15th > April > 2005 Archive

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IBM spooks market with dismal Q1

A sharp drop in sales during March crushed an otherwise fair first quarter for IBM, the company said today. IBM's inability to close late quarter deals caused it badly to miss analyst expectations. IBM pulled in $22.9bn during the period - a 3 per cent rise over the $22.2bn posted in the same period one year ago. Removing currency gains, IBM's revenue increased just 1 per cent. Income rose to $1.41bn from $1.36bn in 2004. These minor gains coupled with IBM's negative take on the quarter rattled analysts and investors. Wall Street had been looking for earnings per share of 90 cents, not the 84 cents per share IBM reported. "After a strong start, we had difficulty closing transactions in the final weeks of the quarter, especially in countries with soft economic conditions, as well as with short-term Global Services signings," said CEO Sam Palmisano. "As a result, we did not achieve all of our goals for the quarter." IBM had been seeing revenue growth of 6 per cent in January and February but then noticed a drop off in "small transactions" and was unable to rectify the problems before the quarter closed. Sales were particularly slow in Germany, France, Italy and Japan, IBM said. IBM's largest business - Global Services - posted a 6 per cent revenue gain, hitting $11.7bn during the first quarter. In constant currency, the gain was just 3 per cent. The story was less bright for IBM's hardware unit which saw flat sales or a drop off of 2 per cent in constant currency. This group generated $6.7bn on the back of strong Unix servers sales and decent x86-based server shipments. IBM's storage and mainframe sales were disappointing. Software revenue rose 2 per cent to $3.6bn - or was flat in constant currency. Middleware sales increased a bit, while operating system sales dropped slightly. IBM declined to speculate about second quarter financial figures due to the rocky March run. Shares of IBM tumbled more than 5 per cent in the after-hours markets, at the time of writing, to $80.31. ® Related stories SCO makes Unix revenue disappear in Q1 Memory woes color AMD's Q1 red Rare Dell critics spotted circling over Austin IBM hands over NAS duties to NetApp in mega storage tie-up Can compliance-challenged Veritas sell compliance?
Ashlee Vance, 15 Apr 2005

Tory backs down in political cybersquatting row

Election 2005Election 2005 The cybersquatting jiggery pokery that has thrust Winchester to the forefront of political dirty trickery appears to have been resolved. The Conservative's prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC), George Hollingbery, has now handed back the domain belonging to Lib Dem Mark Oaten, reports the BBC. Hollingbery had snaffled up markoaten.co.uk (Oaten's real site is markoaten.com) directing traffic to his own site. Oaten got the hump and called on "petty" Hollingbery not to be so childish. The Beeb quotes a Tory spokesman as saying that Hollingbery had called time on the "cheeky tactic" because "his Liberal Democrat opponent was being so reasonable". We're also supposed to believe that Hollingbery stopped playing silly buggers before his political masters told him to grow up. Elections, don't ya just love 'em. ® Related stories Political cybersquatting rears ugly head Not voting? Tell the world you're notapathetic.com eBay deletes 'buy my vote' auctions
Tim Richardson, 15 Apr 2005

Payup, says Meetup

Scott Heiferman's Meetup.com - the site beloved by Howard Dean supporters, Segway enthusiasts, and Flame Warrior Coffee Klatches, is to begin charging for its services. A Meetup meeting organizer must now pay $19 a month to use the software. Not surprisingly, a phlegmatic Heifermann is braced for a rush towards the exit door. "We expect to lose a lot of groups," he said, frankly. However, Meetup.com sees this as a quasi-Darwinian struggle, in which the strong will survive. “The Group Fee will weed out less committed groups," reckons the FAQ. What less committed groups does he have in mind, we wondered? Then we remembered Scott's own description of the Meetup.com constituency. In December Heiferman had told a gathering of activists at the Berkman Center's Votes Bits and Bytes conference at Harvard, that the English language couldn't adequately describe the revolutionary implications of Meetup.com "We need a new term for this!" he said, suggesting the phrase, "Flash, Emergent, People-Powered, Long-Lasting, Open, Influential, Agile, Chapter-Based Institutions, Organizations, Unions, Coalitions, Associations With Card Carrying Members Engaged In Collective Action!" Friendster-style web sites have received plenty of hype, based on the belief that from such "social networks", cybernetic patterns will emerge that teach us something we didn't already know. But the new arrivals have struggled to make money. The CEO of the successful (and profitable) dating site Friendfinder, Andrew Conru, probably described why better than anyone. "I'd like to see the conversion rate when Friendster starts charging for the service. How many people will pay even $10 or even $5 a month, when they have access to their Outlook Express inbox for free?" he asked. "Some people really want to let the network do our socializing. But once people have met other people, they get on with the rest of their lives." Once you have an internet connection, email, like Craigslist, incurs no extra charges. ® Related stories In net politics, it's God vs Dog Avoid Friendster and its clones, warns security expert Why the Friendster bubble 'has peaked will pop' You are a Web Service - and you have an STD After blog experiment, Illinois village 'vanishes' Attack of the Segway-riding Finnish Penguin bloggers Segways banned from happiest place on Earth The Merry Bloggers set out on 'Segway across America' trek The Segway: glorified scooter or democracy on wheels? Segway owners beat each other with homemade mallets Segways banned from happiest place on Earth Toddler wounded in Segway hit-and-run Bloggers on wheels
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Apr 2005
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Fujitsu seals £170m deal with Lloyds TSB

Fujitsu Services has confirmed that it has won a five-year, £170m contract to manage, update and maintain the IT systems at retail banker Lloyds TSB. Under the terms of the deal, 300 staff from Lloyds TSB's existing IT teams and suppliers will move to Fujitsu. They will retain their existing terms and conditions of employment. Fujitsu will provide desktop support to more than 70,000 users, at almost 2,000 branches and offices of the bank. In total, Fujitsu will be responsible for more than 80,000 devices, including PCs, laptops and servers. The company will run a range of services for the bank, including IT support, helpdesks and maintenance, as well as taking over responsibility for suppling, configuring and installing new hardware. Speculation about the deal first hit the headlines back in January this year. At the time, IBM was also thought to be pitching for the deal, because of its close links with the bank. It already holds a seven-year, £500m contract to manage Lloyds TSB's network and VoIP system. ® Related stories Fujitsu, FSC debuts ESPRIMO PC brand Fujitsu says size doesn't matter in Itanium server game Fujitsu UK faces national pay claim Fujitsu in the frame for massive Lloyds TSB deal
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Apr 2005

Sony Ericsson slips on stockpiled handsets

Sony Ericsson saw its income halve during its most recently completed quarter, the first of fiscal 2005, on the back of falling sales and falling handset prices. SE shipped 9.4 million phones during the three months to 31 March 2005, down 25.4 per cent on the previous quarter, but up 6.8 per cent on the year-ago quarter's total. Despite that increase, sales were down 3.7 per cent between the two quarters from €1.34bn ($1.72bn) to €1.29bn ($1.65). Q1 FY2005's revenues were down 35.7 per cent on the previous quarter's €2.01bn ($2.58bn). Income before tax fell 50 per cent sequentially, from €140m ($179.5) to €70m ($89.7m), and down 27.8 per cent year on year. The quarter's net income comes to €32m ($41m), down 41.8 per cent on the previous quarter's €55m ($70.5m) and down 61 per cent on Q1 FY2004's €82m ($105.1m). Of course, the quarter following the Christmas sales season was going to be down on its predecessor, made worse, SE noted, by a shift in the Western European market toward lower-end handsets on pre-pay tariffs and by Q4 FY2004 inventories being carried over into Q1 FY2005, reducing demand further. SE also admitted it had launched few new products during the quarter and so failed to counterbalance the falling average selling prices of older models. The products that it did launch in Q1 - most notably, perhaps, its Walkman-branded handset - will stand it in good stead during the coming year, the company forecast. It sees "good growth potential" with new subscribers coming into the market and existing customers looking to upgrade. ® Related stories Sony Ericsson preps Walkman phone Sony Ericsson adopts PowerVR MBX for smart phones Mobile phones shipments up 38% in Q4 Mobile open-standards group recruits key players Sony Ericsson profits leap 28% Nokia cuts hit smart phone, multimedia R&D
Tony Smith, 15 Apr 2005
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Reader survey - spare us five minutes

Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies This month's quick tap on the IT barometer addresses a few mobile issues, hence the snappy title: "Operational impacts for mobile technology". However, despite the unmouthwatering come-on, we need you, our beloved and tech-savvy readership to answer a few questions of import, including: "What best describes your current experiences of using laptops with wireless or cellular connections?" and "What are the most important mobile security issues?" Simple as that. Regular contributors to our testing of the IT barometric pressure know the score - just click here to get straight down to business. Tyro surveyees should note that the whole process is anonymous, and should take about five minutes or so. As ever, we thank you in anticipation for your participation. ® Your industry needs you Sign up here to become a permanent member of our Reg Reader Studies Survey Panel. You'll get the occasional email alerting you to a new survey and may even get the chance to win Reg goodies. Lovely.
Team Register, 15 Apr 2005

Digital camera market 'running out of steam'

The digital camera market is "running out of steam", according to research from Strategy Analytics, which has recorded a surge in demand for camera phones. It seems demand for camera phones could hit demand for digital cameras with the major players struggling to maintain current growth rates. Four in ten of all mobile phones shipped last year had built-in cameras. In all, 257 million camera phones were shipped worldwide during 2004 accounting for 38 per cent of all handset sales, well up on the 84 million camera phones shipped a year earlier. Nokia accounted for 18 per cent of market share, followed by Motorola (17 per cent) and Samsung (13 per cent) as global sales grew 200 per cent on the year. At the same time, camera phones outsold digital still cameras by almost four to one. According to analyst Chris Ambrosio: "The digital still camera market is running out of steam. Vendors such as Kodak, Canon and Fuji will find growth harder to achieve in 2006." He reckons that by 2010, camera phones will account for 15 per cent of the low-end digital still camera market. Which is nice. ® Related stories Nokia's camera-free Bluetooth bet for business Orange next-gen smart phone details leak Jail looms for camera phone users Digital cameras redesign the photographic process
Tim Richardson, 15 Apr 2005
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Samsung sales, income slump

Samsung's profits were well short of expectations in the first quarter, as it suffered in its three key markets: displays, chips and phones. Sales for the quarter fell 4.2 per cent year on year to KRW13.8tr ($13.54bn), down just 2.6 per cent on the previous quarter. Operating profits were down 46 per cent to KRW2.15tr ($2.11bn), with net income coming to KRW1.5tr ($1.47bn), down 52 per cent on the year-ago quarter and 18 per cent sequentially. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had anticipated, on average, net income of KRW2.4tr ($2.36bn) on sales of KRW14.25tr ($13.99bn). But Reuters notes that some had reined in their expectations during the week, and had forecast KRW1.56tr ($1.53bn), still above the figure Samsung delivered. "This is not good news," Thomas Choi, head of research at PCA Asset Management, told the news agency. Samsung blamed the decline on the strength of the won against the dollar. Exchange rates have gone up almost 20 per cent since the start of the year, which is a problem when 80 per cent or more of your sales are made overseas. The company, the world's third largest mobile phone maker, sold 24.5m units, a record, in the quarter, up from 21.1m in the previous quarter. Margins were up, too, to 17 per cent. But it wasn't sufficient to counter falling prices which knocked the division's operating income down 33 per cent year on year to KRW841bn ($825.4m). Chip operating income fell 22 per cent to KRW1.39tr ($1.36bn), again thanks to the tough exchange rate and to worldwide inventory issues, while the LCD division saw operating profits fall 97 per cent to KRW205bn ($201.2m) as prices slumped. And don't expect any improvement in the current quarter, the company warned. Trading conditions aren't going to get any better, it said, pinning its hopes on digital TV receivers and even larger LCD products. ® Related stories Chip maker Centaur out-paces Intel, Samsung Samsung unveils 3GB HDD smart phone Samsung shows 82in monster TV Samsung glum on year ahead Samsung shows 'world's first' DDR 3 chip Smart phone shipments break records Mobile phones shipments up 38% in Q4
Tony Smith, 15 Apr 2005
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IM worm hits Reuters

Reuters was temporarily forced to shut down its instant messaging service Thursday after a computer worm spread across its network. The culprit - Kelvir-U - is a variant of a worm family that targets MSN and Windows Messenger clients and previously posed no risk to Reuters' tightly-controlled messaging network. This is the first incident where a virus has targeted a privately controlled user community, IM security firm IMlogic reports. Security firm Akonix reports that it has received "multiple reports from organizations whose networks have been compromised by the Kelvir worm". It said the latest Kelvir variant is rapidly spreading over instant messaging (IM) networks. Like other social engineering attacks, the Kelvir-U worm sends an IM to people on an infected user's contact list that encourages the recipient to click on a URL link within the message. Once the link is opened, a version of the Spybot worm is downloaded and the worm then sends itself to the newly-infected user's contact list. Spybot opens up a backdoor on infected machines allowing them to be subsequently misused by hackers for nefarious purposes, such as distributing spam. ® Related stories MSN Messenger worm seeds zombie networks Bofra exploit tied to 'massive botnet' Botched maintenance - not worm - blamed for MS IM glitch Download.Ject-style worm spreads via IM
John Leyden, 15 Apr 2005
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Legal costs cut Rambus earnings

Memory technology developer Rambus said its income and earnings dipped during the first quarter of its fiscal 2005, despite a strong year-on-year gain in revenues. The three months to 31 March 2005 yielded $39.6m in revenues, up 22 per cent on the year-ago quarter, but made for a more modest increase of three per cent on Q4 FY2004. The bulk of Rambus' revenues - $33m - came from royalties, which were up a single percentage point sequentially but 20 per cent up on the year-ago quarter's total, on the back of an increase in SDRAM and DDR royalties, Rambus said. The remaining $6.6m came from contracts, which showed a nine per cent sequential and a 30 per cent year-on-year gain, the result of the XDR memory and FlexIO interface technologies licensed in 2003. Rambus recorded a net income of $4.4m (four cents a share) for the quarter, down from $6.5m (six cents a share) in the previous quarter and $8.3m (seven cents a share) in Q1 FY2004. Falling income on growing revenues points to rising costs, and sure enough, Rambus said its cost and expenses had risen during the quarter, primarily due to all the litigation it's involved in. For example, costs went up $10.8m year on year, from $23.9m to $34.7m - 65 per cent of the increase, $7m, came in the form of legal costs. The rest, Rambus said, arose from "increased staffing and compensation costs to support current and future business opportunities". Having chased Infineon for alleged infringement of patents relating to GDDR memory, Rambus settled its outstanding legal battle with the German memory maker. On the upside, the company ended the quarter with $460m in the bank, up $224m on the previous quarter, thanks to a big sale of convertible notes. Separately, Rambus said it had reached a five-year agreement with NEC, allowing the Japanese company to maker memory controllers compatible with SDR, DDR and DDR2 SDRAM as well as future memory controller innovations. Rambus said it will receive royalties on sales of licensed products. ® Related stories Rambus offers to quadruple DRAM data access speeds Toshiba, Elpida prep 'industry's fastest' DRAM Infineon and Rambus kiss and make up Rambus Infineon claim chucked out of court Rambus sues four for GDDR 'infringement' Rambus income slides despite revenue gains Rambus board plays musical chairs
Tony Smith, 15 Apr 2005
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Morse shares tumble on channel exposure

