14th > June > 2004 Archive

Apple readies European iTunes launch

Apple is tuning up to launch iTunes in Europe this week and Napster has confirmed a distribution deal with NTL. Apple is expected to announce tomorrow the availability of its iTunes service in France, Germany and the UK. Rumour has it Steve Jobs may even be in town for the launch. Rival music service Napster has done a deal with NTL to offer music downloads to its broadband customers, as first reported in The Register. Napster's service went live in the UK last month offering downloads to subscribers willing to pay £9.95 a month. Last week it announced an expansion to its catalogue to fight off the challenge from iTunes which dominates the US market. ® Related stories Napster to announce 'partnership' with NTL Global P2P jihad claims success Apple picks 15 June for iTunes launch? Napster ups UK track count ahead of Sony, Apple launches
John Oates, 14 Jun 2004

France gets first virtual mobile operator

French mobile customers should see cheaper prices with the launch of the country's first virtual operators. Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) do not own a network but piggyback on another company's network. Virgin Mobile, Tesco and BT are examples in the UK. The first MVNO in France is Debitel - a German company controlled by British equity group Permira. Debitel will use SFR's network and will compete with existing operators on price. The company said it would use specific tariffs to target those without a phone and ethnic groups. The French government is encouraging France Telecom's Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR to open their networks to virtual operators. Patrick Devedjian, France's finance minister, wants to see two more companies operating by year end. Carphone Warehouse is rumoured to be in talks to with Orange about entering the French market. Debitel will offer text messages for nine cents versus 15 cents per message charged by existing operators. It hopes to get five per cent of the market this year. French consumer groups are campaigning for cheaper SMS messages. Debitel has about 10m subscribers in Denmark, Germany, Slovenia and the Netherlands. ® Related stories Swisscom sells debitel French music biz staff revolt over downloads French call for SMS boycott
John Oates, 14 Jun 2004

Churn baby churn: junk email inferno

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... If you've got a couple of minutes to spare between deleting spam advertising Viagra, Spanish lottery bonanzas, once-in-a-lifetime Nigerian investment opportunities and custom-made logo services, then have a look at Gartner's 1999 suggestion for how to avoid that junk mail tsunami: Churn baby churn: junk email inferno By Drew Cullen Published Monday 14th June 1999 14:55 GMT Tired of getting spammed, but don't know where to turn? Easy. Sack your ISP and get another email address. Alternatively, you could refrain from signing up for Internet services, many of which sell on email addresses to junk email advertisers. So says Gartner Group, which has uncovered the startling fact that the longer you keep an email address the more likely you are to be spammed. Keep the same address for more than three years and you have a more than 40 per cent chance of getting more than 11 spams in any given week, according to Gartner. But where does that leave the less than 60 per cent - Net no-hopers, every one - who get fewer than 11 "get rich quick" and "come to our porno-site" emails a week? Spamming can get irritating enough for people to switch service providers because of "spam and more are ready to switch, particularly if the flow of spam increases," says Gartner analyst Jim Browning. And 36 per cent of some 13,000 users surveyed by Gartner would be prepared to switch, if spamming got worse. This would cost an Internet Service Provider with one million subscribers "about $7 million a year in lost subscription fees, and the price of additional workers and computers needed to handle the mail". Oh, really? Paid-for ISPs like Compuserve have thousands of customers who stop using the service but continue paying through their credit card. This is called inertia - people don't get round to cancelling their subscriptions. (Which reminds this writer to cancel a Compuserve account, unused for more than a year). And as for sacking your ISP because of spam fatigue... it's all very well telling a market researcher you will do this, but doing the dirty deed is an entirely matter. That takes initiative. The Gartner survey was commissioned by Bright Light Technologies, which, surprise, surprise, sells spam-filtering services to ISPs. Sigh. "Eleven spams in any given week?" Happy days indeed... ®
Team Register, 14 Jun 2004

Nokia unveils phones, promises Wi-Fi

Nokia won't be neglecting the high-end, the company confirmed today as it tried to answer its critics at a major press launch in Helsinki. The company expects Wi-Fi to feature in many business models next year, and some consumer models too. Nokia has also expanded its Series 60 platform to support 3G and new screen sizes, taking it boldly, if confusingly, into PDA territory. Nokia will launch fewer models this year than it originally planned - 35 rather than 40. Two new models were launched with Nokia's low-and mid-range Series 40, where the company has failed to keep pace with flashier rivals. Two new Series 60 models were unveiled, one of which aims to take the sting out of criticism that the company has failed to keep up with retrograde clamshell designs. The new 6260 is a swivel clamshell with a rotating screen, and following Sony's design lead, the top half of the clam rotates 180 degrees. Nokia wants business users to buy this - hence the built-in VPN client. Nokia has also launched a companion Bluetooth keyboard compatible with the new phone. To the dismay of many existing Series 60 users (10 million or so, reckons Nokia), this won't be compatible with models currently on the market. The lightweight (190g) keyboard will be compatible only with the new 7610 and today's two new models. Nokia has also put Series 60 into a 3G handset. It has squeezed W-CDMA 3G radio into a device the size of the current 6600 and 6620, which share the same design. This new handset, the 6630, features much more memory (74 MB) than current models and a 1.2 Megapixel camera. On the flip side Of the three other handsets announced, one is a 4096 camera flip phone which will face tough competition from Sony Ericsson's new mid range, the 6170, and two more aimed at the budget end of the market, one flip (2650) and one candybar (2600).   For developers, Nokia has effectively folded its three lane roadmap into what is beginning to look like two lanes and an neglected footpath - by enhancing the Series 60 and orphaning the Series 90 platform. The first Series 90 model, the CX2, was intended to be the successor to the 9200 "brick". It was cancelled last year; Nokia instead gave the venerable 9200 design a polish, as "Series 80 version 2.0". The differences are minimal, but Series 90 supports a large screen and pen input. The 9500 will not support a pen, and supports the same 640x200 screen as the 9200. Executives confirmed that the first Series 90 product to be announced - the 7700, essentially a CX2 without a keyboard - will be shipped, but only as an experiment. Nokia is using it to trial "visual radio". Nokia executives alluded to the cancellation of the Series 90 keyboard communicator for the first time at the event today. Instead, the company has devised a "scalable framework" for Series 60 that adds three new screen dimensions. In addition to the familiar 176x208 comes 208x208, which will allow devices that like the 6800, rotate through 90 degrees, and two surprises: 240x320 quarter-VGA, and 352x416. The latter is enormous for a cellphone, hinting that Nokia has set its goals on the portable HDTV market, and promising nightmares for wallpaper designers everywhere. ® Related stories Nokia takes bullet for hijack victim Nokia sings the mid market blues Nokia deploys 'wave messaging' mobile Nokia 6820 messaging phone
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2004

Sheep like happy, smiley people: official

Continuing our occassional series looking at how cutting-edge scientific research is changing our world for the better, we have unearthed the astounding fact that sheep prefer looking at happy people. Yup, according to a Cambridge University research team, your ovines like nothing better than a big cheesy grin. Naturally, they find angry people rather unsettling, which is presumably why there were no sheep participating in last night's post-England-match rioting in Croydon and Birmingham. We can thank neuroscientist Dr Keith Kendrick for this insight into the deeper workings of the woolly mind. His team has already determined that sheep can differentiate between 50 sheep individuals, so Kendrick "thought perhaps they could recognise emotions which are much more subtle". And the result?: "It turns out they can, both human, smiling versus angry; and sheep, stressed versus calm," explains Kendrick. The sheep guinea pigs were presented with two doors through which they could get their noses into the trough: one displaying a happy human or sheepish face and the other a rather aggressive bloke or a stressed out sheep. "They vastly preferred to press the smiling human or the animal that has just had a meal and is feeling all right with life," said Kendrick. The Nobel prize jury should at this point note that this research may give insights into "autism, schizophrenia and a rare disorder called prosopagnosis which leaves the sufferer unable to recognise faces". Which leaves us at Vulture Central concerned that we may be suffering from prosopagnosis, since we couldn't tell whether or not a sheep was angry just by staring it in the face - even if it were throwing pint glasses at riot police. We suspect, however, that French sheep all look very, very happy this morning. ® Related stories Ducks have regional accents: official Mach 0.3 milk float goes for land speed glory UK's RAF planned WMD delivery via 'pigeons of death' Universe very big: official
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2004

