26th > September > 2005 Archive

Be 24 meg broadband is go

'Be' - the local loop unbundling (LLU) broadband ISP - goes live today offering net access of speed of up to 24 megs for £24 a month. The service is available in parts of London where the LLU operator has already installed its kit in BT exchanges. Be has trialled the service over the last couple of weeks and reports that its first user has experienced an average speed of 18.5 meg. In a statement Be boss Dana Pressman said that the ISP was "simply better value than any other broadband service from any other provider". Be costs £24 a month and also requires an upfront connection fee of £24. Pricing details and availability can be found on Be's web site BeThere.co.uk. ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Sep 2005

Tiscali in UK consumer data security breach

Tiscali has apologised after a data security breach left the name, address, contact information and product order of random customers displayed to other subscribers of the ISP onFriday. The UK ISP sent out an email to its customers to accompany the launch of new broadband products offering them the opportunity to re-grade their current service package. Clicking on a link in the email took subscribers to the re-grade login page on Tiscali's website. But after subscribers logged into their accounts they were presented with someone else's details. Subsequent attempts to login produced someone else's details each time, Reg readers inform us. "There was a scripting error with the site, which we took offline and fixed. The service has now been restored," a Tiscali spokeswoman explained. She added that the error was confined to Friday, 23 September and limited to name and address data. "We keep customer address and financial data completely separate for security reasons and therefore any data shown would only have related to name and address, not payment or bank information. We know a small number of customers were affected by this and we apologise for any inconvenience caused. The upgrade service has now been reinstated," she said. ®
John Leyden, 26 Sep 2005

Dolphin assassins menace Gulf of Mexico

Heavily-armed, frightened, and confused. No, we don't mean the Bush Administration, but a group of killer dolphins trained by the US Navy and lately washed into the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Katrina, if The Guardian is to be believed.
Thomas C Greene, 26 Sep 2005
channel

Amstrad pulls em@iler from shelves

Amstrad's integrated 'phone and email device is being withdrawn from retail sale after poor sales this year provoked the company to pull the emailer. Amstrad shifted 61,000 units during the year - which Amstrad described as: "currently the worst high street retail market for many years". The board is writing off £5.7m to cover anticipated costs. Amstrad Plc made a profit before tax of £19.1m on turnover of £102.5m for the year ended 30 June 2005. It expects to continue collecting usage revenue of £7.3m from the 429,000 installed devices. The group will be putting its faith in the modestly-titled Sir Alan Sugar Enterprise Scheme or SASES - essentially a way to encourage customers to become sellers of products in exchange for changing levels of commission. The company is already selling a "unique face care system" using the power of SASES. First you buy the product for £129 and sign up for an account. Then, once you persuade some other punter to buy an electric face-cloth, you receive £15 in commission - sell to just eleven people and you've paid for your clean face and have a quid to spend on soap. Additionally, you receive commission should any of the people you sign up go on to sell further machines. Full financial results from Amstrad here.
John Oates, 26 Sep 2005

Murdoch faces fight for MySpace

Rupert Murdoch has a fight on his hands to get control of InterMix - the company behind blog host MySpace - after Murdoch's NewsCorp offered $580m or $12 a share to buy it in July. Brad Greenspan, founder and former boss of Intermix, has launched a rival bid for his old firm. He owns ten per cent of the company already and is offering shareholders $13.50 a share. He has launched a pseudo-grassroots campaign website, complete with video, at www.FreeMySpace.com. The bidders are asking for the shareholders meeting to be delayed so investors can evaluate the offer. Greenspan has an appetite for controversy. After leaving InterMix he accused various senior managers and shareholders of insider dealing. He accuses them of selling $25m of stock knowing that the firm was about to face action from the New York Attorney General. More details here. ®
John Oates, 26 Sep 2005

GI Janes in Iraq DIY smutfest

When you're not getting shelled or shot at, war can get deadly dull. Fortunately, America's gals in uniform overseas appear to be having a rollicking good time, and no doubt enjoying numerous material perks as a result of being in short supply and high demand, and naked. The evidence is visible at now that's f**ked up, an online trading post for amateur porn and grotesque gore pics from the front lines of freedom in Iraq. It's got everything, from soldiers posting photographed sessions with partners in country, or their girlfriends and wives back home, to the most appalling shots of what war looks like when the fragile human body confronts the power of mass, mechanized destruction. There is one forum open to those who don't trade. For access to the rest, one must post original amateur nudity or porn, or graphic pics of wartime gore. It's all presented as entertainment, all of it lurid, and all of it, whether painful or pleasurable, profoundly intimate. It might be best not to speculate about why there is such interest among the troops to document and to leer at images of intense feeling. The graphic details of sex, and of traumatic amputation, are not matters that healthy minds share with the wider world. Surely there is some pathology at work here. And surely, the website will confirm the worst fears of more conservative, religious Iraqis about just what the Americans are bringing to their country. ®
Thomas C Greene, 26 Sep 2005
fingers pointing at man

