DiamondCluster's annual survey of outsourcing providers and their customers reveals the market is still growing - but customer disatisfaction is growing too. Just over half of buyers have prematurely ended an outsourcing agreement within the last twelve months, compared to j21 per cent a year ago. Contracts were terminated because of poor provider performance (36 per cent), moving the function back in-house, cited by 11 per cent of respondents, and failure to achieve cost savings (seven per cent). DiamondCluster blames several factors for this including the explosion in providers between 2002 and 2004, which meant that some were below par. It also found many buyers who fail to understand the complexity of managing an outsourced contract. Even more damning were figures from providers - in 2004 only seven per cent admitted a customer had prematurely ended a contract. But the 2005 survey found 49 per cent of outsourcing providers have had a contract terminated early. But despite the discontent, outsourcing is still growing. Some 74 per cent of survey respondents expect to increase spending on outsourcing in the next year, up from 64 per cent last year. India and the US remain favoured destinations, for contracts which are offshored as welll as outsourced - three-quarters of all respondents send some IT functions to one or both countries. The biggest change is in attitudes to China. In 2004 none of the respondents was looking to outsource to China, but this year six per cent of buyers have operations there. In 2004 only eight per cent of buyers expected to have operations in China within five years, but now 40 per cent expect to do so. Israel and Russia are getting less popular as potential destinations for offshored work. DiamondCluster spoke to 210 buyers of outsourced services and 242 providers of such services in companies with between 100 and 50,000 employees. ® Related stories IT departments to get smaller and less technical HP confirms jobs to India move India acts on call centre fraud
LettersLetters From time to time, you might have noticed, we deviate from our pure technology roots and cover other subjects that we think you'll find interesting. For instance, supernovae don't have much to do with unit shipments of chips, or the market for Voice over IP telephony, but they are kind of cool. But we digress. This week we ran a piece that looked at the possibility that we will soon see the emergence of a flu pandemic. How prepared would we be, could we stop it, or will we all die. We had quite a lot of mail on this one: Charles - nice piece. But my article which you quoted said H5N1 IS susceptible to Tamiflu - it's amantadine it resists. Different drug. It's using Tamiflu to slow or contain an incipient pandemic that might be difficult. But it'll work fine against the current virus as long as you get it fast enough after symptoms start, and the scientists, surprisingly, arent too worried about the recent discovery of a resistant strain - flu virus that resists Tamiflu is usually not terribly fit. Cheers. Deb. Thanks for that, Deb. Always happy to be corrected. Really interesting article on Bird Flu, I thought. I'm not certain how realistic the scenarios you paint actually are, given that we don't really know what a modern pandemic would look like. Maybe you're right, but I think it might be a little easier than you make out. In terms of the initial infection, the highly mobile society that is the West would mean that the initial wave of infections is likely to be strong - as you pointed out: Air travel, tube, rail etc. but we don't know what happens next. The differences between now and 1918 are profound, and not all of them work in favour of the virus. Our ability to detect, diagnose and respond is much better, and our communications and infrastructure is much more robust. Educating the public to a serious risk is much easier and more effective...probably. My expectations of what will happen, for the little they're worth, is that we'll have a flurry of cases, some fairly draconian but short-lived restrictions from the government, and then a lot of public hysteria. This will be fuelled firstly by the doom-sayers on TV and secondly by the profiteers. You can almost guarantee that there will be computer viruses that masquerade as info on an outbreak, and people selling face masks (that may or may not work) from door to door at vastly inflated prices. I mean, if they don't work, you're not going to be around to sue! I think we probably have, or will have soon, what we need for our core infrastructure to survive for a few months in an outbreak situation, and the rest of society can be put on hold for a while. Things are often more resilient than we predict - society isn't 2 meals away from anarchy. Apart from major atrophy due to 90% of people watching daytime TV all day, society will survive. Anyway, I expect more children die of disease and deprivation each year in Africa than may die in the UK during a pandemic. What we forget in our cosy little world is that people die every day - lots of them. Cheers, David Looks as if George W had better start looking further than 'enriched uranium' programmes, and 'failed state' indicators, and go after those countries with inadequate biohazard measures in their livestock rearing systems. Though China might not be too happy about it. No doubt the US rightwingers will again find some reason to doubt, and claim it's all a plot to deprive the US of cheap imports. Regards, Mike When I was in Thailand around the SARS outbreak, they celebrated Song Kran (in April), the Thai new year. More people died in Thailand due to drunk driving *that* weekend than had died in all the world, all winter from SARS. Talk about not making the news. John-Mark I'm really not that worried about catching bird flu. I haven't shagged any birds for a long time ..... AJ Oh yes, very droll, AJ. Finally, on this subject, we heard from a chap called skip. He said quite a lot of things about the article, so we gave Charles an opportunity to respond. Here is the resulting conversation, with Charles' remarks in italics: You're right; if it is in the news, it probably doesn't matter, but I'd tend to lump 'Nature' in with 'news' rather than 'science'. But, anyway, consider the fact that any sufficiently rapid killer of a disease tends to destroy its vector quickly and that any sufficiently infectious disease to pose a real threat to world population has to be a slow killer, and you can see why the superbugs are not really all that super. The problem is that flu is a virus, and the spread worldwide would be hastened by air transport. That would introduce it to a very large population very quickly. Flu doesn't destroy its vector at all quickly. Every year flu strains sweep the world; vaccination is done against the one picked as most likely to be this year's model. Usually it's not deadly, though some people die every year (about 400,000? It's in the NEJM paper if you do the maths) as a result. Nature is definitely "science" rather than "news". You try reading it some time. When the 'scientists' go nuts about some new super disease, I remember BSE and the supposed transmission to humans and the related scare. My parents, strict vegetarians, were certain that they could easily contract it. Thanks, 'scientists'. To date, the number of people confirmed dead from Kreutzfeld-Jacobsen (sp?) is in the low hundreds, not even thousands, which doesn't even register on international mortality rates. True, so far. I could bore about vCJD, about methionine homozygotes, and valine-methionine heterozygotes, but I won't - it's left as an exercise for the reader. The point about BSE was the uncertainty. Scientists recognised that it might spread to humans (it spread to all sorts of other animals, after all) but didn't know what infectiousness there had been in the food chain, nor what constituted a lethal dose. They still don't. The small numbers of vCJD deaths - so far, though it probably has a 20-year+ incubation in most of the population - can be viewed as a happy accident. As for some new superbug we're 'due', remember that all the pandemics in bygone eras were generally a result of some combination of poor hygiene and bad food preparation. The reason it has been so long since a massive pandemic is that we now have much better hygiene and much better food preparation standards. Untrue. The WWI pandemic wasn't about bad hygiene; it was the result of intensive food rearing in order to fight a war, though it seems the bug emerged from Europe and then went to the Far East - likely China - and then came back in its most virulent form. As for your up to a hundred million dead from the flu in World War I, I find that number suspect. Sites I found with a few minutes of google work seem to indicate 20-40 million dead with a mortality rate of about 2.5%, numbers which are a lot less frightening and certainly more in context. The world population was a lot smaller. The estimates of deaths have to be approximate: if someone dies of heart failure days after having flu, what killed them? I don't know what it is about modern 'science' that seems to want to scare the average individual these days, but the three things you list prior to the flu that scientists worry about are all very suspect: CFC link to ozone, proven which was never proven to the level of rigor normally required by science and certainly never played out as their doomsday predictions said it would, have you visited Australia? The ozone hole over the Antarctic and now over the Arctic are deeper than they have ever been. CO2 link to global warming, which is largely a fabrication depending on bad data, bad computer models that fail to predict current temperatures given historical data, Sorry, but you're in denial there. CO2 causes global warming - else Earth would be Mars. CO2 released by human activity is forcing global temperatures up. To deny this is to deny basic science. and assumptions about world economics that are generally worst case at best, and, of course, the grandfather of stupid scares, BSE, as I pointed out, the fears were reasonable, because people ate a lot of infected beef. which turned out to be such a non-starter. Sure, England needlessly slaughtered most of its livestock over it, but, as an international health issue, it isn't even on the radar. As I said, count yourself lucky. Compared to the millions that die each year from preventable situations such as malaria, typhoid, dysentery and malnutrition, these concerns are laughable. That's a salient point. But I doubt anyone would have read about that. News is about things that we should be concerned about, really. The consequence of a bird flu pandemic could be likened to a small asteroid strike in its economic effects. Oh, there's another topic one could write about... All very interesting, we thought. So we shared. Next up, and sticking with the non-technology theme, we have a newly approved NASA mission to Mars. The devil really is in the detail for you lot, isn't it? Your article states that Phoenix "incorporates the remains of two earlier failed missions: the 2001 Mars Surveyor lander, which was mothballed in 2000, and the Mars Polar lander mission." I believe this is inaccurate. The Mars Surveyor '98 mission originally included an orbiter, lander, and rover. After some program restructuring due to cost issues, the Mars Surveyor '98 Lander was renamed the Mars Polar Lander (MPL), the Mars Surveyor '98 Orbiter was renamed the Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO), and the Mars Surveyor '98 Rover was delayed till 2001 and changed to a lander combining the original rover imaging system with the Surveyor '98 Lander platform (including the arm). It was then named the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander. After loss of MCO and crash of MPL it was decided in 2000 to resurrect the original Surveyor '98 Rover but delay it till 2003. At this point the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander was superfluous and cancelled. Phoenix is simply a refly of the Mars Polar Lander utilizing existing hardware from MPL mission spares where possible. As such, it incorporates the remains of only *one* failed mission Larry Well, NASA counted it as two, so we're inclined to go along with them. But interesting, nonetheless. Ah, technology. The world found out this week that VoIP isn't taking off because Joe Public is a bit confused about the whole business. Balls to that, you said. There is an easier explanation: Maybe I am not changing because my ISP cannot keep my internet connection up and running now. If I have fallen and can't get up the last thing I want to do is call the very large corporation's help desk and wait on hold for an hour. Only to be told that why yes your connection is not working we will send some one out in a week or so in an accent so thick that I can barely understand what they are saying. Oh wait the network is down I can't even call the help desk. Maybe one of my kids will come by before the cats get too hungry, and start to nibble on my little toes......... Mike This week, Dell said it would like to take its product line upmarket. Bully for you, Dell, we thought. But you readers are such a kind, caring bunch, that you have even spent time coming up with new product names for the poor multi-billion dollar outfit: May I suggest they use "DELLuxe" as a brand name? Ho ho. Richard Ho ho, indeed. Microsoft and the EU are still at loggerheads over the finer details of how the software company will comply with Europe's anti-trust ruling: My vote as to the trustee to the commission goes to FSF Europe. Possibly with Richard Stallman as their spokesman. That'll make things nice and simple.... Microsoft should assimilate Captain Cyborg into their ranks. After all, the worlds bestest ever robotic(s) genius is bound to help their public image in Europe. Of course they'd have to re-wire all their doors to accept his ultra powers, but that shouldn't be too hard. Bernard I'd like the commission to ask what the problem is with releasing the info under the GPL. A license to use the code under GPL would allow that license to be used fro GPL projects only. If a non-GPL product wanted to use the info, they would need the commercial license. 