Sprint offering femto cells in selected markets

February 19th, 2008

Technology Review has an interesting article on femtocells, which may be the next big thing in home networking and mobile computing.

“Similar in concept to the Wi-Fi routers that many people use to blanket their homes with wireless Internet access, these little boxes instead provide a network for carrying the voice and high-speed data services of mobile phones. They’re designed to give bandwidth-hungry cell-phone subscribers the strongest possible connections at home.” (link)

femtocells in the home

The idea is attractive and I’d buy one in a minute. I live in a hilly area where the hills do a good job of blocking all kinds of signals — cell phone, TV, and radio. So my mobile phone is almost useless at home, even though I’m in the middle of the Baltimore-DC metropolis.

Femtocell technology has its own industrial organization, the femtoforum, a “a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 2007 to promote femtocell deployment worldwide.”

Sprint airave femtocell
Here’s a part of the TR article that excites me:

“Today, the equipment cost for femtocells runs in the range of $250 to $300. Sprint, one of the first companies to start commercial trials of the products, is offering them to consumers in Denver and Indianapolis for $50 apiece, along with an offer of lower-priced calling plans–altogether a substantial subsidy.”

Sprint’s press release descibes it’s AIRAVE femtocell, made by Samsung, and their pricing plan: $50 for the femtocell plus $15/$30 a month for the service (individual/family). While at home you talk for free.

CFP: ISWC 2008 Semantic Web in Use

February 19th, 2008

ISWC 2008, the 7th International Semantic Web Conference, will have a special track on the Semantic Web in Use for papers that highlight applications in business, government, science, education or society. The ISWC 2007 in use track had twelve full papers and the ISWC 2006 had nine industry track papers. Papers for the 2008 In Use track must be submitted by 16 May, 2008. The ISWC 2008 Semantic Web in Use track is chaired by Mike Dean (BBN) and Massimo Paolucci (DoCoMo).

Call for ISWC 2008 tutorial proposals

February 18th, 2008

ISWC 2008, the 7th International Semantic Web Conference, seeks proposals for tutorials that present the state of the art of a Semantic Web area enabling attendees to fully appreciate the current issues, main schools of thought, and possible application areas. The half- or full-day tutorials will be given on 26-27 October, just before the main conference begins. Email proposals to David Martin (martin@ai.sri.com) by 16 May 2008. The ISWC 2008 tutorial program is chaired by Lalana Kagal (MIT) and David Martin (SRI).

Over the years I’ve given a number of tutorials and always found it to be a very rewarding experience. You can reuse the material in tutorials for other events and, if you are an academic, in your classes. And, even if you consider yourself to be an expert, you will always learn something about the subject.

Approximating the Community Structure of the Long Tail

February 18th, 2008

Social Networks and Web graphs exhibit certain typical properties. The classic work by Barabási–Albert showed how nodes in such network link preferentially — popular nodes often gain disproportionately larger share of the links. This is also known in other fields as the 80/20 rule or simply the “rich get richer phenomenon“. Another early work by Steve Borgatti studied social networks and found that they exhibit a core-periphery property. A small set of (popular) nodes form the core and the rest comprise of the peripheral nodes. To the best of my knowledge, community detection algorithms have often worked independent of such underlying network properties.

I have been exploring an idea that can utilize the core-periphery structure of social networks to approximately compute the communities in the graph. The intuition behind this method is really quite simple. The basic idea boils down to the following:

“The core of the social network typically defines the communities present in it. By looking at the link structure of the core and identifying how the rest of the network connects to the core we can efficiently compute communities in large graphs.”

This idea can be easily explained by considering the following network of email communication (obtained from Dr. Mark Newman’s site). The original adjacency matrix was permuted to order the nodes based on their degree. Thus the core is represented by submatrix A which is quite dense. The submatrix B, here corresponds to how the rest of the network links to its core. The submatrix C is a very sparse matrix that consists of links between nodes in the long tail. Since C is quite sparse, it can be ignored without much degradation of the clustering/community detection results. Thus it leads to saving a significant amount of computation and storage. By utilizing just the core of the social network (matrix A) and how other nodes link to the core (matrix B) we can approximate the overall community structure of the entire graph, much more efficiently.

