12th > July > 2005 Archive

'Sims school' abandons books for laptops

Technology vendors have long viewed the state of Arizona as rich pickings. In addition to the Federal pork barrel, state tax payers have found over $60m dollars for IT investment. Now a high school in Tuscon is abandoning textbooks entirely, at the urging of the school district's technology evangelist, who appears to have caught the religion big time. Instead of spending $600 per head on textbooks, Vail High School in Tucson will buy each of its 350 sophomores an $850 laptop. That shouldn't be too difficult - the school itself is located in a science park. But the Tucson school district's superinterindent, an enthusiastic technology evangelist called Calvin Baker, candidly admits he doesn't know quite how it will all work. But he is adamant that the publically accessible computer networks can replace traditional textbooks. We unearthed this quote from him, from August 2004. "If we can rely on almost limitless information available on the Internet, why do we need a textbook?" he asked. Perhaps this site answers Calvin more succinctly, in eleven short paragraphs, than we can. Or perhaps he can look at empirical evidence gathered from over 30 countries around the world, which discovered that computer use actually reduces childrens numeracy and literacy skills. Schoolchildren were developing a "problem-solving deficit disorder", and losing the ability to analyze, the Royal Economic Society concluded. Mind you, they were pretty nifty with the trackpad - and had picked up some k3wl Google tricks. Of course, a computer in the classroom doesn't make a good teacher bad, and a textbook doesn't make a bad teacher effective. But try telling this to a techno utopian. Digital factory In 1998, the historian David Noble organized a conference titled Digital Diploma Mills, which focussed on the increasing industrialization of education. As often as not, tech-heavy education led to "glitzy software and shoddy pedagogy" and severed bonds between teacher and pupil, reported Langdon Winner. Today, the industrialization process is advocated without any apparent irony. The Arizona Educational Technology Plan, approved this January, calls for "an information factory, supported by a data warehouse [to] provide the longitudinal information needed for improving education in Arizona." [PDF, 630kb]. What is longitudinal information - and where does your child fit in? We don't have a clue. And Vail High School's website seems to have undergone an intriguing, Sims-style makeover. In addition to the traditional menu navigation, you're invited to "CLICK ON OBJECTS TO NAVIGATE SITE" in a Flash-enabled version of the SIMS. Simply rollover the pictures to hear the sound effects. Having made textbooks virtual, we need only make the nodes students themselves virtual to optimize the educator's experience. Baker's slightly scary vision of his pupils as mere Sims nodes is a fascinating social experiment. With only internet resources such as Wikipedia available to Tuscson's pupils, they should be able to emerge blinking into the adult world with a round knowledge of everything from Ayn Rand to the Klingon grammar. Which will be very useful if the earth is subject to an attack by Klingon-speaking, libertarian aliens. ® Related resources for parents The Alliance For Childhood Computers and Student Learning - Fuchs & Wößmann, Royal Economic Society report Related story How computers make kids dumb
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jul 2005
chart

Microsoft renames Open License Value program Open Value

Microsoft's mission to simplify pricing has seen the company update its volume licensing programs for small and medium business (SMB) customers. Microsoft's Open License Value program, for those running less than 250 PCs, will now be called the Open Value program and eliminate regional differences in Open License Value. Sunny Charlebois, product manager for worldwide licensing and pricing, told The Register Microsoft is taking the "best" from each regional program and making it available to everyone. Other changes include a streamlining of the license ordering process from Microsoft partners for customers, while the software contracts themselves have been reduced from 22 pages to just nine pages in length by cutting out legal jargon. The goal is to help companies who run Windows in different geographies and are forced to negotiate different terms, conditions and offers from the same company – a fact that can cause an administrative headache for customers and partners. Microsoft is using the changes to introduce two new software bundles under Open Value - the Professional Platform and the Small Business Platform. The Professional Platform includes Office Professional Edition and a Microsoft Core Client Access License (CAL) for Windows Server, Exchange, SharePoint Portal Server and Systems Management Server (SMS) along with a Windows Professional Desktop Upgrade. The Small Business platform features Office Small Business Edition, a Windows Small Business Server CAL and a Windows Professional Desktop Upgrade. Microsoft is also going live with software financing after a three-year pilot in its Business Solutions (MBS) division. Microsoft Financing, formerly Microsoft Capital, will offer financing on software for up to 60 months in nine countries with plans to rollout to a further six countries during Microsoft's new fiscal year. Microsoft is promoting the service with a 101 per cent financing introductory offer. Partners who arrange a transaction between a mutual customer will get 100 per cent of the financing plus what amounts to one per cent commission on the deal. Charlebois said financing meant customers would no longer experience a big payment spike when they first buy Microsoft's software as payment can now be spread out. "The partner gets paid up front, the customer gets the solution they want and we are able to feed the ecosystem," Charlebois said.® Related stories Look out IBM, here comes Microsoft's OzFest Microsoft's Ballmer tells lurvely partners to stick it to IBM Microsoft urges partners to make business app run Microsoft rejigs Windows pricing for midsize companies
Gavin Clarke, 12 Jul 2005

'We are all schadenbloggers, now'

LettersLetters Last week we noticed that within 24 hours of the London terror attack, VXers were delivering a topical, terror related virus. And blog evangelists telling us Journalism Would Never Be The Same Again™ ... that This Changes Everything™, and other dot.com era platitudes. Thanks to Jon Garfinkel for reminding us of his earlier account of what he describes as "schadenblogging", back in January, discussing the Asian Tsunami. And thanks to another reader for finding this next gem. Now the victims of terror attacks have to contend with a new menace: snap happy, or slap happy, camera phone users: Subject: Return of the Flash Mobs Expect spur of the moment mass-gatherings to be playing at the next global tragedy near you: http://www.pfff.co.uk/weblog/archives/2005/07/surviving_a_ter_2.html, where the blogger notes - "The victims were being triaged at the station entrance by Tube staff and as I could see little more I could do so I got out of the way and left. As I stepped out people with camera phones vied to try and take pictures of the worst victims. In crisis some people are cruel." Steve Fitzgerald The bloggers seem to be picking up stuff from the traditional media, rather than doing anything original. Yes, I was able to get confirmation that friends were OK - people were putting together lists - without a lot of trouble. But it was communities, not blogs, which made the difference. And the blogging as commentary; the analysis which journalists should do. Mostly crap. Just one example: one of the New York papers published a story in which they suggested the bombers were incompetent because they'd set their bombs off in a Muslim district of London. They attributed that to an un-named European security expert, who had claimed to have been briefed by Scotland Yard. Nothing there to suggest that the bombers had hit underground trains and a bus which were carrying commuters away from three of London's main railway stations; no apparent realisation that what's on top of a tunnel doesn't make much difference. But if the print journalists are that bad, no wonder the bloggers think they're so wonderful. Dave Bell The evangelists worse than the VXers? I don't think so! Put simply, at least the evangelists can still get the benefit of the doubt. It is both possible and true at least in some cases that rather than being knowingly callous a blogger has simply failed to realize in their enthusiasm that they've said something pretty daft and inapropriate to the occasion, there is NO question on the other hand that a VXer fully knows just how horrible their lure is as that's pretty much the POINT of using it in the first place. Guy Matthews I never really understood the fascination with bullshitlogging. A bunch of people with a website printing any old crap that comes into their heads, whilst at the same time providing "feedback" links for other people to post their corresponding thoughts. If they were limited to journalists or someone gifted in giving their balanced and informed point of view, then okay.. this is of value to the world. But when you have any moron with an internet connection wasting server space with inane bullshitlogging, how can we be expected to shift through all the crap to find something worth reading. Andy Bright Yes, we were all guilty of a little ambulance chasing on Thursday, but LiveJournal did it's part when the mobile network was overloaded and we couldn't get calls through, and it did it far more efficiently than attempting to email everyone about someone you couldn't get through to. It allowed group communication and reassurance and it allowed the humour to flow, "If I'd known the French would be that upset..." because that's how we deal with these things here, we tell a joke, that and tea. and more tea. and maybe a cup of tea. Adam LiveJournal - isn't that the one that's most like Usenet? Thanks to Adam, and to you all for your mail. ® Related story For ambulance-chasing bloggers, tragedy equals opportunity
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jul 2005

Dutch build giant cluster telescope

The Netherlands's Foundation for Research in Astronomy (Astron), is building a giant network of radio telescopes that will help researchers study the earliest days of the universe. Astron already has 14 large radio scopes, but the facility's Lofar project is now building a huge cluster of up to 25,000 simple pyramidal radio antennae, the BBC reports, across a 350km span in the north of the Netherlands. Once they are all in place, they will form the largest radio telescope on Earth. Director of the project Dr Eugene De Geuss commented: "With the kinds of telescopes we are building now, we are able to detect signals that are so faint that the radiation has taken such a long time to get to us here on Earth that the amount of time is sort of similar to the age of the Universe." The data collected will be processed by Stella, one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe. One of the scientists involved in the project explains that the equivalent of 100 CDs full of data will arrive at the supercomputer, from the telescope, every second. The data will not be stored, but will be processed immediately. ® Related stories Deep Impact makes an impression on Tempel-1 Space tourism will save the children - Burt Rutan Voyager 1: exit stage left
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jul 2005

