4th > July > 2005 Archive

Internet rap threatens Dutch MP

Dutch MP and hard line critic of Islam Geert Wilders has lodged a police complaint against an internet hate rap. The rappers, who dubbed themselves Youssef and Kamal, threatened to cut or even "saw off" Wilders' trademark wig-like peroxide-blond hair. The young MP, who represents the one-man faction Groep Wilders in Dutch Parliament, has adopted an aggressively anti-Islamic position, claiming that Islam and democracy are "not well-matched, not even in a million years." Since airing his views, Wilders has been under constant threat by Islamists who want him dead. On the web several video clips have appeared which called for his beheading. Wilders has six body guards and has slept in a prison cell to protect himself against possible attacks. Although Wilders hasn’t been threatened physically by the rappers, his complaint will be taken seriously by Dutch authorities. Earlier this year a Dutch court sentenced two members of a rap group to 150 hours community service for writing a rap song with lyrics intimidating controversial Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. To avoid legal action, Youssef and Kamal on Friday quickly released a second rap, simply called "Sorry, Geert Wilders". Related stories Cat Stevens midair terror incident spurs tougher measures Iran president rejects net censorship slur Jedi Knights achieve official recognition as a religion
Jan Libbenga, 04 Jul 2005

Dismissal of deaf developer was discrimination

A profoundly deaf database developer, who sent email from a colleague's computer using remote access, has won an unfair dismissal and disability discrimination appeal brought by his employer.
OUT-LAW.COM, 04 Jul 2005
graph up

AMD wants Intel evidence from 30 firms

Chip maker AMD has won the backing of a Delaware court to preserve evidence held by third parties which may be relevant to its ongoing legal battle with Intel. The chip firm went to court in Delaware for Motion for Leave to Serve Document Preservation Subpoenas which was granted. This allows them to ask 30 named companies to keep any relevant evidence. It wants to preserve evidence without creating too much admin for the 30 firms. AMD filed an anti-trust complaint against Intel last last week. The case accuses of Intel of applying unfair pressure on computer makers to force them to sign Intel-only contracts or to reduce their use of AMD chips. The 48-page complaint accuses Intel of "worldwide coercion". The company is calling on industry regulators to take action. Separately AMD is seeking $50m in damages from Intel in Japan following findings from Japanese regulators that Intel broke anti-trust laws. More details on the Japanese case on AMD's website here. ® Related stories AMD Japan sues Intel for $50m damages - and then some AMD files anti-trust suit against Intel Apple in 'talks with Intel'
John Oates, 04 Jul 2005

July date for NTL / Telewest wedding

NTL and Telewest are weeks away from cementing their merger, according to a report by The Independent on Sunday. The paper cites insiders who say that the deal looks set to be inked by the end of July, just in time for those behind the £6.8bn merger to complete the paperwork before pushing off for a well-earned rest and a month in the sun. The marriage of the UK's two cablecos has been on the cards for years but it's only recently that the pair have managed to clear the decks to thrash out a deal. With the triple play offering of TV, phone and broadband the enlarged group would provide a sizeable player in the market against satellite broadcaster Sky and dominant UK telco BT. High level talks between the two cablecos kicked off in June after both sides hired financial advisors to help with negotiations. A merger would create a cableco with annual revenues of around £3.3bn and some five million punters. ® Related stories NTL and Telewest begin merger talks - report NTL - Telewest 'preps merger' Sky readies 'on-demand' PC content service
Tim Richardson, 04 Jul 2005

Deep Impact makes an impression on Tempel-1

At around ten-to-seven this morning (BST) the NASA space probe Deep Impact lived up to its name and smashed into the Comet Tempel-1. The impact sent up a cloud of dust and gas far bigger than anyone had expected, making the comet, briefly, almost 11-times brighter than it was previously. Deep Impact is a two-spacecraft mission designed to smash a 360kg probe into the nucleus of a comet, giving scientists their first ever glimpse of what lies below the surface layer of the nucleus. Footage of the approach of the impactor showed the on-board cameras being buffeted by dust and debris from the comet, and the optics being gradually sandblasted down. A NASA spokesman commented: "Our brave little spacecraft is in a very hostile environment". As the craft got closer to the nucleus, although the image remained quite grey and fuzzy, it was possible to make out craters on the surface of the 14km by 4km rock. NASA was aiming to hit the comet within one kilometre of its centre of mass, and when the impactor hit on target, the scientists at NASA mission control were jumping up and down, cheering, as you might expect. Meanwhile back at the London press conference, reactions were a little more muted. It was only just 7:00am, after all. But once the images from the Faulkes telescope in Hawaii started coming in, everyone perked up a treat. Steve Miller at the UK Infra Red Telescope, also based in Hawaii, told the assembled press (via the miracle of long distance telephony): "This is an enormous artificial outburst. The flare is still brightening as I'm watching it. It is well over ten times brighter than before the impact. Immediately after the probe hit, it doubled in brightness, and it has been steadily increasing ever since then." The brightness reached a plateau at around 11 times its original intensity, before dropping off to about half that value. The researchers speculate that this increased brightness could be maintained for a number of days. Professor John Zarnecki, one of the lead scientists in the Huygens mission, speculated that the increased brightness could be a combination of more material being dislodged, and the size of the particles being smaller. "More surface means more light," he explained. Dr. Andrew Coates from the University of London's Mullard Space Science laboratory said that the images were hugely beyond expectations. "We've had clues from other flybys, but now we can peer under the surface for the first time," he told The Register. "What we're seeing is unprocessed material left over from the early solar system." He explained that the spectroscopic analysis of the cloud of dust would give scientists an idea of the ratio of various materials within the comet. "We'll really be able to constrain our models with the new data," he added. Professor Monica Grady from the Open University said that she was particularly excited to see the ratio of organics to water in the dust. "How much organic material was around at the beginning of the solar system? This will help us understand the role comets played in seeding the building blocks of life, and Tempel-1 will show us what those blocks actually are." She said she expected to see chains of carbon, polycyclics, ethanol and possibly even amino acids in the dust cloud. "But," she told us, "I would be absolutely aghast if we found DNA. That would really be overwhelmingly surprising." ® Related stories We used to be afraid of comets, now it's their turn Hubble snaps flashy Tempel-1 Astronomers spy proto-planetary hit-and-run
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jul 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

