16th > July > 2004 Archive


Welsh distie Redstar goes titsup

Welsh components distie Redstar Marketing has gone titsup. A terse message on the firm's website states that it has ceased trading. Redstar went into administration on 9 July with the immediate loss of 12 jobs. Four workers have been kept on short-term by administrators PKF. Keith Morgan of PKF told El Reg the decision for Redstar to go into administration was made in response to winding-up petitions from creditors. Morgan is still investigating the causes behind the failure of the business. He said PKF had already received offers for Redstar's props and stock and that it would welcome further bids. PKF plans to convene a creditors meeting later this month when the fate of Redstar will become clearer. A former staffer said he was pessimistic about receiving wages owed to him, much less Redstar attracting a buyer that would be able to re-hire staff and put the business back on its feet. Last June Redstar was obliged to help Berkshire Trading Standards with its inquiries after inadvertently distributing a batch of counterfeit Micron and Hynix components. Redstar called for clearer guidance from manufacturers on how to spot counterfeit memory, but Hynix said that spotting fake memory deals was not as difficult as Redstar claimed. There's no suggestion that there was any criminal intent to Redstar's actions in distributing the fake memory. ® Related Stories How do you tell fake memory from the real deal? Hynix re-marked chips sourced to Rombyte, First Choice Trading Standards raids Rombyte Rombyte admits flogging counterfeit memory
John Leyden, 16 Jul 2004

RIAA praises 'magnificent' P2P

An open letter to the Senate from Recording Industry Association of America chief Mitch Bainwol praises peer-to-peer technology as "magnificent". But this isn't a change of heart: the RIAA is rallying support behind Orrin Hatch's INDUCE Act. Bainwol paints critics of the bill - which makes manufacturers of devices such as the iPod liable for infringing uses - as the real Luddites. "Ironically, these P2P operators who hide behind the protective cover of 'technology' resist deploying existing technological answers to solve this problem. They resist modernization because it undercuts their business model," he claims. "There is nothing inherently evil about P2P," writes Bainwol. "On the contrary, it's a magnificent technology. But it has been hijacked by some unscrupulous operators who have constructed a business model predicated on the taking of property financed by my member companies." Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket Bainwol uses some selective statistics to show how badly the industry is hurting. With overall sales dipping only slightly in line with the economic downturn, and with CD sales now on the rebound, this is a challenge. So Bainwol uses a declining sector of the market to illustrate his point. "In 2000, the top ten hits sold 60 million units in the U.S. Seven of the ten sold more than 5 million units each; every one of them sold at least 3 million units. Then the slide kicked in. Last year, in 2003, the top ten hits were cut almost in half, to 33 million units. Just two of the ten sold more than 5 million units; five of those top ten hits sold less than 3 million units," he reckons. The industry's logic is based on it being a hit machine, then subsidizing other acts on this using these proceeds. But a critic might point out that if the fortune generated by hits is down so significantly - and sales are holding up - then what Bainwol claims to be his industry's basic business model is flawed. Either that, or else he doesn't know how the business he represents really works, which is unlikely. Or that he knows and isn't telling the truth. Bainwol thinks the notion that P2P drives sales to "flying pigs". But the jury is out on this one, as the evidence is far from conclusive. "If we don't value intellectual property," he concludes, "we are compromising our country's economic future and the foundation of property rights that underlies our great capitalist system," he writes. Stirring stuff: and US-based readers may want to write a nice letter to their Senators pointing out the contradictions in his argument.® Related stories Hatch's Induce Act comes under fire Consumer groups rally against Hatch's Induce Act Dirty rotten inducers - the law the IT world deserves?
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Jul 2004

NEC declares Teraflopian war

Dr Takemitsu Kunio, head of NEC's research and development in Tokyo, said the company would "never give up" in the battle for supercomputer supremacy. Speaking at a press conference, marking the 10th anniversary of the company's research labs in Bonn, Kunio dismissed suggestions that IBM would soon knock NEC from the top of the supercomputer charts. But he acknowledged that NEC, IBM and some others are in a running battle. Company executives hinted strongly that NEC will soon announce the successor to its current SX-6 model. "If you came to speak to us about buying a supercomputer, we'd probably be talking about some number other than six," a company spokesman told the assembled press. Improving supercomputer performance is one of the main areas of research in Bonn. Dr Guy Lonsdale heads a team working on its Message Passing (MPI-2) programming interface for NEC supercomputers. "If you take nothing else away today, remember this: MPI is what makes a parallel computer work," he said. He explained that MPI is the interface layer that allows application programmes to be divided sensibly among the computer's massive array of parallel processors. In the case of Japan's Earth Simulator, currently the fastest peak perfoming super computer in the world, the MPI is the reason the Earth Simulator's real world processing power is around 50 per cent of its peak rate, as opposed the the 10 or 15 per cent achieved by other computers, Lonsdale says. IBM currently holds the record for the most powerful supercomputer in Europe installed at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. The machine, based on IBM's eServer p690 systems, is capable of a maximum performance of 8.9 teraflops. ® Related stories Met Office bags shiny new supercomputer IBM overtakes HP in top of the teraflops Supercomputer accelerates car design at GM
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Jul 2004

Nokia warning send shares falling

Nokia yesterday warned that earnings will continue to decline in 2004, sending the company's stock sharply lower. The mobile phone maker said that earnings per share will be between €0.08 and €0.10 in the third quarter, substantially below last year's €0.17 figure and well behind expectations of around €0.14. It also said that sales in the three-month period would be lower than last year's €6.87bn in third quarter revenues. The warning, Nokia's third in three months, came alongside the company's second quarter results. During the period, the firm had net income of €712 million, or €0.15 a share, from €624m, or €0.13, a year earlier, when one-time costs shaved about €0.06 off its per share figures. Earnings were in line with a previously announced profit warning, but were well behind expectations. The company also posted a one-time gain of €0.03 from an asset sale. Q2 revenues declined by about five per cent to €6.64bn. Despite the fall, the figure was one of the few bright spots in a set of results that also showed weaker margins, since turnover was ahead of the average forecast. "Nokia's sales benefited from the positive developments especially in emerging markets, but Europe and to a lesser extent the US remained challenging," said Jorma Ollila, chairman and CEO. "During the second quarter, we employed pricing selectively with certain products to stabilise our mobile device market share. This pricing strategy along with our market mix also impacted sales and operating margins in the second quarter." Ollila said the company's mobile device sales hit 45.4 million units during the second quarter. But this represents market share of just 31 per cent, compared with 32 per cent based on the company's revised total market volume estimate of 141 million units in the first quarter of 2004. Analysts viewed the results as more evidence that Nokia rivals such as Motorola and Sony Ericsson are stealing market share, following Nokia's failure to introduce enough of the kinds of devices that have proven successful for other players - mid-priced camera phones and clamshell-style handsets. Its efforts to stem its market share losses have included a revamped product line-up and price cuts, which have had a clear impact on the company's bottom line. Nokia noted that the global mobile device market continued to grow during the second quarter 2004, reaching 148 million units. It expects shipments to surpass 600 million units for the full year 2004. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 16 Jul 2004

Show me the way to go (for e-biz advice)

