20th > September > 2005 Archive

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HP throws scandal-dogged Peregrine a future

"If the corporate culture is so infected with problems that they have not yet been solved and if they are selling a product that is suspect on its face, then maybe society is better off if Peregrine Systems is laid to rest." So wrote Penn State ethics professor J Edward Katz last December, in one of the most damning judgments ever passed on a software company. Today Peregrine's future is looking a lot brighter, after its management agreed to a $425 million acquisition by Hewlett Packard. Peregrine hit the headlines three years ago, and eleven officials were eventually indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges including its CEO and CFO were eventually indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the DoJ. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002, and was obliged to restate earnings for 2000, 2001 and the first three quarters of 2002. Peregrine admitted it had exaggerated earnings by over $500 million. "Peregrine management engaged in a myriad of deceptive sales and accounting practices to create the illusion of growth, including secretly adding material sales contingencies to what appeared on heir face to be binding contracts," SEC officials discovered. Peregrine's external auditor at Arthur Andersen was also indicted for conspiring with the management. HP is paying a considerable premium for Peregrine: the cash deal values the software house at 36 per cent more than its public stock market valuation. Professor Katz was prompted to write by an October SEC filing by Peregrine which admitted its internal controls were still ineffective - a warning that Peregrine still makes today. In its most recent recorded quarter (ending March) Peregrine lost $8.4 million on sales of $47.7 million. VP Ann Livermore explained that HP will integrate Peregrine's asset management and service management software into its OpenView suite. HP also announced its intention to acquire 130-strong storage software company AppIQ for an undisclosed sum today. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Sep 2005

Verizon embeds 3G for Wi-Fi challenge

With its 3G data network all dressed up and with nowhere to go, Verizon is courting PC notebook OEMs and cutting prices. Today it announced deals to embed CDMA EV-DO chips with the top three US PC manufacturers, Dell, Lenovo and HP, in their notebook PCs. Verizon's monthly tariff falls to $60 - half what European business users pay for their 3G data. While Wi-Fi is becoming a standard feature on notebooks, network coverage is anything but ubiquitous. A succession of standards has emphasized speed over range and QoS, the bottom fell out of the hot spot market, and the remaining providers have been reluctant to sign roaming agreements. All of which means the road warrior must scramble to a hotspot, and subscribe to several hotspot providers. By contrast Verizon offers speeds of 400 kbits/s to 700 kbits/s in 60 metropolitan areas and 60 airports, with seamless fall back to the slower but adequate 1X RTT network in many more. The PC deals vary. Lenovo's new low cost Z Series Thinkpad range will feature models with an EV-DO antennae and chipset. Dell's deal is a bundle than an embed, with the Texan OEM offering a $249 PC Card option. HP is offering a bundled PC Card now but will embed EV-DO chipsets on models available next spring. HP also throw some marketing bucks at the deals. The last three years has seen genuine concern that 802.11 wireless networking would eat into what the carriers hoped would provide a lucrative revenue stream for years to come: corporate data. Verizon's moves suggest that the trend is there to be bucked. But no doubt Verizon, along with rival carriers who similarly want to capitalize on data network investments, will have taken stock of the clamor for city-wide Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi networking would impact Verizon's hopes of recouping its EV-DO investments. Philadelphia became the first US city to announce its intentions to build out a Wi-Fi network and San Francisco has, more tentatively, followed suit. Now Intel has formally thrown its marketing and lobbying muscle behind the cause. However, Orlando's unhappy experience - the city axed its muni Wi-Fi which attracted just 27 users per day at a cost to the city of $1,800 a month - suggests its a hard case to make. Yesterday's libertarians are today's municipal socialists: for many, the utopian desire to "get everybody connected" trumping those fine, old fashioned things called principles. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Sep 2005
cloud

Cisco targets small.biz with networking bundle

Cisco has set up The Cisco Business Communications Solution, a one-stop networking shop for small and medium-sized firms. The "Solution" bundles products, services, support and financing options for firms with between 20 - 250 workers, long a stronghold of competitors such as 3Com. Pricing details were not available at the time of writing. The Cisco Business Communications Solution features the new SMB-class Cisco Catalyst Express 500 Series switching family, a cut-down version of Cisco's flagship Catalyst LAN switch, and additions to Cisco's IP Communications portfolio, including new applications and an expanded line of XML-enabled IP phones. The Cisco Catalyst Express 500 Series switch comes in a range of four sizes able to support anything from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet. The switch range works with Cisco's existing Integrated Services Routers running new versions of Cisco CallManager Express and Cisco Unity Express software to provide an integrated communications package. Cisco CallManager Express 3.3 features embedded 'MeetMe' conferencing for 20 to 96 users as well as improved call routing and queuing capabilities. Cisco Unity Express 2.2 offers new auto attendant integration among other improvements. With channel partners in mind, Cisco is introducing an improved range of tools and programs. The tools include the Cisco IP Communications Express Quick Configuration Tool to speed the configuration and deployment of a fully-converged small office networks. Remote monitoring and reporting tools will make it easier for resellers to keep an eye on customer's networks. Simple quotation and ordering bundles are designed to simplify the sales process. Leasing options for the kit will be available in many parts of the world. ®
John Leyden, 20 Sep 2005
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MS sues eight US resellers over hookie software

Microsoft is suing eight resellers in the US for allegedly selling counterfeit versions of their software. The company said the prosecutions were a last resort after other attempts to stop the companies' behaviour failed. Consumers tipped off Microsoft by calling the hotline - 1-800-RU-LEGIT. Secret shoppers were then sent out to gather evidence against the companies. The case against MicroCity4Less.com relied on evidence from consumers. The info came via Windows Genuine Advantage - an online tool for checking the bona fides of your software. Cases have been filed in Arizona, California, Illnois, Minnesota and New York. The companies are: BWT Industry Technology Service Inc., Data Day USA Inc, MicroCity4Less.com, Winvtech Solutions Inc, Global Computing Inc, Ion Technologies of Minneapolis, Compustar Co and Chips and Tech of New York. Read the whole press release here.®
John Oates, 20 Sep 2005

Ancient meteorites tell tales of early solar system

Scientists at London University's Imperial College have gained a new insight into the earliest days of our solar system through a new analysis of some of the oldest, most primitive, metorites found on Earth. The meteorites, all of which date back to the earliest days of the solar system, and predate our planet by a substantial period, are almost devoid of the so-called volatile elements, such as zinc, sodium, and lead, as is the upper mantle of Earth. The nebula around the proto-sun would initially have been relatively rich in these elements, which leaves astronomers to puzzle over the question of when and where did these elements go? The researchers propose that volatile depletion - the process by which these elements were knocked out of the matter that condensed to form the planets - must have been one of the first things to happen when our solar system was forming. Not only that, but they suggest that this process, whatever it was, could well be an inevitable part of planetary formation, and not just a local phenomenon. Scientists have known for a long time that volatile depletion must have been an early process, but have not been able to say if it ocurredas the planets were forming, or some time later. "Studying meteorites helps us to understand the initial evolution of the early Solar System, its environment, and what the material between stars is made of," Dr Phil Bland, from Imperial's Department of Earth Science and Engineering, who led the research, explained. "Our results answer one of a huge number of questions we have about the processes that converted a nebula of fine dust and gas into planets." The researchers based their conclusions on an analysis of around half of the 45 primitive meteorites around the world. The work has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 2005

