12th > May > 2004 Archive

Sulphur fuels battery breakthrough

Tucson-based Sion Power Corporation has demonstrated a new generation of batteries based on Li-S (Lithium Sulfur) technology. The demonstration at WinHEC last week powered a Transmeta Crusoe-based Tablet PC for a working day. Long anticipated as the lighter successor to Lithium Polymer, Sion claims that the Li-S battery pack at 350 watt hours/kg compared to 150 Wh/kg for today's Li-Poly batteries, and are good for 300 power cycles. The new technique uses a similar manufacturing process to litium polymer. The lower weight could make it attractive to phone and computer businesses, while the higher power discharge rate could make it attractive to bike and car manufacturers. Sion was formerly called Moltech, and has been developing the technology for a decade. Berkeley, CA. based PolyPlus also plans to license Li-S battery technology based on work at UCB. The race is on to commercialize the technology before fuel-cells begin to appear next year. ® Related stories Shrunken rods make batteries better Fujitsu breakthrough slims fuel cell size Hitachi readies fuel cell for PDAs Toshiba demos cellphone fuel cell Micro-engines to power next-gen PDAs, PCs, phones Toshiba boffins prep laptop fuel cell NEC, Hitachi prep notebook fuel cells Fuel cell to power notebooks and mobile phones
Andrew Orlowski, 12 May 2004

Sony shows wireless PlayStation Portable

Sony yesterday unwrapped the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and pledged to put PlayStation 2 visuals in the palm of players' hands around the world by next Spring. And almost 100 developers have pledged to support the handheld console, Sony said. The PSP's key feature is a 4.3in 16:9 ratio, 480 x 272, 32-bit colour TFT LCD, with the classic PlayStation controls on either side. Inside the box are stereo speakers - there's an earphone socket too - and screen controls. As the bottom left-hand corner of the picture shows, there's a wrist lanyard anchor point and, above it, icons for the device's MemoryStick Pro port and wireless networking adaptor power switch. The PSP has 802.11b built-in for multi-player gaming and - presumably - access to the Internet for content. There's also a USB 2.0 port for connection to a digital camera or PC. The PSP has IrDA, too, and apparently ships with a remote control. The handheld contains 32MB of main memory and 4MB of embedded DRAM The PSP measures 17 x 7.4 x 2.3cm and weighs 260g including its rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. Sony has managed to cram the unit's Universal Media Disc optical drive in there too. The 6cm UMDs hold 1.8GB of data on a single-side, single-layer disc, and have also been specced up as audio and video discs, too, presumably to allow for content providers to offer UMD product much as they would a CD or DVD. UMD supports Sony's own ATRAC 3+ audio format, plus MPEG 4 and PCM. On the video side, it can handle MPEG 4 and Caption PNG. Data is encrypted using 128-bit AES. Sony reiterated its plan to ship the PSP in Japan by the end of the year and to bring it to the US and Europe by Spring 2005. The company's list of software partners reads like a who's who of the video game industry. Compatibility between PSP games and the PS2 should ensure active support for the handheld. ® Related stories Nintendo DS: more communicator than console? Coming soon: the Wi-Fi PSP and PS2 Sony confirms PSP to PS2 game portability New PSP spec to feature 32Mb of RAM So how much will the Sony games handheld cost? Sony pencils November for PSP global launch Sony Playstation Portable pics pop up on web
Tony Smith, 12 May 2004

Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs

The arrest of the suspected author of the Phatbot Trojan could lead to valuable clues about the illicit trade in zombie PCs. The arrest of the alleged Phatbot perp was overshadowed by the unmasking of the admitted Sasser author, Sven Jaschan. But the Phatbot case may shed the mostlight into the dark recesses of the computer underground. Phatbot is much less common than NetSky but is linked much more closely with the trade in compromised PCs to send spam or for other nefarious purposes. Viruses such as My-Doom and Bagle (and Trojans such as Phatbot) surrender the control of infected PCs to hackers. This expanding network of infected, zombie PCs can be used either for spam distribution or as platforms for DDoS attacks, such as those that many online bookies have suffered in recent months. By using compromised machines - instead of open mail relays or unscrupulous hosts - spammers can bypass IP address blacklists. Phatbot was been used to spam, steal information or perform DDoS attacks, according to Mikko Hyppönen, director of anti-virus research at F-Secure. "You could do anything you wanted with it," he said. Phatbot is a variant of Agobot, a big family of IRC bots. Hyppönen said people were selling tailor-made versions of the bot for various illegal purposes. NetSky also contains a backdoor component but this was designed only to upgrade malicious code: it is not a conscious attempt by its designer to turn compromised PC into spam zombies, Hyppönen says. Alex Shipp of MessageLabs said hackers ware still able to seize machines compromised by NetSky but he agreed with Hyppönen that worms such as Bagle and MyDoom, and Trojans like Phatbot, are far more commonly used in zombie spam networks. As reported last month, networks of compromised hosts (BotNets) are commonly traded between virus writers, spammers and middlemen over IRC networks. The price of these BotNets (DoSNets) was roughly $500 for 10,000 hosts last Summer when the MyDoom and Blaster (the RPC exploit worm) first appeared on the scene. "I have no doubt it's doubled since then as hosts are cleaned and secured," Andrew Kirch, a security admin at the Abusive Hosts Blocking List told El Reg. By his reckoning, non-exclusive access to compromised PCs sells for about 10 cent a throw. An unnamed 21 year-old man from the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg was arrested last Friday on suspicion of creating the Agobot and Phatbot Trojans. He is yet to be formally charged. ® Related stories German police arrest Sasser worm suspect and alleged Phatbot perp Phatbot primed to steal your credit card details The illicit trade in compromised PCs
John Leyden, 12 May 2004

French call for SMS boycott

Europe in BriefEurope in Brief Consumer watchdog Union Fédérale des Consommateurs (UFC-Que Choisir) in France has called for a national SMS boycott, claiming that tariffs for short messages are getting too high. Sending an SMS message in France costs 13 eurocents. But with profit margins of 80 per cent telecom operators can easily lower the price by 4 or 5 eurocents, the consumer watchdog claims. In particular young people are having difficulty paying their monthly phone bills. UFC-Que Choisir also accuses mobile telecom operators Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécom of operating a cartel. They earned €1.4bn from the SMS service last year. Switzerland: brain drain in reverse Two leading European computer scientists - Thomas and Monika Henzinger - are leaving prestigious jobs in the United States to join the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne as professors, Swissinfo reports. Thomas Henzinger, who was full professor at Berkeley, is a pioneer in programme verification, while his wife is currently director of research at Google. She starts work at the institute on 1 October. Her husband has already taken up his new post. Norway: right-wing extremist sites growing The number of right-wing websites in Norway has increased from 39 to 50 since last year, according to Norwegian paper Dagsavisen. Norwegian right-wing extremists are using the Web to recruit and spread propaganda, Norwegian anti-racist magazine Monitor claims. Kripos, the National Crime Investigation Service in Norway, is not doing enough to keep tabs on the right-wing extremists, the magazine says. Denmark: broadband connections exceed modem hook-ups New data from Statistics Denmark shows that 71 per cent of Denmark's 2.3m households have access to the Internet, a 23 per cent increase compared to 2001. 903,000 households use broadband (ADSL or cable), while 766,000 use a dial-up connection. It is the first time the number of broadband connections has exceeded the number of modem connections. Research also shows that currently 90 per cent of Danish households have at least one mobile phone, a 17 per cent increase compared to 2001, Jyllands-Posten reports. ®
Jan Libbenga, 12 May 2004

UK Eurocrats vote to legalise spam

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... Welcome indeed to a new El Reg feature - the snappily-titled It was five years ago today... Well, it's less of a feature and more of a teary-eyed wander down memory lane. Each and every day we will bring you a choice and select cut from yesteryear so that we can all have a right good nostalge about how lovely it must have been to live in a gentler, more caring age. And in this case, an age before spam tsunamis threatened the very existence of humanity: UK Eurocrats vote to legalise spam By Tim Richardson Published Wednesday 12th May 1999 17:15 GMT Europe's decision to legitimise unsolicited email - spam - was swayed by the support of MEPs from the UK. Every single UK Conservative and UK Labour MEP - except one - voted in favour of the legitimisation of spam, according to The Register's very own gravy train spotter. This is at odds with the belief that the UK is the home of fair-play and the arbiter of good judgement and level-headed politics. With such a ludicrous and potty law sailing through the European Parliament, it's more than ironic that such moves have been supported by politicians from the UK. For it is the UK that has whinged the most about ludicrous Euro policy including food mountains, the common agricultural policy, the outlawing of Bombay Duck in Indian Restaurants, the rejection of curved bananas and the banning of fatty sausages. Now they want to legalise spam. Whatever next? ® Whatever next indeed? Righteous indignation there from Tim Richardson, and with good reason. Blimey, if only we'd known then what we know now...
Team Register, 12 May 2004

Nintendo DS: more communicator than console?