UK Inland Revenue may sue EDS

EDS could end up being sued by the Inland Revenue over the failure of its Tax Credit system. EDS and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are still talking about who pays the cost of their expensive falling out. The Revenue picked EDS to make a tax credit system but problems got so bad that in December 2003 the Revenue sacked EDS and awarded the contract to a consortium including CapGemini, Fujitsu and BT. Like many divorces both sides blame the other - EDS complains the Revenue kept changing its mind after the project had started and that most of the overpayments were due to problems with policy not with implementing the system. But both are hopeful that counselling will get them through this difficult period without resorting to court action. EDS sounds hopeful: "EDS is continuing its discussions with HMRC on issues around implementation of new tax credits policy. We firmly believe these discussions can resolve any outstanding issues between HMRC and EDS and we continue to devote our best resources to the discussions in order to secure a mutually-acceptable outcome without recourse to litigation." The statement from the Revenue is altogether easier to type but sounds a bit sterner: "Discussions with EDS and their legal advisors are ongoing. Court proceedings will begin if and when those discussions do not satisfactorily resolve the dispute."® Related stories EDS tax fiasco hit with two barrels Government IT contracts can make you cry: official EDS to sue NHS over nixed email deal Inland Revenue sacks EDS EDS rallies troops over tax credits fiasco
John Oates, 04 Jul 2005
globalisation

Warning over unpatched IE bug

An unpatched vulnerability in Internet Explorer creates a means for hackers to take over vulnerable Windows PCs, security researchers warn. The flaw stems from a security bug in a COM Object (Javaprxy.dll) that might be exploited by a malicious web site to cause a memory corruption. Successful exploitation may allow hackers to execute arbitrary code, Danish security notification firm Secunia warns. Microsoft said it was investigating the vulnerability, discovered by SEC Consult. Redmond says customers haven't been hit by attacks based on the vulnerability, as far as it's aware, but security firms report that the vulnerability has already been coded into a proof of concept exploit. Surfers using Internet Explorer versions 5.01, 5.5, and 6.0 are all at risk. Microsoft recommends setting internet and local intranet security zone settings to "high" as a precaution. Disabling the Javaprxy.dll COM object from running in Internet Explorer in also an option for those comfortable for using Registry Editor but this is not for the less experienced because one false move could leave a system inoperable. ® Related stories Exploit code attacks unpatched IE bug Firefox exploit targets zero day vulns MS issues final software update for Win2K 10 vulns - three critical - in MS patch batch
John Leyden, 04 Jul 2005

'Matrix' gadget sites shut down

Two UK web sites running dodgy matrix schemes have been pulled following an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The sites - Pulsematrix.com and phones4everyone (at themobilematrix.com) - promised punters the chance of getting their hands on a snazzy "free digital gift" such as a mobile phone or iPod in return for buying a low value item (say £20) such as a ringtone CD. But the OFT ruled that the sites were illegal because they were little more than unlawful lottos that breached the Lotteries and Amusements Act. Once punters bought the low value item, they were then put on a waiting list for the pukka gear which they would get once they reached the top of the list. However, for each "free gift" dispatched, hundreds of new people would have to sign up to the scheme and buy a low value item. "These schemes are ultimately unsustainable and will eventually collapse to the detriment of thousands of people," said OFT bigwig Penny Boys. "Very few people will ever receive the 'free gift' they expect to get." Last December the OFT warned punters about the dangers of "matrix schemes" saying that teenagers in particular were sucked in by these too-good-to-be-true scams. ® Related stories Punters warned over 'matrix' web scam Directors disqualified for £3m internet scam Internet forces British banking industry to modernise Massive web trawl nets spammers Europe probes 'rip off' Apple iTunes pricing Euro MPs face scam crackdown OFT in net spam scam crackdown
Tim Richardson, 04 Jul 2005

