11th > March > 2005 Archive

Nokia nails N-Gage to its perch

Nokia has vowed to give the Norwegian Blue of its phone portfolio - the N-Gage console - a fresh lick of paint. "We're looking at new colours, a new look and feel for the QD in the next few months," said Gerard Wiener at the Games Developer Conference, we learn from Tech Digest. Whether that's enough to resuscitate its fortunes is a moot point. Even John Kerry has had a higher profile Stateside in recent months. In January, a Nokia spokesperson denied reports that the N-Gage was being axed, claiming that "It's not going anywhere." Which is about right, but probably not what he wanted to say. Last year Nokia executives said they would give the N-Gage 18 months to prove itself. But in the hugely competitive games hardware business, where deep pockets are needed, that might not be long enough. Microsoft's Xbox was launched in 2001 but the division responsible for it is expected to turn consistent profits in 2007. Sony's dazzling PSP, reviewed here, promises to put more clear blue water between the high and low ends of the competing consoles. The PSP-1000 boasts a much more powerful gaming engine, a better screen (480 x 272 pixels) and Wi-Fi. It has more than enough processing power to do email and web browsing, features expected but not currently supported. And at 260g it isn't seriously heavier than Nokia's intriguing but underpowered media phone, the 189g 7710. And what can you do with WiFi? Make phone calls, after a fashion. It is possible that Wiener's comments this week are a sophisticated feint. Nokia cut features, and the price, when it revamped the console last year, and his comments suggest that Nokia sees the N-Gage rooted firmly at the low-end of the market. Perhaps Nokia has decided that $250 games phones won't be able to compete with Sony's $350 console. Or perhaps it just wants us, and the competitors, to think so too. Nokia has consistently preached that it's all about the games, not the device - but breakthrough devices provide the basis for breakthrough games. ® Related stories Gizmondo to ship 19 March Nokia 'completely committed' to N-Gage Nokia cuts hit smart phone, multimedia R&D Nokia ships 1m N-Gage consoles Nokia N-Gage QD US debut slips Nokia ships N-Gage QD Nokia launches N-Gage QD No mobile console for Microsoft Nokia to fix sidetalking, swapping with Son of N-Gage Nokia 'fesses up to poor N-Gage sales Key US retailer drops N-Gage from 450 stores How Nintendo almost beat Nokia to the gamephone Nokia N-Gage - Review
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Mar 2005

Intel's Q1 'a little better' than expected

Intel today tightened its first quarter revenue forecast to reflect stronger than usual sales. The chipmaker, during its typical mid-quarter update, said revenue should come in between $9.2bn and $9.4bn. That's at the high end of a previous forecast that ranged between $8.8bn and $9.4bn. Solid microprocessor sales and meaty gross margins have helped Intel out so far during its first quarter. "It's just a little bit better than we expected," Intel CFO Andy Bryant said about the period, during a conference call with financial analysts. If Intel hits the latest revenue range, it would show 14 per cent to 16 per cent growth over the same quarter last year. It now expects a gross profit margin of 57 per cent, plus or minus a point, as compared to a previous forecast of 55 per cent, plus or minus a point. Intel pointed to lower than expected chip production costs for the boost. Shares moved slightly higher during after-hours trading and sat at $25.30, at the time of this report. ® Related stories AMD details its Turion mobile processor Nvidia previews nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition AMD 'Athlon 64 4200+' benchmarks surface TI cuts Q1 sales forecast Japan calls Intel to task over anti-AMD rebates
Ashlee Vance, 11 Mar 2005
For Sale sign detail

New SanDisk drive lets your fingers do the storing

SanDisk is always trying to make the bland idea of a USB storage drive seem as hi-tech as possible. And its latest attempt to make flash flashy comes in the form of a drive equipped with a fingerprint scanner. The Cruzer Profile gives customers that extra bit of security they've always been looking for in a USB storage device. Users will need to slide a finger across the device to gain access to their files. "Usage of the Cruzer Profile will not require the loading of any applications on a computer," SanDisk said. "Fingerprint images will be stored on the Cruzer Profile. To provide a high degree of security and tamper protection, these images will not pass through or be placed on the computer at any time." The device - about the size of a pack of gum - will start shipping in mid-April. A 512MB version should retail close to $100, while a 1GB version will cost close to $200. Lexar released a similar device last year called the JumpDrive TouchGuard. Along with the new kit, SanDisk updated some older parts of its product line. It has doubled the capacity of the xD-Picture Card with a 1GB version of the flash memory product. This card is used in conjunction with digital cameras from the likes of Olympus and Fuji. On average, a five-megapixel camera can store 800 images (high-quality setting) on the 1GB card. The new card also ships in April at a starting price of $140. SanDisk has doubled the storage capacity of its Cruzer Titanium products as well by adding a 2GB device. The fatter flash drive arrives in April at a starting price of $250. Flash memory may be straightforward, bordering on dull, but it is impressive to see vendors such as SanDisk and Lexar pack capacity into these suckers. ® Related stories Hitachi hikes consumer disk production Toshiba turns up heat at flash chip plant Toshiba, SanDisk prep 1GB Flash chip SanDisk offers USB-friendly SD flash memory
Ashlee Vance, 11 Mar 2005
homeless man with sign

Time-drift technique fingers PCs

Security researchers have developed a technique for remotely fingerprinting an electronic device using clock skews - small, microscopic deviations in device hardware. In a paper, Remote physical device fingerprinting, Tadayoshi Kohno, lead author and PhD student from the University of California San Diego, explains how the technique could be developed to track hardware wherever it is on the net, or in applications such as computer forensics. Bruce Schneier, the noted cryptographer, described the approach as "nice work"; but the technique has already generated a fierce debate about its reliability. Mostly, the cryptographic community is discussing the ability of remote device fingerprinting to yield evidence good enough for a court of law - are clock skews stable on a particular PC? But there are wider concerns about device fingerprinting: taken at face value, the technology could end anonymous net access, a cause for celebration for repressive governments everywhere. Kohno's approach is OS independent and relies on TCP Timestamps in TCP headers to "estimate a device's clock skew [drift] and thereby fingerprint a physical device". At 2000 packets per hour, this skew value has greater than six bits of entropy or enough to uniquely identify one computer in a million, according to Kohno's paper. TCP Timestamps can be turned off in Linux or BSD, but otherwise much data can be obtained from a great distance and without any need to modify a fingerprinted device. "Our techniques report consistent measurements when the measurer is thousands of miles, multiple hops, and tens of milliseconds away from the fingerprinted device, and when the fingerprinted device is connected to the Internet from different locations and via different access technologies. Further, one can apply our passive and semi-passive techniques when the fingerprinted device is behind a NAT or firewall, and also when the device's system time is maintained via NTP or SNTP," the paper explains. Kohno developed the research with Andre Broido and KC Claffy at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and presents their findings at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in California in May. ® Related stories Fingerprints as ID - good, bad, ugly? Biometric sensors beaten senseless in tests Forensic computing uncloaks industrial espionage FBI retires Carnivore
John Leyden, 11 Mar 2005
globalisation

Slim Devices adds 802.11g to wireless MP3 player

Slim Devices will ship the second generation of its Squeezebox wireless music device at the end of the month, the company revealed this week. The appropriately named Squeezebox 2 incorporates more advanced hardware and support for a broader array of audio formats. We were a little disappointed to see that AAC, iTunes' preferred audio format, remains unsupported, although the device's computer-side server software continues to transcode the format on the fly. However, the addition of the higher-bandwidth 802.11g wireless network standard should alleviate the problems the previous generation of Squeezebox had in transmitting uncompressed audio over a non-dedicated WLAN. Indeed, Slim Devices touts Squeezebox 2's improved support for WAV and AIFF uncompressed audio - a benefit for audiophiles too - and lossless compression technologies, such as FLAC and Apple Lossless. It supports MP3 natively, while the server software can decompress and send AAC, WAV and Ogg Vorbis files. As yet there's no direct support for Windows Media or iTunes DRM technologies. Squeezebox 2 incorporates a much improved, Burr-Brown digital-to-analog, Slim Devices says, and more buffer memory to store incoming audio ahead of processing. The hardware now features digital optical and co-ax S/PDIF outputs, and a higher-resolution display. For WLAN users, the device now acts as a wireless bridge to extend the reach of the network to which it's connected. Multiple devices can receive music files - the same ones or different tracks - from the host computer. Squeezebox 2 ships on 31 March, and Slim Devices has already begun taking orders. It's available in black or silver colour schemes, both for $299. A wired-only version will retail for $249. ® Related stories Apple builds wireless hi-fi bridge with pocket router Slim Devices slims Squeezbox prices Slim Devices ships Squeezebox networked MP3 player Related reviews SlimDevices Squeezebox Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music
Tony Smith, 11 Mar 2005

