May 2011 Archives

A third UMass Lowell Computer Science course this spring engaged students in developing mobile applications.

On May 10, more than 20 students gathered in Olsen 311 for the project demos from the course “91.650: Topics in Wireless Networking and Mobile Computing.” The course, offered by Prof. Guanling Chen, covered a variety of topics on both principles and practices of the state-of-art academic research and industry development on emerging mobile platforms and wireless technologies.

All 14 students showed their project demos. Examples included:

  • Anthony Biasella presented an Android-based adventure game called "The Legend of Adlez"
  • Beibei Yang demonstrated sentimental analysis of movies currently playing in nearby theaters, using data mashed from Twitter and Google services
  • Chris Dietsch showed his iPhone app for guitar tablature search based on the song currently playing by the iPod
  • Jesse Lucas showed his Android app for bar-hopping and pub crawl
  • Mehrdad Nourai demonstrated an iOS app for QRCode-based inventory control
  • Roger Dejean presented an Android-based app for car theft detection using motion detection
  • Zach Kissel showed an Bluetooth proximity monitor for office and home automation
At the end of session, the audience unanimously voted Beibei Yang's movie app as their favorite demo. This web app is implemented using HTML5 so it works across multiple mobile platforms. By first locating the user's position, this app uses Google movie service to find the titles of the movies being played at the nearby theaters. The app then pulls Twitter conversations about these movies and applies sentimental analysis algorithms to show how the movie is liked or disliked by Twitter users.

The project reports and some video demos can be found at the project website.

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Two screenshots from Beibei Yang's “Twitiment” web service for geolocation mashups.
On April 26, undergraduate students in the Spring 2011 Artbotics class at UMass Lowell held an opening of “Play” at the 119 Gallery. At the same time, Lowell High School students opened their Artbotics show,  “The Other Side,” held at The Revolving Museum. Both institutions are part of Lowell arts community, and partners with UMass Lowell.

The undergraduate Artbotics class was co-taught by Computer Science Professor Holly Yanco, Fine Arts Professor Ellen Wetmore, and UML alumnus Adam Norton. Adam is also the co-instructor of the after-school Artbotics program for high school students at the Revolving Museum.

The whole Artbotics project was launched with a grant from the National Science Foundation in 2006, and these two shows were part of the Boston Cyberarts 2011 Festival.
 
A party atmosphere reigned at both openings, with students celebrating each other’s achievements. Live video-streaming enabled participants to see what was happening at the other exhibit, several city blocks away. A bus shuttled guests, students, faculty, and staff from one exhibit to the other.
 
The interactive pieces at the 119 Gallery included the Trash Monster, created by Fine Arts majors Julia Donigian and Alyssa McCann. The monsters were set in a landfill of debris, designed with motors and sensors to jump up to see who dared to awake them from their slumber. The monsters were modeled to mimic the personalities and look of their creators.

Simply Over Engineered, by Computer Science major Eric McCann, performed a swaying give-and-take dance with the viewer, representing over 60 hours of design time. The steam-punk robotic arm had a multitude of sensors and used pulleys, ball bearings, gears, belts and an Arduino microcontroller, enabling it to perform its magical movement.

City Scape by Kristin Morrisey transfixed the viewer with the glistening Boston city skyline at nightfall. Large sheets of metal collided with one another to create thunder in English major Kristen Dubis’ piece titled Nerves.
 
A movie highlighting each of the projects exhibited at the 119 Gallery is below.

Undergraduate artists and technologists: Jonathan Cloutier, Christopher Conklin, Brian Demerjian, Julia Donigian, Kristen Dubis, Samantha Durant, Laura Eames, Duy Hoang, Dung Le, Christopher Lopez, Patrick Lynch, Nathan Maillet, Eric McCann, Alyssa McCann, Kristin Morrissey, Ian Ndicu, Jared Peters, Juan Rios and Tuan Vu.

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Laura Eames prepares her Flowers piece for exhibit. Inspired by Arthur Ganson, Laura created flowers with petals that moved up and down when a viewer approached the piece.

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Chris Conklin designed four sets of clapping wire hands for his exhibit, each triggered by movement in front of its distance sensor.

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Nathan Maillet created an interactive xylophone.  Viewers played songs on an octave's notes by moving their hands in front of the piece's eight sensors.



Prof. Benyuan Liu recently received an equipment grant from Microsoft Research to introduce Windows 7 phones and related mobile cloud services in 91.564 Data Communications II. The grant was received in time for the Spring 2011 semester, and Liu integrated the technologies into his course. 

Prof. Liu reported that “students were very excited about the opportunity to use the advanced mobile cloud technologies from Microsoft Research, and learned a great amount about the principles and practice of wireless networking and mobile computing through the smart phone application developments.”

