5th > September > 2005 Archive

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DVD-RAM backers promote rival format

AnalysisAnalysis Backers of the DVD-RAM re-writeable DVD format have a problem: how can they persuade PC users and consumers that their format is the best one to adopt? But in their efforts to promote the optical disc technology they could be their own worst enemy. The Recordable DVD Council (RDVDC), which oversees the standard, is quick to list the format's advantages: its speed, true random accessibility, integrated defect management, its applicability to both PC and CE roles, and improved long-play video recording quality. DVD-RAM has traditionally been strong in Japan, but it has fared considerably less well elsewhere. In part, the RDVDC admits, that's down to a lack of awareness and the resultant difficulty some adopters have had getting their hands on media. An RDVDC offshoot, the RAM Promotion Group (RAMPRG), was formed to combat ignorance of the format, and a number of its members last week told The Register that today DVD-RAM discs are as readily available as DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW media. That's important, because the format war is now a media play, and has been so since the start of the year. Since then, the market has been divided almost exclusively between drives that can handle every re-writeable DVD format, and those that have only 'plus' and 'minus' media. A forecast from Japanese market watcher TSR provided by the RAMPRG shows that until Q2 2006, DVD±R/RW drives will outsell those that also support DVD-RAM - products the RDVDC calls 'Super Multi' drives. The bottom line, then, is that probably now - and certainly come Q2 2006 - the popularity of a given format is measured not by the type of drives consumers purchase but by the media the select. Figures are hard to come by, though last March, numbers we saw put the plus and minus formats neck-and-neck with nine per cent and five per cent, respectively, of all global DVD sales, both recordable and re-writeable. That left DVD-RAM with just three per cent of the market in Q1 2005, and it's unlikely to have grown its share significantly in the intervening period. Better media availability will help. But the RAMPRG is arguably hindering as much as helping. Invited to a demo of 16x DVD-RAM drives and media ahead of their formal launch this past weekend, we were surprised to see no drive explicitly marked as DVD-RAM. "That's what the DVD Multi-recorder label means," we were told. Clear as mud, we thought. Ironically, all the drives on display were stamped with the DVD+RW logo. So while RDVDC members are not only failing to make it obvious that products support DVD-RAM they are also making it abundantly clear that their products definitely support a rival format. Ask yourself, if Joe Sixpack buys a new PC with a rewriteable DVD drive and decides to go and buy some discs to use with it, what's he going to get? DVD-RAM, because he knows that's a DVD Multi-recorder supported format, or DVD+RW because that what's what's written on the front of the tray? One way around the problem would be to use the 'Super Multi' terminology and drop the DVD+RW logo, but of course, as RAMPRG members confessed, "we don't... er... actually have one". To be fair, the RAMPRG is working to educate dealers and retailers about DVD-RAM and its advantages, the better for them to push the format to their customers. Yet none of the RAMPRG member companies we spoke to last week said they highlight DVD-RAM as the preferred format in consumer DVD recorders that incorporate DVD-RAM support - in the manner, say, of washing machine vendors and washing powders. Q2 2006 isn't that far away, and with the shift toward media away from drives, DVD-RAM supporters looking to grow the popularity of their favoured format will need to do more to highlight it than they appear to be doing today. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005

Councils face huge workflow challenge

Only one in seven councils has so far fully implemented enterprise workflow within their eGovernment programmes, meaning that to a Whitehall target, most will have to rush through this crucial work at break-neck speed. Such is the outlook from new data compiled from the latest eGovernment progress reports supplied by councils in England According to this, 14 per cent of local authorities expected to have fully implemented Priority Service Outcome 'G24', by September 2005. G24 is one of a number of nationally-set deliverables which councils need to have in place by no later than March 2006. To achieve this target, authorities need to integrate their customer relationship management systems with their back office, through the use of "enabling technology such as Workflow", in order to create "complete automation of business process management". In July, when councils submitted the data, just nine per cent reported to have met the outcome, with another 72 per cent hoping to do so by the deadline. As at September 2005, 78 per cent of authorities planned to be in the process of implementing workflow, while eight per cent expected to be still at the planning stage. The reports then suggest a surge of frenetic activity as the deadline approaches, with the most rapid period of implementation coming after December 2005. While only a third of councils anticipate meeting the outcome by end of the year, their forecasts indicate this figure will shoot up to 81 per cent three months later. This still leaves, however, around one in five councils not expecting to deliver on time. The Enterprise Workflow National Project (ENWP) exploring workflow implementation, which made the data available, analysed the figures and found that G24 is the second-least implemented outcome, behind single business accounts. "The results are not unexpected as this was always seen as one of the most challenging outcomes", commented Neil Hind, Project Manager for the ENWP. "For most councils to meet the requirements they need to be re-engineering services that can be resource and time intensive." But EWNP add that if G24 is to be implemented correctly, it will mean that business process re-engineering activities will have been carried out on five or six service areas, which they say is 'a major undertaking from both IT and business change aspects'. Even more of a challenge, they comment, is the integration of back office systems to the business process management and workflow systems that is also expected. With 67 per cent of councils reporting they will be moving to the ‘implemented’ stage between September and March, the EWNP warn councils not to underestimate the amount of effort required. "Such business re-engineering will affect the entire organisation, from the IT department, to heads of service down to those delivering the end service", said the project. "Excellent leadership and project management will be required to ensure a successful implementation of the new way of working." Related link Enterprise Workflow National Project website
eGov Monitor Weekly, 05 Sep 2005
homeless man with sign