Watching us through the Sorting Door

A former CIA intelligence analyst and researchers from SAP plan to study how RFID tags might be used to profile and track individuals and consumer goods. "I believe that tags will be readily used for surveillance, given the interests of various parties able to deploy readers," said Ross Stapleton-Gray, former CIA analyst and manager of the study, called the Sorting Door Project. Sorting Door will be a test-bed for studying the massive databases that will be created by RFID tags and readers, once they become ubiquitous. The project will help legislators, regulators and businesses make policies that balance the interests of industry, national security and civil liberties, said Stapleton-Gray. In Sorting Door, RFID readers (whether in doorways, walls or floors, or the hands of workers) will collect data from RFID tags and feed them into databases. Sorting Door participants will then investigate how the RFID tag's unique serial numbers, called EPCs, can be merged with other data to identify dangerous people and gather intelligence in a particular location. For example, a computer could alert customs officials when sensors show that a container's contents do not match the descriptions provided by its EPCs. Or a doorway RFID reader might detect suspicious individuals, such as someone wearing a heavy coat into a bank on a 90 degree day. Government investigators could also build profiles about individuals through the EPCs, such as their tastes in clothing, or their reading preferences. RFID/EPC tags on consumer goods "may give clues to their owners' interests, habits, and activities," according to the Sorting Door proposal. This data could be acted upon by security sentinels, or devices that greet recognized customers. Sorting Door gets its name from the Sorting Hat in the "Harry Potter" books, which magically determines which school house its wearer will join. The data mining software in Sorting Door would be provided by SAP, an enterprise software company, which has worked on RFID tests with Wal-Mart, Procter and Gamble and the Metro Group. RFID, an acronym for radio frequency identification, is widely used in highway toll-pay transponders, contactless payment devices and proximity (or "prox") cards used in offices. Sorting Door will largely focus on RFID/EPC tags (EPC is short for Electronic Product Code), which will eventually replace the barcode on consumer goods, according to retailers' plans. Many retailers and their suppliers hope to create databases merging the EPCs on purchased items with shoppers' credit and customer loyalty cards. The companies could then use that information to pitch new products at specific consumers - wherever RFID/EPC reader devices are set up to spot them. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security may also be interested in having access to these databases, which will help form what some are calling the EPC Network, and others "The Internet of Things." The U.S. Department of Defense, which has gigantic supply chains, will be a major contributor of databases to the EPC Network. Homeland Security has been contemplating joining Sorting Door, since Stapleton-Gray talked with the agency about the project several weeks ago. "RFID tags have some promising potentials, but also some serious questions," said Homeland Security spokeswoman Valerie Smith. "So research like this can be helpful." Smith said that Homeland Security would not be commenting specifically on whether it is joining Sorting Door at this time. Privacy advocates worry that the government is already eyeing ways to access the EPC Network. Several airlines have already shown their willingness to turn over their databases to federal authorities, in the name of national security. "The government is already doing a lot of data mining, with databases from the private sector," said Katherine Albrecht, director of the consumer privacy group, CASPIAN. "It lets them get around that pesky Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (which protects citizens from arbitrary searches). This is data they would be not allowed to get on their own." Privacy advocates, for their part, expect Sorting Door to show how RFID tags will turn shoes and clothes into tracking beacons for marketers and government snoops. That is one unique aspect of Sorting Door: It is open to all stakeholders in the RFID debate, including privacy watchdogs, the RFID industry, and the government. But the RFID industry - those who make radio tags and those who buy them - are afraid of revealing RFID's "spy chip" capabilities, according to civil libertarians. RFID users such as Procter and Gamble will not be interested in Sorting Door, because the results will be open to public scrutiny, said Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Lee Tien. "The burden is on the proponents of tracking devices to show that they are not going to contribute to a surveillance infrastructure," said Tien. "But (the retailers) are not willing to have an honest conversation with society." Tien said he supports the mission of the Sorting Door project. Retailers and suppliers, the RFID/EPC standards body EPC Global, and representatives of industry- backed RFID laboratories either declined to be interviewed for this story, or did not respond to interview requests. Some of the industry representatives said they were unfamiliar with Sorting Door. Stapleton-Gray said he hopes to brief retailers, consumer packaged goods producers and EPC Global on the project in the near future, however. SAP's involvement will likely get the attention of others in the industry. Tao Lin, director of Auto-ID (or EPC) research at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., is combining an EPC Network data mining project of his own with Sorting Door. The EPC Network is an inevitability, said Lin, and now is the time to learn about its potential for securing people and goods, or for being abused by the government. "We need to proactively investigate the issues," said Lin, "before we set up laws and rules to facilitate or prevent certain uses of this infrastructure."® Related stories Your fingerprints are everywhere Germans plan biometric hooligan clampdown Privacy groups slam US passport technology World Cup tickets will contain RFID chips IVF clinics may tag embryos
Mark Baard, 12 Jul 2005

Abbey business banking falls over (again)

Abbey National's business banking service went down twice on Monday. The glitch left anbusiness.com customers unable to make transactions online and, in at least one case, unable to carry out transactions over the phone either. Gary Hinson, chief exec of security governance consultancy IsecT, was left frustrated by his inability to access his business account either over the phone or online. He couldn't pay bills, check money coming into his account or make salary payment. The latest SNAFU follows similar problems with anbusiness last Monday (4 July) that weren't resolved until the following day. "I've given up and am looking for a new bank. A bank that doesn't let its customers conduct any transactions will not remain in business for long," Hinson told El Reg. An Abbey National spokeswoman said that the site was down between 0830 and 1245 on Monday. The site was brought back up by 1245 but went down again after two hours (1445) and remained unavailable for the rest of the afternoon. She blamed technical issues, which its technicians are working hard to resolve, for problems with the site. The exact cause of the problem remains unclear but Abbey has ruled out hacker attack. ® Related stories Abbey axes 335 EDS Abbey flagship project in doubt Abbey National bins WAP, Digital TV banking Internet forces British banking industry to modernise Ireland's first internet-only bank opens
John Leyden, 12 Jul 2005
channel

Microsoft hears mid-market knocking

Microsoft is, to borrow a popular Wall St phrase, going "granular" on small and medium businesses (SMBs). The company has begun to focus on the very different needs of companies in the "S" portion and the "M" part of this over-used industry acronym, instead of seeing them at the more abstract level. The new approach became clear at Microsoft's Worldwide partner conference, where the company has followed the launch of Small Business Server (SBS), with a Windows Server System promotion for mid-market customers. The offer comprises Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition, and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Workgroup Edition combined with 50 promotional Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Windows Server and Exchange Server. Microsoft's focus is an attempt to reconcile increased competitive pressures with the opportunity to sell newer, integrated versions of Windows and applications like Office and SharePoint Portal Server to what is a potentially lucrative but highly fragmented and legacy dominated customer base. That base is running point applications like Excel for their accounting needs, Office 97 for personal productivity, and Windows NT 4.0 or Novell's NetWare on servers. The target audience in question varies from vendor to vendor. According to Microsoft, mid-market businesses run 25 and 500 PCs - Microsoft says there are 1.2 million of these companies worldwide, representing a sizeable opportunity. That's compared to 40 million organizations running less than 25 PCs and 18,000 with more than 500 machines. While the numbers may be open to question, what is tangible are the needs of mid market. Like their small business cousins, mid-market operators lack the IT staff needed to administer complex software and often make purchasing decisions in reaction to problems, like buying a new server that features the latest copy of Windows Server when the old machine finally runs out of memory. Where the mid-market differs from small businesses, though, is that companies will often run multiple copies of different server products, like e-mail or database, and also have distributed branches that require virtualized management. IBM and Oracle have been targeting these customers in recent years with a series of streamlined, cut-down and low-priced databases and application servers. Microsoft is also in the early days of experiencing a competitive challenge from the Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/Python/PHP (LAMP) stack. LAMP is still regarded by some Microsoft partners as too crudely assembled for mid-market customers, who aren't interested in the bits and bytes debate that dominates the LAMP community and who want integrated products to work out of the box. As surely as open source has moved from Linux to the application sever, though, open source will evolve into a refined set of low-cost and integrated applications and middleware serving mid market and vertical sector customers. "We are definitely looking at LAMP," Steven VanRoekel director of mid-market solutions, told The Register at Microsoft's partner conference. Partners are already checking out Linux as a potential platform they could do business on. Ric Opal, vice president of systems integrator and consultant Peters & Associates, is one example of a Microsoft partner who - while deciding against offering products or services on Linux - has at least gone as far as attending classes on Red Hat to get a better understanding of the operating system. "Integration costs on Linux are more substantial and the application offerings are not there," Opal said of the current state of the Linux market. Microsoft is in the early stages of addressing the competitive dynamic and market demands, however the company must move quickly in a number of areas. The mid-market server promotion launched last week is a "soft-bundle", meaning the server and management products have not been integrated any more than normal to help with installation or administration. Also the server is not available on an OEM's hardware, which could allow the user to simply un-pack, turn on and boot-up. While Microsoft can be forgiven for these omissions, as its strategy is new, in the long-term both facts are tactical mistakes that Microsoft must rectify. IBM, for example, is steaming ahead in bundling documentation and information with products that help customers in vertical sectors run its software to suit their sectors' demands. So far, Microsoft has launched a TechNet web site and book that advises customers about how to install and run the mid-market server. To tackle IBM, Microsoft must develop or partner aggressively to build bundles, especially for verticals, that prescribe how to run and operate this Windows to suite specific sector needs. VanRoekel did admit the TechNet site and book are the start of a campaign to develop resources tailored to customers with limited resources, and move away form the usual tactic of formulating content and support for product specialists inside of companies. "We are working to take content from Microsoft and applying the mid market lens to that... [previously] every [Microsoft] product group wrote for the specialists - the e-mail specialist of the database specialist," VanRoekel said. He added Microsoft is also evaluating whether to further integrate the software in the mid-market server, tailoring the server to mid-market and vertical needs. What of bundling software with hardware, though? That's a strategy Oracle has followed. "We have been talking to people about that. It does make sense to include and offer that's combined. We are talking very actively to the MBS [Microsoft Business Solutions] team about what makes sense to add," VanRoekel said. "Maybes" and evaluations are not enough for partners like Opal, though, who want to press ahead. "We fully intend to bundle. We are an HP [Hewlett Packard] reseller. I'm not going to wait for him. I'm going to do it myself," Opal said. Microsoft is wising up to the opportunities and challenges of the mid market. As a provider of generic platforms, Microsoft is likely to rely on partners to develop customized content, and hardware and software bundles that appeal to these customers. However, a more pronounced lead is vital in content and bundling over the long-term if Microsoft is to truly rally partners to this new found crusade.® Related stories Microsoft's Ballmer tells lurvely partners to stick it to IBM Microsoft looks to partners to force Office upgrades Microsoft urges partners to make business app run
Gavin Clarke, 12 Jul 2005
globalisation