Nintendo yesterday launched its Nintendo DS handheld console, as anticipated. But while many of the details had already been revealed, the videogame pioneer did manage to pull a few surprises out of the bag. First up, the DS will offer a voice recognition capability, allowing Nintendo to forecast a future where in-game avatars are literally told where to go and what to do. Combine that facility with the DS' wireless capability, we wonder if Nintendo has its eye on broader voice applications, in particular Voice over IP (VoIP). Indeed, Nintendo's discussion of the unit's power management system notes that "if the user receives a message from a friend or user nearby, DS activates itself from Standby mode" (our emphasis). So there's clearly some kind of instant messaging facility built into the device - again, it looks like Nintendo is thinking beyond the console to a more general youth-oriented communications device. Originally thought to be a Bluetooth device, the DS will actually use Wi-Fi, the better to compete with the Sony PlayStation Portable, which was also unveiled yesterday. Nintendo said the console will be able to link up to 15 others within a 30ft radius. In addition to 802.11, the DS will use "Nintendo's proprietary communications protocol", which in addition to yielding "low battery consumption" has presumably been optimised for LAN gaming. It also supports the (presumably secure) transfer of game code from one device to another, so that not every handheld user needs to have bought the game on a card. This is a very interesting tactic, which - if developers support it - not only removes a key barrier to players making the most of WLAN gaming, but serves a demo service for the full game. Enjoyed the multi-player version? Then go out and buy the single-player version - and get access to all the multi-player levels too. PC game vendors have been doing this kind of thing for year, of course, but it's interesting to see the technique transfer to the console world - doubly so, given the way it also leverages the network for machine-to-machine downloads. GBA users can do this already via a cable, but the DS expands the process considerably. Wi-Fi will come into play when the user wants to connect to a standard WLAN or the Internet, and Nintendo hinted at support for massively multiplayer games host on the Net. Nintendo also revisited the DS components that were known before the launch: the twin backlit 3in LCD display panels, the lower one of the two being touch-sensitive. Nintendo noted its "PDA-like capabilities", again perhaps signalling broader roles for the machine than gaming. Both screens can display 3D imagery using Nintendo's latest graphics engine. "Games will run at 60 frames per second, and allow details like fog effects and cel shading," the company said. The DS supports 16-channel sound, and Nintendo confirmed the use of two ARM-based processors in the device, one an ARM 9 design the other an ARM 7. The handheld is powered by a rechargeable battery. DS games will ship on a new, compact 1Gb cartridge format, but there's a second slot in the unit to cope with older GameBoy Advance cartridges. Nintendo said it had signed over 100 developers to create titles for the new console. Which may or may not be branded the DS. Nintendo said: "The system's official name, price and launch line-up will be announced at a later date." ® Related stories Official Nintendo DS console pic appears on Web Sony shows wireless PlayStation Portable Nintendo preps dual-screen portable console Leaked Nintendo DS specs reveal touch screen, Wi-Fi, 3D graphics
Tony Smith, 12 May 2004

Sony, IBM to offer Cell workstations for Xmas

Sony and IBM today said they will ship workstations based on the pair's upcoming Cell parallel processing chip in December. The machines will be geared toward digital content creation, so we're essentially talking PlayStation 3 software development machines here. The companies' announcement doesn't mention the next-generation console, of course, but since the workstations are being produced with the co-operation of Sony's Computer Entertainment division, it's hard to imagine that Sony and IBM have much else in mind. Well, beyond the movie business, that is. Both are also hoping to push the workstations toward film-makers and special effects houses, with their increasing demand for greater and greater computational power to not only render scenes that are more visually complex but to do so as quickly as possible. Cell has received much criticism - particularly from rival chip makers - for forcing a whole new programming model at developers. So it's crucial IBM and Sony get development kit to programmers as early as they can, either to give coders time to get their heads around the new architecture, or to demonstrate that writing games for Cell isn't going to be as tricky as has been made out. Cell was announced in March 2001 at the start of what was described as a five-year project, putting its release in the 2006 timeframe. If Sony, IBM and fellow Cell developer Toshiba can get chips out by the end of 2004 - almost certainly only in sample quantities - it would seem that their project is progressing rather better than anticipated. ® Related stories Sony shows wireless PlayStation Portable Sony to spend $1.13bn on Cell chip fabs Sony Cell CPU to deliver two teraflops in 64-core config Sony to ramp chip spend to $9 billion over three years Sony pledges to move chips to 45nm in 2005 Xbox 2 to get 65nm CPU report Sony to combine PlayStation and group chip operations Sony, IBM, Toshiba team on broadband supercomputing CPU
Tony Smith, 12 May 2004

Hutchison raises $2bn in soap sale

Hutchison Whampoa, owner of UK mobile network 3, is selling its stake Chinese joint venture with soap behemoth Procter and Gamble to its partner for $2bn. The business, set up in 1988, sells shampoo and baby products in mainland China. Hutchison is looking for cash to offset continuing losses from its 3G networks. In March Hutchison announced the sale of telecoms companies in eight mainly Asian countries and its fixed-line business in Hong Kong. Pressure has been increased by rumours that DoCoMo is keen to sell off its 20 per cent stake in UK operator 3. In March this year the telco paid off more than £1bn in debts racked up by 3. Canning Fok, managing director at Hutchison, told Bloomberg: "This non-core asset has nothing to do with 3G. We do not have any funding pressure."® Related stories Hutchison parcels up little telcos for debt relief Hutchison picks up 3 UK's tab Merging Hutchison Whampoa
John Oates, 12 May 2004

HP to launch custom gaming rigs

HP is to challenge on system builders next month when it launches the Compaq X, a high-performance gaming oriented PC that the company will custom-build for buyers. HP's pitch is that the Compaq X will be offered with a far wider range of component options than its more mainstream desktops. That, it hopes, will attract the attention of gamers who might otherwise buy from a specialist games system builder, such as Alienware or VoodooPC, or even build their own system. Not that the desktops will be totally customisable. While HP isn't saying quite how many options it will offer, it did admit that some components, in particular the motherboard, are likely to be standard across all machines depending on whether buyers choose an Intel or AMD CPU. Intel systems will be based on PCI Express chipsets from launch - AMD boxes will gain PCI Express over time. Ditto DDR 2. HP will be using Cooler Master's Wave Master case, which incorporates eight USB 2.0 ports and a nine-in-one memory card reader. For the innards, HP said it will offer a variety of optical drives, Serial ATA hard drives in single or RAID configurations, and graphics cards from ATI and Nvidia. The company said the machines and the purchasing web site behind them will go live in June or July. Clearly HP is waiting for Intel to offer its Grantsdale and Alderwood chipsets - hence the references to PCI Express and DDR 2. ® Related stories HP to upgrade AMD to business class HP details Athlon 64 desktop support Nvidia brings hardware firewall to Athlon XP rigs Review: ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition Review: Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra
Tony Smith, 12 May 2004

