2nd > August > 2004 Archive

Apple's Jobs undergoes cancer surgery

Apple CEO Steve Jobs went under the knife this weekend, undergoing a medical operation to remove a cancer tumour from his pancreas. In post-op email to employees, Jobs said that though the operation been successful, he would be away from Apple throughout August for recuperation. In his stead, he leaves worldwide sales and ops chief Tim Cook. According to the email, Jobs' cancer was a "very rare" form. Diagnosed early, Jobs' doctors were able to remove the tumour without the need for harsher procedures, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Jobs was keen to stress that he had not suffered from the more common - and well-known - variety of the disease. This form is incurable and kills the sufferer typically within a year of diagnosis. US comedian Bill Hicks passed away in 1994 after suffering from the disease. Jobs said he will return to work in September. We wish him a speedy recovery. ® Related stories Apple to ship next-gen iMac in September Real fires back at Apple in DRM dogfight Apple blasts Real DRM translator Apple licenses iTunes to Motorola Apple 'launches Longhorn' with better search, graphics Microsoft, Apple snub consumer freedom coalition Apple: no 3GHz G5 'any time soon' Apple signs key indies to iTunes
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 2004

Tropical storm delays Mercury mission

The launch of the Mercury Messenger probe, the first mission to study Mercury in more than 30 years, has been put back by 24 hours, mission controllers said today. The spacecraft was due to launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre at 6:16 this morning, but the launch was scrubbed when Tropical Storm Alex got a little close for comfort. A statement on the Messenger mission website said that at present, the forecast for tomorrow’s launch time is similar to today’s weather. “However, if Tropical Storm Alex moves farther away, the forecast would likely improve,” it says. Alex is the first named storm of the year, was upgraded from a depression on Sunday, and is expected to make landfall within the next 24 hours. It is not expected to hit Florida, but hurricane warnings have been issued for the coasts of both North and South Carolina. The Messenger mission gets its name from “MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry, and Ranging,” - a list of its main mission objectives. Specifically, scientists hope to discover why the planet is so dense, and how its magnetic field is generated. Mercury is the only planet, other than Earth, that has a global magnetic field. On Earth, scientists think the magnetic field is generated by our planet’s spinning molten iron core. However, Mercury is much smaller and its core should have frozen solid long ago. The question is: how can a solid iron core generate a global magnetic field? The answers could shed light on how our own field works. The 1.2 tonne spacecraft will escape our gravity well aboard at Boeing Delta 2 rocket. Its seven-year, 7.9bn km flight to Mercury will see it swing past Earth again in 2005 for a gravity boost, before heading towards the inner solar system. It will make two passes of Venus - in 2006 and 2007 - which will aim it closer to a Mercury Orbit. The craft will be wrapped in heat resistant ceramic cloth, to help it withstand surface temperatures of up to 450C. It carries seven scientific instruments which it will use to probe the mysterious planet. The scientific payload includes stereo imaging equipment, a laser altimeter, a magnetometers, and an X-ray Spectrometer. One of its primary tasks is to map the planet’s surface, completing a task begun by Mariner 10 in 1973: Mariner 10 was able to photograph just 45 per cent of the planet’s surface during three flybys. Messenger also carries equipment capable of determining the composition of the atmosphere and surface, and the Radio Science package will detect variations in the thickness of the planet's crust. Tomorrow's launch is set for 06:15, GMT. The mission has a 13-day launch window, so even if Tropical Storm Alex proves troublesome for a couple of days, the craft should still be able to get off the ground before the window expires. ® Related stories Asteroid named after Dill Faulkes Cassini eyeballs Saturnian lightning storms Mission to map the Aurorae launches 26 July
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2004

Lycos Inc. flogged for $105m

Korea's top portal - Daum Communications - is to buy Lycos Inc. for $105m (£57m) as part of a move to break into the US Internet market. Said Daum in a statement by way of The Korea Times: "Through the acquisition, we plan to establish our presence in the US, one of the fastest growing Internet markets in the world, and set the foundation on becoming a leading global Internet company." For Terra, the move appears to be in line with its strategy of "strengthening its presence in geographical areas in which the Telefonica Group has significant operations and in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking market". Neither Terra Networks USA nor Terra's stake in Lycos Europe are affected by the sale of Lycos Inc.. Lycos Inc. contributed around 16 per cent of the income generated by the Terra group last year. As a result, Terra warned that the sale would lead to a fall in earnings for the current financial year. For the six months to the end of June, Daum Communications reported record first half 2004 revenues of $78m (£42) up 47.2 per cent on the same period last year while operating income rose 30 per cent to $19.8m (£10m). ® Related stories Lycos cuts ribbon on 1GB email service Terra Lycos attracts more paying punters Terra Lycos narrows FY loss Lycos Communities disbanded
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 2004