UK tagging for 'terror plotters' goes live on freed suspects

The UK's 'tagging for terror suspects' programme began yesterday with the release on bail of one of the Belmarsh detainees. A further eight inmates are expected to be released today, although the legislation under which they are being bailed currently expires at midnight on Sunday. Parliament is today locked in a titanic struggle over what happens next. The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, which would introduce a control order regime for these and other suspects, is the Government's preferred option, but it - backed by its House of Commons majority - is hanging tough over House of Lords attempts to amend the legislation, and to impose an expiry date, or sunset clause on it. The Bill went back and forth between the Commons and the Lords overnight, with the Commons overturning the Lords amendments, and on each occasion the Lords putting them back. Technically, the Thursday Parliamentary sitting this battle is taking place in could continue until Sunday, and this morning neither side showed any sign of being willing to back down. The bailed suspects are unlikely to be released come Sunday, however. The Home Secretary has the power to renew the legislation under which they're being held for a further 40 days; this legislation has been ruled illegal by the Law Lords (hence the claimed need for the Prevention of Terrorism Bill), but that ruling does not stop its being extended. The Bill itself may still go through in some form after a compromise, but the main battle now seems to be for electoral advantage, with Tony Blair taking every opportunity to portray the Tory opposition as being 'soft on terror.' The bail conditions for the Belmarsh detainees follow the control order blueprint set down in the stalled Bill. They are subject to home curfew, 24 hour tagging, bans on use of mobile phones and of computers that can connect to the Internet. They need to inform the monitoring service whenever they wish to enter or leave their homes, and they must allow their homes to be searched. Conditions of this sort were placed on one former Belmarsh inmate late last year, but this rather larger test of the imposition of movement and communications restrictions via technology takes us into uncharted territory. These are, as the Government and sundry policemen continue to tell us, 'dangerous men who should not walk free' (but should not be charged with any offence either), so the new, untried systems need to be able to provide an equivalent to an indeterminate period in the slammer. As The Register has noted in the past (possibly recklessly, considering what counts as 'supporting terrorism' these days), tagging systems are not 100 per cent reliable, and can be fooled in a number of ways by any subject who actively wishes to subvert them. And how, incidentally, does one stop somebody using a mobile phone? We suspect somebody hasn't thought this one through. The current subjects are sufficiently few for monitoring to be intense, in theory, and - presumably - for the security forces to use old-fashioned methods like tailing as backup, but that's not going to be the case if the Government ever gets itself into the position of rounding up the "hundreds" who, Tony Blair told us last week, are in the UK plotting attacks. This it might be able to do if it eventually gets the powers it wants from Parliament, either in the Prevention of Terrorism Bill or in subsequent legislation. The Regulatory Impact Statement for the Prevention of Terrorism Bill envisages using private contractors to monitor subjects, which might strike you as an odd thing to do in relation to potential mad bombers. It is not, however, surprising; the Home Office itself does not have any in-house capability to run tagging systems, and the tagging pilots it has been running (for, er, lower risk offenders) have been conducted in conjunction with private security companies. Which, as Parliament slugs it out over precisely what happens after midnight on Sunday, presents us with the interesting prospect, if Tony Blair eventually gets his way, of control orders imposed without charges or trial, and enforced by the private sector. In the past week spokesmen for Downing Street have indicated that the control order regime could be applied to Irish republican suspects and animal rights activists. The forthcoming G8 summit in Gleneagles also looks a likely venue for the deployment of its battery of anti-terror legislation. ® Related Stories: ID scheme to bite dust in pre-election terror rush? Restrict freedom to preserve liberty: cunning Home Office plan Guilty! New Labour could arrest self under new terror law Blunkett's satellite tagging: the tripe behind the hype
John Lettice, 11 Mar 2005
arrow pointing up

Tech Data Q4 profits jump on tax settlement

Tech Data had a good fourth quarter, generating revenues of $5.6bn , up 14.2 per cent on the same quarter last year. Net income improved too, up from $38.9m in Q404 (which ended January, 2004) to $59.3m this time around. However, the distie giant was helped along by returning into the profit line $11.5m in previously accrued taxes, which no longer have to be paid. A full contribution from Azlan, Europe’s biggest networking distie, bought last year, and a favourable exchange rate will have also played their - unspecified - parts in the profits uplift. Tech Data, headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, reports in US dollars, but gets 57 per cent of its turnover from EMEA. Gross margins in Q4 were 5.44 per cent of sales, falling half a point on Q4 fiscal 2004’s 5.94 per cent. The company blames a competitive selling environment for the margin pressure, but trumpets its ability to contain costs with fourth-quarter selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) a skinny 4.10 per cent of sales, down from 4.69 per cent last time around. For the full year, Tech Data posted sales of $19.8bn and net income of $162.5m. It forecasts net sales of $4.95bn -$5.10bn for Q1, fiscal 2006. Net income is expected to be in the range of $34m-$37m. ® Related stories Vodafone signs big distie deals EMC goes low with new NAS head Bell Micro picks boss for Europe Europe's tail wags Tech Data's dog
Drew Cullen, 11 Mar 2005
graph up

MS calls for US patent reform

Microsoft yesterday called for reform of the US patent system, claiming that the long-term health of the system is threatened both by a flood of patent applications and an "explosion of sometimes-abusive litigation". That's how MS general counsel Brad Smith put it during a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. Smith outlined proposals to reduce "abusive" patent litigation, create "more consistency among international patent systems [and] eliminate patent filing fees for individual inventors and small firms", the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports. He also called for more consistent funding for the US Patent and Trademark Office leading to "more quality in the patent process". Microsoft is an energetic filer of patents, submitting more than 3,000 this year. It is an equally energetic patent defendant, fending off 35 to 40 patent lawsuits at any given time at a cost of $100m a year, according to Smith. Perhaps the most notorious patent dispute involving Redmond is its spat with Eolas regarding "a method of opening third party applications within a browser". The case saw Microsoft slapped with a $565m penalty for allegedly infringing an Eolas patent. However, the US Court of Appeals last week sent the case back for a new trial. A delighted Redmond says it will "now be able to tell the jury the whole story of how this technology was developed and to present evidence that shows that Eolas did not invent this technology, and that it was developed by others". ® Related stories Appeals court hits rewind in Microsoft Eolas case MS Eolas appeal begins Microsoft wins another Eolas web patent battle Eolas' web patent nullified US Patent Office will review Eolas claim Microsoft fined $520m for infringing patents
Lester Haines, 11 Mar 2005
globalisation

Massive web trawl nets spammers

A 'comprehensive' sweep of the net by 70 law enforcement organisations from 26 countries should help authorities combat phishers, spammers and scammers, says a leading consumer protection agency. The co-ordinated trawl last month netted a stack of data and information that authorities plan to use to tackle spammers while helping to protect consumers and legitimate ecommerce operators. Christine Wade, president of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), said the sweep was the most "comprehensive" carried out so far. We will work...to enforce the law against scammers and clean up the internet, and to cut off scammers' route to market by helping consumers to protect themselves against fraudulent claims in spam messages." According to recent estimates, spam accounts for more than seven in ten of all emails sent via the net. Which is not nice. ® Related stories OFT in net spam scam crackdown EU and Asia unite against spammers UK targets scammers in month-long campaign
Tim Richardson, 11 Mar 2005

Global DSL tops 100m

More than 35m new DSL lines were wired up around the world during 2004 as demand for broadband continued to soar. >By the end of 2004 there were 97m DSL lines around the world - an increase of 60 per cent on the year, according to research from PointTopic. China heads the DSL league table with 17m lines - up 4.4m on the year. The US has 13.7m DSL lines. Demand for DSL continues to be strong in Europe with France, UK, Germany and Italy all adding more than 1m lines each over the year. As demand for broadband has surged ISPs have responded by cutting the cost of packages and introducing innovative new products. Earlier this week, for example, UK-based Seriously Internet - which has signed up 10,000 punters in five months - released a 2 Meg broadband service for £14.99 a month. The PAYG product comes with 1 Gig of usage as part of the price. The more it's used, the more punters pay, although the ISP insists that monthly price is capped at £27.99 for unlimited use. Elsewhere, Madasafish announced that it will join other ISPs including BT Retail and PlusNet to trial 8 Meg DSL from April. The pilot - ahead of a wider-scale trial scheduled for the summer - is expected to last ten weeks. ® Related stories BT Retail to trial 8 Meg DSL Strathclyde, London fingered for 8 meg trial Nildram moves to head-off broadband hogs
Tim Richardson, 11 Mar 2005
channel