Kazaa in German trademark punch-up

Sharman License Holdings, the company behind the controversial P2P utility and search engine Kazaa, can't use its trademark under the European Community Trademark (CTMR) system. A CTM is valid in all participating EU nations. Kazaa may even have to change its name in Germany.
Jan Libbenga, 14 Jun 2004

Phoebe's past writ large in craters

Photographs from Cassini's flyby of Saturn's moon Phoebe have revealed a battered body, with an interesting past. Its face is pock-marked with craters ranging from 80 kilometers across to less than one kilometer, with variations in colour suggesting it contains plenty of ice. The larger impact sites have prompted speculation that collisions in Phoebe's past could have blasted off enough material to have formed Saturn's smaller retrograde moons. The brighter craters are most likely the newer impacts. Each collision would have blasted off surface material, and exposed brighter material, possibly ice, below the surface. There is more evidence for this theory on the crater walls: darker material seems to have slid down slope, exposing more light-colored material. "What we are seeing is very neat. Phoebe is a heavily cratered body. We might be seeing one of the chunks from the formation of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago. It's too soon to say," said Dr. Torrence Johnson, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's important to see the big picture from all of the other instruments to get the global view on this tiny moon." All 11 of Cassini's instruments were pointed at the moon as the spacecraft flew by, just over 2000km above the surface. The data will be analysed over the next few days and will help scientists to build global maps of the moon, and to determine its composition, mass and density. ® Related stories Mysterious Phoebe: Cassini's next fly-by Cassini images delight star gazers Comet chasers seek secret of life
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2004

NTL signs up Napster

Napster UK has today signed a partnership with cable TV and broadband connectivity supplier NTL, as anticipated. The deal will see NTL bundle a Napster monthly subscription with its Broadband Plus package. The Napster subscription doesn't come free, however. With it, Broadband Plus subscribers pay £9.95 a month; without Napster content, the NTL offering costs £3.99 a month. Broadband Plus is offered to NTL's 600Kbps and 1Mbps access packages and delivers branded-content from the likes of MTV, old World Cup highlights, old Tweenies episodes, Encyclopedia Britannica entries and David Frosts eponymous interview channel. Ironically, that £4 fee already includes access to music downloads courtesy of UK digital music provider On Demand Distribution (OD2), an NTL spokesman told The Register. The service is branded as SonicSelector. That begs the question: why pay the best part of six pounds for access to Napster's downloads too? Well, Napster's offering 700,000 songs or more, SonicSelector allows users to choose from a list of 170,000. NTL's most recently issued figures for its Broadband Plus subscriber base was 50,000-odd in March 2004 out of 1.03m broadband customers. The tie-in was expected to have been made public on 20 May, the day of Napster's UK launch. News of the deal was revealed by a a well-placed UK broadband industry source. Early in May, Napster announced a similar marketing deal with UK high street consumer electronics retailer Dixons. NTL's Broadband Plus service, like Napster's, is Windows-only. Apple is expected to launch its iTunes Music Store in Europe tomorrow. ® Related stories Napster to announce 'partnership' with NTL Napster ups UK track count ahead of Sony, Apple launches Napster opens Canadian outpost Napster UK goes live Rivals 'welcome' Napster to UK Apple picks 15 June for iTunes launch? Dixons signs Napster promo exclusive UK legal downloads hit half a million McAfee founder returns with 'legal p2p radio'
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2004

AMD to ship mobile Athlons, Semprons in Q3

AMD is to promote take-up of its Athlon CPUs in notebook PCs next quarter with the launch of four 754-pin low-power mobile processors. Two will be offered as Athlon 64 parts - the others will carry the chip maker's new Sempron brand. So suggests a low-power processor roadmap posted on amd64notebooks.com, and marked 'AMD confidential'. The roadmap also reveals a slew of new AMD core codenames. According to the slide, next quarter will see the arrival of Low-power Mobile Athlon 64 parts rated at 3000+ and 2800+, along with 32-bit 2600+ and 2800+ Mobile Semprons. All four chips will be offered as Socket 754 parts, suggesting the Semprons contain cut-down Athlon 64 cores. AMD already offers a Low-power Mobile Athlon 64 2800+. The new version is based on a new core, Oakville, with 512KB of on-die L2. It's not clear if this is a 90nm part. Current LP Mobile Athlon 64s are based on the Odessa core, originally roadmapped to appear in H2 2004 as a 90nm part. When the current 2700+ and 2800+ were launched, AMD admitted that Odessa had effectively been pulled forward and issued as a 130nm part. It now looks like Odessa's successor, Oakville, has similarly been brought forward from its original H1 2005 release slot. Come Q1 2005, and AMD will launch a new LP Mobile Athlon 64 core, dubbed Lancaster' the slide says. Lancaster will have 1MB of L2 cache and a Socket 754 interface. Oakville, like Odessa, has 512KB of cache. Lancaster almost certainly will be a 90nm part. The extra cache counts for an extra 200 points on its rating, despite running at the same speed as the 3000+ Oakville, 2GHz. The slide indicates that AMD will launch a 2.2GHz 3400+ part in Q2 2005. Almost all the LP Mobile Athlon 64s listed on the slide consume 35W. The first 3200+ Lancaster is, though, rated at 25W - come Q3 2005: a core revision perhaps?. The 3000+ Lancaster will consume 25W from day one, the slide says. At the Sempron level, 2600+ and 2800+ parts will ship next quarter, both consuming 25W. These will be 130nm 'Dublin' cores - mobile Athlon 64 technology pared back to provide only 32-bit processing - and offer 256KB and 128KB of L2, according to the slide. We suspect the 128KB Dublin will be branded as Sempron, the 256KB version as an Athlon XP-M, but this distinction is not made clear on the slide. In Q1 2005, AMD will apparently roll out Dublin's successor, 'Sonora', as a 3000+ Sempron. It will rise to 3100+ in Q3 2005, the slide says. Sonora is also a 25W part offered in 128KB and 256KB L2 versions. Again, Sonora may be a 90nm part, given its timeframe. AMD's current public roadmap lists 'Trinidad' as the 90nm Athlon XP-M, shipping in H2 2005. ® Related stories AMD readies low-cost Sempron CPUs AMD targets low-end Athlon 64s at new markets AMD preps revitalised value CPU line AMD sneaks out 90nm core in 130nm chip AMD unveils Socket 939 processors AMD restates dual-core CPU scheme AMD pitches Athlon 64 at Media Center PC makers Related reviews AMD Athlon 64 Socket 939
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2004

BT links to eBay

Small business customers of BT will now be able to sell their products through eBay auctions. BT's Internet Trader Pack - SHOP connects to eBay and lets you control the auction process from one place. Small business subscribers will be able to offer their products to eBay's 105m customers. The management area means you can update product information and special offers. The improved service increases the number of products small and medium businesses can offer for sale. SMEs can auction up to 50 products a month through eBay. ® Related stories Oops! Firm accidentally eBays customer database eBay scammer gets stung Police probe 'joke' eBay daughter sale couple
John Oates, 14 Jun 2004