Hitachi has case of midrange storage madness

Hitachi, HP and Sun Microsystems this week all came to market with the same storage product but couldn't quite agree on exactly what they were selling. Ringleader Hitachi put out a new system dubbed the NSC55 - a descriptive name to be sure. The system is a smaller version of the fancy TagmaStore system, so much smaller that Hitachi describes the new kit as midrange. That's where the trouble begins. HP and Sun both resell Hitachi's high-end storage products and have placed their versions of the NSC55 under their high-end brands. HP, for example, wants you to buy the XP10000, while Sun wants you to bite on the StorEdge 9985. HP and Sun have their own midrange storage lines to protect and hesitate to disrupt barriers between their kit and that of a partner. But while HP and Sun declined to concede that the NSC55/XP10000/StorEdge 9985 verge on the midrange, an analyst from IDC made the admission for them. "Today, mid-sized companies often face the same storage challenges as large organizations and require highly available, scalable and manageable storage systems that deliver cost-effective solutions without sacrificing functionality," said Natalya Yezhkova, senior research analyst at IDC. "With the HP StorageWorks XP10000, HP brings a level of performance, availability and functionality previously available only on the higher-end XP12000, thus targeting a broader range of customers from mid-sized to large enterprises." The new box can hold anywhere from five disks right on up to 240 disks. That's 69TB of internal storage that can be complemented by external systems up to 16PB. The "midrange" Hitachi box also supports many of the high-end goodies of the TagmaStore such as a crossbar switch, controller-based virtualization, logical partitioning and universal replication. The system should certainly put pressure on EMC and Network Appliance. "Delivering nearly four times the internal bandwidth (12.1 GigaBytes per second), 16 times the cache (64GB), six times the Fibre Channel port count (48), four times the FICON ports (16) and over twice the LUNs (16,384) of other systems, the NSC55 effectively redefines midrange storage, setting a new industry standard," Hitachi said with all due modesty. Along with this box, Hitachi revealed three of what it's calling "channel optimized" midrange systems. The Adaptable Modular Storage (AMD) 200 box can store 41TB and has 4GB of cache, the AMS 500 can store 89TB and has 8GB of cache and the Workgroup Modular Storage (WMS) 100 is a lower-end SATA system that will start shipping in the near future. The wow factor with these systems? The contemporary basics - iSCSI, NAS, 4Gbps Fibre Channel, logical partitioning and RAID 6. For those keeping track, Hitachi has moved 1,000 TagmaStore boxes to date and continues to see "demand towering at record levels." What record? It didn't say. ® Related stories Sun and EMC form broad technology pact. No, really Storage vendors suffer vertical vertigo NetApp secures future with $272m Decru buy
Ashlee Vance, 12 Jul 2005

ICANN blog: I don’t like Mondays

More about the intriguingly small country of Luxembourg, where ICANN is currently holding its latest meeting. The euro nearly ruined it. Previously the financial powerhouse of central Europe thanks to its liberal banking laws, in pre-euro days huge quantities of French, Belgians and Germans popped into the country to deal in money. Taking their cut, the Luxembourgers did very well. But that all went with the euro and so the government has been forced to liberalise other laws to attract big companies - and it’s worked. Right by the airport are big shiny new offices for KPMG, Ernst & Young and the like. Plus, apparently, AOL and Amazon now have their European headquarters here. Skype too. There’s more: there are more Portugese living in Luxembourg than Luxembourgers. God knows why, but there are. Over 40 per cent of the population apparently. I know all this because, ironically, this tiny country’s shift from tax-haven to tax-break-heaven means the only casino in the country is on the French border rather than in the centre of the capital. As a result, the ICANN Gala dinner this evening was not, as I had presumed, in a central casino no more than 10 minutes away. Instead it was a 25-minute, 57-euro taxi drive away. But, of course, I did get a free history course thrown into the bargain. Story heller It wasn’t the only error of judgement today. Twice, I plonked myself in a spot close to a power point to keep the laptop alive while I wrote a story. The main hall at lunchtime was completely empty save some passed-out staffer. But ICANN thinks of everything - the dreadful elevator jazz pumped over the loudspeakers started sapping my will to live. That combined with the fact that the conference centre is little more than a giant truck stuck in a massive car park in the full sun, except with carpets, doors and partition walls. Asylum seekers have died in such circumstances. We chose to meet up and discuss the future of the internet. Anyone that can find an analogy between those two, feel free to email it over. From the frying pan into the fire, as I then set up in the back of the Business Constituency meeting. The only power point was at the back of the room. And since it was a tiny meeting this unfortunately gave the air of a reporter sneaking in at the back and spying on events. The indomitable Marilyn Cade soon saw that I was put in my place. And her lead was followed as I found myself in the surreal situation of being discussed in the third person in a Q&A session for my benefit. It led me to reflect on what is going to happen when/if ICANN comes out of the UN process and suddenly the world’s media starts paying attention to this body that runs the internet. What is surprising with ICANN is that despite all the argument and discussion, the Machiavellian nastiness found in most big organisations is still pretty much contained and people do talk fairly openly with each other face to face. But then I’ve seen the British press pack in action a fair few times and if they decide to descend on ICANN, it is going to be one horrendous clash of cultures. Drinking Guinness But back to the Casino and the Gala Dinner. We had been promised something special as entertainment and by God we got it. George Christian (I think that was his name) appeared on stage with a Monty Python Austrian accent and proceeded to tell us he would recreate “many of the records I have broken for the Guinness Book”. Scarily our table had already predicted that some kind of famous Luxembourger strongman would be the special guest and here he was. George then proceeded to bend nails, blow up hot-water bottles and carry round ICANN staff in his teeth. Tragically this wasn’t at the same time as the other world-beating entertainment - the master musician who was able to play the sax and the piano fairly badly but both at the same time. He seemed to be getting increasingly annoyed that people weren't appreciating his genius, which cheered us up no end. It made you wonder how the rest of Luxembourg was getting on without them. Hot hot hot The ICANN Board, bless em, had a pretty hard day yesterday. Travelling from meeting to meeting to answer questions, they found themselves at the end of some pretty aggressive and pointed questioning. .Net, VeriSign, WGIG, Budgets, Strategic Plan were all sticking points and, of course, .xxx. The governmental advisory committee was particularly upset that the .xxx domain had been approved by the Board without their explicit approval. Amid much gnashing of teeth, most of it from Brasil, one country asked whether there was in fact any material on this domain on the ICANN website. You could see the Board look at each other trying to gauge whether this was an ironic joke - the whole process has been pretty clearly flagged on the front page for over a year now. But no, it would seem that either this was a stunningly disingenuous question or the government representative to ICANN had never actually checked out the website of the internet overseeing organisation. Something's gone wrong somewhere. Speaking of stunning, the Denmark representative was also aggrieved about .xxx, saying the governments should have been consulted and it was a slap in the face. Which, as the new owner of .xxx itself, Mr Stuart Lawley, told me later was particularly odd since Denmark it seems is one of only a very small handful of countries where bestiality is legal. Nothing’s ever as simple as it seems on the internet. Previous conference blogs Sunday: De Lux appointment
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jul 2005
globalisation

Intel 'ditches' high-end 'Centrino 3' chipset

Intel has reportedly axed the most powerful of three chipsets scheduled for its third-generation Centrino platform, 'Napa', due to ship early next year. The dropped chipset, the 955XM, was to have provided notebook users with the ability to access up to 4GB of DDR 2 SDRAM, a DigiTimes report notes, citing motherboard-maker sources. The remaining Napa chipsets, the 945PM and 945GM, will now be upgraded to support 4GB of memory, up from the 2GB maximum they were originally intended to provide. The chipsets' numbering scheme echoes Intel's desktop chipset line-up. Clearly, then, the 955XM was intended as a high-end, performance-oriented part, possibly to be pitched toward gaming notebooks. All three chipsets will support a 667MHz frontside bus clock and 667MHz DDR 2. Whether Intel launches the 955XM in Q1 2006 or not, it is expected to follow up the initial Centrino debut with a pair of lower-end chipsets in Q2 2006: the 945GMS and the 940GML. Both support DDR 2 SDRAM, but clocked to 533MHz and 400MHz, respectively. Their FSB clocks are set to 667MHz and 533MHz, respectively. They will be pitched not only at low-end notebooks but at small form-factor PCs. The chipsets are expected to support the 65nm 'Yonah' mobile processor in both its dual- and single-core varieties. Intel has said Yonah will ship by the end of the year, but don't expect it to make much of a noise until Q1 2006 when Napa is formally launched. Yonah should ship clocked to between 1.66GHz and 2.16GHz, and contain 2MB of L2 cache. Expect it to support Virtualisation Technology and Intel Active Management Technology, along with the latest incarnation of SpeedStep. There's no word on 64-bit support, but with the chipsets supporting no more than 4GB of memory, there's arguably little point in adding it just yet. Then again, that hasn't stopped AMD with Turion, so we'll see how this one plays out. Yonah does include Digital Media Boost, Advanced Thermal Manager, Dynamic Power Coordination and Smart Cache, a host of FECLs (FEatures with Capital Letters) to tease the notebook-buying public. ® Related stories Intel and Dell thrilled to join the dual-core server chip era Intel to add VT to P4 in Q4 Intel and Morgan Freeman put DRM to work in new movie venture AMD wants Intel evidence from 30 firms AMD Japan sues Intel for $50m damages - and then some
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005

Mobile risk to drivers

Using a "hands-free" phone while driving does not reduce the risk of crashing and could even contribute to even more smashes, warns a report out today. Researchers found that people who rabbit on a mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to have a serious crash even if they use a "hands-free" device. Some 450 drivers involved in crashes in Perth, Western Australia were quizzed about what they were doing immediately before an accident. Researchers found that the risk of crashing increased among those using a mobile phone "whether or not a hands-free device was used". The results of this research seems to suggest that even though more and more new vehicles are being equipped with hands-free phone technology, this will do little to prevent accidents. In fact, it could make the situation even worse. "Although this may lead to fewer hand held phones used while driving in the future, our research indicates that this may not eliminate the risk," warn the researchers. "Indeed, if this new technology increases mobile phone use in cars, it could contribute to even more crashes." In February boffins from the University of Utah claimed that a 20-year-old blabbing on a mobile phone while driving has the same reaction times as a 70-year-old. Researchers also found that it doesn't matter whether they're chatting with a phone jammed to their ear or using a hands-free kit because "any activity requiring a driver to actively be part of a conversation likely will impair driving abilities". ® Related stories Mobile-using drivers 'age 50 years' UK drivers flout mobile ban Mobile phone ban the risk to business First motorists collared by mobile ban Mobile phone driving ban comes into force
Tim Richardson, 12 Jul 2005
channel

Intel readies mainstream discrete dual-core chipset

Intel will begin sampling its latest integrated chipset for desktop systems at the end of the month, but its next mainstream release will be a discrete chipset, according to motherboard makers. Sources cited by DigiTimes today claim the 945PL will ship in September for low-end dual-core Pentium D-based systems. They say the chipset will operate both 533MHz and 800MHz frontside bus speeds, and support dual-channel 533MHz DDR 2 memory, along with 400MHz DDR. It's a surprising launch, given the way integrated chipsets have come to dominate the graphics chip market, particularly at the low- to mid-range. The likes of ATI and Nvidia are fighting back with low-cost cards, but it's hard to compete with graphics engines built into the chipset. Still, there's obviously demand for such a product, or Intel wouldn't be planning to supply it. Presumably the sweet spot lies just below today's 945P and above the integrated 945G. The launch of the 945GZ is expected to ship later this year - possibly even early 2006 - and target dual-core Celeron D chips. It contains Intel's GMA 950 graphics engine, and supports single-channel 533MHz DDR2 and 400MHz DDR memory. Like the 945PL, it will operate both 533MHz and 800MHz FSBs. ® Related stories Intel and Dell thrilled to join the dual-core server chip era Intel to add VT to P4 in Q4 Intel to add memory controllers to future Xeons, Itanics Intel preps 'low-end dual-core chipset' Apple shifts to Intel: what is all the fuss about?
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005