Put up or shut up, Friends Reunited tells bidders

Divorce specialist Friends Reunited has set a deadline of next week for bidders to put their money where their mouth is. You've read the story, now wear the t-shirt The website has ruled out selling to venture capitalists. It has attracted interest from at least six companies ranging from old media like News Corp to Yahoo! and eBay, according to the FT. The paper values the firm at more than £100m and says bidders include British and American firms. The site, which puts old school friends back in touch and has been credited with breaking up several marriages, has moved into dating, jobs and genealogy websites. The firm recently appointed financial advisors Long Acre to help with a possible sale. It expects to make a profit of £6.5m this year - less than half of it from the original site. It claims 12m registered users. Last year marriage guidance group Relate blamed it and similar sites for fuelling divorce rates. Original founders Steve and Julie Pankhurst still own 30 per cent of the business. Their co-founder Jason Porter owns another 30 per cent. ®
John Oates, 20 Sep 2005
channel

Intel tweaks 65nm process to blitz leakage

Intel is working on a version of its 65nm chip fabrication process that will produce processors with even lower power consumption characteristics. The chip giant says he technology will reduce transistor leakage by a factor of 1000. There's a catch: the process halves the processor's potential performance, admitted Intel's director of process architecture and integration, Mark Bohr, in an interview with EETimes. For that reason, the process, called P1265, will target chips for mobile phones and other mobile devices, so it's a clear candidate for future XScale processors. Intel is scheduled to ship its first 90nm XScale, codenamed 'Monahans', in Q4. P1265 tweaks Intel's 'standard' 65nm process, P1264, retaining its eight-layer metal structure with copper interconnects. It too uses strained silicon techniques and low-k dielectric insulators. However, the new process raises the transistor's sub-threshold voltage using a "low-dosage implant step", equipping the ultra-shallow junction with a "high-dose implant step followed by an anneal", and thickening the gate oxide layer. It's the latter component that impacts performance, but Intel clearly believes it has a better chip, in toto . As evidence it quotes leakage current figures: 100nA per micron for the standard 65nm process compared to 0.01nA per micron for P1265. That, the company says, yields "significant" power savings. As for the performance drop, that's relative to 65nm notebook, server and desktop chips, so should be still well in excess of what the company's XScale CPUs are offering today. P1264 is due to yield shipping Pentium M processors by the end of the year. P1265, on the other hand, won't ramp up to full-scale production until 2007. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005

Baidu appeals music download court ruling

Chinese search engine Baidu is likely to appeal a decision which found it guilty of helping illegal distribution of music over the internet. Although the company did not offer any download services directly it provided links to websites which did. The action was brought by a Chinese subsidiary of EMI, Shanghai Push, which demanded compensation for copyright infringement of its songs. The lower Beijing court ordered Baidu to pay compensation of $8,400. But Baidu is appealing the decision and taking the case to a higher court. Baidu's lawyers believe the decision was based on a misunderstanding of how search engines work, Reuters reports. Baidu faces similar action from Sony BMG, Vivendi and Warner, according to the newswire. Baidu aims to be the Chinese language equivalent of Google, the name refers to an 800-year old poem which "compares the search for a retreating beauty amid chaotic glamour with the search for one's dream while confronted by life's many obstacles." Baidu floated on Nasdaq last month and saw its share price double on the first day, they are currently trading at $79.53 a share. The Chinese government is keen to improve the country's perceived lack of respect for intellectual property. ®
John Oates, 20 Sep 2005

Of technicolour lungfish

The Australian lungfish, often described as a living fossil, has probably been living in a world of blazing colour since before the dinosaurs arose. Research from the University of Queensland has identified genes for five colour pigments, despite the fact that vision was always assumed to be of little importance to the fish. By contrast, humans can only detect three pigments - red, green and blue. Colour vision is controlled by photoreceptors in the retina called cones. Rods handle the night vision. Lungfish still retain five kinds of cone including two that have been lost by mammals. The lungfish's cones are also tuned to longer wavelengths than in other fish, according to postgraduate researcher Helen Bailes. "We keep discovering ways in which these animals are quite different from other fish," she says. "Their eyes seem designed to optimise both sensitivity and colour vision with large cells containing different visual pigments." For instance, the photoreceptive cells, which house the visual pigments, are bigger in lungfish than for any other vertebrate, probably making them more sensitive to light. "Lungfish are very large, slow-moving fish, so vision was always assumed to be of little importance. This work may change that theory." The Australian lungfish is the most primitive of the living lungfish, a species that has survived for over 100m years, thus earning the name living fossil. They are important because they are the closest relative of the first creatures that left the seas and began to colonise land for the first time. This makes them the best indicators of what life was like for one of our earliest ancestors. Bailes now hopes behavioural research can find out how these fish are using their eyes for colour vision in the wild. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 2005
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Opera gives away ad-free browser

Opera Software has permanently dropped the inclusion of advertising banners in the free version of its PC browser software. The ad-free, full-featured Opera browser is now available for download here. The browser was previously available free of charge with an ad banner. Users had the option of paying a licensing fee to remove the ad banner and receive premium support. One to three per cent of users purchased this license and that along with revenue from search engines and the sale of ads made up the three almost equal revenue streams for Opera's PC business. Opera will continue to sell premium support at the reduced price of €24 per year. "Removing the ad banner and licensing fee will encourage many new users to discover the speed, security and unmatched usability of the Opera browser," said Jon S. von Tetzchner, chief exec of Opera Software. By giving away its browser without string attached Opera hopes to boost its market share and thereby make more revenue from search engines, an Opera spokesman explained. The firm hopes this extra revenue will more than offset loss of income from licensing over the long term. Opera's PC software business generates roughly half the income of its devices (set-top box and mobile) operation. Users more familiar with IE or Firefox will find a number of significant differences with Opera that may enhance their browsing experience. Opera's browser lets users start from where their last browsing session ended or to save their entire session. Integrated security features with the browser also put it ahead of the game in defending against phishing attacks. But don't take our word for it: make up your own mind by downloading the latest (version 8.50) of the browser software here. ®
John Leyden, 20 Sep 2005
channel