Sony pulls the curtains at IFA 2005

Rumours that Sony wouldn't be present at this year's Consumer Electronics show IFA in Berlin due to its shaky financial condition turned out to be dead wrong. But while the company occupied Hall 18 of Messe Berlin, next door to its big rival Samsung, its stand wasn't filled with dozens of sales people trying to impress resellers and consumers with glitzy gizmos. Instead, visitors saw a black cube made of semi-transparent, suspended strips of cloth, with seven 'experiences' hidden within. Visitors could relax in reclining chairs to test the latest Walkman cell phones, or lie in a honeycomb of pipes to hear the sounds from MP3 players. No Sony salespeople were present. This was a fully self service exhibition. The decision not to highlight the entire range of more than 1,500 Sony products was deliberate, according to Sony Germany’s General Manager Manfred Gerdes. The display had to appeal to a younger audience, he said. Despite the new stand concept, Sony failed to show a lot of new exciting products at IFA. But that was the general feeling with most of the exhibitors at Europe’s biggest consumer electronic show, which will close on Wednesday. IFA 2003 was mostly dominated by flat-screen televisions such as plasma and LCD TV, and IFA 2005 isn’t much different. Companies such as Philips and Samsung are still betting their entire future on the introduction of HDTV, which forces realignment in the whole consumer electronics value chain, according to Rudy Provoost, CEO of Philips Consumer Electronics. Europe’s leading satellite operator SES ASTRA expects all televisions in most European households to convert from analogue to digital by 2010. Grundig - now owned by the Turkish manufacturer of electronic equipment Beko, and British distribution company Alba - made its comeback at IFA with a broad range of products, including digital media players and mobile phones. Intel and Philips are to collaborate to market home entertainment systems with Intel chips. The US chip manufacturer will provide processor, chipset and software for the Philips media center, which can store and share photos, music and video on a single platform.®
Jan Libbenga, 05 Sep 2005

Sportingbet in acquisition talks

Sportingbet - the UK-listed betting site - has confirmed it is holding talks concerning the possible acquisition of Empire Online, the gaming outfit which helps promote gambling sites. On Friday Empire announced that it had "received an approach from an [unnamed] party interested in merging its business with that of Empire Online" in a deal worth around £790m. Today, Sportingbet - which runs online casinos, poker and sports betting - broke cover and confirmed it was holding preliminary talks which could lead to a merger. In a statement Sportingbet "notes recent press speculation" before adding: "These discussions are at a very preliminary stage, and there can be no certainty whatsoever that agreement will be reached and an offer will be forthcoming." In the six months to the end of June Empire saw its net gaming revenues double from $25m in 2004 to $50m. Pre-tax profits also jumped to $25.5m from $13.6m over the same period. Last week online gambling outfit 888 announced its intention to float on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The IPO of the Gibraltar-based business values the operation at around £700m. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2005

Germans to get iTunes phone for Christmas

In briefIn brief T-Mobile said that it plans to sell Motorola's iTunes mobile phone in Germany by Christmas. Apple and Motorola are expected to announce the long-awaited phone this Wednesday. The many music phones on display at the ISF show in Berlin this week include the first models to be fitted with a built-in miniature hard drive. They are competing head on with MP3 players that also have a small hard drive.®
Jan Libbenga, 05 Sep 2005

Gamers give it up for Katrina comrades

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is hoping to mobilise players of Everquest II to support their New Orleans comrades and has activated a new command line to enable direct donations to the Red Cross, the BBC reports. Furthermore, SOE has suspended around 13,000 accounts from the distater area until gamers log in again. They won't be billed "until such time as they are able to play again", said SOE in a statement and "any items or structures in any of our games, which decay over time, will be preserved until the user's next login". SOE's Chris Kramer told the BBC: "We look at all our subscribers as an extended family. It is amazing what large groups of people can do and we certainly have hundreds of thousands playing the game worldwide. "This is an opportunity for us to not only to lend a hand, but to ask other people in the community who are not affected to help, which is why we activated the new command line." Typing in the /donate command will take Everquest II aficionados straight to the American Red Cross's Hurricane 2005 relief page where they can give it up for those less fortunate than themselves. ®
Lester Haines, 05 Sep 2005

