7th > September > 2005 Archive

Wikipedia eclipses CIA

Wikipedia is fast becoming the number-one online resource for web surfers hungry for context about breaking news, in what must be a sad comment on the ability for traditional news media to keep its audiences well-informed. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia assembled in realtime, has reportedly experienced a 154 per cent hike in traffic during the last year, according to internet traffic watchers at Hitwise. The Wiki-fiddlers' big-book o' facts appears to be benefiting from a happy coincidence of a lot of big-headline news combined with the apparent inability of so-called traditional news channels - both online and off-line - to satiate surfers' need for reference material. A high ranking in Google, boosted by the replication of the Wikipedia material, hasn't harmed the project either. Wikipedia attracted 22.3 per cent of users searching for information about the Gaza Strip as Israeli troops closed down settlements and withdrew from the region. Wikipedia's market share numbers meant it drew five times more traffic than Google News, Yahoo News or the BBC and tied with CIA World Factbook for information on the strip. Wikipedia tied as the second most visited site among US web users eager for details about Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II's successor. The top destination was Newadvent.org, the old-school Catholic encyclopedia that has resisted the temptation to go Wikipedia-style. The service has also eclipsed Dictionary.com is the internet's number-one reference site. Hitwise failed to make more information on Wikipedia traffic, specifically the number of page views, publically available.®
Gavin Clarke, 07 Sep 2005

Snowball fight officially possible on Mars

Mars is covered in huge quantities of ice and snow, according to NASA researchers, but the watery stuff is well mixed-in with the red planet's sandy dunes. Speaking at the British Association science festival in Dublin, Mary Bourke, of the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, said that the so-called niveo-aeolian (snow, carried by the wind) deposits could still be a useful resource for future manned missions to Mars. Earth has plenty of these ice-rich sand dunes, which tend to form distinctive features, such as overhanging cornices, which cannot form in arid sand. According to the FT some of the best examples can be found in Alaska and Antarctica. By studying high resolution snaps of the Martian surface, Bourke was able to identify many of these features in the North Polar Sand Sea and southern crater dune fields, and so conclude that Mars boasts similar niveo-aeolian deposits. Some of the dunes might contain substantial quantities of water, she predicts. One in particular, which, at four miles long by 1,558 feet high, is the largest dune in the solar system, could be as much as 40 or 50 per cent H2O in its upper layers. Bourke suggests that much of the snow and ice would have fallen when Mars was much younger, but that some could also be a result of frosts forming on the dunes and being mixed into the sand by the planet's infamously fast winds. NASA has yet to investigate the areas in question, largely because no one is really sure how to land a craft safely on such difficult terrain. However, future missions will probably want to check the regions out: Bourke reckons that the icy sand could be a prime spot for finding primitive life. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Sep 2005

Apple touts iTunes' UK 80% market share

AnalysisAnalysis Let there be no doubt that High Street music retailers Virgin and HMV to the UK's digital music market is shaking the tree. Even the formerly lofty Apple has felt it necessary to issue a public statement stressing its market leadership.
Tony Smith, 07 Sep 2005
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ATI signs Chartered as graphics chip maker

Claims that ATI has signed UMC as a foundry partner may prove premature. The graphics chip maker yesterday said it had brought in Singapore's Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing as its second chip producer. ATI will be using Chartered to manufacture Imageon 2240 mobile media processors, which the foundry is punching out using its 130nm process. ATI has traditionally worked exclusively with TSMC, the world's biggest chip foundry. It even went so far as to highlight the close partnership when arch-rival Nvidia, also a TSMC customer, brought IBM on board as a second foundry partner a few years ago. However, recent reports concerning ATI's upcoming R5xx series of graphics chips have named UMC, TSMC's arch-rival and the world's second biggest foundry, as the producer of the entry-level R516, a cut-down version of the eagerly anticipated and delayed R520 next-generation chip. The Chartered deal doesn't preclude ATI from signing UMC. Indeed, UMC is said to be gearing up to produce ATI chips using a 90nm process, whereas Chartered is focusing on the 130nm node. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Sep 2005
arrow pointing up

Ireland celebrates first anti-spam conviction

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, has secured his first conviction for a breach of the country's anti-spam law. A similar law exists in the UK but the UK Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has taken no such action to date. Ireland is also considering stiffer penalties for spammers.
OUT-LAW.COM, 07 Sep 2005
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Dixons downbeat as UK sales dip

Dixons is continuing to suffer from the effects of weak consumer spending in the UK and remains "cautious", the high street electricals giant said today. Publishing figures for the 16 weeks trading to August, the retailer revealed that like-for-like sales in the UK were down 3 per cent, hit hard by a dip in demand for items such as washing machines and fridges. But the retailer is also under pressure from falling hardware prices for computers and communications kit. The bright spot for Dixons came from its expanding overseas operations where it saw sales rise 5 per cent on a like-for-like basis. Speaking ahead of the company's AGM chief exec John Clare said that the summer was usually a quiet period for the firm and that it was too early to read too much into the trading update. Faced with what he described as a "relatively challenging period", he pledged to continue to drive sales while keeping a lid on costs. "We are pleased with the progress of our International operations, whilst we remain cautious about prospects in the UK, where we have experienced the slowdown in consumer expenditure," he said. By coffee break this morning shares in Dixons were up 2.79p (2 per cent) at 156.75p. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Sep 2005

US battery boffins build cow dung fuel cell

Cow dung has provided human beings with fuel for millennia. Now, thanks to research conducted by Ohio State University, it could become the foundation for future notebook power plants. To be fair, it's not the manure per se that's the power source, but the bacteria crawling through it. According to researcher Ann Christy, Associate Professor of food, agricultural and biological engineering, the bugs in 0.5l of bovine gastric juices can generate 600mV - half the voltage needed to power up a AA-sized rechargeable battery. The voltage arises from electrons freed when the bacteria digest cellulose in the cow's gut. Since it's easier to extract the bacteria after they have left the cow's intestinal tract, fecal matter looks like a far better source that the stomach fluid. Indeed, the Ohio State researchers ran a dung-packed fuel cell for "well over 30 days without a decrease in the voltage output", said co-researcher and Ohio State graduate student Hamid Rismani-Yazdi. The cell generated 300-400mV. “While that's a very small amount of voltage, the results show that it is possible to create electricity from cow waste,” Christy said. The downside is size: the experimental fuel cells comprised two cylinders each 30cm high and 15cm in diameter. There's also the problem of how much power the bugs generate. “Although it's too early to tell if this kind of fuel cell can produce significantly more electricity," said Christy, "the fact that the [stomach] fluid worked in our study means that there are additional electricity-producing microbes that we have yet to identify." ®
Tony Smith, 07 Sep 2005