Jormaspeak - Nokia CEO explains targets, culls and price cuts

In Helsinki this morning Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila was a man with just a little explaining to do. A while back when Nokia's market share was around 32 per cent he was bullishly aiming for 40, but mysteriously Nokia hit 28 per cent instead. Not, however, that he's been asleep at the switch since then or anything - a few rapid about-faces have brought clamshells, good cheer for the network operators in terms of customisation, price cuts, even some roadkill on the roadmaps. And if you look at what coming for Q3 and Q4, Nokia's prospects could even look promising. This sounds kind of like a story you could spin up into one about a giant having the flexibility to react swiftly to market changes and bounce back from reverses leaner, meaner and - perhaps - a tad humbler. Unfortunately, the way Jorma tells it, it doesn't sound quite like this. This spring's product review is key to the proceedings. "We made some shifts relating to timing and focus," Ollila tells us, adding that the Series 60 and 40 platforms present "an excellent basis for customisation" and citing recent work with Vodafone and T-Mobile as examples of this. Vodafone has of course been a key player in the operators' war for the branding of the handset, whereas Nokia had been the manufacturer most likely to insist on maintaining its own branding. The two announced a peace treaty of sorts (aimed ostensibly at 3G handsets) at GSM World Congress earlier this year, and clearly the spring review has resulted in an acceptance on Nokia's part that it's going to have to continue down this road. Is it still holding its nose? Possibly. Ollila lobs in some hostages to fortune in his run-down of the spring review: "Earlier this year we said we would review our product portfolio. In the spring we conducted a thorough analysis of our roadmaps. We reviewed and pruned products, and even killed some." This has resulted in "new products, accelerated products, we have a more competitive products range," with a total of 35 planned for this year. Alongside the new enthusiasm for customisation we have clamshells aimed at practically all points in the range, colour screens in entry level phones, and lower prices. But plausibility starts to go pear-shaped at the Q&A. What about that prediction of 40 per cent then, Mr Ollila? Ah, what prediction might that have been? Says Jorma: "The target has been 40 per cent, I didn't predict." OK, so when do you think you might make the target then? "We haven't set a date, but it's a very good target." Kind of like you meaning to give up smoking some time, we suppose. Well alright then, could you maybe just tell us how you expect to do in 2004? Apparently not: "We are not in a position today to discuss q4, q3, or q2 financials. This communication will happen through its own routes and we will do it in due course... We are working very hard and I'm sure the results will be there." And then, after deftly fielding a request for 3G handset shipment expectations for 2004 ("We will not discuss..."), it's on to price cuts, which he allegedly mentioned earlier this year. But did he? "I'll need to look at the tape of what I said. I said we will use somewhat more the leverage that one gets from making somewhat of a compromise in the margin, towards a price move which will then result in a better traction in some key segments in the marketplace." Got that? OK, that might sound like it boils down to price cuts to you, but we've got a complex and intricate set of supply chain relationships covered here as well, so 'price cut' is an oversimplification. Or at least we think that's what he's saying. Still not admitting price cuts as such, he adds: "I don't think there's been any particular price war. Lowering [not cutting, honest] our prices in some key segments has had the desired impact. We have reached the required price points [still not cutting, evolving] in key areas. We have had their desired impact and it is very good." Ollila escapes from the podium without having to deal in detail with the clamshell volte face and the products he alluded to having been culled in the spring review, but Senior VP Juha Putkiranta is not so lucky. As the Far Eastern companies have demonstrated, clamshells are what a large segment of the consumer market wants, and Nokia has been caught flat-footed (to an extent, explicably, given that back in the good old days Nokia comprehensively murdered Motorola and its clamshell obsession). "Sometimes," says Juha, "we need to copy with pride. And we will do that." EVP Matti Alahuhta meanwhile showed star quality in dealing with the dead products question. "We decided to take more time in media devices and use the 7700 only as a pilot." So, just the one death, and it's merely a case of a product being knocked back to pilot stage, in preparation for mass-market media devices to be launched in 2005. There surely must be more. So Juha has another crack at it: "We put new devices on our roadmap, go through marketing and engineering milestones, then we make decisions. This spring we were somewhat more thorough and disciplined about what we did." As we know, however, there's more to this than just the routine shooting of half a dozen fluffy phones, phones shaped like frisbees, phones for household pets and so on, and the downgrading of the 7700 to a pilot seems key to this. The dead product with no name was the Series 90 CX2 (see link below), and Nokia's increased enthusiasm (which first underwhelmed us at GSM World) for the 9500 plus the scaling up of Series 60 screen size fits in with the 7700 knock-back. The 9500 line provides a stop-gap for the enterprise market, while beefed-up 60s provide some defence against challengers from below. We do now have a commitment that Series 90 will be launched at the mass market via 7700 successors in 2005, but there does seem to be scope for segmentation problems here. ® Related stories Nokia unveils phones, promises Wi-Fi Nokia takes bullet for hijack victim Nokia sings the mid market blues Nokia deploys 'wave messaging' mobile Nokia 6820 messaging phone
John Lettice, 14 Jun 2004

Consumers want big telcos to supply VoIP services

Three in ten homes in the US and the UK could hook up to Internet phone calls over the next three years, according to research published today. Consumers look set to embrace Voice over Broadband (VoB) - but only as long as service quality is as good as traditional voice services, the New York Times reports. Although many will be tempted by the offer of cheaper calls, punters will prefer to stick with existing telcos and cablecos for their Internet calls, researchers Mercer Management Consulting forecasts. Punters have expressed their reluctance to side with those start-ups, such as Vonage and Skype, currently offering voice calls over the Internet. Report author, Martin Kon told the newspaper: "It's an uphill battle for the upstarts with no customer base." In March, the UK's dominant fixed line telco, BT, announced its own plans to enable punters to make phone or video calls over a broadband connection. Last week BT confirmed its intention to migrate its national phone network to an Internet Protocol (IP) platform. The move will take five years to complete and should produce savings of £1bn a year for the UK's dominant fixed line telco. The new multi-service IP-based network will carry both voice and data services and will replace the UK's public switched telephone network (PSTN). The mass migration of customers onto the new network is set to begin in 2006 with the majority shunted across by 2008. BT Wholesale chief exec Paul Reynolds said the move to the IP network would provide the same quality of voice services as punters experience today. "We want to be absolutely clear that using IP technology in our network for our premium quality services is a gulf apart from the new budget voice over the Internet services being launched almost daily by a wide range of providers." ® Related stories BT to save £1bn a year with IP network Telcos forge convergence alliance VoIP set to generate megabucks
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2004

Italian gov text spams entire country

The Italian government is in hot water this morning after spamming every single mobile subscriber in Italy with election information. Silvio Berlusconi's government recently passed laws to jail spammers and file sharers but obviously excuses itself from the new regulations. Consumer groups including Federconsumatori condemned the mass SMS. Mobile operators were ordered to send the message to all their subscribers. The messages were received on Thursday or Friday of last week and appeared to come from Berlusconi's office. It detailed when polling stations were open and what documents you needed to take along to vote in the regional and European elections. But opposition politicians complained the messages were an invasion of privacy and political in intent. As one irritated Italian mobile subscriber and Register reader points out: "Many the cell phone owners were not even eligible to vote, being either minors or immigrants without citizenship. "The message itself was an invitation to vote, but the law explicitly forbids any such a message from being sent for anything but extreme danger situations, particularly during the compulsory "silence period" before and during the elections..." It is believed the Italian government used emergency legislation, "decreto legislativo", to authorise the mass spam. Anyone caught downloading music, or other copyrighted material, in Italy now faces up to three years in prison. Spam legislation in Italy lays down fines of up to €90,000 and jail time for anyone sending unsolicited messages. ® Related stories Two thirds of emails now spam: official Italy approves 'jail for P2P users' law Europe drags heels in war on spam
John Oates, 14 Jun 2004

Wiltshire feds in online gnome appeal

We're pleased to note that Wiltshire Constabulary is committing vital resources to clamping down on that most hardened of criminals: the drunken gnome kidnapper. According to the latest appeals and CCTV images from Wiltshire Police, the force's zero-tolerance policy towards garden ornament molesters has left them with a sticky problem: Salisbury Police recently arrested a man who, when searched, was found to be in possession of a garden gnome. He stated that he had stolen the gnome, but could not remember where from - although it was possibly in the Bourne Avenue area. If anyone recognises the gnome from home, would they please contact WPC Lucy Smith at Salisbury Police Station on 01722 411444. We hope that the unnamed, and presumably distraught, gnome is soon reunited with its owner. Any reader with vital information on this case is urged to ring the above number. ® Bootnote A commendation to reader Chris Frusher for alerting the appropriate authorities regarding this shocking case. Related stories Gnome emerges unscathed from hack attack Coppers go online to talk to the kids Police issue Net appeal to find Dando's killer
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2004

