Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition: February 5, 2002
Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition
In This Issue

SCS Gets $23 Million From NASA

Joel Smith Named Vice Provost for Computing Services

Stephen Cross Reappointed at SEI

Matt Cline, Victoria Massimino Earn CIT Staff Honors; Rhonda Moyer Garners Burritt Education Award

Economic Development Expert to Coordinate Efforts for Both Carnegie Mellon and Pitt

Mechanical Engineer Gets Federal Grant; His Snake Robot Will Assess Waste Sites

University Implements Measures to Increase Diversity

Carnegie Mellon Faculty and Researchers in the News

Senior Writing Major Earns Spot on "The Weakest Link"

Drama's Peter Frisch Joins CBS' "The Young and the Restless"

News Briefs
Cheering the Faculty Chairs

Christiano's Locker Retired
This Issue's Front Page
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Carnegie Mellon Faculty and Researchers in the News

The New York Times Dec. 27

Dr. Richard Grace, a scientist who studies driving behavior at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, has had lots of experience in detecting drowsy driving. The portable on-board infrared camera system he devised to track eyelid closure has actually observed truck drivers barreling down the highway while dozing....

Dr. Grace's research suggests that any warnings must be persistent and matched to the personality of the driver.

"If drivers don't like the warning system," he said, "they won't heed it." In one study Dr. Grace undertook, truck drivers whose eyelids were closing slowly were warned either by a computer beep or a woman's voice. "About 90 percent of the drivers said they were happy with the computer dings," he said. "But at least half weren't happy with the woman's voice, which was fairly stern."

Red Herring Jan. 1

Nowhere has research produced so many useful innovations affecting so many businesses as in the field of robotics. Researchers have worked for decades to refine and perfect the technologies of vision, movement, speech and learning for the next generation of robots. Though most frequently used in industrial manufacturing, the latest robotic technologies are now showing up in better products of every kind.

... There have been impressive developments in the field of artificial intelligence, too. The Hubble Space Telescope showcased some of AI's strengths when its computer systems formulated the complex plan and schedule for scanning the heavens. "We will make advancements in AI but we will also make improvements in the individual domains, like language and statistics," says Charles Thorpe, the director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon Univesity.

... Most robotics researchers don't lose too much sleep worrying that robots might eventually wrest control of society from people. "I am no more worried about robots taking over than I am about my cruise control taking over my car," says Thorpe.

Business Week Online Jan. 4

A military man with a straight-arrow demeanor, Stephen Cross hardly seems a technology heretic. Yet from his perch as the director of the influential Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Cross is spreading the seeds of a quiet revolution in the software business.

His quest is to make writing software as routine-some might say as boring- as building bridges or houses. And that runs against the grain of software's traditional maverick culture of lone wolf programmers and a system that prides itself on rebuilding products from the ground up every few years.

Founded in 1984 with funding from the U.S. Defense Dept., the SEI has the explicit goal of improving the practice of software design and development. It includes the CERT Communications Center-what Cross describes as the "world's help desk for latest virus or cyberattacks." And the SEI administers 10 programs, including robotics, artificial intelligence and software engineering....

Cross ... joined the computer science faculty at Carnegie Mellon in 1994 as principal research scientist in the school's robotics program. Two years later, he ascended to the directorship of the SEI and has since put his experience to work plotting the future of software development.

According to Cross, that future should have more in common with the nuts-and-bolts fields of manufacturing and construction than with lone coders pulling all-nighters to build elegant new programs. While the latest generation of so-called object-oriented programming languages, such as Java, take a step toward creating these basic components, software development remains far short of standardized....

That will change as customers try to hold big software projects to stricter performance standards-just as the engineers who build a skyscraper are held accountable if the edifice cracks or collapses. Thus far, most customers still accept faulty software, albeit with a lot of complaining. But Cross sees pressure building to get it right the first time-or else. One or-else possibility, of course, is that customers may use more free software, such as Linux....

Los Angeles Times Jan. 14

Microsoft's decade-long focus on cramming new features into its products has come at the expense of protecting computers against viruses and hacking attacks, which are costing customers billions of dollars a year and becoming a top concern of companies and government officials.

In just the last month, a gaping hole was found in Microsoft's newest operating system, Window XP, that could allow hackers to take control of a PC through the Internet.

The latest disclosures follow a record year for security problems, according to statistics released Friday by the federally funded CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University. The research clearinghouse said the total number of vulnerability reports it received more than doubled in 2001 to 2,437, after more than doubling in 2000.

... "Some vendors have been very slow to respond to vulnerabilities," said Larry Rogers of CERT. "Only after the notion of broaching public disclosure have they marshaled resources."

Newsday Jan. 15

Computer scientists and tech professionals are preparing a brave new world of software-based, intelligent agents that will act as virtual support staffs for any human being willing to trust them. The main difference: They'll work 24/7, won't take a lunch break and never utter a gripe.

"They shouldn't be terribly different from a secretary or a personal buyer," said Roger Schank, a leading artificial intelligence expert and distinguished professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.

The agents, he said, would be accessible in a number of ways, including from Internet service providers and more intuitive online sellers....

The New York Times Jan. 21

Carnegie Mellon University's federally financed CERT Coordination Center ... gathers and disseminates information about Internet security issues. It recently released statistics showing that the number of incidents reported to the center had grown from a mere 6 in 1988, the year the center was founded, to 52,658 last year.

Incidents are reported via email, phone and fax, said Marty Lindler, the leader of the team that handles that influx, and "could be anything from 'Someone is scanning my network looking for something' to 'They've taken over my computer.'"

Public awareness about security issues is partly responsible for the large jump, Mr. Lindler said, with the number nearly doubling between 2000 and 2001.

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Compiled by Edmund Delaney

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