27th > July > 2005 Archive

channel

Sun posts flat Q4

Another year, another revenue drop for Sun Microsystems. The hardware vendor today turned in fourth quarter and full year results that showed continued struggles to gain market share, ship high-end servers and sell storage. In the fourth quarter, Sun posted revenue of $2.98bn - a 4 per cent drop from $3.11bn posted in the same quarter last year. Sun's revenue has been essentially flat now for three years during Q4. The company, however, did beat analysts' expectations of 1 cent earnings per share by posting 4 cents earnings per share on the back of $121m in net income. Sun's net income of $783m from last year's fourth quarter is a tough comparison as it includes a large chunk of cash from the Microsoft settlement. During the quarter, Sun took charges for workforce and real estate restructuring. Excluding these and other items, Sun reported net income of $200m For the full year, Sun brought in $11.07bn - a drop of 1 per cent from the $11.19 posted in 2004. The net loss for the year was $11m versus a net loss of $388m last year. Excluding charges, Sun posted net income of $184m, which compares to a net loss of $791m, excluding charges, in 2004. So, in a sense, the bleeding has stopped. "Big time progress, I think, in 2005 on a number of fronts," said CEO Scott McNealy, during a conference call. "It sure feels nice to make money. That always feels good. "We believe we have done what we need to do to drive this company into growth mode." Sun detractors will be quick to point out that McNealy has talked about a return to growth mode for some time. The company, however, continues to be hurt by many of the same factors that cut revenue over the past three years, while struggling to pull in money from new ventures. For example, product revenue dropped to $1.93bn during the fourth quarter from $2.07bn, and sank to $7.13bn in 2005 from $7.36bn in 2004. During the boom times in 2001, Sun reported $18.25bn in full year revenue. Customers continue to shy away from Sun's highest-end systems. Servers with one to eight processors now make up 65 per cent of revenue. Sun enjoyed a significant sales increase of four and eight processor SPARC boxes. It also shipped 50,000 Opteron servers during the year. Sun's storage revenue fell 13 per cent, while it saw a healthy 43 per cent rise in JES (Java Enterprise System) subscribers during the fourth quarter, bringing total subscribers to 620,000. That's the most dramatic rise in JES sales in quite awhile. Despite much pressure from analysts, McNealy would not confirm when Sun plans to release its new fleet of Opteron servers. Beta customers, however, do have the kit. Sun will also release servers based on its Niagara chip early next year, and the company has taped out both Niagara II and the Rock family of chips. ® Related stories EMC does double-digit growth thang again in Q2 Intel overcomes 'weak' line-up during Q2 IBM evens the keel in Q2
Ashlee Vance, 27 Jul 2005

Verizon closes in on Cingular

Verizon booked $2.11bn of profit on revenues of $18.57bn in 2Q. As an added bonus, CEO Ivan Seidenberg didn't make any howlers - but then he left the talking to his CFO. The $1.6bn sale of Verizon's Hawaiian business added $330m to the bottom line in the quarter ending June 30. Verizon's jointly-owned mobile network, Verizon Wireless, took the credit for the quarter, adding 1.9m subscribers in the three months. The group saw revenue of $7.8bn, up 15 per cent on a year ago, and not far behind the wireline group, which, while still the largest part of Verizon, continues to slip. Wireline has lost over half a million subscribers, or 5.5 per cent of its existing business. DSL and cable continue to grow, however, up 44 per cent from a year ago with 4.1m accounts signed up. "We're growing vertically instead of horizontally," said CFO Doreen Toben. Verizon Wireless now boasts 47.4m subscribers, just behind Cingular which reported its numbers last week. Cingular has 49.1m users, but Verizon can claim lower churn (1.01pc of retail postpaid) and ARPU of $49.42, a shade under the leader. In a conference call, CEO Ivan Seidenberg credited the cellular growth to a refreshed plans and new handsets coming on stream. Verizon hopes to wrap up the acquisition of MCI - the most tedious acquisition merger of the year - by the end of the year. ® Related stories Supreme Court wallops telcos with a large cableco favor Our phones don't work - Verizon boss Cingular's indigestion could be worse
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Jul 2005

Thus upbeat about future

Thus - the Scottish telco that also operates under the Demon internet brand - remains upbeat despite having to operate within the "challenging competitive dynamics in the UK telecommunication market". In a trading update published today the telco said its business had continued to grow especially in areas including broadband and converged services. Oh, and it's also signed up a number of corporate punters. However, despite this assurance it's acknowledged that margins remain tight as customers migrate from dial-up services to broadband. As a result the telco continues to keep a tight control on operating costs. In a statement Thus boss William Allan said the company "continues to respond vigorously to the challenging competitive dynamics in the UK telecommunication market" but remains confident of "continued revenue growth and cash generation over the current year". Shares in Thus were up 0.5p at 16.5p in early morning trading. ® Related stories Thus still 'cautious' on tough market conditions Demon jobs on line at Glasgow tech support Thus cautious on outlook Thus squeezed by tough conditions Thus shares nosedive over gloomy forecast
Tim Richardson, 27 Jul 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

TSMC up, UMC down in Q2

TSMC, the world's biggest chip foundry, strengthened its financial position during its second quarter over the previous three-month period, though it still has some way to go to achieve the highs of Q2 FY2004. Its arch-rival, UMC, the world's second biggest foundry, proved less successful, with sales and profits down sequentially and year on year. Both firms' sliding revenues were anticipated earlier this month after they published their June sales tallies. TSMC reported revenues of TWD58.52bn ($1.83bn), up 5.1 per cent on the previous quarter but down 9.8 per cent on the year-ago period. Net income came to TWD18.37bn ($575m), up 9.2 per cent sequentially but down 21.5 per cent year on year. The company reported earnings of TWD0.74 per share. Wafer shipments rose 14.5 per cent sequentially during the quarter, hindered by a 4.5 per cent fall in average selling prices, TSMC said. Revenue from 90-130nm process lines fell from 45 per cent of the total in Q1 to 43 per cent in Q2. Gross margins rose by less than a percentage point to 39.7 per cent as more capacity was given over to production. TSMC attributed the sequential gains to "demand recovery from our customers" and noted that it expects this trend to continue through Q3. It said it expects wafer shipments to rise approximately 15 per cent during the current quarter as capacity utilisation rises to beyond 90 per cent. That will push gross margins up 1.3-3.3 percentage points to 41-43 per cent, it forecast. ASP will fall again, "by a low to mid single digit percentage point". UMC's Q2 FY2005 sales totalled TWD19.44bn ($609m), down 4.2 per cent sequentially and 33.4 per cent year on year. Net income plunged 93.1 per cent sequentially and 97.9 per cent year on year to TWD212m ($6.7m) as the company slipped into red operationally. Earnings fell to a mere TWD0.02 per share. Still, UMC reckons the worst is over: "We are quite confident we have exited the trough of the downturn," said company CEO Jackson Hu. Wafer shipments were up 11.7 per cent sequentially, UMC said. Capacity utilisation topped 65 per cent, higher than the 60 per cent utilisation rate UMC had previously predicted. The share of revenues arising from its 90nm process rose from seven to nine per cent. However, ASP fell nine per cent over Q1 FY2005 as demand shifted toward older, larger processes, as it did at TSMC. Like TSMC, UMC expects wafer shipments to rise by around 15 per cent during Q3, though it also expects ASP to rise slightly. At an operational level, it expects to break even or report a slight loss. ® Related stories TI reaps wireless boom Elpida falls into red on weak DRAM prices Freescale grows Q2 earnings on flat sales Intel overcomes 'weak' line-up during Q2 Rambus reports record revenue AMD shrugs off Intel shackles for ace Q2 Chip kit market shrinks TSMC, UMC Q2 sales slide UMC chairman to quit over China investment case
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2005
graph up

Infineon Q3 loss doubles

Germany's Infineon yesterday blamed poor memory prices as it sank even further into the red. Sales for the three months to 30 June 2005 - Infineon's third quarter of fiscal 2005 - came to €1.61bn ($1.95bn), the same as Q2 FY2005 but 15.8 per cent lower than Q3 FY2004. Sales at all three of the company's business units - memory; automotive, industrial and multi-market; and communications - were down year on year and sequentially. The memory segment saw a 45 per cent increase in shipments, but those falling prices pushed the division from a profit last quarter into a big loss. The DRAM maker's overall pre-tax loss ballooned to €225m ($271m), almost double the €117m ($141m) it lost in the previous quarter and more than ten times the €22m ($26m) it lost in the year-ago period. Infineon reported a net loss of €240m ($290m) for Q3 FY2005. Q4 will be better, the company forecast, as demand in the automotive market grows according to seasonal patterns, and memory prices become more stable as demand rises in that segment too. ® Related stories Infineon memory boss quits Infineon posts DDR 3 prototype to Intel Infineon makes a loss Infineon to sample DDR 3 'in 2006' Infineon and Rambus kiss and make up Infineon sales slip - and will fall further
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2005