Stem cell hype could trigger backlash

A leading fertility expert in the UK believes that the benefits of stem cells have been overhyped by some scientists, and will warn of a backlash from the 'right-to-life' movement when reality does not measure up to expectations. Professor Robert Winston, professor of fertility at Imperial College, is set to call for researchers to be realistic about the challenges they face in developing useful clinical applications from stem cells. He will tell delegates at a British Association for the Advancement of Science event in Dublin: "I view the current wave of optimism about embryonic stem cells with growing suspicion. Embryonic stem cells replicate very slowly in culture, and it may well be that in the culture systems where you want to grow them the selective pressure is in favour of the faster growing cells, the ones of course which are most likely to be genetically abnormal," he said. He is also expected to say that while stem cell research is one of the most exciting areas in biology right now, it is unlikely to benefit patients for many years to come. He says that despite this, in 2001 when legislation was being passed that would allow stem cell research in the UK, lobby groups had led some parliamentarians to believe that a major clinical application was just around the corner. "When disappointment sets in, as may be possible, we can expect a massive backlash by the 'right to life' groups who are always so ready to pounce when they perceive a chink in our arguments," his speech goes on. Meanwhile, in the current online edition of Nature: Genetics, US researchers warn that stem cells accumulate changes in their genetic make-up, over time. Some of the changes resemble those see in cancerous cells, and the researchers are not sure what the effect of these changes will be. Read more on this in the John Hopkins Medical Institutions press release here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Sep 2005
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World chip sales flat in July

Worldwide semiconductor sales growth effectively stalled in July, the US-based Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) admitted on Friday. The month's sales totalled fractionally over $18bn, compared to just under that number in June. July 2005's tally was near enough the same as the figure the SIA published this time last year. The figures are three-month averages, intended to smooth out the spikiness of chip sales. Unit sales were "running well ahead of earlier projections", the organisation said, but any growth in shipments was more than counterbalanced by competition-driven price reductions. Semiconductor sales declined sequentially in all geographic regions except the Asia-Pacific region, which grew by 8.1 per cent. The SIA said capacity utilisation continued to improve, with overall utilisation rising beyond the 89 per cent rate reported for Q2. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005

Drone aircraft to search for Big Easy survivors

Five unmanned, remote-controlled drone aircraft, intended to seek out survivors of Hurricane Katrina, are on their way to Baton Rouge after a US congressman took it upon himself to "obtain" the vehicles from a private company. Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon rather impressively bypassed government bureacracy to secure delivery of the Silver Fox UAVs, equipped with infra-red imaging capability. He told Reuters: "With thermal imaging capability you can actually see into the buildings and see the body image of a person still alive. "It could help assess whether there are people trapped alive in attics or upper floors. Once you've got them pinpointed you can send rescue teams in." Weldon has requested US military personnel capable of operating the UAVs, and says they could be operational within hours of arrival at Baton Rouge. The Silver Fox weighs in at 12.2kg and is 1.47m long with a wingspan of 2.4m. Its 25cc, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine can power the aircraft at a cruise speed of between 70-90 kph for 8-10 hours. ®
Lester Haines, 05 Sep 2005
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ATI to mass-produce R520 'by late Q3'

ATI's next-generation 5xx series of desktop graphics chips will enter volume production by the end of Q3, the company has allegedly told its customers. So claims a source close to Taiwan's graphics card manufacturer community, according to a DigiTimes report today. Named GPUs include the R520, RV530, RV515 and RV505, all due to be fabbed at 90nm by TSMC. However, the also-mentioned entry-level R516 will be produced by UMC, the source claims. ATI last week slashed its sales forecast for the three months to 31 August 2005 by 15.5-17.2 per cent, citing a massive inventory writedown which cut the heart out of the company's gross margin. Sales are likely to have been hampered by the company's failure to ship the R5xx series as many customers and end-users expected it to. Its multi-GPU technology, CrossFire, hasn't materialised as promised, either. ATI's R520 may be announced shortly, but if today's report is accurate, it will not be available in large quantities until the end of the month. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005
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Intel's 65nm Pentium Extreme Edition to get '1066MHz FSB'

Intel's dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition will gain support for the chip maker's 1066MHz frontside bus when it enters the 65nm era, if a company roadmap slide leaked onto the Web is to be believed. The chip, apparently dubbed the Extreme Edition 955, is based on 'Presler, the upcoming 65nm dual-core Pentium D part. Like the standard desktop chip, the 955 will contain 2MB of L2 cache per core, and incorporate Intel's Virtualisation Technology, according to the slide, which was posted on Chinese-language site HKEPC. Unlike the mainstream dualie, the gaming-oriented 955 will have HyperThreading enabled, allowing it to process up to four threads simultaneously. According to the slide, the 955 will be clocked to 3.46GHz. The 955 will require a new chipset, the follow-up to today's 955X. Dubbed the 975X, it will be based on 'Broadwater', the upcoming successor to the 945 chipset series. The 975X will retroactively support today's Extreme Edition 840 part. The slide doesn't mention a release timeframe, but Presler is due Q1 2006, alongside or after the market debut of Intel's home entertainment PC platform, Viiv. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005
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Hi-tech no panacea for ID theft woes