US e-sales to rocket

Online sales in the US will rocket in the next five years as etailers become more adept at getting shoppers to part with their cash. Online saleswill grow from $172bn this year to $329bn in 2010, equivalent to 13 per cent of total US retail sales, Forrester Research forecasts. Travel will remain the largest online retail category, growing from $63bn in 2005 to $119bn in 2010. General merchandise - all retail categories excluding cars, food and drink, and travel - is expected to top $100bn for the first time in 2005. Much of this increased revenue is down to etailers viewing ecommerce differently, say analysts. When ecommerce first started to gain momentum it was regarded as a low-cost way to flog goods. Indeed, many shoppers still view the web as cheaper than the high street. While this may still be true in some cases, existing retailers are discovering that using the web just as a way to flog their gear might not be all it's cracked up to be. Instead, some retailers are taking a new approach to their web strategy to "enhance the online experience for existing consumers". "Many [businesses] believe that they became too focused on sales," said Forrester analyst Carrie Johnson. "Now they're looking at their websites as a way to drive in-store traffic and increase their engagement with customers. This is a huge shift in philosophy as eCommerce enters a more sophisticated phase." Forrester's conclusions are contained in this report: US eCommerce: 2005 To 2010. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Toshiba preps Cell mobo for developers

Sony appears to have exclusive usage of the Cell processor until the PlayStation 3 console ships next March. Toshiba - with Sony and IBM one of the chip's co-developers - said today it would offer Cell-based hardware development kits in April 2006. The reference platform comprises Cell and support chips and is geared toward "digital consumer products and communication equipment that draw on the powerful broadband capabilities of the Cell microprocessor" and its "unsurpassed multi-tasking and real-time processing functions", as Toshiba put it. The ancillary chips on the reference motherboard include the "Super Companion Chip", described by Toshiba as "the interface between Cell and external A/V, I/O equipment", including 1394, and digital audio and video ports. The board includes - ominously - "a power supply system chip optimised to drive the Cell microprocessor". The package is based on Linux and ITRON operating systems, which run in virtual machines maintained by the reference platform's core Hypervisor OS. Clearly, Intel and AMD aren't the only ones bringing mainframe-style virtualisation technologies to desktop microprocessors. Toshiba said it will bundle Eclipse, an integrated software development environment, along with "an audio-visual application model includes simultaneous multiple digital and analog broadcast television reception, recording and playback". It's telling the reference board ships in Q2 2006, after the PS3's scheduled debut in Q1 2006. That is undoubtedly as much because Sony will hoover up all the Cells IBM and Toshiba can punch out, because it wants to ensure it offers product based on the part before anyone else does. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005
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Compel maintains return to form

Compel has put in a solid set of prelimary results for the year ended 30 June 2005. Turnover for the UK reseller grew 25 per cent to £79m and operating profit went up 89 per cent to £2.3m, after exceptional items this was reduced to an operating profit of £400,000. Margins grew from 8.8 per cent to 9.1 per cent, before shared costs, exceptional costs and goodwill amortisation. The group's purchase of Hire IT in June strengthened its leading position in rental IT equipment. Sir Michael Bett, giving his last chairman's address, said: "After a marked decline during the early part of this decade, our markets have been stable and have shown modest growth over the last couple of years; we expect this recent trend to continue". He will be replaced by deputy chairman Ron Clark. Compel shares on twere up 1.3 per cent in early morning trading. Compel has 375 employees and two divisions - Compelsolve which sells to enterprises and Hamilton Rentals which hires out IT kit, on short-term rental. The press release is here (PDF). ®
John Oates, 20 Sep 2005
cloud

Oracle promises 'lifetime support' for bought-in customers

Oracle Corp has promised continued support for acquired applications while juggling with a shareholder legal action against its $5.85bn Siebel Software bid. Charles Phillips, Oracle's president, announced a lifetime support policy to give customers confidence their existing software investments would be protected. "We'll give you both innovation and lifetime support at a measured price," he said. Phillips announced lifetime support while opening the annual OracleWorld conference in San Francisco, California, Monday. Previously, Oracle has pledged support for PeopleSoft and JDE Edwards through until 2013 at least . And Oracle's chief executive, Larry Ellison, last week promised to support the existing suite of Siebel products "for some time to come". Oracle's commitment emerged as its latest acquisition hit a legal snag. Three shareholder actions have been filed that claim Siebel failed to maximize shareholder value and sold to Oracle without entering into a fully-fledged auction process. One action, clearly filed with an eye on Oracle, charged the purchase was intended to take advantage of a recent low in Siebel's share price. News of the actions emerged in latest Stock Exchange Commission (SEC) filings from Siebel. Oracle is, meanwhile, considering support for rivals' databases in the company's planned Project Fusion strategy - a program that will converge Oracle's applications with those from companies it has acquired on the same architecture. Project Fusion is expected to appear in 2007. Phillips told OracleWorld that the company's Project Fusion council, a group that is overseeing the integration of products Oracle has acquired during the last nine months, is evaluating support for rival companies' databases. Phillips estimated a decision should be taken within the next six to nine months. Ahead of that, IBM's WebSphere middleware will run on Project Fusion. Oracle and IBM are in discussions on the definition and scope of the project to put WebSphere in Project Fusion, a work that builds on WebSphere's support for PeopleSoft and JD Edwards that Oracle inherited with its PeopleSoft purchase. Phillips called the plan to put WebSphere on Project Fusion one of Oracle's "most important customer focused project at our company". Oracle's acquisition strategy has seen it buy in a number of other companies' customers. Notably, Phillips promised continued support for IBM hardware and software after taking a majority stake in Indian banking software specialist I-Flex in August. ®
Gavin Clarke, 20 Sep 2005
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Nvidia GeForce Go 7800GTX to launch '29 September'

Nvidia is borrowing Intel's new approach to chip marketing to help it promote its upcoming GeForce Go 7800GTX So suggest allegedly leaked company presentation slides that outline the next-generation mobile graphics part and its launch on 29 September - a week on Thursday. The slides stress the chip's "revolutionary performance per watt". According to the slides, published by TechPowerUp, the Go 7800 GTX will contains 302m transistors, some 100m of which are used to double the shader performance over the old 202m-transistor GeForce Go 6800 Ultra and raise the geometry performance by a factor of 1.6. The new chip yields double the 3DMark03 scores its predecessor did, the slides claim. The improvements come despite a reduction in core clock speed, from the 6800 Ultra's 450MHz to 400MHz. Both chips have the same memory clock: 550MHz (1.1GHz effective). The memory is connected across a 256-bit bus. The chip delivers "99 per cent" of the performance of "shipping desktop PCs" - presumably, though this is not stated categorically, those with the desktop 7800GTX on board. The extra transistors also equip the 7800GTX with the ability to do anti-aliasing in transparency layers. It's designed to support Windows Vista, Nvidia said. Touting the 7800GTX's "performance per watt" - a phrase commonly spoken by Intel these days - Nvidia notes the new part will sport the latest incarnation of its PowerMizer power-conservation technology, version 6.0. The slides claim the 7800GTX will ship with support from notebook makers Dell, Alienware, Voodoo, Sager, Falcon, Evesham, ABS, ProStar and HyperSonic. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005
channel

