1st > April > 2005 Archive

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'White Bud' guerilla targets one iPod at a time

When we suggested that iPods need Health Warnings recently, little did we know that concerned citizens have already taken action. So let's hear from Euan Lindsay, who has targeted fellow students at Glasgow University. Campuses are becoming hotbeds of iPodism, with students wandering around like farts in a trance. Enough's enough, thought Euan, who printed out the following flyer and handed it to people wearing iPods. "Flyers were handed out to anyone walking around with their iPods held in their hands or headphones dangling in a rather showy manner," he tells us. And what was the reaction? "The reaction of the majority of people was quite comical. I carried a few in my pocket and got one ready whenever I spotted someone with their iPod, stopping to hand them one. In most cases, they would say no thank you, do a double take, see that it looks like an iPod and then take it off me. Most people laughed, some gave me frightened looks." "I did it partly for learning and partly for fun. I had been wanting to learn Illustrator for a while and just decided one afternoon to just do something. I had a discussion with a friend of mine about the amount of people around campus with iPods using them purely as a fashion accesssory. We found this to be quite distasteful considering how many students are struggling to eat, let alone buy something fashionable," he says. "We jokingly talked about doing a bit of a guerilla campaign under the tag 'iPods are evil, destroy your iPod' and this was the first thing that came to mind." Apple fan "I'm not against the iPod or Apple in general. I regularly enjoy using a G5 Power Mac and various eMacs, and, in fact, I'm saving for a 12" iBook. I'm actually a 3rd Year Computing Science student and seem to be one of the few Apple supporters in my year. "I love what you can do with an iPod and I partly want to take it back to a geek toy rather than a fashion icon." But wasn't the iPod just the latest manifestation of the Walkman? "I've never known people to carry their Walkmen or Discmen infront of them while walking down the street yet this seems to be the common pose with an iPod." How many "White Bud" guerillas are out there, we can only guess. It's one of the most constructive campaigns we've heard of. Not only might iPodders get a life, but crime may fall. Robberies on the New York subway have spiked recently, we learn from a report entitled IPod Thieves Hit Subways. Is Anyone Listening? in yesterday's New York Times and the iPod is a "major factor" in the 24 per cent jump. Muggers have targeted iPod-toting students. Muggers can be very discerning. Meanwhile, our Health Warning competition closes very soon, so hurry! ® Related stories Should iPods carry health warnings? How shall I own your mobile phone today? Biometric DRM? You're kidding, right? UK beats on mobile phone muggings This phone is stolen Muggers refuse to nick crap mobile phone
Andrew Orlowski, 01 Apr 2005

BBC throws strop at 'Ceefax Google'

A Dutch consultant has provoked the anger of the BBC by creating a website which lets users browse Ceefax, the broadcaster’s popular teletext service. The BBC has demanded the closure of the site, claiming copyright infringement. Hendrik Noorderhaven, a former candidate for the European parliament, started the website two years ago because he used to watch Ceefax on television to follow British sports results. BBC 1 and 2 are both available on the Dutch cable TV system. However, for reasons the BBC never fully explained, the broadcaster decided two years ago to show only a limited version of the teletext pages in the Benelux. Ceefax cannot, like the Dutch equivalent Teletekst, be watched online either. Noorderhaven decided to ask a friend in the UK to capture all Ceefax data from a PCTV card and send it to a server, which can be searched like Google. The site is not a duplicate of BBC Ceefax, Noorderhaven stressed earlier this week on Dutch radio. "I simply can’t see why this is copyright infringement. If it is, then Google is illegal too. We merely link to information that the BBC owns." Although most of Ceefax-information is also available online, but in a different format, many people prefer the Ceefax environment, Noorderhaven says. And he may have a point there: The Dutch Teletekst pages are among the most popular sites in the Netherlands. Noorderhaven's Ceefax.tv attracts 15,000 daily visitors, many of whom are from the UK. ® Related stories BBC to cull more online content BBC news site facing extinction? BBC, Slashdot mashed by spud pranksters
Jan Libbenga, 01 Apr 2005

Bush twins to join Air Force tech unit in Iraq

1 April exclusive1 April exclusive First daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush will be assigned to a high-tech unit in Iraq, the Air Force Human Resources Command has confirmed. Having finished basic training at the Officer Training School (OTS) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, they are scheduled to receive advanced training in telecommunications at the School of Information Technology before deployment overseas with the USAF Information Operations Squadron. For security reasons, the exact dates have been withheld. The girls' surprise enlistment was kept secret until they successfully completed their basic training. During an invitation-only press conference while on leave between OTS and their school assignment - conducted, symbolically, at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where America's war dead are brought - the twins described their motives and rationale. "We'd always planned to do this," Jenna explained. "But first, we had to graduate from college, and then we had to help our father win the 2004 election, to ensure that America would continue to have the kind of strong, inspiring leadership it needs in these troubled times." "Right," Barbara added emphatically. "But now that the election is past, it's time for us to serve this wonderful nation of ours in a new way - in a way that reassures the American public that standing up to terrorists and rogue states, even at the expense of personal risk, is always the right thing to do." Under questioning from reporters, Jenna acknowledged that "yes, it's important for our father's credibility as Commander-in-Chief as well. People still insist on saying that he side-stepped the Vietnam war, which of course he didn't - and it's very hurtful to hear that - but because he's the President, my sister and I sort of have to go beyond what would be expected of ordinary people." The twins readily admitted to having been afraid of their parents' reactions to the news that they would enlist together and ask to serve together in a combat zone. "We're their only children, so, naturally, we worried that they'd go totally postal," Barbara said. "But we prayed together as a family, and in time we all came to the same conclusion." "Everyone knows what a devoutly religious and exceptionally patriotic family we are," Jenna added, "so it shouldn't surprise anyone to know that this wasn't as hard as it might have been for other people. Of course, it cuts both ways. I mean, when you're as close as we are, it's hard to let go of each other. But we made the ultimate argument: we said to our parents, 'how can we, as a family, ask other families to put their children at risk for the world's benefit, when we aren't willing to set the right example and accept the same challenges?'" Legendary Bush family religious piety also played a significant role, the girls explained. "As our father led us in prayer, asking for strength and wisdom from Our Lord - as he does in every important decision of his Presidency - divine Grace touched all of us, and we were of one mind," Barbara recalled. "We all understood that my sister and I had been called to set this example of hope and optimism for all of America and the world beyond. And we knew as well that it would be a disgrace and a scandal for us not to accept freely the consequences of our father's decision to go to war on behalf of freedom and liberty." "How could my sister and I, in good conscience, allow other Americans to shoulder this burden if we were not just as willing?" Jenna asked rhetorically. "How could our parents allow it? What a terrible message to send! Well, fortunately, that's not the way we Bushes are made. We have a long history of public service and personal sacrifice." "Exactly," said Barbara. "It's an honor to serve America in this way. And if, God forbid, something should happen to us over there, we all have the convictions of our morals and faith to accept and endure it. We are an uncommonly patriotic family; make no mistake." "But it's about far more than accepting sacrifice and risk on behalf of others," she continued. "Jenna and I are proud of the way that our father's policies have sown democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East. The first tender shoots are visible in Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, Egypt, and of course, Iraq. We want to be there for the great flowering of democracy that's coming. We want to experience it ourselves. To be honest, that's what we're most excited about." Security was a recurring issue of concern among the press. During questioning, it transpired that the US Secret Service would continue providing protection services to the twins. Asked if this reduces the whole exercise to a publicity stunt, Jenna quipped that "that's one of the reasons we're not afraid to ship out." "But seriously," she added, "Iraq is extremely fluid and uncertain security-wise. Our best protection isn't the Secret Service, but the fact that we all wear the same uniform. It will be difficult to pick us out from the crowd. I doubt that we'll be at greater or lesser risk than any other Air Force officers." "If your Hummer drives over an explosive device, what difference does it make if you've got an agent sitting next to you?" Barbara added. "You're both going to get blown to pieces. Our grandfather's plane was shot down in World War Two. He didn't have Secret Service protection, but if he had, what difference would it have made? An agent wouldn't have kept the plane in the air; he would only have been one more person to rescue." It was evident that the twins had worked through their decision thoroughly, and with careful consideration for their family and fellow Americans. Try as they might, the press could not rattle them. They'd clearly shed their Gen-Y party girl ways during military training, while Jenna especially - who had long tended to self-indulgent pudginess and air-headed blonde gushiness - exhibited a surprisingly lean figure along with admirable mental and moral clarity. It's become inappropriate to refer to them as girls now; they've earned the right to be called young women. They have, without the usual trickery of professional media relations management, positioned themselves as leaders of their generation, setting an example to be envied, and of course, to be emulated. At the end of the press conference, in view of such unexpected and delightful developments, there was nothing left to do but stand and salute. ®
Shaun Dormon, 01 Apr 2005
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Deficient Veritas delays year-end fiscal report

Veritas has delayed the filing of its year-end financial forms with a US regulator after discovering "controls over financial reporting" that were not up to snuff. Veritas hopes to hand in the 10-K filing for 2004 to the US Securities and Exchange Commission by April 11. It had previously looked to meet an already extended deadline of March 31. This extension was designed to give its auditor KPMG time to review the filing. The storage software maker was a bit vague in describing the "controls" issues. "The company has now determined that the aggregation of its control deficiencies, which include two significant deficiencies, constitute a material weakness," Veritas said. "One of the significant deficiencies relates to the company's controls over its order entry processes, while the other relates to its review of multiple element software license transactions." Veritas did not return repeated calls seeking comment. It does not expect the issues or the filing delay to necessitate a change to past financial reports. Financial reporting has not always been Veritas' strength. Last year, it restated financial data from 2002 and 2003. The year before that it tweaked figures from 2000 and 2001. The company's CFO was canned as well in 2002 after lying on his resume. ® Related stories Symantec outlines plans for Veritas Investors scamper from Veritas shares Veritas to restate results after probe Fired! Veritas CFO lies on CV
Ashlee Vance, 01 Apr 2005

Tempel-1: iceberg or galactic rubber ball?