The ugly truth about coopetition

Quocirca's changing channelsQuocirca's changing channels There is an ugly word used to describe the fact the rivals in business some times have to find a way to work together – coopetition. In the ICT industry everyone knows that, on occasions, competitors have to hold their noses and talk to each other. But this distasteful process can be avoided to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the vendors involved, if the process is handled through third parties like VARs and integrators. In short, channel organisations can act as coopetition brokers. For certain pairings, coopetition has been a reality for many years – Microsoft has always had to support a wide range of third-party software products running on its operating systems, despite many of them being competitive with its own. Privatised national telephone companies like BT have to share their local-loop access to the homes and businesses with competitors, albeit under some pressure from regulators (so much so that BT announced a new independent company last week – Openreach – to operate its local-loop). All this said, two of the ICT industry’s largest vendors of software have pretty much managed to keep each other at arms length to date – Oracle and IBM. These two have been fierce competitors in the database and application server business for many years. True, Oracle supports its infrastructure products on IBM hardware when required, but this would often be using a third-party operating system like Linux or Windows rather than IBM’s own. However, Oracle’s recent spate of acquisitions which have made it the world’s second largest vendor of business applications have upped the ante for both vendors, and this has been intensified by Oracle’s most recent acquisition – Siebel Systems. IBM has had a partnership with Siebel since an agreement was first inked in 1999. Most recently it has been selling Siebel OnDemand, a hosted CRM application as a service via its Global Services division. IBM has been careful to position this as a service so that there is no perceived conflict of its policy of not competing with vendors of business applications which run on the IBM platform. These include Siebel’s standard product, but also many of the other business applications Oracle has recently purchased, including those of Peoplesoft. After Oracle acquired PeopleSoft and announced “Project Fusion” to pull all the different business applications together, it seemed this was viewed as an opportunity to transition newly acquired customers to Oracle’s own application server (OAS). However, last week Oracle announced that Project Fusion would now support IBM’s WebSphere application server as an alternative. In effect, this is recognition by Oracle of IBM’s domination in the enterprise application server market and preserves a pre-acquisition agreement reached in 2004 between IBM and PeopleSoft. The announcement is also face saving for IBM – this new level of coopetition means there is no hurry for it to review selling Siebel OnDemand. Still, it is unlikely that Oracle and IBM are going to be seen walking down the street holding hands. The actually process of making Oracle’s newly acquired diverse range of business applications work on IBM’s application server will fall to third parties. The announcements is not just good news for customers who do not want change forced upon them, but for the VARs and integrators who will end up making it all work on the ground. Plenty of work for the coopetition brokers then. Copyright © 2005,
Bob Tarzey, 26 Sep 2005

Award nominations for anti-patent campaigners

Florian Mueller, best known to Register readers as one of the leaders of the campaign against the European software patent directive, has been nominated for the European of the Year award, run by the magazine European Voice. Mueller, who founded the campaign group NoSoftwarePatents, is nominated in two categories: "Campaigner of the Year" and "European of the Year". He says he is honoured by the nomination. Michel Rocard, the European Parliament's rapporteur on the software patent directive, is also being recognised. He has been nominated for the title "MEP of the Year". In a statement, Mueller said: "I really owe this to all activists and citizens who supported our cause, especially to the FFII [Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure]." Opponents of the proposed European directive on software patents, or computer implemented inventions as it was formally known, were concerned that the law would widen too far the scope of what is considered patentable. In July, after a lengthy and often highly-charged debate, MEPs voted 648-14 (with 18 abstentions) against the directive, effectively killing it for the time being. Some MEPs have called for the Commission to draft a new proposal, but others would like the parliament's rejection to be the final word on the subject. Feel like voting for Rocard and Mueller? Point your browser here and tick some boxes. The results will be announced towards the end of November 2005. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Sep 2005