Foetus threatened with Asbo

The good burghers of Burton-on-Trent can sleep sounder in their beds today after the local council threatened to slap an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (Asbo) on an unborn baby. UK tabloid the Mirror reports that mum-to-be Julie Brown received notification that unless her ne'er-do-well foetus stopped annoying neighbours by driving his scooter around the area, dire consequences would surely follow. An exasperated Brown, 35, said: "It must be the first time an unborn child has been threatened with an Asbo before it's had a chance to do anything bad. I was angry because nobody came and checked and the letter was sent despite the fact we don't have a son yet, let alone one who causes trouble riding around on a scooter." A council official admitted: "The letter appears to be an unfortunate mistake and we will be sending a written apology to the couple." Little baby Dominic is due in September. In the meantime, we cannot help but feel that if the pre-natal tearaway had been issued with a biometric ID card upon conception, or subsequently RFID tagged in the womb, the mix-up would never have happened. Charles Clarke take notice. ® Related stories UK biometric ID card morphs into £30 'passport lite' Internet logs nail fetus snatcher IVF clinics may tag embryos EU consults on RFID technology
Lester Haines, 12 Jul 2005

News from Dept of Bleedin' Obvious

Today's news of the bleeding obvious comes from those friendly suits at Accenture who have made some startling discoveries about what's holding back the digital home of the future. Apparently it's the cost of buying all that kit and the complexity of making it all work together that's stopped us from internet-enabling our fridges. Who'd have thought it? Nothing but meanness is stopping us having homes like the Jetsons. Accenture asked punters in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan what was stopping them from buying "digital home solutions". Surprisingly it wasn't embarrasment at asking for a "digital home solution" but the expense that put people off. The survey offered four possible "homes of the future" - home entertainment, home healthcare, home management and virtual office - and refreshingly a majority were interested in none of them. Entertainment came out top with 42 per cent expressing a strong interest, falling to 28 per cent interested in home management or virtual office. Still failing to embrace the brave new world outlined by Accenture a majority of respondents thought the biggest benefit of a digital home would be to save them money - 56 per cent hoped for savings while 46 per cent thought it would "make life easier". Only four per cent of respondents thought they could afford such a service now. Bizarrely, given these figures, "65 percent of respondents noted a strong desire to pay for digital home services and content in a subscription or leasing model." These people, we are assured, would pay between $20 and $50 a month for services like "guaranteed data backup, system support and specialized content such as medical data collection". In other news apple falls due to gravity, Caviar sales hit by cash shortage, 5AM NEWS : Sun rising in east, The survey spoke to 2,600 people in US, UK, France, Germany and Japan earlier this year. No link to the press release cos Accenture haven't got it up on their site yet.® Related stories Brit workers excel at skiving Michael Stipe demands ringtones for electric cars How to recognise a geek Junk mail costs lives Half of users attack their PCs
John Oates, 12 Jul 2005

Alcatel reports higher earnings

Alcatel has posted higher-than-expected revenue growth for the second quarter thanks to increased demand for its communications gear. Announcing prelim figures today, France-based Alcatel reported that Q2 revenues were up 8 per cent to €3.14bn (£2.2bn) buoyed by sales in IP routing, optical transmission and mobile communications. Diluted earnings per share will be €0.13 including a positive impact from tax income and one time capital gain. Further details of the last three months are due to be published at the end of July. Yesterday Alcatel announced it had won a "multi-million Euro contract" with new-kid-on-the-block local loop unbundling (LLU) outfit "Be". Two weeks ago the UK broadband ISP announced ambitious plans to offer 24 meg broadband in London by installing its kit in BT telephone exchanges. Speaking yesterday Be boss Boris Ivanovic said: "The Alcatel solution gives us a real advantage over our competitors. "By working with Alcatel and exploiting its triple play expertise we can deliver the fastest speeds available, with a greater number of features and customer services unmatched by any competitors in the market." Whatever. ® Related stories New LLU ISP to offer 24meg broadband Pipex to invest in LLU Bulldog fingered for misleading radio ad LLU to take-off despite 'painful year'
Tim Richardson, 12 Jul 2005

Solar-powered cars to race 2,500 miles

At least 27 teams have signed up to take part in the 2005 North American Solar Challenge race, which begins this Sunday, 17 July. The race will cross the border between the US and Canada, the first time a solar race has gone international, and will cover 2,500 miles, 100 miles more than either the 2001 or 2003 events. The race follows U.S. Route 75 from Austin, Texas and the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), with checkpoints throughout the route to the finish line in Calgary. The rules are simple: the cars must be powered only by the sun, and they must obey local speed limits. But given that they can travel at up to 80 miles-per-hour, and it is supposed to be a race not a convoy, we suspect a little bending of the rules might go on, on that count. Most cars only carry the driver, but the race organisers say that this year, several of the cars will have two people on board. The race is funded by the US Department of Energy, nominally in a bid to "enhance national security", by promoting research into renewable energy. Check out some of the team's sites from the link on this page. ® Related stories VIA backs LoGHIQ to win Robot Dell's big R&D bet Solar Power
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jul 2005

Wi-Fi provider pitches Skype users

US Wi-Fi hotspot aggregator Boingo will today hop on the Skype bandwagon and begin promoting its wireless Internet access sites as VoIP locations. Under the SkypeZones brand, Boingo will offer Skype users unlimited wireless access for Skype calls for $8 a month, though the company warns that this may change when the service moves out of beta testing and into commercial operation. That price is significantly lower than Boingo's unlimited data service, which comes in at $22 a month. Undoubtedly, the company will block attempts by SkypeZones users to craftily check their email while logged on as a Skype user. The scheme also looks forward to the time when there are rather more Skype-enabled handsets in circulation, either as regular mobile phones will built-in Wi-Fi, or as dedicated wireless Skype units. Boingo is not the first Wi-Fi firm to tout Skype users for business. In March, UK public Internet access provider Broadreach began offering Skype calls via its network of 350 ReadyToSurf hotspot locations. Unlike Boingo, Broadreach doesn't charge for the privilege. The SkypeZones package operates across all 18,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the Boingo network, and is available immediately, Boingo said. Users who just want to make ad hoc connections can buy two hours' access for $3. ® Related stories VoIP use on the up-and-up Project Gizmo challenges Skype Mobile and VoIP to inherit the earth Yahoo! buys! Dialpad! Mobile roaming charges to fall Skype handset makers flock to Computex UK Wi-Fi hotspot users offered free Skype calls
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005

Dutch file-swapper case collapses

The Dutch Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands (BREIN) has lost its case against five Dutch ISPs who refused to hand over the names of 42 suspected song swappers. BREIN knew these individuals only by their IP address. The court ruled that BREIN made a crucial mistake in collecting evidence against the individuals. BREIN hired US company Media Sentry, which monitors popular online forums and P2P services for copyright infringement and tracks unauthorised online distribution. Apparently the company only looked at shared folders of Kazaa, but these folders may also have contained files for personal use, the court argues. There is not enough proof that these particular files were uploaded. The ruling isn't a full victory for the Dutch ISPs. The court argued that ISPs can be forced by law to hand over personal data. However, in order to do so BREIN would have to start all over again. ® Related stories Court rules for German ISPs in P2P identities case BPI nails 'music pirates' Dutch eDonkey site owners released
Jan Libbenga, 12 Jul 2005

Nokia 'not interested' in buying RIM

Nokia doesn't want to buy Research in Motion, a senior staffer said today. Mary McDowell, who runs Nokia's Enterprise Solutions business, said the phone giant can develop similar devices to RIM's without the need to acquire the Canadian company's expertise, the Helsingin Sanomatreports. And since almost 70 per cent of RIM's revenue comes from device sales, a market Nokia in which already well established, it doesn't make much sense buying RIM for its earnings potential, she added. RIM posted a profit for the three months to 28 May, the first quarter of its 2006 fiscal year. The company reported a net income of $132.5m (67 cents a share) on revenues of $453.9m, up 12 per cent sequentially and 68 per cent year on year. The company closed the quarter with 3.11m Blackberry subscribers, 24 per cent more than the Q4 FY2005 tally. Nokia was named in January as a possible suitor for RIM by a Goldman Sachs analyst. Motorola, which last week acquired UK mobile phone maker Sendo, was also named as a potential buyer. RIM's success has been built on device sales, but it has also been keen to license its client software to other hardware makers. In the US, that's been impossible because of the company's long-running legal battle with NTP. March's settlement paved the way for RIM to begin to tackle that segment in earnest, and while the deal brokered between the two companies hasn't gone as planned, the signs point to a resolution in RIM's favour. Thus begins RIM's shift toward services and software, more lucrative than devices. That shift may well attract Nokia, since it fits better with the Finnish giant's existing business. RIM's strength lies in its customer base and brand-awareness. Technologically, it has nothing compelling to offer: there are plenty of device makers and software companies out there offering comparable products - all they lack is a name as recognisable as Blackberry's. ® Related stories Good Technology plans Domino support DataViz ships RoadSync RIM lawsuit: all over bar the judgment? RIM takes NTP to court - again Mobile email consolidation kicks off RIM edges into Q4 loss RIM settles NTP lawsuit for $450m RIM stock rises on acquisition speculation
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005
channel

Sony1 scores resellers

Sony 1, has signed up 1,500 resellers since 1 April - a month ahead of schedule. Sony 1 bundles together all Sony's AV, IT and telecom products. It offers resellers one point of contact for all Sony products, marketing funds and other initiatives. The firm believes increasing demand for integrated solutions and products jusitifies the move to one point of contact for all dealers. The company said it was happy with feedback received from the channel but the service would continue to evolve to meet dealers' needs. Sony Europe made sales of €12.03bn in 2005 for the year ended 31 March 2005.® Related stories Sony may go after PSP sellers Sony tries to choke off UK PSP imports Big names dominated UK channel in May Sony channel gets united
John Oates, 12 Jul 2005
globalisation