Small businesses aren’t fully embracing the technology that could help them run more efficiently because they don’t know how to use it or where to go for help. An annual survey of over 4,000 businesses in London by Business Link for London, revealed that businesses as a whole are increasingly incorporating technology into their everyday operations, but small businesses are lagging behind. While three-quarters of the businesses interviewed reported that they use e-business technologies, 27 per cent said they lacked the relevant skills to fully exploit IT. Most of these were small, micro businesses with fewer than five employees. A lack of resources and staff with specialist IT knowledge played a part in the slow uptake of technology. But most owners said the main thing holding them back was not knowing where to go for help. Only one in five owners had used any source of e-business advice, despite almost half citing that such support would be beneficial to their business. One third had no idea where to go for IT advice. The need for greater help with e-business was a concern for businesses of all sizes, despite a dramatic increase over the past 12 months of the number of companies starting to use technology and switching to broadband internet connection. The survey looked at the use of all forms of e-business technology from stand-alone accounting or stock management software to fully-integrated technologies where a business’s full production cycle is computerised and online procurement levels for public sector contracts. Judith Rutherford, chief executive of Business Link for London, said it was key that businesses of all sizes continue to be encouraged to utilise e-business into their operations and that the support for that to happen is made readily available. To ensure that this happens, Business Link for London, which worked with approximately 85,000 companies last year, will look to strengthen its brand and reach over the next 12 months, Rutherford said. While the research covered only the London area, it is thought Business Link will adapt a similar strategy nationwide. “The results from the e-business survey demonstrate the important part e-business technologies are now playing in the marketplace and to that end, there is a rising premium placed on e-business skills,” said Rutherford. “It is clear that London businesses are missing out by not seeking independent advice to enhance their knowledge of ebusiness technologies. Access to appropriate IT skills can help organisations maximise their use of technologies, which will impact on the bottom line.” The survey also revealed that while more businesses had taken notice of the growing threat of viruses and other IT attacks, one in five businesses still weren’t updating their virus protection software. Again, the majority of this 20 per cent were small businesses. For more information on how Business Link can help your business, visit www.businesslink.gov.uk. Copyright © 2004, Related stories UK small.biz rejects outsourcing Small.biz must embrace new technology Viruses and spam hit small firms harder
Startups.co.uk, 16 Jul 2004

Charges against Amsterdam 419ers dismissed

The Dutch Department of Justice yesterday suffered bitter defeat in a court case against thirteen West African men, who allegedly sent thousands of 419 or advance fraud fee letters through the Amsterdam cable network of UPC. The court ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to link the suspects individually to the scams. Earlier this year Dutch police arrested 52 Nigerian email scammers at 23 locations in Amsterdam in what was believed to be the biggest raid of its kind. Police confiscated several PCs, mobile phones, false documents and € 50,000 in cash, as well as illegal cable modems provided by a UPC employee who is still at large. The Dutch fraud squad believed the criminals sent more than 100,000 messages to victims in Japan and the USA, offering them vast profits in return for their help in a dubious business scheme. Some of the suspects were deported immediately by the Dutch alien registration department, while others were kept detained. Altough Dutch police was able to confiscate several cable modems, mobile phones, PCs with spamming software and an ironing board with a list of names of fake companies and directors, none of the suspects were caught red-handed. And not a single PC was switched on when the police searched their houses. The fact that people were present in these buildings, the court ruled, was insufficient for a conviction. The Department of Justice has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling. Last year, Dutch prosecutors had more success when the courts sentenced six Nigerian scammers to between 301 days and 4.5 years for email fraud. The evidence in this case provided enough support for a conviction: police had tapped their phones. Related stories 419 'bankers' back in business 419 scam 'bank' bites the dust Anatomy of a 419 scam Cableco 'inside job' aided Dutch 419ers Cableco 'inside job' aided Dutch 419ers
Jan Libbenga, 16 Jul 2004

eBay to explore music downloads

eBay is to offer a trial digital music download service, allowing third-parties to piggy-back their own music offerings through its web site and payment system. The pilot programme will last six months, and begin when eBay has chosen a number of music-provider partners. It's presumably hoping they will come and offer their services. Any company that does must be able to show it can offer suitable copyright protection, is authorised to sell the content it proposes to offer and can meet whatever service-level standard eBay sets. There's an opportunity here for smaller labels to leverage eBay's customer base, many of whom do look to the site for cheap, second-hand CD and DVD bargains. In this case, however, buyers will not be allowed to re-sell songs on eBay. Despite the strength of eBay's online brand, it seems unlikely to pose much of a threat to Apple, Sony, Virgin or even Napster. Consumers are far more likely to turn to a service that they associate with music rather than auctions. ® Related stories Judge will not dismiss 'Napster investor' suit Intel, MS and co. to tout copy-friendly DRM tech Sony turns to video to boost music service UK military bans iPods - some places Apple 'close' to accord with indie labels The CD roars back from the dead
Tony Smith, 16 Jul 2004

MSN buys Lookout for Outlook

In briefIn brief Microsoft has bought a search firm called Lookout, for an undisclosed sum. Lookout specialises in search for Outlook, and Microsoft is to incorporate the technology into its MSN business. MSN is gunning for much bigger search revenues and claims a $100m investment on search. This month it revamped its search website, clearing the clutter, to present a stripped-down Google-esque experience. Later this year it is to replace the search technology, currently supplied by Yahoo!-owned Inktomi, with its own inhouse effort. This will probably incorporate desktop search - hence the Lookout purchase - as well as Internet search. ® Related stories Google and Yahoo! go shopping MSN search guru 'stole AltaVista code' MSN makes its move on search
Drew Cullen, 16 Jul 2004

Bagle copycat builds Zombie attack network

Virus writers have released a new version of the Bagle worm, on the back of the source code released into the wild earlier this month. Bagle-AF (AKA Bagle-AB or the 'Apprentice' worm) is spreading quickly across the Net, following its release yesterday. Most anti-virus firms rate it as medium risk. The new Bagle worm was made using source code which came with the payload of the Bagle-AA (confusingly, some firms refer to this as Bagle-AE) worm earlier this month. Including the source code in a virus is like adding DIY instructions for apprentice hackers, since it makes it easier for the less-skilled to make many more versions of new viruses. Bagle-AF opens a path for intruders to relay bulk email messages through infected PCs. The worm tries to contact one of 141 compromised German websites to let its creators know which PCs it has infected. The worm leaves open a backdoor on compromise computers, which can then be used to spread spam or as zombie drones in DDoS attack networks. The latest variant of Bagle is little different from its predecessors. Like the other it normally arrives in email as an attached file. It can also spread over P2P networks.The worm can arrive in the form of a password-protected .ZIP file, with the password included in the message body of an infected email or within an attached image. Earlier versions of Bagle used the same trick. On infection, the worm begins emailing out copies of itself to any email addresses it finds on compromised PCs. Bagle-AF also tries to stop a range of security applications from running, along with any copies of NetSky it finds (continuing a long-running spat). Standard defence precautions apply against virus attacks from all versions of the worm: users should update their AV signature definition files to detect the virus and resist the temptation to open suspicious looking emails. ® Related stories Bagle source code unleashed Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam Virus writers in malicious code hide-and-seek War of the worms turns into war of words (NetSky vs Bagle)
John Leyden, 16 Jul 2004

Moody's junk-rates EDS debt

Moody's cut EDS's debt rating to junk bond status yesterday, which means the computer services firm's cost of borrowing has just gotten higher. Also, it may find it that much harder to win mega-outsourcing deals, as customers want to see a completely pukka balance sheet, if they are to commit their IT to another business. Moody's reduced the rating of EDS's unsecured notes - about $4bn - from Baa3, to to Ba1 i.e. from the lowest investment grade to the top junk grade. It cited the slow pace of turnaround and low levels of free cash flow for its decision. EDS has fired off a quick counterblast. In a statement yesterday, the firm said: "We have taken a series of aggressive steps to support our investment-grade rating. Given our progress and sound financial footing, we are in strong disagreement with Moody's decision. EDS has significantly reinforced its financial foundation, improved its competitiveness and fully expects to meet its guidance on second quarter 2004 results." Its full response to Moody's downgrade is here. ® Related stories NHS squares EDS over nixed email deal EDS Abbey flagship project in doubt EDS to sell software unit for $2.1bn IBM - EDS: merger report dismissed
Drew Cullen, 16 Jul 2004