Acer launches compact VGA Wi-Fi PocketPC

Tantalising images of what purports to be Acer's next, Windows Mobile 5.0-based PocketPC have been tacitly confirmed as genuine by the manufacturer The snaps, posted on Chinese-language website Mobile1, show a stylish black and silver unit sporting a 3.7in, 65536-colour, 480 x 640 display which takes up most of the device's front panel but for a bezel and a compact navigator and application key cluster. The handheld pictured with the alleged Acer is a Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox. Acer yesterday formally launched the n310 and n311 PocketPCs, releasing technical details that confirm specifications posted by Mobile1. The units are powered by a 400MHz Samsung S3C2440 processor backed up with 64MB of RAM. The n310 has 64MB of Flash ROM, while the n311 contains 128MB. Both handhelds provide Bluetooth 1.2 wireless connectivity, but the n311 also includes 802.11b Wi-Fi. Expansion comes courtesy of an SD IO slot, and the PocketPCs can act as USB hosts to allow them to download pictures directly from digital cameras. Both machines measure 11 x 7 x 1.4cm and weigh 135g. Acer did not say when the n310 and n311 would go on sale, or how much they will cost. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005

Trade bodies ask EC to stop broadband regulation review

The UK government's advisory broadband group BSG and Intellect, the IT industry lobby group, have teamed up to ask the European Commission to stop its review of broadcast legislation. The EC recently pledged to look again at the TV Without Frontiers Directive which aims to regulate new forms of broadcasting. But the Broadband Stakeholders Group and Intellect consider the proposals: premature, unjustified, inappropriate and unworkable. Philip Graf, chairman of the BSG, said: "The broadcasting world is entering a period of rapid change and the regulatory framework will need to be amended, but this blanket regulatory approach is absolutely not the way to do it. These proposals would lead to a massive extension of EU regulation to cover all audio-visual content services, in some cases would catch online services, such as newspapers, that are beyond the EU’s competence." Anthony Walker, director for the knowledge economy at Intellect, said his members were worried that the proposals will stifle growth of the content and new media market in Europe. He said: "New audio-visual content services, made possible through innovation in digital technology and the internet, should be given time to evolve and develop rather than being shackled by premature and unnecessary regulation intervention by the EU" The groups want the EC to restart the consultation process and conduct an impact study into the proposed legislation. More here. ®
John Oates, 20 Sep 2005

Competition to drive down telecoms costs

The cost of telecoms services will continue to fall as increased competition bites and new technologies are developed that can deliver more for less. So says Paul Reynolds, chief exec of BT Wholesale, who was speaking today at the Carriers World conference in London. He told delegates that the economic rules that used to govern the telecoms industry are changing - and not just in the UK but around the world as operators witness "continual margin erosion and revenue reductions". And while markets have become increasingly competitive he believes regulators are unlikely to ease up on incumbents any time soon. "The telecoms market is a tough place to be and it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of additional sales and continual cost-savings - just to stand still," he said. "And I don't believe that the price reductions that end users expect and demand, and that regulators often mandate, are about to be relaxed anytime soon. "Communications in the UK is an ultra competitive market and that level of competition will continue to drive continual downward pressure on prices," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 2005

eGovernment 'ignoring' poor, unemployed, homeless

Socially excluded groups are currently "very poorly served" by the UK eGovernment agenda, says new government research. A report out today warns that eGovernment, at both national and local level, largely ignores the needs of 'hard to reach' individuals and is failing to adequately promote social inclusion. Similarly, social inclusion strategies rarely consider the important role that ICT could play, leaving government stuck in a "strategic impasse" which has resulted in missed opportunities, it adds. The study for the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) claims that targeting eGovernment activity to social excluded groups – who are among the largest users of public services – would reap considerable efficiency gains. Social and digital inclusion must be made a key priority in the future development of eGovernment and service delivery plans, it urges. "It is time to focus eGovernment implementation on providing services and appropriate ways to those that need them most – individuals experiencing social exclusion", says the report. Current problems also stem from a lack of understanding about how ICT can enhance social inclusion, it observes. While examples of successful initiatives exist, generally projects instigated by councils tend to be short-term and one-off investments, with little regard to sustainability or how they can be absorbed into mainstream activities. As an example, the study cites a portal project targeting socially excluded groups, which received more than half a million pounds in development funding, but now has minimal input to keep it updated and is slowly becoming outdated and obsolete. According to the report's authors: "The absence of clear priorities from central government means that eGovernment services and initiatives using technology to enhance inclusion are usually developed and delivered in isolation". They add: "Unless the implementation of eGovernment activities is guided by better strategic thinking, it is unlikely that socially excluded groups will receive the full benefits of digital transformation." The report puts forward 14 policy recommendations aimed at enhancing the role of eGovernment and digital technology in addressing social inclusion. These include: The need for central government to clarify the legal basis for sharing personal information about individuals, potentially placing a duty on organisations to share information through public service agreements Setting clear evaluation and performance criteria for projects to make it easier to judge their success when pilot funding ends Better targeting public internet access points, kiosks and digital television initiatives at socially excluded households or areas with poor internet adoption Subsidising adaptive technology for disabled people The creation of a single government accreditation body to monitor e-accessibility standards and the 'readability' of public sector websites. The report is launched today at the IDeA local government e-champions conference. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here. Related link Improvement and Development Agency website
Team Register, 20 Sep 2005

O2 i-mode launch is 'imminent'

Mobile phone network O2 will start up its i-mode service "this autumn", technology partner NEC revealed today. Indeed, the launch could come as early as next week, sources familiar with the matter claim, with the carrier making public its pricing and content plans. O2 announced it had licensed i-mode in November 2004, pointing to a H2 2005 launch for the mobile Internet service's introduction in the UK and Ireland. Today, NEC said O2 will use its Mobile Internet Platform gateway as the foundation for the new service, part of the carrier's programme to increase its share of the mobile data market and to raise the average revenue it makes from each of its customers. More than a quarter of O2's revenue currently comes from data services. The O2 i-mode service will operate alongsides its O2 Active offering, on both 2.5G and 3G networks. O2 will source i-mode handsets from NEC, along with Panasonic, Samsung, Siemens (now BenQ) and Motorola. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005
channel

Akimbi automates application testing pools

A start-up is using virtualization technology to stake out a place in application testing with a product that streamlines development and helps cut costs. Akimbi Systems has announced Slingshot, software capable of taking a snap shot of a server environment, storing hardware and software configurations, and automatically rolling back the configurations to a pool of machines for testing with specific new applications. Akimbi says some customers have sliced up to 50 per cent from the costs associated with development by automating this stage in the application development cycle. Slingshot replaces the need for organizations to manually configure servers and runs on top of virtual machine (VM) software from Microsoft and VMsoftware. "We are taking the human out of the loop completely," Akimbi chief executive and co-founder James Phillips told The Register. Slingshot works with application lifecycle management (ALM) testing tools from Mercury Interactive, IBM/Rational, Microsoft, Borland Software and Segue Software, by tapping into the Slingshot APIs via a SOAP interface. While Slingshot is using SOAP to talk to testing tools, Akimbi has worked at the VM level to ensure that multiple testing environments can run side by side in server pools. This work involves the ability to redirect packets, create a hidden VM and also update routing tables to avoid problems like IP conflicts. Slingshot is based on a VM architecture Akimbi bought from Ensism. Akimbi is in talks with software tools companies as potential partners, according to Phillips. Its work at the architecture level means these companies will want to partner, rather than try to develop, rival offerings, he says: "Some of the really hard operating system and virtual machine level technology is not something the other test tools vendors have as a core competency. We have gathered up a critical mass of folks who are pioneers in the virtual space on Intel hardware.." ®
Gavin Clarke, 20 Sep 2005
channel