CA gets behind Big Blue mainframe

Computer Associates quickly jumped on the back of IBM’s latest mainframe monster yesterday, pledging software support for the System z9. The management software vendor claimed it would offer “comprehensive support” across its mainframe software lines for Big Blue’s just released behemoth. This would include the delivery of on-demand services. The 38 processor z9 will hit the market in September. A 54 processor beast, touting 512GB of memory, will follow in November Related stories IBM's z9 mainframe monster roars to life CA aims to curb spam with Qurb IBM preps big iron fiesta
Team Register, 27 Jul 2005

Egg soldiers on

Egg - the UK internet bank that tried to crack the French market - posted increased turnover and a profit for the first half of the year. Operating income was up 5 per cent to £251m while the company overturned a £1.7m loss last year to rack up a pre-tax profit of £15m. Almost all of that surplus came from Egg's UK operations, which saw revenues in the UK grow 5 per cent on the same period last year. At the same time Egg - majority owned by the Pru - is managing to reduce overheads due in part to a "restructuring exercise" including the shuffling of a number of top execs. This helped the company "re-focus on the core business and the needs of the UK consumer". Last year Egg managed to flog its failing French business to Banque Accord for £96m in cash. However, the cost of bidding adieu to France does not come cheap, but execs said they expect it to be less that £113m. Said chief exec Paul Gratton: "Overall the result for the first half was in line with our expectations and we remain confident about the remainder of the year." By mid morning shares in Egg were up 2.25p at 112.p. ® Related stories MBNA 'eyes Egg' Fraud expert becomes victim of credit card crime Egg shuffles top brass Egg losses grow
Tim Richardson, 27 Jul 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Siebel posts $50m Q2 loss

Siebel Systems has posted a net loss of $50m for its second quarter on revenues of $313.6m, compared to a net income of $7.5m on revenues of $301.1m a year ago. The company issued a warning earlier this month, saying that delays to government deals had hit its licencing revenues, which were down 17 per cent on the same period last year. It also said it would pay a restructuring charge of $74.1m for the quarter. In total, licence fees amounted to $78.3m over the quarter against $94.4m in 2004. Meanwhile maintenance revenues were $122.8m, and services and other activities brought in $112.5m. Looking ahead, CFO Ken Goldman said he expects revenue of between $305m and $315m for the third quarter, which should result in earnings of between $10m-$15m (between two and three cents per share). New software sales should generate $75m-$85m in revenue, he added. Shares in the company fell almost three per cent in after hours trading, on the back of the news. ® Related stories Siebel acts to reassure Siebel ditches boss Oh Woe is Siebel
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Jul 2005

Germans discover world's oldest dildo

German scientists are tickled pink after unearthing one of the world's oldest sculpted phalluses - 20cm of polished siltstone lovingly created around 28,000 years ago. The stone schlong was discovered in Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm, Swabia, by a Tübingen University team. Professor Nicholas Conard, from the university's snappily-named department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, explained the excitment to the BBC thus: "Female representations with highly accentuated sexual attributes are very well documented at many sites, but male representations are very, very rare." Indeed, although other examples of male genitalia - from France and Morocco - predate the Ulm member, to have "any representation of male genitalia from this time period is highly unusual". There may be a good reason for this - the German sausage bears the scars of having been used to knap flints, and was reassembled from 14 fragments. Despite this abuse, and in a delicious leap of imagination, Conard speculates that the life-size member may have been used as a prehistoric sex toy. As he suggestively notes: "It's highly polished." Those interested in the sex lives of our distant ancestors will be able to cop an eyeful of the Hohle Fels phallus when it goes on show at a Blaubeuren prehistoric museum exhibition entitled "Ice Art - Clearly Male". ® Related stories Man erects 10ft origami penis German identifies cerebral penis control centre Promotional penis pops up on eBay
Lester Haines, 27 Jul 2005
channel

Tablet PC biz to see Vista-driven boom

Tablet PC fans should look forward to Vista - or whatever Microsoft's next-generation Windows operating system is called, other trademark holders permitting. According to market watcher In-Stat, Vista, as we should now be calling 'Longhorn', will have a "significant impact" on Tablet PC sales. Tablet PCs have been around for almost three years now, albeit with "mixed success", as In-Stat puts it. Some $1.19bn worth of Tablet PCs were shipped in 2004, and In-Stat reckons that will rise to $5.36bn in 2009. This year, the researcher estimates, shipments will be worth $1.51bn, as some 825m units ship, a 38.7 per cent increase over the 595m units that shipped last year. This will be despite an 8.8 per cent dip in the average selling price. From 2006 onwards, the ASP will fall further from around $1,825 now to $1,275 in 2009, In-Stat reckons. That, plus the availability of more Tablet-centric software, along with Windows Vista and "larger form factors that directly address the corporate market" will drive demand, pushing up unit shipments 69.7 per cent in 2006 and a further 85.7 per cent in 2007. Shipment growth with slow to 30.8 per cent and 23.5 per cent in 2009, In-Stat believes. Again, the big revenue growth will come in the 2006/2007 timeframe after which it will begin to level off through 2008 and 2009. So far the greatest demand for Tablet PCs has come from vertical markets, which is where all Microsoft's previous attempts to take pen computing into the mainstream have ended up. Tablet PC was heralded by some observers as the version that would at last succeed, but it's clear it's as niche as past stylus-operated Windows devices have been. ® Related stories Microsoft passes da Vista baby Miracle in Redmond! Tablet PC memory bug fixed MS accused of killing pen computing pioneer Go Gates talks, but can't walk, his Tablet PC pledge Nokia unveils $350 Wi-Fi tablet Reboot daily, Tablet users advised Tablet PC bug 'fills computer with ink'
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2005

O2 workers barred from AGM, says CWU

O2 employees who also own shares in the cellco have been prevented from appearing at the company's AGM today, according to the Communications Workers Union (CWU). Reuters reports that union officials claim the ban has been put in place because of an ongoing pay dispute between staff and O2. But a spokesman for O2 rejected the accusation telling The Register: "It's not true. All shareholders - including employees - are welcome to attend." This latest scuffle between O2 and the CWU comes as the union is urging its 3,000 or so members who work at O2 to reject the company's final pay offer. The ballot closes on Friday and the result is due to be announced early next week. If the pay offer is rejected then it could lead to a walk-out at the mobilephoneco. Last month the CWU accused execs at O2 of being "fat cat" directors who have been "busy awarding themselves massive pay rises" while some staff haven't received a pay rise for at least seven years. Senior union official Dave Johnson told the CWU's Telecoms Industry Conference in Blackpool: "They [the workers] are angry, and with every justification, at a board of directors who hypocritically seek to depress the wages of our members whilst at the same time awarding themselves significant increases in their own salaries and fees. "There are many ways of describing this application of double standards...'the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer' is one; 'fat cats and feathered nests' also spring to mind." Union officials are due to picket today's shareholder meeting with giant tins of cat food saying: "Nine out of 10 fat cats prefer O2." In March the CWU said it was "shocked and dismayed" at an announcement by O2 that the mobile phone company planned to cut up to 500 jobs. ® Related stories Bubbly O2 reduces churn O2 wins £390m ambulance deal O2 workers set to strike over pay O2 sponsors white elephant O2 goes down the pan O2 and EasyAir avoid High Court spat 200 IT workers face O2 axe CWU 'shocked and dismayed' at O2 job losses
Tim Richardson, 27 Jul 2005

iPod users deprived of muff

Our regular Gizmondo feature - provided by those lovely people down at Tech Digest - regularly showcases a "Obligatory iPod Accessory of the Week"; most recently the Audi-Oh Vibrator which converts your iPod into a musical orgasmatron. Well, you'll need somewhere to rest you iPod after a hard core session, and where better than the oooh-er-missus Muff Dock? This little bit of iPod heaven is described as a "Bean Bag for your iPod", and allows you to "use your existing power cord while keeping your iPod well supported in an upright comfy position". It's all very silly, but not so silly that the thing has not been selling like hotcakes. Indeed, the Muff Dock is temporarily out of stock after muff-hungry iPod users dived enthusiastically on the product. For the record, the Muff Dock goes out at $19 and should be reavailable shortly. Tasty. ® Related stories Like MUF diving? Call Clearswift Kinky shopper KOed by vibrating knickers Gizmoville buzzes to iPod vibrator
Lester Haines, 27 Jul 2005

AOL does mobile search

AOL is joining the fight over local search services. The company joins Google, MSN and Yahoo competing for revenue from advertising goods and services based on location. To use the service you will need a WAP2.0 phone. The service is free although network charges will apply. AOL is working with Israeli firm InfoGin which helps format webpages for smaller screened devices. The service will look broadly like AOL's desktop search and will use Yellow Pages data to find local shops, restaurants and services. Local searching is a way for internet companies to extend their reach and for mobile companies to add revenue streams. ® Related stories Penis pill purveyor faces prison AOL UK to charge for tech support AOL rebuts zombie network slur
John Oates, 27 Jul 2005