Northern Ireland touts low IT wages

A survey carried out by Invest NI has shown that Belfast technology workers are among the lowest-paid in Europe. The report, carried out by Watson Wyatt on behalf of the Northern Ireland investment agency, said that high-tech salaries in Belfast are among the lowest of cities surveyed in the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. Only Bangalore in India, and Budapest and Prague in Eastern Europe, have lower salary levels, the report said. In particular, the data proves that IT workers in Dublin tend to be paid dramatically more than their Belfast counterparts, with wages coming in 27 per cent higher on average in the capital of the Republic of Ireland. The most dramatic difference can be seen in the salaries paid to junior programmers in the two cities. On average, a junior programmer in Belfast earns about €26,005 a year, compared with €44,014 for an employee in the same job in Dublin. In London, a junior programmer is paid about €47,065 a year, or 81 per cent more than a junior programmer in Belfast. Meanwhile, the average senior programmer in Dublin earns some €66,515 a year, while a person in that position in Belfast would bring in €51,517 annually. Invest NI also noted that a starting salary for the average IT worker in Belfast is about €23,892, or almost €10,000 a year less than the average staring salary in Dublin. The survey also showed that a head of IT in Dublin earns about 18 per cent more than the same worker in Belfast, who, on average, would be on about €91,251 per year. In London, a head of IT would be earning around €112,630 per year. "The findings of this survey are evidence that employer costs are significantly lower in Belfast than Dublin, London or the majority of EU countries," commented Trevor Killen, director, Invest NI. "This is positive news for inward investment into Northern Ireland and is further evidence that companies based here should consider the North as their location of choice." Still, experts have noted that corporation taxes are lower in the Republic compared to Northern Ireland and wages in cities outside Dublin tend to be lower. In Cork, for example, IT workers can expect to earn somewhere around 5 per cent less a year than in Dublin. It is also worth noting that personal income tax rates are higher in the Republic, as is the cost of living. Furthermore, Dublin-based IT workers tend to earn rather small bonuses compared to their Belfast and London counterparts. For example, the average head of IT in London earns an annual bonus of €21,210 and a head of IT in a Belfast operation will enjoy a bonus of €11,902 on average. In Dublin, the figure is notably smaller at €6,371. Invest Northern Ireland also admitted that the majority of IT companies in the Republic of Ireland do not pay medical benefit, while IT companies in Belfast and elsewhere in the UK, as well as firms in the US, provide some form of healthcare. Interestingly, the report noted that a head of IT in Bangalore, India, earns around €21,078 per year, while a junior programmer in the same city would earn €4,800 annually. A Bangalore graduate programmer can expect to earn €2,269 per year. Possibly the most expensive city on Earth to hire IT staff is San Francisco, where a head of IT will earn some €165,331 per year, on average, compared to €91,251 in Belfast and €107,253 in Dublin. © ENN Related stories BT and HP's outsourcing strategy BT wins NI blanket broadband deal UK IT jobs market picks up US software centre to open in Belfast Bank of Ireland sells 500 IT staff to HP
ElectricNews.net, 12 May 2004

Broadband worth 52 days a year to UK.biz

UK businesses that upgrade to broadband recover a massive 52 days in year in lost productivity, according to new research. The study, conducted by ntl, found that small firms which replaced dial-up connections with broadband significantly improved their productivity and communication. The study found that 56 per cent of small businesses in Britain had already upgraded to broadband, with Scottish firms leading the way with a 62 per cent take-up. Two thirds of those polled said that broadband had boosted their ability to communicate with customers and suppliers, while half said the ability to implement new business applications as a key advantage. In a further example of the UK’s "long hours culture", over two thirds of businesses said that they used time saved by broadband for marketing and new initiatives rather than reducing working hours. More than six in ten said that they would immediately increase the speed of their broadband connection if they thought it would save even more time. Less than 10 per cent said they would use the saved time for perks such as watching the Olympics or Euro 2004 in working hours. With broadband becoming increasingly important to modern-day small firms, the government has been under pressure to extend the service to all areas of the UK, including remote rural districts. Stephen Timms, the e-commerce minister, promised last year that broadband will be available to every business in Britain by 2005 - a target regarded as ambitious by analyts. Simon Tse, of ntl, said that the survey results highlight just how valuable broadband is in today’s business environment: "With effectively another 52 days in the year, not only are companies finding more time to win new business, they’re transforming the way they service existing customers and deal with suppliers. Broadband is an essential tool for helping small businesses compete with much larger players." Copyright © 2004, Related stories E-minister calls for business broadband targets for 2010 BT and Microsoft target small.biz Only Danes more 'e-ready' than UK
Startups.co.uk, 12 May 2004

Dothan-based P4 appears on Intel roadmap

Intel will introduce processors operating across a 1066MHz frontside bus next quarter. Only two chips will gain the new FSB clock speed: a 3.46GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition in Q3 and a 3.73GHz Pentium 4 in Q4, according to roadmaps revealed at an Intel Channel Conference and dutifully reported by Anandtech. The odd thing is that the regular 3.73MHz part not only contains 2MB of L2 cache but has been described as carrying the model number 720. Both factors suggest that the part is based on 'Dothan', the latest generation of the Pentium M processor, which Intel launched this week. With 'Tejas' dead, it looks like Intel may by rushing in Pentium M-based desktop chips as soon as it can and ahead of the anticipated dual-core version. Dothan itself is expected to gain a 533MHz FSB in the Autumn when Intel launches the second generation on its Centrino platform, codenamed 'Sonoma', and the 'Alviso' chipset that sits at its heart. Dothan is expected to reach 2.13GHz by the end of the year as the Pentium M 770, running that 533MHz bus, which will also be supported by a second 2GHz Dothan. Of course, the mysterious 3.73GHz Dothan-based desktop chip could be cock-up rather than conspiracy. With a clock speed 1.75 times that of the 2.13GHz Pentium M 770 and double the FSB speed, you'd expect the 3.73GHz chip to sport a higher model number than 720. And if it is a desktop P4, how come it's not got a 5xx model number? We await clarification with interest. ® Related stories Intel launches Dothan with Pentium M price cuts Intel smiles on Dothan Intel to 'ditch' Pentium 4 core after Prescott Intel's deskbook CPU platform merger plan
Tony Smith, 12 May 2004

MS patch day: nothing critical

The Microsoft patch train rolled back into security central last night with a mercifully light load. In contrast to last month when we had four patches addressing 20 vulnerabilities - including the flaw infamously exploited by the Sasser worm - this month around we have just a single, solitary new patch. This patch corrects a flaw with Windows Help and Support that could allow hackers to inject malicious code into vulnerable XP or Windows 2003 systems. Redmond designates the flaw as important, one below the dreaded critical rating. Microsoft also took the opportunity to reissue the patch (MS04-014) that addresses a Jet Database Engine code execution vulnerability, first released last month. Finally Microsoft reissued a Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition fix, first distributed three years ago, to "addresses an additional denial of service vulnerability". ® Related stories Windows Update groans under patch load MS score card: four patches, 20 vulns, heaps of trouble MS March patch batch low on peril Sasser ups cost of Windows - Gartner Sasser worm creates havoc
John Leyden, 12 May 2004

Ofcom must act on £50 broadband 'barrier'

