10th > June > 2005 Archive

Japanese scientists show super suit

The land that built an entire film industry on grown men dressed up as giant lizards or insects has applied the same principles to developing a super-powered exo-skeleton to harden frail human bodies. Developed at Tsukuba University in Japan, the suit is being touted as something something that could help the elderly, frail, or disabled; or as something that could be used by manual workers to help lift heavier loads. It weighs in at 15 kilograms, and detects muscle movement through the flow of electrical signals over the skin's surface, according to an AFP report. It then amplifies the signal, and moves accordingly. According to the photographs accompanying the original story, the suit can boost the power of a man to such an extent that he can easily lift...umm...a small woman. Hmmmm...perhaps we need not be quite so afraid. The prototype will be on show at the World Exposition in the Aichi prefecture. Regular readers will be relieved to know we have passed on details to the neoLuddite Resistance Army.® Related stories Vampire robonurses hunt in packs Captain Cyborg gives forth on CNN Cornell Uni develops apocalypse cube
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2005
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ATI to launch R520 '26 July'

Nvidia is set to launch its next-generation graphics chip, the GeForce 7800, aka 'G70', on 21 June in San Francisco. According to a GamesIndustry.biz report, Nvidia's arch-rival, ATI, will unveil its next-gen part, codenamed R520, a month later, on 26 July. The report doesn't mention the chip's shipping brand name, or provide any indication as to its specifications. Nvidia partners had GeForce 7800-based boards pumping out pixels at Computex 2005 in Taipei last week, though they were all being kept out of the public gaze. It's believed the G70 will ship as the 7800, 7800 GT and 7800 GTX, with the top-end part sporting 24 pixel processing pipelines and eight vertex engines. Together they can calculate 860m vertices and shade 10.32bn pixels every second. The three chips will contain the next versions of Nvidia's CineFX and Intellisample technologies to support DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0. SLi support will be there too, though not necessarily in all versions of the chip. The G70 operates a 256-bit memory bus out to GDDR 3 SDRAM. ATI's launch a month after Nvidia's may prove to be less substantial. Sources said to be close to the company have claimed the chip maker is respinning the R520 in a bid to boost the chip's yields, Xbit Labs reports. The source alleges the chip is fully functional, but ATI is concerned about the number of working parts that are being pressed out of each wafer. Yields are typically low in the early stages of a chip's production lifecycle, but that's usually offset by the higher prices new, high-end parts command. The R520 is believed to be being fabbed at 90nm by TSMC. That aside, ATI is likely to use the month after Nvidia launches to tune its core and memory clock speeds in a bid to beat the G70's performance. The R520 is expected to support Shader Model 3.0, a feature missing from previous generations of ATI chips because, the company said, supporting software isn't yet readily available. The chip will also support ATI's CrossFire technology, its answer to Nvidia's SLi. ® Related stories MS patches XP for HD video acceleration ATI slashes Q3 sales forecast Nvidia preps GeForce 7800 GFX ATI unveils CrossFire Crytek: new ATI chip will support Shader 3.0
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2005
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RIM takes NTP to court - again

Just when you thought it was all over, Research in Motion's long-running spat with NTP is about to return to the US courts. RIM said yesterday it has filed a complaint with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit asking it to stay the earlier appeal ruling and to remand the case to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which RIM will ask to enforce the settlement terms. RIM claims NTP is failing to do what it promised to in order to end the almost three-year-long legal battle. "NTP refuses to honour its obligations under the Term Sheet and finalise the definitive documents," RIM alleged this week. "As a result, an impasse has been reached with respect to the settlement." RIM did not say which terms NTP is allegedly trying to change or otherwise get out of. The settlement, forged in March this year, will see RIM cough up $450m in return for a licence to use NTP's intellectual property. NTP sued RIM in 2002, winning an injunction against the Blackberry company which was later rescinded pending RIM's appeal, which kicked off in July 2004. RIM lost its appeal the following December. Those were terms of the settlement - the final agreement still needed to be formulated, and it's that process which appears to have hit a rock in the road. RIM said if an agreement can't be reached, it will have no option but to go back to court to seek a judgement forcing NTP to commit to the terms it said it would support. RIM is due to report the results of its first quarter FY2006 results on 29 June. ® Related stories Yahoo! bids to eat RIM's lunch Microsoft pushes mobile advances Business email services squeeze BlackBerry RIM takes Blackberry harvest to 3m users Microsoft goes after Blackberry with Magneto RIM edges into Q4 loss RIM settles NTP lawsuit for $450m RIM infringed NTP patents, appeal court rules
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2005
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10 patches - one critical - for June patch Tuesday

Microsoft plans to release 10 patches - one of which it deems critical - in a tranche of security fixes next Tuesday (14 June). Seven of the security bulletins affect Windows and there's also a single "important" update for Exchange. Two patches address "moderate" problems with Windows and Microsoft Services for UNIX in one case and Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server and Small Business Server in another. News of the upcoming patches came in an advanced bulletin notification issued Thursday which omits any details about the upcoming security fixes. Next Tuesday will also bring with it a major revamp of Microsoft's patching tools. Consumers will be offered a one-stop destination for software patches through a new Microsoft Update service that allows customers to get updates for Office and other applications from the same place they get Windows patches. Meanwhile Windows Update will be retained and updated. ® Related stories Microsoft issues solitary patch Eight patches - five critical - in MS April patch batch Microsoft fortifies monthly patches with interim advisories Microsoft hunts web nasties with honey monkeys Study: Flaw disclosure hurts software makers' stock
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2005
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Intel recruits Nokia to tout WiMAX

