Friday, November 14, 2008

Shankar Sastry to discuss UC Berkeley's intiatives at its first Global Technology Leaders Conference

A press release came out yesterday in the Wall Street Journal's online MarketWatch announcing UC Berkeley as host of the inaugural A. Richard Newton Global Technology Leaders Conference on Thursday, November 20th.

The conference will bring together notable entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers to discuss the world's most overarching challenges and ascertain pathways to solution in the health sciences, energy and technology fields. Dean of UC Berkeley's College of Engineering, Shankar Sastry, will discuss Berkeley's initiatives in these areas. Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley, will deliver the keynote address, "The Future of the Future."

The conference is being held during Global Entrepreneurship Week and is sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the goal for the group is to develop a roadmap leading to new industries in energy, technology and health care.
"It is fitting to launch this annual series during a week that seeks to inspire young people to be innovative and entrepreneurial," said Lesa Mitchell, vice president, Advancing Innovation, Kauffman Foundation.

See complete story in MarketWatch.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Improving the Count; Prof. David Wagner, others pose solutions for better election system

The Boulder Daily Camera ran an article Sunday regarding problems with voting systems in general and in Boulder County specifically. Although Boulder County Commissioners agreed to spend $1.4 million on optical scanning equipment in 2004, in didn't take long for problems that still follow the county's election process showed up. In August 2004, Boulder County lagged hours behind other Colorado counties. Worse, poorly printed ballots delayed election results for 72 hours in November, 2004.
“If the proper maintenance and everything else is being done to (the scanners), this is the voting system we should be using,” said John Gideon, co-director of VotersUnite!, a non-partisan group that has been logging errors on all kinds of voting machines.
Computer scientist David Wagner of the University of California at Berkeley who studies electronic voting machines, agrees.
“Right now, I think optical scan systems are probably the most mature, reliable technology on the market,” he said. “Boulder got the best technology on the market. ... None of the voting systems are perfect, and they all have their limitations.”

See full story in The Boulder Daily Camera.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Profitability of spam finally measured

ZDNet posted an article about a key paper presented at this year's ACM Conference on Computer and Communication Security. A team of researchers, including UC Berkeley Professor Vern Paxson, used somewhat aggressive tactics to collect data that measures the conversion rate, or the rate at which an advertising impression results in a products sale, for spam. They essentially hijacked a portion of the notorious Storm botnet to inject spam that contained links to domains and storefronts they controlled.

The team's data has shown that generating 28 sales at an average of $100 each of various "male-enhancement" products required 350 million separate spam messages. This provides a yearly revenue rate of the Storm botnet for the sale of pharmaceuticals at around $3.5 million dollars.

See complete article at ZDNet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

An article came out today in PCWorld regarding the progress of E-voting technology since the 2000 U.S. presidential election, although it has taken a rather zig-zagged path. After Congress passed the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), counties spent billions of dollars upgrading to new electronic voting machines, many of which were dumped when it was determined that they were either unusable or untrustworthy.

Machine malfunctions, touch-screen calibration errors, training problems with unskilled poll workers or human error on the part of the voter all impact on an election's outcome. All of the above notwithstanding, University of California computer science professor David Wagner states that bad design choices could be ferreted out if the federal government included user-interface testing as part of the certification process.

Proposed next-generation voting standards would require this type of testing, but it is not clear that these standards will be adopted, Wagner said. The Berkeley professor also said he will be watching these voter registration databases closely today.
"I don't know what to expect," he said. "Everything could go smoothly, or we could have a substantial fraction of voters who show up on Election Day, think they're registered and are told that there is some problem with their registration."

See article today in PCWorld.