Shares in UK IT services group Morse took a tumble yesterday, after the company warned that conditions in the hardware reselling business would continue to be tough. In a sales update the company reported flat revenues of £96m for the quarter (Q3) ending 31 March, and its announcement that it would take "radical action" to reduce its exposure in the low-margin hardware business did nothing to stop shares sliding more than 15 per cent to a new low of 91 pence. Morse has been trying for some time to drop the reseller tag, and reposition itself as an IT services group (the margins are much healthier). It said that its services business now accounted for 45 per cent of sales, but since its hardware sales are flagging, it is not such a surprise that other parts of its business account for greater proportions of its turnover. Duncan McIntyre, chief executive said he was disappointed with the performance of the UK infrastructure business this quarter, adding that the market was weaker than expected, the FT reports. "The IT hardware business has been pointing in this direction for a while but we have now realised we need to take more radical action," he told the newspaper. You can read more here.® Related stories Morse: UK sales under pressure Morse swoops on Diagonal Morse buys niche consultancy biz
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Apr 2005

ISS relief crew blast off on Soyuz spacecraft

The next inhabitants of the International Space Station blasted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, just after one o'clock this morning (BST). The Soyuz capsule reached orbit about nine minutes after lift-off, NASA reports. Russian space controllers said that the craft's solar arrays had deployed properly, and that everything appeared normal. The capsule is scheduled to dock with the ISS early on Sunday morning (BST). Three astronauts are on board: a Russian, Sergei Krikalev; an American, John Phillips; and an Italian, Roberto Vittori. Two will relieve the ISS's current crew and take up residence on the space station for the next six months. All five men will be on board for just over a week, before Vittori returns to Earth with the current residents, Leroy Chiao and Salizhan Sharipov. Their pod is scheduled to land in Kazakhstan at 23:09, BST on 24 April. The Soyuz space craft took over responsibility for servicing the ISS after the Columbia disaster in 2003. NASA hopes to resume Shuttle flights to and from the space station with Discovery, scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Centre in a window between 15 May and 3 June. ® Related stories Cracked insulation delays shuttle roll-out Space-walkers launch 'Nanosatellite' ISS resupply runs on rails
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Apr 2005
bofh_sidey

BOFH: I declare this junket season...

Episode 12Episode 12 "I officially declare this junket season... open!" the PFY slurs, leaning out the pub window and releasing the bottle of lager tied to our office window across the road. >smash< "Sh*t, the string was too long!" he slobbers as we watch the glass and lager slide down the side of the Boss's car. Junket season is a fantastic time of year - a time filled with joy, happiness and goodwill to all. "I've highlighted all the security conferences," I explain to the pair of geeky helldesk types who are drinking with us. (Told you it was a season of goodwill.) "I think I can back-to-back one in the States, then Aberdeen, then Dubai." "Three conferences in a row!" one of the geeks says. "How will you concentrate?!" "I think you're missing the JUNKET point a little," the PFY says. "The Aberdeen one's just a Takedown Session." "Takedown Session?" "As in the book," I prompt. "The... Uh… Shimomura book!?" the helldesk geeks asks. "Yeah. Looks interesting, but is actually very, very dull." "I quite liked it!" the geek says. "Which bit - the bit about his hobbies, love interest and how great he is or the tiny section which was actually about Mitnick?" "I..." "So I'm using Aberdeen -and the book - to sleep and adjust my clock to Dubai time," I continue. "But surely you'll need to go to something to do your report on the Aberdeen conference?" "You're not really up to speed on the whole junket thing are you?" the PFY asks. "I..." Sigh. "Ok, lets start with the basics," I say "Selection. You choose a junket based on..?" "Speakers?" the geek says. "NO! You choose a junket based on LOCATION, SIZE, ACCOMODATION, then speakers." "Why?" "Location for holiday potential, Size for the number of vendors and amount of money they'll waste, and accomodation because of the potential of the minibar." "But if you're going to nothing in Aberdeen, why..." "Aberdeen is a rest stop," the PFY says. "All you need to do it prove you went there." "How?" "Grab the show bag, the documents and the CDs then scatter them around your desk liberally when you get back." "But surely the Boss will…" "...do nothing because we'll have already made a pre-emptive strike!" the PFY interjects. "How?" "Easy," I respond. "I pick the two largest and most incomprehensible documents, shove a couple of post-its in the really geeky parts saying 'Ideal solution for our needs' and slap them on the Boss's desk for his perusal." "And what will that…" "The Boss is as likely to read a large technical document as OS2 is to stage a comeback. As all roads lead to Rome so will all questions will lead back to those technical documents that he hasn't read. The boss won't bring it up and we won't give him reason to. The geeky documents will slip to the bottom of the pile on his desk until ultimately he will 'accidentally' shred them." "But surely he'll notice the cost of it all!" "Ordinarily, yes. However, we jiggered our accountancy system to report the 'annual' training budget with period of three months. So within twelve weeks it looks like we've done no training at all this year." "In time for the next junket 'season'," the PFY adds. "But the Boss will remember won't he?" "Not when he travels TWA." "TWA? I thought they were sold years ago?" "No, I meant Tragic Workplace Accident. By the time the 12 weeks is up the Boss is likely to have tripped down a stairwell, experimented with lethal voltages or had a mental breakdown." "My favourite," the PFY chirps happily, raising a glass to some of his fondest memories. "But surely someone would ask…" "And risk opening Pandora's box of retribution?" the PFY says. "Never!" "I... Oh. So how do we get.. uh.. training?" "Let's not be coy, it's called a junket. You get it by establishing a 'training' precedent." "?" "You go on some training this year, a bit more next year, more the year after, until junkets just become the norm." "So by 'next year' you mean in three months?" "In our case, yes, but in your case by 'year' I mean every four years" "But didn't you..." "There's a limit to how much money you can get your hands on in one fiscal year. So we have to 'borrow' it from other cost centre's annual budget on a quarterly basis." "Like the Helpdesk training budget..." the PFY adds helpfully. "So we can't do any training because you've stolen our training budget?" "Yes, that about sums it up." "But why even bother giving us a budget every 4 years then?" "Ah well, fair's fair. Besides, by that time we've racked up so much contractor's holiday allowance it starts to get a bit embarrassing." "And you're not worried that we'll tell someone about this?" "No more that you should be about stairwells, voltages or mental illness," the PFY says, winking. "And get us a couple of pints will you, before the Boss finds out who chucked a beer at his car." "But you… I..." Ah well, looks like the goodwill season is over. Still, it was good while it lasted and probably did a lot for morale... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here BOFH is copyright © 1995-2005, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 15 Apr 2005