Brain tissue shortage threatens research

A shortage of healthy brains being donated for medical research is impeding the development of treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's, scientists at the British Association Science Festival in Dublin heard yesterday. Dr Kirstin Goldring, who manages the UK Parkinson's Disease Society Tissue Bank at Imperial College London, told delegates that for every 25 Parkinson's-affected brain donated to medical science, just one healthy brain makes it to the research labs. She called on more people to consider registering for brain donation schemes, saying that everyone can play a role in fighting incapacitating diseases, like Parkinson's. According to a BBC report, she said: "We don't just need brains from people who have the disease, we need tissue from people that don't have the disease. In this way, we can compare what is going on in a normal, aging brain with what is happening in a diseased brain." She argued that people seem to view brain donation differently to donating a heart or kidneys after death. "Many of us would consider donating our kidney or heart if we were to die suddenly, but would you consider donating your brain?" she asked. "If not, why not?" Parkinson's disease, which affects around 120,000 people in the UK, and an estimated 6.3m people worldwide, is a degenerative disorder that gradually erodes a person's motor control. Symptoms generally start to appear when the patient is between 40 and 70 years of age; only 10 per cent of those affected are under 45. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Sep 2005

EC warned to tread softly on web TV

The European Commission should be cautious about extending the Television Without Frontiers Directive (TVWF Directive) to cover the provision of online audiovisual content services, according to trade group the E-Business Regulatory Alliance. The group made its comments in response to a consultation by the European Commission on whether the provision of audiovisual content services – by television broadcast, broadband or 3G – needs a new legal regime. The Commission believes that telecom providers will soon be able to deliver broadcasting services in a quality equal to traditional TV, while traditional content providers will enter the communications markets. It therefore wants to make sure now that the new regime has better competition and consumer choice together with protection for children and cultural diversity. Comments on the proposals were invited by 5 September, in time for a forthcoming EU audiovisual content conference to be held in Liverpool later this month. According to the E-Business Regulatory Alliance, the existing framework governing audiovisual and information society services is working well. It is not convinced that any change is necessary. “The internet is not a virtual 'Wild West', but is already heavily regulated with several instruments, for example the e-Commerce Directive and the Copyright Directive. Member States also have horizontal laws that can be generally applied to the internet,” says the Alliance. “Where public policy issues, for example the protection of minors and human dignity, are important to the online environment, national legislation or industry self regulation is already adequate. The online business sector has done much to protect children and minors by introducing, for example, parental/guardian controls and age verification,” it adds. The Alliance calls on the Commission to conduct a Regulatory Impact Assessment – along the lines of the UK’s model – in each business sector likely to be affected by any new regulations. It is also concerned that simply extending the Directive will not solve the problem, in that businesses are unable to predict what developments will take place, and therefore what laws will be needed in the future. Nor does the Alliance believe that the timescale set for publishing the draft Directive – the end of this year – is workable, especially given the need for proper Regulatory Impact Assessments. It calls for a light touch in respect of any proposals for regulating the internet, and questions whether the proposals will provide for legal certainty. The Alliance says: “The E-commerce Directive sets down an enabling framework for online business. This provision should be allowed to remain intact and not be damaged by any new proposal. Online businesses do not want to be made subject to more than one set of rules.” The definition of what is a linear (scheduled programming) and a non-linear (on-demand) service will be particularly problematic, says the Alliance, which believes that radio should definitely not be included. “Further rules here would undermine Europe’s radio industry which is already well-regulated,” it says. It calls on the Commission to ensure high levels of subsidiarity and to maintain a strong country of origin approach – so that businesses are not subject to different rules if offering services in different Member States, but merely have to satisfy those in their country of origin. © Pinsent Masons 2000 - 2005
OUT-LAW.COM, 07 Sep 2005
Broken CD with wrench

HP bangs data protection drum

HP stumped up a swathe of storage management gear at SNW Europe this week, with the aim of making SM painless, if not exciting. Leading the pack are HP's Data Protection Storage Servers, which are disk-to-disk appliances consisting of Microsoft's Data Protection Manager software preloaded onto a Proliant server. The devices provide near-continual backup and allow end users to recover data themselves, said Bob Schultz, senior veep and GM of HP's StorageWorks division. The company also announced an agentless Electronic Vaulting Service, which remotely backs up a client's servers over the wire to an HP data centre, and a 40TB version of the 10TB virtual tape library that it released back in May. Called the 6840 Virtual Library System, the latter speeds backups by writing logical tape volumes to disk; these can then be staged to real tape later. Other new software includes FMA, a File Migration Agent which runs on a Windows 2003 server to automatically move files between tiers of storage. For example, it could stage disused files to cheaper bulk storage, leaving behind just a pointer to the new location. Schultz said the aim is to make data protection and archival storage simpler to manage. He acknowledged that FMA is a throwback to the days of mainframe Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM), but said it still has an important part to play in lowering the cost of storage. "It's part of what you need to build an ILM infrastructure," he said. "ILM is a process, not a product - it's about using storage more efficiently and then managing it better." Lastly, HP has done a deal to resell OuterBay's Application Data Management software, which can improve database performance by moving old data out of the database and into an archive. The HP version will be called RIM, for Reference Information Manager. Alongside the new software were a number of enhancements to existing products. These include replication tools for Exchange 2003, rapid backup software for mySAP, and an archiving system specifically for medical sites. ®
Bryan Betts, 07 Sep 2005

Alienware readies ET-inspired MP3 player

Gaming PC specialist Alienware is to hop on the MP3 player bandwagon this Autumn with an extraterrestrial-inspired music machine of its own. The CE-IV is a Flash-based device, and will be offered in 512MB and 1GB versions, though there's a memory card slot - the company didn't specify a format - for extra storage. It will ship in black and silver cases. There's an LCD screen for track data, and an FM radio. There's the obligatory equaliser with multiple pre-sets for greater sound customisation. The player supports MP3 and WMA, the latter with DRM, though the device is not yet flagged up as Plays For Sure compatible product. Borrowing from the iPod world, Alienware will also offer the HUB, a circular speaker system into which the CE-IV plugs - as, indeed, do "virtually all digital audio players and other audio devices", according to Alienware. The unit incorporates left- and right-channel speakers, along with a sub-woofer to give the bass some welly. It's capable of delivering 30W RMS power, and can be driven by batteries as well as the mains supply. Sound is enhanced with SRS' WOW system which provides controls for TruBass, Focus, and 3D. Both the CE-IV and the HUB are due to ship "early October", Alienware said. It did not disclose pricing. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Sep 2005

