close this bookVolume 1: No. 04
View the documentQuery -- NIST funding
View the documentNews -- software industry
View the documentNews -- opportunities
View the documentNews -- information sources
View the documentTools -- software sources
View the documentTools -- data sources
View the documentReview -- Inside Information
View the documentReview -- PenPoint
View the documentAdvice -- personal computer security
View the documentExperience -- publishing

Ann Reid (Teleos) asked me about proposal funding at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly NBS). I said that I didn't know of any such activity, and that NIST's main role was coordination of industry groups that are trying to establish standards. NIST also does some in-house research, especially when they can get industry support.

Alfred Rosenblatt's article in The Institute (May/June '91) shows that I was wrong. The Commerce Department has been using NIST as their channel for Advanced Technology Program grants. Last year's competition for $9M produced 249 proposals and 11 winners (five consortia, six independent companies). Communication Intelligence Corp. (Menlo Park) won $671,000 to develop a user-independent handwriting recognition system; other awards were all related to hardware, optics, and device physics.

This year's late-spring competition will be for $39.5M. If NIST has the same experience as NSF, few of this year's proposals will be recycled. This is foolish. The cream has been skimmed, so the second-rank proposals will be the best that remain eligible -- especially since the proposers have had an additional year to prepare. The judges will also be different, and the tendency will be to make awards in different areas from those that won the first time around. So, if you're working on a precompetitive technology of U.S. commercial importance, get in there and compete!

IBM is countering NEC's dominance of the Japanese PC market by licensing IBM operating systems to eleven Japanese companies. This could double the market for IBM-compatible software in two years. [George Watson, The Institute, May/June '91.]

Apple Computer (Cupertino) and Communication Intelligence Corp. (Menlo Park) have introduced The Mac Handwriter, the first product enabling personal computers to read Chinese and Japanese characters. [Spectrum, 4/91.]

ATR International (Kyoto) is developing an English/Japanese voice-translation system with funding from more than 100 companies. Technical assistance will come from SRI, Stanford, CMU, and Manchester University. NEC has also developed such a system, based on speaker-independent recognition of continuous Japanese half-syllables. A proposed use of voice translation is in television receivers. [Lori Valigra, The Institute.]

Norrad (Nashua, NH), a division of Neuron Data, has released Net-Link+, a software bridge that links expert systems [Nexpert Object] with neural networks [Neural/Works Professional II], fuzzy logic [TILShell], and abductive reasoning [AIM]. Connections can also be made to standard databases [Sybase, Oracle, Ingres, Informix, Rdb, and DB2]. $295 to $595; (603) 434-0047 for Norad, (415) 321-4488 for Neuron. [AI Expert, 4/91.]

Two companies have recently announced neural-network extensions to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Braincel from Promised Land Technologies (New Haven, (800) 243-1806) is $249; NNSheet from Inductive Solutions Inc (New York, (212) 945-0630) is $900. [AI Expert, 4/91.]

Knowledge Access International (Mountain View) is marketing a CD-ROM premastering system for just $3,495. [Ian Stokell, Newsbytes/Bay Area Computer Currents.]

Software Publishing, Inc. has sold its PFS: series to Spinnaker and will move into higher-end applications such as its InfoAlliance data-merging software. [MicroTimes, 4/15.]

Synchronetics, Inc. is seeking beta test sites for Text-SR, its concept-based natural-language text-retrieval tool. Synchronetics also offers NL-Builder, a C-language shell for building NL interfaces. (301) 644-2400.

DEC and Avalanche Development Company are cross-licensing their document-acquisition technologies. Avalanche's visual recognition engine, intelligent markup technology, and SGML expertise will be merged with DEC's compound document architecture (CDA), computer-aided acquisition and logistics support (CALS), and other text, online, and CD-ROM publishing operations. [AI Magazine, Spring '91.]

Inference (El Segundo, CA) recently acquired Expertech, a UK expert-systems company. Peter Tierney -- former VP/Marketing at Oracle -- has been named president and CEO of Inference. [ISR: Intelligent Systems Report, AI Magazine, Spring '91.]

IntelliCorp (Mountain View) is planning a Mac version of KAPPA-PC ($3,500) for this summer. Leor Jacob (AIA and A.I. Novation) finds KAPPA-PC a joy to use for mid-size expert systems. An application of 5,000 objects requires only 2MB RAM, and links are available to C and Windows DDE. [AIA Journal, May-June '91.]

Average salaries for IEEE members rose 5% last year, versus 4% the year before. IEEE's 1991 survey, available to members in May for $74.95, will include a regression equation based on about 30 variables. [The Institute.]

