28th > January > 2005 Archive

NCC and eGov launch IT accreditation scheme

The National Computing Centre and the eGovernment Unit are launching a IT accreditation body to help public sector organisations comply with the e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF). e-GIF sets out the policies and standards for e-government and e-service development and delivery. All public sector systems used to deliver e-services must comply with the Framework. The e-GIF Accreditation Authority is charged with setting universally recognised standards in technology consulting, to reduce risk to public sector IT projects. Those on the register have been deemed capable of implementing the kind of complex, large scale IT projects that are common in the public sector - without the large scale cock-ups that tend to accompany them. Certification also requires that the people involved have the appropriate skills. The organisation launched this week with 21 accredited members from both public and private sectors. A spokeswoman said the goal is to have a register of "a thousand or so suppliers and procurers". Public sector departments or contractors can qualify as suppliers, as well as those from the private sector. e-GIF is partly funded with sponsorship from industry. Founding sponsors include Microsoft, Atos Origin, Logica, Thales, Northgate and Unisys. An e-GIF FAQ is here.® Related stories Intellect gets tough on best practice compliance UK.gov to hire IT project SWAT team UK.gov IT: it's broke, how can we fix it?
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jan 2005

Real sees revenues up, losses narrow

Real Networks saw losses narrow to $2m in its most recent quarter, despite an increase in costs related to antitrust litigation. Q4 FY2004 income was $72.5m, up 34 per cent year-on-year. Without the antitrust litigation, which cost Real almost $3m, the company would have been in the black. Real has 1.55 million paying subscribers, with 700,000 for the Rhapsody and Real Premium services. The subs bring in $41.9 of the $72.5m. Founder and CEO Rob Glazer said that Rhapsody subscribers clocked up 239 million song playbacks. Games and music provided Real with the most growth, with games distribution and publishing up 156 per cent year-on-year to $10 million, while music accounted for $21 million of the $60.7 million in consumer revenues in the quarter The business side saw revenues fall 13 per cent. "This decline in part reflects the illegal, anticompetitive business practices of our primary competitor, remedies for which we are pursuing in the courts," said CFO Roy Goodman. That said, Real snagged $11.76m on business sales, which included its Helix software to Vodafone and BT, and said its goal is to roll out carrier grade software for both wireline broadband and mobile providers. Deferred revenue fell to $30m in the full fiscal year. Real will spent $15m on antitrust litigation in this fiscal year, both inside the US and overseas. The company has held on to the concession granted by the EU, which ordered Microsoft to ship a version of Windows that didn't play Windows Media Files. ® Related stories
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Jan 2005

US telcos scramble for spectrum

An FCC auction of spectrum suitable for mobile phone services has brought in over $1.3bn in bids. That's much less than the scramble in 2001 when bids totalled $16.8bn, but enough to make the major players pull out the stops. Verizon, Cingular and T-Mobile and the budget metropolitan CDMA carrier MetroPCS were among the players in the FCC's Auction 58. MetroPCS, which operates in five markets including the Bay Area, Miami and Georgia, has tabled bids of $384m, and is eyeing spectrum in Los Angeles and Houston. Sprint was disqualified, because it didn't lodge a deposit up front. Due to the arcane nature of the auction rules (and things were much wackier in the 1980s, when you could basically call yourself a telco and then bid for spectrum) holding companies or proxies are used to make the actual bids. So for example Cook Ilet, which has made 34 bids totalling $283m, is 85 per cent owned by T-Mobile. The auction is already into its ninth round, and the figures may change by the time you read this. Now, as in 2001, much of the spectrum was previously held by NextWave, the bankrupt carrier which agreed to pay $4.7bn for licenses in 1996 but couldn't pay for it when it folded two years later. The FCC revoked the license, and NextWave took its appeal to the US Supreme Court, where it won 8:1. NextWave sold some of this spectrum in private auctions last year, with Verizon snapping up much of what was on offer. ® Related stories Rosy future for Sprint-Nextel marriage Tapping the telecoms barometer Telcos could block free wireless in Philly Deregulation lobby scores UK KO
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Jan 2005
DVD it in many colours

Gartner, Meta deal in need of analysis - report

Knowledge Capital Group (KCG) has pulled a fast one on the Meta Group and Gartner by using their own analyst logic against them. The advisory firm has warned customers to be very wary of Gartner's proposed $162m buy of Meta, saying the companies have not done a good job of communicating what will happen should the acquisition go through. In short, both research firms have failed to live up to the standards they set for IT vendors, and customers should avoid them. "[T]he analysts are frequently called upon to give their advice and recommendations when technology vendors merge or get bought," KCG said in a research note. "Vendors that tend to get relatively positive coverage from the analysts surrounding their M&A (merger and acquisition) activities are the ones that do a good job of letting the world know, up front, just how things like products, policies, current contracts and go-forward business arrangements will be adjusted and honored.  . . Conversely, vendors that tend to get creamed by the analysts in M&A are the ones who make the announcement, but don‚t seem to have any real plan for migrating customers, honoring contracts and articulating a go-forward plan and vision. "Since we here at KCG function very much like an analyst firm that analyzes analysts, we have no choice, in the Gartner acquisition of Meta, but to treat this more like the latter than the former. We reiterate our recommendation to not enter into any new, nor renew any old Meta subscription based services until both Meta and Gartner management can tell you why you should.  Given what has been communicated so far, we feel that the chances of you getting what you want from the transaction and not having at least some of the value of the subscription vanish are very slim." An analyst firm not meeting the lofty goals it sets for others? Shocking. KCG's research note doesn't get any more optimistic. It warns that many of Meta's top analysts will likely jump ship before the deal closes, saying 50 per cent of the staff might leave. In addition, both Meta and Gartner management have failed to give any public indication of how they plan to handle overlapping clients or how they will provide Meta customers with the small-firm feel they are accustomed to, KCG said. And that's not all. "The behavior right now of Meta's sales force is pathetic," KCG said. "We have seen over a dozen emails over the last three weeks from Meta sales reps to our clients, where they have tried, in vain to conduct business.  We have seen denial, 'There is a good chance the acquisition won‚t go through,' we have seen obvious misstatement, 'Meta will not be merged into Gartner anytime in the foreseeable future,' (let's see Gartner management sell that one to Wall Street) and we have seen obvious desperation, 'Just sign now and we‚ll figure out the details later.' We can't believe, in our worst nightmares, that Gartner or Meta Executive management wants or needs this, but it is a serious problem." Despite KCG's outlook, The Register has upped its feeling on the merger from "conundrum" to "market outperform apathy." Should Gartner management sign a lucrative vulture logo licensing deal, we are prepared to raise this forecast even higher to "bullish status quo." ® Related stories Gartner buys research rival META for $162m Let's play the Magic Quadrant game Don't use Google desktop search in your business, warns Gartner
Ashlee Vance, 28 Jan 2005

Woman rents cleavage in eBay auction

A Scottish woman is giving companies the chance to "rent her cleavage" to advertise their logo, web site or slogan. More-than-ample Angel Brammer, 27, from Greenock in Scotland, got the idea after a US man touted his forehead on eBay earlier this month as a suitable place for a temporary tattoo. Says Angel in her eBay listing for ample 42GG breasts: "No longer restricted to USA based advertising, you can now rent my CLEAVAGE for a period of 15 days, during which I will display your company logo, slogan or web-site address in the form of a temporary tattoo you will supply to me. "I'm an ample size 42GG, and I usually wear low-cut tops. I am renting the top part of my cleavage (the part which is legal to display) for you to put your company's logo upon. During the 15 days, I can have photos taken of me, with your logo, in front of any of the popular landmarks in Glasgow, or our nation's capital." Angel told the Greenock Telegraph that she had already had some enquiries, although a number were a bit mucky. One wag wrote to Angel asking if "we can bid on one-half or do we have to take both as I only have a little logo?" "Don't worry if it's a small logo," she replied. Bless her. Anyhow, despite being upfront about her intentions, there are restrictions to the offer. "Your logo [must] be no larger than 9 inches wide, and 5 inches tall. Also, I cannot advertise any sectarian, or racial logos, slogans or URL's which point to such sites. Also, if the content is of an 'adult' nature, it must be censored to ensure that it is legal to display in a public area. Logo content is at our discretion." At the time of writing, the bid for Angel's chest had stalled at £30. The auction is due to finish on Monday. ® Related stories Need an African slave? Try eBay For Sale: Absolutely Nothing eBayer bids $20k for Texas snowball eBayer punts Virgin Mary in grilled cheese sandwich Teen 'angel' arrested for £20k web fraud 'Integrity of eBay markeplace' at risk - sellers' group
Tim Richardson, 28 Jan 2005

