Two years after it first offered its enterprise SAN systems in Europe, XIOtech has acknowledged the failure of those US-based attempts to reach the European market. The company has now opened offices in the UK, France and Germany to support sales of its newer Magnitude 3D modular storage systems here. The earlier episode showed up serious flaws in XIOtech's former management, according to Bob Clyde, the company's marcomms director. "There was a fundamental misconception that you could parachute a few machines in, and the business would grow from that," he says. "There was a hubris about XIOtech - they thought they could do no wrong." It was also US-centric, with European representation via its then-parent company Seagate. Once it was spun off from Seagate in November 2002, it had no-one based in Europe. Despite this, it has several dozen users of its earlier Magnitude systems in the UK, mainly thanks to reseller BI-Tech. XIOtech is now training up more European resellers to sell the 3D boxes - it says it will only sell indirect here, unlike in the US. Magnitude's technical speciality is software that stripes data across all the available disk spindles; among other things, this allows configuration changes to be made on the fly. This means that planned downtime can be completely eliminated, claims XIOtech's new EMEA veep Phillipe Fosse, as maintenance can be done with the box still online. He says the Magnitude 3D generation improves resilience too, because it can be operated as a distributed cluster, with fail-over between multiple controllers. "3D is ten times faster than Magnitude," he adds. "The places we play well are where you need to archive and retrieve information to specific timescales." Fosse notes that 3D uses Fibre Channel disks in place of Magnitude's SCSI, and is now available with SATA or solid-state drives as well. "But we don't want to debate price per GB," he claims, "we have to show our simplicity and lower cost of ownership." ® Related stories EMC puts voodoo in new software biz EMC retools archiving software EMC, Dell and Brocade enjoy ménage à SAN ONStor's virtual NAS for SAN convergence
Mailboxes in Germany and the Netherlands were flooded yesterday with spam containing German right-wing propaganda. Spammers used the Sober.G virus - a mass mailing worm that sends itself to email addresses harvested from infected computers - to spread their messages as widely as possible. Analysts think the spammers may have worked in tandem with virus programmers to hijack PCs and use addresses found there to build large distribution lists. This is believed to be the first time that right wing extremists have used spamming systematically to reach a broad audience. The sheer size of the operation stunned many experts. Although none of the mails referred to it specifically, the European election may well have triggered the flood of racist emails. Some of the messages, with taglines such as "What Germany needs are German children", complained about the increasing numbers of immigrants from Turkey and Belarus, who are "driving criminality up" and are entering into "mixed relationships" with German women. Other mails, Deutsche Welle reports, warned of the rising cost of medical care on foreigners who increasingly travel to Germany as "medical tourists". German magazine Der Spiegel reported that 80 per cent of the spam it received came from a server at the University of Rostock. The university says it will work with IT experts to trace the spam back to its original source. According to the German news site Heise Online, the Sober G. virus seems to get its instructions from servers at home.arcor.de, people.freenet.de, home.pages.at, scifi.pages.at en free.pages.at, but there is still no conclusive evidence as to who orchestrated the unprecedented flood of hate emails. Some suspect that the German newspaper Junge Freiheit ("New Freedom"), which seeks political respectability for a right-wing conservative body of thought, may have something to do with it, as some of the messages explicitly refer to it. ® Related stories Virus writers deploy bulk mail software Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam Spam fighters infiltrate spam clubs Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs
Law enforcement agencies have arrested a number of people in connection with the alleged theft last year of the source code to the long-anticipated first-person shooter, Half-Life 2, it has emerged. Details remain scarce. The game's developer, Valve Software, last night issued a press release simply announcing the arrests and little else besides. The FBI's Northwest cybercrime taskforce, the team investigating the theft, would only confirm that arrests had been made. Neither party has said how many arrests have been made, when they took place or where. Nor have they confirmed a variety of rumours that have emerged this year of equipment seized in San Francisco and a connection between then theft and German suspected of authoring the Phatbot worm. At the time of the alleged theft, Valve CEO Gabe Newell claimed his email account had been hacked. He also said be believed some sort of keystroke recorder had been installed on some of the company's PCs. Valve had also sustained a number of Denial of Service attacks, he added. Half-Life 2's source code leaked last October. Only the game code was circulated on the Internet - no content was included, making it impossible for the source to be played. On the back of the alleged theft, the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, said the game would not ship before Christmas, as previously scheduled. Instead, it said, the title would appear some time in 2004. Ironically, the announcements of the arrests comes a week after it emerged that the game might not be finished this year after all. Half-Life 2's does not appear on Vivendi Universal's mid-year release timetable - a list that includes a number of other titles earmarked for the company's Christmas line-up. The theft also caused some embarrasment for graphics chip maker ATI, which last Autumn pledged to ship the single-player version of Half-Life 2 with its then brand-new Radeon XT graphics cards. ® Related stories Half Life 2 leak means no launch for Christmas ATI unveils Radeon XT Cisco probes source code theft Phatbot suspect released on bail
Last week Sun Microsystems released details of more than 30 technology innovations at its Network Computer 04 event in Shanghai. These included a second release of the Sun Java Desktop System, and a preview of the new Solaris 10 Operating System. In addition, the company announced details of new storage software, systems and highly flexible utility pricing options designed to alter and simplify the management of data throughout its lifecycle. Sun also revealed new offerings in the identity management space, including Sun Java System Identity Manager, Sun Java System Access Manager and the Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition. However, the new joint agreement with Fujitsu covering the development of future Solaris servers really grabs the attention. Fujitsu and Sun have worked together in the server business for many years. Currently Fujitsu offers its Primepower systems running Sun's Solaris operating system. These servers are based on its own RISC architecture Sparc64 chips. The company also sells certain Sun systems that utilise Sun's Ultrasparc risc processors. Under the terms of the new deal the two companies plan to bring a common range of servers to market by mid 2006, designated the Advanced Product Line (APL). These systems will eventually replace Sun's Sun Fire and Fujitsu's Primepower server offerings. During the transition period to the new line, Sun will include existing Fujitsu Primepower servers in its offerings to customers. Both organisations will receive a share of the revenue whenever either sells an APL system, although no detail on the split has been revealed. The APL range will include servers based on both Sun's Rock and Niagara chipsets and Fujitsu's forthcoming Sparc64 VI processors. The two companies will work together on the design of high-end systems while Sun alone will design the low-end offerings. This is an interesting development and could deliver significant financial benefits to both Sun and Fujitsu if the two companies can manage the design programmes effectively. Equally important will be the joint marketing of APL that will clearly have to take place. We shall have to watch closely as the two organisations start down this road. It will also be fascinating to see if this will be the first of many joint ventures between the two. Sun Microsystems has had a few rough quarters financially but, taken together, this raft of announcements makes it clear that the company is continuing to fight its ground. CEO Scott McNealy is still as assertive and buoyant as ever; and the recent move of Jonathan Schwartz from head of software to COO indicates that Sun will have plenty to say for some time to come. © IT-Analysis.com Register stories from Sun Network '04 Sun gets liquored up on own code Sun goes back to the future with Metropolis Sun and Fujitsu to SPARC together