Source Engineering, a recruiting firm, is offering its 12-page 1991 Engineering Salary Survey and Career Planning Guide for free. Their direct-mail ad mentions the SF Bay area, but the survey was probably national. To get a copy -- and to enter their database -- call (408) 738-8440 or write to 1290 Oakmead Parkway, Suite 318, Sunnyvale, CA 94086. Or check for a local branch.

Working Mother magazine rated Apple (Cupertino), IBM, and the SAS Institute (Cary, NC) among the 10 U.S. companies with the best parental benefits. At&t, Bellcore, DEC, and Xerox were in the top 75. [Karen Fitzgerald, The Institute, May/June '91.]

Information Access Co., a leading supplier of reference materials and indexes, is advertising for programmer analysts with three years of C experience -- especially database compression, retrieval, and graphics. 362 Lakeside Dr., Foster City, CA 94404.

The National University of Singapore has taken out a full-page ad in CACM (3/91, p. 132) for its Institute of Systems Science. It is seeking ISS Fellows and senior research management people in AI, NLP, and multimedia. (isshycg@nusvm.bitnet)

If you prefer France, the new THESEUS graduate management school in Sophia-Antipolis is advertising for Ph.D. faculty in information and networking technologies. [CACM, 3/91.]

The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) at Saarbruecken is looking for LISP/PROLOG-fluent researchers for the "AKA-Mod" (Modeling Cooperative Agents) project. Dr. H.J. Mueller (mueller@uklirb.informatik.uni-kl.de). [DAI-List.]

The Australian AI Institute (Carlton) is looking for world-class researchers in planning, constraint satisfaction, real-time reasoning, DAI, etc. (AAII is affiliated with SRI International.) Contact Martin Dunlop, md@aaii.oz.au.

ERIM has recently implemented a doctoral fellowship program in conjunction with UMichigan/EECS. ERIM is also advertising in AI Magazine for research scientists in advanced image analysis.

Spain: Dr. Vincente Lopez (lopez@emdcci11.bitnet or .earn) is seeking candidates for a 1991 neural-network postoc. The Instituto de Ingeniera del Conocimiento is an R&D institute at the Univeristy Autonoma de Madrid concerned with research in expert systems and neural networks. Starting gross salary is up to 3.000.000 pts per annum. [Neuron Digest.]

UBirmingham is looking for a Lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction. Contact edmondsonwh@vax1.computer-centre.birmingham.ac.uk. [NL-KR.]

IEEE ((800) 678-IEEE) is offering its Proc. IEEE Special Issues to members for $10, half the list price. Topics include Neural Networks I: Theory and Modeling, Neural Networks II: Analysis, Techiques & Applications, and issues on ISDN, massively parallel computers, multidimensional signal processing, and discrete event systems. (Handling is $4, with sales tax in NY, NJ, CA, and DC.)

Terry Sejnowski (tsejnowski@UCSD.EDU) reports that the journal Neural Computation will now accept one or two full-length papers per issue, subject to thorough review. Subscriptions are $35 student, $55 individual, $110 institutional. [Connectionists.]

Howard Bornstein says that Michael Gosney's beautifully crafted Verbum Magazine is the best way to track the evolution of digital art. P.O. Box 12564, San Diego, CA 92112; (619) 233-9977. [Bay Area Computer Currents, 4/8/91.]

Abstracts in Human-Computer Interaction is a new quarterly journal from Ergosyst Associates, (913) 842-7334. The same company publishes Keyguide to Information Sources in Artificial Intelligence/Expert Systems, 1990, 277 pp., $70. [AI Magazine.]

The Japan Personal Computer Software Association (JPSA) has compiled a 300-page report, "Japan's Personal Computer Software Market." Prospects look good for foreign software. The English version is available for $495 from Implements Inc., 6 Brook Trail Road, Wayland, MA 01778-3706; (508) 358-5858. [Spectrum, 4/91.] (The Japanese have traditionally relied on custom systems, but are beginning to see the advantages of well-supported mass-market systems. Foreign software is also becoming fashionable.)

The Japan Information Processing Development Center (JIPDEC) publishes a government-sponsored Survey of the Japanese Artificial Intelligence Technology Demand Trends. Translations of the 1987-8 and 1988-9 surveys, which include robotics and image/voice recognition, are available from Mrs. Verla Weaver, NTIS ((703) 487-7079) for $250 each, or $400 for the set. [AI Magazine.]

If you plan to market software, you might check out the Software Entrepreneurs' Forum (SEF) and their newsletter. Call (415) 854-7219 for a free copy.

Matt Ginsberg (Stanford) has made his MVL theorem prover available over the internet. See the Spring 1991 AI Magazine, p.13.

Wesley R. Elsberry (elsberry@evax.uta.edu) runs the Central Neural System BBS, a direct-dial source of neural-network information and software. He also offers FidoNet/EchoMail access nationwide, and will dump information to diskettes at little cost.

