Our MURI grant gets some press

June 12th, 2008

A UMBC led team recently won a MURI award from DoD to work on “Assured Information Sharing Lifecycle”. It is an interesting mix of work on  new security models, policy driven security systems, context awareness, privacy preserving data mining, and social networking. The award really brings together many different strains of research in eBiquity, as well as some related reserach in our department. We’re just starting off, and excited about it. UMBC’s web page had a story about this, and more recently, GCN covered it.

The UMBC team is lead by Tim Finin, and includes several of us. The other participants are UIUC (led by Jiawei Han), Purdue (led by Elisa Bertino),  UTSA (led by Ravi Sandhu), UTDallas (led by Bhavani Thurasingham), Michigan (Lada Adamic).

Lies, Damn Lies, and (the statistics on) the Number of STEM grads

December 18th, 2007

I confess to being thoroughly confused. The revealed wisdom in US higher ed has been that we are simply not producing enough grads in the STEM area, and we need to do more to attract folks to sciences/engineering/IT etc. The National Academy of Sciences weighed in on this as well. We certainly keep hearing that here in our department, with exhortations to increase enrollment.

However, the Urban institute folks (Lowell and Salzman) claim that not only is the US not lagging behind other nations in the quality of STEM education at the school level, it in fact overproduced STEM grads (three times as many as the net growth in jobs) in the period from 1985 to 2000. So not enough or too many STEM grads — which is it ?

This of course further muddies the immigration/ H1B debates. The IT industry claims that there is a shortage of IT grads, and so they need to be able to hire more from overseas. The “Immigration Restrictionists” of various flavors, and the Programmers Guild like organizations, argue that this is just a part of plan by corporations to keep the wages in the IT sector depressed. Many of them have blogged about this new Urban Institute study, offering it as proof that the H1B type programs can be scrapped.

However, if the primary push behind lobbying for increased skilled immigration/H1 workers was depressing (or at least not increasing) the wages, then a factor of three overproduction within the US should take care of this, right ? In other words, all the folks in STEM fields who weren’t getting jobs in their area would sign up for short MSCE/CCNA type courses (or AAs in IT) and then get hired. I presume Bill Gates or others don’t particularly like foreigners enough to go through and pay for the H1B/Green card process when they would achieve the same wage depressing affects by hiring US citizens retrained in IT areas from the oversupply in the overall STEM areas?  On the other hand, there is  a recent statement by Fed chief Bernanke doing rounds of the blogosphere that a non increase in STEM wages would indicate that there wasn’t a shortage in the area. 

Net result, I am not sure what to believe anymore.  In admissions events, I dutifully present data from CRA (which in turn got it from BLS)  that seems to indicate that within the wider STEM areas, IT (strictly, Mathematical and Computer Sciences) would be the subfield where the total production of degrees would fall short of the projected job openings, even factoring in all the outsourcing.

The next Big Thing, or is it Web 2.0?

November 3rd, 2005

Open Source software has increasingly grown in popularity and dominance, challenging the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM. Both Industry and Academia have adopted Open Source Software like Linux, OpenBSD, Apache, MySQL and OpenOffice to replace or supplant commercial versions of Windows XP, Websphere, Oracle, DB2, and MS Office. This dominance will be seen to continue to grow in the coming years.

Giants like Google, Amazon, eTrade, and eBay use Open Source Software to run their web businesses/services. The tradeoff to paying royalties or license fees, is the availability of source code, which is closely scrutinized or safety tested, by these companies and then deployed. Thus, these companies no longer depend on licensed proprietary solutions.

Google Ads and the roaring profits made by Google in its last quarter have led to Google stocks jumping by around 50 dollars in less than a month. Online targeted advertising has been seen to be more effective and more companies are now investing in online advertising like Google Ads.

Open source software projects and their “profitability” have often been questioned and even dismissed as a fools errand. However now bighshots like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle amongst others seem to have formulated strategies to cope with Open Source. Venture captitalists have been pouring money into Open Source Projects — a sign that this is seen as next big thing. Companies dismissing Open Source or failing to adapt to it, risk losing their user base and affecting their longterm survivability.

Microsoft: Shared Source, Windows Live, Office Live

IBM: Open Source Acquisitions, Adoption of Open Source (support model)

Oracle: Free version of the Oracle database

Everyone wants a piece of the online-advertising pie. With the increasing growth of high-speed internet, people are growing to expect free services on the Internet. The success of XBox-live is a sign of things to come.

The availalbility of cheap/free software replacements for most of the popular commercial products will see further decline in the revenue for commercial products.

Software Companies seem to be realizing that in the coming decade, online software services will be a major source of revenue — search, ads, trading, gaming, and so on. The “free” Internet Browsers will be the gateways to the online world, while the stored PC programs will see a declining role.

Want Microsoft Source code?

October 21st, 2005

Microsoft Shared Source Initiative

These new licenses represent a broad spectrum of approaches needed to facilitate an ever-growing, rich set of technologies for release.

The three licenses are:

• Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) — The Ms-PL is the least restrictive of the Microsoft source code licenses. It allows you to view, modify, and redistribute the source code for either commercial or non-commercial purposes. Under the Ms-PL, you may change the source code and share it with others. You may also charge a licensing fee for your modified work if you wish. This license is most commonly used for developer tools, applications, and components.

