4th > April > 2005 Archive

Bank of America sells flagpoles as cellular masts

Project America - it has a resoundingly fervent sound with the patriotism echoing, the Stars and Stripes and apple pie in the background... which appears to be Bank of America's way of getting a project under way which might be unpopular with the general public. The project is quite simply, using BofA buildings as cellphone masts. It means Trammel Crow Company (TCC) has done a deal with the bank, which allows it to offer "approximately 3,500 Bank of America retail banking centres nationwide for installation of state-of-the-art stealth transmission sites. These site installations will be built to mimic existing features, such as flag poles and light standards." The official release speaks of the urgent need for more cellphone towers. "In the past 18 months, wireless service subscriptions have grown nearly 15 per cent," says the announcement, quoting the CTIA Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey released in November 2004. "Inadequate wireless coverage has long challenged mobile operators, and wireless carriers have sought to address this issue via aggressive network expansions in select regions across the country, as sites become available on a public or private basis." But the need is keenest in major cities, and especially with the rollout of 3G phones. Coverage inside city buildings is poor, and hence the emphasis by TCC on the urban siting of these premises: "Bank of America retail banking centres offer opportunities to apply this kind of technology, because many of them are located in densely populated areas that have high cell phone usage." Unfortunately, these masts are becoming the target of popular anger, as home owners nearby see their property values affected. The reason for the devaluation is, partly, because the masts are "unsightly" but also because a significant section of the population believe they are being subjected to "radiation" - a bad word. What the eye sees not, the heart cannot grieve over. The result is that most phone companies are turning to "stealth" masts to avoid confrontation with local communities. Others, hoping that they can sway public sentiment, are embarking on large-scale philanthropic ventures with significant PR spending. But even so, it's unusual for anybody involved in the land grab for mast territory to go public with their strategy. Mast urbanisation is usually done in private, and it is unlikely that many more releases like this will be seen. Instead, site owners will probably approach phone companies discreetly directly. © NewsWireless.net Related stories 'Cosmic' baker attacks phone mast Germans crucify Jesus on mobile mast New lab to study mobile mast risks Mobile phone industry in radiation risk rap National Grid bids for 3,500 phone masts How to hide a phone mast Wireless lamp posts take over world! Church gives blessing for phone masts Catalan wireless broadband takes to mobile masts
Guy Kewney, 04 Apr 2005
arrow pointing up

Join Microsoft. Save the world

A party in a gay club was followed up by a recruitment pitch by Microsoft at last week's Black Hat Conference in Amsterdam. After enjoying the bohemian delights of Digital Darkness - such as shackles on the wall and heavily pixelated porn beamed onto the ceiling - the assorted hackers, pen testers and bug finders at the invite-only gig were given fliers (transcript below) inviting them to join the world's biggest software company. A team of three from Microsoft attending the world's premier hacker get-together hoping to bring the sort of people Steve Ballmer's mum probably warned him about (some even had piercings and tattoos!) into the fold. Some might consider this as cruising for "rough trade" but perhaps it makes sense for Redmond to get these guys on the inside pissing out rather than the other way around... Security Software Engineer Can you 0wn someone just because they browsed your web site? Is the first thing you do after installing new software seeing how you can break it and get root? Can you tell me what \x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90 is? Can you modify a HTTPS request sent from an application to its server? Do you start code reviews by following a malicious input to see where it is parsed? Then we want you to save the world and have a blast doing it. As part of the SWIat Proactive team, you'd get to investigate the latest products being released by Microsoft before they are shipped for security vulnerabilities. We're trying to make all software secure all the time so computing is safe for everyone. If you think you have what it takes to be part of our team then we want to hear from you. Candidates should have knowledge of Windows architecture and other in-depth knowledge of a product and the ability to find variations of security bugs. Candidates should possess a keen mind, be solid coders, and be fluent in C/C++. Knowledge of common hacking/networking tools, exploit writing, network cryptography, penetration testing, assembler or managed code is a plus. Security-mindedness is mandatory. A Bachelor's degree in Computer Science is preferred. Come and change a million lives by making Microsoft's products more secure! applynow@microsoft.com ======= Security Program Manager "I wish they would have fixed some of these problems before they shipped this." Ever thought or made a statement like this? Believe you could do better? If so, we have a job for you... We are looking for smart, technical program managers to review products before they ship. You will ensure that products meet security standards and don't ship with issues that later need to be patched. As part of this position, you will need to review product designs and threat models, review bugs filed to make sure major issues aren't punted, and use tools to examine the products surface area. We are looking for experienced candidates with strong communications skills, deep security and technical knowledge and strong process/planning experience required. A Bachelor's degree in Computer Science is preferred. applynow@microsoft.com ======= Security Software Engineer Do you enjoy probing and analysing security vulnerabilities, finding holes in assumptions or sparring with product security measures? Do you want to make the world a safer place? Are you interested in a fast-paced job full of new opportunities? If so, you might be a candidate for the Secure Windows Initiative React Team (SWIat) Team! Use your knowledge and passion to strengthen Microsoft's product's defences. SWIat React is responsible for analysis and penetration testing all externally reported vulnerabilities. In addition, we work directly with all product teams to enhance security in their products with our findings. Analyse and report externally reported vulnerabilities, test and validate our patches, drive process and tools back into product teams, and build custom tools to make Microsoft update and products safer and better. Not enough security for you? Well, you will also get a chance to work on any outbreaks of virii or worms! Wish you were on the front line of Slammer? Sasser? Blaster? MyDoom? You will! It's an exciting job, and at the end of the day, you'll be able to say, "I helped save the world". Candidates should have knowledge of Windows architecture and other in-depth knowledge of a product and the ability to find variations of security bugs. Candidates must be sharp, must be solid coders, and must be fluent in C/C++. Knowledge of common hacking/networking tools, exploit writing, networking, cryptography, penetration testing, assembler is a plus. Security-mindedness is mandatory. A Bachelor's degree in Computer Science is preferred. Come and help make Microsoft's products more secure! applynow@microsoft.com ® Related stories Microsoft is crawling toward trustworthy code experts Too cool for secure code Ballmer to crackers: this PC ain't big enough for the both of us
John Leyden, 04 Apr 2005
For Sale sign detail

Database rootkit menace looms

Crackers are developing more sophisticated techniques for take over the control of corporate databases using malicious code akin to malware already common on Unix platforms. The threat also applies to repository-based software such as CRM systems and web applications, creating a need for new security tools, according to Alexander Kombrust of Red Database Security. Kombrust told a session at the Black Hat security conference in Amsterdam on Friday, 1 April that operating Systems and databases are quite similar in their architecture. Each has users, processes, jobs and executables. This similarity means forms of malicious code - like rootkits - that have long being a problem for Unix admins are also an issue for database administrators. Rootkits refer to a set of tools used by crackers after breaking into a computer system to hide logins and processes under the control of an attacker from detection. Kornbrust said a database rootkit for Oracle systems would hide the Oracle execution path, database users, processes and jobs as well as modifying internal functions. Database rootkits would be implemented by either modifying a database object or changing the execution path, for example by creating a local object with the identical name, establishing a synonym pointing to a different object or switching to a different schema. Thereafter Kornbrust showed how it would be possible for a hacker to hide database users or processes he controlled. Most internal packages from Oracle are protected from modifications but Kombrust emphasised that the threat - although hard to quantify - was real. "Knowledge is not widespread about how to hack databases but information is out there," said Kombrust. "This is not for script kiddie but internal attack is possible - a professional attacker is very difficult to detect. There are no figures on incidents," he added. Databases don't keep tabs yet, so buy our software instead Kombrust explained how to rootkits/backdoors in a database could be identified using a special tool called repscan, developed by Red Database Security. The tool finds modifications in execution paths and checks for insecure database settings. Ultimately databases or other application should check the repository for modifications themselves, according to Kombrust, who added that the rootkit threat ought to prompt more secure coding practices among developers. ® Related stories Oracle's first monthly patch batch fails to placate critics Windows Root kits a stealthy threat .NET more secure than WebSphere
John Leyden, 04 Apr 2005
homeless man with sign