Intel has persuaded Nokia to join it on its quest to establish WiMAX as the de facto standard for wireless broadband. The two giants today said they will co-operate "to accelerate the development, adoption and deployment" of the wireless technology. The agreement centres on the 802.16e specification for mobile WiMAX - the version of the technology that allows client devices to communicate with base-stations while in motion. The 802.16e specification has yet to be ratified as an IEEE standard. It is also incompatible with the ratified 802.16d WiMAX standard for fixed wireless broadband connections. Intel has pledged to solve that incompatibility in silicon - essentially by building adaptors with two devices on board, one for each WiMAX mode. It has already launched 802.16d silicon. The 802.16e specification borrows heavily from the mobile phone world, and it's Nokia's expertise in that area that Intel wants to utilise. Nokia is also a proponent of 3G mobile phone networks and their evolution through HSDPA (High Speed Data Packet Access) and HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access), both techniques expected to be implemented over the coming years to boost 3G data connection speeds. HSDPA only boosts download speeds, while HSUPA, due a few years further down the line, will increase upload throughput. A number of mobile phone networks are due to begin HSDPA trials this year with a view to a broader roll-out in 2006. Indeed, there has been talk in the industry that 3G and 802.16e should be aligned into a single specification. Proponents of both technologies have long maintained that the two are complementary rather than competitive, but there's clearly plenty of cross-over between them. WiMAX's success depends on offering a compelling alternative to existing 3G installations. Right now, it has a clear bandwidth advantage, but it has yet to be rolled out to any significant extent. HSDPA, HSUPA and future extensions have the potential to bring much higher data speeds to existing 3G networks with minimal upgrade costs. Nokia, for one, is working on a data-only version of 3G called I-HSPA, geared toward both mobile and fixed connections, Giuseppe Donagemma, head of Nokia's Radio Networks division, recently told The Register. The question is, can they arrive in time to negate the need for WiMAX? The jury is still out. Either way, Intel is determined to drive the adoption of WiMAX at any cost, claim wireless industry insiders. The chip giant lost its leadership role in Wi-Fi, and it's resolute that it won't let the same thing happen with WiMAX, they say. ® Related stories Kent students get hyper fast WiMAX broadband One and a half cheers for WiMAX WiMAX goes a-roaming Intel launches WiMAX chip Intel pledges to fix WiMAX mode muddle WiMAX summit: 'Standards-plus' could harm 802.16 roadmap WiMAX hype peaks
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2005
fingers pointing at man

Bogus Jackson suicide bid claim used to spread malware

A spam campaign that claims Michael Jackson has attempted suicide is being used to lure surfers into infecting their PCs with a Trojan horse. The malicious junk mail messages prey on the intense media interest in the trial of the controversial popstar. Typical subject lines of the messages state: "Re: Suicidal aattempt" and feature message text such as "Last night, while in his Neverland Ranch, Michael Jackson has made a suicidal attempt. They suggest this attempt follows the last claim was made against the king of pop. 46 years old Michael has left pre-suicid note which describes and interpretes some of his sins. Read more..." Users who click on the link visit a maliciously constructed website that attempts to exploit well-known Windows vulnerabilities to install a Trojan called Borobt-Gen onto surfer's PCs. "If you click on the link, the website displays a message saying it is too busy, which may not surprise people who think it might contain genuine breaking news about Michael Jackson," said Carole Theriault, security consultant for Sophos. "However, this is a diversionary tactic - because behind the scenes the website is downloading malware onto the user's computer without their knowledge." It's neither the first time interest in Jackson has been exploited by virus writers nor the use of topical events have been exploited to spread Trojan horse malware. In October 2004, messages were posted on the internet claiming that incriminating home videos belonging to Jackson had been found. The supposed link to more information was in fact a gateway to infection by the Hackarmy Trojan horse. ® Related stories Trojan poses as Osama capture pics Beckham + strumpet pic actually Trojan Trojan poses as Berg video footage Schwarzenegger virus terminated Trojan poses as bin Laden suicide pics
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2005

Boffins take new angle on anti-aging research

Scientists in New York and Vienna have proposed a new way of looking at aging that they say explains why despite an aging population, people are behaving as though they are younger than their years. All sounds fine and dandy, until you get to the bit where they explain what they actually mean. Rather than looking at age as the number of years you have already lived, look at it from the other angle: how many more years are you likely to be taking up breathing room on the planet? As expected life spans increase, the average person could, the scientists argue, have more and more years to live as time passes. Figures published in Nature this week support this argument. In 2000, the average age in Germany was 39.9 years, and the average life span was 79.1 years. By 2050, these figures are likely to have hit 51.9 and 89 respectively. This means a 52 year-old in 2050 could expect to live almost as long as a 40 year-old in 2000. Warren Sanderson of the University of New York in Stony Brook argues that this means people are behaving as though they are younger. "As people have more and more years to live they have to save more and plan more," he explained to Reuters. Excuse us, but if memory serves, young people don't save their cash or plan retirement. Young people go out, get horribly drunk, shag each other and fall over. Middle-aged people worry about pensions (you should see the looks of concern whenever the word is mentioned in this office, for instance). We are left with the uncomfortable suspicion that these scientists are either trying to redefine age so that they can lie about their own on a scientific basis, or that they were never young. What these scientists are actually saying, is that although tempus still fugit, we know we're likely to live longer than previous generations. It is not that we are behaving as though we are younger, but as though we know we are going to get a lot older. ® Related stories Greenies want limits on ocean sonar Big-O problems may be down to genes Swiss neurologists to model the brain
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2005

BT denies pulling phone plug on kiddie charity

BT has been condemned for allegedly pulling the plug on a telephone helpline used to support a children's charity. ADHD in Suffolk - a voluntary group that supports families with children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - got clobbered with a £400 phone bill after falling victim to a rogue internet dialler scam. The charity claims that BT refused to waive the bill and then cut off the line, something BT denies. And now Suffolk MP Bob Blizzard, who earlier this year asked the police to investigate whether BT was in breach of the Proceeds of Crime Act for taking money from customers caught by rogue dialler fraud, has called the telco's attitude "appalling and hypocritical". "In my initial correspondence with the Chief Executive [of BT] on this matter I was told that the company would donate any profits from such scammed calls to Childline," said Mr Blizzard." "The company is now showing a complete lack of social conscience by terminating a telephone hotline set up to help parents affected by ADHD. This organisation is providing a vital service and I find BT's attitude appalling and hypocritical. "Until this matter is resolved parents in need are unable to get through easily on the published numbers to obtain the advice and help they so badly need, and the organisation is finding it very difficult to operate." But BT has rejected the allegations insisting that it did not cut off the helpline. A spokesman for the company added that BT had also agreed to write off £300 of the bill as a "goodwill gesture". ® Related stories MP gets police to investigate BT over rogue dialler scams Punters fear doorstep selling ICSTIS bars rogue dialler operator BT cracks down on rogue diallers Telcos act to squeeze out 'few rotten apples' UK phone scammers yet to pay fines
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2005
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Creative preps Zen Vision video player

