2nd > September > 2005 Archive
The iPod's global popularity has been revealed as an agent of environmental destruction in which the entire country of New Zealand was only saved by a quick-thinking owner and his freezer cabinet. A report on the Pestnet discussion forum, where people in the Pacific region gather to discuss, well, pests, reveals that an innocent Kiwi returning from Fiji to New Zealand bought an iPod in a duty-free zone at the homebound airport. What he didn't know until he got home was that the packaging was infested with Monomorium destructor, aka Singapore ants. The trouble with M. destructor is that besides being a stinging ant (though not particularly dangerous to humans), it's also a serious pest because it builds large colonies in homes and other buildings. The worker ants prey on other insects and can chew holes in fabrics, plastics and rubber goods, including the insulation of telephone or electrical wires. "We're talking bad dude ants here," commented Adam C. Engst of tidbits.com, who first spotted the story. (See more about these evil things here - there's also a photo in case one tries to mug you). New Zealand, by contrast, is a country whose economy relies on making food and commodities, and so has very, very tight rules to prevent non-indigenous species being imported by whatever means. (Its airports' sniffer dogs are more concerned with searching for food and fruit than drugs.) When the (unnamed) owner of the iPod discovered the product's packaging seemed too lively, he got in touch with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which hit on a scheme that would kill the ants yet, with luck, not the iPod: put them in the freezer overnight. The low temperatures would kill them. The iPod - and this is where you get the "aah, happy ending" bit - did indeed work afterwards (as the iPod can survive the -20C of a freezer, while ants can't). So with disaster averted, the only remaining question is: where did the ants get into the packaging? Any iPod buyer knows they come shrink-wrapped, so either the ants chewed through the plastic in the airport in Fiji, or got on board before the shrink-wrap came on, during manufacture in the Far East. We got in touch with Bob Macfarlane, of New Zealand's MAF, who posted the information to Pestnet, but he said there were no further details. But on reflection, it might provide an alternative explanation to what's got into those iPod dancers... were they filmed in Fiji?
Philips is to launch a cordless home videophone designed for making live video and Voice over IP calls via broadband Internet. The Philips VP5500 cordless videophone, announced yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show IFA in Berlin, will be available in the fourth quarter of 2005. The VP5500 looks like a type of DECT phone, but works by sending and receiving wifi-signals to and from an ADSL or cable modem. The phone, which cannot be used for regular GSM calls, has an integrated VGA video camera capable of rotating through 240-degrees so that users can see what they are filming. The Privacy Cam Key ensures privacy, and users can easily select between just voice or video calling. The camera can also zoom in and capture still images which are stored, along with phone numbers in the internal memory. Video calls are displayed on a high-resolution colour LCD display, which also enables the caller to see what he or she is capturing on camera. To share the video conversation with a wider audience, the phone can be linked up to a TV. The videophone even has a built-in hands-free speaker system. Philips and KPN Telecom will launch the videophone this Autumn in the Netherlands as part of a consumer product called InternetPlusBellen (InternetPlusCalling). This package offers customers unlimited phone calls to all fixed phone numbers in the Netherlands as well as unlimited internet ADSL access. In other countries the product will be available during 2006. Philips intends to partner with third party operators in most European countries.
In a spectacular example of an organisation lining its excuses up early, NASA is already laying the groundwork for a further delay to a March 2006 Shuttle launch. The explanation, naturally, is Hurricane Katrina. It seems the pesky storm damaged a couple of NASA's storage facilities on the Gulf Coast: the Michoud Assembly Facility, located to the east of New Orleans and the Stennis Space Center, near Bay St. Louis. NASA says buildings at Michoud suffered damaged roofs and have some water leaks, but nonetheless weathered the storm well, compared to nearby areas. Neither facility took heavy damage, but are likely to remain closed for the foreseeable future. So why the delay to the launch? Well, according to The Herald, a local paper covering Bradenton, Manatee and Sarasota, four of Shuttle's newly redesigned tanks are stored at the Michoud facility. To meet the March 2006 launch window, those tanks need to be on their way to Kennedy Space Center by the middle of November. And they would have been travelling by barge. With the facilities closed, and the clean-up operation in the area yet to begin, it seems unlikely that the tanks will be on the move in time. NASA's next launch window is not until May 2006. ®
The first results from a new GP payment system were launched today, and were hailed by government spin doctors as "the world's most comprehensive database" on tracking and managing common chronic diseases. The "world's best database" claim is based on the way money is being allocated to doctors' surgeries. A practice can score points (which eventually translate to cash) according to how well it does against a range of indicators: for example, how many heart disease patients have also had flu jabs? Because the information can effectively be traded for money - an average sized practice scoring around 90 per cent will get a cash boost of almost £75,000 - GPs have a big incentive to track the treatments offered and dispensed. The more services offered, the more points a practice can qualify for. The plan is that over time, the government will be able to use this data to focus resources where they are most needed, targeting patients particularly at risk. Health Minister Lord Warner said that in future the NHS will be able to map populations with debilitating conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. "As the database builds up it will allow us to focus resources and plan services appropriately to help us tackle health inequalities," he added. ®
Skype, the Internet telephony software firm, has signed its first agreement with a mobile telecoms operator, taking its low-cost services beyond the desktop and on the road. Skype will next month deliver flat-rate services to E-Plus, Germany's third largest mobile operator - E-Plus has 9.8 million subscribers. Skype said it is also working with handset manufacturers, including Motorola, to offer its services on devices. The landmark deal will give E-Plus users access to fixed rate mobile internet access for €39.95 per month and free Skype voice over IP (VoIP) calling. Skype's chief executive, Niklas Zennstorm, said the deal brings the "value and convenience" of Skype's global internet communications experience to millions of mobile phone subscribers. E-Plus said Skype enables its to deliver the advantages of mobile and stationary internet access. E-Plus will expand Skype's existing worldwide subscriber base of 52 million, and comes as Microsoft this week took its first steps to rein-in two-year old Skype. Microsoft bought privately held Teleo, with plans to integrate Teleo's service into Outlook and Internet Explorer for "click-to-call dialing" and to supplement VoIP in MSN Messenger. Teleo's eponymous service is currently in beta. And last week, Google signalled its intention to become an internet phone-call player, with the beta release of GoogleTalk, a VoIP /instant messenger client. ®
