22nd > December > 2004 Archive
Symbian OS/Series 60 UI malware Skulls has been put to further use, this time masquerading as a version of the game Metal Gear Solid. Vulnerable handsets include those from manufacturers such as Nokia, Siemens, Panasonic and Sendo. According to anti-virus software developer SimWorks, the Trojan, dubbed Metal Gear A, uses Skulls to disable anti-virus software, including the company's own. It also uses the Cabir worm to spread to other handsets. Anyone receiving the installer file Metal Gear.sis on their Symbian phone should not open it or proceed with the installation. If they do, it will not only render any already installed anti-virus code ineffective, but will install Cabir and another installer file, SEXXXY.sis. This adds code that disables the handset's Menu button. Cabir not only transmits itself, typically using Bluetooth, but will send SEXXXY.sis too. SimWorks said it has updated its own anti-virus software since Metal Gear A was first discovered. ® Related stories Cabir added to payload of Symbian mobile Trojan Skulls Trojan keelhauls Symbian phones Trojan dialler afflicts Symbian smartphones Virus attacks mobiles via Bluetooth
ATI continued to make strong revenue gains during the first quarter of its 2005 fiscal year, with sales up 30.7 per cent year on year and 7.3 per cent sequentially. In the three months to 30 November 2004, ATI made sales totalling $613.9m, up from the Q4 2004's $572.2m and Q1 2004's $469.7m. Q1's sales were below the mid-point of the $600-640m range ATI forecast after reporting its previous quarter's results. Net income for the period totalled $63.7m (25 cents a share) up four per cent on the previous quarter's $61.2m and 34.3 per cent on the year-ago quarter. Net income excluding one-off staff stock-option compensation costs associated was $71.4m (28 cents a share). Gross margin rose 0.4 percentage points sequentially to 34.2 per cent, though that's still below the year-ago quarter's figure of 35.9 per cent. Pushing Q1 2005's figure down were the "production costs associated with the introduction and ramp of our new PCI Express products", the ATI said. That said, sales of discrete desktop chips rose 20 per cent year on year on the back of PC vendors' PCI Express purchases. Notebook chip sales also rose 20 per cent year on year, with sales of discrete products more than compensating for a decline in integrated chips. What's worrying here is that integrated graphics chip sales rose 25.8 per cent in calendar Q3. Either the market shrank considerably after September 2004, or ATI is losing a lot of business to its rivals. Neither circumstance is good for the company. The post-Christmas period is traditionally a weaker one for graphics chip makers, and ATI said it expects sales to match those it recorded during Q1 FY2005, give or take $20m. So expect Q2 revenues to come in between $593.9m and $633.9m. ATI said it's anticipated the quarter's gross margins to match those of Q1, too. ® Related stories ATI Q4 sales, income rocket Nvidia to pitch NV48 at ATI's R520 Nvidia apes ATI to revive mid-1990s AGP feature ATI unveils Radeon X850 XT PE, X800 XL Q3 integrated graphics chip shipments soar ATI rolls out X300, X800 mobile GPUs ATI to spend $10m on Korean R&D plant ATI tapes out 90nm R5xx chip
Blackberry maker Research in Motion this week raised its performance expectations for the coming couple of quarters despite the prospect of its failure to defend itself against patent holder NTP's legal action. Driving RIM's revised forecast were figures for the company third quarter of fiscal 2005. In the three months to 27 November 2004, RIM realised revenues of $365.9m, up 18 per cent on the previous quarter's $310.2m and 138 per cent on Q3 2004's $153.9m. Net income for the period was $90.4m (46 cents a share), up 28.1 per cent on Q2's $70.6m (36 cents a share) and 454.6 per cent higher than Q3 2004's figure, $16.3m (ten cents a share). Q3 2005's figure would have been higher still had RIM not set aside $24.6m to cover litigation expenses, it said. Fighting the legal battle with NTP cost the company a further 12 cents a share's worth of earnings. RIM's revenues continue to be driven by sales of its Blackberry handhelds, which accounted for 71 per cent of the company's sales during the quarter, up slightly on Q2's share. Of the rest of RIM's Q3 revenue, 17 per cent came from service deals, seven per cent from software licences and five per cent from other sources. During November this year, RIM announced its user-base had risen beyond 2m individuals. By the end of the quarter, the tally had grown to 2,044,000, up 387,000 on the previous quarter. Looking ahead, RIM said it now expects the current quarter, Q4 FY2005, to yield sales in the region of $390-410m, up 6.6-12.1 per cent sequentially, both lower than the previous quarter-on-quarter jump. Despite that, Q4 earnings will fall between 54 cents and 48 cents, the company said, higher than previously forecast. Q1 FY2006 will deliver 51-57 cents per share in earnings on sales of between $430m and $455m, RIM said. Without litigation expenses, the two quarters' incomes would come to 60-67 cents and 64-71 cents per share, respectively. At the end of Q3, RIM had $1.64bn in cash and investments, up from $1.59bn at the end of the Q2. ® Related stories RIM infringed NTP patents, appeal court rules RIM ships Blackberry Enterprise Server 4.0 RIM takes active-user total to 2m RIM signs BT to sell Blackberry RIM rises as PalmOne slides in Euro device market
Never mind the self-healing minefield, standby for the self-heating latté. From 2 January 2005, US punters will be able to buy a $2.25 cup of coffee that heats itself in six minutes. Previous trial launches aimed at the mass market have floundered on the size and cost of the product, but WP Beverage Partners thinks it might have a winner, and has persuaded celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck to put his name to the venture. Inside the tin, a cone containing crushed quicklime is introduced to a jacket of water when activated, to generate the heat, and the packaging manufacturer claims the cup stays warm an hour. Contracts to market soup and baby food in self-heating containers have already been signed. "This will change the way people drink coffee," says Jonathan Weisz, chief executive of OnTech, which developed the heating technology and demonstrates it in a 3-D video, here [Windows media only]. But will it? Not if our trials are anything to go by. Despite experimenting with slow vapor absorption, and pouring the coffee directly into the ear canal, we've discovered that traditional oral ingestion methods remain the most effective. But what Jonathan probably means is "this will change the way people buy coffee" - and it's a multi-million dollar question. The most promising markets are the gas station and the motel. Upmarket punters used to visiting Starbucks on the way to work will be asked to give up the social ritual of the queue and a passably fresh brew for convenience. To be frank, the cold pasteurised lattés on offer today taste like sick, and there's little reason to suppose a self-heating version will be any more appetizing. However the marketers might have an ace up their sleeve. From the way employees in the nation's financial districts tote their coffee holders - almost as a kind of military hardware - there may be some potential in targeting such nascent survivalist fantasies. Nothing seems to appeals corridor warriors more than rugged outdoor or military chic. So rather than marketing it as a convenience beverage, it could be sold as an accessory for would-be urban guerillas. Troops and mountaineers, after all, have been using a bulkier version of the technology for years. ® Related stories Brazilians to brew supercoffee Polymer researchers probe self-healing fuel tanks The self-healing, self-hopping landmine IBM promotes self-healing systems BOFH: One double espresso from meltdown BOFH and the coffee machine What does C have in common with a scalding cup of coffee?