The rest boils down the to the mathematical formulation of the above idea using Spectral clustering techniques. You can read more about it in my poster paper that was recently accepted to ICWSM. (A Tech Report version with a more detailed analysis would be available shortly)

Screedbot, the scrolling typewriter text generator

February 18th, 2008

Screedbot is an “animated scrolling typewriter text generator” service. You enter some text, click CREATE SCREED and get an animated gif image. You can define the width, font size and colors of your screed.. Screedbot was written by Zach Beane in Common Lisp. (Spotted on Lemonodor).

Screedbot rants about screedbot

ICWSM early registration extended to 23:59 Monday 2/18

February 18th, 2008

The Second International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM 2008) will be held March 30 – April 2, 2008 at the Hilton in Seattle, Washington. The early registration deadline is Monday February 18. The program includes some great invited speakers: Bernardo Huberman (HP Labs), who will speak on “Social Dynamics in the Age of the Web,” David Sifry (Founder, Technorati, Sputnik, and Linuxcare), and Brad Fitzpatrick (Google, LiveJournal Founder). Two tutorials are planned, including “Subjectivity and Sentiment Analysis” by Jan Wiebe (Univ. of Pittsburgh) and “Graph Mining Techniques for Social Media Analysis” by Mary McGlohon and Christos Faloutsos (CMU). See the web site for details.

Virus steals Linden dollars from Second Life avatars

February 17th, 2008

Joe Hall forwarded an interesting news item to Dave Farber’s IP mailing list on a new Second Life security vulnerability, Exploiting QuickTime flaws in ‘Second Life’. The exploit allows an object with a multimedia link to inject malicious code into the victim.

“Researchers Charlie Miller of Independent Security Evaluators, and Dino Dai Zovi, turned their attention to Second Life during a Saturday morning presentation at ShmooCon, an East Coast computer hacking conference. The researchers didn’t exploit a flaw within Linden Labs’ Second Life, but within QuickTime. They showed how an attacker could make money stealing from innocent Second Life victims.” (link)

Their SmooCon talk was titled “Virtual Worlds – Real Exploits” and had the abstract

“Virtual worlds serve as a new way to deliver exploits to the masses. Besides traditional attacks, they also allow attackers to control the “avatars” of players, including being able to steal the player’s virtual money and possessions. When there is a link between the virtual money and real money, this can be an easy way for an attacker to profit. This talk will address these issues and illustrate the technical details of a Second Life exploit.” (link)

Apparently the general approach used in the exploit has been around for a while, as Vint Falken blogs in The Second Life Quicktime exploit soon redone?. Here’s how Miller and Zovi demonstrated the current version of the exploit.

“For their demonstration, they created “the most evil pink box you will ever see.” They could have linked their malicious code to attributes of an avatar’s hair, clothes, or anything else. They also could have buried the pink box underground or otherwise hidden it, but both researchers admitted they weren’t very good players within Second Life. … In the demo, the researchers were able to show that their avatar became infected when it came too near the pink box. The code they used raided the avatar’s Linden dollars and emptied the bank account.” (link)

Since Linden dollars have a known exchange rate with more traditional currencies, and may even be stronger that the US dollar these days, Second Lifers will have to be careful.

CFP: ISWC-08 Semantic Web workshop proposals

February 17th, 2008

Co-located workshops are an important and vital part of modern computer science conferences. They open up events for more participation, allowing researchers to present and discuss new work in a more intimate and focused setting. The call for ISWC-08 workshop proposals for the 2008 International Semantic Web conference (26-28 Oct 2008, Karlsruhe DE). Workshop proposals are due by 28 March.

Is MySpace good for us?