On May 18, students demonstrated the applications they have developed for the course projects, ranging from smartphone RSS news reader to providing various services for the community. The projects were:

  • UML Parking Finder by Peng Xia and Shan Lu, for finding parking spaces at UMass Lowell.
  • ZurianSwap by Steve Bilozur, Swapnil Gewande and Ian White for sign translation using smartphones.
  • iBridge: Augmenting Reality with Barcode by Ke Huang and Liuying Peng, to scan product barcodes with smartphone and obtain relevant information (e.g., stores nearby, compare price, nutrition analysis, etc).
  • UML Shuttle Tracker by Jason Chan, I-Hsuan Lin and Xiawei Liu, a user friendly smartphone  application to look up the shuttle bus’s location in real time.
  • SleepSafe by Bhanu Kaushik, a smartphone based approach for sleepwalking detection.
  • Language Translator by Darshan Darbari and Rachit Mathur, language translator on smartphones for storing translated text.
  • UML App by Kavya Kona, Prathiba Dyavegowda and Sunil Kumar Balaganchi Thammaiah, All-you-want  to know information about UMass Lowell (shuttle services, dining services, on-campus residence, athletic centers, libraries, emergence notifications, etc)
  • UML 4-Ride by Malav Parikh, Purva Patil, Puneet Agrawal and Pragya Singhal, providing UML students with ride service at ease with smart phones.
  • RSS Reader by Naiem Sleiman and Naji Dagher, RSS Reader for keeping up with news and information on smartphones.
Liu commented that “as smart phones are quickly becoming indispensible communication and computing devices in people’s daily lives, it is exciting to see students become facile with these technologies.”

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Peng Xia explains his “UML Parking Finder” app, designed with collaborator Shan Lu.
On April 4, 2011, Jason M’Sadoques successfully defended his MS dissertation, entitled “Regarding an Alternative Method for Translational Single-Item Containment.” This work, supported by adviser Dr. Karen Daniels, took an idea originally presented by Althaus et al. that obtained the feasible region for placing an object into a container without the use of unbounded point sets. The thesis supplied a formal proof and also presented the restrictions on its validity.

The use of unbounded point sets requires special handling in computational geometry. One method is to calculate or estimate a maximum volume of space in which all geometric manipulations will fit: a bounding box. Alternatively there is a technique called infimaximal frames. Neither option was suitable for use in this case in the field’s standard Computational Geometry Algorithms Library, and so M’Sadoques’ algorithm was developed as a solution.

In addition to two alternate proofs, additional work was done to allow the packing of two objects into a container, again avoiding unbounded sets. The algorithms were implemented in C++ and timings were taken using simple 3D input shapes.

Present at the defense were thesis committee members Drs. Karen Daniels, George Grinstein and Cindy Chen from the Computer Science department, and remotely Dr. Victor Milenkovic from the University of Miami.

The complete thesis may be retrieved from the department’s Technical Report repository. The results of this work will also be presented in the Cutting and Packing stream of the Conference for the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS 2011) in Melbourne, Australia on July 11.

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Image illustrating containment problem. Beyond two shapes, the containment problem is NP-complete.
Associate Professor Karen Daniels and her doctoral student Shu Ye presented their paper “Hierarchical Delaunay Triangulation for Meshing” at the 10th International Symposium on Experimental Algorithms in May 2011 in Greece.

Their paper discusses an elliptical pad structure and its polygonal approximation. The elliptical pad is a part of via model structures, which are critical components on today’s multilayered Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and electrical packaging.

To explore meshing characterization of the elliptical pad helps mesh generation over 3D structures for electromagnetic modeling and simulation on PCB and electrical packaging. Because elliptical structures are often key PCB features, the authors introduce a hierarchical mesh construct and show that it has several useful quality characteristics related to Delaunay triangulation.

The Delaunay triangulation has the important modeling characteristic that the minimum triangle angle is maximized.

Daniels and Ye then show experimentally that the Computational Geometry Algorithm Library’s meshing of an elliptical structure at different resolution levels and with various aspect ratios produces patterns similar to the hierarchical construct. In particular, the experiment also shows that the result of meshing is not only a constrained Delaunay triangulation, which preserves the segments that approximate the elliptical structure, but, significantly, it is also a Delaunay triangulation.

A copy of the paper may be downloaded here.

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Examples of hierarchical Delaunay triangulations.

On May 4, 2011, students of Prof. Xinwen Fu’s 91.661.201 Advanced Topics on Network Security successfully presented term projects. There were approximately 40 students and one professor, Prof. Levkowitz, in attendance. Presenters received many good questions from the audience.
 