Hacking Google for fun and profit

Insecure websites are not the only venues at risk from Google-hacking. Network hardware can be hacked, cached printing pages can be perused and security cameras snooped on thanks to evolutions in attack techniques that are dumbing down network attacks. So-called Google hacking - named after the search engine - relies on employing carefully crafted combination of search terms to unveil potentially confidential files. The technique not particularly recent (we first wrote about it more than two years ago); but it's evolving to become an even greater source of mischief. Security consultant Johnny Long, of CSC, told delegates at the Black Hat conference in Amsterdam on Thursday, 31 March that network defenders needed to stay on top of the latest Google-hacking techniques to keep ahead of the "bad guys". There are numerous ways to exploit vulnerabilities and mount attacks that allow access to the back end of ecommerce websites. "Google can do the same thing but puts it in hands of amateurs," said Long. This dumbing down of cracking opens the way to numerous attacks. Hunting for credit card numbers on insecure servers or network passwords is bad enough but the problem doesn't stop there. Using screen grabs, Long showed how routers with default passwords could be located and turned off. The same approach allows the cache of insecure printers to be browsed, enabling hackers to view or download potentially sensitive documents. Insecure UPS systems, time lapse security cameras and even PBX telephony systems can also be nobbled. Police reports from crimes at US universities can be searched for references to social security numbers. Nothing is sacred. "Hackers can get to into HomeSear web control and turn off the lamps, fridge or air filter in someone's home. You can even turn off someone's Xmas lights, now that’s evil" Long said. Stealth mode Google can be also used to conduct reconnaissance on vulnerable systems without sending packets to a target. Attackers can map domains or get a list of vulnerable servers using the search engine. "You could get the same data using other techniques but this is mapping with stealth and style," Long said. The technique can be turned on its head by security pros to find and fix potential security holes, the main theme of Long's well-received Google hacking for penetration testers presentation, a title taken from his book on the subject. South African firm Sensepost has developed a number of applications to automate this process. Google-hacking has been picked up as a technique by virus writers. Recent worms have taken advantage of Google to automate the search for vulnerable machines. In response, Google has started blocking "evil queries", a technique Long described as the "Google Dork Detection System". He showed how this approach is limited because changing the case of queries defeated its first version. Google fixed that - but splitting queries into multiple operators still works. Even when Google fixes this further query manipulation will still be possible. "Never assume Google will protect you," he said. ® Related stories The Google attack engine Google closes Blogger security holes BBC throws strop at 'Ceefax Google'
John Leyden, 04 Apr 2005

Hutchison hit by 3G costs

Hutchison Whampoa saw profits hit hard by continuing losses from its 3G business late last week. Turnover for the group grew 23 per cent to HK$179.4bn ($23bn)in the year ended 31 December 2004. Profits attributable to shareholders grew 38 per cent to HK$16bn ($2.05bn). But the group's third generation mobile business saw losses grow 17 per cent to HK$17.8bn($2.3bn). Hutch's 2G and fixed line businesses were reorganised during 2004 and listed via the acquistion of Vanda Systems. The "3 Group" claims more than eight million customers and gained 1.7m in the first quarter of this year. Average Revenue Per User across the whole group was €52.43. This breaks down to: £40.30 per month in the UK, €62.18 in Austria and €47.17 in Italy. Revenue from non-voice services ranged from 12 per cent in Austria to 23 per cent in Italy and Hong Kong. Results release available for download from here. ® Related stories 3G success hangs on handsets Hutchison buys out Italian 3G partner for 470m 3 UK claims 1.2m subscribers
John Oates, 04 Apr 2005

Google's Gmail grows again

Google is doubling the size of mailboxes for its email subscribers to try and regain the initiative against Yahoo - which announced last week it is matching Google's 1GB storage. Google's email subscribers will get 2GB free storage and the firm will continue to add more capacity over time. But the service is currently in testing mode rather than a fully-available service. The search giant said the increase was to keep pace with customers but that only a small fraction were up against their storage limits. It will continue to add more storage to keep pace with customers' demands. Gmail changed free email provision when it was launched this time last year - many people thought it was an April Fool joke. The amount of storage offered was one surprise and the use of content-related advertising was also briefly controversial.® Related stories Yahoo! does a Google Botnets strangle Google Adwords campaigns Google plugs brace of GMail security flaws
John Oates, 04 Apr 2005

World Cup tickets will contain RFID chips

The 3.2 million tickets for the World Cup in Germany next year will each contain an RFID chip. FT Deutschland last week reported that Philips will manufacture the chip, which FIFA hopes will guard them against forgeries and the black market. The first phase of ticket sales - 812,000 tickets - will be through a draw from applications received by 31 March. Each ticket will look like an airline ticket, with the applicant's name on it. Tickets aren't transferable; the applicant will have to attend the game. The small microchip on the ticket contains only access information, but no personal data. It is the first time that RFID tickets have been sold on such a large scale, although the experiment doesn't come cheap. Each RFID chip costs 10 eurocent and with 3.2 million tickets the organisers have to cough up at least € 320.000. However, Philips hopes that after the World Cup RFID ticketing will be more widely accepted and the price may drop. related stories IVF clinics may tag embryos In the red states, no-one can hear you scream Chinese to tag pandas China to tag pandas
Jan Libbenga, 04 Apr 2005
homeless man with sign

World chip sales down in February

Global chip sales fell fractionally during February, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said today after revising January's total upward. Some $18.05bn worth of semiconductors were sold in February this year, down two per cent on the previous month's $18.41bn, but up 15.8 per cent on February 2004's $15.59bn sales. A month ago, the SIA said January's sales totalled $18.27bn. The revised figure, puts the month's sales on a par with the total recorded for December 2004, but increases the decline experienced in February, though that's a shorter month, of course - more so, given the Chinese New Year holiday takes place in that month. The SIA described the figures from the first two months of the year as "encouraging" and "stronger than expected". "Relatively strong sales of PCs and cell phones have led to year-on-year sales growth for microprocessors up 11 per cent from February 2004, DRAMs up 36 per cent, and ASICs for wireless applications up 53 per cent," the SIA said. Those sales are increasingly coming from consumers, the organisation noted. Over half of all semiconductors sold in 2004 ended up in consumer-oriented kit, it said. "The semiconductor content of a vast array of products purchased by individual consumers - from automobiles to personal communications devices and home entertainment systems - has risen dramatically in recent years," the SIA said. "As a result, our industry is paying closer attention to indicators of consumer confidence. At this time, those indicators appear to be positive. "The overall health of the global semiconductor industry remains strong. If the current trends continue, our forecast for flat industry sales for 2005 could prove to have been overly cautious," it forecast. ® Related stories Transmeta replaces CEO amid major restructure ATI settles financial misconduct claims Micron remakes a profit ATI posts 'strong' Q2 sales gains World chip glut 'over early Q2' Euro notebook PC sales boom Intel's Q1 'a little better' than expected TI cuts Q1 sales forecast
Tony Smith, 04 Apr 2005

