Java 6 Update 24 Released

February 17, 2011

Oracle has released a new Version 6 Update 24 of its Java software (which it acquired along with Sun Microsystems).  This version fixes  21 identified security vulnerabilities.  There is more information in the Release Notes; a list of security fixes, with CVE numbers, is here.  It also incorporates some updated time zone information.  Because of its security content, I recommend installing it as soon as you conveniently can.

The new version is available for Windows, Linux, and Solaris (SPARC and Intel) systems.  You can use the products built-in update mechanism, or you can download.versions for all platforms here.   Mac users should note that Apple releases its own version of Java, and it typically takes a few weeks to get the latest updates.  As I noted in a post last fall, it’s not clear that everyone needs Java, but if you have it, you should keep it up to date; it is one of the popular attack vectors for the Bad Guys.

Watson Cleans Up

February 17, 2011

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords” — Ken Jennings

The contest between IBM’s Watson computer and human champions on Jeopardy! is over, and Watson won, big time.  In the three-day match, Watson ended up with a total of $77,147, Ken Jennings had $24,000, and Brad Rutter finished in third place with $21,000.

(These are not the actual prize amounts.  Watson will receive a $1 million prize, which IBM will donate to charity.  Jennings will receive $300,000, and Rutter $200,000.  Both human contestants will donate half their prize money to charity.)

Despite its very impressive overall performance, Watson did make some funny mistakes.   For example, in a category “US Cities”, the clue given was “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle.”  Both Jennings and Rutter got the correct answer, Chicago; Watson answered “What is Toronto?”  As Dr.Chris Welty of IBM explained in an article at Ars Technica, the error is not so silly as it appears, given the way Jeopardy! categories work.

“If you change the question to ‘This US City’s largest airport…’, Watson gets the right answer,” Welty said during a panel at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. Welty pointed out that though categories in Jeopardy seem like they will have a set type of answers, they almost never do, and Watson was taught not to assume they would.

Still, this is real step forward in the quest for more intelligent machines.  One of the promising applications for Watson’s technology is to provide assistance in medical diagnosis.  A report from the Associated Press, via Yahoo!, says that two hospitals, the Columbia University Medical Center, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, have signed up to test the technology, once it is adapted to work in a medical environment.

Update Thursday, 17 February, 18:05 EST

The New York Times also has an article on the match.

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