Inaccessible, trademark infringing and on the Web

LettersLetters Upset abounds this week. Warner Brothers' attempts to claim ownership of the word 'Shire' certainly stung some of you into action. But we'll get to that once we've had a glimpse into the mind of the technically able cinema goer. Yes, we're talking about Odeon's website: Congratulations for pointing the finger at Odeon Cinemas. I've stopped going to them, even though are the closest cinema to me because I can't navigate their site. I may be in the minority of web users but if they can't be bothered to provide a navigable site I can't be bothered to visit their cinema. I'd complain to them if their site gave me anything other than a backdrop saying Odeon. Mick While I agree with much of the sentiment of your article, I'm not sure you can say that websites "breach the DDA". As far as I understand it, the DDA requires information to be made available in some form accessible to the disabled wherever it is reasonably practical to do so. It does not mean that every medium of communication should be accessible. If the information is available by other disabled-accessible routes (telephone, large print, braille....) then the requirements of the DDA are met even if your website consists entirely of red-on-green flashing morse code. In many cases, having an accessible website is the cheapest route to DDA compliance for the organisation concerned, but it is the organisation that has to comply, not the website... Tim Dixon Silly Odeon. But the real question is, why is the Odeon web site so amazingly BAD? I've tried to use it over the months and it is possibly the worst I've ever seen. I just did a quick recheck of http://www.odeon.co.uk/ and all I can see today is a fuzzy image of the word Odeon on a black background. The page source suggests that they are using broken JavaScript but I don't really care to investigate. What kind of digbats approved this garbage in the first place? Didn't anybody actually think out the purpose of an Odeon web site before hiring a web designer? Here's a clue guys, if I'm looking for the film schedule for an Odeon cinema I'M ALREADY SOLD ON THE IDEA OF WATCHING A MOVIE IN AN ODEON CINEMA. Everything you do to make that more difficult makes it more likely I will go elsewhere! Geoff The "we are constantly upgrading our website" is a load of bolloneys. The Odeon website has been broken for more than 3 years, and fixes provided to Odeon for 2 years. Shameful. Bastien Nocera I'll state the obvious: Odeon is being odious. I hope someone who is "disabled" takes them to task - and to court. Del Please, please, please can we get the contact details for this Luke fellow from Odeon so we can mail him asking him to change the Odeon website. Having said that, the advert screened at Odeon cinemas advertising the website always elicits laughter from somewhere in the audience which I suppose at least allows us Linux users to bond with each other... Neil Too right. I've often wondered if I could sue for how bad the Odeon site is. It's far and away the worst site I use on a regular basis. Julian Birch Instead of embracing in a copyright violation and trademark violation (yes, they are actually two diferent areas of law), the author of the copycat site should have made pressure to Odeon for the site to be legal. A failure to do that in a timely way (acording to the courts), would mean the payment of whatever the courts find ok as a deterrent... Cheers, Luis Ferro Portugal Phew. Now, as promised, back to that story about Warner Brothers and the Shire. Or all the Shires. Yes, all of them. Come on now, hand them over. I was raised in the Shirehampton area of Bristol, the name of which is commonly shortened to `Shire' (pronounced disyllabically as `shiyer' by the locals). The area was settled by the Romans, and has existed as a village for several centuries. A monthly community paper `The Shire' has been published there since 1972. See www.shire.org.uk. Do they now need Warner Bros permission to continue publishing? will adams Excellent coverage of this outrageous attempt to intimidate a domain owner. I think your argument could have been enhanced even further by pointing out some of the other "shire" domain names out there, too. For example, shire.com, owned by Shire Pharmaceuticals Group plc, yokeshire.com, a Boston, MA, rock band, shire-horse.org.uk, belonging to the Shire Horse Society, shirecruisers, a canal boat hire in Yorkshire, shirehotels.co.uk, shiresports.co.uk, shireinn,com, a B&B in Vermont, shire.net, a Utah-based ISP, and shirelrc.com, a Land Rover club. Interestingly shire.org appears to be available. Mark Haas Hi Kieren Thought you might be interested (or inundated!) to know that here in Malawi (Africa), our main source of hydro-electic power comes from the SHIRE River that runs from Lake Malawi to the Zambezi River. I believe it was named by David Livingstone or some such explorer. He certainly travelled it during his explorations and the City of Blantyre (named after Livingstone's birthplace) hosts the Shire Highlands Hotel. I trust that these names are also not under threat from WB. Regards Dave Smith, Blantyre Malawi. I was an active member of the Tolkien Society at the time of the first film, produced by Bakshi, and there were a few problems in those days. Briefly, the Saul Zaentz operation, which has traded as Tolkien Enterprises, is totally different from the Tolkien Estate. However, I have never heard of any troubles arising from the existence of the village of Bag Enderby, in Lincolnshire. Or, for that matter, Wetwang in Yorkshire. I'm not even sure that a trademark on "shire" would stand up under UK law. Dave I have just read your story regarding Warner brothers. As my name also contains the offending word and I have a web site www.brokenshire.me.uk does this mean I am likely to hear from their lawyers especially as I am a fan of Tolkien and have a page on my site dedicated to him. cheers Steve Brokenshire CCNA MBCS Steve, you may have to give up not just your site, but your entire family history, and possibly any pets you have too. Onward. To Mexican attempts to use RFID tags to keep track of government employees, and small children: At the end of your article you say that 'mercifully' the 11 year old child did not get chipped. If the chip in as ineffectual as you would believe, why would it be such a travesty to do this. And if it DOES work, why would you get bent because a father knows the location of his child? Do you envision child-restraining seats as some sort child oppression as well? Regards, Brad Sounds like bullshit to me. 1) No implanted chip is going to have enough power to allow remote tracking after a kidnapping. RFID-like chips are useless for tracking. Unless there's also a 1-kilo lithium battery implant, the signal would go nowhere.... 2) Authentication benefits from an implanted token are meager compared to those of conventional authentication techniques. 3) Surely no government official would be so stupid as to submit to such a ridiculous procedure. 4) This is so flat-out stupid it must be a prank. Laurence Brothers If we can venture, only briefly, into a more serious arena, we noted some interesting thoughts floating around about security holes in Internet Explorer and Microsoft's subsequent patching efforts: According to your article, Secunia states: "We recommend our customers to use another browser for general web surfing and to limit their use of IE to trusted websites where its functionality is required, such as banking websites." In other words, please use more secure browsers for your non-sensitive browsing needs, but for your most sensitive data, you will probably need to drop your security level by using an insecure browser with several known security holes. Several banking websites currently say that they only support IE; is there a potential liability issue here? "Well, m'lud. My client usually uses a nice secure browser, but was required by the defendant to open himself up to known security risks. That is why all his money is now in the hands of [riffle, riffle] a Brazilian 'Transgendered Personal Services Consultant' who apparently calls himself Loretta. My client wants his money back, and then some. Call it a round million and I'll see you on the golf course at three. Next!" Any chance that the banks will flip-flop into a "use anything except IE" policy? Sean Sticking with the serious theme for another letter (just one, we promise) we heard from another person at El Beeb about the recent sale of the technology division to Siemens. A response to my colleague who feels it unrepresentative to state that BBCT staff are unhappy... He's right. We're not. We're annoyed, steaming furious, absolutely incensed that the BBC (or indeed any other company) should treat its staff that way. Siemens was not a reason to be happy, they were merely the least worst of the options available. Which is not to belittle Siemens - a reputable company for whom - in another context - I would be most pleased to work. But call me old-fashioned... Apparently my lords and masters have failed to note a difference between 'working for the BBC' and 'working *in* the BBC'. If I wanted to work for Siemens, I'd have applied for a job there. Many of the BBCT staff have worked in the BBC for many years; of my immediate colleagues one will be taking early retirement rather than transfer and another is less than amused having turned down higher paying employment elsewhere to work *for* the BBC. Many of us are actively hoping that there will be early opportunities for redundancies - though we don't expect them to be on as good terms as from the BBC. Another point - do you realise that according to John Varney - BBC Chief Technology Officer - 'technology is not a BBC core activity'. Reassuring, huh? My colleague is right - we're not unhappy. It's far too mild a word. Regards, Name supplied Next up, and slightly less seriously, we reported on an ever present, but overlooked threat to corporate data security. From the feedback we got on this one, it was clear we had struck a chord: I was both fascinated and shocked by the revelations in the article 'Your data is at risk - from everything' - scary stuff indeed. I believe you omitted other ways for employees to steal information. For example, I recently did some research into 'Epidermal Storage Mechanisms'. If you were worried by recent reports relating to Microsoft patenting skin as a power conduit your blood will run cold once I have enlightened you on Epidermal Storage Mechanisms (ESM).... I like to consider myself part of the White Hat community and tend to back full disclosure and openness. I do worry, however, that by giving - even the scantest - information about ESM I will be jeopardising the confidentiality of 3-D data structures across the globe. Balanced against this is the fact that people need to know and they need to be afraid!!! My research has shown that it would be possible for data thieves to steal data represented by 3-D data structures - such as documents written in Braille. To do this the miscreant would press a part of his or her epidermis against the 3-D data structure for a few moments. By the miracle of subcutaneous deformation a representation of the data would be rendered on the scum's epidermal tissue in a way not entirely dissimilar to a photographic negative. Furthermore, and worryingly for forensic investigators, this method of data theft is temporary - it gives the thief just enough time to have a very small chance of finding a blind passer-by that can read inverted and back-to-front Braille. (The method can also theoretically be utilised by formations of thieves on copyrighted material such as McDonalds signs and raised type billboards.) I found out about this data transfer technology after a particularly refreshing lunchtime visit to a nearby watering hole soon after which I became consciously challenged. On waking up I went to run my head under a tap and glanced in the mirror. Starring at my face through rheumy eye's, I realised that the imprint of my keyboard on my visage would maybe have potentially devastation consequences for data confidentiality given the right circumstances. By spreading the fear of ESM does this make me a terrorist? Name Supplied P.S. If you post this, please don't print my email address or name - they'll never believe I wrote it in my lunch hour. Thank you for providing some much-needed perspective and humour on the topic of "Data At Risk." It *does* seem as if some people are taking things a little too far. I've felt this way for a while. *My* pet peeve on this issue is that organizations think nothing of hiring contractors into positions that expose them to business-critical functions and intellectual capital . . . or, even worse, *outsource* business-critical functions (like application development and system operation), but get indigestion when someone brings a camera phone to work with them. In the case of hiring contractors or outsourcers, at the end of the contract, all of the undocumented intellectual capital and knowledge of "how we got to where we are today" vaporizes with the contract. We all know how frequently and how well that documentation is done. Worse, still, contracts are with companies, not individuals, and individuals may or may not stay "on the contract" for its entire duration. So, basically, organizations are paying others to acquire business-critical information about them so that they can take it with them when they leave. As Andy Rooney says: "Why is that?" Cheers, George Capehart "the truth serum "beer"."??? I think not. The "things you shouldn't have said" serum, absolutely, but not necessarily truth. The trick is discerning the things that shouldn't have been said because they are true - "Sshh, don't tell anyone but our net Income this year will be much lower than forecast" from those that shouldn't have been said because they are untrue "Yes, absolutely, I am on the board of directors..." using the tell tale signs, such as "..and before that I was in the SAS.." Keith Meldrum Your compelling article "Your data is at risk - from everything" is very potent. I myself have come across pencils once or twice, and in fact have heard about cameras although never seen them in action. I do believe that you may have been negligent in failing to report on the existence of "write-once" methods to steal data, commonly called "pens." This limitation is irrelevant in that data must only be stolen once. Hopefully, you will update this article, which I would love if you were to call "Data at risk remembered, promptly forgotten for security reasons." Adam I am appalled! Outsourcing is NOT the answer, and I am offended that you would even suggest it. We all know that if a company was to give sensitive information like that to an outsourced worker it would definitively end up in the hands of TERRORISTS. The obvious answer is to just not tell your employees ANYTHING. Believe me, I have worked for these sorts of security-concious companies in the past and noone EVER stole their IP. In fact, noone tried to steal it even AFTER it became a product. So, to recap: information-sharing is bad; keeping your employees clueless is good (it is also a good idea not to belong to the profit-sharing plan). Thank you for your time, Happily Oblivious. That's all folks. Have lovely weekends, y'all. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Jul 2004