Robo massager tickles Gizmoville

Tech DigestTech Digest Certified gadget obsessives Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny scour Gizmoville for the oddest digital goodies, while Bayraider keeps tabs on the best and worst of eBay. Here are this week's top gadget picks: Obligatory iPod Accessory of the Week: Nyko iPod movie player Fancy watching movies on your iPod? You'll be needing one of these Nyko Movie Players then. Slide your player into place and you can watch films on the 3.6-inch screen. Not only that, but you can record video straight onto the player from a camera or TV, making this a pretty nifty portable video recorder and player. It's got two stereo speakers on it plus two headphone jacks so you can listen out loud or in private, and if you use your iPod (or iPod mini or photo) to store pics, you'll be able to view them in larger format than the photo can manage. There's loads more detail over at iPod Lounge since they actually got their hands on the prototype. There's no current exact price or release date, but it should be around $199 to $249 and out in October/November time. Traditional ‘how did that get on eBay’ Story: Robo Music Massager This is what life in the 21st century should be like: a nightly calf-and-foot massage from a robot that simultaneously plays you the Motley Crue Greatest Hits album. Oh yes. Here's a gadget that can do just that - a robotic massage recliner that apparently feels like three pairs of hands delivering 64 square-inches of contact. Which reminds us of a party we went to recently, but that's another story. Meanwhile, the built-in MP3 player serenades you with your favourite tunes as you fight to escape the robot's steely clutches when it blows a fuse and turns psychotic relax. OTT Home Entertainment stuff: Kaleidescape Entertainment server There was some cool stuff at the CEDIA show (basically think digital home) in Birmingham. Kaleidescape's (no that's not a typo) entertainment server is perhaps the most impressive thing I've seen in the video market for years. It's been available for a few months but this is the first time the US product has really been demonstrated over here. Basically, it's a hefty behemoth using its own proprietary operating system and comprising multi-region DVD player, DVD Recorder and 400 Gig entertainment server all in one. But it's not the tech spec which is most impressive about this product but the intelligent way it works to make searching for movie content really easy. As soon as a DVD is burnt to the server (this is apparently legal as long as the owner signs a massive contract saying he/she owns the content etc. etc.) it runs off to get content information about the disc from Kaleidescape's website - in much the same way as www.cddb.com gets CD information. Cover art is downloaded to the server along with director, actor, genre and synopsis information. Between 600-660 movies can be stored on a standard server though obviously much more if you piggy back several together. Either you can search for films in your collection by cover art or by genre, actors etc. Best of all you can set up video bookmarks that take you right to the beginning of the film, even create favourite scene 'playlists' from different movies. Compatible with High Definition (1080i) and offering HDMI output, the entertainment server currently retails for between £14K and £18K. It may seem steep but it's not a bad price at all when you consider everything it does. More from www.kaleidescape.com. Vaguely useful Gadget of the week: TV-B Gone Dixons staff are looking nervous. And no it is not because of rumours of more shop closures or fear of hernias caused by lugging round massive plasma screens. No it is because they know that their very worst nightmare, TV-B-Gone, has launched in the UK courtesy of Firebox. The £14.95 gadget, which can easily be attached to a key ring, is in fact a mini universal remote control. Its twist is that it only has one feature – it can turn TVs off. Apparently once you press its button the device scans through its database, finds the code required to shut the TV down and delivers a blank screen, leaving you to snigger as harassed Dixons staff run around trying to discover if their top-end 50 inch plasma has developed a major fault. If you are of the yellow persuasion you’ll be pleased to know that the device normally takes around twenty seconds to work, leaving you plenty of time to hotfoot it out of the store. It also works in pubs – great for key moments in vital football games – and at home where it can ensure that your trip to Celebrity Love Island never lasts more than a few seconds. Naturally we at Tech Digest don’t condone such behaviour and feel very sorry for Dixons' (and other major electronics retailers) staff. Pretty funny though. Get it here. Home cinema gadget of the week: LG’s wall-mounted projector I haven't quite got round to ditching my TV and going the projector-big screen route. Still, I know a few people who have binned the box and they seem pretty happy with their decision. Those thinking of making the move to a projector should probably take a look at this appealing new object from LG Electronics. The AN110 is apparently the world's first wall mounted projector that you can hang on your wall like a picture frame. If you prefer you can sit it on a stand instead, much like a flat screen monitor. Either way, it's compact and good-looking solution, is well specified (HD compatible with 1280x768 resolution, a vertical lens shift +/-125%, x1/32 ~ x32 digital zoom, separated left and right digital keystone function, and motorised zoom and focus) and if I do ever get round to chucking the TV out the window, this is the kind of thing I'll be after. The set is expected to be available in the UK from September. No word on pricing yet, but it’ll probably be pricey. Quick Picks: Pentax latest Optio compact snapper arrives. Kiss pinball table on eBay It’s ‘got crazy, crazy lights,’ apparently. Siemens reinvents the slidey phone. HP’s feature-packed iPaq PDA/smartphone Nokia 6280 slidey 3G top-end mobile previewed. Loads more of this stuff at Tech Digest, Shiny Shiny, Green consumer blog HippyShopper and Bayraider which delves into the dark side of online auction sites.
Tech Digest, 04 Jul 2005
cloud

EU lays down the law on green PCs

Politicians in Europe are set to ink new regulations governing the efficiency of computers and a variety of other electrical goods and components, as part of a Directive aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the region. UK Environment Minister Elliot Morley said that the Eco-Design for Energy Using Products Framework Directive will encourage better product design, particularly in tackling issues like power consumption during stand-by mode. "Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide are needlessly produced every year by computers, digital set top boxes, chargers and many other products left on stand by mode," Morley said in a statement. Reducing this, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, will make a significant contribution towards the recently proposed 20 per cent savings target from the European Commission. The EC estimates that by making appliances more efficient, the EU region could reduce its CO2 emissions by 180 million tonnes in the next five years. This, it says, represents around half of the CO2 it has promised to cut under the Kyoto Treaty. Morley concluded: "We know that products can be designed to be much more efficient and do less harm to the environment. Wasted energy is a hidden cost for consumers and in this day and age that is unacceptable." As well as improving energy efficiency of a number of products, the directive is designed to prompt manufacturers to reduce the overall environmental impact of production and disposal of the products. The directive will set mandatory standards that companies must comply with, Defra explains, but stresses that it is not intended to stifle businesses. Defra also argues that the directive emphasises the importance of voluntary action from businesses, to avoid the need for future regulation. ® Related stories White House sexed-down climate change reports Climate change boffins get £3.5m boost Global warming cleared on ice shelf collapse rap
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jul 2005

Germany greenlights mobes on planes

The German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing will next year lift the ban on the use of mobile phones on commercial flights, according to German newsmagazine Focus. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) says that mobile phone signals do not interfere with onboard electronics. Several European airlines say that they too are considering the removal of the in-flight ban on GSM phones. Last year, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed lifting the ban on the use of GPRS, EDGE and 3G phones onboard. Initially, only the 1800 MHz variants would be allowed to use. In practice it means you no longer have to switch off your mobile phone, but full GSM access at 35,000 feet isn't technically feasible without some help. Swedish vendor Ericsson recently announced its newly developed system GSM on Aircraft, an airborne version of the world's most sold radio base station in the RBS 2000 family, the RBS 2708. Its functionality matches terrestrial systems, according to the company. Airbus says it intends to equip its short and medium-range aircraft in the A320 series with mobile phone technology. ® Related stories EC backs inflight mobile calls Airline passengers love inflight SMS, hate voice calls Inflight mobile calls - it's going to happen
Jan Libbenga, 04 Jul 2005
channel