'course if it is because they just don't like that license, then how about releasing it under BSD. They've said they like that one... Mark Urm, it isn't the commission that has a problem with the protocols being licensed to GPL and Open Source developers... Meanwhile, Apple confirmed all the recent speculation and said that yes, it would be buying chips from Intel from now on: Bizarre. Confusing. Worrying. I was about to try out Mac world (I last used one twenty years ago). Mac OS X looked like a proper platform. I was lining up to buy a PowerBook. Now I don't know what to do. If I buy a PowerBook will it continue to get support? For how long? Will I be able to run Leopard (or whatever big cat species is next) on the old-fashioned PowerBook? Thank you Mr. Jobs. Nail, coffin, hammer hammer hammer. K. Hang on, this next one isn't very technical...unless you count it as being good news for lazy geeks. This of course is the news that sprint repeats will improve fitness, which has bee widely reported as meaning that you only need to exercise for ten seconds and your heart will be fine. Really, you knew there had to be a hole in this one: You say "90 seconds of sprinting delivers the same benefit as an hour’s worth of jogging". Then you say in more detail that the subjects did "four to seven 30 second bursts of *all out cycling* followed by four minutes of recovery, repeated three times a week". So, which is it? The former takes 90 seconds and the latter takes between 14 minutes and 27.5 minutes, not allowing for warm-up and warm-down which is critical for sprint interval sessions. I'd recommend 5 minutes warm-up with maybe 10 minutes warm down for this type of session, otherwise you'll likely damage your muscles. So that means the 90 seconds of sprinting takes 30-45 minutes rather than 90 seconds - oh the relentless pursuit of soundbites. Actually anyone who has ever done any competitive endurance based sport knows that jogging is a rubbish way to improve endurance performance. In fact runners use the word "jogger" in a demeaning way. I mean, do you think Paula Radcliffe goes jogging? And since when have the lazy couch potatoes of the Register been qualified to tell the world how to get fit? I loved your closing line: "An equally viable option, as far as we’re concerned, is to do absolutely bugger all. As far as we’re concerned, McMaster has also shown that while a few seconds of fast and furious sprinting can deliver a health boost, sitting on your backside isn't going to do you any harm." So, if you are a fat bastard who spends all day eating, sitting on yer arse and watching telly and waiting for heart disease to take its course, then continuing in this vein doesn't make your parlous state of health any worse. You are effectively saying that when you reach an equilibrium, then maintaining the same lifestyle keeps you in the equilibrium. Wow, what insight! Stick to the techie stuff! David At this point we could say something about the benefits of aerobic training vs. anaerobic training, the proper combination of endurance, strength and speed work required to be a decent runner. We could also suggest that jogging is in fact a valid part of any runners training regime, even if it is only really appropriate for rest days. But we won't. All we will say is that while some of the vultures 'round here are distinctly couch potato-esque, not all of us are. See the article about Pranav's 2004 marathon effort (which we shamelessly used to plug our T-shirts), as proof. He ran it again the next year too. Nutter. And on that rather exhausting note, we shall leave you. Enjoy the rest of the week and write to us. You know it makes sense. ®
Struggling United Airlines could this year become the first US carrier to provide passengers with in-flight access to the internet. United is to equip its fleet of aircraft with WiFi, after the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided that 802.11 b/g technology does not, in fact, harm the operation of an in-flight aircraft. United, the World's second largest airline, wants to make WiFi-based internet access available on all its flights, after an initial rollout on domestic Boeing 757-200s. "This certification is a crucial step to bring this in-flight wireless access to our customers," United said in a statement. Analysts see Wi-Fi as yet another way to fleece the weary business traveler and carefree holiday. Forrester says 38 per cent of frequent flyers want in-flight access to the internet, and are willing to pay up to $25 per flight for the privilege. Lufthansa charges $29.95 a flight or $9.95 per half hour for onboard internet access. That's potentially great news for United, which is struggling to get clear of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reverse a $1.6bn annual loss. Like many US carriers, United is wrestling with rising fuel prices and increased competition from an emerging generation of low-cost carriers in the saturated US market. It's not money in the bank, though. First, United most outlast this Fall's planned "Air-to-Ground" spectrum allocation by the FCC for airborne WiFi services, when the US government is expected to sell service providers up to 8Mhz of frequency. United hopes it can also emerge from Chapter 11 during the Fall. Next, United must stump up the cash for rollout of Wi-Fi across a fleet of 450 aircraft. That will be a particularly tricky hurdle to clear, coming at a time when management is under pressure to cut staffing and infrastructure costs.® Related stories Westminster to open Wi-Fi network to hoi polloi Singapore Airlines plans in-flight live TV via Wi-Fi Intel backs in-flight Wi-Fi initiative British Airways flies high with broadband Novell flies high with Lufthansa
The waiting is almost over for Visual Studio fans, after Microsoft -sorta - pinned a date on its next integrated development environment (IDE) for Windows and .NET. The delayed Visual Studio 2005 will be launched during the week of 7 November, in time for Christmas, along with the delayed SQL Server 2005, and the next edition of BizTalk Server. Also announced by Microsoft at its TechEd conference in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, was the Community Technology Preview (CTP) of SQL Server 2005. The CTP is Microsoft's first pre-release-level code for the database targeted at testers. Visual Studio will be a part of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS), expected to feature Software Change Management (SCM) requirements gathering, code development, application design and modeling. There was no word on whether VSTS components would also ship during the week of November 7, although this is expected. VSTS is Microsoft's first full-on foray into application lifecycle management (ALM), having for years relied on the expertise of more specialized partners like Borland Software and Rational Software to complement weaker products like Source Safe. Partners immediately jumped on the news of VSTS availability with messages of support – even though Microsoft has threatened to challenge them. Borland Software claimed it would be first with a "fully integrated" requirements management system for VSTS, due during the first quarter of 2006. Borland is planning a version of its CaliberRM for VSTS. Computer Associates, meanwhile, pledged support for Visual Studio 2005, the .NET Framework 2.0 and SQL Server 2005 across its AllFusion Harvest Change Manager, AllFusion Gen, AllFusion Plex and business process management software. Partners supporting VSTS are in something of a relationship of necessity with Microsoft, though. While existing partners would be stupid not to team-up with Microsoft, their friend made it clear it plans to eat their lunch, by offering a combined tools and pricing package that makes ALM more of a "mass-market" option because it overcomes the complexity and expense of their own existing ALM tools and approaches. An integral part of VSTS is Microsoft's Software Factories, a concept that uses Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) to enable systems architects and designers to build applications tailored to specific domains. The thinking is developers and systems architects can quickly "punch-out" a design for an HR or a SAP system, for example, without going through most of that complex Unified Modeling Language (UML) stuff, used by everyone else. Partners will be forced now, more than ever, to innovate with integrated ALM suites as VSTS 1.0 matures and slowly fills out what are expected to be some huge gaps in functionality and capabilities.® Related stories Future features for Visual Studio 2005 Borland shoots Peloton down roadmap Is UML past its sell-by date? Borland splits Together for Visual Studio .NET
It isn't quite a phone, but it soon will be possible to take a Skype client with you and plug it into a barenaked PC equipped with a USB port. U3, the Silicon Valley start-up launched by Palm veterans earlier this year, says it will support a portable Skype on its flash-based platform from this fall. U3 already supports a portable email client and a bunch of encryption, caching and backup software titles. The Mozilla Foundation has pledged to make Portable Firefox and Portable Thunderbird conform to the U3 specification. Yesterday, in addition to Skype, U3 also announced support for ICQ. It's hard to underestimate the ubiquity of the internet cafe in urban Asia, the most promising market for U3. As we've noted before, when Intel talks about 'mobility' it means lugging around several pounds of short-life hardware, cables, power supplies and dongles with you. But the most mobile technology of all is no technology at all. Google and Yahoo! are offering old-style bureau computing to the public where the only dependency is on a browser. But given the well-publicized privacy concerns U3 may offer an attractive option. More than two years ago we wrote about a self-funded start-up Zippy with a similar idea, which involved putting a Notes-style client on a USB stick, and charging a subscription, but the venture failed to find support. But by winning some important backing, and gathering developers behind a specification, U3 looks to have a head start. U3 was launched at the CES show in January, is backed by two of the largest CF manufacturers San Disk and M-Systems. Its executive team includes CEO Kate Purmal, one of the first Palm employees, and Andrea Butter, the former Palm marketing chief who wrote a book about the PDA venture. ® Related stories U3 signs first USB Flash drive makers New SanDisk drive lets your fingers do the storing U3 launches USB drive-hosted app 'standard' Email on a memory stick Zippy - a Lotus Notes for the rest of us
Information wants to be free, as the dotcom era cliché would have it. Sadly, that is true of your private personal details as anything else.