Oxford Uni hacks-to-hackers land in hot water

Two Oxford University student hacks who turned hackers to expose IT security shortcomings at the University face possible suspension for their efforts. First-year students Patrick Foster and Roger Waite could be fined £500 or suspended by University authorities after they broke into University systems and published an account of their findings in the Oxford Student paper. Foster, a former deputy editor of the paper, told the BBC that they were able to easily access sensitive systems containing details of the email passwords of their fellow students and more. "We had a look using a program that is easily available over Google. We were able to infiltrate the IT network to the extent that, in one college, we could view live CCTV scenes. Roger [Waite] had up on his screen the live CCTV footage and at any point he could have shut it down," Foster said. In an expose, Oxford Student quotes unnamed techies who said a drive to cut costs was compromising security at the University. Whistle blowers face 'rustication' Thames Valley Police were called in but they passed the matter back to the university, arguing the incident was best dealt with internally. Oxford dons - furious with the student hacks' actions - had already instigated disciplinary proceedings. The pair feel they have been treated harshly but are co-operating with college authorities, confessing their actions to university proctors. Foster and Waite, both 20, face a hearing before the university's Court of Summary Jurisdiction in September. The Court has the power to fine the pair or ban them from the university buildings and facilities for a year (a process known as rustication). ® Related stories Learn computer forensics at Bradford University Victory for commonsense in nuke lab hacking case (involving University of Exeter student Joseph McElroy) Student owns up to Texas Uni cyber-heist Police raids following Texas University ID cyber-heist
John Leyden, 16 Jul 2004

Excel ate my DNA

Genetic research is being hampered by a smart formatting function in Excel, according to US researchers. The problem, which can cause medically important genes to be hidden from view, is widespread, and has affected some public databases, including the gene expression data on the NCBI LocusLink database in the US, the researchers say. Excel is widely used in genetic research to process microarray data. A microarray chip detects amounts of protein produced from thousands of different genes, enabling researchers to see which particular gene is being expressed in a sample of diseased tissue, for example. The errors are introduced because some genetic identifiers look very like dates to Excel. If the spreadsheet is not properly set up, it will convert an identifier, such as SEPT2 to a date: 2-Sep. The conversion, the researchers say, is irreversible: once the error has been introduced, the original data is gone. In a paper published on BioMedCentral, Zeeberg et al explain that they noticed that some identifiers were being converted to non gene names. "A little detective work traced the problem to default date format conversions and floating-point format conversions in the very useful Excel program package," they write. "The date conversions affect at least 30 gene names; the floating-point conversions affect at least 2,000 if Riken identifiers are included." The researchers suggest several workarounds for the problem, which you can find here, but caution that despite these "even the most vigilant investigator can inadvertently introduce conversion errors, and it is often necessary to screen data received from other sources". ® Related stories Medical imaging research awarded £4.5m University gets £1m complex systems grant DNA-based nanobot takes a stroll
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Jul 2004