Hurricane website is IE only

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has not exactly won hearts and minds with its ability to manage an emergency. The agency, and its boss Michael Brown, has been widely slated for its handling of the post-Katrina disaster in the Southern US. Although its latest failing hardly compares to the litany of incompetence already exhibited but it does manage to make the situation slightly worse for some people. FEMA's website can only be accessed by people using a PC which has Internet Explorer 6. Some of it is viewable using Firefox but anyone trying to apply for Disaster Assistance needs to use IE 6.0 or higher. The alternative is a phone number on which you can apply for a postal application - not terribly practical for people still in emergency accomodation or waiting for a boat-borne postal worker. Mac users who managed to salvage their expensive hardware, will be similarly disappointed. There is a workaround though - more details from macintouch here. At least one web-based initiative is having a positive impact. The Red Cross website has a section collecting names of the missing - over 100,000 people have now registered and 45,000 have called the hotline. People can register themselves, register a missing family member, or search the list for family and friends. Redcross.org has also collected some $209m in donations. The organisation is providing shelter for 145,000 people
John Oates, 07 Sep 2005

Yahoo! assists Chinese dissident conviction

UpdatedUpdated Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has accused Yahoo! of going out of its way to help Chinese authorities to convict a "dissident journalist". Shi Tao was sentenced in April to 10 years imprisonment for "divulging state secrets" partly on the basis of evidence supplied by Yahoo!. Reporters Without Borders said it "provided China's state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict him". "We already knew that Yahoo! collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well," the press freedom organisation said. Yahoo! is attempting to downplay the row by saying it was simply complying with local laws in assisting the Chinese authorities. Yahoo! Spokeswoman Mary Osako said: "Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local country sites operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based." Tiananmen dissident link According to court papers, Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. gave Chinese investigators information that linked information treated as a "state secret" to the IP address of Shi's computer via his use of Yahoo!mail. Shi, 37, and a former staffer on the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News) was convicted in April of sending foreign websites the text of a message from the authorities warning journalists of the dangers of "social destabilisation" from the return of certain dissidents on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) is subject to Hong Kong legislation, which fails to detail the responsibilities of ISPs in these situations. Nonetheless, it is reportedly customary for ISPs to hand over information to the police if confronted by a court order, regardless of whether it is enforceable or not. Yahoo!'s actions in the case raise questions about how far Western companies will go in collaborating with state repression. Reporters Without Borders said: "Yahoo! will yet again simply state that they just conform to the laws of the countries in which they operate. But does the fact that this corporation operates under Chinese law free it from all ethical considerations? How far will it go to please Beijing?" "Information supplied by Yahoo! led to the conviction of a good journalist who has paid dearly for trying to get the news out. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government's abuses and it is quite another thing to collaborate." Last month Yahoo! acquired a large stake in the Chinese internet firm Alibaba for approximately $1bn. Reporters Without Borders has written several times to Yahoo! executives in an attempt to alert it to the ethical issues raised by its Chinese investments. These letters have so far received no answer. ®
John Leyden, 07 Sep 2005

Watchdog brings Bulldog to heel

Bulldog was mauled on prime-time TV last night about the abysmal service it's delivered over the summer. The BBC's aptly named flagship consumer affairs programme Watchdog had received hundreds of complaints from viewers who had suffered at the paws of the Cable & Wireless (C&W) owned broadband ISP. Last night's broadcast is clearly embarrassing for Bulldog which now admits that it suffered problems - such as billing issues, unconnected lines, poor customer service etc - over the summer. It has spent a fortune plugging its unbundled broadband product. But how much of that investment has now been flushed down the lavatory thanks to a summer of bad press culminating in the top slot on Watchdog? Millions of people watch the TV show. Now they all know about Bulldog and the hundreds of complaints filed by frustrated consumers let down by the ISP. Bulldog insists things are improving, that complaint numbers are down and that it takes just a few minutes to speak to someone in customer support. That's fine, but it still has to face an investigation by regulator Ofcom which last week finally decided to act. This will prove crucial, for it could shine a light on the failings of a company that was unable to meet spiralling consumer demand it alone had created. On the other hand, the investigation could unearth some serious behind-the-scenes issues facing local loop unbundling (LLU) operators as they look to unhook consumers from BT and onto their own networks. Either way, consumers deserve better. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Sep 2005

Quantum leaps into new tape era

Quantum is replacing its entire low and mid-range tape automation product range with a revamped autoloader and a new PX500 series of rack-mount libraries. The new devices will support both SDLT and LTO drives, and store from eight to 200 tape cartridges. The PX500 series has three members so far: the one or two drive 4U PX502 with up to 38 slots, the 10U PX506 which runs to six drives and 100 slots, and the PX510 with up to 22 drives and 200 slots. "This is a big new bet on tape for Quantum," said the company's Euro marketing director Henrik Hansen. "Above 100 slots is the biggest automation segment, revenue-wise. 200-slot libraries are growing ten to 12 per cent - that's where a lot of the value is coming from." He added that a key advantage versus competitors is that the PX libraries can be stacked up to 40U high, and can exchange tapes with no need to buy a separate robot or stacking module. "The units self-align via an IR link, then there's a lift between them," he said. "As well as combining units, you can also split them up if they need to be redeployed, and if one unit fails the others can continue to work independently." The PX510 costs $24,995 before you add drives, and was actually announced back in May - that was as a spoiler against StorageTek's SL500 launch though, and the device has only just started shipping. The PX502 and 506 will be announced in the US next Monday; the 502 is priced from $10,990 with an LTO2 drive, and the 506 is $15,595 for the base unit plus $8,000 to $11,000 per drive. Completing the new low end line-up at Quantum is the SuperLoader 3, which Hansen said has been cost-engineered to replaced both the existing SuperLoader and ValueLoader lines. Like the PX500, it will be available with SDLT-600, LTO2 or LTO3 drives. Thanks to a range of changes - for example, the unit's baseplate is still metal, but it's pressed in one piece instead of having to be assembled from several bits - and Quantum's desire to push tape automation, the $8,000 list price of a SuperLoader with a half-height LTO2 drive is actually lower than the list price of a full-height standalone LTO3 drive. The trade-off is that the half-height drive is slower; its lower capacity is rather counter-balanced by the LTO3 only taking one cartridge at a time instead of eight or 16, depending on how many magazines the LTO2 loader has. Hansen says Quantum's current autoloaders and M-series libraries will stay on sale until at least mid-2006, but will then be completely replaced by the new models. ®
Bryan Betts, 07 Sep 2005