Creative is to extend its Zen MP3 player brand into the video player market, it has emerged after a preliminary specification and piccies popped up ahead of time on an Australian retail website. Supplier MP3Direct.com.au has since yanked the device's images and all references to it, but not before gadget site DAPReview was able to scribble down the details. The Zen Vision is said to sport a 1.8in 30GB hard drive to store MP3, WMA, WAV, MPEG 4, WMV, DIVx and XviD audio and video files, not to mention JPEG and TIFF pictures, for playback on the unit's 3.7in, 640 x 480 65,535-colour display. There's a microphone for voice recording, and a built-in FM tuner, though you won't be able to record broadcasts, apparently. The device's audio output can be tweaked with an eight-preset EQ. There's a USB 2.0 port for PC connectivity, a CompactFlash slot for expansion. The rechargeable battery is removable. The Vision weighs 232g and measures 12.4 x 7.4 x 2cm. The retailer had the release date down as the end of June, but since it's not clear whether it was planning to source the product locally or from Creative's home market in Singapore, it's impossible to say what the wider availability will or won't be. It's a cute box, and it's hard to imagine it not appearing in Europe and the US, though we'd guess much later in the year, toward Christmas. ® Related stories Creative launches Neeon 'smallest' HDD MP3 player Apple iPod grabs half of US Flash player market Creative income falls on iPod-minced margins Related stories Rio CE2100 2.5GB MP3 player Apple iPod Mini 6GB iRiver H10 5GB MP3 player iRiver PMC-120 Portable Media Center Creative Zen Micro 5GB music player
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2005
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Dutch hacker love-in will get permit

Dutch hacker love in What the Hack will get a permit after all for this year's bash on a campground near Boxtel in the Netherlands. The gathering of 3,000 international hackers, between 28 and 31 July, faced the chop a couple of weeks ago, because the local mayor feared "breaches of law and order and danger to public safety". Now the organisers tell hack trekkies: "Ladies and gentlemen, grab your tissues to wipe away the tears of joy!" The festival, which takes place every four years, has been running for 16 years. The event originates from a group of people that was originally centred around a small Dutch hacker magazine Hack-Tic. "Expect people from every nook and cranny of the hacker universe," the organisers promise. Related stories Dutch hacker love-in faces the chop German court to examine Lufthansa attack Dutch police arrest Anna Kornikova virus suspect
Jan Libbenga, 10 Jun 2005

Nokia 6680 3G phone

ReviewReview I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Nokia 6680 for quite some time. I'm one of the many people to be more than a little disappointed with the 6630, Nokia's first UK 3G offering. It was riddled with bugs. Even after all the software updates, it failed to live up to most expectations. Enter the 6680, a sleeker, more business-like descendant, running on basically the same principles but with a few nifty improvements, writes Ian Hughes. It looks so much better than the 6630. A more square shape to the design instantly makes it look like a professional's tool, rather than the slightly gimmicky pear-shape of its predecessor. The keypad, despite still being a little small, doesn't have that slightly odd upwards curve to it. So it's easier to use and just feels better in your hand. The first major and noticeable improvement is a forward facing camera in addition to the 1.3 megapixel camera on the back. Now you can make video calls without having to buy an additional cradle - or developing wrist-strain from trying to flip the 6630 round to see and be seen. The rear-facing camera is also protected by an active slide - opening it turns on the camera. As I discovered after taking numerous images of the inside of my jacket pocket, it remains active even when the keypad is locked. It may be useful for getting to the camera function quickly, but the option to turn it off would be helpful. There's the addition of a flash and at short range, it's actually quite effective. Another nice enhancement to the camera is the ability to change the white balance - surely one of the best things about digital photography and a rare feature on a camera phone up to now. Video calling also has a new element: the ability to share video clips during a call, so all those embarrassing "fall over in pub" moments can be shared immediately with your mates. Nokia is most proud of the XpressPrint feature, which lets you print your images directly on any PictBridge-enabled printer. Bluetooth support even means you can do this wirelessly. As long as you're not expecting to put your photos on a billboard, the quality is actually pretty good. Business users will appreciate the active standby screen, which resembles a miniature PC desktop, with shortcuts to your favourite applications in addition to the customisable soft keys. There are also some neat little applications bundled with the phone, although this may depend on your network. There's QuickOffice to view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files and a comprehensive suite of imaging and video editing applications. The requisite messaging and multimedia functions are here too and, as always, are straightforward to set up and operate. Verdict In my tests, call quality was excellent and I certainly seemed to have a much stronger signal in most areas than with the 6630 - perhaps the reception has been beefed up to help with the notoriously patchy quality of 3G in certain areas. __Grumbles? Not too many to be honest. The main problems I had with the phone were similar to my 6630s, such as loss of packet data connections and the subsequent disabling of automatic email retrieval - but these are more to do with network integrity. Neither did I have any spontaneous reboots, which seemed to be such a common feature of the earlier model. __It seems Nokia has listened to its customers and put right many of the little niggles that plagued the 6630. In the process, it has also squeezed in some nice new toys to play with. I for one think it's done a pretty good job, so here's hoping it stays on the market for a decent length of time to repair some of the damage done by the earlier model's shortcomings. Review by Nokia 6680   Rating 90%   Pros Sleek design; software improvements; two cameras with flash; direct photo printing.   Cons Active slide can't be disabled and does feel a little flimsy; quite heavy.   Price Depends on network contract; SIM-free approx. £360   More info The Nokia 6680 site Recent reviews Canon IXUS 50 digicam 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
Pocket Lint, 10 Jun 2005

MPs accuse BT of 'exploiting low wages in China'

MPs have accused BT of "exploiting low wages in China" following the telco's decision to select suppliers of its new digital phone network from overseas. They've called on the North West Regional Development Agency (NWRDA) and the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) to work with the telco and unions to help save 300 hi-tech jobs at Marconi in Liverpool. UK telecoms equipment maker Marconi was expected to get a slice of the massive £10bn contract to build BT's next-generation 21st Century Network (21CN) project. But although its gear was up to scratch Marconi couldn't match rivals on price. Last month Marconi announced that as a result of failing to win the contract it would axe around 800 workers in the UK - losing some 450 jobs in Coventry and a further 300 in Liverpool. Publishing an early day motion - which allows backbench MPs to voice their opinion on a subject and to canvass support from other MPs - six Merseyside MPs said: "This House notes with great concern the proposed closure of the Marconi factory in Edge Lane, Liverpool, and consequent heavy job losses; deplores British Telecom's decision to order their 21st century replacement from China, exploiting low wages in that country...[and supports] efforts to salvage 300 or so hi-tech jobs on the site." BT was asked to comment but did not return a call prior to publication. ® Related stories DTI reaches out to struggling Marconi Marconi culls 800 jobs Unions hold powwow with Marconi over job fears Marconi mulls bleak future following BT bombshell Job fears haunt Marconi Marconi savaged after failure to win BT 21CN deal
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2005
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Apple to open stores in Manchester, Sheffield