IEEE groups fight for control of key standards

AnalysisAnalysis This week’s IEEE summit highlighted the breakneck pace of change that is driving innovation in wireless, but also threatening to break its standards process apart. Political wars rage in areas like UltraWideBand and fast Wi-Fi, but more fundamental debates are taking place over how different specifications should coexist and which territory they should occupy. As Wi-Fi reaches up to WiMAX’ range and WiMAX aims for the mobility of 802.20, the most important IEEE group of all may be 802.22, looking at the cognitive radio that will enable devices to use all three and to take advantage of proposed opening of US television spectrum.
Wireless Watch, 16 Jul 2004

Will the first Linux carwash clean up?

Trading has started slowly at the world’s first Linux-only computer shop and carwash. The pioneering retail concept has only been open a week, and is selling “a few systems a day”, says co-founder David Silverman. Plus lots of carwashes. Sub500.com is the brainchild of Marc (32) and David Silverman (37), carwash owners, computer parts brokers and online retailers. They have opened a small Linux-only computer store in a room at the front of their carwash on Dufferin Street, in the northern suburbs of Toronto, a neighbourhood of large malls and offices cheered only by a few friendly Italian restaurants and cafes. It has been hailed as the world’s first Linux store, though some posters on Slashdot mentioned a store in Australia and defunct outlets in Georgia and Texas. The new Toronto shop is a spin-off from their online Linux shops, Canada-focused Sub500.com and Sub300.com, a US-focused site that accounts for 90 per cent of their trade. At the store, desktop systems start at a very reasonable CAN$299. The store sells two varieties of laptop, a smaller eNote with a 1GHz Via processor for CAN$1111, and a larger system with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 for CAN$1511. Though users save the cost of an XP licence, it’s not necessarily the cheapest deal in town. A store round the corner sells a 2.4GHz laptop with Windows XP for CAN$1139. “It’s not necessarily for Microsoft haters, it’s for Linux lovers,” says Silverman. “We have all kinds of people come in here. A few geeks who come out of their basements for an hour, and even a few tech savvy older people.” The store’s biggest seller so far has been a 40 GB hard disk with the Linspire (formerly Lindows) OS, selling for CAN$ 80 – marketed at Windows PC owners looking to switch OSes without buying a new system. The store remains focused on the Linspire (formerly Lindows) OS and office suite, says Silverman, with no immediate plans to start selling other distros from the store. For the regular user, Linspire is the most simple to work with,” says Silverman. “It installs in less than ten minutes.” The store is still a work in progress. The rotating penguin was only delivered a few days ago, and flashing signs and an LED display are expected later this month. But Silverman has big hopes for the next few months. “We’re gearing up for the back to school period,” he says. If the store is a success, the brothers are hoping to repeat it elsewhere. “We could expand to Montreal, and the States as well.” There’s a long way to go yet, though, if it’s not to go the way of Georgia and Texas. ® Related stories Dell denounces desktop Linux dealer Open source miracle horse stuns MS Japan Lindows wins some in the Netherlands Sun's Java Desktop gets tooled up
Ben King, 16 Jul 2004

MS wins $4m from spammer scammmer

Microsoft has won a $3.95m judgement against a California man who used a combination of cybersquatting and spamming tactics to scare vulnerable users into downloading adware. Daniel Khoshnood of Canoga Park, California, ran a pair of spam campaigns last year to coax consumers into running a toolbarwhich claimed to automatically download Microsoft's latest security patches from a site called "Windowsupdatenow.com". In reality, the toolbar loaded a utility called called BrowserAid/QuickLaunch which bombarded users with random, unrequested pop-up ads. The scam came to light after MSN and Hotmail users complained to Microsoft about the bogus emails. Redmond in turn sent its lawyers after Khoshnood and two companies he ran (Pointcom and Joshua-than Investments) linked to the scam. Microsoft also sued ten other unnamed defendants in the same suit (PDF). Judge Manuel Real, of the US District Court of the Central District of California, ruled that Khoshnood had violated Microsoft's trademark rights. He ordering the defendants to pay damages, legal costs and imposed an injunction that promises even stiffer penalties if Khoshnood ever again poses as Microsoft. In the 1990s Khoshnood cybersquatted domains such as Presidentclinton.com, and Microsoft-networks.com, which he used to redirect lost surfers to various porn and shopping sites. Since the beginning of last year, Microsoft has initiated 60 US lawsuits against alleged spammers. Half a dozen cases have been decided in Redmond's favour, with one dismissal. Microsoft settled with four defendants and pushed two others into bankruptcy. In all, Microsoft has received $54m in judgments from the US courts, the company said. Yes, but how much will it collect ® Related stories MS sues 200 for spamming Big six unite to can spam Spammer prosecutions waste time and money US moves towards anti-spyware law
John Leyden, 16 Jul 2004