Smug BT crows about broadband numbers

BT's acting all smug today after announcing it will pass it five million broadband connection milestone this week - a year ahead of schedule. Marking the landmark today the former monopoly even managed to get a backslapping quote from PM Tony Blair. Whether everyone will agree with Blair's sentiments that "it is great news for the whole communications industry that BT has been able to make this announcement a year ahead of target" is debatable. The battle to get BT to invest in broadband was long and difficult. For many years people in some parts of the country never stood a chance of getting high speed net access. And because BT was the sole provider of DSL, it set the prices - and boy, were they high. Still, the monster telco eventually woke up to the fact that broadband could offset the declining revenues from its traditional phone business. Still, the progress made to date has been at the expense of wholesale competition - something that is vital for future innovation and pricing. While retail broadband competition is flourishing, wholesale competition continues to be stifled. The matter is so important communications regulator Ofcom is nearing the end of a lengthy review of the telecoms sector where it called for "substantive behavioural and organisational changes" from BT to ensure that competitors at least get a fighting chance to provide alternative services to the UK's dominant fixed line player. Broadband is now one of the fastest growing consumer products of all time, according to BT spinmeisters, with a higher take up rate than televisions, CD players, video recorders or mobile phones. A new broadband punter is connected every ten seconds and the last million lines were hooked up in just four months. ® Related stories BT retail DSL market share slips some more BT faces fading market share BT 2 meg punters hacked off Broadband - BT's new wave saviour BT's broadband share slides below key target
Tim Richardson, 04 Apr 2005

UK Wi-Fi network nabs German WISP

UK Wi-Fi network The Cloud has become Germany's third-largest WISP by acquiring local player Airnyx, the company said today. The terms and conditions underpinning the acquisition were not made public. Both firms are privately held. Airnyx' chief, Volker Werbus, will stay on as The Cloud's local Country Manager. Airnyx was founded two years ago in March 2003, and has since built up a network of hotspots at Agip and BFT petrol stations, and other locations throughout Germany. Airnyx operates around 500 hotspots, a Cloud spokesman told The Register. The Cloud pledged the "rapid" expansion of its German network, though it declined to detail its plans and targets. All of them will become part of The Cloud's own network, which numbers more than 5000 hotspots in the UK, across a wide range of locations, including pubs, the British Library and the Royal Festival Hall. It also operates over 50 sites in Sweden, the result of a deal struck last November with Jernhusen, the state-owned company which manages real estate associated with Sweden's rail infrastructure, including its stations. Like the UK operation, The Cloud Germany will not only sell Wi-Fi access direct to customers but will open its network to third-party service providers. It already allows customers of T-Online, iPass, Boingo, GoRemote (aka Gric) and others to roam on its network. In the UK, The Cloud has similar arrangements with O2 and BT Openzone. ® Related stories UK's Royal Festival Hall announces WLAN link T-Mobile widens UK airport Wi-Fi cover BT broadens £1-a-month Wi-Fi trial British Library tunes into Wi-Fi Sweden's rail stations to roll out Wi-Fi Football League clubs to offer Wi-Fi Aussie telco moots payphone Wi-Fi hotzones UK WISP moots IPO
Tony Smith, 04 Apr 2005
homeless man with sign

Open source databases - a sword that cuts both ways?

Is open source strategic? This is a question that every company thinking about the use of open source products needs to face. If open source is strategic then, like any other strategic resource, it needs to be managed: you need to have a specific strategy for open source products. The first thing to decide is the areas in which open source is to be deployed. Does this only apply to Linux and network servers or does it extend to application servers, databases and development environments? In each case, you also need to decide which open source products you are going to endorse from a strategic perspective. If we take the open source database market as an example, we have MySQL, PostgreSQL (both generically and from Pervasive), Ingres, Firebird, Max DB, Cloudscape, the putative Sun DB (possibly), HSQLDB and a bunch of others. Now, some of these are niche products but, even so, there are too many of them. Not all of the companies involved will be able to make enough money out of these products to stay in business. That means that at some point in the future the market will consolidate and a number of these products will disappear. This may not matter too much if the products are not that important to you, but it certainly does if they are strategic. So, the first step in a strategic approach to open source is to decide what products are most likely to stay the course. The companies and products with shaky backgrounds, and where you cannot see how they can make enough money to survive, should be avoided. Further, since these are being treated as strategic, you also need to ensure that the suppliers of these solutions can provide adequate training and support (since, as strategic products, you will surely need these). In other words, you need a shortlist of potential vendors that you are happy to deal with and you need to mandate that the company limits itself to these strategic choices when deploying solutions. This is bad news for open source enthusiasts. Fans of the open source movement would, not unnaturally, like to see open source products adopted as strategic. But who are the vendors that are most likely to be accepted as strategic partners by users? If you think about databases it is going to be IBM (Cloudscape) and CA (Ingres) at the top of the list. And the same will happen in the development (Eclipse) space. That's not to say that a few of the pure players wouldn't make good, but it won't be the free-for-all that some advocates of open source might like. Open source is just another licensing model: the more accepted it becomes, the more it is adopted at a strategic level, the more it plays back into the hands of the traditional behemoths that dominate the industry: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Another approach to federated query A case for software benchmarking Ingres and Open Source - a success story Database developers get tooled up Sun could quell database hunger with Unify buy
Philip Howard, 04 Apr 2005
fingers pointing at man

ATI to announce R520 'in June'

ATI will announce its next-generation graphics chip, the R520, early in June, possibly during the Computex show in Taiwan. So claims graphics card maker Sapphire, whose local marketing chief was interviewed recently by Middle Eastern gaming site T-Break. "As per the current plans, we expect ATI to announce its new GPU in June," the site quotes Daniel Foster, Sapphire's EMEA Marketing Manager as saying. The 90nm R520 has been claimed separately to support up to 32 pixel processing pipelines - double the number in today's high-end ATI graphics chips. How many ATI will enable at launch remains to be seen - much will depend on the performance boost provided and, crucially, how many chips the company can ship with fully-working pipelines. Foster also mentioned ATI's answer to Nvidia's SLI, though his comments - which suggest ATI's is the more flexible of the two solutions - were truncated. ATI's implementation, in which two PCI Express graphics cards co-operatively render each frame, is believed to operate across the PCI-E bus, negating the need for a direct connection between the two boards as per SLI. That connector-less operation could certainly be what Foster means by "flexibility". A Pentium 4 motherboard apparently incorporating ATI's version of SLI was put on display at last month's CeBIT show by Asus. The board was based on ATI's RD400 chipset, and is expected to ship later this quarter, possibly targeting Intel's upcoming dual-core desktop processors. ® Related stories Ex-ATI CEO insider trading hearing postponed ATI settles financial misconduct claims ATI posts 'strong' Q2 sales gains ATI announces phone video chip ATI ships AGP-edition X850 XT graphics chip ATI ships 'first' mobile AMD chipset Related review Sapphire Radeon X800 PCI Express
Tony Smith, 04 Apr 2005
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JVC unveils first one-side, two-layer DVD-RW disc