Norway's best known IT export, DVD Jon, has hacked encryption coding in Microsoft's Windows Media Player, opening up content broadcast for the multimedia player to alternative devices on multiple platforms. Jon Lech Johansen has reverse engineered a proprietary algorithm, which is used to wrap Media Player NSC files and ostensibly protect them from hackers sniffing for the media's source IP address, port or stream format. He has also made a decoder available. Johansen doesn't believe there is a good reason to keep the NSC files encrypted, because once you open the file with Media Player to start viewing the stream, the IP address and port can be revealed by running the netstat network utility that is included with most operating systems. The hacker hopes his move will make content streamed to Media Player more widely available to users of alternative players on non-Windows platforms. Johansen achieved notoriety when he was tried and re-tried in a Norwegian court for creating a utility that enabled him to play DVDs on his Linux PC. Prosecutors, acting in the interests of the beloved US Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), argued he had acted illegally by distributing his DeCSS tool to others via the internet. This, the prosecution, claimed, made it easier to pirate DVDs. However, the court ruled in his favor, saying he had not broken the law in bypassing DVD scrambling codes that had stopped him from using his PC to play back DVDs. Earlier this year Johansen developed a work around to bypass digital rights management (DRM) technology in Apple Computer's iTunes. His latest hack was done to make Media Player content available to the open source VideoLAN Client (VLC) streaming media player. VLC is available for download to 12 different operating systems and Linux distributions and has seen more than six million downloads to Mac. Apple is even pre-loading VLC on some Macs destined for high schools in Florida. Johansen told The Register he'd acted following requests for NSC support in VLC. One developer is already hard at work integrating Johansen's decoder into the VLC. Johansen said: "Windows Media Player is not very good and Windows and Mac users should not be forced to use it to view such [NSC] streams." The NSC file contains information about the stream, such as the name and address of the stream server. When the file is opened in Media Player, the file is decoded and then connected to the stream server specified. Johansen said claims made by companies like Cisco Systems, who ship products with NSC support, that the encoding he cracked protects the media don't make much sense. "It's more likely that the purpose is to prevent competing media players from supporting the NSC format," he observed. ®
Over five million Britons now work remotely from home, according to a new study. Research from internet analysts Point Topic found 4.3 million households, or 18 per cent of all homes across the UK, in which someone is working from home. Overall, 5.4 million individuals work from home, 70 per cent of whom use the internet as their chief tool. According to the survey, most home workers are self-employed and likely to be men between ages 25 and 54 with families, situated in a suburb of London or another prosperous town. London and the South East had the highest concentration of remote workers, while Wales, the North West and Yorkshire recorded the lowest numbers. Home workers generally fell into three categories: freelancers, teleworkers and those running small businesses from home. These groups tend to be more knowledgeable about IT issues and conscious of potential security concerns, researchers found. On average, remote staff spend almost double on security measures for their IT equipment than non-home workers. Copyright © 2005,
AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel Intel has filed its response to AMD's antitrust allegations and, unsurprisingly, has denied them. It claimed its business practices "are both fair and lawful". In essence, the chip giant says that while it has distributed money to its customers to help fund those company's own marketing programmes, it has never attached conditions that go beyond the limits of acceptable competitive behaviour. “The decision whether to purchase from AMD, and in what quantity, is made by these customers without coercion or anticompetitive conditions,” Intel said. The chip maker denied specific claims that it paid money to Gateway, Sony, NEC and others and that its executives threatened both PC vendors and channel partners with harsh measures if they purchased AMD products. Moving onto the offensive, Intel described AMD's lawsuit as a "shield" intended to protect the smaller company from its larger rival's ability to reduce prices. “AMD’s colorful language and fanciful claims cannot obscure AMD’s goal of shielding AMD from price competition,” Intel maintained. "AMD seeks to impede Intel's ability to lower prices and thereby to allow AMD to charge higher prices." AMD's position in the market arises not from Intel's behaviour, the chip giant said, but from its own inability to produce sufficient processors to meet demand. It contrasted its own global network of fabs with AMD's single processor-production operation in Dresden, Germany and a separate, Flash memory plant in Austin, Texas. Intel said it show the court that the size of AMD's share of the x86 chip market arises from the smaller company's own business decisions - not from anti-competitive behaviour on Intel's part. "AMD's choices and behaviors with respect to core principles [production, product and price] over the period covered by the complaint provide a compelling answer to the allegations it has made in this case," Intel said. "The facts of illegal monopoly abuse are clear and undeniable,” said Thomas McCoy, AMD's executive VP for legal affairs and the company's chief administrative officer, in a statement. “We look forward to presenting our evidence in front of the entire industry and the entire world. Let’s put the truth on the table and let the court decide.” ®
Gary Barrett, ComputerLand UK's IT services director, has resigned with immediate effect, the Nottingham-based reseller said today. Barrett, who joined the company from ATOS Origin, lasted just 13 months in the job. In a separate trading statement today, Computerland UK warned that growing sales and profits from its services business would fail to compensate for a continuing decline in product sales - computer hardware and packaged software licences, in other words. "As a result, we now expect profits forthe year as a whole to be below market expectations," it said. In June, founder and chairman Graham Gilbert acclaimed a good set of results, against a "background of severe price deflation and margin erosion in our product reselling business". ®