Outsourcing: Reg readers unconcerned

Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies With a UK general election widely expect to take place in May of this year, the political parties are casting around for ideas that might appeal to voters. What about that old chestnut – job security? It was an issue early on the US Presidential campaign last year, might it work over here? According to readers of The Register the answer is “No”. Quocirca ran an online survey with The Register in December 2004 to which we had almost 6,000 responses. Over 90 per cent considered that their job could not be outsourced or that is only a remote possibility: And Reg readers are likely to be doing jobs that could be outsourced. Half the respondents to the survey were working in the IT industry and the other half were working for end user organisations. Either way many of them are going to have been programmers, analysts, system engineers etc. – all jobs which might potentially be outsourced. One reason they may be feeling secure is that where there is the possibility of shifting jobs overseas, UK companies are not actually taking advantage of this to the degree that many of us might imagine. A good example is software development. In the same survey we asked Reg readers how their organisation went about developing bespoke software: Most software development is still done in house or partially outsourced. Only a very small number said that the work was definitely going overseas. Admittedly, there could be some hidden exporting of jobs here – other Quocirca research shows that some local outsourcers use overseas resources that their customers are unaware of. No grounds for concern then? Not quite. Exporting of jobs does happen and it is going to become easier. We also asked Reg readers if they thought that the use of service orientated architectures (SOA) was likely to increase: SOA makes using standard components, based on web services, easier. These components can be plugged into a businesses IT architecture when and where they are required. For example, a payroll system provided over the internet as a hosted service can be easily integrated with an internally-developed employee relationship management system, providing both are web service enabled. This means that the best components can be more easily plugged in to business processes – be it a software application, or a human being on the end of a telephone or sitting in front of a web browser somewhere. If the human being is up to the job, it doesn’t matter where they are located. So, the outsourcing of jobs is going to get easier and easier. By the time we reach the general election of 2009 or 2010, who knows how many posts will have permanently left these shores? In that case, the export of UK jobs may become a much hotter political potato. Your industry needs you Sign up here to become a permanent member of our Reg Reader Studies Survey Panel. You'll get the occasional email alerting you to a new survey and may even get the chance to win Reg goodies. Marvellous. ®
Quocirca, 28 Jan 2005

Brit plumber to visit ISS

There is some welcome news today for International Space Station residents Salizhan Sharipov and Leroy Chiao who have been gamely battling for some time to fix the ISS's cantakerous Elektron oxygen generator. They will shortly be favoured by a visit from a British plumber who, according to a recommendation from one of Sharipov's mates down the pub, will "do the job for cash if you don't fancy paying the VAT". We fully expect that this will be an end to the matter. British plumbers are highly regarded among the international scientific community for their punctuality, high standards and reasonable prices. Of course, it's taken Dave and his apprentice Doug a while to reach Baikonur cosmodrome in their white Transit, not to mention the nightmare they had finding a decent cafe in Ukraine, so we at Vulture Central had time to run the scenario through our Visiting Tradesman Emulator™ - a program designed by Reg boffins to predict how the historic repair mission will unfold. The results may surprise you: ISS. 8am GMT. Thursday. There is a knock at the airlock. Salizhan Sharipov: (Opening inner airlock door) Hello? Dave the Plumber: Hello mate. I'm Dave. Here about the oxygen generator... Sharipov: But you said you'd be here in October... Dave: Yeah, well, got a bit held up on a job for the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Can't be helped, mate. Stick the kettle on, I'm gasping. Got any biscuits? Rich Tea would be nice but we'll settle for HobNobs. Doug! Get the bloody tools out of the shuttle and shut the bloody door. It's brass monkeys in here. Two hours later... Dave: Nice cuppa, cheers. Right, let's get to it. It's an Elektron you say? Never liked 'em meself. Can't get the parts. You'd be better off with a German model. Of course, you've got to order 'em special, takes about three weeks for delivery... Dave whips out battery-powered pocket radio, tunes it to Radio One and cranks the volume up to full before prising the cover off the Elekron with a screwdriver. Leroy Chiao: We thought it might be gas bubbles in the pipework... Dave: Yeah right. Tell you what, you leave the dodgy plumbing to me and we'll let you get on with your going boldly where no man has gone before. Agreed? But stick the kettle on before engaging the warp drive, would'ya? I'm gasping here. Doug! Chuck me the number eight flange rotivator. No, not that one, you plonker - the one that looks like a 10-pound lump hammer. One hour later... Sharipov: How's it looking? Dave: (Sucking air through teeth and shaking head in a very serious manner) Jesus. Who installed this mate? Didn't know you had cowboys in Russia. It's gonna cost yer... Chiao: Yes, but how much? Dave: Dunno. I'll have to go to the wholesalers and get the trade prices. Basically, you've got a knackered interchange loop, the pump intercompressor is completely f***ed and your diagnostic board has burnt out. Oh yeah, and some pillock has bolloxed the cover by prising it off with a screwdriver. Doug, get the tools back in the shuttle sharpish. Sharipov: Hold on a minute... We need this fixed today. We've just used three quarters of our remaining oxygen boiling the kettle. Dave: No need to be like that pal. I said I can only come out and have a look. If I carried a full set of spares for every crappy Russian-built oxygen generator on the market I'd need a van like Doctor bloody Who's bloody Tardis, wouldn't I? Chiao: Wait, I've just noticed that the main power supply lead is loose. I think a terminal screwdriver would do it. Have you got one handy? Dave: Bloody hell. The tools are in the airlock now mate. I'll have to charge you another call-out fee if the boy's gonna piss-arse about bringing the whole lot back in... At this point Sharipov angrily attempts to throw a packet of freeze-dried bourbon biscuits on the floor in a fit of pique but, due to the absence of gravity, it simply floats harmlessly over Dave's shoulder. Dave: Alright, I tell you what - two grand cash and no questions asked. And stick the kettle on. Me throat's drier than a eunuch's codpiece...® Related stories ISS plumbing plays up again ISS crew blasts off Broken oxygen generator threatens space station
Lester Haines, 28 Jan 2005

Gateway Q4 loss shrinks

PC vendor Gateway yesterday announced fourth-quarter sales of $1.03bn, up 12.5 per cent from $915m in the previous quarter and 17.6 per cent from $875m this time last year, although that figure doesn't include a contribution from eMachines, which it acquired in March 2004. Gateway sold 1.2m PCs in Q4, up 29 per cent on Q3 and 128 per cent on Q4 FY2003. Subtract the contribution made by the retail stores jettisoned by Gateway in April 2004, and add sales by eMachines in the same period and year-on-year sale increase falls to 20 per cent. Retail sales drove the quarter, with sales of 926,000 PCs yielding $604m in revenue, up 53 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively, on the previous quarter. Gateway's direct sales operation sold 102,000 PCs to generate $188m, sequentially up 21 per cent and three per cent, respectively. Given the consumer-orientation of the Christmas sales period, it's no surprise that pro sales were down, with unit sales falling 29 per cent sequentially to 171,000 PCs, and revenues down 27 per cent to $237m. Consumer electronics kit and accessory revenues were down two per cent on Q3, and 33 per cent down on Q4 FY2003, again primarily due to the store closures. Still, a two percentage point gain in margins balanced the loss of revenue. Net income for Q4 FY2004 came to $94m, a big turnaround from Q3's $59m loss and the $114m lost in Q4 FY2003. Q4's figure was boosted by a $100m gain from retirement of stock formerly held by AOL. And Gateway's ongoing restructuring costs were down to $22m in the quarter, from $63m in Q3. Operationally, Gateway lost $15.18m during Q4, down from the year-ago quarter's $92.56m loss. For the year as a whole, Gateway's operational loss totalled $601.98m, 17.9 per cent bigger than FY2003's loss, $510.58m. Full-year sales were up 7.3 per cent from $3.40bn to $3.65bn. The PC vendor's net annual loss fell from $525.95m to $475.48m. Gross margin for Q4 totalled 8.8 per cent, including a 0.4 per cent impact from the restructuring programme. That's down on the previous quarter's 10.1 per cent (with a 1.1 per cent restructuring hit) and 15 per cent (with a 1.3 per cent restructuring hit) in Q4 FY2003. Gateway ended the quarter with $644m in cash and securities, down $16m on the previous quarter thanks to the cost of restructuring. The effect of said programme should be much reduced going forward, said CEO Wayne Inouye: "With the vast majority of restructuring now behind us, we see 2005 as a year to build." Q1 FY2005 is expected to yield sales of $810-850m, in line with previously forecast full-year sales of $4-4.25bn, Gateway said, with the company breaking even in the quarter, or making a small loss. ® Related stories Gateway brand comes back to Japan Gateway readies own-brand music, photo player Gateway loss balloons to $339m Intergraph and Gateway kiss and make up Gateway loss widens as patent lawsuit fund grows Gateway axes 2,500 jobs, closes US stores Gateway waves goodbye to another 2000 Gateway to buy eMachines
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005
fingers pointing at man