Feds move swiftly to exploit 7/7

Washington RoundupWashington Roundup The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now peddle geospatial data (satellite imagery) overlaid with "suspicious incidents" to state and local cops, further adding to their considerable confusion over what constitutes a petty crime, an innocent person acting strangely (which can get you wrestled to the ground and your brains blown out by terrified cops in London these days), and a bona fide terrorist cell scouting a target. Nevertheless, the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) is ready to provide too much of a bad thing, with a massive database of images and incidents, comprising a product with "maybe fifty layers of information," according to HSOC Director Matthew Broderick. More noise, less signal, which is precisely what we don't need when every citizen is already viewed as a potential terrorist by our panicky, and trigger happy, guardians of Liberty. For a rough idea of the sort of chickenshit that DHS will be frightening local constabs with, check out this archive of double-secret incident reports, in which men with dark skin and cameras figure large. See also our report indicating that the vast majority of US counterterrorist intel is utter rubbish to begin with. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has officially been caught with its pants down, collecting vast reams of data about air travelers in blatant violation of federal law, and lying about it in a bald-faced manner. This will come as no surprise to Reg readers, but now the word is out on the street so that Congress can properly ignore it, rather than pretend not to know about it. According to the GAO, testing of the TSA data-mining program formerly known as CAPPS-2, and now known as Secure Flight, involved supplementary commercial data mining affecting at least a quarter-million people. The commercial data was combined with passenger records that TSA had forced airlines to surrender. This degree of deep, personal privacy invasion is something that TSA has adamantly insisted it would never dream of doing. Furthermore, it's illegal, according to the Privacy Act of 1974, for government bureaux to collect such information without notifying the victims, and offering them an opportunity to examine the data and correct it as needed. TSA offers no such provisions. Not surprisingly, TSA has taken the low road, and simply no longer promises to abide by federal law in these matters. So we've got nothing to whine about, apparently. Urgent calls are coming for greatly expanded CCTV surveillance in US cities, especially in mass transit venues. Politicians and law enforcement busybodies have been mightily impressed by all of the CCTV images coming out of London, showing us the faces of people who have already done the public harm. The point that keeps getting lost is that there is no way on earth to prevent an attack with this sort of gear, although it does offer some advantage in solving crimes where the victims are, unfortunately, already dead, kidnapped, maimed, or beaten senseless. But this has not stopped police chief and mayor alike from advocating lots of cameras for their boys in blue to fiddle with in the safety of remote locations. Forget that the conspicuous presence of uniformed police is the only proven means of deterring crime; forget that suicide bombers about to die for their perverse causes don't at all mind being photographed en route to their atrocities; forget that the 9/11 hijackers, Madrid bombers, and 7/7 bombers would not have been flagged by face-recognition technology even if it did work, which it quite simply does not. But when bureaucrats get scared, common sense is always the first casualty. The US House of Representatives last week voted to make all temporary provisions of the so-called "Patriot" Act permanent, as expected. This in itself is not news, nor will the Senate's inevitable capitulation to paranoia be news when Congress returns in October, but there are some interesting privacy and due-process provisions in the two versions that will have to be ironed out in conference committee, and that compromise might just become news when it happens. While both versions will saddle the public permanently with all provisions of this most un-American legislation, the House version is the weaker in terms of civil liberties protections. It gives the FBI a generous 180 days to inform victims of sneak-and-peek warrants, and it allows the Feds to notify judges of certain surveillance activities after the fact, for example. Most interestingly, it requires the FBI to report to Congress on its use of data-mining services. Even so, the Bush Administration has made known its outrage at these minor impediments to its monarchial fantasies. Yet the Senate version is stronger, requiring more judicial oversight, to which the Administration is notoriously hostile. But once the two get spliced, something almost bearable could emerge from committee, and the fight will then be to keep it intact before the final vote. Mass transit is getting hairy. Subway riders in New York and Washington are now subject to random searches, because they might have bombs. Forget that a suicide bomber would only detonate his payload upon being approached by a policeman, and take out whatever number of hapless innocents might be near him in these crowded venues. No doubt the body count will be high in any case, but the police insist on pretending to be able to protect us, even when they can do nothing more than inconvenience, and possibly embarrass, us instead. But that's nothing compared with the London police policy of "shoot to protect," recently exercised with spectacular irony against an innocent man named Jean Charles de Menezes. Still, Tony Blair rushed to defend the tragic folly. "If you are dealing with someone you think might be a suicide bomber, then, obviously, the important thing is that they were not able to set off the bomb," he explained. Of course, what he really meant to say was, "if you are dealing with someone you have no factual basis to believe is a suicide bomber, then, obviously, the important thing is that the victim was not able to set off a bomb that never existed, but which the police created in their overactive imaginations, and with which they terrified themselves, making themselves hysterical, and, understandably, causing them to blow the man's brains out after he had been subdued." How lucky they were that the imaginary bomb turned out not to be connected to an imaginary dead-man's switch... ®
Thomas C Greene, 27 Jul 2005

FTC probes Grand Theft Auto

The publisher of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas announced yesterday that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is probing advertising claims it made regarding the controversial game. The FTC investigation follows a tough couple of weeks for Take 2 which ended with GTA reclassified from Mature to Adult Only after a Dutch modder unlocked explicit sex material in the best-selling game. The subsequent brouhaha provoked major retailers to pull GTA from the shelves, and Take 2's stock crashed 13 per cent, Reuters reports. The assault on GTA continued when members of the US House of Representatives asked the FTC to investigate whether Take 2 "intentionally deceived the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to avoid a restrictive 'adult' rating". For its part, Take 2 said yesterday it was co-operating fully with the FTC inquiry and added its belief that it had acted "in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations". ® Related stories GTA porn row - whose responsibility is it? Watchdog pops a cap in Grand Theft Auto Hillary Clinton demands GTA smut enquiry Gaming rocked by GTA smut revelation
Lester Haines, 27 Jul 2005

Enceladus revealed as Cassini's photo tour continues

Cassini has sent back another batch of pictures from its tour of the Saturn orbital system. This time, it has snapped the surface of the icy moon Enceladus in unprecedented detail. Enceladus, discovered in 1789 by Sir William Herschel, is the brightest object in the solar system (not counting the very shiny star in the middle, of course). This has led scientists to theorise that the moon is, or was until very recently, geologically active. Constantly being resurfaced with fresh ice and snow, by a mechanism that has yet to be determined, has kept the outermost layer bright and white enough to qualify for inclusion in a washing powder advert. Some of the surface could be a mere 100 million years old, according to researchers. As Cassini flew past on 14 July, it took pictures of the moon's varied surface: craters softened by a covering of ice, and complex fractured terrain, reminiscent of Jupiter's moon, Europa. Some of the areas covered in fissures are entirely free of impact scars. The sheer variety of features visible on the surface reveal a history of many different geological processes. Many of the larger craters are softened by a fine-grained frost, and are intersected by multiple tectonic faults. The geological activity on Enceladus most likely took place in several episodes, and could even continue into the present day. However, there is no direct evidence that the moon is still geologically active. Cassini also sent back the highest resolution images it has ever taken, revealing the landscape of Enceladus in remarkable detail. Boulders and ice blocks between ten and 100 metres across dominate the surface. The region is unusual, the imagining team says, because it seems to lack the fine-grained frost that covers the rest of the moon. This is further evidence of a young surface. The researchers have combined the fly-by photography into a movie sequence. You can have a look here. ® Related stories Cassini films Hyperion in orbit Say what you like about Saturn: its moons really have atmosphere Cassini finds two tiny Saturnian moons
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Jul 2005

File sharers 'spend more on music downloads'