Authorities in the Netherlands are turning to technology to keep the nation’s soccer hooligans in check. ADT Holland is working with the country’s Department of Justice on a voice recognition system that will call hooligans on their home phones to ensure they are complying with match day stadium bans. Voice verification technology supplied by Israeli firm Dmatek Ltd will ensure that the nefarious Netherlanders are indeed watching the game from the sofa instead the terraces and wielding nothing more lethal than a warm frikadel. The system is clearly fool-proof as long as the strategy also includes a ban on marketing call forwarding technology to anyone with a conviction for violent disorder. Meanwhile a number of Dutch football hooligans have turned themselves in after police sent 17,000 text messages to the phones of fans who had attended one particularly fractious game earlier this year. The police were only looking for information from potential witnesses to rioting before during and after the game back in April. However, some of the recipients felt the hi-tech appeal showed they were close to having their collars felt, so they put their hands up and surrendered to police. Mmm, maybe a computer generated phone call will be enough to keep Amsterdam’s streets aggro free after all. ®
Ofcom has launched an official investigation into broadband ISP Bulldog after receiving hundreds of complaints from customers. The regulator said today it would probe complaints about billing and the way the ISP handled customers' complaints. In a statement Ofcom said: "Ofcom has opened an investigation to consider whether Bulldog has contravened General Condition 11.1, which prohibits Communications Providers from billing customers for services that have not been provided. "Ofcom will also investigate whether Bulldog has contravened General Condition 14.2, which requires Communications Providers to establish and maintain complaints-handling procedures that conform to a Code of Practice. "The opening of this investigation follows the receipt of a number of consumer complaints about these issues, including complaints referred via the Bulldog Action Group, a consumer representation group." Over the last couple of months The Register has received an unprecedented number of complaints about Bulldog with customers telling how they've been left without phone and broadband services and have been wrongly billed. The sheer volume of complaints suggested that there were serious problems at the ISP. Consumers' frustration has been compounded by difficulties contacting the Cable & Wireless (C&W)-owned company and getting their complaints resolved. A spokesman for C&W told us that the offer from Bulldog had proved popular with consumers but he acknowledged that the ISP had experienced problems over the summer. Although Bulldog is "close to resolving most of the issues" the ISP will "co-operate with the Ofcom investigation", he said. In July C&W chairman Richard Lapthorne appeared to blame BT for some of its problems claiming that "in the area of provisioning in particular, the level of service remains inconsistent as we work with BT - after their relatively recent introduction of automated procedures - to enhance the quality and accuracy with which telephone lines are transferred to the Bulldog network". This, though, was rejected by BT which said that it holds daily face-to-face meetings with Bulldog and that this was the first time that the ISP has brought up these concerns.®
FoTWFoTW Our story yesterday on the heroic battle of New Orleans hosting outfit directNIC.com - still operating from the city's business district despite the growing pandemonium - provoked a mixed mailbag ranging from admiration to horrified disbelief. One missive, though, caught us a bit by surprise. Take it away "Ryan": This ISP is barely hanging on and posts publically that they have hardly any bandwidth left and you give everyone a link to download a live feed from their website. What kind of moron are you? You can thank yourself from destroying all the efforts of these poor people trying to stay afloat.... Idiot. Hmmm. We'd never considered bandwidth a vital emergency resource like drinking water or medical supplies. Still, it appears that our stupidity in linking from an IT news site to another website for the benefit of of our readers has dismally failed to result in directNIC.com sinking without trace. The drama continues to unfold here. However, if it is bandwidth the people of New Orleans need, they can still avail themselves of T-Mobile's free wi-fi offer (until today we gather, then subject to review) - if they can find a hotspot not submerged, or looted, or both. Presumably, a quick email to George Bush would be the first priority: "Dear George, those morons at The Register have brought the city to its knees. Please send bandwidth asap. Oh yes, and water, food, shelter, medicine and rescue choppers, if you have any lying around. Thanks, and have a nice day." ®
Episode 26Episode 26 It appears that the Boss isn't happy. For some reason the Online Electronic Document Storage project he inherited from his predecessor is somewhat behind schedule and all fingers seem to be pointing at the PFY and I as the source of the delay. I use the ruse of urgent lift maintenance as an excuse for the PFY and I to avoid the problem for a day, knowing full well that the Boss is never going to actually WALK up four flights to berate us. But it seems I was wrong. "So what I'd like to know is why the 'scanning into storage' task has taken so long?" the Boss asks, checking his Project gant chart. "I mean this project's been running for almost six months and as far as I can see you've not actually produced anything!" "We're still calibrating the equipment and formatting the document repository." "What does that mean?" the Boss snarls, letting a little more frustration creep into his voice. "It means that to ensure the system is reliable and robust we have to do benchmarking on various types of document and the impact that it has on the storage system. That way we can pick the best fit of document type to suit the needs of the users and the available space in the repository." "What does that mean?" the Boss repeats. "It means that we're scanning in multiple documents in multiple formats and running comparisons on readability, total size and ability to OCR text where necessary." "And what's taking so long?" "The age of the documents is a bit of a problem. Some of them are so old that the pages might suffer damage or just be stuck together." "Stuck together!? What documents are you using?" "For this stage of the Process, old Playboys," the PFY admits. "What?!" "Well they're ideal. They've got print, images, combinations of the above and the later ones are in colour!" "What the hell are you archiving them for!?" "Some of them are absolute classics. They need to be safely stored for future generations. And that's just the jokes pages!" the PFY says defensively. "Right, that's it, you're off the project," the Boss snaps. "I'll get a temp in to scan some