PlusNet has called on BT Wholesale to cut the up-front cost of signing up to ADSL claiming the £50 fee is the "single biggest block to mass acceptance of broadband". Unless BT moves to slash the cost of the activation fee, the Sheffield-based ISP wants communications regulator Ofcom to intervene and force the UK's dominant fixed line telco to act. "The real thing that is preventing mass take-up of broadband so far, is the disproportionate cost of getting started," said Marco Potesta, marketing director at PlusNet. "BT Wholesale's £50 activation fee is an immense barrier that we would like to see removed. Ofcom must act to see that the fee is either completely removed or considerably reduced. Only when this is done will we see broadband take-up double in the UK," he added. PlusNet is one of a number of ISPs in the UK to highlight the high cost of service activation. Only last month BT was forced to slash the wholesale migration costs of its DSL services, following complaints by rivals Thus and Tiscali. At the time Tiscali boss Mary Turner said that this was "only the first hurdle" and that the ISP was now looking for similar cost-cutting for DSL activation, "which is still far too high at £50". A spokesman for BT Wholesale defended the fee, which represented a "true reflection of how much it costs [to activate a DSL line]". No one from Ofcom was available for comment at the time of writing. ® Related stories PlusNet offers 'full-fat' broadband BT trims broadband costs UK held back by lack of broadband competition
Tim Richardson, 12 May 2004

EC rules against illegal 'subsidy' of France Telecom

The European Commission is to take action against the French government for illegally subsidising France Telecom. But the accusations do not centre on illegal loans. Originally the government faced investigation over a €9bn credit line, which the Commission now accepts did not exist. Instead the eurocrats are claiming comments of support by French officials amount to unfair state aid. The Commision believes it has found legal precedents in French law which support its claim that there is a financial value to such messages of support, according to the Financial Times. The French government has labelled the action an attack on "psychological state aid". In 2002 France Telecom built up debts of €70bn while acquiring companies at the height of the technology and telco boom. It was reported at the time that the French government was bailing the telco out with a €9bn loan. ® Related stories France Telecom bail-out faces EC probe France plots to evade EU rules over telecom debt France Telecom begs for tax-payer bail-out
John Oates, 12 May 2004

Supercooled lead hats aid brain scans

Magnetic brain scans look set to get more accurate, thanks to medical physicists at Los Alamos. The researchers have said they can filter out electronic background noise during measurements of brain activity if the patient wears a lead helmet. Taking direct measurements of brain activity can only be done using Magnetoencephalography (MEG). It measures the magnetic fields generated by current flowing in and around neurons. These fields are tiny: around 10-14 to 10-13 Tesla, and detecting them is no mean feat. An MEG scanner uses superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) sensors to measure them. However, because the fields are so small, it doesn't take much to disrupt or overwhelm the signal. So, how do you keep out electronic background noise that interferes with the signals from the brain? You use a tin foil hat on steroids. The hat is actually made from lead, chilled until it becomes superconducting. A liquid helium cryostat keeps it below eight kelvin. It takes advantage of the tendency of superconducting materials to actively exclude magnetic fields from their interior, known as the Meissner Effect. So external magnetic fields won't get in and, researchers say, the helmet won't affect the currents in the brain. Early tests suggest interference can be reduced by six orders of magnitude, or a million times. The team is still working to improve the shielding, however, as noise levels are still high around the brim. ® Related stories Tinfoil hats to retail with RFID tags? IBM and Stanford's spintronics revolution Super-duper conductivity is coming
Lucy Sherriff, 12 May 2004

SAP snuggles up to IBM and MS

SAP has announced new deals with IBM and Microsoft, including a plan to work more closely with IBM to sell products to retail customers. The two companies will share consulting knowledge and improve business process analysis and best practice. SAP for Retail, SAP NetWeaver, IBM Store Integration Framework and IBM WebSphere are among the products included in the deal. SAP, at its annual customer conference in New Orleans, said it would work with Microsoft to boost web services. It announced closer integration between Microsoft .NET and SAP NetWeaver and improved interoperability between SAP software and Microsoft Office. The company will support Visual Studio.NET and join the Visual Studio Partner Program. MS and SAP will jointly staff a "Collaboration Technology Support Center" in Walldorf, Germany to showcase products and support sales staff. They will also offer a joint marketing fund and have signed a patent cross-license agreement to facilitate technical collaboration. In separate news, SAP will hire another 500 engineers for its centre in Bangalore this year, according to the Hindu Business Line. SAP started 2004 with 750 engineers and now has 900. By the end of the year it wants another 500 people. They will expand development work on technology platforms, applications and custom development.® Related stories SAP and MS line up for and against Oracle SAP ties up with Teradata SAP hones mid-market message
John Oates, 12 May 2004

MS drags Linspire back to court

Microsoft is taking Linspire back to court and demanding a €100 000 a day fine. Linspire is "the-operating-system-formerly-known-as-Lindows", which changed its name after Microsoft launched legal action in Finland, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Canada. The company originally changed its name to Lin--s, but Microsoft lawyers claimed this was pronounced "Lindash" and therefore bore an "auditive resemblance to Windows". In mid-April the company changed its name to Linspire The software giant is taking action in the Dutch courts, where it won its previous case, claiming that the word Lindows is still appearing on Linspire's website. A decision is expected by the end of this month. Michael Robertson, chief executive of Linspire, said: "Microsoft is continuing the bullying tactics which have obliterated competition over the last 20 years...Its recent actions demonstrate that it has not reformed, but continues to be one of the world's worst corporate citizens that will do anything to squash competitors that threaten its monopoly profits." Robertson said the action referred to words appearing in the US-required copyright notice which appears at the bottom of some pages on the Linspire website. He questioned whether consumers are really confused by the names. Perhaps there is another solution: one Reg reader reckons the Linux company should give up on Windows and call its software "Gates". We make no comment. ® Related stories Lindows preps $57m IPO Lindows throws in the tow - l Judge OKs Microsoft Lin---s offensive Lindows plans US gov backed global assault on Windows trademark
John Oates, 12 May 2004

Chinese youths trash Internet café

Staff at a Chinese Internet cafe have resigned after they were beaten up last week by a gang of 16 teenagers barred from entering the cybercafe. The gang of youths beat one worker with bins and fire extinguishers before trashing the Internet café. Earlier they threatened to beat up anyone who "dared to check identity cards" after being refused entry to the cybercafe. The attack is the latest in as series of assaults at an Internet chain in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province in northwest China, and follows a recent Government crackdown to prevent minors from entering cybercafes. The Chinese Government is concerned the Net can corrupt the minds of youngsters. But the clampdown has only sought to enrage some whippersnappers, who, in one attack, even slashed bicycle tyres, according to Xinhuanet. In a separate incident, two cybercafe workers in Shanghai were killed over an argument about the use of computers. According to AP, around ten men chased the two workers before stabbing them to death. China has shut down more than 8,600 cybercafes over the last couple of months over fears that they can affect the "mental health of teenagers" while spreading "unhealthy online information". As part of China's bid to protect youngsters, authorities also ruled that Internet cafes are not to operate in residential areas or within 200 metres of primary and high schools. ® Related stories China shuts 8,600 cybercafes China cracks down on cybercafes again China bans PC game
Tim Richardson, 12 May 2004