George Bush fears email privacy breach

US prez George Bush has admitted he does not send personal emails to daughters Jenna and Barbara for fear that his "personal stuff" might end up in the public domain. Bush made the admission on Thursday to the American Society of Newspaper Editors during a discussion centring on whether the US government is sufficiently forthcoming to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act, Reuters reports. Bush said the administration gets around 3.5 million FOIA requests a year and noted: "I would hope that those who expose documents are wise about the difference between that which truly would jeopardize national security and that which should be read." We leave it to readers to imagine quite what exactly any email between George and Jenna and Barbara might contain which - were it released into the wild - could threaten national security*. Bush says it's a personal privacy issue: "I don't want you reading my personal stuff," he admitted, adding: "There has got to be a certain sense of privacy. You know, you're entitled to how I make decisions. And you're entitled to ask questions, which I answer. I don't think you're entitled to be able to read my mail between my daughters and me." Bush is probably right that people should expect a certain privacy for their personal e-correspondence, in which case he must be delighted by the recently defanged Patriot Act, a typically knee-jerk post-9/11 piece of legislation which attempted to oblige ISPs to "comply with a request for subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records". Well, United States District Judge Victor Marrero last October gave that particular provision the legislative heave-ho, although FBI Director Robert Mueller earlier this month begged the Senate Judiciary Committee for "expanded powers to issue an administrative subpoena - essentially a demand for information such as medical, banking, and phone and internet records without a judge's prior approval". Of course, the Patriot Act is there to defend the US against the long shadow of terrorist menace. The FOIA is there to allow people some hope that they might one day find out just how their government defended them against the long shadow of terrorist menace. Or not. Sean Moulton, a spokesman for OMB Watch, which tracks goings-on at the White House Office of Management and Budget and other government agencies, said: "This is a government that is getting worse by the day in terms of permitting the public access to information and documents that they have paid for." Bush concluded by admitting that his avoidance of email correspondence was because "everything is investigated in Washington". He confessed that, as a result, "we're losing a lot of history, not just with me, but with other presidents as well". We take this to mean that Bill Clinton at no stage exchanged email pleasantries with Monika Lewinsky. We further suspect this was on personal, rather than national, security grounds - to prevent a furious Hillary using the FOIA to get FBI transcripts of the correspondence with which to soundly thrash her miscreant hubby. ® *Here's one to get you started: FROM: Airforce One TO: The Twins RE: Lunch Hi girls mom is fine and v.busy with her apple pie bakerizing and stuff. Sorry, can't make lunch 6 June cos little Donny R. says we are going to give it to the Eyeranians. The first wave will go in at 6am EST - subject to CNN approval. Don't tell anyone, though, cos we're hoping to catch the Ayatollahs on the hop. Love Pop. Related stories Feds beg Congress to expand PATRIOT Act Patriot Act used to quell laser pointer terror Judge defangs Patriot Act
Lester Haines, 15 Apr 2005
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Dixons looks to Russian Eldorado for growth

Dixons is considering expanding its electrical retailing empire to Russia and the Ukraine following the inking of a long-term co-operation deal with the Eldorado Group. Dixons has until 2011 to acquire the Russian consumer electronics retailing group for £1bn. Under the agreement Dixons does not have to acquire Eldorado. Instead, it has the right to buy the group. To secure the acquisition, Dixons would need to snap up an initial 10 per cent of Eldorado's equity by 2008. The price for 100 per cent of the equity of Eldorado Group is fixed at $1.9bn (£1bn). Said Dixons chief exec John Clare: "Russia is a market with enormous potential and Eldorado Group is the ideal strategic partner. By entering into this agreement we will work closely with Eldorado Group management to develop a better understanding of the Russian market before committing the group financially." With 610 stores, Eldorado Group is the biggest retailer in Russia with an estimated market share of around 22 per cent. Last year it notched up sales of $2.5bn (£1.3bn). By midday shares in Dixons were up 1p (0.67 per cent) to 150p. ® Related stories Dixons mulls The Link sell-off Festive sales boost Dixons Dixons ditches the video recorder
Tim Richardson, 15 Apr 2005
For Sale sign detail

Carphone Warehouse confirms Orange SPV C550

Orange's second-generation SPV C5xx series Windows Mobile-based smart phone will ship next month, a UK mobile phone reseller has let slip. The existence of the SPV C550 emerged in February, courtesy of an allegedly leaked picture of the handset and some specifications that slipped out too. At the time, we noted its similarity with manufacturer HTC's 'Amadeus' music phone, taking the music playback-oriented keys from that handset and incorporating them into 'Typhoon', the HTC smart phone on which the SPV C500 is based. The phone is said to feature a 262,000-colour 240 x 320 screen, sport a Mini SD slot and 64MB of memory. Carphone Warehouse's blurb doesn't confirm all the handset's specifications, but it does confirm the claim that the C550 will feature a 1.3 megapixel camera and Bluetooth. It will play MP3 files too, courtesy of Windows Media Player, the retailer says, but then so did the C500. Still, CW's tiny pic of the product shows the music keys, and crucially confirms the name and ship date: May 2005. Orange may yet change its mind, of course. The C550 will also ship as the i-mate SP4, and quite possibly under a number of other brands too. Orange is also preparing own-brand versions of HTC's 'Universal' 3G palmtop smart phone, the Taiwanese firm's 'Alpine' full-size PocketPC phone and its compact sibling, 'Magician'. The latter is expected to ship as the SPV M500, the larger model as the SPV M2500. ® Related stories Orange next-gen smart phone details leak Orange to offer 3G, Wi-Fi palmtop smart phone Orange preps latest own-brand smart phones T-Mobile unveils Sidekick-styled 3G device Related reviews HTC 'Magician' PocketPC phone HTC 'Blue Angel' Wi-Fi PocketPC phone
Tony Smith, 15 Apr 2005

3G mast wars ahoy!

If you think the mobile phone mast wars have been bad so far, you ain't seen nothing yet. That's according to 3G equipment and software suppliers, who estimate that if 3G is to replace GSM as planned, the networks will need three to four times as many transmitters as they have today. Peter Jones, strategy and marketing director at wireless performance engineering specialist Actix, warned a conference this week: "A substantial build-out will be needed when traffic takes off - the networks will probably need to be four times as big. "For example, Orange has around 20,000 cells, it might get to 3G with 40,000 to 50,000. The big problem is regulation - the agony of getting local government to agree to new sites. Re-using existing sites is the opening gambit - it won't scale though, and they're not in the right places." At issue is the fact that GSM propagates differently from the WCDMA technology used in 3G networks. For a start, how GSM cells overlap is adjusted remotely by altering the frequency each transmits at, but WCDMA is all on one frequency, so adjustment means an engineer visiting the base station and physically realigning the transmitters. Then there's the way a WCDMA cell responds to increasing usage by effectively shrinking, a phenomenon called cell breathing. This means you need more overlapping cells to provide good coverage - and also that the best site for a GSM mast is not necessarily the best for a 3G one. "WCDMA is much more dynamic than GSM - users interfere with each other," Jones continued. "Today's networks are focused on coverage. If subscribers really used services such as video streaming and data, the networks would collapse." "3G networks are not ready yet for widespread adoption," confirmed Mark Hoogerbrugge, worldwide business development manager for test equipment maker Agilent. He added that operators are only now focusing on the data performance of their networks, which is of course vital if they are to sell us anything beyond basic voice services and still make money at it. He said that classic radio frequency planning and optimisation is pointless in 3G - the only way is to physically adjust the transmitters, then take a measuring rig (from Agilent, natch!) and go "drive testing", using network services such as streaming video, web, email and voice in different locations to see how they perform. The irony is that both Jones and Hoogerbrugge were speaking at a press event in London, designed to promote 3G and show how far it has come. They still argue it will succeed though, saying that site or even network sharing may help, as is already done or planned in places such as Sweden. However, there are only 45,000 sites in the UK today, so even with some sharing, more will be needed. It all poses uncomfortable questions for the 3G operators. They want to believe that WCDMA is the future, but it could just be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes, where everyone involved has invested so much time, technology and money that no-one dares to admit they've picked a wrong 'un. ® Related stories Bank of America sells flagpoles as cellular masts 'Cosmic' baker attacks phone mast 3G has arrived: Official
Bryan Betts, 15 Apr 2005
cloud