• Microsoft Community License (Ms-CL) — The Ms-CL is a license that is best used for collaborative development projects. This type of license is commonly referred to as a reciprocal source code license and carries specific requirements if you choose to combine Ms-CL code with your own code. The Ms-CL allows for both non-commercial and commercial modification and redistribution of licensed software and carries a per-file reciprocal term.

• Microsoft Reference License (Ms-RL) — The Ms-RL is a reference-only license that allows licensees to view source code in order to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of a Microsoft technology. It does not allow for modification or redistribution. This license is used primarily for technologies such as development libraries.

RSS and Podcasts at UMBC

October 7th, 2005

UMBC website now publishes RSS for news and Podcasts.
(More )

Good move – subscribed!
Atleast now I will follow what should have been regularly checked by all students at UMBC.

Key in Disaster Management — Communication

September 14th, 2005

Local governments and agencies are waking up with a start — could it happen here? If first responders cannot communicate with each other in the first 72 hours — how do they do their job?

The New Orleans tragedy manifested the worst communication nightmares imaginable — underground communication lines were disabled due to flooding, cell towers were blown over, backup generators ran out of fuel — or filled up with water. Radios of police, firefighters, ER couldn’t talk to each other. In some cases first responders were simply walking over to each other to talk!

Ad hoc networks boast of working in especially such situations … after more than 10 years and millions of $$ in research … where is the first deployed/working ad hoc network?

Baltimore Sun:

No sooner had a 46-truck convoy of Baltimore first-responders and equipment left for Louisiana on Sunday than it received an education in emergency communications: Even state-of-the-art systems can fail.

Grand Rapids Press:

“The lessons we can learn from the Katrina disaster is what happens to those with mobility and transportation issues. If there is a need for a mass evacuation, how would we get those without transportation?” 1st Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak asked.

Eyewitness News:

The Nevada Homeland Security Department is taking up the issue of disaster response. From their own experience and what they’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina relief, they’ve determined the channels of communication are broken.

Google News now supports RSS

August 10th, 2005

Google finally adds RSS/Atom support for Google News.

The new feature will allow Google News users to set up RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or Atom content syndication feeds for specific Google News sections, such as entertainment, business or world news, and for specific terms users search for on Google News, such as “George Bush,” “diabetes” or “space shuttle.


I am more interested in “specific terms” and how good(fast) a job Google does on it. Very soon its going to cross paths with Technorati’s Watchlist.

(Via Andrew Lark)

Virtual property to kill for!

June 8th, 2005

Trading virtual objects may sound zany, but it seems people can get motivated enough to kill for them, like this tragic incident.

Who owns virtual resources? Can there be rights over objects/artifacts in virtual gaming worlds and for that matter the Internet? Do we own email messages sent or received on Hotmail or Gmail? Is this really different from privacy? Is this DRM?

$9m trade revenues on eBay for such artifacts, gives an idea of the scope of the problem.

Search Engine Revenues and Online Advertisements

February 3rd, 2005

From Marketwatch – On Google

Late Tuesday, Google said fourth-quarter profit rose to $204 million …
Google also said quarterly sales shot up to $1.032 billion from $512 million a year earlier. Excluding the payments Google makes to other companies to acquire Internet traffic, the company generated sales of $654 million, more than the $590 million analysts expected. Google is benefiting as companies spend more of their advertising dollars online and as the prices paid for keyword search results rise.

From CNN – On Yahoo

Five years of stagnant online advertising ended in 2004, according to jubilant executives at Yahoo Inc., helping the Web giant nearly triple its fourth-quarter profit and boosting its financial outlook for this year. The Sunnyvale, California-based company … earned $373 million, or 25 cents per share, for the three months ended December 31.

From MarketWatch – General Trends of online advertising

TNS Media Intelligence forecast a 5.1 percent rise to $150.5 billion in 2005 on top of last year’s estimated 10.6 percent bump. The first half should see the strongest rate, with rise of 6.9 percent; that will tail off to 3.5 percent in the second six months of the year. Media categories that stand to benefit the most include online, expected to gain 11.2 percent …

Online Ads and Search Engines are hot! Search engines make most of their income from paid advertisements. They get paid based on number of advertisement clicks by users. As per my understanding some companies commit a preset amount of money(over a duration of time) to paid advertisements and some don’t. So a search engine’s income largely depends on how many clicks it can get to advertisements on its search pages and on other pages on the Web which explicitly display content specific ads.
One obvious way for search engines to exploit the latter to increase their revenues would be to skew results so as to rank pages which display their advertisements highly. This way the number of visitors to these pages increase resulting in a proportional increase in advertisement clicks.
This raises some interesting questions. Can search engines come up with optimization algorithms so as to maximize their overall income with the following constraints:

  1. Income from individual companies do not exceed committed boundaries.
  2. Search ranking skew towards pages displaying paid advertisements are not so as to effect search users significantly.

I don’t believe Google or Yahoo dies or would ever consider doing this, but they are not the only search company and their success will build a market in which other companys will offer similar services. There remains a risk that an unscrupulous company might be tempted to skew its search to increase profits.