Two groups of students introduced their work on the Swiss army knife used by hackers: Metasploit. The presentations were an excellent chance for the UML-CS community to understand this advanced tool, used for designing exploits and conducting attacks. Metasploit  is also be used for open testing of networks and computers. Presenting students also discussed countermeasures to the attacks they introduced.
 
In the first presentation, entitled Metasploit, Anthony Gabrielson and Adam Helbling presented an overview of Metasploit, showcasing both how to develop for and use Metasploit. The presentation included the usage of more obscure Metasploit capabilities in conjunction with the powerful OllyDbg debugger. Helbling went through the MiniShare Remote Buffer Overflow Exploit (C source) with detailed instruction on finding the magic number through OllyDbg. A correct patch will prevent this attack.
 
In the second presentation, entitled Embedded PDF Exploit, Jesse Lucas presented the Metasploit exploit that involves embedding a payload in a PDF file that will be executed by a victim. Lucas presented two different payloads.

The first payload was Metasploit's Meterpreter, which is short for “Meta-Interpreter.” Meterpreter is “an advanced payload that is included in the Metasploit Framework. Its purpose is to provide complex and advanced features that would otherwise be tedious to implement purely in assembly. Meterpreter allows the attacker to execute many useful commands that are executed without the user's knowledge.” 

Lucas’s second payload was vncinject, which gives the attacker a VNC session into the victim’s machine so the attacker can view and execute commands on the victim’s machine. To prevent the attack, Lucas concluded:

  • DO NOT open files from people you don’t know
  • DO NOT allow firewall exceptions for applications you don’t know
  • KEEP popular programs up to date
  • DISABLE File and Printer Sharing if you aren’t using it
 
A video of the two presentations can be found at the UMass Lowell Echo360 lecture capture site.
Prof. Fred Martin and five members of his research team attended the fourth annual Google I/O conference, held in the Moscone West center in San Francisco on May 10th and 11th, 2011.

In the conference, Google presented its latest technologies to the developer community, to encourage adoption of their APIs and platforms. This year, there was a special emphasis on the Android platform and the Chrome browser.

The event was a gala affair, attended by over 5,000 people and with highly produced keynotes by top Google engineering managers. Each morning led off with an hour-long keynote; the first day's focused on Android, and the second day's focused on Chrome.  Then there were 10 parallel tracks throughout the rest of the day. Attendees were treated well, with full breakfast, lunch, and snacks provided to all, and a Tuesday night party that included a concert by the alt-rock band Jane's Addiction.

In terms of technology, it was clear that Google is making a massive investment in Android. The operating system is no longer just for mobile phones; they gave details of the current “Honeycomb” release, which is optimized for tablets. There was a big presentation about developing for the Android-based Google TV platform.

In the keynote and a separate session, the Android Accessory Development Kit (ADK) was launched, which allows developers to interface their own sensor and actuators to an Android device.The keynote included a live demo done with the Lifecycle exercise equipment company—a bicycle that connects to your Android phone and where you play a game on the phone by changing the cycling rate. iRobot and other companies displayed prototypes using the ADK on the show floor. All attendees of the technical session on the ADK received a full kit to start developing their own attachments.

The other big push by Google, and the subject of the second day's keynote, was the Chrome browser and Chrome operating system. Google is making a serious play for the latest incarnation of the “thin client” concept—the idea that all data and applications should hosted in the cloud, and a simple client machine can dynamically load the applications needed to operate on users’ data, which is also hosted in the cloud. After announcing that the Chrome Web Store would only collect 5% of an app's sale price, Google showed the latest addition to the Store—the first desktop version of the huge hit game “Angry Birds.”  

Then Google announced the evolution of its trial Cr-48 notebook program—new “Chromebooks” that will be sold by leading PC manufacturers Samsung and Acer.  Google announced a program where businesses can adopt Chromebooks with a monthly subscription plan, including regular hardware replacement and back-end services, for a monthly price of $28 per employee. They also announced a $20 per month price for non-profits and educational institutions.To encourage developers to jump on the Chrome bandwagon, all 5,000 Google I/O attendees were told that they will receive a Chromebook when they launch in June.

The technical sessions were also excellent; each was led by a Google developer who was personally responsible for new APIs, tools, or other programming approaches presented. Prof. Martin and his team participated in presentations on:

  • Using App Engine to perform large-scale mapreduce operations
  • Developing large Javascript web apps using the Closure tools
  • Storing Android app data in an App Engine backend with the Google Plugin for Eclipse, which generates appropriate design patterns for both an Android app and an App Engine app in tandem
  • The ForPlay cross-platform game abstraction layer, which has output back-ends for HTML5, Android, Java, and Flash
  • Advice for building a startup, including getting support from VCs
  • Google's collaboration with the cutting-edge robotics development group, Willow Garage, on cloud robotics approaches—off-loading compute-intensive tasks like object recognition and mapping to cloud-based services
In all, it was an inspiring event. It is clear that web-based services are continuing to accelerate in importance in the computing field, and that Google is leading the way. Everyone at the meeting was friendly and knowledgable—it was definitely a high-level meeting among talented engineers and developers from across industry and academia.