FoTWFoTW 'Tis the Wednesday before Christmas and all through the house, a great flame is roaring, from a reader with a grouse... This eloquent chap is not the only person to blame El Reg for the demise of SuprNova, but he managed to fit in the most abuse, per word, so we thought we'd run it as Flame of the Week: Way to go letting that article about suprnova loose. lets bring down more attention to an illegal underground operation. you couldnt just leave well enough alone. i think you're by far the biggest asshat i've ever heard of accept for the dumbshit that actually wrote it. mabey not right now, but mark my words someone is going to make "the register", fuckin no good brittish assholes, regret this the following is a list of why i hate brittish people smell bad ugly no taste stupid inbread did i mention stupid? bad teeth boring cant drive got beat by a bunch of virginia rednecks and sent packing fuck off, i really hope something bad happens to you. way to go Wow. We brought down Suprnova, single handedly*. It is nice to know that The Register has some real clout in the online world, and is the only place on the net where information about downloading and filesharing may be found. We shall consider ourselves quite the authority from now on. We have alerted our marketing team to begin immediate negotiations for a handsome payoff from the MPAA.** ® *To anyone hard of understanding, we didn't, the real reason for the closure of the site is quite different. **Again, to those who have not yet finished their second cup of coffee, this is not true.
Onyx Internet has become the first ISP to sign up to a wholesale broadband service from unbundling outfit Easynet. Last week, Easynet announced it would be providing wholesale broadband to telcos and ISPs at prices it claims are 30-35 per cent cheaper than those offered by BT. Using its own kit installed in BT exchanges, Easynet is offering operators the chance to provide unbundled services direct to end users via its new LLUStream product. Yesterday, Mddlesbrough-based ISP Onyx became EasyNet's first LLUStream punter. Business ISP Onyx will use LLUStream to roll out "innovative, differentiated high-bandwidth services to its customers in the North East of England and Scotland", said the company in a press statement. Said Easynet Business Development Director Justin Fielder: "LLUStream means that ISPs, carriers and system integrators can finally offer their customers innovative LLU services provided by someone other than BT. It gives organisations access to a unique portfolio of great value, incredibly fast connectivity speeds and stringent SLAs [service level agreements]." Elsewhere, Nildram has unveiled a voice service that bolts on to its broadband service. HomeTalk costs £4.99 a month and gives users up to 50 hours of free UK landline calls. It also offers low cost calls to mobile, international and 0845 numbers apparently. Said Nildram MD Sean Stephenson: "The key benefits with HomeTalk are price and simplicity, as well as the convenience of a combined voice and broadband solution. Customers don't even need to dial a special number, or fit a dialling box to access the new service - all you have to do is talk." Sheesh. ® Related stories Easynet squares up to BT with wholesale broadband Ofcom orders BT price cuts for broadband rivals Wanadoo UK begins major broadband drive
ReviewReview Impressive audio has never been one of the selling points of laptops. Generally small speakers and the need to conserve energy rather than belt out virtuoso, ear-splitting performances have always resulted in less than impressive overall quality, writes Charlie Brewer. Until now. Enter stage left the latest in the Creative SoundBlaster range of Audigy 2 ZS products. The SoundBlaster has been around for over a decade, especially well known to the gaming community, translating gamers' soundscapes into an impressive virtual reality. The new notebook card resembles a 3G wireless PC Card in size, shape and docking point on the PC laptop. Once in place, the left and right ports accept either optical or mini jacks while the middle port is designed for a special speaker cable, connecting direct to a normal speaker amp. The card can have audio either played out through it, to an amplifier or recording devices to hear the sound through conventional speakers, or it can have an audio source played through it into the laptop, thus acting as the encoder. Every possible format seems to be covered, with Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES decoding, THX, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 surround sound, DVD-Audio and Hi-fidelity, and 24-bit recording all supported. Creative also bless the buyer with enough software to accomplish virtually anything. Inside the box you get Creative Media Source, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 and Creative Wave Studio. Between the creative packages and the EAX Advanced HD effects control panels, you'll find solutions to record, burn, edit, equalise, customise and clean all the audio you'll ever want to. There are some disadvantages, though. Once the card is in place, and the software recognised, the computer's speakers will no longer work. This means that if you want to share an impromptu tune with others, oblivious to the falling audio quality, then you have to remove the card, close all the related software and faff around a bit to get audio playback back to how it was. The supporting literature is a little sparse on how to use the functions but excessive on what the features do, concentrating on a impressive, but unnecessary, demo disk of all the latest games supporting DirectSound3D system. Verdict If you intent to have any sort of fun with your laptop then this is £100 you need to spend. Games, DVDs, MP3s CDs will all sound fantastic when played though the card, even if it's only on a pair of headphones for your personal enjoyment. The creative range of the software supplied will allow for recording studio activities, the only real danger you have is filling up the hard-drive too quickly. Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Notebook Rating 90% Pros — Improves your laptops sound no end; plenty of bundled software. Cons — A bit of a pain to uninstall. Price £99 More info The Creative site Recent Reviews Creative Zen Micro 5GB music player iRiver N10 512MB Flash MP3 player Kodak EasyShare DX7590 ATI Radeon Xpress 200G reference board Nokia 6670 smart phone Leadtek WinFast PX6600TD GeForce 6600 card Sony Vaio U70P Wi-Fi micro PC ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition Sony Cyber-shot DSC P150