Symbian Trojan drains the life from phones

Virus writers have created a new Symbian Trojan called Doomboot-A that loads an earlier mobile virus (Commwarrior-B) onto vulnerable smartphones. Doomboot-A also preventing infected phones from booting up properly. This cocktail of viral effects spells extra trouble for Symbian Series 60 smartphone users, especially those who play around with pirated games. "Doomboot-A causes the phone not to boot anymore and Commwarrior causes so much Bluetooth traffic that the phone will run out of battery in less than one hour. Thus the user who gets his phone infected with Doomboot-A has less than one hour to figure out what is happening and disinfect his phone, or he will lose all data," writes Jarno Niemela, a researcher at Finnish anti-virus firm F-Secure. "And what makes matters worse is that the Doomboot-A installation does not give any obvious clues that something is wrong, and Commwarrior-B does not have icon and is not visible in the process list. So the installation of Doomboot-A looks very much like failed installation of pirate copied game, and [a] user has hard time noticing that something bad is happening," he added. Although several mobile Trojans have been used to spread the Cabir worm, Doomboot-A is the first Trojan to drop Commwarrior. Commwarrior-B can spread by both MMS and Bluetooth messages so it's nastier than Cabir, which only spreads using Bluetooth. Doomboot-A, like most Symbian Trojans, poses as a pirate copy of a Symbian game (in this case Doom 2). Users who avoid pirated games or applications should be safe from infection. Like all mobile malware threats to date, Doomboot-A is rare and largely a risk confined to people downloading content from dodgy sources. Mobile viruses, though still a threat, are much harder to catch than conventional Windows viruses. ® Related stories Mobile Trojan kills smart phones Text me and I'll reply with a virus Users untouched by mobile viruses despite hype Mobile botnet threat downplayed
John Leyden, 04 Jul 2005

Cardiff picked for 21CN launch

BT has picked Cardiff and to kick off the regional roll-out of its all-singing, all dancing 21st Century Network (21CN). Some 350,000 phone lines are set to be migrated onto the new digital platform in the second half of 2006 as part of BT's £10bn investment in the new network. Once the switch-over is completed BT phone users in the Cardiff area will notice...well, very little. If anything. In the years ahead, though, punters might find that they will be able to sign up to video telephony, TV-on-demand and all manner of gee-whizz applications and services. And they'll be able to make phone calls too. Or as BT puts it: "Once the programme has been completed, 21CN will provide homes and businesses with greater choice, control and flexibility over the communications services they use. "[21CN] is an 'enabling' technology which, in due course, will enable them to provide new services to their customers - domestic and business - more quickly and respond to what their customers want more rapidly." For BT, the completion of 21CN by 2008/09 will create a single nation-wide network (as opposed to the 16 networks currently in operation) delivering £1bn in cost savings each year. In a statement BT Wholesale chief exec Paul Reynolds said that the telco was now moving from test phase to implementing its new digital network. "We chose Cardiff and the surrounding area primarily because of its impressive track record in pioneering the benefits of, and attracting inward investment in, advanced communications and information technology. "The area's demographics are also representative of the UK market and critically, BT Wholesale's customer base. Its essential that 21CN meets the needs of operators, service providers, businesses and consumers alike," he said. In April researchers crowned Cardiff as the UK's broadband capital with some four in ten hooked up to a high speed internet connection. ® Related stories BT to save £1bn a year with IP network BT still needs to be policed, says industry BT to trial fibre-to-the-home BT's 21CN is 'exciting, radical and now' Marconi savaged after failure to win BT 21CN deal
Tim Richardson, 04 Jul 2005

Volcano erupts underwater, boils ocean

A volcano has erupted underwater near the Pacific island of Iwo Jima off the coast of Japan, sending a column of steam rising a kilometre into the air. The Japanese Coast Guard sent a plane to investigate, according to reports, after Defence officials reported that the surface of the water appeared red in the region of the steam column. Larger eruptions in the area have been recorded three times in the last 100 years, each eruption large enough to form a new, but quite small, island, according to a paper from the American Geophysical Union. More than 30 smaller eruptions, apparently similar to this one, have been recorded in the period. Most recently the volcano, Fukutokuoka-no-ba, erupted in 1986. The eruption lasted for three days. The Japanese Coast Guard issued a warning to international vessels, advising them to steer clear of the area. Meanwhile, the Japanese Metrological agency said there was no danger of the eruption causing a tsunami. ® Related stories UK at (very small) risk from tsunami Is that a lake on Titan? Titan hangs on to its secrets
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jul 2005