April Fool specialApril Fool special NASA's Deep Impact probe launched successfully on 12 January, on a mission to more accurately understand the properties of comets. Its target is Tempel-1 - chosen because although it might be rock and ice like most other comets, scientists have reason to suspect that much of its structure is highly elastic frozen cross-linked hydrocarbons (very much like Kevlar or stiff rubber). Ice can be a notoriously tough material, being resistant to both heat and shock, but scientists still don't know if the average comet has enough ice to be as tough as an iceberg or if it is as weak as the famous Shumacher-Levy comet which broke up under the influence of Jupiter's gravity. If, however, Tempel-1 is indeed comprised of rubber-like hydrocarbons, as mission planners suspect, then the results of the Deep Impact strike will be very interesting. The plan is to hit Tempel-1 with a 370kg (~820lb) impactor (49 per cent copper) at 10km per second, releasing 19GJ of energy (around 4.8 tonnes of TNT) with a view to determining the comet's coefficient of elasticity by bouncing the impactor back into space and measuring its trajectory carefully with the following "mothership" and various Earth-based telescopes. Some scientists, though, are betting that the comet will simply shatter. So much the better, say many experts. With our growing awareness of the risks of the Earth being struck by a rogue comet or meteor, understanding the physical properties of the comet has become a matter of the very survival of humanity. Just how hard must we hit a comet before it breaks up? Which technologies will work? Will we need to gently land on a shatter-proof comet and use rockets to nudge it onto a different course, or will nuclear weapons achieve the desired result? Multiple interdisciplinary teams (geologists, physicists, computer programmers and statisticians) have been trying to determine the optimal conditions to strike the comet to achieve the best possible science. To add a little spice to the mission, the teams are also running a competition to see who can most accurately predict - in the event of cometal disintegration - the paths of any pieces during the 1000 solar orbits after impact. Remnants over 50 metres in diameter which are captured by a planet (regarded as "potting" a comet) score 100 points each. If they succeed in getting the comet to spin rapidly and thus "screw back" using the solar wind to crash into Jupiter then that is worth 1000 points. Hitting the mothership with the projectile ("snookered") gains 5000 points. There is, of course, the remote possibility that a substantial piece of Tempel-1 will eventually impact with Earth - a scenario chillingly described by scientists as "Pot Black". Said one cometologist: "We don't really want to think about that too much. We're just hoping that everything goes on cue..." ® Related stories Deep Impact en route to Tempel 1 Countdown to launch for Deep Impact Boffins issue stealth comet apocalypse alert
Alan Howlett, 01 Apr 2005
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US regulators take action over ID theft

US banking tegulators, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and so-called "thrift institution" regulators, have instructed banks to develop procedures to promptly advise federal officials and customers of suspected cases of identity theft. This growing type of fraud costs consumers millions, even billions of pounds - the true figure is unknown. In the USA, based on 2002 figures, bank identity theft costs businesses US$50bn and consumers over US$5bn, according to USA official estimates. The US banking regulators are instructing banks to create procedures to respond to and address security breaches that involve sensitive customer information. These are to include procedures "to notify customers about unauthorised activity that might cause 'substantial harm' to them. If the bank determines that misuse of its information about a customer has occurred or is reasonably possible, it should notify the affected customer as soon as possible ...". The objective is that banks act with vigilance and speed where customer information had been stolen or lost. Banks may delay notification if that would interfere with a criminal investigation but they must still notify their primary federal regulator of suspected identity fraud, even if customers are not advised. Most identity theft arises from loss or theft of data, not only, or even necessarily, from the banks themselves. Banks have historically shared data with third parties. Banks sell, share and exchange data and data components with a wide range of organisations, including other banks, credit card and credit rating agencies. Some of these transactions are conducted through data brokers. Once the information is legitimately in the hands of third parties, should those third parties advise the banks if loss or theft of data occurs? Unless they are banking or financial institutions, third parties are unlikely to be regulated. Perhaps there should be greater restrictions on exchange or other third party transactions in data from which identity theft may be fabricated? Should credit agencies licensing terms encapsulate more extensive review of their data security procedures? Should data brokers be subject to licensing that in part has a dependency on external evaluation of their data security competencies? As identity theft grows, and public concern escalates, the answer must be a resounding yes! © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Brazilian cops net 'phishing kingpin' Cyber cops foil £220m Sumitomo bank raid Banks 'wasting millions' on two-factor authentication Supermarkets next in line for phishing attacks Massive web trawl nets spammers UK card fraud hits £505m
Team Register, 01 Apr 2005
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Red Hat Q4 sales soar

Red Hat is to buy back more shares after reporting a record fourth quarter. The Linux distro pulled in revenues of $57.5m for the three months to 28 February 2005, 56 per cent up on last year, and net income of $11.8m, 200 per cent up on Q4 04. Enterprise subscription revenue was $45.4m, 92 per cent higher year on year. According to Red Hat this vindicates the firm's recurring revenue model, which generates six times more turnover than that of the number two Linux provider (presumably Novell/SUSE). It bases this estimate on "publicly available information". Revenues for the full year, FY05, were $196.5m, up 58 per cent on FY04, and net income was $45.4m. The company ended the year with cash and investments of $928m, and that was after spending $54.8m to repurchase stock. Deferred revenues looks good too, with the company owed $137.3m at the end of the year. This is 86 per cent higher than the end of FY ’04. For the full year, Red Hat reports cash flow from operations of $122.2m, 100 per cent more than FY04. The company is to buy up to another $150m in shares and retire $50m in debentures, to offset dilution caused by employee stock options and convertible debt. More here. ® Related stories Novell woos CeBIT with SUSE Linux 9.3 Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.4 hits the streets
Drew Cullen, 01 Apr 2005

German court to examine Lufthansa attack

After more than three years of investigation, a court in Frankfurt has set a June date to decide whether a short but effective online attack against Lufthansa's website was illegal. The main suspect, Andreas-Thomas Vogel, says it was only an 'activist demonstration'. On June 20 2001 Vogel released software to automatically knock out the web site of Lufthansa, Germany’s main carrier, in protest at the company's practice of letting police use their planes for forced deportations of asylum seekers. Two people have died on such flights as the result of incorrect restraining methods. The Deportation Alliance claimed that Lufthansa was making a profit from the suffering of people. But Lufthansa argued that the company was required by law to allow the use of its flights for deportations. The demonstrators claim they never intended to totally disrupt Lufthansa. Technically speaking the demonstration was not a full DDOS attack, where a flood of incoming messages to the web server essentially forces it to shut down. However, Lufthansa's lawyers filed a law-suit claiming that 1.2 million hits caused unspecified economic damage. Vogel, German news site Heise Online reports, has already stated that he will "be representing all activists of the online protest in court." For the first time, Vogel warned, the German state is trying to make mass protests on the internet illegal. ® Related stories ISPs share hacker info Duo charged over DDoS for hire scam Dutch hackers sentenced for attack on government sites
Jan Libbenga, 01 Apr 2005