Western digital announced this week that its Caviar family of hard drives now runs at significantly lower temperatures and uses less power - not only than the company's own drives but less than all of its rivals' products, the company claimed. The new models, which spin at 7200rpm, also run cooler than many slower, 5400rpm drives, WD claimed. Quite apart from beating up on the competition, the drives' lower temperature operation should improve their operating lifespan, not to mention reducing the energy consumed by host PCs keeping themselves cool. That's even in "challenging environments such as small-form-factor PCs, fan-less consumer electronics devices and multi-drive storage systems", the company said. The cooler-running drives arrive as WD added a 320GB model to its current Caviar line-up. That range includes drives with capacities ranging from 40GB to 250GB, with 2MB or 8MB of cache. The Caviar SE 320GB drives have an 8MB cache and run at 7200 RPM. The drives offer a mean read seek time of 8.9ms and a write time of 10.9ms. Serial ATA (model number WD3200JD) and EIDE (WD3200JB) versions will be offered, WD said. They will be available at stores next month, and may be pre-ordered at the company's online store. ® Related stories Western Digital to end HDD part code confusion WD caches up 80 gig HDD WD flogs external 120GB FireWire HDD
2004 in review2004 in review Patents have been big news in 2004, with Microsoft appealing against the ruling that it owes Eolas hundreds of millions in licence fees, a move which has found it some unlikely allies. Meanwhile, the EU did its level best to pass a directive "clarifying" the legality of patenting software in Europe. But in all the patent-related excitement, let us not forget SCO, and its (entirely self-inflicted) copyright dispute with IBM. As the year began, the legal to-ing and fro-ing over ownership of sections of Unix source code had been rumbling on for the better part of nine months already. By March 2004, we wondered aloud whether the end might be in sight. It was nowhere near. The details of the case are well documented on Groklaw than anywhere else, but suffice it to say legal filings were in no short supply, and SCO found itself largely on the back foot. One of the more interesting twists in the tale, however, was that of Groklaw itself. 2003 saw Pamela Jones establish the site as the online authority on the case. In 2004, her relentless pursuit of SCO provoked a significant response. SCO would launch a rival site, it said in mid-October, to tell its side of the story. CEO Darl McBride swore the site would be up by the beginning of November. Website? What website? Embarrassingly, soon after making its original announcement, SCO decided it wouldn't launch its pro-SCO site after all. As PJ said at the time: "Perhaps they decided they'd libeled me enough for one day." However, SCO did not let up, and went on to suggest that PJ's work for Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) implied she believed there were substantial IP risks inherent in Linux. PJ was so enraged that she quit her post at OSRM so that SCO would not be able to use that relationship to spread more of what she called FUD. They fought the law, but the law won New legislation in Europe this year caused concern that media businesses would find themselves in a far more lawyer-driven environment. The EU's IP Enforcement directive was drafted to make it easier for law enforcement to go after large-scale, commercial counterfeiters. But it did so in terms that failed to distinguish between a lone filesharer, downloading one song on Kazaa, and a huge blackmarket operation with links to organised crime. The draft was heavily criticised for its wooly definitions - it even failed to define what it meant by intellectual property rights - and the heavy duty weaponry it handed out to law enforcement. Under the terms of the new directive, someone photocopying pages in a library would be regarded as the same kind of criminal as a commercial-scale software pirate. Nonetheless, it was waved through by MEPs with barely a whisper in the mainstream press. And another battle begins Which leads on to the European Directive on software patents, or as they would prefer we call it: the Directive on Computer Implemented Inventions. Possibly even more contentious than the IP Enforcement direction, the notion of harmonising Europe's laws dealing with software patents has not been popular. In 2003, the elected members of Europe's Parliament voted to toughen up the Irish presidency's draft directive dealing with software patents. But when they sent their draft to the Council of Ministers, the Ministers put big red lines through all their work. The utterly de-fanged directive emerged from behind closed doors looking a shadow of its former self. Gone were the restrictions on patenting pure software; gone were the requirements that software involved in a patent had to support a physical process. Instead, the door was opened for direct patenting of programs, data structures and processes. The battle was now well and truly joined. On one side, the UK Patent Office argued that the directive merely clarified the existing position. It said that the directive limited the scope of what could be patented and ruled out US-style business-method patents. Not so, cried the anti-patent camp, in fact, quite the reverse. There was outrage in the open source camp. How could this happen? The presidency was slammed as undemocratic, and protests were mounted outside the EC's headquarters. Inside, Ministers acknowledged that there was little consensus on the directive's form, and rescheduled the vote to pass the bill, allowing more time for debate. Some very small changes were subsequently made, and the bill was voted through by the slimmest of margins, after Germany changed its stance. There were dark mutterings about Germany's last-minute switch, with many onlookers suspecting some adroit political manoeuvring had taken place. All that remained was for the bill to be formally adopted, and it would pass back to Parliament for a second reading. But in between times, there was the small matter of the European elections. Since the summer, the final vote of the directive has been delayed, time and time again. A friendlier side of Microsoft? Nah... The year saw its fair share of lawsuits too, mostly in the US. The biggest of the bunch is unquestionably Microsoft's challenge of the validity of Eolas' web browser patent. If the patent, covering a method for opening third-party applications within a browser, was upheld, the impact on the Net would be enormous. This made for some unlikely alliances, as Sir Tim "the web" Berners-Lee came out in support of Microsoft's position. But let us not be too dazzled by this apparently uncharacteristic defence of online freedoms. Microsoft is, after all, behaving exactly as it always does: in its own best interests. Remember that this is the company with over 1500 patents pending review. It also felt moved to say that it could no longer "look the other way" when companies used its IP, and made a great fuss about its own indemnification program, as it continues its efforts to undermine open source as a viable business option. Government challenge The US did not see all the action: in the UK, the government actually challenged a European patent - covering an electronic registration system for schools - in court and won. It apparently sees no contradiction between its position on this issue, and its contrary stance on the EU directive... but we digress. At least, it sort of won, in as much as it was able to show that some of the patent was invalid because it had been done before. The case is still ongoing, as Frontline, the patent holder, was granted leave to redraft its patent to avoid prior art. The continuing dispute, along with contradictory advice from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), left schools uncertain over whether they could be held liable for infringing on the patented technology. Again, we will have to wait and see what happens next. Fortunately, in the midst of this dark and dismal year, there were a couple of bright spots. Firstly, the EFF launched a campaign to challenge what it regards as the ten worst software patents ever granted. Secondly, Laurence Lessig's Creative Commons launched in the UK, handing authors more control over the freedoms they grant to others who want to use their work. ®