Java gets mobile at 10

As Java celebrated its tenth birthday last week at the Java One conference, the software technology was in a very different position to that envisaged by its creators at Sun in 1995. Few then could have hoped that it would have taken such a commanding position as the primary software environment outside the Microsoft world – but many at Sun would have wished that their own company would have been the chief beneficiary of that, rather than IBM, whose software efforts were largely rejuvenated by Java. Few of those who rescued Java from the ashes of a failed interactive television venture, FirstPerson, would have foreseen that it would become the focus of a major interoperability project between Microsoft and Sun to enable it to work with .Net. Despite various hitches, and very different development approaches, that work should be incorporated in the Indigo update for Windows in 2006, a development that will be important in the mobile world, where Microsoft and IBM are battling to control the software architectures underlying mobile enterprise and carrier systems. New Java specifications That Java would be a critical mobile platform is, of course, another development that could scarcely have been envisaged in 1995, but some of the most creative work in recent years has been done in the mobile arena, where Java is now taking a dominant role in three areas – as a content delivery platform for multimedia phone services; as a development environment that is helping to neutralize the handset operating system wars; and as a mobile enterprise platform. As in the server and PC versions of the technology, the agenda has, to some extent, been wrested from Sun by the mobile specialists as they seek to use Java to enrich their own products, and fend off Microsoft. Thus Java One saw valuable enhancements promised for J2ME (Java2 Mobile Edition), with most of them coming from Nokia, Ericsson and other cellular players. The vendors are close to the first draft of a new Java specification, which will include notable features such as over the air management of handsets and distribution of software. Not only will this allow operators to deliver new applications or downloads over the air, as they do now, but also to troubleshoot problems remotely and monitor cellphone resources – for instance, automatically sending a necessary codec or security update along with a new application. Such capabilities will increase customer satisfaction and reduce operator support costs, argues one of the lead developers, Nokia’s Jon Bostrom. The specification will also include runtime technologies to make it easier for developers to write applications that need to talk to servers or other phones, such as instant messaging or interactive gaming. The new spec will provide many of the runtime services, such as security, message queuing, and connectivity, that developers would otherwise have to write for their application, allowing them to focus on the all important differentiators such as user interfaces. Nokia and Motorola led the development of the specification, Java Specification Request 232 for Mobile Operational Management, claiming mobile clients will, for the first time, gain the same type of middleware environment as the PC world. Other backers include Vodafone, DoCoMo, IBM and SAP. Although JSR 232 is a year behind schedule – partly because of the need to coordinate work with mobile standards bodies like the Open Systems Gateway Initiative and Open Mobile Alliance – it is now expected to be finalized this year. Nokia will incorporate it, along with the Connected Device Configuration profile of J2ME, in its next release of the Series 60 user interface platform for SymbianOS smartphones. Mobile operators and Java Despite the intense activity of the mobile vendors, increasingly the major operators see Java as their own natural weapon. It is helping them to deliver new content and applications more cost effectively and to differentiate their handsets more easily through improved interface development capabilities, and the more such tasks can be accomplished in software, the less they are beholden to the major handset designers. Java is an important ingredient in some operator-driven initiatives, such as the Vodafone-inspired Open Mobile Terminal Alliance (OMTA), which is widely seen as a bid to wrest the handset agenda from Nokia and Motorola. At Java One this year, Sun announced an alliance with NTT DoCoMo that suggested similar motivations. They plan to deliver a mobile data services platform, codenamed *Project, based on Java and aimed at delivering rich mass market consumer applications that go beyond DoCoMo’s current capabilities. And while most of these cellco de facto standards attempts have been driven from Japan or Europe, the US carriers are getting involved too. Last week, industry association 3G Americas, which includes Cingular, T-Mobile USA and Rogers Wireless as well as the handset giants, published a technical position paper on wireless Java technologies to drive application interoperability on handsets in the Americas. The aim of these recommendations, like the OMTA, is to help establish a standard Java based platform for cellphones that will address the fragmentation of the generic platform for mobility. Vodafone and Nokia Perhaps the most important Java project, though, brings together Vodafone and Nokia in a rare show of unity. Announced last August, the joint initiative aims to address fragmentation and create a unified de facto standard that will compete effectively with .Net, as well as put the steering wheel firmly into the hands of the mobile industry’s two largest players, rather than those of Sun. The group is working to “simplify mobile Java standards by defining the next generation, open standards-based mobile Java services architecture specifications”, addressing fragmentation, the biggest problem affecting mobile Java, since applications cannot run on devices from different suppliers, reducing user choice and developer interest in the platform. Device specific API extensions have proliferated on mobile phones because the MIDP profile is targeted at all mobile devices and so omits many phonespecific requirements, such as address books and particular user interface behaviour. Vodafone and Nokia, which were joined by many other key players, including Orange, Siemens, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile and Sun itself, were careful to stress that they would create their new specifications within the Java Community Process and would base their work on Java Specification Requests (JSRs – the main method of submitting changes to the Java platform) already approved by the committee governing J2ME. These JSRs, numbers 248 and 249, will not introduce new application programming interfaces per se, but will include “clarifications” of existing specifications that will define a consistent API services architecture and support application compatibility across mobile devices from all compliant vendors. JSR248 concerns the Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC) and applies to mass market mobile gadgets, while JSR249 or Connected Device Configuration is for smartphones and PDAs. Such projects, though they may take place under the auspices of the Java Community Process, are also increasingly driven by other industry groups and standards bodies, as we have seen. All this seems to diminish Sun’s potential to become a primary mobile Java vendor itself, beyond the obvious licensing revenues, and it also reduces the role of the Java owner in deciding the future directions for J2ME. But the actions of Nokia, Ericsson, Vodafone and the others will accelerate the mobile Java roadmap and create a more unified platform that should attract more cellphone software developers. A decade on, mobility is promising Java’s greatest growth opportunity. Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related Stories Sun opens more middleware source, plots Java future Oracle becomes EJB 3.0 'standard' Get serious, IBM and Nokia tell developers
Wireless Watch, 04 Jul 2005

Deutsche Telekom 'may sell T-Mobile USA'