Rambus has sued Samsung, alleging the South Korean giant infringed its intellectual property rights by shipping DDR, DDR 2, GDDR 2 and GDDR 3 devices. Rambus also brought one of a number of licensing agreements it has signed with Samsung to an early close, the memory technology developer said. It claims Samsung has violated some 25 patents it holds. Many of them are among the list of patents it claims Hynix, Infineon, Inotera and Nanya also infringed. Those four memory makers were sued last January. Rambus' action against Samsung adds the South Korean company's name to the list of defendants in the January lawsuit. Rambus was keen to stay friends with Samsung, which it described as a "valuable licensee of our patents". Samsung has licensed Rambus' RDRAM and XDR DRAM technologies. Samsung had also licensed Rambus' SDRAM and DDR memory systems. That agreement was due to come to an end in less than a month's time, on 30 June. The timing of Rambus' legal assault suggests the two companies could not agree on a course of action when the licence was originally to have run its course. As Rambus CEO Harold Hughes put it: "A number of issues now exist that have made the renewal and expansion of the Samsung SDRAM/DDR licence difficult." ® Related stories Rambus calls on co-founder to forecast future FTC claims Rambus spoiled antitrust evidence Courts deny dismissals in Rambus legal actions Legal costs cut Rambus earnings Rambus sues four for GDDR 'infringement'
ATI has warned that its Q3 revenues will be around five per cent below the range it forecast when it published its Q2 figures on 24 March. Back then, it said Q3 sales would lie between $560m and $600m. This week, it said the figure would be closer to $530m, 12 per cent below the top of that range. That's still 7.8 per cent up on Q3 FY2004's total, $491.5m, but it marks a 12.8 per cent decline on Q2 FY2005's $608m sales. However, unit shipments will be up five per cent sequentially, it said. ATI blamed the dip on growing demand for its lower-end products, which reduced gross margins to 29 per cent from around 34 per cent in the previous quarter. The chip maker also pointed to "lower-than-anticipated yields on certain products due to operational issues in the packaging and test area of the manufacturing process". It's tempting to speculate that was the result of the fire last month at Advanced Semiconductor Engineering's Chungli chip packaging and testing plant, though ATI made no comment this week on the effect of the fire. ATI is an ASE customer. At the time of the blaze, however, Credit Suisse First Boston claimed the impact of the fire could be "material" as the blaze tightens an "already short" supply of flip-chip substrates. "The combination of tight supply and a four- to six-week substrate cycle time could disrupt ATI's high-end shipments through at least June," CSFB said. And, indeed, ATI's Q3 has been characterised by a shift away from sales of high-end products. On the positive side, ATI said its desktop chipset business "exceeded expectations" during the quarter by "growing dramatically". It said it expects Q4 FY2005 revenues to reach $600m. ATI will publish its Q3 figures on 23 June. ® Related stories ATI unveils CrossFire Nvidia preps GeForce 7800 GFX Crytek: new ATI chip will support Shader 3.0 ASE factory blaze impact 'limited' ATI posts 'strong' Q2 sales gains
Oracle is doing what it can to make the world a safer, nicer place to live, by making sure that dastardly terrorists can't use its software. To get hold of one of Oracle's Technology Network Developer Licenses, wannabe purchasers must tick a series of boxes, proving themselves fit to buy. First you have to promise you aren't from Cuba (member of the World Trade Organisation since 1995). Customers from Iran, Sudan, Libya, North Korea and Syria will also be disappointed to learn that their custom is not wanted. Once you have made it clear that you are from a friendly country (like, say, Saudi Arabia), you have to tick a box confirming that you are not a terrorist, or a drug smuggler. Pity the poor cocaine barons. How on Earth are they going to keep on top of their stock levels and days outstanding now? Next you have to promise you won't use the software for naughty purposes. Like what, you ask? Well, like "the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction". As you can imagine, we all breathed a sign of relief when we heard this. After all, bin Laden and chums are known to be sticklers for good database management, and it is highly unlikely that the well-respected Al Qaeda IT department would approve any software purchase without first agreeing to the terms of the end user license agreement. Our thanks to vulture-eyed reader Duncan Martelock for bringing this to our attention. Duncan writes: I think all governments should adopt this policy, stick it on birth certificates/passports and save billions on security, although the full wording does allow for undesignated terrorists and the building of nuclear weapons which don't cause mass destruction. (Are nuclear grenades weapons of mass destruction?) Absolutely right, Duncan. We need clearer definitions of these woolly terms. But in the meantime, thank goodness Oracle is fighting the bad guys on this front. Terrorist organisations around the world will sink in disarray as they are no longer able to maintain decent membership lists, or track, manage and understand their next plot to take over the world. To prove that we are not making this up, see the full details of the agreement here. ® Related stories Dell in front line of War on Terror Trojan poses as Osama capture pics Clarke calls for ID cards after imagining huge poison terror ring Terrorists grow fat on email scams
It would be easy to think that Bertelsmann should start to worry over its part in keeping the original Napster live via investment, as this week a US court threw out its call for summary dismissal of the case. Back in April and May 2003 EMI and the Universal Music Group took out suits against the investors of Napster, an act that Faultline said at the time made a mockery of corporate limited liability law. A German court agreed with us and said that it was “against Germany’s constitution” to allow a US court to judge a Germany based company, and called for the case to be dismissed. That’s like red rag to a bull and no US court would ever agree that anything is outside of its jurisdiction if a foreign court simply says it is. Bertelsmann is in the frame with venture capital company Hummer Winblad which between them invested $98m in the early version of Napster, which was subsequently found guilty of large-scale copyright infringement. However, Judge Patel from the US District Court of San Francisco also ruled that placing a song on a central index was not a crime and that the plaintiffs would have to prove specific cases of illegal downloads. This could set up a tit-for-tat war. If Bertelsmann is seen to be victimized purely as a means of competition, which is what the German court suggested, then it could retaliate in a German court against EMI and Universal. The two sides will now prepare for trial and the suing labels will have to prove that Bertelsmann knew what Napster was doing, and that it had control over it, as well as proving that copyrights were infringed. It will also have to demonstrate the extent of the infringement. All of that seems to mean that there is not much point in a trial, but the lawyers are having a field day with this, so the early indications that it would be settled cheaply out of court now seem less likely. Copyright © 2005, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related articles Intel 'backs' Bertelsmann P2P project Bertelsmann makes first Napster settlement SightSound looks to shut down Napster - again Sony talks to Grokster US green-lights Sony BMG merger Judge will not dismiss 'Napster investor' suit
UpdateUpdate A Briton suspected of hacking into numerous US military and NASA computers faces an extradition fight following his arrest in London on Tuesday. Gary McKinnon (AKA Solo), 39, of Wood Green, north London, allegedly hacked into 53 military and NASA computers over a 12 month period from February 2001 until March 2002. The unemployed sysadmin is due to appear in London's Bow Street Magistrates Court on Wednesday (8 June). The US government claims it spent $1m fixing the damage allegedly caused by McKinnon, who was indicted in 2002 by a Federal Grand Jury over eight computer crime offences. The offences are punishable on conviction by up to five years in prison. McKinnon allegedly exploited poorly-secured Windows systems to attack networks run by NASA, the Pentagon and 12 other military installations scattered over 14 states. Private sector businesses were also affected by the alleged attacks. According to court papers, McKinnon mounted an attack in February 2002 that shut down Internet access to 2,000 military computers in the Washington area for three days. He is accused of scanning networks for vulnerabilities prior to using a software program called RemotelyAnywhere to snoop on network traffic and erase files. Despite the seriousness of the alleged attacks, US authorities are keen to stress no classified information was obtained through the year long assaults. Authorities reckon McKinnon acted alone and are not attributing his alleged crimes to any terrorist motive. ® Update At the hearing on Wednesday, McKinnon was released on bail by magistrates pending an extradition hearing scheduled for 27 July. Karen Todner, McKinnon's lawyer, said her client would "vigorously" contest the extradition. "We believe that as a British national, he should be tried here in our courts by a British jury and not in the US," she said. Related stories Brit charged with hacking Pentagon, NASA Accused Pentagon Hacker's Online Life Pentagon hacker Analyzer pleads guilty
AnalysisAnalysis This week Comcast surprisingly joined the supporters of the Coral Consortium’s digital rights management interoperability initiative which was begun last year by the leading consumer electronics manufacturers.