Lloyd's bets on Unisys

Insurance market Lloyd's has signed a £10m ($17m) contract with Unisys to provide desktop and servers. The five-year contract covers 1,400 desktop computers and 200 servers. Lloyd's has also bought two ES7000 Unisys servers. Unisys will deliver desktop support to Lloyd's employees from its centre in Milton Keynes, and it will manage the servers remotely from Schipol in Holland. It is the first time Lloyds has used remote management. Chris Rawson, chief information officer at Lloyd's, said he was impressed with Unisys's professionalism and knowledge shown during the procurement process. "Unisys also presented an imaginative proposition designed to continually improve the quality of services delivered in line with our organisational change and business objectives." ® Related stories Unisys brings J2EE and .Net to new mainframe Unisys turns to the midrange Unisys claims £300m R&SA win
John Oates, 14 Jun 2004

OD2 unveils 1p-a-play digital music jukebox

UK-based digital music distributor On Demand Distribution (OD2) today launched its own a la carte download service, a day ahead of Apple's anticipated European iTunes Music Store launch. The new service not only provides downloads by a novel 1p-a-go on-demand jukebox feature. OD2's SonicSelector will be made available through OD2's retail partners. One of them is UK cableco NTL, which today said it was also touting Napster's download and subscription services. Other partners include MTV, ISPs Tiscali and MSN, and PC maker Packard Bell. SonicSelector is available in the UK, France, Germany and Italy. OD2 announced last summer that it would offer a download service alongside its traditional subscription-based offerings. Coca Cola's MyCokeMusic was the first to use the new system when it launched in the UK this past January. The Windows-only SonicSelector is backed by a 350,000-strong song catalogue - half of Napster's 700,000 selection, a figure Apple is also expected to tout tomorrow. SonicSelector uses a free, proprietary Windows Media Player plug-in to provide both downloads and streaming through Microsoft's software. Downloads are priced at 75p/99c, while songs can be listened to in full for 1p/1c a go. This novel mode differs from other services which offer either 30s clips or stream on pre-determined 'radio station' track selections. Downloaded songs can be transferred to a portable player or burned to CD. The size of its catalogue and Windows-only nature notwithstanding, OD2's SonicSelector seems impressively easy-to-use and marks a big shift away from its subscription heritage. It also features a remarkable pricing scheme that the company claims will lower the cost of the most popular songs. "The more tracks people buy, the cheaper the unit price becomes," OD2 CEO Charles Grimsdale pledged. That's a good carrot to dangle before downloaders. The question remains: how will OD2's retail partners promote the service. With both Apple and Napster clocking up big promotional programmes, OD2 will have its work cut out persuading its partners to do likewise. OD2's own promotional efforts are likely to be diluted by the need to tout a variety of partner brands too. In addition to Apple's ITMS, Sony's Connect service is expected to launch this month. ® Related stories OD2 halves music download prices OD2 clocks up 1m downloads in Q1 Apple picks 15 June for iTunes launch? Rivals 'welcome' Napster to UK Napster UK goes live Coke's music download site falls flat Coke floats music download service Microsoft beats Apple iTunes Music Store to Europe
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2004

AOL to target Hispanic Net users in ad campaign

America Online is set to unveil a new multi-million dollar ad campaign this week to help drive new punters to its AOL Latino service. The six month campaign - to be run on TV, radio and the Internet - will be backed up with other promotional activities to help AOL shift its software and sign up new users. For instance, as part of grass roots marketing scheem AOL is also planning to take its technology to the streets of Miami and Chicago to give people a hands-on experience of what's on offer. Mercy Lugo-Struthers, AOL Latino's director of Hispanic marketing, told Internet ad site clickz.com: "Our research indicates that Hispanics need additional information and support to help bring them online." The bilingual AOL Latino was launched in October last year capitalising on the fact that US Hispanic Internet users are the country's fastest-growing community online, with around 14m Hispanic Net users in the US and numbers currently experiencing double-digit growth. According to the giant ISP: "The new AOL Latino appeals to both bilingual and Spanish-dominant speakers, who will have access to all the existing English language content on the AOL service in addition to the exclusive new Spanish features and programming for no extra charge." Last week AOL unveiled details of a new pay-as-you-go instant messaging service aimed at business users. Using its existing IM service, corporate users will be able to share online presentations and files while chatting to colleagues using a conference call facility. ® Related stories AOL unveils IM for business AOL settles class action lawsuits eAccess buys AOL Japan
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2004

Briton invades France in amphibious car

There is some consolation for distraught Brits today following England's crash-and-burn last night in Lisbon. Entrepreneur Richard Branson this morning thundered across the English Channel from Dover to Calais aboard a Gibbs Aquada amphibious vehicle in just 90 minutes - thereby smashing the previous French record of six hours. The Aquada - which boasts a 175 horsepower 2.5l V6 engine and "proprietary jet propulsion" system delivering one tonne of thrust on water - is reportedly capable of 100mph on land and 30mph in aquatic mode. It will set wannabe James Bonds back a cool £75,000. Branson - who made the crossing suitably dressed in dinner jacket and bow tie - said: "We had to take something back from the French after last night and we are glad that we have exacted this revenge." It is not reported whether Branson will now offer his services as penalty taker to the England squad, but we can only hope. ® Related stories Mach 0.3 milk float goes for land speed glory Flying car less likely than flying pig Swiss set to unleash flying car
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2004

Vodafone finds mobile workforce

Eight out of ten British business people are tooled up for mobile working, according to research from Vodafone. Chief executives, as the group most likely to be out of the office a lot, are the group with most gadgets. Some 83 per cent use a laptop, 48 per cent use a PDA and 35 per cent use Wi-Fi or a mobile datacard. Half of UK business people now use text messaging to keep in touch with colleagues. But only 21 per cent feel happy texting customers. Around a half people said that a third of calls they make on mobiles are to the office; managing directors said 80 per cent of their calls were for business purposes. The research was carried out to promote Vodafone's new tariffs for small business. The survey was carried out by ICM Research which last week talked to 385 attendees at the UK Business Week exhibition. ® Related stories Mobile porn is a 'time bomb' DoCoMo hunts for UK partner No killer app, but mobile data will boom
John Oates, 14 Jun 2004
cable