China hits blogs where it hurts

The Chinese government is taking action against bloggers and other sources of online news. The new censorship means any organisation or individual must register with the authorities before providing news or operating an email distribution list. Portal sites are asked to give priority to government-approved copy rather than their own comment pieces, while the regulations also warn government bodies not to provide content to news websites without government permission. The government wants to fight "unhealthy news stories that will easily mislead the public" following the May launch of its "smokeless war" against dissenting liberal elements it believes are backed by the US. The rules are being updated for the first time since 2000. A government spokesman told government-approved news agency Xinhuanet: "It has lagged far behind the development of online news services, in technology, content and form. So it is necessary to have an updated version." Xinhuanet continued: "Services that provide online news stories, that have bulletin board systems (BBS) or have the function of sending short messages containing news contents to individual mobile phones are all subject to the regulation." With sentiments we take seriously at The Register, the new regs proclaim: "The foremost responsibility of news sites on the Internet is to serve the people, serve socialism, guide public opinion in the right direction, and uphold the interests of the country and the public good." Indeed. More on the New York Times here, and on Xinhuanet here. The"smokeless war" is discussed further here. ®
John Oates, 26 Sep 2005

Free MCP IT training for London-based biz

Site offerSite offer The powers that be at El Reg have got together IT training network Internet Exchange to offer 50 London-based professionals - working for firms with 250 employees or less - the chance to enjoy some free Microsoft Certified Professional IT Training. The reason for this sudden burst of generosity is that Internet Exchange has secured funding from the Learning and Skills Council and the European Social Fund to offer said freebie. Internet Exchange explains: Businesses in the capital now have the opportunity to train and develop their staff in recognised IT skills. The initiative is designed to help businesses improve in many areas such as by developing in-house talent and skills, staff retention and quality standards right down to bottom line impact. This programme equips companies with the necessary skills to deal with IT issues that would normally require expensive outside contractors. Good stuff. How does it work? Internet Exchange’s specialist experience in online training allows individuals to access the training at work, at home or at any of the 19 Internet Exchange locations in London. There are online tutors available 24 hours a day, and in-store trainers available at least six days a week. In addition to providing the training, Internet Exchange will be offering free Microsoft certification exams. Simple as that. If you want to participate, email Marcin Lai right here, and there's more info on the Internet Exchange website. Happy learning. ®
Team Register, 26 Sep 2005

Apple scraps with War Child over charity album price

Apple clashed with kids-caught-in-conflict charity War Child last week when it appeared to go its own way on album pricing. The iTunes Music Store initially sold the new War Child album, Help: A Life in the Day, for two pounds less than the price demanded by the charity. When the organisation made its displeasure known, the online store was forced to withdraw the record for almost a day while it corrected the error. "They'd 'racked' it at the wrong price," said Julian Carrera of War Child. The new album celebrates the tenth anniversary of the charity's first Help CD, recorded back when life was simple and all downloads illegal. "But in terms of pure volume, iTunes has really come to the party - and will generate huge sales/profits, which will go straight into our projects in war zones," Carrera added. A happy ending then, but a potentially embarrassing mistake. It would be more forgiveable if ITMS didn't have 'previous form': it famously refused to sell the re-recorded Do they know it's Christmas? single at the Band Aid-demanded price, until someone in its PR department pointed out that refusing to help starving Africans, or to stock the current number one single, might not win over prospective customers. Last December, ITMS was forced to donate 79p to Band Aid for every single sold, allowing the charity to gain the £1.49 is was asking and ITMS to continue selling the single for its standard price of 79p. That led to claims that ITMS was not able to sell tracks for anything else because the 79p price had been hard-coded into its e-commerce engine. That allegation resurfaced last week. While the War Child album is now on sale everywhere for the correct £9.99, tracks from the album are still on sale for just 79p on ITMS - 20p a song less than the charity is selling them for on its own site. Apple wouldn't tell us how many people bought the album at the discount price, if it'll be giving the difference to the charity, or if it'll be handing over that 20p discrepancy on sales of individual tracks, as it agreed to do with the Band Aid single. Meanwhile, the album itself has been selling spectacularly, with downloads via the charity's site topping 18,000 in its first two hours on sale. With 60,000 tracks sold on the first day, and the physical CD still to go on sale, War Child already feels confident that the exercise has been an overwhelming success, claiming that it's on track to become the biggest downloaded album ever. In a remarkable feat of timing, while Apple and War Child were chatting over sticker prices, both were nominated for best digital music store in the BPI-sponsored Digital Music Awards, alongside Napster, Tune Tribe and KarmaDownload. War Child Music may not have the variety, back catalogue or ambition of the others, but at least it can get its own pricing right. ®
Andrew Losowsky, 26 Sep 2005
channel