PalmOne pledges to boost Treo shipments

PalmSource today trumpeted research findings that indicate the Palm OS is the US' leading smart phone operating system, even as its former owner, PalmOne, was promising to end the supply problems that have hindered sales of its Treo 600 handset. PalmSource's numbers come from US market watcher NPD, which tracks retail sales. During March, 47 per cent of the smart phones sold in the US through retail were based on the Palm OS, 20 per cent were based on the Symbian OS and the Series 60 UI (ie. Nokia and Sony Ericsson) and another 20 per cent used either of Microsoft's two smart phone-oriented Windows Mobile variants. NPD attributed the Palm OS' success to "rising" Treo 600 sales. Samsung and Kyocera also offer Palm-based smart phones. Earlier this week, PalmOne's Wireless Business Unit chief, Ed Colligan, told The Register that the company had put in place supply deals that will improve the availability of Treo 600s going forward. PalmOne expects to ship 160,000 smart phones worldwide in the current quarter, which ends this month, though Colligan would not be drawn on the company's forecasts for coming quarters beyond stating the total will be "more" than the current quarter. He did admit that since the handset's introduction last Autumn, demand has outstripped Handspring's and now PalmOne's ability to produce enough phones. In particular, he highlighted problems getting hold of colour LCD panels as manufacturers struggle to cope with increased demand following the market's downturn through recent years. Colligan said new supply deals would allow PalmOne to ramp up supply in the mid-June timeframe. Such deals may form the basis for recent claims in the Far Eastern press that the company has signed HTC to produce future Treos. Some PalmOne observers believe that points to the anticipated Treo 610 handset, but it could equally cover extra production of the 600. The Chinese langauge report in the Commercial Times suggested shipments from HTC are not expected to begin until September - a sign PalmOne is gearing up for next Christmas, perhaps? The extra units coming off the company's production lines - well, it's contract manufacturers' production lines - will be targeted at US and European buyers, the two key markets PalmOne smart phone operation is focusing its attention upon. Colligan offered the prospect of new deals with carriers coming later this year in both regions. According to an investment bank report published earlier this month, PalmOne is on the verge of signing a deal with Verizon, the one remaining US wireless carrier that does not yet offer the Treo 600. The report claimed that the 610 would be offered by Verizon, and indeed the carrier may well have demanded a slight variation on the 600 the better to differentiate its offering from those of other carriers. ® Related stories PalmOne preps Treo 600 code update PalmOne shares soar on Dell purchase rumour Analyst 'confirms' impending Treo 610 World PDA shipments plunge PDA, smartphone sales rocket in Europe
Tony Smith, 12 May 2004

Wal-Mart attracts more RFID flak

Grass-roots consumer group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), which is fighting retail surveillance schemes, says that Wal-Mart's decision to tag individual items on its store floor using radio frequency identification or RFID violates a call for a moratorium issued last November by 40 privacy and civil liberties organisations. Wal-Mart began item-level RFID tagging of consumer goods last week as part of a trial in Texas. Shoppers at seven Dallas-Fort Worth area Wal-Mart stores can walk into the consumer electronics department and find Hewlett-Packard products for sale with RFID tags attached. Wal-Mart says that RFID tags in its stores are harmless since they contain nothing more than identification numbers. "While technically that's true, Wal-Mart fails to explain what it means for items to carry remote-readable unique ID numbers," says Katherine Albrecht, founder and director of CASPIAN. "It's like saying someone's social security number is 'only' a number, so sharing it with perfect strangers should be of no concern." Albrecht explains that many major retailers routinely link shoppers' identity information from credit, ATM and "loyalty" cards with product bar code numbers to record individuals' purchases over time. The same will happen with RFID numbers on products, she claims. This means that if retailers can read an RFID tag on a product they previously sold, they can immediately identify the customer as he or she enters the store. "Wal-Mart is blatantly ignoring the research and recommendations of dozens of privacy experts," says Albrecht. "When the world's largest retailer adopts a technology with chilling societal implications, and does so irresponsibly, we should all be deeply concerned." The most publicised trial of item-level RFID tagging to date, Metro-AG's "Future Store" in Rheinberg, Germany, met with some public outcry earlier this year, culminating in a small protest outside the store. So far consumer revolt against RFID remains marginal. ® Related stories Subdermal RFID chip provokes furore Moratorium on RFID chips urged Wal-Mart turns customers into RFID lab rats
Jan Libbenga, 12 May 2004

UK indies sign to Napster...

Napster has won the backing of the UK's Association of Independent Music (AIM) trade organisation with a deal that will allow the digital music download service to offer 50,000 songs from 50 independent labels on a worldwide basis. Meanwhile, UK-based Napster rival Wippit announced today that it has added Sony to its roster of major label content providers. AIM has over 800 members, together accounting for over 25 per cent of UK music sales, though only a fraction of whom are providing tracks through Napster. AIM said it expects other "many other" members to begin licensing their content to Napster in the coming months. Those licences, along with the ones announced today, will be administered by Rightsrouter, a company launched by AIM earlier this year specifically to bring copyright holders and digital music services together, and to manage the administration of those licences in the digital domain. Meanwhile, Wippit's deal with Sony will provide the download service with "tens of thousands" of tracks, according to sources close to the company, though as per Wippit's arrangement with BMG, signed earlier this year, it can only supply them to buyers in the UK and Ireland. The BMG deal brought 10,000 songs to Wippit's catalogue. Wippit said it expects to make the tracks available "this summer" - presumably after Sony has opened its own European online music store, Connect, on 7 June. Connect launched in the US earlier this month. ® Related stories Dixons signs Napster promo exclusive Napster's music licensing frustration Wippit offers pay-by-SMS digital music downloads Wippit adds 10,000 BMG tracks to catalogue Sony US music service an 'embarrassment' Apple misses iTunes sales target by 30% Music biz fears play Apple a compliment Apple iTunes Europe debut 'may be delayed' EU probes music licensing Europe demands open-to-all DRM tech
Tony Smith, 12 May 2004

Brits avoid MMS in droves

Mobile phone loving Brits have yet to embrace the multimedia messaging revolution, according to a poll conducted by NOP which is bound to strike fear and terror into the hearts of mobile operators. So far, 80 per cent of us have studiously avoided the new technology. There is a real mismatch between availability of technology and uptake across Europe too: the German-owned operator, T-Mobile, says 39 per cent of new phones sold last year were MMS enabled, but users send a thousand times more SMS messages than MMS. This pattern is borne out across UK operators: NOP found that just over half of us (55 per cent) have handsets capable of sending MMS messages. However, T-Mobile says that its network carried 4.39m MMS messages in the UK in 2003, against 2.98bn simple text messages. Yes, that was millions vs. billions. There can be no blaming technophobia either. NOP reveals just 17 per cent of phone users didn't know how how to send an MMS message. That means there are a lot of people out there who know how to send pictures, but are not using the services. Of those who have indulged in MMS, most (78 per cent) use it to send pictures to friends and family. But MMS is not just about photography: it is music and video too. These applications are much less used: only 27 per cent of users had used MMS to send music, for example. So what is holding us back? Jerome Meniere, founder of digital image enhancement firm, DO Labs, says the main driver behind photography has always been image quality. Mobile phones need to offer a credible alternative to entry level cameras before picture messaging will be more than a fad, he argues. Big sporting events could yet save the day. In Asia, MMS use rose dramatically during the World Cup in 2002. NOP points to the next Olympic Games and Euro 2004 football tournaments as potential drivers for the European market: T-Mobile plans to flog video goals and other highlights from Euro 2004 next month to its T-Zones users. ® Related stories Smartphones not up to scratch: official Mobile spam complaints rocket Brits are text maniacs Norway: home of the SMS tax return Swazi King gives PM SMS order of boot
Lucy Sherriff, 12 May 2004

Captain Cyborg terrorises UK conference

We recently said that we would be giving Kev "Captain Cyborg" Warwick no further coverage on this august organ. Sadly, we lied. The reason for this shameless U-turn is the news that the robotic prof has been giving forth at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's 2004 training conference. Naturally, you'd like to know what enlightenment Reading University's Professor of Cybernetics had for the doubtless boggle-eyed participants in this human resources love-in. Well, for starters, "coffee and meditation are the best ways of improving short-term mental performance" whereas said performance is hindered by "orange juice and last-minute revision". Fascinating. But this doesn't sound like the Warwick we all know and love, does it? Surely Captain Cyborg has not decided to drop the kind of cyberpunditry which has made the man a living - if part mechanical - legend among scientific academics. Fear not. Our Kev soon warms to the task in hand: Warwick also opined about the ways we are likely to undertake learning and training in the future. Warwick believes that learning will become an automated software exercise; where people download appropriate software to learn skills such as learning languages. His comments follow his participation in a recent experiment which aimed to find out what happens when electrodes are fired into the main nerve fibres of the body. Warwick found that he was able to make coffee and use an alarm system with his neural signals alone - a result which he argues demonstrates the potential for a direct link between the brain and the internet to learn. Further, Warwick believes that the experiments have more far-reaching ramifications for the way in which we communicate. He comments, "My wife and I became the first humans to communicate directly through the nervous system which was an amazing experience. When my wife moved her fingers three times for example, I felt three corresponding neural pulses in my own nervous system. This wasn't quite thought communication, but if developments in implant technology continue at their present rate, we will not bother talking but send messages directly to each other. Thought communication could, and I believe will, make speech redundant." Astounding. We here at El Reg have already developed a speechless form of communication which, by an amazing co-incidence, also involves the movement of fingers - it's called forming your hand into a fist and punching someone. If only we could find a suitable recipient for a bit of "jaw-breaking research".... Any suggestions? Bootnote Only kidding. There is no way responsible journalists such as ourselves would condone the slapping of respected futurists, or anyone else for that matter. Besides, Captain Cyborg has the strength of 10 men, is able to leap tall buildings at a single bound and can communicate telepathically with his lizard army allies who would certainly wreak terrible vengeance by reducing Vulture Central to rubble using their ray-gun equipped black helicopters. Accordingly, we are off to download a range of martial arts skills directly into our brains - just in case. ® Recent Captain Cyborg shenanigans Captain Cyborg is back: official Captain Cyborg issues chilling TV warning Captain Cyborg faces Canadian challenge
Lester Haines, 12 May 2004

