6th > September > 2005 Archive

Poker shares dip

PartyGaming - the company behind the world's largest poker website - saw its shares dip sharply this morning despite posting an 81 per cent increase in turnover. Investors are worried that online gambling will not continue its current rapid growth. The company, which floated in June, brought in $437m in the six months to 30 June 2005. Poker brought in $412m of this while the company's casino website made $25.4m. Ebitda before share option and IPO costs was up 70 per cent to $258m. PartyGaming said in a statement that it expects growth to slow. Operating margins also fell as the company began to face competition in some countries. The news pushed PartyGaming shares lower in pre-market trading. At the time of writing shares on the London Stock Exchange were down 23 per cent to 120p. The other cloud hanging over the company is possible legal restrictions, especially in the US. Revenues from outside the US make 14 per cent of the total, up from 12 per cent last year. The company said it continued to monitor the regulatory environment particularly a possible bill before the US Senate and US reaction to recent WTO rulings calling for the US to open up to off-shore internet gambling operations.
John Oates, 06 Sep 2005

Coke to sell virtual stuff with the 'real thing'

Ireland will be the first European market to see a new generation of coke-vending machines, which will also sell mobile phone top-ups, ringtones and music. UK-based Inspired Broadcast Networks has signed a deal with Coca-Cola to distribute digital content from its soft drink vending machines. The vending machines will be linked to Inspired's online content management system using DSL broadband connections. The content will be transferred to the purchaser's phone through their mobile operator's network, or may also be transferred directly to the phone using Bluetooth. In the future, the company plans to allow people to collect their content by plugging their phones' memory cards into a drive on the coke machine. Inspired has developed the new interface for the machines, which have already been installed in five locations in Ireland. The company plans to roll the technology out to more than 200 locations over the next few months. Colm Doherty, the digital vending director for Inspired Broadband Networks, told ElectricNews.net that Coca-Cola had made the decision to do the initial rollout of the technology in Ireland. If successful, then the technology may then be extended to any of 26 EMEA markets under the company's agreement with Coca-Cola. Doherty said that Inspired has not concluded a deal with Coca-Cola for the US vending machine market, which lies beyond Inspired's current expansion plans. The Coca-Cola deal is not the company's only link with Ireland. Inspired was co-founded by Irish dotcom entrepreneur Norman Crowley, the founder of e-commerce firm Ebeon, which was swept away in 2001 by the dotcom crash. Crowley subsequently co-founded Inspired and sold a 70 per cent stake of the company to UK-based Leisure Link for EUR8 million in 2002. The company also sells fixed-odds betting terminals, which are used in casinos and bookies in the UK. Its other products include a jukebox terminal which sells music from an online catalogue of 2.1 million songs. Inspired employs 120 people, with just six employees in Ireland. To the end of September 2004, Inspired had turnover of €11m and a pre-tax loss of €6.2m. The company is reported to have become profitable in recent months and is expected to report revenues of up to €42m to the end of September 2005. Copyright © 2005, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 06 Sep 2005

Skype honeypot snares dirty IMers

NSFWNSFW Imagine this entertainment scenario: you create a female Skype profile and activate it in "Skype me" mode. Within a few minutes, IM pervs begin to sniff around your honeypot. What they don't know, though, is that they're being set up by a programme which partners two horny male IMers for an intimate conversation - one of whom thinks the other is a hot babe gagging for cybersex. We can blame this wag for the Skype sex trap. The programme logs all of the captured IM conversations, and the author admits: "Because this is a completely automated process, everything's included, and some of these logs/messages might actually be rather boring." Well quite. The solution, then, is for another enterprising bloke to set up a website to extract the choice highlights of these hot bloke-on-bloke chats: Just met some Handsome Knight on Skype and want to see if he gets around? Fancy having a luagh [sic] as 2 guys try to cyber with each other? Have a sneaky feeling your boss is using Skype for more than just business calls? Then this site is for you :) Hmmm. We reckon that what people get up to in the privacy of their Skype account is up to them. Alright then, we don't really think that, because here is a lovely example of what happens when you put two chaps together and one one thinks that the other is a chapess: OM: hi SR: i would like to chat with SR: u OM: me too babe SR: i am XXXX from india OM: i hope u have cam SR: yeah OM: do u have msn? SR: r u m/f? OM: m SR:: o sorry i too male SR: bye OM: fuck off and change your sex OM: u are not female OM: you are a male SR: i have to told u that idiot SR: check u r profile SR: it is writen as a female SR: u sonof bitch SR: fuck off Pretty much what you'd expect - frustration and indignation resulting in swearing. For pure surreal entertainment, though, try the following which, you should be warned, contains explicit references of an sexual nature and strong language from the start: MK: bitch BL: me or you? BL: sorry i took so long to reply MK: it's ok MK: where are you from BL: newcaslie MK: ok MK: what's your name BL: XXXX BL: whats yours? MK: XXXX BL: (mm)nice name MK: fuck you MK: you are gay MK: a BL: fuck you too BL: no im not gay!! MK: how old are you BL: 26 MK: do you hae a girlfriend BL: no MK: why (you'r not gay)? BL: donno MK: when was the last time you had a girlfriend BL: 6 months ago MK: are you working somewhere? BL: no i work from home MK: what? BL: i'm a stone maison MK: i don't understand MK: what is that BL: why did you say that i was gay? MK: i was just kiding MK: sorry BL: i carve stones like marble and granite BL: thats ok MK: thats only job you have? BL: yes MK: ok BL: what about you? MK: what about me BL: where are you from? MK: i'm from erbia MK: serbia* BL: ohh MK: ? BL: and what is it that you do MK: i'm 18 MK: i still go to high school BL: oh right MK: e MK: why didi you put this picture here BL: what the one on my profile? MK: yes BL: so that people could see me BL: what about the one thats on yours? MK: ma bezveze MK: nisam znao sta drugo da stavim MK: :)) MK: i don't speak english very well MK: i didn't know what else to put MK: so I put that one BL: sorry didn't understand that!! MK: :) MK: i know BL: can you tell me what it means please? MK: it means that i have big dick MK: haha MK: i'm just kidding MK: it doesn't mean enything BL: ???? MK: what? BL: it must mean something? MK: what your picture means? BL: so is that you in the picture? MK: what fo you think? BL: donno MK: thats me BL: with your mouth wraped round that dick? MK: ?? MK: explain that BL: the picture that i can see is of a woman sucking a dick? MK: thats you BL: no MK: yes BL: no it isn't MK: then who is it MK: it's not me BL: are you a bloke? MK: what's bloke? BL: man?? MK: axa BL: axa?? MK: and you? MK: ? BL: i dont know what axa means MK: you'r female MK: ? MK: it means yes BL: no MK: what are you MK: on your profile is a woman with a dick MK: i aksed you and you told me that you put it so people could see you MK: hey' Good Lord. To be fair, if we found out that our Skype chat was being intercepted and posted with our Skype IDs on a public website, we'd probably call round to the perpetrator for some real hot bloke-on-bloke action - and we mean the kind that definitely does not involve dressing like someone from the Village People. ®
Lester Haines, 06 Sep 2005