Security and interop issues cause EU biometric passport delays

The European Union has asked the US to put back its biometric passport deadline for another year, citing "data security and interoperability of reading devices" as issues that still needed to be resolved. Meanwhile, data security is becoming a major issue in the run up to the planned rollout of US biometric passports later this year. The current deadline, after which the US will require biometric passports for non-visa travellers, is 26th October 2005, but EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini has asked for this to be put back to August 28th 2006. The most serious of the problems Frattini describes with some understatement as "still being finalised" relates to the planned use of a contactless chip to house the passport's data, and the security mechanisms used to protect that data from unauthorised readers. Contactless means (at least in theory) that travellers can breeze through the barriers with a wave of their passport, thus speeding their progress towards whatever destination immigration officials choose to assign them. But contactless also means that the data is vulnerable to snooping, and it should not take too much effort for would-be snoopers to produce devices that will read the passport data from a greater distance than the designers would wish. Much US opposition to the technology complains, with characteristic insularity, that such systems would allow terrorists to identify Americans abroad and kidnap them. For our non-US readers, however, we should stress that such systems would allow terrorists to identify anybody and kidnap them. Or steal their ID. Or even better from the point of view of automation-happy kleptos, locate and steal their passports. So some form of security that will stop them doing this is necessary, but it's difficult to see how it could be devised, and the US itself seems to be tacitly admitting that it can't. The US is adding "technical features" to protect the data, but according to Frank Moss of the State Department these will play a role in "mitigating the risk of skimming." If he could have said eliminating, we feel sure he would have, but he said "mitigating". Frattini's second issue of "interoperability of reading devices" rears its head here. Obviously, if you're going to have a global standard for contactless biometric passports, then all of the relevant people in all of the countries issuing them are going to need to be able to read of the passports. So what price your security? Even if you can persuade yourself your own people aren't going to be a source of leakage of either readers or technical data, are you seriously going to trust everybody out there? One feels perhaps that there was a joined up thinking failure in the development of the cunning biometric passport plan. The data printed in the current generation of passports is completely open, unsecured, and available to any terrorist or official of an axis of evil member state who cares to open it and look. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standard for biometric passports is intended to provide a machine-readable equivalent of this, so logically it should be just as available. The error would therefore seem to arise from thinking making it available from a distance was a bright idea. Faced with these difficulties, giving passports their very own 'tinfoil hats' so that they're only readable when taken out of their sleeves seems the most obvious workable (but perhaps not entirely marketable) solution. The EU itself has uncovered further issues at the bleeding edge of computerised ID technology. Last year plans for biometric visas took a knock when a technical team reported that having multiple contactless chips in the one passport produced a predictably unintelligible noise from competing songsheets. Multipart bodges where the offending chips are housed separately have been proposed, but this doesn't sound like a particularly effective 'next generation' of a single passport document where all of the relevant data, including visas, entry and exit stamps and endorsements, is readily available. So we have another joined up thinking failure here. Matters are further complicated because of the difficulties the various countries developing biometric passports face in keeping in step (even if they want to). The US is producing its own passports while the EU's effort is at least intended to be interoperable within the EU. But the UK, as a non-Schengen EU state, is engaged in efforts that are at least technically separate from the EU ones. The EU also intends to add fingerprint to the facial biometric (ICAO requires facial, but offers fingerprint as optional). Although the UK is very keen indeed on fingerprinting everybody, it isn't bound to do so by the EU timetable, so one can foresee the possibility that a delayed EU standard passport could emerge with fingerprint from the start, while the UK and the US simply used facial. At least the first generation of UK passport will ship with facial only, but will still miss the US October 2005 deadline. It's now not clear when (possibly even "if") the UK will add fingerint and iris to the biometric data collected in passport applications. Passport applications were initially seen by the UK Government as a key enrolment route for the ID card scheme, but it has now ended up planning to ship what critics said it could have shipped in the first place - an ICAO-compliant passport with facial biometric (which is actually just a digitised conventional mugshot in this case), and without any spurious linkage to ID card schemes. The price of a passport will nevertheless still rise to ludicrous levels when they do ship - as a Privacy International analysis this week notes, this is something of a puzzle. ® Related Stories: Europe kicks UK out of biometric passport club Fingerprints to become compulsory for all EU passports Home Office prohibits happy biometric passports
John Lettice, 01 Apr 2005

BT faces fading market share

BT should see its dominance of the UK's residential fixed line market evaporate over the next ten years according to boffins at Research Analysis and Knowledge Management. They predict that BT Retail's share of the UK's fixed line market will fall from 82 per cent to 45 per cent over the next decade as increased competition begins to bite. At the moment, around 93 per cent of UK households have a fixed line, with eight in ten supplied by BT. But as more and more punters switch providers - and increasing numbers of telcos bundle line rental with their tariffs - BT's share of the market is predicted to slide. And the development of wholesale line rental (WLR) should accelerate BT's declining market share. In essence, WLR means consumers who opt for other phone providers can pay for their calls and line rental in one single bill as opposed to having to pay for calls (to a telco such as Tele2, Carphone Warehouse or One.Tel, for example) and line rental (to BT) separately. Even though the process to transfer customers is not as slick as it should be, it does offer rival telcos more leeway to offer punters cheaper services. One.Tel - which is owned by Centrica and services 1.75 million fixed line, mobile and Internet punters - today unveiled a home phone service that includes both line rental and call charges in one bill using WLR. The company said it has taken "advantage of the long-awaited dismantling of BT's line rental monopoly". One.Tel's upfront line rental charges are cheaper than BT's (£9.99 per month compared to the £10.50 charged by BT) and it reckons, overall, it can save the average household between £70 and £90 a year. "It's over 20 years since BT's monopoly was supposedly broken, and this is another step towards achieving a level playing field in home telephony," said Ian El Mokadem. "As one of BT's biggest rivals we intend to take full advantage of this line rental revolution, by offering those switching away from BT even bigger savings and the convenience of a single bill." He said that One.Tel was now at a point where it "can confidently offer people a full break away from BT." ® Related stories C&W touts wholesale line rental New JV to flog phone service to the UK Post Office delivers phone service
Tim Richardson, 01 Apr 2005
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Intel heeds Japanese antitrust probe warning

Intel has agreed to abide by the recommendations of Japan's Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), the chip giant said yesterday, though it maintains that the accusations of anti-competitive behaviour levelled against it are false. It also accused the JFTC of "misrepresenting" its business practices and failing "to take into account the competitive environment within which Intel and its customers compete", which sounds a little like "the ends justifies the means". In a statement, Intel said it agrees with neither the "facts underlying the JFTC's allegations" nor the "application of law" that led to the JFTC's recommendation. However, "in order to continue to focus on the needs of customers and consumers, and [to] continue to provide them with the best products and service, we have decided to accept the recommendation", Bruce Sewell, Intel's general counsel said. On 8 March, the JFTC recommended Intel abandon its policy of encouraging Japanese PC vendors to source microprocessors only from Intel by offering purchase-price rebates, the right to use the 'Intel Inside' logo and access to market development funding to those companies that did so. The anti-trust investigators said such schemes were intended to limit rival processor makers' market shares, and as such were anti-competitive. From the wording employed in Intel's statement, it's clear the chip giant agrees with the first half of that last sentence, but not the second. Yes, it employed tactics to limit the market share of AMD and Transmeta, it's saying, but no, what we did was not an abuse of our market leadership. Intel has always based that claim on its reading of "international antitrust principles", but what matters here surely is Japanese law, and that's what the JFTC based its decision on. Still, the result is the same: Intel will end the programmes outlined by the JFTC, and do what it should have done in the first place: rely on the strength of its products and the power of its brand. That said, Intel is spared being dragged before the Japanese court and the cost that goes with it, and its rivals have failed to win the validation of their claims - and potentially the punitive action that might have come with it. "Although Intel's willingness to comply with the JFTC recommendation is a step in the right direction," acknowledged AMD's legal affairs chief, Thomas McCoy, "it has conspicuously failed to either accept responsibility for its actions or acknowledge that competition is best served when customers and consumers have a choice. "It is unfortunate that even when presented with specific - and very disturbing - findings of deliberate and systematic anti-competitive behaviour, Intel refuses to face the facts and admit the harm it has caused to competitors and consumers," he continued, adding "governments around the world must ensure that such anti-competitive actions are not impacting their markets as well". ® Related stories Intel Japan antitrust verdict response deadline delayed Intel's Q1 'a little better' than expected Japan calls Intel to task over anti-AMD rebates Intel Japan faces anti-trust action
Tony Smith, 01 Apr 2005
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Samba, Soccer and Open Source