Microsoft has patched Windows XP to allow the operating system to decode Windows Media Video HD movies using an Nvidia GeForce 6 series GPU. Nvidia calls its WMV-HD acceleration technology PureVideo, and it claims the system can reduce the host processor's video decode load by up to 40 per cent, by getting the GPU to shoulder the burden. The upshot, it says, are CPU resources that can now be dedicated to other tasks. Of course, it's entirely possible that other GPUs, from other vendors, will be able to do the same. Microsoft's update simply connects its DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) API to Windows Media Player 10, so the patch will help any DXVA-compliant graphics card. Users also need to apply another Windows XP update, number 891122, which tweaks Windows Media's DRM sub-system. Oh, and the WMV HD update only works with video encoded at 720p or 1080p, at 30fps or less. For more information, and to download the patch, visit Microsoft here. ® Related stories ATI cuts Q3 sales forecast by 12% Nvidia preps GeForce 7800 GFX ATI unveils CrossFire Crytek: new ATI chip will support Shader 3.0 Nvidia posts record revenues Nvidia G70 to appear at E3 ATI Tech weakness hands opportunity to Nvidia
Kyocera Mita is the new shirt sponsor of Reading Football Club, replacing distributor Westcoast which has backed the club for the last six years. The cost of the deal was not revealed but it is the largest corporate sponsorship in the club's history. Tracey Rawling Church, marketing boss at Kyocera UK, said: "We expect our partnership to provide valuable benefits for all concerned, especially our employees and channel partners, who we are sure will enjoy the excellent facilities at the Madejski Stadium." Kyocera's UK offices are less than a mile from the Madejski Stadium and the printer firm already sponsors the East Stand. ® Related stories Reading Football Club turns computer dealer Kyocera offers iPod Mini-matching digicams Carlyle and Kyocera dig deep into DDI Pocket
Reports that Apple Japan will launch a local version of the iTunes Music Store in two months' time are rubbish, the company effectively said today. Yesterday, Japanese newspaper the Nihon Keizai Shimbun claimed ITMS Japan will launch in August following digital distribution deals reached between Apple Japan and a number of major Japanese record labels, specifically Avex and Toshiba-EMI. In April, Apple Japan president Yoshiaki Sakito said ITMS Japan would open by the end of the year. The online music service's launch is believed to have been hindered by the reluctance of local labels to allow it to offer music downloads in the way its US and European stores do. They are apparently dissatisfied with the pricing and usage terms ITMS provides its customers. Two months ago, Apple Japan was re-entering negotiations with the labels, presumably touting its growing strength - ITMS has sold more than 430m song downloads to date, and has an 82 per cent market share in the US - and widening international availability. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun suggested that those negotiations had gone well, with only Sony Music Entertainment - the Japanese division was not part of last year's merger between SME and BMG - holding out. Except the story is "completely untrue", according to Apple Japan spokesman cited by local website Internet Watch. It did confirm that Apple Japan is still talking to the labels, but it would not comment further. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun claimed ITMS Japan will sell tracks for ¥150 ($1.41/£0.77) a pop. ® Related stories Judge rejects Mac OS X 'Tiger' ban demand Apple fixes critical iTunes bug Napster's Q4 loss swells as costs surge Yahoo! declares! digital! music! price! war! Apple settles Eminem lawsuit Apple iTunes sales sail past 400m Apple Japan 'will' open Music Store - chief More related stories Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger in depth - Part 2 Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger' in depth - Part 1
Success spawns competition, but for RIM, the attacks are now coming from all sides. On Monday Microsoft vowed to give its Exchange 2003 customers wireless push email capabilities similar to RIM's Blackberry Connect middleware for free in a service pack later this year. By licensing its Exchange push software to Nokia and Symbian, Microsoft has indicated that it is prepared to weaken its smartphone platform in order to shore up its Exchange revenue. This is entirely consistent with previous fits of Redmond paranoia, in which Microsoft feared that Windows would become "a poorly debugged device driver layer", in Marc Andreessen's reckless words. In this case, the argument is that RIM could expand its email capabilities to perform Exchange-like functions, leaving Microsoft to sell a rather expensive directory server. But less well-known names which sell primarily to carriers have long promised to undercut RIM's license fee, too. One of these, Seven, has today found a partner in Yahoo!, offering a carrier-based push email for a tenth of the price of RIM's Blackberry Connect. It isn't an Exchange service, and it is periodic delivery rather than true push; but it does the job. Yahoo!'s mobile email is initially a modest deal, available only to Sprint PCS customers in the US, but it bring the capabilities to the consumer at a very low cost: $2.99 a month. It's available on five devices including the Treo 650 and 600. In Japan, Seven offers a mobile email service on DoCoMo and KDDI phones using Brew and Java respectively, and has promised to bring this to the UK, where it already provides email for O2 and Orange. Arch-rival Visto hasn't been idle - last month it announced a global win with Vodafone for its own wireless sync software. ® Related stories Seven snaps up Smartner Business email services squeeze BlackBerry A Yahoo! phone? Nokia can help Visto moves into mid-range phones with Nextel Mobile email consolidation kicks off Microsoft goes after Blackberry with Magneto Kill the Crackberry!