JVC today said it has created the world's first single-sided, dual-layer DVD-RW disc, boosting the format's storage capacity from 4.7GB to 8.5GB. Members of the rival rewriteable DVD camp, DVD+RW, have been touting a dual-layer recordable DVD+R product for some time, with the 8x recording speed nearing completion and a 16x version feasible but as yet still laboratory-bound. However, at a recent roadmap update presented at the CeBIT show, no timetable was given for the appearance of dual-layer DVD+RW discs and drives. Not that the JVC disc is going to come to market any time soon. The manufacturer declined to state when it expects to see its new technology commercialised. Not only does it need to perfect the product, but the format will need to first win the approval of the DVD Forum, the official overseer of the DVD format. Only then can disc manufacturers and drive producers commercialise products based on the JVC technology. However, JVC did say it has developed a bonding film that allows the two layers to be joined together in conventional disc manufacturing equipment. That will improve the cost of production, potentially speeding the format's uptake. In the meantime, the company will submit a technology proposal to the Forum, the first step in the publication of a DVD-RW DL standard. JVC's DL disc uses a "highly sensitive" recording medium and a new recording method the company is provisionally calling 'N-Strategy', both based on JVC's proprietary phase-change design technology developed for high speed DVD-RW discs, the latter to "enhance erasability". The new recording medium provides allows enough 650nm laser light to pass through to read and write to the second, upper layer, but unlike traditional DVD-RW media, it has the right absorption characteristics to properly form and erase data dots when the first layer is written to or erased. The disc's second layer uses a standard DVD-RW recording medium. ® Related stories First players based on Taiwan's FVD HD disc to ship next month DVD+RW 8x drives to ship in 'coming months' Apple backs Blu-ray China favours EVD over DVD Alliance touts holographic disc 'revolution' Studios announce HD DVD movie release lists Game firms back Blu-ray JVC preps dual DVD/Blu-ray disc Toshiba touts DVD/HD DVD hybrid
Tony Smith, 04 Apr 2005

T-Mobile to cut tariffs - report

T-Mobile looks set to join the price war in the UK's mobile phone industry by cutting tariffs. The Sunday Telegraph reports that the mobilephoneco will cut call charges sometime in the spring. It quotes T-Mobile chief exec Rene Obermann as saying: "We are not about to walk away from the retail battle." No one from T-Mobile was available for comment at the time of writing. Last month easyMobile launched its discount mobile service in the UK sparking an immediate round of price cuts from rivals including Fresh from the Carphone Warehouse. As well as a price war, discount operators have also been trading verbal blows. EasyMobile's boss Frank Rasmussen is doing his best to stir things up by saying that UK mobile phone punters in the UK are "treated badly compared with other mobile users in Europe and that operators have had things "very cosy". "This battle has only just begun, and I can guarantee it's going to be both long and costly for the existing British players. The impact of easyMobile's entry into the market will be profound and with customers as the big winners," said Rasmussen. ® Related stories Fresh undercuts discounted easyMobile tariffs Virgin Mobile slags off easyMobile... easyMobile launches - finally CPW halves cost of mobile phone calls EasyMobile keeps schtum on tariffs Orange sues Stelios for 'passing off'
Tim Richardson, 04 Apr 2005

Do you like sex and rock music?

If you're female, a bit of a looker, around five feet tall and don't mind selling yourself into sexual slavery in return for a Glastonbury Festival ticket, then one eBayer is offering a lucky girl the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get down and dirty at the world's premier rockfest. There's a catch, though. Glastonbury tickets have the bearer's name printed on them. No matter. Read on: Ok...here’s the deal! I’m going the festival and I’ve got a spare ticket, the only thing is it’s not in your name! So...all you need to do change your name by deed poll and then you can come with me! Easy instructions for loosing that name you so cherish can be found here ChangeByDeedPoll.co.uk This auction will be strictly limited to only attractive women (no men or minging women!), prior to bidding please send an appropriate photo for pre-approval! As so many people will be after this ticket I think I can be quiet specific on who I want, so... must be around 5' - 5'5", petite, high sexual appetite, good conversationalist, have attractive mother (its a great window into how well you will age!), enjoy drinking and partying! Please note cooking and general slave services are part of this auction - that is you will be providing them to me if you win! Sharing tent is optional, but it’s my call and depends on how good you look! So happy bidding! While we admire the vendor's complete honesty here, any right-minded rock chick will be asking how he came to have a spare ticket in the name of some other female in the first place. We reckon his enlightened attitude toward women may have something to do with it. Furthermore, we feel it is only fair that willmorrish post a pic of himself on eBay so potential slaves can themselves check out what he's offering in the Adonis department. After all, with bidding currently standing at £10m, the buyer will want to be certain that she will get plenty of bangs for her bucks. ® Related stories Oz eBayer punts 24 small Asian children Stripper flogs breast implant on eBay Middle Earth for sale on eBay
Lester Haines, 04 Apr 2005
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Redstone buys Xpert for £25.5m

Redstone, the UK telecoms provider, is beefing up its data networking business with the £25.5m cash and shares acquisition of Xpert Group. We last wrote about Xpert in 2001, when the then Irish-owned reseller switched domicile to the UK on the back of a £12m MBO funded by Lloyds Development Capital. In its last financial year ended 30 April 2004, Xpert had revenues of £27.4m, somewhat smaller than had been envisaged in the heady days of 2001. ElectricNews.Net, our content partner, has a potted history of Xpert here. Post-takeover, Redstone will employ 500 staff, 200 from Xpert, at 10 sites in in the UK and Ireland. The enlarged group will have pro forma revenues of £80m a year. Redstone expects to save up to £1m a year, through office and infrastructure consolidation, and through improved bulk buying power. The deal will strengthen relationships with "key partners such as Cisco, Avaya, BT Group and HP", it says. Press release here (PDF). ® Related stories ISG Webb sold for £17m Logicalis UK buys Notability Averatec sets up shop in UK TSG buys Scottish dealer BT grabs £170m Redstone gig
Drew Cullen, 04 Apr 2005

Gov.uk backs open source drive

The Government has funded a ground-breaking new venture to accelerate the use of open source software (OSS) throughout local government. Known as the Open Source Academy, the project represents one of the most significant developments yet in moves to drive up OSS adoption in government. The Academy brings together a consortium of 10 founding partners who, with support from industry, will launch a wide-ranging programme aimed at tackling each of the major obstacles to OSS use. It aims to provide a vehicle that will actively join up public sector work on OSS with European-wide initiatives during the year of the UK's EU Presidency. As part of this, the project will develop new OS business applications designed for local government, targeting areas where alternatives to proprietary software are lacking. Among its other plans are to carry out large-scale case studies of OS use, including a study of the relative security of an OS solution compared with a Microsoft desktop infrastructure. The initiative is one of 12 new projects funded through the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's e-Innovations investment programme, taking the best aspects of four OSS-related project bids. The five main workstreams of the project cover: OS Academy Portal - providing OSS guidance and advice through best practice and implementation guides, case studies, training materials, product listings and links to the OpenForum Europe portal and European networks OS Desktop - providing two large-scale case studies and design, implementation and integration support. It is intended that these will validate OS claims and demonstrate that it is possible to implement OS alongside existing architecture. OS Business Applications - providing a national open development environment (NODE) and several local authority packages Enabling Services - providing supplier and user accreditation schemes, masterclasses, an 'OS Sandpit', legal advice and a supplier database Programme Management - providing programme management, marketing and dissemination. The partners include three major local authorities - Bristol, Cheshire and Birmingham as lead authority. A smaller district council, Shepway, will act as project co-ordinator. Other members include Socitm, the National Computing Centre, the University of Kent, the Institute of IT Training, OpenForum Europe and the Open Source Consortium. The project has been developed with a long-term business model. Some of its future funding is likely to come from sponsorship fees, masterclasses, top-slicing of software-related sales and membership charges for some service areas. © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here. Related stories Microsoft encourages app-swapping councils MS UK locks in schools via 'special terms' sponsorship deal The government open source dynamic Microsoft says Scottish NHS must curb IT spend UK.gov simplifies IT procurement Dutch govt Microsoft desktop deal riles MPs
eGov Monitor Weekly, 04 Apr 2005