Apple has confirmed it plans to open two further AppleStores in the UK, in Manchester and Sheffield. Apple currently runs shops on London's Regent Street and in Birmingham's Bullring Centre. A third store, in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, is currently being prepared for opening. To that list, we can now add Manchester's Trafford Centre and Sheffield's Meadowhall mall. It's not clear when the two new stores are projected to open, but Apple has begun recruiting a variety of staff to work at both locations. Apple operates three stores in Japan and a fourth in Canada. During the company's most recent quarterly results conference, CFO Peter Oppenheimer said the company plans to come out of FY2005 with ten stores up and running outside the US. CEO Steve Jobs has said the company intends to open a store in Paris. That, plus the three new UK stores in preparation and those already open, takes the international AppleStore total to ten. Apple's FY2005 comes to a close at the end of September. ® Related stories Waiting for Intel, Apple faces massive Osborne chill The Osborne Effect spooks Apple Apple shifts to Intel: what is all the fuss about? Judge rejects Mac OS X 'Tiger' ban demand Macintoshes are 'hot' amid slow April PC sales Apple iPod grabs half of US Flash player market Apple UK's Bullring store to open for Tiger
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2005

No-frills MVNOs to steal market share

No-frills mobile operators such as easyMobile could snatch up to 20 per cent of Europe's market share over the next five years, according to crystal ball gazers at Strategy Analytics. They reckon these low-cost MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) could really "shake up the stagnant European prepaid market" by offering competitive no-frills services. Some six in ten mobile users in Europe opt for prepaid or pay-as-you-go (PAYG) services and analysts reckon that this group could be swayed with cheap calls, according to its report EasyMobile: Trends in Low-Cost Service Provision in Europe. A fortnight ago, for example, E-Plus - the number three player in Germany's mobile market and a subsidiary of KPN - unveiled its no-frills outfit Simyo. And boffin reckons that more and more operators will launch their own discount services in the face of increased competition. Said Sara Harris, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics: "Even though prepaid was the engine that accelerated mobile growth in Europe the majority of prepaid offers today are not only expensive, but they ignore customer demands for drastically lower-cost pricing. "Thus, low-cost MVNOs have been able to storm into the market appropriating customers for whom price is king." A price war in the UK has been sparked following the launch of easyMobile - the latest business from no-frills entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou. In April easyMobile's boss Frank Rasmussen said that UK punters are treated badly compared with other mobile users in Europe and that operators have had things "very cosy". "This battle has only just begun," he said, "and I can guarantee it's going to be both long and costly for the existing British players. The impact of easyMobile's entry into the market will be profound and with customers as the big winners." ® Related stories easyMobile.com takes aim at easymobile Easymobile denies it's a 'flop' T-Mobile to cut tariffs - report Fresh undercuts discounted easyMobile tariffs Virgin Mobile slags off easyMobile... easyMobile launches - finally CPW halves cost of mobile phone calls Orange sues Stelios for 'passing off'
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2005

Cheese eaters are mutants

The ability to digest milk, cheese and other dairy products is mostly down to your ethnicity, according to researchers at Cornell University. Northern Europeans are far more likely to have a genetic mutation that allows them to digest milk, than are those from Africa, or Asia, the team found. In a study looking at the prevalence of lactose intolerance, the scientists discovered that people from cultures with a strong dairy farming tradition, incidences were as low at two per cent of the population. But those whose families hail from regions of extreme temperatures, where farming is difficult and animals are carriers of many diseases, close to 100 per cent of people were unable to digest milk properly. To digest milk, you need to produce the enzyme lactase. Virtually all human infants can make lactase, for rather obvious reasons, but only genetic mutants continue producing it into adulthood. The mutation is particularly rare in Asian and African populations, but very common among Northern Europeans. In total, the study found that around 61 per cent of the global population is lactose intolerant. "The implication is that harsh climates and dangerous diseases negatively impact dairy herding and geographically restrict the availability of milk, and that humans have physiologically adapted to that," commented lead researcher Paul Sherman, a professor of neurobiology and behaviour at Cornell. But what of the implications for the technology industry? Coders are almost required by law to chow down on Pizza. Google even uses the cheesily-topped snack as part of its effort to harvest the best engineers from the US's universities. But now we know that through no fault of their own (beyond choice of parents, and really, how much say do you get in that?) not everyone can digest milk, the accessibility of tolerable junk food becomes a matter of equal opportunities. How long before the first constructive dismissal case is launched? "They kept feeding me Pizza. I couldn't work because it made me sick..." After all, if a company is supplying free food, doesn't it have an obligations to make sure all genetic predispositions are catered for? One possible approach would be to merely accelerate the outsourcing trend, and only employ programmers native to a particular region so that the junk food is naturally suitable. However, this is likely to come under fire from racial equality campaigners, and rightly so. But then are we going to see companies specialising in lactose tolerant or intolerant employees as a method of keeping the pizza bills low? Will there be mandatory genetic testing for prospective employees? Will specialist companies spring up to import junk food more suitable for the pizza-intolerant? The researchers at Cornell may not realise it, but this study has opened up a whole can of worms. Speaking of which, can we offer you a worm? Or would you prefer a pizza? ® Related stories Gamers get greater access to pizza Google to Wall St: our CFO couldn't make it. So meet the Chef Ordering Pizza in 2019
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2005

UK tops DSL growth chart

The UK was the world's fastest-growing major DSL market during the first three months of the year, according to stats from PointTopic. Its Q1 analysis of the broadband market found that the number of DSL lines in the UK grew 20 per cent in the three months to the end of March, while the number of DSL subscribers in China grew 15 per cent. Overall, the global DSL market grew 10.5 per cent to 107.3 million in Q1 2005 - with more than 37 million lines added over the last year. Recent research from TelecomPaper showed that there are now 158 million broadband users in the world. The figures - which include cable and DSL connections - found that Asia Pacific was the world's number one broadband region followed by Europe and The Americas. ® Related stories Europe spanks Yanks Europe reports broadband growth Man cleared of abusing NTL customers
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2005
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Swedish anti-piracy group broke privacy data act

Swedish anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån (APB) has been disciplined by the country's Data Inspection Board for breaking privacy data rules in its hunt for illegal file-sharers. ABP used special software to record the IP-addresses of file swappers, the file name and the server through which the connection was made, Sweden's The Local says. The company, a private organisation, reported hundreds of people to the police recently and has sent up to 2,000 emails a day to internet service providers notifying them of abuse. ABP believed that there is nothing illegal about collecting IP addresses, but linking them to an individual can't be done without permission, Swedish Data Inspection Board now says. It isn't the first time that ABP’s actions have been questioned. Earlier this year, Swedish ISP Bahnhof pondered legal action after it emerged that illegal material uncovered in a raid on its premises was placed there by a paid informant of ABP. Related stories Sweden takes big stick to file-sharers Scandinavia gets tough on file sharing Bahnhof slams antipiracy ambush Swedish ISP raid prompts backlash
Jan Libbenga, 10 Jun 2005
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US SEC shows Brocade its formal probe