The domain name AirFranceSucks.com will be transferred to Air France. But the airline's victory at arbitration was not without controversy: panellists disagreed about what the word 'sucks' really means to internet users. The name was registered by Florida-based Virtual Dates Inc. in 1999. It was only in February 2005 that Air France took a claim before the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), alleging cybersquatting. The decision was made on 24th May and published today. For most of the past six years, Virtual Dates pointed the domain name at a page of ePinions.com, an ad-supported site that rates and invites reader comments on everything from movies and barbecues to office supplies and zoos. Virtual Dates said AirFranceSucks.com was a freedom of expression site for the registration of complaints or recommendations about the airline. Air France said it was just trying to cash-in on its trade mark: this was a commercial entity, not the gripe site of an aggrieved customer. Two of the three WIPO panellists reckoned that a domain name that adds 'sucks' to a trade mark will generally be confusingly similar to that trade mark. Presiding panellist Knud Wallberg wrote: “The incorporation of a well known trade mark in its entirety as the first and dominant part of a domain name is confusingly similar to this trade mark regardless of whether the additional elements are pejorative as in this case or of a more neutral kind such as airfrancetickets”. Co-panellist Christian-André Le Stanc agreed: international customers might not appreciate the pejorative nature of the term 'sucks', which would leave users confused. The third panellist, Jeffrey M Samuels, disagreed. Samuels, an intellectual property professor at Akron University, Ohio, accepted that not all internet users will be familiar with the pejorative nature of the term 'sucks.' But he added: "it is likely that a substantial percentage of potential customers of Air France are familiar with the English language and, thus, would be aware of the pejorative nature of 'sucks.'" A confusingly similar trade mark is not enough of itself to force a transfer: it must also be shown that the registrant has no rights or legitimate interest in the name and that its registration and use were in bad faith. But if a panel is convinced that a domain name is not confusingly similar to a trade mark, the rest of a cybersquatting claim will collapse. In Samuels' opinion, the domain name was not confusingly similar to Air France’s trade mark, because it did not look or sound alike nor convey the same commercial impression. Decisions on 'sucks' sites have gone both ways trade mark owners in the past. But the current panel's majority view on their similarity to a trade mark is supported by a WIPO report on trends in domain name dispute decisions, published in March. On 'sucks' sites, it agreed that non-fluent English speakers would fail to recognise the negative connotations of the word. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com See: The WIPO ruling Related stories Cohen disputes UK registry's legitimacy US Appeals Court clarifies protest website law WIPO publishes case book of domain name decisions BAA accused in net 'dirty tricks' campaign Sucks.com issue rears ugly head again
NTL is not known for its customer service. Actually that's not fair, it has a reputation for appalling customer service. But even its low standards were breached back in September when customers phoning one of its call centres were greeted with a rather rude recorded message. Callers were told: "You’re through to NTL customer services. We don’t give a f*** about you. We’re never here. Just f*** off and leave us alone. Get a life." The message was removed but not before several hundred customers heard it After an urgent investigation the ISP tracked the call to the house of Ashley Gibbin, a 26 old year taxi driver from Teesside. He was charged with sending a grossly offensive message and faced a possible six month sentence. Yesterday Gibbin was cleared of the charges because a magistrates court ruled the message was not offensive enough. Gibbin told the Sun newspaper that he'd been on hold for an hour trying to order broadband when he cracked and started hitting buttons at random. This enabled him to change NTL's welcome message to something he felt was more appropriate. Hero. A spokeswoman for NTL told the Reg the message was only available for a few hours on a Sunday morning and only people in the north-east phoning to register faults would have heard it.® Related stories ComReg keeps tabs on NTL's 'overheating' phones Reg Readers hail NTL abusive message NTL customers told to 'f**k off'
The BPI defended its decision to sue illegal music downloaders yesterday, as it lent its backing to an education program aimed at shielding tots and teens from the perils of unauthorised MP3s. International charity Childnet’s low-tech answer to illegal downloads is a leaflet titled, “Young People, Music and the Internet – a guide for parents about P2P, file-sharing and downloading”. It urges parents to “engage” with their children on the issue of illegal downloading, before warning that porn and viruses lurk in P2P sites, and dropping dark hints about the possibility of parents being sued over their children’s downloads. The international leaflet campaign is being backed by the BPI, and is the soft side of its campaign against illegal downloaders. The flip side is the ongoing legal action against downloaders launched last year. The BPI’s director of communications and development, Steve Redmond, showed no softening of the organisation’s legal strategy in a debate with Factory Records founder Tony Wilson at the In the City Interactive conference in London on Tuesday. “Noone comes into this industry to sue people,” Redmond said when challenged by Wilson on the BPI’s legal campaign. But, he continued, “The only campaign in the world that appears to have an effect on downloading is the American litigation.” Redmond shrugged off the suggestion by Wilson that one of the organization’s legal targets could argue the industry created the problem itself by not moving into MP3 technology earlier. “We would win,” he said, “because it’s clearly irrelevant.” Redmond also rebuffed suggestions from the audience that the campaign could blow up in the BPI’s face, for example if a child facing legal action killed themselves. “It’s highly unlikely that a 12 year old would top themselves,” he said. “It is people who steal records who are landing themselves in court,” he continued, pointing out that the BPI’s campaign was aimed at uploaders. Wilson, for his part, goaded Redmond over the record industry’s approach to technology, but demonstrated his neutrality by also dissing record retailers, the makers of 24 Hour Party People, and Steve Jobs. He also turned his ire on musicians themselves. “The perception is musicians like music, the record industry guys like money,” he said. “The reality is the exact opposite… musicians are penny pinching f..kers.”® Related stories UK court orders ISPs to unmask 33 filesharers Brits have bought 5.26 million music downloads this year New wave of lawsuits to hit 'illegal song-swappers' BPI nails 'music pirates'
Seagate today pledged to be the first hard disk maker to bring to market 2.5in HDDs with perpendicular recording technology, drives with hardwired data encryption and the first 1in unit to deliver 8GB of storage capacity. The 1in HDD will be pitched at hand-held devices like PDAs, MP3 players and phones. The 8GB unit will be offered to OEMs and is part of Seagate's ST1 line-up, while a CompactFlash model, the 8GB Photo Hard Drive, will ship through retail, Seagate said. The 8GB ST1 is shipping now "in limited quantities... to select customers", Seagate added. The perpendicular recording technique, in which the magnetic domains are angled at 90 degrees to the disk surface rather than across it, is being pursued by a number of hard drive makers. The advantage is much greater data storage densities. Seagate said it will implement the technology in a 2.5in notebook drive running at 5400rpm but offering a capacity of 160GB, well beyond today's highest-capacity laptop-oriented units. In 2006, Seagate will ship a 7200rpm model, the 7200.1. The first drive will ship as the Momentus 5400.3 later this year, in Q4. Seagate will also ship the Momentus 5400 FDE in the same timeframe. FDE stands for 'Full Disc Encryption', with the user's key encoding every bit of information written to the drive. For desktops, Seagate said it will ship the Barracuda 7200.9 in the Autumn. The 3GBps Serial ATA II unit will offer 500GB of storage capacity, a 16MB cache and native command queuing (NCQ) support. Seagate will also begin offering 3Gbps SATA across all Barracuda drives, from 40GB to 400GB capacities. The company also said it would ship a 500GB drive for PVRs, the DB35, this coming Summer. When the 7200.9 ships, Seagate will roll out a 500GB external HDD, equipping the unit with an 800Mbps Firewire connector. It also said it will offer a 120GB Portable External Hard Drive, shipping in the Summer, which will provide 400Mbps Firewire connectivity alongside the more commonplace USB 2.0. Weighing less than 300g, the drive sports a shock-absorbing aluminium enclosure and bundles BounceBack Express back-up software. Seagate also announced today it will ship what it claims is the world's first hard drive designed to withstand the extreme conditions imposed upon it by installation in a car. When it ships in the Autumn, the 2.5in EE25 will be pitched at auto manufacturers and designers of in-car systems as rugged storage for entertainment and navigation data. Seagate also rolled out the 2.5in LD25 series, aiming the range at games consoles and small form-factor living-room PCs. The drives are already shipping, again to "select" customers. ® Related stories WD ships 300MBps SATA II drive Hitachi ships 'world fastest' 100GB notebook HDD Cornice to stop making 1-2GB 1in HDDs Seagate unveils 120GB notebook HDD Seagate promises perpendicular drives Hitachi headstand sets new HD density record
Researchers at the University of California have started work on a new kind of robot that will be able to walk without a rigid skeleton. This so-called soft robot would be able to go places its more rigid counterparts cannot, squeezing into small spaces that would otherwise be inaccessible. The researchers hope that once completed, the robots will be useful to search and rescue teams in the aftermath of earthquakes, car accidents or during fires. Robert Full, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley said: "The wonderful thing about soft robotics is that it's infinitely adaptable, unlike the few degrees of freedom of rigid robots." The team was inspired by the discovery that two species of octopus can effectively walk along the sea floor using two of their arms, almost like a tank moves along tracks, according to the BBC World Service's Science in Action programme. Every other example of bipedal locomotion involves the support of a rigid skeleton, but the octopuses move along supported purely by the strength of their muscles (and the sea, obviously). The researchers think the walking technique has evolved to allow the octopuses to back away from a predator while maintaining their camouflage. The octopuses walk along by forming functional feet with their arms. The animals roll backwards along the suckers on one flattened arm, before switching to the other arm and repeating the process. Take a peak at a clip of an octopus in motion here. To mimic this process, the research team has built a prototype section of a robotic arm, effectively an artificial muscle. The "muscle" is really a tube with a spring inside, the BBC explains. It can bend in all directions, can be compressed and stretched. By linking many of these tubes together, the researchers think they could create an artificial octopus arm, paving the way for robots that move in a whole new way. ® Bootnote Regular Register readers will no doubt see through this latest thinly veiled attempt by the Lizard army to subjugate the human race. Constant vigilance is the only possible response to the terrifying Rise of The Machines™. Related stories Inside Sun Labs - the best and the 'bots Labour MP backs Captain Cyborg shocker Battling teen crushes roboarm menace