CommentComment Since the election of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil has gradually become a beachhead for Open Source, and consequently a thorn in Microsoft's side. Soon after his election, President da Silva appointed Sergio Amadeu, an academic and Open Source enthusiast, to head Brazil's National Information Technology Institute. Amadeu gained a modicum of fame in Brazil by launching a network of free computer centers running Open Source PC software in Sao Paulo. He is now extending this idea, as Brazil launches its PC Connectado initiative, which is aimed at encouraging and subsidizing PC usage in the home, in schools and in small businesses. The goal is to reduce the cost of PCs and proliferate their usage - and Amadeu is of the opinion that Open Source is crucial to achieving this. This opinion is seconded by Walter Bender, Director of the MIT Media Lab, who advised, in a letter to the Brazilian government: "We advocate using high-quality free software as opposed to scaled-down versions of more costly proprietary software. Free software is far better on the dimensions of cost, power and quality." (quoted by Reuters). The PC Connectado initiative aims to cut the cost of PCs by about 50 per cent (to around $500). The three major telecom companies in Brazil are also participating in the initiative by reducing their Internet access charges to around $3 for 15 hours of surfing per month. The initiative is part of a broader program which involves all government ministries and state run companies gradually switching to Open Source. President da Silva has also mandated that software developed by companies or research institutes that receive government funding, must be released as Open Source. In an effort to stay relevant, Microsoft promised significant price cuts on its software, but this failed to impress the Brazilians and it looks as though Microsoft will not be participating in PC Connectado in any way. Microsoft faces an increasingly difficult situation as a growing number of governments across the world back Open Source. The simple fact is that Microsoft has been gradually pricing itself out of emerging markets and thus the difference in cost between its software and Open Source is now a very compelling factor in these markets. In "The Road Ahead", Bill Gates wrote enthusiastically about the "software ecosystem" that surrounded Microsoft in its early years. It made a huge contribution to the success of Windows, by creating an application-rich environment. The same kind of ecosystem now surrounds Open Source and it is growing quickly. I am amazed by its potential. It could completely undermine Microsoft's monopoly, and it probably will. © IT-Analysis.com
Robin Bloor, 01 Apr 2005
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Another approach to federated query

The vast majority of vendors supplying federated or EII (enterprise information integration) platforms employ the same paradigm. This can basically be described as a view or virtual schema builder at the front end, with an optimiser and a cache in the platform. Now, there is not much disagreement about the front-end but there are alternative approaches in terms of how you optimise the environment. One company that differentiates itself from the rest of the herd is Callixa. Callixa has a tragic history but it is worth recounting. The company was founded at the end of the last century and claims to have invented the term EII. Certainly, it introduced its first product in 2000. However, this product didn't perform well enough for the financial services market that Callixa was aiming at. The company therefore went away, reconsidered the architecture of the product and re-designed it. Unfortunately, the company chose 9/11 as the day to unleash its new product on its potential clients. Worse, it chose the World Trade Center to do so. Callixa lost so many of its people and resources that the investors decided it would be best just to close the company down; but, about a year ago, a group of the original executives got together and re-founded the company. The Callixa approach differs significantly from other solutions in a number of respects. To begin with, it is based on a grid architecture that uses a shared-nothing distributed approach and deploys performance features such as multi-threading, pipeline parallelism and partitioning. Actually, that is not especially different: perhaps in degree but not in kind. Where it is different is that it deploys what the company calls "data agents". Callixa's contention, and it has considerable merit, is that the big issue with federated queries is in determining what work you push down to the source databases and what you do in the platform and, in particular, where you execute joins. This is where data agents come in. These may be located anywhere on the network and you can also have multiple agents on any one system. For example, you would typically have a different agent assigned to each different partition. Working in conjunction with the distributed optimiser, Callixa argues (and it is probably right) that this architecture will result in superior performance. However, Callixa's isn't the only alternative to conventional data federation. A more radical approach can be seen in Sunopsis's Data Hub. In this case, the company's argument is more straightforward: it suggests that the whole process will be much faster and easier if you simply replicate all the relevant data to a separate data store, and then maintain that in a synchronised state. Then you can simply query against the Data Hub and you don't need to worry about distributed optimisation, caching, and data agents. Interestingly, Sybase's recently released Dynamic ODS isn't a million miles from this sort of solution and it is easy to imagine this product being developed into something comparable to that of Sunopsis. Note that the development of these alternative/additional approaches is not in the least surprising. It is typical of expanding markets – sometimes they prove to be more successful, sometimes they don't. Time will tell. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Why IBM needs ETL Data federation and the police End of the road for EAI?
Team Register, 01 Apr 2005

Apple founder Jobs joins IKEA

April Fool SpecialApril Fool Special IKEA's flatpack days may soon be a distant memory, as Apple and Pixar founder Steve Jobs turns to his latest challenge. Inter IKEA Systems BV will employ Jobs as "acting CEO", from next month. The technology icon will maintain his twin CEO roles at Apple Computer Inc. and Pixar Inc. but will also take command with a wide-ranging brief at the retail giant. For the technology guru, it's just another job, but for the Swedish furnishing franchise, it's a massive gamble. IKEA had a turnover of €13 billion last year, and has over 200 stores worldwide. For Jobs, who has no furniture at all in his Palo Alto house, it's an opportunity to reinvent an industry once again. Exclusive mock-ups of his first designs have been obtained by The Register. Apple fans won't be disappointed. Jobs has convinced the Apple board to second the computer company's award-winning design team to work for IKEA, and in a unique licensing agreement, the results will bear the Apple logo. In magical metal furniture we trust: Jobs wins over a sceptical Swedish boardroom Amongst the most controversial ideas to be introduced is a radical twist on a classic concept, the "Torquemada". Intended to be the heart of the new IKEA home, the Torquemada brings a Jobs twist to the very idea of sitting comfortably. Steve wants you to sit comfortably... Reaction from confidants has been univerally positive. "Before me," writes Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal in a draft obtained by The Register, "is the most beautiful chair I have seen in 25 years of sitting on chairs. It's another triumph for Jobs. Will that do, Steve?" "At last, a chair with a point!" punned the New York Times punning technology pundit, David Pogue. And most controversially, is the "Bönö" - a titanium object in the shape of a crucifix which emits a high pitched whine when approached. The 'Bono' is in demand all over the world. The UN's development agency has already purchased 500 for use in Africa, where experts believe it can end droughts. The 'Bono' turns desert into a river, say sources close to IKEA Jobs has also plans to revolutionize IKEA store layout. The successful dense walkthrough floorplan will be discarded for a new, open plan approach based on Apple's retail stores. Instead of offering shoppers a choice of thousands of products, IKEA stores will offer just three to begin with: the Bono, the Torquemada and the "Fukka". Jobs has other plans to shake-up the retail chain. In every Mac home, a Waenka To the relief of many, the flatpack self-assembly aesthetic will be replaced by high margin, ready-assembled furniture. Packaging for a wardrobe codenamed "Waenka" wardrobe, obtained by The Register, shows that Apple's attention to detail seen in its lavish product packaging has not been lost. And don't expect the famous IKEA canteen to escape the Jobs makeover. Out go the celebrated Swedish meatballs - Jobs is a fruitarian - to be replaced by a thin miso soup garnished by a solitary piece of carrot or tofu: food best enjoyed while sitting on a "Torquemada". Jobs is believed to have won over the phlegmatic Swedes with his legendary charm. "It's time this f***ing business of mass mutha****ing furnishing moved from the f***ing Altair era of f***ing self-f***ing assembly, to the Apple II era," he told the board. A new future awaits us. and it's so inviting, we can hardly wait to be in it. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 01 Apr 2005

IVF clinics may tag embryos

The UK body which regulates IVF treatment is considering tagging embryos to prevent the sort of fiasco which saw mixed-race twins born to white parents after the wrong sperm was used to fertilise the mother's eggs. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) now wants to label all material - sperm, eggs and embryos - with barcodes or RFID tags, New Scientist reports. The plan is intended to eliminate the possibility of mix-ups which are still possible even under the "double-witnessing" protocol which "requires an embryologist to ask a colleague to witness and document every procedure in which an error could occur". The barcoding procedure - currently under development by IMT International in Chester - uses cameras built into IVF clinic benches to scan a barcode on the bottom of dishes containing eggs. A computer system alerts staff if, for instance, the eggs do not match the patient. The RFID alternative likewise sounds an alarm when a mismatch occurs. The RFID chips are embedded in the bottom of dishes and "if the samples don’t match [the patient], or you bring together two things that shouldn’t be in the same work area, the alarms will sound," explains Steve Troup, an embryologist on the HFEA’s advisory group on safety and new technologies. The HFEA will, however, need to be certain that the RFID technology is not damaging to embryos. Research Instruments, a Falmouth-based outfit developing an IVF RDIF tagging system, has tested the technology on mouse embryos without apparent adverse effects. Troup reckons RFID will be safe for in vitro procedures and notes: "The tags only transmit when activated by an external signal. And they work at the low frequency of 13.5 megahertz compared with 900 to 1900 megahertz used by cellphones." Nonetheless, more testing is planned. Troup’s own research team at the University of Liverpool will further investigate the effects of radio waves on mouse embryos, while Research Instruments is looking into the field strength generated by the RFID tags when active. ® Related storieds EU consults on RFID technology Parent power detags US schoolkids EU biometric RFID scheme unworkable, says EU tech report
Lester Haines, 01 Apr 2005