MS UK locks in schools via 'special terms' sponsorship deal

A sponsorship deal between Microsoft and the Department for Education and Skills has positioned the giant to be the dominant supplier in English schools, and according to Register sources is already causing some schools to cancel open source projects "in case they upset the sponsor [i.e. Microsoft] or the DfES failed their bid." The rules of the mechanism Microsoft has used, sponsorship for 100 applicants for specialist schools status, at a claimed value of £1.5 million, appear to have been relaxed or even subverted, the effect being to tilt the playing field dramatically in Microsoft's direction. The granting of specialist schools status triggers extra Government funding of £500,000 for the school, but one of the criteria the applicant school has to fulfil is £50,000 in external sponsorship. Microsoft's £1.5 million gives the 100 schools in question an average of £15,000 towards this, and is clearly going to be attractive. The DfES itself says the deal will give an "average sized" school access to £63,000 worth of software over four years, which of course means that the sponsorship is coming in kind, not in cash. This takes us into interesting, even dubious, territory. The rules for specialist school sponsorship require that there is no commercial interest for the sponsor in making the donation, and that if the sponsorship is in kind, then it should be assessed at its true worth for the school being sponsored. Register sources, however, say there has been no audit of the software the sponsored schools already have. If, as seems likely, the sponsored schools already have some or all of the software being offered, then the cost to Microsoft and the actual value of the sponsorship will be lower. It will however still be in the school's interest to accept Microsoft sponsorship because the funding takes it closer to its target, whether or not the actual value is notional. Companies sponsoring schools are barred not to supply the school for four years according to the sponsorship rules, which also outlaw loss leaders and discounts. But the Microsoft deal effectively subverts these rules, as the sponsorships clearly are in Microsoft's commercial interest, and the DfES has specifically made an exception to the rules for Microsoft in its guidance documents. Oracle, another recent addition to the sponsor roster, has similar terms but clearly does not have commercial interests comparable to Microsoft's in the schools sector. One consultant told The Register that any other company offering the DfES sponsorship on a similar basis would have its application rejected. A forthcoming report from Government IT agency BECTA on TCO in schools is expected to say that savings could be made by using Open Source Software, and that the main cost is not licensing but hardware and management. Microsoft's schools agreement is also currently the subject of an Office of Fair Trading investigation. Said Schools Minister Stephen Twigg: "This is an exciting and unique new partnership. Microsoft is an organisation that is well placed to inspire and support schools in developing the vision of success that is at the heart of the Specialist programme." Specialist Schools Trust Chief Executive Elizabeth Reid expressed herself "absolutely delighted," while Microsoft UK director of education David Burrows noted that "schools who in the past may not have been able to, can now apply for specialist status as Microsoft is able to help 100 of them meet the IT resourcing criteria required." Indeed. Bill Gates is still the richest man in the world, and has a knighthood. ® Related Stories: UK tech specialist school pioneers open source switch Schoolkids need science, says Royal Society prez
John Lettice, 11 Mar 2005

Wi-Fi security is getting worse

London businesses are letting the security of their wireless networks slip, leaving themselves exposed to drive-by hacking. More than a third (36 per cent) of London's Wi-Fi networks are fundamentally insecure, RSA Security's fourth annual WLAN security survey reports. Last year the same survey found 15 per cent of networks were open to attack. The survey found that many businesses in the capital had failed to take basic security precautions such as reconfiguring their default network settings. In London 26 per cent of access points still had default settings, making networks easier to attack. Tim Pickard, an RSA veep, said: "Like a thief trying all the door handles in the car park hoping to get lucky, London's business centres are comparable to a hackers' playground. Our research shows that corporate wireless networks in London are growing at an annual rate of 62 per cent and 36 per cent of these businesses remain unprotected from attack." Researchers found a similar situation in commercial cities in mainland Europe and the US. In all cities surveyed, more than a third of businesses wireless networks were found to be insecure - 36 per cent of businesses in London, 34 per cent in Frankfurt, 38 per cent in New York and 35 per cent in San Francisco. The research, commissioned by RSA Security, and undertaken by independent information security specialist netSurity, sought to discover the extent to which companies' wireless networks 'leak' data traffic into the street. Using a laptop computers and free scanning software, researchers picked up information from company wireless networks by simply driving around. Phil Cracknell, research author and netSurity CTO, said: "Accidental or intentional connection to a corporate network can bring with it a series of security issues including loss of confidential data and installation of malicious code. Fuelled by the availability and abundance of hotspots, mobile users now expect to find and know how to use a wireless network. The question is: whose network they will access and what they will do when they are there?" ® Related stories London Wi-Fi security better (but still not great) WLAN security still dismal survey Wi-Fi Alliance to beef up security Hotspot paranoia: try to stay calm
John Leyden, 11 Mar 2005

Fujitsu CTO ponders immortality

CeBIT 2005CeBIT 2005 Fujitsu’s CTO came over philosophical at CeBIT yesterday, pondering how nano-technology meant some lucky souls could end up being around as long the plastic parts of the PC you’re reading this on. In a session titled “What’s on the CTO’s mind?”, Joseph Reger speculated on how the coming together of technology and biology may affect what it means to be human. Nanotechnology raised the possibility of “nano robots” that could be introduced into the human body to do “repair jobs”, he said. This raises the possibility of “a new era for mankind [even] an era of immortality”, according to Reger. This throws up all sorts of questions. What will all these half human-half machine decrepitoids do to fill the time? Where will they live? Will they eventually go rusty? Who’s going to pay for all this? Who would want to experience immortality if it means being subjected to endless cable TV re-runs while slowly being submerged under a mountain of non-biodegradable supermarket carrier bags. Ultimately, it depends what you mean by immortality. After all, the IT industry’s definition of lifetime is rather elastic – look at the average warranty. ® Related stories Battling teen crushes roboarm menace Boffins unleash robotic cockroach Boffins strive for the touchy-feely robot Brits design fly-eating autobot
Joe Fay, 11 Mar 2005
cloud

Yahoo! comes under Xfire

Online gaming platform and community Xfire has counterattacked in a IM patent punch-up which saw Yahoo! last month file suit against the company. Yahoo! claims that Xfire - founded by Quake world champion Dennis "Thresh" Fong and former Direct Hit CEO Mike Cassidy - has infringed Patent No. 6,699,125, which describes technologies for a game-specific variant of Yahoo! Messenger, namely GameProwler. The original complaint - filed in February in the US District Court (Northern District of California) describes Yahoo!'s GameProwler IM application as one that "allows users to use a game server in connection with a messenger server to permit 'buddies' to know when other 'buddies' are playing games online, and easily join such games". Yahoo! says that Xfire offers a similar application that allows gamers to chat with each other online. The complaint reads: "Like the Yahoo! invention, this capability allows a user to see other users identified as 'friends' or 'buddies' designated on the user's computer in an instant messenger window. Also, like the Yahoo! invention, this product allows a user to see if a 'friend' or 'buddy' is online with her instant messenger program activated and also to see whether that 'friend' or 'buddy' is playing a game online... The defendant has no license or permission from Yahoo! to offer this capability." Xfire yesterday filed a countersuit in the same US District Court, which strenuously denies any infringement of Yahoo!'s patent. It states that Yahoo!'s lawsuit is an an attempt to "drive Xfire out of business (and therefore avoid direct competition in the marketplace) or to force Xfire to sell or license its proprietary technology to Yahoo for far less than fair market value to settle the expensive litigation". Xfire further claims that Yahoo! has refused all invitations to: "Review Xfire's code to demonstrate non-infringement of the patent"; "Conduct early mediation in which Xfire would turn over to a neutral third party its code in an effort to resolve this dispute"; or "Submit the case to binding arbitration in which Xfire would present its code to a retired judge or experienced attorney familiar with patents and technology and patent law." Xfire is demanding "dismissal with prejudice of Yahoo's complaint, an order enjoining Yahoo's unfair business practices, and damages resulting from Yahoo's unfair business practices." ® Related stories FBI chides Hotmail and Yahoo! for sidestepping UK laws Yahoo! - the thinking corporate's email solution Yahoo! profits! triple!
Lester Haines, 11 Mar 2005
fingers pointing at man

Sun could plug Sparc into utility grid

Sun Microsystems could become AMD’s biggest customer as its Opteron-based Sun Grid service takes off in earnest this spring, but the RISC giant may yet use its own Sparc architecture to help power the computing “utility” offering. The $1 per CPU per hour service will be based on 1,000s of two way Opteron processors. Robert Youngjohns, executive vice president for strategic development and Sun financing, said today that the vendor’s datacenter in Scotland alone could run upwards of 50,000 CPUs when it is fully scaled up. But Youngjohns insisted the company’s bet on Opteron didn’t mean its own Sparc architecture could not find a place in the grid project. "We’re working on Sparc designs," he said. "We can build a grid on Sparc." Youngjohnns said Sun’s own software design network is a Sparc-based grid. In addition, he argued, the vendor’s upcoming throughput computing, multithreaded architecture, Niagara, would be extremely suitable for grid applications. The biggest constraint on adding Sparc to the utility offering was headcount, he said. Youngjohns’ unit has 200 people. "If someone gave 200 [more] people, we could roll out a Sparc grid." Sun had a number of pilots running and hoped to convert these into firm deals within the next few weeks. The most interest at present was coming from financial services, followed by the oil and gas industry, he said. ® Related stories Sun opens processor auction house Grid Computing: mainstream, or not? Grid computing gets EC backing Oracle's data center of the future doesn't include HP or Sun Sun does Opteron can-can for French bank
Joe Fay, 11 Mar 2005