Attempts to thwart identity theft and fraud through technology advances are likely to prove counterproductive, a British academic warns. Dr Emily Finch, of the University of East Anglia, said the introduction of Chip and PIN on credit cards and UK government plans to introduce identity card schemes will only encourage crooks to become more imaginative. She said there was no substitute for individual vigilance. "There is a worrying assumption that advances in technology will provide the solution to identity theft whereas it is possible that they may actually aggravate the problem," Finch told the British Association science conference, Reuters reports. Finch (something of the Clarice Starling of the Fens, it would seem) bases her warning on her interviews with convicted fraudsters on the likely impact of technology advances on criminal behaviour. "Studying the way that individuals disclose sensitive information would be far more valuable in preventing identity fraud than the evolution of technologically advanced but ultimately fallible measures to prevent misuse of personal information after it has been obtained," she added. The conclusions Finch reaches parallel those of some security experts who warn government attempts to sell identity cards as a means to combat ID theft are misguided. These and other objections to the UK government's ID card plans were outlined in a London School of Economics' study involving more than 100 academics published in March. ®
John Leyden, 05 Sep 2005

iPod Mini to 'drop hard drive, gain colour display'

Apple's iPod Mini is to gain a colour display but lose its hard drive in a major, post-ROKR shake-up of the Mac maker's music player line-up. So claims website Think Secret citing a variety of moles. Like the iPod Shuffle, the Mini will gain Flash storage in place of the hard drive, though its capacity will not be reduced. Instead, it will be relaunched in 4GB, 6GB and 8GB versions. With no hard disk, battery life is likely to be significantly better than the Mini achieves today, though the move to a 1.5in colour display could counter that. The new release will also be smaller, but the general design - display above clickwheel - is expected to remain the same. Interestingly, Think Secret's description of the Flash-based Mini is not unlike one received of a Flash-based iPod late last year, just before the Shuffle was announced. With the Shuffle presented to the public, we discounted the rumour. We were told the devices was essentially a credit card-sized Mini, complete with display and clickwheel. The claim ties into recent reports that Apple has been buying significant quantities of Flash chips, thus far expected to form the basis for higher-capacity Shuffles. According to Think Secret, the Shuffle line will expand to 2GB, but Apple will continue to offer the 512MB and 1GB versions, though at lower prices. The 2GB unit is said to be scheduled to ship for $129-149, with the 512MB Shuffle falling to $69 and the 1GB model dropping to $99. The Flash Minis are said to be pegged at $199, $249 and $299, respectively. The report comes just days after Hitachi, which has supplied iPod Mini hard disks to date, announced smaller sized, higher capacity 1in hard drives, due to ship in volume in the updated iPod Mini's anticipated shipment window. Seagate also supplies Apple with Mini hard drives, it is believed. Think Secret's sources claim the 'ROKR' iTunes phone's two versions will contain 256MB of memory and 512MB, halfway between reports of 128MB of RAM, and 512MB and 1GB. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005
For Sale sign detail

Microsoft's Ballmer: Chair-tossing potty-mouth

Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer threw a chair across his office and threatened to "fucking kill Google" when told a key employee was leaving to join the search giant.
John Oates, 05 Sep 2005

Telewest duets with Virgin Digital

Telewest has paired up with Virgin Digital to plug its new music download service. The UK cableco has signed a two-year deal to become a preferred ISP for Virgin Digital's new download service which was launched last week. A spokeswoman for Telewest told us that no cash was changing hands as part of the tie-up and that it was a "strategic partnership" instead. Virgin Digital is also understood to be holding discussions with other ISPs - including NTL-owned Virgin.net - to plug the service. For Telewest, it plans to tempt it 850,000 broadband users with free trials and music downloads. It is also keen to stream live gigs - hosted by Virgin Digital - via its web-based TV service. In a statement Telewest said: "The partnership is part of Telewest Broadband's strategy of bringing leading content and applications partners together to help its customers get the best from their net connection." While Virgin unveiled its online jukebox last week, a similar service from rival HMV went live today. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2005

Napster UK touts subscriber numbers

Napster UK's 750,000 users have downloaded or streamed 55m tracks since the service launched in May 2004, the digital music provider said today. The announcement comes on the day High Street music retailer HMV opened the virtual doors on its own digital download and subscription service. Virgin Digital went live in the UK this past Friday. To date, Napster UK's main competitor has been Apple's iTunes Music Store. But with Virgin and now HMV both targeting the same iPod-free Windows Media market in which Napster is a player they are arguably more of a threat than ITMS is. Hence Napster's release of subscriber figures today, the first time the company has made such statistics public. The company said 80 per cent of its subscribers are over the age of 25, and half of them have kids. Some three-quarters of them are male. In a bid to stress the importance of subscriptions, Napster said its subscribers buy more music online than folk who buy one-off downloads do, though since many of them will need to do so to burn tracks to CD or transfer them to digital music players, that's not perhaps surprising. One in five of them no longer buy CDs, apparently. Indeed, Napster's claim implies that subscribers are using their 'all you can eat' packages more to sample music than to acquire it. That suggests they appreciate the benefits of owning music as well as the advantages of the unlimited download subscription. More to the point, if subscriptions are being used at least in part as a glorified sampling service, that undermines the arguments that subscription-derived downloads should be included in official chart statistics. Speaking at the Virgin launch last week, Virgin's e-commerce chief, Steve Kincaid, admitted the company has a challenge ahead of it to evangelise the benefits of subscriptions. Virgin, for one, accepts that consumers do not see music subscriptions in the same light as they see subscriptions to, say, digital TV services. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005