US 'world genius' touts 6.8GHz 'quantum-optical' CPU

We're unsure* as to how we should take the claims of Atom Chip Corporation, which maintains it will show off a 2TB diskless notebook based on a 6.8GHz "quantum-optical" microprocessor at next January's Consumer Electronics Show. An image of said notebook, the Atom Chip SG220-2, popped up on a number of websites this week. According to Atom Chip's own description, the machine has no hard drive, relying instead on the company's "non-volatile Quantum-Optical RAM" of which it's packed with 2TB. This is what Atom Chip's other website, Compu-technics.com, says about the memory: "In this non-volatile integrated Quantum-Optical synchronous random accessible memory (NvIOpSRAM) the information is recorded and read by a laser beam. This memory does not have any moving mechanical parts. Complete lack of mechanical parts combined with ultra-high density, ultra-high speed and extremely compact size distinguish this memory from all existing memories." The NviOpSRAM comes in a "three-pin" package, pictured on the site. Yes, it looks like a 3.5mm earphone jack to us, too, but then we're not quantum-optical scientists. In the notebook, the memory appears configured in a standard SO-DIMM format. The HDD replacement is based on the same technology, it appears, fitted into a pair of back-to-back CompactFlash microdrive form-factor units. The computer also contains said "high speed with very low consumption of electrical energy" CPU, the Quantum II, which contains 256MB of on-package memory. Since Atom Chip provides a number of Windows screenshots purporting to prove its claims, we assume the Quantum II is x86 compatible and supports 64-bit addressing, though Atom Chip itself doesn't make such claims. The CPU is mounted inside a sealed unit, but a piccy of the open package reveals nothing so much as a pair of optical drive laser lenses. Oddly, they're mounted in such a way that they would appear to shine only on the inside of the metallic package cover. Alongside the chip is a standard fan and heat-pipe, though the picture caption has the latter down as a "fibers optical cable". Atom Chip also claims this miracle machine has "voice command". It's a wireless device, too, with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPRS. If you don't want a Quantum II on board, it will also run with four 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M processors, Atom Chip says. The downside with the Intel solution is that you only get three hours' battery life, the company claims. With a Quantum II inside, you get eight hours' operation from a single charge. Coo. It can also get Windows XP Server 2002 to display more than 64GB of RAM, apparently. The Quantum II is the brainchild of Westbury, New York-based Shimon Gendlin, who runs Atom Chip and Compu-technics, and whose "magneto quantum-optical" discoveries are enshrined in US patent 5,841,689 filed in November 1996 and granted in November 1998. According to the Compu-technics website, Gendlin has won numerous awards for his work in his specialism, including a "gold oskar" from Bulgaria, a World Intellectual Property Organisation "East-West Euro Intellect" gold medal, an International Salon of Industrial Property, Moscow Archimedes medal, a Japanese "World Genius Convention" plaudit and many more. We must admit, we're a trifle sceptical, but Gendlin has his patent - and more pending, apparently - and so we look forward to seeing Atom Chip's kit in the flesh at CES. The company is scheduled to demonstrate its wares on Booth 36604. ® * Not entirely true: we're sure how we take it - the rest is up to you.
Tony Smith, 07 Sep 2005

Natural selection fighting to survive in the US

A mere 26 per cent of people in the US believe that life on Earth has evolved without any input from a supreme being, according to new figures from The Pew Research Center. Unsurprisingly, secular respondents were overwhelmingly more likely to say they believed in the theory of natural selection. But even in this group, 15 per cent said life has not changed since time began, and 10 per cent agreed that change over time was likely to have been guided by a supreme being. This does make us wonder if these people all knew what "secular" means, and indeed researchers at Pew say that an analysis of the poll suggests that there is some confusion among respondents about the meaning of the words evolution and creationism. They point to inconsistencies in people's declared beliefs and what they think ought to be taught in schools, after 64 per cent of those surveyed said creationism ought to be taught alongside evolutionary theory. Age, sex and race also seem to be big factors in what people are likely to believe, with women being more inclined to go with God than are men: overall, 47 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men told the Pew pollsters that they believe humans, and other lifeforms, have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Of the 48 per cent of the population who believes that life has evolved, well over a third (37.5 per cent) think that its evolution was guided by a supreme being. White respondents were the most likely to go with Darwin (27 per cent reported a belief in natural selection), compared to 22 per cent of Hispanic respondents and 14 per cent of those who gave their ethnicity as black. More than half (53 per cent) of the black respondents said life has existed unchanged since the dawn of time. Those under 30 were the least likely (37 per cent) to state that life has existed since T=0, unchanged. This figure rises to 50 per cent in the over 65s. In the over 50 age group, just 15 per cent of women have faith in evolution compared to 26 per cent of men, and for the under 50s, 34 per cent of men shun the idea of a supreme being, compared to 25 per cent of women. The survey also probed the US public's attitude to religion and politics. While most Americans are quite happy for their politicians to openly declare their religion, the number of people who are uncomfortable with how much President Bush mentions prayer and religion has doubled over the last two years, and now stands at 28 per cent. You can read more of Pew's own analysis and check out the breakdown of the figures here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Sep 2005

Burning Man, meet Drowning Man

The writer had found an elusive internet connection, and reaching beyond exhaustion was finding words to record the madness around him:
Andrew Orlowski, 07 Sep 2005

Google Maps reveals Katrina devastation

Google Maps has added post-Katrina satellite images of New Orleans which demonstrate pretty effectively why the Big Easy will be out of action for some time. As well as the standard "map", "satellite" and "hybrid" views, you can now select "Katrina" to jump to a post-hurricane image. This is how New Orleans used to look: And here's the same view after Katrina: Zooming in, we can see the devastation close-up. This is a snap of Galvez Street Wharf (to the left) and the residential area opposite: But if you add a natural disaster: Impressive stuff, and somewhere in the middle of all that chaos is battling web hosting outfit directNIC, still hanging on in there despite the unwanted attention of the US military: Sometime around midnight, a squad of 82nd Airborne guys accompanied by a US Marshall busted into our Data Center with their M4-A1s to investigate the lights and movement. Personally, I know they were just bored -- there's no way they honestly thought there was some kind of threat up here just yards away from several huge military and police presences.... That's the latest post this morning from the directNIC blog - proof, were it needed, that web hosting need not be the worthy yet ultimately humdrum career choice it is widely believed to be. ®
Lester Haines, 07 Sep 2005

Ofcom caps LLU charges

Ofcom wants to set a price ceiling for fully unbundled local loops as part of plans to increase competition for wholesale broadband. Last month BT cut the cost of renting a fully unbundled line from £105.09 to £80 a year. Despite BT's first move Ofcom is keen to set a cap on rental charges so that BT can't increase the cost to rivals at a later date. So after months of analysis trying to figure out the value of BT's copper network Ofcom has finally worked out that the cap should be...wait for it...£81.85. Of course, this is just a proposal and Ofcom is consulting on this until October 10. Local loop unbundling (LLU) - the process by which phone lines that service homes and businesses are disconnected from BT's network and reconnected to another provider such as Easynet, "Be" or Bulldog - is regarded as vital to help improve wholesale broadband competition. Elsewhere, Ofcom also announced proposals that could give BT greater freedom to offer discounts to large companies. At the moment, BT is not allowed to veer from its published tariffs as part of a move to prevent the dominant telco from abusing its dominant position. But Ofcom reckons there is now sufficient competition out there - among providers of telecoms to large companies at least - to give BT some extra elbow room. The deregulation - should it be introduced - would apply to companies that spend in excess of £1m a year with BT. And just to ensure that BT doesn't abuse its position and offer ridiculously low tariffs that would hurt rivals, the regulator is also proposing to limit how much BT can reduce its tariffs. The industry has until November 16 to mull over Ofcom's plans. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Sep 2005