Brits who share and download music illegally are also among the biggest spenders on legal downloads, UK-based market watcher The Leading Question (TLQ) claimed today. Active P2P users spend almost 4.5 times as much on legal music downloads as other music fans, a survey of more than 600 computer-using music fans conducted by TLQ revealed. According to the study, music fans who regularly share and download music illegally typically fork out £5.52 a month on legal downloads, compared to the £1.27 music fans who don't engage in such activity spend. This shouldn't come as a surprise. P2P users tend to be more broadly enthusiastic about technology than other groups, so it's no surprise that just as they were quick to try P2P, they will be as keen to sample new online services like iTunes. "The 2005 Speakerbox research clearly shows that music fans who break piracy laws are highly valuable customers," said TLQ director Paul Brindley. "It also points out that they are eager to adopt legitimate music services in the future." Maybe, but then they are also far less likely to spend money on CDs than the so-called "average music fan", with the effect that while they pay iTunes, Napster and co. more than other folk do, their overall spending on music is lower. That's certainly the worry of the music industry, as represented by the BPI, which cited other studies that show the majority of active music sharers and downloaders spend less than they used to. "Our concern is that file-sharers' expenditure on music overall is down, a fact borne out by study after study," a spokesman for the organisation said. "The consensus among independent research is that a third of illegal file-sharers may buy more music and around two thirds buy less. That two-thirds tends to include people who were the heaviest buyers which is why we need to continue our carrot and stick approach to the problem of illegal file-sharing." For the first six months of 2005, UK-based downloaders acquired 10m songs through legal download services, more than double the number bought in 2004. However, significantly larger volumes of tracks were exchanged on P2P networks. Some 158m songs were downloaded legally in the US during H1 2005, while CD sales fell seven per cent to 282.7m units - the equivalent of around 2380m downloads. "There's a myth that all illegal downloaders are mercenaries hell-bent on breaking the law in pursuit of free music," said Brindley. "In reality, they are often hardcore fans who are extremely enthusiastic about adopting paid-for services as long as they are suitably compelling." Mobile phones may be a case in point. Some 60 per cent of regular P2P users said they wanted to have an MP3 player on their phone, compared to 29 per cent of other music fans. However, the same study also revealed that only eight per cent of the 600 people surveyed said they plan to buy a music phone in the next 12 months, so clearly desire is not yet translating into demand. Some 33 per cent of respondents said they do plan to buy an iPod or some other dedicated MP3 player in that period. Around 38 per cent of the surveyed group expressed an interest in downloading full-length tracks direct to their mobiles, rising to over 50 per cent for those who are already downloading tracks to their computers. Still, only four per cent of respondents wanted more than 1000 songs worth of music to take with them. ® Related stories Global music download stats spill beans on subscriptions Worm wears iTunes guise Apple iTunes sells half a billion songs Oz music hyperlinker guilty of copyright infringement US legal music downloads up 187% MP3 is ten years old today Motorola 'to debut' iTunes phone at UK's V Festival
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2005

Internet has 'given Al Qaeda wings' claims BBC potboiler

Al Qaeda is now a "global brand driven by the power of the world wide web", and media-savvy cyberjihadis are manipulating the internet for training, recruitment and propaganda, according to the first of a three part series on The New al Qaeda broadcast on Monday 25th July) on BBC2. "The internet," says programme-maker Peter Taylor, "has given it wings." These apparent bombshells, however, appear to be based on a number of unremarkable discoveries, such as that terrorists have computers, that cheap video cameras allow them to film attacks and executions and distribute the results via the internet, and that there's stuff on the internet you might not like but can't necessarily get much of a lid on. Actually the tagline's pretty unremarkable as well, because al Qaeda is a global brand, and that brand is indeed "driven by the power of the internet." Among other things... But Taylor's sensationalised focus on the internet obscures the truth that al Qaeda has other lines of business we should probably be a little bit more concerned about, and his determination to find Al Qaeda connections to bit players merely constructs an electronic version of the simplistic analysis of al Qaeda as a hierarchical, controlling organisation. The reality is a lot more complex and dangerous than that, with even the US administration beginning to talk of the threat as "'Islamist extremism', not just al-Qaeda (see report). Journalists in particular will note the turns of phrase that serve to pep up Taylor's story. For example: a webmaster thought by MI5 to play "a key role in the internet war" controlled his operations from "powerful computers in his office at Imperial College" (translation - a man accused by the US of recruiting terrorists and fundraising did some admin on his site from Imperial College, where he was at the time). Or, a Lahore "computer expert" is "believed to be at the centre of al Qaeda's global operation". Or there's even the concerned amateur sleuth who "penetrated their networks" (i.e., she hung around on bulletin boards trying to catch terrorists - and succeeded, but more of her shortly). The core problem Taylor describes actually remains a problem after the hype is stripped off, but he ends up more as a propagandist for the wrong solutions than a provider of coherent analysis. Terrorists in Iraq can video an ambush, unleash it on the internet via a cybercafe ("There are cybercafes in Iraq! You can access high speed internet!") and then it spreads like wildfire across countless sites (using warez-style techniques, which is interesting, but unnoticed by the programme). Terrorist training manuals, bomb-making instructions and training videos can also be had on the internet, while sites promoting jihad encourage young people to take up arms and become suicide bombers. All of which is true (ish - we're not convinced about the high speed internet, particularly as the context of the quote is what US troops found when they went into Fallujah), but it's in trying to figure out what you do about it that you're likely to come unstuck. Taylor says, with copious supporting quotes, that the US is determined to "crack down on what it calls internet terror", and uses the case of Babar Ahmad (he of the powerful computers at Imperial College) as exhibit A. Ahmad's azzam.com is described in the programme as "the prototype of al Qaeda's internet operations". Ahmad himself is currently fighting extradition to the US on a string of charges, including "providing material support to terrorists" and "conspiracy to kill or injure persons in a foreign country". The evidence presented in the US indictment of Ahmad (some background and a link here) is actually sketchy. The most apparently damning is email correspondence with a US sailor serving in the Gulf, but while the traffic presented in the indictment appears to indicate some case against the serviceman, it doesn't establish one against Ahmad. We hold no brief for Ahmad, but the point to take away here is that the case for Ahmad's extradition is proceeding (by the terms of the currently one-sided US-UK extradition treaty) on the basis that we in the UK accept that the US Government has a case against Ahmad under US law, and that we are satisfied that he will receive fair justice if he is extradited there. Ahmad's defence points out that he has not been charged with terrorism offences under UK law (if evidence of incitement of a US serviceman existed, then the Terrorism Act 2000 could well apply), and it does not appear that the serviceman, although no longer in the US Navy, has been charged. Taylor fails to mention Ahmad's release without charge, presenting the matter instead as a continuous process from detention by UK authorities to US extradition, which smacks more than a little of selecting the facts to fit the story. And in portraying Ahmad as a major terrorism wheel, and calling his site "the prototype of al Qaeda's internet operations", Taylor would seem to be doing more than a little uncritical pre-judging. Of Taylor's other exhibits, one Shannen Rossmiller, amateur sleuth, is particularly interesting. Rossmiller is given a considerable amount of airtime on the basis of her having fingered a subversive in the US National Guard. But there are a couple of things the programme doesn't mention about the woman who "penetrated their networks". During the case, which was heard before a military tribunal, Rossmiller was reported as a city judge and "a member of 7-Seas.net, a global organization that tracks terrorist activity and provides the information to government and military officials." However, this was swiftly refined: "Under questioning and cross-examination, Rossmiller said she is a member of 7/Seas.net, a group of seven amateur 'counterintelligence' Web-surfing hobbyists tracking terrorist activity and providing information to the government. Its members include four in the United States, one in Australia, one in Indonesia and another in Canada, Rossmiller said." Which is perhaps a little less impressive. The domain name was registered to an address in Conrad, Montana, while Shannen Rossmiller lived in Conrad, Montana. Taylor says she is now at a secret address, under FBI protection, but weirdly, also says she is a magistrate in a small town in Montana. Rossmiller's penetration of terrorist networks amounted to hanging around a chat room, inciting a disturbed young man, and then arranging for him to incriminate himself to the FBI. Enemy within? Maybe. Shouldn't have been in the military? Certainly. But neither he nor Rossmiller were ever anywhere near Al Qaeda's terror internet, whatever that might be. Taylor, "blindfolded", is taken to the "secret address" of the SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) Institute in Philadelphia, to meet co-founder Rita Katz. Katz, who tells him that bin Laden has "an internet committee that has state of the art technology", is also something of a terrorist hunter, and has a book out with that very title. SITE, Taylor tells us, monitors terrorist video on behalf of the US Government. He doesn't tell us about the book, nor does he tell us about the libel action launched against Katz and CBS by a Georgia poultry company which claimed an excerpt from the book aired on 60 Minutes falsely accused it of illegal activities, including laundering money for terrorists. Two Saudi-backed muslim charities also launched actions. There being $80 million lawsuits around, we'll merely note that there would seem to be some dispute about who's a terrorist here, and swiftly move on. There probably is a worthwhile programme to be made about the internet's impact on terrorism, but this isn't it. Puffing up what are at most peripheral players and getting them to say scary things on camera certainly gets us viewers, but it doesn't get us anywhere constructive or informative. As you'd expect, the internet is kind of like other popular media in that people who want to get a message across are going to try to use it to maximum advantage, and these people are clearly going to include radicals, insurgents, revolutionaries and terrorists. Some of this you're not going to like, and some of it, as The New Al Qaeda does indicate, is sufficiently disliked by the US Government for it to want to stop it. How it's trying to stop it, whether it can succeed, and the extent to which it's going for the sewer while ignoring the sewage sound to us like the makings of an excellent programme. And as far as we can see, nobody's made it yet. ® Related sories: Feds move swiftly to exploit 7/7 UK police chiefs seek powers to attack terror websites Clarke 'lowers bar' on terror crime via web, writing, preaching
John Lettice, 27 Jul 2005

