25th > June > 2004 Archive

Storage users love the press and a good brand

Storage customers will apparently do as they are told, favoring media and analyst recommendations and branding over price and performance when evaluating gear, according to a recent study. The SNIA (Storage Network Industry Association) Europe trade group conducted a survey of storage users in the UK, France and Germany and found that a "vendor's visibility is one of the main influencing factors in purchase decision-making." Users respond to a vendor that comes off well in press and analyst reports. In fact, 72 percent of the users surveyed said they saw press coverage as either a high or medium concern when buying storage products. Out of that figure, 42 percent of the users saw media coverage as a high-ranking criteria compared to only 28 percent that saw price as a high-priority. With that in mind, The Register invites you to try our new line of high-priced but also high-end SAN (storage area network) hardware. Simply put - it's fantastic. Honest. What else did SNIA discover? "Analyst reports proved influential in the decision-making process, far higher than product performance or return on investment (ROI)," the group said. UK users tended to place a higher priority on price, while Germans placed the least importance on price and the French users fell in the middle. Given this information, SNIA came up with one of the oddest conclusions from its own study. "With the advent of more advanced storage networking solutions and industry legislation, customers are becoming more astute," said Paul Talbut, chairman of SNIA Europe. While Talbut's assessment rightfully points to the prominent role the press plays in user astutement, we can't help but wonder if users wouldn't be seen as more astute if they valued price and performance over our prose/drivel. Register readers no doubt make up the majority of those who do in fact value price/performance over press and analyst evaluations. We would expect nothing less. Try to help out your non-Register reading friends. For the storage vendors out there, we think the study speaks for itself. Get on with the impressing. ® Related stories Seagate gets litigious with small hard drive rival EMC ups storage software market share EMC measures ADIC for tape rescue Veritas cleans up financials Seagate unveils 'tiny to terabyte' hard drives
Ashlee Vance, 25 Jun 2004

World warms to municipal Wi-Fi

The birthplace of municipal Wi-Fi was possibly the London Borough of Westminster, and it appears that the idea of the wireless is catching on in cities worldwide. Indeed, some are looking at wireless Mesh technology with Taipei, Los Angeles, and New York among the more prominent. According to Computerworld's Bob Brewin, the New York network will be a public safety project, and will be restricted to emergency services folk - but will, nonetheless, cost a terrifying billion dollars. Well, maybe half that, he reports: "Plans [are] to build a public safety wireless network of unprecedented scale and scope, including the capacity to provide tens of thousands of mobile users with the ability to send and receive data while travelings at speeds of up to 70 mph citywide." Pilot projects are being offered for tender, and most observers - unless they are bidding for these lucrative jobs - are pretty sceptical about making it work. Wi-Fi is not designed for fast mobile use, nor do conventional Wi-Fi networks scale well into vast geographical areas. Rather more modest, but no less unrealistic was Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou who was talking ebulliently back in January about making his Taiwanese capital "a wireless Mecca" by the end of this year. Of this enterprise, there was not a shred of evidence when the world's technology observers descended en masse back at the end of May for Computex. The Taipei Times, endearingly referring to the Mayor as "Ma" throughout, quoted him as telling the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei: "As of September last year, about 90 per cent of Taipei's 900,000 families have computers. More than 80 percent use the Internet. And more than 87 per cent have mobile phones." "The next phase is to build a wireless and broadband city. We aim to finish that, or a large part of it, by the end of this year," Ma added. But, as the report noted, not everybody was impressed: "The co-chairwoman of the chamber's telecommunications committee welcomed Ma's pledge, but pointed out that the chamber has other priorities," the paper said politely. In Los Angeles there's a 17 July deadline for bids for a request for proposal (RFP) to expand the Pershing Square Wi-Fi network to include a city-wide access system, says MuniWireless. Rather more sensibly, in neighbouring Orange County (part of Greater Los Angeles) Fullerton wants to put together a wireless Mesh. The spec of this project, which is almost certain to miss its July 1 deadline looks incredibly like a definition of the LocustWorld Mesh in its specifications and price, but according to Richard Lander at LocustWorld, his company wasn't aware of the RFP until it was published. "There are a lot of these municipal wireless projects," said Lander, "some of which look rather more realistic than others. We already have some Mesh systems in California, so we'll be bidding through the firms who installed them there. The Fullerton project looks ideal for us." So, of course, does the Camberwell project, Boundless Deptford. Just to encourage people to spread the word, you might like to see what can be done at the rural village of Langtoft. © Newswireless.net Related stories Paris Metro firm to run Wi-Fi buses Flarion's Tokyo wireless adventure Central London Wi-Fi zone gets green light
Guy Kewney, 25 Jun 2004

Cybercafe domain war a storm in a coffee cup

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... Easy empire supremo Stelios Haji-Ioannou has in the past been described as "colourful". How you choose to interpret this description depends on your view of his operating style: Cybercafe domain war all a storm in a coffee cup By Tim Richardson Published Friday 25th June 1999 11:13 GMT An uneasy truce has broken out in the coffee shop cybersquatting war. On Monday, easyJet entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou opened his 500-PC, Nescafe-serving easyEverything cybercafe in London - the first in a chain of "Internet stores." While Haji-Ioannou possessed the all-important easyeverything.com domain, he didn't own easyeverything.co.uk. That was registered by the UK Net company Easynet in December last year, apparently for a customer. Coincidentally, the Cyberia chain of cybercafes was once part of the Easynet Group and still supplies the technology. easyEverything maintains that since it owns the trademark it holds the rights to the domain although no one was prepared to go as far as to say if this a deliberate case of cybersquatting or not. Earlier this week, though, Haji-Iaonnou made his feelings very clear when he said that he wanted easyeverything.co.uk. "We want to keep this civilised," he told The Times. "But if they don't give us that address we may have to start legal proceedings." Today, easyEverything's marketing director Tony Anderson wasn't quite so forthright. "We're still confident we'll resolve this amicably," he said. Graham Davies, MD for the Easynet Group said that he had seen an email on the subject but had received no other communication on the matter. A bemused Davies said: "If they want it, they only have to ask. I don't know why they didn't come to us beforehand." Quite - a veritable storm in coffee cup. Well, since easyeverything.co.uk is now registered to easyGroup IP Licensing Ltd and links to Stelios' easyInternetcafé, it's clear that this particular spat was resolved. During the past few years Haji-Ioannou has made frequent appearences on El Reg, variously waving the legal big stick at anyone with the temerity to use the word "easy" in a domain name; starting a punch-up with AOL by exhorting its customers to tear up their accounts and use his cybercafes instead; meeting his match in Easyart.com; and finally throwing in the e-towel with the recent announcement that he would sell or close his UK cybercafes. Colourful? In the sense of newsworthy, most certainly. ®
Team Register, 25 Jun 2004

Student digs get wired for broadband

Thousands of students will be able to hook up broadband from this September for £5 a week following a deal between accommodation outfit The Unite Group and BT. The new service will be made available to 15,000 students from the Autumn. Called 'uBroadband', it will replace the dial-up service currently wired into Unite's student digs. Details of the service remain patchy. Although the package on offer runs at speeds up to 512k and comes with no set-up fees, it's not known if uBroadband has a usage cap or if students have to supply their own connection kit. No one from Unite - the UK's largest provider of accommodation for students - was available for comment at the time of writing. Said Unite chief exec Nicholas Porter in a statement: "Our research shows that some 70 per cent of our customers want a value for money high-speed broadband service available in their rooms, and this is just what we've set out to do, with BT as the ideal partner." ® Related stories T-Mobile equips US uni with guest Wi-Fi access Five University of Northern Colorado students caught in RIAA John Doe suits 200,000 Wi-Fi laptops up for grabs - if you're an Essex schoolkid
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 2004

