31 March 2008: i++ Departmental Newsletter

Department connected to JANET Aurora Network

The latest JANET high speed network, launched last year, is enabling researchers and others to share data reliably at previously unattainable speeds and tackle tasks that would otherwise have been impossible. Imagine, then, what you could do with a network four, ten or even 100 times faster (40,100 or even 1000 Gbits/s compared with the present 10Gbit/s). Today’s applications that involve the transmission of large amounts of data across the network - such as sophisticated heart modelling, detailed simulations of complex molecules, or collaborative dance or music performances among remote partners - would be available to all rather than a few pioneers.
Wanting to keep well ahead of demand, JISC already has its sights on such a network. The JSR (JISC Support of Research) sub-committee is funding the JANET Aurora project, a so-called dark fibre facility for research into the components and architecture needed for next generation networks. “JANET Aurora is a substantial new infrastructure to enable collaboration between optical networking specialists and their colleagues researching ways in which future optical networks might be used by very demanding projects and application groups,” says David Salmon, JANET(UK)'s Research Support Unit Manager.
Most data is now transmitted across networks on a light wave that travels along an optical fibre.  However, bottlenecks that limit network speed and capacity occur because optical signals must be converted to electrical signals for routing and processing and back again for onward transmission.
JANET Aurora is putting the UK at the forefront of network research by enabling the design and testing of all-optical switches and new network architectures that minimise the need for processing at network nodes. It is linking three sites at the universities of Cambridge, Essex and University College London with 350km of high quality optical fibre provided by ntl:Telewest Business, part of Virgin Media. The fibre is supplied with no light shining down it (hence dark fibre), leaving researchers free to experiment with all-optical routing equipment at a variety of wavelengths.
“We will populate the network with our own technology and form an on-line distributed research environment, a UK virtual photonics laboratory,” says Professor Dimitra Simeonidou who is leading the project at the University of Essex.  The UK has the advantage of very strong research groups in advanced networking technologies that are physically close enough to link together with the dark fibre, she says.  Other groups in the UK will also be able to use the facility by connecting to it via JANET Lightpath, with its connection to Europe and North America through the GÉANT 2 European network. A number of projects are already planned with international partners.
Some initial projects will explore the demands on the network of potential future users, such as radio astronomers who are preparing to build the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array. Very high data rates and reliable network performance will be needed to pool data from widely-dispersed receivers and form an image of a celestial object almost instantaneously.  “Another application we’re looking at is ultra-high performance video where you need to transmit uncompressed images in real-time, making it possible to watch a full length feature film over the internet with no loss of quality, sound delays or awkward gaps as the data downloads,” says Professor Simeonidou.


Essex Evo*2008 Stars

Last month Essex was well represented at the Evo*2008 conferences and workshops in Naples. Bill Langdon (Maths and Biology) was given the EvoStar 2008 Award in recognition of the most outstanding contribution to Evolutionary Computation. Philip Saks and Dietmar Maringer (CCFEA) won the best paper prize in evolutionary finance.
Stephen Dignum (CES) won the best student paper award.
Also Nicholas McPhee (who is on sabatical here in Computing and Electronic Systems), Brian Ohs and Tyler Hutchison won the best paper prize at EuroGP and Essex collaborators from the University of Kent won the best paper prize in Bioinformatics.
The event also saw the launch of A Field Guide to Genetic Programming by Riccardo Poli, Bill Langdon and Nick McPhee.

See below for a list of Essex awards, nominations and papers submitted.
Best Paper Awards
EuroGP Winner: Semantic building blocks in genetic programming Nicholas McPhee, Brian Ohs, Tyler Hutchison
EvoFin Winner: Genetic Programming in Statistical Arbitrage Philip Saks, Dietmar Maringer
EvoPhD Winner: An Analysis of Genetic Programming Operator Bias regarding the Sampling of Program Size with Potential Applications Stephen Dignum
EuroGP Best Paper Nominations
Operator Equalisation and Bloat Free GP Stephen Dignum, Riccardo Poli
A Linear Estimation-of-Distribution GP System Riccardo Poli, Nicholas McPhee
Other Papers
Practical Model of Genetic Programming's Performance on Rational Symbolic Regression Problems Mario Graff, Riccardo Poli
The Effects of Constant Neutrality on Performance and Problem Hardness in GP, Edgar Galvan-Lopez, Stephen Dignum, Riccardo Poli
Crossover, Sampling, Bloat and the Harmful Effects of Size Limits Stephen Dignum, Riccardo Poli
A SIMD interpreter for Genetic Programming on GPU Graphics Cards W.B. Langdon, Wolfgang Banzhaf
Inc*: An Incremental Approach to Improving Local Search Heuristics Mohamed Bader-El-Den and Riccardo Poli
An Evolutionary Game-Theoretical Approach to Particle Swarm Optimisation Cecilia Di Chio, Paolo Di Chio, Mario Giacobini


CES featured twice in The Times

On March 19, The Times featured an article that highlighted the rise in demand for web developers and programmers in response to the business world’s increasing reliance on the Internet.  In the piece, Dr Simon Lucas emphasises the importance of obtaining an undergraduate degree in a numerate discipline before going on to study web application programming at MSc level.  For the full article at the Times Online, click here.
MSc student Muneerah Essa Al-Oud was also interviewed in The Times on why she chose to study e-commerce technology at postgraduate level – read the interview here.

staff news

Professor David Crawford

Professor Crawford will be making two presentations on behalf of the University on “The Mobile Television Market” and “Spectrum for Mobile Multimedia” at the Workshop on Enabling Mobile Multimedia Convergence in Middle East and North Africa to be held at Hourghada, Egypt on 2 – 4 April.

Professor Richard Bartle

Professor Richard Bartle was interviewed by BBC Essex's Etholle George on 27 March, regarding the Byron Review about children, computer games and the Internet (which was published that day). Sadly for Etholle, he didn't have much to criticise: "It's a good report". You can read the report here.
Richard also gave the keynote speech at the Indie MMO Game Developers Conference in Minneapolis on 30 March.
The slides are available here.

*Warning* slide 35 contains mature language - actually a reference to a category of weapons found in computer games.
See this entry in Wikipedia for an explanation.