Phishers target Yahoo! Photos

UpdatedUpdated Internet crooks looking to capture login details of Yahoo! accounts are changing tactics. Phishing attacks that attempt to capture a user's Yahoo! ID and password by tricking the gullible into handing over their credentials to fake sign-in pages have been around for months if not years. Recently, though, these phishing sites have begun using alternative Yahoo! Sign In pages, such as Yahoo! Photos, net security firm Websense reports. Users typically receive an email or instant message that claims to be from a friend wanting to show off photos of a recent event, such as a vacation or a birthday party. The message contains a link to a phishing site, which records the user's Yahoo! ID and password, and then forwards the Yahoo! ID and password on to the real Yahoo! Photos site. What started off at a crude attack has evolved with the introduction of a more subtle form of social engineering attack. Websense reports that the majority of these sites are hosted in the US on free web space provided by the Yahoo! Geocities service. A phishing screen shot example can be found here. Yahoo! Photos users are advised to go the Yahoo! site itself rather than following links in suspicious-looking emails. In a statement, Yahoo! said that phishing is an industry-wide issue which it treats very seriously. "When we learn about phishing sites, we remove them as quickly as possible. Yahoo! treats users' security as a top priority and continues to take a hard look at how to effectively combat phishing," it said. Users can report phishing issues at Yahoo! abuse here. The firm's security advice to consumers can be found here. ®
John Leyden, 26 Sep 2005

AOL UK 'sorry' for network bungle

AOL UK is coughing up more than £100,000 in compensation after a bungled network upgrade left around 20,000 punters without broadband. The ISP said it would give £5 credit to those hit by the glitch as "a goodwill gesture". The £5 credit will appear on accounts when the next bill is due, AOL UK said in an email. Last week, AOL UK sent a pop-up to around 50,000 punters telling them about the ISP's ongoing network upgrade. Of those, half were downed when they clicked on the pop-up and followed instructions to upgrade their connection. As a result, punters lost their connection. When they tried to call tech support many experienced long wait times as AOL's helpdesk was flooded with calls. The £5 compensation is due to cover the cost of calls after the ISP began charging for tech support in August. A spokesman for AOL UK told us: "We will be issuing a credit of £5 to all those who had to call us as a result of this pop-up cuting their connection this week to ensure their customer service call costs are covered. We deeply regret the incident occurred." ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Sep 2005

Motorola to ship Q 'Blackberry-beater' early

Motorola has brought forward the release of its would-be Blackberry-beating smart phone, CEO Ed Zander revealed on Friday. When the mobile phone company launched its Q smart phone in July, it said the QWERTY keyboard-equipped device would ship Q1 2006. According to Zander, speaking to reporters at a Churchill Club event held at the Computer History Museum on Friday, the released was actually pegged to January 2006, but that's now been moved ahead to December 2005. The improvement could amount to just a few days, but it's a whole quarter as far as Wall Street is concerned. Palm is expected to unveil the Windows Mobile-based Treo 700 later today, and it's entirely possible Motorola's move was prompted by its rival's announcement that it's holding a press conference with Verizon and Microsoft later today. Motorola's pitch for the Q is that it will be the "thinnest, lightest" handset with an integrated QWERTY keypad. It measures 11.5 x 6.3 x 1.1cm, which is certainly thinner than the 2cm-thick Palm Treo 650 and the 1.8cm-thick RIM Blackberry 7780, though the Palm device's face is smaller. Unlike the Treo, the Q has no antenna stub. The Q's display is a 2.4in, 320 x 240, 65,536-colour job, and the handset also incorporates a 1.3 megapixel digicam with a flash. There's a Mini SD slot for memory expansion, and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity. The keypad is backlit, and Motorola has built in speakerphone capability. The device will run Windows Mobile 5.0. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Sep 2005