Long-awaited IE patch (finally) arrives

Microsoft released an unscheduled security patch on Friday designed to fix a trio of serious security problems affecting users of its ubiquitous Internet Explorer Web browser. All three of the security vulnerabilities might be exploited to take control of vulnerable systems, so patching is a necessity. The flaws involve: an integer overflow involving the way IE processes bitmap files, a memory processing vulnerability in the processing of GIF files and a scripting vulnerability that was the basis of June's Download.Ject (Scob) attack. All three of these vulnerabilities have been reported to be relatively straightforward to exploit. "Even vigilant users visiting a malicious website, viewing a malformed image, or reading an HTML-rendered email message may be affected," according to a bulletin from security clearing house US-CERT. No surprise, then, that Redmond gives all three vulnerabilities its dreaded "critical" security classification. IE versions 5.01, 5.5. and 6 on multiple Windows platforms are affected so it promises to be a busy day for sysadmins everywhere. Early versions of Microsoft's cumulative patch didn't apply the final release code for XP customers running the latest version of Windows Update. After correcting this, Microsoft reissued its advisory on Sunday. The latest version of the bulletin is here. Trojan wars Last month Microsoft released a tool to clean up machines infected during last month's Download.Ject security flap. Users visiting a website contaminated with Download.Ject activated a script that downloaded a Trojan horse (called Berbew) from a website in Russia. This website was rapidly taken down but the underlying vulnerability in Internet Explorer used in the Download.Ject remained until last weekend despite the earlier availability of a workaround from Microsoft designed to limit the scope for mischief. Redmond released these configuration changes earlier in July and followed up with a tool to remove variants of the Berbew Trojan from infected systems. Berbew (AKA Webber or Padodor) is capable of extracting passwords and login details from victims and forwarding this confidential data to crackers. The risk posed by future Download.Ject-style attacks prompted security clearing house US-CERT to advise users to ditch IE for general web browsing, a call since repeated by other security experts. The seriousness of this warning - and the bad publicity it was getting because of the problem prompted Microsoft to break with its normal patch cycle in issuing a fix. Redmond normally issues patches on the second Tuesday of each month. ® Related stories Watch out! Incoming mass hack attack Unpatched IE vuln exploited by adware CERT recommends anything but IE Microsoft half fixes serious IE vuln IE workaround a non-starter IE patch 'imminent'
John Leyden, 02 Aug 2004

Etailers face tough times

Internet retailers are still facing an uphill struggle to convince punters that shopping online isn't just about picking up a bargain. According to the latest research from Mintel, the single most important reason for consumers to shop online is price. The importance of stuff like reputation and brand comes way down the list. Not only does this price fixation hit large retailers, it's especially difficult for smaller etailers that don't have the efficiencies of scale available to some of the larger players. And online retailers have another headache too. As consumers become more and more concerned about security fears - especially using the Net to buy stuff - their confidence in ecommerce is beginning to be undermined, said the report. Said Retail Analyst, Neil Mason: "Ever since the early days of e-commerce, e-tailers have been trying to get away from simply being the cheap option and have been trying to build brand names for themselves in order to encourage customer loyalty. Loyalty based on price is no loyalty at all and customers will simply jump ship at the first sign of a cheaper site. "It is rather depressing news for e-tailers to find that all these efforts seem to have had little effect and that the prime concern for online shoppers is still price," he said. ® Related stories Security fears holding back online travel market Brits fear online shopping Wobbly shopping carts blight UK e-commerce Web-only retailers move into the black
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 2004

Net vigilantes target 419 sites

Artists Against 419 (AA419) has organised a 48-hour online protest against advanced fee fraud, otherwise known as the 419 scam. The protest is an organised version of the SlashDot effect – whereby a huge number of visitors turn up at a site, overwhelming its bandwidth allocation. The virtual flash mob began at midnight on 1 August and has already taken down three of its targets. The organisers describe the event as the nightmare of all fake lotteries: Basically our aim is to shut down 4 fake lottery web sites in less than 48 hours! Furthermore this online event shall make web hosting companies, the authorities and the media more aware of the problem of the Nigerian 419 fraud, it's lottery variant and particular of the problem with criminal fake websites. The site calls on concerned Netizens to visit the fake sites and repeatedly download all their images. As we reported, one effect of this activity is that it costs the site holders money. The other is that the ISP hosting the site notices the activity, and shuts the site down. AA419 estimated in April that since it began operating, 85 scam sites have been removed. Artists Against 419 does not only advocate attacking the fake bank sites. It also recommends that readers report the fraudulent activity to relevant authorities. For example, several of the fake sites have a Verisign Trusted Site Seal. AA419 says: report this to Verisign. The site also has a long list of ways to report the scammers to the police in Holland, the UK and the US. ® Related stories 419 scam 'bank' bites the dust Lottery scams new flavour of the month Anti-phishing group backs email authentication eBay denies South Africa 419 hacking report $242m 419 scam trial collapses Charges against Amsterdam 419ers dismissed
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2004