Nintendo's next console release has been codenamed 'Revolution', the company's president, Satoru Iwata, revealed this week. That said, he was very circumspect about what it is that will make the console, previously known as 'N5', warrant its codename. Like the Nintendo DS handheld console, with its touch-sensitive screen technology and Wi-Fi connectivity, Revolution's design is more likely to focus on gameplay features than raw processing power, Iwata suggested. "We're thinking of an innovative idea for our next generation console that's completely different from consoles in the past," Iwata said at a Tokyo press conference this week. "It will be clearly distinct from the other next-generation consoles that competing companies will develop. What's important isn't a next-generation technology, but a next-generation way of playing games." Both IBM and ATI have already signalled that their products will be used in the new machine, just as they provided processor and graphics chip technology, respectively, for the Nintendo's current console, GameCube. Since both companies have also signed similar deals with Microsoft, presumably for Xbox 2, we wonder whether the two next-generation consoles might not be one and the same - or at least two takes on the same basic platform. That's just a hunch, and only time will tell if it's a correct one. There are arguments against it. Only this week, for example, Nintendo Europe managing director David Gosen slammed Microsoft for pushing the industry toward next-generation technology too quickly. Speaking at the ELSPA Games Summit in London, Gosen alleged Microsoft's "key motivation" in launching Xbox 2 next year, four years after the original's debut, was not profitability. "In every cycle, some manufacturer not profiting from the current cycle is eager to kick-start the next one," he said. ® Related stories Games too complex, Nintendo chief warns Nintendo to ship GameCube 2 in 2005-6 - official Nintendo signs IBM for next-gen console Microsoft picks IBM as Xbox 2 processor partner ATI confirms Xbox 2 win ATI confirms Nintendo gig (we think) Sony, Nintendo pick March '05 for Euro console launch Nintendo DS: more communicator than console? How Nintendo almost beat Nokia to the gamephone Xbox cops another loss
Computer intrusions are on the decline for the third year in a row, at least among respondents to an annual survey conducted by the Computer Security Institute (CSI) and the FBI's computer crime squad. Nearly 500 computer security professionals in US corporations, government agencies, financial institutions, medical institutions and universities responded to the 2004 survey, with 53 per cent reporting that their organization experienced unauthorized use of computer systems during the prior 12 months - down from 56 per cent in 2003. Thirty-five per cent believed they had not been breached, and 11 per cent said they didn't know. Overall financial losses totaled out to $141m for the 269 respondents willing to quantify their losses, down significantly from 251 respondents reporting $202m in losses in 2003. Reported losses to intellectual property theft plummeted to $11m in 2004, putting denial of service attacks in the number one spot as the most expensive computer crime, allegedly causing $26m of the total losses. Twenty-eight per cent of the respondents said their organization had insurance policies to help manage cybersecurity risks. Despite federal government efforts to encourage information sharing between industry and the Department of Homeland Security, the survey "detected no increase in the disposition to share information about security intrusions," according to the report. The percentage of companies suffering intrusions who reported them to law enforcement dropped from 30 per cent to 20 per cent; the most common reason for keeping an intrusion quiet was fear of negative publicity, a factor for 51 per cent of the companies that failed to report a breach. While comparisons with previous years may be enlightening, the CSI/FBI survey is decidedly unscientific: the sample pool is self-selected from a panel of computer security professionals. CSI director Chris Keating cautioned against drawing overly optimistic conclusions from the downward trends reported in the study. "Obviously, computer crime remains a serious problem and some kinds of attacks can cause ruinous financial damage," Keating said in a statement. "We don't believe that all organizations maintain the same defenses as our members - financial damages for less protected organizations are almost certainly worse." Copyright © 2004, Related stories Security cert body gives lesson in insecurity US.biz practicing Homeland inSecurity Hackers cost UK.biz billions Human error blamed for most security breaches The farce of federal cybersecurity
Muggers in South Africa handed back an Alcatel mobile phone while robbing two terrified women - because they refused to thieve "cheap stuff". Two men with knives accosted the women while they were out walking in Port Elizabeth. They threatened them with the knives and demanded they hand over their jewellery and mobile phones. But the women were stunned when the muggers refused to take one of the handsets. Victim Tandeka Mazwane, told the Cape Times: "We were so scared, but even more surprised when they looked at her [friend's] Alcatel phone and threw it back at her, saying they don't take cheap stuff." ® Related stories Police crack down on mobile phone thefts Kids targeted in mobile phone theft lesson Jail for mobile phone thieves
Microsoft has filed eight lawsuits in the US against nearly 200 accused spammers, saying that the defendants had used false information to conceal themselves, and had deceived consumers. Each of the lawsuits "names" at least 20 unidentified defendants, as well as one John Hites, identified by anti-spam campaigners at Spamhaus as one of the world's ten most prolific spammers. Microsoft is seeking injunctions against each defendant, using the CAN-Spam act, and could be awarded up to $1m per spammer in civil fines. THe company said it hopes to unmask the anonymous spammers through the legal discovery process. Microsoft filed its first suits against unsolicited mailers in June last year (2003), and is now involved in more than 80 such cases around the world. So far, its legal actions have resulted in four settlements, two defendants being declared bankrupt and five judgments for Microsoft. "We're raising the stakes, we're making it more expensive for spammers," Tim Cranton, a senior lawyer at Microsoft said. "A lot of the established spammers are realizing that it's much harder to operate." Although any efforts made in the fight against spammers are to be applauded, anyone with an e-mail account will testify that the effect on the amount of spam arriving in inboxes has been zero. Frank Gorman, former legal counsel for the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, told The Washington Times: "It's not going to make an impact by itself, but you have to approach it from every angle." In January this year, Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, outlined a three-step programme to eliminate spam within two years: he proposed a system whereby senders would have to pay a digital stamp fee if recipients considered the mail to be spam. The company has also introduced a whitelist scheme that will make its Hotmail database available to third parties willing to pay $20k to avoid the spam filters, provided they comply with Microsoft's guidelines. ® Related stories MS opens Hotmail to bulk mailers Security is our biggest ever challenge Gates MS takes fight to the spammers EC draws line in spam sand Chairman Bill's magic spam cure a revenue opportunity? We'll kill spam in two years Gates
A US jury yesterday cleared a Saudi graduate student of running websites that allegedly fostered terrorism. Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, 34, a computer science student at the University of Idaho, was accused of running websites used to recruit terrorists, raise money and spread inflammatory rhetoric. The Islamic Assembly of North America websites were used by Al-Hussayen to run religious edicts defending suicide bombing and to solicit money for the militant Palestinian group Hamas, prosecutors alleged. The defence said Al-Hussayen was only a volunteer webmaster. Al-Hussayen was charged with three terrorism-related charges as well as immigration and visa fraud offences. The closely-watched case was seen as a test of the newly-enacted Patriot Act. But during the seven-week case the prosecution failed to convince a jury that Al-Hussayen had used his technical expertise to support terrorist activity. After seven days of deliberation, the jury found him not guilty of the three terrorism-related charges and three immigration offences. The jury failed to reach a verdict on a further eight counts of immigration and visa fraud. A mistrial was declared on those charges, which may become the subject of a second court case. David Nevin, Al-Hussayen's lawyer, told AP that his client had "little to do with creating the material posted", which he said was protected by First Amendment rights to freedom of expression. Al-Hussayen, who has been imprisoned since his February 2003 arrest, still faces deportation. The son of a prominent Riyadh family, Al-Hussayen worked on his doctorate in prison while his wife and three children returned to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, rather than contest deportation. ® Related stories Berg execution website shut down Al Jazeera hacker gets community service Al Jazeera and the Net free speech, but don't say that Al Jazeera's web site DDoSed or unplugged?