AMD to assemble low-power CPU taskforce

AMD is assembling a team to develop Athlon 64 processors for sub-notebooks and thin'n'light laptops. The team will comprise 15 to 20 engineers and will be based in AMD's Japan Engineering Lab. The Japanese market is particularly keen on small form-factor and thin notebooks, so AMD's choice of location is a sound one. That said, the team's efforts will be sold globally. In addition to developing processor technology, the team will work on ways to implement the CPUs within the machines. The team's remit stretches beyond notebooks to other power-sensitive applications, including consumer electronics and communications kit. It will also work with AMD's Alchemy and Geode embedded CPUs. Like Intel before it, AMD needs to look beyond the PC and server markets, and its presence in Japan will, it hopes, help convince CE manufacturers and the like to consider its processors when they are developing x86-based hardware. Fellow x86 CPU designer Transmeta is also taking this course. A more solid Asia Pacific presence may also help AMD counter prevailing assumptions that are turning manufacturers away from its products in favour of Intel's. AMD's move in Japan follows its recently announced deal with Chinese PC giant Lenovo to supply Athlon 64 and XP processors. Ultra-low power processors remain the one category missing from AMD's Mobile Athlon 64 line-up. When the Athlon 64 was introduced in September 2003, AMD also rolled out re-branded versions of part aimed at desktop-replacement notebooks. In May this year, it began shipping low-power Mobile Athlon 64s aimed at mainstream notebooks. That leaves the thin'n'light/sub-notebook space as yet untargeted, at least with a processor specifically designed for that market. Manufacturers building such machines have little option but to choose one of Intel's Low-Voltage or Ultra-low Voltage Pentium M processors, or Transmeta's Efficeon. ® Related stories Taiwan notebook makers 'unwilling' to sell Athlon 64 kit locally AMD updates public roadmap AMD bags Chinese giant AMD readies low-cost Sempron CPUs AMD unveils Socket 939 processors AMD pitches Athlon 64 at Media Center PC makers AMD targets low-end Athlon 64s at new markets AMD delivers on low-power Athlon 64 pledge
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

Jan Baan the software man

Jan Baan is a fascinating personality. When Baan ERP software was at its height he was on a paper a multi-billionaire and when he sold his share - someway off the top - he became very, very rich. He appears to be a very happy man: he has used the money to look after his family, give to charity, indulge in his passion for 17th century Dutch painting and buy a castle as a home and as the corporate headquarters of his new company. When Baan was sold in 2000, Jan put a significant sum aside to start a new company called Cordys. The company must be unique as: It has deep pockets, sufficient to keep it going for many years even without any sales It has no shareholders looking for short-term returns It has no legacy of old software to maintain, extend or remain compatible with It has retained staff with enormous experience both in Europe and in India (not least Jan himself) Its experience includes how to build successful software, but also lessons learnt from developing less successful products It is important to understand all this as it creates an environment that is ideal for developing new software, excellent people, given the time, resources and freedom to do things right first time. Starting in 2000 the product is in extensive beta in 2004 with an expected launch later in the year. The beta is unusual because it will finish with examples of customers in full production. The product supports application integration and application development. It includes its own portal and XML repository technology. It covers the development lifecycle all the way from value chain modelling through to operational monitoring. It built based on open standards including BPEL and XForms. The developers have eaten their own dog food, in that, wherever possible, they have bootstrapped the production environment to create the development environment. For example, they use the end user portal technology to develop the developer's workbench, and the XML repository is used for storing user data as well as application metadata. I am a great fan of the "eating dog food" paradigm as it proves the technology works and it has been tested by a set of critical users (the developers themselves). Further during the beta the team has developed pre-packaged sets of components for specific business domains that will accelerate the take-up of the product after general availability. The news coming out of the beta customers is positive so I await with interest the full announcement after the Summer. Related stories Unholy row as Baan shareholders sue firm Baan revives, but MS bid is probably smoke Baan bets big on Windows NT products Jan Baan: Calvinistic man with attitude
Peter Abrahams, 25 Jun 2004

Toshiba touts pump-free fuel cell for MP3 players

Toshiba has produced a fuel cell with no moving parts. Instead of pumps, the tiny 5.6 x 2.2 x 0.5-0.9cm power pack uses a "concentration gradient" to feed fuel and oxygen to the catalyst-covered electrode where they react to generate electricity. The company claims the unit, unveiled as a prototype yesterday, is the world's smallest 100mW fuel cell. Like other fuel cells, the Toshiba unit is a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). Methanol in a ten per cent concentration touches an electrode separated from a second electrode by a polymer membrane. When air is brought into contact with the second electrode, current flows through any circuit linking the two electrodes. Getting the membrane right is crucial to preventing air and methanol combining without starting a power-generating reaction. Another problem is the need to pack in enough high-concentration methanol to provide either a long running time or to use as small a fuel reservoir as possible before reducing the concentration sufficiently to trigger the reaction. Toshiba's prototype uses a structure that progressively dilutes the methanol as it passes from the fuel tank to the reaction chamber. The structure causes methanol to flow through the system without the need to drive it with a pump. The downside is that the cell generates less power, but that makes it more suitable for highly mobile applications. The refillable fuel tank holds 2cc of methanol in 99.5 per cent concentration - almost ten times the concentration required for the power-producing reaction. The 8.5g cell generates 100mW of power - enough, Toshiba said, to run am MP3 player for 20 hours. Last October, the company unveiled a 130g DMFC designed to be used to recharge a phone's own battery rather than as a replacement for it. It generated an average output of 1W and can run for 20 hours - enough, says Toshiba, to recharge a typical phone battery six times. In March both NEC and Hitachi demonstrated notebook-oriented fuel cells, as did Toshiba. Intel-funded start up PolyFuel is also working on direct methanol fuel cells for laptops. So is German company Smart Fuel Cells. Toshiba expects to commercialise DMFC technology for PCs in 2004 and for smaller handheld devices in 2005. ® Related stories Toshiba demos cellphone fuel cell Toshiba boffins prep laptop fuel cell Sulphur fuels battery breakthrough Fujitsu breakthrough slims fuel cell size Hitachi readies fuel cell for PDAs NEC, Hitachi prep notebook fuel cells Fuel cell to power notebooks and mobile phones Motorola claims alcoholic PC breakthrough
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

Mobile video must get with the programme

As yet another mobile phone vendor produces a 3G mobile phone with a camera able only to point away from the user, is it time to forget about making mobile video calls? This time it was Nokia, with the latest Symbian OS-based phone, so why have a camera if it doesn't point at the user? Even in Japan, where camera phones are widely used, the most important transmitted image usage is to "see what I see", and not "see me". This is odd, because videophones have long been heralded - from science fiction to science fairs - as the next big thing for telephony. Indeed, the mobile version of the application was used for all the early advertising when Hutchinson 3 launched their 3G service in the UK. Why should users pay for a "see what I see" image? The same reasons they send postcards, and take and share any photo: to prove they were somewhere doing something. Then there are various derivatives of the "yes dear" application. You know how it goes: "I'm thinking of getting this, what do you think?" Click, send. "Yes dear, that looks fine." On a related subject, is video conferencing as an application currently flawed? Most people I speak to, even in technology providers, are not great fans of video conferencing, so is there any hope for mobile video calls? Most systems are getting over the jerky limitations of bandwidth, and those who are regular users probably accommodate any remaining image jumps. The problem is one of visual impact and immediately recognisable to portrait photographers. There's no eye contact, and the person in shot doesn't stand out from the background. So how about addressing the optics rather than just the bandwidth? Some useful work is being undertaken in the machine learning group within Microsoft Research in Cambridge, which could dramatically improve the visual cues in video conferencing applications. Today, it requires the power of a well-specified PC, but could be employed with a little more processing power improvement, operating at lower resolution on mobile devices. The research project is called i2i, and uses the stereo vision of two side-by-side cameras. This provides sufficient information to determine the distance away from the camera pair for all features on view. It means that a two dimensional image of a face can be turned into a three-dimensional object, which can be rotated to ensure that the apparent gaze line is direct to the camera, and therefore the remote user. This avoids one of the biggest problems of video conferencing visual cues, where the participants look at images on screen, not directly to camera, so eye contact is lost. The relative location of the face is also known. This allows another very valuable visual effect where the background of the image can be pushed out of focus relative to the subject matter, the face of the other person on the call. This makes the person stand out and have more impact, just like they do in reality when your eyes focus on the subject, not the background. The idea can be pushed even further with virtual backgrounds and additional objects, such as 3D icons in the foreground. But some of these ideas make even the animated paperclip helper look sensible. However, it's the simpler fixes that will have most impact: eye contact and background defocusing. Once they're sorted, video conferencing images will have many of the aspects of being there in person. For fixed or perhaps future mobile video calls, it's not the smart use of bandwidth that is holding back usage, it's the smart use of processing power and camera optical effects to bring us closer to reality. Related stories Phone digicams see the light No killer app, but mobile data will boom Brits avoid MMS in droves
Rob Bamforth, 25 Jun 2004