Phishers trawl for victims in Europe

Security watchers are reporting a surge of phishing attacks targeting European banks. Phishing attacks against over two dozen European banks were detected by security firm Websense last weekend (17-18 September). Traditionally, fraudsters have targeted North American banks in phishing attacks. "This is the first time we have observed a significant number of European victims over a short period of time. The banks being targeted are predominately located in Spain and Italy," Websense notes. Scam emails that form the basis of phishing attacks commonly pose as 'security check' emails from well-known businesses. These messages attempt to trick users into handing over their account details and passwords to bogus sites. The latest messages are composed in the primary language of the bank, indicating some degree of sophistication to the attacks. Screenshots of a half-dozen example sites are here. Separately, Trend Micro reports that keystroke-logging Trojan software originating in Brazil has tipped up in the UK and Ireland. The TSPY_BANCOS.AFG Trojan began in the land of the Samba but has now spread internationally. The malware is designed to capture bank passwords and forward this information to fraudsters. ®
John Leyden, 20 Sep 2005

Regulators call for global data protection law

Privacy chiefs from 40 countries have called upon the United Nations to prepare a legally binding instrument which clearly sets out in detail the rights to data protection and privacy as enforceable human rights. The call to the UN was made in a declaration adopted at the 27th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Montreux last week. In what they have called the Montreux Declaration, the commissioners also call for governments to encourage the adoption of legislation in line with recognised data protection principles and to extend it to their mutual relations; and for the Council of Europe to invite non-member states of the organisation to ratify the Convention for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data and its additional protocol. International organisations have been asked to commit themselves to complying with data protection rules, international non-governmental organisations have been asked to draw up data protection standards; and hardware and software manufacturers have been asked to develop products and systems that integrate privacy-enhancing technologies. The nature of the legally-binding instrument to be adopted by the UN is not prescribed; but Swiss data-protection commissioner Hanspeter Thür told SwissInfo.org that it could be a text adopted by the UN in the same way as human-rights provisions. Progress in implementing the objectives will be subject to a regular assessment. The first such assessment will be carried out at the 28th International Conference, due to take place in September 2006 in Argentina. The commissioners also adopted a resolution presented by Germany on the use of biometric data in passports, ID cards and travel documents. In it, the commissioners call for effective safeguards to be built in so as to limit the risks inherent in biometrics. They also adopted a resolution from Italy on the use of personal data for political communication purposes. Related links The Declaration (4-page / 54KB PDF) Resolution on the use of biometrics in passports, ID cards and travel documents (1-page / 23KB PDF) Resolution on the Use of Personal Data for Political Communication (3 page / 109KB PDF) Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 20 Sep 2005

Apple CEO blasts 'greedy' music labels

Apple CEO Steve Jobs today claimed the world's biggest recording companies have begun to demand the iTunes Music Store raise its prices. But the Mac maker is responding with the spectre of a return to the days of mass online music piracy. "We're trying to compete with piracy," he said. "We're trying to pull people away from piracy and say, 'You can buy these songs legally for a fair price'. "If the price goes up people will go back to piracy," he warned. "Then everybody loses." Slamming the labels' "greed", Jobs said: "The labels make more money from selling tracks on iTunes than when they sell a CD. There are no marketing costs for them. "If they want to raise the prices it just means they're getting a little greedy." Rumours that the music labels are pushing for higher prices have been doing the rounds ever since ITMS was launched in the US in April 2003. A year later, in May 2004, for example, it was claimed Apple had been forced to accept differential pricing for some tracks by the then five major labels: Universal, EMI, Warner, Sony and BMG (now Sony-BMG). Yet to this day, the vast majority if not all of songs available on the UK store remain priced at 79p. Album prices do rise above £7.99, but typically for longer records only. Some albums sell for considerably less than the cost of an equivalent number of single-track sales. Apple has never pledged to offer albums at a single price-point, unlike single-song downloads. That doesn't mean Apple isn't paying more for some tracks than others, but if it is, it's clearly confident that it can cope with different cost-prices by spreading the load across all the tracks it offers - at least until it reaches the point where it feels its customer-base will accept a price rise. For now, it seems, it feels there's more to be gained by touting a common price-point no matter what, an argument backed up by the competitors that have followed it into the digital music market, all of whom have adopted the same approach and, near enough, the same price points. By our estimates, ITMS has sold more than 600m songs worldwide and is on course to pass the 750m mark in the late November/early December timeframe. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005

Million pixel student makes £32k

Enterprising UK student Alex Tew has sold enough pixels to fund his way through university. Tew, 21, decided to flog pixels for a buck on his Million Dollar Homepage as part of a cunning scheme to raise cash. He may not have made his million, but in the few weeks since he launched the site he's flogged some 60,000 pixels - generating around £32,000. Those snapping up his pixels have included poker sites, loan companies and some small businesses. Even after tax and other overheads he's easily got enough dough to make it through uni. He told The Reg: "I'm blown away by it really. It'll pay for three years at uni and I'll have some left over." Tew leaves for university at the weekend but will continue to run his site in between studies. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 2005
channel

EC moots more charges against Microsoft

The European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has said she won't be waiting for the outcome of Microsoft's appeal against the original anti-trust charges before she decides whether or not to start another law suit against the firm. Kroes said the Competition Commission has already received more complaints against Microsoft and was going ahead and investigating them. "We have had informal complaints, and we are using our time now to look at them. We're not going to wait and do nothing," Kroes told the New York Times. She said the complaints concerned the bundling of Microsoft products but refused to give details. The Commission has already hit Microsoft with a record-breaking €497m fine and told it to change some aspects of its products. A Microsoft spokesperson told El Reg: "We have kept the Commission very closely informed of all Microsoft’s plans for new technology development and we will continue to respond quickly and comprehensively to any request for information." Kroes is no stranger to controversy: earlier this week she publicly praised Angela Merkel, head of Germany's conservative Christian Democrat party and one of the candidates in Germany's still-disputed election. Kroes was a Dutch MP and minister and has sat on numerous company boards including Royal P&O, Lucent Technologies and Volvo Group. More details on the NYT here. Or you can go to Ms Kroes's website here ®
John Oates, 20 Sep 2005