Wireless Internet access will soon move beyond railways and onto the roads if RATP, the company which runs the Paris Metro and the capital's bus services, has its way. The organisation will next week show off a Wi-Fi enabled bus at the Paris-hosted Public Transport Exhibition 2004. It will also launch a public trial of the technology, on the number 38 bus, which runs between North and South Paris. Buses on the route have already been equipped with Wi-Fi, RATP said. Travellers will be able to connect their (suitably equipped) PDAs and notebooks with the bus' on-board access point. However, Internet connectivity is only provided at Wi-Fi speeds when the vehicle passes within range of a fixed hotspot - at a major terminus, for example. For the rest of the journey, connectivity is maintained through a GPRS link. The system will hop between these two network technologies without interrupting users' access sessions, promised Xavier Aubry, marketing chief of Franco-Swedish software company Appear Networks, which has provided the server code for the RATP trial. Cisco is offering the hardware. RATP plans to use the system to deliver up-to-the-minute information to bus drivers and staff, and to allow them to communicate with their HQ. For example, the company foresees bus drivers using the system to alerts the authorities to obstructions likes cars parked in bus lanes. RATP also envisages using the technology to provide travel data to passengers. At this stage, it's not clear whether they will be offered full Internet access, or simply RATP-provided information. ® Related stories More UK train firms commit to on-board Wi-Fi GNER to roll out ten Wi-Fi locos Six months to get wireless rail travel free from Virgin Eurostar preps Wi-Fi train trial Wi-Fi providers target train travellers Delayed GNER Wi-Fi train trial steams out US railroad uses Wi-Fi to run driverless trains Silicon Valley to get US' first Wi-Fi train Airships to deliver broadband to rural areas
Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch iRiver is set to ship the second of its three 'video iPod' player families in July - the Linux-based Personal Multimedia Player (PMP). The company will ship two models: the PMP-120 and PMP-140. Both offer the same 3.5in, 16-bit LCD display, but the first will contain a 20GB hard drive while the latter has a 40GB unit installed. iRiver PMP-120 Both PMPs are set to ship a month after iRiver makes its first video players, the H320 and H340, available to Japanese buyers in June. And the company is on course to ship its Microsoft Personal Media Center-based PMC-120 and PMC-140 players later in Q3. iRiver PMC-120 (left) and H320 (right) While the H300 series is essentially an iPod with a colour display and video playback facilities, the PMP (and the PMC) are more tablet-like devices. The PMP-120 measures 13.9 x 8.4 x 3.1cm and weighs 277g. The unit supports a wide range of formats, including MP3, WMA, ASF, Ogg Vorbis and WAV for audio; JPEG and BMP for still photography; and MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MPEG 4, AVI, Divx 3, 4 and 5, Xvid and WMV for video. There's an integrated FM tuner and microphone, along with line-in and TV-out ports. Like the H300 series, the PMPs will use the USB On the Go system to allow the device to download digital photography and other files directly from cameras and USB disks without the need for a PC host. The players will ship with a removeable rechargeable battery capable of sustaining up to 16 hours of audio or five hours of video playback. As yet there's no word on pricing. ® Related stories iRiver readies 'PC-free' colour music, photo player MS, partners tout Portable Media Center 'iPod killer' Personal video devices to challenge music players MS Windows for iPod delayed but still marks death of PDA Sony to ship portable video, MP3 player next month Sony unveils colour 'iPod killer' PortalPlayer Photo Edition paves way for Picture iPod
One in three hard drives returned to Seagate for repair is "actually in perfect working order", says Guy Weavers, director of EMEA field applications engineering at Seagate. So customers are wrongly blaming the drive when their PC breaks down. This means that they lose data, time and maybe money, by sending it back to the Seagate factory. Time and money is lost down the line by Seagate resellers too. According to research conducted by Seagate the cost to resellers of returns of healthy drives ranges from €28 per drive to as much as €122 for same-day response. Weavers says the system error which prompted a return "may have been caused by a virus, a loose connector, a simple power spike or some other problem not related to the hard drive". So how to avoid wrong diagnosis? Seagate has a handy, free set of vendor-generic diagnostic software, called SeaTools. According to the company, customers who use SeaTools when diagnosing a system issue report that the drive is not at fault 45 per cent of the time: 37 per cent report that the operating system is to blame. This week it launched a campaign to get customers in EMEA to get this software - and use it. SeaTools is available for download here. There are also CD and enterprise versions. ® Related stories Seagate thins product line in black ink bid Seagate spins 10k rpm disks Fujitsu HDD fiasco to end in $42.5m pay-out
XML is taking over the world for all sorts of good reasons. But just as we thought that it would solve all our problems and let us build a tower up to the gods, babble intervenes. XML has allowed messages to be passed from one system to another in such a way that they can be parsed, dissected, queried and rebuilt, but it only deals with the syntax and not the semantics. To take a simple example, different messages using different schemas could have tags like: zip, zipcode, zip_code, post-code, post_code, postal_code, or PostalZone, all of which in a generic sense relate to the same type of data. So a message from one schema has to be transformed into another schema before it can be processed. This causes considerable redundant processing as well as adding significant opportunities for errors, potential security exposures and a need for additional modelling and testing. It also reduces the opportunity for reuse and discrete services. For example, it should be possible to develop a service that can be handed any XML stream and it will add the insurance group for the PostalZone and pass the message back; this would be much easier if the tag was always the same. Individual element names are one level of the problem and the next level of problem is messages for typical transactions such as an invoice. Again the advantage of a single agreed format would be immense. Well, OASIS, the e-business standards organisation, looks as if it has solved this problem with the publication of its Committee draft of the Universal Business Language (UBL) 1.0 last month. This is a major piece of work which is freely available and I believe should be the standard by which all new XML schemas and messages are built. It provides for extensions and is obviously not yet universal in its coverage. It does however cover many of the basic concepts and elements needed as its documents and component library are designed to support a typical order-to-invoice procurement cycle. It includes the following document types: Order, Order Response Simple, Order Response (detailed), Order Change, Order Cancellation, Despatch Advice, Receipt Advice and Invoice. My initial review of the standard shows a great deal of thought and understanding from the members of the committee. Given its size it is remarkably easy to navigate around and find bits of interest. Ever since my early data modelling experience, with a pre-release version of IMS/DB, deciding how best to deal with addresses has been a major issue. So I looked at this area in particular and it does seem to work well and give the flexibility needed (this is partly due to the greater flexibility of XML over IMS) and I can easily see this becoming the standard. One small criticism is that the definitions are somewhat terse and it is probable that over time they will need to be expanded to ensure real commonality of semantics. In short, an excellent version one with plenty of promise of more to come. For the detail go here: you still have time to comment. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Sun rallies J2EE faithful W3C completes framework for the Semantic Web IBM throws weight behind BPEL IBM moots BPEL-Java fusion
Letters:Letters: The music industry was delighted this week, when the latest round of figures seemed to show that file sharing may have slipped into decline. If that sounds a little conditional, it should. Not everyone agrees, and there are more than a few alternative explanations offered in this mail round up: Subject: Global P2P jihad claims success "Not all observers are convinced that the figures smell of victory. It would take a large pile of CDs to store 800m songs." Indeed. Taking an average of 12 tracks per CD, we get 800 000 000 / 12 = 66666666.666...which is irrefutable proof, as though it were needed, that the music industry pigopolists are in fact worshippers of Satan. P. Indeed. And if you take an average of 13 tracks per CD, you get 61538461.5384615385...An infinitely repeating number sequence. Equally indicative of the red and horny one's involvement. Fortunately not all of the comments on this one came with a whiff of green pea soup about them. Some were actually alternative suggestions for why file sharing has apparently slowed: John, There is a much simpler reason for the drop in the number of files shared - Worms. Preventing infection from Worms is the number one reason people are firewalling their computers. Firewalls block the server portion of P2P. As the number of servers decreases more pressure is placed on the remaining servers. Most of these are on broadband accounts and the increased pressure makes the broadband account unusable for the person owning it. They call their ISP, such as myself, who packet sniffs the line to see what is going on. It is trivial to identify P2P as the cause. People then either remove the P2P (most common) or firewall their computers. This increases the pressure on the fewer remaining. And so on. It is a spiral that spins down faster and faster. So, spammers are indirectly killing P2P if you want to view it that way. Tony Ray Those guys are really naïve if they thing they are winning the war because they can't see as many files being shared on the public P2P networks they are monitoring. Have they even bothered to consider that all they may have done is driven a lot of file sharers underground, to where their prying eyes can no longer monitor them? But what the heck, if they want to believe they are winning, why should I break their bubble, and tell them how wrong they really are? J Namon You might like to also consider the notion that the actual reason for the drop in P2P file sharing usage is that people have pretty much downloaded all of the songs they want. Its that simple perhaps. A friend of mine is a fairly typical music downloader from P2P. She has reached a stage whereby there is no more to be had. She has to really scratch the base of her musical knowledge to find something new (or old) to download. A year ago this 30 year old professional woman had so much to download... all of the stones... primal scream yada yada all of the bands she had ever even liked briefly. She now has them all. Nothing is left to "steal". Even without anecdotal evidence it seems to me pretty obvious that there will be a slow down of the usage of P2P as hard drive size and bandwidth increases. The fuel for P2P networks is the desire for retainable information and as more information is retained by more people then this fuel will necessarily drop in quantity. Thus will drop the amount of P2P usage. How this inevitable deflation can be projected into the future is an interesting topic for discussion. Perhaps in the future only new works (movies, songs, books) will be pirated and all of the old stuff will just be retained by individuals or small groups of individuals. This would mean that the media controllers will have a more focused area to concentrate on stopping piracy. I guess that's a pretty good compromise: give us all old media for free and then let us pay for the new stuff (whilst the pirate underground continues trying to get that for free too) All food for thought, Best wishes Mat Ripley We reported that morale in the IT sector might not be as buoyant as managers might hope. Still, you reckoned not all was lost, and in a classic case of looking for a silver lining in thunderstorm, sent in the following: Tim - On this month's Despair calendar (www.despair.com), it says that "A study at the University of Alberta