Deutsche Telekom is reportedly toying with the idea of either selling its US mobile arm T-Mobile or upgrading the operator's network to be more competitive. Reports suggest that selling T-Mobile USA could potentially net the German telecommunications firm up to $30bn. However, if Deutsche Telekom holds on to the US mobile subsidiary it will need to re-vamp its network at a cost estimated at around $10bn. Officials at Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile USA have not commented on these latest reports, but chief financial officer Karl-Gerhard Eick and other executives at Deutsche Telekom have reportedly told fund managers that a decision would be made either way by the end of the year. The US mobile market has become increasingly competitive in recent months with players in the market offering low-cost calls and high-speed internet access services. In addition, the market is becoming more and more consolidated with the number of national mobile operators widely expected to fall to four by the end of the year. To compete effectively in this market investors believe Deutsche Telekom would need to invest significantly in its network including buying 3G licenses in the US when they are auctioned in 2006. While the idea of selling off the US mobile operator sounds the more appealing option, analysts warn this may not be easy. Reports name Vodafone as a possible buyer for T-Mobile USA but the UK-based mobile group have repeatedly refuted the idea. Apart from Vodafone, analysts suggest some cable companies aiming to enter the mobile market could show interest. Investors worry though that if Deutsche Telekom sells off T-Mobile USA it will be effectively selling its fastest growing business. The firm has emerged as one of the fastest-growing US providers in the past few years; in 2004 it reported a 30 percent increase in customers and revenue growth of almost 50 per cent. In the first quarter of 2005 T-Mobile USA had revenue of $2.85 billion and more than 18 million customers. But the firm is still the smallest national player in the US mobile market, controlling just 10 per cent of customers competing with heavy-hitters such as Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless. Bearing this in mind, analysts generally believe a sale could well be the best option for Deutsche Telekom going forward. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 04 Jul 2005

Silicon beats carbon in chess battle

In the battle of man vs. machine, man has been utterly trounced. In fact, supercomputer Hydra's five triumphs out of six over human grandmaster Michael Adams dwarfs even the All Blacks' recent demolition of the British Lions. Adams managed to squeeze a draw in the second bout, salvaging some pride. Hydra was well equipped for the battle, which concluded last week. With its many, many pieces of well-deployed silicon, it can analyse up to 200 million chess moves per second, and plan its game 18 to 40 moves ahead. As we reported earlier, that is six more moves than IBM's Deep Blue was capable of. The result is being touted as a demonstration of just how far supercomputers have come in the last decade. In 1996 Garry Kasparov actually beat Deep Blue, although the supercomputer got its own back a year later. Computers might have the edge over people when it comes to chess, but that doesn't mean they actually understand the game. After each move in chess, there are approximately 30 legal moves that could be made next. This is known as having a branching factor of 30. A sufficiently fast computer can, with the help of some decent software that prunes the dead ends, merely brute force its way through enough moves to calculate the one most likely to win it the match. Computers have yet to master the game of Go, a much trickier proposition with its branching factor of 250. Brute force is no good here, because the number of moves gets really big, really fast. Researchers at Microsoft's labs in Cambridge have made some improvements to computer Go, using Bayesian ranking to calculate probable good moves. But the researchers concede that even the best programs are pretty easily dispatched by good human players. ® Related stories Puny human takes on chess-playing supercomputer Boffins crack ancient board game with 36 server cluster Greek govt bans all computer games
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jul 2005

China signs anti-spam pact

China - the world's second biggest producer of spam behind the US - has signed up to an international agreement to crack down on unsolicited email. Beijing has added its name to the list of countries that have adopted the London Action Plan on Spam Enforcement Collaboration - a group that works to target spammers. In February this year, the London Action Plan was behind a massive one-day sweep of the net. Its analysis of 300,000 junk emails has led to more than 300 investigations being carried out. More recently, it was behind operation 'Spam Zombies', part of a global effort to prevent computers being hijacked without the users' knowledge. Keen to welcome China's involvement against spam UK eminister Alun Michael said: "We have long been keen to engage with China on the issue of spam, in particular because China is probably the second biggest source of spam in the world. "During our Presidency of the EU and beyond, we will continue to intensify our activities with Chinese and other partners to address spam and viruses, and therefore contribute to the continued development and safety of the global information society." Last month Hong Kong announced plans to crack down on spam. It plans to introduce new anti-spam laws next year in the war against junk emails, faxes and automated telephone calls. ® Related stories Hong Kong to crack down on spam US tops junk mail list of shame - again Britain tops zombie PC charts EU and Asia unite against spammers
Tim Richardson, 04 Jul 2005

British man sacked for having opinion

A British man has been sacked for speaking out against heavy-handed copyright actions in the US after appearing on Newsnight last week. Alex Hanff was asked to appear on last Monday's Newsnight programme to talk about the recent Supreme Court decision against Grokster. Hanff, who is from Lancaster, was of interest to Newsnight because back in March he was sued for copyright infringement by Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers - as exclusively revealed on El Reg here. Hanff worked as a trainer and consultant for Aldcliffe Computer Systems, also based in Lancaster. He was given permission to leave work 45 minutes early to meet the Newsnight camera crew. He returned to work on Tuesday. Hanff told the Reg: "At first everything was fine then at lunchtime the technical director came in and fired me. He told me it was because of my opinions and there was no right of appeal." Although Hanff had only been working at Aldcliffe Computer Systems for a week he said the full-time position was a dream job: "I turned down a higher-paid post because this was a career position and a fantastic opportunity." The sacking was even more of shock, said Hanff, because he had had nothing but praise while working at Aldcliffe and had been told that, at interview, he had "blown all the other candidates out of the water". Hanff said: "Democratic society is based on the ability to have opinions and to express those opinions - that's how society grows." He said that after the sacking he received a call offering to increase his severance pay from one week to three months. On legal advice he declined the offer. Tribal Group, which owns Aldcliffe Computing, said in a statement: "Mr Hanff was employed on a probationary basis for one week in one of our software companies. The decision to terminate his employment was made in order to defend our legitimate business interests. Mr Hanff has declared that he is opposed to copyright and intellectual property laws. Since much of our business is based around the protection of our copyright and intellectual property, we consider our dismissal of Mr Hanff entirely justified and appropriate." The largely untested Human Rights Act does guarantee the freedom to have an opinion and to express that opinion. Back in March, Hanff received a letter from lawyers Jenner&Block, representing the Motion Picture Association of America. He has been advised to ignore the letter because the MPAA has no jurisdiction in Europe.® Related stories Hollywood calls BitTorrent Brits to US Court Hollywood brow-beats second BitTorrent Brit Hollywood threatens to sue UK BitTorrent man for millions
John Oates, 04 Jul 2005
bofh_sidey