TSMC Q4 decline mirrors chip market

TSMC, the world's largest chip foundry, yesterday posted full-year and fourth-quarter figures that reflect the up-and-down nature of the world chip market in 2004. Even so, the company revealed it plans to increase spending on new plant during 2005. For the year as a whole, TSMC reported record revenues: TWD255.59bn ($8.03bn), up 26.8 per cent on 2003's total. Net income was up 93.5 per cent to TWD92.32bn ($2.90bn) - with earnings of TWD3.97 (12.5 cents a share), an increase of 96.8 per cent on the previous year. But despite a strong overall 2004, like the chip industry as a whole, TSMC saw the second half of the year move from boom to decline. For the three months to 31 December 2004, TSMC's revenues fell 8.4 per cent on the previous quarter to TWD63.87bn ($2.01bn) thanks to an 8.5 per cent decline in wafer shipments and the further weakening of the dollar. The company's average selling price was up 1.7 per cent, which helped offset these losses. Net income came to TWD22.18bn ($696.5m), down 20.6 per cent on the previous quarter, with earnings of TWD0.96 (three cents) a share, down 20.5 per cent. Q4 revenue, net income and earnings were up 11, 39 and 40 per cent, respectively, over Q4 FY2003. Q4 FY2004's gross margin slipped 3.6 percentage points to 42.5 per cent. The slippage isn't over. TSMC expects Q1 FY2005 to see wafer shipments fall by only a single percentage point, but gross margin will fall up to 4.5 per cent or as little as two per cent. It reckons ASPs will stay the same. More positively, TSMC plans to raise capita expenditure during 2005, to $25-2.7bn, up from 2004's $2.4bn. ® Related stories Chips are down for Taiwan foundry giants TSMC, UMC fab utilisation to plummet in Q4 iSuppli cuts 2005 chip sales growth target World chip sales to fall next year - analyst Q3 chip production up despite downturn Intel to retain top chip maker title on 04... Chip trade body revises 2004 sales downward
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005
fingers pointing at man

Toxic gas leak at TSMC fab hospitalises 21

TSMC, the world's biggest contract chip maker, did not feel the need to shut down its Fab 7 facility yesterday, despite a potentially lethal gas leak that hospitalised 21 employees. The 200mm fab, located in Hsinchu, Taiwan, experienced the leak just after 2PM local time. As per company procedures, the 21 workers in the immediate vicinity of the leak were sent to hospital for checks. The gas in question is Arsine, which the foundry says is highly toxic and flammable. According to TSMC, the workers were expected to be released from hospital the same day. ® Related stories TSMC Q4 decline mirrors chip market Chips are down for Taiwan foundry giants TSMC, UMC fab utilisation to plummet in Q4 World chip sales to fall next year - analyst Intel to retain top chip maker title on 04...
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

All at sea, Microsoft axes flying car project

It's official: Microsoft's flying car project is in peril, the company's US PR agency Waggener Edstrom told us today. The mysterious vehicle that's thrilled so many readers this week now faces the axe. The good news is that we finally have official confirmation of these strange sightings of amphibious craft making sometimes very slow, and sometimes incredibly quick, but always unplanned detours across Europe, thanks to MapPoint or Autoroute. But the bad news is that the fun might end soon. No longer will Norwegians, Latvians and Estonians be able to press the web equivalent of Asteroids' "hyperspace" button and find themselves in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. There are no surface-effect vehicles, modeled after Alexeev's Caspian Sea Ekranoplan, being tested in the Baltic. Or at least, not by Microsoft. This is what we were told. "Microsoft aggregates the most accurate and up-to-date driving directions possible for our customers using information pulled from the industry’s top data providers", the agency tells us. Yes, of course. "The MapPoint team of cartographers uses the best data from each of our providers, and a complicated routing topology to calculate routes." A complicated routing topology? What, like this? Thanks to Kees Huyser But let's return to the official explanation. "We are aware that errors in the data provided to us could result in incorrect driving directions, and we work to quickly resolve any issues." But just in case, fit a fin and some wings. "In this specific case one road segment was attributed incorrectly in the topology, causing the routing algorithm to ignore that road and generate the error in calculating the driving directions. We are currently working on a fix for this issue, and we expect it to be available in early February. But we suspect that there might be more to the problem than just a solitary ignored road. Toben Mogensen from Denmark highlights this journey from Stockholm to Helsinki. "The suggested route starts in the middle of the Baltic Sea on a ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. Then you drive around in the Southern part of Finland before, magically, driving across the Baltic Sea on 'local roads' to arrive in Tallinn," writes Toben. "The distance is given as 68.4 miles (which sounds about right) and the estimated time for the journey is 4 hours and 36 minutes. The return journey is by the same route in reverse, only now it takes 4 hours and 53 minutes." So we know the flying car will do scheduled pickups - so long as you're prepared to bob around in the North Sea. Or wait for an Exranoplan. And not every one believes the explanation can be so simple. "I believe this to be a decoy tactic," writes Simon Walke. "They are involved in something far more sinister, potentially involving the relocation of thousands of Norwegian citizens." For proof, click for a larger version of that sinister warning from Autoroute 2003. "The Norwegians are lovely people, but I think they might take offence at having their capital city shifted," writes Simon. Wormholes ... for mermaids? If it was a road missing, that would be a logical explanation. But then Christian Carey provided evidence of this fantastic voyage: "Have a look at travelling from Sääre, Estonia (near the southern tip of the island of Saaremaa) to Ventspils, Latvia: 0.0 km net distance travelled in 3 hours, 21 minutes. Note that the starting point of the trip is about 125 km NNW of Sääre. Perhaps there are previously unpublicized wormholes throughout northern Europe? It might explain the Flying Car route optimizations..." Or maybe the tide carries you along. Who knows? Either way, it's a real petrol-saver. And don't forget the details. The last piece of advice for the Microsoft developers comes from Roy Øvrebø. He took this fantastic, high-speed boomerang journey of only 480 miles from Haugesund to Helsinki, and was advised it would take 65 hours and 58 minutes. Well of course it would. However, he noticed an error most of us who've used in-car GPS systems will know: "Step 3 requires you to turn right the wrong way down a one-way street in the center of Haugesund." Finally, Friso Dikstelbergen claims that ten years ago he tried to trip up the DOS-based route planners for the Dutch and Belgian railways, without any success. "I couldn't really fault them. In the end I had to resort to using the "via" box to get them to display really bad information. It just shows you how far we've come in ten years." We've come along way, indeed.® Related stories Is Microsoft preparing a flying car? Microsoft flying car spotted over Fishguard Brits roll out jam-busting airtaxi Briton invades France in amphibious car Mach 0.3 milk float goes for land speed glory Flying car less likely than flying pig
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Jan 2005

Philips predicts mobile TV dominance

Phones will overtake televisions within a decade, says Philips Interest in television services over cellular or broadband wireless networks is intensifying as operators seek a new, high margin application. If the boom materializes, it will also be a major boost for chipmakers. We have already seen Qualcomm unveiling its FLO OFDM-based network technology for television, and now Philips Semiconductors is predicting that, within a decade, the majority of its television chips will go into cellphones, not conventional television sets. Leon Husson, executive vice president for the consumer businesses at Philips Semiconductors, forecasts that 50 per cent of cellphones will come with television capability by 2013, and volumes by this time will be about 600m handsets per year in total, with 300m featuring TV. Philips is currently trialling handset TV services in Berlin with Nokia, Vodafone and Universal Studios Network Germany. There are still important hurdles to overcome for the chipmakers. One is developing "a global digital TV feature that enables a user to tune into a television anywhere in the world". Another challenge for chipmakers will be creating intelligent digital signal processors (DSPs) that will enable consumers easily to transfer content from in-home televisions and set-top boxes to phones, not only decoding audio and video streams but also encoding in the right format for the home devices. These DSPs will be able to change frame rates or resolution automatically to match the end product's capability. Meanwhile, as the R&D departments work on the next generation handsets, operators are already launching first stage services. Cingular is now offering MobiTV, a 22-channel service created by Idetic, to its customers, featuring content from MSNBC, ABC News Now, Fox Sports, C-Span and others. AT&T Wireless had originally signed for MobiTV, and it was adopted by the whole company after the merger with Cingular. MobiTV will cost $9.99 a month. MobiTV is also available from Sprint PCS as part of the Vision service. Before full television programming, many operators are experimenting with short episodes and clips. Most recently, Verizon Wireless has joined with a production company, Twentieth Television, to deliver direct-to-mobile shows as part of its new VCast service. The deal will also be extended to Verizon Wireless co-owner Vodafone’s Live! platform outside the US. The TV company plans to produce 52 one-minute ‘mobisodes’ of two original soap operas. VCast will also feature a streaming video service based on Microsoft’s Windows Media, in a deal announced this week. Verizon is a valuable partner for the software giant, which has had problems establishing itself in the mobile world – Windows Media’s rival RealPlayer, is far stronger in this world. Microsoft now partners with PacketVideo, which provides multimedia software for many cellcos. Vcast will go live in February and is expected to be the most advanced phone video service available in the US. Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories Orb offers media on the go Mobile players look beyond 3G Orange beams jam-busting TV to your mobe
Wireless Watch, 28 Jan 2005