reveals that unhappy workers are more productive and less error-prone than happy ones. (2001)". So this may be for the better; maybe they'll produce more secure and less buggy code, for example. J.B. Chimene, Eric Drexler's u-turn didn't go unnoticed. We had plenty of emails explaining why a self replicating nanobot is impossible, and similar numbers explaining why it is not only possible, but inevitable. A sample: There are already many different types of self-replicating microscopic machines - every bacterium, or single-celled plant, animal or fungus falls into this category. Why should we worry more about the world turning into a mass of grey goo any more than we worry about it turning into a mass of green goo? Similar processes would limit the spread of even the most cunningly designed nanomachine. David Brown Norway I don't believe that for a minute. I'm sure that every programmer of my generation has written a program that produced an unending paper report. b. I don't believe that for a minute. If people are capable of creating so-called weapons of mass destruction, then they're capable of deliberately creating nanomachines that endlessly duplicate themselves, perhaps by extracting carbon from any organic material to hand. Cough. Father of nanotechnology. cough. Richard Feynman. Cough. cough. :-) Peter Ahem. We'd blush for that one, except it's not easy to do when you are a bird of prey. Can we compromise and call him the Grandfather of nanotechnology? You wondered if the British "land speed in an electric vehicle" record attempt (sadly postponed over safety fears) was not a bit, well, amateurish: The track in Tunisia has been declared dangerous, so they are going to announce another venue today. Very interesting: they are using off-the-shelf components. Plain stupid for such an expensive venture. Everything needs to be custom-built, including the batteries and motors. In the USA, electric dragsters reach alarming accelerations. In Oz, many have crossed the continent on solar-only. Folks aren't 'thinking outside the box'; all available IPR needs to be combined. Insufficient visionaries. Detroit and the oilers can laugh a little longer. DGL Next up, we should have seen this coming, but someone has suggested that there is already a patent covering the wifi cow herd. Prior art! Prior art! Did you know there is already a US patent that probably applies to this system? Sorry, I can't be bothered finding the number, but when I was employed by Trimble Navigation, a patent was awarded to my colleague Charles Manning (not unknown in The Reg world) for a system using GPS to herd cattle via electric shocks... this was actually a joke at the time, following the typical exhortation of all employees to patent anything and everything vaguely applicable to our technical field... but (not surprisingly, really) the patent was issued. Regards, Mark Butler doesn't know how often cows go near watering holes in winter in our southwest. They don't. There are puddles all over the place. To be fair, there are many places this isn't a problem. In some places in Oz they'd need to fly an aeroplane over the herd. Some properties are bigger than Texas. That's Texas in the USA. As opposed to the Scottish soft rock band? We thought so. But anyway, thisd is evidence at last that everything is actually bigger in Oz. Stick that in yer pipe and BBQ it, Lone Star. Most amusingly, Amazon seems to be having a little trouble with its preferences pages at the moment. It is making the most bizarre recommendations to its customers. Are you aware that if you search Amazon for "Spot" as in Spot The Dog and limit your search on toys it brings up some interesting "Related Links". Ian Not only that but in their synopsis of the book, it says: "Nagel's second volume of photographs captures portraits of nudists who prefer the aesthetic of smooth, hairless pubes." How is it possible to have hairless pubes? The mind boggles! Douglas I have recently purchased a digital camera and had looked on amazon for it and SD card. I have added to the "page I made" the Shaven Nudists and another title "Vulis' Crazy Sexy Pictures Mix" by Ralf Vul. When I complained to Amazon they sent a standard response of "this is how the page you made works". I replied saying that I didn't think that those suggestions were related to my searches - or appropriate to simply add to anyone's page. I received another standard response (i.e. brush off) so I gave up. I really don't think that sort of content should be displayed with something that is not related to the searches I have done - and certainly not added to the page that "I" made. Who knows perhaps they are just trying to get rid of excess stock? ;) Regards, Naomi Russell It's not just camcorders that Amazon are linking their 'Shaven Nudist' adverts to. A couple of weeks ago I ran a search for a science-fiction book ('Pandora's Star' by Peter F. Hamilton, for the record) and was very surprised to see an advert for the aforementioned 'art' book - or something very similar - pop up. Assuming that Amazon use context-sensitive advertising like Google does (or so I am led to believe), I'd be very interested in the thought process that went into linking these two products! Mike Plunkett If you think that's weird ask yourself this: why would someone shopping for Sennheiser HD202 Headphones want a copy of.... A Hand in the Bush: the Fine Art of Vaginal Fisting; Paperback ~ Deborah Addington? That's the fine art mind you. Regards, Tim Newman There was news this week of carbon nanotubes making rather nifty lightbulb filaments. We must confess to a small amount of over enthusiastic reporting on this one. Something that didn't get past you lot. No siree, bob: You guys (and gals...) Sometimes are spot on and sometimes engage in such irrationally unqualified statements I have to immediately stop what I am doing and offer a small prayer to the gods of journalism that they take notice of your abhorrent flaying of the facts and smite you down immediately in your dreary little British abodes. And I quote "As well as being the only real change in design in the last 125 years...." PUHLEASE. How about the MUCH MORE EFFICIENT Fluorescent bulb with a far greater service life, cooler operation and better efficiency which has been around for what, oh say at least ONE_HUNDRED years!!!! The technology that they were spawned from has been in existence for over ONE-HUNDRED and FORTY YEARS. Oh and then you babble on about efficiency... The most efficient incandescent lamp runs at about then percent efficiency and maybe that waste of technology and time used to make the nano-bulb will being that number up a little. BUT fluorescent bulbs are already at least 40% efficient and LED' technology which continues to make leaps and bounds is now coming to the forefront of consumer technology and has an extremely high level of efficiency ( over %80) and can last into the 100,000 hour range???. Oh did I mention Sodium Arc and metal Halide lighting which each have somewhere between 50 and even up to 80 percent efficiency and is now being used in Auto technology and even low voltage bicycle applications? In your quest to constantly sound the horns of the wonderments of advancing new technology you often overlook the real facts that frequently trump the gee-whiz bells and whistles factor of the objects of your bleary-eyed adoration. Sigh. Better luck next time. Brad Cameron Fair point. If you need us, we'll be standing in a corner wearing a pointy hat until further notice. OK? ®
Dabs.com is threatening legal action against an Irish IT firm after it bought a stack of mispriced goods from the computer etailer. Point to Point IT Ltd - based in Buncrana, Co. Donegal - bought almost 30 items from the "Clearance Corner" on the Dabs.com site. Adam Porter, of Point to Point told us: "We found a number of items at very cheap prices and assumed that Dabs.com was clearing out unwanted or unsaleable stock. So we ordered the items, they took the money from our company credit card and shipped all but two items to us." The cost of the goods - which included a mini 128MB USB drive, port replicators and an FM radio stereo headset - came to £194. When Porter contacted Dabs.com to find out when the two missing items would be delivered, he was stunned to find that the items had been wrongly priced and the etailer wanted the full purchase price - £1,353 - or the goods back. Unless Point to Point agrees, Dabs.com has threatened to "take this matter to court" where "cost & expenses will be applied for". "I'm very annoyed that they have threatened us with legal action when the fault was clearly theirs," said Porter. "They should honour the agreement - they only found out when we asked about the missing items. "As far as we're concerned, the contract was fulfilled and we were going to keep the stuff. "These were clearance items and we bought them in good faith. Even though taking on the might of Dabs is quite a scary prospect we are sure that we are entitled to the ownership of the products. "We would prefer this to be settled amicably but we are not prepared to be bullied by Dabs. We have made similar mistakes with our customers in the past and have always honoured our contracts without recrimination." Dabs.com has admitted the pricing error, revealing that at the end of May it wrongly priced a number of items for 42p, 11p and 0p. But it maintains that it is "not unreasonable to request the return of the goods" because of what it describes as the "obvious nature of the error". Said the etailer in a statement: "Point to Point IT Ltd placed a credit account order for 28 individual items at the incorrectly displayed prices. Had the order been for a singular item, then Dabs.com would have taken no action. However, given the obvious nature of the error and the fact that multiple items were ordered, we believe it is not unreasonable to request the return of the goods. "Whilst we apologise for any inconvenience this issue has caused, we believe our request is fair in the circumstances. We have consulted Trading Standards on such matters and believe we have acted in line with their advice." No one from Trading Standards was available for comment at the time of writing. ® Related stories Dabs scores Xbox web-pricing own goal No legal recourse for buyers as Amazon rejects £7 iPaq pricing Online dealer makes a Komplett hash of DRAM offer
Washington State Ferries (WSF) has pledged to equip vessels on four of its routes with public Wi-Fi access. And yesterday, it switched on the first wireless-enabled ferry, the Klickitat, to test the technology. The Klickitat plies the waves between Port Townsend and Keystone, across the Admiralty Inlet north of Seattle. Travellers with wireless-enabled PDAs and notebooks can access the Internet from the vessel's passenger deck and from each terminal's embarkation area. The service provides 802.11a, b and g coverage. The ship-to-shore connection is a high speed link that operates in the 5.8GHz spectrum that can run at up to 30Mbps, WSF said. Bad weather shouldn't hinder the backbone connection, the company added, though the line-of-sight link can be broken by passing ships. An automatic system quickly re-establishes the connection when that happens. WSF is the US' largest ferry service provider, running vessels on ten routes in the North-West US and British Columbia, Canada. It serves some 24.5m passengers each year. Whether all ten routes will be equipped with Wi-Fi has yet to be decided, but the company has committed itself to rolling the service out on three more of them: Seattle-Bainbridge Island, Edmonds-Kingston and Seattle-Bremerton. The first two should be in place this summer, the latter in the autumn. In total, eight vessels will be equipped with access points, including the Klickitat. For now, the service is free of charge, but WSF plans to impose a "competitive" fee in the autumn, according to WSF technology director Jim Long, cited by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. ® Related stories Paris Metro firm to run Wi-Fi buses More UK train firms commit to on-board Wi-Fi GNER to roll out ten Wi-Fi locos Eurostar preps Wi-Fi train trial Wi-Fi providers target train travellers Korean Air gives nod to Boeing's in-flight broadband Boeing prices up in-flight Wi-Fi Boeing to offer roaming via in-flight WLANs
ReviewReview Let's get the obvious out of the way first. This latest Vaio from Sony is, without a shadow of a doubt, the coolest notebook computer ever. It's that simple. This is the kind of product that just stops people in their tracks when they see it. Pull this out of your bag in an aiport departure lounge, and your fellow passengers will turn green with envy, and shamefully hide their own big and heavy notebooks under the nearest chair, writes Riyad Emeran.