BOFH: Resurrection

Episode 20Episode 20 Bright white light surrounds me and ahead I see a lift with the UP button greyed out. Entering the lift, I press the only option available, 'B', and go down. The air gets appreciably warmer. Exiting the lift, I see nine rooms. The one immediately in front of me has an endless pile of service packs which have to be applied to an endless line of Windows desktop machines. The room next to it has a sign which says: "Discussion: Linux v Windows v MacOsX". Far off in the distance in the last room I see a figure encased in ice. Things become clearer. I rush back to the lift, press the 'G' button noting the '1' button is still greyed out. And after all my selfless works, too. The lift doors open and I head immediately for the light... "We've got a pulse!" a paramedic yells as I regain a bit of my former consciousness. I notice the PFY halfway across the room in a similar state of recovery and the Boss in a corner with a couple of meds working on him. I catch a brief murmur of brain damage and manage to spit out something about it being his normal operating mode... "What happened?" the PFY gasps once the pushing and shoving has stopped. "I..." the Boss blubs, before lapsing into shocked silence. "I..." I say, coming to a halt when I realise I have no recollection of what's transpired. or... It might be a dream but I seem to remember... . . . "IT'S NOT THE BLOODY SAME!" I shout, annoyed. "I ordered a PARTICULAR machine in a PARTICULAR configuration so that it can perform a PARTICULAR task!" "But this machine is the same," the Boss responds, calmly. "See, everything in the same amounts. It's a perfectly good substitute." "You can't substitute a machine with a fast processor for a crap machine with two much slower processors! When I order a machine with two hard drives I don't want a machine with one LARGE hard drive!!!" "If I may," the PFY says, interjecting. "I think I see the root of the problem." "Mmm?" the Boss and I say almost simultaneously. "You think the systems are basically the same." "They are," the Boss says. "Only you're not paid to think. If you were you'd be getting paid a lot less." FIGHTING TALK FROM THE PFY!!!! "I beg your pardon?!!" "As well you should - this isn't the first time. Last week I ordered a couple of replacement mice for the console system and instead of the five button optical jobbies I ordered I got a FOUR button trackball - one with a ball which isn't even bloody spherical." "But the ones you specified were 30 quid each. The alternatives cost us a tenth of that!!!" "THEY DON'T BLOODY WORK PROPERLY!" "But they've saved money!" the Boss bleats. "YOU DON'T SAVE MONEY IF IT'S DODGY!" the PFY snaps. "And then this morning I receive this..." "It's a keyboard." "Yes it is. A PC keyboard with a Dec-VT220 configuration. NO-ONE USES THEM ANY MORE!" "But it was only five quid!" "BECAUSE IT'S CRAP!" "Has this been happening with all our orders?" I ask, looking suspiciously at the recently delivered, yet still unopened package on my desktop. "Uh... We have an agreement with stores that if we can find an equivalent for less or a better item for the same price we should do that. And the stuff they get is perfectly reputable and not at all... dodgy." "And the person who's deciding what an equivalent product is the same person who picks his nose and eats it to save on lunch money?" "He's saved us thousands already!" "So it HAS been happening with all our orders?" "Yes. Didn't we... uh.. tell you about that?" the Boss asks, faking innocence. "So when I open up this package I'm not going to find the Taser.... uh... Insulation Testing Device I ordered?" "You might. Or it might be a perfectly workable substitute." . . . "THIS ISN'T WHAT I ORDERED!!!" I snap angrily as I open the package and find a box with strange lettering on the side. "No, it's a 'better' model" the PFY says, looking at the box. "East European. Higher voltage - unlimited battery life - at least that's what I think it says." "East European?" the Boss asks confusedly. "Yes..." "Would you care to revise your story about dodginess?" I ask the Boss... "No, I'm sure it's an excellent substitute." "Well" the PFY says, scanning the pictures. "It looks like you turn it on here >click<, put the safety link in here >HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM< and you control the withdrawal of the carbon rods here..." "Carbon rods?" I ask, stepping back slightly as the ready LED goes from dull to bright red, then to white, then off with a puff of smoke. "Does uh... anyone else smell burning?" the Boss asks, backing away slightly. "Still think it's not a bit dodgy?" I ask the Boss. "...and it looks like," the PFY continues engrossed in picture translation, "it's activated by pushing this button over h..." ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here
Simon Travaglia, 04 Jul 2005
fingers pointing at man

Flogging Exchange Server 2003

Quocirca's changing channelsQuocirca's changing channels Over 60 per cent of businesses who manage their email internally use Microsoft Exchange Server for all or part of their requirement. Less than half of these are using the latest version – Exchange Server 2003. There is a significant opportunity for resellers if these organisations can be persuaded it is worth the money and effort to upgrade. The opportunity is not just in the cost of the software upgrade and the services to get it up and running, there is also significant added value that can be sold around Exchange 2003 compared to older versions. Furthermore, customers are also likely to need beefed-up hardware to make use of it all. A convincing case needs to be made; so how can resellers convince the laggards? There are two angles of attack. The first is to remind businesses how important email is to them these days, the impact that down time has and to show that Exchange Server 2003 can reduce business risk. Secondly, resellers should underline the benefits reaped by those have that already made the move. Think back 10 years – if a customer had said they would email an order to a supplier, they would have been laughed at. It is highly unlikely that either organisation would have known how to exchange an email with the other and, even if they did, it would not have been considered a legal transaction. Exchange Server V5.5, which is still used by about one fifth of all Exchange users, was developed against this background. Today more than half of businesses regularly take orders by email and nearly all recognise that email is now a fundamental part of their business processes. Few think more than a day of down time is acceptable and many consider a few hours intolerable. A major driver of this sensitivity around the availability of email is due to its impact on customer communications. In short, anything that minimises down-time of an email server reduces business risk. The overwhelming majority of organisations that have moved to Exchange Server 2003 recognised an increase in reliability and performance relative to the older versions Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000. But those who have made the move also recognise a range of value added benefits including; better services for users making them more productive, enhanced support for mobile users and better integration with other Microsoft software, such as portals and office applications. In fact many organisations see the introduction of Exchange Server 2003 as a good time to introduce portal technology – these days Microsoft’s Sharepoint Portal Server is a relatively cheap add-on to Exchange. This is also selling the future – O12 the next major version of Microsoft Office will make extensive use of Sharepoint for sharing templates, documents and data between users. Microsoft is ending support to Exchange V5.5 at the end of this year and the 20 per cent or so of customers using that version really should be making the move. But resellers do not need to resort to scare tactics to convince the laggards to upgrade. There are plenty of other compelling reasons for making the move to Exchange Server 2003 – a sound business case can be made. © Quocirca Bob Tarzey is a service director at Quocirca focussed on the route to market for IT products and services in Europe. Quocirca (www.quocirca.com) is a UK based perceptional research and analysis firm with a focus on the European market. Related stories Small.biz goes a bundle on SBS 2003? Microsoft bolsters email security with Sybari acquisition Security Report: Windows vs Linux
Bob Tarzey, 04 Jul 2005
globalisation