NHS data security shambles

LettersLetters It is not often that we at El Reg find the reality of a situation to be worse than we had guessed. In the case of NHS patient records' security, we think it might be. This week we heard the NHS IT supremo, Richard Granger, neatly sidestep the issue at the Government Computing conference in London. From the correspondence we've received from you, our beloved readers, we can see why he didn't really want to get into it: Hi there, I just saw your article on medical records, and thought I would share something with you... While your medical records may be safe, there is a lot that can be told about you by the prescriptions you request / have filled. One central London surgery, [Name removed - Ed], has an online form for you to order new prescriptions. Putting aside their ignorance of accessibility issues for now (you have to have flash installed to get from the home page to the prescriptions page), they have bigger problems. Their prescription form sends all of your prescription request data in the clear to a service owned and operated in the USA. This means that they are not bound by the constraints of the data protection act or any other laws that protect medical or other privileged information. No SSL encryption anywhere in this chain. When the information hits this server, an e-mail is generated to the surgery. The e-mail address that this mail comes from is form2mail.robot@scripthost.com. I won't give you the recipient name at this point, to protect the guilty. So we have the following problems: Your prescription request, your date of birth, your doctor's name, and your name are sent across the Internet as an HTTP request Once this is complete, all of this information is again sent over the Internet, un-encrypted, to an e-mail address The company who are providing the form2mail service provide no guarantees that they do not collect this data, and as they are outside the EU, they are not bound by any laws protecting your data. They have not signed a safe-harbour agreement that I can find What's worse is that this surgery will no longer accept requests for repeat prescriptions by telephone. You have to either go in there, or use this VERY insecure service. So how safe is your medical data ? Not very I would say! -- Wayne Pascoe Hi Lucy, As a member of the medical profession within Britain i can safely say that there will be no *meaningful* security of patients medical records either electronically or physically. There are no individuals with the necessary understanding of security within the NHS in order to do so. NHS IT standards were heavily criticised by the Wanless report (April 2002) yet the same people who were masterminding the expensive farce are still in charge, despite some mostly cosmetic changes at the top of the tree/trough. Until such time that NHS management (and civil servants!) are made to be in any way *accountable* for *their* decisions then nothing will ever change. I doubt that any of the staff i/c NHS security will ever have heard of Bruce Schneier or Ross Anderson let alone read their books or papers. As for Kevin Mitnick, well if they knew about him they would change jobs. All joking aside, several of my colleagues and I have approached solicitors to see about methods of blocking the state from putting our medical records onto any form of electronic system connected to the www as we do not wish Korean teenagers to be accessing them. Until such time that the NHS can operate their systems without ,say, catching every new worm that appears in the wild - often more than once (cf recent episode of Royal Hospital for Sick Children @ Yorkhill in Glasgow being paralysed for >10 hours by MS.Blaster approx 9 months after the rest of the world) then it seems a bit of a tall order to expect them to take any reasonable care of the electronic data that they look after. It is important also to remember that the majority of facilities are still recording notes in written form and where there is also electronic data entry then these systems run concurrently as the legal system still relies on contemporaneous, written records for court cases as these at least contain a tiny modicum of authentication in terms of handwriting, physical signature, dates and times written in ink, etc. The awful truth at the root of all the NHS IT problems is that apart from the very visible appointments to the very top of the tree of vibrant , dynamic characters with a proven (good) track record in industry the rest of the IT structure (and NHS management structure) is made up of people who if they were competent enough to work elsewhere would be by now. Yours sincerely Mike Only last week, security issues concerning the NHS were highlighted when you featured a story involving the theft of nine PCs from s hospital in Shrewsbury. Whilst I applaud the NHS for finally updating its quasi-Victorian records systems, it is glaringly obvious that this organisation must stop burying its head in the sand and address concerns regarding the security of patient information. Studies continue to point to the password as an inadequate form of protection from security breaches. Simply put, the password is the digital equivalent of a combination lock, easily guessed, frequently stolen and cracked without too much effort by hackers using freely available tools. A simple solution is the two- factor authentication approach - something you know and something you have, which can dramatically improve the security of information by requiring proof of identity before being granted access to protected resources. With the high sensitivity of data held on file by the NHS, Richard Granger's limp explanation for the lack of security measures in place to protect the new IT infrastructure and his unwillingness to take affirmative action becomes ever more apparent. A strong user authentication such as RSA SecurID would provide peace of mind that the personal details and identities of citizens does not fall into the wrong hands. Tim Pickard RSA Security Not that you are at all biased there, eh Tim? Did anyone think our medical records were safe already?? I recently did a small amount of work for a local GP surgery - a very new & modern practice in Milton Keynes. I had a password and access to the system in order to check arrivals at the Reception desk. That's all I needed to do - I had no need, and certainly no right, to access any other records. So I was more than a little shocked to discover that merely having access to the system gave me unfettered viewing of the full details of everyone's medical record in the Practice. Our manager brought it to their attention, but I don't believe anything was done. Frankly I'm not sure I'd trust the NHS to computerise my *cat's* medical records. Regards Caroline We'd love to hear from anyone inside the NHS who wants to explain what is being done to protect our information - something must be happening, after all. Drop us a line here. This week also brought news that Lockheed Martin, defense contractors extraordinaire, will be building Javelin missiles in Basildon. Oh dear, we laughed to ourselves. Basildon residents take cover, we joked, before your cars are inadvertently destroyed by friendly fire. More practical applications for the weapon flooded in: Howdy, I think you missed this one a bit. Javelin is one of those fire and forget weapons. You point the system at the target, You put the little pipper on the target, select the target, launch the missile and disappear. This is not a cheap system like an RPG which is Line-of Sight with a range of 400 meters and unguided (really a bazooka). Javelin is all-weather, day-night, and good out to a few kilometers. The scenario is really more like taking out an armored car (bank pick-ups) at night several blocks away. The missile also locks onto the target so that if there are no objects in the way then the missile maneuvers to hit it. Unfortunately, if the missile warhead were to hit the cargo part of the truck then most of the cash will be a bit blown about. How do you justify something this expensive? If a $100,000 US missile takes out a $1,000,000 tank (M-1A2, Challenger, Leopard II, T-80, etc) on the first shot then it looks just fine. Using one of these on just any car would be a waste, but that Rolls-Royce would make it a fair deal. In Veritas, JH Appel Lester, A friend of mine used to live in Basildon and having visited him several times there I can only say that there were times that I wished I had a Javelin handy. The accompanying link shows the effect of a Javelin against a fully fuelled and loaded T-72 - imagine what it could do to a chavved-up Nova whose stereo seems incapable of playing at anything less than 120dB... Mike Plunkett Ok, maybe I'm being pedantic but Javelin is the "Son of Stinger", not of Patriot. Patriot is a huge radar and turret system that takes forever to set up. Stinger/Javelin is a shoulder launched missile, like a 21st Century Bazooka.Fire it, then throw away the launcher tube. Secondly, Basildon is where they will make the control electronics. No missiles, no test firing, no explosives. Just boring old electronics. Finally, I live and work near Basildon and don't understand why you would want to warn anyone there. The more cars blown up, the cleaner the gene pool will get. Regards, George Garratt Lester says: I think you are being a little pedantic. In my book, if it's made by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, stand well back. Good point about the gene pool, though. Not to be too picky, but the javalin and the patriot aren't even remotely similar, one is anti-air with limited TBMD the other is anti-armor. Yeah, the blue on blue is bad, but if you want to be paranoid, be afraid of our windows based missile cruisers... -- Robert Lindsay Hi Lester This is going to cause no end of trouble for a large number of my ex-colleagues in arms. The Royal Artillery (the drop-shorts to us infanteers) has been using a ground-to-air missile called Javelin for donkeys years. Now the Yanks come along, 20 years late as usual, and start hawking a ground-to-ground peashooter with the same bloody name. Look, spot the difference. They even have the cheek to trademark the name! By the way, I think the Greek Army still uses the long thin pointy MK.I Javelin. Mike Lester, 15 years ago I worked on the Javelin, better known them as AAWS-M (Anti-Armor Weapons System-Medium) while at TI. It's amazing to see how long it takes some weapons to get into production. Twenty years ago I worked on a project called Smart Weapons, which made the news during the Iraq War as JSOW. And the stuff I worked on ten years ago? Well, other than the bunker buster (which went from concept to delivery in 21 days), I still can't talk about it. Name withheld for rather obvious reasons The spam epidemic is now such that innocent computers are being forced to take days off work, it seems. These lazy hunks of silicon garnered no sympathy from our friends across the pond: Greetings from Canada Lester, Humph. Bunch of Wimps. I thought you Brits were made of sterner stuff. You know, stiff upper lip and barn boards for backbones. Oh wait. I either made that last bit up or it's an Americanism. When will the sniveling gutless masses get off their lard asses and install a browser without the weaknesses of Internet Explorer. *I know!! I know!!* When Micro$oft releases SP-5-812-001 for Windows 2094 Pro Edition. Lovely. We're all walking around with brain implants and the sixth generation Bill Gates clone sends us an update. The idea of a Sasser type worm crawling around in my head isn't appealing. Regards, Doug Ratcliffe And finally, a heart-warming letter from a concerned reader. This was prompted by the ongoing fight between mother, son (and anyone who wants to join in) on eBay about that PS2 auction... Heh. I've been doing the internet thing for a long time, and I believe it was somewhere around 1985 when I heard this bit of advice: If a conversation degenerates to the point of critiquing another person's spelling or grammar, then the conversation has lost its value. That said, I must, with mirth, and some sense of the inherent irony, point out that the clue-seller in this case misspelled "night" as "nite". This is atrocious. I do not believe that even Noah Webster butchered the Queen's English to this extent. As well, I would gather from the thrust of their profferred "clue" that they have never been a parent, and/or that they are unaware of the laws regarding corporal punishment using belts and paddles in most states. As well, I wonder if it is really advisable, or legal to threaten the life of one's progeny's as the seller suggests (i.e.: "We brought you in, we can take you out."). I suspect the author of not being a parent, also because I doubt that he put much thought into the true impact of such harsh negative reinforcement as he suggests. As a juvenile enters adolescence, he will be increasingly of the mind to push back the boundaries of his parents authority, and to individuate himself thereby. The best way to help the child is to support his better judgement with love, and his poorer judgement with more love and understanding. The kid's going to leave his parents soon enough anyway. Why not try to give him the confidence which comes only from the love, support, and understanding of one's family, rather than further alienating him by punishment for actions which are not all that atypical in a developing child of his age. I think it is good that the seller of the clue found no buyers, as he clearly needs all the clues he can get. If and when he does find himself in the role of parent, I hope he has by then learned better than to promote the cycle of violence with a belt. (As an aside, I have chosen the masculine pronouns despite the preferred plural - "...to support *their* better judgement..." - because in correct English grammar, such is the correct usage in cases where gender is non-specific, and also because in this case, it is a male child. I suspect it is also a male clue-seller). -caleb P.S. The bit is entertaining throughout, my nitpicking notwithstanding. P.P.S. Now it is for someone else to point out my errors. It is only fitting. ;-) Well, you all know where to send any corrections...®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 2004