Civil liberty group pans EU biometrics plans

Civil liberties groups have condemned an EU study on the possible social impact of biometric technologies – including fingerprint, iris and face recognition – as "technologically determinist" and say it puts economics and profit above liberties and privacy. The report (pdf) from the European Union's joint research centre (JRC) describes biometrics as "inevitable and necessary". The report concludes that if biometrics is going to be the technology du jour, Europe might as well be at the forefront of the field, and get stuck in selling the stuff as quickly as possible, according to civil liberties campaigners, Statewatch. Statewatch points to "grave reservations" held by experts in the field. For example, professor of law at Brussels University, Paul de Hert, notes that the technology systems are not properly understood. He wrote: "There are no empirical data about the current performance of the existing systems as there are no precise data about why new systems and facilities are needed". Julian Ashbourn, chairman of the International Biometric Foundation, is also unconvinced. He warns that in implementing cross-border biometrics, nations will lose control of the data held on their citizens: "The provisions of national data protection acts become meaningless when data crosses national borders. Furthermore, the ability of the individual to challenge incorrect assumptions with respect to their own data is highly questionable," he writes. So in the face of these kind of questions, how does the JRC explain its wholehearted support of implementing biometrics? Well, it's a great business opportunity. Once everyone is used to being fingerprinted for their passports, they'll be happy to be fingerprinted for everything: "Once the public becomes accustomed to using biometrics at the borders, their use in commercial applications will follow". Implementation of biometric passports could create "a vibrant European industry sector," the report says, calling on governments to kickstart a "competitive supply market". The report is not without more cautionary notes, however. It recognises that the technology does have its limitations, and makes reference to several areas where more research is needed, calling for large scale field trials, as information on how biometrics would work in a large population is "limited". ® Related stories Privacy 'Dark Ages' force activist rethink Security and interop issues cause EU biometric passport delays Brits voice fraud fears over high-tech voting Select Committee criticises ID Cards Bill
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Apr 2005

Microsoft takeover bid goes to court

The former marketing boss of Groove Networks is taking the company to court to try and stop it being taken over by Microsoft. Michael Matthews, an ex-sales and marketing vice president at Groove, failed in his first attempt to stop the deal. His request for an injuction to temporarily block the takeover was rejected by a Delaware judge on Friday, according to Bloomberg. The case alleges that the deal discriminates against some, more junior, shareholders. Documents lodged with the court reveal that Microsoft is paying $120m for Groove Networks. It will use the firm's file sharing and collaboration products to improve its Office applications. But Matthews believes the money is not being distributed fairly. Mathews has been chief marketing officer at Amdocs since April 2003. Microsoft said it was buying Groove for an undisclosed amount in early March. MS will also take on Ray Ozzie - the founder of Groove and creator of Lotus Notes. The case could continue to court.® Related stories MS gets into the Groove Kapor quits Groove Microsoft postpones .NET My services
John Oates, 04 Apr 2005
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Matsushita, LG calm plasma patent clash

Last November's plasma display patents dispute between South Korea's LG Electronics and Japan's Matsushita has been resolved, it has been reported in the Japanese press. Matsushita sued LG, alleging the company had infringed its intellectual property rights, by using its patented method of dispersing heat from the screens. It asked the Tokyo District Court to ban LG from importing the allegedly offending displays into Japan and from selling those units already there. LG immediately countersued, claiming Matsushita had infringed its own plasma patents. It asked South Korean trade authorities to block the importation and sale of Panasonic plasma display products, and said it was considering filing a similar lawsuit in Tokyo. It also threatened to complain to the World Trade Organisation if Matsushita triumphed in the Japanese court. As is common in such cases, all this legal posturing is little more than a bargaining ploy on both companies' parts. This time it has worked, and the respective battles will not come to court. Instead, the two companies have agreed to cross-license their intellectual property. Details have not yet been made public - neither party has yet to comment on the matter in pubic - but Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun this weekend said the deal is believed to involve LG paying a royalty to Matsushita, in return for access to the latter's IP; Matsushita also gets access to LG's IP. The legal battle and its resolution are the latest such incidents as Korean and Japanese firms squabble over technology. Toshiba and Hynix are trading blows over Flash memory patents, for example. Sony and Samsung, on the other hand, were able to come to an agreement, reached last December, without first threatening each other with court appearances. ® Related stories Mosaid, Hynix settle patent spat Nokia settles GSM patent clash NEC licenses Honeywell LCD tech Sony, Samsung agree to share toys Toshiba takes Hynix to task in patent clash LG, Matsushita trade lawsuits in PDP patent clash
Tony Smith, 04 Apr 2005

McAfee sees accounting weakness

Anti-virus provider McAfee has become the latest company to warn the stock market that its accounting procedures could fall foul of US accounting laws. McAfee said it had found material weaknesses in the way it accounts for income tax, revenue and the way it closes its books. The company said, on the advice of its auditors, it had started "a process to document, evaluate and test our internal controls and procedures". After which it became clear there were material weaknesses in internal controls. The introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules has caught out several technology companies. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission the company said it was hiring more internal accountants, improving documentation and review procedures, improving annual review process for "certain key account balances" and improving training for McAfee beancounters. McAfee has had run-ins with financial regulators in the past. In March 2002 McAfee, in its previous incarnation as NAI, said it was being investigated by the SEC. In 2003 NAI said it was restating results for 1998, 1999 and 2000.® Related stories McAfee looks ahead after mediocre Q4 Anti Sarbanes-Oxley mood rises in Europe McNealy slams Sarbanes-Oxley
John Oates, 04 Apr 2005
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Trojan phishing suspect hauled in

An Estonian man suspected of plundering millions from hundreds of online bank accounts accounts across Europe was arrested last week. AP reports that the unnamed 24 year-old allegedly used a sophisticated Trojan in order to monitor the keystrokes on victims' PCs and extract confidential banking passwords that allowed him to plunder online accounts. The unnamed Trojan was bulk mailed to prospective victims in emails that promised lucrative job offers from government institutions, banks and investment firms. In reality it linked to a web page hosting malicious code. Investigators reckon the suspect stole millions of euros from bank accounts in the Germany, Britain, Spain and the Baltic states. Aivar Pau, a spokesman for Estonia's central criminal police, said last week's arrest followed a year long investigation into what he described as the biggest case of online banking theft in Estonian history. The suspect faces fraud charges punishable by up to five years imprisonment. Estonian police were aided in their investigation by IT specialists from Hansabank as well as Latvian and Lithuanian police. Jaan Priisalu, an IT risk manager at Hansabank, told AP the Trojan used in scam was the most sophisticated he had ever seen. The use of malicious code and phishing scams to extract confidential account details from consumers have cost British banks approximately £12m in 2004, according to an estimate from banking group APACS published last month. APACS and UK police warn that the use of malicious code in such attacks in beginning to eclipse conventional phishing attacks in its severity. ® Related stories Brazilian cops net 'phishing kingpin' Cyber cops foil £220m Sumitomo bank raid Trojan targets UK online bank accounts UK banks launch anti-phishing website
John Leyden, 04 Apr 2005
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PalmSource sees red as device sales decline