Transmeta replaces CEO amid major restructure

Transmeta last night began its transformation from a chip maker to a processor technology developer, a move heralded by the replacment of president and CEO Matthew Perry, almost three years after his appointment to that role, and the loss of 67 jobs worldwide. Hints that the company might shift from producing and selling processors to simply licensing key chip technologies first appeared at the beginning of the year, and were soon confirmed by Transmeta itself. Yesterday, company bosses said that is indeed how the firm will be directed, with its licensing programme being backed up by a design and engineering consultancy and outsourcing business. The near-term suitability of the move was indicated earlier this week by the company's Q4 FY2004 results, which showed big gains in its licensing and services revenue, both sequentially and year-on-year. To highlight the longer term benefits of the company's strategic shift, Transmeta also announced yesterday Sony's decision to extend its LongRun 2 licence. The Japanese consumer electronics giant licensed LongRun 2 in January. Now it will "accelerate and expand its adoption" of Transmeta's leakage-reducing power conservation system, and confirmed it will indeed use the technology in "derivatives" of its 'Cell' microprocessor and "other portable applications" covering "current and future generation semiconductor process technologies". The two companies will also "engage [in] strategic technology collaboration in other engineering areas", they said, without delving into the details. Transmeta will dedicate around 100 engineers to the project. The focus on licensing will come at the expense of Transmeta's chip business, which will now essentially be dismantled. Transmeta said it will offer its Crusoe and 130nm Efficeon products on an "end-of-life" basis - it will continue to sell them until stocks disappear or demand dwindles, whichever comes first. It said it will continue to make certain 90nm Efficeon chips, essentially to maintain supply contracts already in place. But it hinted it would be looking to change the terms of those deals, presumably to allow it to exit the chip business as soon as possible. CEO swap "We feel confident that our strategic direction and the decisions we have already made will have an immediate positive impact on our financial position," said incoming president and CEO, Art Swift, who replaces Perry with immediate effect. Perry joined Transmeta in April 2002, to allow then CEO Murray Goldman to become chairman. Perry brought Swift into the company in March 2003 to run its marketing operation. It's not clear yet whether Perry jumped or was pushed. Certainly his voice was absent from the company's restructuring statements, not what you'd expect in the case of an amicable separation. In addition to Perry's departure, 67 other jobs will go, leaving the company with 208 workers - half of them dedicated to the Sony deal. Transmeta said it will take a $6m hit to cover the cost of the restructure during the current quarter, Q1 FY2005, which ended yesterday. Transmeta CFO Mark Kent said the company ended the quarter with $38m in cash and equivalents, down from $53.7m at the end of the previous quarter. "For Q1 FY2005, we expect to report negative cash flow of $16m, including some restructuring-related costs," said Kent. "Our first objective will be to reduce our negative cash flow run rate to $5m per quarter or less within the next one or two quarters. "We believe that our ongoing efforts on licensing and strategic collaborations, combined with careful expense management, provide us with sufficient liquidity to successfully execute on our growth strategies." ® Related stories Transmeta to re-organise Transmeta licences low-power tech to Sony Once fabless, almost chipless - is Transmeta's future hopeless? Transmeta licences low-power tech to Sony Transmeta may power down chip making biz Transmeta sales grow as losses mount Transmeta gets new CEO
Tony Smith, 01 Apr 2005
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AMD to bring forward dual-core Opteron debut?

AMD may be about to bring forward the launch of its dual-core Opteron server processors by a quarter. So suggest sources from among Taiwan's server manufacturing community, but there's circumstantial evidence to support the claim, too. According to a DigiTimes report, which cites the aforementioned Taiwanese sources, the dual-core launch may have been re-scheduled for mid-Q2, ie. May, from some time in Q3. The chip maker's public schedule calls for a mid-2005 release, but with Intel expected to launch its dual-core Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition processors in Q2, AMD may not want to be seen to debut its dual-core chips after its arch-rival does. Launches and ship dates are not necessarily the same thing, of course, so we shouldn't perhaps anticipate product appearing any sooner, from either company, if launch dates are indeed brought forward. AMD has already said it will announce the specifications of its 'Pacifica' virtualisation system later this month, but since it has said it will ship Pacifica-enabled processors early in 2006, that's probably not enough to indicate an early arrival for dual-core Opterons. Stronger evidence comes in the form of the shindig AMD is going to be hosting in New York later this month, ostensively to mark Opteron's second birthday - the 64-bit server chips were launched in the Big Apple on 22 April 2003. Nice as it is to mark such an anniversary so ostentatiously, we can't help but wonder if AMD has an ulterior motive. Launching two-core Opterons two years (geddit?!?) after its launched the single-core version has a certain ring to it, and it's the kind of jingle marketing types usually prove unable to resist. The dual-core 8xx, 2xx and 1xx series Opterons are codenamed 'Egypt', 'Italy' and 'Denmark', respectively. All three are to be fabbed at 90nm. The 8xx and 2xx are likely to ship first, followed some weeks later by the 1xx parts. ® Related stories Intel heeds Japanese antitrust probe warning AMD to reveal 'Pacifica' processor virtualisation spec Intel and server pals welcome beefy 64-bit Xeon AMD 'pursuing foundry partnerships' Benchmarks haunt AMD's Turion Dual-core AMD Athlon 64 benchmarks emerge AMD tweaks mobile chip roadmap
Tony Smith, 01 Apr 2005

Police quell Bangladesh mobe riot

A cut-price mobile phone promotion in Bangladesh ended in anarchy after application forms for the Teletalk Bangladesh deal ran out, provoking a riot in the capital Dhaka. Thousands of people who had queued in inclement weather expressed their dissatisfaction with the cock-up, and were baton-charged by police for their trouble. According to the BBC, Teletalk managing director, M Obaidullah, said: "1,900 connections were offered on the first day from 11 outlets". However, an angry businessman estimated one queue at 5,000 eager would-be customers, with just "a few dozen forms" to feed demand. Shafiqur Rahman told AFP: "They cheated us. They should have said that only a few hundred would be on offer on the first day." For his part, Obaidullah admitted: "We did not realise that people would respond so overwhelmingly." He added that the company expected low take-up of the offer due to an ongoing national strike. He promised to make more forms available by Saturday. ® Related storieds Charlotte Church topless pic busts onto mobes Cop 'downloaded nude snaps' from suspect's mobile phone Voda punter receives mobile manhood snap
Lester Haines, 01 Apr 2005

New UK agency to target net paedophiles

The government is setting up a new agency specifically to target paedophiles who use the internet to share child porn, and to "groom" children. The Centre for Child Protection on the Internet, announced as part of the government's digital strategy for Britain, will work to support existing child protection agencies. It will be staffed by specialist police officers as well as child protection and internet industry experts. Home Secretary Charles Clarke said that online abuse, by its nature, crossed traditional police boundaries, and needs to be dealt with at a national level. He described the centre as the next step towards closer co-operation between law enforcement, the industry and children's charities to stamp out online child abuse. As well as being a single point of contact for anyone to report online child abuse, the centre will offer advice to victims, and potential victims of abuse, and their families; and coordinate sharing of intelligence on sex offenders, both nationally and internationally. NSPCC director of services for children and young people Wes Cuell observed that the internet had provided a new, and very successful, channel for paedophiles to distribute child pornography, putting children at greater risk than ever before. "Placing the new Centre within SOCA puts online child abuse as a national police priority for the first time and sends out a strong message that the internet is no longer a market place for abusive images of children," he added. The new centre will be attached to the fledgling Serious Organised Crime Agency. Both will be operational by April 2006.® Related stories British adults support child porn crackdown Spain spearheads net paedo dragnet Police push for dedicated paedo-protection unit
Lucy Sherriff, 01 Apr 2005

UK commission rejects infant DNA profiling

The UK's Human Genetics Commission (HGC) has advised against a proposal to profile the DNA of every newborn infant. Although the HGC conceded that such a scheme might have benefits including allowing the advance planning of medical treatment, the ethical, legal and social concerns currently outweighed these. HGC chairwoman, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, told a press conference: "We have concluded that there are important ethical, legal and social barriers to genetic profiling of this kind, although there could be medical advantages in the future. It is important that research continues in order to establish how far profiling could be clinically useful, and it is critical that developments are kept under review. "Specifically, we are recommending to government that the entire topic should be revisited in five years, when technologies will have moved on and the prospect of this becoming a reality is closer," she advised. The HGC also identified other areas of concern. Its report outlines: During our discussions, some strong objections were raised to genetically profiling babies at birth. Some of the concerns are that the information coming from the tests could be used to stigmatise individuals and that this might also lead to discrimination in areas such as insurance, employment and education; and that the information might be used by police for unwarranted purposes. We did agree that any move towards universal genetic profiling would strengthen the case made previously by HGC and others for the development of comprehensive safeguards around confidentiality and non-discrimination on the basis of a person’s genetic makeup. The HDC's recommendations come after a January report by watchdog GeneWatch UK which stated that the National DNA database - a crimefighting resource collected for the Police National Database - posed a serious risk to civil liberties and held the prospect of a "Big Brother state". The full HGC report is available here (PDF). ® Related stories Report warns of dangers of UK's DNA database Annual privacy report details global erosion of freedom Carry your DNA on a smartcard
Lester Haines, 01 Apr 2005