'Spam King' gets restraining order against SpamCop

A bulk mailing company headed by notorious spammer Scott Richter has won a restraining order against anti-spam reporting service SpamCop. Following an order by a Northern California District Court judge on Monday SpamCop is obliged to temporarily stop reporting complaints about Richter's company, OptinRealBig.com, to third-party ISPs. The order will apply until 20 May, when the two companies are scheduled to appear in court. SpamCop is fighting the main action but it failed to oppose the temporary restraining order. OptInRealBig brought a legal action against SpamCop and parent company IronPort last month, alleging that SpamCop interfered with OptInRealBig's contracts and business relationships, affected its ability to make money and bad-mouthed the company. Ironport acquired SpamCop last November. SpamCop contacts the abuse desks of ISPs in response to reports of spam from Web users. The email address of complainants is withheld, a point of issue in OptInRealBig's law suit. Richter, OptInRealBig's president, is on the receiving end of a December lawsuit from New York's Attorney General and Microsoft for allegedly sending "billions of illegal and deceptive e-mail messages". Spamhaus names Richter and OptInRealBig as the world's ninth most prolific spam operation in its Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO). Richter, branded by critics as the "Spam King", also appears in second spot in the list, thanks to the work of Wholesalebandwidth. ® Related stories Big US ISPs set legal attack dogs on big, bad spammers Spam fighters defeat nuisance junk mail lawsuit Dangerous Mimail variant knocks over anti-spam sites Why Spamcop got yanked
John Leyden, 12 May 2004

Cadence finds Intel's missing Fister

They say that the captain always goes down with the ship, but Mike Fister, former server processor chief at Intel, bucked that trend by leaving the company today. Fister has departed Intel to become CEO of Cadence Design Systems. Fister will be replaced at Intel by Abhijit (Abhi) Talwalkar, who most recently served as vice present of Intel's enterprise platforms group. Talwalkar joined Intel in 1993 and has worked on processor, chipset and server design and marketing. At Cadence, Fister is taking the place of Ray Bingham, who has been elected as chairman of the semiconductor and system design company. Fister's departure will have a profound effect on The Register. The executive has been admired here for the performance of Intel's Xeon processor both in terms of GHz and sales. Conversely, Fister's name is also attached to that behemoth still trying to make its way out of the docks - Itanic - and it's this ship that Fister leaves in Talwalkar's hands. But, most of all, we'll miss Fister's name, his firm handshake and good old boy charm. These qualities propelled Fister to an iconic status at Intel. We hope they serve him well in his new job. "Mike has made significant contributions throughout his career at Intel and we are sorry to see him leave," said Intel CEO Craig Barrett. "Under his leadership, Intel has become the leading supplier of components for enterprise systems worldwide. We thank him for his contributions and wish him well in his new position." Well said. ® Related stories Intel's Itanium rockets to 64-bit shipment lead Who sank Itanic? Analyst sees St. Fister in Itanium wafer NEC chip heretic was not Fisted Itanic crushes Beeb micro in speed bake-off
Ashlee Vance, 12 May 2004

Competition good for broadband - OECD

The threat of competition from wireless broadband providers is forcing incumbent telcos to speed-up the roll-out of DSL services. What's more, incumbent that fail to react to competitive pressures will face losing punters as they shop around for alternative broadband and telecoms providers. That's just one of the themes examined in an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report charting The Development of Broadband Access in Rural and Remote Areas. For example, the report says: "One of the factors driving DSL availability in Denmark to among the highest rates in the OECD was the threat posed by fixed wireless. "In Denmark, Sonofon's fixed wireless network covers 96 per cent of the country's territory and 99 per cent of its population. Incumbents are reacting to broadband wireless developments in two ways. One is to further extend DSL ahead of schedule and the other is to adopt the technology themselves." The OECD report is big on competition finding that the uptake of high-speed Net access "continues to gain momentum across the OECD area". By December 2003, for instance, there were more than 82m subscribers to broadband services – up from 3m at the end of 1999 - making broadband one of the fastest growing communication services experienced in the OECD. Said the report: "The main difference from earlier experience in the roll out of communication services is that broadband access is being developed in a competitive market. By way of contrast, the first-decade mobile cellular market was characterised by monopolies and duopolies. "Just as competition dramatically escalated the growth of mobile communications in the late 1990s, it is now increasing the pace of developments in broadband access." Last month BT scrapped its broadband pre-registration scheme in a move designed to make DSL broadband available to 99.6 per cent of UK homes and businesses by summer 2005, bringing the UK "significantly closer to universal availability". ® Related Stories Everywhere Broadband scrubs UK satellite plan BT moves to 'universal availability' of broadband Broadband Industry Group demands more competition
Tim Richardson, 12 May 2004