Solar flare menaces scamming lungfish

LettersLetters Lots to get through this week, so where better to start than with a story of a star-crossed lover (can you have just one?) who thought he'd met his match online. But, as they exchanged love notes, it became increasingly apparent that it was not true love at all, but a scam designed to do nothing other than extract large amounts of cash from our protagonist: Fun article. I'd like to add that match.com isn't the only place can meet these "lovelies". I've had encounters with several from loveaccess.com, and as I am a past poster to scamorama.com, I recognized what was going on and have played along with them. The airfare scam is only one of their tricks. Another popular ploy is the "I can't get online and write to you, because I have no money. If you sent some money to the ISP, I can continue to write, and send pictures." The pictures are "interesting", to say the least. Not what one normally sees on dating sites..... Enjoyed the story. Stay on it. You owe it to your readers. Steve I read this article with a big smile on my face. I've been targeted by this twice in recent weeks, once from faceparty.com and another from myspace.com. The girl from faceparty.com and I have exchanged a whole series of emails where she professes to love me then kindly asks me to transfer 550 Euro's via Western Union. cheers, Dan Next, some sceptical responses to a Symantec assessment of the threat facing Mac and Firefox users. No doubt wanting to stir up a bit of controversy and grab a couple of headlines (job done, really), Symantec warned that security might not be as tight as everyone thinks in the land of non-IE web browsing: The city Guard is convinced that the city needs more Guards! Especially in those places that have been, so far, free from attack (and therefore not hiring any Guards). In fact, the Guards anticipate more attacks in *those very places* to happen Any Time Now. If I were a cynical sort given to suspicion, I might wonder if some of those attackers might be funded by... um... the Guard. Y'know, to make a point. Ends justifying the means and all. Thank goodness it's not at all like the bad old days, when rumors were running rampant that the big Anti-Virus companies were paying for first exposure to "new" virii, in order to be the first to claim to kill it. Qui custodiet ipsos custodes? Monte Mac sales a bit lax perhaps? I'm surprised they sell any software for OS X. It would be interesting to see how many Mac worms, trojans and virii Symantec have found actively out in the wild. My count is still zero. Firefox may have had more vulnerabilities discovered than IE in the last six months, I don't know, I wasn't counting, but I suspect the effect of those vulnerabilities is less severe with Firefox than IE. For example, a passenger aircraft can have a 'vulnerability' such as a landing wheel very slightly below pressure, or an entire wing off. Unless you're told how severe the problem is, Mr Pinckney's figures are about as much use as a German election. Ian More security-related complaints. This time in relation to our headline pun-foolery. Britain topped the zombie charts again, so we gave the piece a very witty "Eng-Land of the Dead" intro. Oh how we chortled: I take it that though the report mentioned 'Britain' that there were no zombie PCs in Scotland. That must be more plausible reason than that of you being one of these stupid English gits who think Britain == England. Och aye the noo, Jimmy McJimmy MacJimmy Jimmyson You're just being a killjoy, Jimmy McJimmy MacJimmy Jimmyson. A proposal next. Someone thinks they might have the germ of an idea that could save Meg Whitman and eBay from losing fistfuls of cash on the Skype acquisition: While I think you've missed the boat on the "lead generation" capabilities, I think Meg et al missed a wider market.... Skype would be great if part of either a "phone sex" operation, or as an adjunct of an "online" dating service. I'll leave the phone sex business plan to your already over-active imagination.... With respect to an online dating service you could use Skype to allow someone to actually talk to the other person, rather than use instant messaging. Or if you met someone in one of their chat rooms, you could always have them leave to go and have a voice conversation, one on one... Either way, it goes back to the same point. On the internet, sex sells. ;-) Ian Ads on, ads off? Apart from sounding like a webmaster's version of the Karate Kid, this sums up the eternal dilemma of free (beer) software producers. So when Opera said version 9 would be ad free we were not surprised that the decision wasn't welcomed by all: I bought version 7 (which allowed a free upgrade to version 8) and have mixed feelings Opera being free of charge. Presumably this will affect future major versions, so it's nice that version 9 will be free. On the other hand, I paid the developers real money to get a premium product, so now it doesn't seem quite so premium and it feels like all the Johnny-come-latelys will be free-loading from me and many others who decided Opera's developers were worth giving money to. Remember, software that is free, as in beer, can only be free if the people who developed it were able to buy food, clothes and housing through other means. If those means are paid support, then there's an incentive to make the product a little less polished so that people will pay you to make the bugs go away. John How much will that ID card cost? Don't ask us, we're only journalists... Your back-of-an-envelope calculations don't derive the cost of an ID card, but merely go in a circle. Badly. The "badly" refers to the following sentence: "Since the Government state that there are about 20 per cent of the population not having a passport, it is possible to scale up the costs of Passport Agency costs for the 10 years by 20 per cent." Actually, that should be 25% (20 / 80), so the cost of issuing everyone with a passport would be £5 bn. The circle is achieved by canceling the cost of the passport, so that it plays no part whatsoever in the figure of 67.2 m cards derived. That figure is simply the turnover badly adjusted for universal issue (£4.8 bn) divided by the cost of a passport. The only interesting part of the whole analysis is what happens if you adjust the figure correctly. 67.2 m x 5 / 4.8 is 70m, which allows us to estimate that 2.8 m people (about 4%) would need to have a lost, stolen or damaged passport replaced. Peter Another reason we can all hope that the government did not use this calculation is that there is a glaring error within. If 80% of people have a passport, and you want a costing for a full 100%, then you need to scale up your costs by 25% and NOT 20% as shown. For example, assume the cards cost £1 each and there are 100 people in the country. If 80 of them have passports, the total cost is £80. To get to the cost for the full 100 people, you need to add £20, which is 25% of £80. Ask a 14-year old schoolkid ;o) David "Not only this - the calculation also assumes that the Passport Agency type database IS the same as ID Card database. This obviously can't be correct as the costs of the equipment needed by hospitals, police, public authorities, banks etc to access the database is obviously missing (eg when one registers with a GP, the cost of the GP equipment to perform the check does not feature in our calculation)." Actually it can be correct: the cost of equipment to access the database could be negligible. You see, there's this thing called the Internet, which allows the connection of disparate networks (e.g, Passport Agency networks, hospital networks, police computer networks...) and it has this neat technology called SSL which allows data to be securely encrypted (assuming it's properly configured...) So all the PA would have to do is slap together a SSL-enabled web server in their DMZ with access to the database, and all the other agencies need to do is fire up their existing Internet connection.... Now if you're talking about equipment to scan the ID card, that may be a different story. Still, for next to nothing, the agencies in question could implement a carbon-based system where the ID card is scanned by dual variable-focus quasispherical light sensor matrices, processed by a neural network for character recognition, and then output to the PC through a standard mechanical ten-digit to binary matrix interface (i.e, read the card and type in the numbers.) Alternately, the government could simply be planning to offset the additional equipment costs by charging businesses through the nose for the "graded" access you mention in the other article... Steven I may have spotted another thing the home office may have missed if you divide the £6.25bn by £93 to get the number of cards that could be issued. Then they are assuming that from the beginning of 2006 no one will get a passport. If anyone does then your £6.25bn for ID cards begins to come down a bit, so cards must go up. If this is the standard of government calculations, can we get the LSE to check the budget, we might not have to pay any tax for the rest of the year, and whilst there at it can they also check the election results? John A survey last week revealed that Users are more likely to engage in risky internet behaviour at work because they reckon their IT department will protect them. Not regular BOFH readers, then... May I offer a counterexample? I am a _lot_ more cautious about what websites I visit at work, because "work" requires me to use a Windows PC, and a browser with security set to "utter script-slut", to access internal content. At home, I use FreeBSD and Mac's and bail on websites that object to my security settings. Note to e-commerce folks: I suspect I am far from the only would-be customer who just clicks away from websites that require me to bend over as a condition of doing business. Mike How is exactly is 39% two in five people? Is one of the guys in the 61% slightly bigger than the others or has one of the 39% had a hand amputated or something? It's simple maths mate, two in five is 40% not 39%, come on, you can do better than that. Lloyd. P.S. Can you start a new letters section for Pedant of the week? If we were to do that, Lloyd, we'd have no time to write stories... This week we ran a piece which argued, essentially, that hackers are bad, immoral people who go around mugging grannies of their life savings. Suffice it to say that this opinion did not go down well with many readers. We're not running most of the replies, because we don't have enough asterisks in the office stationery cupboard to make them safe for work. The following, however, sums up the general thrust of most of the arguments: What? "The morals and ethics that govern our real world just do not exist online." On which planet did you live? Have you ever heard any news at all? Never watched CNN? Maybe you should keep your hat on but turn on the brain. Davide Government says poor people are not being well served by e-government. You say: really? Gosh... Thank God tax-payers' money is being spent on really useful stuff. Without a report such as this we would have no idea that homeless people are not getting full benefit from eGovernment services. Because knowing that with no home, phone line or computer they cannot access the internet in the first place doesn't count. Simon Some rather large solar flares left the sun last week, headed for Earth. A small correction: In regards to your article "Massive sunspot has Earth in its sights", the largest flare you say is recorded is an X28. This has recently been proven to be incorrect. The flare has been approximated as a category X40. The scientific journal abstract with the relevant details can be found at the link here. Cheers! Matt Thanks for the update on that. And finally: the technicolour world of the Australian lungfish and what it can teach us about fashion: When you say "humans can only detect three pigments", you should have said "most humans". As well as the not insubstantial numbers of males who are partially colour-blind, there is evidence that some women, perhaps up to 10% of the female population, have a fourth pigment for a slightly different shade of blue. This means they can distinguish between shades of blue that men have no possible way of getting correct. It makes a great excuse when the wife complains that you can't possibly wear that tie with that jacket ! David Frankly, David, there is no excuse for putting that tie with that jacket... More letters on Friday. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 2005