Credit card-sized smart phone ships... sort of

Swedish smart phone developer Neonode may have begun shipping its credit card-sized N1 handset, reports on the Web suggest. The highly-anticipated N1 was launched way back in December 2002. The company originally said its phone would ship in May 2004. However, come that date and Neonode was forced to admit that the handset was not "still is in its final phase of development" and consequently not yet available to buyers. At the time, Neonode said it would not give an updated release date, but promised to provide one "in the coming weeks". Just over a month later, and there's still no published date. But a report on the Swedish-language site Mobil.se claims the company has begun shipping units to pre-order customers. However, it appears that the handsets may not be final versions but pre-release units for testing. Neonode will send them a second handset - or possible just a software update - when the N1 is finally released. The N1 is based on Microsoft Windows Mobile for Smartphones, but offers its own user interface, zForce, all running on a 100MHz ARM processor. The GPRS-enabled handset ships with a 64MB SD card, 16MB of which is used for system memory. It's not clear whether the machine uses the card instead of built-in RAM, but that's certainly what the company's web site implies. Generating most interest, however, is the handset's size. At 8.8 x 5.2 x 2.1cm, this one of the smallest smart phones on the market - or, rather, it will be when it ships. Its nearest rival, Orange's SPV C500, comes in at 10.8 x 4.6 x 1.6cm and weighs 100g. The N1 weighs 88g and sports a 176 x 200 16-bit colour display. ® Related stories Orange squashes SPV smartphone Asus shows second MS smartphone PalmOne pledges to boost Treo shipments Symbian doubles sales PDA, smartphone sales rocket in Europe Siemens unwraps 1.3 megapixel camera phone Related reviews Siemens SX1 Nokia 6600 Sony Ericsson P900 PalmOne Treo 600 Nokia 6820 messaging phone
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

Watch out! Incoming mass hack attack

Security experts have expressed serious concern about recently-discovered flaws in Internet Explorer that seem to be the focus of an insidious attack. Many popular websites, including search engines and shopping sites, have been secretly hacked and have had mysterious code placed on their Web servers. When a user running Internet Explorer logs on to a contaminated site, the user's PC is infected with malicious code, which has the potential to cause further problems. The exact nature of the problem is unclear, although experts within many of the world's top e-security firms, as well as the SANS Institute and the US Department of Homeland Security, have acknowledged that something is amiss. Backdoors are opened on infected PCs and key-logging software is also installed, allowing the creators of the code to steal passwords, PIN numbers and credit card details. According to some analysts, the hackers behind the malware are actually loading computers with so-called "adware" or "spamware" software that can push unwanted ads to users or steal personal data for the purpose of spam emailing. Of course there is always the possibility of an enormous Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, once enough computers are converted into zombies. But this is thought to be unlikely. "This is what everyone has been really frightened about for a while now," said Conor Flynn, technical director with Rits Information Security in Dublin. The fear is rooted in the fact that there is no patch from Microsoft for the flaws, nor is there any indication that a patch is on the verge of being released. Though the virus-like infection rate remains low, experts like Flynn say the matter could become a more serious problem unless a fix is released soon. "There is no question that this one could be devastating," he said. The perpetrators could be spammers, one of the few groups to have made money from hacking. They me from Eastern European or Russian-organised crime gangs, as the "high quality" code that infects websites redirects browsers to Russian-based Web servers. For website proprietors, the best defence is to ensure that Web servers are fully patched and guarded against all attacks - particularly those running Internet Information Server (IIS), which seems to be a favourite of attackers due to previously-revealed vulnerabilities. Home users, meanwhile, should shut down options like ActiveX on Internet Explorer, which is a mechanism used by malicious code to upload onto PCs. Or you could always switch to Opera, Safari, Netscape or Mozilla, Internet Explorer's rival browsers. © ENN Related stories When spyware crosses the line Browser-based attacks on the up IE flaw exposes weakness in Yahoo! filtering MS drop authentication technique to foil phishing MS alerts users to Windows DirectX vulnerability
ElectricNews.net, 25 Jun 2004

