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Posted by Rob Knies
At 1 p.m. today, as it has almost every day for the past 179 years, the red time ball at the Royal Observatory Greenwich dropped from its Flamsteed House perch atop the prime meridian and adjacent to the River Thames. In the days before radio time signals, sailors were able to monitor the daily movement of the time ball to calibrate their chronometers and thereby obtain an accurate reckoning of their longitude while at sea.One hundred seventy-nine years—that’s the course of two lengthy human lives. How the observatory must have changed over that period. How its surroundings must have been altered, rebuilt, torn down, rebuilt anew. How can a mere mortal even contemplate such an extended span of time?That’s the crux of the research behind Project Greenwich, an effort by the Socio-Digital Systems (SDS) group at Microsoft Research Cambridge to enable users to create website timelines of any subject they fancy. Whether it’s the evolution of a historical event, observations about how a place has changed, or how your own life has developed, Project Greenwich offers utility to its users while enabling its researchers to learn how people think about time and how they approach the process of telling a story across time.
Computing in the 21st century increasingly is embracing touch interaction. Whether it be on mobile handhelds, large electronic displays, or something in between, such user interfaces are becoming commonplace.Interestingly, researchers from Microsoft Research Redmond are expanding that modern-day model of interaction using research breakthroughs from the 1990s combined with the latest in touch functionality.In-Place, a project by Michel Pahud, Ken Hinckley, and Bill Buxton, is the result. The work uses “bi-manual commands,” which means two hands working seamlessly together, such as touch with an index finger to move a menu toward the dominant hand so it can select a tool.
On Oct. 16 in Mountain View, Calif., the Computer History Museum will host a conversation between Rick Rashid, Microsoft chief research officer and worldwide head of Microsoft Research, and John Markoff of The New York Times. For 90 minutes, beginning at 7 p.m., the audience will get insights into the process of innovation, the risks it engenders, and the rewards it offers.The event is the latest in the Computer History Museum Revolutionaries Series, an acclaimed, recurring event featuring renowned innovators, business leaders, technological leaders, and authors. Registration is free.It figures to be a fascinating discussion. Rashid is expected to share more on his background, his role models, and his influences, particularly over the more than 21 years that he has led Microsoft Research.
Posted by Yuxiong He, Sameh Elnikety, and James Larus, Microsoft Research; and Chenyu Yan, Microsoft
Sharing a resource, such as a computer processor or disk drive, requires the system to make decisions about which user’s task gets to use the resource and for how long. When my task is running, yours may be idling in a queue, awaiting its turn on a processor. The process of making these resource-allocation decisions is known as scheduling, and it has long been one of the most important aspects of system design, as a poor scheduler not only wastes resources but also can ruin a user’s experience.
Scheduling is a well-studied area, but cloud computing raises new challenges. The focus of our paper Zeta: Scheduling Interactive Services with Partial Execution, being presented this week in San Jose, Calif., during the Association for Computing Machinery’s Symposium on Cloud Computing, is an important type of cloud service: time-bounded interactive services. These are websites—such as Microsoft’s Bing and Office 365 or Facebook—in which a user interacts directly with a service running in the cloud, as opposed to an application running on a local machine. To provide a pleasing user experience, the service’s response to a user’s click must occur near instantaneously, typically within a couple of hundred milliseconds, around the limits of human perception.
For the past 13 years, the Microsoft Research Asia Fellowship Program has offered the most prestigious computer-science Ph.D. scholarships in the Asia Pacific region. Hundreds of students have been inspired to excel in the interim, and that reputation was underscored yet again in Tianjin, China, on Oct. 25.As part of the 14th Computing in the 21st Century Conference, co-hosted by Microsoft Research Asia, Nankai University, and Tianjin University, the program recognizes the most outstanding first- or second-year Ph.D. students in the region who are majoring in computer science, electrical engineering, information science, or applied mathematics.“The fellowship program has helped hundreds of outstanding young researchers launch their professional careers,” says Lolan Song, Microsoft Research Asia senior director responsible for academic collaboration in the Asia Pacific region. “I hope the program will be recognized as Asia’s ‘Junior Turing Award’ someday.”