TI delivers on single-chip promise

Texas Instruments has delivered on its 2002 promise to create a single-chip mobile phone, and Nokia will be the first customer, incorporating the revolutionary silicon in some low cost models. Such highly compact architectures will be crucial for developing very price sensitive models for developing economies, which will provide most of the growth for handset makers in the coming years. TI said in 2002 that it would incorporate wireless protocol stacks, the digital baseband, applications processing functionality, the analog baseband, power management, RF and embedded memory on one chip. The first implementation, about six months later than originally promised, is based on TI’s DRP architecture and is aimed at entry level GPRS phones. Handsets using the chip should debut early next year This follows TI’s first single-chip release, a Bluetooth device, and similar solutions for other networks will follow in 2005-6. The underlying DRP (Digital RF Processor) architecture claims to halve space and power consumption in a wireless device compared to traditional analog chipsets. "The processing of radio signals with digital logic can significantly shift the paradigm for embedding wireless communications by making it easier to implement and to scale," said Dr Hans Stork, TI's chief technology officer. By greatly simplifying RF processing in this way, complex handsets can be made more compact and cheaper, and far less power hungry, all critical factors for carrier and user adoption. The DRP is a key element of TI’s promised multi-radio singlechip wireless solution, slated for late 2005, which will support cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and potentially WiMAX (CDMA, which coexists less readily with other protocols, will have to wait until 2006 although TI was insistent that it would take its DRP into this market. TI is Nokia’s primary partner for CDMA and the main challenger to the technology’s patent holder Qualcomm). The enthusiasm of Nokia for the new chip cast a further shadow over its relationship with STMicroelectronics, which is planning a single-chip launch of its own. Analysts have been concerned that STMicro will lose significant business from Nokia, its largest customer, if ST falls behind in single-chip. ST’s main strength is in chips for entry level handsets. CEO Pasquale Pistorio brushed aside the fears, and said he is "very optimistic" about the chipmaker's ties to the Finnish giant, which accounted for 17.9 per cent of ST's revenue last year. About five per cent of its total revenue could be lost to TI if it fails to compete in single-chip architectures, predict chip watchers. ST's vice president Enrico Villa said the company is working on a single chip that can integrate many functions for mobile phones. Other chip vendors will lose out in the single-chip trend, especially those who sell large numbers of traditionally separate elements such as RF chips. Nokia buys most of these components, currently, from Philips, Infineon and STMicro. Qualcomm has promised a single-chip CDMA design by early 2006. Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories TI launches 'digital TV on a phone' scheme TI claims phone power breakthrough Moto peddles world s most integrated handset chip
Wireless Watch, 28 Jan 2005

Siemens delays decision on handset biz fate

Siemens yesterday reported that there was nothing to report, stating that no decision had yet been made concerning the future of the engineering giant's loss-making mobile phone business. The phone wing lost €143m ($186.4m) during its most recently completed quarter, Q1 FY2005. Quarterly sales fell year on year from €1.49bn ($1.94bn) to €1.17bn ($1.53), down 21.5 per cent. Unit shipments fell from 15.2m units in Q1 FY2004 to 13.5m in the three months to 31 December 2004. That puts the company behind LG, which shipped 13.9m handsets in the same period. LG recently denied being in talks to acquire Siemens' handset business or to merge the two companies' operations. Siemens' average handset selling price fell year on year to €86 ($112.1) from €98 ($127.8). Addressing the division's decline, Siemens pledged to put in place a "road map" to drive the handset business, but did not say when its plans would be announced or implemented. However, new Siemens chief Klaus Kleinfeld takes over from his former boss Heinrich von Pierer next week. The troubled Mobile Devices division is likely to be high on his list of priorities. Overall, Siemens' Communications group, of which Mobile Devices is a part, saw profits rise 37.9 per cent year on year to €240m ($312.9m) despite a seven per cent decline in sales, to €4.24bn ($5.53bn). Mobile devices' drop in sales accounted for 97.5 per cent of the division's revenue fall. Rumours that Siemens had decided to sell its handset business surfaced late last year. However, a variety of suggested partners and purchasers have they are denied interest in buying the company. ® Related stories LG rejects interest in Siemens mobile biz LG sniffing round Siemens mobile phone biz Mobile open-standards group recruits key players Siemens mobile arm for sale or closure China rejects Siemens phone business Siemens to sell mobile phone biz to China - report
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

German rogue dialler suspects cuffed

German rogue dialler companies which defraud consumers by secretly changing their computer settings so they can call a premium rate phone line, are increasingly facing the heavy hand of the law. German police this week arrested two suspects in Paderborn and Riga in another €20m dialler scam. Several other suspects are still on the run. The men had developed software that secretly dialled out to an expensive 01908 number. The money they earned with the scams were channeled through letterbox companies in the US and Panama. Police say they secured at least €5.6m worth of assets. Earlier this week, the German Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts (Reg TP) said it had blocked the access numbers of no less than 29,531 illegal diallers, all registered with the Berlin-based Intexus, a company that was already on a blacklist. Related stories Ireland: auto-diallers under control US company fined for UK rogue dialler scam Swiss telco fined £50K for UK rogue dialling action
Jan Libbenga, 28 Jan 2005

RIAA sues 717 alleged copyright cheaters

The Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) has sued another 717 Americans for allegely distributing music illegally on P2P networks. The 717 lawsuits include 68 directed at unnamed people at US universities. The latest bout of legal action brings the total number of individuals sued for allegedly sharing music illegally to almost 8,500. The RIAA last fired off a round of lawsuits in December 2004, targeting 754 alleged copyright infringers. ® Related stories 'Brave' BitTorrent hub coyly looks for suitors German court protects P2P ne'er-do-well eXeem Lite promises spyware-free P2P P2P radio wins big money Supreme Court to probe P2P in March P2P hub operators plead guilty Legal downloads jumped 900% in 2004 RIAA sues 754 more P2Pers 2004 in review: downloading digital music
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

Area 51 'hacker' charges dropped

Federal prosecutors formally dropped charges this month against an amateur astronomer who exposed a buried surveillance network surrounding the Air Force's mysterious "Area 51" air base in Nevada. Chuck Clark, 58, was charged in 2003 with a single count of malicious interference with a communications system used for the national defense, after prosecutors held him responsible for the disappearance of one of the wireless motion sensors buried beneath the desert land surrounding the facility. In a deal with the government last January, Clark agreed to enter a one-year term of "pretrial diversion" - a kind of probation - and to either locate and return the lost device, or make financial restitution to the Air Force. "He paid for the missing sensor, and complied with the conditions of his pretrial diversion and the case was dismissed," says Natalie Collins, a spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in Las Vegas. Clark was already known to Area 51 buffs as an expert on the spot the government calls the "operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada," when, in 2003, he discovered an electronic device packed in a rugged case and buried in the desert, given away only by a slender wisp of an antenna poking through the dirt. Along with fellow base-watcher Joerg Arnu, Clark began mapping the sensors, using a handheld frequency counter to sniff out their tell-tale radio transmissions, Arnu said in an interview last year. Together they exhumed as many as 40 of the boxes, noted their unique three-digit codes, then reburied and tested them, said Arnu. The sensors - an estimated 75 to 100 of them in all - were marked "U.S. Government Property." In some cases they were planted miles outside Groom Lake's fence line on public land used by hikers and photographers, as well as the occasional tourist hoping for a Close Encounter. On 12 March, 2003 one of the sensors went missing, according to the government. FBI and Air Force agents descended on Clark's trailer home in tiny Rachel, Nevada - 100 miles north of Las Vegas along the Extraterrestrial Highway - and prosecutors later filed the felony charge against Clark. As part of the deal settling the case, Clark was barred from interfering with any of the sensors or otherwise breaking the law, and was obligated to keep the court apprised of his whereabouts during his year of supervision. Shrouded in official secrecy, the Groom Lake facility has become a cultural touchstone for UFO mythology. But the base is generally believed to be dedicated to the more terrestrial mission of testing classified aircraft. Clark's emancipation from government scrutiny comes well in time for Area 51's unofficial 50th anniversary campout, planned for Memorial Day weekend, and likely to draw tourists, UFOlogists, and exotic aircraft buffs from all over. They'll celebrate with "a campfire with live music" outside the base's main gate, according to the event website. "Be sure to respect the Area 51 boundaries," the site suggests. "If you see the warning signs you have gone too far." Copyright © 2004, Related stories Area 51 hackers dig up trouble The Met goes psyops with bus station weapons 'detector' Romanian villagers flee disco-dancing aliens
Kevin Poulsen, 28 Jan 2005