Ralph Lauren, HSBC in data breach debacle

Pseudo-preppie clothier Polo/Ralph Lauren has been named as the latest target in a string of data security breaches, this time involving the loss of hundreds of thousands of customer credit transactions, the Associated Press reports. HSBC North America is advising 180,000 holders of its General Motors branded MasterCards that they should cancel their cards and request replacements because their transaction data has been compromised. HSBC did not name the merchant responsible for the compromise, but it was identified as Ralph Lauren in a recent article by the Wall Street Journal. Ralph Lauren is refusing to comment at this time. It is likely that other card issuers will begin notifying their customers of the data breach, although they may wait until they detect evidence that information relating to their customers is being misused. Thus the number of victims might run a good deal higher than the 180,000 notified thus far. The news follows reports of massive breaches at data brokers LexisNexis and ChoicePoint - several of which have yet to be disclosed - payroll handler PayMaxx, Bank of America, health care heavyweight San Jose Medical Group, and a large shoe retailer called DSW, all within the past eight weeks. Meanwhile, Tufts University in Boston is warning 106,000 alums that a database of alumni donors has been compromised. This follows a similar incident at Boston College, and data compromises due to equipment theft at California State University, Chico, and the University of California, Berkeley, all affecting many hundreds of thousands of victims, and all disclosed within the past eight weeks as well. ® Related stories It's official: ChoicePoint, LexisNexis rooted many times LexisNexis data breach far worse than reported ID theft is inescapable US hospital loses patient info Fraudsters expose 100,000 across US Feds probe huge California data breach
Thomas C Greene, 15 Apr 2005

IBM wins $125m car black box deal with UAE

IBM has won a $125m deal with the government of the United Arab Emirates to install tracking devices into tens of thousands of cars by the end of next year. The four-year deal is believed to be the largest in the telematics sector to date. IBM will equip cars and trucks in the state with a telematics device and global positioning system. Similar in concept to the 'black boxes' which track the flight paths of aircraft, the devices will monitor drivers' activities and broadcast them to government agencies. The data will be used by the government to monitor traffic habits, as well as by companies to tailor their advertising to the consumer. The boxes will also monitor a car's speed and use GPS to compare this to the local speed limit. If the car is speeding the device will warn the driver. The deal is part of the UAE government's five-year goal to halve the number of accident-related fatalities in the country, a figure which currently stands at 38 deaths per 100,000 people. Once the first phase of the project is completed, IBM intends to compete for the second phase, which will build on the infrastructure already in place. GPS-monitored speed sensing systems are already being trialed in the Netherlands and several other EU countries. There are no plans as yet to expand the techology to monitor other forms of dangerous driving. ® Related stories No hiding place? UK number plate cameras go national Airbag grasses up killer driver Mobile phone driving ban comes into force
Robin Lettice, 15 Apr 2005

T-Mobile steams in with WiMAX, Wi-Fi train

AnalysisAnalysis European rail operators love Wi-Fi. They're keen on anything that encourages more businesspeople to take the train, and wireless networking is an attractive way to provide paying travellers with ad hoc connections to the internet and company networks. A journey's duration becomes productive work time, whether it's part of a daily commute or a longer trip.
Tony Smith, 15 Apr 2005

C&W to meet BCC over Mesh Broadband collapse

Cable & Wireless (C&W) is to hold a meeting with Bedfordshire County Council (BCC) next Thursday following the collapse of wireless broadband outfit Mesh Broadband. Mesh was subcontracted by C&W to bring wireless broadband to ADSL blackspots in Bedfordshire. The project - backed by a £375,000 grant from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) - began last year. So far some 250 people have been hooked up to the service with a further 150 waiting for connection. Last week, however, Southend-on-Sea-based Mesh Broadband ceased trading, forcing C&W to look for alternative providers to complete the roll-out of the service and to continue supporting existing users. In a statement C&W told us: "We were disappointed to hear of the closure of Mesh Broadband who were making broadband available to rural communities in Bedfordshire. At this stage we are discussing options with Bedfordshire County Council." Elsewhere, broadband ISP Nildram - which is owned by Pipex - is looking to recruit more channel partners as part of an effort to increase reveneue. Said Nildrams channel partner manager, Emma Knight: "Our aim is to substantially increase the volume going through our Channel Partner Programme in 2005. Any company choosing our channel programme can be assured of a reliable, flexible and responsive service, coupled with comprehensive support and development." ® Related stories Mesh Broadband 'ceases trading' Cambridge wireless network to close Nildram moves to head-off broadband hogs Pipex reports magic year
Tim Richardson, 15 Apr 2005

Prince Harry flunks army PC test

Prince Harry has flunked a basic computer skills test at an army induction day. The Daily Mirror reports that the third in line to the British throne shocked instructors in failing a basic PC skills course. "Although the computer test was a lot more complex than just sending emails, instructors were amazed that Harry failed it," the Mirror reports. The paper fails to note the content of the test (either writing an open source database or turning on the bloody machine, perhaps) but Harry's apparent cluelessness in the technology department has chilling implications should he ever be asked to set up a network of Wi-Fi-controlled, laptop-activated landmines. It's just as well Harry wants to join a regiment with a strong Polo-playing history (such as the Household Cavalry), skills that will doubtless see him in good stead when he's eventually given charge of a group of the men defending the realm against Britain's 21st century enemies. The test at Sandhurst last November was part of a familiarisation course taken by officer recruits prior to joining the Royal Military Academy. On the same day, Harry took a language test and picked up a set of Army-issue boots. Whether the 20-year-old was able to tie his own laces isn't recorded. Some might argue that Harry's lack of PC skills warrants remedial training followed by a re-sit of the exam, rather than a sojourn to South Africa to visit his girlfriend, Chelsy Davy. We fancy that Harry would have done rather better if instead of a PC, he'd been given a Play Station. The young prince would doubtless have been a whiz at any game which involved punching paparazzi, for example. Prince Harry is hardly an academic high flier so his poor showing in front of a PC comes as no great surprise. It would have been far more interesting if Harry had failed to turn up for the computer test because he'd gone shopping at a local Nazi regalia shop. Now that would be a story... ® Related stories Lady Di inquest scrambles black helicopter brigade Prince Charles tops UK Google 2003 top ten Hotel webcam for Charles' happy day
John Leyden, 15 Apr 2005