Forum approves Apple music format for DVD Audio

The DVD Forum has approved the first version of its next-generation High Definition DVD (HD-DVD) specification. The organisation, which controls the DVD format, has also approved the mandatory use of the Apple-favoured AAC for audio tracks stored in the DVD-ROM partition of future DVD Audio discs. Approval of HD DVD 1.0 follows the approval last November of version 0.9 of the spec. The specification covers the physical construction of an HD-DVD, either as a 15GB single-layer disc or a 30GB dual-layer product. An early version of HD-DVD-RW was approved last February. Approval of the spec. paves the way for disc makers and drive suppliers to build products around the technology. The Forum has already begun promoting the format to such companies. HD-DVD provides a higher capacity that DVD by the use of a blue laser. The optical systems shorter wavelength (405nm to DVD's 650nm) essentially means the laser can read smaller pits on the discs surface. Smaller pits mean a greater pits in a given area and thus a higher data capacity. HD-DVD was developed by NEC and Toshiba and uses discs of the same thickness and size as today's DVD products. That should make it much easier for disc manufacturers to re-tool production lines to churn out the new discs. That contrasts with Blu-ray, HD-DVD's biggest rival, which has different layer widths, and requires new production lines to be installed. Blu-ray products are already available from the likes of Sony, one of the format's main backers. The 23.3GB format is expected to be succeeded by a 50GB second-generation, consumer-oriented product later this year. Meanwhile, the Forum also approved the use of Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) in DVD Audio discs. The DVD Audio specification already includes a much higher quality music storage format than AAC. However, the Forum wants to add a DVD-ROM 'zone' to the spec. to allow music companies to embedded lower resolution versions of the content for computer users. To meet the requirements of the DVD Forum's licensing Ts&Cs, such audio content will need to be encoded using AAC. Specifically, the Forum calls for the use of High Efficiency (HE) AAC improves on vanilla AAC - part of the MPEG 4 standard - with better audio quality at higher compression rates. In practice, that means decent sound at 48kbps and 5.1 surround sound at 128kbps - the rate regular stereo AACs are usually encoded at. HE AAC also adds a 96kHz sampling rate. It emerged last March that the Forum's ROM zone working group had selected AAC. However, at that time, the organisation would not confirm the approval since it had not yet been ratified by its Steering Committee. That ratification has now been given. ® Related stories DVD Forum denies AAC for DVD Audio approval DVD Forum chooses Apple music format for DVD Audio DVD Forum punts blue laser HD-DVD DVD Forum mandates Microsoft for HD disc spec DVD Forum approves rewriteable HD-DVD spec Toshiba blue laser tech chosen for HD DVD spec. Blu-ray founders rename, open group to new members Japanese boffins perfect paper Blu-ray disc Sony preps 50GB next-gen Blu-Ray video deck Sony ships blu-ray 23GB storage system BBC develops 'alternative' codec
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2004

US woman eBays stroppy son's PS2

A US woman has inflicted the ultimate punishment on her errant 13-year-old son and sold his PS2 on eBay. The teen ne'er-do-well apparently ran amok in the Arkansas household - his misdemeanours include drinking Dad's beer and a bottle of 1995 Dom Perignon champagne - and as a result dear old Ma deployed the big, big stick. As she herself puts it: SO CHILDREN LISTEN UP DO NOT DISRESPECT YPUR PARENTS YOUR FRIENDS OR YOURSELF BECAUSE US PARENTS ARE SMARTER THAN YOU AND WE WILL FIND OUT ABOUT ANY AND ALL THINGS YOU TRY TO HIDE. The device in question was secured for $122.50 when the auction ended on 31 May. The cash will certainly go some way towards the parents recouping the $177 mum reckons the boy's drunken shenanigans have cost. Obstreperous teenagers, take note. ® Bootnote Since you can get a new PS2 for not much more than the winning bidder paid for the second-hand example, we can only assume that he or she is another long-suffering parent who's reached into the pocket through solidarity. Either that or he's the original owner using a credit card he stole from dad's wallet while drunk. Related stories eBay scammer gets stung German postie punts pilfered parcels on eBay Police probe 'joke' eBay daughter sale couple
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2004

Computing needs a Grand Challenge

Sir Tony Hoare - British computing pioneer and senior scientist at Microsoft Research - believes the computer industry needs a "grand challenge" to inspire it. In the same way that the lunar challenge in the 1960s sparked a decade of collaborative innovation and development in engineering and space technology, or the human genome project united biologists around the globe, so too must computer scientists pull together on such a scale to take their industry to its next major milestone. Speaking last Tuesday at an open day at Microsoft Research's lab in Cambridge, Hoare told the audience of around 60 journalists and analysts that there are seven such challenges facing researchers today. Significantly, these are not purely computational challenges, but involve a mix of disciplines from biology and psychology, right through to quantum physics. This reflects how much other areas rely on and use IT to support their research, but also the changing nature of computer science itself. By 2020, Hoare predicts, the world will contain 100 times as many computers as it does now, each with 100 times as much power and memory, all interconnected. And to best understand this world, he says, we should not think of it as containing many discrete computing devices, but as a global ubiquitous computer (GUC). He argues that in this world, the classical theory of computation, based on Turing's description of a single, localised machine sequentially executing a deterministic program to completion, no longer applies. One of the grand challenges, then, is to re-write the basic foundations of the science, to find a theory of computation that is "more realistic than the Turing model, and can take into account the discoveries of biology, and the promise of the quantum computer". "Computations carried out in nature, for example in the brain and body of a living organism, are nothing at all like that. They are widely distributed over space and over time; they essentially involve massively parallel operation; they involve continuous interaction with their environment; and they are highly non-deterministic," Hoare says. In this way, the global ubiquitous computer is much more like a living organism than the Turing machine. Wanted: life models The links between the computing and biological sciences don't stop there. Perhaps the grandest of the grand challenges for computing are about modelling life, in particular, developing a model of an organism that will make predictions that will be experimentally testable. To make progress, Hoare suggests the project "will probably concentrate on the same simple organisms that are the subject of widest biological experiments, for example the thale-weed Arabidopsis Thaliana". But Hoare has grander plans still. "An ultimate joint challenge for the biological and the computational sciences is the understanding of the mechanisms of the human brain, and its relationship with the human mind," he says. "A single human brain has about a hundred million million nerve cells...and a computer program that throws light on the mind/brain problem will have to incorporate the deepest insights of biologists, nerve scientists, psychologists, physiologists, linguists, social scientists, and even philosophers. This challenge is one that has inspired Computer Science since its very origins, when Alan Turing himself first proposed the Turing Test as a still unmet challenge for artificial intelligence." Computational phenomena The Cambridge facility is one of five facilities run by Microsoft Research, an independent sub-section of the software giant. The other labs are based in China and the US, with the bulk of the research coming out of Redmond. The group's remit is to research pure computer science, rather than to develop products. Hoare, who was knighted in March 2000 for his services to computer science, joined the lab when he retired from Oxford University. Among his achievements in his career in industry and academia, is the development of the first commercial compiler for the programming language Algol 60. He argues that the approach to Grand Challenges, in any discipline, is driven primarily by scientific curiosity and idealism and a desire to understand basic phenomena, in this case computational phenomena. "It is easy to predict that some of the discoveries of research directed towards Grand Challenges - but only the most unexpected ones, and at the most unexpected times - will be the basis of revolutionary improvements in the way that we exploit the power of our future computing devices." ® That list of Grand Challenges in full. Related stories Manchester honours Alan Turing MS to probe human-computer interface Personal Computer Science boss loses Oz extradition battle
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2004

16k nostalgia - Britpop style

If you go all teary-eyed at the thought of Clive Sinclair astride his mighty ZX81, then we can recommend something right up your street - a musical ditty from Web wags b3ta. "Hey hey 16k" - a rather catchy Britpop sort of affair - is the work of MJ Hibbett and the Validators. The accompanying Flash animation is courtesy of b3ta. Naturally, there's a shirt to go with this, which you can get from (and this is starting to get a bit nepotistic) none other than NTKMart. Yes, yes, enough of the hard sell, how does it go exactly? Well, here's an extract from the chorus: "Hey hey 16K/ What does that get you today?/ You need more than that for a letter/ Old skool Ram Paks are much better". You get the idea. For the full experience, boogie on down to the b3ta nostalgia jukebox. ® Related stories B3ta.com - good pics, great jokes
Team Register, 14 Jun 2004

Chinese cyber-dissident gets four years' house arrest

Chinese cyber-dissident, Du Daobin, has been sentenced to four years under house arrest after being convicted for posting pro-democracy articles on the Net. Du's trial in Xiaogan, in the central province of Hubei, on Friday lasted just 15 minutes, during which time he was not allowed to speak. Although Du accepts that he posted 26 essays on democracy and respect for human rights, he refuses to admit that it was a crime or that he was guilty of subversion. Human rights organisation, Reporters Without Borders, accepted that the sentence was lenient, especially since Chinese authorities in the past have imposed long jail terms to such activists. Even so, the group maintains that Du was convicted unfairly on the "baseless charge of 'inciting subversion of the state'". "This is a Pyrrhic victory," said Reporters Without Borders. "It allows Du to leave prison but it puts him under such a degree of police surveillance that his freedom is illusory. This sentence aims both to silence a human rights activist and at the same time appease those in China and abroad who criticised his imprisonment." Du, 40, was arrested last October as he returned home from work. As well as pr-democracy activist, he also campaigned for the release of Liu Di, a young student imprisoned for posting messages calling for democracy in China on on-line forums. Liu was released in November last year after more than a year of detention without trial. ® Related stories China pulls plug on blogs Outcry as Chinese Net dissident arrested Tiananmen protesters fight on the Web
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2004