France Telecom rejigs business structure

France Telecom (FT) has rejigged its business and introduced a new bunch of suits to help press ahead with its "NExT" programme. In June the telco announced ambitious plans to converge its brands - mobile operator Orange and ISP Wanadoo - to provide punters with a "whole new world of services in the areas of communication, infotainment and everyday life". At the time execs claimed that NExT (New Experience in Telecom services) would "give customers access to a universe of services that are both high value and simple". As part of the overhaul the telco intends to spend €200m scrapping its Wanadoo brand and turning it Orange. The first signs of this corporate makeover have already been seen in the UK with Orange offering cut-price broadband supplied by Wanadoo. Fast forward to today's announcement and the telco has outlined yet another step in its restructuring. It includes the creation of "four functions" to "drive the implementation of NExT and ensure its success". One of these is "NExT Strategic Marketing" supported by a "Technocentre" to ensure "speed and consistency in the development of convergent offers". How exciting. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Sep 2005

Digital divide is self-repairing, says UK gov

A UK government-sponsored study has declared that the digital divide between technology-rich citizens and e-impoverished have-nots "is only a short-term concern that will correct itself with time", eGov monitor reports. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) report - knocked out by business consultants Indepen, and examining "the challenges posed by the European Commission's recently-launched i2010 initiative" - gives the example of broadband in the US, noting that it is "growing at the same rapid rate as television ownership back in the 1940s". Accordingly: "There are therefore empirical grounds for viewing existing divides as transitory over relatively short time scales." That's to say, inclusion lag tends to be "self-correcting" or, in plain English, you'll all get your broadband connection in the end, so hang on in there. The study continues: "A key question is therefore how long it will take for the market to reduce differences in terms of inclusion to near neglible levels. A related question is what impact various interventions might have on this process." The answer to this key question is that "rapid diffusion of technology is key to eliminating existing digital divides in society", and "policymakers and regulators must ensure that any interventions promote this diffusion, rather than slow it down". Having stated the bleedin' obvious, the study does intelligently suggest that said policymakers and regulators "should also focus on the quality of eGovernment services to promote take-up, instead of the quantity offered as is currently the case". The DTI report has been prepared as a briefing document for the i2010 conference in London, which kicks off today. It's available right here (PDF). ®
Lester Haines, 06 Sep 2005
channel

Gigabyte unveils 'less hazardous' Opteron mobo

Gigabyte last week announced its first 'eco' workstation mobo - a dual Opteron-aimed board that complies with Europe's hazardous materials regulations. The GA-2CEWH is built to the limitations imposed by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). The EU's RoHS rules come into force on 1 July 2006 and ban the use of "lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)" in any electrical goods. The EU defines 'electrical goods' as any item which can't function without electrical power. The board itself is based on Nvidia's nForce 4 Pro 2200 and 2050 chipsets. It incorporates two SLi-enabled x16 PCI Express slots, a single x1 PCI Express slot, one 32-bit PCI slot and a pair of PCI-X connectors. There are two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 1.1 ports, a single Firewire connector, an S/PDIF optical port, and all the usual legacy connectors. The two-chip board sports two banks of four DIMM slots capable of taking up to 32GB of registered ECC DDR SDRAM clocked to 333MHz or 400MHz. There are twin Gigabit Ethernet controllers, courtesy of Broadcom. The board supports up to four Serial ATA devices with RAID 0 and 1. ®
Tony Smith, 06 Sep 2005