France Telecom buys Spanish cellco

France Telecom (FT) is shelling out €6.4bn for Spain's third largest mobile phone operator, the telco confirmed today. Amena has almsot 10 million punters - one in four of all mobile phone users in Spain - and operates in a country where experts predict future growth above the European average. Once the deal is completed Amena will be bolted on to FT's existing operation in Spain. Wanadoo - FT's ISP - has 1.4 million internet users including 500,000 broadband users. FT said the deal represented "an acceleration of the implementation of our strategy of an integrated European operator" and put the telco in "a position to offer convergent broadband and mobile services in a key European market with close to 10m additional customers". FT plans to bolt these operations together to provide a range of mobile, fixed and internet services to punters in Spain. It is also likely that the new operation will also be rebranded under the Orange name as part of FT's New Experience in Telecommunications (NExT) plan announcd last month. Said chief exec Didier Lombard in a statement: "The merger of France Telecom España and Amena confirms our strategy as an integrated European operator and allows us to accelerate the implementation of the NExT plan." ® Related stories Wanadoo to blow 200m on Orange name change Wanadoo brand to be scrapped France Telecom denies interest in C&W France raises 3.4bn with France Telecom sale France Telecom flees Mobilcom
Tim Richardson, 27 Jul 2005
globalisation

Granville Technology goes into administration

Granville Technology Group Ltd, owner of computer brands Time and Tiny, has gone into administration and most of its 1,600 staff are likely to lose their jobs. Grant Thornton is handling the wind-up or possible sale of the Burnley-based firm. The news follows weeks of speculation about the company's future. The beancounters - Andrew Hosking, Martin Ellis and Les Ross - have decided not to keep the company running as a going concern so all staff will be laid off. Time posted a profit of £2.5m on turnover of £207m in the year ended 30 June 2003, according to the last set of accounts it filed at Companies House. No accounts have been filed since but management accounts show losses of between £1m and £2m a month. The administrators blamed price deflation and a softening of consumer demand coupled with pressure from suppliers for the company's fate. The statement also says the administrators hope to keep customer support lines open and promises a future statement to explain how it will do this. They have also set up a help line for customers and creditors and people who have made recent orders but not received their goods. Call 0870 381 7097 if you fall into one of those categories. GMB union representative Graham Coxon told The Reg the union had been worried about the company for some time and Time laid off 40 staff last week. Time's 78 retail outlets - The Computer Shop - were closed yesterday after the bank stopped the company taking card payments. Staff had been hoping to return to work today.® Related stories Time shutters stores Tiny transforms into e-business WinXP Media Center PCs come to Europe
John Oates, 27 Jul 2005

Canal could cause earthquakes, Egypt warns

The head of the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has warned that a new canal linking the Red and Dead seas could increase the risk of an earthquake in the Middle East, saying that the project would lead to "strong seismic activity in the region". Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians have signed a joint agreement for a study of the construction of the canal, which would carry up to 850m tonnes of water every year from the Red sea to the Dead sea. It is designed to generate electricity for a desalination plant and provide water to cool Israel's nuclear reactors. It will also be used to top-up the water level in the Dead Sea, which is at risk of drying up, according to Israeli research. But Ahmed Ali Fadel, chairman of the SCA, said that the risk of triggering a seismic event was greater in the region because the Earth's crust is thinner in the Gulf of Aqaba than anywhere else, Reuters reports. Peter Sammonds, professor of geophysics at UCL, told us: "Large artificial reservoirs can trigger earthquakes by changing the stress in the crust. What could trigger an earthquake is not the canal or the rush of water, but a change in the level of the Dead Sea." Pumping water into the Dead Sea could also cause the wells in neighbouring countries to become saltier. You can read more about the region here. Related stories MOD greenlights wind farms NEC brings supercomputing crown back to Japan IBM unleashes Jurassic predator on Japan
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Jul 2005
cloud

Personal storage sites are a 'safe haven for hackers'

Websense, the employee management software outfit that's become best known for heaping FUD on emergent net technolgies, has found a new target. Hot on the heels of charecterising online storage sites as a conduit for industrial espionage and blogs as a host of malware it's decided to chastise personal web hosting sites as a "Safe Haven for Hackers". Since the beginning of 2005, Websense Security Labs has discovered more than 2,500 incidents of these websites distributing MMC, Trojan horses and keyloggers. The recently uncovered malware-harbouring sites (many in the UK or Brazil) include those available for hosting online journals, photo albums, greeting cards, music, sports 'fan' pages and online scrapbooks, among many other popular purposes. Websense doesn't try to balance incidents of security problems it has discovered against the wider use of the hosted web sites for their intended purposes. And why should it? After all the agenda here is to promote Websense Web Security Suite as a way of helping firms to control a wide range of computing habits. If Websense has its way, visiting personal web hosting sites would join the list of proscribed workplace Internet activities, including swapping files, instant messaging and online gaming as unacceptable security and liability risks. Many of these have been the subject of recent Websense surveys and, in fairness, the company has some valid points about legal liabilities, bandwidth management and security risks inherent in some of these activities. God forbid IT news sites should turn out to be next on their hit list - otherwise how will they get their scary messages out to the public.® Related stories Beware of toxic blogs Memory sticks are the latest security risk Websense wants to ban online gaming Personal storage sites are the latest security risk Your data is at risk - from everything
John Leyden, 27 Jul 2005

Microsoft cloaks Area 51

Black helicopter alertBlack helicopter alert We all know that Microsoft has a tentacle in just about every pie on the planet, but what exactly is Redmond's black ops department up to in Nevada? This chilling question arises because Microsoft's Virtual Earth has excised all satellite data of the legendary Area 51, leaving a great big grey void filled only with hundreds of hovering black helicopters: Google, on the other hand, offers this fine view of the Top Secret desert facility, famed for its alien post-mortems, flying saucers and general extraterrestrial shenanigans: Yup, if you look closely you can just make out what appears to be a heavily-disguised Steve Ballmer wheeling an alien corpse on a gurney from the wreckage of a fission-powered interplanetary craft. Either that or it's some bloke emptying the bins. Further analysis is clearly required. Until such time as the truth is known, we wonder what exactly MS has to gain from this cloak of invisibity. After all, the internet is chock-full of Area 51 info, maps and satellite images. Try this website, for example - a veritable cornucopia of conspiracy goodies. And while you peruse this invaluable online resource, keep one eye fixed firmly on the skies. The next unidentified flying object you spot may not be visitors from Alpha Centauri looking for a farm hand to anally probe, but rather the MS X-X-Box, an XP/SP2-controlled stealth vehicle constructed from mysterious yet improbably strong alien alloys and now offering a raft of new and indispensible features for the Office 2003 suite, including the ability to genetically alter Word documents at a sublinear level. ® Related stories Microsoft's Earth deletes Apple HQ Google spots Jesus in Peruvian sand dune Need a brothel? Ask Google
Lester Haines, 27 Jul 2005

WD readies 'most reliable' enterprise HDD

Western Digital will next month ship in volume what it claims is the most reliable enterprise-oriented Serial ATA hard drive. The 400GB WD Caviar RE2 is rated for a mean time between failure of 1.2m hours, the manufacturer said - and that's in "high duty-cycle environments", by which it means 100 per cent 24 x 7 operation. Like all of WD's enterprise-class drives, the new model is covered by a five-year warranty. The unit incorporates WD's Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF) mechanism, which compensates for the hazards of operating in vibration-prone environments such as multi-drive rack-mounted servers and NAS boxes. It also features WD's Time-Limited Error Recovery (TLER) system, a RAID-specific technique that "prevents drive fallout caused by the extended hard drive error-recovery processes common to desktop drives". It does so by co-ordinating error handling with the host's RAID controller. The four-platter drive spins at 7200rpm and incorporates 16MB of cache memory. It supports native command queuing. WD said it has an average seek time of 8.7ms. The average latency is 4.2ms. ® Related stories WD extends HDD warranty periods SDK claims world first for perpendicular HDD production Cornice readies 4GB 1in HDD Seagate pledges first 2.5in perpendicular HDD WD ships 300MBps SATA II drive Western Digital hops on 1in HDD bandwagon
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2005