Ex-ATI CEO insider trading hearing postponed

Former ATI CEO K Y Ho will now have to wait until 11 April to hear what action the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) may take against him after it examines allegations that he engaged in insider trading. The OSC this week adjourned a hearing into the matter, scheduled after OSC investigators accused Ho, his wife Betty, one-time ATI investor relations chief Jo-Anne Chang and her husband David Stone of selling shares in the company just before the firm announced a profit warning in May 2000. Earlier this week, the OSC approved a settlement with ATI itself, which will see the graphics chip maker pay CAD900,000 ($743,000) to settle allegations that it failed to disclose key financial performance information and made "misleading statements" to the Commission. The following day, the OSC also approved a settlement with two other individuals alleged to have benefited materially from their inside knowledge of the company's financial state: marketing administration chief Mary De La Torre and her husband Alan Rae. Under the terms of the settlement, De La Torre admitted she "had access to material information that had not been generally disclosed [and] which was communicated to Rae, her husband", the OSC said. On 23 May 2000, Rae sold 1000 ATI shares in advance of the company's 24 May earnings release. De La Torre and Rae were both ordered not to trade in securities for the next six months. The pair agreed to pay the OSC CAD11,050 ($9137), an amount equal to the loss they avoided by selling those 1000 shares a day ahead of the profit warning. ® Related stories ATI settles financial misconduct claims ATI posts 'strong' Q2 sales gains ATI announces phone video chip ATI paves way for sub-$50 graphics cards ATI ships AGP-edition X850 XT graphics chip ATI ships 'first' mobile AMD chipset ATI buys cable modem chip biz for $14m
Tony Smith, 01 Apr 2005
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MS takes rod to phishers

Microsoft has upped the ante in its campaign against phishers by filing 117 so-called "John Doe" lawsuits. Microsoft attorney Aaron Kornblum issued a statement saying: "We must work together to stop these con artists from misusing the Internet as a tool for fraud," Reuters reports. The software giant said it was filing the suits in a bid to dig up more information on the people running the scams, and to discover the connections between different phishing operations. Phishing is the distinctly unsavoury practice whereby scammers try to trick users into handing over account details and passwords so that they can gain illegal access to their bank or eBay accounts, for instance. The cons are increasing in sophistication all the time, with the phishers directing their prey to bogus sites designed to look and feel like the real thing. Once they have stolen the online identity, the scammers are free to raid the victim's bank account. In the UK, banks lost £12m to online fraudsters during 2004, according to figures from banking industry association APACS. The fight against phishing is certainly gaining momentum: in February this year, Microsoft joined forces with eBay and Visa to form the Phish Report Network, a place where registered companies and individuals could report phishy activity. Today, US banking regulators instructed banks to work out new procedures for reporting this kind of identity theft. ® Related stories US regulators take action over ID theft Brits voice fraud fears over high-tech voting Cops warn of internet fraud Brazilian cops net 'phishing kingpin'
Lucy Sherriff, 01 Apr 2005

Qwest ups bid for MCI - yet again

The bidding war for MCI continues to show no sign of running out of steam following Qwest's decision to sweeten its offer yet again for the US telco. The wedge on the table currently stands at $8.9bn. In a letter to MCI, Qwest chief exec Richard Notebaert accused the telco of "complete abdication of its duties to act in the best interest of its shareholders" and requested MCI to "take the steps necessary...to recognize our offer as a Superior Proposal". Qwest's decision to increase its offer was expected after Verizon increased its bid for MCI to $7.6bn earlier this week. Responding to Qwest's latest offer MCI said it would "review the revised proposal and respond accordingly". ® Related stories Qwest soap opera continues Verizon finds $1bn more for MCI Qwest sets MCI April 5 deadline MCI/Verizon/Qwest slanging match continues
Tim Richardson, 01 Apr 2005

PalmOne 'Life Drive' photos surface

AnalysisAnalysis PalmOne's speculative hard disk-equipped PDA, said to be dubbed the 'Life Drive', took a small step closer to become a real product this week when pictures of the device were posted on the web.
Tony Smith, 01 Apr 2005

Why Fiorina wasn't the right man for the HP CEO post

And ninethlyAnd ninethly Jealousy is indeed a poor medium to secure love, but it is a secure medium to destroy one's self-respect. For jealous people, like dope-fiends, stoop to the lowest level and in the end inspire only disgust and loathing - Emma Goldman There's nothing sexist about admitting defeat. Congratulations to HP's board for recognizing that fact. HP's immediate fate now lies in the hands of a wholesome company man. Twenty-five year NCR veteran Mark Hurd sold cash machines and bean counters. He's dependable - rock solid. He's the kind of guy you want standing between the women and children when the bank robbers arrive. He'd take the bullet or at least broker a sturdy deal. Even a cursory glance at Hurd's outstanding book reveals his dependable traits. The dirty secret that you won't find in other reports is that Carly Fiorina was not the type of person you want to shove in front of the bank robbers. She was pomp, circumstance and puffy hair. And jewelry. . . And slimming pants. Fiorina went to Stanford and studied Hegel. She mingled with lude-popping, morally bankrupt future ACLU attorneys. Hurd attended a decent Baptist school in Baylor University where he studied business or bidness, if you prefer. He's a proud member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity (PDF) - something a creature of Fiorina's ilk can only dream about. This isn't to say a woman can't handle all that running a major, major corporation demands. Look at eBay's Meg Whitman. (Just don't look too long.) It's really more that Fiorina wasn't the right woman for the job. She could be firm at times but at others she was positively drippy, droning on and on about some soft "vision" when action was required. Many of the papers are saying Fiorina garnered too much attention and was too flashy. She had a "celebrity aura." But we all know what they really mean. This is a polite out. Fiorina was inadequate. People in Baylor country call it weak. Ask W. "On Feb. 9, directors ousted Fiorina, a marketing executive who spearheaded the company's $19 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Co., saying they didn't have a problem with the business strategy - only that she didn't execute it quickly enough," the AP reported this week. Uh huh. Toss that reporter a skirt and have him swish around. Carly could probably use a dance. Let's all flex our honesty here and call this game the right way. The geniuses in charge of HP back in 1999 thought it would be cute and "proactive" to hire a "here's my high heel in your back as I climb the corporate ladder" lady as CEO of one of America's largest, most respected companies. They were high on the same La-La juice stoning all of Silicon Valley. How darling. How impressive. How shocking. Oh the attention. But eventually that high wears off and there's nothing but puke and pain left. If you're lucky, the puke ends up in the toilet and no one knows about it. If you're not lucky, you've just coughed up a ham sandwich on an office conference table and all your gossipy, sally enemies are sprinting toward the boss to tell him about it. That's the kind of sick we're talking about with Carly. That's the kind of sick that demands a pure-hearted nobody janitor who is too busy reading 10-Ks to finish his beer or get a manicure. It's nice to give the pendulum a push now and again and see how far it'll go. But when the mechanism starts tipping, the dress-up game has to stop, and you have to call in a tough guy - a real man - to clean up the mess. Now to get this acid out of my throat. ® Bootnote: Otto Z. Stern has impressed The Register so much with his trenchant observations that he is joining the publication as a regular columnist. Otto Z. Stern is a director at The Institute of Technological Values - a think tank dedicated to a more moral digital age. He has closely monitored the IT industry's intersection with America's role as a world leader for thirty years. You can find Stern at his solar-powered compound somewhere in the Great American Southwest. Related stories HP makes Hurd the $20m man Never Hurd of the new HP boss? HP bets on the Hurd mentality for CEO
Otto Z. Stern, 01 Apr 2005
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Hardware is secure (false)