Saturn's Phoebe 'most like Pluto'

The latest data sent back from the Cassini spacecraft, along with previously-gathered results, have confirmed that the mysterious moon, Phoebe, is a remnant from the early days of our solar system. Astronomers suspected Phoebe was a captured moon, and now they have the proof: composition data sent back by Cassini shows that of all the objects we have studied in the solar system, Phoebe is most similar to Pluto. She matches the composition expected of the objects in the Kuiper Belt, an icy region beyond Neptune, and thought to be the place most comets come from. Indeed, some speculate that Pluto itself is a Kuiper Belt object, not a planet at all. Torrence Johnson, on the Cassini science team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: "This is pretty good evidence that Phoebe was put together in the outer parts of the solar system." So, at more than four billion years old, Phoebe is a battered, but otherwise perfectly-preserved example of the protoplanetary building blocks that eventually combined to form the planets. Speaking to Nature, Johnson explains that the outer solar system would have been chock-full of icy planetesimals like Phoebe. Many of these bodies collected together to form the cores of the gas giants. Most of the others were swept into the outer solar system by the gravitational effects of these new, huge, planets. Phoebe remained behind, dragged into her orbit of Saturn as the planet was swallowing the streams of gas that make up its atmosphere. Despite having taken a heavy battering over the last four billion years, Phoebe is still mostly round with an average diameter of 214 kilometres. The spherical shape is broken up by one especially large crater whose walls are 16 kilometres high. The details of Phoebe's radius, combined with its orbit, reveal the body's composition. It is approximately 50 per cent rock - very like Pluto - and strikingly different from Saturn's other moons, which are around 35 per cent rock. As for the rest of the moon, the data shows frozen carbon dioxide, water ice, hydrocarbons and iron minerals all present on the surface. As well as proving that Phoebe is no asteroid, this shows that chemically at least, Phoebe is very similar to the comets, also Kuiper belt objects. ® Related stories Phoebe's past writ large in craters Mysterious Phoebe: Cassini's next fly-by Cassini images delight star gazers
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 2004

PC maker confirms 775-pin Celeron D

Even as world+dog is today reporting on the arrival of Intel's 90nm Socket 478 Celeron D processors - we covered it three days ago, natch, after spotting the then as-yet-unannounced chips on Intel's price list - it has emerged that the chip giant is preparing Socket T versions of the new CPUs. Confirmation of the 775-pin Celeron Ds comes courtesy of small form-factor barebones PC maker Shuttle. This week, it introduced a Grantsdale-based XPC, the BS81P, as we reported yesterday. Shuttle's spec mentions the new LGA-775 Pentium 4s, which Intel officially launched on 21 June, but it also notes that the BS81P's motherboard will support "Socket 775 Pentium 4 and Celeron 800/533MHz FSB". The specs for Shuttle's other Socket T XPC, the BS83GS, say the same thing. Both machines use Intel's new i915G chipset. According to roadmaps seen in April, a 775-pin 2.8GHz Celeron D - model number 335 - is expected to ship this month. It had been assumed that the part would arrive alongside the Socket 478 versions announced this week, so unless the part is launched next week with the 64-bit 'Nocona' Xeon CPU, it may have been put back until Q3. A 2.93GHz Socket T Celeron D is expected mid-Q3, followed by a 3.06GHz version at the start of Q4. ® Related stories Intel launches 90nm Celerons Intel to launch 3.6GHz P4 in June Intel ships mobile Prescott P4s Intel to ship 1.8GHz Centrino as Pentium M 545 Intel confirms Pentium model numbers Shuttle shows Socket T SFF PCs
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

IBM settles 'poisoned' workers' cancer claims

IBM has settled a lawsuit brought by former employees, who say they developed cancer from working in the company's disk drive plant in San Jose. The terms of the settlement have not been made public. According to the suit, exposure to toxic chemicals caused the workers to develop various cancers. The settlement follows a separate case last year brought by two former IBM staffers. This accused IBM of knowing that its workers were exposed to toxic chemicals, but doing nothing to inform them of the risk. The workers lost the case after a four-month jury trial. Although these latest cases have now been dismissed, IBM is still facing similar court actions in New York, Minnesota and elsewhere. The cases are being followed closely by the semiconductor industry, whose health and safety practices have been highlighted by the lawsuits. ® Related stories IBM not guilty of knowingly poisoning workers IBM poisoning workers case goes to trial IBM accused of poisoning workers
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 2004

National Grid bids for 3,500 phone masts

National Grid Transco (NGT) - which owns and operates gas and electricity networks in the UK - has confirmed it is in discussions to buy 3,500 mobile phone and broadcasting masts from US outfit Crown Castle. NGT already has a network of some 1,400 masts. Customers include O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone and 3. According to the FT, Crown Castle's UK mast business is valued at £1.2bn ($2bn). A deal could be secured as early as next week. In the UK, Crown Castle's history lies with the BBC Home Service Transmission Division, privatised in 1997. It owns more than 2,500 sites and has access to more than 4,000 rooftop sites. Providing shared communications infrastructure and network services to telecoms operators and broadcasters, Crown Castle has access to more than 6,500 independent wireless communication sites throughout the UK. ® Related stories How to hide a phone mast Wireless lamp posts take over world! Church gives blessing for phone masts Mobile phone masts have low emissions
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 2004

Next-gen PalmOne Treo details show up on Web

Details of PalmOne's next Treo smart phone, said to be codenamed 'Ace', have emerged courtesy of a crafty photo of a company presentation slide. The next-generation device will provide Treo users with their most-requested feature, Bluetooth. It also ups the screen resolution from today's 160 x 160 to 320 x 320, the standard on high-end Palm OS-based PDAs. The screen will be a 16-bit job. The blurry photo hints at a new, slightly curved keypad, along with new phone-style green and red, dial and hang-up buttons. It is unclear which version of the Palm OS the new Treo will run, but it will ship with "standard Palm OS 5.x productivity tools". This suggests it will run Garnet, PalmSource's upcoming Palm OS 5-derived smart phone operating system. PalmOne will also bundle GoodLink 2.0 and PCS Business Connection, the better to tie the handheld into corporate email systems. Ace will contain 32MB of RAM and is driven by a "312MHz ARM processor". The speed suggests an Intel XScale PXA270. Like today's Treo 600, the new machine will feature a digicam, almost certainly of higher resolution than today's VGA model. The slide notes its digital zoom and video capture facilities, which suggests that Ace may use PalmOne's new media capture and playback software, which debut earlier this year with the Zire 72. PalmOne executives have already said they plan to unify their software offerings across all three device lines. Indeed, Ace is said to offer an enhanced browser, which may signal the end of the Handspring-developed Blazer, dropped in favour of PalmOne's WebPro. Whichever of the two it is, it will offer better frame handling, upload support and an integrated download manager. Ace is said to be scheduled for an autumn 2004 ship date. While the image may be considered by some a fake, website Treo Central claims to have confirmed much of what the slide reveals through its own sources. ® Related stories Sony, PalmOne and the death of the PDA? PalmOne posts Q4 profit PalmOne blinds Treo smartphone for Sprint PalmSource looks beyond the phone to tablets, players and tools Intel launches Bulverde, Marathon Related reviews PalmOne Zire 72 PalmOne Treo 600 Siemens SX1 Nokia 6600
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