On MS, GeCAD, lead hats and perlite

LettersLetters We never get letters about the things we expect letters about. But even we lowly hacks had a feeling this one would prompt a response. After all, it had all the ingredients: Microsoft, Linux, viruses and behavious that could, in low light, seem slightly suspicious. Yes, we mean the purchase of GeCAD. Dear Mr Leyden: In your "Register" article of May 7th, 2004, referring to Microsoft's acquisition and non-use of a Romanian anti-virus software firm, you wrote: "Now where the hell did I put my tin-foil hat?" Indeed. Microsoft Research is the roach hotel of computer science: researchers check in, but no papers ever come out. After seeing many previously prolific (Benjamin Zorn, Todd Probsting, Dan Hanson, the list is nearly endless) researchers disappear, one might almost believe that MSFT is just paying researchers to have fun, and never advance the art on purpose. You did miss one piece of the puzzle: GeCAD produced *linux* anti-virus software, software that ran on linux looking for Windows viruses, allowing a linux server to provide the same virus protection that a native Windows server might. Suppressing this aspect of GeCAD was probably more important than adding a MSFT anti-virus product to a DLL in the Next Version of Windows. I remain your most humble servant, Bruce Ediger If Microsoft bought GeCAD for any purpose other than to take a reportedly decent Linux security product and shoot it in the head, that purpose has not yet been seen. "There are plenty of vendors to pick up the baton and we don't see this as a major concern," someone commented at the time. Robert Carnegie It might be interesting to dig a little deeper on this subject. In early March I was in a meeting where systems engineers from Microsoft were getting information on our IT needs and briefing us on some of their efforts/upcoming software. I can't really vouch for the accuracy of this, but they mentioned that on the AV software front-- unofficially and on the hush-hush --that the reason they had no product was that nobody at GeCAD spoke English, and MS had difficulty communicating with them. They suggested that MS did not know what to do with them. It sounded just dumb enough to be true. -- J. Stine Hey John, How come everybody seems to have forgotten the deal Microsoft signed with McAfee last year/year before last, where Microsoft will integrate McAfee's scan engine into "the next consumer OS from Microsoft"? This means son of XP, right? That may be yet another reason why GeCAD is stuck in limbo, as they try to figure out the legal stuff... -Tai We've been trying to persuade people of the benefits of tin foil protective headgear, especially when considering situation that could result in paranoia (see above). Now it seems some boffins are taking note. Super-cooled lead hats anyone? Hi Lucy, It's with great interest that I read the article today about the recent developments in tin-hat technology. However, I'm sure I'm not alone in being slightly concerned that such a super-cooled lead hat might a) be a little on the heavy side, and b) be a little chilly for the occupier. And will there be a "New Yorkers" emblazoned version which can be worn backwards, for the fashion conscious among us? Thanks Jon Sounds like the perfect upgrade to the standard El Reg tinfoil hat. Suitable for the truely paranoid out there... Mike Plunkett The line between stalking and spam got a bit fuzzy for some of you this week. Subject: Are we still talking about spam? Dear Tim Until reading your article "Stalkers target victims with email" I had no idea that I was actually the innocent victim of several corporate serial stalkers persistently wanting to offer me exciting opportunities to give them my hard earned cash. It all makes sense now. My name must be getting passed around the stalking community. That would explain why the distant relatives of deposed African despots want to give me money or women who I don't know want me to see them nude. Somewhere out there my photo must adorn a special place on the wall of many a home. It must be these people who are trying to win my affections from afar by arranging me excellent rates on pre-approved credit or are concerned with my health and want me to use only wholesome herbal remedies I shudder to think why they would be so insistent on me requiring so much Viagra but I can assure them that I have no need for such a product or all its "fully licenced" generic alternatives Furthermore it must be them who phone me at home on an evening and well into the night and ask lots of personal questions and my opinions on consumer goods and services or just ring me and then remain silent. It must be their desire to remain anonymous that inspires them to use such a ridiculous Indian accent; after all they say they are calling from British companies, why would they be calling from India? Thank you so much for highlighting this very serious dilemma, I'm sure I am not the only one to suffer in silence Paul C. Hartley News that the UK's NHS is going to have digital X-Rays and will soon be able to share them electronically drew a mixed bag of letters. Seems that even when something seems like a good idea, it is hard to win people over: As a doctor that used a pacs system (siemens + others) for the last 2 years i've got a few comments about the technology. 1) files on a computer are much more easily lost than physical objects so we lost up to 0.5% of x-rays taken before they could be reviewed by radiologists. May not seem a huge percentage but causes a *huge* medicolegal problem, unless u ignore it (as per standard operating procedures for the NHS) 2) the resolution of the pacs plates hasn't reached anywhere near that of the silver nitrate plates yet (and won't for quite a while yet). the general synopsis of my colleagues being that image quality was very poor. add to that the software interpolation causing possible fractures to disappear in front of your eyes as it smoothes everything out and u have a very second rate service. 3) as noone in the NHS IT seems to either know or care about security then patients images whizzing around by email may not be the best thing for confidentiality however chances are that the image will have auto-magically been erased before it crosses any gateways. 4) when will government realise that making a cost saving on getting rid of x-ray storage facilities is not worth the *MASSIVE* problems, decreased quality and the stunted functionality that comes with the PACS system. Once again a case of poorly thought out tech for the sake of cost cutting which will backfire at huge expense. so situation normal for the NHS. BTW has anyone else noticed the similarities between current government spending on NHS IT and the frenzied spending just prior to the dotcom bubble bursting? Mike Simpson (Dr) So, not a big hit with doctors, but the patients seem to like it: Hi, I broke my foot this time last year and had experience of the system (maybe it was a trial?). What an Improvement. My X-ray was taken and by the time I got back from the X-ray department to the triage nurse my X-ray was on an ultra high res screen. As my foot was too swollen to be put in a cast I was asked to come back the next day to receive further treatment. When I arrived the doctor who was seeing me brought the image up on his screen from the database and made his decision on what treatment I’d receive. I only spent about an hour and 45 minutes in the hospital over the two visits. Including the initial 15 minute wait to be seen. If this is the healthcare of the future then I’m all for it. Cheers, Dave. An offer we couldn't understand, let alone refuse, for reasonably priced Perlite caught our eye this week. But what is this mystery substance, and were they trying to sell it to us, or serenade us? Subject: Re: Getting Perlite onto The Register Everybody knows that the best use for Perlite is in making rice cakes to grow magic mushrooms on. Now if only there was a good way to tie that into an IT story... David Burton i don't know what else it would be used for, but in herpetology it is used for incubating reptile eggs. Lisa Lester, Just read (with mirth) the article on the chinese spam for pe[a]rlite. It appears to be a product of our old friend, BabelFish - That is, badly translated at best. Might I suggest the following translation: >It is a pearlite goods factory of Hebei province of China We are a factory in Hebei, China that produces Pearlite. >, the main variety that the speciality produces: Our main product is: >Pearl mere sands, pearlite( 2. 5 mm-7mm) Pure pearl crystals, forming pearlite of 2.5mm-7mm size <-- thats gotta be b*ll*cks >it regulate explosives densities It becomes bigger >because pharmaceutical( hate pearlite water), hate water keep pearlites warm board of because the substance reacts with hot water, which softens it. >, The cement pearlite keeps the board warm, the pearlite is helped and strain the pharmaceutical. Solid perlite forms at a bigger size, and the hot water is drained from around it. >The price is favourable , welcome old and new customers to consult the business, but process and made according to different needs, The price is reasonable (b*ll*cks), old and new customers are welcome to call us and enquires, but those with greater need will be served first. > Hope to cooperate with you! I learned from a Nigerian called Mariam Abacha. Don't know how correct that is, but that's my interpretation of it. -- Richard Gellman We'll accept that explanation. Full marks. We still don't really want to buy any, though. But thanks. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 May 2004

Microsoft treads softly on compliance

Microsoft is taking a new approach to tackling piracy in the UK. The company's newly-appointed head of Licence Compliance Alex Hilton recently visited Vulture Central and admitted that previous MS anti-piracy efforts could be fairly compared to "a drive-by shooting". His appearence at El Reg saw him touting an altogether gentler message. Steve Balmer called a halt to previous efforts that were alienating customers by branding them criminals. The software giant will now bang the drum for the benefits of software management. License Compliance employs 30 people and deals with shrink-wrapped and OEM software. Hilton told us: "Instead of just saying 'get compliant' we're offering people tools to help them get there." Users can download Microsoft's Software Inventory Analyzer (MSIA) to help them check what software they have on a network and what licenses are required. Hilton said the new approach has "three strands - talking to resellers, to customers and to people who influence opinion". Resellers will be told where legit software is available and how to tell if it isn't. Microsoft has revamped its website - www.howtotell.com - with information on Certificates of Authorisation to help dealers tell if their software is pukka. Hilton admitted that pirated and genuine versions of software are now all but impossible to tell apart. Microsoft is also creating a brand and logo for its six official UK distributors to help resellers know they are working with legal distributors. For customers the message is about IT asset management generally rather than just compliance: "Better management overall should mean cost savings for users. And it means once it's done you know what your costs will be - there won't be any nasty surprises," said Hilton. Microsoft is also talking to the likes of the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Business to promote the message that software asset management is an important part of good corporate governance. And the company is currently chatting to about 1,000 resellers suspected of selling dodgy software. The resellers' names came to Microsoft through a dodgy distributor which went into liquidation. The resellers have received letters from Microsoft but the software giant is talking rather than setting the lawyers on them. Hilton stressed that some may eventually be prosecuted. Microsoft will continue to work with the BSA. ® Related stories MS mounts covert anti-piracy op Microsoft sues UK dealer for piracy Software distie ordered to pay piracy damages, goes titsup
John Oates, 12 May 2004

