Tag: university

US Computer science courses have a security fail

f-school-letter-gradeWhile US students are bankrupting themselves to get a computer science degree they might wasting their time because the courses don’t cover important things like IT security.

A CloudPassage study reveals that none of the top 10 US university computer science and engineering program degrees requires students take a cybersecurity course.

So while there is a cybersecurity skills gap there is a cybersecurity education gap in the top US undergraduate computer science and engineering programs.

An analysis of the top 121 US university computer science and engineering programs found that none of the top 10 requires students take a cybersecurity class for their degree in computer science, and three of the top 10 don’t offer any cybersecurity courses at all.

The higher-education gap in cybersecurity comes amid the backdrop of some 200,000 unfilled IT security jobs in the US, and an increasing sense of urgency for organisations to hire security talent as cybercrime and cyber espionage threats escalate.

Robert Thomas, CEO of CloudPassage, whose company conducted the study, says the security gap in traditional computer science programmes is worrisome.

“The results were pretty profound.  When we tested the top universities’ computer science degrees, it was disturbing to find that very few require any kind of cybersecurity instruction as part of the curriculum to graduate” with a computer science degree,” Thomas said.

He added that Universities had a responsibility to start moving to address bigger problems in security.

Only the University of Alabama, which is not ranked in either the US News & World Report or Business Insider as a top computer science program, required three or more cybersecurity courses, the study found.

AI programme passes University Entrance exam

The Japanese National Institute of Informatics claims that its AI program, developed with university and corporate researchers, achieved an above-average score on a college entrance exam for the first time.

The test covered five subjects including maths, physics and English.  The institute wanted to develop an AI by 2021 that was high enough on Japan’s standardised college entrance exam to be accepted into the University of Tokyo, the nation’s top-ranked university.

The AI received a score of 511 points out of 950, above the national average of 416, and did exceptionally well on math and history-related problems, the institute said.

Getting that score means that the AI has at least an 80 percent chance of being accepted by 441 private universities and 33 national universities.

The software program had been “studying” for the exam since 2011 but had below average scores on similar exams in 2013 and 2014.

It has a long way to go before it can apply to the University of Tokyo, whose list of alumni includes Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda and former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The AI was smart enough to answer some of the questions on the physics test, it failed to do so and scored below average because of its insufficient language processing capability.

Oracle extorted, lied and faked a demo to flog ERP – claim

Montclair State University claims that Oracle extorted, lied and ‘rigged’ demonstrations in a bit to sell an ERP product.

In court documents seen by IDG, new details have emerged in Montclair State University’s lawsuit against Oracle in connection with a troubled ERP project which implies that Oracle practically forced it to take the software.

Montclair’s amended complaint states that Oracle made an array of “intentionally false statements” regarding the functionality of its base ERP system, the amount of customisation that would be required, and the amount of “time, resources, and personnel that the University would have to devote.”

After Oracle missed a critical go-live deadline for the University’s finance system, the claim is it tried to extort millions of dollars from the University. It did this, it is alleged, by advising the University that it wouldn’t complete the implementation of the project unless it agreed to pay millions more than the fixed fee they both had previously agreed.

Oracle is refusing to comment but earlier this year it said that the university was to blame for the project’s woes.

Allegedly, MSU did not understand the technology and the steps necessary to complete the project. Instead of cooperating with Oracle, the company claims, MSU’s project leadership, motivated by “their own agenda and fearful of being blamed for delays, escalated manageable differences into major disputes.”

From the court documents it looks like MSU wanted to replace its legacy systems with a new one requiring minimal customisation. The school spent a year developing a detailed requirements list that ended up with 3,200 items which was given to vendors, including Oracle.

In January 2008, Oracle told the school that its base PeopleSoft system for higher education institutions would deal with 95 percent of MSU’s list.

According to the school this was complete rubbish.

Before it won the bid, Oracle also conducted live demonstrations of its software that used test scripts prepared by the university.