Scientists tout civilian laser-fusion plans

A group of European scientists has put forward a proposal for a £500m facility to research new approaches to laser fusion that could potentially be built in the UK. The facility, provisionally called HiPER, would be civilian-run, and as well as pursuing research into fast-ignition laser fusion, would also be available for other experiments in astrophysics as well as nuclear and atomic physics, the group says. The group, which represents seven European Union member states, was set up by Henry Hutchinson of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. It says the facility could be in place and working by the middle of the next decade, PhysicsWeb reports. The goal of the research would be to go beyond breaking even on the energy-in/energy-out equation and achieve high energy gains. This is a vital milestone on the road between merely demonstrating ignition, and building a workable demonstration reactor. Hutchinson told PhysicsWeb: "The energy problem is sufficiently urgent that we cannot afford to ignore different approaches to fusion." Laser fusion research is being pursued internationally because of its potential to supply large quantities of clean energy. There are two main approaches to confining the plasma generated during the reaction: magnetic or inertial confinement. Currently, both approaches are being studied at various sites around the world. Magnetic confinement is the be researched by the international team ITER, and inertial confinement is being investigated at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the US and the Laser Mégajoule (LMJ) in France. Both of these facilities are primarily designed for nuclear weapons research, and have relatively little time to devote to other scientific research. The basic principles are relatively simple to lay out: a high energy laser is used to heat and compress a small amount of deuterium, a stable isotope of hydrogen. When the deuterium gets sufficiently hot, the outer layers detonate, sending a shockwave towards the centre of the sample. This shockwave, if it is large enough, triggers thermonuclear ignition - i.e. the nuclei in the deuterium fuse, releasing helium and neutrons, and a large quantity of energy. This in turn ignites a chain reaction in surrounding fuel, and the resulting energy could then be used to generate electricity. By convention, the same laser is used both to heat and compress the sample of deuterium. In fast ignition, there are two lasers, one to handle each stage separately. HiPER would combine a 200kJ long pulse laser, for compression, and a 70kJ short pulse laser for heating. Hutchinson says this approach requires less laser energy than the conventional approach, making it markedly cheaper. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Sep 2005
homeless man with sign

Rules of Thumb (sometimes) considered harmful

CommentComment We all like rules of thumb - operational, design or coding shortcuts that don't need any tedious evaluation of alternatives. Effectively, they represent re-use of experience, which is a Good Thing. But, there is a risk. When I worked for DBA, I used to meet people using rules of thumb that optimised memory utilisation by a DBMS long after memory became a commodity - and who were making their programs less usable as a result. It is worthwhile questioning your favourite rules of thumb occasionally - when (or if) you have a spare moment. Take the one that says, "Never test your own work". It makes some sense, because errors in your understanding of the program spec or the way the business works may well be reflected in your tests, just as much as they are in your code. Let's suppose you don't test your own work. What happens? Well, you probably give the QA team programs that don't work properly and don't interoperate. Certainly, they will efficiently find the silly errors you've left lying around and correct errors in the interface spec - and then time will run out and the complicated errors that should be found in systems testing may get through the net. It would make more sense for the programmers to carry out basic unit testing themselves, leaving the QA team to concentrate on discovering whether the working code actually contributes to what the business is trying to do. But you will need some help, if you plan to unit test your own work, or so Jerry Rudisin (CEO of Agitar, which sells Agitator, a tool which does exactly that) tells me. He suggests that any organisation that is serious about improving software quality and economics will see great value in unit testing and asks them: "Do you encourage developers to unit test their own code as it is being developed, so that QA can integrate and do system testing starting with a set of individual software units whose behaviour has been validated" And "Do you set objective targets for the thoroughness of unit testing, and manage to those targets?" Given this, Agitar's offering, unsurprisingly, includes a "management dashboard" that can present the progress of unit testing in a form that management, and even business users can understand. If programmers indulge in unit testing their own work, this must be both a "business process" and highly transparent to all stakeholders. Otherwise, wishful thinking is a very human characteristic, even among developers! This all makes sense to me, as long as the organisation concerned is reasonably mature - that is, that it sets objectives and measures the gap between what it achieves and the original objective. And, of course, that it then does something to reduce the gap. I think that adoption of formal process-improvement methods (CMM or CMMI "Capability Maturity Management", perhaps) provides a "rule of thumb" metric for management's real commitment to "maturity", but Jerry questions my "rule of thumb". "I think the real issue with CMM is that it tends to be "high ceremony" and rewards repeatability - even of a foolish process - instead of success," he says. "Looser and less "deterministic" approaches, such as agile and XP often lead to better s/w than some CMM Level 3, 4, or 5 processes." In many cases, this is probably true, but some of the people I meet who really understand CMMI (CMM Integration, which is replacing CMM) would accept eXtreme Programming as very much part of a "level 3", or even higher, process. Another rule of thumb is that skilled and intelligent practitioners often have a better insight into what a process is really about than the "process police" - or even some of the practitioners that can be spared from the job to talk to journalists about process. ® David Norfolk is co-editor of Application Development Advisor
David Norfolk, 05 Sep 2005

