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The Million Dollar Programming Prize

Netflix’s bounty for improving its movie-recommendation software is almost in the bag. Here is one team’s account

9 min read
Photo of trophy.
Randi Klett

It’s 7:50 p.m. on 1 October 2007 at AT&T Labs, in Florham Park, N.J., and three of us are frantically hitting the “refresh” buttons on our browsers. We have just submitted our latest entry in the year-old Netflix Prize competition, which offers a grand prize of US $1 million for an algorithm that’s 10 percent more accurate than the one Netflix uses to predict customers’ movie preferences. Although we have not reached that milestone, we are hoping at least to do better than anyone else has done so far; if we can make it to 8 p.m. with the best score, we’ll win a $50 000 Progress Prize. For most of the summer we’d been ahead of our nearest rivals by a comfortable margin, and as recently as 36 hours before this moment, our victory still seemed to be a slam dunk.

The previous day, though, the lead had started to slip away from us. First, the teams then in fifth and sixth places merged, combining their talents to vault into second place, making us nervous enough to submit our best effort, which we had been saving for a rainy day. But before our improved score appeared, we were hit by another combination when our two remaining serious rivals joined forces to tie us. Worse, their entry had come 72 seconds before ours, meaning that in the case of a tie, they’d win.

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Caltech Team Launches Experimental Space-Based Solar Array

The satellite will test some of the tech needed to wirelessly beam power from orbit

4 min read
A lightweight gold-colored square frame for a solar power array, seen flying in space with Earth in background.

Artist's conception of Caltech's Space Solar Power Demonstrator in Earth orbit.

Caltech

For about as long as engineers have talked about beaming solar power to Earth from space, they’ve had to caution that it was an idea unlikely to become real anytime soon. Elaborate designs for orbiting solar farms have circulated for decades—but since photovoltaic cells were inefficient, any arrays would need to be the size of cities. The plans got no closer to space than the upper shelves of libraries.

That’s beginning to change. Right now, in a sun-synchronous orbit about 525 kilometers overhead, there is a small experimental satellite called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator One (SSPD-1 for short). It was designed and built by a team at the California Institute of Technology, funded by donations from the California real estate developer Donald Bren, and launched on 3 January—among 113 other small payloads—on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“To the best of our knowledge, this would be the first demonstration of actual power transfer in space, of wireless power transfer,” says Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering at Caltech and a codirector of the program behind SSPD-1, the Space Solar Power Project.

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Learn How Global Configuration Management and IBM CLM Work Together

In this presentation we will build the case for component-based requirements management

2 min read

This is a sponsored article brought to you by 321 Gang.

To fully support Requirements Management (RM) best practices, a tool needs to support traceability, versioning, reuse, and Product Line Engineering (PLE). This is especially true when designing large complex systems or systems that follow standards and regulations. Most modern requirement tools do a decent job of capturing requirements and related metadata. Some tools also support rudimentary mechanisms for baselining and traceability capabilities (“linking” requirements). The earlier versions of IBM DOORS Next supported a rich configurable traceability and even a rudimentary form of reuse. DOORS Next became a complete solution for managing requirements a few years ago when IBM invented and implemented Global Configuration Management (GCM) as part of its Engineering Lifecycle Management (ELM, formerly known as Collaborative Lifecycle Management or simply CLM) suite of integrated tools. On the surface, it seems that GCM just provides versioning capability, but it is so much more than that. GCM arms product/system development organizations with support for advanced requirement reuse, traceability that supports versioning, release management and variant management. It is also possible to manage collections of related Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and Systems Engineering artifacts in a single configuration.

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