Saturn's rings are mighty weird

The Cassini imaging team has released a slew of previously unseen pictures from the Saturn ring and moon system, to coincide with the 37th annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society held in Cambridge. The scientists have identified new features in the rings, including some that are slightly mysterious. For instance, in the image below, you can make out small clumps in the ring structure. But what are they? Scientists have long speculated that small moons, hidden among the many strands of the F-ring could be responsible for the odd structure of the region. The question is, are these clumps just disturbances in the ring structure caused by interactions with larger moons nearby such as Prometheus, or are they moons in their own right? The imaging team explains that working out the answer is tricky, precisely because perturbations from nearby moons make the orbits in the region so complicated. This makes it hard to say whether sightings are the same object seen many times, or many, short-lived objects caught on camera during their brief existence. Other images are less mysterious, but just as interesting. Recent snaps of the D-ring have been compared with older images from the Voyager missions. The results reveal that the structure of the ring has changed over time. In particular, one strand of the ring, known as D72, which was the brightest feature in the D-ring a quarter of a century ago has become much dimmer, and has moved inwards by about 200km. Other images and animations show how moons interact with the rings, how the rings could be shaped, and the strange spiral path that one ring takes around the planet. Have a look at the Ciclops (Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations) page here for more details. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Sep 2005
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Intel EOLs 533MHz FSB Xeon CPUs

Intel has formally announced the demise of the 533MHz frontside bus-supporting Xeon processor, company documents seen by The Register reveal. With the Xeon DP line now already running an 800MHz frontside bus, marking the 533MHz version's cards comes as no surprise perhaps, but the decision to end-of-life the products is now official. Out go Xeon DPs clocked at 2.4GHz up to 3.2GHz, all with 1MB of L2 cache, along with a 3.2GHz version with 2MB of cache. The EOL notice affects both boxed and tray-mounted processors. Orders for any of these chips taken after 25 November can't be cancelled, Intel said, and it will take no further orders for the products on 24 February 2006. The chip maker expects to ship the last of the boxed processors by 27 May 2006. The last tray-packed product will go out before 29 August 2008, so it's not like the parts are going to vanish overnight. ®
Tony Smith, 06 Sep 2005

Vibrating buttocks key to driver alertness

You can blame the French for this one: the next time you buy a car it may well be packed with buttock-vibrating technology designed to keep you alert and thus reduce "common type of car accident by up to 15 per cent", the Telegraph reports. The prang in question is rear-ending - accounting for a quarter of all accidents - and caused predominantly by pure lack of attention, which is reckoned to be the cause of a half of all road accidents. Accordingly, one Citroen model "already vibrates the trousers of drivers to warn them when they cross a lane too slowly, which suggests that they are falling asleep". And if having your rear end agitated in order to avoid violating the guy in front's rear end isn't enough of an affront to civilised society, Oxford uni's Dr Charles Spence has been telling the British Association's annual shindig in Dublin of other ways that car manufacturers are looking to keep drivers on the case. Spence says the industry is - despite "ever-more sophisticated sensors to warn of an impending accident" - unwilling to let computers carry out crash avoidance "because of legal reasons, for fear of being sued". The solution, then, is to find ways of gently nudging the driver. These include the aforementioned use of touch, plus odours like peppermint to keep you perky and the preposterously-named "auditory earcon". The latter can include, for example, "linking the sound of a car horn to a location" which, according to a study coming soon to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, "encourages drivers to look towards a source of danger". No, we have absolutely no idea what that's all about, either. As regards vibrating car owners into consciousness, the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire has been conducting tests, the results of which will shortly be entertaining readers of Transport Research Methods. The upshot of the TRL's study is that "a 200 millisecond improvement can be achieved in reaction time" and "an improvement of driver responses of about 500ms would reduce rear-end crashes by as much as 60 per cent". So, there is some method to all this buttock-shaking madness. For his part, Dr Spence is examining the possibility of vibrating other bits of the vehicle, including the seat belt, pedals and steering wheel. Spence says that one Japanese manufacturers claims all cars will be fitted with tactile warning systems by 2010, so don't say we didn't warn you. ®
Lester Haines, 06 Sep 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Sony shows 8x DVD+R dual-layer drive

Sony has become one of the first DVD writer manufacturers to ship a dual-layer DVD+R that can write at 8x speeds, the company said today. Separately, Mitsubishi today said it will ship DVD+R DL 8x capable media in October. Sony's DRU-810A is an internal drive that hooks up to the host across an Ultra DMA Mode 2 ATAPI interface. In addition to 8x DVD+R DL, the drive supports DVD+R DL 4x. It also writes DVD+RW discs at 8x and DVD±R at 16x and DVD-RW at 6x. Sony packages a pair of bezels, one silver, the other black, the better to match up with whatever system the drive is fitted to. The unit also ships with the Nero Software Suite. The whole lot will retail for around €70 (£48/$88). Mitsubishi's discs, which provide 8.5GB of storage capacity, are based on a "high-sensitivity organic pigment" to support write speeds of 2.4x up to 8x and a maximum data-transfer rate of up to 209.25Mbps. The DVD+RW Alliance announced the DVD+R 8x specification last March at the CeBIT show. Then, the technology's definition document had reached version 0.9 - sufficient, the organisation said, to allow hardware vendors to prepare for Q3 availability. ®
Tony Smith, 06 Sep 2005

Fired pizza-loving programmer wins prize

A software developer who was sacked by a US mortgage firm for snaffling a "leftover" pizza slice has won an internet contest for the most outrageous job dismissal. Jim Garrison, 39, has won a a week-long trip to the Caribbean for two after submitting his story to SimplyFired.com.
John Leyden, 06 Sep 2005

Ashes interest could bowl over computer networks

Corporate networks could be bowled over this week as England face Australia in the final nail-biting Ashes match of the summer. Computer experts are worried that company networks might not be able to cope with tens of thousands of cricket fans logging on to the net to follow the action from the Oval. Stuart Beattie of Network General told The Daily Mail: "While every company is aware of the risks posed by computer viruses, few will have ever considered Ricky Ponting and Michael Vaughan's men a potential threat to their computer networks. "There will be very few people not wanting to keep informed of the action, so we're warning firms now to plan ahead and not get caught out." England lead 2-1 in the five match series and need only a draw to regain the Ashes. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Sep 2005