Palm OS developer PalmSource slid into the red during its third fiscal quarter after a fall in device shipments hit its royalty revenues. The company's licensees shipped 30 per cent fewer Palm OS-based handhelds than they did in the year-ago quarter. During the three months to 25 February 2005, PalmSource notched up revenues of $17.2m. That figure includes not only revenue from the company's on-going business, but also a month's contribution from recent acquisition China MobileSoft. Q3 FY2004 saw revenues of $21.6m; Q2 FY2005, $19.2m, making for year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter declines of 20.4 per cent and 10.4 per cent, respectively. The slide arises from declining demand for PDAs. While Palm OS-based smart-phone shipments jumped 34.2 per cent between Q3 FY2004 and Q3 FY2005, from 240,000 units to 322,000, PDA shipments were down 38.8 per cent, from 1.76 million units to 1.08 million. Overall, PalmSource licensees shipped 2 million devices during the company's Q3 FY2004, but only 1.4 million during Q3 FY2005, a 30 per cent decline. Gross margin for the quarter was 93 per cent. PalmSource's GAAP net loss for the most recently completed quarter totalled $700,000 (five cents a share), down on the year-ago quarter's GAAP income of $600,000 (five cents a share). Ignoring one-off charges, Q3 FY2005's non-GAAP loss came to $600,000 (four cents a share), down from $3.6m (32 cents a share) a year ago. Looking ahead to Q4, PalmSource said its expects revenue growth to be flat to four per cent, with revenue falling between $17.2m and $18m. The company expects losses in the range 13-18 cents a share. ® Related stories Kill the Crackberry! Sony Drops Clie Questar courts bloody-nosed Linux wannabes PalmSource's sideways shuffle to Linux Landscape fills with PDA smart phones Mobile open-standards group recruits key players PalmSource beats Street with pint-sized profit PalmSource to build Palm OS on Linux
Tony Smith, 04 Apr 2005

MS moves Switzerland to Russia

Any reader who doubts the sheer raw power of Microsoft's Windows Server System is advised that it has the potential to relocate entire nations thousands of miles. Check out these extracts from a current ad for the earth-moving Redmond product: That's right, the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs IT operation is run by a bloke with no tie and a shoulder bag from the previously unknown canton of Moscow. Blimey. Suffice it to say, we at El Reg have been on the blower to MS sales to see if Windows Server System can relocate Vulture Central to Trindad and Tobago. Naturally, we told them we meant the Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, rather than the Trindad and Tobago which lies, according to the MS atlas, on the border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. ® Related stories Is Microsoft preparing a flying car? MS smart phones gain in-car nav kit Reg road tests the BioNav in-car nav wonder
Lester Haines, 04 Apr 2005

MCI mulls latest Qwest offer

MCI is mulling the latest offer from Qwest, according to the reports from the US. It has until midnight Tuesday to accept or Qwest said it would pull its offer, paving the way for a possible hostile take-over. Last week Qwest upped its offer to $8.9bn after that other dogged suitor, Verizon, increased its bid for MCI to $7.6bn earlier this week. News that MCI is chewing over Qwest's bid will no doubt be welcome news for the telco that has refused to let Verizon's bid to acquire MCI go unchallenged. On Friday Qwest issued yet another strongly worded statement that accused MCI of "favouring" Verizon's lower offer. Said the company in a statement: "We urge the MCI Board to cease its favoritism, stop attempting to tilt the regulatory playing field and run a fair, transparent, complete and timely sales process. "We believe our latest offer...is clearly superior and we have provided a significant amount of detail surrounding it. Therefore the MCI Board should now declare that our offer is superior," it said. ® Related stories Qwest ups bid for MCI - yet again Qwest soap opera continues Verizon finds $1bn more for MCI Qwest sets MCI April 5 deadline Telecoms takeover turns into sixth form disco MCI/Verizon/Qwest slanging match continues 'Desperate' Qwest ups bid for MCI
Tim Richardson, 04 Apr 2005
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NEC swaps PCs for trees

Environmentalist PC users in Japan who sell their old PCs back to NEC for "refreshing" can revel in the knowledge that they are now even more environmentally friendly than they thought, thanks to a new "afforestation" project NEC is running. NEC's refreshed PC programme is currently only available in Japan. The company buys old PCs back from its customers, checks, fixes, and resells them. The manufacturer now says it will plant one tree for every used PC it buys back from its customers for recycling between 1 April and 15 July this year. Over its lifetime, a tree will absorb 500kg of carbon, five times as much as was pumped into the air during the PCs manufacture. The trees, either Eucalyptus or Acacia, will be planted on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The idea that the trees will help offset environmental damage caused in manufacturing is not a new one. There are several organisations around the world that will help people to become "carbon neutral" citizens by planting enough trees to consume their annual carbon emissions. ® Related stories Canon loses printer recycling case Greenpeace blockades HP with great wall of PCs Wales to host new £1m CRT recycling plant
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Apr 2005

Dell Latitude D410 sub-notebook

ReviewReview Dell's Latitude D410 is based on the latest version of Intel's Centrino notebook platform, 'Sonoma', which brings support for PCI Express, Serial ATA hard disks, DDR 2 memory and the new Express Card format. However, the D410 employs only two of these - PCI Express and DDR 2, writes Benny Har-Even.
Trusted Reviews, 04 Apr 2005
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Microsoft Business Solutions gets new UK head

Microsoft has appointed Paul White as product group director of its Business Solutions division. White replaces Simon Edwards who has moved to MBS Europe, Middle East and Africa. Prior to Microsoft White was managing director for MBS's biggest UK partner - Touchstone. He has 15 years experience in ERP, working for Systems Union and Pegasus, among others. At Touchstone he oversaw the acquistion of Tate Bramald and the Great Plains division of Tenon. White starts his new job in early June.® Related stories MS launches online dating agency for dealers MS: we are not blackmailing Denmark Microsoft spruces up Navision Microsoft seeks 'competent' resellers
John Oates, 04 Apr 2005