Nintendo has shipped more the 2m DS handheld consoles in the US and Japan, the company said yesterday. With over 1m sold in each territory, Nintendo is well on the way to meeting its end-of-year sales target of 2.8m units worldwide. The DS launched in the US on 21 November then in Japan on 2 December. In the US, it took a week for 500,000 DS consoles to be sold - in Japan that figure was passed in just four days. Nintendo restated its plan to launch the console in Europe early next year, though the machine isn't expected to ship over here until late in Q1 2005, around the time Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSPs) makes its European and North American debuts. And that's really what all this shouting about numbers is about. Sony has sold over 200,000 PSPs in Japan since the handheld console's 12 December debut, as it struggles to boost production and meet its own end-of-year target of 500,000 units. Nintendo clearly wants World+Dog to assume that its higher sales figures represent higher popularity. That may yet prove to be the case, but while sales of the PSP and even, to an extent, the DS are being controlled by supply, not demand, it's impossible to say so now with certainty. ® Related stories Nintendo preps DS media module Sony PSP takes off on schedule Sony selects 25 March 05 for Euro PSP launch Nintendo lauds 500,000 first-week DS sales Nintendo to spill Euro DS plans in January Nintendo aims high with low-cost console Nintendo redesigns DS handheld console Sony, Nintendo pick March '05 for Euro console launch Nintendo DS: more communicator than console?
Mobile phone users have been advised to use a landline whenever possible after researchers claimed that mobiles can damage DNA. In a four-year study, German researchers exposed human tissue to low-power microwaves, which are emitted by mobile phones, and found that the radiation caused damage to the DNA within the cells, which were kept in a suspension. They also discovered that this effect is increased in areas with a poor signal because the phone uses higher-powered radiation to maintain a connection. The mobile signals used were within the legal limit of a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of 2W/kg. They caused the production of free radicals - highly reactive groups of atoms or molecules - which reacted with DNA molecules, causing the DNA to mutate. Cell mutations can result in cancerous growths. Franz Adlkofer, who led the study, said: "We don't want to create a panic, but it is good to take precautions." The output from a mobile handset can be anywhere from 2mW to about 1W, depending on whether the phone is in use and the strength of the signal. The amount of radiation emitted jumps briefly just before the phone rings. Experts and representatives of the mobile phone industry have also advised consumers not to panic, citing the failure of previous studies to show a link between mobiles and health risks. The industry maintains that there is no scientific proof that using a mobile phone carries health risks. The study, due to be published next month, was conducted by the Verum Foundation, based in Munich, and funded by the EU at a cost of £2.2m. It comes during the already heated debate over the safety of mobile phones. The team of researchers are seeking funding to repeat their tests on living cells in animals and humans. ® Related stories New lab to study mobile mast risks Mobile users twice as likely to get tumours - report Mobile phone industry in radiation risk rap
Microsoft is to start shipping a cut-down version of Windows in Europe from January, following the failure of its appeal to the European Court of First Instance over penalties imposed by the Commission earlier this year. Microsoft hasn't run out of appeal routes, but the Court ordered the company to begin carrying out the Commission's decision immediately. This, according to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith, means OEMs will get the version of Windows without Media Player next month, with it being available to other customers from February. It's not yet clear precisely what Microsoft's implementation of the decision will entail, but the notion of Windows Media Player being illegal music software in Europe is one to conjure with. Microsoft hasn't been massively concerned about the Commission's fine of €497 million, but it sees - understandably - the Commission's attempt to limit what it can and cannot put into Windows as a direct threat to its business model. As the Commission's intent is to do something about the operation of that business model, that too is understandable. It requires Microsoft to unbundle Media Player and to disclose "interface documentation" sufficient to allow non-Microsoft workgroup servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers to rival vendors. The peace treaty with Sun, which was one of these rivals, earlier this year may ease the operation of this somewhat, but not entirely. Microsoft can appeal the decision to the European Court of Justice, but this could take several months. In a statement, the company said it was reviewing the Court's order, but claimed to be "encouraged by a number of aspect's of the Court's discussion of the merits of the case." The Court didn't find, as Microsoft claimed, that implementation of the remedies would impose "irreparable harm" on the company, but "recognized that some of our arguments on the merits of the case are well-founded and may ultimately carry the day when the substantive issues are resolved in the full appeal." This, it said, left Microsoft hopeful that the issues highlighted by the Court "will create an opportunity for the parties to discuss settlement." Which you might reckon is a seriously optimistic spin of the verdict - if Microsoft's appeal had been accepted, then the Commission might have felt more pressure to cut a deal that was more favourable to the company. The pressure however is now on Microsoft, which might still make a deal more likely, but only by making Microsoft more likely to concede points. ® Related links: European court to rule on MS sanctions Novell, CCIA evidence may be tossed out in MS EC case MS gets EU fine, orders for server info and WMP-free Windows