Nokia N-Gage QD US debut slips

UpdateUpdate Nokia's N-Gage update, the N-Gage QD, will not ship in the US this month, as planned. Instead, the phone maker has rescheduled the launch to 27 July. Separately, the company said it has cut the number of N-Gage titles it expects to see shipped by the end of the year by up to 60%. The N-Gage QD is already available in Europe and Asia - it began shipping in the UK on 26 May - and is set to ship in Canada on 29 June. The QD is more compact than its predecessor, and its more curvaceous casing makes the unit more easy to operate as a mobile phone. The unit's gamecard slot is now hot-swappable, and is located in the handheld's base, behind a rubber panel - so N-gage users no longer have to remove the battery first. Nokia said today that the QD offers better battery life than the first N-Gage yet sports a brighter screen. As per the previous edition, the QD supports Bluetooth-based multi-player gaming and can connect to Nokia's global N-Gage Arena community. A new N-Gage Arena launcher app makes accessing the N-Gage Arena easier than before, providing direct access to the N-Gage Arena community directly from the game deck. In the US, the product is "ready for shipment", a Nokia spokesman said, but "we have made a business decision to maximise the impact of the launch by synchronising across all channel partners". "For the Christmas market, there will be 40 games available," Nokia's head of strategy Matti Alahuhta said during Nokia Connection 2004 today. Punters can currently buy 20 games, he said. Last December, however, Nokia said it expected to ship 50-100 titles by the end of 2004. ® Nokia ships N-Gage QD Nokia sings the mid market blues Ilkka Raiskinen on N-Gage, and more Nokia launches N-Gage QD Nokia to fix sidetalking, swapping with Son of N-Gage Doom developer confirms N-Gage 2 Nokia's N-Gage ads are violent and sinister EA president piles into N-Gage
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2004
DVD it in many colours

Seagate unveils 'tiny to terabyte' hard drives

Hard drive maker Seagate launched a platter of products today, including what it claims is the world's first 5GB 1in drive, more capacious notebook-oriented offerings, a 400GB unit for high-end PCs and an 0.5TB enterprise drive. Seagate will be pitching the 1in ST1 drive family at the MP3 player market when it ships them this summer as a low-cost, high-capacity and fast alternative to Flash memory. The company reckons the rugged part will "withstand the abuse that hand-held devices take". The company uses the same internals to provide 2.5GB or 5GB of storage in its CompactFlash Photo Hard Drive, this time aimed at digital camera owners, and in its USB 2 Pocket Drive, a compact circular unit that's strangely reminiscent of Apple's old 'puck' mouse. The Pocket Hard Drive is expected to be available to buy in the Autumn, along with Seagate's 100GB Portable External Hard Drive, which, like its smaller companion, is bus-powered. Seagate's new 2.5in Momentus line, meanwhile, comprises two notebook-oriented units, a 7200rpm model and a 5400rpm job, that also offer up to 100GB of storage, the ability to cope with up to 80Gs of non-operating shock, and the inclusion of up to 8MB of cache. They too will ship in the Autumn. Seagate claims the 3.5in 400GB Barracuda 7200.8 is "the industry's first native SATA interface with native command queuing". NCQ was designed for asynchronous I/O. And it "increases drive reliability in heavy workloads by eliminating much of the mechanical wear and tear that a non-NCQ drive must endure to transfer the same amount of data", Seagate said. There's an Ultra ATA version of the product on its way too. The 7200.8 spins at 7200rpm, contains up to 16MB of cache and yields an average seek time of 8ms. For enterprise applications, Seagate announced two additions to its Cheetah line-up: the 15K.4 and the 10K.7. The former will ship in capacities up to 147GB, and is the industry's first 15,000rpm drive to feature a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rating of 1.4 million hours, the company claimed. The 10K.7 offers the same MTBF, also a first, said Seagate, this time for 10,000rpm 3.5in drive. The 10K.7 will ship in 73, 147 and 300GB versions. The 15K7 uses a Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) interface, which provides a point-to-point, full duplex architecture and 3.0Gbps transfer speed. Seagate's NL35 series offers up to 500GB of storage and includes a Fibre Channel interface - or a Serial ATA link, if you prefer. The NL35 will begin shipping in Q4, the 10K.7 in Q3. The 15K.4 will ship in Q3 with a Fibre Channel and Ultra320 SCSI interface. SAS-equipped 15K.4 drives will begin shipping in Q4. Today's launch comes less than two weeks after the company announced plans to axe 3000 jobs. The move should cut annual operating costs by close to $150m but cost the companyt $50m in its current fiscal quarter. ® Related stories Punters kill healthy hard drives - Seagate Seagate axes thousands Hitachi production ramp-up = cheaper storage Toshiba debuts dinky 100GB disk Iomega dresses up NAS device Iomega ships 160GB back-up hard drive Iomega ships 35GB 'son of Jaz'
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2004

NASA to grow Brit strawberries on Mars

A Kent-based farmer is working with NASA to develop strawberries that could make it to Mars. The space agency is looking for something astronauts could grow on the two-year flight to the Red Planet, and that could also be cultivated on Mars itself. Peter Vinson, the Faversham, Kent strawberry baron, sent two of his strawberry breeds to NASA for tests after a friend recommended him to researchers there. The scientists need a plant that will be able to withstand the harsh environment of space, and that will produce plenty of fruit for a long time. Growing anything on Mars is certainly going to be a challenge. Once on the surface, the plant will have to manage with about one third of the sunlight it would get on Earth, and a higher proportion of that will be ultraviolet light. Blue light, needed for photosynthesis, is more readily absorbed by the Martian atmosphere. NASA scientists are keen to use an English breed because it will be more accustomed to low light levels than those from California or Florida. If the breeds do well in a simulation at Cape Canaveral, they will move on to trials on board a manned space station before use in the mission to Mars, penciled in for 2020. Hilariously, the fruit has already been nicknamed the 'Marsberry'. ® Related stories Scrap space robots, government urged ESA commissions super spacesuit Macclesfield centre of universe: official Opportunity knocked by Martian rock Fireflies aid hunt for ET
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2004

40k hit by Telewest email snag

Forty thousand Telewest punters were without email on Friday after a cock-up with overnight maintenance work. Although email was restored to all users by the middle of Friday afternoon, those hit were unable to access their old emails or address lists. The cableco - which has around 750,000 Internet punters - is currently working to restore the service. Said Chad Raube, director of internet services for Telewest Broadband: "Approximately 40,000 customers may have experienced problems accessing their blueyonder inbox on Friday, due to unforeseen issues with platform maintenance the night before. "Email services were restored by 3pm on Friday afternoon, but historical data was temporarily unavailable over the weekend and is being restored on a rolling basis today. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused." ® Related stories Damaged undersea cable blamed for UK Net problems NTL email suffers 'complex failure' 'Large spam attack' hits BT Yahoo! email
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2004
Broken CD with wrench