Amazon axes 20 UK jobs, claim insiders

In briefIn brief Amazon.co.uk is axeing its Web development team in the UK with loss of some 20 jobs. According to insiders, the redundancies will be compulsory. A couple of those facing the chop have been offered jobs in the US. At this stage, it's not known if the job losses are isolated or part of some wider scale restructuring. Amazon.co.uk PR manager Rachel Silk repeatedly refused to confirm or deny that jobs had been cut. She also refused to confirm or deny whether the job losses were part of a wider restructuring plan. She told The Register: "I can't comment on internal organisational matters." ® Related stories Amazon search engine fingers G-Spot Amazon turns camcorder on shaven nudists Amazon faces tribunal over trade union sacking Comedian lifts lid on working for Amazon.com
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 2004

PalmSource narrows Q4 loss

PalmSource saw its loss narrow a little during its fourth fiscal quarter on the back on a comparably small rise in quarterly revenues. The Palm OS developer reported Q4 2004 revenues of $17.7m, up from $17.3m in the year-ago quarter when it was still part of Palm. It lost $2.9m (23 cents a share) during the quarter, down from the $3.4m (34 cents a share) it lost this time last year. For the year as a whole, PalmSource yielded revenues of $73.1m. (FY 2003: $73.4m). Despite the slight year-on-year dip, PalmSource narrowed its annual loss from $21.8m ($2.18 a share) to $15.2m ($1.40). On a non-GAAP basis, which excludes the cost of the split from PalmOne, among other things, PalmSource saw FY 2004 income of $1.2m (17 cents a share) and a quarterly loss of $600,000 ($0.05). In Q4, PalmSource made $58.7m from the sale of 3.45m shares. Palm OS licensees shipped 1.4 million devices during Q4, 78 per cent of which were handheld devices, 18 per cent were smart phones and four per cent were other devices. During Q4 2003, some 1.5 million Palm-powered handhelds shipped, a decline that's likely to continue going forward, not least because of Palm OS licensee Sony's decision to abandon the PDA market. PalmSource expects Q1 2005 to yield revenues of between $17.1m and $18.9m - a small gain on Q4's total. Losses will narrow to between $2m (14 cents a share) and break-even. ® Related stories Palmsource puts down its mark in the volume smart phone market PalmSource looks beyond the phone to tablets, players and tools Next-gen PalmOne Treo details show up on web PalmOne posts Q4 profit Sony, PalmOne and the death of the PDA? Sony exits global PDA biz PDA, smartphone sales rocket in Europe Smartphone wars over, Symbian and MS both lost?
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

Man charged over Google blackmail attempt

A California man who claimed to have software which automatically clicked on Google cost-per-click ads has been charged with extortion and wiretap fraud. Michael Bradley of Oak Park, California is accused of threatening Google that he would to sell the software to spammers unless the search engine firm paid him $150,000. He was arrested in March and is pleading not guilty to the charges. A successful automatic ad-clicker could cost Google, and its advertisers, millions. But we're not sure why it would be of interest to spammers. The most obvious beneficiaries of artificially-inflated click-throughs would be publishers, such as, err, The Register, which have signed up to Google Adwords. But few would get away with scamming for long. From time to time, Google axes a blogger or two on suspicion that they are manipulating their Adwords response. The company knows how many ads it serves through third party outlets and it has a good handle on what the range of click-through rates should be. Anything out of the ordinary sets alarm bells ringing. ® Related stories BT man coughs to Google share scam Google's Gmail: spook heaven? The economics of spam
Drew Cullen, 25 Jun 2004

ATI breaks revenue record

ATI yesterday said its third quarter had yielded record quarterly revenues, with sales up 38.2 per cent on the Q3 2003 but a less impressive six per cent on Q2 2004. Revenues for the three months to 31 May 2004 totalled $491.5m. That yielded net income of $48.6m (19 cents a share), up just two per cent from Q2's $47.6m but 224 per cent higher than Q3 2003's $12.4m (six cents a share). To be fair to ATI, it had signalled that Q3 would should relatively small gains over Q2 when it announced its second-quarter numbers back in April. What growth there was came from sales increases in all its key sectors: desktop, mobile, handheld and digital TV chips. In line with its bullish plan to grab Nvidia's 60-odd per cent share of the desktop GPU market, ATI touted its revenue growth in this area, but provided no figures to back its claim. However, it did say mobile chip sales were up 50 per cent sequentially and by "almost" 50 per cent over the last nine months. Integrated graphics chip sales grew over 20 per cent during the same period. Gross margins for the quarter rose half a percentage point sequentially to 35.3 per cent. ATI quit the quarter with $508m in the bank. The company bullishly forecasst Q4 revenues to come in between $510m and $550m, representing sequential growth of 3.8-11.9 per cent. Gross margins are expected to hit "the upper half" of the company's 32-35 per cent target range. ® Related stories ATI posts strong Q2 ATI targets Nvidia's 60% desktop chip share ATI unwraps latest GPU technology ATI unveils Axiom ATI Radeon X800 Pro morphs into X800 XT ATI confirms no Shader 3.0 in Radeon X800 ATI launches R420
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

DoCoMo launches tiny Premini phone

NTT DoCoMo has launched its smallest iMode handset, the credit card-sized Premini. The new phone not only beats Orange's SPV C500 for size, but also the as-yet-unreleased Neonode N1, which, thanks to its later-than-anticipated delivery, has now missed its shot at becoming the world's smallest smart phone. Developed by Sony Ericsson, the Premini will go on sale in Japan on 1 July. It measures 9 x 4 x 2cm. That compares to the N1's 8.8 x 5.2 x 2.1cm and the C500's 10.8 x 4.6 x 1.6cm. Premini clearly wins out by volume - 72cm3 to the C500's 79.5cm3 and the N1's 96cm3 - and by weight: 69g to the 88g N1 and 100g C500. The Premini sports a tiny 1.3in 16-bit 128 x 160 display. Its battery is small too, yielding just 110 minutes of talk time or 310 hours standby time. The buttons are raised and rounded to make them easier to use. With a large lanyard attachment at the top, the handset curves backward, presumably to make it easier to hold. DoCoMo didn't announce pricing today, but the handset will be available in two colours: silver and black. ® Related stories Credit card-sized smart phone ships... sort of Orange squashes SPV smartphone Asus shows second MS smartphone PalmOne pledges to boost Treo shipments Symbian doubles sales PDA, smartphone sales rocket in Europe Siemens unwraps 1.3 megapixel camera phone Related reviews Siemens SX1 Nokia 6600 Sony Ericsson P900 PalmOne Treo 600
Tony Smith, 25 Jun 2004