Mobile virus epidemics: don't panic

Every time I lose my mobile phone, which happens far too often, I'm given the opportunity to check out the latest and greatest phone technologies available. This is great stuff. They have zoom lenses for pictures and Quicktime videos, they have high resolution color screens, wireless data access for my laptop, they play MP3s, send emails, and even sync my calendar and address book wirelessly with my desktop. With Bluetooth, WAP, and mobile browsers, these are tiny computers with far more power than most people give them credit for. With computing power comes security weaknesses, viruses and worms. Is no technology sacred from security threats? There is almost no consumer-level technology left where viruses and malicious code has failed to appear (the possible exception being a great source of envy, OS X). Mobile phones are becoming a vector of attack. At first glance, mobile phones might seem to have all the technology needed for a major virus outbreak in 2005. They have modern CPUs, built-in Bluetooth wireless technology, and data transfer across multiple networks. Many even ship with Java. By some estimates, up to half of these new "smartphones" leave the factory with some version of the Symbian OS, which is gaining in popularity because of endorsements by leaders Nokia, Eriksson, and others. With the worldwide market for mobile phones still growing at a phenomenal 32 per cent in 2004, and with an estimated 1.5 billion people (or 1/4 of the world's population) already owning a mobile phone, virus epidemics that target mobile phones will one day become a reality. But what about in 2005? The first proof-of-concept mobile phone virus appeared in June 2004 for the Symbian OS, but as proof of concepts tend to be, it proved relatively harmless. Subsequent versions have significantly improved capabilities, but they're still very low risk. Most interestingly, they all use Bluetooth to propagate. Bluetooth is a great technology for connecting small devices that are close to one another, but therein is also its disadvantage: with a few exceptions, the technology has a very limited range. With Macs and PCs, Bluetooth lets you connect your mobile phone, PDA, and laptop to your printer. It lets you sync your calendar and address book, and of course, allows for the transfer of arbitrary data. Getting infected with a virus via Bluetooth is interesting because it's akin to a human virus, which requires proximity to spread - but it also severely limits how far the virus can go. As newer variants get smarter, however, they'll start to use the phone's GPRS-style data capabilities to spread. After all, they have immediate access to the address book inside your mobile phone. Who cares? Why should one care about mobile phone viruses? There is clearly a profit motive, and that's all that is needed to kickstart another dubious industry. From a virus that will dial 1-900 numbers all day long, to the one that automatically buys a hundred ringtones that get added to your phone bill, there is money to be made by the next wave of miscreants. In Asia, telcos have already begun testing e-commerece transactions that are available through your phone. Where there's e-commerce, you can bet there will be viruses and security threats. With such embedded purchase power, I'd hate to think what would happen when I lose that phone. However, the reality is that the real threat from viruses just doesn't exist today. My prediction is that mobile phones won't experience any major security issues for several years, for the same reasons that we don't see major virus threats in the computer world for any platform other than Windows: there needs to be a critical mass of a given population for the threat to be real. Today there are too many different competing phone technologies, operating systems and architectures for there to be any clear winner. If the same were true in the computer security world, there would be far fewer viruses than there are today. I would suggest that the best reason why mobile viruses won't become an issue for some time is the wide array of different phone models, network technologies and embedded operating systems. In short, we have still have choice. Cellphones have been with us for a long time, but in a way the wireless industry feels like the computer industry was back in the 1980s: many proprietary systems that do interact, to some extent, without any one clear technological winner. With at least 30 mobile virus variants today for the Symbian OS alone, I think many people will be surprised at how easy it will be to carry around malcode clipped to our belt in the years to come. Copyright © 2004, Kelly Martin has been working with networks and security for 18 years, from VAX to XML, and is currently the content editor for Symantec's independent online magazine, SecurityFocus. Related stories 'Metal Gear' Trojan targets Symbian phones Skulls Trojan keelhauls Symbian phones Phreakers will rape and pillage your mobile
Kelly Martin, 28 Jan 2005
channel

Freescale licenses PowerVR MBX graphics core

Freescale, Motorola's former chip division, has licensed Imagination Technologies' PowerVR MBX Lite graphics core. The deal was struck through ARM, which entered into a sub-licensing agreement with Imagination in April 2002. It's been a useful arrangement for Imagination, since ARM carries far more industry clout and is able to promote PowerVR technology alongside its own CPU cores. Freescale joins the likes of Intel, Texas Instruments, Sharp, Hitachi, Samsung and Philips to license PowerVR MBX from Imagination directly, or from ARM. Intel offers PowerVR MBX as its 2700G multimedia and graphics accelerator chip, a companion product to its ARM-based XScale PCA27x line, which has proved popular with PDA makers. PowerVR is the graphics technology incorporated into the Sega Dreamcast console back in the days when Imagination also pitched the technology at add-in graphics cards for PCs. When both markets dried up, Imagination refocused its efforts on the mobile device market. The terms of the Freescale deal were not made public, but Imagination will take a licence fee and per-chip royalty payments. ® Related stories ARM income, revenues rise PowerVR MBX gains OpenGL ES Linux support Sega Dreamcast spawned Intel PDA graphics tech Philips licenses PowerVR MBX core Intel to run with Marathon mobile graphics chip TI builds graphics hardware into mobile chip Samsung licenses PowerVR MBX Texas Instruments licenses PowerVR for PDA, cellphone CPUs
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

Kids' blogs a 'paedophile's dream'

Children's blogs are "a paedophile's dream", because of the insight they give into a child's life, habits and movements, forensic psychologist Rachel O'Connell warns. Giving evidence before Scotland's Justice 1 Committee, she said: "This [blogging culture] is just a paedophile's dream because you have children uploading pictures, giving out details of their everyday life because it's an online journal," BBC Online reports. Justice 1 is responsible for discussing questions of civil and criminal justice. The committee is considering creating a specific offence of "sexual grooming of a person under 16 by an adult". It is also looking at introducing 10-year jail terms for meeting children for sex. O'Connell noted adults could subscribe to RSS feeds to be updated instantly with new pictures and information. Paedophiles could use this information to groom their potential victims, she suggested, adding that groups working together could even use information in blogs to arrange the abduction of a child. Pauline McNeill, the Labour committee convener, said that O'Connell's evidence "takes it to a whole new dimension for us...I'm beginning to wonder if we've really begun to tackle the protection of children with the bill before us." The vast majority of guidance to parents over child safety online is about chatrooms, but by their nature, blogs also put personal information in a very public space. So O'Connell is probably right to raise it as an issue, even if the situation is not quite as dire as she suggests. Safety advice for chatrooms is largely common sense, and is transferrable. Parents need to be aware that their child might have a blog, and need to make sure their child knows to be careful about the kind of information they put on their site. As for RSS feeds, they pose no additional danger. Anyone with any interest in a blog - benign or malicious - can just as easily bookmark a page and check it regularly. In related news, police in New Jersey this week arrested 39 people and charged them with possesion and online distribution of child pornography. The suspects include a pediatric neurosurgeon, a lawyer and a high-school hockey coach and range in age from 14 to 61, Reuters reports. The police used new child-porn detection technology, capable of tracing an image back to the hosting machine, to make the arrests. The material in showed the molestation and rape of a five-year-old girl from the state of Georgia. The man in the video, James Bidwell, was convicted in 2002 of molesting and raping the five year old, and for distributing the video over the internet to Canada and England. He is serving a 45-year prison term. ® Related stories Police launch site to tackle net pervs Cybersex man jailed for two years Brit cuffed in US net sex investigation
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jan 2005