Google Earth threatens democracy - again

Our recent article on Google Earth blowing military secrets to the forces of darkness provoked a huge response - much of it from eagle-eyed readers who obviously have nothing better to do than spend all day peering at the earth's surface for eye-catching hardware and installations.
Lester Haines, 20 Sep 2005

Apple's Intel Mac 'on track' - Jobs

Apple is on track to ship Macs based on Intel processors by June 2006, CEO Steve Jobs claimed today. Jobs' comments follows speculation aired this week that the Mac maker could ship Intel-based PowerBooks as early as January 2006, with other rumours pointing to a much later introduction. Speaking to reporters at a meeting ahead of Apple Expo Paris' first day, Jobs said: "We said we'd be shipping by next June and we are on track to have that be a true statement." This past weekend website O'Grady's PowerPage - one of the sites, incidentally, that Apple's legal team is pursuing - claimed that Intel-based PowerBooks will not appear in time for January 2006's San Francisco-held Macworld Expo, at which Jobs is expected to once again give the keynote. Instead, the site claims its sources suggest, the major notebook revision will come "mid to late 2006". In the meantime, however, Apple will shortly tweak the current PowerBook G4 line-up's memory and hard drive specs. The update was said to be "imminent". The comment followed a Think Secret report last week that the PowerBook G4 range will "likely not see an upgrade before Macworld Expo". With the PowerBook G4 now unchanged since January this year, Think Secret's claim led some Apple watchers to predict earlier-than-anticipated Intel-based PowerBooks. Certainly, Intel is scheduled to launch the next, third generation of its Centrino platform early next year, based on the 65nm Pentium M processor codenamed 'Yonah', its 945GM chipset and the ProWireless 3945ABG 802.11abg Wi-Fi adaptor. It's tempting to see Centrino 3 as the foundation of next-generation PowerBooks, and such a move wouldn't run contrary to Jobs' statement today. The timing depends on software developers' readiness for the switch-over. There's little point releasing Intel-based Macs when there are no applications available with x86 binaries. Had software developers been told by Apple to expect Intel-based machines much before Q2 2006, it would have leaked out by now. That suggests they're anticipating availability in line with the officially stated timeframe. However, we'd expect Apple to ship x86 Macs ahead of time for a number of reasons. Firstly, to minimise any slowdown as punters reject the obsolete PowerPC Mac architecture, but also to tap into early-adopter demand for the new machines. Mac software developers are likely to approach the new platform cautiously, so there's perhaps an advantage in shipping early to hasten them along. How far ahead, is the question, and that's something we can't yet answer. We can say that Jobs today expressed confidence that the final x86 version of Mac OS X can be tweaked to ensure it won't run on a PC. "We will have technology in OS X for Intel so that it cannot be installed in other PCs," he promised. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005
globalisation