documents for you. What skills am I going to want to look for?" "Blonde, blue eyes," the PFY says helpfully. "Perhaps someone like Miss April 19.." "I mean technical qualifications, like the ability to discern important metadata from the context of the content." I always feel vaguely uneasy when the Boss uses technical terms like metadata. It just seems wrong - he should stick to words he knows something about, like redundancy and lard. Whenever he uses large complicated words I always get the feeling he's been talking to someone behind our back. Almost like he's cheating on us with another technical person... Now I come to think about it, he has been coming in late a lot and making lame excuses like he missed the train or that he had to stay home late with the wife. We should have seen it coming but we just thought he was being slack bastard! I can see the same thoughts are running through the PFY's mind and that he's looking a bit hurt. The poor blighter's has such a sheltered upbringing and is not used to Bosses sneaking out for a bit of technical upskilling on the side... "You never used to use technical terms like that," the PFY says quietly. "Is there... someone else... giving you technical advice?" "I... No, of course not!" "I notice there's been a number of appointments with the presales marketing guy from the photocopier company..." I counter, browsing the Boss' online calendar via the wireless PDA. "What, you're going through my calendar now!?" "So you admit you've been seeing him?" The PFY asks. "Well, yes. Sure, he had a few ideas, we might have talked about some stuff but it meant nothing. It's still you guys I come to for the real idea of what we should be doing!" "I can't believe it," the PFY says. "How long has this been going on?" "A month. Two maybe." "And you thought we wouldn't find out?" "I..." "How did it get to this stage?" the PFY asks. "Look, it's not you, it's him," the Boss says, pointing at me. "Ah, isn't that supposed to be 'It's not you it's me'?" I ask. "No, it's you," the Boss says. "You're a megalomaniac control freak and I want.... more" "More?" the PFY asks. "I want to make my own technical decisions! I don't want to feel stymied by you two whenever I have a good idea!" "You two? I thought you said it was just him?" the PFY says. "It doesn't matter. I need more. I'm not an idiot and I want a chance to prove that to everyone. I think perhaps I should.. maybe... create a head of research position." . . . "Well," the PFY says, as soon as the boss leaves. "You seem to be taking this calmly. You're not at all worried that he'll become technically competent and have no further use for us?" "Nah. I've seen it dozens of times - these things have a way of working themselves out. Push the 'Open 6' Button will you?" >Nggaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa< >thud< "What was that?" "That was the Boss using his newfound superior technical skills to step into an elevator shaft. Told you things had a way of working themselves out...." Hell hath no fury like an administrator scorned... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here
Online retailer dabs.com is revamping its website in a bid to increase the number of visitors who actually make purchases after visiting the site. It hopes to boost its conversion rate by up to 50 per cent and increase the value of sales by improving the site's search and navigation features using technology from software developer Endeca. dabs.com marketing director Jonathan Wall explained: "When we launched the website in 1999 people knew what they wanted. Now we find a large tranche of customers might know the type of product they want to buy but not which model they want. The new site is about guiding them through the process." Following its £500,000 makeover on 12 September, dabs.com's site will display products based on their popularity rather than just a straight list. There will also be a degree of personalisation so that, for example, early adopters will be offered products other tech enthusiasts are buying. dabs.com boasts 8m visits a month made up of approximately 750,000 unique users. Its catalogue contains 20,000 products with laptops, LCD monitors and external hard drives among the main sales lines at present. The average selling price of laptops is going down, squeezing retailers' already slim profit margin. "Selling electronic equipment on the web has traditionally been passive but by redesigning our site we'll be able to show customers what another extra £50 spent on a laptop will buy them," Wall said. ®
If you want to build a market, start a club. That seems to be the motto now in the high-end processor business, for Intel and HP are set to follow IBM in setting up an organisation designed to promote the development of software, products and services around a processor family. If an ecosystem doesn’t grow naturally, create one. This month sees the inauguration of the Intel/HP-sponsored Itanium Solutions Alliance. Initial club members look like including server vendors such as NEC Unisys, Hitachi, SGI, Bull and Fujitsu, along with ISVs such as Microsoft, Red Hat Novell, Oracle, SAP and SAS. According to Clay Ryder, managing director of analysts, Sageza, the Alliance looks to be following the mould established by IBM with the formation of power.org, the club it set up a year ago to help push developments around the Power and PowerPC processor families. As Ryder observes, the need for such a club in promoting Itanium development is now becoming crucial. “As much as HP and Intel can talk till they are blue in the face about how Itanium is an industry standard platform, it is simply not,” he said. “In fact, the Power architecture is far more pervasive and is in fact the de facto 64-bit computing platform.” If Intel and HP, as main Itanium cheerleaders, are to push the processor into a significant position in the market then it will require more input and effort than the pair can provide, either jointly or severally. For a start it is going to require a body of active applications developers skilled in exploiting the processor family, and that will not come into being if there is not an installed base of servers on which to run the applications. It is a classic `virtuous circle’ that still needs to grow, despite Intel’s excitement about the 5,000 Itanium-ready applications said to already exist. “The ecosystem, which most importantly includes ISVs and other software vendors, must be on board if Itanium is to gain mass market acceptance,” Ryder said. It is fair to say that Intel has already stepped back from earlier claims that Itanium would be remotely `mass market’, but it has to hope that can at least take a major slice of the high end server market. That objective is then both a challenge and an opportunity for applications developers, where software is now the key component in the selling of business solutions, as Ryder pointed out. “People are increasingly not buying technology today but rather solutions to business problems.” The Alliance, as with power.org before it, is and attempt to create by design the sort of synergistic hardware/software ecosystem that occurred naturally with the PC. If applications developers can be persuaded to join – and the presence of Microsoft and Red Hat probably do more to help here than server vendors – they may be able to give users sufficient confidence that the necessary ecosystem exists, can be sustained and can then grow. There is, however, a `but’…“If this fails,” Ryder observed, “the hope of Itanium developers to reach a broad market will for all intents and purposes be dashed.” ®