Sendo X: phone meets PDA, MP3 player, light sabre

ReviewReview The more attentive Register reader will no doubt be aware of this writer's obsessions (well OK, bigotry) on the subject of PDAs, form factors and mobility. They may also recall my joy when Psion finally mobile-enabled the netBook, and the sad death of said netBook the following year at the bottom of a sauvignon- and broken glass-filled Symbian shoulderbag. So what am I doing now? An update is probably in order. Well, to cut a long story short (I propose to lengthen it in other directions anyway) last autumn, 20 years after meeting my first Apple and walking away, I switched to a 12in Powerbook. I haven't troubled readers greatly about this on the grounds that the Mac community really does not need yet another PC defector telling it how beautiful Apple gear is and how OS X is a 'proper' operating system. But the Powerbook and I are very happy together, my only major grumphs being sub-Psion battery life and how scarily hot it runs. Coming up alongside this (warning: point of article approaching) we've had increasingly capable mobile phones coming onto the market and sliding into the bag alongside the Powerbook. These, in the past year, have been a Nokia 7650 (originally bought as a GPRS modem for the netBook), a Nokia 6600 (damned 7650 out of memory), and in the past two weeks a Sendo X. That last one is starting to impress me as a serious keeper. When it comes to the kit in the bag I'm interested in functionality rather than bells and whistles. So the GPRS connection definitely has to work with the Mac, for use when a handy wifi zone isn't available, and the phone has to work as a phone, by which I mean something you hold in your hand and clamp to the side of your head (nuts to speaker and voice control), and no stupid or embarrassing rings. The Mac's syncing capabilities (iSync, or Hans as I sometimes call him) wheedled me into starting to play with the phone as a PDA too, and Opera's mobile browser started me off using the handset as an independent web device. There are two other in-bag capabilities that are relevant here - a nice pair of Sony over-ear headphones used to play the 7.5 gigs (I just counted for other reasons) of stuff I carry around in the Mac, and a nice little Nikon digicam which has voice as well (for god's sake people, it's a piggin' camera - why?????) But today, up to a point, mobile phones do all of this, and the Sendo X is the best shot at doing it I've held so far. Not that I'm taking to leaving the Mac at home yet, of course, that would be silly. But in every area we're seeing an increasingly convincing shift from unfeasible through silly party piece to credible function, and I'm now almost convinced that I could get by without it at a pinch. I liked the 7650 a lot because it was solid, big enough for you to see the keypad and to feel it was in your pocket (small, undetectable ones trigger 'where's my phone?' panic-attack loops in me) and came with a lovely retro ring from Beatnik in there. It did precisely what I bought it for, but the limited memory meant the contact book didn't fit into it, and it'd only run Opera if you installed practically nothing else, and watched where you browsed. It did calendar nicely, but one of the more recent Opera upgrades finally outgunned it, and the usefulness of Opera's caching system (go here for free trial, it's really handy, honest) triggered the 6600 purchase. This has a memory slot, so the contact book fits and Opera whizzes around on it splendidly. This means that when I'm a bit permanently stationed with a table, a coffee and some peace and quiet I can whip out the Mac, while when it's a little less convenient or I just want a idle look at something I can use the 6600 independently. This piece of kit passes most of the personal functionality tests and is a phone-like phone by my personal definition. But it is dangerously close to 'can't feel it in your pocket', and is ringtone-challenged. As far as I can make out the cheapskates at Nokia have deducted most of the nice but (I presume) licensed ringtones, and shoved in lots of very nasty stuff instead. I'd thought the people with silly ringtones were all imbeciles, but it may well be that they're actually desperate folk being forced to look stupid by vicious mobile phone manufacturers. Overall though, so long as I can get Beatnik to send me the nice retro ringtone, the 6600 is a difficult act to follow. The Sendo X however provides it with stiff competition, which you might expect given that it's also a Series 60 phone, and it adds a couple of silly tricks that might turn out not be so silly, depending on how they pan out in the longer term. Most prominent among these are voice control (which I'm still resisting), an MP3 player and Sendo's own UI, which it calls the Now screen. The camera, with 4x zoom, is nice too, but as I said I've a Nikon in my bag or even in my pocket, so we'll get onto that later. The Mac connectivity is good as far as Bluetooth goes, but at the moment this doesn't include iSync support. Getting Apple to put out an iSync update (a pretty trivial job, I expect) oughtn't to be too difficult, but lack of this in a phone is not something I'm personally prepared to put up with in the longer term - it's now a key part of my life, and I'm not going back to faffing around with hand import and export. Sendo boasts of the excellence of its Microsoft office syncing capabilities, and I'm sure this is important for the bulk of the heathen Windows world out there, but I do not care, and this is my article. The preferred syncing mechanism for the Sendo is a USB cable (urk) linking it to a PC (urk urk). Which is perfectly understandable given that Bluetooth isn't yet standard or particularly nice in PCs, I suppose. I did however try the cable mechanism with a PC, and Sendo's automated system for installing software worked very well. I can't say I'll be messing with it much, but it seems a sight better tooled than the PC connectivity poop Nokia issues (tried this with the 7650, straight to bird-scarer pile with the 6600). The contacts and calendar functions are pretty much equivalent to the Nokia ones, so I don't see any problems presenting themselves once I've got the Mac syncing capability. Calendar is not, in my opinion, ever likely to be a totally feasible independent application is this kind of footprint, but synced with a readily available application on a larger footprint device it's a real advantage. Don't think about fiddling around trying to put appointments onto your phone on a regular basis, do think about being able to check them and zoom in and out on the phone, and do think about relatively transparent connectivity between the devices. If you're a non-Bluetoothed PC user, look at that USB cable and think about how chained you are. In addition to all the other fetters, too... The screen, at 176 x 220 is a tad larger than the standard 176 x 200, but this has yet to have a discernible impact on me. For browsing it does my key sites (The Register, and BBC news, as well as the Nokias do, and its responsiveness in Opera seems faster than the 6600. Within the limitations of the form factor, web browsing with this class of device is now perfectly feasible, and although you might be thinking 'well, but...' there are cases where the functionality triumphs surprisingly over full sized devices. I was, for example, able recently to pass the time on as commuter train reading through one of our Mr Orlowski's Register longer pieces on the 6600. It was easier to read (lots of words, but just one fairly slim load, as the pagebreak police hadn't got to it yet) than it would have been if I'd had the space or the inclination to take a portable out. Or you didn't have time to pick up a paper? Fine, check the Beeb or maybe the Guardian. A book? Well you could, but we're getting into DRM here and although I'm prepared to read a book on a mobile phone a book is a book-like thing in my, er book, and I buy these in bookshops. I'm not about to buy them again for a mobile phone, although I could see myself reading them on one. But we'll get back to this and DRM later, because it's becoming an important issue in devices of these heft. Which neatly takes us on to MP3. The Sendo X will take lots more memory than you can actually afford (in the spec at the end of this piece, should you be interested), so I sprang for a 256Mb SD and shoved a bunch of my MP3s onto it. This is not, obviously, all the 7.5 gigs but there's potentially considerable utility in my having the mobile phone rather than the Mac playing music while I work, because I'm not draining the Mac's battery so much. I was roughing up an explanation for the accounts department as to why this meant an iPod really was a legitimate business expense, like the spare Powerbook battery was, but - curses - it's starting to look like the 256Mb SD is the legitimate business expense instead. Why is it absolutely vital that I have loud music blaring while I work? Er... On the subject of the memory, one handy touch is that you can swap out the card simply by taking off the battery cover, whereas in as lot of other phones you've got to take the battery out as well. The easier access allows you to hot swap the memory, in which case the phone will complain, but Sendo's techies tell me it's highly unlikely you'd lose any data. Back on the audio, I said it had potentially considerable utility for me because it turns out some assembly is required, at least as far as my neck of the gene pool is concerned. The Sendo X comes with an in-ear headset rig, and these are too small for my earholes. I can, just before passing out from the pain, hear the most excellent quality of the Sendo's audio (spec below, again), but as shipped it does not work for me. I have checked with my firstborn, who also protests small earholes, so it's over-ear Sonys (told you the stuff in the bag was relevant) for both of us. But... The Sendo uses a headset, not stereo headphones as such, right? Which means that what we have plugging into it is a three contact jack plug, not a two. Also, it is a 2.5mm one, which is indeed a standard but not as yet a widely used one. So while you can just about get hold of a 2.5mm converter it's going to be a two contact one, not a three. Trying this in the hifi store that knows what it's talking about in Tottenham Court Road resulted in the audio only coming out of one ear, and the store tells me that they can't wire up a headset to my specification until such time as they can source three contact 2.5mm plugs. Bluetooth then? Standard Bluetooth earpieces are no good for two ear jobs, and as yet there don't seem to be any Bluetooth stereo headphones on the market. However, Sendo tells me that it is not true that mobile phones don't 'do' stereo Bluetooth. Not as such. They do not have a Bluetooth profile for stereo headphones, but provided the phones ship with one then they will do stereo. So not sorted, but I'm hopeful. And if nobody comes up with a Maplin part number for a three pin converter soon, then the Sendo headset gets cannibalised for the plug. The Now screen User interfaces in mobile phones have a less than glittering history, with manufacturers showing every sign of not understanding the difference between usable and usability. The X still has the Series 60 UI, which