Four women finger NY subway perv

Dan Hoyt - the "smirking sicko" who exposed himself to a 22-year-old woman on New York's subway and became a net celebrity for his trouble - has been released on $5,000 bail after appearing in court on four charges of subway flashing. The fugitive from justice finally gave himself up last Wednesday and was picked from a line-up by four of his alleged victims. Hoyt's unzipped escapades came to an end when he ill-advisedly exposed his privates to Thao Nguyen back in August. Quick as a flash, Nguyen captured a pic of the masturbating perv on her mobe and posted it on the web. After the snap made it to the front page of the NY Daily News, the perp was rapidly identified as the owner of two vegetarian restaurants - named "Quintessence" - who had already done two days' community service for "public lewdness" on the subway back in 1994. Nguyen says she hopes he gets a spell in chokey this time around: "He has some serious issues that need to be addressed through therapy and counseling - not two days of community service. That's pretty much a slap on the wrist and it doesn't help deter him from doing it again." Hoyt, though, seems unrepentant. With "a smirk on his face and a leer in his voice" he dismissed the charges against him with a "It's a misdemeanor" as he left the Manhattan court. An outraged Nguyen fumed: "What he has done was so disrespectful to women. Perhaps his smug attitude and total lack of remorse may influence the judge's sentence? If there's ever been an example of a guy who deserves the full three-month prison sentence, he's it." Three months is indeed the full stretch for Hoyt's misdemeanours, although the effect on his business might be more likely to permanently wipe the smirk from his face. The NY Daily News reports that at Quintessence on East 10th Street, "which serves healthy fare like hemp seed burgers and nut milk", workers refused to comment on their bosses onanistic tendencies. Former customers, however, were more forthcoming. Melissa Kolbert told the paper: "I've only eaten there once before, but I'll never go back." We're not surprised, and would rather not even contemplate the idea of paying good money to drink Dan Hoyt's nut milk. ®
Lester Haines, 07 Sep 2005

Orange Mobile Office Card 3G PC Card

ReviewReview Just under a year ago I reviewed the original 3G Orange Mobile Office Card and was decidedly unimpressed. Sub-standard hardware and poorly considered software added up to a package that, quite simply, wasn't up to the job at hand. This situation was made worse for Orange by the fact that only a few weeks earlier I had reviewed the Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G data card, and it had performed flawlessly, writes Riyad Emeran.
Trusted Reviews, 07 Sep 2005
fingers pointing at man

E-banking security provokes fear or indifference

A recent study by analyst Forrester Research has unearthed conflicting views about the safety or otherwise of online banking. The survey of 11,300 UK net users found that while many online banking consumers are complacent about security, a large minority have given up online banking as a direct result of security fears. Most UK net users are aware of security threats like phishing and keystroke logging but are unfazed by these risks and expect their banks to deal with the problem - even though these attacks are thrown against consumer's PCs rather than a bank's own systems. Ideally users want banks to supply a blanket guarantee against fraud. Based on responses to its survey, Forrester concludes that an estimated 600,000 from a total of 15m subscribers have ditched online banking as a direct result of security fears. Forrester reckons that users are confused and banks need to step up their efforts to educate customers about online fraud. Measures to restrict the functionality of some accounts (for example controlling how much money can be transferred on any day), stronger internet banking authentication and improved customer profiling are also needed to defend against security threats, it advises. In addition to people who plan to drop net banking accounts as a result of security fears, another fifth of net users say that security fears will stop them ever banking online. Benjamin Ensor, senior analyst of financial services at Forrester Research, said: "Net users don't know what to think about online banking security. Without the technical knowledge to judge the severity of security threats like keystroke logging and phishing or, frankly, much interest in acquiring that knowledge people struggle to reach a balanced judgment. The result is that about half of the UK's Net users are either complacent or paranoid about online banking security. So UK banks still face big communication and security problems." ®
John Leyden, 07 Sep 2005

No live TV birth for Dutch Big Brother

There is hope for humanity after all - the Dutch authorities have ruled that the preganant woman currently appearing in human zoo Big Brother will not be allowed to give birth on live TV. This welcome news comes in the wake of our recent report that Talpa TV - run by former Endemol lead suit John de Mol, and responsible for this up-the-duff bruhaha - was asking viewers to vote of which of five pilots should be developed into a full-blown series. Among the delights on offer was I Want Your Child And Nothing Else, featuring a woman seeking a sperm donor for a TV insemination spectacular. Now, though, Talpa's worst excesses have been curbed with the Dutch Social Affairs ministry ruling that BB particpant Tanja will not be dropping her sprog live. Furthermore, according to the BBC, "the baby will only be able to be on screen once a day for eight days and must be kept in a separate room with no cameras". A ministry statement declared: "The mother of the child that stays in the Big Brother house will have free access to the baby's room. The same goes for a caregiver who is not part of the show, presumably one of the [child's] grandmothers." The rug rat will also be able to leave the house accompanied by a relative. Of course, as Talpa points out, Tanja might yet be voted out before the happy event, thereby bringing the whole sorry affair to a premature conclusion. We can but hope. ®
Lester Haines, 07 Sep 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Microsoft sues EC

Microsoft is taking legal action against the European Commission and has confirmed it has filed a suit with the Court of First Instance. As part of the agreement reached last March the Court asked MS to open up access to its server APIs - it is this issue the software firm is now contesting. Microsoft issued a wordy statement which suggests they've spent too long talking to lawyers and European bureaucrats: “Microsoft has filed an application for annulment with the Court of First Instance specifically concerning the issue of broad licenses in source code form of communications protocols which are based upon Microsoft’s intellectual property. "This filing is the result of the agreement we reached with the Commission in June to put this particular issue to the Court of First Instance for guidance and avoid any further delay in the process. We are taking this step so the Court can begin its review now of this issue given its far reaching implications for the protection of our intellectual property rights around the world.” And breathe. As part of the settlement agreed in March 2004 the software giant to pay a fine of €497m, to offer a version of Windows without a media player and to open up access to its server APIs. Additionally an EC spokesman told Reuters they were still trying to agree an ombudsman or trustee to oversee MS's compliance with EC demands. More on News.com here
John Oates, 07 Sep 2005