Sony PSP sets UK console sales record

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) sold 185,000 PlayStation Portable handheld consoles in the UK this past weekend, smashing the previous three-day record, set by Nintendo's DS in March. Sony's sales, said market watcher Chart-Track, which provided the statistic, makes the PSP's UK debut the most successful console introduction in the territory yet. The PSP went on sale in the UK on Thursday, 1 September, and Chart-Track's total combines sales on that day plus those of Friday and Saturday. Nintendo sold 87,000 DS handhelds in the first three days' of the device's availability. Many of the sales had already been made, thanks to pre-order campaigns run by retailers and online suppliers once Sony formally announced the handheld console would ship on 1 September. The PSP had originally been planned to arrive in the UK at the end of March, just after the DS debut. But the demands of the US launch, scheduled to take place in the same timeframe, forced SCEE to delay the European ship-date. Chart-Track said 24 games were available at launch, more than any console has shipped alongside here. Twenty of them went straight into the company's Top 40, and nine entered the Top Ten. Sony's Ridge Racer took the number one slot, pushing the previous sales leader, Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 into second position. ®
Tony Smith, 06 Sep 2005

BCS hits 50,000 members

The British Computing Society is celebrating a 20 per cent surge in membership to an impressive 50,000 people. Which is going to make it difficult to find a venue for meetings - Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, usually home to Rangers, has room for just over 50,000. The BCS has increased membership by 20 per cent in the last year. It credits the need for reskilling and the threat of offshoring for the the increase in numbers. David Clarke, BCS chief executive, said: "The UK IT profession is currently battling against the threat of offshoring of traditional IT skills on one hand while striving to meet the demands for new skills sets from employers on the other." Clarke added that skills like systems design and implementation, software testing and security are most in demand. The number of people taking BCS certified foundation and practioner courses in IT service management grew by 100 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. The BCS believes that a "huge growth in expectation from the UK IT industry" means that more people want professional accreditation.®
John Oates, 06 Sep 2005

Speedy cannibal pulsar caught in the act

European and US space agency astronomers have spotted a particularly fast-spinning pulsar that is in the process of gobbling up its companion star. The sighting is further supporting evidence for the hypothesis that binary pulsars evolve into isolated, fast-spinning pulsars, and actually increase their spin rate by chowing down on a nearby star. This is the first system in which the pulsar has been caught in the act of speeding itself up. "We're getting to the point where we can look at any fast-spinning, isolated pulsar and say, 'That guy used to have a companion'," said Dr Maurizio Falanga, who led the Integral observations, at the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) in Saclay, France. The researchers describe it as 'an evolutionary step' between a stately life as a binary pulsar, spinning around once or twice a second and the fast lane of being an 'X-ray millisecond pulsar'. These rotate several hundred times a second, and this particular pulsar, with a period of 1.67 milliseconds, is one of the fastest known. The pulsar was identified by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Integral space observatory, and NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer spacecraft. It was picked up by Integral during a routine scan of the outer edges of the Milky Way. The following day, NASA observers used Rossi to work out just how fast the object was spinning. Rossi also revealed that most of the pulsar's companion has already been swallowed - the star could now be as small as 40 Jupiter masses. The two bodies orbit each other so tightly, once every two-and-a-half hours, that both could fit neatly inside the radius of our sun. A pulsar is a rotating neutron star, a remnant of the explosive death throes of a star at least eight times as massive as our own sun. In general, a pulsar is about the same mass as our sun, but is a mere 20km or so across. When they are born, they tend to spin very rapidly, courtesy of conservation of angular momentum, but they slow down over the course of a hundred thousand years or so. Isolated pulsars may be condemned to a sluggish future, but those living in binary systems can halt their decline by devouring a neighbour. As the gas is torn from the companion, the pulsar spin-rate increases. As the gas from the companion crashes into the neutron star, it releases huge amounts of energy in the form of X-ray and gamma radiation. "This object was about ten times more energetic than what is usually observed for similar sources," said Falanga. He added that "only some kind of monster emits at these energies", which correspond to a temperature of almost a billion degrees. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Sep 2005

Demand for IT staff falls

There is less demand for IT professionals in the UK and fewer posts are being advertised. IT-related Job Centre adverts fell by a quarter and there were 7,000 less jobs advertised online and in the press in the first quarter of 2005. But there is some good news - actual gross salaries rose by about two per cent in the quarter.
John Oates, 06 Sep 2005

Airbus secures $1.5bn China deal

In briefIn brief Airbus has signed a $1.5bn deal to supply 10 Airbus A330s to China Southern Airlines. The aircraft will be delivered during 2006-7. Tony Blair took time out from a visit to the country on EU business to witness the accord, accompanied by his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao. British Airbus General manager Iain Gray enthused: "It is a hugely important deal for Airbus in what is a very important market. It builds on the success we've had in recent years." It is indeed an important deal for Airbus, since Boeing has just agreed to supply 42 of its new 787 Dreamliner to four Chinese Airlines - Air China, China Eastern Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines, for a total of £2.8bn ($5bn). The 787 goes into production next year, and will hit Chinese runways in 2008. ®
Lester Haines, 06 Sep 2005

