University of Toronto

“The Live Music Capital of the World” is a title that has belonged to Austin for many years, and a recent study has proven the city is a good start-up location for aspiring musicians in several genres.

Graduate student researchers at the University of Toronto recently conducted a study in which they used Myspace as a way to analyze which genres of music were more popular in certain parts of the country. Austin was included in the study, along with other major U.S. cities, such as Houston, Atlanta, Ga., Memphis, Tenn. and New Orleans, La.

The data indicated that the trending genres in the Austin music scene were folk, country pop and most significantly, rock ‘n’ roll.

In order to determine which genre was popular in a certain city, the researchers from Toronto used five levels of comparison with the help of an algorithm used in another study — which was completed by researchers at The University of Chicago — to analyze music trends. 

“Overall we found that rock ‘n’ roll was the most popular genre across all metros followed by urban contemporary,” said University of Toronto graduate research assistant Garrett T. Morgan. “With the remaining genres composing the remaining share of the market.”

The study showed that many regional stereotypes remained true, Morgan said. The Northwest preferred rock, while southern cities preferred country pop. Large cities like New York and Los Angeles had diverse tastes in music.

“Overall the data shows that Austin’s music scene is centered on folk, rock ’n’ roll, and country pop,” Morgan said. “Reinforcing the city’s reputation as a destination for aspiring musicians keen on breaking into the diverse country music scene.”

However, certain locals feel the study does not accurately reflect the music scene in Austin.

“The categorization misses blues and indie, which are obviously two popular genres in Austin,” said Joah Spearman, vice chair of the Austin Music Commission. “Austin isn’t really limited by genre. Compared to most markets outside of maybe New York or LA, [Austin] has shown itself to have a great ear for talent regardless of genre.”

Students, faculty and staff at UT may find their smartphones capable of securing sensitive data from their home computers, thanks to researchers from the University of Toronto.

David Lie, University of Toronto electrical and computer engineering professor, worked with other researchers from the University of Toronto as well as Concordia University in Montreal to develop a security software incorporating smartphone technology. Lie and his team have come up with a prototype of an application called “Unicorn: Two-Factor Attestation for Data Security.” The application combines elements that combat malware and phishing, which Lie said are the two biggest threats currently facing users attempting security-sensitive tasks.

Lie brought his research to UT in a presentation titled “Using Smartphones to Improve Security: New Capabilities and Challenges” on Thursday. The lecture was part of the Security Seminar Speaker Series in the department of computer science.

The lecture series began last year in the Center for Information Assurance and Security, said computer science associate professor and director of the center Vitaly Shmatikov. Shmatikov said the center tries to bring lecturers who have relevant research in the computer science field.

“I have seen a fair bit of research on the topic of [smartphone security],” Shmatikov said. “[Lie’s] work, however, takes an unusual direction with the connection between phones and computers.”

Lie’s talk focused on the ways that smartphones allow users to impose security features on their own online activity. Features of smartphones that provide this kind of security include a stronger defense against malware compared to PCs due to a restriction on software installation. Users’ constant connection with their smartphone is an additional factor in these strengthened security measures, Lie said.

“We’re looking at how we could use some of these wireless capabilities to solve some old security problems,” Lie said.

The Unicorn prototype first protects authentication credentials with a security token requiring attestation of the fact that a computer is free of malware before releasing credentials, according to the abstract of the project. The second security factor involves validating the computer with either a remote server or a Trusted Platform Module (TPM).

Aloysius Mok, computer science professor and attendee at the seminar, said Lie’s computer security research is important and brings something new to the field.

“I think that he had some pretty interesting research,” Mok said. “I would not be surprised if his project turned into a successful commercial product.”

Printed on Friday, February 3, 2012 as: Lie discusses security by smartphones