more compatible applications and utilities become available, InformationWeek reported.

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Back to the Future: Harvard Stocks up on Thin Clients

The Harvard Physics department has replaced its graduate department PCs with thin clients. The switch the Wyse 500 thin client systems was driven by the need to reduce 'at the desk' support time and lower energy costs associated with powering PCs, campus officials said. The department also wanted to protect students from viruses and malware prevalent on PCs.

Maggie McFee, a senior systems administrator in the department, said the switch enabled the department to administer work requests centrally, which has cut the number of support calls by graduate students in half. 'Our small IT staff no longer has to spend the entire day servicing PCs dispersed across different floors. We can now centrally manage everything,' she said.

The impact on security glitches has been noticeable, McFee added.

'University-wide networks are a Petri dish for everything out there, but ... now don't have to fight Windows viruses every day, since nothing can be saved onto the computer, and security software is also easier to maintain and update on our one server compared to dozens of desktop systems.'

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Princeton Libraries Join Google Book Scanning Project

Princeton's library system will participate in Google Inc.'s controversial project to scan the most famous literary written works in the world and make them searchable over the Internet. Princeton has agreed to digitize about 1 million public domain books, or those without copyrights, part of its combined collections of 6 million printed works, 5 million manuscripts and 2 million non-print items.

Princeton becomes the 12th major university to join the project. Two years ago, Google Inc. started the project with the New York Public Library and academic libraries at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and the University of Michigan.

A second round of libraries joined in six months ago, including the

University of California; the University Complutense of Madrid; the National Library of Catalonia; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of Virginia; and the University of Texas at Austin. The Michigan and Texas libraries agreed to scan works that are still under copyright. The rest have said they are focusing on public domain works or are still considering whether to scan copyrighted works.

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Bowling Green Prof Warned for Using Net Anonymizer

Paul Cesarini, an assistant professor of technology education at Bowling Green State University, was warned by campus network security officials that he was violating the school's network acceptable use policies by using Tor, an e-mail anomymizing system. Cesarini said he was doing nothing wrong using the popular program, calling his use a matter of academic freedom.

Tor is a popular open-source e-mail anomymizer developed by the United States Navy. In an account of his experience in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Cesarini described Tor as 'a way to surf the Internet anonymously,' that could be used by abuse survivors, for example, who did not want anyone knowing they visited support group sites, or e-commerce users who did not want their purchasing habits made public.

He told security officials he was using the program because he planned to discuss it in two courses he taught.

The security officials asked him to stop using Tor and avoid covering it in class. Although acknowledging the intentions of the security staff, Cesarini wrote that his academic freedom was at stake. 'So in the head-on collision between my appreciation of the role IT staff members play on my campus and my understanding of the role I have to play for my students, my need for academic freedom won. I found myself lecturing my three visitors into near catatonia about the uses of Tor.'

'I told him that while I would think about giving up Tor, I honestly felt that this was a clear case of academic freedom, and I could not bow to external pressure. I reminded him that Tor is a perfectly legal, open-source program that serves a wide variety of legitimate needs around the world.'

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Pittsburgh Art Institute Launches Social Network

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh will open an online social network to facilitate collaboration among students and between students and faculty. The network will enable participants to create personal and professional profiles, discuss ideas, and share artwork. The network, named AiConnections, is based on technology from WebCrossing Neighbors.

Doug Stein, vice president of The Art Institute Online's Educational Services, said the network is designed to provide students a 'sense of community that traditional students get everyday on campus.' AiConnections currently hosts about 1,500 online and residential students and faculty participating in more than 100 groups.

WebCrossing Neighbors is a hosted platform with common areas for interest groups, personal user spaces, profiles, blogs, discussions, photo and file sharing. The network is scalable and can be customized. Individual spaces on the network link students and colleagues via a tagging engine, with support for 'degrees of friendship.' System-wide search is indexed.

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Knight Gives Miami $10 Million To Develop New Media

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will give the University of Miami $10 million to build the Knight Center for International Media, a media laboratory for developing global news techniques. The funds would also endow two teaching chairs in residence, one for 'visual journalism' and one for 'cross-cultural communication,' for which a search to find candidates will begin immediately.

Alberto Ibarguen, president of the Knight Foundation, said the Center will be 'dedicated to the proposition that we can understand each other and will train journalists in the use of many forms of media to achieve that goal.'

Sam L Grogg, the dean of the university's School of Communication, said the money will also fund 'a professional residency program' for working journalists 'to use new multimedia tools in reporting issues of major millennial significance.' Sanjeev Chatterjee, vice dean of the School of Communication, and an award-winning documentary filmmaker, will serve as Executive Director.

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Carnegie Mellon Students Develop Networked Mood Ring

Carnegie Mellon computer science students have invented a software application that represents people's emotions in words and in bands of color. Called Moodjam, the software can be used to create a cross-media diary that can be played on the users' home page.

Ian Li, a Ph.D. student in the School of Computer Science's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), started the project by devising a 'visual diary,' or a way to use the computer for self-reflection. More than 2,000 people now use MoodJam, which gives them a way to share moods within workgroups, a circle of friends, and even far-flung family members.

'The sharing aspect does make it more attractive,' said Li, who launched the MoodJam website last November, along with HCII research associate Aubrey Shick and fellow Ph.D. students Karen Tang and Scott Davidoff. 'To get insights into your own moods, you have to record for at least a week. But the social benefits from sharing are immediate.'

In using MoodJam, each person chooses colors that seem appropriate. Likewise, the words used to describe moods-- accessed by mousing over the color bars--are individualized, resulting in such such emotional states as 'caffeinated,' 'just kinda eh,' and 'fantabulously magical.'

'A friend in Seattle just IMed (instant messaged) me. 'Ha, ha--your mood is hilarious today,'' said Shick, who 'moodjams' with friends across the country. It's also proved useful to her mother, who lives near Somerset, PA. 'She likes that she can see how I'm doing without bothering me,' Shick said.

Updating MoodJam throughout the day has become routine for Shick, an online socializing veteran. 'I'm on the computer all day long--15 or more hours a day,' she said. 'It's no effort to keep on logging.'

Anind Day, one of Li's faculty advisors, said the software poses interesting questions about how mood-sharing affects the behavior of work groups.

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MIT Profs Claim Breakthroughs on 'Optics on a Chip'

MIT researchers said they are close to bringing 'optics on a chip' to market. The MIT team said their work could enable photonic integrated devices to be mass-manufactured for the first time. Depending on the growth of the telecom industry, the new devices could be in demand within five years, according to the co-author of the article, Erich Ippen, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and physics.

The new technology will also enable 'supercomputers on a chip with unique high-speed capabilities for signal processing, spectroscopy, and remote testing, among other fields,' according to Ippen.

'This breakthrough allows inter- and intra-chip communications networks that solve the wiring problems of today's computer chips and computer architectures,' said Franz Kaertner, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

In addition to Ippen and Kaertner, other members of the MIT team are Tymon Barwicz (Ph.D. 2005), Michael Watts (Ph.D. 2005), graduate students Milos Popovic and Peter Rakich, and Henry I. Smith, professor of electrical engineering and co-director of MIT's Nanostructures Laboratory.

For more information, click here.

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