Euro email storage scheme 'illegal', warns official

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has said that he is not yet convinced by the arguments put forward in favour of a European directive on data retention, and has set out strict conditions any such law would have to meet if it's to be considered acceptable by his office. EDPS Peter Hustinx published his commentary on the proposed directive today. If ratified the directive would demand all Internet data - typically email traffic - be held for six months and telephone call data for one year. It would also see ISPs and telcos compensated for their compliance costs. The directive was inspired by hopes that the information could be used to prevent terrorism or to prosecute those accused of terrorist acts. However, Hustinx said: "The Directive has a direct impact on the protection of privacy of EU citizens and it is crucial that it respects their fundamental rights, as settled by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. A legislative measure that would weaken the protection is not only unacceptable but also illegal." He said that retaining data for longer than the six or 12 months proposed in the Commission's draft version of the directive would not be acceptable. He also said adequate safeguards must be put in place to protect personal data. "If one considers the proposal solely from the perspective of data protection, traffic and location data should not be retained at all for the purpose of law enforcement," he wrote. "A high data security is even more important since the mere existence of data might lead to demands for access and use." As well as tighter controls, Hustinx argued that the proposal would need the backing of the European Council and the Parliament, an indirect swipe at the competing Draft Framework Decision put forward by the UK. In theory, the draft framework could be ushered into law without the backing of either the Commission or the Parliament. Hustinx specifically noted that his remarks were confined to the Commission's proposal, as he has not been consulted on the Draft Framework Decision, the legal footing of which has been challenged by top European lawyers. The European Parliament has called for the UK's proposal to be scrapped. Read Hustinx's full opinion here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Sep 2005

O2 i-mode service to start 1 October

UK mobile phone network O2 will today announce it will begin offering i-mode services on Saturday, 1 October. So claimed i-mode creator NTT DoCoMo, somewhat stealing the thunder from O2's official launch, which takes place this afternoon. O2 will offer the service via four handsets, two from NEC and two more from Samsung. According to DoCoMo, they are the NEC N411i and N343i, and the Samsung S500i and Z320i. NEC last week said it was providing handsets and infrastructure technology for O2's i-mode service. The service will feature content from around 100 websites, the Japanese telco said, and the service will include i-mode mail. It will span O2's GPRS and 3G networks, and incorporate MMS compatibility. O2 plan to bring i-mode to the UK and, later, the German mobile phone markets was announced almost a year ago. In Japan, i-mode has proved hugely popular, thanks to its Internet-like feel. In Europe, the service has been less of a success, possibly thanks to the continent's love of text messaging and disappointment with WAP. Unluckily for O2, perhaps, the UK will be the thirteenth territory to get an i-mode service, after Japan, Taiwan, Israel, Russia, Australia and five other European nations: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Greece. ®
Tony Smith, 26 Sep 2005

BT disses Dixons' 'Freetalk'

Dixons has yet to confirm details of its anticipated VoIP offering, Freetalk, but the service is already causing a stir. The electrical retailer set up Freeserve - now called Wanadoo and owned by France Telecom - in 1997. Almost overnight it became a massive success, attracting a million users in just a few months. The combination of a pay-as-you-go subscription-free service and blanket distribution via Dixons stores helped the mass-market take-up of the Internet in the UK. Eight years on and now Freetalk - which is expected to cost from £6.99 a month and is due to be unveiled this week - is being hyped as the 'Son of Freeserv'. Then again... "We don't think this is going to be 'Freeserve 2' or 'Son of Freeserve'," said a BT spokesman. "Dixons are not first movers on this, they're late to market and this product is not revolutionary." And this from the UK's incumbent telco, which launch two VoIP services in late 2003. Even though it was relatively quick to hop on the VoIP bandwagon, BT's PC-based Communicator service only has 50,000 users while Broadband Voice, which resembles Freetalk, has yet to be plugged with any real conviction. That, though, looks set to change. BT is to run a three-month promo for its BT Communicator service from next month, which it says will undercut tariffs offered by other broadband telephony outfits, such as Skype. The telco also looks set to start making some noise about Broadband Voice too by spending some cash to promote the service. ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Sep 2005

Developing World must cut mobile taxes

Governments in the developing world should cut taxes on mobile handsets to help the poorest take advantage of the technology. So says the GSM Association, after studying the mobile-phone markets around the globe. The GSMA survey found that in 16 of the poorest 50 countries taxes make up more than 20 per cent of the total cost of owning a mobile. In 14 countries this would mean a yearly tax burden of $40. The GSMA is promoting a $30 handset to increase mobile use in the developing world. It believes lack of mobile phones is holding back social and economic development. Partly because of the high taxes the black market in handsets is booming. The GSMA estimates that 39 per cent of sales in the 50 countries are black market - representing $2.7bn in lost tax revenues. The GSMA welcomed India's decision to cut taxes, which it credited with that country's fast-growing mobile use. The London Business School analysis of the data predicted a 20 per cent increase in mobile phone penetration if all taxes were removed. The LBS believes that a ten per cent increase in mobile phone penetration pushes up annual growth by 0.6 per cent. More details here. ®
John Oates, 26 Sep 2005