AI Expert magazine runs a forum on CompuServe, at GO AIEXPERT. It's a good way to get source code from the magazine's articles, as well as access to online discussions. There are 14 regional phone numbers, including Ontario and Switzerland.

VPI's Center for Innovative Technology (with help from Nimbus and others) publishes a series of free CD-ROM databases. Virginia Disc One (VAD1) can be read on any system, but its TOPIC browsing/retrieval software runs only under DOS. VAD1 contains 6000 files (600 megabytes), with more than 30 searchable databases: USDA Extension collections; ACM's Guide to the Computing Literature; Computer World texts; bibliographies; archives of IRList and AIList; the King James Bible; a list of English words, etc. VAD2 contains mainly library collections. VAD3 is for Macs running A/UX, and contains mainly UNIX-type software. Contact Dr. Edward A. Fox (fox@fox.cs.vt.edu).

ACM is marketing a PC-based CD ROM bibliography covering the last decade of computing literature. You get over 93,000 book/paper citations from 475 periodicals plus 9,000 full-text reviews, including page images of tables and formulas. $799 to members. (212) 869-7440.

I don't know know the current status, but Charles Wilson at NIST has been compiling a database of handwriting samples from lab notebooks. (301) 975-2080.

Lua Kim Teng (National U. of Singapore, luakt%nusdiscs.bitnet @cs.rpi.edu) reports in NL-KR that the Chinese and Oriental Languages Information Society sells a $250 database of 46,000 Chinese words, with Hanyu Pinyin and frequencies of occurrence. Lua also has a personal database of 70,000 Chinese words grouped into 12 major, 94 medium, and 1428 minor classes.

STREETS 4.0 is a business-oriented map database/interface system with street maps available for thousands of cities. Prices start at $225. Klynas Engineering, Box 499, Simi Valley, CA 93062; (805) 583-1029.

Inside Information, a hierarchically structured software dictionary, has been reviewed by Phillip Robinson (San Jose Mercury). The program eats 3.5 megabytes of hard disk, coverage is incomplete, definitions are too short, and the reverse dictionary function (looking up words by meaning) often fails to find a match. Phillip judged the program less useful than an online encyclopedia, but a CD-ROM version might be worth the $119 list price. (Microlytics will soon publish Word Menu, an expanded database in book form.) (716) 249-9150.

GO Corporation (Foster City) has recently made its PenPoint operating system available to hardware and software developers. PenPoint offers a graphic "notebook" interface -- yes, with pages and edge tabs, as well as icons, menus, and pop-up windows -- built around pen manipulation and handwritten input. (Keyboards will be optional). Each notebook page is associated with an application program, just as Mac files are tied to their applications. Mobile professionals are the target market -- truck drivers, meter readers, claims agents, salesmen, interviewers -- but I see potential for home, school, and business markets when the hardware becomes cheap enough.

PenPoint is 4 MB of object-oriented code intended to run in anything from a shirt-pocket steno pad to a wall-sized display board. The operating system interfaces with PCs and Macintoshes, and operations such as printing are automatically queued until docked to the right hardware.

According to Bill Campbell (president and CEO, Informix board member, and recently president/CEO of Claris), PenPoint's system calls are more comprehensive and integrated than those of the Macintosh toolbox. The code is also fully object-oriented. Programmers needed a year to switch from DOS or UNIX to the Mac. PenPoint should be easier to learn, with application development taking only 8-12 months (vs. 18 months for just an upgrade on the Mac) and requiring only 200K or so of code.

Several companies, including GRiD, are interested in building compatible notebook computers. (GO Corp. won't have the same lock on product lines and profits as Apple has had.) New companies such as Slate and PenSoft are developing applications, enjoying the lack of entrenched competition. If you're just starting as a software developer, this might be a good opportunity. [Condensed from a 4/15 MicroTimes article by Mary Eisenhart.]

You can rent a computer system, delivered anywhere in the U.S., for as little as $126 per month by calling the Personal Computer Rental Corporation, (800) 444-9930. You might save money, though, by buying a used computer and then selling it when you're finished. (For long-term business use, you can deduct depreciation on your U.S. income taxes. If purchased new, there is a full deduction for the first $10,000 of equipment each year.) Be sure that you don't leave valuable data on any computer that you return or sell. Just erasing the files, or even initializing the disk, won't provide total security. (Apple once lost a new operating system when a reporter bought one of their used office Macs.)

When selling a computer, don't give out your home address to anyone you can't identify. Thieves sometimes target advertised computer systems and the upgrades that are replacing them. (Discussion of expensive home computer/stereo systems on network bboards has also been known to trigger burglaries.) To show the system in your home, ask to call back with an appointment time. Call several hours later, at a random time, to be sure that the prospect isn't using a public phone. (Anyone knowing your name, city, and phone number can look you up in the phone book, though.)