UK faces legal action over e-waste failure

The European Commission (EC) has threatend legal action against the UK for failing to introduce new e-waste laws. The UK - along with seven other EU nations - have been given a final warning to introduce the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which deals with the disposal and recycling of electrical and elctronic waste. The EU law was passed in 2002 and aims to ensure that e-waste - which can contain hazardous materials such as heavy metals and dodgy chemicals - is not simply dumped. Instead, the EU wants old TVs, PCs and other gear to be collected, recycled and reused. The green approach is deemed necessary because "electro-scrap" is the fastest growing waste product in the EU. WEEE should be adopted in the EU by August this year. But the UK, France, Italy, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Malta and Poland have yet to introduce the legislation. Said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas: "Nobody wants to see old computers and television sets piling up at the roadside and polluting the environment. Therefore efficient collection and recycling/reuse is necessary. "Member States have agreed on ambitious legislation to tackle the problems caused by rapidly growing amounts of e-waste. But they also have to do the follow-up work and implement what they have agreed." A spokeswoman for the UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) told The Register that implementing WEEE had "taken longer than originally planned" before adding that the legislation should be introduced next year. ® Related stories HP a 'toxic tech giant' says Greenpeace Green Power! WEEE-compliant PSUs eBay bids for PC recycling glory Wales to host new £1m CRT recycling plant Sita flogs WEEE ops to Oz recycling giant Dell jumps on UK recycling bandwagon Old PCs are goldmine for data thieves How to make hard cash from old IT Brace your IT budget for green impact Dell and HP have a green moment Toxic PCs destroy life as we know it
Tim Richardson, 12 Jul 2005
graph up

Nvidia preps '$450' GeForce 7800 GT

Nvidia will launch its next GeForce 7 series part next month, tied in to the Quakecon 2005 gaming festival. So claims an unnamed Nvidia Nsider quoted by CoolTechZone. Quakecon commences 11 August at the Gaylord Texan Resort, Grapevine, Texas and is co-sponsored by Nvidia. The mole reveals the part, the GeForce 7800 GT, will ship on boards priced at around $450, around $150 less than GeForce 7800 GTX-based cards. The 7800 GT is expected to be clocked at around 335MHz with the memory running at an effective 1.1GHz, but board vendors are free to tweak these numbers of course. The part is said to contain 24 pixel pipelines and eight vertex engines, as per the 7800GTX. The 7800 GTX was codenamed G70 - originally NV47. A G72 part was recently spotted inside the leaked Forceware 80.40 drivers. It's possible the G72 and the 7800 GT are one, but we've seen other suggestions that the G72 is a mainstream part, while the mid-range product that could be the 7800 GT is the G71. The driver also mentions the G70GL and the NV48 - which may also be a contender for the 7800 GT. ® Related stories Intel readies mainstream discrete dual-core chipset ATI R520 to ship 'mid-Q3' ATI adds digital telly to All-in-Wonder line Leaked drivers reveal upcoming Nvidia kit Nvidia unveils GeForce 7800 GTX ATI posts Q3 loss Related stories Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005
channel

OSDL establishes European open source vanguard

Open Source Development Labs (ODSL) has opened up an office in Europe to support the use of Linux and open source software in the region. The non-profit corporatation, employer of Linus Torvalds, is setting up shop in the old continent five years after ODSL's inception and after already establishing offices in Tokyo and Beijing. Industry veteran Claude Beullens has been appointed ODSL's director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and sole employee in the region. But Beullens' presence in Luxemburg represents more than a token commitment to the region, we're told. Government interest (from the City of Munich and others) and the location of leading open source projects makes Europe a strategic priority for OSDL and its members, 75 technology firms. Beullens won't be on his own because he'll be able to draw on the strength of the open source community as a whole. Chief exec. of Open Source Development Labs, Stuart Cohen, explained that it had established offices in Asia before Europe because three of the seven firms that came together to form OSDL were Japanese. The "fast growing" Linux desktop market in China and India had prompted the opening of a Beijing office, he added. Cohen was due to speak at the Commonwealth Technology Forum conference in London on Monday but decided not to visit the UK after the terrorist attack on London last Thursday. He made his speech using a live video link. "My family asked me not to go to London. The timing was bad but this has no effect on our plans for Europe," he said. ODSL was set up in 2000 to accelerate the acceleration of Linux and open source in the enterprise. It looks at technology, business, legal and market issues in the adoption of Linux but this doesn't necessarily mean that ODSL is against proprietary software or even Microsoft per se. Cohen pointed out that proprietary software from firms such as Oracle and SAP is often run on Linux servers. He predicted that proprietary and open source software will continue to co-exist and even held out the possibility that Microsoft might one day release applications that ran on open source platforms. "I would not be surprised to see Microsoft making products that runs on top of Linux in the future," he said. ® Related stories OSDL opens IP advice centre for Linux developers Open source ahoy! OSDL creates client Linux spec Torvalds' employer starts Linux users' defense fund Munich OSS switch to go ahead, patents or no patents Running MS-Office on Linux
John Leyden, 12 Jul 2005

Airbus to enable in-flight mobile phoning in 2006

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has followed arch-rival Boeing to announce it will enable on-board mobile phone calls next year. Airbus said it would offer to incorporate Siemens-made base-stations on behalf of new customers of its 100-200 seater, mid-range A320 family. The Siemens kit ensures calls will not interfere with avionics equipment - it's questionable whether they do in any case - or terrestrial networks, Airbus said. In other words, Airbus owns your phone until you get off the plane. The system will be operated and maintained by Airbus subsidiary OnAir. Similarly, it's Boeing's subsidiary, Connexion, which has already said it will roll-out in-flight mobile phone systems during 2006. Both companies' kit is expected to be available for each others' aircraft. Germany is expected to lift the ban on in-flight mobile usage next year after an EC review of the technology and the issues surrounding on-board wireless telephony found that the benefits of enabling phone usage outweighed the disadvantages. In the US, the Federal Communications Commission has said it too will review its rules on the use of mobile phones during flights. ® Related stories Germany greenlights mobes on planes EC backs inflight mobile calls Airline passengers love inflight SMS, hate voice calls Inflight mobile calls by 2006? Inflight mobile calls - it's going to happen US tries to shoot down OnAir EU waves through Airbus mobile phone system US FCC to rethink in-flight mobile phone rules
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005

Comet Tempel-1 covered in cosmic talc

The first data from the Deep Impact mission to Comet Tempel-1 suggest that the comet is covered in a layer of fine powder. When the probe slammed into the comet on 4 July, the impact released an immense cloud of dust, probably as fine as talcum powder, NASA says, leaving a crater between 50 and 250 metres in diameter. When the impactor hit the comet, it hit at a 25 degree angle to the comet's surface, NASA says. Almost immediately it was vaporised and along with surface and sub-surface material from the comet was ejected back away from the wandering Tempel-1. The plume of material expanded above the impact site at around 3.1 miles per second. Deep Impact Principal Investigator Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland explains that the opacity and amount of light reflected by the plume are clues to the size of the dust particles. "[It] suggests the dust excavated from the comet's surface was extremely fine, more like talcum powder than beach sand. And the surface is definitely not what most people think of when they think of comets - an ice cube," he added. On its way to the surface, the Deep Impact impactor was hit by two coma particles, which knocked the cameras out of alignment for a short period before the craft's attitude control got it back on track. The research team is currently analysing over 4,500 images taken by the Deep Impact flyby craft and the impactor itself. The images reveal features on the surface of the comet that are only four metres in diameter. This is a factor of ten better than any previous observations of comets, A'Hearn says. ® Related stories Astrologer sues NASA for Tempel 1 'moral trauma' Deep Impact makes an impression on Tempel-1 Deep Impact en route to Tempel 1
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jul 2005

ICANN warns world of domain hijacking

A report by the internet's leading security experts has warned the world of the risk of domain name hijacking and told the industry to pull its socks up. ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee has outlined several famous and recent thefts of websites, including Panix.com, Hushmail.com and HZ.com, and listed where the system went wrong and what can be done to correct the flaws. It has made 10 findings and, in response, 10 recommendations for how the internet industry and consumers themselves can make sure that people don't steal their online property. The problem is relatively small at the moment, head of the committee and ICANN Board member, Steve Crocker, told us but when it happened it was a "full-scale disaster". Panix.com, for example, vanished from the internet after a fraudulent request saw the website and its thousands of customers' emails redirected to an entirely different part of the internet. Hushmail's website was cleverly stolen in steps, first a phonecall, then an email, then a wholesale shift of the domain. The company is still suffering the ill-effects of the hijacking, the company told the SSAC. However, despite the risk that the number of domain name hijackings could rocket in future, the report's author, Dave Piscitello, told us he was certain the problem could be stemmed if action was taken now. The Panix.com problem for example was compounded by several factors. The company that authorised the move did so on the request of one its own resellers, assuming that company had carried out the usual checks. It had not. On top of that, it happened at a weekend (most likely on purpose) and the delay in getting the right staff on the phone meant the problem was made ten times bigger. As a result, the report [pdf] has strongly urged all registrars to publish emergency contact details and to have trained staff with access to their system sitting at the end of them. It has also told registrars to make sure that their resellers are following tried-and-tested policies. There are two over-riding messages, Crocker said: “One: heightened awareness. And two: corrective response.” The SSAC is hoping that by publishing several example of big failures, and then explaining how they could have been avoided, the Internet community - not only registrars but also business and individual citizens - will self-regulate by pressuring those companies that don't follow the guidelines into doing so. Introducing such measures would be very cheap and mostly technical, Crocker explained, so there is little reason for registrars not to implement them if commercial pressure is applied. With only 150 accredited registrars actively selling and reselling domains, it is a fairly small industry. However, the SSAC also recommends that ICANN look into a system that would penalise registrars that fail to live up to expectations. Piscitello said he hoped the threat would be enough for such a system not to have to be introduced. ICANN chairman, Vint Cerf, has already made it clear however that the ICANN Board will discuss the report at a future meeting. Domain name hijacking isn't the first time that the domain transfer system has been abused. Tens of thousands of normal citizens have been bitten by companies abusing the previous rules by charging tiny amounts for registering domains and then a small fortune and/or making it extremely difficult for them to be moved elsewhere. A change in transfer rules recently simplified the process and, to Crocker's mind, has largely wiped out that problem as a result. That simplification has at the same time enabled people to go after bigger targets by posing as owners. Both Crocker and Piscitello were keen to point out however that the new transfer policies remain better than the old ones and if people follow them accurately, the risk of a domain hijacking is minimal. For the man in the street though there is still one important element he needs to be aware of - domain locking. Ii is offered by all registrars and will make sure that your domain is not moved unless the registrar you chose has your permission. Just that single step could see the level of domain theft collapse. Related link SSAC's report [pdf] Related stories The aftermath of a domain name hijack [Panix.com] Hushmail hit by DNS attack
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jul 2005
cloud