A PC, PS2 and Xbox-based trivia game has been banned in the US after a teenager alleged that the title contains topless video pictures of her, used not only without her permission but filmed when she was a minor. Called The Guy Game, the software poses the player with a range of trivia questions. Answer them successfully and you're shown shots of young women cavorting on beaches, usually in a state of undress. The plaintiff, who remains unnamed, took the game's developer, Austin-based Top Heavy Studios, and its publisher, Take-Two subsidiary Gathering of Developers, to court on the back of her allegations, and this week was granted an temporary injunction banning the game from sale. The teenager claims to have suffered humiliation, embarrassment and shame as a result of her alleged appearance in the game, which went on sale in the US in the summer, offering piccies of "over 60 smokin' coeds" and "real video of actual Spring Break hotties". Women "proudly show off their 'assets' for your personal enjoyment", runs the game's spiel. Unfortunately, the footage of the plaintiff was taken when she was 17 years old, she claims. That not only renders the content illegal, but her status as a minor negates any consent she may have given to the game's developers to take and/or use the material. "The plaintiff is still a teenager and wishes to attend college, develop her career and be active in her community and church," the lawsuit said. ® Related stories Massive game advertising startup to aid desperate brands New Zealand censor pulls Postal 2 JFK assassination game branded 'despicable' Grand Theft Auto sequel leaked onto web Greece to face Euro court over video games ban Australia bans Manhunt Four Florida officials fired over Xbox slaying Stolen Xbox blamed as motive for mass murder Victim not killer owned 'murder manual' game Retailers bans Manhunt after murder link claim Haitians seek Vice City ban
Apple has sued three software developers, accusing them of posting pre-release versions of the next major Mac OS X update on the Internet without its permission. The lawsuit is a further blow to the reputation of BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer download technology. Last week, a host of BitTorrent server operators were sued by the Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) for hosting unauthorised copies of movies. Like the MPAA suits, the Apple action does not focus on the technology but the use to which it was put. The Mac maker claims the three men posted two separate builds of 'Tiger', the next major version of Mac OS X, on 30 October and 8 December. The three provided the operating system through a series of BitTorrent links on a web site. Apple says the men obtained copies of Tiger through their membership of its Apple Developer Connection programme, which regularly provides "under strict confidentiality agreements" pre-release builds of upcoming versions of Mac OS X to software developers. The suit follows other actions launched by Apple this week, this time against a number of unnamed individuals it claims leaked upcoming product information to a variety of Mac-oriented web sites. And last week, the MPAA's lawsuits against movie sharers was followed up with a series of police raids in Europe against BitTorrent server owners in a number of countries. ® Related stories Apple sues unnamed whistleblower Dutch eDonkey site owners released SuprNova.org ends, not with a bang but a whimper The BitTorrent P2P file-sharing system Dutch raid eDonkey sites, seize servers Finnish police raid BitTorrent site
UK music, movie and games retailer HMV will finally relaunch its digital music download service in the second half of 2005, the company said today. The Register first reported on the store's plan in June this year, when we covered the retailer's move to open an online store selling iPods. Then as now, HMV offers downloads via European digital music distributor OD2, now part of US-based Loudeye. However, a company spokesman said the retailer was planning to "upgrade its download offer very significantly" in the "near future". According to a report in today's Times, that "upgrade" will cost the company £10m and position the retailer as a "major force" in digital music when it launches in H2 2005. Right now, it doesn't exactly go out of its way to tell punters that it offers downloads. The new service will, like the current one, offer content in Windows Media format. That means it won't work with iPods, of course, but HMV reckons there will be plenty of devices out there that will be able to play songs downloaded from its site. True, but they will also be able to get music from a wide variety of suppliers, including other OD2-hosted services, along with Napster, Wippit, Tesco and Woolworths. HMV naturally claimed that WMA support would prove more "important" than catering to iPod owners, but then it has little choice in the matter. While Apple refuses to licence its FairPlay DRM technology, stores like HMV can't support iPods no matter how keen they are to do so, or how strong the player's market share is. For now that may not matter. The more companies who line up behind WMA, the less each will make from the nascent download market, which isn't yet large enough to support too many of them. Apple, on the other hand, with a very large chunk of the player market in its hands, can afford to wait until the download business matures sufficiently that punters start to buy players to support whichever download service they prefer, rather than the other way round. The download market may have developed that far by the time HMV relaunches its online service, but we doubt it. ® Related stories Canadian 'iPod tax' illegal, judge rules Apple talks up mid-range Motorola 'iPod phone' Apple iTunes sells 200m songs Apple iPod out of tune with Real's Harmony Napster UK song sheet passes 1m mark Napster nips into newsagents Digital music download coin-op to offer 'all formats, all DRMs' EMI looks to digital as download sales quadruple Tesco opens digital music store The Darkness opens digital song service iTunes Japan hits 'inadequate DRM' hurdle Woolworths to take on Apple iTunes store HMV iPods not compatible with store's music downloads MusicNet to deliver music downloads to UK