Satellites get smart

American scientists are working on software that will make satellites smart enough to alert people on the ground to interesting, or potentially dangerous phenomena. The technology could be used to sift through data from Mars, for instance, to identify sites where there are signs of water, or on Earth, to spot flooding in rivers. The researchers at the University of Arizona (UA), Arizona State University (ASU) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are developing machine learning and pattern recognition software to teach the satellites to organise the data they send back, so that the most interesting things are returned first. The software is still very much in development stage, but lab tests have been interesting. The Hydrology group at UA ordered some images from NASA's EO-1 satellite, the satellite they are developing the software for, to see if their software worked. According to Felipe Ip, a PhD student on the project, it works very nicely: "We didn't know the Diamantina River was flooding, but when we started running the images through our software, it told us, 'Hey, we've got a flood here.' We were delighted because that's just what it's supposed to do." The flood-detection software compares new and stored pictures of a given region, looking for differences. If things are similar, the satellite does nothing, but if it finds significant difference, it takes more pictures and alerts scientists on the ground. JPL team members are developing similar software that will be able to detect volcanic activity; and the team at ASU are working to find changes in ice fields. The three projects are very Earth-focused right now, but the scientists are convinced the techniques will be useful in robotic exploration of the solar system. The idea is that smart space craft visiting other planets can detect and record interesting events, without external input. The list of potential applications is certainly glamorous. The teams want it to go hunting for volcanic eruptions on Io, cracking ice sheets on Europa, changes in Saturn's rings or the formation of jets on comets. The flood detection software will be loaded onto the EO-1 satellite for further testing in July. The rest might take a little longer. ® Related stories US and EU kiss and make up over Galileo Met Office bags shiny new supercomputer Satellite photos pinpoint 'Atlantis' ESA to probe Earth's magnetic field
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 2004

ICSTIS blames dialler scams for premium rate freeze

Plans to increase maximum premium rate tariffs to £5 a minute have been shelved over concerns that higher charges could lead to even more people being ripped off. Premium rate watchdog ICSTIS said it would not proceed with proposals to offer new £2.50 and £5.00 a minute charges until sufficient safeguards are in place to protect consumers. George Kidd, the director general of ICSTIS, said: "We know high tariffs are particularly attractive to those intent on wrongdoing. We will only move on the trial [of new higher premium rate charges] when we are sure the right safeguards are in place. "The same is true for any tariff increased, including suggestions of £2.00 per minute. It would be irresponsible to raise tariffs at a time when complaints levels are rising, consumer harm is increasing and overall trust in premium rate is under threat." Indeed, ICSTIS warns in its latest bulletin that complaints about Internet-related premium-rate services have rocketed. In particular, it's concerned that Net users are being stung by rogue "dialler software" that disconnects PCs from an ISP before reconnecting them to a premium rate service. Last month, an Internet sex company was fined £10,000 after more than 370 punters complained that it had installed software on their PCs that connected them to a premium-rate phone line. ® Related stories BT's phone network hit by 'illicit access' Regulator fines Net sex firm Text scammers fined £450,000 UK Watchdog bites mobile spam scammers Industry mulls £5-a-minute phone calls
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 2004

US army dips into nanotech research

The US Army research laboratory is funding research into how nanotech can improve defense systems. Fortunately, or unfortunately for those who like their "sci" with less "fi", this won't mean teeny robots swarming our enemies. Not immediately anyway. The goal of the project, funded for the first year to the tune of $2.4m, is to "gain control of structures and devices at atomic and molecular levels and to learn to efficiently manufacture and use these devices", according to Jimmy Davidson, the principal investigator of the program at Vanderbilt Engineering. Initially, the researchers will focus on developing diamond/carbon nanostructures for biological and chemical sensors; developing a new energy-conversion device,; and developing electron emission devices for advanced electronics. "Using carbon as a building block in this promising new area of science is a potentially boundless resource not sufficiently explored in today's research endeavors," Davidson said. Vanderbilt will coordinate the research, headed up by Davidson. Other parties joining the efforts include the University of Kentucky, North Carolina State University, the University of Florida and the International Technology Center. ® Related stories Firm trials cancer-zapping nanobots Nanotech frauds imminent, warns VC SIA wants more money for nano-electronics World safe from nanobot 'grey goo'
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 2004

Russia fines text hack spammer

In briefIn brief A Russian teenager has been fined 3,000 roubles ($103) after being convicted of spamming 15,000 mobile phones. The university student hacked into a mobile phone network before sending a text message, according to an Interfax news agency report by way of Reuters. As well as being fined, the unnamed student, was also slapped with a one-year suspended sentence. Russian officials said this was the first time a spammer had been prosecuted successfully. ® Related stories Italian gov text spams entire country Text scammers fined £450,000 Mobile spam complaints rocket
Tim Richardson, 25 Jun 2004
server room

Outed: Skype project to dial real phone numbers

I just spent nearly ten minutes on the phone to Paris, at a cost of about 10 pence. Using Skype, dialling a Paris landline number, that is. Any Skype user will tell you, you can't do that. You can only dial other Skype users. Well, not any more. OK, so it wasn't that secret: Niklas Zennstrom announced his plans for SkypeOut, which makes this possible, at VON Europe a couple of weeks back. But it wasn't released with much ballyhoo: so it is a surprise to find that if you download the latest version of Skype today, you'll get an extra feature on your screen; beta SkypeOut is there, and it works. This means that mobile users can use Skype from public hotspots to place all their business calls, not just calls to other Skype users. By the way, don't bother using the Skype "check for updates" option; it will tell you you have the latest version. You don't if you don't see the "dial" option on the home screen. Download again! Really, Skype is an Instant Messenger - like MSN and AIM and YM - but instead of doing typewritten chat with voice as an optional extra, it does voice as its main function. At a point in history when Yahoo! appears to be throwing the plot away by abandoning its YM for corporate customers, Skype has expanded its offering. The new feature couldn't be simpler: you give Skype money, and they connect you to phone numbers. All you need is a broadband connection, and a headset. The file has been uploaded, and deployed on the web servers. The new "dial" feature is definitely still a beta product. The second number you dial doesn't over-write the first. You can edit the number on the screen if it is wrong, but the phone won't dial the new number, it just carries on with the old one. And there's no sign of working caller ID; which seems to mean that you can't call a Skype user from the phone network yet. The price list is up on the Web. "Like the Skype software itself, the SkypeOut service is currently in a beta testing phase," warns the company. "So please be patient if you notice irregularities or inconsistencies with the SkypeOut service, voice quality, and this webstore — which may occasionally be inaccessible." However, they add - with a sense of knowing what matters -"be assured that all credit card transactions are 100% secure, authorized and handled by our third party payment partner." Feel free to call me as gkewney on Skype to report any interesting features. Oh, and don't use SkypeOut to phone the police - it won't work... All you need is the free download from Skype.com and a working headset with microphone like this Logitech, for example, or the Emkay and you're online. Even from the nearest Broadreach hotspot or from Starbucks. Over wireless. Of course, SIP phone users will say that you don't need to do this; but the fact is that setting up a SIP service like Gossiptel or Stanaphone is frequently fraught with opportunities to screw up. Stanaphone does provide an excellent starter service of 200 free phone calls to American numbers; but it is also entirely dependent on Stanaphone's gateway being in good working order. Often, it's down (it's a new service) and having a Skype client ready to run on your notebook can get you out of trouble. Copyright © Newswireless.net Related stories SIP pundit fires broadside at Skype VoIP suffers identity crisis Telecom future to look a lot like the past - study US groups lobby over VoIP regulation
Guy Kewney, 25 Jun 2004

Hitachi and NEC look to network Japan

Two of Japan's IT heavyweights - Hitachi and NEC - plan to give Cisco a run for its money in Asia, as the companies today announced a joint venture to sell networking gear. The new company will not actually take shape until October at which time it will receive a name and start business with 350 employees and $51.3m in funding. Hitachi will own 60 per cent of the company with NEC taking the rest. The networking company will start out focusing entirely on the Japanese IT market where Hitachi and NEC hope it can place some pressure on the likes of Cisco and Juniper. Over time, the new venture will expand to China, South Korea and other parts of Asia as well. The networking firm is expected to pull in $372m for its first fiscal year beginning in April 2005. During a conference in Japan, Hitachi and NEC refused to reveal exactly what types of products will roll out first from the new company, according to various media reports. The two companies, however, said they hoped to have gear on the market by March and that they will cover the mid-range and high-end router and switch markets. The venture will likely have a tough time convincing users to move away from Cisco and Juniper, given their incredibly strong market position. But Hitachi and NEC appear confident that they can role out quality gear and do so at a quicker clip than rivals. ® Related stories Nortel stock rallies on talk of Cisco bid Lucent trade secret suspect goes on the run US groups lobby over VoIP regulation
Ashlee Vance, 25 Jun 2004