First the terrorists, now the GOP. Why IT is against me

And ninethlyAnd ninethly We bought the son of a bitch and then he didn't stay bought - Henry Clay Frick Desperation doesn't begin to describe my state. When the first bombing blog hit on July 7, I ran to Emergency Chamber 3 with incredible speed. Sadly, I realized a number of essentials were not present in in the Chamber - an oversight from the last restocking. So, after already locking myself in, I had to wait out the 24-hour self-control, security time restraint, exit Emergency Chamber 3 and gather some goods with haste. I grabbed 14 bags of precut carrots, 80 gallons of water, a pint of glue, 15 bottles of Wild Turkey, a ham sandwich and 47 laptop batteries. Committed for the long haul? Oh yes. With 18 feet of reinforced steel meshed with concrete surrounding me on all sides and plenty of provisions, I assumed that waiting out the latest spate of terrorist attacks would require minimal personal sacrifice. The bad guys could only find me by following 2,769 feet of Ethernet cable woven in a maze-like fashion throughout the compound. Good luck. Over the next couple of days, things seemed to settle down. The eloquent Ben Charny described how Java saved Africa, which put all of our minds at ease. Then, however, Charny mutilated the shreds of confidence easing my mind by revealing that cellphones may well have triggered the bombs used in the attacks. Was technology working for us or against us? I couldn't tell and Charny didn't have any answers - pensive blogger that he is. Things didn't improve over the next week. The blog intelligentsia bombarded me with information on how to spot a terrorist, on how the mushy liberals were letting us down, and how the weak left wanted to crucify Karl Rove over a slip of the tongue. You would be accused of hideous understatement by calling me scared. We're talking sheer horror here and no amount of Jack Daniels or roasted duck assuaged my tremors. Then - out of nowhere - BANG! - the evil scum hit again. The bloggers confirmed my immediate suspicions. The world had gone insane. I curled up in a ball in the Serenity Zone of Emergency Chamber 3 and didn't move a muscle for three days. It was just me, a feeding tube, my fear and my urine. I pity the children scampering about the Great American Southwest who do not have a compound for protection. In other circumstances, I would invite the masses to suffer through this time with me in Emergency Chambers 2, 3, 6 and 9 - all of which are equipped for 21 day stays. Unfortunately, the corral at my compound is currently full of starving Apple zealots still recovering from my anti-iLemming program. There's nothing illegal going on, mind you, but explaining 3,000 emaciated freaks moaning about Steve Jobs to youngsters can be awkward. Trust me. So, I suffered alone for two and a half weeks, emerging only after my last laptop battery gave out. Have things improved? Not at all. The terrorists were bad enough, but now even our Republican elite has turned on the country. I watched last week as Dell continued to milk money out of North Carolina, lavishing itself with government and tax payer funds. This from my idols Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins who give thousands to Republican causes. Then HP CEO Mark Hurd - also a Republican giver - slashed thousands of US jobs, cut US worker benefits and opened up hundreds of posts in India, China, Taiwan and France. FRANCE!! And now Intel will build a factory in Arizona after playing different regions off each other and receiving government aid as well. Of all these moves, the Dell actions threaten to crush my spirit the most. What would Michael Dell have done if Texas had funded IBM's PC expansion in the state just as he dropped out of college to sell computers by the dozen? Where would my idol be if Texas had built roads and factories for Apple or Compaq? Wouldn't this be a photo of Michael getting ready to sell turkey legs at the Renaissance Festival instead of receiving an honorary degree? How can the American Dream thrive in this climate? How can our Republican leaders make making a buck so damned hard for the little guy? Despite his accomplishments, Andrew Carnegie will always be most remembered for punishing labor. Similarly, history will reflect most often on the monopoly charges and lawsuits that accompany Bill Gates. Surely, Michael Dell won't let the golden aura surrounding his name be tarnished by government handouts and forcing states to whore themselves out to capture a few hundred of his precious jobs. That's not the kind of behavior our Republican stalwarts need to exhibit right now. Technology shouldn't hurt us. The Rich should help others get Rich - it's the Republican way. I'm prepared to enter Emergency Chamber 16 - my 90 day facility - either in protest, for self-reflection or simply to maintain my sanity, if that's what it takes. It's either that or vomit every time a billionaire from the GOP accepts big government cash. But, damn, man, I only have so much puke to give. ® Otto Z. Stern is a director at The Institute of Technological Values - a think tank dedicated to a more moral digital age. He has closely monitored the IT industry's intersection with America's role as a world leader for thirty years. You can find Stern locked and loaded, corralling wounded iLemmings, spitting on Frenchmen, vomiting in fear with a life-sized cutout of Hilary Rosen at his solar-powered compound somewhere in the Great American Southwest. Related stories 'Think Again' camp opens for wounded Apple iLemmings Vive la France! cry Reg readers The French can spell 'Doom' When will RIAA's Rosen respond to Otto's love note? How Hilary Rosen learned to stop suing and hate Apple's iPod Sniping bloggers can keep America safe from terrorists and cats! Readers pour water on pro-smoke lobby Stern response to Otto's HP musings Blocking online cigarette sales threatens us all Why Fiorina wasn't the right man for the HP CEO post
Otto Z. Stern, 27 Jul 2005

Apple reappears outside Microsoft HQ

The mysterious disappearance of Apple's Cupertino headquarters from MSN's new map service led to a veritable landslide of emails. Some were kind enough to point out that MSN uses old satellite pictures taken before the Apple HQ was built. Some missed the joke and questioned our intelligence and parentage. We were also contacted by several concerned readers who had discovered their garages and even houses were missing from MSN maps. But one eagle-eyed observer went one better. Andrew Stanley, for it was him, spotted a mutant Apple logo just up the road from Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. The logo, while clearly Apple-shaped, has undergone some startling changes. It is not a happy Apple. To see it for yourself just type "Microsoft, Redmond" into Google Maps and then choose the satellite image option. The giant logo has been left out in a scruffy looking park and had a miserable grimace added to its face. Whether this was done by angry Microserfs or local kids is unclear at this stage. It could even be extreme marketing to make up for the disappearance of Apple headquarters. Thanks to Reg reader Andrew Stanley for pointing this one out.® Related stories Vanishing HQs, trendy hearing aids and buying Office 2003 Microsoft's Earth deletes Apple HQ MSN Virtual Earth
John Oates, 27 Jul 2005

iTunes emasculates Crazy Frog

There's some good news today for anyone who is not a great fan of Crazy Frog - iTunes across the pond has seen to it that the little bugger will not be able to reproduce, thereby sparing future generations his particular brand of amphibious merriment. Yup, Crazy Frog joined the US iTunes roster yesterday morning, but by the time he got off the plane in California, prudish WASP elements in Cupertino had chopped off the little guy's wedding tackle. On the right, is the unexpurgated Crazy Frog letting it all hang out in the UK. Of course, there was a bit of a rumpus in Middle England about CF's chopper, but the powers that be decided to let it pass on the grounds that it was no big deal. The photo demonstrates this quite nicely. Here, however, is the todger-free US version: Hmmm. What the puritan elements at iTunes appear to have missed, though, is that although CF is now without his cocktail sausage, he is sitting astride an enormous, red-tipped and rocket-propelled phallus. We feel a letter to the Times may be in order... ® Related stories Crazy Frog battered in net orgy of violence Regulators try to squash Crazy Frog German identifies cerebral penis control centre
Lester Haines, 27 Jul 2005

HP Photosmart 385 compact printer

ReviewReview When HP launched its portable PhotoSmart Printer range last year we were very impressed. The print quality was good, the portability great and the overall packages top notch. A year on and there's another model in the range, the 385. Does the new model add anything to the mix? asks Stuart Miles. On the surface nothing has changed, the model is virtually identical in shape and size to last year's release, and you'll be hard pushed to tell the difference. However, there have been changes. The biggest one is the ability to print panoramic shots using new HP paper stock, but you can also do much more with your images once they're in the printer's memory. As before, you can print borderless 6 x 4in (10 x 15cm) prints from a variety of memory card formats (Memory Stick, SD, MMC, xD and CompactFlash; Memory Stick Duo and Mini-SD are supported via an adaptor), a PictBridge-supporting camera, or a PC or Mac. The 385 also comes with a Bluetooth adapter for easy direct printing from Bluetooth=enabled camera phones and computers. The new printing option is the ability to choose to print a borderless three-picture panoramic image. The special paper, which measures 10 x 30cm, fits in the printer lengthways. As long as your final composite image is three shots wide or long, the 385 will happily churn it out. The results are very much like an APS panoramic shot, but the quality is much better because you're building the image from three shots rather than blowing up a single frame. To view your images, the 385 comes with a flip-up 6.4cm LCD. Here you can select photos to print as well as applying basic edits. Pictures can be magnified, cropped, placed in frames, rotated or brightness-adjusted. The printer will also remove red-eye and features HP real life adaptive lighting technology so you can improve you images all without using a PC. In practice, it's as easy as it sounds, and selecting and printing the images is very straightforward. The only real drawback we could find was the inability to print multiple copies of the same shot in one go - a curious omission. Print quality was very good and like previous models we've tested, it's as good as you would get from most professional labs. HP has also made the 385 compatible with its new grey ink cartridge meaning you can print true monochrome images rather than kludging it up from the standard three-colour cartridge. Verdict Like previous PhotoSmart models, the 385 is very good and performs well. Adding the optional battery pack makes it a truly portable device and the panoramic printing mode offers something new and different from other models on the market. We also liked the ability to edit our prints without the need for a computer. All in all this is a top-notch effort from HP, and if you are looking for a printer that can output borderless 6 x 4in (10x15cm) prints on the move, this one carries a strong recommendation. Review by HP Photosmart 385   Rating 90%   Pros Panoramic printing mode; portable; great print quality.   Cons Can't print mulitple copies of the same image.   Price £200   More info The HP PhotoSmart site Recent reviews Alienware Aurora Star Wars Edition gaming PC SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus USB/SD card Scan 3XS Hoojum CUBIT 5 media centre system OQO Model 01 handheld PC Palm LifeDrive Mobile Manager O2 XM music phone Orange SPV M500 smart phone
Pocket Lint, 27 Jul 2005