Brocade received an unpleasant dispatch on Thursday, as the US SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) revealed that it has started a formal inquiry into the company's past accounting policies. Brocade has been pretty upfront about its accounting woes. In fact, the storage switch maker last month vowed to restate four years' worth - 2001 to 2004 - of financial results after an internal audit showed that Brocade did not properly account for some stock-based compensation given to employees on leaves of absences and others about to leave the firm. These actions prompted the SEC to informally probe Brocade's situation. In a regulatory filing, Brocade said it received notice that the informal inquiry has now turned into a formal investigation and pledged to cooperate with the government. Earlier this week, Brocade was forced to delay the filing of a second quarter regulatory form with the SEC in order to give the audit committee more time to complete its review of past financial data. The entire accounting episode resulted in former CEO Greg Reyes stepping down in January and being replaced by Michael Klayko. Lucky guy. ® Related stories Brocade to restate four years of financials as DoJ and SEC look on Brocade blames March for Q2 shocker McData seesaws through Q4 Cisco switch partners see Fibre Channel green Former Brocade CEO sent flying in golden skies EMC whistleblower says Symmetrix coverup caused nervous breakdown Brocade makes income and CEO disappear
Ashlee Vance, 10 Jun 2005
For Sale sign detail

Spam sign-up man convicted of harassment

A US man who signed his boss up to various spam lists has been convicted of harassment. Scott Huffines, 41, from Essex County near Baltimore, Maryland, was sentenced to probation and 100 hours community service this week after pleading guilty to misuse of electronic mail, the Baltimore Sun reports. The Web designer signed Alex Vitalo, his female supervisor at Maryland Public Television, up to dating services and job sites. But the revenge ploy backfired when his victim forced an investigation that traced the sign up messages back to Huffines. The case is reckoned to be the first of its kind considered by US courts. In other junk-mail related news, Israeli legislators are considering the introduction of a law that would let spam recipients sue spammers for compensation. The idea was suggested by Knesset rep Gila Finkelstein as an amendment to a bill that would compensate people sent unsolicited advertising via fax or mobile phone, Israeli English language daily Haaretz reports. Victims need not prove they have lost out in any way before claiming compensation but you have to wonder how much a disincentive the suggested law might be when the vast majority of spammers live outside Israel and local police are reportedly unable to enforce existing prohibitions against spam advertising even within the country. ® Related stories Massachusetts fires legal broadside at spam gang New York sues Intermix over spyware Man sues bigger penis pill company Pfizer and MS sue Viagra spam gangs Spam punishment doesn't fit the crime
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2005