Deutsche Telekom 'eyeing up O2'

Deutsche Telekom (DT) - which owns cellco T-Mobile - could be prepared to pay up to £18bn for UK telco O2, according to the The Business. Market whispers have become increasingly louder over recent weeks, reports the Sunday newspaper. And it quotes Andrew O'Neill, an analyst at Bernstein Investment Research and Management who said: "The question is not if Deutsche Telekom will make a bid for O2 - but when." Despite this renewed interest surrounding O2, some industry watchers remain unconvinced claiming that any tie-up between the two mobile operators could raise regulatory difficulties. Earlier this summer O2 was reportedly the subject of an €20bn takeover bid from Dutch operator KPN and DT. However, that joint bid for O2 was scrunched up and thrown in the bin after DT and KPN failed to agree terms. ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Sep 2005

US Army goes shopping for anthrax

The US Army has asked companies to bid for contracts to produce large quantities of anthrax and equipment to produce other unnamed biological agents, according to New Scientist, but has not said what it needs the facilities for. Alan Pearson, programme director for biological and chemical weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington DC, says the contracts raise serious questions about the US' commitment to the Biological Weapons Convention. Anti-biological weapons campaigner Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project discovered the contracts, which were issued this year. One contract specifies: "The company must have the ability and be willing to grow Bacillus anthracis Sterne strain at 1500-litre quantities." Others call for a 3,000-litre production capacity for unnamed biological agents and sheep carcasses to investigate incineration of infected animals. The non-virulent Sterne strain of the bacterium is the only one specified in any of the documents. It is not thought to be harmful to humans, and is used in vaccination. However, the same equipment could easily be put to use to grow spores of the lethal Ames strain, and it is this that has raised eyebrows. Speaking to New Scientist, Hammond asked: "What would happen to the Biological Weapons Convention if other countries followed suit and built large biological production facilities at secretive military bases known for weapons testing?" The tenders were issued by the US army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Dugway maintains that the contracts are still at the "pre-solicitation" phase, and that there is currently no Anthrax at the base. Dugway has refused to elaborate on what it needs the anthrax for, and although there is no suggestion that the US intends to restart its biological weapons programme, Hammond argues that the military might want to use the agent to test biological weapons delivery systems, for threat assessment. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Sep 2005
globalisation

Sales up but profits down at Sophos

In briefIn brief UK-based security firm Sophos announced plans to launch centrally-managed client firewall and adware detection and removal products on Monday as it reported an increase in annual turnover of 19.2 per cent to £66.2 million ($122.6 million USD) for the year ending March 2005. Although Sophos exceeded its growth expectations its profits slipped from from £6.8m in 2004 to £3.1m this year. The firm says the drop in profits reflects an increase in investment in engineering and its North American operations as well as costs associated with the construction of its new HQ and deferred costs associated with its September 2003 acquisition of Canadian anti-spam firm ActiveState. Sophos specialises in selling integrated IT security products to defend against threats such as computer viruses and spam. The last fiscal year saw Sophos's global workforce rise to 925 employees - an increase of 26 per cent on the previous year. New recruits include industry veteran Mark Harris who recently left rival McAfee to become global director of SophosLabs. ®
John Leyden, 26 Sep 2005

Chickens find home online

A West Country website is having to upgrade equipment to keep up with demand for its streamed videos of chickens. HenTV is run from a garden just outside Weston-Super-Mare. The site includes a gallery of chicken pics as well as the all-action live webcam. This carries still shots of chickens engaged in chicken-like activities like pecking at the ground, twitching their heads weirdly and scratching their feathers. Adrian Collins set up the site some months ago but has seen a big jump in interest recently. The homepage claims almost 20, 000 visitors in the last two weeks. Collins is considering adding an infra-red camera to satisfy chicken fanciers who like watching in the dark. Collins uses an ordinary CCTV webcam and TV aerial cable to link it to his computer via the TV card. His PC, running Windows XP Professional and WEbCamXP, acts as web server. Visit our feathered friends here.
John Oates, 26 Sep 2005