One demonstration involved “a robust online application process for Undergraduate and Graduate Admissions.” Oracle said that it was an existing part of the base system and satisfied the university’s requirements.

But actually, Oracle wanted to sell the university a third party product called ‘Embark’ to satisfy those requirements and tinkered with, or in the university’s words, rigged the ‘live’ demonstration. There was a lot of customisation was needed in the end, the university said.

Oracle told the university that the project could be done quickly through a method it had developed. Anyway, this project was the same as another one it was doing called the Lone Star College System.

But the university found out that the Lone Star project was four times greater than the personnel and resources available to the university to implement its ERP system.

Most of Oracle’s work, which cost $6 million, will have to be scrapped and the cost to finish the project will exceed Oracle’s original $15.75 million bid by up to $20 million, Montclair has said.

According to TechworldMSU would have been in big trouble if it had not made some smart moves to protect itself. These include a pile of documents detailing all conversations and interactions with Oracle. It had also worked out an escalation procedure in the event the project ran into problems and used real-life use cases for the demonstration.

It will now be up to the court to decide if Oracle is telling the truth. 

AMD's Manju Hegde targets uni drop-outs

Manju Hegde, formerly of Nvidia, now at AMD Fusion gave a talk here in Taipei to convince possible partners of the latest platform’s potential. 

Traditionally, Manju says, there has been a big chasm between discrete GPUs and integrated GPUs. The problem is when the difference is so drastic, developers coding PC games have to essentially pen two different products.

AMD’s APUs, according to Manju, are changing this.

Along with Direct X 11, Hegde says, Fusion packs a real punch for gaming. The fact there were plenty of high profile titles pre-launch of the latest AMD products helps, too.

To critics, he says: “Think of the APU as an appetiser. It whets the appetite for more performance. They say when you introduce APU, won’t it screw your GPU market? Absolutely not. That’s kinda my entire slide.”

The new Vision brand shares some similarities with its rival that shall not be named. On Hegde’s main strategy slide he says there will be a focus on media as well as security. As with Nigel Dessau’s talk the day prior, Hegde was keen to talk up HD video conferencing, too. He took the Fusion out of confusion by carefully explaining every single programme in detail, like Internet Explorer 9 and Powerpoint. Powerpoint looks great with AMD under the bonnet.

Most importantly for its future, according to Hegde, is “leveraging industry standards” like he says it has been for the last ten years. And that means support for open platforms, talking to the audience of the benefits of Open CL. An “open standard will always win,” he says.

To keep AMD’s head above water on programming, Hegde announces the company will begin targeting university drop-outs. They’re always the smartest guys, he states, name-dropping famous tech icons such as Bill Gates who left college.

A developer programme will head-hunt and help AMD’s chosen ones. 

Playing computer games will stuff up your University chances

If you play computer games you are less likely to get into university, according to a recent study.

The study, prepared by Oxford University students who obviously did not play computer games and whose parents had money, have found that playing computer games appears to reduce a teenager’s chances of going to university, while reading enhances the likelihood that they will go on to study for a degree.

The study tracked 17,000 people born in 1970. If they read books at least once a month they were significantly more likely to be in a professional or managerial job at 33 than those who didn’t read books at all.

Girls had a 39 percent probability that they would be in a professional or managerial position at 33 if they read at 16, compared to 25 percent if they didn’t pick up a book.

Boys had a 58 percent chance of being in a good job as an adult if they had read as a teenager, compared to a 48 percent chance if they had not.

However once they started playing computer games regularly and doing no other activities the chances of going to university fell from 24 per cent to 19 percent for boys and from 20 percent to 14 percent for girls.

The boffin who headed the research for Nuffield College, Mark Taylor, said that there was “something special” about reading for pleasure.

While kids who went to the theatre regularly did well in life that was usually because their parents had dosh. But books were cheap for everyone.

In fact everything seemed to be better than computer games because they were either communal, like playing in an orchestra, or had a direct academic application, like reading.