CVs, privacy and GPS tracking

LettersLetters Blimey, bumper crop this Friday. So no delays, let's kick right off with your responses to Paoga's proposed solution to the problem of keeping personal data private: Interesting, although maybe I missed something in the article... Suppose you did give me permission to look at your CV. What then stops me from spewing it all over the internet anyway now that I know the data? Maybe I missed the point. But I for one will never put data I want kept secure anywhere on the internet..as secure encryption has such a nasty habit of actually being unsecure. Still at least someone is trying to come up with solutions to a problem rather than the other way round. Stephen I don't get it. Personal data can be placed into Paoga initially, but that doesn't remove personal data from the databases that other companies have already created. And even if you were able to magically erase that personal data, institutional users need to access that personal data occasionally. That's the whole point of controlling it, so it can be distributed. Yes, you, as the subject of the data, will be notified and must give approval when the data is requested. But what's stopping the requestors from saving the data after they've been given access, and compiling their own databases, which could then be merged with other databases and we'd be back at square one? (They may have to rekey the data, but I suspect most companies would be willing to make that effort.) It seems like after purchasing some property and going to the hospital and applying for a job, most of your personal data would have leaked out. Paul Paoga, meet cut-and-paste, cut-and-paste meet Paoga. Perhaps the two of you should get aquatinted. Joe Hmm, so Paoga plans to solve all the world's document security problems? From reading your article, I can't see how. For example, if I deposit my CV in it, then certainly I could authorise a recruitment agency to access it (the same as if I just mailed them a copy). But what stops them from forwarding a copy of the retrieved document to someone else? Or printing it out, and sending it by fax? Sounds to me like this won't work until the whole world has installed DRM-crippled Paoga clients. Even then, show me a DRM or watermark scheme which can't be worked around. At worst, you simply read the information off the screen and type it into another window. In practice it's a lot less laborious: you run the Paoga client under a virtual machine like VMWare, capture the window contents, and convert them back to the original text using OCR, a cheap and mature technology. Also, what's the advantage of storing birth certificates and death certificates in such a system? Surely, births and deaths are matters of public record, and anyone who wishes to inspect the relevant registers is entitled to do so. They may as well just be published on a HTTPS website. I thought the days of raising a wacky idea involving the Internet just so that investors would throw money at it were well and truly over? Cheers, Brian Candler All good points, and fairly representative of the flood of letters we had on this one. So we asked Paoga to respond, and they did. We have edited their reply for brevity: PAOGA doesn't claim to solve all the world’s document security problems but, by giving access control and responsibility back to the individual, we can start to address the complete anarchy that exists today. Let me take the example of the CV. At the moment the candidate has no control over the content (70% of CV data is ‘inaccurate’ according to RECS), the version (Agencies and potential employers could be storing CVs that you sent out 2 years ago), and you are not always informed who the Agency has forwarded your CV to. The Data Protection Act attempts to exert some control over this by imposing on ‘data controllers’, such as Agencies, a process which demands that they control distribution and ask your permission in advance of submitting your CV to anyone. In the real world, when you have posted a CV to an Agency who keep it in a filing cabinet and send out photocopies or re-key it into ‘their’ database and email it out, this is a time consuming and therefore expensive process. PAOGA believes that the vast majority of Recruitment Agencies are honest and ethical, but we recognise that they have a business to run. PAOGAskills is NOT designed to disintermediate the Agency but to facilitate their legal compliance with regulations such as the Data Protection Act, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Recruitment Agency Act and many others. According to government research, complying with these regulations costs UK businesses £100 billion every year. They have a much more valuable role to play by spending time with candidates and clients to really understand their needs. But, yes, there are bad people out there who may well re-key in your information, they may well distribute or even sell it without your knowledge or permission. The responsible and trustworthy agencies and businesses will not play in this game and, by using emerging tools such as the PAOGAplatform, they will differentiate themselves from the ‘cowboys’ and earn the trust of candidates and employers. This reflects a changing attitude which is not constrained to the recruitment industry but to all public and private organizations who recognize the need to respect the privacy of the individuals with whom they trade. The issue you raise about information like Birth Certificates, which are publicly available, is valid. This is simply about convenience for the individual. Let me ask you a question. Where is your Birth Certificate, your Dry Rot guarantee, your degree certificate, your Will? Most people, including me, will say that that they are in the drawer, in a file, in the bank, in a shoe box under the bed - I think! A whacky idea? Ask someone who has had to prove their identity, to produce documents to prove authority or ownership. We live in an increasingly accountable society. PAOGA makes no judgment about the rights or wrongs of this. We are simply trying to make it easier to comply with the rules so that we can all get on with the serious business of living. The most hated proposal in the country ever. This will probably get more people angry than the idea of ID cards. Yes, we're talking pay-as-you-go road tax. You can hear the ministerial thought process: "What a good idea. Bound to be popular." D'oh. Vehicle tagging is a form of ID cards for our cars. This is a horrendous system that will strip away many of our few remaining civil liberties. Darrin You know, I definitely feel like I'm living in Looking Glass world. How is GPS tracking going to work for cars? There will be a significant financial incentive for the GPS signals to be lost, which is easily achieved. The enforcement aspects of this are a nightmare. The installation aspects are just as hard. How far will you get if you tell Jeremy Clarkson that you're going to drill a hole in the roof of his new Ford GT and install a GPS receiver (no doubt with an NHS-style black bakelite antenna)? There must be thousands of people like me across the UK today scratching their heads in puzzlement. The politicians are yakking like this is some kind of solved technology and now is the time for brave political decision taking. Whenever satellite tracking is mentioned the mainstream media reports it like Brains from Thunderbirds is up there in a space station with a telescope trained on us all. In reality, GPS tracking is hard enough to get working reliably when the trackee wants to be tracked (like in commercial fleet management). When they don't want to be tracked it's next to impossible to get it to work. It's just like the oh-so-hopeless ID card scheme, the tracking of pedos and terrorists. The current bunch of politicians have such touching faith in technology. It brings to mind black-and-white film of pipe-smoking tweed-jacketed types telling us how cracking the atom will lead to a utopian future where we speed around in our flying electric cars. Gah. Instead of writing this I ought to be setting up a consultancy and milking these dupes for millions before they wise up. K. One of the few things that's positive about the current system is that fuel duty relates your tax payable to the actual efficiency of your vehicle, one of the few taxes to have a specific link to environmental standards. People driving cars with stupid sized engines, or those who don't keep them maintained, use more fuel and pay more duty. The current proposals as outlined seem to indicate that this link at least will be lost, as it's suggested that simply the road rather than the fuel usage will be taxed. That is another element, as well as the potential for us sleepwalking into a surveillance society (how about everyone in the vehicle having to register their ID card with the satellite tracker before the car can move?) which would have to be addressed before this could be implemented. Andrew There are so many different points on which to strongly object to these proposed measures I do not know where to start... Neither do I know whether I am feeling very angry, or very sad. From a civil liberties angle alone, has no-one realised that the price of living in a free society is to allow for the possibility of crime to be committed? If our movements, MOT / tax status, speeding, etc can be tracked at all times, wholesale loss of freedom with be the unavoidable side effect of owning a vehicle. The truly demoralising thing is that proposals like this one are announced and we actually take it! Some even think them a great idea! Over ID cards, road pricing and many other intrusions into privacy and attacks on our liberty, we should be storming the Houses of Commons! Maybe we deserve these obsessive control of all aspects of our lives... Otherwise, how could the spineless, sad creatures we have become be trusted to function in the Orwellian dream society of Mr Blair & Co? Please keep up the good work - El Reg rules! N. We do try. Security Focus argued this week that Windows 2000 was Microsoft's most successful failure. You said: Eh? Being "a little bit insecure" is very much like being "a little bit pregnant". Unfortunately, Mark's effort to see grey in a black-and-white situation has resulted in an article which varies from being completely incoherent to making just enough sense to actively contradict itself. Case in point: "Windows 2000 was meant to be their most secure operating system ever but it turned out to be an absolute security disaster. Somehow Microsoft managed to not only recover from that disaster but also to turn security into one of their greater assets. It turns out, then, that Windows 2000 was their most successful failure so far." You've been selling blivets to politicians for far too long if you think a phrase like "most successful failure" makes any sense at all. That phrase should have been shot on sight, but perhaps your copyeditor doesn't believe in mercy killings...? Here's another good one: "Microsoft's problems didn't only benefit Microsoft; we're all a bit smarter nowadays." Keep telling yourself that the security problems with Windows are a benefit, if you like, but I do not think that word means what you think