IBM PC Division purchaser Lenovo said today the integration of the Big Blue business into its own operation was proceeding "smoothly" as it announced results for the year to 31 March 2005. Consolidated turnover for the year was up 2.7 per cent to HKD$22.55bn ($2.9bn), though it would only have risen 1.6 per cent if Lenovo hadn't ditched its "non-core" - ie. non-IT and non-communications - businesses during the year. Gross margin fell from 14.75 per cent to 14.62 per cent, the company said. Still, it's profits were up 6.4 per cent to HKD1.12bn ($143.94m). Excluding the company's "investment in globalisation" - ie. the amortisation of marketing rights to the Olympic Partner Program - profits were up 9.4 per cent to HKD1.15bn ($148.06m). The group's earnings came to HKD0.15 ($0.02) a share. Lenovo said its board has proposed a final dividend of 2.8 HK cents per share. Lenovo's corporate IT business grew by 2.5 per cent to HKD12.23bn ($1.57bn). However, its consumer IT business remained approximately even with the prior fiscal year at HKD7.77bn ($998.34m). Turnover in Lenovo's handheld device business increased by 7.5 per cent to HKD2.2bn ($283.13m) on a 63 per cent increase in unit shipments. That, the company claimed, puts it among the top five domestic brand names in China in 2004. Lenovo completed its acquisition of IBM's PC Division last month after regulators in the US gave the deal their approval in March. ® Related stories Notebooks outsell desktops Dell promises posh PCs Dell red-faced over salesman's Lenovo jibes IBM Lenovo gets new head Lenovo raises $350m for IBM PC takeover IBM to sell Lenovo kit by year-end US OKs IBM PC deal
ReviewReview Playing about with colours is something most of us do after we have transferred digital pictures from camera to computer. Now you can do it on your camera before you start shooting. Canon's IXUS 50 introduces a new usage mode, My Colors. The balance between red, green and blue can be altered, skin can be given pale or tanned effects and one colour can be highlighted with everything else rendered in black and white. Colours can also be swapped, writes Debbie Davies. We put My Colors to the test on a bottle of tomato ketchup. With the camera in shooting mode, clicking the Function/Set button displays nine different modes: Auto, Manual, Digital Macro, Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Underwater and, lastly, My Colors. Selecting My Colors opens a sub-menu displayed along the bottom of the LCD screen with nine options. The first option, Positive Film, produces intense natural appearing colours like those obtained with positive film. There are two options for skin colour: Lighter Skin Tone and Darker Skin Tone. These worked well, colouring our subject's lily white skin with a light Mediterranean tan while leaving all the other colours in the shot true. Our favourite options were Color Accent and Color Swap. The first lets you transform an image into black and white but keep one colour true - like the red-coated girl in Schindler's List, or the blood in Sin City. Color Swap lets you select a colour on the LCD screen and swap it for another one. The controls are very easy to use, so it takes seconds to swap red ketchup for white and then yellow and then green and see the results of your creative photography. If you're unsure about the effect you want then original images can be recorded at the same time as the My Color versions. My Colors also works in Movie Mode. The IXUS 50 features another first: Canon's QuickBright function on the 2in LCD screen. The LCD is important because the viewfinder on this camera is grotty and difficult to use for anyone with a nose. Pressing the display button for over a second increases the light behind the LCD screen. Pressing it again restores the original setting. Canon claims that QuickBright improves visibility in glare or outdoor conditions. This was the case in our tests, but the improvement was so minimal as to make little difference. Sony has a better solution to washed out LCD screens in our view with its Clear Photo technology. Sony also gives more useful information than Canon on battery power and storage capacity. Canon's low battery indicator appears just before you run out of juice whereas Sony's indicator shows a full battery and then exactly how much power you are using. We set our IXUS 50 to its lowest quality image setting because we were testing it with the tiny 16MB storage card that comes with the camera. The information it gave on how many shots we had left was quite inaccurate. When the indicator said we had room for 119 more shots, we were able to take a further 31 shots before the memory card was full. If you don't want to be caught out, buy a much bigger memory card and a second battery. Verdict _Aside from My Colors and QuickBright, the IXUS 50 is almost identical to Canon's IXUS 40. The new model adds a million more pixels - to 5mp, as its name hints - but this will make little difference to standard, 6 x 4 prints. However, at A3 it will give noticeably better results. __We checked prices on the two models for this review. At around £20 more than the 40, the IXUS 50 seems good value for such a versatile, high quality compact camera which looks as good today as when Canon launched the first IXUS camera nine years ago. Review by Canon IXUS 50 Rating 80% Pros My Colors; good-looking, compact design. Cons LCD; viewfinder; bundled 16MB storage card. Price £319 More info The Canon site Related reviews Sony DSC-T7 digital camera Olympus Camedia C-370 Zoom Canon Ixus 430 digicam Recent reviews Netgear RangeMax MIMO wireless router Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger in depth - Part 2 Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger' in depth - Part 1 Rio CE2100 2.5GB MP3 player Intel Pentium D dual-core desktop CPU
Lexmark has failed in its attempt to use the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act to stop a small company selling chips which allow refilled toner cartridges to work in its printers. The US Supreme Court turned down Lexmark's request to review the decision of the federal appeals court not to award the printer firm an injunction against the chip. Lexmark's cartridges includes a chip which must be authenticated by the printer before it will accept the new cartridge. Static Control Components makes a chip which replicates this "handshake". But the DMCA forbids any attempt to decrypt or decode technologies put in place to protect intellectual property. Printer companies are desperate to keep hold of the revenue for printer refills, both laser and inkjet. Ink can work out to be more expensive than vintage Champagne. Lexmark will continue legal action against SCC. Lexmark emailed us an official statement on the case: "This deals only with the issue of an injunction. The case itself continues at the District Court level. More broadly, here are the facts about this issue. Lexmark provides laser cartridge customers with high quality products at competitive prices." The company said it offers a regular laser cartridge as well as a discounted laser cartridge under its Return program in exchange for a customer agreeing to return the toner cartridge to it for remanufacturing or recycling. "This case is about improper methods used by competitors to interfere with Lexmark's customer agreements for the Return cartridges in violation of Lexmark intellectual property rights and in order to get an unfair competitive advantage," the firm said. "We will continue to ask the courts to enforce existing laws governing contracts and intellectual property so that our laser cartridge customers can get the benefit of full and fair competition." More info on the background to the case here on the Electronic Freedom Foundation's website ® Related stories HP sued for chipped cartridges Lexmark suffers second knock back in DMCA case HP unites golden printer biz and gimpy PC unit Canon loses printer recycling case Printer ink seven times more expensive than Dom Perignon
The latest MyTob email worms have adopted fresh tactics in an attempt to trick victims. Instead of appearing in emails with virus-contaminated attachments, newer versions of the worm include a faked web link pointing to malicious code, mimicking tricks more commonly used in phishing scams. Emails sent by the new versions of the MyTob worm masquerade as a seemingly legitimate email from the organisation's IT department or ISP, and suggest to users that a security problem has been found with their email account. Users are advised to click on the web link to confirm their account. References are made to the recipient's domain name and email address to give the message the smack of authenticity. "By using this disguise, new versions of the MyTob worm attempt to lure the unwary into clicking on a dangerous web link," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "This is a real headache for IT departments which often struggle to get their users to follow instructions. In this case, following the advice of the email would be a very bad idea." Different variants of the MyTob worm currently account for 14 of the top 20 most commonly reported viruses to Sophos in the last seven days. Each only infects Windows PCs, as is the norm. The new versions of the MyTob worm contain a number of hidden messages. For instance, some claim the author's name is 'DiablO" and contain debug strings such as "[x] starting Hellbot::v3 beta 2'. "All indications suggest that this isn't the last we will see of the MyTob worm. More versions seem certain to be released. It's imperative that everyone keeps their anti-virus protection up-to-date and practises safe computing," Cluley added. Standard defence precautions against viral attacks apply in defending against MyTob: corporates should consider blocking executables at the gateway and update anti-virus signature definition files to detect the virus. Home users should also update anti-virus tools and resist the temptation to open suspicious-looking emails. ® Related stories Window of exposure lets viruses run rampant Hackers plot to create massive botnet Sober worm tops May viral charts Underground showdown: defacers take on phishers