Microsoft kicked off the first of its seminars "to help customers better understand the debate surrounding Microsoft and Open Source software" with an all-day conference in London yesterday. The latest strand in Microsoft's "Get the Facts" counter-offensive against Linux will tour Britain this summer. Analyst Philip Dawson from Meta Group set the tone during a panel discussion by arguing that higher support, training and integration costs can offset the free licensing costs of Linux. He also highlighted the growing maturity of Linux, and the inroads both Microsoft and Linux are making into the traditional Unix market. As vendors add more functions to software, the multi-million dollar enterprise market is becoming a stack war instead of an OS war, he said. According to Nick McGrath, head of platform strategy at Microsoft UK, independent and funded research shows that Windows 2003 is less expensive than Red Hat or SuSE in some examples. He attacked the "myth" that Linux was free. Linux has strengths, McGrath said (without saying what they might be -spoil sport) before arguing that "Windows offers a more comprehensive environment". Nick Barley, business and marketing director of Microsoft UK, said the "tabloid view" is that the battle between Microsoft and Linux is a struggle between "the free world and a big monopolist run by the richest man in the world". He said this "jihad about technology" between rival operating systems ignored the bigger problem that IT is badly regarded in the boardroom. "We need to better communicate the value of IT to business," he said. The event promised to discuss "pros and cons of Microsoft's technology platform in relation to Linux and Open Source" and many Open Source advocates were present at the debate. Microsoft's Barley used to sit on the other side of the fence himself as a Linux advocate at Oracle. He acknowledged that Microsoft's recent licensing policies had "backfired" by upsetting some customers but that's as close as Microsoft got to saying its practices - rather than its messages - could benefit from a change. Face the facts As The Register's John Lettice recently wrote "Microsoft thinks Windows 'wins against Linux every time' but customers think Windows is expensive and Linux much cheaper". Microsoft reckons if it puts its "facts" before users who've been deluded by "open source myths" they will ultimately come around to Microsoft's way of thinking. "They're not going ahead with Linux because they don't know any better, they've got their own 'facts', based on their own research and experience. If Microsoft products really are, or become, more cost-effective then customers' experiences and perceptions will change in Microsoft's favour," Lettice argues. Microsoft's 'Get the Facts' tour will be in Edinburgh on 17 June, Manchester on 29 June and Newport, Wales on 7 July. ® Related stories: Microsoft UK plans 'open and honest' Linux debates Microsoft ad push cranks up the - get Linux - volume MS' Linux obsession - time to call in the shrinks Ballmer 'fesses up to Linux/Windows cost FUD Windows worms tax ISPs
SenseCam, a hardware research project developed at Microsoft's Cambridge labs, may find a use in the treatment patient suffering from short-term memory loss. This summer, the Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, is planning to test the device as a complement to exsiting therapies for patients with short term memory problems, caused by Alzheimer's, or head injuries, for example. Dr. Narinder Kapur, a specialist at the hospital, said the SenseCam research project "could provide certain patients, suffering from memory loss, with the ability to keep a visual diary of their memories and, potentially, improve their quality of life". Lyndsay Williams, the lead researcher on the project, explained that patients currently keep a written diary in real time which helps them keep track of their movements and actions. However, many patients, particularly children, find it very tiring, she said. SenseCam is worn around the neck. Its on-board, wide angle (132 degrees) camera is activated by movement and changing light levels and so captures a photographic record of the wearer's day. Williams describes it as a kind of human black box data recorder. The result is a stream of data from your day, which you can review as pictures at high speed, or track through the sensor logs. Very Star Trek. The box includes IR sensors, so that the camera is activate dby the presence of another person, or animal, as well as light and motion detectors. It has 128MB of memory for pictures and 16MB for the sensor data. If you are having trouble picturing yourself using this, don't worry -it's not likely to be for sale in PC World any time soon. Williams says that SensecCam is a pure research effort, although she can see several applications beyond its potential as a memory prosthesis. "It could be used in tourism, as a personal diary - a kind of visual blog. It could also be, potentially, useful to firefighters as a way of retracing their steps out of a building, for instance." The prototype is currently a similar size to many entry-level digital cameras. Williams is confident she can shrink it to around a quarter of its current size with no difficulty. "Most of it is taken up by the double A batteries at the moment," she said. ® Related stories MS boffins build real-time stereocam Microsoft confirms EC appeal UK chemists detect air fingerprints
UK mobile operator Orange has bungled again after failing to register a new batch of phone numbers. As a result, a number of customers are only able to receive calls made from BT landlines and other Orange customers. One punter who has been hit by the problem told us: "I received my pay as you go phone eight days ago. To date I am unable to receive calls and texts from anyone with the exception of BT landline or fellow Orange customers. "The reason is that I am on a new batch of phone numbers - on the code 07891 - and I have to await all [mobile network] providers to update the databases to accept this code as a valid number. "This leaves my phone completely useless as I am uncontactable by a large number of family and work colleagues when I am 'mobile'," he said. A spokesman for Orange said that there was a "problem with the 07891 number range" leading to an "inability to receive calls from outside the Orange network". At the time of writing, the mobilphoneco was unable to confirm the scale of the problem or explain how it could release new numbers, that are currently being flogged to end users, without ensuring that are fully operational. Yesterday, Orange UK confirmed that a "small number" of its customers have been unable to use their mobile phones over the last couple of days because of a technical fault. The victims appear to be punters upgrading their phones or switching between contract and pay as you go (PAYG) services. ® Related stories Orange users suffer tech fault Mobile porn is a 'time bomb' London sees red as Orange service goes crash
US storage giant EMC has reiterated its guidance for the year, disappointing investors slightly. The company is expecting profits of about $850m on revenue of around $8.1bn in 2004, in line with analysts' average expectations. This would represent year-on-year revenue growth of approximately 30 per cent. At an analyst day in New York, the company also reaffirmed its outlook for earnings of $0.08 per share on revenue of between $1.95bn and $1.97bn in the second quarter. EMC expects worldwide IT spending to rise by between 3 per cent and 4 per cent in 2004. It projects spending on storage to increase by 7 per cent in 2004, compared to 4 per cent growth in 2003. On the back of the news, shares in EMC tumbled on the New York Stock Exchange and then recovered marginally, as investors displayed disappointment that guidance figures had not been revised upwards. The company beat analyst expectations in mid-April when it reported double-digit revenue growth and triple-digit net income growth for the first quarter of 2004. Bill Teuber, EMC's chief financial officer, said that since EMC reported its first quarter earnings, the company had purchased approximately 23.5m shares of its stock for about $265m, bringing its year-to-date purchases to a total of 26.6m shares for $310m. He introduced the newly-formed EMC Software Group, which is to bring EMC's core software, Legato and Documentum businesses together. The new division is expected to have revenues of about $1.5bn in 2004. The recent acquisitions of software firm VMware, content management company Documentum and Legato Software will increasingly add to revenues over the next four to six quarters, according to analysts. EMC outlined VMware's "virtual infrastructure" (VI), which aims to help optimise server, network and storage resources, and detailed VI's role in customer IT initiatives. Joe Tucci, EMC chief executive officer, spoke to the analysts about business strategies for "information lifecycle management" (ILM). The growth of information propelled by business and the proliferation of unstructured content such as rich media and e-mail is outpacing the growth of IT budgets, he said. "ILM helps companies around the world deal with this growth in data while lowering costs for sharing, managing and protecting the company's valuable information assets." EMC also previewed new software capabilities that aim to allow organisations to create and automate storage policies which will automatically assign and move content among different tiers of storage. © ENN Related stories EMC puts voodoo in new software biz EMC retools archiving software EMC, Dell and Brocade enjoy ménage à SAN Dell flies the flag for Fibre Channel ONStor's virtual NAS for SAN convergence