Kazaa owners, users infringe copyright - judge

Australian Federal Court Judge Murray Wilcox has ruled that Kazaa owner Sharman Networks and its principals are guilty of copyright infringement. Judge Wilcox declared that Sharman Networks Ltd, LEF Interactive Pty Ltd, Altnet Inc, Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc, Nicola Anne Hemming and Kevin Glen Bermeister "have infringed the copyright" of the 30 or so music labels and copyright owners who brought the case against them. Furthemore, he said, the defendants "authorised" Australian Kazaa users to "make a copy of the sound recordings" and to "communicate the recordings to the public". "The files are shared without the approval of the relevant copyright owner," said the Judge in his summary of the case. "It follows that both the user who makes the file available and the user who downloads a copy infringes the owner’s copyright." Judge Wilcox was unmoved by Kazaa's incorporation of "warnings against the sharing of copyright files", stating that "far from taking steps that are likely effectively to curtail copyright file-sharing, Sharman Networks and Altnet have included on the Kazaa website exhortations to users to increase their file-sharing". He also noted the defendants had not "taken any action to implement... technical measures... that would enable the respondents to curtail – although probably not totally to prevent – the sharing of copyright files". The defendants were banned from offering their P2P file-sharing systems in Australia until they modify the software essentially to exclude copyright works from searches. The modification must come in the form of a "non-optional key-word filtering technology", and the company must place "maximum pressure" on existing Kazaa users to upgrade to the modified version of the software. Sharman has a grace period of two months before it must comply with the order. The judge dismissed claims that the defendants had contravened Australia's Trade Practices Act of 1974, the Fair Trading Act of 1987 and had violated the tort of conspiracy. "The evidence does not support either the Trade Practices Act or conspiracy claims," he said. "Those claims will be rejected." The judge said he plans to order the infringing defendants not to violate the plaintiffs' copyright in future. The judge's ruling, posted this morning, follows months of deliberation of evidence from the music industry and Sharman networks. The case came to public attention in February 2004, when Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), a body affiliated to the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), raided Sharman's HQ and the premises of related companies and their executives in pursuit of evidence that it believed would demonstrate Sharman's culpability for the copyright infringement being carried out via the Kazaa P2P network. The parties spent much of 2004 arguing about the relevance of the material seized, so the case did not come to trial until November 2004. The evidence was heard during a series of hearings running through to March 2005. Since then, Judge Wilcox has been pondering the evidence before announcing his verdict. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005

No Jobs keynote at Apple Expo Paris

If Apple CEO Steve Jobs was to have given a keynote at this month's Apple Expo Paris, he certainly isn't now. According to the event's official website, the show "will not feature a formal keynote presentation". Jobs last appeared at Apple Expo Paris two years ago. In 2004, he was recuperating after undergoing treatment for cancer, and the keynote was handled by his number two, Phil Schiller. It had been forecast the Jobs would be back this year, possibly to announce a major shake-up of the company's iPod line-up. Rumour sites cited sources close to the company that Jobs would speak at the show, and American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu was last month said to have told investors Jobs would keynote the Paris show. However, Apple has made no formal announcement that Jobs will participate in the show, as it has done on previous occasions, typically during the last two weeks of August. The news casts Wednesday's music-related announcement in a brighter light. Expected to focus solely on Motorola's iTunes-enabled mobile phone, the event could play host to an update on Apple's iPod plans. Jobs is expected to attend the show, an Apple representative said, Macworld UK reports. Apple Expo Paris kicks off on 20 September at the Porte de Versailles. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Sep 2005

DFI Lanparty UT nF4 SLI-D mobo

ReviewReview DFI's popularity has risen steadily ever since it launched its Lanparty range of motherboards a couple of years ago. Since then the Lanparty family has grown with the introduction of a 'lite' version in the shape of the Lanparty UT, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
Trusted Reviews, 05 Sep 2005

British spooks hit AQ bulletin boards

British spooks plotted to use the internet to help promote two separate messages to the Muslim world - one of the engagement which we hear openly from politicians and diplomats and a darker, secret, message to groups of "more radicalised constituencies". A letter from William Ehrman, director-general of defence and intelligence, to the government's security adviser David Omand in April was leaked to Sunday's Observer. It warns that "the potential for intelligence operations backfiring on us is even greater that during the Cold War". The letter, headed "Hearts and Minds and Muslims", also notes that actions in the region are likely to have more impact than messages. It says some in the region will not be impressed by talk of peace and prosperity, although they would be impressed if it actually happened. To address such groups the letter suggests taking a more radical stance. It says such groups "might, however, listen to religious arguments about the nature of jihad that, while anti-Western, eschew terrorism." It suggests borrowing tactics from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The letter also warns latter-day Lawrence of Arabias of the dangers of trolling: "The McColl paper also mentions Cyberspace. I presume there are opportunities for engaging in debate on Islamist websites, unattributably. But whoever was doing would need a carefully worked-out script. There may also be ways to disrupt or impede extremist websites. I hope some proposals on all this will emerge from ongoing cross-government work on setting up better systems for monitoring websites." The letter says "too many Middle Eastern governments are sticking with the wrong answer: suppression and gerrymandering of superficial bits of democratic furniture, instead of bringing moderate Islamist tendencies into the power structure while they are still moderate, and confronting them with the realities of power and responsibility." The Observer story, which links to the documents, is available here. So, has Whitehall indeed created a cadre of desk-bound James Bonds dedicated to de-grooming radical Islamists in internet chatrooms? The powers-that-be appear to be have kept that a secret. For now.®
John Oates, 05 Sep 2005
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Russian phone retailers bypass distributors