Samsung unveils 3GB HDD smart phone

CeBIT 2005CeBIT 2005 Samsung today announced what it claims is the world's first phone with a seven megapixel digital camera built in. And it's not your average phone camera at that. The SCH-V770 provides a 3x optical zoom - and a 5x digital zoom - autofocus facility, flash, full manual mode, 1/2000th of a second shutter speed, and scope to add additional lenses. It can capture 320 x 240 video at 15-30fps. This "high quality digital camera" will appeal as much to professionals as more casual photographers, said Samsung's telecommunications division president Ki-Tae Lee. The company hopes the V770 will particularly appeal to photo-journalists, he added. Flip the 12.7 x 5.2 x 2.7cm handset over and it looks like a traditional phone, though its 2in, 240 x 320 display is capable of showing more than 16m colours. It has integrated TV-out, too. There's an MMC Micro slot on board to complement the built-in 32MB of RAM - a little small, perhaps, for a 7mp camera. The 180g handset doubles up as an MP3 player, and sports a digital audio amplifier. It support 64-voice polyphonic ringtones. For now at least, the V770 will remain a CDMA handset aimed at the Far East market. Not so the SGH-i300 hard disk-equipped smart phone, which Samsung also demo'd at CeBIT 2005 this week. It's a tri-band (900/1800/1900MHz) GSM/GPRS phone that manages to fit a 3GB hard drive into its 11.3 x 4.8 x 2cm casing. Samsung wasn't saying who makes the compact HDD - it could be Samsung itself, it could be Toshiba, though it's working on a 2GB model, with a 4GB unit to follow, not 3GB. Whatever, the i300 is the successor to the 1.5GB prototype Samsung showed off in September 2004. Running 'Magneto' - better known as Windows Mobile 2005 - the handset is being pitched primarily as a music phone, with support for AAC, AAC Plus and Ogg, in addition to MP3 and WMA. It also supports MPEG 4, H.263, H.264 and WMV for video. Like the V770, the 160g i300 features a digital audio amplifier, this time with 3D surround-sound capabilities, connected to stereo speakers. There's a 1.3 megapixel digicam with flash on board too, feeding the 240 x 320, 262,000-colour display. In addition to the cellular radio, there's Bluetooth and Infrared too. Samsung didn't say how much memory the handset will feature, but it uses TransFlash for expansion. Alas, there's no word yet on a release date, pricing or carrier support. ® Related stories Samsung shows 82in monster TV Samsung glum on year ahead Smart phone shipments break records Samsung launches speech-to-SMS phone Toshiba to ship 2GB 'phone HDD' by month's end Samsung shows 'world's first' hard drive phone
Tony Smith, 11 Mar 2005
homeless man with sign

DVD+RW 8x drives to ship in 'coming months'

CeBIT 2005CeBIT 2005 The DVD+RW Alliance yesterday forecast the widespread introduction of 8x DVD+RW hardware and media in Q2 and held out the prospect of 16x speeds in the Autumn. The same timeframe could see the arrival of 16x DVD+R dual-layer (DL) drives and media, the organisation announced this week at CeBIT in an update of its roadmap. Well, it's certainly possible given the progress made in Alliance members' R&D labs, the organisation's chief, Philips Optical Storage Strategic Marketing Manager Frank Simonis, said, though he would not be drawn on a precise timetable for the roll-out of the two speed bumps. In fact, 16x DL is probably further away. The 8x DL spec. has only recently reached version 0.9, sufficient to allow hardware and media companies to begin developing commercial products. Simonis forecast the arrival of recorders around the middle of the year. All PC DVD recorder and rewriter drives now support DVD+R/RW, but pretty much all of them support DVD-R/RW too. Some 58 per cent of consumer DVD recorders support DVD+RW, the Alliance claimed, citing a variety of third-party market watchers, compared to around 33 per cent for -RW, though of course many cater for both. Interestingly, researcher Understanding and Solutions separately noted that DVD-R/RW is supported by 65 per cent of the consumer DVD recorders that shipped in 2004, with DVD+R/RW supported by 51 per cent. And it's worth noting that DVD+R media account for 41 per cent of the market to DVD-R's 42 per cent, suggesting that usage is balanced between the two formats, even though +RW offers some benefits over -RW, such as playback without finalising the disc's data structure, as does DVD-RAM. Of the remaining 17 per cent of the media market, +RW accounts for nine per cent of sales, -RW for five per cent and DVD-RAM three per cent. ® Related stories China sends DVD royalties South Alliance touts holographic disc 'revolution' Lite-on ships 'fastest' DVD rewriter Toshiba touts DVD/HD DVD hybrid Sony ships 'world first' PC/PC-less DVD burner
Tony Smith, 11 Mar 2005

Dyson unleashes self-replicating hoover

Those readers living north of the border (that's Scotland, not Canada, btw) are today warned to be on their guard against shifty-looking hoovers with malevolent intent. The reason? Vacuum cleaner magnate James Dyson has developed an intelligent hoover which can order its own spare parts. We gather that the Cyberdyneson, sorry, CyberDyson will inform its owner if it claps out or needs a new part. The owner then dials the Dyson number, holds the receiver up to the machine which then conducts a telephonic diagnostic with misson control, ordering its own spare parts. Of course, it also takes the opportunity to receive digital instructions as to how and when to attack its human master. The preferred method is to knock him down the stairs, as one shaken Scotsman can attest. Chillingly, and as several readers have noted, Miles Bennett Dyson was the man behind the Terminator. Coincidence? We think not. But who, or what, is at the other end of the Dyson hotline, dutifully packing replacement nozzles into boxes and popping them in the post? Simple: monkey-brain-controlled cyberarms, the University of Pittsburgh's equivalent of the rat-brain-driven attack aircraft. Scientists say they have successfully tested a roboarm controlled by thought alone. They inserted probes into monkeys' brains, like you do, restrained their subjects and then watched as a computer interpreted signals from individual nerve cells in the motor cortex which it then translated into movement of the arm. The cover story is that the technology may one day be used in prosthetic parts for humans, but anyone with any sense can see that there will be nobody left alive to benefit from the research after electroactive polymer-powered, cybersimian limbs have arm-wrestled their way to world domination. The solution? A clone army of Panna Felsens - the 17-year-old high school student who recently defeated a roboarm uprising at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California. We can only hope that human cloning techniques advance sufficiently to allow her successful mass replication before the CyberDysons send a bagless hoover assassin from the future to knock the poor girl down the stairs. ® The Rise of the Machines™ Battling teen crushes roboarm menace French join motorised Lizard Alliance Lizard Army develops copulating robot We are Zogg: The Cuddly Menace Lizard Army invades Alaska London menaced by flaming DVD players Killer hoover attacks Scotsman Car self-destructs in assassination bid The rise of the rat-brain controlled android Japanese unveil trumpet-playing robot Boffins unleash robotic cockroach Ukrainian teen fights the Rise of the Machines Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated US develops motorised robobollard Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie A robot in every home by 2010 Cyberappliances attack Italian village Fire-breathing buses threaten London Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent Spanish cyberkiosks claim second victim Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager Hi-tech toilet caught on camera Hi-tech toilet swallows woman
Lester Haines, 11 Mar 2005
channel

Corporates tackle security in-house

Eighty per cent of UK businesses concentrate on managing all security risks in-house, but 34 per cent are concerned that access to resources and IT skills affect on their ability to plan effectively. Half of the 300 UK IT managers quizzed in a Unisys-sponsored survey are concerned about issues such as their "capacity to manage" security updates and integrate systems. The research found the corporate security agenda is still driven by the threat of viruses (64 per cent), and unauthorised systems access (53 per cent). Unisys's survey found a desire to retain control (cited by 88 per cent of respondents) outweighed a lack of access to skills and resources that might encourage firms to seek third party help in managing security alerts and remediation. Although the issues raised by Unisys research are somewhat self-serving, its observations on trying on sell security services to corporates cast a fresh perspective on corporate security. In many cases, security procedures are in such a bad state of repair they can't be turned over to a third party, according to Unisys. Bart De Maertelaere, a Unisys partner in charge of its security services business in Europe, says tgat firms must patch management regimes in place and establish a preferred escalation procedure before they can outsource elements of their security. These steps are necessary for managed security service firms, such as Unisys, to develop service level agreements with clients. "When we make this point during engagements it opens up an internal debate that some firms would rather not have. Some technicians feel that going into such issues would open a Pandora's Box. They would rather camouflage their problems than seek external help," he said. ® Related stories Big.biz struggles against security threats (NetSec survey) How good is UK.gov at its own security agenda? IT security to go offshore. Maybe Outsourcing: Reg readers unconcerned
John Leyden, 11 Mar 2005