is one of the better of a decidedly bad bunch, but sitting on top of that is the Now screen, something that Sendo is very proud of, and that is at least interesting. This is the default screen for the phone, and as shipped has items for messaging, call records, anniversaries, appointments and to do list. You can add application links to this and customise it, so you can set up the default screen to give immediate access to whatever it is you use most often, and scroll vertically through it. Scroll horizontally and you get to other screens (panes, Sendo calls them). As shipped, the handset also had panes for Sendo Web links, history of used applications and favourites, and again you can add panes. Although you still have the familiar Series 60 UI available if you want it, you can do pretty much anything (Sendo says everything, maybe I believe them) from the Now screen, and although I kicked off by using the familiar UI, I rapidly found myself using the Sendo version. So I think this one works, and it has obvious customisation capabilities for network operators. It is however let down by the limitations of the S60 software underneath. This, Nokia users will be aware, doesn't do entirely joined up usability, so you can find yourself hunting your way down menus to change settings, only to discover later that the particular setting you were after can only be arrived at via some ever-so-slightly different route. I think hitting Nokia's S60 team over the head repeatedly with object-orientation textbooks might be a help here. Keyboard A couple of years back I recall being impressed, in a Johnsonian dog-walking-on-hind-legs kind of way, by the sight of Ben Hammersley, then flying under Times colours, bashing away happily on a foldaway keyboard with one of those Palm thingies shoved into it. It certainly seemed to work, but I'm too old to learn Palms. Sendo however handed out beta versions of their own foldaway keyboard with the review units, so it seemed churlish not to give it a whirl. It comes as a slim pocket-sized case. Push the button on the front edge and lift, the lid flips back and supports slide out, providing a stand for the phone. Pull at either side of the keys and they come out, and the central third of the keyboard appears. It's all rigid, and the total width is only about 1.5cm less than the key area on the 12in Powerbook I'm writing this on (Write it on the phone? Aw, come on...) The phone hot plugs into the keyboard connector, and seems to sit pretty securely there - it needs a deliberate tug to get it out, so it's unlikely to come away by accident. The keyboard itself is slightly alien on the grounds that it has to duplicate the various control keys the phone has, but it's really all very usable. I've just rattled off a quick note and sent it by Bluetooth over to this machine, took a couple of seconds, doddle. Cables shmables... The keyboard itself is likely to cost around €80, which is a bit of a whack, certainly. But keyboards for pocket devices are a fairly esoteric perversion, useful for people like me but not wildly attractive to the mass market. Sure, they allow you to send longer messages more easily, but having to whip one out and connect it kind of defeats the point. Why isn't it Bluetooth? Well, that's yet another power issue, and given that the screen's got to be in front of you, a wireless connection to the phone doesn't have a great advantage over a physical connection. I do however muse on the possibilities for some kind of semi-independent Bluetooth keyboard. Put about as much smarts in it as one of those old electronic word processors they sold in the 80s, and a small mono LCD that'd give you a display of what you were typing. Then the phone (or the whatever) could stay in your pocket (or somewhere else entirely). Email Setting up the email client was an example of the underlying duffness of Series 60. Sendo offers OTA configuration for a series of email providers, and although my company one is not listed, as one would expect, I thought I'd try getting it to set up my Demon account, then edit accordingly. The Sendo site however refused to accept that my Orange pay as you go number was real, so that was out. I contrived to set up a mailbox, but was defeated by not being able to figure out how you you actually told the phone where the mailbox was. I finally got it set up with some telephone help from Sendo, but even that was tricky, because the people at both ends need to know that they're both at precisely the same screen, and double check that they're still in sync at every keypress. If Nokia doesn't accept that it should fix the software for aesthetic reasons, it sure as hell should realise that this sort of thing is going to cost operators bundles in support handholding. The email is fine once it's going, although I'd have liked it to make it clearer that you just plain can't change it from an IMAP to POP box once you've saved all the rest of the settings you've typed in. Cheers chaps. My company email is currently fielded through an on-server spam filter, which brings numbers down to a level that's manageable on a small screen device like this. My system also allows web mail, and it was feasible to browse this via Opera. The interface we're using for web mail however has too many options and check boxes (which are tricky to manage, given the way phone joystick thingies work), so if I was doing this regularly I'd have a word with tech support and see if they could maybe do a special mobile device control screen for it. They probably should do, anyway. Design The X is a standard screen at the top, keys at the bottom, with a joystick thingummy in the middle type phone. It's a little slimmer than usual, and comes in a black and silver livery, with a little bit of hatched pattern trim. The keys are big enough, and of themselves perfectly visible, black on matt silver. The eyes not being what they used to be, however, I find the fact that they light up unhelpful, as the glare actually stops me being able to see them clearly. The joystick thingummy is actually a fire button with a ring around it which works as four cursor keys. This works fine once you're used to it, but if you've used the Nokia kind, which are real joystick thingummies, it'll confuse you initially. Round at the left hand side you've got the socket for the headset, protected by one of those rubber bungs you can't get back in properly once you've taken it out, the infrared (a bit like still having gas lights, if you ask me) and there's a little silver button at either side. These are programmable, and as shipped the left hand button kicked in the voice control system. Oh alright, just one little try. The system is claimed to be voice independent, and in an entirely unscientific trial was able to pick the right number out of the contact book despite my having Lady Stardust blaring in the background. OK, there might only be two numbers in the book right now, but still... Round the back you've got the camera, with a little mirror you can use to line your head up in order to take pictures of yourself. And a socket for an extension antenna, protected by another little rubber bung which I'm not taking out this time. The on-off switch is at the top, and is one of those solid, recessed ones that won't operate by accident. Overall, a not unpleasing design that's maybe a tad on the flashy side for me, but that's a matter of personal taste, and it clearly makes sense for Sendo to position it at the geeky end of the market. Other bits So far I seem to have altogether forgotten to mention several things. The X for example supports a wide range of ringtone types, and comes with a shedload of wacky, annoying, funny and silly ringtones. Not that many sensible ones though, and I can't help wondering if the design team competing to think up daft ringtones then going down the pub every time they'd got one mightn't explain the phone's lateness. Ditto playing the bundled game, Funny Farmer. I haven't, and I don't care, but they insist it's highly addictive. I said earlier on that I'd cover DRM in more detail, but it seemed to me fairer on Sendo to treat it separately, which I've done here. The combination of wireless connectivity, good multimedia and storage does however have massive implications, and the coming war between consumer and the mobile phone industry is going to be important. The camera comes with a flash, which is something of a breakthrough, and the phone has a big pile of document viewers so you can actually read the files people email you. It's also worth mentioning that the quality of the multimedia has a lot to do with audio and video coprocessors. Anything else? Almost certainly, but that's enough for now. Overall, I like it very much. It'll do (assuming iSync gets sorted) everything I expect from a phone these days, and the extras like the keyboard and audio are sufficiently convincing for them to rise well above the silly trick level, and actually become useful. A big cheer too for the Now screen, which seems a valiant and relatively successful effort to make phones more usable and to take them beyond being just phones by making applications more accessible. Sendo intends to push hard on customisation and applications, and has a developer programme (registration free at sendo.com) going for it. They tell me it should ship in the UK with a major network over the summer, and that with contract it'll be around the same price as the Nokia 6600. I'm pretty sure they don't quite mean this, as the 6600 is currently free on special at Vodafone (which I suspect means all is not well at The Mighty N). But it'll surely be competitive. Tantalisingly, Sendo says it might bring out other phones based on the X, but that it's also working on "other cool stuff." An even nicer X might be nice, but nice other cool stuff might be even nicer. Ah, decisions, decisions... Specifications Tri-Band EGSM 900, 1800 & 1900, auto switching between bands GPRS Class 8 ( 4+1) Symbian OS / Series 60 with Sendo enhancements Size: 110.5mm x 48.5mm x 22.8mm Weight & Volume: 120g and 108cc Standby Time: up to 100-170 hours Talk Time: up to 4-7 hours Battery Capacity: Lithium Polymer 1050 mAh Voice Codec Support: FR, EFR SIM: 3V & 5V 176x220 pixels, up to 65,536 colour TFT display 120Mhz ARM 9, ARM 7, DSP and graphics coprocessor VGA still camera with flash, red eye reduction, 4x digital zoom and self timer Integrated Camcorder RealOne Player MP3 Player Multimedia sound support: AMR, WAV, MIDI, SP-MIDI, XMF, Real, SMF 64 voice polyphonic ringtones Dual port SoniXTM sound speakers PC Email synchronization PC PIM synchromisation - Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and more SyncML OTA contacts/calendar synchronization Operator option: Wireless Village instant messaging SMS, NSM, MMS messaging, video MMS and Email ( IMAP, POP3 and STMP) Multimode browsing ( HTML 4.01, WAP 2.0, XHTML MP, SSL Security, WTLS support) Document viewers ( Word, Excel, PDF, PowerPoint, ZIP and others) Built-in Bluetooth, Infrared & USB support Built in modem data & Fax support - 14.4Kbps CSD & Fax The Now! Screen - customisable user desktop and themes 64MB flash, with up to 32MB free space MMC/SD memory expansion Speaker independent voice recognition and memo J2ME, MIDP, CLDC, Java compatible Games: Pinball, Funny Farmer
John Lettice, 16 Jul 2004