Loudeye, US parent of European digital music pioneer OD2, has won itself $25.2m in funding. The finance will come from unnamed "institutional investors" who will stump up the cash in return for 16.8m Loudeye shares, along with the right to buy 5m more. Loudeye said it will use the money for "working capital and any other general corporate purposes" - in other words, to maintain its day-to-day operations. Earlier this month, Loudeye said it had extended its partnership with MTV Europe, which it took on when it bought OD2 in June 2004 for $40.5m in cash and shares. OD2 already runs MTV music download stores in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The new deal will see stores open in Spain and Italy. Indeed, most of the company's successes this year have come through deals struck in Europe by OD2, so the acquisition seems to have been a sound business move. However, with Q3 revenues of just $5.1m, it may take Loudeye some time to justify the purchase price. Loudeye even said that the 62 per cent increase in quarterly revenue between Q3 and Q2's $3.1m was "primarily due" to the inclusion of OD2's business. It needs to pick up business more quickly than the extra $2m a quarter gained from OD2, particularly since its loss also grew in the same period, from $2.6m to $5m. With $25m in the bank and the addition of this latest round of funding, Loudeye can continue to cope with that kind of loss for some time to come while the revenue-generation opportunity provided by the digital music market continues to expand. It expects to be operating profitably by the end of 2005. Loudeye is anticipating Q4 revenue in the region of $5.2-5.7m. It expects to lose $4.8-5.2m. ® Related stories HMV to spend £10m to catch up with Napster, Apple Tesco opens digital music store Woolworths to take on Apple iTunes store Microsoft extends MSN music sales into Europe AT&T Wireless launches mobile music store Gizmondo UK debut set for 29 October Nokia moves to counter Apple-Moto music alliance Peter Gabriel sells digital music firm OD2 clocks up 1m downloads in Q1 MusicNet to deliver music downloads to UK
LettersLetters This week, you were unanimous in your condemnation of Australian moves to freeze funds donated to the International Red Cross. Distinctly lacking in Christmas spirit: You have got to be shitting me! Do the Record Industry have no shame at all? I think this just goes to show you how far down the corporate line we have gone these days, and it has to stop! Whats next? Suing Oxfam for re-selling old CDs since they haven't paid royalties to the pigopolists?! Madness! Absolute madness! Regards, Dave Redfern Ah, well the season of good will is obviously being stretched too thin by all of the commercial retailers. They hope they don't have to sue the Red Cross? WHAT!? What they heck have they (Red Cross) done, apart from possibly receiving a donation from a company for a charity which helps millions of people worldwide. How can the music industry seriously think that _any_ of it's consumers are going to endorse them suing a Charity? Lets think worst case scenario: Kazaa is found guilty of assisting in the illegal copyright infringement of content it carries. Should the Red Cross then give back it's donations? Can't the Music Industry see that helping the Red Cross is better than making any of their artists or shareholders (more likely) a little bit richer? This has to be a first class example of Corporate Greed if every I have seen it. It's completely despicable in every sense of the world. This needs an end, and very soon. :( Martin Astounding... You really have to wonder about the mentality that finds it reasonable, if 'disappointing,' to sue the Red Cross for money. Hasn't the music industry crossed a line yet? If, hypothetically, I made a few cents pirating music and spent the proceeds on a lollipop to give to my two-year-old cousin, would the industry then try to take it away from her? Poland blocked the software patents directive from being ratified yesterday afternoon. A collective sign of relief went up from the anti-patent contingent: So this is what our nation has been reduced to - saved by the only recently joined Polish cavalry. "The decision has been welcomed by anti-patent campaigners, who said Mr. Marcinski should be praised for his courage." Indeed. Allow me to suggest that El Reg publishes a method whereby its readers can flood Mr. Marcinski with messages of congratulation and encouragement, lest he lose his praiseworthy level of commitment. Call me cynical, but I fear that he will be subjected to incessant pressure. ATB BR And it seems everyone would like to write to the Polish minister responsible to say thank you. Well, you can: Phew that was a close call. How about all readers give Poland the thumbs up and sign a new thank you to the Polish government. They seem to be the only ones with the ba.. courage to stop this madness. http://thankpoland.info Cheers Richard Andrews, Germany Your thoughts on the BitTorrent analysis: I have a few comments on your analysis of the BitTorrent protocol... My main criticism is that you are analyzing BitTorrent in combination with pirate web pages as a P2P file sharing system, when BitTorrent's real purpose is to be a file DISTRIBUTION system. BitTorrent is designed to replace and enhance the performance of a standard http or ftp download server. Where even ten simultaneous downloads can slow the performance of most inexpensive server setups to a crawl, BitTorrent can easily handle ten thousand or more, and in this it is an enormous success. One necessary element of a true BitTorrent distribution is a dedicated seed server. This server ought to be always working, and should have a significant amount of bandwidth behind it; I'd recommend 30KB/s minimum, but more is better. You complain that seeders are "punished" and this is why torrents die, but while long-term seeders are nice, they aren't necessary. It is better for me as a content distributor to allow people to close their torrent and play with their new download as soon as they'd like to. Having torrents die off when interest fades is an artifact of misuse of this specification. You worry about pollution on Suprnova.org, and so do I; there's no reason why it wouldn't exist. But as BitTorrent was normally intended this isn't a problem at all. People visiting Blizzard's website to download content via BitTorrent (actually Blizzard uses a modified downloader, but the concept would be the same if users received a standard .torrent file) would obviously receive a genuine .torrent file, and the data in that file verifies the data received in the download. It's only torrent file redistributors like Suprnova.org where you'd need to be concerned about pollution. You're also concerned about tracker availability. I recommend content distributors run their own trackers, which is an easy task given the numerous types of trackers available, including script-based trackers. There's no reason for a tracker to go down unless the web server goes down, in which case no one would probably be able to get a copy of the .torrent file anyway, and a standard download would also be blocked. As a sharing method BitTorrent indeed has some deficiencies, but it simply wasn't designed for that. That BitTorrent is being misused for that purpose only testifies to its effectiveness. Perhaps a sharing system with elements taken from BitTorrent will someday arise; I know Suprnova.org is attempting to create one with "Exeem". But please don't badmouth BitTorrent. :-) John Biggest waste of $20 I ever spent. Totally unsuitable for anything other than illegal file swapping. When BBC America stopped Eastenders last year attempts were made to carry episodes