See below for photos from the event.


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Engaging Computing Group members pose outside the giant Google map marker before the gates open (L-R): John Fertitta, Michael McGuinness, James Dalphond, Mark Sherman, Prof. Fred Martin, and Chris Corcoran.

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The third floor of the convention center was devoted to Android.

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At the May 10th keynote, Google Product Manager Hugo Barra announced the name of the next Android release, to be called “Ice Cream Sandwich.”


Sound Thinking—just plain smarts, or the science of sound?  Actually, it's the name of an interdisciplinary course developed by UMass Lowell faculty Jesse Heines (Computer Science), Gena Greher (Music), and Alex Ruthmann (Music) as part of their NSF-funded Performamatics project.

On May 3, 2011, UMass Lowell students from the Spring 2011 offering of Sound Thinking (taught by Heines and Greher) demonstrated their course projects in Durgin Hall on South Campus. Attendees included faculty from UML’s Music Department, Lowell High School teachers, and Lowell High School students.

The UML undergraduates had created music+computing projects that were programmed in Scratch, a software environment published by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group in MIT’s Media Lab. In addition, most projects incorporated the IchiBoard, a sensor input accessory device developed by UMass Lowell Computer Science's Engaging Computing Group.

The IchiBoard allowed students to interact with the music and change it in real time while it was playing. Compositions ranged from interpretations of classical pieces to modern works that were sometimes a-melodic.

Overall, the non-CS students felt that they had learned a significant amount about programming computers, while the CS students felt that they extended their understanding of how computer technology can be applied in a seemingly very different field.

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Music Performance student Maria Price and CS student Chris Adoretti demonstrating their musical pong program written in Scratch.

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The IchiBoard, developed by CS doctoral candidate Mark Sherman, includes an accelerometer, light sensor, sound sensor, slide control, buttons, and jacks for external sensors. It was used by Sound Thinking students to provide input to their algorithmic music compositions.


A wide range of apps for iPhone and iTouch devices were created this semester by students of Prof. Fred Martin's Spring 2011 Directed Studies in iOS Applications.  Starting in January, a group of 17 CS majors, spanning from sophomores to doctoral students, embarked on a group self-study to learn how to write applications for Apple's iOS platform.

The students began by following the lectures and assignments published in Stanford University's iPhone Application Development class. Then, with Prof. Martin's encouragement, they brainstormed ideas for their own projects.

At first, it seemed like every app that could be imagined had already been created—as Apple has advertised, “there's an app for that.” 

But ultimately, students' creativity won out, and they delivered a bunch of innovative demonstrations of what's possible with contemporary mobile technologies:

  • Todo Awesome by Chris Corcoran and Tom Kiley, for sending tasks to your friends.
  • Theodolite by John Fertitta, for measuring the flight of a model rocket.
  • Multi-Touch Poker by James Dalphond, for picking up a hand of poker cards from a Microsoft Surface app to hold them on the iPhone.
  • Tilt Game by Eric Lima, for controlling a game character by tilting the iOS device.
  • SMSy by Bruce Malley and Elad Shahar, for bridging SMS messages between an iPhone and desktop or laptop computer.
  • iCB by Chris Adoretti and Mike LoVerme, a CB radio-like app for both Android and iOS devices.
  • BrainDump by John Huynh, for teaching yourself new subjects with flash cards.
  • Grudge Battle by Dante Kappotis, for controlling a “boss character” on an iPhone while you battle against opponents on a Microsoft Surface app.
  • Coin Game by Alex Urquizo, for teaching children how to add the values of coins.
  • TabFinder by Chris Dietsch, for displaying guitar, bass, and drum tabs for the song playing in your iTunes.
  • Baseball Charts by Simone Hill, for displaying rich, appealing charts of baseball statistics.
  • iScript by Will Darby, a prescription-reminder app that's part of a doctoral project on using the semantic web in medical applications.
  • Revibe by Trevor Cappallo, a multi-user telepresence haptics application.
The projects were demonstrated in Olsen Hall on May 5, 2011. For more information, see the course home page, or get in touch with students directly.

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John Huynh launching web-based companion app to his BrainDump project.

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Mike LoVerme (L) and Chris Adoretti demonstrate their “iCB” walkie-talkie application.

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