Sophos glitch leaves PCs hanging

A recent security update from Microsoft is tripping up users of Sophos's flagship anti-virus scanning software. Some enterprise users of Sophos Anti-Virus (SAV) for Windows version 5 found their machines were taking up to 15 minutes to log on to the network after applying Microsoft's Update Rollup 1 for Win 2000 SP 4. Sophos has issued a workaround (removing C:\winnt\system32\mswsock.dll from on access scanning) pending the release of a more comprehensive fix. David Mitchell, senior product manager at Sophos, said that because of the need to conduct comprehensive testing a patch for this and a similar "more intermittent" and less widespread glitch with SAV 5 may take a "few weeks". A second "slow startup issue" can leave Windows PCs running SAV 5 hanging for up to 30 minutes because of occasional conflicts with Windows 2000, XP and 2003. Sophos has issued a temporary workaround (details here). Reg reader Chris is less than impressed with the latter fix. "They [Sophos] admit that the only way to make their [software] work is by excluding a number of critical system drivers from their "on access" scan. We use their product and since the upgrade to version 5 in April have had nothing but problems," he said. Sophos's Mitchell conceded the workaround was less than ideal but argued more general criticism was unwarranted because Sophos has a good software reliability record. He said its developers were working hard to resolve the glitches. In the meantime details of suggested workarounds had been posted on the Sophos web site and emailed to 20,000 supported users. ® Related stories Symantec false alert floors Macs PC-cillin killed my PC McAfee AV ate my application Anti-virus vulnerabilities strike again MS issues final software update for Win2K
John Leyden, 12 Jul 2005

Fuji FinePix F10 Zoom digicam

ReviewReview The F10 boasts the companies new, 1/1.7in Super CCD HR sensor that uses a full 6.3m gross pixels rather than the interpolated, dual-pixel elements of yore. Fujifilm's Super CCD technology has been with us for some time now and it just keeps getting better. To prove the point the F10 has its best incarnation yet in a camera of this class, writes Doug Harman. Look over the camera - which, it has to be said, seems a tad conservative design-wise given many of today's models - and its classy, all-metal body still quite svelte and very well made. A large four-position switch on the top plate switches the camera between its scene, auto and manual shooting modes, and the excellent 640 x 480, 30fps with sound movie capture setting. A central shutter release button completes the top plate controls apart from... ...a power switch, which sits adjacent to the four-way controller and must be held down for around a second to switch the camera on, in order to prevent accidental activation. On the camera's back, a large 2.5in, 115,000-pixel LCD hogs the real estate, pushing all the other camera controls over to the right. These are quite small and the four-way controller has a central Menu/OK button. A playback button - which, like the power button, can be held for around a second when the camera's off to activate playback without opening the lens - and an 'F' button are above the four way control. The 'F' button accesses the camera's separate menus for image size and quality settings. The camera lacks the usual wide array of scene modes plumping instead for four basic scene settings (portrait, landscape, sports and night scene modes) and a natural light mode. There's an auto shooting mode for, well, point and shooting, plus a manual position that provides an extended menu system offering slightly more advanced settings for exposure compensation to +/-2EV in 1/3rd f-stop steps and white balance control. There's no control for shutter or the aperture. All of these must be mastered through a slow and initially fiddly menu system that takes some getting used to. However, the menu glitches are more than outweighed by the camera's performance, which is pretty much class-leading in terms of responsiveness, lack of shutter lag and the rechargeable battery life - in our tests it lasted up to 500 shots on a single charge in normal shooting. If you switch to a neat High Speed shooting mode, the focusing speed is dramatically increased and the effective focus distance is altered slightly from 1m to infinity (you can get from 7.5cm in 'normal' macro shooting for example). It reduces the battery life significantly too but you still get around 300 shots on a single charge, still very respectable. My test bore this out as a single charge lasted almost a week's worth of snapping, including reviewing and plenty of flash work too. The built in flash is quite good, though it overpowered some of my closer portraits, and the recycle time is very slow indeed compared to the speediness of the rest of the camera. Image quality can be summed up quite succinctly as excellent. The level of detail outstrips many of the seven megapixel digicams on the market. This fact is largely due to the very nice, sharp, F2.8-F5, 3x optical zoom lens that gives a focal range from 36mm to 108mm (35mm equivalent). However, it has to be said that it's still a fairly standard lens range for today's digital compacts. Colour and exposure is consistent and spot on. Focusing is similarly reliable and noise, or lack thereof, is superbly controlled. Even at the camera's top ISO 1600 sensitivity setting, you get a noise level normally arrived at ISO 400 on other digital cameras. Only very slight pixel fringing on contrast boundaries are image demerits of note. Verdict Fuji's Super CCD HR sensor really struts its stuff in the F10, a camera that is built well, is simple to use and produces some stunning images. I have to say it is quite simply excellent. Review by FujiFilm FinePix F10 Zoom   Rating 90%   Pros Simple to use; superb features; great resolution and performance; picture and build quality.   Cons Lack of external manual controls; fiddly-at-first menu system; fairly uninspiring design; no optical viewfinder.   Price £260   More info The FujiFilm F10 site Related reviews Canon IXUS 700 seven megapixel digicam Epson R-D1 digital Rangefinder Recent reviews Asus P5WD2 Premium i955X mobo Sony Ericsson K750i Sony Network Walkman NW-HD5 Adamond ZK1 2GB Flash MP3 player Samsung E720 MP3 phone
Pocket Lint, 12 Jul 2005

BBC execs bury snouts in trough

The BBC can expect to take some heavy flack after admitting in its annual report that top execs trousered up to 25 per cent of their salaries in performance-related bonuses last year. The revelation comes after the Corporation announced it would slash 20 per cent of its workforce over the next three years in an exercise designed to cut costs and release revenue for new programming. To his credit, director general Mark Thompson waived his "right" to a bonus, as the BBC describes the privilege. He did, however, recommend that other at the top of the publicly-funded pyramid pocket their hard-earned sweeteners. Highlights of the litany of greed include: BBC director of television Jana Bennett: Salary £255,000; bonus £63,000. The BBC's chief operating officer, John Smith: Salary £287,000; bonus £72,000. Deputy director general, Mark Byford: Salary £351,000; bonus £92,000. Broadcasting unions have slammed the payments as "corporate greed". The National Union of Journalists said the bonuses were a "slap in the face for the 5,000 BBC workers who faced job uncertainty". Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of broadcasting workers union Bectu, said the execs should have followed Mr Thompson's example, adding: "We feel that the BBC management are already getting the rate for the job so where is the justification for huge bonuses? People should not be rewarded for putting thousands of people out of work." The Beeb's governors, meanwhile, announced that in future bonuses would be cut from a maximum 30 per cent to a modest 10 per cent of an executive's salary. The BBC's annual report is available here (PDF). Despite Corporation high-flyers getting their snouts firmly in the trough, it reports a deficit of £188m - down £61m on the previous year. All of which points to a financially healthy BBC within a couple of years - just as soon as they have culled a few thousand staff, aborted some online content and ensured that management will have to scrape by on a fraction of their previous bonuses. Good show. ® Bootnote Oh yeah, and while we're in a Beeb-bashing mood, we've asked you before to get rid of that bloody ridiculous 3D weather map, so jump to it before we write a very strongly-worded letter of complaint to Anne Robinson or whoever which begins: "Dear BBC. Why, why, why, why, why, why oh why....?" Related stories BBC to show comedy via broadband BBC culls Cult website BBC flogs Broadcast div Reg to BBC: we want our weather flat
Lester Haines, 12 Jul 2005

Chip kit market shrinks

The market for equipment used to make computer chips will shrink more than 12 per cent this year compared to growth of 67.2 per cent in 2004. The equipment market will fall 12.1 per cent to $32.6bn, according to SEMI's Capital Equipment Consensus Forecast which predicted a fall of just five per cent in November 2004. Stanley Myers, president and CEO of SEMI, said the fall was due to the amount of new capacity available after a very strong year. He predicted "moderate but stable" growth in coming years. China stands out as the region with the largest fall - the market is expected to decline 40 per cent this year. South Korea is the only area enjoying continued growth - SEMI predicts the market for FAB equipment in South Korea will grow 21 per cent this year. The figures are seen as a bellwether for future IT industry growth. Respondents see growth returning in 2006 and reaching double figures over the next two years to hit $44.3bn in 2008. SEMI bases its figures on interviews with firms representing the majority of the equipment makers. More details here. ® Related stories AMD ships world's 'fastest overclockable gaming CPU' AMD ponders next fab site TSMC, UMC Q1 sales slide
John Oates, 12 Jul 2005

BT cracks down on 'nuisance' sales calls

BT has introduced new privacy measures to protect punters from annoying phone calls from pushy salespeople. Keen to ensure that its custmers are not disturbed by "nuisance salespeople", [including its own, ed?], BT is offering to sign up people to the Telephone Preference Scheme (TPS) register, which helps block unwanted sales calls. The UK's dominant fixed line telco is also offering punters Caller Display for free (it usually costs £1.75 a month) so that they can vet numbers in advance before answering a call. BT reckons its new BT Privacy service will give punters the "power to choose which calls they receive at home and help reduce the number of silent calls". Said BT bigwig Gavin Patterson: "Consumers are fed up with being bothered by nuisance salespeople cold calling during the precious few hours they have to relax in the evening and at weekends. "The new BT Privacy service enables them to keep that time for themselves, by filtering out these unwanted intrusions and giving our customers back the power to enjoy their privacy - in peace." Earlier this year Labour MP Kevin Brennan rounded on the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) for not doing enough to stamp "silent calls". These calls are generated by computers in call centres which automatically dial numbers. In many cases, though, when people pick up the phone - no-one's there. That's because call centres often generate more calls than they can handle on the basis that some people won't be in to answer the call. But for people who receive a number of these silent cold calls, it can be a real menace. Speaking in February, Brennan said: "These calls cause many problems for those receiving them. The elderly are unduly inconvenienced by these calls and often believe that they are receiving malicious calls. Those that find it difficult to get to the phone are also seriously inconvenienced with silent calls. "They have difficulty getting to the phone only to find that when they answer there is a recorded message or worse still silence. This is why we need stronger regulation - in the industry's own interest." Related stories MEPs vote to outlaw phone prize scams MP calls for action over menacing 'silent' calls MP demands regulation of 'silent' telesales tactics BT cracks down on rogue diallers
Tim Richardson, 12 Jul 2005
arrow pointing up