Playing computer games frequently did not reduce the likelihood that a 16-year-old would be in a professional or managerial job at 33, the research found.

Top boffin wants computer interface to be more natural

A top boffin is working out a way to make computers understand inputs without a keyboard or mouse.

According to Ground Report, Binghamton University’s Lijun Yin wants to find more comfortable, intuitive and intelligent way to use the computer. He thinks it should work as if you are talking to a mate.

Yin’s team has worked out ways to provide information to the computer based on where a user is looking as well as through gestures or speech.

His next plan is to get the computer to recognise a user’s emotional state. He has established six basic emotions, anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise and is working out how to get the computer to tell them apart

He is working with Binghamton University psychologist Peter Gerhardstein to explore ways this work could benefit children with autism. Autistics, like computers, have difficulty interpreting others’ emotions; therapists sometimes use photographs of people to teach children how to understand when someone is happy or sad.

Yin and Gerhardstein’s previous collaboration led to the creation of a 3D facial expression database, which includes 100 subjects with 2,500 facial expression models.

Armed with this information and adding in artificial intelligence he thinks it is possible to create a virtual-person model.

Yin thinks it is possible to have a computer understand how you feel.

Although the way my computer is responding at the moment, it might be better it does not know what I am thinking of doing to it.

Yin talks about his work here:

Intel throws $100 million at US universities

Intel has announced that it is to invest $100 million in university research in the US over the next five years, marking the latest in a series of global investments from the chip firm.

As part of the investment the company will establish Intel Science and Technology Centres in a number of universities in 2011. These centres will will aid Intel’s research and development in key areas such as visual computing, mobility, security and embedded technology.

The investment means than Intel will be forking over up to five times more funding in universities than previously, which will help cover operating, maintenance and staff costs.

Stanford University will house the first Intel Science and Technology Centre, with a focus on visual computing. The Sandy Bridge platform will be a major element of research here, particularly in terms of combined visual and 3D graphics.

Intel said that its decision to establish these research centres is part of a move to “a new model of collaboration.” They will be jointly led by university researchers and Intel staff and Intel is promising “maximum flexibility” in how they will operate, but may fine-tune the focus as its research aims change.

2011 looks to be a big year for Intel investment, with previous announcements this month of a $500 million investment in the Leixlip plant in Ireland and a $2.7 billion investment in the Kiryat Gat plant in Israel. With January not even over yet, Intel could have plenty more investment announcements up its sleeves.

Ballmer tries to defend Microsoft from cynical students

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, tried to defend his company at a university lecture where it was heavily criticised for failing to succeed in a multitude of markets.

The chair of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, Ed Lazowska, slated Microsoft for its failure to deliver some of its technological developments, such as tablet computers, interactive TV, and digital music players in a viable way despite rivals like Apple using the same products to revitalise their businesses.

Ballmer attempted to defend Microsoft’s track record, saying: “There are plenty of areas where we’ve been first and have had clear success.”

Under continuing pressure from critical students of the University he admitted that there were some lessons to learn, but he stopped shy of literally saying that Microsoft made any mistakes.

“Probably the lesson or reminder is in a sense success in a commercial sense or in an adoption sense requires doing a lot of things right,” he said. “The innovation, delivery model, hardware, software, services, branding and timing all must be right in order to be successful. There are cases where that went brilliantly and cases that we’re working on.”

Ballmer struggled to explain the difficulty in developing a new product and how it’s hard to predict how a market will react – or how much investment is needed.

“Everything’s a set of judgements. I wouldn’t say we have 100 percent fluidity to switch things around on a dime. We have to decide when to build new expertise and what expertise to build. There’s not a science to it. There’s no formula that says spend x percent on y.”

One student asked Ballmer about a perceived recruiting problem Microsoft faced, in comparison to some other companies who are seen to be making more progress. Ballmer vehemently denied that Microsoft was experiencing recruiting difficulties, saying: “we’re right up there with anyone on the planet.”