Anti-spam spamvertisers agree to quit

A Californian company last week promised to stop promoting its ad-blocking software using Internet pop-up ads. San Diego-based D Squared Solutions reportedly used the Messenger function built into Windows to spamvertise its "anti-spam" services. Its cynical marketing tactics caught the attention of regulators the Federal Trade Commission, which instigated a civil case against the two person start-up last year. Rather than face further expensive litigation, D Squared last week pledged to stop sending pop-up ads. The firm also agreed to stop marketing ad-blocking software and to restrict itself to permission-based marketing. The FTC also has the right to monitor D Squared's business for the next five years. Under the terms of the settlement, neither Anish Dhingra nor Jeffrey Davis (D Squared's two college student founders) was obliged to admit any wrongdoing. Neither face any penalties as a result of the case, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Dhingra and Davis are planning to resume their studies at the University of California San Diego. D Squared's lawyers denied the dynamic duo's ads were unethical, describing them as "annoyances you have to deal with in a free society" and claiming the advertisements were rate capped. Complaints reported to the FTC tell a different story of ads sent as frequently as every 10 minutes prompting users to visit a site where relief can be purchased for $25 to $30. The case against D Squared is one of the first to consider the legality of pop-up ads. It's unlikely to be the last. ® Related stories Messenger pop-up spam makes us sick Microsoft shoots the Windows Messenger FTC gets injunction against pop-up spam scam MS wins $4m from spammer scammmer Related links Fab O'Really T'shirt at Cash and Carrion How to deal with Spammers - permanently
John Leyden, 02 Aug 2004
cable

Siemens touts Blackberry-based business phone

Siemens today launched the world's first handset to fully integrate RIM's Blackberry message and personal information application suite, targeting the phone straight at the enterprise. With email users in mind, the SK65 sports a novel rotate-out QWERTY keypad. Unlike the Nokia 6820, the Siemens model doesn't rely on the standard numeric keypad to provide half the characters. The company calls the new layout 'cross to type', and it does provide a solid base for two-handed typists that's rather better than the tiny job Sony Ericsson has equipped its new P910 with. The handset itself is a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone with Bluetooth. It supports the receipt of multimedia messages, but there's no on-board camera - a clear statement, Siemens' mobile phone chief, Thorsten Heins, said that this is a phone for business professionals. Hence the full incorporation of Blackberry technology, which puts the handset on a functional par with RIM's own handheld devices. "The SK65 offers the full Blackberry application environment," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie told us. "It's not just the communications stack." That distinguishes the SK65 from all other Blackberry-supporting devices, which simply connected to the company's server products. Heins said he is positioning the SK65 at the top end of Siemens' range. Doesn't that clash with the SX1 Symbian-based smart phone, we wondered? No, it seems. The SX1, with is camera and multimedia playback functionality is pitched at a broader audience than the SK65, which the company hopes will attract CIOs keen to equip staff with a executive-styled handset that can connect to enterprise data yet doesn't offer too much scope for personal usage. That said, the SK65 still supports productivity-depleting Java-based games; MPEG 4 and H.263 video playback; animated screen icons; and 40-voice polyphonic MIDI ringtones. So its shiny black serious-looking shell hasn't entirely ignored fun uses. The screen is a 132 x 176 64,000-colour display. The phone contains 64MB of RAM, 30MB of which is available to the user, and it runs Siemens' own proprietary OS. Nicely sized for both regular and text usage, the SK65 measure 12 x 4.7 x 2.2cm and weighs 144g. It incorporates a 750mAh battery that provides up to 250 hours' stand-by time and up to 300 minutes' talk time. Siemens did not disclose pricing, stating simply that it will be consistent with the phone's high-end positioning. The SK65 is scheduled to ship in the late October/early November timeframe. Siemens said it will offer the handset through carriers and retail, and thanks to the phone division's merger with the company' enterprise comms business, will also be pitched direct to corporates. We'll have to see over time how carrier customers respond to such competition. ® Related stories Motorola touts 'razor thin' metal mobile Motorola delays MPx220 MS smart phone Mio launches MS smartphone in UK Neonode smart phone to ship minus key features Sony Ericsson debuts keyboard smart phone Researcher ups world mobile sales forecast Nokia and co 'to ship 625m handsets' this year Europe: we will buy your PDAs, smart phones
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 2004