Chipset prices look set to rise during the quarter, Taiwanese industry sources warn, with an inevitable knock-on effect on motherboard prices. Demand is outstripping supply, it seems, as Intel's low-end chipset production is cut, forcing buyers to turn to rival suppliers SiS, VIA, ATI and Nvidia. That, said the sources - cited by DigiTimes - has already persuaded SiS to put up chipset prices by 10-15 per cent. The other three companies are expected to follow suit, raising chipset prices by around ten per cent, the sources alleged. The upshot will be improved Q3 financial results. Said sources reckon SiS and VIA will each ship around 7.8m chipsets in the third quarter, up 30 per cent on Q2's 6m. ATI's shipments are expected to jump 150 per cent, from around 2m in Q2 to 5m in Q3, largely on the back of its RC410 integrated chipset, which targets Intel processors. Since ATI bundles its North Bridge parts with ULi South Bridge chips, the latter company is expected to see Q3 shipments rise handsomely too. Beyond Q3, the picture is more murky, thanks to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. This week, the US Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) warned that rising oil prices could hit the chip industry hard. The already-inflating crude price has risen on the back of the disaster's impact on US oil and gasoline production. That's already pushing up gas prices in the US, which is expected to have a impact elsewhere. The likely result is weaker consumer spending in the coming months. Chip makers' customers may well find themselves over-supplied in Q4 and Q2 2006, or demanding lower prices in order to price their own products to levels consumers are willing to meet. ®
LettersLetters Google Earth: force for democratic good or running dog lackey of Commie North Korea? That was the question we posed earlier this week on hearing that South Korea is to have a right good moan to the US about Google's satellite images of its military facilities. You can check out the full chilling background right here, but Hugh Fiske wants to set the record straight about our grab of an aircraft-packed facility in Seoul: Hi, I suspect you already know this but I felt compelled to point it out anyway.. the the subject of the image showing the B52 and other aircraft in Seoul is in fact the Seoul War Museum - see here for more down-to-earth photos (including one with the B52 in the background): http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Travel2/seoul/79 Boring? Moi? Planespotter, eh? Keep taking the tablets. Here's a couple more contributions on the subject: Hello, Your article on the Google Earth is interesting. The question I have is that are we to believe that North Korea does not have their own spy satellites in space that are far more accurate and current than Google maps? The only thing censoring Google maps will accomplish is censoring the public. Anyone with military force also has access to military intelligence of some sort in this day in age. In my opinion, if South Korea is worried about Google Maps then I am worried about the people in charge there. Thank you, Brian McBride I think they've been drinking a bit too much Paranoia Punch™ on this one... I know there's a lot of concerns regarding the satellite photography technology (Keyhole first, now Google Earth), but there is still one important factor about this: It's not real-time. In many cases, the images are months old. (When I used Google Earth to pull up my own address, the image depicted that it was still winter, with snow on the ground and everything). Not very reliable for military reconnaissance, that's for sure. In addition, as your picture of the airforce base shows, many areas are not photographed in extreme detail. While my house in Google Earth is in a high-resolution area (to the point where you can count solar panels on the roof, cars in the driveway, and can see the neighbor kids building a snowman in the front lawn), the air force base you show appears to be from a low-resolution area, where you might be able to make out the general shape of buildings. In all honesty, I really would not be surprised if key strategical areas like the air force base were deliberately photographed in low-resolution so that they couldn't be used for illicit purposes. I'm torn between wanting Google to increase or decrease the resolution around my house. Two of my neighbors enjoy nude sunbathing in the summer - One's pretty cute and would warrant increased resolution, but the other one could make a Vogon look attractive. //Aeryck Indeed, the resolution of the snap of South Korea's Osan air base is hardly impressive. Deliberate subterfuge or just a lack of decent sat images? Hmmm... The question I immediately wondered was whether GoogleEarth is coy about US military installations or is equally off-hand about those too. Or indeed about UK military installations (sorry, perhaps one should say US military installations on British soil with a Union Jack flying at the gate - Fylingdales, etc). But no word on that in this piece. Well, Mr James Minney, we immediately picked up your gauntlet and ran with it. Anyone recognise this? Yup, it's RAF Northolt out to the west of London. Not a great deal of detail here, but the place is significant because during the Cold War, it didn't appear on maps of London (even though the main A40 runs straight past it), lest the Russkies pop an ICBM in its suburban ass. Mind you, Northolt is hardly militarily significant, unlike Faslane naval base in bonny Scotland: Crikey. Note the interesting fact that the base lies right on the boundary between an area of high resolution and the fuzzy hinterland of Caledonia. Or does it? Has Google in fact deliberately obscured that part of Faslane where cheerful Jack Tars load nuclear missiles onto Trident-bearing subs? That distant sound you hear is the rumble of black helicopters preparing for take-off, make no mistake. ®