High Court orders ISPs to name file-sharers

The UK High Court today granted the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) an order under which six UK ISPs must supply the names and addresses of 31 individuals alleged to "have uploaded large numbers of music files on to peer-to-peer filesharing networks", as a BPI press release puts it. The ISPs have 14 days to cough up the required details. Once it has the information, the BPI will "write to the individuals concerned, setting out the details of their infringements and offering them the opportunity to settle the case before proceedings are issued". BPI General Counsel Geoff Taylor said: "Once again the Court has accepted that BPI has evidence that filesharers in the UK are infringing copyright and has ruled that the identities of these 31 individuals should be disclosed, so that the BPI can take legal action. Today’s result is a blow for illegal uploaders who believe that the law simply does not apply to them." Twenty-three people alleged to have distributed music illegally via peer-to-peer networks last week settled with the BPI, paying up to £4,500 each. Three cases remain unresolved, and legal action may follow. Regarding this earlier bout of litigation, Taylor noted: "We learned from our first round of cases that people from all walks of life are engaged in this activity. We would particularly advise parents to check what their children are doing on the internet and make sure that they are not breaking the law by filesharing illegally." ® Related stories BPI nails 'music pirates' Identify file-sharers, judge tells UK ISPs UK music biz set to sue file-sharers
Lester Haines, 11 Mar 2005

Beer is fattening, say fat beer-swilling readers

LettersLetters Our astounding revelation that beer is not in fact fattening raised a few eyebrows among readers who thought we may have cooked the book on this one. Alright, we confess we omitted a few small details which didn't fit our view of beer as the elixir of the gods: Hmm - nice bit of spin by the BBPA (Alistair Campbell doesn't work for them, by any chance?) but they are glossing over the fact that the calories quoted are for 100ml of each fluid, and who the hell drinks 100ml of beer? Translated into real-world quantities (1 pint of beer vs. 125ml of wine) then the tables are nicely turned: 233 cals for the beer vs. 96 cals for the wine. Oh dear... James Pickett Want an absolute load. Hilarious. What they don't mention is that very few people go out on the lash and drink 8 pints of milk. Something I think, through personal experience, may have something to do with the fattening nature of beer. Andy Astrand I saw the BBC news story your article linked to, and I don't know if it's bad reporting by the BBC or just a bad story, but this is quite a load of... well, you know. The article speaks of "alcohol" being fattening (or not). As anyone who has ever been near a low-carb diet can tell you, it isn't the alcohol in these drinks that can put the pounds on you, it's all the leftover carbohydrates from the grape, the grain, or whatever else you care to distill the alcohol from. I know from both science and personal experience that I can drink whisky and lose weight just fine, but that beer (and to a lesser extent wine) will put that weight right back on. Of course, this is the same BBC that reported earlier this week that Hans Bethe died at the age of 98, having been born in 1902 (they have, sadly, since corrected his birthdate to 1906). If they can't even get their basic maths right the first time, you can bet that we can't trust them on anything REALLY important, such as beer. Please, my friend, check your sources! And in the meantime, make mine a double Laphroaig (no ice!). Respectfully yours, Diane Capewell. You're buying into the assumption that "all calories are created equal". This is wrong. Beer does "food partitioning" towards storage, which results in the beer calories being stored as fat. Wine is supposedly better on this account (I do not know the exact details.) Eivind, *realistic* beer drinker. As I have been prone to point out to friends who claim to have beer guts, I used to drink loads and am in no way now or have ever been fat. However, I am vegan. Its the dead meat sloshing around in your gut that gives rise the the so called "beer gut". regards Tim Llewellyn Hm, and one more thing about beer, the hops it's brewed with adds oestrogen derivatives into the beer which makes your body pile on the pounds and grow boobs... so there we go... Pass me the vodka. Cheers, Ralf Blimey. Does this therefore mean that beer is in fact an organic breast augmentation treatment, as well as curing cancer? Is there no end to its miracle properties? One thing, though, we're sure it can't do is raise people from the dead. Unlike the Kentucky teen who menaced his school with an undead army and got cuffed for his trouble: Is this what reporting has come to? What a poor example of journalism. You already have the kid convicted before there has even been a trial. If you have ever seen any of the first person shooter video games available these days you would know that his writings were likely loosely based on the same basic story line as seen in many of those games. One would think that somewhere along the line, someone with a little bit of common sense would have realized that his story was based totally outside of reality. It's not like you can go to the local hobby store and buy a zombie making kit. I find it completely mind boggling that your editors would allow such narrow minded idiocy to be placed within the columns of their paper. The worst part of it is that a judge would allow such nonsense to proceed, and then raise his bail too. Sounds like somebody needs to add a little chlorine to the gene pool. Just when you thought Kentucky was catching up to the rest of the civilized world you see garbage like this printed. So how does it feel to be judged by someone who has no insight into your life as to what kind of person you are based on a single incident? Oh, but it's different, you say. I submit to you that your story and his are not really that much different. Both are based on a reality that does not exist. However, the biggest difference is that his story was not written under the guise of being a story that was intended for people to believe. People tend to believe what they see in print. Next time you write something you ought to at least try to protect your credibility and write something worth reading. Brian DeBusk I seldom feel the need to comment on any news story, but this one really takes the cake. I honestly wonder what kind of podunk, hee haw, hillbilly dumbass you really have to be for arresting and jailing anyone for writing an obvious (based on the description in your story) work of fiction. What's next? Can I expect to see the sets of Stargate-SG1 invaded by the authorities? After all, the recent story lines have had not one, but two deadly threats to all of humanity. If I build a Replicator out of legos, can I expect the FBI to gun medown in my driveway one morning? Shame on the judge, shame on the prosecutors, shame on the police and shame on my fellow Americans for tolerating this silly crap. Name supplied Y'know this kind of stupidity on the part of the 'authorities' is causing real harm. Back around the time of 9/11 i believed that there was such a threat as terrrorism, but due to the over-reaction to anything people say or do and the draconian laws rushed in to lock people up without trial (on both sides of the pond), have led me to believe that there is no such thing as terrorism. There may be people who are fighting for what they believe in and they may be using guerrilla tactics AND they may be targeting you and me, but more and more i am starting to think "terrrorism" is a government created threat to keep us all afraid and consuming. Is a terrorist just someone who disagress with the current status quo? If so then perhaps we could use an old term for this as it has come up in history before, .... a heretic. So who gets to be the spanish inquisition then.. .. (and its not the spanish). Jeremy Well that's one in the eye for all you namby-pamby liberals, who've been running around fretting that every piece of "terror legislation" passed by the government to protect it's citizens will be used irresponsibly. It's for your own good, and for the good of society, that dangerous and twisted individuals such as this miscreant student are incarcerated. Just let the Thought Police do their work. Besides, we've stripped away your rights so there's nothing you can do about it. If you're afraid, you must have good reason to be - it will be your door we knock on next... Dr. Sarcasmo And with that we at Vulture Central are off for a few breast-boosting, cancer-busting pints. Have a good weekend and remember: El Reg advises responsible drinking. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Mar 2005