Wi-Fi is big hit for Tae Kwon Do

Boffins at Stanford are taking Wi-Fi to Tae Kwon Do, with a system to measure the force of the blows opponents land on each other. Wireless sensors are implanted in the fighting gear worn by compeititors. According to BBC Online, the sensors work by converting the force from a punch or kick into an electrical signal. This data is used to work out if a blow was hard enough and accurate enough to count as a point. The team at Stanford is not suggesting replacing the judges who, by tradition, would make the call. Dr Ed Chi told BBC Online that the technology could act as an additional judge, and one without any preconceptions. "Currently there is an inherent bias against punches as a scoring implement as most judges do not believe that punches deliver the same amount of force as a kick. With our system, we are able to establish how much force the punch was able to deliver." In the event of a split decision, relying on the sensors would be highly controversial, he said. Tae Kwon Do originated in Korea, supposedly more than 2000 years ago. It is now officially practised in 120 countries, by more than 20 million people. ® Related stories: Student digs get wired for broadband World warms to municipal Wi-Fi Cisco sued in Wi-Fi patent clash
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jun 2004

Sun slams Red Hat

Sun has launched an all out offensive today against Red Hat Linux, putting Solaris x86 at the tip of its bayonet. "We are a big supporter of the open source movement and have been forever," said Larry Singer, SVP of global market strategies at Sun, in an interview. "We think Linux is a huge movement that is pretty good for the industry and that for some implementations Linux makes sense. We also think there are a lot of people that consider Red Hat for the wrong reasons." That was one of the more polite things Singer had to say about Red Hat - his comments coming as part of a thwart-Linux push by Sun. Singer spent much of Friday on the phone with journalists, saying that Red Hat costs more than people think, is not as well suited for enterprise tasks as Red Hat claims and is largely inferior to Sun's Solaris 10 operating system for x86 systems. Shocking? Hardly. On July 13, Sun will roll out a new Opteron-based workstation code-named Metropolis. A short while later, Sun will also roll out a 4-way Opteron server - the V40z. These two new boxes along with Sun's existing V20z 2-way server were all designed by Newisys. Sun plans to roll out in-house designed gear that is said, by many industry insiders, to be nothing less than fantastic later this year. The sum total of all this is that Sun will, for the first time, have serious hardware for running Solaris x86 and, in particular, Solaris 10. And nothing could be more key to Sun's future than having a thriving Solaris franchise on x86 machines, since no other major vendor has a competing version of Unix on these systems. Sun is arguing that the industry as a whole got caught up in the Linux hype, which has started to die down, Singer said. Sun insists that the revenue from Lintel boxes comes from the hardware itself. But Red Hat is forcing customers to buy pricey services contracts along with its OS, "which makes Red Hat more expensive than Solaris," according to Singer. And Sun's close Linux partner SuSE is not immune from criticism either. "The reason we are not going after SuSE is because they are not as strong in the US," Singer said. "They are just not there. SuSE has not become as arrogant with the market because they do not have the dominance that Red Hat has had." But, if SuSE were a major player in the US, Sun would be happy to launch a Friday attack against it as well. So while Sun sells both Red Hat and SuSE on its servers, the company insists that Solairs is the better buy. Solaris, says Sun, is a more mature operating system with the better security and stability. In addition, with Solaris 10, customers will be able to run Linux applications natively on the OS. And beyond all that, Solaris 10 has some eye-watering features which we have talked about at length in the past. The obvious take up from all this being that Sun would prefer a Solaris sales over a Linux sale any day. Same old, same old, right? Well, there is a change under way. In the old days, Sun concentrated most of its venom on Microsoft and spewed but a wee bit out on Linux. These days it looks like Linux is the prime target. ® Related stories Fujitsu unleashes 90nm SPARC64 SCO trumps Sun's open source Solaris bid Sun gets liquored up on own code Sun goes back to the future with Metropolis Sun and Fujitsu to SPARC together
Ashlee Vance, 25 Jun 2004

Intel recalls faulty Grantsdale chipsets

Just as Intel gets set to push out the new Xeon Extender, the company is issuing a recall for its Pentium 4 Express 915 and 925 chipsets. Intel's PR staffers issued a notice today saying the company will have "enterprise" news next week. This is a barely coded way of saying Nocona - the x86-64-bit Xeon - will arrive as planned, likely at 3.6GHz. And so the war with AMD's Opteron processor begins. Away from this excitement, Intel outed itself on the Grantsdale chipset front, saying a bad controller has affected a few thousand motherboard shipments. The problem specifically harms the ICH6 (Integrated Controller Hub 6) and can cause systems to lock up or not to boot. Intel launched the product this week. Intel believes it told manufacturers of the problem before any troubled systems were able to reach end users. New boards free of the defect have started shipping, and Intel will replace any faulty gear at no charge. ® Related stories Intel Wi-Fi module trims Centrino prices Intel i915P, G and i925X chipsets Intel EOLs 3.06GHz Pentium 4 Intel 'delays' Centrino 2 chipset
Ashlee Vance, 25 Jun 2004

Egenera and its amazing technicolor IPO

Blade server vendor Egenera, the darling of the financial services community, filed today for an IPO and in so doing revealed some extraordinary financial details. For years, Egenera has been praised by financial services companies as the answer for high performance computing in tight spaces. The company was founded in 2000 by former Goldman Sachs CTO Vern Brownwell, and the executive clearly knew exactly what financial firms desired in their data centers. Egenera's success has paved the way for what it hopes will be a $125m IPO in which the company will trade on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol EGEN. But all is not perfect with Egenera's IPO hopes, as the company acknowledges. First off, three of Egenera's largest customers - Credit Suisse First Boston, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase - are underwriting its IPO. As it turns out, two of these companies - Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs - along with another financial services company - Lehman Brothers - accounted for a stunning 89 per cent of Egenera's revenue in 2002. One year later, Egenera managed to add AOL to its customer list, but even then AOL, along with JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, accounted for 64 per cent of the company's revenue. Did things get better in 2004? Not really. Through the first three months of this year, Credit Suisse First Boston, AOL and JP Morgan accounted for 70 per cent of total revenue. Egenera was not shy about what this means to investors. "Because these firms are also some of our most significant customers, and because investment funds affiliated with Credit Suisse First Boston LLC and Goldman, Sachs & Co. are selling stockholders in this offering and will continue to be stockholders after the closing of the offering, it could be perceived that they have conflicts of interest and that, in fulfilling their underwriting responsibilities, their decisions and judgments might be influenced by the potential impact of such decisions and judgments on their other relationships with us," the company said in its SEC filing. Egenera added that its largest customers likely receive significant price breaks, which might not be in the average investors' best interests. A cynic might suggest that a well connected executive at Goldman Sachs decided to form a company, pulled some strings to get investment from his buddies and now hopes to profit big from the IPO. An even bigger cynic would suggest the financial services community created a server vendor out of thin air in an almost IPO-on-demand fashion. Egenera stresses that future success will depend on it being able to expand its customer base, which is a no brainer. But the recent trend from 2003 to 2004 shows it has actually become more dependent on its investors. Egenera is also not the healthiest company around. It posted a $37.1m loss in 2003 on sales of $41.2m. Still, the company secured another $30m in funding last year - it has secured $124m since 2000. Egenera followed just behind RLX as the first entrants in the blade server market. Both companies have managed to keep breathing despite heavy pressure from IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. ® Related stories RLX tempts yet another investor Egenera's blades are blooming HP launches 4-way ProLiant blade servers
Ashlee Vance, 25 Jun 2004