Dutch ISPs sue government for wiretapping costs

A large group of ISPs and telecom operators in the Netherlands is to sue the Dutch Government for the cost of installing wiretaps. Wiretapping is required by the Dutch Telecommunication Act of 1998. The Dutch Government insists that it is normal for ISPs and telecom operators to pay the costs for general law enforcement. However, the internet providers and telcos - including Xs4all, KPN Telecom, Casema, @Home, Wanadoo, T-Mobile, Telfort, Vodafone and Orange - strongly disagree. ISP Xs4all, for instance, invested over € 500,000 - a significant slice of its profits - to comply with the requirements of the law. More importantly, as of 1 April the Dutch Government unilaterally lowered the reimbursement for wiretapping orders to just € 13 per tap. An additional hourly compensation rate proposed by Dutch minister of economic affairs Laurens Jan Brinkhorst is €26.25. That covers the administrative and not the operational costs, the ISPs argue. In March Xs4all already said it would sue the Dutch Government over its refusal to pay the costs, claiming that in other European countries, such as Italy, Finland, France and the UK, internet providers are already fully reimbursed for the expense of installing wiretaps. In the past, Dutch ISPs could bill the authorities for the actual costs incurred. An even greater financial threat is the introduction of general traffic data retention. The EU is proposing legislation that would oblige telecom providers and ISPs to save all traffic data on internet and phone usage for a period of one to three years.®
Jan Libbenga, 06 Sep 2005

SurfControl hits trough

Shares in UK-based censorware outfit SurfControl slipped 12 per cent this morning after the firm's annual results came in at the bottom end of expectations. For the year ending to 30 June 2005 (FY2005), SurfControl sales reached $97.8m (£53m) up 12 per cent from $87.3m in FY04 and narrowly meeting anticipated revenues of between $97m and $102m for 2005. Revenues for the quarter to 30 June increased seven per cent to $27.61m (£15m) compared to $24.5m for Q404. But Surfcontrol's profits before tax were down eight per cent for Q405 to $2.4m. For the whole year the shortfall was even more marked with profits down 49 per cent to $7.6m as a result of one-off charges accompanied by a disappointing sales performance, particularly in North America. SurfControl's shares fell 63p from 488p at close on Monday to 425p at the time of writing, both well down on the 685p SurfControl shares were changing hands back in March 2005. Steve Purdham, SurfControl's chief technology officer, said: "While we have not delivered the levels of invoicing growth we might have wished for this year, we are extremely well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities in this market." Newly appointed SurfControl chief exec Patricia Sueltz said: "SurfControl has solid fundamentals - but with more focus on growth needed. We've greeted this new fiscal year, driven by our passion for our customers, and an operational mantra of 'relentless execution'." If that's not enough to scare smut purveyors we're not sure what is. Jacobins and virus writers beware. Since the start of its financial year in July, SurfControl has rationalising satellite sales offices, flattening the management structure and globalising its support functions. It expects to take a charge of between $3m to $5m in 1H06 for this operational restructuring, which is designed to boost SufControl's operational efficiency and to place a stronger emphasis on channel sales. ®
John Leyden, 06 Sep 2005

Are you scared of iPods, penguins, terrorists or Daleks?