DVD Forum backs CD/DVD hybrid

The DVD Forum has given is official thumbs-up to DualDisc, a DVD/CD hybrid format. The approval paves the way for a more rapid adoption of the DVD Audio format. DualDisc essentially sticks a CD onto the back of a DVD or DVD Audio disc. The idea is that punters will be able to, say, play higher quality DVD Audio content at home and use the same disc to play the same music in their car's CD player. The DVD specification limits disc thickness to 1.5mm, which is possible to meet using a slightly thinner CD layer than is found on regular CDs and a single-layer DVD. DualDisc should allow music labels to promote DVD Audio without forcing customers to lose some the playback flexibility they've come to expect from CD. It will also allow them to offer CD/DVD combos on a single disc rather than the two (one CD, one DVD) that such packages usually contain. Ultimately, the industry may ship to so-called 'single inventory' products, using DualDisc to physically merge their CD and DVD Audio offerings into a single disc in a single case. While disc production costs would rise, the labels could make significant savings on inventory and distribution costs. To date, all five major labels - Sony Music, EMI, Bertelsmann Music Group, Warner Music Group and Universal - have all test-marketed DualDiscs in the US. Sony's participation is interesting given it is touting its own next-generation music carrier, Super Audio CD (SACD). The DVD Forum itself ratified the format last week at a Steering Committee meeting in Seattle, a spokesman said. "DualDisc is officially approved by [the] DVD Forum," he told HighFidelityReview.com. ® Related stories Forum approves Apple music format for DVD Audio DVD Forum punts blue laser HD-DVD DVD Forum denies AAC for DVD Audio approval DVD Forum chooses Apple music format for DVD Audio Belgian watchdog sues record biz over copy protection Blu-ray founders rename, open group to new members Japanese boffins perfect paper Blu-ray disc
Tony Smith, 14 Jun 2004

Amazon search engine fingers G-Spot

Kids certainly grow up quicker these days - or at least they do according to Amazon. A quick search on www.amazon.co.uk for "spot" (being the much-loved doggie) in the "Toys" section reveals an interesting selection of related children's books: Now, I have a two-year-old who would probably love a Pull Along Spot The Dog. I am, however, certain that copies of "Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot" or "How to Spot a Bastard by His Star Sign" are a little premature. And as for "The Visual Investor: how to spot market trends (with disk)", well, the only trend she's interested in is that which leads her mother to deploy ice-cream from the freezer in hot weather. We have, of course, been making merry over the past week with Amazon's related products listings. After all, who could fail to be impressed with the fact that Amazon reckons anyone looking for a pair of "Sennheiser HD202 Headphones" may also want a copy of "A Hand in the Bush: the Fine Art of Vaginal Fisting" (see Letters here). Well, the moment for sniggering laughter is over. We reckon it's about time that Amazon cleaned up its act. After all, we're talking about innocent kiddies being subjected to this filth. Ok, innocent kiddies with access to the Internet and a credit card and advanced typing and reading skills, but just the idea that our little darlings could inadvertently stumble across this depravity makes our blood boil. ® Related stories Music biz 'satanism' revealed Amazon turns camcorder on shaven nudists Sodomites overrun Amazon.com
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2004

Scientists go quantum dotty over night vision

US Scientists have found a way to improve the sensitivity of night vision goggles and medical sensors, using a device based on nanostructures called Quantum Dots. Quantum dots are particularly sensitive to infrared (IR) radiation in between eight and 12 microns. Night vision goggles, military target tracking devices and environmental monitors all use this range of wavelengths, because although the atmosphere is opaque to most IR, in this range it is transparent to it. The researchers, from the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin, describe the device in the April 24 issue of Physics Letters. Anupam Madhukar, from USC says "a class of existing infrared detectors are based on what is called 'quantum well' technology. But we have created a detector based on different physics - quantum dot physics - that works at least as well and has the potential to perform better." The device is based on self-assembled, pyramidal structures, "quantum dots," each no more than 20 nanometres across at the base. These have an indium arsenide core surrounded by gallium arsenide and an indium-gallium arsenide alloy. Varying the exact composition of the dots allows engineers to tailor the device for a range of purposes, from lasers, detectors and optical amplifiers to transistors and tunneling diodes. "Quantum dots are emerging as the most viable semiconductor nanotechnology for future higher performance communication systems, biomedical imaging, environmental sensors, and infrared detection," said Madhukar. Although the current performance of the device puts the quantum dots in the mid range, the researchers are confident they can improve the system. They plan to arrange the dot arrays in a configuration called a "resonant cavity". This traps the radiation and bounces it back and forth between mirroring walls, and should make the detector more sensitive. ® Related stories Supercooled lead hats aid brain scans Researchers build nano 'trees' Israelis ship eight tera-ops optical processor
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2004

FoTW: Take your SMPs to Cuba!

Flame of the Week:Flame of the Week: What's the only group worse than the Apple Faithful? Rush Limbaugh's Ditto Heads. One would think the geeky confines of the IT sector would keep you safe from the political extremism of Limbaugh's fans. Not so, as was evidenced by the reaction to our story What 2007 means to your data center. In the story, we state, "But the differences between low-end and high-end servers and blades and big boxes are about to become more blurred than Rush Limbaugh's vision after a morning OxyContin." Bad move. Thank you for putting your smear against Rush Limbaugh early in your technical article. This informs the reading public that the author is a dogmatic socialist who is incapable of separating the issues into completely unrelated topics. I'm also sure that you hated Reagan and wish to join Castro in spirit at least and long for the return of the USSR. Thank you so much for leaving no doubt that you have a limited mind and that your disorganized and confused ramblings are a tedious waste of time. We are grateful to you for saving us from reading the rest of your tripe. Once again, if you are capable of reading, thank you so much. R. Lee Darby. What can you say to that, but "Viva Che!". Another reader suggested that blurred vision is not a symptom of OxyContin at all. I read no further because you blew your credibility at this point. 1. Just five minutes research would reveal that blurred vision is (not) one of the side effects of OxyContin. If the one area in your column I know something about is researched this poorly, how can I possibly have any confidence in the rest? 2. Obviously, your political biases are so strong that you cannot even keep them out of a simple article such as this. Sincerely, Dave Barnhart Glendale, AZ We pointed Dave to several sites that show blurred vision is in fact a problem with OxyContin. Again, he wrote in. Here is the actual FDA-approved OxyContin label content. No references to blurred vision. http://www.fda.gov/cder/foi/label/2001/20553s022lbl.htm Hmm. No mention of blurred vision, but abnormal vision is listed pretty clearly as a problem in the document. We can only assume that means either blurred vision or some kind of super-vision perk from the drug. ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Jun 2004

Microsoft's war on GPL dealt patent setback

Microsoft has two goals from its patent licensing program. One is to create a new, stable revenue stream to complement its ageing cash cows, Windows and Office. Patent royalties could provide an attractive income if the company succumbs to market economics, and is forced to lower its prices to compete with cheaper free software. The other goal - although it may simply be fortuitous collateral damage from Redmond's point of view - is to make writing free software illegal. Or if not illegal, then so fraught with legal uncertainties that developers gravitate away from the GPL. GPL developers shy away from patent minefields citing two reasons. Many say patents are incompatible with the license while others cite more practical concerns: saying that the prospect of expensive legal battles is a risk small developers can't take. So when Microsoft hired Marshall Phelps, the IBM executive and lawyer responsible for building Big Blue's royalty income from zero into a multi-billion dollar business, community leaders sat up and took notice. Last December Microsoft announced its first-ever patent royalty program. Camera and PDA manufacturers were invited to pay Redmond a peppercorn royalty for use of the FAT file system, which they'd previously used for free. But now that first tentative foray has been dealt a setback, as the US Patent Office is to open an investigation into the validity of Microsoft's FAT patent (renewed in 1996). Prior art from Xerox and (ironically) IBM submitted by the Public Patent Foundation raises "a substantial new question of patentability" according to the USPTO. Although the PPF points out that patents are rejected in about 70 per cent of re-examinations, it cautions that this is just the first step in the process. And, of course, there are plenty more patents where FAT came from. Still, it's an indication that the software libre community doesn't just spend its time congratulating itself, and can organize to repel clear and present danger. ® External links Public Patent Foundation FAT File System Technology and Patent License [Microsoft] How smart is reverse engineering .NET? Related stories Patent Office asked to review Microsoft FAT patent Microsoft FAT patents could be re-opened Microsoft aiming IBM-scale patent program at Linux? Eolas' web patent nullified Microsoft patents .Everything
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2004