it means. The conclusion that people are all a bit smarter as a result is, with apologies to Vizzini, "inconceivable". Speaking of which, how long did you say it takes for an unpatched Windows box directly on the Internet to be compromised, Mark? -Chuck "It may take another decade and a few more product versions before Microsoft can finally claim victory over security issues, but they now have the infrastructure, the experience, and the momentum to make those changes." To paraphrase: "Maybe they can catch up with Unix by 2015" But of course Linux will have moved on by then (and hopefully Unix will have moved on, too, and still be a viable concern) Steve What will be interesting going forward is how Microsoft addresses the issue of "root trust" and the ability to establish a chain of trust to the application and then finally extend that to the "occasionally connected computer". It's my belief that without root trust and a subsequent chain of trust no system will ever be made secure. Too many lines of code run at PLO and there is no defense in depth strategy with simply using 2 privilege levels. Future operating systems must use a minimum of 4 levels of privilege, be able to compartmentalize and protect executable code and must reveal the contents of all the code running at PLO - anything less and it's simply not secure. All the best, Peter J. Cranstone Wow, that is undoubtedly the most amusing thing I've read all day. Microsoft getting better, hah, good one. Craig Another problem with bluetooth has prompted some of you to start planning funerals for the poor little protocol: Stupid overly-complex unreliable protocol that is (we know now) riddled with security bugs. Never liked it anyway. In most cases it's quicker to use infrared to beam contacts and move files than suffer the endless "connection refused" error messages, lost pairings, inexplicable delays when searching for devices, etc. etc. "Bluetooth. Born May 20 1998. Died June 6 2005. Not sadly missed. Service to be held at MobiSys Seattle. No flowers." Ken Am I the only one surprised that a "Shaked-Wool Exploit" came out of Israel? Call me crazy, but I can think of a few other places that I'd more expect to hear about sheep-shagging assaults from. Something-less-than-sincerely, Arah A follow up to one of Tuesday's letters: In the 7 June "Bird flu" letters / article, someone named Larry attempted to correct your previous article on the Phoenix Mars lander, but just made things more muddied. Since I worked on the Odyssey & Mars Surveyor '98 missions, and have close compatriots at my office that are working on the Phoenix project itself, I'll attempt to finish this discussion off. 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. This is about half true. The Mars Surveyor Program (MSP) '98 mission from the start consisted of just an orbiter & lander. A rover wasn't part of the lander's science package since the MSP'98 missions were selected while the Mars Pathfinder program was still in development (so no one yet knew how well Pathfinder's Sojourner rover would work, or whether it would be scientifically useful given its small size). Note that NASA tends not to give spacecraft formal names until launch is near and essentially assured (no sense wasting a perfectly good name on something that won't ever fly). So for nearly their whole development, the MSP'98 orbiter and lander were referred to as just that -- "the MSP'98 orbiter" and "the MSP'98 lander." The MCO / MPL names were assigned to the spacecraft a few months before launch. As for the rover, I think Larry is getting things confused with MSP'01. Originally the 2001 mission consisted of an orbiter, and a lander with a small (Pathfinder / Sojourner sized) rover. Then the rover folks added functionality, and added, and added... and soon the 2001 rover had grown too large / heavy / expensive to fly on the 2001 lander. After being divorced from the 2001 program, the rover design continued to grow (including a stint as a rover for a proposed sample return mission) until it became the MER rover design, currently rolling around Mars as the twins Opportunity and Spirit. As with the MSP'98 spacecraft, the MSP'01 spacecraft had no official names until months before launch. The MSP'01 orbiter was named "Odyssey," the lander was stopped (before it could be formally named) in pre-launch testing due to its perceived risk after the MPL loss. Essentially, legged landers fell out of favor vs. airbag landers. For what it's worth, the Odyssey orbiter is essentially a beefed-up MCO (what MCO would have been if we'd had the time / money in 1995 - 1998) with different science instruments. Similarly, the MSP'01 lander design was an improved version of the MPL; it used some spare parts from MPL, but was largely a new (if highly derivative) design. Larry said: "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" Not true. After the MSP'01 lander effort was cancelled, the lander sat (complete but for science instruments and post-assembly testing) in a big box in Denver while it was fought over as the potential basis for a variety of landing mission proposals. In the meantime, various parts were cannibalized for other NASA programs as they started up. Eventually, the Phoenix mission was selected for flight, based on use of what was left of the MSP'01 lander. Things that were picked off are being replaced, a few items upgraded, and new science instruments selected (many of which are based to some degree or another on MPL instruments). So, really, the NASA press release and the original Register article were accurate, if a bit too concise. I hope this helps clear things up a bit more (and my apologies for the length of this "note"), Eric The FBI says NO! to mobile phones on planes. Could leave us all vulnerable to terrorist attacks, or something: Interesting objection, especially in the light of what prevented further US damage during 9/11. If it hadn't been for mobile use on planes, passengers would not have been aware of the bigger picture and taken fairly heroic action.. Not sure I quite agree with you re. use of mobiles on planes in US. Last time I was there (admittedly a while back) it appeared I was about the only one switching off on regional flights, and the crew didn't appear to mind. P Does this mean that if the Feds get their plane wire tap powers they'll be letting the terrorists get onto the planes, just so they can listen to their conversations? I'm confused. Paul Suffolk MP Bob Blizzard got in a strop with BT this week, accusing the phone giant of pulling the plug on a children's charity support group: Maybe Bob Blizzard ought to be talking to his ministers rather than complaining about BT. Under the terms of the company's license, it has no choice but to collect cash from people who for whatever reason dial premium-rate numbers, and pass that cash on to whoever runs the numbers. If BT doesn't pass the cash on, it could find itself being sued by the operators of the numbers. But of course it's always easier for an Ingsoc MP to get headlines moaning at a big company rather than by insisting that the Government change BT's license to remove the obligation to pass the cash on... Tony Some of you wondered about the timing of the arrest of Gary McKinnon (39, from Wood Green), suspected of hacking into numerous US military and NASA computers. He's looking at extradition to the US: This is a weird story. He was arrested in March 2002 for this. Why is he being arrested again? Could it be that since 2002 the new 2003 Extradition Act came into force which allows the US to drag anyone across the Atlantic without showing any prima facie evidence? And that they couldn't provide this evidence before? The only thing the US authorities now have to do (other than promise not to fry the prisoner) is to show the court that the person picked up is the one they accuse. Not much of a burden of proof, is it? This is tyranny. Some DA with political aspirations in some shit kicking state could take offence at something you wrote on The Register and have you hoiked to the US on trumped up charges only to let you go in a years time after a trial (assuming your public defender didn't fall asleep). We urgently need to restore the requirement for the US to show prima facie evidence before moving British citizens into places where the standards of justice fall below what we would expect here. Ken Is global warming a figment of our imagination, or is it worth our while trying to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases? Well, sort of depends on who you ask, really, but if you ask an ex-oil-industry lobbyist, we bet you can guess the answer. So, would you let the same chap edit reports from the White House? Wouldja? Global warming is preposterous! The Great Architect responsible for the Intelligent Design would never allow it. It's all part of a cunning plan. Jaccopo Not really surprising, is it? I don't believe it's that GWB is trying to ignore the truth, but that he's surrounded by people who tell him the evidence is doubtful. Unfortunately, the evidence in such things is never 100% certain. Even though sensible scientists now describe it as 'highly likely' it's still not certain per se, so it is, technically, 'doubtful'. The difference is that most people would view a potential threat to the stability of our climate as something worth acting on it even if it's not 100% certain, while on the other hand those in charge of the world's largest economy see action as a threat to that economy. The choice is either real and present but comparatively harmless action now that will be political suicide in the USA, or a far off and more nebulous consequence of global proportions that current politicians are likely never to see themselves. The choice may seem clear to us who don't have to make the decisions, but it isn't that simple. Having said that, they're all a bunch of nutters who can't see the woods from the trees, and I say invade and once again raise the British flag in our errant colony across the Atlantic. I reckon we can take em - just airdrop in free heroin and cocaine into the barracks the day before we attack. On a more positive note, your readers may be interested to hear that there are energy companies now providing real and sustainable alternatives putting electricity into the grid. Every individual now has a choice to use environmentally friendly sources of energy for just a couple of quid more per month. For example www.good-energy.co.uk is one. Have fun, David Finally, the rather less serious business of a daft domain name case. Yes, Air France Sucks. Oh, sorry. Dot com. This turned up a rather alarming response from some of you, our beloved readers: "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.'" " Especially since "Air" and "France" are english and not the french equivalent. What a maroon. Mark So, non-English speakers will be confused by: Air - An English word France - Also an English word Sucks - ditto. Funny that. Owen Do tell, then, Mark or Owen. What is the French for France? Tut tut... Enjoy the weekend, one and all. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2005
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Nortel Prez resigns after 12 gruelling weeks on the job