Users of Oracle e-business suite applications must patch systems following the discovery of multiple vulnerabilities. Unpatched Oracle E-Business Suite 11i and Oracle Applications 11.0 packages are subject to Multiple SQL injection flaws that could be used to manipulate database entries, Oracle warns. In the hands of knowledgeable crackers, these vulnerabilities could be remotely exploited simply by using a browser and sending a specially-crafted URL to the web server. Oracle E-Business Suite 11i, 11.5.1 up to 11.5.8 are affected. Users of 11.5.9 and above are safe. All versions of Oracle Applications 11.0 are vulnerable. There's no interim workaround, so users are strongly advised to apply Oracle's patch. The "critical" flaws were discovered by researchers at security tools firm Integrigy, which specialises in developing intrusion prevention software for Oracle applications. Oracle shops with Internet-facing application servers are particularly at risk, it says. Oracle’s advisory is here (PDF). ® Related stories Oracle discounts revealed in court Oracle slashes PeopleSoft offer Oracle 9i Database, Ap Server bust six ways to Sunday How to hack unbreakable Oracle servers
Hewlett-Packard hosted its annual securities analyst meeting in San Jose this week, and the company's top brass laid out its plan to grow revenues consistently at a rate in the high single digits (twice the rate of global GDP growth) and to grow profits by more than 20 per cent a year. This ambitious goal is similar to that of its main rival IBM, but HP thinks it has a unique way of reaching it... Every company sees the future through its own eyes, in relation to its own products and capabilities, and a company as complex as HP will naturally see the world as a complex market with lots of places for it to play in. At some point, chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina will probably not have to justify the Compaq acquisition from nearly three years ago when she talks about HP, but that wasn't the case this week. Rather than reiterate what she said, I ask you to imagine what HP's enterprise server, storage, and services businesses might look like if the company had not acquired Compaq. They would be a mess, and getting hammered by whoever did buy Compaq. Let's just say for once and for all that the Compaq acquisition was good for HP even if it has been tough on Compaq. Now that the transition is mostly done, HP is throwing off more than $6bn in cash and has $15bn in the bank. IBM, which is roughly the same size, at around $80bn in sales a year, wishes it had $15 billion in the bank. (The tens of billions of dollars in share buybacks in the past decade have come at a cost.) The HP that Fiorina has built is HP, whether we like it or not. And, whether we like it or not, Fiorina did exactly what she said she would do. There were a few missteps, but that is to be expected given the largest merger in IT history, and HP has ended up a healthier competitor. Digital, mobile and personal That's not to say that HP doesn't have problems. It surely does, and that is why it has merged its server, storage, and services units to try to shift from selling products to solving IT problems. In her keynote address at the analyst conference, Ms Fiorina talked about how the 1980s were about having stable, reliable (and relatively simple) IT systems, and that the 1990s was the era of the hot box, when customers chased best-of-breed technology to build client/server and then Internet-style computing infrastructures. In the 2000s, everything is about going digital, mobile, and personal. "This is a profound change in the industry," she explained. "The key technology imperatives are about simplicity, manageability, and adaptability. These trends are changing entire industries, and this is the world we built the entire company for." She said that HP would bring the same focus on execution to selling products and services in this new technology era, as it did with the HP-Compaq merger. Selling experience In fact, it was the merger insight HP gained through streamlining one of the most complex manufacturing, supply chain, and IT operations in the world that made it realize it had to change not only what it sells but how it sells. When customers buy into HP's Adaptive Enterprise approach to IT, what they are buying is a piece of that HP merger experience. (Peter Blackmore, who heads the new Customer Solutions group sales arm of HP, said that HP has booked $7.8bn in sales related to Adaptive Enterprise since introducing the concept.) What HP wants to do now is wring profits out of its supply chain, just like every other manufacturer and distributor. Ms Fiorina said the company has a $50bn supply chain (compared with $25bn for Dell and $20bn for IBM), and that there is tremendous opportunity to cut costs and get more flexible by managing that supply chain better. HP has consolidated 26 supply chains down to five since the merger, and has reduced the time it takes to add a new partner into a chain from five weeks to less than two hours. As HP figures this out, it will sell the expertise to other companies. Chasing market share While this is interesting, what Ms Fiorina really wants HP to do is get a bigger piece of the markets that the company plays in (PCs, servers, storage, services, and to a small extent software) as well as targeting emerging and nebulous markets such as digital media. Getting more share from where it is already playing is an obvious tactic, and there is apparently a lot of room for growth here for HP. According to HP's own estimates of the IT market, HP played in markets that comprised a total of $710bn in spending in 2003. The enterprise market, at $320bn, was about half of the total potential market for HP, but HP only had 8.4 per cent of that market. HP reckons it has the largest share of the $186bn market of small and midsized businesses, which is growing at 5.8 per cent compounded annually, but that share is still only 10.2 per cent. (The enterprise market is growing at about 5 per centannually, according to HP.) There seems to be less upside in the consumer market, which HP estimates was worth about $87bn in 2003, of which it had about an 18.6 per cemt share. The public sector business (healthcare, state, local, and federal governments) comprised about $118bn in opportunity, but HP only had a 7.6 per cent share. While getting market share from 10 per cent to 20 per cent is not as easy as getting from 5 per cent to 10 per cent in most markets, HP is one of the two largest IT suppliers in the world. If anyone has a shot, it is a company like HP. (Getting much beyond 25 per cent seems very unlikely in most markets.) HP reckons it has about 23 per cent of the $98bn imaging and printing market, about 12.6 per cent of the $168bn PC business, about 16% of the $96bn enterprise systems business, and only 3.5 per cent of the $349bn IT services business. (Again, those categories are only for products and services HP offers, not for the entire IT sector.) Finding new markets HP is also adding new markets that it believes can push the company's total addressable market to $1 trillion, and by getting products in these new markets it can increase the IT spend in places where it already has customers. HP reckons that, in the 2003 market, security was worth $11bn, IT management software was worth $15bn, mobility products comprised $200bn in sales, and rich digital media comprised another $400bn. HP's share in these markets is very small, and this is what Fiorina wants to change. She also said that even the largest HP customers typically spend only 10 per cent of their IT budget with HP. She wants that number to go up, too. It's all about cross-selling, upselling, and stressing the value of the full HP portfolio. This is easy to say but hard to do. Protecting core businesses The trick for HP will be to move into these new markets while gaining revenue and shipment share in core markets like servers. According to Ann Livermore, who heads HP's new Technology Solutions Group, the x86 market, where the company's ProLiant servers play, was a $19bn market in 2003, growing at 14 per cent annually. HP reckons that the high-end server market, where its Unix and proprietary machines play, is a $22bn market, but it is declining at three per cent a year. Without Compaq, HP would be facing the same decline in the high-end server market without a strong x86 server market to offset it. The related network storage business is a $20 billion market, growing at only 3.5 per cent. Compaq contributed mightily to HP's storage business, and the company hopes that driving up attach rates of storage on servers will help it grow its market share. Simply put, the server and storage businesses are what give HP the credibility to chase services business, particularly complex outsourcing, as it has with customers like Procter & Gamble. HP wants a profitable server business, but it wants a bigger server business a lot more. It will be interesting to see how the company balances these two desires and tunes its profits. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor
Cable telco NTL is blocking more Internet ports to stop worms from spreading across its network. Last month it blocked port 135. Now it is blocking (inbound only): 137 (UDP), 138 (UDP), 139 (TCP), 445 (UDP & TCP), 593 (TCP), 1433 (TCP), 1434 (UDP) and 27374 (TCP). "This 'port-blocking' should have little or no effect on your use of the Internet but it will significantly reduce the vulnerability to infection from variants of the Welchia and MSBlast worms," NTL explains in a notice to subscribers. Welchia and MSBlast are also known as Nachi and Blaster, respectively. NTL hopes to shepherd users with virus infection to special websites to help them clean their computer. A recent study by network traffic management firm Sandvine estimats that computer worms such as Blaster will cost UK ISPs €22.4m this year. Although worms are usually associated with attacks on corporate networks, the malicious traffic also ties up service provider networks, degrading the broadband experience for home Internet users. Meanwhile, outbreaks of computer worms generate a huge upsurge in support calls to ISPs. NTL's measures are a rational response, but the move will create problems for some home users who need to use Windows File and Print Sharing over the Internet or run applications like Exchange at home. This minor inconvenience is considered by NTL to be a price worth paying in the fight against worms. ® Related stories Windows worms tax ISPs Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam NTL email suffers 'complex failure'