Ebbers knew of financial fiddling

Bernie Ebbers has been linked to the $11bn (£5.8bn) WorldCom fraud by one of his former employees. Former WorldCom financial controller David Myers took the stand yesterday and testified that Ebbers apologised to him in 2000 after he was ordered to doctor the company's expenses. Recalling a conversation he had with Ebbers, Myers said his boss told him: "I'm sorry you were asked to do what you were asked to do. It's something that you should not have been put in that position to do." Ebbers then told Myers that "he would never have to do it again". The court was also told that Ebbers pushed for the changes to maintain WorldCom's double-digit growth and to protect the value to his WorldCom stocks. The New York Post reports that this is the first time that Ebbers - who denies nine counts related to the collapse of telecoms giant WorldCom in 2002 - has been linked directly with the scandal. Ebbers maintains that the fraud was orchestrated by ex-CFO Scott Sullivan. The defence team maintains that Ebbers was not capable of carrying out such a complex financial fraud. Myers also testified yesterday that Sullivan ordered him to cook the books. Last year Sullivan admitted "engaging in a fraudulent scheme to conceal WorldCom's poor financial performance" and is expected to be the Government's star witness against Ebbers. The trial is expected to last eight weeks. If found guilty, Ebbers faces up to 25 years in jail. ® Related stories Ebbers' financial know-how probed Gloves off in Ebbers WorldCom fraud trial Ebbers fraud trial kicks off Ebbers faces WorldCom court showdown Former Worldcom directors cough up $18m MCI breaks free from Chapter 11 WorldCom gets sums wrong by $74bn Bernie Ebbers faces criminal charges
Tim Richardson, 28 Jan 2005

MySQL worm attacks Windows servers

A worm exploiting vulnerable installations of MySQL to take over Windows servers began spreading across the net yesterday. The MySpooler worm takes advantage of weak administrative passwords to log onto target systems before using the MySQL UDF Dynamic Library exploit to upload malicious code (a backdoor program called Wootbot). Compromised systems log onto an IRC channel, becoming drones in a zombie network currently programmed to hunt for fresh victims. Intrusion firm PrevX reckons the worm infected 4,500 systems per hour in the early hours of its outbreak, a rapid spread evidenced by an upsurge in port 3306 scans associated with the worm. The MySQL open source database is available in Unix and Windows flavours but only Windows machines running MySQL 4.0.21 or later are been exploited in the attack. The SANS Institute has put together an analysis of the malware along with suggested defence strategies. Blocking port 3306 on firewalls, restricting access to root accounts and making sure strong passwords resistant to brute force attack are all strongly recommended. ® Related stories SQL server worm throttles bandwidth Security Report: Windows vs Linux The IT security vuln league table of fear
John Leyden, 28 Jan 2005
fingers pointing at man

World chip inventory fell 38% in Q4

Chip makers' stockpiles of unsold or unused semiconductors in the electronics supply chain shrank 38.3 per cent during the last three months of 2004, market watcher iSuppli has claimed. That marks a big drop on Q3 and comes in below the figure iSuppli had forecast previously. During the third quarter of 2004, inventory ballooned to $1.62bn worth of unsold product, more than the market watcher had estimated. When it announced the final Q3 figure, it said Q4's total would be around $1.5bn. In fact, it's closer to $1bn, but iSuppli cautioned that this figure is also preliminary and may change when all the data are in and the calculations are completed. "The huge build-up in the third quarter was due to over-zealous chip ordering in the first half of 2004, which clogged the distribution channel in anticipation of strong end demand in the second half," said iSuppli. "After demand failed to materialize, chip customers throughout the supply chain reassessed inventory needs in the third quarter, delaying orders and pushing parts back to suppliers. The result was a doubling in excess inventory in the third quarter. Downward trend? But even if the trend is now downward, $1bn remains an awful lot of product to shift, and particularly troublesome, given industry-wide expectations of a sales slowdown this year. That said, ISuppli believes the industry could still eliminate the overstock during 2005. Indeed, it reckons the business is "on track to dispense with the remaining excess in the first half of 2005". Some areas of "congestion" remain, most notably in wireless infrastructure and DSL products. "There also have been reports of some inventory still languishing in the channel, although those stockpiles decreased significantly during the quarter. "The inventory build during 2004 occurred for all products and across all regions. However, the burn off in the fourth quarter was slower for standard products and products sold through distribution channels. OEMs and ODMs in Taiwan and China still are dealing with excess inventories in the region. Although some product segments, such as notebook PCs, have successfully burned through stockpiles of components, others are digesting more slowly, such as with mobile phones," iSuppli noted. ® Related stories TSMC Q4 decline mirrors chip market ARM income, revenues rise TI Q4 earnings slide as sales fall Infineon sales slip - and will fall further Job cuts hit Freescale earnings AMD profits disappear in a Flash Intel's record Q4 run ends with profit drop Global chip sales edged up in November 04 Analyst slashes 2005 chip capex forecast - again Q3 chip stockpile bigger than thought - researcher iSuppli cuts 2005 chip sales growth target World chip sales to fall next year - analyst
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

BOFH: Driller Killer

Episode 3Episode 3 "So we'd just like you to move these data points from here to over there," the head beancounter says, pointing to a window. "It's a window," I say. "Yes, will that be a problem?" "It's a glass wall.." "Yes." "And there's no underfloor data cabling..." "Mmm." "So how do the cables get across there?" "I... Through the ceiling?" "And from the ceiling to their machines?" "We could just let the wire hang down?" "Wire-S." "Mmm?" "WIRES. I take it you're going to need power too." "Oh, yes. Actually, better run two of each." "Ok, it'll be a big job, as they'll either run a small post or an ugly piece of capping down the middle of the window which the building owner will hate. So who do I charge the work to?" "It's your area so I guess you'd be paying for it." "Doubtful. Eighteen months ago when this floor was completely refitted we specified modular underfloor cabling in a raised floor config, utilising, I might add, oversize floor tiles for futureproofing - and your department axed that out of the budget saying it was an unneccesary expense for what is basically a static workplace area." "Uh, that wasn't our department, that was the auditors." "Who work?" "Uh.. Over there," he says, pointing into a small cube farm separate from the rest of the floor. "Oh, in YOUR department?" "Yes, but they don't report to me, they report to the Audit Manager." "Who reports to?" "Well me, but that's different. It's a whole separate thing." "And so is asking us to make changes to a budget cabling job after we'd warned you that it'd cost a fortune to change." "Ok, I suppose we could just run long cables across the floor." "Till the Health and Safety people notice, yes." "Oh. So it looks like we'll have to use the ceiling space." "I suppose so. Unless...." "Unless?" "Unless we use the ceiling space of the floor below, run the cables in that, get a bloke with a cement cutter and jackhammer to make some holes in the concrete floor to install some flush mounting power and data boxes onto." "What'll it cost?" "Oh, about a grand, fifteen hundred?" "1500 pounds?!" "Lets say two to be on the safe side. Course, it's about 750 if you want them to do a weekend job for cash with no insurance, tax or warranty." "It's a hole! They're drilling a hole, that's all! How can a hole be worth two thousand pounds?" "It's specialised equipment! They're professionals!" "Can't you drill the hole?" "What, with the IT department's little hammer drill and a masonry bit? It'd take about two hours and drive everyone barmy - and we don't have a masonry bit that long." "I... So how... do we do the... uh.. under-the-table thing?" "You grab a wadge of petty cash - call it pin money or something - shove it in a brown envelope and drop it off to me. I'll hand it onto them and they'll drill the hole." "You give it to them BEFORE they do the work? You don't get a receipt or anything?" "A. They'll be hiring equipment and will want the dosh up front and B. the whole idea of under-the-table jobs is no paper trail." "It all seems a little... underhand to me." "The good jobs always do.." . . two hours later . . "And it'll be done by the weekend?" the head beancounter says, handing over a brown envelope self-consciously like a crim caught on videotape. Which he is. "Should do. I'll make some calls later on this afternoon and get back to you." . . . later on that afternoon . . . >Ring< "Hello," the PFY says. "Want to earn three hundred quid whilst lounging around at the pub?" I ask. . . . That weekend . . . "So you've propped the drill up between two chairs with a stack of phone books taped to the handle.." "To simulate the pressure of a human arm," I add. "..with the trigger taped on…" "Yep, and by my calculation the first hole should be drilled in about 4.5 pints time!" "Best get drinking then!" . . . 4.5 hours later . . . "Ok, that's one hole done. Now we need to drill eight more holes around it to make room for the flush box mount." "How deep?" "About a pint." . . . Eight pint trips and a large amount of hammering later. . . "F - ing magic!" the PFY slurs. "But what's that..." . . . . "You didn't run the cables?" the head Beancounter whines, when we get in on Monday. "No, there was a bit of a problem, so we didn't get a chance to start work." "Problem?" "Yeah, they'd done the hole when one of the newer, STUPIDER contractors thought he'd seen an obstruction and rammed the drill in the hole several times." "Yes, and?" "And hit the water line for the fire extinguishers." "Was there any damage?" "No no, just flooded the third floor. It'll need new carpets!" "We‘ll sue!" "You COULD sue, but then you'd have to fess up to the whole under-the-table thing, which would mean the Tax department would probably find out, which given your position in the company would probably mean the whole place would be audited with all the vigor of a dark night at a men's prison, it doesn't really bear thinking about..." "I....... suppose you're right. We'll have to pay for the carpets." "You couldn't spring for a raised floor utilising oversize floor tiles for futureproofing as well could you?" Well, it never hurts to ask. ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here BOFH is copyright © 1995-2005, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 28 Jan 2005