Nortel president and COO Gary Daichendt has left the building after just three months on the job. Nortel today made the uncomfortable, public admission that Daichendt and CEO Bill Owens did not agree about the company's direction. "It has become apparent to Gary and me . . . that we have divergent management styles and our business views differ," Owens said. "I respect him for his decision and I wish him every success in his future endeavors." Owens will accept the president and COO roles. Daichendt arrived at Nortel in March. He had previously served as a high-ranking executive at Cisco. Nortel also revealed that its CTO Gary Kunis - who once worked with Daichendt at Cisco - was leaving the company. Hmm. Enter the standard, departure canned quotation. "While making the decision to leave Nortel was a difficult one, my time with the company has confirmed that Nortel has world class technology and people," said Daichendt. Last month, Nortel proudly announced that it put long-running accounting issues behind it. An accounting scandal resulted in the firings of many executives and financial restatements. Along with the accounting woes, Nortel has struggled to make headway in a consolidating telco market. ® Related stories Nortel earnings slide 75 per cent Nortel files Q3 04 Nortel pinches Cisco exec
Ashlee Vance, 10 Jun 2005

Firefox fans too frumpy for Beautifulpeople.net

Elitist online dating website Beautifulpeople.net is excluding Firefox users. Alternative browser users report being given the cold shoulder by the site, which prides itself on only allowing pretty people (as voted by its existing members) to join. Attempting to view beautifulpeople.net using Firefox (7 million users and counting) results in the following terse message: BeautifulPeople.net is only supported by Internet Explorer. You are currently using version: Netscape 5.0. To be able to use. BeautifulPeople you need to update to a newer version of Internet Explorer. Charming. As reader Hamish put it "If you browse with Firefox - you're Ug-lair, baybee!" Don't these people know smart is sexy. Using a browser that is less susceptible to spyware infection is surely no bad thing. ® Related stories Cupid, love hearts, revenge and monkeys Why the Friendster bubble 'has peaked will pop' Alternative browser villains named and shamed
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2005
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RACK goes Nasdaq with humble IPO

What's that? A hardware start-up IPO? You jest surely. Yes, friends, it's true. Rackable Systems today hit the Nasdaq with a ticker symbol any RAID-loving, x86-embracing, Linux kernel counting administrator can embrace - RACK. The company's IPO had 6.25m shares being offered at $12 per share. As of writing, Rackable's shares were up just 3 per cent at $12.40 on pretty light volume. So it goes. Rackable may not be the hardware world's version of Google, but it's still impressive to see a server company brave enough go public in this era. Plenty of hardware start-ups exist. Few, however, have shown much success in recent years. And those that have done well tend to end up in the clutches of IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. Rackable takes Dell's no-frills approach to x86 servers and then focuses right in on customers looking for large quantities of systems. It does a nice job of fitting lots of boxes in relatively small spaces and keeping heat and costs down. You can almost think of it as an RLX-like company that got so called high-density systems - blades, 1Us, 2Us - and the market for such kit right. Rackable also sells storage to go along with its server systems. Some of its high-profile customers include Microsoft, Yahoo! and Oracle. That's the good news. The potentially bad news for investors is that Rackable's revenue swings up and down based on the whims of a small number of customers. In its March '04 quarter, Rackable posted $18m in revenue and then boosted that to $35m in the following period. Then revenue fell back down to $34m in the next quarter. So, not the type of constantly increasing revenue you'd like to see from a start-up. In a regulatory filing, Rackable was upfront about the nature of some of these fluctuations. "For example, our largest customer in fiscal 2002 accounted for 32 per cent of our revenues, but this customer only accounted for 6 per cent of our revenues in fiscal 2003 and none of our revenues in the first nine months of fiscal 2004," it said. "Similarly, our largest customer in the first nine months of fiscal 2004 accounted for 42 per cent of our revenues, but only accounted for 1 per cent of our revenues in fiscal 2003." Microsoft and Yahoo! have historically been the two biggest customers for Rackable. This story matches fellow compact server player Egenera, which depended on a large chunk of sales to a small number of financial services companies and looked last year at an IPO as well. Egenera subsequently gave up on the IPO bid. Rackable also faces the standard competition from IBM, HP, Dell and Sun - all of which also hope to sell clusters of Windows and Linux servers. The start-up plans to use the IPO proceeds to redeem preferred stock held by its investors and then use remaining funds as working capital. In its most recent quarter ended March 31, Rackable showed 69 per cent growth with revenue of $31m and a net loss down 69 per cent to $4.4m. It said a boost in Opteron server sales was a big help. Rackable doesn't have the look and feel of a real high-flyer, but if it can expand the old customer base while keeping costs down and support high, it may have a nice run yet. ® Related stories Sun exits blade server market . . . for now IBM thrusts x460 servers into the eye of the Hurricane IBM unsheathes Cell blade server
Ashlee Vance, 10 Jun 2005

Fears grow for kidnapped Dalek

Concern is growing for a "kidnapped" Dalek after its owners received a ransom note together with the model's amputated plunger. The TV villain was swiped from Wookey Hole Caves, a Somerset tourist attraction, on Monday (6 June) where it was held in storage after going on display at the Bath and West Show. Wookey Hole staff received a ransom note from its abductors on Thursday (9 June), which said "We are holding the Dalek captive. We demand further instructions from the Doctor." Which Doctor the kidnappers - from the previously unknown group Guardians of the Planet Earth - wanted to talk to is unclear. The current status of the 1.6m model, believed to be a rare original from the first Dr Who series, is unknown. Owners are offering a reward of £500 for the safe return of its prized asset, estimated to be worth thousands of pounds. The BBC reports that former Dr Who actor Colin Baker has expressed interest in the case and may be asked to intercede on behalf of the Time Lords' mortal enemy. Wookey Hole manager Daniel Medley told BBC News that: "The arm has been removed quite carefully, it hasn't been ripped off, there's no torture involved." The lack of torture would appear to rule out Henry Van Statten but police are keeping an open mind. "The police think it was probably taken by kids or students, but there is also the idea that it could be heading to Edinburgh for the G8 protests," Medley added. Police are less than amused at the apparent prank. "If it is a stunt there is an issue of wasting police time," a police spokeswoman said. ® Related stories Flying golden Daleks menace the web Eccleston quits as Dr Who 2 gets green light Dalek veteran ready for galactic domination BBC confirms Daleks will battle Doctor Who
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2005