Rio pitches Carbon player at iPod Mini

Rio will take the fight to Apple's iPod Mini this month when it ships its latest hard drive-based MP3 player, Carbon. The new machine uses Seagate's recently announced 1in ST1 hard disk, which offers 5GB of storage, 1GB more than the iPod Mini. To date, Rio has partnered with Cornice for micro hard drives. Cornice is now the subject of legal action from Seagate and from Western Digital. While Apple claims the iPod Mini offers eight hours' play time, Rio reckons Carbon will run for up to 20 hours. Given the player's name, the company should perhaps have settled for 12 hours' battery life, but we won't begrudge them the extra eight hours. Apple buffs will also note it's named after one of Mac OS X's three key application programming frameworks. Carbon comes in at 90.7g, Rio said, compared to the Mini's 102g. Both retail for $249. The Rio machine is due to ship at the end of August and will support the next generation of Microsoft's Windows DRM technology. Codenamed 'Janus', the software will allow DRM rules to be extended to mobile devices, permitting content owners to enable sharing across portable players but blocking further duplication. Essentially, song purchasers will be able to share songs with friends, who might then get perhaps one to two opportunities to listen to it before they're forced to purchase the track. Napster is this autumn expected to roll out new services enabled by Janus, and the DRM technology's launch is believed to be behind the timing of Virgin Digital's launch - August in the US, September in the UK. Rio hopes Carbon will help it regain market share lost to Apple. As part of Diamond Multimedia, Rio was one of the pioneers of portable digital music but now plays second fiddle to the iPod maker. While Apple commanded 39.2 per cent of the US retail MP3 market in May, according to market watcher NPD, Rio, despite holding the number two slot, took less than half of that: 14.6 per cent of the market. ® Related stories Napster gives away MP3 players Apple licenses iTunes to Motorola Macrovision preps '99% effective' CD lock-in tech Kyocera offers iPod Mini-matching digicams Consumers go crazy for MP3 players Seagate unveils 'tiny to terabyte' hard drives Western Digital sues Cornice Seagate gets litigious with small hard drive rival
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 2004

It's OK to boil your memory card: official

If you ever want to destroy a digital camera’s memory card, don’t bother putting it through the wash or hitting it with a sledgehammer as neither will guarantee destruction. According to a Digital Camera Shopper magazine investigation cited on The Beeb, five of the main memory card formats - CompactFlash, Secure Digital, xD, Memory Stick and Smartmedia - will happily hang on to your data despite being boiled, washed, dunked in cola, run over with a skateboard and worse: being given to a six-year old who was instructed to destroy the cards. The xD card and the SmartMedia card even survived being hit with a sledgehammer and nailed to a tree, although it did take a data retrieval expert to get the photographs out. Staff at DCS expressed their amazement: “We knew modern memory cards were durable, but had no idea they would be quite so tough." quoth editor Geoff Harris. He suggests that the UK’s 18 million digital photographers should still back up their pictures, presumably in case of the card being struck by lightning during a tornado which has driven a nail through the memory card and thrown it two miles into an inconveniently-sited blast furnace. The BBC report does not say why the staff at DCS felt the need to abuse defenceless memory cards in this brutal fashion, but we say it is a job well done. ® Related links Boots deploys digital print kiosks Kyocera offers iPod Mini-matching digicams Sony sued in digicam patent clash Phone digicams see the light
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2004

ADSL migration made easier

Swapping broadband providers should be a lot easier following the introduction of a new migration process backed by BT Wholesale and the industry's major players. The Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) process should mean that punters can sign-up to new providers with the minimum of hassle. Up until now, punters have often faced lengthy delays with some ISPs reluctant to lose customers, while others have experienced disruption to their service. This new process means that those problems should not crop up, with the downtime between switching providers predicted to be less than an hour. As part of MAC, 16 service providers - including AOL, BT, Bulldog, Nildram, THUS, Virgin.net and Wanadoo UK - which together account for around 70 per cent of the UK's DSL market, have signed up to a new voluntary code of practice to make migration easier. Under the new MAC process, punters looking to change providers ask their current ISP for an "authority code" which they hand to their new service provider as proof that the move can go ahead. The new ISP can then arrange with BT Wholesale for the service to be transferred. Said Richard Sweet, chair of the working group behind the code of practice: "This demonstrates that broadband service providers can regulate themselves, without the need for Ofcom intervention. Whilst we all want our customers to stay, we believe there needs to be a proper and seamless process to allow customers to move, should they choose to do so." The MAC process does not support migrations between ADSL and cable modem-based services. Full details of the new code can be found here. Related stories Ofcom must act on £50 broadband 'barrier' BT trims broadband costs Broadband ISPs must wise up to small.biz needs Ofcom appoints Last Mile adjudicator
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 2004