AnalysisAnalysis Apart from the suicidal groans of the faithful, who've seen a decade's worth of evangelism flushed down the pan, Apple has emerged from its Intel migration announcement remarkably well. And with some good reason. Perhaps because after almost 20 years of pressure to make the switch, it had the air of the inevitable. Computers feel more like appliances than they used to in the days when we hand soldered memory chips onto the motherboard or fiddled with DIP switches. A little, but not much - but they're cheaper and more disposable, and so there's less concern about what's really in the box. There's a deeper reason why the switch was widely welcomed. An irony, and one that hasn't escaped the rational Mac faithful, is that Intel's performance as a microprocessor supplier only looks good when compared to Apple's treatment at the hands of Motorola and IBM. Only at one brief moment in the past twenty years has Intel been able to boast the fastest chip in the industry. The last few years have included some notable disasters, and regular public flayings from top management to staff that the company needs to execute better. Intel's roadmap is piled high with car crashes: last year the company axed its next generation of Pentium 4-based chips for the server and desktop, and scrambled for an alternative. While an impressive performer, Pentium-M hasn't delivered the power savings originally hoped. And need we even mention Itanic? Last year Intel bowed to the inevitable and was forced to become AMD compatible, effectively blessing the x86-64 instruction set designed by its much smaller rival. All this at a time when IBM consistently tops the TPC charts with its POWER4 and POWER5 processors, and, with the Cell, has the most talked-about chip in a decade. It's hard to say what would amaze a visitor who'd spent the past five years in a time capsule more: Apple switching to Intel, or Microsoft talking-up its PowerPC-based console, Xbox 2. So Apple's switch to Intel isn't about performance, it's about dependability. There's little doubt that Intel will be making microprocessors in ten years time, and lots of them. While Apple doesn't wield the negotiating clout of a Dell, it still has options if it's unhappy with Intel as a supplier. Once you couldn't rationally expect IBM to focus its efforts elsewhere. The Playstation2 reached 100 million sales this month, and with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all opting for IBM sourced chips you can hardly blame IBM for making this a priority. A source at IBM's Fishkill plant reportedly said that no more than 2 per cent of the fab's capacity was ever occupied by cranking out chips for Apple - and now they don't have to put up with screaming fits any more. Adam's Apple? However Apple's share price has sagged on the news, because the company still faces a painful migration. Apple has vowed to support PPC Macs for a long time, but that isn't the issue. Put simply, who in their right minds would buy a Power-based Mac now, or in the next eighteen months? Unlike commodity PCs, Macs retain their resale value better, and Apple owners keep their machines longer, which makes for a more enduring investment. Casting back five years, to the summer of 2000, we see Apple was selling machines which still run Mac OS X very capably today. The dual 500Mhz PowerMacs and the 450Mhz G4 Cube all need stuffing with RAM, but thanks to the performance improvements in OS X Panther and Tiger, these five year old machines do the job. Who, buying a PPC Mac this year, will be able to say the same of their machine in 2010? The issue is that developers and device manufacturers need to support a diminishing base of users. In 2010, the case for cranking out a legacy driver for long-dead hardware will be hard to make. There's little Apple can do about this, except introduce new machines as quickly as it can. This is called the Osborne Effect: announcing a successor without being able to ship it. It led to the collapse of his pioneering company. "You'll note however that people do still do this these days, possibly through total ignorance of Adam's existence," wrote John Lettice when Osborne died two years ago. It's unlikely that Jobs has forgotten his former rival, and even more unlikely that the transition will be as bumpy. The original Osborne Effect from pre-announcement to filing for bankruptcy took just six months. These days the computer industry is a more mature business, Apple has software and iPods to sell, and of course, has billions in the bank with which to cushion the impact. But how far sales fall as the first Intel-based Macs approach remains to be seen. Bargain basement Which brings us, with a slightly too slick link, to Apple's other issue. A consequence of choosing a commodity component supplier is that the family comes along for the ride, too. By removing an important differentiator, will Apple be able to trump other commodity factors such as price? Once the x86-Macs appear, will aesthetics and security be enough to persuade the buyer that the premium is worth it over the beige box? Many PC OEMs thought they could succeed with technical differentiation, and most went bust trying. The public unarguably wants cheap Dells. Does this leave enough room for Apple? We saw a dry run for these kind of arguments when the Mac Mini was unveiled in January. At $499 it was compared to Wintel PCs which came with the convenience of a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Adam Osborne's co-author John C Dvorak seems to think Apple's superior aesthetics alone can actually make that vital difference. "There are plenty of people who would pay a premium for a computer that didn't look like an old-fashioned PC. The case-mod movement has been indicating this trend for a decade. A good portion of the buyers today would like to see something around their desk that wasn't a beige box with all the appeal of 1977 Plymouth," he writes. Dvorak has railed against the conservatism of the US public for years (with some style, for example, in his Bland Americans column) and let's hope he's right. The dress sense may eventually take a turn for the better, too. If not, Apple does have other cards. There are many miserable aspects of the modern computer experience, and security is one where Apple users worry less than Windows users. (For this reporter, it's more important than the design). But Apple may have a third factor in its favor, once the Intel Dells and Intel Apples are compared side by side, and it's a bonus it has never had before. The gaming scene on the Mac today resembles a desert, because as one reader reminded us, Microsoft has tied the major publishers into the DirectX APIs . If Apple can contrive to create an optimal Windows environment - effectively a DirectX run-time - that plays Windows games at near-good-enough performance, it will give potential buyers a powerful reason for paying the Apple premium. So will you buy a PPC Mac this year? Write and tell us. ® Related stories Apple shifts to Intel: what is all the fuss about? Intel today, Microsoft tomorrow for Apple? Apple CEO promises two-year Intel conversion
Siemens Business Services is providing desktop support to Microsoft workers in 57 countries. The contract was previously held by HP. The contract covers 70,000 seats and is for three years - the value was not released at Microsoft's request. SBS previously ran desktop support for Microsoft in the Americas. This is now extended to include Europe, Middle East and Africa. Dan Moscatello, vice president for SBS in the US, told the Reg: "We are extending the deal and replacing HP in EMEA."® Related stories Siemens outsources IT - to itself BBC staff asked to lay off BBC news ticker BBC Tech staff become Siemens workers
Sierra Wireless is to drop its Voq Pro smart phone, the company announced today, citing the product's "limited success" as one of the factors behind the move. Sierra operates primarily in the embedded radio market - building a successful line of cellular network PC Cards, for example - and it said it wants to focus its efforts on those markets. Based on Windows Mobile, the Voq Pro was notable for its phone-like design at a time when most Windows Mobile devices opted for bulky, more PDA-like casings. It also sported an innovative fold-out QWERTY keypad. The Voq Pro was first demonstrated in October 2003, but didn't ship until the following year. Alas, by the time it went on sale, there were a range of better products on the market, variously aimed at folk who simply want a candybar handset, a more PDA-like device or a machine with a full keyboard. Sierra also missed the boat on the growing demand for camera phones, and failed to include Bluetooth. The Voq's unfinished-looking design didn't do it any favours either. Earlier this year, Sierra was challenged with a class action lawsuit that alleged the company had failed in its duties to its shareholders by launching the Voq, a product, the lawsuit alleged, the company knew to be "flawed". According to the law firm behind the action, Lerach Coughlin, the case is still pending. "To proceed with the Voq is no longer the best use of our resources," said Sierra president and CEO David Sutcliffe. "We will now seek the most effective exit, whether by divestiture or by termination of the initiative." ® Related stories Sierra sued over 'flawed' Voq smart phone Alien smartphone lands in Netherlands MS plucks Sierra Wireless for smartphone Related review Voq Pro smart phone
The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to back calls for proposed laws on data retention to be scrapped. If it were passed, the law would require ISPs and telcos to retain at least three years of data about their customer's communications. But the proposal has been widely criticised for being unworkable, expensive to implement, invasive, and unnecessary. However, although Parliament's vote has been hailed a victory by organisation representing ISPs, the reality is that the body has no power over the future of the proposal. This is because it is a Pillar 3 proposal, that is, it was set in motion by member states, not the European Commission. "The Parliament was just being "consulted" on the proposal under the Consultation Procedure and consequently has no power," explains Joe McNamee, EU policy director at the Political Intelligence consultancy. Meanwhile, the Greens and the EFA group in parliament are calling for the European Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the proposal. The proposal deals with areas that, it could be argued, must be handled by Pillar 1, the Commission, which would give parliament the right to scrutinise the terms. "Justice and home affairs ministers argue that this legislation is primarily focused on combating terrorism, and thus the need to act quickly justifies the circumventing of parliamentary scrutiny," notes Kathalijne Buitenweg, Green MEP for the Netherlands. "We do not agree, and the European Commission shares our view that this costly and hard-to-execute proposal, which has severe implications on privacy rights as well as business, deserves an appropriate legal base." So what does this mean for the future of the bill? Is it dead, alive or merely wounded? "As the Commission believes that the proposal is illegal, it is unlikely that it will proceed any further," McNamee told us. "That said, the Commission is producing its own proposal on data retention, which is unlikely to be substantially different. This is expected within weeks." ® Related stories MEPs to vote on 'invasive' data retention plans EC wants to cap data retention laws EU's data retention laws could be illegal
Praise be! Sun Microsystems has snagged another customer for its JES (Java Enterprise System) software subscription service, and the customer is none other than the Holy See. It turns out the Vatican needed a messaging system of biblical proportions. It picked up some of Sun's Ultrasparc-based servers running the Solaris operating system, some storage and Sun's Messaging and Directory Servers. Sun notes that "in just two months" it managed to create an "end-to-end messaging infrastructure." It's not clear if that was meant as bragging or an admission of guilt. "E-mail is one of the most important IT services we provide at the Holy See - enabling our internal communication, facilitating correspondence between our consulates, and aiding our worldwide evangelization efforts," said Sister Judith Zoebelein of the Internet Office at the Holy See. "We now have an efficient, easy-to-manage enterprise communications solution that can reliably support our massive volume of daily e-mail traffic." This canned quotation seems to be a reward for Sun's work during the crisis that hit the Vatican's servers following John Paul II's death and the subsequent election of Benedict XVI. During this period, the Vatican's web servers, according to information from Netcraft, changed from HP's HP-UX systems to Sun's Solaris systems. A couple of Sun underlings were busy notifying the press of this switch, saying the Vatican picked Solaris over HP-UX to handle the huge amount of web traffic created by the Papal hubbub. Sun could use a helping hand from the Almighty where JES is concerned. Interest in the subscription package has waned in recent quarters, prompting Sun to change its JES pricing. Instead of $100 per employee per year, customers can now pay $140 per employee per year for all the JES software or buy individual packages for $50 per employee per year. Sun did not have the individual package offer before. Based on the two packages the Holy See picked up - the Messaging and Directory Servers - it looks like the Vatican grabbed the Java Communications Suite for $50 per employee per year. At last count, the Vatican had about 2,700 staffers. "Moving forward, the Holy See plans to build a new worldwide portal to strengthen its web community and centralize its multiple external and internal Internet sites," Sun said. "Sun is now working with the team to implement the Portal Solution with components of the Sun Java Enterprise System. The new portal will provide users with fast, anytime access to comprehensive applications and services, including content management, streaming, e-learning, and collaboration." Amen. ® Related stories Go-ahead Rev opens Wi-Fi church eBay hails reverse auctions success Pope's auto auctioned for $250,000 Papal succession fuels April religious spam blitz Pope gets emailed up