3 UK to expand handset net access

3 UK looks set to increase the amount of content its punters can view on the net using their 3G phones. Following a tip-off by a vulture-eyed reader, El Reg has learnt that the mobile operator is on the verge of providing an internet access service shortly with an announcement to be made as early as next week. At the moment users can access limited internet content available on 3's portal. Now the mobile operator looks set to allow users to explore beyond this "walled-garden" with the launch of two new services - "Mobile Web" and "Wireless Web". Details are still sketchy but it's understood that Mobile Web is to give punters access to a limited number of websites which have to be vetted by 3 beforehand. The restrictions are based on 3's keenness to ensure that punters are able to view the sites they want to access. The last thing the operator wants is for punters to access sites that are slow to load or simply don't work with 3 handsets and its network. When the product is launched it's expected that up to 200 sites could be accessible to begin with, with others to be added at a later date with punters suggesting sites they would like to see. The Wireless Web service enables users to plug their 3 handset into their laptop to access the net on the move. Both services are expected to be made available to contract customers initially although details of how much both services cost are still being kept under wraps. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Sep 2005

F5 buys Swan in web acceleration push

In briefIn brief Traffic management outfit F5 Networks has acquired Wan optimisation and application acceleration firm Swan Labs for $43m. The all-cash transaction is subject to various closing conditions - including acceptance of employment with F5 Networks by particular Swan Labs employees - but expected to close in the first quarter of F5 Networks’ 2006 fiscal year. Upon closing, F5 plans to integrate Swan Labs' WANJet and WebAccelerator technology with its own kit to manage the secure delivery of applications across both local and wide area networks. Application optimisation has become a field of interest for several networking companies over recent months with Cisco splashing out $70m for start-up FineGround Networks back in May. That deal came a month after Juniper Networks, Cisco's main rival, splashed out $500m on two firms (WAN optimisation technology firm Peribit Networks and application front end outfit Redline Networks) in a move also broadly geared towards making IP-based applications more secure and reliable. ®
John Leyden, 07 Sep 2005

Stop using the word 'mobe'!

PollPoll There have been a few complaints recently (well, two actually) about our increasing use of the word "mobe": I really hate the word "mobe". What does it mean? Mobile phone? A mobile phone with a camera? I know you're UK-based and I do understand most of these English oddities that appear in your articles, but the word "mobe" is just plain annoying. It's actually annoying to read, and I have never ever in my life encountered a word I hate to read (ok, Harry Potter books have some pretty annoying words like Squigglesworth or something, but they don't count). So please, STOP USING THE WORD MOBE! Yours, Juho The perpetrator of the outrage is our own Lester Haines, who appears to have picked up this street-hip term for mobile phone while hanging around the 'hood with his crew. For example: "NY subway perv busted by mobe snap" declared a recent headline, much to the chagrin of another US reader. Well, in the spirit of democracy for which Vulture Central is rightly famous, we're going to let you, our beloved readers, decide whether or not "mobe" should in future be proscribed. Lester says he will abide by the decision, as long as he is not obliged to substitute the barbarism "cellphone". Fair enough - let the people decide: Should El Reg prohibit the use of the word "mobe"? Yes No
Team Register, 07 Sep 2005

Clarke: Europe must trade civil liberties for security

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke has warned that European citizens will have to accept that civil liberties may have to be bartered away in exchange for protection from terrorists and organised criminals. Speaking at the European Parliament, he said that the European Convention on Human Rights might need to be changed if judges in European courts did not recognise that the right to life was more important that concerns about privacy. "If the judges don't understand that message and don't take decisions which reflect where the people of the continent want to be, then the conclusion will be that politicians...will be saying we have got to have a change in this regime," Clarke told reporters. Clarke will be hosting a two-day meeting with home affairs and justice ministers from across the EU. Proposed new data retention laws that would require communications providers to retain communications data are top of the agenda for the meeting, despite that fact that the proposals have been declared illegal by lawyers at the European Council and Commission. Clarke went on to say that Britain would use its presidency of the EU to give authorities more access to information. This, he said, would redress the balance between individual rights and national security. However, Clarke has acknowledged that the government has failed to make a case for the necessity of the proposals. Critics argue that the proposed laws would not solve any existing problems. They point out that not having the powers proposed in the data retention bill did not seem to hamper the investigation into the Madrid bombings, nor did it stop the police in the UK from tracking down and arresting in short order the four suspects in the 21 July attacks. The Home Secretary has also come under heavy fire from European politicians, particularly the Greens and Liberal Democrats. Graham Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrats told Reuters that the human rights of terrorists and victims of terrorist attacks should not be ranked differently: "Human rights are indivisible. Freedom and security are not alternatives, they go hand-in-hand. Much as the public may dislike it, suspected terrorists have rights." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Sep 2005

Hero BOFHs needed for Katrina relief work

The SANS Institute - best known for helping to track hacker activity via the Internet Storm Center - is helping to recruit tech-savvy volunteers to help care for people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Techies are needed to set up PCs and wireless networks at shelters and at Red Cross headquarters in Washington DC to install security software tools. The Red Cross HQ needs people who know how to tune Cisco IDS, NetIQ Manager and McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator tools. People who live near the shelters and have experience in deploying Windows XP or Cisco systems - or Washington-based security experts - can register to help on the SANS's website here. SANS is collating this info and passing it on to the Red Cross. Meanwhile SANS handler Tom Liston is verifying hurricane related URLs to root out scam artists. Hundreds of Katrina-themed domains have been registered since the storm hit the US Gulf Coast last week. As well as helping to recruit volunteers, SANS is also donating $100K to the Red Cross. ®
John Leyden, 07 Sep 2005
globalisation