Beckham penalty outrage ball to tour UK

England fans may get a chance to take a spot kick with the same ball David Beckham hoofed over the bar during disastrous England's penalty shoot out against Portugal this summer. Canadian casino site GoldenPalace.com recently bought the ball used in Beckham's infamous penalty kick for €28,050 (£18,500) after it was up for sale on eBay by enterprising Spaniard Pablo Carral. Football fan Carral (who must have been sitting high up in the stands) caught the ball and managed to smuggle it out of Lisbon's Estádio da Luz at the end of the emotional European Championship quarter final on 24 June. Portugal defeated England 6-5 on penalties after the sides were deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of extra time. The 'Beckham Ball' was made in Thailand and originally cost just €100. GoldenPalace.com plans to use the ball in charity fundraising events. One plan is to hire a stadium in England and give fans the opportunity of taking their own penalty kicks against Portugal keeper Ricardo for £10, to be donated to a charity picked by Beckham. Whatever you make of GoldenPalace.com's guerrilla marketing tactics in promoting the putative event at least it’s a diversion from the normal England fan hobby of identifying outlandish excuses for the national team's latest failure. Reports that a sand pit is to be created in the penalty area of Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground especially for the event remain unconfirmed. GoldenPalace.com also wants to take the ball back to Portugal and Greece, who beat Portugal to be crowned European champions in the same stadium that witnesses England's inglorious exit from the tournament days earlier. ® Related stories Beckham penalty outrage ball lands on eBay All the World Cup news that's not fit to print Brazil/England outrage readers offer support Beckham hits the Net (Internet not football net, natch)
John Leyden, 02 Aug 2004

China terminates 700 sites in porn crackdown

China's crackdown on pornograhy is gathering pace following reports that 700 Web sites have been shut down and 220 people arrested as authorities try to censor XXX sites. Last month China announced plans to crack down on adult websites with officials claiming that the "rampant" increase in online porn is damaging the moral fabric of the nation - and young people in particular. One official said that porn "severely damaged social style, polluted the social environment, and harmed the physical and psychological health of the young people". With half of China's 87m Net users under 24, the latest reports suggest that many young people are using the Net to learn about sex because information is hard to come by. While the Government is considering improving sex education, it's also using technology to block access to sites and arresting those peddling porn. Last month Chinese websites, ISPs and other Internet-related organisations were "invited" to sign a self-discipline pact to prevent the spread of anti-government information, porn and anything else that might threaten "national security (and) social stability". ® Related stories Beijing stamps down on Net porn China snoops on text messages China urges ISPs to sign 'self-disciplinary' pact Chinese cyber-dissident gets four years' house arrest
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 2004

IBM eFuse to yield self-repairing, self-regulating CPUs

IBM's Power 5 processor cores will be able automatically to repair and remodel themselves - albeit in a limited way - to improve their performance and power consumption characteristics. So claims Big Blue, which this weekend said Power 5 and other upcoming processors will feature what it calls a "breakthrough chip morphing technology". Said technology will ship under the name eFuse, so called because it employs millions of electrical fuses that are built into the chip's circuitry. Together, the microfuses act as a kind of autonomous traffic control network, responding to the changing demands placed on the microprocessor to switch individual circuits on and off as required. Under-utilised circuits can be throttled back to conserve power - a technique already used in modern processors, albeit on a larger functional unit-level scale - which in-demand circuits can be adjusted upward to enhance performance, IBM said. The traffic management analogy is also IBM's. It likens the technology to opening and closing a highway's lanes according to the level of traffic. Of course, you can't open up lanes that aren't there in the first place, so the analogy implies the addition of resources on board each die the remain unused except in times of peak demand. Certainly Power 5 is known to support simultaneous multi-threading (SMT), the same technique that Intel uses but calls HyperThreading. Essentially, functional units unneeded by one thread are given a second thread to process, with the upshot that the OS 'sees' the CPU as two, rather than one. You don't get a doubling of performance, but there is a gain. By the sounds of things, IBM has rolled its SMT implementation into the broader eFuse technology, which also appears to provide a number of features originally came out of Big Blue's eLiza project, which sought to develop fault detection and management systems for software and hardware. Indeed, "eFuse is part of a built-in self-repair system that constantly monitors a chip's functionality. If an imperfection is detected, this technology 'instinctively' initiates corrective actions by tripping inexpensive electrical fuses that are designed into the chip. The fuses help the chip control individual circuit speed to manage power consumption and repair unexpected, and potentially costly flaws", says IBM. Overclockers, beware "If the technology detects that the chip is malfunctioning because individual circuits are running too fast or too slow, it can 'throttle down' these circuits or speed them up by controlling the appropriate local voltage," the company continues. So, overclockers, beware. eFuse appears to operate at several levels. There's an element of pre-ship tuning, in which IBM allows eFuse to adapt processors for the customer's anticipated application load. On site, the technology continues to adapt according to ongoing workloads. So how does is work? Essentially, the system uses the phenomenon of 'electromigration', in which moving electrons - current - transfer momentum to the surrounding crystal lattice. That causes the lattice to vibrate and can ultimately induce changes in the microstructure that in turn cause a circuit to fail - the chip equivalent of a light-bulb filament fusing. The greater the vibrations, the hotter the circuit and the hotter the circuit gets, the more it vibrates and the more likely electrons are to hit the lattice, imparting more momentum. This is a real problem with integrated circuits, and chip designers have spent many hours and dollars figuring out how to limit the problem and thus be able to ship chips that don't fail after a few weeks' operation. IBM claims that it is the first to actually use this unwanted phenomenon to control all those fuses it's added to the chip, presumably by using the thermal changes to trip fuses and thus kick in so-far unused circuits. Again, that implies a high level of redundancy. IBM admits the technique isn't entirely new, but it has figured out how to trip the fuses without damaging other parts of the processor, which was the key failing of previous attempts to use microfuses. In addition to Power 5, IBM will add eFuse to all other 90nm chips it produces, including future PowerPC G5s, the company's literature suggests. It will also offer the technique to foundry customers. ® Related stories UMC techies boost SOI chip speed by 30% IBM and Stanford's spintronics revolution IBM fabs 90nm G5 using strained silicon AMD to offer strained silicon chips IBM boffins stretch silicon to speed chips 35% IBM boffins boost combo computing, wireless chips IBM boffins boost chip performance by 65% AMD 'super' SOI to boost chip speeds by 30% Motorola mixes silicon, gallium arsenide for super-chips IBM preps 210GHz chip technology
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 2004