Russia's two largest phone retailers Yevroset and Dixis will no longer buy electronic goods from Russian distributors in an attempt to crack down on smugglers. According to Russian news reports, the country is swamped with illegally imported cell phones, which avoid a customs tax of 5 per cent. The International Confederation of Consumer Protection Organisations believe these phones- including Nokia and SonyEricsson models - account for approximately 90 per cent of the country's mobile phone market. In August Russian police seized about 300 tons of cellular phones and components worth more than $10m. Five companies who apparently front for the smugglers are under investigation. Prices on the market have gone up dramatically after the crackdown. Cutting out intermediaries is the optimal move right now, a Dixis spokeswoman told the Moscow Times. More than 24 million mobile phones were sold in Russia last year, with a retail value of €3bn.
Jan Libbenga, 05 Sep 2005

Enraged Brit trashes Bulgarian karaoke

An enraged Brit spent 24 hours in jail and was fined 60 quid for terminating a Bulgarian karaoke with his fists - a small price to pay for bringing to an end a tuneless rendition of Queen's We are the Champions belted out by a couple of melodicidal locals. Having assaulted the two men responsible for the outrage, 40-year-old Kevin Tester of Eastbourne proceeded to trash the Techhouse karaoke restaurant in the Black Sea holiday resort of Sunny Beach. He later told police he had been provoked by the "bad singing" and "bad English", Ananova reports. As well as the fine, Tester faces compensation claims from the victims and the bar owner. We doubt if the summons will be delivered by singing telegram. And the IT angle? None that we can immediately think of, although we would like to spend some time with Mr Tester in a packed commuter train where some spotty youth is singing along to his iPod. We're prepared to cough the fine should anything kick off. ®
Lester Haines, 05 Sep 2005

Fire disrupts UK DVD rental service

Online DVD service Video Island is battling to restore normal operations after a fire in its west London warehouse last week. Video Island runs the DVD rental businesses for Tesco, ITV, MSN and easyGroup, as well as its own direct consumer brand, Screenselect.co.uk. The 150,000 combined subscribers to these services are warned to expect a "temporary disruption" and some delays. The cause of the fire in Westwood Business Centre, Acton - where Video Island has its warehouse - on Thursday, 1 September remains unclear. Nobody was injured by the fire. The extent of the damage is still to be determined. Video Island's IT operations are run from a separate location unaffected by the fire, so historical customer data and purchasing records remain intact. Simon Calver, chief exec of Video Island, said: "We have experienced a fire in the warehouse which will lead to a temporary disruption to service over the next few weeks. We apologise to our customers for any disruption caused, and are moving quickly to restore full service as soon as possible." Video Island expects to begin "partial service" this week. "Our business is fortunate that at any one time nearly 70 percent of our discs are out with customers, so a large percentage of our library remains intact," Calver said. A spokeswoman for the firm said that it would offer subscribers compensation for any interruption or delays in its service. It is asking customers to delay sending back DVDs until Wednesday (7 September). Video Island processes approximately 1.5m DVD shipments per month. ®
John Leyden, 05 Sep 2005

Computer crash threatens Martian photo-op

NASA has been forced to switch off the scientific instruments on board its Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft, just a week before the photo opportunity of a lifetime. Mission managers are hoping to get the craft up and running again in time for a fly by of the suspected crash site of the Mars Polar Lander, a US mission to the red planet that was lost in 1999. They will not have the opportunity to fly over the site again for two years, the BBC reports. But the lander, thought to have crashed reasonably near the pole, is not in sunlight for very long. After 10 September, the region will be plunged into darkness, making it impossible to photograph from orbit. Pictures of the site are important because elements of the 1999 mission have been recycled for Phoenix, a new Mars mission scheduled to launch in 2007. Images of the crash could help engineers decide whether or not to modify any of the systems for the 2007 flight. The MGS had to be put into safe-mode after it started to switch between its main onboard computer and its backup for no apparent reason. Safe mode switches off the scientific instruments, and turns the craft so that its solar panels directly face the sun, for maximum battery recharging. It also limits its communication with Earth to that possible with its low gain antenna. NASA says that the MGS unexpectedly switched to its back-up computer on 30 July. The main computer was rebooted, but left in safe mode and the back-up machine was left in charge. In late August, it switched back to the main computer, again without warning. This plunged the whole craft into safe mode, and engineers have been working to restore normal function since then. Both computers have now been rebooted, and the back-up machine is running in contingency mode. The engineers hope to have the main computer into contingency mode soon too, which will switch communications back to the main antenna. "It's getting to be a fairly old spacecraft and it's been having a number of issues; none of them are considered life-threatening," Professor Phil Christensen, principal investigator on MGS's thermal emission spectrometer instrument told the BBC. "The spacecraft's operating fine; they can command and communicate with it. The poor engineers will work hard over the weekend and we'll be back on track early next week." The MGS mission was originally designed to run until January 2001. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Sep 2005