Sun tries to tempt thousands with reworked partner program

Sun Microsystems hopes to expand the number of ISVs building applications on Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris by 30 per cent before next summer following an overhaul of its iForce partner program. Sun's goal is to grow its Solaris 8 partner network to 10,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) during the next year, following the diversification of the marketing, sales and development resources available to partners in the Sun ecosystem. The company revealed its roadmap as it announced an important new tool to help it achieve the expanded number of developers - the Partner Advantage Program that replaces Sun's established iForce program. The Partner Advantage Program will make 500 Sun internal training courses available, see rollout of technical readiness assessments, deliver expanded sales and marketing resources, and enable Sun's executives to participate in partners' sales engagements. Partners will qualify for resources according to a four-tiered structure, where ISVs are categorized as either members, associates, principles or executive-level partners. Members are those who want more information about Sun products, associates are those who put their applications on just one Sun product like Solaris 10 on x64, and associates are ISVs who base their applications on multiple Sun technologies. Executive members are nominated by Sun based on their use of its technology, and get joint collateral along with early access to pre-release editions of Sun products. Stephen Borcich, Sun's vice president of partner marketing, said iForce wasa "monolithic" offering, while the Partner Advantage Program added more technology and marketing resources to help Sun engage with partners at different levels. "iForce was somewhat monolithic - all partners got the benefits. But they couldn't grow and differentiate [their] investments from Sun," Borcich told The Register. "[Now] The more a partner works with Sun, the more Sun is going to invest with them." The Partner Advantage Program will help Sun engage with partners to deliver new offerings based on Sun's systems in new markets, such as vertical sectors. "We have not done enough on direct sales and marketing," Borcich said of iForce. He added while Sun is attempting to increase its partner network around Solaris 10, with Sun so-far having secured support from 2,000 ISVs, the company is not limiting its focus. ISVs are encouraged to use Sun's integration, Java, identity and service oriented architecture (SOA) software in addition to the company's storage and hardware. ISVs are the first in Sun's partner ecosystem to experience the Partner Advantage Program. Systems Integrators and channel companies partners, also supported under the iForce umbrella, will also see re-worked programs rolled out during 2006. ®
Gavin Clarke, 07 Sep 2005

Apple unveils iTunes phone, Flash iPod

More than a year after Apple first announced its partnership with Motorola to put iTunes on a mobile phone, the device is finally available. Apple also overhauled the iPod line - introducing a new, solid state music player - and revamped its iTunes software today. A year is about four generations of technology for the cellphone junky, but Apple and Motorola will be relieved that the ROKR E1 is finally out of vaporware. Cingular will carry the device for $249.99 when bought with a two year contract. The E1 isn't likely to cause Nokia many sleepless nights, offering a paltry 256MB or 512MB of memory. Nokia's own N91 phone (previewed here) is a much more capable Wi-Fi/3G music phone boasting 4GB of capacity, and allows owners to share music files and playlists with each other. It also runs a host of useful third party software and services - but Nokia is late to market, and may miss the lucrative Christmas shopping season. And Nokia, along with other cellphone manufacturers, should take heed from Apple's new iPod Nano. By using solid state Compact Flash memory, which is lighter, slimmer, more robust and much less power hungry than a hard drive, Apple has shrunk the iPod to about the size of a business card. Needing a much more modest battery, the Nano weighs 1.5 ounces, and is a quarter of an inch thick. It still boasts a 1.5-inch colour display, however, for showing photos, and Apple claims 14 hours of playback. The 2GB Nano costs $199 and the 4GB model $249 - which given the price of CF memory, should help boost Apple's margins. The only surprise is the decision to shun an OLED screen. No name Korean manufacturer MobiBlu offers an OLED on its tiny DAH-1500i cube, and it's a smash hit at Wal-Mart. The new Nano range replaces the Mini. Still, Cingular has high hopes for the iTunes phone. Market research indicates that 14 per cent of Cingular customers already have an MP3 player, but 17 per cent want to buy one. With dedicated players that offer better sychronisation becoming less cumbersome to carry every day, it's hard to see who'd want to choose this CROCKR. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 07 Sep 2005
channel

CA makes a puddle in patent pool

Computer Associates International (CA) is cracking open the door on its patent portfolio by releasing some of its IP to open source developers. CA on Wednesday said it had released 14 of its patents covering application development and modeling, business intelligence and analytics, systems management and storage, and network management and security tools. The software giant has some 280 patents in its portfolio, meaning CA is opening up approximately two per cent of its intellectual property (IP). CA's release follows larger donations by enterprise giants including IBM and Sun Microsystems. IBM donated 500 patents to the community in January while Sun announced plans to release its single sign-on, digital rights management (DRM) and middleware stack having released 1,600 Solaris patents earlier this year. Sam Greenblatt, CA's senior vice president and strategic technical advisor, defended his employer's tiny release saying CA is focusing on quality not quantity. "There are a lot of patents that can be thrown into open source. We want to be sure the [patents] we put in are meaningful and can be utilized by the open source community. They are infrastructure patents and people tend to use them to develop systems management and other areas like storage," Greenblatt told The Register. CA's patents will be available under the Open Source Development Labs' (OSDLs') recently announced Patent Commons Project. Asked whether CA planned to make more patents available to open source developers, Greenblatt said CA was "always looking at the patent portfolio." In the meantime, CA is extending greater protection to developers through a patent cross-licensing deal with IBM. The companies will exchange license rights and leverage each other's IP to build new products and services. "I see the customer getting more benefit... [they are] getting mutual technology without the customer having to worry about who's stepping on whom. When you are a developer working on integrating other peoples' products, you have to worry whether you have come close to the line in using someone's patents," Greenblatt said. While an agreement between the two was not unexpected, given CA's chief executive is IBM's former vice president of software sales John Swainson, the deal will likely do little to satisfy those campaigning against the very existence of patents in software. The company believes developers will become increasingly interested in systems, network and storage management - areas covered by CA's patents - as open source software moves into mission critical computing environments. "You really need to get projects that are much more industrial strength," Greenblatt said. OSDL chief executive Stuart Cohen welecomed CA's move, saying it would help encourage the growth of the patent commons. "We look forward to working closely with CA as well as IBM and the other leaders in this area as we develop a trusted vehicle and database for administering and encouraging donations to the burgeoning patent commons," Cohen said.®
Gavin Clarke, 07 Sep 2005