Adobe/Macromedia merger probed

Adobe and Macromedia must provide more information to the Department of Justice before regulators will approve their merger. Adobe said in April it would pay $3.4bn for Macromedia, maker of Flash animation software. The two companies have now received their second "Request for Additional Information and Documentary Materials" from the DoJ. The request covers web authoring and design softare and vector graphics illustration. The two firms are gathering info for the lawyers now and will continue to work closely with the DoJ, according to thisstatement. Adobe is still hopeful shareholders will approve the deal in September and it will close in Fall 2005. It expects the deal to add a little to earnings, or have no impact.® Related stories Adobe update quells Unix PDF peril Adobe and Macromedia: bad news for online tools Macromedia to merge with Adobe
John Oates, 12 Jul 2005
For Sale sign detail

EC officials raid Intel offices

European Commission investigators today raided Intel EMEA offices in a bid to find evidence that the chip giant violated the Union's antitrust laws. The raids, which extended to Intel's distribution partners and PC maker customers, and are part of an ongoing investigation into Intel's behaviour, were confirmed by the company this afternoon. Two premises were targeted, in Munich and Swindon. "DG Competition officials, accompanied by officials from national competition authorities are conducting inspections of several premises of Intel in Europe as well as a number of IT firms manufacturing or selling computers," the spokesman said, according to a Reuters report. An Intel spokesman told The Register the chip maker's "normal practice is to attempt to co-operate with authorities from regulatory agencies and we are doing so in this case. "Intel believes its business practices are both fair and lawful," he added. The EC investigation was launched in 2001. AMD submittted further evidence in 2003 which ultimately prompted investigators to conntact PC OEMs and distributors in the summer of 2004 to seek formal statements on the matter. In March, Japanese antitrust investigators found Intel guilty of anticompetitive actions - again following complaints from AMD. They said Intel offered price-rebates to five PC makers, including Sony, NEC, Hitachi, Fujitsu and Toshiba, in return for their agreement not to source processors from AMD. Intel denies that its actions constitute an infringement of "internationally accepted" antitrust principles. Soon afterward, AMD initiated legal proceedings against the chip giant in the US and Japan. ® Related stories Dixons disses AMD claims AMD wants Intel evidence from 30 firms AMD Japan sues Intel for $50m damages - and then some AMD files anti-trust suit against Intel Japan.gov bans Intel for two months EC relaunches Intel antitrust probe Europe commences Intel investigation Intel heeds Japanese antitrust probe warning
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005
fingers pointing at man

British government lost 150 PCs this year

The Home Office might be in charge of law and order but it's not very good at keeping hold of its own property - it has lost more computers this year than any other department. Between January and June 2005 the Home Office lost 95 machines - equivalent to a theft almost every other working day. The Ministry of Defence, which has a fine reputation for leaving laptops in wine bars, taxis and even on rubbish dumps, has sharpened up its act and has only lost 23 computers this year. Not a great result but better than the 153 that were lost or stolen last year. The figures came to light in written answers to questions from Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow.p> Peter Jaco, CEO of encryption company BeCrypt, said that although the numbers look alarming they are probably similar in percentage terms to any large organisation. Jaco said: "The UK Government, unlike UK industry, also has policies in place to protect national data assets with encryption products...If the Government departments that have lost these laptops have followed recommended policies... all data on the machine would be protected as it would be encrypted to meet Government security standards." More details on egovmonitor.com here.® Related stories MoD suppliers' laptop turns up on rubbish tip EDS signs MoD contract Possessions Reunited UK military bans iPods - some places
John Oates, 12 Jul 2005

Drugs, phonecams, privacy and GPS tracking

LettersLetters Police in London want your mobile phone snaps and video footage, and the government wants all your emails and phone records. Following the rather unpleasant events of last week, the authorities are calling on ISPs to co-operate with efforts to gather mobile phone and email traffic data, sparking speculation that the EU's data retention plans could be given a new lease of life. Isn't it fun to be in demand? The length of time on this is a smoke screen. At best it is a time for the Government to get around and hoover up all the data. Once the government has the data do you think it will delete it after 12 months. Once gathered it will be eternally stored in Cheltenham. Simon What happens when a terrorist accidentally phones the wrong number or misstype a URL. Do we get the 6.00am constabulary calling through the windows? Simon [But not the same one as the one above - ed] "In a memo circulated to ISPs last Thursday the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) called on ISPs to "preserve" where "reasonably practicable" communications data and content from electronic communications so that it can be used if necessary as part of the investigation into last week's murderous events." That's strange. On GMTV yesterday (Monday) morning a Home Office spokeswoman specifically ruled out the possibility of asking ISPs to retain the content of emails. Flobert I hate the ID card proposals with a passion, but I don't have much of a problem with retention of email/SMS/phone data. The problem comes about with who has access to what. For example, if the police (with reasonable suspicion) ask for records about Mr. Bloggs' calls etc. then that would be OK: it's evidence gathering as happens already. If they asked for details on everyone to be handed over on one big fat disk to be perused at leisure (looking for dirt on ambassadors to Uzbekistan, that kind of thing) then it would not be OK. I don't know what kind of indexing and search they anticipate. I suppose a lot of this hangs on the kind of searches permitted, and what indexes are assumed. Indexing from phone number or customer name is one thing. Can the police ask for more general data, such as a list of all the calls made from a particular cell? A list of all the calls made in London in a certain month? I predict that after lots of noise and bluster these retention laws will be passed. And I predict terrorists will switch to Hotmail and Skype. Ken Also on the front page this week was a suggestion that someday, everything will be RFID tagged . At least, an ex-spook and some researchers from SAP are embarking on research into how this could be done. Surprising that none of you took comfort from this thought: If the technology is widely deployed then the 'bad guys' will get hold of readers and either modify, exchange, remove or destroy the chips so that it will only be the general public and incompetent criminal who are watched. Bushrod Brilliant. So with this, not only is my picture on CCTV, but the computer can determine my appearance and categorise it as a suit, casual clothing, shoes that cost £xx, 1 year old t-shirt (quick, sell him a new one!). If say a particular shoeprint is left at the scene of a crime, how long before a screen lights up showing the real-time location of all matching shoes within a 10 mile radius and all the wearers hauled in for questioning? Its also worth noting that with this form of business data intelligence, unlike storecards/market research, there would appear to be no way to opt out. As always, its all about the ££, and bollocks to anything else. Daniel How about RFID spoofing - if an RFID responds it can be spoofed! End of security. RFIDs can also be burned out, ditto... Can you also explain why Industry has a say in policy development. In a democracy surely you shouldn't be able to buy influence ... sorry my mistake .... Tom Excellent - where can I buy a kit containing an RFID reader and a large hammer? Neil Using a handsfree kit in your car is no safer than not using a handsfree kit, according to data collected from crashes in Australia. You weren't especially impressed with the conclusions drawn from the data collected: - New report suggests that hands free kits in cars could reduce number of traffic accidents - A new report that I have just made up suggests that by enabling lone drivers to safely hold conversations, rather than being lulled to sleep by the engine's drone, handsfree telephone kits could be saving lives. In addition, the reduced use of handheld mobiles, which a handsfree kit enables, could further reduce the risk of death and injury on the roads. The report's author, myself, went on to explain that it didn't really matter whether my conclusions were either logical or borne out by evidence. "The important thing is to get my name in the press", I said, "since there's really easy money to be made pitching oneself as an expert in these sorts of areas." Duncan Interesting though the research on driver impairment due to carrying out a mobile conversation is just paraphrasing the research sufficient work to generate an article? It is patently obvious that doing anything other than concentrating on the driving is going to increase the risk of an accident. However, with the exception of racing drivers, we do it all the time. People converse with passengers, they listen to the radio, they think of other things. It is all about acceptable risk. Mick In answer to your opening question: yes. It is called reporting the news. We also reported that the people arrested as part of an investigation into online drugs suppliers are to be sentenced later this month. A man who ran a similar operation was sentenced to 410 years back in May after one of his customers died of an overdose: I'd just like to add my feelings to this retarded situation. This is the one of the most bullshit charges ever dreamed up against anyone, and I shall explain why! 1. The chemicals were offered as research chemicals, untested and not for human consumption 2. You cannot sue the manufacturer if you overdose on a drug when you have adhered to all warnings etc (Which basically were, 'do not take this drug') 3. The drugs weren't specifically illegal and were only made illegal under the extremely flexible 'analog act' which says that 'anything that acts like a prohibited drug is also prohibited', it's the effect they ban, not the drug 4. People buying this drug have broken no law (perhaps they have in the UK?), they have harmed nobody but themselves and I just cannot see what the justification for arrests or imprisonments is. If I started a website selling gravel, would I be put in jail for life if someone buried themselves in it and died? No, neither should any of these people. It's a horrible situation we're in where the government (well the US government at least) has an act that says 'Anything that screws you up a bit like alcohol does but is not alcohol is ILLEGAL BECAUSE IT IS BAD' I hate this planet. Paul A much quoted article from volume 284 of the JAMA attributed 106,000 deaths a year to "non error adverse events of medications". At 410 years per death that would make the pharmaceutical industry liable for over 43 million years of chokey in the US alone. Roo If the idea of all our clothes being RFID tagged if not enough, the British government (in its infinite wisdom) wants to track us by satellite in our cars, as part of an utterly ludicrous scheme to stop us speeding: Interesting article on modified Skodas and the GPS speed-control system. But has anyone thought of the effect on the national psychology of reducing all cars to the same speed on Britain's roads (and it will be pretty much all motorised vehicles except fossilised caravan-towers and the odd traction engine)? A nation of people, each one dwarfed, turned into a tiny, insignificant cog in the huge machine that is a modern globalised society, has one of its few remaining avenues of individual expression (relative speed) taken away from it in one fell swoop. What will there be left in terms of individual expression? We'll be like the people in the video for the Gary Numan song, "Cars". Our individuality is suppressed, under attack from every direction. This move will just add to the pressure, and our collective psyche will reach boiling point. This will, in my opinion, manifest itself in increased levels of violent behaviour such as road rage, high street brawls on a Friday night, domestic abuse, in addition to existentialist depression and ill health caused by our realising how futile life is, and how impossible it is to live it with any kind of flair! 1,000 people's lives may be saved on the roads, but this will cause at least double that number of extra deaths every year through plain despair alone.... We need an outlet, and this move can only serve to take one of our last remaining ones away and turn us into automatons. If we all have to drive Skodas then it'll just be so much the worse. I personally have had enough. It's either Harikiri or walking naked from one end of Europe to the other for me - it's the only thing left that'll make me different. Cheers, Sam We fear you may rely a little to heavily on your car and its speed for your sense of identity... I see several flaws in this technology. Firstly, let's hope that it won't be Microsoft writing the software...I can see the headlines now: "Virus causes GPS enabled car to swerve off road killing all occupants". Seriously, how will software problems be handled? If the software stops responding or the signal to the satellite lost will the car just turn off stranding the driver? Will the car start if the software doesn't work? Secondly, if proprietary technology is used will it add to the cost of the vehicle? Will consumers be forced to pay a licensing fee every year? Thirdly, this is a simple invasion of privacy masquerading as a safety tool. Who will have access to the data? Will it be compiled and a profile created of every driver? Will that information be sold to advertisers? How will the data be stored? For how long? What safeguards will be in place? I fail to see how knowing where someone is on the road and how fast they are travelling will save anyone. What if the GPS car is forced to slow down; but the others around it don't? How safe is that? I can only hope that the British people have more common sense than their government and put the kibosh to this foolish idea. Cheers, Robert It's bad enough with speed cameras sited in very obviously non-dangerous locations just in order to make money, without the prospect of speed limiters controlled by government. It's a Stalinist nanny state gone mad. The oppressive nature of this is going to be very difficult for the vast majority of motorist to bear and I'm sure they would vote out any government that implemented such a Draconian measure. Can you imagine being limited to a slow speed that has been chosen maliciously by a non-elected local bureaucrat for a road that is otherwise perfectly safe to drive at a higher speed. A driver will always need to be able to take a balanced view of the risks of driving at a speed appropriate for the road and road conditions, versus a speed limit that has been set and the risks associated with being charged with speeding. In France, the speed limit for many roads is lower in bad weather and the police are then very zealous, but in good weather the police take a blind eye to motorists travelling at a faster but still safer speed, even though it's officially over the limit. And in the UK the unofficial speed limit on the motorways is around 87 mph. If the speed limiter idea is implemented this unofficial leeway will restrict us all to driving only at 70 mph. Can you imagine the additional congestion that will cause?. Lastly, if the motorway tolls are too highly priced then the minor roads will be in gridlock all the time. This will be New Labours last straw or their poll tax if this ever goes ahead! Adrian Heh! Watch it, that's a damn fine car. My friend John has had one for years and they're bloody good! Ian We are sure he will thank you for publicising that fact... More on Friday, including your views on Dell's customer support. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jul 2005