LettersLetters So, do we want form over function, or function over form? Are we a nation of style kings and queens, or does geek (un)chic still reign supreme? The answers to these probing (ahem) questions are probably not to be found in the letters below, but your thoughts and opinions about iPod phones certainly are. Light may also be shed on some of the other stuff mentioned: Well I dunno about the success of an IPod phone, but as far as the success of mp3 phones go, you don't need to look any further than South Korea, where I'm currently living. I don't know about statistics or anything, but I know that there's a lot of people out there with mp3 playing phones, using them on the bus with headphones, or walking down the street with it on speaker like a really small ghetto blaster. If you want to always have music with you, and always have a phone, then why carry two gadgets, if you can get one that does both. So I think their eventual success is a given, actually. The camera/mobile is the ubiquitous combo in Korea. You've gotta have a mobile, and Koreans love to take photos of themselves with their friends. I'd own a mp3/mobile myself, but I don't like mobile phones! Sam >>what makes the iPod different from other music players isn't the cool design; it's that clever navigation "wheel" plus (maybe less crucial) the big storage capacity.<< I'm not convinced - one works against the other. My 60GB iPod has 43GB of music: about 8000 tracks from 535 artists and 860 albums. The wheel doesn't work well with this volume of menu items. With a phone keypad, I could get to KraftWerk (!) in 5 button presses (55777) in a couple of seconds, rather than about 10 seconds of wheeling. Can also be done without looking, useful for in-car (decent bluetooth integration could also mean I could find music using voice commands without taking a hand off the steering wheel). Ironically, the iTunes interface is much better, but needs a large screen and keypad. I'd ditch my iPod in a second if a 60+GB Nokia-communicator form factor came out with an iTunes-style app on it, regardless of whether it had any phone functions! John When will you people in the press wake up???? The Ipod interface is not the fantastic thing you guys always claim and it is certainly not the reason i got an ipod. The ONLY reason for ipod success is the vast storage, which is not often matched, apart from by some quicky brands. If all mp3 players had 6gb - 40gb hard drives, then i expect ipod would be less of a market leader!! Jeremy I just can't help but think the iPod phone will turn out to be the phone industry's equivalent of the motor world greatest failure - the Alfa Arna - glorious Italian mechanics coupled with the beauty of Japanese styling. If there's anything that phone consumers really want now - is a quick, intuitive robust user interface [read clickwheel] - something that Nokia's Series 60/Symbian's/Microsoft's/Motos designers designers designers mentality GUIs are utterly useless at. Regards, Richard Consensus. Such a rare thing... Dastardly spyware writers are apparently getting more sophisticated. We assume this means that as well as writing nasty code to bug us all, they have started wearing black and drinking in exclusive Soho cocktail bars. No? Oh, apparently it was something about a bug in something Microsoft wrote: A Microsoft representative said [..] "this attempt to bypass these features is not a software security vulnerability, but a function within the operating system that could be misused" Ah.. Classic. It's not a bug, it's a feature..! I haven't seen that uttered with such brazen cheek in a while. Thanks for the smile.. :) Gareth Truly an informative article. Not because it shows yet another exploit in the Windows operating system, rather, because it shows Microsoft's attitude towards the problem. Given Microsofts drive to produce ever easier to use computers and; therefore, produce less tech savvy end users I believe they have a duty to protect customers from all such threats as said customers may no longer understand what the threat is. The only real questions, for me at least, is how that is accomplished. Releasing patches in a timely manner is important, yet the real solution, again for me, is to release more secure products to start with. Cheers, Robert. "Our early analysis indicates that this attempt to bypass these features is not a software security vulnerability, but a function within the operating system that could be misused," the company said in a statement. "Microsoft is reviewing the report to determine further details and whether there is any potential impact for customers and will provide appropriate customer guidance if necessary." Heh, and I thought you wernt allowed to use the old "its not a bug, its an undocumented feature" gag anymore. Anthony Professor Robert Winston, fertility expert and opinionated academic extraordinaire, held forth on the over-hyping of the benefits of stem cell research this week: It's reassuring to see that Professor Robert Winston is worried about over-hyping scientific developments. But is this the same Professor Robert Winston who last week appeared in advertisements for St. Ivel's 'Advance' fish-oil laced milk? According to the company; "Anecdotal evidence from teachers and parents indicates that increasing intake of Omega 3 may improve learning and concentration for some children." Gotta love a peer's scientific credibility when a single sentence includes the words 'anecdotal', 'may' and 'some' without a trace of irony. It's not just the cod liver oil in the milk that's hard to swallow. Mike Yep. And he is the same Professor Winston who was recently giving forth on the overhyped-ness of Chlamydia, too. After we ran the headline: Wanted: seasoned w**nkers for online ejaculation pole, we got a few questions. Some questions just deserve an answer: Whilst I appreciate your usual sarcasm and cheeky humour, I have to ask: was the tenuous pun on the misspelled "pole" in the title *really* intentional? Daniel Sadly, yes, it was. Cancer detecting nanobelts. A nice idea, you said, but you had one quibble with what the scientists were saying: From your article "Boffins build cancer-spotting nanobelts": "We would like to use these materials for in-situ, real-time, non-destructive and remote monitoring and detection of cancer cells at a sensitivity of a single cell" I think we'd all prefer to see that reading "...HIGHLY-destructive...". Regards John A good point... A startling twist has been revealed in the purported plans of UK spooks to go trolling through chat rooms in a bid disrupt the radicalising of young Muslims. Now we need to worry about penguin insurgency as well: I was amused by your headline "British spooks hit AQ bulletin boards" - were you aware that AQ is the country code used for Antarctica? It is not widely used - most Antarctic operators use their respective national codes - but it is out there, and it is used. A Google search on the domain gets 11,800 hits, though. Perhaps we workers in Antarctica are regarded as closet revolutionaries? Or maybe the grand ideals of the Antarctic Treaty (Antarctica is a continent for science, territorial claims held in abeyance and much more) are regarded as seditious in some quarters? Paul And finally, it (the War on terror etc) may all be utterly irrelevant. Terrifying evidence of an invasion force the like of which has never been seen has been spotted in orbit around Saturn: >> ... you can make out small clumps in the ring structure. But what are >> they ? << Hmm. Possibly a Dalek craft ? Regards, Mike And the mystery is solved. Exterminate...exterminate...®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Sep 2005

Thong-wearing fireman escapes axe

Editorial note: OK, we lied - the following piece has been purged of all cheap cracks about engines, appliances, greasy poles, axes, choppers or helmets. Now read on... Here's a useful pointer for anyone thinking of whipping their clothes off this afternoon and running starkers through the office: a thong could be the only thing between you and the sack. Or the only only thing between your colleagues and your sack, depending on how you look at it. That, at least, is what Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service employee Peter Gilbertson has discovered after being accused of gross misconduct as a result of allegedly walking disrobed across the fire station yard. However, Gilbertson wowed the subsequent disciplinary hearing by producing the thong he had in fact been sporting at the time, explaining that he was simply nipping to his car for some shower gel, the BBC explains. Accordingly, he has received a final written warning instead of being given his marching orders. Gilbertson, a fireman for 15 years, lamented: "I made a bad decision that day and I am just glad to have been given the opportunity to put this incident behind me and continue with the career that I really enjoy." A suitably hacked-off Deputy chief fire officer, Tony Proctor, proclaimed: "Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service treats matters regarding the professional conduct of its staff very seriously and is extremely disappointed that such an incident has occurred." Proctor does, however, apparently have high hopes for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's chances in the forthcoming beach volleyball world championships, where Gilbertson and his thong-clad fellow firefighters will be eager to give their choppers a rest and concentrate solely on their ball-handling skills... (You're fired - Ed) ®
Lester Haines, 06 Sep 2005

Sapphire Pure Innovation PI-A9RX480 mobo

ReviewReview Think of mainboards based around AMD's Socket 939 processors. Now think of the chipsets on which they're based. We bet that Nvidia and VIA would be on the top of most people's lists, and with good reason, as both companies have a well-established heritage in designing chipsets for AMD CPUs.
Hexus.net, 06 Sep 2005