Pretec ships 'world's most capacious' SD card

Pretec will next month begin mass production of what the company claims is the world's first 4GB SD card. But anyone looking to load up their digital camera, PDA or music player with a memory card offering an HDD-sized storage capacity is going to find they don't come cheap. The 4GB SD card provides data access speed of 20MBps, making it the world's fastest card compatible with the SD 1.1 specification, Pretec said. SD 1.1-supporting devices are few and far between, but the Pretec card will work with SD 1.0 devices, but the read performance will drop down to the standard 10MBps. The card is produced using two 16Gb SLC NAND Flash chips, both fabbed at 65nm. Pretec also introduced today a 2GB memory card based on the MultiMedia Card 4 specification, aka MMC Plus. Again, MMC 4-supporting devices are extremely rare, but Pretec said it was confident enough devices are currently being designed with the new spec in mind. The MMC 4 part provides data transfer rates of up to double that of the SD 1.1 card. Pretec didn't say how much it's asking for the 2GB MMC 4 card, but the 4GB SD card, which is sampling now ahead of mass production next month, currently costs $699 a pop. ® Related stories TransFlash becomes MicroSD Related review SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus USB/SD card Neuros MPEG 4 Recorder
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2005

Hecklers disrupt O2 AGM

O2's shareholder meeting descended into chaos today as workers tried to quiz execs over pay. Hecklers chanted "fat cat" as senior execs spoke to shareholders at the meeting in Reading. The Communications Workers Union (CWU) - which picketed today's meeting as part of its demands for increased wages for its members - reported that employee shareholders were not allowed to ask questions. In some cases the microphone was switched off mid-sentence. Some small shareholders were so upset by events they walked out in disgust. O2 blamed a "hardcore" group of union members for the raucous meeting. A spokesman for O2 told us: "The CWU said they would disrupt the meeting and they did. This was regrettable and a number of small shareholders walked out because of the hecklers." Earlier the CWU had said that O2 employees were banned from attending today's meeting - something denied by O2. ® Related stories O2 workers barred from AGM, says CWU Bubbly O2 reduces churn O2 wins £390m ambulance deal O2 workers set to strike over pay O2 sponsors white elephant O2 goes down the pan O2 and EasyAir avoid High Court spat 200 IT workers face O2 axe CWU 'shocked and dismayed' at O2 job losses
Tim Richardson, 27 Jul 2005

NASA investigates falling debris

NASA is investigating the possibility that two pieces of debris fell from the Shuttle Discovery during its launch yesterday. The space agency says it also looks like the craft hit a bird in the very early stages of its journey to space. One piece of debris appears to have affected a heatshield tile on the underside of the craft. Video footage of the launch shows what looks like a tile falling away from the Shuttle. A white patch was left behind when the object fell away, but mission controllers say it could be damage to the black covering, and that the heatshield itself could still be intact. Discovery is the first Shuttle to fly since the loss of the Columbia in March 2003. Falling debris is thought to have damaged Columbia on lift-off, ultimately leading to its breakup as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. All crew on board were lost. Thanks to safety modifications made to the Shuttle since the disaster, the crew will now be able to inspect the exterior of the Shuttle using a battery of sensors on the end of a 50ft-long robotic arm. The inspection will take place over the course of several hours on flight day three, NASA said. ® Related stories Shuttle actually lifts off Shuttle: no launch this week, engineers still baffled Shuttle grounded
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Jul 2005

'Pentagon hacker' McKinnon fights extradition

A Briton accused of hacking into numerous Pentagon and NASA computers began his fight against extradition today. Gary McKinnon (AKA Solo), 39, of Wood Green, north London, allegedly hacked into 97 military and NASA computers over a 12 month period from February 2001 until March 2002, causing an estimated $700,000 (£370,000) in damages. McKinnon allegedly exploited poorly-secured Windows systems to attack networks run by NASA, the Pentagon and 12 other military installations scattered over 14 states. The unemployed sysadmin was arrested in March 2002 by UK police prior to a November 2002 indictment by a Federal Grand Jury over eight computer crime offences. US authorities are seeking to extradite McKinnon, who faces charges punishable by up to 80 years in jail if convicted. McKinnon is contesting the extradition arguing through his lawyers that he ought to be tried in the UK. At a hearing at London's Bow Street Magistrates' Court on Wednesday (27 July) prosecutors detailed (and updated) allegations that McKinnon seized control of over 53 US Army computers, 26 US Navy computers, 16 NASA systems, one US DoD computer and one US Air Force computer. Mark Summers, representing the US government, said McKinnon mounted an attack in February 2002 that shut down Internet access to 2,000 military computers in the Washington area for 24 hours. McKinnon is accused of scanning networks for vulnerabilities and extracting admin accounts and passwords prior to using a software program called RemotelyAnywhere to snoop on network traffic, install hacking software and delete system logs. These actions led to the collapse of the Washington-area network. He admitted leaving a note on one US Army computers that said: "US foreign policy is akin to government sponsored terrorism these days... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels." "The defendant's conduct was intentional. His objective was to disrupt the operation of the US government... thus endangering public safety," Sommers told the court. Despite the seriousness of the alleged attacks, US authorities are keen to stress no classified information was obtained through the year long assaults. Authorities reckon McKinnon acted alone and are not attributing his alleged crimes to any terrorist motive. The defence asked for time to obtain expert opinion from a US legal experts and the case was adjourned until Tuesday 18 October. McKinnon's bail was extended on condition that he make no attempt to apply for international travel documents or to use a computer connected to the internet. District Judge Nicholas Evans relaxed a requirement to report to his local police station every day so that he only has to attend twice a week. Karen Todner, McKinnon's solicitor, argued that as a Briton her client ought to be tried in the UK. In a prepared statement delivered outside court she criticised the delay between McKinnon's initial arrest and the start of extradition proceedings. "Gary McKinnon continues to vigorously contest extradition which was only belatedly requested by the US government. The British public need to ask themselves why British citizens are being extradited to the USA when the US government has not ratified the extradition treaty between the two countries," she said. McKinnon, smartly dressed in a green suit, remained attentive throughout the proceedings and didn't betray any of the signs of nerves normally associated with defendants in high profile computer crime cases. He was supported in court by family and friends who ushered him into a waiting taxi bypassing requests to pose for photos made by the media. A number of websites have sprung up to support McKinnon's cause, the most comprehensive and organised of which is run by our friends at Spyblog (here). ® Related stories McKinnon warns off fledgling hackers as hearing looms Leave hacker scum to rot, says MP Pentagon über-hacker rap sheet spills attack details Brit charged with hacking Pentagon, NASA Accused Pentagon Hacker's Online Life Pentagon hacker Analyzer pleads guilty
John Leyden, 27 Jul 2005
cable

Japan crafts 6-year plan to clobber US supercomputers

Japan has again upped the rhetoric in the supercomputer wars, saying it has every intention of outclassing US systems by spending $714m to create a new giant. Reports from Japan have the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology pledging to fund a 10 petaflop machine. A system of that power would be 73 times faster than an IBM Blue Gene system currently heading the Top 500 list of supercomputers. The Japanese system, however, won't likely be ready until 2010 or 2011. While it may seem like a rather superficial measuring contest, supercomputer battles are taken quite seriously by the US and Japan. The two countries have been the only ones with enough cash, expertise and pride to battle for the supercomputer champ title. Many see such systems as an indication of a country's technical prowess. Japan shocked US system makers with the Earth Simulator released in 2002. That box dominated the Top 500 list until IBM's Blue Gene came on the scene in 2004. IBM took 5 out of the top 10 spots on the most recent list with Blue Gene systems, which use thousands of low-power chips to crank through calculations. Earth Simulator has fallen to fourth place. A system 73 times faster than BlueGene would be impressive. IBM, however, isn't standing still and would likely be able to match the planned Japanese box by 2010. Governments around the world fund supercomputer projects, hoping to gain access to systems that can model weather, weapons and the reaction of medicine with the body among many other tasks. The computers are so specialized and expensive that the public funds are really necessary to keep the vendors interested. ® Related stories Dutch build giant cluster telescope IBM to double down on Power workhorse by year end IBM and Intel punish supercomputing rivals IBM sells itself big box Swiss neurologists to model the brain
Ashlee Vance, 27 Jul 2005
channel