Ask Jeeves where the dole office is

Jeeves - that butler mascot of search site AskJeeves - is to be pensioned off. Exactly when he'll be shown the door has yet to be decided but it seems that the cold hearts at Inter-Active Corp - which acquired the search engine earlier this year for around £1bn - are worried that users are "confused" about the butler and what he stands for. The Beeb reports the demise of Jeeves - named after the resourceful butler of novelist P G Wodehouse - was revealed by Inter-Active boss Barry Diller when he spoke recently at a conference. Clearly, readjusting to life outside the world of search engines will be hard for Jeeves. But El Reg has managed to track down another has-been internet icon - AOL UK's "Connie" - who was dumped by her employers in 2003. A friend of Connie's told us: "Connie is spending more time with her virtual family - she may have retired from the online world but her principles live on. "Her advice to any other Internet icons would be to retire gracefully and not to consider comebacks or new careers." ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Sep 2005

Four arrested in '£6m' phone scam probe

Four men have been arrested in connection with a premium-rate phone scam that police reckon could have netted an estimated £6m. The four - two from Cambridge and two from Basingstoke - were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud customers of the telephone network, police said in a statement. The investigation is focusing on a scam in which people were called and told they had won an expensive prize. To claim their winnings, though, punters had to call a premium rate phone number which led to them racking up large phone bills. Few people, if any, actually received their "prize". City of London Police and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) searched six addresses in Cambridge, Basingstoke and North London last week before seizing a large number of computer records and files. Said senior investigating officer, DCI Colin Cowan: "We are working closely with the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) throughout this investigation. This investigation stretches across the whole of the UK and we believe the scam may have netted the fraudsters £6 million." ®
Tim Richardson, 26 Sep 2005

Limewire preps 'piracy-prevention' barriers

LimeWire developers are working of code modifications that will prevent users of future versions of the popular P2P client from sharing copyrighted works. Future versions of the software may check to see if material presented for sharing is copyrighted before blocking sharing if no suitable license can be found, Slyck reports. Users would still have the ability to trade their own work or files they have permission to distribute via a Creative Commons license. According to Slyck's secret squirrel, a Limewire beta tester, the feature is ready to go and developers are simply waiting on a decision by Limewire chief Mark Gorton to integrate the feature. The development work follows pressure from the recording industry on Limewire threatening legal action unless it clamped down on illicit file trading. The current version of 4.9.30 discourages - but does not actively prevent - the sharing of copyright protected information. For example, users have to promise not to use the software to share copyright protected works when they download the software. Limewire is one of the most popular Gnutella clients with two million or more simultaneous users. If barriers are erected to file trading many of these users will likely use earlier versions of the software or else switch to alternative Gnutella clients. No-one from Limewire was available for comment on this story at the time of going to press. ®
John Leyden, 26 Sep 2005

Salty seamen's erotic viewing blocks emergency radio

The crew of a fishing boat was whiling away a few lonely hours on the high seas watching a saucy film, not realising that they had left the radio transmitting on the emergency channel, thus blocking all Mayday radio comms for a 30-mile radius. As the salty seamen settled down to watch Crash - a tale involving people who find car crashes more erotic than do most - they managed to wedge the emergency radio channel open. Their chosen entertainment for the evening was thus broadcast across the airwaves for hours before coastguards dispatched a life boat to alert the men to their error, the BBC reports. The coastguard was also in contact with Channel Four, and asked the channel to broadcast a message to the sailors over the film. The lifeboat reached the crew just in time to prevent news of the cock-up being broadcast live to the nation. George Mair, skipper of the Oceania, apologised for the mistake. He maintains that the film was on in the background, and that he was working on the boat at the time. The BBC reports that he had "inadvertently jammed a clock radio into the switch that opened the emergency channel". A spokesman for Humber Coastguard said: "This should serve as a warning to others to be careful with their emergency radio switches." He added that it was lucky the seas had been so calm at the time. We would argue that it is also lucky that the Oceania's choice of onboard entertainment was as tame as it was. In his review of the 1997 film, Roger Ebert observed: "Take out the cars, the scars, the crutches and scabs and wounds, and substitute the usual props of sex films, and you'd have a porno movie. But 'Crash' is anything but pornographic." Phew. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Sep 2005
globalisation