Carjackers swipe biometric Merc, plus owner's finger

A Malaysian businessman has lost a finger to car thieves impatient to get around his Mercedes' fingerprint security system. Accountant K Kumaran, the BBC reports, had at first been forced to start the S-class Merc, but when the carjackers wanted to start it again without having him along, they chopped off the end of his index finger with a machete. Although security systems of this sort are typically fitted to high end cars (because of import duties, Kumaran's car is reported to have been worth $75,000 "second-hand" - under the circumstances, we think we'd have said 'at resale'), they're not in essence particularly high tech or high security. As is the case with most auto security systems, they're mainly a speed bump intended to make it sufficiently hard for the would-be thief to encourage them to look elsewhere for victims. The fingerprint readers themselves will, like similar devices aimed at the computer or electronic device markets, have a fairly broad tolerance, on the basis that products that stop people using their own cars, computers or whatever because their fingers are a bit sweaty won't turn out to be very popular. They slow thieves up a tad, many people will find them more convenient than passwords or pin numbers, and as they're apparently 'cutting edge' and biometric technology is allegedly 'foolproof', they allow their owners to swank around in a false aura of high tech. Get the secured object on its own for a little while and you can usually chop the security off fairly easily, but as the evidence now shows the more determined and impatient class of thief might just chop off your finger as a temporary measure. Clearly we need to think carefully about how we see security here. If you're held at knife point at the cash machine and your assailant demands your pin number, then you will understand there may be consequences to refusing. Whether or not you do will depend on numerous of factors, but it is likely that most people will under certain conditions decide it's sensible to give in. You could see this as meaning that a pin number is inadequate as a security device, and that something else, backed, say, by biometrics, would be better. Which is pretty much what many of our leaders, including our own, which has specifically commended the efficacy of ID card-backed security for financial transactions, have been recommending. But as the S-class Merc with security too irritating for the good of its owners health has shown, it's a lot more complicated than that. You don't want situations where a severed finger (or, would be kid-chippers should note) or arm can be used in unsupervised situations in their owner's absence. You could consider more sophisticated systems which used more complex biometrics and performed some form of check to make sure the owner was still attached and breathing, but even then you shouldn't view this as 100 per cent perfect. If, for example, it's a case of ruthless gangsters trying to steal an extremely valuable motor car, then they'll quite probably take you along for a ride down to the bent auto shop they use, then kill you. Or if the security is so frustratingly good that the drug-crazed psycho can't even get a cashpoint withdrawal out of the deal, they might just stab you. The UK's Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) incidentally extolled the virtues of biometric security in its evidence for the Parliamentary Transport Committee's Cars of the Future enquiry, and while the Home Office hasn't put forward biometric credit card validation as an immediate gain for the ID card scheme, this is certainly on its roadmaps. But they should consider the implications before they get into that kind of territory, and understand that in most cases there will come a point where you actually want the owner to be able to disable the security quickly and easily. At minimum, biometrically-locked motor vehicles should surely kick up a 'Disable fingerprint security? Y/N') dialogue whenever you stick your finger into them. ® Related Stories: Civil liberty group pans EU biometrics plans HP iPaq hx2750 PocketPC Japanese banks deploy biometric palm scanners
John Lettice, 04 Apr 2005

Meet hi-tech white van businessman

A UK businessman is stumping up a cool £250,000 for a hi-tech mobile office/home which will simultaneously feed his wanderlust and the requirements of his peripatetic business. Ben Tristem, 28, jacked in his City job in 2003, sold his London flat and moved into a £50,000 camper van from which he and his partner Lizzie Bury have been running a retail agent business via the internet while roaming Britain's highways and byways. But while their current vehicle boasts satellite comms and most of the comforts of modern living, Tristem is currently overseeing the construction of a new, all-singing, all-dancing superhome which will boast solar power, satellite broadband and a home cinema system - all controlled, of course, by a touch-screen system. Tristem said: "We knew pretty much what we wanted. We like the simplicity of a motor home, the fact that we don't have so many material possessions. There's so much of a house that you don't use regularly. It's literally the case of putting the stuff away in cupboards and turning the ignition key." The 12-ton beast is coming together at MCL Motorhomes in Wales. The company's boss Tym Williams enthused: "It's going to make quite a vehicle," before confirming that the couple's new motorised office complex should be ready to roll in June. ® Related stories Giving voice to the mobile workforce 2004: the year of British broadband ... No hiding place? UK number plate cameras go national
Lester Haines, 04 Apr 2005

.Net report was fudged

The controversial report over ownership of the .net registry was fudged and the evidence is contained within the report itself.
Kieren McCarthy, 04 Apr 2005
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Three quarters of corporate PCs shun SP2

Only a quarter of corporate PCs running Windows XP have upgraded to SP2 (Service Pack 2), according to a survey out this week. The study by asset management outfit AssetMetrix - published days before the deadline for holding back on SP2 installation expires on 12 April - paints a picture of a lack of preparation for a major change in corporate computing infrastructures. AssetMetrix surveyed more than 136,000 PCs across 251 North American corporations and found only 24 per cent of Windows XP PCs had been upgraded to SP2. When Microsoft launched its heavily-touted security upgrade in August 2004 it offered firms the opportunity to "hold off" the automatic installation of SP2 while still receiving security patches for eight months. That suspension expires on 12 April, when Microsoft's Automatic Update service will deliver SP2 to firms. "Microsoft allowed a significant period of time to accommodate companies' demand to test and validate Windows XP SP2 within their IT infrastructure," said Steve O'Halloran, managing director of AssetMetrix Research Labs. "Based on our research, a substantial number of companies have yet to decide whether to accept or embargo Windows XP SP2. To date, we have observed that 40 per cent of companies using Windows XP have actively avoided upgrading to SP2, and only 7 per cent have actively accepted it. The other 52 per cent of the companies showed no direction or policy towards SP2, and may find themselves having support issues by allowing multiple editions of Windows XP to exist in their infrastructure." Users still reluctant to deploy XP SP2 after then will have to stop using automatic updates after 12 April but that creates a number of possible issues, including possible incompatibilities with future products such as Internet Explorer 7, or a potential support gap when Microsoft support for Windows XP Service Pack 1 is withdrawn in September 2006. ® Related stories Corporates can delay XP SP2 auto-update XP SP2 glitches to trip up one in 10 upgrades - report Gates: security concerns propel IE7 launch
John Leyden, 04 Apr 2005

Hitachi predicts super-drives

Hitachi Global Storage is expected to announce a big breakthrough in storage technology which will allow much more data to be stored on a hard drive. The changes will allow up to 4.5GB of information to be stored per square centimetre, versus a little over 2.9GB per centimetre today. HGS reckons the drives will be ready for the public by the end of 2007. Hard drives today store information using longtitudinal recording - the head reads, and records, to one disc horizontally. But new drives will store information using perpendicular recording - data will be stored vertically which means discs can be used more efficiently, according to CNet. The changeover will allow Hitachi to squeeze 20GB of storage onto a device with a diameter of 2.5cm. A larger, 8.9cm drive for desktops will hold a terabyte of data. The company is testing the technology with some employees and their families at the moment. Other companies including Toshiba are working on similar products.® Related stories Toshiba unveils 80GB 'iPod drive' Fuji unveils 0.8in hard disk Hitachi lobs lawsuit at Chinese disk drive maker
John Oates, 04 Apr 2005

US to embrace VoIP

The use of broadband telephony in the US is expected to explode over the next four years as home users hop on the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) bandwagon. Those clever boffins at IDC reckon the number of residential VoIP users will rise from three million at present to 27 million by the end of 2009. Despite its slow start, VoIP is beginning to take-off with punters hooked on the cheaper call charges on offer. Snag is, VoIP ain't just about a "cheap replacement" for traditional voice services. Senior IDC analyst William Stofega reckons VoIP providers need to offer services that are "compelling and affordable". "Carriers will need to educate residential users on the features and functions of VoIP service to avoid a pricing war. Integrating applications and enabling convergence are critical capabilities that carriers will need to offer in the years ahead," said IDC. ® Related stories Juniper snaps up Kagoor Skype offers texts FCC investigates VoIP squashers
Tim Richardson, 04 Apr 2005

