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Editorial pointers

Editorial Pointers

In a lecture almost 60 years ago, Alan Turing noted the point of building computers is to treat them as slaves, giving them only thoroughly spelled-out chores to do. Still, he wondered aloud, would it be necessary to always use computers in such a manner?

As great as the technical achievements have been since then, how far have we really come in answering Turing's original question? Peter Kugel, who has spent much of his career examining the learning process in people and in computers, contends real progress will come only when programmers realize "It's Time to Think Outside the Computational Box" and allow computers to carry out limiting computations.

Another decades-old quandary is buffer overflow—still the most frequently reported type of remote strike against computer systems, even allowing attackers to take over entire programs. Kuperman et al. assert no single solution but detail effective techniques for spotting and preventing stack buffer overflow attacks.

In other news, Alvin Chan presents an innovative application of smart card technology—as a mobile medium for securing and managing personalized cookies, thus untangling them from the computer. And Richard Frost presents a new architecture for distributed speech processing, arguing how a public-domain SpeechWeb could be developed from existing software and conventional Web protocols.

Wild, Griggs, and Li explore how a Web portal can help any organization plan for uncertainties by building scenarios that help prepare effective responses. And Ettredge, Gerdes, and Karuga track common search terms used by online job seekers to produce an accurate unemployment picture, claiming their model can also be used to predict other critical macroeconomic data.

Nerur et al. share results of a survey to rank the influence of established IS and computing journals, noting that understanding their strengths is valuable to scholars and publishers alike. In addition, Tassabehji and Vakola share results of a survey on how email has changed the workplace, revealing how human factors, such as gender, confidence, and experience, affect the use of email at work.

Two columns this month focus on ideas to spark a resurgence of interest—and students—in CS. In "The Profession of IT," Peter Denning and Andrew McGettrick point to recent concerted efforts to change the enrollment decline and urge educators to consider adopting an "innovation" approach that could widen the narrow impression of computing. And in "Viewpoint," Maria Klawe and Ben Shneiderman explore the opportunities also inherent in any effort to address the crisis in CS.

And in "President's Letter," David Patterson asks computer scientists and engineers to address another crisis—natural disasters—and how they might help limit their impact and assist in the protection of life and property.

Diane Crawford

©2005 ACM  0001-0782/05/1100  $5.00

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