US orbiter detects non-English language signals

NASA is hoping that clever robots may be able to repair its aging Hubble telescope, but can they do they same for another cherished piece of ancient deep space hardware? We're referring to the patron saint of California's techno-utopians Esther Dyson, who from her privileged orbit somewhere over Planet Earth, has detected new and important signals for US entrepreneurs to heed. She's discovered that people in foreign countries might not speak English. So if you're writing software for these countries, translations may be necessary. There are more dramatic revelations to follow: "They have a different time zone in some of these places," says Esther, in a showcase video interview at CNET - which has taken over maintenance of the orbiter. Excellent advice, you'll agree: although if you're in possession of a Babelfish or, like Esther, can punch holes in the space-time continuum at will, you need not be concerned by such practicalities. Although CNET editor Dan Farber manages, quite heroically, to look interested in the wisdom of his company's latest acquisition, the banality of Esther's insight won't surprise long-time astronomy fans. Reviewers of Esther's dot.com-era tome Release 2.0 on Amazon.com report that the book is "a regurgitation of old ideas using worn out and obvious examples", is "very shallow" and "fifth-grade"; that the author appears to be "self-centered", "self-satisfied" and "pompous"; and the book is "Best used as a couch support". And that's just some of the kinder comments. It's wrong to wish on space hardware Esther's true purpose amongst us is revealed later in the interview, where she boasts that "I've never met a government that could pick winners" and advises regulators to get right out of town. Of course you don't need to be a genius to see that government makes a lousy businessman, which is why governments don't even try to anymore. But government can fund technology projects that are both hugely useful (TGV) and aesthetically beautiful (Concorde). Japan, Germany and now the People's Republic of China have proved that judiciously directed public investment provides a welcome alternative to the bulimic US model of private investment: huge splurges followed by copious vomiting. And only a churl would point out that of the last three technology upturns in Esther's old launch pad of Silicon Valley, two (the 1980s and the current modest revival) have been stoked by government defense spending, and the one in between was the result of exploiting a publically funded defense project: the Internet. Phsaw. We'd love to bring you further installments, and we'd even promise to read Esther Dyson so you don't have to, if only her banalities, even in twenty minute bursts, didn't take such a toll on the human spirit. ® Related stories Ex-ICANN chief spotted in low earth orbit Boffins isolate 'blogging gene' Ad agency pays Net Queen Dyson $10,000 a day Register scotches Esther Dyson armed robbery rumours William Gibson gives up blogging
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2004

HP OpenView software can tax corporate bottlenecks

HP's software group this week has renewed its march toward profitability by rolling out two new OpenView software packages designed to give customers' better insight into their application and service performance. New to the HP software fold are the OpenView Business Process Insight (BPI) and Route Analytics Management System products. Dull names, you say. Maybe so. But it's exactly this type of software that is meant to carry HP's software business from the red to the black over the next year. David Gee, a vice president of marketing at HP, touts the BPI product as the real advance being delivered this week by the company at the HP Software Forum in Montreal. "What this allows a CIO to do is shine a big light on a business process or multiple businesses processes and see how well they are performing," Gee said. The OpenView BPI software watches over a customer's transactional software. If BEA application server response times are low, BPI sends a message back to the administrator. If slow credit checks are costing a customer millions a month, BPI is there to rat out the culprit. Simply put, BPI is a handy performance analysis tool. HP built the software in-house, which is something of a rarity for the company of late. You'll recall that HP has recently acquired a host of small ISVs, including TruLogica, Novadigm, Consera, and Talking Blocks. These firms are meant to help HP build out its OpenView arsenal. The idea is to offer up various management "modules" to customers for everything from performance analysis to application provisioning and billing. During an analyst conference last week, HP's CEO Carly Fiorina declared these as key bets that will help carry HP's software business out of the doldrums. "We continue to have losses (in software)," she said. "We want to bring that business back to profitability, but that will probably not happen until 2005 because we are making very targeted investments." So how will all these acquisitions pay off? Well, Gee outlined a vision where the BPI software might be wrapped with other packages such as application provisioning and server configuration tools. A customer might shell out a little extra cash to know that HP's software can detect a performance lag and then bring up a server to make up for the problem in an automatic fashion at close to real-time. It's a grand vision, but HP doesn't go small. On the day, HP did take another step toward its goal with the OpenView Route Analytics Management product. This software tracks the flow of data through a network, noting networking performance problems. It gives administrators a few tools for seeing how a change to a network may affect various systems and overall network performance. HP assured us that both of the new products are available now but was not prepared to provide pricing information. Best of luck. ® Related stories What 2007 means to your data center HP gets vague about Opteron and Itanium blades HP maps growth path HP's Fiorina not amused by lack of investor interest HP must create separate printer biz - analyst
Ashlee Vance, 14 Jun 2004

Telecom future to look a lot like the past - study

A study by Mercer Consulting brings depressing news to readers who hope that Internet technology will help overthrow the telecommunication industry's dinosaurs. The idea is that by using the same broadband pipes that people use for the Internet to carry voice calls, people will by-pass these vested interests, who have grown fat from captive markets. That's the premise behind Skype and Vonage, which offer telephony on top of a DSL or Cable data connection. But faced with a choice between VoIP offerings from established names or start-ups, consumers will be more inclined to go with the devil they know, according to the report which interviewed over 1,000 punters. Mercer reckons that VoIP entrants could capture as much as 30 per cent of the residential voice market - which isn't bad at all. But the techno-utopian fantasies of replacing the incumbents' PSTN (public switched telephone network) infrastructure with a home-built people's network are wildly misplaced. Right now, VoIP appeals to tightwads and bloggers says Mercer Consulting, although it phrases it a little differently, diplomatically referring to "highly price-sensitive consumers and technology geeks." Only these two groups are prepared to put up with lower sound quality and reliability right now. The upstarts need to improve their quality and reliability to match the PSTN before much of the public can trust them, according to the report. And the incumbents can leverage their existing relationships with millions of customers much more easily. They've already got them where they want them. Much of the debate has concentrated on freeing up the regulatory structure which favors these Baby Bells: who set the fees for access to the local loop and make it hard for people to keep the same telephone number when switching providers. But Mercer reminds the upstarts that they simply have to get better at delivering their primary service: phone calls. Don't get carried away with gee-whizz features, they warn, reminding us of Interactive TV, and stick to the basics. You say you want a revolution... But VoIP can hardly be blamed for being overloaded with so much hype. The promise that the technology makes plays into two of our most important myths. One is the idea of business as a meritocracy in which the smart beat the stupid. Who doesn't want a plucky, clever David to beat the stupid and slow Goliath? The idea taps into the belief that the marketplace is the primary emblem of social renewal. The other myth is that technology changes society, rather than the other way around, which Linus Torvalds likes to points out. It's not a binary choice, of course, but a dynamic, but Linus is surely nearer the truth. For example, will consumers change the shape of VoIP offerings or will VoIP force consumers into new habits and rationalizations? That's already been answered. People want to make phone calls and will make a rational choice about the best deal. For this to happen, VoIP providers will have to make something that looks, walks and quacks like a reliable phone service. For most ordinary people, being told thatvit's "revolutionary" or "emergent" doesn't hold much sway. Perhaps if we looked elsewhere for our revolutions and renewal, technology evangelists couldn't make such silly claims in the first place. They could try, but they'd be laughed out of town. Aren't there more important things that need fixing? ® Related stories US groups lobby over VoIP regulation VoIP to transform telecoms market Corporate VoIP to challenge Skype Broke telcos doing everything they can - Qwest exec VoIP set to generate megabucks VoIP will be US broadband killer app US Internet homes aware of VoIP and want it now VoiP lobby wins first US legal victory Skype: putting the hype in VoIP Skype won t make it, says WSJ columnist The Death Star storms into consumer Net phones
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Jun 2004