Sun has at least 1GHz of Niagara Viagra

Sun officials still won't say a heck of a lot about the upcoming Niagara processor family, despite the fact that our sources have it shipping in just a couple of months. Thanks to some beta systems and OpenSolaris, however, the Average Joe can discover a thing or two about these multicore chips. Sun has positioned Niagara-based systems as low-end to midrange Xeon server killers. This may sound like a familiar pitch - Sun used it with the much delayed UltraSPARC IIIi processor. This time around though Sun seems closer to delivering on its promises by shipping an 8 core/32 thread chip. It's the most radical multicore design to date from a mainstream server processor manufacturer and arrives more or less on time. Even though it remains shrouded in mystery, Niagara does have a few clear attributes that have been discussed in public. Namely, the chip's design makes up for the gap between processor and memory performance. When a thread hangs the pipeline, another software thread comes to the rescue and keeps the processor working. This approach counters less artistic solutions from, say, Intel, which just straps a giant cache onto its speedy single core chips. The design also reduces the need for more complex branch prediction, out-of-order execution and other techniques chip designers have tried in recent years. Sun argues that Niagara and Rock are cleaner and simpler. By using a couple of commands and looking at the OpenSolaris code, observers would seem to be able to tell the Niagara chip's first name and clock speed, along with future directions for the chip. (Thanks and thanks again, RSM.) $ ./psrinfo -vp The physical processor has 8 cores and 32 virtual processors The core 0 has 4 virtual processors (0, 1, 2, 3) The core 1 has 4 virtual processors (4, 5, 6, 7) The core 2 has 4 virtual processors (8, 9, 10, 11) The core 3 has 4 virtual processors (12, 13, 14, 15) The core 4 has 4 virtual processors (16, 17, 18, 19) The core 5 has 4 virtual processors (20, 21, 22, 23) The core 6 has 4 virtual processors (24, 25, 26, 27) The core 7 has 4 virtual processors (28, 29, 30, 31) UltraSPARC-T1 (clock 1080 MHz) UltraSPARC-T1 is listed as the Niagara CPU module in plenty of Sun documentation that we found on its web site and in the Solaris code. Sun typically identifies the CPU modules with their marketing names, so it's pretty safe to bet that you'll be reading a lot more about the UltraSPARC-T1 in the coming months. In addition, Sun mentions the UltraSPARC-H20 systems as being multicore products similar to the UltraSPARC-T1. Sadly, there is far less detail about the UltraSPARC-H20 products, and some Sun insiders we talked to haven't even heard of this product. So, it may be an old name or just a beta box. The first server based on the Niagara chip is believed to be called the Sun Fire T200. Should this documentation match Sun's launch plans, then we're looking at a chip with 1.08GHz cores. A Sun insider, however, cautioned that numerous beta boxes have reached customers with the Niagara chips running at different speeds and added that the company hasn't settled on a launch speed just yet. Still, this speed has to be considered in the ballpark. Such a frequency fits with Sun's plan to pack server racks full of these low-power processors. Sun wants Niagara to power thin servers that are chock full of memory and that can crank through highly threaded software workloads such as web and application server software. Looking forward, it seems Sun has already made plans for at least a 64-thread version of Niagara. A 16 core/4 thread design would seem to be the most likely option for Niagara II. This snippet of source code shows, 60 * Maximum cpuid value that we support. NCPU can be defined in a platform's 61 * makefile. 62 */ 63 #ifndef NCPU 64 #define NCPU 64 65 #endif To do some digging of your own, chuck in the Niagara servers' codename - Ontario - or their "sun4v" designation into the source code search. While this information might be of some help to Sun customers, a number of you have complained about the thin roadmap surrounding both Niagara and the Rock family of processors. Sun executives were very vocal early on about their intentions to head the multicore route but have been less forthcoming with CPU specifics. The enterprise customers that Sun desperately wants and needs to hang on to could use a more concrete view of the future. Lord knows, we'd like to see some details. With the Niagara launch just months away, Sun has a real chance to put pressure on rivals IBM and Intel. It's been a long time since Sun could claim an advance over the competition in the RISC market. Intel, however, isn't sitting still and will largely copy much of Sun's approach in 2007 and 2008 with a massive fleet of multicore server processors. For its part, IBM has BlueGene.®
Ashlee Vance, 07 Sep 2005

'China has f*cked us' - Bill Gates

Microsoft's internal politics - the slipping roadmaps, the meetings about meetings about meetings, and the lack of even a coherent medium-term strategy - are more than just a tech industry soap opera. They're a source of amusement for the Chinese Government, a departing Microsoft exec has alleged. It's Dr Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Microsoft's Chinese Labs and now a Google employee, who's at the center of an employment dispute between the two companies. After Google recruited Lee, Microsoft sued, claiming Lee was breaching his contract. Google has countersued Microsoft, in a writ so theatrical it may have been written by Zsa Zsa Gabor. Just as the Cold War Superpowers fought their wars by proxy, this court battle has been a sideshow. We've looked in vain for glimmers of strategy from either side. If Google plans to reduce Windows to a poorly debugged device driver layer, as Netscape once hoped, or if Microsoft plans an end-run 'round Google's advertising franchising, we're none the wiser. But at least the trivia has been entertaining. Gates himself said Microsoft has been "fucked" by the Chinese government and the Chinese people, according to Lee, without elaborating how. We can speculate. Not all CEOs realize that the PRC makes it almost impossible to repatriate capital from China. And China's determination to pursue Linux, for reasons of autonomy and the ability to control its own destiny, has provided an obstacle to Microsoft's continuing growth. "I wasn't sure if it was a sign of ignorance or a sign of insult," said Lee yesterday. Lee says that "unethical" behavior drove him from Microsoft. "People in the government joke about Microsoft's internal politics," the AP reports Lee writing in an internal Microsoft memo. The former Microsoft executive did outline some specific problems. Microsoft had 20 autonomous business groups in China. Although in video testimony, Steve Ballmer insisted the company had a "secret sauce" for doing business in China. According to another Google defector, Ballmer had broke a chair and vowed to "fucking kill Google". It's all very silly. Microsoft has a PC operating system monopoly and Google has a lucrative advertising engine - and nothing on the horizon is going to change either fact. They look as snug as two bugs in a rug. Does anyone believe a word of this charade?®
Andrew Orlowski, 07 Sep 2005
graph up

Microsoft paints underachieving MBS range as Dynamics

Microsoft is putting a little pizzazz into its business solutions (MBS) range - a line that's missed key product delivery dates and revenue expectations. The diverse enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) line has been unified under the "Dynamics" brand. Microsoft CRM becomes Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Great Plains becomes Dynamics GP, Axapta becomes Dynamics AX, Navision becomes Dynamics NAV, and Solomon becomes Dynamics SL. Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief software architect, promised a "huge commitment" to business applications, calling this market "critical to our vision." Gates was speaking as his company unveiled new accounting software and an integrated server roadmap for small and medium businesses (SMBs) as part of the Microsoft Business Summit in Redmond, Washington, on Wednesday. The Dynamics brand has been adopted to suggest "energy and motion that helps move a business forward" and the "flexibility and adaptability" of the product, according to Microsoft corporate vice president Tami Reller. Re-branding comes after MBS's Project Green suffered shifting roadmap deliverable goals, while MBS itself experienced poor sales execution that finally saw the group last year placed under Microsoft's energetic chief executive Steve Ballmer. Also announced at the summit was Centro, which has been billed by Microsoft as bringing together the planned Longhorn Server operating system and Exchange Server along with security and management capabilities. Microsoft said Centro would provide greater integration, security and automation of specific tasks. Microsoft, meanwhile, launched Office Small Business Accounting 2006 and Office Small Business Management Edition 2006 to manage sales, marketing and finances inside the Office suite. Small Business Accounting 2006 includes the ability to store frequently entered transactions as templates and manage payroll through Excel. Office Small Business Management Edition 2006 features Office 2003, Business Contact Manager Update, Word and Excel.®
Gavin Clarke, 07 Sep 2005