Hardware devices are far from a panacea for information security problems but users are continuing to place too much faith in marketing claims to the contrary, the Black Hat conference was told this week. Technology has moved on but hardware devices are far from totally secure. "Most, if not all, hardware solutions are open to attack," Joe Grand, a security consultant at Grand Idea Studio, told delegates to the Black Hat conference in Amsterdam on Thursday. "Blindly trusting hardware leads to a false sense of security. Hardware is not voodoo." Grand outlined a variety of attacks including eavesdropping, interrupting the operation of a hardware security product, using undocumented features or invasive tampering. The motives of such attacks can vary from IP theft, getting services without paying or forging a user's identity to gain access to a system. Network appliances, mobile devices, RFID tokens and access control devices are among the many hardware products potentially at risk. For example, biometric systems are reckoned to be more secure than systems that use passwords, but physical characteristics are hard to keep secret. Fingers can be lifted from keyboards or voices can be recorded. The storage of biometric characteristics on back-end systems also sets up avenues of attack. History shows authentication tokens might be attacked given physical access to hardware. The storage of data on "easily accessible, unprotected" serial EEPROM allowed attackers to gain full access to a USB hardware tokens by rewriting a user PIN with a default PIN, according to a (paper) from @stake. The paper, published in 2000, details invassive attacks on hardware token from Aladdin and Rainbow Technologies. Aladdin has been in touch to say the attacks detailed in this paper are against a mothballed, prototype product, the eToken R1 (AKA eToken, 3.3.3.x). It says its current eToken range is immune from such attacks. Other researchers this year demonstrated how to exploit cryptographic weaknesses to attack the RFID tags used in vehicle immobilisers and the Mobil SpeedPass payment system. SSL cryptographic accelerators are also potentially hackable, as demonstrated by a recently documented attack against Intel's NetStructure 7110 devices. Wireless Access Points based on Vlinux, such as the Dell TrueMobile 1184, can also be hacked. Other attacks create a possible mechanism to lift passwords from Cisco routers or Palm OS devices. Even ATM systems are not invulnerable, as demonstrated Cambridge University research illustrates. Grand said that these types of problems exist because many hardware engineers are not familiar with security. A lack of anti-tamper mechanisms, use of publicly-available reference designs and (most seriously) improper protection of external memory all create problems. Security through obscurity is still widely practiced in hardware design but hiding something does not make the problem go away, Grand said. Related links Hardware hacking for fun and profit Related links Banks 'wasting millions' on two-factor authentication Time-drift technique fingers PCs Security experts warn of 'scary' new web scam
John Leyden, 01 Apr 2005

HP iPaq hx2750 PocketPC

ReviewReview When it comes to choosing a PocketPC it seems like there's little or no need to look elsewhere than HP's iPaq line-up. The company has dominated the market since day one and today it boasts a range offering something for everyone, writes Stephen Patrick. The hx2750 is the replacement for the old and, so it seems now, unwieldy h5550. This new model is actually based on the hx2410, which came out at the end of 2004. But whereas the hx2410 is aimed at a more mainstream audience, this model is intended for use by those who carry important or sensitive data around with them. This is achieved by the addition of biomteric security. A fingerprint reader sits above the navigation button, which forces the user to swipe their finger over it a number of times - usually three - so that it can register your identity. HP's security software comes from Credant Technologies. We were impressed with how easy it was to set up a profile and to lock down our data. True, if you only carry around a few contacts and phone numbers, this is a case of overkill, but sales execs or anyone carrying a database of contacts and sales figures, for instance, with appreciate the level of protection the software offers. The hx2750 is on the bulky side, with rubber grips fitted either side of the main casing. This means you can throw it in your bag without worrying too much about the impact. Weighing 165g, it's not exactly heavy, but you won't want to carry it around in your shirt-pocket. Considering the size of the device, the 3.5in screen is a little on the small side. Especially when you consider that HP has made 3.8in and even 4in screens available on its more multimedia-focused handhelds. Regardless of size, the screen is bright, and the PDA responsive. On the inside, the hx2750 runs the same Intel XScale PXA270 processor as the other members of the iPaq range, but at the faster 624MHz frequency. There's 128MB of ROM and 128MB of SDRAM, with up to 192MB of user-accesible memory. The rest comprises the iPaq data store. Expansion takes the 'business types like choice' approach, so it comes with an SD slot as well as the more backward-compatible CompactFlash. If you need to add peripherals, whether a memory card, a camera or GPS unit, the hx2750 should be able to accommodate you. Verdict For many PDA users, the hx2750 is too specialised and doesn't really offer anything that we haven't seen before. However, for the business user, or anyone who needs to carry sensitive data around with them, there isn't a better PocketPC on the market. Review by HP iPaq hx2750   Rating 70%   Pros Rugged casing; fingerprint security.   Cons Bulky; nothing new.   Price £350   More info The HP site Recent Reviews Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI Express Buffalo TeraStation Network-Attached Storage Creative MuVo V200 Creative MuVo Micro N200 MP3 player Fossil Wrist PDA FX2008 Nokia 9300 Communicator Olympus m:robe 500i media player Nintendo DS handheld games console Netgear MP101 wireless music player Seagate 5GB USB 2.0 Pocket Hard Drive
Pocket Lint, 01 Apr 2005
fingers pointing at man

Privacy 'Dark Ages' force activist rethink

Privacy activists need to change tactics to adapt to changing public attitudes, a leading campaigner said Thursday. Simon Davies, a director of Privacy International, said campaigners need to win the argument by force of evidence rather than assuming that people naturally guard their privacy against government encroachment, an assumption he said is no longer valid. If "logic and common sense" fail to shift public policy then "well placed" technicians might be prepared to sabotage invasive projects, Davies predicted. He said government moves to systematically profile and monitor its citizens have inflamed techies - even though the public at large remain indifferent. Government surveillance efforts predate the 9/11 terrorist attacks and include many projects (such as Britain's ID card scheme) of questionable utility. Davies used to believe the need to guard personal privacy against invasion was a self-evident truth. But public willingness to accept ubiquitous CCTV camera coverage, ID cards and similar projects show most people no longer really care about privacy, even in countries such as the Netherlands which saw mass protests against something as low key as a government census 20 years ago. Attitudes have changed, Davies told delegates during a keynote at the Black Hat security conference in Amsterdam on Thursday. "People are prepared to hand over their private information in return for promises of a better and safer world," Davies said. "We're seeing the most invasive systems in world history with practically no reaction." He said that this "communitarianism" doctrine means people are prepared to yield rights providing governments are more accountable. Davies sees little evidence of a greater public good from government protects that encroach on personal privacy. Creating unified government databases of citizen records increases the risk of ID theft. Monitoring the activities of citizens does little to frustrate terrorist activity. Privacy International’s list goes on. "We are living through an aberration of history - a dark ages for personal privacy," Davies commented. Instead of simply warning people about how much data government and private companies hold on citizens, Privacy International is changing tactics by commissioning independent research, such as a recent ID cards study from the London School of Economics. "If logic and common sense doesn't prevail within five years then well-placed techies may be tempted to resort to 'guerrilla warfare' tactics. We’ve talking about a resistance – along the lines of what happened in France in World War II - not wild-eyed activists," Davies said. Related stories Security and interop issues cause EU biometric passport delays NHS chief cans patient control over health record access Select Committee criticises ID Cards Bill ID theft is inescapable
John Leyden, 01 Apr 2005

16 scammers fined £1.3m

Sixteen premium rate services have been fined a total of £1.3m following a crackdown on rogue operators over the Easter weekend. Last week ICSTIS warned punters to be on their guard against dodgy operators using illegal Automated Calling Equipment (ACE) after receiving credible market intelligence that scamsters were to step up their operations over the long weekend. Today it announced that it used an "unprecedented level of sanctions" to deal with 16 services using ACE to tell people they had won a cash prize or holiday. Those who fell for the scam ended up phoning expensive phone numbers but received nothing. Using emergency powers the watchdog shut down the offending services and in some cases managed to freeze the income of some of the operators. ICSTIS has also notified monster regulator Ofcom over the role of one telephone company - Allied Telecommunications - because it was involved in all 16 rogue services. "These services are simply unacceptable," said ICSTIS director, George Kidd. "They are intrusive, misleading and almost certainly illegal. We have acted fast to stop the harm but the problem has not gone away. "Over Easter we again saw a spate of this junk marketing. When this goes further, into illegality and fraud the proper authorities must also act." ® Related stories Watch out, there be scammers about, warns watchdog Ringtone sellers told to clean up act New 0871 rogue dialler scam spotted Citizens Advice warns of 'shocking' rogue dialler scams BT abandons scheme to block rogue diallers
Tim Richardson, 01 Apr 2005