Dell boosts Q2 earnings on tax break

Kevin Rollins began his first day as Dell's CEO with a bang, giving the all clear for the company to raise its second quarter earnings forecast. Dell is now looking to post per-share earnings of 31 cents. This is 2 cents higher than previous expectations and 29 percent higher the the earnings per share posted in the same quarter last year. Dell made this announcement just ahead of a shareholders meeting in which Kevin Rollins will be announced as the new CEO. Dell's namesake Michael Dell will remain Chairman and still have access to both sides of his brain. While Dell raised earnings, it did not change a previous revenue forecast of $11.7bn for the second quarter. Although, Dell did say it's enjoying strong sales of servers and storage systems and solid SMB sales. Dell cited improved operations and a decline in the company's global tax rate for the earnings boost. Dell reports full results for the second quarter on Aug. 12. ® Related stories Dell's Rollins turns on ink-dealing HP Dell beat itself in the first quarter Dell ups Q1 forecast on overseas boom Michael Dell to relinquish CEO title, command of brain
Ashlee Vance, 16 Jul 2004

US nuclear lab suspends secret work

Classified work at a key US nuclear weapons research lab has been suspended after sensitive data was reported missing. The unprecedented stand-down at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, began at noon yesterday after two important storage devices went unaccounted for during a 7 July inventory check. Officials refused to say what was on the Weapons Physics Directorate discs, citing national security concerns. The shut down will allow the intensification of a search, already into its eighth day. "Until such time as we are confident that we are addressing this issue, then all activities with respect to classified materials have been put on hold," Gerald Parsky, chairman of the Regents of the University of California, which manages Los Alamos told a news conference yesterday. "These breaches of national security will not be tolerated." The incident is the latest in a series of security shortcomings at Los Alamos - birthplace of the world's first atomic bomb - that have raised questions about the competence of its management. Keys to a sensitive area went missing for most of a day last month. In May, classified material was reported missing but managers later concluded it was intentionally destroyed. Los Alamos has been under the microscope since November 2002, when allegations about purchasing fraud, equipment theft and mismanagement led to a review of the labs' business practices and the exit of some of its most senior managers. Their replacements are now under pressure. The US government has opened up bids to manage Los Alamos after the University of California's contract expires next year. It's the first time in Los Alamos' 61-year history that this has happened and a sign of Federal discontent over how the facility is currently been run. ® Related stories Nuke plant worker faces hacking charges Los Alamos lends open source hand to life sciences FBI loses hundreds of laptops and guns UK military bans iPods - some places Your data is at risk - from everything
John Leyden, 16 Jul 2004

Airport snoop system thrown in $102m garbage can

The US government has scrapped a controversial $102m airline passenger screening system in favor of an as of yet undefined new system. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge gave word this week of his department's flip-flop on the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening Systems, or CAPPS II, project. CAPPS II was once meant to identify potential evil-doers by snooping through credit card, phone and car registration databases and deciding whether or not a traveller was who he claimed to be. As comforting as this kind of tracking system sounds, it did manage to worry puffy civil liberties freedom fighters. And, in fact, the system proved too difficult to build even with a massive budget at the Homeland Security Department's disposal. On Wednesday, Ridge joked about a dagger going through the heart of CAPPS II, but his agency scrambled to put a better spin on things by Thursday. The Homeland defenders are now saying they expect to roll out a new automated screening system. They just don't know what this system will look like, how much it will cost or when it will be ready. The Feds are basically trying to update old identification systems. They want to look out for customers buying airline tickets in cash, making last minute purchases and with dubious records. Now, however, they might have to resort to a system that simply checks names against a record of potential terrorism suspects. And that kind of systems seems hopelessly easy to fool. The waste of $102m could not come at a worse time either. The General Accounting Office recently issued a scathing report on the Defense Department's failed use of funding. It's also disconcerting to note that Homeland Security has not managed to secure this part of the Homeland nearly three years after the 9-11 attack, especially given the nature of the attack. Looks like the pants dropping will continue. ® Related stories Ministers thwart MEPs, OK EU-US airline data deal Airport security failures justify snoop system American Airlines data used to test passenger snoop system The wrong stuff: what it takes to be a TSA terror suspect Campaigners fight biometric passports Data on 10m Northwest fliers handed to NASA for testing US using EU airline data to test CAPPS II snoop system Commission agrees US access to EU citizen personal data Georgia runs from the MATRIX Congress threatens two hi-tech Gestapo programs
Ashlee Vance, 16 Jul 2004

World's best-dressed Linux backer leaves Sun

Peder Ulander, one of Sun Microsystems' Linux desktop leaders, is leaving the company for a much smaller organization - Linux seller MontaVista Software. Ulander is easily the best-dressed member of the Linux community - think a young, open source-leaning Jerry Sanders. And, hey, he can afford nice clothes. Ulander arrived at Sun following its $2bn buy of Linux appliance-maker Cobalt Networks. At Sun, Ulander started as a Cobalt marketing chief and then moved on to the company's Java Desktop product. He helped nurture the Java Desktop System from concept to creation and even managed to close a few sales. Ulander, to say the least, appeared to be a rising star at Sun. He was active in many of the areas favored by Sun's newly tapped President Jonathan Schwartz and seemed to be on Schwartz's good list for this work. So much for that. MontaVista has yet to return calls seeking information on Ulander's role at the company, but one report says he will become vice president of marketing at the firm. MontaVista specializes in making Linux ready to run in embedded devices. The company's SVP in charge of operations Kelly Herrell also used to work at Cobalt with Ulander. Is this Linux appliance set to rise again? Interestingly, the use of Cobalt Linux recently surged, following Sun's decision to open source the code. Still, Sun's excessive purchase price for the company has left a bitter taste that just won't go away. A fresh BusinessWeek story ripped into the buy, saying ex-Cobalt CEO Steve DeWitt is known internally as the $2bn blond. The story goes on to say much harsher things about Sun's CEO Scott McNealy. Why did Ulander leave Sun's somewhat successful Linux desktop business for a much smaller company, playing in a most competitive space? Well, the Sun exec is off limits at the moment, so the company tells us, but we'll be sure to bring the reasons for exit soon. ® Related stories DeWitt comes to terms with Cobalt's end IBM dismisses OpenOffice as child's play Solaris users slam Sun Intel plans (again) Sun to share 3-D stash with developers Sun and Cobalt left me with a dinky toy
Ashlee Vance, 16 Jul 2004