A cashpoint that gives you verbals

Diebold, the US's largest maker of cashpoint machines, and electronic voting machines, is working with Scansoft to make its machines more useable by blind people. The company is the second largest ATM maker in Europe. It has designed its latest machine, called Opteva, with the help of the US National Federation of the Blind. But security concerns mean that blind customers will need to carry their own headphones. Rather than a speaker blasting out balance statements, visually-impaired punters will have to find the plug for their headphones. Diebold has made talking machines before but they have used individual sound files. But cunning technology from Scansoft means they can now provide speech in up to six languages. Software converts text into voice so interfaces can be changed relatively easily, without re-recording lots of sound files. More details on the Beeb here.® Related stories An MP3 player you can talk to... Visioneer sells off scanner business Primax, Visioneer and Xerox in ménage à trois
John Oates, 04 Apr 2005
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Rambus offers to quadruple DRAM data access speeds

Rambus has developed a memory technology it claims will yield as much as a fourfold performance gain over standard memory yet can be applied to today's DRAM core designs. The technique, dubbed 'Micro-threading', involves partitioning the memory chip's storage into separate addressable areas, to which data requests can be sent in parallel, allowing the memory controller to send, say, four data requests in the time it would previously have taken it to send just one. It's not a linear improvement. Rambus' numbers suggest that while the best cases might bring back data four times as fast as before, depending on the application, you might only get a doubling of performance. How well the host memory controller, be it on a computer motherboard or on a graphics card can take advantage of the gain is another matter. The performance gain may easily be countered by bandwidth limitations elsewhere in the system. Rambus said the technique, which is currently the subject of a patent application, is available for licensing today. Micro-threading can be added to DRAM chips for a "relatively low incremental cost", the company said, without going into details. Of course, the technology requires DRAM controllers to be 'aware' of the feature, so they can parallelise the data read requests, and sort the data as it's returned, and Rambus will be looking to license its system to memory controller makers too. ® Related stories Toshiba, Elpida prep 'industry's fastest' DRAM Infineon and Rambus kiss and make up Philips claims 'super Flash' memory breakthrough Samsung shows 'world's first' DDR 3 chip Elpida licenses 'DVD on a chip' memory tech Rambus sues four for GDDR 'infringement' Samsung ships 256Mb XDR chips
Tony Smith, 04 Apr 2005
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Text me and I'll reply with a virus

Virus writers have created a third mobile phone virus capable of replicating via MMS messages. The Mabir worm, which targets Symbian Series 60 phones, is not spreading, but its ability to propagate via Multimedia Messaging Service messages (MMS) gives cause for concern. Mabir is essentially a variant of the Cabir worm, which spreads only over Bluetooth, with added MMS functionality. An analysis of the worm by anti-virus firm F-Secure suggests that Mabir-A is based on the same source code as Cabir and is likely the product of the same coder. Mabir-A spreads using Bluetooth using the same routine as early variants of Cabir. When Mabir-A activates it will search for the first Bluetooth phone it finds, and start sending copies of itself to that phone. The MMS spreading function of Mabir-A uses a new social engineering technique. Instead of just reading all phone numbers from the local address book (as with an earlier mobile virus called A virus called Commwarrior-A), Mabir-A replies an infected MMS message in reply to any SMS or MMS messages sent to an infected phone. MMS messages are text messages that include an image, audio or video. They are sent from one phone to another or via email. ® Related stories MMS virus discovered Dampig Trojan menaces Symbian mobiles How shall I own your mobile phone today?
John Leyden, 04 Apr 2005
homeless man with sign

Fujitsu expected to deliver Itanium giant

Tremble in fear, server vendors. Fujitsu is about to release one of the biggest, baddest Itanium servers around. Okay, the thought of a 64-processor Itanium box would be a bit more intimidating if servers running on the processor sold well. But poor pick-up for Itanic won't stop Fujitsu from unleashing its 64-way beast tomorrow at an event in San Francisco. Fujitsu, of course, is not confirming that the box will appear tomorrow, but industry insiders say it's a go. Like most Itanium vendors, Fujitsu has had a rough run with Intel's 64-bit chip. It has sold one- to four-processor Itanium boxes for some time; it just hasn't sold very many. In 2003, for example, Fujitsu shipped just two Itanium servers, according to Gartner. Thankfully, it pushed 2004 shipments up to 233 systems. Now it will attack the elusive high, high-end of the Itanium market with a 64-processor box. A system of that size puts Fujitsu up against HP for business customers, and against SGI in the high performance computing market. These are really the only three major server makers to have Itanic boxes of such grand proportions. Fujitsu hasn't said much publicly about the 64-way server - a system it once hoped to get out in 2004. It is clear though that Fujitsu will tout the system's ability to run both Windows and Linux. In addition, Oracle will be promoted as the database of choice on the high-end kit. In the past, Fujitsu has stressed its ability to bring mainframe technology to the Unix, Linux and Windows markets. One such mainframe touch on the new Itanic beast will be the ability to carve it up into 16 partitions. Fujitsu is one of the few vendors to sell Itanium gear alongside its homegrown Unix kit. It has entered into a partnership with Sun Microsystems to sell SPARC-based Solaris servers for years to come. Expect more on the new server when it arrives tomorrow. ® Related stories Intel misses Itanium sales mark by $26.6bn Sun adds speed and Fujitsu to server line Fujitsu and Microsoft cement Itanium future Fujitsu unleashes 90nm SPARC64 Sun sparks server tie up with Fujitsu
Ashlee Vance, 04 Apr 2005
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Sun's OpenSolaris marketing term has an advisory board

Linus Torvalds didn't show up to cheerlead for OpenSolaris, but Roy Fielding did. Fielding, chief scientist at Day Software and co-founder of the Apache Software Foundation, was the biggest name Sun Microsystems could find to join the OpenSolaris Community Advisory Board (CAB). Sun announced the formation of the Board today and revealed four other members: Al Hopper, an engineer consultant for Logical Approach; Rich Teer, an independent Solaris consultant and author of "Solaris Systems Programming"; Simon Phipps, chief technology evangelist at Sun; and Casper Dik, senior staff engineer at Sun. These folks are in charge of making sure OpenSolaris - the open source version of Solaris - progresses in the best interests of developers and Sun. Back in January, Sun released the DTrace tool for diagnosing and repairing servers under its open source CDDL license. Sun plans to release all of the Solaris 10 code under CDDL in the second quarter of this year. Fielding makes a fine addition to the OpenSolaris CAB crew given his experience with one of the open source world's most successful products. One can only assume the more outspoken and popular Brian Behlendorf, another Apache co-founder, was too busy for the OpenSolaris project. (You can see Behlendorf emerging from Mother Ocean here. As we understand it, that photo is being considered for Behlendorf's upcoming duet album with Michael Bolton entitled "Our hair is our savagery.") Sun staffers had once rumbled about having a "huge open source name" like a Torvalds or a Raymond join the OpenSolaris CAB, but Fielding will have to do. One of the nicer additions to the group is Sun's own Phipps. He works hard for his money, philosophizing on open source and should make a fine liaison. ® Related stories Sun opens processor auction house Sun server crushes IBM MP3 player OpenSolaris makes Sun top donor of open source code Sun offers open source Solaris snack pack
Ashlee Vance, 04 Apr 2005