Captain Cyborg to risk all for science

The release of the film I, Robot has given mainstream media another opportunity to wheel out Prof. Kevin Warwick, aka Captain Cyborg. Warwick, who UK tabloid The Sun breathlessly describes as: “the first person in the world to have a computer chip implanted successfully into his body”, now says that he will have a chip implanted in his BRAIN, despite the fact that the operation could kill him. The Prof. is selflessly offering his own brain to science [Expect the queue to examine this remarkable organ to be long and distinguished – Ed]. He says he’ll have a chip implanted into his noggin by 2014. "I’ll probably do it when I’m 60. It’s pretty dangerous," he admits. This follows his 2002 experiment during which Kev says he was able to direct the movement of a robotic hand some 3,500 miles away. This was accomplished by translating the Prof’s own movements into electronic signals using a chip sited on his medial nerve. These impulses were transmitted to the hand, which moved as he had moved. This isn’t totally silly: NASA was experimenting with using nerve signals to land severely damaged planes remotely. They weren’t implanting chips though, just using a suit with electrodes in it. And, as Space.com reported at the time, using some really powerful software. But it is a big step from replicating with an implant what can be done with external sensors to transmitting thoughts from one brain to another. The Sun also regurgitated Warwick’s apparent belief in the factual basis of the Terminator movies. That is: that their premise will come horribly, horribly true; that machines will get clever enough to declare war on us; that they will declare war on us; that we’ll all be killed; and that the only way to save ourselves is to become cyborgs. Like him. He said: "The threat of robots trying to take over is real. Robots are not being programmed so that they won’t harm humans, like they are in [I, Robot]." Fortunately for the fate of humanity, the bar for qualification as a cyborg is set pretty low. After all, when our Kev first claimed to be a Cyborg, he’d had a chip ‘implanted’ for nine days that let him open doors in his university lab by waving the chipped arm at a sensor. Surely, then, we have legions of cyborgs ready to defend us: consider the Mexican bureaucrats, Alzheimer’s patients and dogs the world over who have been tagged with identity chips. And as for The Sun’s claim that Warwick is the first man ever to have a chip implanted in him, we have one word: pacemakers. ® Related stories Captain Cyborg terrorises UK conference Captain Cyborg is back: official Captain Cyborg issues chilling TV warning Captain Cyborg returns with Wi-Fi rhubarb!
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2004