Skype signs VoIP JV in China

Skype is looking to make inroads into the potentially lucrative Chinese market after inking a joint venture (JV) agreement with wireless internet operator TOM Online. The two companies are already buddies having forged an agreement to develop a simplified Chinese version of Skype's internet telephony software. Ten months on and the software has attracted 3.4m registered users and Skype reckons now is the right time to plug the service to TOM's 70m punters. Under the deal TOM and Skype (split 51 per cent and 49 per cent respectively) will continue to develop Skype's VoIP software for the Chinese market and do more to flog it to users. Said Skype chief exec Niklas Zennstrom: "By uniting Skype's market-leading global Internet communications platform with TOM Online's wireless leadership and understanding of the needs of Chinese market we believe we have a powerful mix of skills in place to bring the Skype experience to millions of Internet users." China is the world's largest mobile phone market by users with more than 360m subscribers. The number of net users is also expanding rapidly and is expected to hit around 150m by 2007, according to research from IDC. Last week Skype signed its first agreement with a mobile telecoms operator - Germany's E-Plus - taking its low-cost services beyond the desktop and on the road. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Sep 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

'Islamic Trojan' disrupts smut surfing

Virus writers have created a Trojan horse which tries to disrupt visits the pornographic websites by displaying messages from the Koran. The low-risk Yusufali-A Trojan horse monitors the websites Windows users are visiting. If the malware sees one of a set of trigger words (such as "teen", "sex" or "penis") in the url it minimises the window so the user cannot see its content and displays a message from the Koran instead. The message, partly written in Arabic, contains the following English text: Yusufali: Know, therefore, that there is no god but Allah, and ask forgiveness for they fault, and for the men and women who believe: for Allah knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes. "Unlike other malware, it appears this Trojan horse isn't trying to steal money or confidential information, but acting as a moral guardian instead - blocking the viewing of websites it determines are unsavoury," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Of course, it's possible for the Trojan horse to make mistakes and block sites that are not pornographic - such as medical sites, or social sites designed for teenagers." Once the message is displayed the malware performs a variety of other actions before forcing infected users to shutdown. All very disconcerting but there's no need for undue alarm since the Yusufali-A Trojan is not yet in the wild. It's unclear whether the malware was written as a joke, or as a serious attempt to clean up the habits of internet users. Malware featuring an Islamic theme is rare but not unprecedented. Previous examples have include the Mawanella worm which highlighted the friction between Muslims and Buddhists in Sri Lanka and the Cycle worm which contained a message about life in Iran. ®
John Leyden, 05 Sep 2005

Steve Ballmer: the ultimate online poll

PollPoll Steve Ballmer - an engima wrapped within a riddle printed on an MS licence agreement. Or is he? You must decide... Here, for the first time in cyberspace, we at Vulture Central have compiled an online poll to delve into the source code driving one of the 21st century's great industrialists - a man so rich that if his entire wealth, represented in one dollar bills, were stacked up it would reach beyond the orbit of lonely Sedna; a distance equivalent to 28.7bn rubber office chairs laid-end-to-end. It's an awe-inspiring thought. Our hope is that a sufficiently high percentage of the World's population has by now got a sense of the man through their everyday interaction with MS products, from the ever-popular Windows XP, to that most productive of Office tools - MS Word. If you do indeed feel touched by Ballmer via your PC, then complete the poll below so that the rest of humanity might too share the power. Onwards: The richest man in the World is? Bill Gates Paul Allen Steve Ballmer Mrs Gates The bloke who supplies Microsoft's office furniture The World without Ballmer. How does it look? Unbundled OS-filled Less Wordy Hairier Like Google Earth Ballmer's favourite fruit is: Apple Ballmer's favourite word is: Apple Google Bundled Rubber Pussy What, according to Ballmer and MS Encarta, is the correct definition of a "Google"? No results found for "Google" Ballmer's favourite song is: What's New, Pussycat? Money, Money, Money If I were a Rich Man If I Ruled the World The Apple Pie Song Ballmer's favourite movie is: Kill Bill What's New, Pussycat? A Fistful of Dollars For a Few Dollars More Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Ballmer's favourite movie quote is: You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays. (Harry Lime, The Third Man) Dip the apple in the brew. Let the Sleeping Death seep through. (Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) Well, I'm sure you did it with complete discretion. And speaking for Pussy, if he's still alive, I'm sure he would agree. (Silvio Dante, The Sopranos) I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I met you I was but the learner. Now, I am the master. (Darth Vader, Star Wars) It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business. (Michael Corleone, The Godfather) How will Ballmer's tenure at Microsoft end? A pre-emptive strike from Eric Schmidt Conviction for terminating departing employees A tragic accident with Microsoft's new range of rubber office furniture Deployment as a one-man mission to take out North Korean WMDs An adverse medical reaction to Bill Gates's announcement he has decided to leave Redmond to write code at Google And how will he be remembered? Fondly Bundly Wordly Apply Googly  
Team Register, 05 Sep 2005