Unholy trio pose DDoS risk for Cisco kit

The software in many large networks needs to be updated following the discovery of multiple flaws in routers and switches running Cisco's IOS software. Three security bugs, each involving the way Cisco's software processes particular protocols, could be used to reload affected devices. Repeating the trick would enable crackers to mount denial of service attacks against vulnerable Cisco-based networks. Each of the flaws - involving the processing of malformed IPv6, BGP and MPLS packets - is separate, but each carries the same denial of service risk. BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) and MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) are both important protocols used to manage IP routing in large networks. Links to free software upgrades, along with advice on suggested workarounds, can be found via a US-CERT advisory or on Cisco's website. The announcement of the vulnerabilities marks the second significant security advisory batch by Cisco in as many days. Earlier this week the networking giant advised users of IP Telephony kit to patch systems following the discovery of a separate security risk. ® Related stories Cisco patches VoIP vuln Cisco fixes 'decoy attack' in security software Cisco beefs up IOS security
John Leyden, 28 Jan 2005

Mobile phones shipments up 38% in Q4

More mobile phones shipped in the last three months of 2004 than in any other quarter in history. Gosh. Thanks, Strategy Analytics, for that breathless statistic. How many is more? The market watcher puts the total at 200m, which took 2004's grand total to a similarly Guinness-worrying 684m units - 32.3 per cent more than the 517m shipped in the previous record-holding year, 2003. This year will be even better, SA forecast yesterday. Growth will slow to just eight per cent, but that's enough to see some 735m handsets shipping around the world in 2005. The fall is attributable to upgrade activity in mature handset markets and a slowdown in the number of new subscribers coming on stream in developing arenas. Nokia dominated Q4, shipping more than double Motorola, its nearest rival:66.1m units to 31.8m. The Finnish giant boosted its market share to 33.1 per cent - still not up to 2003's quarterly highs, but its best quarter this year. According to SA, Motorola didn't quite lose out to Samsung during Q3 - although other market watcher suggested it did cede the number two slot in that quarter - and widened the gap in Q4. Motorola took 15.9 per cent of the market, to Samsung's 10.6 per cent. Indeed, Samsung shipped fewer handsets in Q4 than it did the previous quarter. Siemens ceded fourth place in the market to LG during Q4. LG retained seven per cent of the market in both Q3 and Q4, but Siemens' share fell from 7.6 per cent to 6.8 per cent. Sony Ericsson share slipped sequentially too, by a tenth of a percentage point to 6.3 per cent. Year on year, the big winners were LG, Sony Ericsson and Samsung, all of which showed big unit shipment increases above the industry average. Motorola just beat the average, but Nokia and Siemens showed below par growth. Q4 2004 Mobile Phone Shipments Full-year Rank Vendor Q4 Shipments (millions) Q4 Market Share 2004 Shipments (millions) 2004 Market Share 2003-2004 Growth 1 Nokia 66.1 33.1% 207.6 30.4% 15.5% 2 Motorola 31.8 15.9% 104.5 15.3% 39.2% 3 Samsung 21.1 10.6% 86.6 12.7% 55.5% 4 Siemens 13.5 6.8% 49.4 7.2% 14.1% 5 LG 13.9 7% 44.4 6.5% 61.5% 6 Sony Ericsson 12.6 6.3% 42.5 6.2% 56.3%   Others 40.6 20.3% 148.5 21.7% 35.6%   Total 199.6   683.5   32.2% Source: Strategy Analytics Related stories Siemens delays decision on handset biz fate Nokia smiles through falling profits Sony Q3 profits plunge as sales slump Mobile open-standards group recruits key players Samsung phones outsell Motorola's Americas lead booming mobile phone biz World phone shipments to slip in Q4 - analyst Samsung creeps up on Motorola
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

Friday 11 March is Euro Nintendo DS day

Nintendo will launch its DS handheld console in Europe on Friday, 11 March, the company has revealed. Priced at £100 in the UK and €149 on the continent, the console debuts alongside 15 games priced between £20 and £30. In the US, the headline price is $150 - the difference is largely accounted for by the inclusion of import duties and sales tax in the European prices but excluded from theUS figure. On the list of initial titles are Super Mario 64 DS, WarioWare Touched!, Project Rub, Mr DRILLER: Drill Spirits, Spiderman 2, Rayman DS, The Urbz, Pokemon Dash, Sprung, Asphalt Urban GT, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Zoo Keeper, Ping Pals, Robots and Polarium. The console itself comes bundled with a demo version of Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt. Nintendo has allocated 650,000 units for European sales and intends to spend €35m ($45.6m) promotion, with a particular emphasis on women. Presumably, it feels male gamers will favour the more macho, black-cased Sony PSP, which is should ship a week or two later. ® Related stories Sony preps PlayStation 'music download service' Sony Q3 profits plunge as sales slump Nintendo's Q3 income falls 43% Sony PSP outships Nintendo DS Nokia 'completely committed' to N-Gage 'EA leak' yields late 2005 Xbox 2 ship date Nintendo sets DS date down under
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

Cyber-stalker faces sentencing today

A woman is due to be sentenced today at Leicester Crown Court after she waged a three-year campaign of harassment against a man with whom she had a one-night stand. She also admitted five computer-related offences and perverting the course of justice. This is a stalking case with added technology. Cyber-bunnyboiler Anita Debnath became obsessed with a her boss, Chay Ankers, after an affair that lasted a single night. Ankers and Debnath worked together at a logistics company in Coventry. Over the next three years she hired hackers to break into his email account, set up a website claiming he was gay, followed him and his girlfriend on their holiday to Venezuela. Ankers told the Daily Mirror: "Everyone's had a one-night stand and realised afterwards they have made a mistake. But you don't expect it to lead to this." After their tryst, Debnath contacted Ankers sporadically. Once to invite him to join her in a hotel room, and four months later to accuse him of infecting her with the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia. By this time, Ankers was six weeks into a relationship with Melanie Hamlet, an artist. They were both tested for the disease, but were not infected. Debnath used a web forum, Avengers Den, to get tips on how to wage her campaign against both Ankers and his new girlfriend. Over the ensuing months, she went to Hamlet and Ankers' local pub, moved to the same town as the pair, sent letters to Hamlet claiming Ankers was having affairs, coated Hamlet's car with paint stripper, and on another occasion, slashed its tyres. Next she sent gay porn to Ankers' house, and set up a website, www.chayisgay.com. She set up an email address is his name, and sent messages to 100 ex-colleagues implicating Ankers in stalking her. The campaign culminated in an attack on his email. Debnath hired Far Eastern hackers, the court heard, to break into Ankers' email account using a trojan. The Mirror claims that such services can be obtained for between £25 and £45. The hackers sent an email to Ankers, apparently from a Hotmail account, saying that his computer had a virus, and that he should follow the instructions to remove it. "It contained a hyperlink to the Internet with an embedded file behind it," Ankers told the newspaper. "It gave them an open door into my email account." His inbox contained emails he had exchanged with the police, and details of a planned holiday to Venezuela with Hamlet. Debnath actually flew to Venezuela, but by then Ankers and Hamlet had made new plans. Tracey Morgan, director of support group Network For Surviving Stalking, told the paper: "This case is horrifying. People are becoming more and more aware of electronic stalking. The internet, emails and texting are fantastic tools, but in the wrong hands they can be instruments of terror." Debnath will be sentenced today. She was remanded in custody last month after admitting the charges against her, but the case was adjourned pending a psychiatric report. ® Related stories Man stabs long-lost Friends Reunited mate 7 times Jilted lover jailed for email stalking Sex, Text, Revenge, Hacking and Friends Reunited
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jan 2005