BOFH: Critical Mass of Geeks

Episode 9Episode 9 So I'm having a quiet lager at a downtown pub whilst waiting for a presentation on wireless networking to start when I notice a brace of Windows geeks all jabbering away to each other. (You know the sort of thing - "I ported Server 2003 to my cellphone in Java in two days - want to browse my file share?" war stories, etc.) I make a special effort not to meet any of their eyes just in case they try to draw me into their unholy circle with their outrageous claims (i.e. the location of the Steve Jobs glove puppet) whilst simultaneously trying to take on the colour and texture of the wall behind me. The PFY is miles ahead of me and is almost transparent to the technical eye. As I'm arranging myself to look like furniture I notice something which disturbs me further - if indeed someone with my Machiavellian and sadistic tendencies towards users could become more disturbed - the arrival of a contingent of furry teeth from the Linux Geek bat cave. "Hmmm," I murmur. "What?" the PFY asks, the background shimmering slightly like a poor rendition of Predator. "Critical Mass," I say. "Hmm?" "Critical Mass of geeks." "What?!" ">Sigh< As any Nuclear Physicist will tell you if you feed him enough lagers, bringing two masses of radioactive substances into close to each other is not a good thing. In this case, bringing two bunches of furry teethes into close proximity is similarly not a good thing..." "I hardly think that's worth worrying about…" "Not really, but all we need is..." I halt abruptly with arrival of the entire global OS2 fan club (both of them) dressed in "The one true OS" t-shirts. Size XXXXL if I'm not mistaken. Luckily they're more like carbon rods in a situation like this and the atmosphere of the pub improves ever so slightly. It's the Mac geeks sliding in the back way that introduce the cold hand of fear to my internal organs. Armageddon is upon us! Slowly, so as not to draw any attention to ourselves, the PFY and I make my way towards the door posing as a German tourists mit eine swartzkopf emergency, but before we get there the PFY stops. "There doesn't seem to be any trouble," he says, gesturing at the assembled geeks clustered in their groups. "No, not now. In their natural state fusion won't occur because the elements are too far apart to interact. " "So we've got time for another lager!" "It's hard to say." "Why!" the PFY asks impatiently. "Generally considerable energy must be expended to bring elements together, however I note that the bar has a happy hour in about 12 minutes." "Ah." "Which means they'll be all over the bar like a rash in about nine minutes." "Geeks and free things," the PFY sighs. "Ah yes. Oooh, but look - a few of them are going to the bar for an interim drink - or what we in the chemistry trade call a Catalyst." "Huh?" "Something which helps facilitate a reaction." "Ah. And so it's all on then?" "Not exactly," I say, entering my closet-Einstein persona "The OS2 people are defusing the situation a little because the groups are concentrating their ridicule at them instead of each other - which is stalling the reaction. Add to that the length of the bar which is sufficient to ensure the elements don't get too close together. True, a lesser reaction might occur at another place - the bogs, the door, but nothing with the potential for raw energy as what could happen in this room, if..." "If...?" . . . "Who'd have thought," I say, expelling a meaningless sentence fragment - a tactic which has all the pull of the Death Star's tractor beam in drawing a geek into conversation. "Beg Pardon?" the Windows geek beside me says. Told you so. "I was just saying, who'd have though that Linus Torvalds was Bill Gates' love child? It's so ironic." "That's ridiculous!" "That's what I said, but that Linux bloke over there says he's got the DNA match and a 16mm film of the conception. Quite graphic apparently." . . . Meantime on the other side of the room . . . "...and he said that Steve Jobs was working for Microsoft THE WHOLE TIME!" the PFY says. . . . Seconds later at the other end of the bar . . . "Is it true what those Mac guys said about the Mac moving to Windows OS because Linux performance is so crap?" I ask. . . . and in the middle of the bar . . . "Two shandies and 14 packets of crisps." one of the OS2 geeks says. . . . "Nothing's happened!" the PFY sniffles. "What a load of crap!" "Be patient." I murmur "Like most reactions you just need to wait for the elements to come together.. See, there goes a Mac geek to ask about the whole Steve-Jobs-was-a-Microsoft-Spy thing. And there's a Windows geek off to defend Bill's honour by saying that Linus must be a basta..." >slap< "AND IT'S ALL ON!" I say, ducking down behind a table. "BITCH FIGHT AT THE OK SNUG BAR!" Ten minutes and several hundred slaps later, the place is in silence, save for isolated pockets of sniffles and the crunching of the OS2 guys at their crisps. "Ten minutes till the presentation," I say to the PFY. "We could fit another pint in." "Or I could tell one of those OS2 guys that the other one has a windows cluster at home.." "And I'll get the pints in!" I say the the PFY, giving him the nod. Well, it's God's work, isn't it? ® 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, 11 Mar 2005

Beware auction sites, says Citizens Advice

The UK's leading consumer advice charity is warning punters to be careful when buying goods over internet auction sites after seeing a sharp rise in the number of people who've been ripped off by unscrupulous traders. Citizens Advice (CAB) says that people who use auction sites such as eBay have "very little protection" since sales are based on trust. Not only to do buyers risk losing their money, it warns, sellers may also end up with dodgy or even non-existent goods. Even people who use escrow services - which act as third party service to ensure both parties receive their goods and cash - are not necessarily safe. To make its point, CAB cites the case of one punter in London who sold his mobile phone via an auction site. Only after he sent his phone off after getting the all clear from the escrow service did he find out that the payment had been made using a stolen credit card. As a result, he lost his phone and received no payment. In the Midlands, a guy who bought a £6,000 car only found out it had a major £3,000 fault once the vehicle arrived. While another punter was left out of pocket when he coughed up £610 for a computer which never turned up. Susan Marks, Social Policy Officer at Citizens Advice, said: "Too many people are abusing the trust of others when using internet auction sites. This is a terrible problem, which can leave sellers without their money and buyers without their purchase or, even worse both. "These sites are like buying goods at a car boot sale without the advantage of seeing what you are buying and being able to receive your money in person," she added. Last month CAB warned net users to be on the guard against "shocking" rogue dialler scams after reporting an increase in the number of cases in which ordinary net users have been conned. ® Related stories Citizens Advice warns of 'shocking' rogue dialler scams eBay fraudster faces possible jail eBay plays down 'shill' bidding allegations
Tim Richardson, 11 Mar 2005

Mobile phone gunman jailed

A man has been jailed for five years for firing a miniature gun disguised as a mobile phone handset. Two bullets from the miniature weapon were fired last July in a street in Nottingham. Manchester-based Leon Ellison, 26, admitted firing the weapon but said he did it after being stabbed in the back after a late-night scuffle. Nottingham Crown Court was told that Ellison adopted a "gangster-style pose" before firing the weapon, reports the BBC. ® Related stories Illegal stun guns sold on eBay UK French police seize guns disguised as mobile phones Guns disguised as mobile phones
Tim Richardson, 11 Mar 2005

Madrid plotter used ID stolen from Spanish mint, say police

The terrorists responsible for last year's Madrid bombings used at least one genuine ID document stolen from the Spanish Mint, according to a report in elconfidencial.com (Spanish language). Spain, according to UK Immigration Minister Des Browne, regards ID cards as valuable in the fight against terrorism, but this ID was one of a batch of 300 stolen from the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre (FNMT), which prints banknotes, passports and IDs, in November 2002. Around 40 of the stolen cards are still thought to be missing, says elconfidencial, quoting a report by the Spanish police's Unidad Central de Intelligencia (UCI, Central Intelligence Unit). The card was seized among the possessions of of Moroccan Jamal Ahmidan, who is accused of renting (using a fake Belgian passport) the house where the Madrid bombs were made. The ID card, for a resident alien, bore Ahmidan's picture, but the data was for another Moroccan, Othman El Gnaout, who is also accused of involvement in the attacks. Police seem to have thought initially that they were onto a major document faking network, before the trail led back to the mint. Other recent news on the efficacy of ID cards comes from Nigeria, where reports claim that "millions of aliens" in Adamawa State have succeeded in registering for the National ID Card scheme. Minister of Internal Affairs Dr Iyorchia Ayu has called for ID card distribution in Adamawa to be strictly monitored. It may also be worth noting that several of the terror suspects the UK has been releasing, subject to tagging and monitoring, over the past 24 hours appear, according to the Home Office, to have arrived in the UK using false ID - there does seem to be quite a lot of this about. (Thanks to Arturo for the Spanish link and translation, and to the No2ID Blog for the Nigerian blooper.) ® Related Stories: Home Office tackles ID fraud. By hiring one FBI apology for Madrid bomb fingerprint fiasco Think tank survey claims 81% support UK ID cards
John Lettice, 11 Mar 2005
fingers pointing at man

Quantum previews SuperDLT

CeBIT 2005CeBIT 2005 As Quantum previews its next generation SuperDLT tape technology, called DLT-S4, at CeBIT, it has also acknowledged that LTO has won the battle for hearts and minds. Alongside the prototype drive, which will store 800GB of uncompressed data per cartridge, is something else new - a whole range of LTO, DDS-DAT and Travan tape drives and media, all bearing the Quantum logo. They are of course the fruit of Quantum's recent purchase of Certance, the number three LTO vendor. Quantum CEO Rick Belluzzo says that the DLT technology roadmap will not change, but adds: "Frankly, for DLT it's the installed base. We expect growth in both areas but in the short term it's mostly in LTO, where Certance didn't have a big share." He puts a positive spin on having two superdrive formats, arguing that since the decision to accelerate DLT capacity growth at the expense of transfer speed, they target different markets - DLT for those who want a tape archive behind a disk-to-disk backup box, and LTO for those who go direct to tape. "The rationale for the Certance deal was two things: one was more volume and a focus on operational efficiency, and number two was a broader portfolio of products," he says. "Beyond that, we need to see what we can get out of consolidation." Consolidation is also still on the menu for the tape industry as a whole, he suggests, especially as disk-to-disk cuts in and as tape libraries reduce the number of tape drives needed. His aim is to consolidate rather than be consolidated, though. "In tape, of the people left we are the only real independent," he argues. "Then you have HP, IBM, Sony - large companies who're continuing to invest, but I can't imagine that'll go on for ever. If you think about it, just about every system component has been outsourced, except tape drives. "We want to be the consolidator of tape - the last man standing. We will make the most out of tape - make it the best it can be, and over time invest in other things." Those other things of course include tape libraries and the DX series of disk-to-disk backup devices. Quantum has just added hardware data compression to the DX, in effect doubling its capacity, and Belluzzo says it is adding partitioning software too, so a single DX will be able to backup several different hosts. ® Related stories Quantum opens web quotation tool to EMEA resellers Quantum inserts the Certance Tape drives are fast enough, says Quantum
Bryan Betts, 11 Mar 2005
channel