Protect your home computer by inscribing your driver's license number on the outside and inside of the case. Keep a set of backup disks off-site to protect against both fire and theft. Your address list and other critical files should be kept in triplicate, since floppies and hard disks do fail. (In fact, it's part of the normal life cycle.) Data recovery, if possible, can take weeks and cost hundreds of dollars. Repair personnel have also been known to keep copies of files they find on your disks.

Take special care with encrypted files or disk partitions, since a single-bit error may trash the data. If a floppy does fail, don't stick your only backup in the drive until you've verified that the drive itself is not at fault. Also, keep your backup disks locked; never take a chance on infecting them with a virus.

Sometimes it's the index to your backup set that fails. (I've had this happen.) If so, you'll have trouble recovering your data unless files are stored in an independently readable form. I use DiskFit for the Macintosh, which stores readable files and uses a near-minimal number of disks. (I've heard that Redux is even better.) Another protection is to alternate two or more backup sets -- plus periodic archival sets to guard against writing a newly corrupted file to all your backups!

A collection split between floppies and a hard disk can be very difficult to maintain. There are shareware cataloging programs, of course, but the conceptual problem of tracking what backs up what (i.e., version control) is not solved by cataloging. I recommend the following. Whenever you get new software, lock and then copy each disk -- anything worth keeping is worth keeping in duplicate. (Avoid copy-protected software; it will eventually fail, and then what will you do?) These copies become your primary set, with the original disks as a first backup. Keep the originals in a different room from the computer, just in case thieves take all the disks in your office. Make a second backup of any disks that are particularly valuable or irreplaceable, and keep them off-site in case of fire, earthquake, or even seizure by IRS/Federal agents.

Now -- or during the previous copy steps -- put any files that you need onto your hard disk as a working set. Omit files that you don't need -- or seldom need -- and never load an extra copy of the operating system. The only "primary" files on your hard disk will be data files that you create, and these can be copied to "working backup" floppies when you first write the files or at the end of each day. Periodically make extra copies of these working floppies to store with your primary and backup sets.

With this system, you really don't need a backup of your entire hard disk. Nor do you need special recovery programs like SUM Guardian, MacTools MIRROR, or Complete Undelete. Still, they're a comfort -- and the backup programs can help if you want to repartition your disk, defragment files, or restore a pre-virus state. Unfortunately, it takes at least an hour and 40 DS/DD floppies to back up a 40MB hard disk. Times the number of backup sets. That's a lot of floppies, but it's cheaper than losing data. [Buy mail-order floppies, in bulk. MEI/Micro Center ((800) 634-3478) sells 3.5" DS/DD disks for about $.41 delivered. If any fail to initialize, they'll ship you replacements. Store prices are two to five times as much, with perhaps another eight cents per gummed label. (!) Discount brands are almost as reliable as name brands, and any floppy that accepts initialization is unlikely to give you trouble for at least three years.]

A second hard disk can simplify backing up the first one (if you can spare the space), but creates additional problems if you fill up its larger store with new files. If I ever win the lottery, I'll invest in a cartridge drive (about $600, plus $80 per 45MB cartridge). Thank goodness 600MB CD ROMs don't need backups.

Tod Levitt (ADS, Mountain View) reports that Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. has acquired Pergamon Press. (Pergamon authors will continue to deal with their usual editors.)

Tod also says that it's easy to get a technical book published. Almost any technical publisher (e.g., Elsevier, Pergamon, Kluwer, Academic Press, Springer-Verlag) will publish a book recommended by one of its technical editors. A good place to hunt for a publisher is "publisher's row" at any large technical conference and trade show. Editors, mostly professors and industrial researchers, are listed in the flyleaves of books. Laveen Kanal (UMaryland), for example, is an Elsevier technical editor for pattern recognition, artificial intelligence, and other topics.

Don't expect to make any money from the book, but writing is an "easy" way to get publicity and establish technical credibility -- if you have a book topic. Many publishers, especially Kluwer, will publish your manuscript right off your laser printer, without typesetting and without editorial review -- at least if you have any credibility in publication circles (e.g., a track record of professional journal publications, or a senior research position).

[If you need to make money from the book, consider self-publishing. Books are available that teach how to do it, and any book printer will be happy to work with you. (Avoid vanity presses, though.) Most of the work is done by the time you have camera-ready copy from your laser printer -- but consult with your printer first. The key to sales is to notify standard announcement channels and send out review copies prior to the official publication date. You can get a run of 500 to 2000 copies for a few dollars per copy, delivered to your [tax-deductible!] garage. Book jobbers and sales reps will expect discounts of 40% or so, but the profit per copy can still be substantial. You are likely to make more from personal effort than from routine distribution by a major publisher. If the book really succeeds, you can sell out to a publisher with broad distribution channels.]