Hitachi Global Storage's addlepated attempt to define "hard drives as the new 'bling'" - 'it's me 'ard drive, innit' - shouldn't detract from the fact that the company has begun to ship its promised 8GB 1in HDD. The Microdrive 3K8 - which Hitachi is calling 'Mikey' in a lame attempt to gain urban cool - is also available with a 6GB capacity. It consumes 40 per cent less power than its predecessor, the 3K6, and is almost 20 per cent lighter, the company said. Hitachi was Apple's original iPod Mini hard drive supplier, so today's announcement may presage higher capacity Minis in due course. The 3K8 is shipping in limited quantities now, but should enter mass production next month, just in time for Apple's Christmas push. The 3K8 supports the CE-ATA interconnect spec, in addition to PATA and ATA-on-MMC. The 6GB and 8GB drives contain a single platter, and are 5mm thick. They weigh 13g. Spinning at 3600rpm, the disks are rated at 8.33ms average latency with a 12ms average seek time. They can withstand 400Gs of operating shock and 2000Gs of non-operating shock, Hitachi said, claiming that's a world-leading figure for a 1in drive. The 3K8 is equipped with Hitachi’s Extra Sensory Protection (ESP) technology - groan - which immediately parks the read-write head when it detects a rapid vertical descent. ESP is activated during a fall of as little as 10cm and effectively allows the operating-shock tolerance to mimic non-operating-shock tolerance, Hitachi claimed. The company will also ship the 1.8in Travelstar C4K60 Slim - at the end of this month. The device is 30 per cent thinner and lighter than its predecessor, the plain C4K60. Hitachi is offering single-platter 20GB and 30GB versions first, with a two-platter 40GB and 60GB model coming in Q1 2006, though these will be thicker: 8mm to the earlier model's 5mm. All four of the Travelstars' disks spin at 4200rpm, yielding a 7.1ms average latency and a 15ms average seek time. The can take up to 600Gs of operating shock and 1500Gs of non-operating shock. ®
UK Broadband - which is owned by giant Hong Kong-based telco PCCW - has begun rolling out its wireless broadband network in London. Ads are popping up all over London as the company installs its kit in the capital as part of a measured roll-out expected to last until the end of the year. As part of the network expansion the operator has also changed the name of the service from "Netvigator" to "now", its consumer brand in the Hong Kong market where PCCW operates now Broadband TV. In a statement now said: "The Company will continue to take a prudent approach by implementing a phased roll-out programme, with marketing activity on track for the next phase of expansion after the UK summer holiday period." Prices for the now service in the UK start from £10 a month for 256k rising to £18 for a 1 meg product. In 2003 PCCW acquired 15 licences that cover the UK enabling it to operate a wireless broadband service. A year ago it launched the service in the Thames Valley. While it won't disclose how many customers it has, a spokesman for the company told us that it had signed up one in four broadband punters in the region over the last 12 months. Last year PCCW confirmed plans to splash out £21m on wireless broadband in the UK during 2005. ®
LettersLetters From time to time, we at Vulture Central get emails berating us for printing what readers say are straight plugs for companies disguised as fascinating and informative surveys or analysis pieces. This one is typical: Shame on you for publishing such a shameless ad posing as a news item: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/08/30/it_contractors_neglect_insurance/ I'm a contractor and I think I speak for all of us when I say we're painfully aware of the problems we face, in particular when it comes to IR35 and the revenue. Having someone who is peddling the solution-for-all-our-needs state the bleedin' obvious isn't really a great help. I look forward to your next piece entitled \"Shock Research Proves Computers Use Electricity\". Perhaps this piece will be sponsored by a mobo manufacturer or a PSU vendor? Maybe you're just easing yourself into a slow news day after a good long weekend? Cheers Mike In fact, our forthcoming shock expose on the link between alternating current, plug sockets and electrical equipment will be sponsored by a company called Powergen. Apparently they have an interest of some sort in electricity and their selfless contribution to the piece - in terms of amazing stats and factoids and quotes from the CEO warning of the dangers of not buying Powergen's 'leccy - allows us to ease ourselves effortlessly into a stagnant news day after a particularly robust weekend. Your point about the bleedin' obvious has been duly noted, however. Now, the UK's government is to clamp down on violent porn. A good show, we reckon, but what about other violent stuff, cries Chris Bradshaw?: Why not also ban distribution and possession of non-pornographic violent material while they are at it? Videos of terrorists beheading unwilling civilians should be just as abhorrent to society (well, decent society anyway), and can cause the same effect (beheadings or similar terrorist activity). The law could also be used as a proveable and punishable offence against those who have allegedly planned a terrorist act but against whom there is little or no hard evidence, similar to the way that the Mafia capos in the US were prosecuted for tax evasion when no-one would testify against them. We think it's fair to say that if we in the civilised world ever get our hands on Abu Mohammed al-Zarqawi (the alleged murderer of Ken Bigley), then the footage of his outrages would certainly feature heavily in the case for the prosecution. God alone knows, though, how anyone can stop this kind of stuff, with a porn content or otherwise, from circulating - especially via the web. We're reminded of the UK's "video nasties" bruhaha years back when an enraged Thatcher government banned a veritable bloodbath of highly unpleasant flicks including I Spit on your Grave, Snuff, and the quite remarkable SS Experiment Camp. Naturally, and despite the threat of heavy penalties for even looking at a copy of any of the aforementioned from a distance of three miles, all were readily available if you knew the right North London video rental shop. And the reason we call SS Experiment Camp remarkable? Because it contained the immortal line: "You bastard - you stole my balls!" They certainly don't make 'em like that any more. So, we've caged Abu Mohammed al-Zarqawi. What do we do with the bugger? Try this, from Randy: These SCUMBAGS should be castrated with a branding iron, then hung by their thumbs for a month, then stoned in a public forum. Actually, Randy is suggesting a suitable punishment for the two men recently cuffed in connection with the Zotob worm outbreak, but we like the cut of his jib. More ne'er-do-wellishness now, with Mark Hackett commenting on the case of the stolen Windows source code fence, William P. Genovese: How can a trade secret be copyrighted? You must publish a work to get it copyrighted. That means it isn't a trade secret. Greedy buggers want to have their cake and eat it too (and take anyone else's if there's the opportunity). Sigh A fair point. Concluding this "Crime and Punishment" round-up, is Andy Bright on online gaming misdemeanours, the most recent of which was the password-snaffling worm menace: It's like the guy who was arrested recently for mugging online characters, stealing their imaginary stuff and selling it online. What's more sad - that people actually pay to cheat at computer games, or that other people start crying if they lose all the stuff they wasted six years of their lives collecting in a pretend universe? Spare me from cry baby online gamers... We'll make no comment as to how lachrimose online gamers may be, and wrap up today's missives with the news that we have once again been taken to task for our shocking abuse of the elegant lingo that is yer Maj Liz Two's Queen's English: Please stop the staff from using the term "mobe" :( No chance, not at least until the above correspondent stops calling himself "Bob". Enough said and a jolly weekend to you all. ® Lucy Sherriff is on light shopping leave.