We're not lazy, just busy reading (and emailing) The Reg

LettersLetters Oh, what? Letters time is it? Already? Sorry...I was in the middle of trying to beat my record on Minesweeper... Anyway, it seems that I am not alone - Brits apparently lead the world at desk skiving, that is, trying to beat personal records at Minesweeper when we should be, for e.g. going through the Register postbag. Here's what you had to say about this shocking news: I'm staggered that the figure is so low! Here's what really happens - based on scientific observations you understand :-) Make sure the first thing you do is log in (so timestamp is logged); then take your time making a beverage and chat to colleagues whilst complaining about the "really slow" kettle. Wander back to your desk to peruse your email and surf your favourite sites. Answer a few emails to friends. Ignore emails from people you don't like. Mid-morning, launch your apps you need for work and then it's snack time. Tough choice: sandwich lady or go out... Either way you will need a drink. Banter with colleagues too. At some point you will have to simulate real work - especially when faced with bosses or irritating project managers. However, there's always time to type a witty response to an office chain email or chuckle at jokes doing the round. Ah, time for a meeting. Another drink and time to lightly snooze. Make sure that you're the first to grab the comfy chair or sofa. Keep quiet during the meeting unless someone realises that you're there. If caught, just repeat what someone else said or mutter vague promises that you have no intention of keeping. Sigh. Meeting over. Time to round up gang for lunch... Buy sandwiches and bring back to desk. Now, which game do we play? Or would we rather IM or surf? Decisions, decisions. Hours to go until home... Might as well do some work. Make frequent cups of tea/coffee or express a desire for a cold drink - only available at the newsagents of course. Waste more time (and appear to be generous) by asking everyone if they would like a drink. Secretly hope they will say 'no'. Back to desk. Tap a few lines and then delete. Press and hold a key and watch lines and lines magically appear. Delete block when bored. Try a few different key combinations for 'fun'. When really bored, make up some numbers for your timesheet. When totally brain-dead, look at the project plan. An hour to go... Start winding down. Get your bag ready but don't close it. Spend crucial minutes arranging your bag to look as if it's been just dumped hastily. Time for a wander. Make sure pad is in hand - everyone else thinks you're either going to or coming from a meeting. Be nosy around colleagues. Waste more time by giving your considered opinion on work questions your colleagues may pose. Who knows, you might even be right! Gratefully accept an invitation for a smoking break, whether or not you smoke. Countdown to home time. Start looking busy and re-check your bag. Make sure the last thing you do is log off. Wait for someone else to leave first and hastily follow. Pretend you have somewhere to go urgently. Slow your pace after leaving the office. Relax, another day down. Roop Could it be that this heinous crime, the very theft of time thank you very much, is a sign of the fact that all this stressing and hunting for deadlines and high blood pressures, is actually not what people want out of life? Could it be that we don't actually need the third tv but would rather enjoy some time off with our pals? The macho hunt for fame and riches, which passes by most people anyway and carries a high price tag in "intangible costs" to those who do manage to win the race, is that actually the kind of society that we need? When did the concept of stealing time enter the mind of that vermin creature called manager, which shows exactly the most valuable item every person has. How about all the uncompensated hours IT-workers have given to their employers over the years? How about all the lies top management has used to dupe the employees into lining the boss's pockets even more? How about all the lives lost through unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, for which no compensation was ever awarded to the victims? Do we ever hear the word theft used in that context, or is the argument invalid if you're a mere wage slave? Jorge Skiving? And what does the company call it when you're present more than 8 hours a day? Why didn't the survey try to correlate the time lost to personal productivity to the time gained from dishonest busisness practices (unpaid overtime)? Wonkey survey combined with guilt-inspiring terminology ... make a good Reg article :) Keep it up and have on on me :) (Did none of those skyiving b***ards admit to doing double time in the pub!?) Ciaran I resent being called a skiver, the tasks you mention in your article are a necessary part of my job which is officially titled VMS Systems Administrator. Now given that this is the dog's bollocks of OSes, virtually never fails and generally has above average intelligent users who can solve their own problems then it is my duty to research what everybody else is up to, sometimes even via your very own services. I reckon about once a month I might have to call HP to get a hardware bod to come and replace a failed component but that's hardly the fault of VMS. Last time it wasn't even the hardwares fault, an airco unit above the machine failed, all the ice on it melted and drowned the cpus. Name withheld just in case some vengeful sub-human linux admin is pissed off with having too much work and too many dorky geeks still in nappies trying to tell him that they know a better way to do his job. The linux users should be more patient, once they are out of nappies they will be admins themselves. "The issue here is that 'desk skiving' could be perceived as theft – theft of time – and could potentially impact a company’s productivity if taken to extremes." So, not at all like the company's theft of the employees' time by making them stay late for pointless tasks that could have been done prior to 5.30 if people in management had any organisational skills? I think I remember seeing figures on the number of extra unpaid hours the average employee works, and I've got a feeling this more than balances out against the "theft" of the employers' time, so they can quit their whinging. Chris "while a hard core of eight per cent admit that they are texting, doing personal emails or surfing the web for interesting stories on skiving British workers for an astounding 12 weeks per annum" 12 weeks, is that all? I reckon I spend less than 15 minutes a day doing actual work, and that's on the days I do some work, which isn't many let me assure you. Ofcourse you've missed playing Solitaire, online shooters and Football Manager off that list - which are all essential work-shy activities. Unfortunately I can do little to dispel the notion that this is mostly a British pass time, as although I live and work in the US, I am in fact British.. Andy - name not withheld, because I don't really care that much, I'm too busy writing replies to web stories to worry about my boss finding out that I don't really do any work. The things boffins will come up with, eh? Fuel cells for notebook computers. Marvellous. Except, as one particularly sharp-thinking reader points out, what happens when you want to get on a plane? I'm at best "amused" by the notion of fuel-cell powered laptops. One big reason to have a laptop is for travel, but at least in the US, travel involves airplanes, and the TSA. The amount of "shrinkage" from checked baggage pretty much mandates carryon for anything valuable, but even cigarette lighters will be banned from the cabin by the time any fuel-cell laptop hits the market. Perhaps the boffins should concentrate on an ethanol-water fuel-cell, into which one can pour a tiny bottle of in-flight Bacardi 151 to substitute for the confiscated fuel. Mike More on one of your favourite subjects: mandatory DRM: Two little gripes with your editorialising. 1) "consumers seem keener on lower prices than compatibility" How much of that is because the market is very small and donimated by one DRM format (Apple's iTunes)? Also, if there were interoperability, would the size of the cake be bigger? 2) "Essentially, opponents argue that it should be for the market to decide which services - and thus which DRM systems - dominate" However, DRM and the copyright/patent scheme make a monopoly. A monopoly is not a free market. Therefore the market cannot decide. Instead of "which do we like" it is "which do we hate least". There is also no room for "no DRM", which in a free market is a valid option. If the players want government out of the way, then get rid of the government regulation of copyrights (IMO, either you are protected by copyright or you can have DRM, but both is double-dipping). Ta. Mark Le Gasp! It's important to the powers that be that a piece of music bought for one platform can be played on another? Do they actually know the music makers are actively trying to make this difficult? That a CD you've bought is not guarenteed to play on your car CD player, and that you can only copy it to a certain number of platforms due to the DRM. Nicholas Next up, a bunch of white-coated types have proposed using airships to deliver line-of-sight, wireless broadband, as cheaper alternatives to comms satellites: It's the Proporietary Lifting Gas technology that makes me wonder. What is there about hydrogen, helium. and the other light-than-air gases which is protectable by patents or trademarks? The Zeppelin company, amongst others, pretty well wrote the book on the subject more than half a century ago. My guess is, they're able to make better gasbags. Hydrogen and helium are hard to keep from percolating through the gasbag and being lost, and that would be the limiting factor on the life of an aerostat. But the idea of some new miracle gas, that's straight out of Thrilling Air Wonder Stories. Or was one of the reporters a certain Polly Perkins? Dave The Stratellite looks useful but is going to run into some interesting radio problems. The issue will be the same as satellite comms - line of sight. Will it work indoors? Will it work in a built up area? For a rural area where someone puts a small aerial on the outside of the house it should work fine. I note that all the techies involved are on the aeronautical, not the radio side! Ken Earth stations on the ground, ay? Obviously they're trying to avoid untested technology like sky-mounted earth stations or ocean stations a hundred miles inland. Louis Louis, nobody likes a smartarse... "proprietary lifting gas technology". OK, who let someone patent Archimedes' Principle? Bertrand None of you were massively keen on the idea of remotely triggered landmines. Can't say we blame you: ... Deploy unarmed munitions into enemy territory. Enemy finds and digs up unarmed munition, strips electronics and turns it into an improvised roadside bomb for free. Gosh, usually "poorly-funded indigenous resistance groups" have to wait until a war is over to recover munitions. ... great. :-( Lance Does this mean any Iraqi caught playing Minesweeper be suspected of being a terorrist? Naadir No, but if he is in England, he will be assumed to be stealing time from his employer. See above. I'd be rather concerned about "drive by mining" instead of "drive by shooting". Do those mines also come with the typical US warning stickers in the size of a cinema screen? Warning: Do not use in areas where your enemy has also a Laptop with WiFi connection. Could be a real heaven for a teenage suicide hacker. Warning: This explosive device may contain explosives. Sorry but such rubbish can only come from the americans. Tom Intel went to great lengths to get press coverage this week, even sending two, probably slightly chilly, employees to the North Pole. We thought Santa and his elves would be grateful, and would set about maintaining an e-commerce system with CRM software to maintain "naughty" and "nice" lists. But it seems that the arctic demand for Wi-Fi is actually more widespread This is a great story, but it is missing some important details... Where exactly is this? Do you have lattitude/longitude? I would hate to have to roam around the north pole looking for the wi-fi signal. War snowmobiling isn't as fun as it sounds. War dog sledding is even trickier. Cheers! Neil in Canada I know roaming is popular but wiring an ice floe is over the top. Bet you that the next Mars robot is gonna have a hotspot bundled in too, just in case... Morten And on that note, we leave you. Enjoy your weekend. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Apr 2005