Al-Qaeda cyber terrorist panics US

It is likely that New York City, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, DC have been put on Orange Alert, the second highest of the Department of Homeland Security's confusing color codes, on the basis of information gathered during the arrest of a reputed al-Qaeda computer engineer in Pakistan on 13 July. Captive Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan is described as a communications specialist for the infamous terror network, working out of Pakistan, and using computer technology and the Internet to relay information among the group's players. He served as something of a communications hub, according to reports. The New York Times claims that Khan had "told investigators that most of al-Qaeda's communications were now done through the Internet, the official said. After a message was sent and read by the recipient, the entire communication and related files were deleted to maintain secrecy, he said. Mr. Khan had told investigators that e-mail addresses were generally not used more than a few times." There has been no mention of any sort of computer-based attack, such as a mass virus outbreak or DDoS, however. So far, the forces of evil appear to be using computer technology and network infrastructure just as anyone else might do - that is, as a convenience, and not as a target in itself. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said that security has been beefed up at the New York Stock Exchange and at several buildings owned by Citigroup, at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, and at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey. "The quality of this intelligence based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen, and it is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information," Ridge said. However, al-Qaeda captives have been responsible for a good deal of false "intelligence," such as that provided by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who has since retracted his claims that Saddam Hussein's government had provided training in the use of chemical weapons to the terror outfit. It was al-Libi's information that led US President George W. Bush to announce that Iraq had provided training in "poisons and gases" to al-Qaeda, an assertion that has since been discredited. It is believed that Khan's computer contained data indicating that al-Qaeda operators have been carefully assessing the security strengths and weaknesses of these sites in preparation for an explosives attack. Some of the information dates to before 9/11, officials have said. It is not clear whether any of the information recently obtained relates to current or future schemes. Terror suspect Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, wanted for the US embassy bombings in Africa in 1998, was arrested last week. According to reports, information on his computer is corroborated by information on Khan's computer. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg assured residents that the city is prepared. "We have ramped up security even further at the named locations as well as at other potential targets," Bloomberg said. He vowed to "spare no expense" in protecting civilians. Numerous new inconveniences are in now place. Parking and traffic patterns have been restricted in the areas surrounding these and other potential target sites, and the Holland Tunnel has been closed to incoming commercial vehicles. Heavily armed police have been dispatched to the sites, to give the public a reassuring show of force. There have been reports that the UK is also a target, but no special security measures have been announced thus far. It is possible that merely by revealing some knowledge of these plots, officials have discouraged al-Qaeda from pursuing them further. ®
Thomas C Greene, 02 Aug 2004

Sun turns WSJ into Novell buy spin machine

You have to give credit to Sun Microsystems' President Jonathan Schwartz. He knows how to play the media well. And one of his finest press goading moments since becoming Prez has come in the form of a non-story about Sun potentially acquiring Novell. On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal captured some astonishing stuff coming out of Schwartz's mouth. "We're one of the best-financed companies to pursue an aggressive acquisition strategy," Schwartz told the paper, adding that acquisitions are "a topic of daily debate" at Sun. This discussion apparently continued with Schwartz hinting at a Novell buy or the WSJ reporters using their powerful intuition to figure this course of action out. We're sure that the thought of Sun making an acquisition is a shock to most of you - the only bigger shock being that Sun discusses these matters daily. We'd always thought of Sun's $7bn cash stockpile as something CEO Scott McNealy likes to roll around in on off days, not as an acquisition reserve. Heck, Sun has only made about 10 acquisitions in the last couple years. This places it well behind acquisition leader IBM. But, sure enough, here is one of America's finest papers, saying Sun is indeed serious about acquisitions and then casually throwing out the Novell name to drum up interest in its story. The usual suspects in the IT media of course followed on the WSJ power scoop and did stories of their own. And then we noticed that Mr. Schwartz - as the WSJ calls him - had put up this post on his glob on the same day that Novell non-story appeared. It's mostly a message about how IBM's vast investment in and commitment to SuSE appears to be backfiring. IBM has watched Red Hat out ship SuSE and seen Red Hat start to sell middleware that competes with IBM's WebSphere code. This, as Schwartz puts it, has "IBM finding itself in the uncomfortable position of having lost control of the social movement they were hoping to monetize." In addition, IBM has spent far more money and time tuning Linux for its servers than tuning AIX for the same systems. Sun likes to say this, combined with the Red Hat sales, will leave IBM without operating system ownership - a real no-no for a company with such deep proprietary roots. "IBM is in a real pickle," Schwartz writes. "Red Hat's dominance leaves IBM almost entirely dependent upon SuSe/Novell. Whoever owns Novell controls the OS on which IBM's future depends. Now that's an interesting thought, isn't it?" Schwartz, of course, knew that us saps in the press would point to this line and wonder if he meant that Sun could somehow end up as IBM's master if it acquired Novell and the SuSE division. But isn't this as much of a non-story as the original acquisition vapor quotation? We doubt that Sun has plans to acquire Novell at all. If Sun is so interested in SuSE, why didn't it pick up the company before Novell? Sun's old Cobalt purchase proved it's not afraid to spend egregious amounts of money on a target, if it thinks it has to. And we doubt even more that IBM would be outbid by its much smaller rival. Not gonna happen. Beyond all this, wouldn't Sun look pretty foolish buying Novell to spite IBM. Sun's the one saying Red Hat is the real Linux vendor. Sun would do more to hurt IBM's Linux play by picking up the successful Linux company instead of flirting with the "other open source meat." Speculation of a Red Hat buy, however, might have to wait until the first day of the next LinuxWorld, when Sun again looks to steal the spotlight. In any case, the thought that Schwartz would announce Sun's confidential acquisition plans to a pair of hacks, setting up the potential for a rise in Novell shares and alerting the competition to its plans, is laughable. Thankfully, another WSJ reporter figured this out today and quoted an analyst who described the idea of Sun acquiring Novell as "silly." Maybe they can have a newsroom meeting over this issue and get their stories straight. Yes, friends, this is Schwartz working the Sun tradition of tossing out a "controversial" non-quotation, knowing the press will jump on it. Schwartz must have looked into the WSJ reporters' eyes and known it was a slow news day. Good on him for that. Or perhaps, he's concerned IBM might buy Novell and wanted a chance at mocking the idea ahead of time and maybe even kicking Novell's share price higher. If you're looking for real news, we remind you that drug dogs are dying from meth overdoses, the White House is chiding puppets and eco-tourists are dumping diesel off the coast of Alaska. ® Related stories Sun salutes Microsoft for delivering Q4 profit Software giants feel open source pressure On Sun, Java and Open Source Sun gets liquored up on own code
Ashlee Vance, 02 Aug 2004