FriendsReunited in sale talks

Reunion website FriendsReunited is in talks which could lead to its sale. The company is talking to at least five firms about its future. Michael Murphy, CEO of Friends Reunited said: “Profits are expected to be £6.5 million for 2005 and over £8 million in 06. “As a result of this performance and the Group’s prospects, we can confirm that the company has recently received a number of credible approaches from large media groups and internet players. A spokeswoman for the company confirmed it is talking to at least five possible bidders. Friends Reunited has appointed financial advisors Long Acre to help with negotiations. Talks could lead to an outright sale or the sale of a significant stake in the business. The site claims 12m members. It was started by Steve and Julie Pankhurst in a spare bedroom in 2000 and quickly became very popular. They still own 30 per cent of the business, which the Times estimates could be worth £120m. Last year marriage guidance group Relate blamed it, and similar sites, for fuelling divorce by making it easier for people to get in touch with old flames. The site has become a first stop for journalists seeking background information on the newly-famous. And the police have found it useful too - a man from Teeseide was convicted of drug offences after bragging to old school mates about how much cash he was making selling cocaine. Alongside its school reunion site the company has opened dating, geneaology and jobs sites.®
John Oates, 06 Sep 2005
globalisation

Munich's Linux migration heads south for the winter

Munich's city administrators' much-discussed migration to Linux has been delayed until 2006, according to reports, because of an additional pilot phase that was not accounted for in the original plans. Project leader Peter Hoffman told CNet that as planning progressed, he and his team realised that the pilot phase, which will now run through the first half of 2006, was "more important than we first thought and should last longer". This means that the project will finish at least a year behind schedule, and a full three years after administrators first elected to shift to open source. The project involves moving the city administration's 14,000 desktops from Windows NT 4.0 and Microsoft Office to Linux and OpenOffice. The Lord Mayor's office, boasting 250 desktops, is reported to be first in line for the transfer, but even that will not happen until mid-way through 2006, and not all the machines will make the switch right away. Hoffman said: "Some departments will start with OpenOffice on Windows, others will start with OpenOffice on Linux. It depends on their infrastructure." He explained that when a department has a small number of simple Office macros and templates, but a large number of complex applications, it is easier to switch to OpenOffice on Windows before switching to Linux. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Sep 2005
For Sale sign detail

Samsung to play safe with dual HD DVD/Blu-ray rig

Samsung is to harness consumer confusion over which next-generation optical disc standard to back by offering a player that supports both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc (BD). The machine will launch sometime next year, said Choi Gee-Sung, Samsung's consumer electronics chief, in an interview published by the Financial Times Deutschland. "We would welcome a unified standard but if this doesn't come, which looks likely, we'll bring a unified solution to market," he said. "It won't be simple but you'll see our solution in the coming year. Consumers will be too confused otherwise," he added. With talks held between the two camps to find common ground in order to yield a unified format having broken down, consumers much now choose which format to support. Backing the wrong format could leave buyers with access to less content and, over time, more expensive hardware. That risk may persuade them simply to ignore both formats until a clear winner emerges. Dual-play machines could break the deadlock. Both BD and HD DVD use blue laser light to increase the storage capacity of a DVD-sized optical disc dramatically. However, the two formats have very different capacities, optical specifications and file structures. Samsung's machine is likely to require at least two different read heads for the blue-laser discs, not to mention another, red laser-based head to read today's DVDs and CDs. To date, Samsung has favoured BD over HD DVD, but today's statement suggest it doesn't believe its favoured format will quickly establish a clear lead over HD DVD. ®
Tony Smith, 06 Sep 2005
chart

FSF moots patent retaliation clause for next GPL

The Free Software Foundation says it is mulling over plans to introduce some kind of patent retaliation clause into the next version of Richard Stallman's General Public Licence. The clause would seek to restrict the distribution and use of free software to parties prepared to forgo patent infringement lawsuits against free software developers. FSF Europe president, Georg Greve told us that while the FSF is considering some patent and DRM language for the next version of the GPL, "none of this is decided and that only the first draft will show what is really in there". He was speaking to El Reg after an article on Reuters quoted him as saying that anyone who patented software would be prevented from using free software. Greve says this is not quite what he was getting at: "The basic idea is that if someone uses software patents against a Free Software program under the GPL, he might lose the right to distribute that particular software, to use it for their products. We have no interest in restricting the way people can use and develop software." He added that it is by no means certain that this clause, in any form, will make it into GPLv3. "It will be for Richard Stallman to work on these issues later this year," Greve concluded. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Sep 2005

UK.gov ditches 'Big Brother'-style e-voting

The Government has ditched plans for electronic voting at next year's local elections, it emerged today. The news was slipped out in a written answer during the summer recess prompting the Tories to describe plans for "widespread electronic voting and an 'e-enabled general election' by next year" as "a shambles". Rounding on the Government Oliver Heald MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, described the Government's e-voting plans as "reckless" and "insecure". "Past e-voting pilots in local elections have proved expensive and not delivered any significant increase in turnout," said Heald. "The Government must retain the tried and trusted ballot box as the foundation of British democracy. "Restoring public confidence in our electoral system is more important than spending taxpayers' money on 'Big Brother' text messaging gimmicks. "This lack of an adequate audit trail is extremely worrying in the light of the risk of fraud already exposed with all-postal voting," he said. But a spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) insisted that although people would not be able to vote electronically next year, the Government was still keen to monitor its future use. "The Government believes that the time is not yet right to take forward the piloting of e-voting," said a spokesman. "We are not ruling out piloting e-voting in the future and any future plans will be taken forward at the appropriate time." The Government set out its plans for alternative voting back in 2002 when the late Robin Cook said he hoped it would "enhance citizens' involvement" in the democratic process. In March, research carried out by pollsters MORI found that the vast majority of Brits reckon high-tech voting methods - such as voting by email or through a dedicated website - would make electoral fraud easier to commit. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Sep 2005