using Bittorent, a lot of Eastenders fans bought the software but the trouble was people were not used to keeping the connection open, so to speak. so large files of Eastenders episodes failed to complete. I did a test on an unused computer here at work. I left it on for two weeks, still didn't complete. My conclusion was that most middle aged EE fans lacked the technical savvy our youth possess to properly operate bittorrent. Anyway the good news is Sharon is leaving hurrah! The theory is good in principle but fails in practice, except for the gazillions of fans of illegal movies and the like. What the authour should have done is have the thing operate in the background and not through the task manager because people have a tendency to right click and close items on the taskbar. So, he's not clever enough is he? Ian You should have made some way to count number of reader who (after reading this article) will click on suprnova.org Or did you? :-) Ihar Also this week, some bright sparks in the auto industry suggested it would be useful to network our cars. We look forward to the first network-crash-test-dummy. You had some other ideas: Great, now I'll have to patch vulns on my car, too. Scott While the Car-to-Car WLAN will certainly allow the government to track car movement, it would also enable citizens to keep taps on Cops and/or Radar traps. Think of it, as soon as one car spots a radar trap/cop, all the cars know about it and can take appropriate action, as in slow down so that they do not get a speeding ticket. Gregor Fantastic! Personal car-to-car comms arrives at last... I've often toyed with the thought of adapting the IR receivers that cars with remote locking already have in order to broadcast messages to fellow motorists. Missives such as "Turn your front foglights off, you t*sser", "Your indicators appear to be not working" and "Please get out of the middle lane, you complete f***wit" would be right at the top of my list :-) Cheers, Simon If they incorporate VOIP, when someone cuts me up and I call them a stupid **** they'll be able to hear me instead of having to rely on my sign language Mark You suggest a reason Microsoft could have been so keen to have the Mocosoft domain removed in Spain: I'd like to highlight the fact that MocoSoft freely translates as Software made of Mucus, because "moco" is the name of that green goo that falls from a constipated nose. regards Albert TotalJobs defends its website's accessibility, after it was highlighted by Scivisium that sections of the site require the user to be running IE: Dear Sir, An article written by Lucy Sheriff entitled Web inaccessibility 'creates net underclass' has been brought to my attention. One of the sites mentioned in the article, totaljobs.com, is one of the PJBC group of websites. We feel that the article misrepresented totaljobs.com and its policy on accessible websites. Here at PJBC we take accessibility seriously and have created access versions of all of the job boards on our platform, this was not mentioned in the article. Instead, Lucy Sheriff chose to point out our recruiter-only homepage, which is reserved for clients of ours, which we admit, we restrict to certain browser types. This page only affects around 1500 of our clients, who our sales force and customer support teams are in regular contact with. We provide several different methods for clients to post their jobs on the site, some online, some offline, and we feel we can accommodate any clients requirements. Your story author chose not to contact us and ask us about these alternatives. Andrew Griffin, User Experience Manager And other readers were not convinced that this amounted to a net "underclass" at all: I think this argument of a "net underclass" is totally off the mark. There is no discrimination in an intellectual decision to use or not use a specific web browser - it is a choice. I run both Firefox and Internet Explorer, having both available as needed (knowing that some pages are IE required). It's just intellectual snobbery to try and create discrimination based on choice of browser. If your computer can run one, it can run the others and you just adapt. Rich And finally, a sobering thought about Microsoft's appeal against anti-competitive sanctions: Does the Commission impose fines in Euros? In which case, given the precipitous decline in the value of the US dollar, have you any idea what the fine now stands at? Do you think Microsoft could string things out long enough for the fine to reach a nice, round billion dollars? David Well, the fine was originally €497m. At the time, that worked out at around $600m. On today's money, the fine now stands at $665m. Quite a pricey delay... Merry Christmas from the letters bag. More in the new year...®
A stunning image of the Orion nebula has been released from the newly operational Wide Field Camera, part of the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii. Built in Edinburgh, the camera is the most powerful infra-red survey camera anywhere in the world. The WFCAM will scan the skies for undiscovered objects. Its hunting grounds extend from the fringes of our solar system to the farthest reaches of the universe. Each exposure it takes can encompass an area of sky the size of the full moon - 1200 times as large as the UKIRT's previous camera. Infra-red scans are important because they reveal objects too dim to be visible in the optical part of the spectrum, such as brown dwarfs, and because they can probe so far back in time to regions where other wavelengths of radiation have long-since faded. The image of Orion was created by combining three exposures taken with different filters. This lends the image its colours, and also reveals clouds of matter that would otherwise be too dim to see. According to PPARC (Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council), the image reveals "not only the illuminated edges of clouds and filaments, but also thousands of young stars that are otherwise hidden from view at visible light wavelengths by the gas and dust". "WFCAM will be used to do surveys of the infrared sky which will detect objects one hundred times fainter than those in the deepest existing surveys. [The survey] will take up to seven years to complete and will provide astronomers with a picture of the infra-red sky to unprecedented depth." said Dr Paul Hirst, WFCAM Instrument Scientist at UKIRT. The camera is very large: it is a black cylinder 18 feet long, and weighing in at 1.7 tons. At its heart are four CD-case-sized detector arrays - conceptually similar to CCD chips in digital cameras - that use a mercury-cadmium-telluride crystal to detect infra-red light. Each time WFCAM maps an area of sky, it will generate an image of over 250 million pixels. In a single night of operation, scientists expect WFCAM will generate over 200GB of data about our universe. ® Related stories Missing galaxies puzzle scientists Scientists go quantum dotty over night vision Boffins baffled by suburban quasars