How Dell made Los Angeles look like a sucker - in pictures

Silly, silly Californians. They don't know how to get things done right or at least how to get things done cheap. Take, for example, the Frank Gehry Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. This building cost close to $250m with much of that money coming from rich people donations. It's a wonderful creation to be sure and something the city should be proud of, but to get a sense of how much $250m or so can really buy you, we've got to travel out to North Carolina. Out in Winston-Salem, you'll find an elegant architectural treat that will cost tax payers close to $280m. It's the new Dell factory. You know the one built on the back of hundreds of millions in incentives and perks. Simple stuff like tax breaks on products, roads, a police force and Dell product support classes at the local community college. North Carolina fought hard to lavish such gifts on Dell. In return, the state could see up to 1,500 people maintain steady jobs in the coming years. We're told the average wage for these staffers will come in around $28,000. That's a healthy $42m or so in annual wages - a total which will surely be boosted by a couple of well-paid executives. It's always heart-warming when corporate America and local communities can strike these kinds of symbiotic deals. Making billions and employing thousands of workers overseas - more than you do at home - requires serious savvy and a push from the plebs every now and again. With that in mind, we bring you Dell's new North Carolina plant in pictures. Frank Gehry? Oh no, it's so much more than a concert hall. North Carolina bought the future with its $280m. Huge thanks go out to Ed Stephens and Tamar Pandi who did a fine job on their first assignment as Vulture hardware paparazzi. In the first photo, we find some local beef. It's time for these cows to get a move on because Mikey's PC and server biz is coming to town. This probably happened in Texas too, so no big deal. Come on, you know you were praying for the old, faithful "All deliveries in the rear" sign. Okay, okay, so this rather gloomy photo might make the new factory look like a prison and that might be a cheap shot. But, hey, how can you blame us for having talented paparazzi? Notice the Gehry like lines and the stunning dirt mounds. This is where the magic goes down. Many Dell workers have written to us complaining that the company will often hire staff en masse to try and fix a bad quarter or to handle holiday sales. When things return to normal, the little PC makers are sent back home. That's not going to happen here in North Carolina. Dell can only fire about 40 per cent of its workers and maintain the incentives package. It's swell at the top. Dell hasn't quite finished construction on this first building, but it does have the company logo up there in the left corner. That's Michael Dell blue. In the end, it seems Dell stayed away from those awkward Gehry curves and conniptions. No sense mussing up the North Carolina farmland with a monstrosity. Hopefully, the locals will enjoy this building. Lord knows they earned it. How do you get to this paradise? On the Road to Jobs, of course! See you there. ® Related stories Want to complain about Dell? Forget it Napster, Dell cash-in on student DRM tax North Carolina residents sue Dell to keep their $270m Legal watchdog investigates Dell sweeteners Foreigners gain thousands of jobs on Dell US staff How Dell made North Carolina beg for business
Ashlee Vance, 12 Jul 2005
channel

Industry coalition takes stab at defining spyware

Technology companies have formed an alliance with public interest groups to tackle spyware. Membership of the Anti-Spyware Coalition (here) includes large software developers, anti-spyware companies and others. Current members include AOL, Computer Associates, EarthLink, HP, Lavasoft, McAfee, Microsoft, PC Tools, Symantec, Trend Micro, Yahoo!, UC Berkeley, the Business Software Alliance and the Cyber Security Industry Alliance. ASC has ventured where angels fear to tread in drafting a definition for "spyware" (below), which it's offering up for public debate. Comments (to ASC not El Reg, thank you) are invited until 12 August after which ASC will formulate a "final definition" for spyware which it promises will incorporate the best recommendations for the public at large. Spyware and other potentially unwanted technologies are those that "impair users' control over material changes that affect their user experience, privacy, or system security; use of their system resources, including what programs are installed on their computers; or collection, use, and distribution of their personal or otherwise sensitive information." That's a bit of a mouthful but ASC hopes its definition will settle a few pub arguments and allow vendors to concentrate on weightier matters, such as fighting the growth of spyware. "One of the biggest challenges we've had with spyware has been agreeing on what it is," said Ari Schwartz, Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, which has led the work of the group. "The anti-spyware community needs a way to quickly and decisively categorize the new programs spawning at exponential rates across the Internet. The definitions will serve as a foundation for all future efforts to help users make more informed decisions about which programs to keep and which to delete." To help consumers, the coalition has drafted an extensive glossary of terms like adware, port scanner, screen scraper, and others commonly associated with unwanted programs. If they get around to defining virus, worm, Trojan and root kit then we'd really be onto something. The ASC has also outlined common procedures for dispute resolution for vendors who believe their software has been unfairly flagged by an anti-spyware company as part of its efforts to make the practices of anti-spyware companies more transparent.The organisation is also offering consumers tips on how to stay clear of spyware infestation here. ® Related stories Vendors exit anti-spyware group (COAST) Anti-spyware group collapses Adware firm 180solutions in image makeover MS downgrades Claria adware detection Judge bans company's deceptive anti-spyware claims UK preps major security awareness campaign US moves towards anti-spyware law
John Leyden, 12 Jul 2005
server room

AMD alleges Intel compilers create crash code for its chips

The lawsuit AMD filed against its arch-rival, Intel, alleges that a tweak in Intel's compilers can hinder the performance of code running on AMD processors. According to the complaint: "Intel has designed its compiler purposely to degrade performance when a program is run on an AMD platform. To achieve this, Intel designed the compiler to compile code along several alternate code paths. Some paths are executed when the program runs on an Intel platform and others are executed when the program is operated on a computer with an AMD microprocessor. "The choice of code path is determined when the program is started, using a feature known as 'CPUID' which identifies the computer's microprocessor. By design, the code paths were not created equally. "If the program detects a 'Genuine Intel' microprocessor, it executes a fully optimized code path and operates with the maximum efficiency. However, if the program detects an 'Authentic AMD' microprocessor, it executes a different code path that will degrade the program's performance or cause it to crash." Of course, how much damage this may have done in the real world is open to question. As one poster on Slashdot, which first noted, there's hardly evidence of code falling over left, right and center on AMD systems. Equally, would developers creating binaries intended to run on AMD processors use Intel's compilers? You can expect Intel to optimise its compilers' output for the idiosyncrasies of its own CPU architectures, but not to make sure the code runs equally well on a competitors product. Still, it's a big step from 'not optimising for rival processor architectures' to 'actively making code run more slowly on rival processor architectures', as AMD alleges. Another Slashdot contributor claims this kind of thing goes back at least to January 2004 and Intel C++ 8.0. The poster claims Intel's assembly code for the memcpy command was clearly designed to be less efficient on non-Intel processors than the company's own chips. Intel developer support, he claims, said the code was optimised for the Pentium 4 and the other code was the simplest implementation for older CPUs, such as the PIII. "It turns out that their special 'Pentium 4' memcpy, which I tested thoroughly in all kinds of situations, worked perfectly fine on an AMD Athlon and a Pentium III," he concludes and notes his decision to adopt a different compiler as a result. Again, it's a fine line between generating good code for, say, P4s and lowest-common denominator code for everything else, and creating intentionally bad code for AMD CPUs. Many of the examples cited by Slashdot posters could easily arise from Intel's focus on P4 optimisation rather than making things difficult for AMD. Intel is, after all, under no obligation to ensure the code its compilers generate are optimised for AMD CPUs unless it explicitly says they are so optimised, which we don't believe is the case. Either way, it's going to make for an interesting trial. ® Related stories EC officials raid Intel offices Intel 'ditches' high-end 'Centrino 3' chipset Intel and Dell thrilled to join the dual-core server chip era Dixons disses AMD claims AMD wants Intel evidence from 30 firms AMD Japan sues Intel for $50m damages - and then some
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2005