BT faces 'bogeyman' if it fails to open market

Ofcom has once again warned that BT's failure to restructure its business and open up its market to genuine competition would make an enforced structural split of the company a "real possibility". In November, Ofcom rejected calls to break up BT and instead urged the telco to make "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" and provide equal access to its wholesale product range. Such changes would lead to greater competition and a better deal for consumers, said the regulator. But if BT fails to make the necessary changes then Ofcom warned that it would begin an Enterprise Act market investigation, and referral to the Competition Commission in a bid to split up the UK's former telecoms monopoly. With less than a week to go until BT is due to respond to Ofcom's demands, Ofcom boss Stephen Carter told a meeting of the Westminster eForum that the regulator remains committed to opening up the sector to competition. "Let me be clear. The possibility of an Enterprise Act investigation is not simply a bogeyman to secure the façade of co-operation from BT," he said on Wednesday. "It is and must remain a real possibility if, reluctantly, we conclude that true equality of access cannot be achieved." What if? So, just for argument's sake, what if BT does not give the necessary assurances that Ofcom wants? What if BT sticks two fingers up to Ofcom and tells the regulator that it "cannot countenance the kind of equality of access - behavioural change and product level equivalence - that we [Ofcom] have said is essential?" Carter said Ofcom could use existing powers to tackle each of the outstanding issues. "But to impose such remedies in the face of BT's active hostility... would be a very complicated and time-consuming task. It would need to be done case by case, product by product and market by market, with BT having the opportunity to appeal our decisions at every stage." And although he accepts that the use of the Enterprise Act would lead to delays and uncertainty, "imposing real equality of access in the teeth of sustained opposition would impose even more delay and uncertainty and ironically would probably involve not one but several trips to the competition commission to resolve. "An Enterprise Act referral, whilst undesirable in many ways, would be less undesirable than a protracted attempt to impose real equality of access via the sector powers route," he said. However, unleashing the "bogeyman" would not happen overnight. Not only would Ofcom have to digest fully BT's response, with all the signs pointing to a Spring general election Ofcom does not feel this would be a great time to announce decisions that "could have significant market and public policy impact". Last weekend, BT boss Ben Verwaayen warned that more than half of UK homes and businesses could be left without advanced broadband services if Ofcom continues to press ahead with plans to make the UK's telecoms sector more competitive. Verwaayen argued that the regulator's preference for local loop unbundling (LLU) would lead to a new digital divide with rival telcos cherry-picking the most lucrative exchanges leaving vast swathes of the UK without up-to-date services. ® Related stories BT warns of broadband divide ahead of Ofcom review MPs to scrutinise Ofcom's telecoms review Tough-talking Ofcom boss slaps BT BT stands firm against Ofcom Ofcom tells BT: shape up, or split up
Tim Richardson, 28 Jan 2005
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Intel baffles with latest trademarks

Intel has added a pair of trademarks to its large roster of protected names: 'Intel Inside VIIV' and 'Intel VIIV'. Not surprisingly, there's a considerable amount of head-scratching going on in web-based Intel-watching circles as to what the chip giant is thinking. The speculation isn't helped by Intel's refusal to comment, even though the trademark filings are a matter of public record. The trademarks have also been filed in Germany. Some say the 'VIIV' is a reference to a dual-core ('II') Pentium 5 ('V'). Others suggest the symbol indicates 64-bit: VI for six, IV for 4. However, LXIV would be a better indicator of 64-bit technology, perhaps, and certainly a more accurate way of showing the number in Roman numerals. Either way - and neither idea has been confirmed, in any way - the meaning is not immediately obvious to potential punters; and it doesn't follow the company's usual approach to technology naming schemes. 'Vacuous Intel Initiative Verbiage', anyone? ® Related stories World chip inventory fell 38% in Q4 Intel gets it right for once Intel to bring 64-bit to P4, Celerons in Q2 AMD's 2006 roadmap - details emerge
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2005

MIT boffins moot space leotard

Researchers at MIT are working on a super-spacesuit that will allow future interplanetary explorers far more flexibility and freedom of movement than the bulky designs of today. Big, heavy suits might be OK for space walks off the International Space Station, but add a little gravity to the environment, and the need for a lighter and more manoeuvrable alternative is clear. The research project, funded by NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts, is charged with exploring improvements to current spacesuit design as well as coming up with the next generation of suits for non-microgravity environments. The Bio-Suit System is based around a custom-fitted second-skin. This would compress the skin, protecting the wearer in low pressure environments, or in a vacuum, Space.com reports. This layer would incorporate electrically powered muscle fibres that would boost both strength and endurance. There would be a top layer to this second-skin, a spray-on, organic, biodegradable "epidermis" that would provide extra protection in dusty environments. Over this "skin", the astronaut would wear a sealed helmet, boots, gloves and a hard shell around the torso. The life support systems clip onto this hard shell, and provide the gas counterpressure. The gas would flow freely into the helmet, and down to the boots and gloves via tubes in the second skin layer. The idea of using a compression suit instead of a large bulky system is not new: it was first proposed by Paul Webb in 1968. Until very recently, NASA had suspended research in this area, but President Bush's plans to go to Mars have breathed new life into the project. MIT Professor Dava Newman leads the research. She told Space.com: "When we get back to the Moon and on Mars, we're not going there to stay in a habitat. EVA becomes a primary function." The researchers are investigating new materials technologies, modelling techniques such as 3D laser scanning, to make sure that the suits they design are up to the job. Other characteristics that might be desirable in a spacesuit are also being investigated. For example, shape change polymers and electro-emissive materials could alter the heat transfer properties of the suit, making it behave more like our own skin. Another NIAC study is investigating a suit that changes colour according to the heat requirements of the astronaut. ® Related stories Electronic underwear warns of heart attack NASA field tests ISS robosurgeon Scrap space robots, government urged
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jan 2005

Tablet PC bug 'fills computer with ink'

A major bug in the Tablet PC version of Windows eats up all the memory in your computer until it crashes. Redmond has yet to acknowledge the problem with a public disclosure about the issue - or even offer a feeble blogshrug [*]. The culprit is the application Tabtip.exe, the site Tablet PC Talk confirms - "The program Tabtip.exe increases in size due to a memory leak. It starts out at approximately 10MB. I have seen it zoom up to over 150MB after a couple of weeks of suspend/resume." Tabtip.exe is quite an important application - it's the built-in ink digitizer responsible for handwriting recognition. Without it, you must buy and install a third-party recognition software, or plug in a keyboard. So figuratively speaking, the computer fills up with ink - until it can take no more. This bug isn't new. Users first discovered it last spring, and even patched together a crude batch file which killed and restarted the ink-continent digitizer process. But it's been causing much more ire of late, with fans furious Microsoft won't so much as acknowledge the issue. "Any microsoft people reading this who care to comment on the likelihood of a fix?" asked a poster, on January 7. Now picture some tumbleweed. A more recent, and fairly exasperated user remarks on the deafening silence and claims that he'd heard that Microsoft wouldn't be fixing the leak. Microsoft bugs have been quite the talk this week. The company's MapPoint route software has left users bobbing about in the freezing cold Baltic Sea. Ink-continence remedy The tale raises two questions. Firstly, are so few people using Tablet PCs that this doesn't rank on Redmond's radar? The concept has promise, but Tablets only seem to be finding a home in vertical industry niches. Secondly, do Windows PCs stay up for such short periods of time that huge memory leaks aren't considered a serious issue by product managers? That would seem to define "low expectations". In the Mac world, a month's uptime isn't unusual (although there too, cruft accumulates). That's because Apple computers go to sleep and resume very quickly and reliably. So is it a case of one Windows bug - unreliable resume - concealing another? And how many more heap geysers would we discover if Windows were ever to reach an acceptable level of uptime? And what constitutes acceptable uptime? We'll put these questions to the people in charge, and let you know. ® *Bootnote By some count, Microsoft employs 1,500 bloggers. You'd think at least one could tear himself away from massaging his RSS, just for a second, to address such a serious issue. They seem to find time for childish japes. Related stories Tablet PCs gain ground Tablet PCs struggle for acceptance These Tablets could take years to work, warns Acer Tablet PC takes under 1% of Euro notebook shipments Tablet PC OEMs chafe at low sales, costly Windows Europeans not taking the tablets Tablet dumping starts ahead of Centrino shift Tablet PC chat bug scuppers Tablet PC chat Tablet PCs go niche in 2003 Gartner MS Tablet suits Corridor Warriors, Canteen Commandos
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Jan 2005