US outfit GlassHouse Technologies has bought itself a slice of the $8bn European storage services market by acquiring two UK companies in the same field. Sagitta Performance Systems and Source Consulting had already agreed to merge with each other, and have now become GlassHouse's UK arm. GlassHouse supremo Mark Shirman says that the deal will give GlassHouse greater leverage in the key financial sector, where companies often want a single service supplier able to cover both London and New York. He adds that while the US arm brings expertise in areas such as ILM (or storage lifecycle management, as GlassHouse prefers to call it) and the business of running storage environments, the UK companies had greater depth in areas such as implementation and design. The equity-based deal closed yesterday and creates an independent storage services company with over 220 staff, small beer compared to the vendors or the big integrators, but enough to make it the largest of its kind. And it will continue to grow, says Source boss Jason Rabbetts, who now becomes GlassHouse's UK MD. "We will increase headcount by 30 per cent in the UK over the next 12 months, and 100 per cent in the US," he says. He adds that the big incentive in the deal for him and Andy Norman, his opposite number at Sagitta, was access to funding for growth. "We wanted enough critical mass for vendors and clients to be comfortable with," he adds. "Outside of the consultancies and vendors, the independent offerings here were really fragmented among a host of smaller storage boutiques." The challenge now is for the combined company to meet two rather different sets of market requirements. Historically, GlassHouse has boasted that it did not sell either hardware or software, whereas in the UK it is pretty much essential to be able to put the whole kit and caboodle together for the customer. Plus, Sagitta in particular has developed its own software, for example its Watchdog storage monitor. Shirman says GlassHouse will take this on, but only as part of its storage management services and not as a product in its own right. Rabbetts and Norman, who becomes GlassHouse UK's senior veep of technology services, say the equity deal gives them a big stake in keeping the business growing. GlassHouse has already formed an EMEA organisation, to be managed by ex-EMC veep Mark Vargo and chaired by Alan Watkins, former MD of Cisco UK. ® Related stories Storage buoys InTechnology Fujitsu Siemens to carry on reselling EMC kit till '08 Reseller are chipper about future
HP is doing the expected, announcing plans to roll out Opteron- and Itanium-based blade servers. In the second half of this year, HP will start shipping an Opteron-based blade aimed at handling enterprise software workloads and scientific computing tasks, the company announced yesterday. HP is also set on selling an Itanium-based blade server but will not commit to a delivery date for the product. Should you think shoving a hot Itanic in a compact blade is impossible - think again. NEC plans to ship a dual-processor Itanium blade and chassis in September. HP has fared well in an underwhelming blade market. The vendor claims to be the first to surpass the 100,000 blades servers shipped mark. That's after about three years in the game. To boost its immediate prospects, HP has started shipping the ProLiant BL30p system. This is a a two-processor blade running on Xeons. The standalone server starts at $2,349. HP also has a deal with VMware for its BL20p blade server. Customers can buy 8 dual-processor HP blades, a blade chassis along with VMware's ESX Server partitioning software and other management packages for a starting price of $49,376. ® Related stories ClearCube puts bells and whistles on blade PC RLX tempts yet another investor HP bags brace of service companies HP takes Opteron to the next level HP nips and tucks low-end servers
Nicholas Carr, author of the now infamous Harvard Business Review article "IT Doesn't Matter" in May 2003, is set to stir up the hornet's nest once more with a book on the same subject, "Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage"... Carr was absolutely right in his assertion that what he calls "infrastructural technologies" will become ubiquitous in the not-too-distant future. As he puts it, "as their availability increases and their cost decreases - as they become ubiquitous - they become commodity inputs." But is becoming a commodity the same as no longer mattering - of no longer holding any importance? Perhaps Carr's choice of language was rather dramatic, but it is not surprising that his argument touched a nerve with many of the technology vendors, who have for years had to maintain a blistering pace of innovation. The latest version has to be significantly better than the current generation for customers to want it. Little wonder the chiefs of the likes of Intel, Microsoft and Sun were so quick to publicly and forcefully assail Carr's argument - where is the fun in pouring millions of dollars into R&D only to be told that your products are becoming commodities and therefore do not matter? Commoditization on the cards But while the vendors might not like it when they are told IT no longer matters, they are only too aware of the commoditization of so many of their beloved technologies. They cannot deny this, since it is they who are responsible for implementing standards and bringing down the cost of these technologies, hence turning them into commodities. They know that the price of storage roughly halves each year - it is they who set the prices. They know that you'll get double the server horsepower next year, for the same money. Indeed, the technology companies not only know about commoditization, they embrace it. What do all of their grand schemes - on-demand, utility computing, even grid - have in common? They help to commoditize computing resources, by promising to enable end users to utilize and pay for their computing power as if it were water coming from a tap. Horrified that Mr Carr writes that "infrastructural technologies" are becoming commodity? Who can they possibly be trying to kid? Fear of invisibility If the vendors know that these technologies are becoming commoditized (that is, if they are not already), then why were they so affronted by Mr Carr's article? Perhaps they didn't feel the distinction between "infrastructural technologies" and IT as a whole was sufficiently clear. But it is more likely that despite many of their products becoming commodities, technology companies are terrified of becoming invisible. These companies don't want to be seen to offer technologies that have become as ubiquitous as power or railroads. They may embrace the vision of utility computing on the one hand, but they will argue that underneath the veneer of utility-style computing the individual elements in their portfolio are still seeing radical innovation. The gravy train of upgrades to new versions, market capitalizations, even executive compensation schemes are all tied into the notion that technology companies are ultra-innovative, high-tech, bleeding-edge, paradigm-shifting thought leaders. If Sun, or BEA, or even Microsoft are considered to do little more than shift commodity items, the game is up. The thing is, they know this too. They might not like it, but they do know it. They know that customers are demanding the commoditization of the technology fabric. Why is EMC offering lower and lower-end, cheaper and cheaper storage? Why did IBM and much of the competition make such a big push into IT services? Why is Dell so successful, and why does it leave the innovation to its suppliers? A brighter side? Fortunately, it is not all doom and gloom for technology vendors. For one thing, just because infrastructure technologies are becoming ubiquitous does not, as Mr Carr asserts, mean they do not matter. Just like electricity still matters to an awful lot of people, there are plenty of emerging economies for whom technologies considered commodity by some still matter a great deal, and are still a source of competitive advantage. But even in the more developed economies, the commoditization of the technology fabric is no bad thing. All it means is that the source of competitive advantage from technology is not in terabytes or gigaflops any more. It has moved up the stack. There is still competitive advantage to be gained from a whole range of packaged software for instance, from business intelligence to business process management. Customized, bespoke software meanwhile still has the power to enable Amazon to beat Barnes & Noble. It's what you do with it... But as even these types of technology become more and more widely used, it is increasingly going to be how companies make use of their technology that holds the potential for competitive advantage. How they adapt their organizations and business processes to make the best use of technology will be what separates the winners from the losers. Every company might have business intelligence software, but which of them is using it to its best advantage? Which of them are not only mining their customer data, but extracting every last drop of value from it to maximize customer loyalty and profitability? A survey of 600 employees at blue chip companies in the UK by Priority Management last month found that 11 per cent of employees find email is the cause of most disruption to their working day. Whether email - surely now a commodity - is a cause of disruption, or a source of massive productivity gains, is not down to whether a company uses Outlook Express or Eudora. It is down to how email has been integrated into the rest of a company's systems and processes, how employees use it, the culture of the organization and many other factors. Email, like any other commodity technology, still matters. Just not how it used to. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related research Datamonitor: Workforce Optimization Technologies in Contact Centers (DMTC0988) Related stories Why infrastructure is not a dirty word The IT spend time bomb IT vendors seek the quiet life What has IT ever done for business?