Readers pour water on pro-smoke lobby

Stern responseStern response Our newest columnist, Otto Z. Stern, seems to be on a personal mission, almost a crusade, to tackle the subjects the rest of us would rather he didn't. After taking some pot-shots at the back of the departing ex-boss of HP, he decided that a thinly disguised fan letter to the heads of the tobacco industry would be the next order of business. Perhaps he is a formula one car in need of sponsorship, or a political party in need of electing. Who can tell? As ever, the Z man has declined to answer his own email. He says it isn't necessary to debate his articles, as he is so transparently right. Of course. Still, not everyone out there agrees with him, and it is our pleasure to give you a forum in which to voice your thoughts. Let's hear from his fans first: It's not just cigarettes, there's sales tax on almost everything. I'm not a smoker but I sure would like everything to suddenly be much cheaper. I'm sure your auntie would have been better off with no sales tax on other stuff as well. While we're at it, there's this thing called "income tax". Together we can fight them both! Colin Hear, hear. Brian I am very anti-smoking but my elderly father is the same as your Aunt these people pre and post war had no knowledge of the dangers of smoking and now they are penalized both socially and financially for their unfortunate habit it is wrong. Well done for bringing this to the world's attention. Bruce Now, we'll move on to the less-than-impressed reader base: What a load of crock. The thievery of the state aside, even somehow overlooking the sickeningly poor age verification to keep tobacco out of the hands of children, even then there's still the simple fact that payment could be made by money order if someone really cared, so there's no one to blame for the failure of online smoke shops but the consumers. And in fact, it's the underage consumers buying their smokes online and the cheapskates trying to get out of paying taxes that are to blame for the government's involvement. So really, at all levels you only have yourselves to blame. -Arah Leonard I agree that, unless the law said that online cigarette purchases being delivered to NY had to be taxed, back taxes should not be collected. I'll fight for that. Also, you are dumb. Cigarette taxes cover only part of the medical expenses the government loses to smokers. Also, part of the reason smokers have to collect money for medical expenses from the government is they spend all their money on cigarettes! Cig taxes discourage smoking, prevent non-smokers from paying smokers' bills and allow our government to do something useful with other tax money. They're good for everyone. Connor I am glad that Aunt Margaret died. Every person with common sense will tell you that cigarettes are bad for your health. In fact, EVERY cigarette pack has a warning about the negative effects of cigarettes. Did Aunt Margaret have sub-intelligence? I know so, as NO one with common sense will smoke a cigarette. Why should the United States allow it's citizens to thwart the future of our country by allowing people to smoke cigarettes? It is human nature to survive. For this one reason alone allowing cigarette sales over the internet should be considered MURDER. Anyone who sells cigarettes KILL their customers WILLINGLY. Sapient2003 Yup. Cogent, well argued... "Smokers don't like being told what to do, particularly by people who don't understand why they smoke and dismiss smokers as mere idiots." How come nobody fu*king remembers this ever, ever? Ever? Fu*king ever? Aaron Come on, defending smoking and a smoker's right to avoid tax is not really reasonable is it? What you are really defending is the "right" of multinational tobacco companies to make huge profits out of the ill-health of, typically, the poorest people in the developed world and - increasingly - those in the developing world (unregulated markets ripe for exploitation, as the might describe them). The tobacco companies love these stories. It keeps the myth alive that smokers are "freedom fighters" defending themselves against nanny states and PC loony lefties who simply want to spoil their fun. The fact is that these companies have *intentionally* caused more harm, death and misery than any Fed pen-pusher ever has, or will! Why don't you ask yourself why your Aunt smoked? How much of her (i.e. the user) money and life went towards keeping the heads of "big tobacco" (i.e. the pushers) in the luxury they have become use to? Why do so many people who are rational human beings in other aspects of the lives protest their right to smoke in the light of all the damage it does to them and the people around them? Of course, the smoker (like any addict) will say that they get great pleasure out of their habit and they're hurting nobody but themselves, but the reality is that tobacco is a heavily marketed highly addictive substance that kills for profit. Tobacco pushers might hide behind desks and wear grey suits rather than sportswear and bling (like their "illegal" narcotic-selling chums), and the Fed tax officials might be an easy target when looking to vent your anger, but can I suggest that you consider the role of the tobacco companies in keeping your Aunt, and other "financially decrepit" and unemployed people, in their poor and unhealthy condition. Sean You cannot honestly believe that what your Aunt was doing was anything other than breaking the law? Surely tax evasion is a crime in the states, I recently heard that in China tax evasion is punishable by the death penalty, perhaps your aunt got what was coming to her? I also believe that it wasn't the letter that killed her (I haven't heard of anyone dying from a papercut yet anyway), it was probably the cigarettes... A Fed Up Non Smoker It is not only smokes that states are trying to grab taxes on. The assorted US states now have tax treaties with each other that let them tell other states who received goods from a shipper an any state. The state collects sales taxes and a few years back implemented a computer data base standard. So when they audit you for sales taxes you must prove what you sold and where you shipped it and they want the tax on shipments within the state. They also want all the details of untaxed out of state sales....which they then proceed to give to each state they have a treaty with. Those states go to get this taxes, calling them 'use taxes'. All the states have huge departments devoted to this form of tax collecting from good shipped into their state from other states. Tobacco and booze are highest on the list, since they have a far higher taxation rate. Next is high value items, diamond rings etc. Bill Isn't it sad that tobacco junkies go to such lengths to defend their heinous practices. If you were a real man you'd give up. It's alright if you want to kill yourself, but despite all the evidence, smokers still pretend they don't harm anyone else. And kids still get hooked because Robin Hood stories like this make smoking look sexy, brave and bold, rather than just being an addicts refuge :( Rgds Martin Cleaver I have just finished reading your article, and I have to admit that your point seems somewhat muddled by controversy. As I read along I get the impression that you're mourning the loss of your departed aunt but to my disappointment your article sounds more like a smokers rights protest than a plea to cope with unfair government tax practices. It would seem like you're crusading to encourage the propagation of tobacco instead of dealing with the fact that your aunt was trapped by a dependency which most likely dealt its share of blows in her lifetime. Whatever the case may be, I can't see how your column can bring much good to people if the body of the message reads like a tobacco freedom document. Tobacco distribution can do no good under any circumstances. if you want to call on human rights to argue a point, wouldn't it be wise to demonstrate reasoning on the account that freedom does not constitute self inflicted harm or the harming of others who surround us? While I'm certain the agencies that publish your story are ultimately seeking readership it continues to raise question on our social responsibilities when brought up against profit margins. I can't help but question why you did not mention your determination to encourage your aunt to stop smoking, you seem quite capable of raising points to millions of readers regarding your feelings of unfair taxes, yet there is no mention of this tenacity used to protect your dearly loved aunt when she was still living. It is very sad that the relationship between you and your aunt has dissolved under such circumstances. life is short when you look back at it, and with this in mind we should make use of our abilities to protect one another from the elements along the way. Instead of complaining about the costs and tax implications of tobacco, why don't you put your hard earned emotions towards the eventual elimination of toxins such as tobacco in our society. In the future if your looking for an angle to attack the governments gripe on the poor, you should consider some of the healthier approaches, it might cast a more positive image on your case and produce more desirable results. Sincerely, John Bertin It looks like Mr. Stern (for that is how he likes to be known) will be back on a fortnightly basis from now on. Keep an eye out for him. If you are feeling thick skinned, have a read, but most importantly, tell us what you think when you have. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 15 Apr 2005
heart