Cisco to merge with Nabisco

April Fool specialApril Fool special Cisco Systems and Kraft Foods shocked investors today with an unlikely mega-acquisition that will see Cisco buy Kraft's Nabisco unit for $15bn. Perhaps even more surprising, former RJR Nabisco and IBM CEO Lou Gerstner has come out of retirement to head the new firm tentatively called NaCisco. Cisco and Kraft announced the deal as the US financial markets opened on Friday, triggering jitters in both the networking and snack food sectors. John Chambers, CEO at Cisco, worked to calm analysts and investors during a conference call, saying this was a natural expansion for a company with more than $16bn in the bank. Kraft chief Roger Deromedi tried to take care of his side by noting that the company had not got all it hoped out of the Nabisco brand. It has, in fact, been looking to unload the Nabisco edibles to "a possibly more suitable parent" for some time. Cisco will pay $13bn for the Nabisco products, which include Ritz Crackers, Oreo Cookies and Nutter Butters, and cover $2bn in Kraft debt. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter, pending standard approvals. "This really is a merger of equals," Gerstner said, during the conference call. "I wouldn't have come back to work for anything less than this fantastic opportunity. This lets me combine my two great loves - technology and biscuits." Financial analysts working near The Register's Chicago desk were visibly shaken when word of the acquisition hit. The combination of Cisco and Nabisco struck many as anything but a merger of equals with observers struggling to figure out how this type of deal would benefit the companies, shareholders or investors. "This is unusual," said Merrill Lynch's star analyst Steve Milunovich. "Cisco sells switches and routers and things. Nabisco sells cookies and crackers. I'm going to have to have an assistant think about this for awhile." Gerstner moved to counter the skeptics by pointing to "obvious synergies," noting, for example, that system administrators were a demographic with a propensity to consume large amounts of fatty and salty instant snacks. "Routers and Animal Crackers go together like cookies and milk," he joked. "Seriously though, we do envision a day where every Linksys wireless router ships with a carton of Nilla Wafers and vice versa. You need a Fibre Channel switch? Fine. Here's a crate of Wheat Thins for your IT department too." Once the merger is completed, Cisco expects to cut close to 20,000 jobs, as it eliminates HR, sales and marketing duties that will be handled by Nabisco staff. The cuts will also be a result of Cisco moving much of its technology manufacturing, design and R&D efforts to Papua New Guinea. "It's not an unpatriotic move," Gerstner said. "It's just that we want the US staff focused on cookies, crackers and the like, and our new Asia Pacific headquarters will be a lean, mean router-production machine. The idea is that when you see an Oreo you'll think Yankee Doodle Dandy, and when you see a Catalyst switch, you'll think whatever you want." Gerstner, known to his friends as "the dancing elephant," left IBM in 2002 after finishing off one of the most remarkable turnarounds in US corporate history. Before IBM, he led RJR Nabisco, which was acquired in 2000 by Kraft parent company Philip Morris - now known as Altria. "In my mind, Gerstner is the only man with an ego and set of balls large enough to make this work," Milunovich said. "I feel very lucid at the moment." Current Cisco CEO John Chambers will become president of NaCisco, while Kraft's Deromedi will not be invited to be part of the IP-focused junk food behemoth. A number of pundits speculated that this could trigger a wave of IT/food mergers. Some worry the activity could dilute the strength of sector-focused brands. Would you buy Windows Cola just because Microsoft or Coke told you to? Merrill Lynch's analyst, however, shrugged off such fears, citing consumer ignorance. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure people are that gullible," Milunovich said. "People will buy into anything if the label is pretty enough." Rather comically, the idea for the Cisco/Nabisco merger arose during a round of golf shared by Gerstner, Chambers, Deromedi and Sun Microsystems' CEO Scott McNealy. Gerstner, despite what one source calls "liberal scoring," lost on the day. His three partners suggested he get back into the tech game as punishment and noted it would be funny if he headed up something like NaCisco given his past experience. We'll learn in the next couple of years whether this was a fortuitous game or a nightmare for cookie lovers. ® Related stories Apple of IBM's eye? Microsoft patents the body electric Gerstner's long and lucrative goodbye
Ashlee Vance, 01 Apr 2005

.Net report slammed again

The report that decided ownership of the .net registry has come under heavy criticism for a second time this week. The chair of the committee that actually decided the report's methodology and criteria, Philip Sheppard, has demanded an investigation into what he has called "a fundamental contradiction between the dot net evaluator's methodology and the GNSO dot net report". "I am concerned that there is a serious flaw in the methodology of the Telcordia report," Sheppard stated on an ICANN mailing list. According to Sheppard, the company commissioned to carry out the evaluation (Telcordia) had "used a scoring system which was biased towards multiple technical criteria even though the central message of the GNSO report was that competition was the most important factor". He concluded that the "methodology of the evaluator's report directly contradicts the essence of the GNSO report" and proposed a resolution to be put forward at an ICANN meeting in Argentina on Monday that the ICANN Board delay its negotiations with VeriSign (or any other bidder) until an investigation had taken place. The stark criticism comes just a day after one of the bidders, Denic, said a key part of the report that had ruled it out of the running was incorrect and that the correct information had been given in the official documentation. It called the report "sloppy" and said it contained "serious factual errors". It also questioned the ranking system used by Telcordia. Other bidders have also expressed their anxiety over the report. Afilias said in a statement that it was "disappointed" and Sentan that it was "not pleased". ICANN has used the report as the sole basis for its decision to start immediate discussions with winner VeriSign over renewal of the .net contract, which runs out on 30 June this year. But while some have sought to paint Denic's complaint as sour grapes, Sheppard's intervention has spun the spotlight onto the company commissioned to carry out the evaluation - US technology company Telcordia, which has a number of ties with VeriSign, raising conflict of interest questions. And while VeriSign has sought to assure us that William Roper - a director of both SAIC (until very recently Telcordia's parent company) and VeriSign - was not on the evaluation team as we reported earlier, until ICANN or Telcordia releases the names of those on the team, it will be difficult for Telcordia to effectively argue its independence when so many apparent errors have been found in its report. Sheppard is concerned about the overabudance of technical criteria as deciding issues (the winner was the company with the largest number of "blues", meaning "exceeds requirements", making some relatively unimportant criteria of equal weighting to fundamentals). And he is unhappy with the downgrading to "medium" importance of issues that his committee had flagged as highly important. There is also concern about the introduction of criteria such as "Provision for Business Failure" - which seem pointless. "Describe in detail what advance arrangement you will implement to ensure that, if your operation of .Net registry becomes financially non-viable, the registry operation will be quickly, smoothly and efficiently transferred to another operator." The likelihood of the .net registry becoming financially non-viable, when it has five million domains and a good percentage of the world's servers run through it, is so remote that you have to question its introduction as a criteria. Nevertheless, VeriSign achieves a "blue" in this category by dint of the fact that is the only one of the bidders to have already moved a registry, raising the question: where's the logic in awarding a registry to a company on the basis that they are the best at giving it away? There is also another question over Telcordia's scoring system when it marks down both Denic and Sentan in the "Provision for Registry Failure" criteria for having primary and backup servers too close together, giving VeriSign alone a "blue". However, earlier on in the report it marked VeriSign down for precisely the same issue - having both primary and alternative primary within the same electricity region. Earlier still, the fact that Denic and Sentan sites were 275 and 400 miles apart was not considered of sufficient enough concern to mark them down. The inconsistency without explanation, especially when the resulting decision literally makes the difference between one company winning the .net registry or another is troublesome. With Telcordia stating clearly at the beginning of its report that all candidates are more than capable of running the .net registry, the decision has been made on subjective criteria. But with the chairman of the committee that decided on the methodology pointing out a "fundamental contradiction" in this subjectivity and with one of the bidders stating that the report contains a major factual error, the continued use of the report as the foundation for such an important decision is open to question. Related story Denic damns 'errors' in .net report
Kieren McCarthy, 01 Apr 2005

Coming months 'critical for LLU'

The next few months will "prove critical for LLU deployment", according to the man responsible for ensuring that local loop unbundling works in the UK. In his latest industry update, Telecoms Adjudicator Peter Black said that more exchanges are coming online, quality is improving and new automation processes that should speed up the delivery of LLU are about to kick-in. And with more and more unbundled lines coming on stream, the total of LLU lines in the UK now stands at around 40,000. The Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator (OTA) also used today's update to comment on the dispute between BT and Bulldog Communications concerning discriminatory fault repair times. "Our first formal dispute from Bulldog Communications has been withdrawn after constructive dialogue between BT and Bulldog. A new Care Product proposal has been put to LLUOs (Local Loop Unbudling Operators) by BT, OTA is facilitating progress," he said. ® Related stories Bulldog to resubmit BT complaint 'LLU Czar' to rule on Bulldog/BT dispute UK LLU improving says Telecoms Adjudicator
Tim Richardson, 01 Apr 2005

April Fool rages at El Reg

FoTWFoTW We would like to begin this Flame of the Week by calling the attention of the reader to the date. Yes, today is 1 April. The Fool's day. The day of pranks, cons, japes and other assorted jokes. Having established that, we would recommend that before reading any further, you all pop along to this nice little story about the Bush twins, and at least skim through it. You're back? Excellent. Now, we can proceed. This is the gem that dropped into the letters bag this morning. Enjoy: Re: the Bush twins story. "They have...positioned themselves as leaders of their generation, setting an example to be envied, and of course, to be emulated." What the hell is this, the Bush family fan club? I never expected this sort of sycophantic rubbish to appear in your esteemed organ. If there was any remote chance of these airheads being put in any danger, they wouldn't be going. No GI grunt training for them eh? No. Of course not. Daddy must be thrilled that they're trying to make up for his military non-service. Bullshit. You should be ashamed. (Name witheld to protect the guilty) Oh ho! we thought to ourselves. We have a winner! We emailed our correspondent back post haste (naturally), suggesting that he double check the date at the beginning of the piece. After all, why should he sit and fume for hours, doing untold damage to the inside of his arteries, and quite possibly upsetting his digestion? To get to the point, he emailed back: Oh. Pants. What a mug. What a mug, indeed, dear anonymous flamer. But because you copped to it so nicely, we won't name and shame. See, aren't we nice? ®
Lucy Sherriff, 01 Apr 2005