Veritas makes Linux as strong as Solaris

LinuxWorldLinuxWorld While best known as a Solaris bedfellow, Veritas Software continues to make strides deeper into the Linux camp, announcing today several new products for the open source operating system, a Unix to Linux porting tool and its membership in the OSDL (Open Source Development Lab). Most notably, Veritas has now brought its Storage Foundation 4.0 product to Red Hat Linux. This software, released on Solaris way back in February, combines the Veritas File System and Volume Manager into a single product. This gives Linux customers access to high-end data management software and puts a little more pressure on Sun to keep Solaris customers from shifting to Linux. Veritas has also certified its Storage Foundation for Oracle RAC, Storage Foundation Cluster File System, Cluster Server with Global Cluster Option and Volume Replicator products to work with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. These releases are part of Veritas' long-term, but slow going, strategy to get all of its software released on Solaris, Linux, HP-UX and AIX at the same time. "Our intention for the longest time has been to try and release on all those platforms cosynchronously [sic]," said Ranajit Nevatia, director of Linux strategy at Veritas. "We've been putting in processes to get to that since last year, and we have been able to compress some of the release time down." By next year, Veritas expects to have product releases for at least Solaris and Linux arriving at about the same time, Nevatia said. In the meantime, Veritas is making it much easier for Unix customers to find their way over to Linux. It has brought the Portable Data Containers technology, previously only available to Solaris customers, to Storage Foundation 4.0 for Linux. This converts data for use on Linux and lets customers dump the data on a Linux system with relative ease. "It makes the data independent of the server or OS architecture," Nevatia said. Veritas has also upgraded its Storage Foundation for Oracle RAC product to run across numerous servers instead of just one. Veritas claims customers looking to run Oracle databases on clusters will pick its volume manager/file system combination over similar products from the likes of Red Hat's Sistina division and Polyserve. And, as fancy infomercial broom sellers say late at night, "that's not all." Customers can now pick up Veritas' Cluster Server product for Linux and make use of its wide-area failover technology. This software protects data on single systems and clusters on a wide range of platforms. Couple it with the Volume Replicator for Linux, which allows long distance data replication over IP, and you're in serious data protection country. Veritas also said that Version 7.0 of its i3 application performance monitoring software, acquired in the Precise buy, will have all three of the i3 components running on Linux. So no more i1. But what does all this cost and when can I get my bloody hands on it, Bob? Well, the vast majority of these products arrive on Sept. 6 - better known as HP CEO Carly Fiorina's birthday. The i3 software will ship in the fourth quarter. The pricing is as follows: Veritas Storage Foundation starts at $995, Storage Foundation Oracle RAC starts at $6,000, Storage Foundation Cluster File System starts at $2,500, Cluster Server with the Global Cluster Option starts at $1,500 and Volume Replicator starts at $2,500. For those interested in the 64-bitness of Veritas software, you can expect a 64-bit version of the Storage Foundation 4.0 product in the first half of next year. This will run on both AMD's Opteron and Intel's new Xeon chips. Veritas already supports Itanium, which we're sure does little to boost anyone's revenue. ® Related stories Veritas beats revised targets Veritas secures Invio for $35m Veritas lowers Q2 forecast. Investors lower Veritas Veritas cleans up financials
Ashlee Vance, 02 Aug 2004