Hurricane Katrina is bringing out the worst in people on the net as well as on the streets of New Orleans. Spam emails purporting to offer links to news about Katrina are been used to tempt potential victims onto a site hosting Trojan malware. The site exploits well-known IE vulnerabilities to install a variety of Trojans including Cgab-A, Borobot-P, Borobot-Q, Borodldr-H and Inor-R. Security firm Sophos reports that subject lines used in the malicious emails include, but are not limited to, the following: Re: g8 Tropical storm flooded New Orleans. Re: g7 80 percent of our city underwater. Re: q1 Katrina killed as many as 80 people. The malicious site (hosted in Poland) also harbours a secondary line of attack designed to dupe Windows users, reports Secure Computing. It cynically offers a "free scan" for the Zotob worm that in reality infects users with code that gives hackers control over compromised Windows PCs. Similar - though arguably less sophisticated attacks - followed last year's Asian Tsunami and July's London bombing attacks. The malware attack isn't the first Katrina-themed scam. Earlier cynical attempts to cash in on the Katrina disaster came in the form of fake charity email appeals and the time-honoured sale of catastrophe-related urls. ®
VIA today began shipping its latest low-end Intel-oriented chipset, bringing DDR 2 SDRAM and faster frontside bus speeds to its budget line-up. The P4M800 Pro builds on the P4M800 with the addition of the faster, less power-hungry memory specification, with clock speeds of up to 533MHz supported. While the previous version uses Intel's 800MHz FSB, the Pro release ups that to 1066MHz. Well, the company's announcement puts the limit at 800MHz, but its own chipset diagram has the FSB down as 1066MHz. Like its predecessor, the P4M800 Pro incorporates S3's UniChrome Pro, which supports HDTV output at up to 1080p resolution, and provides CRT, LCD and SDTV output too, via two 8-bit video capture ports and three 12-bit digital video ports. The 200MHz, 128-bit 3D graphics engines features twin pixel-rendering pipes and is capable of two textures per pass with a triangle rate up to 4.5m triangles per second, a pixel rate up to 200m pixels per second and a texel bilinear fill rate up to 400m texels per second, VIA said. There's an AGP 8x port for an external graphics card. Meanwhile, audio comes courtesy of the chipset's VT8237R+ South Bridge and VIA's Vinyl 5.1, six-channel sound system, along with Vinyl Gold Audio 7.1 surround sound. The South Bridge part also offers RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD, and can handle up to four ATA-133 devices and two Serial ATA ports to support four devices. It can control up to eight USB 2.0 ports and features an integrated 10/100Mbps Ethernet controller. VIA said motherboards featuring the chipset are expected to be available "soon". ®
Tiscali UK is cracking down on broadband users who hammer the service at peak times. Its "three strikes and you're out" policy means that bandwidth hogs will receive three warnings if they are found to be abusing the service. If punters fail to moderate their usage, then the ISP plans to restrict their usage during peak hours "for the good of all other customers". However, the ISP has made it clear that the restrictions - should they be introduced - would only apply at peak times and not during other parts of the day. The threat comes as Tisclai UK introduced a new Fair Usage Policy which aims to prevent P2P punters and other heavy users from hogging the service during evenings and weekends. The ISP reckons that around 1 per cent of its 600,000 or so broadband users are using up to 30 per cent of the available bandwidth during peak hours. "We don't believe this is fair to the vast majority of our customers," it said in a statement explaining the changes. It goes on: "This fair usage policy automatically identifies the very small number of extremely heavy users and manages their bandwidth only during peak hours (being 6pm to 11pm Monday to Friday, and 12pm to 4pm on weekends and bank holidays), to protect the service for all our other customers. Outside peak hours, the use of the internet by these heavy users is unaffected." Tiscali said it has consulted with customers and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to draw up the new FUP. ®
InterviewInterview Infinium Labs' plan to target "yesterday's gamers" with its long-promised console/online game rental service will involve a European roll-out the company revealed this week.