How do you understand a man who wants us to use biometrically generated keys before we can listen to our music? Gary Brant's company VeriTouch will soon be marketing a media player called iVue, which will ensure that no music is ever shared again. The iVue uses your fingerprint to generate a unique key when you buy music online, and you can only play that music back once your fingerprint has been verified by the machine using this key. It's a brilliant idea! As it turns out we simply couldn't get indignant or righteous with Gary over his quixotic adventure, and that's not just because he's a very nice man. It's because over five hundred Register readers spelled out exactly how they might use it, when we asked. "I'm guessing there wasn't one in favor?" Gary asked us, a bit nervously. Well, no. Not one. We began by reading a typical, but very succinct comment that we received - this one from reader Tim Everson. "Bit of a no brainer really, the choice between an MP3 player that plays tunes, and an MP3 player that records biometric information and restricts my ability to transfer MP3s between devices," writes Tim. "I see no better way of ensuring that a media device won't sell apart from smearing it with excrement before packing it. " "Oh. I've read worse ones than that," said Gary, laughing. He hasn't had one positive email either. But you might correctly guess that some other people, and you can probably even guess who they are, could be really interested in the idea. Brant thinks that the iVue will be as revolutionary as the Walkman, which knocked him out when he first saw it in 1979. "I've tried to read as many replies as I can and as many pages of what people are feeling about this. But I believe this technology can really empower the end user," he says. "You'll have the ability to lock up and secure stuff in this digital diary. That's a part of it I would really like to see brought into the light - the Victorian Diary in the padlock, the journal in a leather case that held the secrets of the owner." Evoking the era when piano legs were covered with fabric because their wanton erotic displays of wooden-leggyness might upset the stability of the Empire, and when adolescents were forced to wear metal contraptions which would inhibit masturbation, hardly seems to set the right tone for a new era of empowerment, we thought. (We'll come to the coercion aspect of this whole biometric DRM proposition in due course.) Machines, for better or worse But back to the original question. How can you understand this mind? It's simple really - it just depends on how you define the problem. Gary Brant's iVue is a good solution to a particular problem: it's just that many people identify the problem quite differently. The two have very different solutions. As your reporter sees it, music is created to be shared, so there's little sense in finding technological solutions that try to stop people sharing. The real problem is that the artists aren't being compensated, so rather than engaging in futile attempts to make people not share music, something we have always done and will not stop doing, the much simpler task of compensating the artist can then be addressed. Only this, much simpler problem doesn't really have a technological answer. It requires a social and economic solution, with perhaps a little bit of dumb technology there to help us add up the sums quicker. Fortunately we're good at social solutions. Not great ones admittedly, and they can all be better, but collectively we do muddle through, once we can all agree on what the problem is. In fact Gary agrees that finding a way of compensating the artists is the real problem. "Absolutely," he said. "That's the top of the heap challenge." (We told you he was a decent chap, didn't we?) Gary isn't familiar with the compensation schemes being discussed, which would levy the price of a pint of beer on us every now and again, so we can get back to where we were: an equitable arrangement for the artists. It all makes sense, in this light. So getting him up to speed is important, because as a potential manufacturer, he can make things that are really useful to us, if he's on the right lines, and as we'll see, he nearly is. But to return to where we started. Gary is not a mystery: he's simply following a very familiar trail blazed by many techno-utopians before him, who believe that technology itself can light a path out of our mess. In this respect he's no different from Newt Gingrich - who advocated giving laptops to the homeless - or George Gilder or Esther Dyson, or today's weblog blowhards, all of whom have employed similar empowerment rhetoric. Only there's no magic in these machines, and once we lose this idea that they can do something for us that we can't do for ourselves, our problems are much easier to identify and solve. (As a consequence, we might have better machines, too). I want an iVue! So here's what iVue will look like. It's a small Linux box with a 120 GB hard disk and a 1200 by 800 resolution screen in 16x9 format, according the CEO. (This sounds a bit fishy, and you'll be wondering, like we were, where he's sourced such components. Maybe it's not too far-fetched, as similar form-factor PCs like the OQO are almost on the market; but it does suggest that it's more next year's product than this year'). You'll be able to run a shell - but you won't be able to move anything on or off the device if VeriTouch's encryption technology works. This took two years to develop and relies on a 21,000 bit key. Break that! says Gary. (We paraphrase here). The user submits a fingerprint when first shopping at an online music store. This is then verified by the service provider and you're OK'd to listen to the music you just bought. You don't need to authenticate each song individually, Gary stresses, you can authenticate hundreds in one go, very easily. But you must pawprint every song before you can hear it. (Several readers with Eczema have pointed out this a real nuisance, by the way. If you have Eczema only part of you finger rubs off on the sensor. The rest is flakey bits. So like the FBI, you only get a lousy fingerprint. And unlike the cryptographic certainties factored into Veritouch's system, it seems that skin loss sufferers are un-obligingly random. "How much is missing from which finger depends on which fingers disliked the shaving foam that morning," says one reader, which may be far more than you wanted to know, but still illustrates the point that biometric security technology has some challenges ahead of it, if we are to take it seriously. As one reader asks, "Will I be able to get a non-DRM device on account of my medical condition? It'll be interesting to find out what the Disability Discrimination Act makes of that one." Quite so, and we're shoulder to shoulder with you here. Technology that can't cope with something as commonplace as a skin condition is problematic: iVue must work for everyone. Brant nevertheless insists that anonymity can be preserved in this process. He claims that unlike watermark technology, there's nothing that links your identity and that of the fingerprint. We seem to remember something like a credit card being involved somewhere in this transaction, as this music is not being given away freely, and this is usually how you pay for stuff online, and not through an anonymity broker (of which there are right now, er none) - so we're not sure how well his argument holds up. On the iVue, there is no slot for removable media, and no ports. It's entirely wireless - GPRS, Bluetooth, and 802.11b/g flavors of Wi-Fi. So it's a phone as well, if a bit of a dorky one. That's quite impressive, we said, in fact - that's great! Your reporter told Brant that he would happily buy one - if only the fingerprint technology wasn't there. That's because it's very close to something we dreamt up here - the Bluepod device - that a lot of people also dreamt up at the same time, in an odd kind of collective hallucination. It's a pocket-sized device than you can share music with, socially. We think the demand for such a thing would be quite high. You seem to think so, too. Given ubiquitous, high bandwidth wireless and a fair copyright scheme, a Bluepod user could walk down the street and share and collect as music as they wanted to hear. The artists would get paid, and we'd be happy. Which is a good thing. So why has Veritouch come very close to making this perfect device, only to turn away at the last minute and run into a wall instead? It has everything we want, except the one function that makes it useful. Why has he done this? Coercion and control Clearly, as we agreed, you can't change thousands of years of human behavior. People share music because it's a natural thing to do, and we communicate a lot of useful stuff with our music and it's very important to us. Will we wake up one day and see iVue's magic, or will more laws be needed for iVue's to work as predicted? "Emphatically, no" he says. How will we accept iVue, then? "Believe me fingerprint scanning is becoming our lives," he says, turning to his own technology first as justification. "It's part of your driving license, it's part of your passport, this is an early adoption of it." He might be right, but is that national security compromise about to be willingly applied to basics, like enjoying music? Our mailbag suggests otherwise. His mailbag too. Nor is applying a fingerprint to play your morning music strange either, he reckons. "There are changes in direction that at first seem incredible. When the Wright Brothers first flew their plane I'm sure people were surprised when they witnessed that." Given all this, he's pretty sanguine about his prospects. Heroically so. "At the end of the day, you think you can have a good idea, but then God can tap you on the shoulder and say 'no dice'", he says. ® Related story RIAA wants your fingerprints Promiscuous BluePod file swapping - coming to a PDA near you Labels seek end to 99c music per song download