The owner of a holistic Kent bakery is opposing Hutchison 3G's plan to erect a mobile phone mast just nine metres from her premises because she says the radiation will "destroy the vitality" of her biodynamic loaves. According to the BBC, Artisan bread specialises in "cosmic bread" which is baked according to a timetable calculated on planetary movements. Owner Ingrid Greenfield reckons that radiation from the mast would disrupt the "subtle, cosmic forces" which have made her product a hit with top-drawer outlets such as Harvey Nichols. Greenfield further fears that such disruption would cost Artisan its coveted Demeter licence, issued by the Biodynamic Agricultural Association - an outfit which "promotes farming based on a holistic and spiritual understanding of nature". The Association's guidelines give a 50m (164ft) minimum distance between biodynamic manufacturers and mobe masts. Timothy Brink, development officer for the Demeter mark, explained: "It is because so little is known yet and there is so little research to prove that radiation from mobile phone masts is safe. Making the bread is a living process, similar to yoghurt, where the dough rises and develops with the yeast. Our concerns are about microwave radiation affecting the baking process. Research in Scandinavia has raised concern about the health effects and what we have heard is that with a 50m zone, you can be relatively confident there will be no serious health risks, but with a shorter distance you just don't know." Kent County Council had previously turned down Hutchison's application to erect the mast. The company appealed and won. Greenfield say she will fight to prevent the dark forces of 3G souring her dough. Although at first sight Greenfield's objection to the mast seems preposterous, we feel it only right and proper to point out that there is no evidence to suggest that microwave radiation from mobile masts does not affect the baking process. We feel it is incumbent upon Hutchison to bake a crusty organic poppy-seed cob atop one of its own masts and another on the summit of a snow-topped, microwave-free Andean peak (at an opportune astrological moment, naturally) and submit the resulting breads to Harvey Nichols' customers for appraisal. After all, the mobe operators have been telling us for years that masts next to schools are completely safe, and no one believes a word of that, either. ® Related stories Mobile phones 'alter human DNA' Germans crucify Jesus on mobile mast Bromley uprising against Orange mast Scottish mother gets militant over mobile masts
MS has teamed up with the Welsh Language Board, Microsoft Certified Partner Draig Technology Ltd and translation agency Cymen to offer Welsh Windows users a "Language Implementation pack" (LIP) for Windows XP and Office 2003. The LIP can be had as a free downloadable addition to said products, and will allow "partners to deploy Welsh language versions of the technology for customers in the region who need to comply with local legislation mandating that employees are entitled to work in Welsh". More info on this initiative can be found on the Welsh language enclave of Microsoft's website. ® Related stories BBC develops Welsh-English tooltip translator OpenOffice.org learns Welsh Welsh open sourcerers get language boost
Sony has at last posted a firmware update which brings native MP3 support to its Vaio Pocket music player. The update, which was announced on the Japanese giant's Vaio support site earlier this month, is accompanied by updated versions Sony's music transfer applications, SonicStage and Vaio Transfer. Until now, both apps forced users to convert MP3 music files into Sony's own ATRAC 3 Plus format before copying them over to the player. From today, MP3s will be sent straight to the player without this intermediate conversion stage. The firmware update will also improve the machine's performance generally, add a speed-scroll facility to the UI and - a big improvement this - introduce gapless playback, eliminating the often irritating playback pause between songs. In total, the firmware update will address some 34 issues in the Vaio Pocket models VGF-AP1 and VGF-AP1L. Last month, Sony announced its first native hard drive-based MP3 player, the NW-HD3, the result of the Japanese giant's September decision to incorporate the format into such devices. The company already offers a line of Flash-based players with native MP3 support. ® Related stories Sony extends native MP3 support to Vaio Pocket Sony to ship true MP3 HDD music player next month Sony launches 1GB Flash MP3 player Sony to support MP3 - shock Sony to support MP3 - shock Sony unveils HDD Walkman Sony unveils colour 'iPod killer'
EMC has picked up System Management Arts Inc. (SMARTS) for $260m in a move that builds out the storage giant's ever-swelling software portfolio. SMARTS is best known for its InCharge software suite that collects performance data from a wide range of hardware in networks. Its software can tell administrators about the health of a device and make predictions about possible failures to come. SMARTS has been around for 11 years and expects 2004 revenue of $60m. As EMC puts it, "SMARTS’ InCharge software products automatically pinpoint root cause problems, calculate their impacts across technology domains, and present the logical action plan required to keep business services up and running. . . . Over time, SMARTS will enable EMC storage management software to intelligently correlate, determine root cause problems and present a plan of action for critical problems across the storage network." EMC's penchant for acquisitions is well known. Over the past couple of years, it has picked up Allocity, Dantz, VMware, Documentum and Legato. All of these buys were designed to strengthen EMC's software attack. EMC expects the all-cash SMARTS deal to close in the first quarter of 2005, pending standard approvals. ® Related stories Can the new Symantec make merging look easy? Relentless EMC eats up one more SMB storage player EMC makes run for SMBs with Dantz buy
The SCO Group suffered a large drop in revenue during its fourth quarter, as its SCOsource licensing business evaporated. SCO posted revenue of $10m during the period, which compares to $24m in revenue reported in the same quarter one year ago. One of the biggest reasons for this revenue loss was the dismal performance of the SCOsource business. SCO pulled in only $120,000 in licensing revenue during this year's fourth quarter as compared to $10m last year. SCO reported a net loss of $6.5m for the quarter versus a net loss of $1.6m one year earlier. "Fourth quarter achievements demonstrate continued progress at SCO," said SCO's CEO Darl McBride. For the entire year, SCO pulled in $42.8m. This compares to $79.2m reported during 2003. SCO's net loss was $16.2m - three times last year's $5.3m loss. Investors sent SCO's shares down more than 7 percent during Wednesday's trading. ® Related stories Intellectual Property Botnets, phishing and spyware SCO hacked in apparent IP protest SCO board member flees
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