Lazowska backed Ballmer up on this by saying that Microsoft hires more Computer Science graduates from the University of Washington, around 30 per year, than any other company.

While Ballmer may be keen to defend Microsoft’s track record, there’s also his own track record of verbal blunders he needs to constantly answer for.

Gamblers should take a hint from bacteria

Chips, Vegas, horses and odds are all words one normally associates with gambling.
However, a scientist has just thrown “bacteria” into the mix. 

According to Professor Eshel Ben-Jacob at the Tel Aviv University School of Physics and Astronomy, understanding our bacteria’s make up may give that winning streak the nearly bankrupt poker enthusiast hopes for.

In a recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Ben-Jacob and his fellow researchers demonstrated how decisions made by communities of bacteria trump game theory.  Apparently “understanding bacteria’s reactions to stressful and hazardous conditions may improve decision-making processes in any human arena from everyday life to political elections.”

It’s all about looking at the way bacteria reacts.

“When human beings make a decision they think they’re being rational. We now understand that they’re influenced by superfluous ‘noise,’ such as their cognitive state and the influence of others,” he said.

He said bacteria is more sophisticated than our minds – meaning it could more effectively control this noise and make group decisions that contribute to the well-being of the entire bacterial colony.

Bacteria live in complex colonies that can be 100th the population of the earth. Under stressful circumstances, researchers found that bacteria could filter out the noisy and stressful environment around it and decipher what was important. From this it could make decisions that ensured the survival of the colony.

One example that the professor gave was a bacterial response to starvation or poisoning – a fraction of the cells “sporulate,” enclosing their DNA in a capsule or spore as the mother cell dies. This, Ben-Jacob said, ensures the survival of the colony. He said when the threat was removed, the spores can germinate and the colony grows again.

During this process, the bacteria “choose” whether or not to enter a state called “competence,” in which they change their membranes to more easily absorb substances from their neighbouring, dying cells. As a result, they recover more quickly when the stress is gone. According to Prof. Ben-Jacob, it’s a difficult choice – in fact, a gamble. .

The boffin said there were many times in life when humans faced similar decision. One example was choosing whether or not have a flu jab.

“Do you take the risk of the side effects and get inoculated, or do you trust that most of the people around you will get the vaccine and risk possible illness, sparing you both the disease and the side effects from the vaccine?,” he said.

“How do politicians make decisions on key issues, such as national debt, that can harm and benefit society?”

He said that there would always be “noise” surrounding decision making similar to bacteria and that we should use the mirco organism example to make an action plan.

Tel Aviv scientists develop microRNA software

Researchers at the Tel Aviv University in Israel have developed software to analyse microRNAs, the cellular molecules that regulate our genetic code, giving us potentially invaluable insight into how genes affect our lives and how we can better combat genetic disease.

Roy Ronen and a team of scientists led by Dr. Noam Shomrom at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine in Tel Aviv University developed the software, called miRNAkey. The program searches for microRNA patterns in healthy and diseased tissues, granting the scientists a deeper understanding of how we work and what differentiates, on the genetic level, health from disease.

The model of analysis employed in this research is called “deep sequencing”, which is used to determine the sequence and expression of cellular DNA or RNA. The ability to gather and analyse this data, which effectively amounts to a full map of the human body on a microscopic level, has very positive benefits to our race as a whole, as it allows biologists more insight into our genetics and how genetic malfunctions, or disease, can occur.

The miRNAkey software is the first of its kind, combining the methods scientists have developed to analyse microRNAs with the computational and analytical power of computers, potentially multiplying the volume of our results and the pace at which we can get them.

Dr. Shomron explained that identification of microRNAs allows scientists to manipulate them, giving an example of potentially manipulation malignant tumours. Previous research among the team has showed that manipulation of the microRNAs in maligant cancer resulted in a significant slowdown in the growth of the tumour. While studies are still in their early stages, this software is an essential aspect of further research into the abolishment of disease. 

The software is detailed in depth in the latest issue of science journal Bioinformatics.