February 16th, 2008

The Freakonomics blog asked six experts — — Martin Baily, Danah Boyd, Steve Chazin, Judith Donath, Nicole Ellison, and William Reader — to consider the question Is MySpace Good for Society? or, more precisely:

“Has social networking technology (blog-friendly phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) made us better or worse off as a society, either from an economic, psychological, or sociological perspective?”

Their replies are mostly in the affirmative.

N things to know about the Semantic Web

February 16th, 2008

Bernard Lunn of ReadWriteWeb has a post on 11 Things To Know About Semantic Web. I found his list to be both reasonable and interesting, with some of the 11 more speculative than most. For example,

“Semantic Web will start the long, slow decline of relational database technology. Web 3.0 enables the transition from “structure upfront” to “structure on the fly”. The world is clearly too complex to structure upfront, despite the tremendous skills brought by data modelers. Structure on the fly is done by people adding structure as they use the service and by engines that automatically create structure from unstructured content. Structure on the fly is very, very hard and RDBMS is very, very entrenched so this will be a long and slow transition; but the decline is inevitable. Innovation has slowed in the RDBMS world – with open source at one end and Oracle at the other, there is little reason to innovate – just when Semantic Web innovation is accelerating. RDBMS was good for enterprise scale performance and reliability but for Internet scale it falls short; just look at what companies like Amazon use.”

I agree with this to some degree, but I expect RDBMSs to continue to dominate information systems while I still walk the earth. Well, maybe that’s what he had in mind by a slow decline.

Video ProfessorHere’s the item I found most amusing.

“3. If you have a firm grasp of the theoretical underpinnings of the semantic web, things like RDF, tuples, Sparql and OWL that make my brain hurt, you will be able to charge a fat premium in consulting fees for a while, as not many people really understand this stuff. But make hay while the sun shines, as some entrepreneur will surely figure out how to abstract this stuff and make it accessible for the masses.”

How true. In ten years the Video Professor will be hawking Semantic Web lectures on late night TV.

I’m working on my own N things list, but it will cover a more fundamental subject.

Anonymous vs Scientology: sometimes they shouted TL;DR

February 11th, 2008

Yesterday had been declared by anonymous as a day of protest against the Church of Scientology and a number of street protests were held around the world. People are blogging accounts of some of them, including one from London, where many wore V masks.

“In London, around 200 masked demonstrators gathered outside the Church of Scientology for a peaceful protest near Blackfriars. One unnamed protestor said: “We are here to raise awareness of the blatant exploitation of its members. “They actually scare me.” Onlooker Mark Thompson, 22, added: “You could tell they felt passionate about their cause. “There was a heavy police presence but they were never really used.” (link)

My favorite quote from the blog account was this.

It was the perfect internet anarchist protest. We shouted slogans. People with ghetto blasters played announcements. We shouted at THEM. People with megaphones addressed the crowd. Sometimes we cheered and clapped, sometimes we shouted “TL;DR!” (link)

Reuters and the Semantic Web

February 10th, 2008

Tim O’Reilly wrote in Reuters CEO sees “semantic web” in its future about Reuters’ motivations for embracing Semantic Web technology.

“At Money:Tech yesterday, I did an on-stage interview with Devin Wenig, the charismatic CEO-to-be of Reuters (following the still-not completed merger with Thomson). Devin highlighted what he considers two big trends hitting financial (and other professional) data: … The end of benefits from decreasing the time it takes for news to hit the market. … he increasingly sees Reuters’ job to be making connections, going from news to insight. He sees semantic markup to make it easier to follow paths of meaning through the data as an important part of Reuters’ future. … Ultimately, Reuters’ news is the raw material for analysis and application by investors and downstream news organizations. Adding metadata to make that job of analysis easier for those building additional value on top of your product is a really interesting way to view the publishing opportunity. If you don’t think of what you produce as the “final product” but rather as a step in an information pipeline, what do you do differently to add value for downstream consumers? In Reuters’ case, Devin thinks you add hooks to make your information more programmable.”

This provides some background for their recent announcement of the Reuters Calais information extraction service. It extracts named entities, events and relations from text and returns the information as RDF data.