Cryptographers have discovered a security flaw in implementations of Bluetooth which allows hackers to pair their devices with prospective victims. The approach creates a means for hackers to hijack Bluetooth-enabled devices. It's not all just theory either, unlike most cryptographic attacks. The researchers - Yaniv Shaked and Avishai Wool of Tel Aviv University in Israel - have come up with an exploit which allows hackers to pair with devices without alerting their owner. The approach gets around limitations of a security attack first described by Ollie Whitehouse of security firm @Stake last year. This earlier method meant an attacker needed to eavesdrop the initial connection process (pairing) between two Bluetooth devices, which only occurs infrequently. Shaked and Wool have worked out a way to force this pairing process by masquerading as a device, already paired with a target, that has supposedly forgotten a link key used to secure communications. This initiates a fresh pairing session which a hacker can exploit to snaffle the link key and thereby establish a pairing without needed to know PIN details. Once a connection is set up, an attacker could make eavesdrop on data transmitted between a target devices and a PC or (at least potentially) take control of someone's Bluetooth device. "Once an attacker has forced two devices to pair, they can work out the link key in just 0.06 seconds on a Pentium IV-enabled computer," New Scientist reports. Shaked and Wool are scheduled to outline their research at the MobiSys conference in Seattle this week. ® Related stories Porn, Dubai and Bluetooth phone hacking... Car virus myth debunked Security researchers nibble at Bluetooth Wi-Fi honeypots a new hacker trap
SuperCommSuperComm Many of you will be familiar with those Play-Doh presses that squeeze out turds of brightly colored goo in the shape of stars, circles or, these days, waffles. Well, imagine that Harvard Law School had one of these presses and replaced the colorful Play-Doh with mounds of dull, white flesh and then replaced the star or circle design with the outline of a bureaucratic suit. That's how we figure new FCC (Federal Communications Commissioner) Commissioner Kevin Martin came into being after seeing him speak yesterday at the Supercomm conference here in Chicago. Martin wooed the Supercomm crowd with his boyish looks, southern charm and disarming approach to answering questions about the US communications agenda. If nothing else, Martin's tone provided a refreshing change from the ego-driven salesman Michael Powell who served before him. When not keeping children protected from breasts, Powell always seemed to be hawking Tivo, HDTV or PDAs. Despite saying "shop and buy" was the message he wanted to leave with the Supercomm crowd, Martin didn't go quite as far as Powell with the product placements, and we thank him for that. Instead, Martin proved rather charming and humble. An IP-enabled, capitalist Cincinnatus came to mind. "Establishing a regulatory environment that is conducive for . . . creating a level playing field for the various service provides out there" will be one of the "top priorities for the Commission going forward," he said during a question and answer session. And later, "I think the Commission needs to do all it can . . . to create a level playing field." And later, "I hope that people say I was fair in trying to address these issues - that we did try to make some progress in creating a level playing field." Them Harvard boys know how to stay on message. The level playing field at hand has teclos, cable companies, internet start-ups and others fighting to get their piece of a converging communications pie. The Commission has in many instances helped out young firms by giving them a chance to break into markets dominated by big, old players. And even when it gives VoIP providers, for example, a hard time for not having adequate 911 emergency calling, the Commission is really helping out these fledgling companies, despite their objections. As Martin pointed out, consumers will be much more impressed with this new technology if it can handle the basics that we've all come to expect. But this level playing field message and some more chatter about "broadband for everyone" seemed to be all Martin could muster. Granted he wasn't being pushed too hard by the two trade body presidents doing the interviewing. We, however, had higher hopes for the young Chairman who took over the FCC in March. "Broadband technology has a real impact in almost every aspect of consumers' lives," he said. Er. "It has a real impact on people in the way they can educate themselves and the way they are able to work." Hmm. "It really has an impact on everything that will touch a consumer's life." Um. "It has a real, positive impact directly on consumers." We get it; we get it. Broadband is the new Everything. And about the lack of 911 emergency services with VoIP. "It was creating life-threatening problems for consumers." Yeah, having VoIP is really living on the edge. One gets the feeling that Martin's only friends are Bill Gates and the guy that fills George Bush's iPod with songs. It's great to see yet another FCC Chairman who loves technology and maintains a working vocabulary for the important discussion items. These folks, however, seem so divorced from a real populace that finds the internet interesting, amusing and helpful but hardly life-altering. It would be great to create a Play-Doh FCC Chairman less concerned with shoving IP-enabled devices into our pockets at the lowest price and more concerned with, well, good, insightful communication. ® Related stories Cost of net phone calls may rise Court blasts FCC on broadcast flag Vonage bows to 911 pressure US to embrace VoIP Vonage expands UK service
Microsoft has planned a long, slow death for the Virtual Server product it acquired in 2003. Redmond will stop selling a standalone partitioning product when the server version of its "Longhorn" operating system arrives. In Virtual Server's place, Microsoft will have a new hypervisor type of technology that will allow different versions of Windows and even other operating systems to run on the same server. Microsoft got its hands on Virtual Server when it bought Connectix, but the relatively low-end software has failed to disrupt the success of more sophisticated software from VMware. "Today, we have a product called Virtual Server that sits on top of Windows and provides virtualization capabilities," Microsoft SVP Bob Muglia, told ComputerWorld. "In the future, we're going to build the hypervisor and the virtualization stack into Windows. So while it's a whole new set of technologies, much, if not all, of what Virtual Server does today goes into the operating system. It becomes an operating system feature." Microsoft has frowned on VMware's success with many analysts saying the company fears giving up some of its control over the server. VMware's most expensive product sits underneath the operating system and could arguably be called the dominant operating environment. So far, Microsoft has refused to support Windows running in a VMware virtual machine - or partition, although VMware's close allies IBM, HP, Dell, Oracle and others are there to assist customers. The hypervisor technology also puts a layer between a physical server and server operating systems and has gained traction with the hardware makers. The open source Xen package is very popular at the moment, and IBM is developing its own type of hypervisor. As usual, Microsoft isn't exactly on the cutting edge of server software development. Its hypervisor layer probably won't appear until, gulp, 2009 in an update to Longhorn Server. The operating system itself is due out around 2007. It took a painful extraction exercise from ComputerWorld to discover the 2009 date from Muglia. Will the built-in virtualization capabilities ship with Longhorn, or after Longhorn? - the magazine asked. "In [April], we talked about it as 'the Longhorn time frame,'" Muglia said. "And it still is the time frame. When we think about operating system generations, I think about the '07 generations of the operating system, say '07-'08 as all being Longhorn, maybe even to '09 for Longhorn R2. Whether it's '10 or '11, we'll have to look to see. It will be somewhere in that time frame we would do Blackcomb [the successor to Longhorn]. So the virtualization features are in the Longhorn time frame, but it's not in the initial release of Longhorn." Will Microsoft ship the virtualization features for the operating system as a feature pack add-on to Longhorn? "Maybe. I don't know. It may be in [Release 2] as well, although it's got some fundamentals that require some changes to the OS. It's not like WinFS, where it can just be put on incrementally. It does require some changes, so we're still thinking about how to deliver that." So the virtualization technology will have to be delivered with whatever operating system release is ready? "Of some form. One thing we can sometimes do, which we did a lot of in [Service Pack] 1 of Server 2003, is put enabling features into Service Packs and then we turn them on later. So, for example, when we shipped SP1 of 2003, there's code in that Service Pack that gets activated when we ship R2. There may be an ability to do something like that." Will Longhorn have the enabling capabilities? "Some will be in there. But it will probably be mostly in the Service Pack of Longhorn Server." Or you could just go with R2 of Longhorn Server. "Exactly." Phew. You can read the whole Computerworld interview here. Muglia also suggested that, with the hypervisor, customers will be able to create operating system sessions and move them from server to server. This could be useful for more complex workload management and server provisioning operations. Both Microsoft and VMware plan to tap into new partitioning tools that Intel and AMD are hard-wiring into their chips. This should improve the performance of the virtual machine software, which tends to chew through memory. It looks like Microsoft plans to "featurize" at least basic server partitioning functions and give the technology away with the OS. VMware, however, apparently has little to fear until 2009. The virtual machine market will keep kicking back cash to the software maker and its owner EMC. Mainframe and Unix customers are more familiar with partitioning technology and already have higher-end tools than those generally available for x86 machines. ® Related stories VMware starts virtual machine club for developers and ISVs HP fills NonStop gear full of Itaniums Intel exposes 65nm dual-core Xeons Intel sees virtualization as key to child-proof PCs Itanium inventor bobs to surface as chip's savior? On Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005