Alternative browser spyware infects IE

Some useful citizen has created an installer that will nail IE with spyware, even if a surfer is using Firefox (or another alternative browser) or has blocked access to the malicious site in IE beforehand. The technique allows a raft of spyware to be served up to Windows users in spite of any security measures that might be in place. Christopher Boyd, a security researchers at Vitalsecurity.org, said the malware installer was capable of working on a range of browsers with native Java support. "The spyware installer is a Java applet powered by the Sun Java Runtime Environment, which allows them to whack most browsers out there, including Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape and others. In the original test, only Opera and Netcaptor didn't fall for the install but Daniel Veditz, who is the head of Mozilla security, has since confirmed to me that this will also work in Opera and Netcaptor," he explained. In the example Boyd highlights surfers looking for Neil Diamond lyrics (of all things) are served with a variety of adware and spyware packages including Internet Optimizer, sais (180 Solutions) and Avenue Media. Thereafter, if victims allow the packages to install, victims will be bombarded with pop-up ads and their computer will be reduced to a crawl. The malware doesn't install automatically but managed web security firm ScanSafe reckons the pop-up dialogue it generates is obscure enough to fool most home users. Alternative browser adware risk ScanSafe reports an increase in spyware of 15 per cent over the last three months of 2004 compared to the previous quarter. Adware accounted for three of the top 10 most prolific threats recorded by ScanSafe over Q4 2004. Spyware authors have thus far restricted themselves to targeting vulnerabilities in IE but ScanSafe reckons it’s only a matter of time before they turn their attention towards alternative browsers. John Edwards, CTO of ScanSafe, said that some users migrated away from IE to alternative browsers such as Firefox after various security scares last year. He cited figures from Secunia that Firefox and IE were both subject to five advisories in the first two months of this year to support his argument that Firefox was not "bullet-proof". "Just switching away from IE does not give adequate projection. Now that Firefox and other alternative browsers have a toehold in the market the hacking community will get busy exploiting the vulnerabilities that exist in any complex browser," he said. ®
John Leyden, 11 Mar 2005
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IBM rediscovers ancient plan for renting powerful computers

A server announcement put out today by IBM has confirmed at least one thing - the computing gods have a sense of humor. IBM has boldly made its Blue Gene supercomputer - the fastest system on the planet - available for rent. Customers can pay close to $10,000 per week to use a small chunk of a Blue Gene system. The idea being that drug designers, protein hunters and scientists can tap unprecedented compute power without needing to buy an entire Blue Gene system, which costs a minimum of $2m per rack. Yes, the year is 2005. The graybeards out there will remember that the practice of renting computers is decades old. IBM cranked out its first mainframes back in the 1960s and used to let, you guessed it, labs and businesses share space on the systems. Sure, there's a bit more glitz to today's model, but we're essentially talking about the same concept. Let's all have a giggle over how far we've come since the IT revolution started. To be fair, there are some pretty radical differences between the IBM 360 mainframe and Blue Gene. The most obvious of which is the incredible horsepower present with the modern system. The standard Blue Gene model squashes together 1,024 of IBM's dual-core Power processors into one rack. Consider that a 16-rack Blue Gene churned out 70.7 trillion calculations per second - or teraflops- to become the fastest computer, and its' clear we're not talking about some dinky, old mainframe. And there is a report that says that record-setting Blue Gene box has just doubled in size. Despite its renting hype, IBM only has one Blue Gene rack actually up for use by customers. Researchers and businesses can send workloads to the rack via a "highly secure" VPN. IBM will then crank through the software and send data back to the customer. "Today's announcement provides customers another venue for them to 'test drive' Blue Gene to help them make purchasing decisions for either their own racks or to determine if it is more financially beneficial to continue to buy time through IBM's Deep Computing Capacity on Demand centers," said David Gelardi, a vice president at IBM. A big problem with this type of set up is that not too many applications are written to run on a supercomputer. The type of processing done by a system like Blue Gene requires serious software tweaking, if you want to get performance that's worth your money. IBM, however, says it's on the case. "IBM, working with its business partners, is making Blue Gene applicable for workloads across a variety of disciplines," it said in a statement. "Many national lab and university members are enabling a growing list of HPC applications in areas of life sciences, hydrodynamics, quantum chemistry, molecular dynamics, astronomy and space research, and climate modeling." Your typical customer will turn to IBM's other rental centers, which are comprised of Power, Opteron, and Xeon servers. IBM has 5,200 of these processors available to rent. IBM has failed to be terribly clear about how it prices these processors. Sun Microsystems, by contrast, has set up a $1 per CPU hour rental model and even an auction system for computing power. (We say, "has set up," but that's not entirely fair, since Sun has yet to reveal a single customer for its rental system). HP also rents processors but doesn't say a whole lot about the idea, which should make any customer nervous. HP, after all, has a bad history of bragging about things it doesn't even sell. So, are you ready to rent? The future is now - or at least forty years ago.® Related stories Why IBM needs ETL Server sales boost storage revs in Q4 IBM's Opteron ruse falls to long-term Intel love Intel Developer Forum 2005
Ashlee Vance, 11 Mar 2005
DVD it in many colours

Microsoft's Sun server fetish revealed

Shocking pictures leaked by a careless Microsoft blogger reveal a love that dare not speak its name. The photos from the Redmond campus are, in fact, so raunchy and audacious that a special Register editorial meeting was held to discuss whether or not they should even be discussed in an open forum. In the end, we decided to go ahead with the photos. It seemed like the right thing to do. The pictures start off innocently enough with workers sharing coffee and snacks. But then you notice the logos on the employees' shirts - there appear to be AMD and Sun Microsystems tags. Sure enough, a thorough search of Bryce Milton's site reveals a slew of Sun engineers cavorting with Microsoft and AMD staff at The Beast's Enterprise Engineering Center. Who knew? It turns out that Microsoft has just acquired $850,000 worth of Sun's Opteron-based servers and storage systems. To be exact, Microsoft has 20 SunFire V20z servers, 8 SunFire 40z servers, an 8TB Sun StoreEdge 6920 SAN (storage area network) box, an N2120 Secure Application Switch, and 8 Opteron workstations. Did Microsoft actually pay for the kit? We doubt it. "Expect more to follow, as I can't wait to hear what our customers have to say about the screamin' x64 SunFire systems that Sun is putting out these days," writes Microsoft blogger Milton - whose days at Microsoft must now surely be numbered. Michael Dell must be outraged to be omitted from such an orgy of sly-winking hardware fetishism. How many times has he come to Microsoft's aid, easing Redmond's Linux pain by easing Dell out of its Linux commitment? Dell and Microsoft have always been the two popular kids trying to knock the dorks at Sun from the playground. Instead, Sun gets to take it on the rim. Revolting. "So far, the typical customer reaction has been rather comical, with customers and employees alike walking by the gear for the first time tripping over their double-takes and dropping jaws in surprise:  I'm thinking the hallmarks of a success here will be when those reactions subside and people accept that these two companies have put aside differences to focus on their customers," Milton writes. What's so grotesque about this whole affair is that Sun and Microsoft are supposed to hate each other. You remember. Sun's CEO Scott McNealy put off retirement to battle the great Satan of the North. And now we find that Windows Server 2003 is stumbling away on the Sun kit. The Sun/Microsoft love comes as a result of the two companies' much-publicized settlement. Microsoft tossed Sun $2bn to shut up and stop calling it evil in the press so often. Now, a few months later, we have a Microsoft glob, telling us how happy he is to see a Sun workstation. Is there a moral to this story? Well, yes. Milton should be fired for being so emotional about a workstation in public. Other bloggers have rightly been canned for similar offenses. There's another moral too though. All good hate comes to an end, when desperate capitalists are involved. Witness all the depravity here.® Related stories IBM's Opteron ruse falls to long-term Intel love Dell rejects idea of AMD defection Sun could quell database hunger with Unify buy McNealy slaps Oracle over pricing
Ashlee Vance, 11 Mar 2005