Napster gags university over RIAA's student tax

Napster moved into damage control mode today after a university gave some idea as to how much a RIAA music tax will add to student costs. Ohio University has put up a survey site to see if students are willing to pay $3 per month for the Napster music service. The $3 figure is the first concrete number given by any school indicating how much Napster and its RIAA bully force are looking to muscle out of students. Ohio University believes it will need 5,000 students to pay the $3 fee to make Napster a break-even proposition for the school. Napster has demanded that Ohio University stay silent about the price before anyone catches wind of the cost. "Napster called us today and said we should not publicize the details or discuss our contract," said Sean O'Malley, spokesman Communication Network Services at OU. "The price was an idea they had suggested early on." So far, Napster has refused to provide exact details as to how much Penn State University and the University of Rochester are "paying" for the company's service at their schools. Napster bills the public $10 per month for its service, but both Penn State and Rochester have admitted to getting steep discounts. Napster and the RIAA have billed Penn State and Rochester as "models" to follow, if schools hope to avoid lawsuits by offering a legal music downloading service. The model concept, however, is a tough sell given the secrecy being employed by Napster. Universities across the country would end up shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars if they paid full price for Napster. OU is taking the commendable step of not making Napster mandatory. It's simply trying to see if enough students are willing to pay $3 to make the service worthwhile."We just need to be careful not to lose money on it," O'Malley said. "Our state is having major budget issues, and we are a state-funded university." OU students have yet to face lawsuits from the RIAA, and peer-to-peer services are not really posing a problem to network bandwidth, O'Malley said. Still, the school hoped to be "proactive" with copyright protection. On the plus side, Napster users at the school would be able to download as much music as they like for $3 per month - Windows users only, of course. Sadly, the DRM restrictions with Napster run high. Users can only make 3 copies of a song before the files become unplayable. In addition, students must pay 99 cents per song to move the file from their computer onto a CD or music playing device. Students would also only be able to download songs while they are on the school network. Once they leave school their music disappears. Has renting culture ever been more fun? ® Related stories Tennessee rejects Napster/RIAA tax RIAA tax could add millions to education fees War on Culture's victims face Penitentiary Blues Film makers join revulsion at Pepsi RIAA doublespeak Why wireless will end piracy and doom DRM and TCPA Jim Griffin 50 Cent and Crow torpedo HP's RIAA love-in
Ashlee Vance, 12 May 2004

Can Veritas shift from dove to hawk?

AnalysisAnalysis To shift from software lackey to data center dominatrix, Veritas will need to make sure the basic tenets of the company can mature at the same pace as product - a feat it may not be capable of pulling off. At present, Veritas is caught in a rather pleasant software limbo. Its core file system, volume manager and data back-up products bring in more revenue than ever, ensuring Veritas's place as Windows and Solaris users' pleasant friend. This success feeds larger aspirations to move away from being a storage specialist and toward becoming a serious choice for broad server and software management. The limbo comes from Veritas using its main businesses to let it coast for a bit while much more risky plays have time to pay off. Not all vendors have this luxury; and, unfortunately, this position has made Veritas a bit soft. During the Veritas Vision conference held last week in Las Vegas, company officials peppered showgoers with big talk. Executives laid out a fanciful utility computing vision that will see Veritas go up against much larger, more experienced rivals such as IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. But, while Veritas was eager to tout products, it was hesitant even to entertain the thought that having a richer software portfolio will alter Veritas' relationship with many companies once consider close partners. The partner/competitor relationship is not new for Veritas. It prides itself on its ability to tap into every major vendors' APIs while still competing with them. In the past, however, Veritas stood as only a minor threat to Sun, EMC et al. Veritas's niche status helped it out, as rivals/partners were happy to offer capable product to their customers. Now Veritas wants to move toward being more things to more people with its clustering products, disaster recovery technology, application provisioning and performance packages and billing tools. In total, Veritas wants to be the preferred software choice for customers looking to build a utility data center. "It certainly does change the relationship with partners to some extent," Mark Bregman, head of product operations at Veritas, said in an interview with The Register. Bregman went on to point out the obvious, which is that Veritas hopes to secure more of customers' software purchases than ever before. Instead of plugging in here and there, Veritas would like to be the central buy for hardware/software management. This push has all the trappings of the lock-in approach Veritas has criticized in the past. Once you commit to Veritas in full, there is no turning back. But while Bregman admits to a changing landscape between Veritas and its partners, he is quick to point out that the company has gaps in its arsenal. "We are still not a real one-stop-shop," he said. "We don't have the network management stuff. We don't have security. You are going to get that somewhere else." That's a pretty modest tone for a company that spent a large part of its user conference ripping into companies such as IBM, HP, Sun and EMC. Veritas insists that it's the only company out of this bunch that actually has utility computing product ready to go. "If you have to make a major data center software buy, Veritas should be your choice," is the clear message. This is a risky strategy for a company that is both smaller and less used to confrontation than the firms it hopes to compete against. Veritas, like the other players, will still need at least two years to tune its product portfolio for true utility computing. Its clustering team proved this last week, laying out a 24-month roadmap for taking customers where they want to be. But can Veritas sustain its bluster against competitors over the next two years without facing serious backlash? For all its talents in writing code that can go up against anyone's software, Veritas still has a mid-tier vendor approach when it comes to marketing and strategy. CEO Gary Bloom's Veritas Vision keynote is one example of this weak side. And, while Bregman, a top Veritas executive, conceded that the company's competitive position is changing, he was loathe to discuss the subject at length. Most of our questions were met with a simple "I don't think so" or "No." Veritas staffers, as a whole, gave off the impression that the company has not completely thought out the bumpy road ahead. Veritas will no doubt continue to work with all types of vendors and maintain its heritage of having open code. Customers will be able to plug software from other vendors into Vertias' utility data center package. But what constitutes an ideal world for Veritas is changing. Veritas is no longer happy playing on the fringe. It wants customers to be able to pick Veritas software for just about any function in the data center. Based on past product, Veritas should well be able to deliver the applications needed to up its standing in the software kingdom. It, however, has a lot of maturing to do elsewhere to back the product up and make its big bets pay off. ® Related stories Veritas cluster roadmap raises the ceiling Veritas gratifies itself, users and Sun with new product Veritas gives products second billing to tired hype Veritas posts solid Q1 results Veritas and BEA vow to love Java together
Ashlee Vance, 12 May 2004

Picture messaging: Peace and love breaks out

In a rare example of co-operation, the rival standards bodies behind the world's two main mobile phone technologies have rushed through technical standards that will ensure American networks can exchange picture messages. The GSM MMS (Multimedia Messaging) standard is in place with over 200 GSM operators around the world and is already used by some CDMA network operators, including the largest - Verizon. However network interoperability between CDMA and GSM networks has remained elusive, obliging users to send pictures, video clips and other media files by email. What's wrong with this? It's expensive: users typically pay for mobile data by the byte, often buying small monthly allowances, or 'buckets', and sending images eats into the quota. With smartphones equipped with megapixel cameras due later this year, that generate ever larger images, this will become even more expensive. Paying a small 25 to 40 cent fee to send an MMS should be much cheaper, only without the interoperability agreements, users haven't been confident that the MMS will arrive. The technical standards agreed by the CDMA Development Group and 3G Americas last week cover three areas: routing, relay/server connectivity and some billing issues. Carriers will hope that US users adopt the technology faster than Europeans. In the UK networks began to introduce MMS in early summer 2002, but full interoperability didn't arrive until the following spring. Although over half of the subscriber base now has MMS capable phones, customers have proved reluctant to embrace the technology. Phones have improved tremendously in terms of capabilities (many new models now capture video), quality and ease of use. Is this enough yet? And have the carriers simply not got the price right, or is this a technology that will never find a use? Don't ask this reporter, who doubted that anyone would ever want a cameraphone. ® Related stories Brits avoid MMS in droves Yoof spurns new mobile technology Logica to bring MMS to land lines Verizon launches MMS
Andrew Orlowski, 12 May 2004