Virus writers have girlfriends - official

The stereotype of virus writers as spotty nerds who can't pull is well wide of the mark, according to an expert on the psychology of virus writers. Sarah Gordon, senior principal research engineer at Symantec Security Response, said that the more recent idea that virus writing activity is focused mainly around money-making scams is inaccurate.
John Leyden, 15 Apr 2005

IBM may fix slump by firing 10,000 - analyst

IBM could cull up to 10,000 workers to make up for a disconcerting first quarter revenue shortfall, according to a top financial analyst. The question is whether these cuts will tidy the bottom line enough to offset what appear to be broad problems plaguing the company. During a conference call yesterday to explain a 9 cent per share earnings miss, IBM confessed it would consider a "sizable restructuring" but declined to detail what form this reorganization would take. Sanford Bernstein's meticulous analyst Toni Sacconaghi has predicted the restructuring will likely result in between 5,000 and 10,000 staffers losing their jobs. If there are job cuts, they will probably be tied to IBM's mainframe business and particularly mainframe workers in Europe, according to pundits. IBM's mainframe business suffered a double-digit drop in sales during the first quarter, and weak economies in Europe and Japan were blamed for the overall revenue miss. Sacconaghi delivered worse news to IBM's shareholders, saying the first quarter slip up looks even darker upon close inspection. IBM surprised Wall Street by releasing the first quarter results yesterday - days ahead of an initial April 18 report date. IBM pushed up the release because of the materially weaker than expected results. With analysts already on edge from this move, IBM reported first quarter revenue of $22.9bn, which missed the consensus estimate of $23.7bn. This revenue total marked a 3 per cent decline year-over-year in constant currency. Not the kind of performance the market wants to see from the IT world's biggest player. But it was the earnings per share (EPS) miss that really spooked the analysts. IBM handed out two EPS figures - one standard number and one accounting for a new policy of expensing stock options. Sacconaghi was not moved by either number. "EPS including options expense was $0.85; ex-options, EPS was $0.95, a nine cent miss vs. consensus estimates ($1.04) prior to last week, when IBM told analysts to lower estimates $0.14 due to options expense," the analyst wrote today in a research note. "We note that IBM’s guide-down of earnings by $0.14 last week did not reflect the true expected cost of options in the quarter of $0.10." Interesting. In addition, IBM's results seem detached from the economic issues affecting rivals. IBM complained about Germany, France and Italy dragging down sales. It also flagged a precipitous drop off in sales during March as the main reason Q1 turned out so bad. "The earnings miss feels to be in good part (perhaps 50% or more) due to IBM specific reasons rather than market reasons," Sacconaghi wrote. "(We) note that: (1) Sun noted that its quarter exhibited fairly normal linearity; (2) the consulting market appears to be stronger in Europe than other regions and Accenture had strong consulting book-to-bill; and (3) Dell and Sun both commented that the US (not Europe) was their weakest region." Investors and industry watchers will need to decide whether this really is an IBM-only syndrome or if technology spending is pulling back in a big way. Such a crucial question couldn't arrive at a worse time for IBM's stock. The blemished Q1 popped up during a painful week-long slide on the US markets, leaving IBM way down from its Monday high of $87.56. Shares of IBM are trading at $77.14 - down more than 7 per cent on the day. ® Related stories IBM announces $125m deal with UAE Memory woes color AMD's Q1 red Sun's Becky Box four-pack leaks
Ashlee Vance, 15 Apr 2005
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'Cool it, Linus' - Bruce Perens

With Andrew Tridgell silent, apparently on legal advice, open source community leader Bruce Perens has stepped up to defend the work Tridgell did reverse engineering the protocols used by Bitkeeper. Bitkeeper is the closed source proprietary source code management tool that until last week, Linus Torvalds used to manage Linux kernel source code.
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Apr 2005

Hoax paper fools cybernetic boffins

An MIT student has had a paper consisting of computer-generated gibberish accepted by technology conference WMSCI. The pretentious gathering bills itself as "an international forum where researchers and practitioners examine Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics key issues" Comp sci undergraduate Jeremy Stribling told us that he didn't single out WMSCI because of its subject matter, although it's easy to see how it made a tempting target. "A Metaphor," the organizers explain. "We are trying to relate the analytic thinking required in focused conference sessions, to the synthetic thinking, required for analogies generation, which calls for multi-focus domain and divergent thinking. We are trying to promote a synergic relation between analytically and synthetically oriented minds, as it is found between left and right brain hemispheres, by means of the corpus callosum." [their emphasis] But the conference organizers' two minds didn't meet in time to catch the hoax, which fell right through WMSCI's supposedly rigorous review procedures. Stribling's paper consisted of randomly generated buzzwords munged into complete English sentences by a madlib-like program, so they were grammatically correct but meaningless: much like one of Jonathan Schwartz's weblog entries, or a Cory Doctorow novel. The paper, entitled Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy, and contained such wonderful claims as - "We can disconfirm that expert systems can be made amphibious, highly-available, and linear-time." And - "One must understand our network configuration to grasp the genesis of our results. We ran a deployment on the NSA’s planetary-scale overlay network to disprove the mutually largescale behavior of exhaustive archetypes. First, we halved the effective optical drive space of our mobile telephones to better understand the median latency of our desktop machines. This step flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but is instrumental to our results." The submission was accepted because the three principal reviewers failed to reject it in time. "We thought that it might be unfair to refuse a paper that was not refused by any of its three selected reviewers," conference chair Nagib Callaos told Reuters. The default was set to "accept all". Not quite. Digging a little deeper, we discover that the organizers are very proud of the quantity of papers accepted. Although they did reject another autogenerated submission. Stribling told us that he was simply fed up with repeated solicitations from the conference organizers. "We figured this was a pretty low-grade conference because of the amount of spam they were sending out." He says the authors have received no negative feedback - but the conference organizers have refunded their fee. "They don't want us there - we'll try and get there somehow," he hopes. The most famous academic hoax in recent years was Alan Sokal's paper Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. The physics professor's parody paper was accepted by cult studies journal Social Text in 1996. But scientific establishment had equal difficulty with a paper submitted by two French physicists, Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov. Their Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime had theoretical physicists arguing for weeks whether it was or a prank, or a genuine breakthrough. Writing to us at the time, Igor Bogdanov denied that it was a hoax, although readers remained suspicious. Perhaps because of the atomization of the disciplines in both arts and science, the quality of published academic papers appears to be at rock bottom. And these days, simply being published means you're an authority. The MIT pranks illustrates all it takes to be published, is to submit a paper. So with one stroke, the democratization of academia is complete! ® Related link Download the PDF [92kb] Related stories Bogdanov brothers deny bogosity Physics hoaxers discover Quantum Bogosity Wine bores discover Physics
Andrew Orlowski, 15 Apr 2005