Microsoft pot calls Patent Office black

CommentComment Microsoft's chief lawyer has said the US Patent Office needs to be clean up its act - forgetting that cleanliness starts at home. The US Patent Office is being deluged by a flood of trivial tech patents, Brad Smith told a right-wing think tank this week. Smith presented a four-point remedy, aimed at raising the quality and lowering the quantity of tech patents; minimizing litigation, "harmonizing" international patent treaties - along US lines - and lowering the bar for smaller inventors to file more easily. The fourth suggestion is a public relations sop. For some reason, the small entrepreneur still holds a special place in the mythology of a nation dominated by Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Microsoft itself. But at least one hopes Smith is serious. On late night cable TV, you can see ads by chancey law firms that feature out-of-work actors who rue the fact that "I'd thought of that years ago!". The ads conclude by urging people with "bright ideas" to come forth and file their inventions. Perhaps Microsoft can bring its own production values to bear on these low-budget ads. A sample TV spot might feature a veteran programmer browsing through a new programming language specification. He comes across an particularly elegant expression, and his brow furrows. It's the ISNOT operator, and he thinks "I thought of that years ago. Why didn't I patent it?" The camera pans to the floor where a copy of Business Week features a remarkably youthful looking chap frowning, over the headline "BOOLEAN BILLIONAIRE HAS WORLD AT HIS FEET". It's the ISNOT man. Or a man in a suit could be midway through a PowerPoint™ presentation of his next quarter's sales forecasts, when a member of the audience, confused by the chart, asks a question. A light bulb appears over the presenter's head. He strides confidently over to the screen and labels the vertical scale "the y axis". Or picture a group of start-up entreprenuers. They're staring at an eviction notice, and they've maxed out their credit cards: the end is surely near. Suddenly one leaps on the table. "I've got it!" he shouts. "An effective electronic exchange system for satisfying an offer by a purchaser with a quote from a supplier has eluded those skilled in the art!" Cut to the future, to the Davos Forum, where over apres ski drinks Nelson Mandela and Bono sidle up to our entrepreneurs, demanding to know how they came up with such a brilliantly simple idea. (The last quote, by the way, is a lifted directly from a Microsoft Expedia patent, granted only last November). Each TV advertisement ends with the come on: "Make millions: No Patent Experience Necessary!" Microsoft has every reason to be wary of submarine patents: it was stung for over $500 million by a one man company that patented applets in web pages, Eolas. But if chief attorney Smith is serious about ending the stream of fatuous patents, he need look no further than his own legal team. ® Related stories How Microsoft played the patent card, and failed Appeals court hits rewind in Microsoft Eolas case MS: we are not blackmailing Denmark Microsoft offshores patent war - so goes the WTO? MS patent claim redefines the Three Rs MS extends IP protection to hoi polloi MS seeks patent experts - no patent experience necessary
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Mar 2005
homeless man with sign

IDC's storage winners and losers

CeBIT 2005CeBIT 2005 EMC overtook its rivals to become the largest supplier of disk arrays in Western Europe in the last three months of 2004, as more and more storage became networked, but Europeans don't give a stuff for regulatory compliance, according to IDC analysts at the research company's annual CeBIT conference. Eric Sheppard, IDC's European disk storage research manager, said that alongside EMC, other winners last year included Dell and NetApp, while IBM and HP both saw their market shares decline. He said that Western Europe buys 50 per cent more Petabytes of disk storage every year, but pays slightly less for it - a decline of 0.3 per cent a year in Euros, even though a higher proportion is networked storage. "The average price of external Gigabytes is quickly approaching the price of internal Gigabytes," he added. IDC storage systems veep Richard Villars added that SAN prices will fall further as more cheap servers get connected. He predicted that by 2008, 80 percent of the devices connected to Fibre Channel will be low-cost blade or commodity servers. "The number of Terabytes shipped in 2008 will be 500 per cent greater than in 2004," he said. Villars lists a number of important technologies to watch: 4Gbit Fibre Channel, which is now coming onto the market; Serial Attached SCSI, both on 2.5" drives in servers and within arrays; PCI Express for faster HBAs; and 10Gig Ethernet which will finally make iSCSI competitive. He added that he sees the architecture of SANs changing, with storage management software being replaced by a kind of 'storage operating system'. "I think it will go from today, where you have intelligent arrays capable of basic virtualisation, snapshots and so on, to having networked controllers - devices that serve as the front end for connecting all your storage," he said. "It has to be very robust, of course, because increasingly this is where you will run applications." The first devices of this type include the HDS TagmaStore and IBM's DS8000. Villars sees the SAN dividing into two, an access SAN connecting servers to the network controller, and then another network connecting that to the storage devices. However, IDC also reported research with end users which revealed that, despite all the talk of SANs, most networked storage is put in to host specific applications or solve specific problems. "Two-thirds of large companies have a SAN, but that means a third don't," said Nick Bunyan, its European storage research director. "And 70 percent of small companies didn't have a SAN, most saying they saw no need or value in it." In addition, 80 percent of SAN fabrics have less than 10 servers attached, and the same proportion has under 5TB of storage. "People still say it's easier to buy more space than use storage management software," he added. "And according to our survey, regulatory compliance is not a driver - Sarbanes-Oxley and Basle II are not influencing purchasing." ® Related stories Quantum previews SuperDLT Wizards at Cisco find brain for storage switches Lucent is ready to manage your storage - true Server sales boost storage revs in Q4
Bryan Betts, 11 Mar 2005
graph up

Chem student tames Microsoft's legal eagles

A not so bright Kent State University student has defeated the world's largest software company. Microsoft today dropped its lawsuit against David Zamos, and Zamos dropped his countersuit against Microsoft, The Register has learned. It seems that the public scrutiny over suing a student for moving a couple copies of software on eBay was too much for Microsoft to bear. The US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio today revealed that Microsoft and Zamos have settled their differences after battling in court for more than two months. "The Court was informed by all parties that this matter has settled in its entirety," wrote Judge John Adams. "Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED without prejudice." Zamos - a chemistry student at Kent State - received a surprise in the mail last year when Microsoft lobbed a lawsuit his way. Microsoft was shocked to find Zamos selling one copy each of Windows XP Pro and Office XP Pro on eBay. The student had purchased the software at the University of Akron's bookstore and received a substantial educational discount, paying just $60 for the code. After deciding he didn't really want the software, Zamos tried to return it to bookstore but to no avail. He then put the software up for auction on eBay and brought in $203. Why Zamos thought he could move educational software on the free market is beyond us, but the student reckons he saw no resale restrictions on the software boxes. This, after all, is the same student who was "arrested after sneaking across a lawn . . . with a can of spray paint, heading toward the notoriously large Bush/Cheney sign in the yard of Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff" and then "convicted of misdemeanor trespassing and criminal mischief," according to a report from the Beacon Journal. All that aside, Microsoft's behavior in this matter is far more comical than that of Zamos. Microsoft's vast team of software snoopers were quick to notice the packages up on eBay, as shown by the firm's original filing in the lawsuit. "A Microsoft investigator sent a message to Defendant through eBay's website asking whether the disk containing the software included the phrase 'not for retail or OEM distribution.' Defendant confirmed by return email the same day that the disk did include the phrase," Microsoft's lawyers said. Irreparable injury Zamos, however, likely did not consider himself a retail or OEM outlet. He just wanted money back so he could buy some beer on the weekend. Microsoft saw the matter in a much more serious light. "Microsoft has suffered and will continue to suffer substantial and irreparable damage to its business reputation and goodwill as well as losses in an amount not yet ascertained," it said. "Defendant's acts of copyright infringement have caused Microsoft irreparable injury." Microsoft sought attorney's fees and Zamos's profit from selling the software. The whole matter took a different turn though when Zamos countersued Microsoft on Jan. 3. Zamos lobbed a large number of charges at Microsoft - most notably that the company made it tough to return software. "Microsoft purposely established and maintained a sales and distribution system whereby rightful rejection and return of merchandise that is substantially non-conforming is either impossible or practically impossible due to the ineptness of its employees, unconscionable policies malicious intent and deceptive practices," he wrote in the countersuit. What's this kid doing messing around with Chemistry? Word of Zamos's battle eventually reached the main Ohio papers, and that's when Microsoft got scared. It offered to drop its suit against Zamos, if he would drop his suit against Microsoft. No luck. Zamos wanted an apology and payback for printing out legal documents at Kinkos, and Microsoft wasn't willing to do either. It's not clear what terms the two parties did eventually reach. Zamos told us that he's under a non-disclosure agreement at the moment. Zamos, however, seemed to have the upper-hand against Microsoft. Redmond surely could not justify sending a pack of lawyers after a student over $200 in software, especially when he really did seem to sell it during a one-time, moment of ignorance event. It also didn't help that this relatively poor student was willing to fight the giant to the end - all by himself. We suspect Zamos got his apology - even if he didn't deserve it. ® Related stories Dell 'bait and switch' alleged Microsoft's Ballmer beat off Asian genital challenge Graphics patent holder sues Sony, MS, Nintendo Microsoft settles Sendo 'tech theft' lawsuit
Ashlee Vance, 11 Mar 2005