MS accused of killing pen computing pioneer Go

The founder of tablet computing pioneer Go Corporation has revived long dormant allegations of corporate wrongdoing with an anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft. Jerry Kaplan alleges that Go technology demonstrated to Microsoft technicians under non-disclosure was used to help develop competing products. The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages and filed in the US District Court in San Francisco last week, also alleges that Microsoft tried to "kill off" Go in the early 1990s. According to the suit, Microsoft allegedly used various "incentives and threats" to pressure Compaq, Fujitsu, Toshiba and other OEMS into rejecting Go's operating system. Documents from Compaq disclosed during Microsoft's 1999 anti-trust trial suggest, at the very least, that the hardware manufacturer was fearful of Microsoft's reaction if it opted to license GO's software on its PDA. However Microsoft says Kaplan's allegations against it are without foundation. "These claims are 20 years old and they were baseless then and they are baseless now," a Microsoft spokeswoman told the New York Times. Kaplan's lawsuits emerged just days after Microsoft announced a $850m anti-trust settlement with IBM over Redmond's business practices in making sure IBM's OS/2 operating system and SmartSuite productivity software never gained enough market traction to challenge Microsoft's market dominance. Microsoft has coughed up more than $3bn to rivals such as Sun Microsystems, AOL and Gateway over various anticompetitive matters in recent years. Go was founded in 1987 to create software that relied on a pen instead of a keyboard in the user interface of either mobile computers or PDAs. Its PenPoint OS ran on AT&T's EO Personal Communicator but it was starved of other success and the firm was bought by AT&T and merged with the firm's EO portable computer unit in 1994. Kaplan later regained control of Go's assets after purchasing them from AT&T's Lucent spin-off. ® Related stories Microsoft uses $850m to kiss and make up with IBM Microsoft is profiting from punishment - rivals Microsoft keeps mum on EC deal Compaq testimony points to murky secrets of MS relationship Compaq-MS murky secrets II an analysis
John Leyden, 04 Jul 2005
cloud

CA boss charges detailed

Sanjay Kumar, the former boss of Computer Associates, has been accused of paying a $3.7m bribe in a failed attempt to cover up the company's dubious accountancy practices. US prosecutors have filed revised indictments against Kumar and Stephen Richards, former head of worldwide sales, including securities fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The changed indictment alleges Kumar gave the green light to a $3.7m fee to a man who was threatening to reveal the problems with CA's books. Back in 2000 CA signed a multimillion dollar contract with "a nearly insolvent" customer and then backdated the payment so it hit targets for the previous quarter. But "Individual #1", the boss of the company, wanted paying for helping CA out. Two CA executives flew to Hawaii to meet him and after further threats of exposing CA's practises Kumar agreed to pay him $3.7m for consultancy services which were never delivered, according to ITNews.com. More details here. The two sides are currently in discovery, showing each other evidence, and will meet again in July. CA reached agreement with the US government late last year and agreed to pay $225m.® Related stories CA's Clarke chills in the City CA to restate five years of figures CA boss admits long road to recovery
John Oates, 04 Jul 2005
arrow pointing up

Pop-up smut tops spyware chart

A strain of spyware that displays pornographic pop-ups has retained its place as the top spyware nuisance on the net last month. ISTbar was responsible for 3.5 per cent of infections detected by Panda Software's free online malware scanner, more than any other spyware or adware application. ISTbar, which poses as an ActiveX control, acts as an entry-point for other malware, adware and dialers. It also displays pornographic pop-ups, installs a toolbar and changes the home page of browsers on infested PCs. Cydoor, an adware program that downloads advertisements from a server and displays them on PCs, made runner-up spot on Panda's June list of spyware nasties as nabbed by Panda's ActiveScan service, which was recently upgraded to add spyware detection alongside its existing virus busting features. Panda's June spyware chart features only one new entry, an adware package called MarketScore. Spyware refers to a class of invasive program that generates pop-ups, hijacks user home pages or redirects searches in an attempt to either monitor user activity or bombard surfers with unwanted messages. It's a fast growing category that is beginning to eclipse more clear-cut malware - such as computer viruses - in economic impact if not in prevalence. ® Top spyware threats, as compiled by Panda Software ISTbar Cydoor New.net XXXToolbar Dyfuca BetterInet Petro-Line Altnet BargainBuddy MarketScore Related stories Malware authors up the ante Anti-spam success drives malware authors downmarket Judge bans company's deceptive anti-spyware claims Men blamed for spyware surge Spyware blizzard shows no sign of let up
John Leyden, 04 Jul 2005