ATI pitches for PC-TV convergence

ATI today unveiled a new consumer brand covering high-quality video performance across platforms, from TVs to PCs. Dubbed Avivo, the technology builds on the experience ATI gained developing and selling its Xileon line of image processing chips for digital TVs. The brand encompasses a range of image enhancement features, all of which will be applied across ATI's product lines, including Radeon, All-in-Wonder and Radeon Xpress. Avivo focuses on improving brightness, colour, video resolution and de-interlacing, said Godfrey Cheng, ATI's director of multimedia products. Some Avivo technology isn't new. ATI's Theater 550 Pro TV encoder chip, which it introduced last March, already meets Avivo specifications for video capture and encoding. It provides automatic gain control to cope with sudden changes in picture brightness, 3D comb filtering to better separate the colour and brightness information encoded in an analog TV signal, noise-reduction techniques, and delivers MPEG 2 compression in hardware. Avivo specifies H.264 decoding hardware, which will be coming with ATI's R520 chip and its derivatives next month. Meanwhile, the Theater 550 Pro already offers an Avivo-level 12-bit analog-to-digital convertor and incorporates techniques to reduce the effect of multi-path interference on the TV signal. Avivo also specifies upping the number of bits used to indicate the red, green and blue colour components of a pixel from today's standard eight to ten, increasing the colour space from 16.8m to 1.07bn. Images are recoded to ten bits per channel then dithered back to eight-bit or below, depending on the monitor you're using, said Cheng. The technology encompasses the use of resolutions of around 2560 x 1600 and beyond, and supports dual-overlay techniques - essentially a way displaying the same content simultaneously on two screens set to two different resolutions. Avivo-compatible systems will support not only VESA monitor-oriented signal timings but also CEA consumer electronics signal timings to ensure PC-produced images appear correctly on TV screens, correctly scaled and with no under- or over-scan. Avivo also mandates universal connectivity to TV, HDTV and PC using DVI and HDMI digital connections, and VGA, S-Video, component and composite analog links. Cheng said Avivo-branded products are already HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) compliant, ensuring the data sent to drive HDTV screens is encrypted across the link. ATI's motivation is Microsoft's push to establish Media Center Edition as the standard form of Windows XP Home Edition and, eventually, Windows Vista Home Edition. That, in turn, is predicated on increasing PC-CE convergence - some might say it was actually trying to kick-start the trend - and if CE and PC vendors are going to be pushing Media Center systems to consumers, ATI wants to make sure they're using its graphics technology rather than Nvidia's or - worse in its view - Intel's integrated graphics engine. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005
channel

Siebel is done deal, Oracle says

Oracle’s acquisition of Siebel is a done deal as far as the delegates to OracleWorld in San Francisco are concerned. In the closing event on the first day of the conference Charles Phillips, Oracle’s president, and George Shaheen, Siebel’s CEO, appeared together on stage in a show of solidarity. “Bet you never thought you’d see this,” quipped Phillips to hoots and yahoos from the Oracle faithful. Shaheen waxed lyrical about the scale of Oracle’s worldwide reach benefiting his customers. Little mention was made of the “subject to shareholder approval” and the gathering storm from Siebel’s stakeholders. Given that no love is lost between Oracle chairman Larry Ellison and Tom Siebel, the event had the air of one of those hostage videos where the captors haul them out to say what nice guys terrorists are. Shaheen said: “It was interesting to call customers on the day of the announcement to ask ‘What do you think of it?’ Their response was really positive and pleased especially when they heard Oracle will continue to support and enhance the products.” Even those based on IBM’s DB2 database? “We’re an open company and support many databases,” said Phillips. The arrival of Jim Hayes, a global management partner at Accenture, brought an element of reality to the proceedings. Every mention of the merger was prefixed by the word “proposed” or followed by “if it goes ahead”. There are hurdles still to be jumped: possible EC and Department of Justice inquiries or rejection of the deal by the shareholders. Not a done deal then, but at least this is nothing like as acrimonious as the PeopleSoft takeover. The rest of the meeting concentrated on Fusion and how breaking down Oracle’s products into services will allow the disparate products from Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel will be brought together. “We’ll take the best of each product and bring them together in a single offering,” Phillips promised. ®
Eric Doyle, 20 Sep 2005
fingers pointing at man

Spam map Googles junk mail proxies

Mailinator - the service that offers free, disposable email addresses for use in web registrations - has created a "real-time" spam map. The system receives around a million junk mail messages a day. By resolving the IP addresses of proxies1 used to distribute this junk mail (and plugging this data into Google maps) the people behind the service have created a map to show where spam is coming from. This map is created from data that gets updated every three minutes. Spam counts are rounded to the nearest hundred and what the map offers at present is just the locations and types of spam sent from the IP addresses currently sending the most spam to Mailinator. Facilities to look at snapshots of junk mail source across a sequence in time have yet to be introduced but the debut of a graphical description of spam generation - rather than just the usual, hard-to-comprehend statistics - is nonetheless welcome. ® 1 These proxies will most likely be compromised, zombie PCs used to distribute spam rather than the machines of spammers themselves.
John Leyden, 20 Sep 2005

Scientists tout diamond-coated implants

A newly-developed coating for medical implants could help to reduce the number of MRSA infections, according to UK physicists. The diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating, which makes implants harder wearing, reduces friction between components and protects them from corrosion, has several advantages over its rivals, according to researchers at Brunel University. It is bio-compatible, and doesn't trigger coagulation of blood - a significant problem with some other coatings. The coating process can take place at relatively low temperatures, too, meaning that plastics as well as metals and ceramics can be coated with DLCs. The researchers, led by Professor Joe Franks, report that DLC-coated knee implants have already been successfully used in two operations in arthritic patients who are allergic to the underlying metal. Franks said: "We've also developed coatings that can be used for catheters and various medical implants that go through the skin. The coating is important because it prevents colonization of the tissue by bacteria, such as the superbug MRSA." Speaking at an Institute of Physics conference today in Chester, the researchers from Brunel University said they can also use DLC to coat collagen. Collagen, a protein that occurs naturally in the body, can be used to construct bypass arteries, or as a so-called patch graft in repair operations. Lining it with DLC means that when it is being used as an artery, the blood can flow more freely through it. When it is being used as a graft, it is chemically more inert, and less likely to degrade. DLCs were first synthesised in 1971, using a process that involved spraying charged carbon atoms at the surface to be coated. Franks and his team have developed a new technique called "plasma-assisted chemical vapour deposition" whereby a hydrocarbon gas is stripped of its electrons to produce a cloud of positively charged carbon ions. These are attracted to the negatively charged component, and hey presto! - you have a coated implant. "The advantage of this method is that the ionised plasma surrounds the component, which means it does not need not to be manipulated inside the chamber to get an even and uniform coating," Franks explained. He added that the ion energy can be varied, as can the composition of the gases in the chamber to vary the properties of the coating. The next stage of the research is to work out how best the properties can be varied for different applications. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Nvidia ships GeForce 6150, 6100 North Bridges er... GPUs

Nvidia will launch 'C51', its first integrated chipset, later today, according to motherboard partner Foxconn. Trumpeting its own WinFast 6150K8MA-8EKRS mobo, Foxconn said the board was based on Nvidia's GeForce 6150 North Bridge chip, which hooks up to the Nvidia's new nForce 430 South Bridge. Since the AMD CPUs the chipset is designed to work with already contain most of the functionality you'd expect to find in a North Bridge chip, the 6150 is being labelled a GPU. Whatever, it provides the mobo with GeForce 6 series-class graphics, including DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 support, and there's scope to connect a higher spec graphics engine through the North Bridge's 16 PCI Express lanes. The board also does TV out. From the South Bridge, the WinFast gets Serial ATA 2 with RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5, parallel ATA-133, 7.1-channel audio, gigabit Ethernet, 1394 and the ability to host up to eight USB 2.0 ports. It's got Nvidia's hardware firewall. Foxconn also announced the lower-end WinFast 6100K8MA-RS, which is based on the GeForce 6100 and nForce 410, and is being pitched specifically at system builders. Foxconn didn't provide pricing, but it did say both boards were available immediately. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Sep 2005