Advance fee fraudsters are turning their attention to the UK's National Lottery with scam emails that pose as winning notifications. Recipients are told they've won sums beyond the dreams of avarice simply by having the right email account. A Camelot representative confirmed that you have to purchase a ticket to win anything in the UK's National Lottery. Cheekily the bogus emails (sample below) link to Camelot's web site and invite users to phone a UK mobile, which is currently disconnected. Presumably the fraudsters (who might be based anywhere) are looking to harvest contact information submitted by likely marks by email. Over recent months the traditional advance fee fraud has spawned 419-lite scams which suggest recipients have won a bundle in fictitious Euro lotteries. Basing such scams on real lotteries (such as Camelot) was the subject of two scam emails seen by El Reg this week, so we know it's the current subject of scam emails even though its harder to say if it's the first use of the technique. Message headers suggest the scam email were sent via Hotmail with responses invited via a Yahoo! address.® To: xxxx From: "UK NATIONAL LOTTERY"
Subject: NATIONAL LOTTERY NOTIFICATION
Date: Thu, 01 Sep 2005 16:09:30 +0000
The National Lottery PO Box 1010 Liverpool L70 1NL
FROM: THE DESK OF THE MANAGING DIRECTOR
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS/PRICE AWARD DEPARTMENT.
REF Nº: EGS/2251256003/03
RE: AWARD NOTIFICATION/ FINAL NOTICE
National U.K Lottorey wishes to inform you the results of the E-mail address ballot lottery international program by Great Britain held on 3rd Aug, 2005. Your email account have been picked as a winner of TWO MILLION POUNDS ONLY.
This results is now released to you on 1st Sept, 2005 and your email address attached in the A Category bonus balland bonus ball to check your results online click on this link http://www.nationallottery.co.uk/player/p/results/results.do participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from Microsoft users from company and individual email addresses users.
Be advice to keep your winning information confidential until your claims has been processed and your money remitted to you. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program,For the release of your winning, kindly contact your claims agent in British Lottery Head Quarters Mr. Alan Cross on tel +447031914170 and Fax: +447092870147 you are to quote your lucky number for confirmation on your winning.
All winning must be claimed not later than 30th Oct, 2005. After this date all unclaimed funds will be retured to European Union Treasury as unclaimed. Please note in order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications please remember to quote your reference number in all correspondence.
Note that this winning is not for any UK citizen.
You are therefore advised to give the following informations to your claim's agent via email which is click here to send your email
1. Full name and address.
3. Tel and fax number.
Congratulations from the staff and thank you for being part of email account users program.
Yours Sincerely, Mrs. Julie Van Hans, Executive.(Euro Lottery Intern.)
Dr. P. Swier, Mr. Gerald Goodman (Manager Foreign Operations), Mr. Franklyn Van Der Weijden (Manager Domestic Banking Operations), Dr. James Williams (Director International Credit Department), Mrs. Sandra Murphy (Executive), Mr. Michael Cole (Executive), Mr. Stephen Boer (Chairman). Copyright © 2005 British Lottery International
MRS JULIE VAN HANS,
Verizon Wireless is taking legal action against two US companies for allegedly bombarding its customers with automated telemarketing calls. In two separate lawsuits filed earlier this week, Verizon Wireless is seeking injunctions against Intelligent Alternatives of San Diego, California, and Resort Marketing Trends of Coral Springs, Florida. The giant cellco, which boasts some 47m punters, alleges that the companies "made hundreds of thousands of calls to cell phone customers using pre-recorded messages and auto-dialers in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act as well as state laws". Not only is Verizon Wireless keen for both companies to cease their actions, it is also seeking "monetary damages". Said Steven Zipperstein, Verizon Wireless' general counsel in a statement: "These lawsuits serve notice once again to any company, organisation or individual who seeks to infringe on our customers' privacy: the law says you can't do it, and we will help defend our customers against these sorts of illegal practices." Under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations it is illegal for telemarketers to use automated diallers to call cell phone numbers. ®
FIFA is trialling technology which could relieve football refs of the onerous task of deciding if the ball is actually on the pitch. The worldwide football body is trialling Adidas’ smartball technology at a tournament in Peru this month, according to The Sporting Life, and could draft in the system for next year’s World Cup. The smartballs are fitted with a microchip and sensors are embedded in the touchline. If a ball runs out of play or into the goal, the ref is alerted by a device on his wrist. Freed of the responsibility of working out where the ball is, on-pitch officials can now concentrate on their real job of being abused by over-paid half wits with all the social graces of a herd of brain-damaged buffalo. And before any of our more, shall we say, continental readers write in, the technology would not have made any difference to the events of 1966, as the ball was definitely over the line. Got it. ®
Microsoft is dragging its heels about applying guidelines it helped develop for trusted computing to the next version of Windows, according to noted crypto guru Bruce Schneier. The Trusted Computing Group (TCG) - which includes Microsoft, Sony, AMD, Intel, IBM, Sun and HP reps - has developed a set of guidelines (Design, Implementation, and Usage Principles for Trusted Platform Module-Based Platforms [PDF]) which Schneier argues are equally applicable to both hardware and software platforms. But Microsoft is resisting the application of these ideas to Vista, Schneier argues. "There's something fishy going on. Microsoft is doing its best to stall the document, and to ensure that it doesn't apply to Vista (formerly known as Longhorn), Microsoft's next-generation operating system," he writes. Schneier provocative essay on the subject has generated a debate on Slashdot but Microsoft has yet to clarify its stance on the issue. The software giant is yet to respond to our repeated requests for comment over the last two days but we'll keep you posted if and when we get a response. ®