Fire, cockup and virus calamity vex storage managers

Fire, computer viruses and human error are viewed as the main threats to corporate data by European businesses, according to a survey by storage specialists Hitachi Data Systems. The latest edition of HDS’s bi-annual Storage Index reckons that low-tech 'old fashioned' threats pose the greatest risk of upsetting the operations of European corporates. Of the 821 firms questioned, 82 per cent claim to have a disaster recovery strategy in place, with two in three (65 per cent) of that group also having a remote disaster recovery site to which they replicate important data. However, despite fire being cited as a main threat to data, one third (35 per cent) of firms do not currently back-up data remotely, while 31 per cent also reckon the priority given to business continuity by their company’s executive board is too low. The research also highlighted regional differences in attitudes towards business continuity. While fire (57 per cent), computer viruses (55 per cent) and human error (50 per cent) were the three most common perceived threats to data across all countries - followed by hacking (32 per cent) and downtime (31 per cent) - terrorism, though only polling 11 per cent in total, was a prominent concern for firms in the UK, Spain and Israel. Perhaps it's no coincidence that all three countries have been the subject of terrorist attack over the last year or so. Financial institutions cited terrorism as a far greater threat (22 per cent) than other surveyed sectors. The vast majority of European businesses reckon data volumes will increase over the next two years, with email being the primary contributor. "With mounting legislation demanding the retention and storage of data, not to mention an ever-increasing reliance on digital information for day to day business transactions, the security and availability of information is becoming of paramount importance," said Michael Väth, general manager of Hitachi Data Systems, EMEA. "It is no longer enough for firms to have a local storage solution, however robust. Quite apart from legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley which requires companies to keep data secure, the dependency on digital information for daily business transactions means that firms cannot risk losing access to that information for a prolonged period of time, let alone losing the actual information itself." ®
John Leyden, 06 Sep 2005
channel

Intel hands Czech firm millions for virus protection

Intel Capital has taken its largest equity stake to date in an Eastern Europe outfit, sinking $16m into Czech anti-virus company Grisoft to help it expand in business and consumer markets. The chip giant's venture capitalist arm said it was investing in Prague-based Grisoft to improve the development of anti-virus software and deployment around the globe. Intel will help privately held Grisoft improve security on computing platforms for small- and medium-sized business (SMBs) and consumers, reach new customers and market segments, and work to optimize Grisoft's security software for different platforms. Grisoft's products, used by businesses and consumers, are deployed on 25m PCs and are distributed through resellers and across the internet. Grisoft chairman Gabriel Eichler said in a statement he accepted investment from Intel to help accelerate the company's drive towards becoming a "global leader" in anti-virus software. "We felt that it was the appropriate time to bring in value-added investors to help capture Grisoft's future prospects," Eichler said. Intel Capital last-year invested $130m in 110 different deals, with 40 per cent of its investments made outside the US. The company claims to have invested $4bn in 1,000 companies based in 30 countries since 1991.®
Gavin Clarke, 06 Sep 2005
channel

Peloton getting closer for Borland

Borland Software has renewed its commitment to open source development tools using Eclipse, while announcing availability of its latest flagship Java IDE. The company said Tuesday work is "well underway" on development of Peloton, the first installment in a raft of Eclipse-based products from Borland. Peloton, announced in June, is the codename for Borland's Eclipse-based JBuilder due in the first half of 2006. Borland is using Eclipse's Java Tools and Web Tools Project in Peloton. The decision to utilize elements of Eclipse comes as the company's JBuilder business faces increased competition from tools that use Eclipse. Borland reported a "surprising" drop in license revenue from the core JBuilder business during the first quarter. Ahead of Peloton, Borland plans to release JBuilder 2006 in the middle of this month. JBuilder 2006 features changes to improve the suite's usability in application development shops that have been outsourced or sent off shore. JBuilder 2006 introduces the ability for developers to jointly perform code editing, visual design and debugging in real-time, along with re-factoring and change management to ensure that changes made locally to code are propagated, to cut down on replication and reduce the scope for potential errors and bugs in code. Borland has also added features from partner Fortify Software that help identify security vulnerabilities. Other JBuilder 2006 features include support for Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs), web services, XML, mobile and database application development.®
Gavin Clarke, 06 Sep 2005

Microsoft cripples 'Longhorn' Server for Itanium

Intel has long bragged about the ability to run three operating systems - Windows, Linux and Unix - on the Itanium processor. Much to its dismay, however, Microsoft will cut that magic "three" down to about "two and a half" with the release of Longhorn Server. Microsoft last week told customers not too expect much out of its upcoming version of Windows Server tuned for Itanic-based systems. The OS "will be optimized for three workloads" and won't run anything else. The three workloads in question? "Windows Server 'Longhorn' for Itanium-based systems is designed specifically for database workloads and custom and line-of-business applications," Microsoft said. Microsoft's decision to relegate Itanium to a select group of high-end tasks doesn't carry the shock value it might once have. Even Intel's own executives say Itanium has taken on the role of mainframe replacement or PA-RISC upgrade. One sign of Itanium's diminishing role appeared at last month's Intel Developer Forum where the names IBM and Dell were missing from advertisements for the chip. HP-UX and Linux fans should still see plenty of Itanium support with future versions of the operating systems. But those of you looking to use an Itanic box for "fax serv(ing), Windows Media Services, Windows SharePoint Services, file and print servers" will be most disappointed as these low-end services and others "won't operate on Windows Server 'Longhorn' for Itanium-based systems." Read Microsoft's confession here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 06 Sep 2005