SigmaTel snaps up Rio MP3 technology, engineers

Rio, the erstwhile giant of the portable MP3 player market, is to become little more than a name after current owner D&M Holdings admitted yesterday its has sold the loss-making division's intellectual property, and technology and engineering resources to MP3 chip maker SigmaTel. The financial terms underpinning the deal were not disclosed, but D&M described it as an "attractive offer" which will, in part, yield an exeptional item of $7m to D&M's Q2 FY2005 results. D&M - which is best known for its Denon and Marantz hi-fi brands - has been trying to reduce the money its Rio division was losing for some time. The deal allows it to focus its product development efforts on the user-level elements, relying on SigmaTel to handle the core technologies. Because of its size and focus, SigmaTel is better able to deal with the cost of developing those technologies than Rio is. SigmaTel was already supplying device controller chips to Rio. It provides similar products to other companies, such as Samsung and Creative, and so they too will be able to benefit from the technology SigmaTel has acquired. But since D&M has been granted a "no-fee, grant-back" licence, presumably they will pay more for products containing Rio-derived technology than D&M will - provided it continues to buy SigmaTel chips, of course. D&M said it was still "examining additional strategic options for Rio". Rio was originally an off-shoot of Diamond Multimedia, which in 1999 merged with S3 Graphics. S3 sold off the graphics chip business to Taiwan's VIA, so it effectively became Diamond Multimedia again in all but name. In 2000, it became SonicBlue and went on to acquire TiVo rival ReplayTV. It was eventually sued by the TV industry for incorporating ad-zapping technology, which ultimately led, in 2003, to a Chapter 11 filing. Rio and ReplayTV were sold to Digital Networks, part of D&M, in April of that year. During its short life, SonicBlue also acquired our old chums at UK in-car Linux-based MP3 hardware developer Empeg, who went on to become Rio's audio software team. Presumably, they too will now become SigmaTel employees. ® Related stories MP3 is ten years old today Apple faces iPod, iTunes patent violation claims 'iPod Flash chip partner' hikes Q4 sales forecast Creative declares 'war' on Apple's iPod
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2005
SGI logo hardware close-up

Red Hat holes less severe than Windows - study

Red Hat is making hay from a report on system security vulnerabilities that apparently gives Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) a clean bill of health. A SANS Institute report has identified 20 top internet vulnerabilities of which only two affected RHEL, Red Hat said. According to Red Hat, patches have already been issued via the Red Hat network. Red Hat claimed the report proves RHEL subscribers were less susceptible to network security holes than users of other platforms. The statement, though, is apparently a riposte to studies backed by Microsoft, designed to “prove” Windows is more secure than Linux and offers better performance, that involved RHEL. A Security Innovation (SI) study published in June and a VeriTest report in April specifically pitted Windows Server 2003 and SQL Sever 2003 against RHEL running MySQL and Oracle 10g, in the SI study, for both security and performance. Mike Nash, Microsoft's security business and technology unit corporate vice president, recently drew on the SI study to dis' MySQL and Oracle 10g on RHEL, saying: "Unbreakable? I think not," in a reference to Oracle's "Unbreakable Linux" campaign. Coming back at Microsoft, Red Hat said Wednesday the SANS Institute report showed “relatively few" critical issues affect Linux users. "There are many research reports that try to compare the number of vulnerabilities between Linux and other operating systems, but none take into account the severity of the issues," Red Hat said. SANS Institute said this quarter's six most critical vulnerabilities affected Internet Explorer (IE), Exchange Server, Windows Message Queuing Server, Windows SMB protocol processing, Windows HTML help file parsing and Windows shell remote code execution. Away from the Microsoft-Red Hat match, SANS Institute pointed to a "particularly worrisome" trend in vulnerabilities in data back-up products and cited vulnerabilities in Computer Associates' BrightStor ARCServe and Veritas Backup software. "Unfortunately, [storage] products have become easy targets for attackers and since they have access to substantially all data, the products' weakness create real danger," SANS Institute said. [Veritas hooked up with Symantec just in the nick of time, ey? - Ed.] Home users also face heightened risk of attack, thanks to new holes in iTunes, RealPlayer and IE. RealNetworks' RealPlayer suffered multiple vulnerabilities while iTunes suffered from an MPEG4 file-processing overflow, SANS Institute said.® Related stories Longhorn following Unix on security? Firefox update fixes stability glitches Worm wears iTunes guise MS probes Win XP SP2 kernel bug Warning over unpatched IE bug
Gavin Clarke, 27 Jul 2005

PGP inventor to debut VoIP crypto

Phil Zimmerman, inventor of Pretty Good Privacy cryptography, will unveil a prototype of his new privacy software for net phone calls this week. Unlike PGP however, it doesn't use a PKI (public key infrastructure). It's based on the open source Shtoom VoIP client software, Zimmerman told CNET, and he hopes to have working software available next year. As with PGP, he hopes to found a start-up to develop and license the software. Zimmerman published PGP in June 1991 and spent much of the 1990s being hauled through the courts in an ultimately successful attempt to prevail against a US government lawsuit. PGP source code was a munition, claimed the government, and it prevented him leaving the US for three years. Network Associates eventually bought PGP Inc in 1997 and went on to release a suite of attractive and professional products for both Windows and the Mac. (Zimmerman is a veteran Mac guy). After NAI abandoned the software in 2002, PGP Corporation was founded to buy the software back. Zimmerman sits on the company's advisory board. ® Related stories Security for the paranoid PGP goes the whole hog of encryption PGP reborn makes its pitch for the mainstream PGP is back!
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Jul 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

University bans iPod adverts

In case you had any doubts, ladies and gentleman, your children are truly up for sale, and you're paying tens of thousands of dollars to put them on the market. That's what we learned this week from the University of Washington, which has struck a broad music rental deal with Napster and Dell. Dogged reporter Kayla Webley of The Daily pressured UW, Dell and Napster to release the financial details of their agreement. Napster has so far banned schools from revealing such information. UW, however, is a publicly funded school and was forced to disclose the data by open records laws. Napster typically charges customers between $10 and $15 per month to rent music from its service. Customers must pay extra to obtain permanent downloads of songs. As you'll see though, the schools receive massive discounts. UW, for example, will pay Napster $24,000 for 8 months of its service. Napster is charging just $2 per student for 1,500 students. As part of the promotional partnership, Dell will also chip in $24,000 for another 1,500 kids. Then, Dell will deliver $53,000 worth of servers at no charge to the school, the student paper reported. But here's the real rub. "Under the provisions the University must exclusively promote the Dell branded DJ, secure two Dell kiosks on campus to feature Dell products and services, facilitate a Dell launch event in the back-to-school timeframe, host Dell information on the UW website, execute an email campaign and participate in a case study," The Daily reported. So students have been put on a music meat market where they're being force fed a service that doesn't work with Mac OS X, Linux or even older versions of Windows and that doesn't work with the leading MP3 player. Instead, the kids will have to listen to a sales pitch for Dell's embarrassing device and nothing else. It's no secret that Napster's college deals reek of dot-com business model madness. At the University of Rochester, for example, students recoiled against Napster, showing their disaffection for the service by not buying a single song from it. The damaging social undercurrents of such deals have also been well publicized. Thankfully, UW has some real brains on its side. It will pay for the Napster service by selling royalties to software and other technology developed by the school to various companies. Er, here's guessing Dell needs a new calculator app. Hopefully, you parents don't mind paying for your children to appear in a Dell commercial. After all, they are learning a valuable lesson about renting music that's sure to last them a lifetime. There's more on this shocker here. ® Related stories Dell sucks another $7m out of North Carolina Students refuse to buy a single song from Napster Napster, Dell cash-in on student DRM tax
Ashlee Vance, 27 Jul 2005

Sprint doubles profits in Q2

Sprint more than doubled its profits in the three month period ending in June 30, posting net income of $600m on revenues of $7.1bn. That's up from $236m in net income and $6.87bn respectively in the corresponding quarter last year. The telco's wireless division more than compensated for losses in Sprint's local and long distance wireline divisions. Wireless brought home a $625m operating income on revenues of $4.04bn. In third place in the domestic cellular market, and preparing to swallow rival Nextel, Sprint has 26.6m subscribers,using its network, up 20 per cent from a year ago. 4.4m of these subscribe to Sprint's MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) and 3.3m to affiliates. Sprint added 588,000 net cellular subscribers in the period, rather less than Cingular or Verizon, for which it blamed the higher deposit requirements it had introduced. 187,000 of these punters came from MVNOs, of which Disney is the most high profile recent addition. Sprint's churn is higher than the two leading contenders at 2.2pc, but it's trending in the right direction: downwards. However, Sprint earns more per subscriber: with a monthly ARPU (average revenue per user) of $62, compared to Verizon's $49.42 and Cingular's $50.75. Sprint says 7m PCS customers subscribe to a data service, adding $6.50 to the monthly ARPU. Long distance voice and data, and local voice all saw year-on-year revenue declines, although local data (ie, DSL and special access) grew by 17pc to $240m. Sprint has already earmarked the local division for a spin-off after the proposed Nextel merger is consumated. Sprint followed the trend of cutting its pensions oblgations to trim expenses. ® Related stories Verizon closes in on Cingular EA signs Verizon, Sprint for mobile games Sprint delivers on 3G splurge Cingular's indigestion could be worse Sprint silences another RICO critic
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Jul 2005