Watford Electronics saves Tiny from knackers' yard

Watford Electronics has scooped up the assets and trading rights of Tiny Computers and Tiny.com from the administrators. Terms are undisclosed. Shiraz Jessa, MD of the UK PC maker and IT retailer, says the company intends to support "all existing Tiny customers. We're asking all customers who have an outstanding warranty to register their details with us; we'll contact each and every one as soon as a decision regarding the provision of ongoing support has been made". Existing Tiny customers should register their interest at TinyPrices.co.uk. Granville Technology, owner of both Tiny and Time Computer went titsup in July, with the loss of 1600 jobs. The future of Time Computer remains unclear. Granville bought the assets of Tiny Computers when it collapsed first time around in January 2002. Watford is one of the UK's oldest PC makers, responsible for Aries, PowerXS and Carrera brands (it also bought the latter brand from the knackers' yard). It also has an online reselling division called Savastore.com. With Tiny under its belt, Watford reckons it will leapfrog over Mesh and Evesham to become the UK's biggest PC maker. Says Jessa: "Not only will it increase our share of the mainstream consumer PC market, but will significantly increase our buying power, which at the end of the day means future customers will benefit from lower prices and better quality products." ®
Drew Cullen, 26 Sep 2005

Python movies secure best spin-off crown

The Monty Python films have been voted the best TV series spin-off in a poll of readers of the BBC's listing magazine Radio Times. Mission: Impossible was second, with Star Trek in third. Fourth place went to the 1993 offering The Fugitive, while Batman came in fifth. Other spin-off faves included The Addams Family, The X-Files, South Park and Starsky and Hutch. Down at the "what on Earth were they thinking?" end of the results, we have the 1977 version of Are You Being Served?, just snatching the wooden spoon from the truly diabolical Avengers. Voters also put the boot into Sgt Bilko (1996), Scooby-Doo, Charlie's Angels, The Saint and Bewitched. Gratifyingly, Thunderbirds and Dukes of Hazzard were likewise dispatched to celluloid oblivion. That the Python boys grabbed top spot should come as no surpise, given that back in February an Amazon poll declared The Holy Grail the best Brit pic of all time. Mind you, A Clockwork Orange malarkied second place - a triumph of hype over content if ever there was one. ®
Lester Haines, 26 Sep 2005

Intelligent design meets evolution in court

A court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is set to hear a case that could have implications for the teaching of science across America. A group of parents from the nearby town of Dover is taking legal action to overturn a decision by the local school board to allow the teaching of the Intelligent Design theory in science classes. Intelligent design (ID) holds that life is too complex to be explained by the theory of evolution, and that some intelligent agent must have had a hand in it. Critics of this approach describe the theory as creationism is all but name, and argue that none of its tenets withstand normal scientific criticism. A major objection to the ID theory is that it is not testable. This is the single most important criterion that a scientific theory must meet. In October 2004, the Dover school board district ruled that ID is a valid alternative theory to evolution and should be taught along side it in school. The parents filed suit almost immediately, against the district school board, arguing that the decision was motivated by a desire to get religion taught in science classes. The also argue that the theory is in fact a cover for creationism. "We're fighting for the first amendment, the separation of church and state and the integrity of schools," Philadelphia lawyer Eric Rothschild told the Los Angeles Times. "This trial should decide whether a school board can impose its religious views on other students." The judge's ruling will only affect schools in the district
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Sep 2005

The 5:01 to Gizmoville is now ready for boarding

Tech DigestTech Digest iPod Accessory of the Week: PodGear PocketParty speakers for iPod Nano Barely two weeks after the iPod Nano's launch and accessories are starting to emerge. The PodGear for the Nano is a mini hi-fi system that doubles as recharger. The
Tech Digest, 26 Sep 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Intel and Dell update server gear with promises and rhetoric bump

Intel and Dell - aka the Brotherhood of Single-Core Chips - continue to flail about, issuing statements that promise they will eventually ship systems with dual-core server processors. The statements appear to be InDell's best attempt at calming customers' nerves, while competitors and their customers turn to rival gear based on AMD's dual-core Opteron processor. Intel today, for example, put out a press release talking up a new, speedier Xeon chip and a number of low voltage Xeons. Covering the facts first, the new 64-bit Xeon runs at 3.80GHz (up from 3.60GHz) with 2MB of L2 cache and will slip into current servers. In addition, customers will now find the Xeon LV 3 GHz1 that eats up a max of 55W and the Xeon MV 3.20GHz that consumes up to 90W. Intel was particularly proud of these lower voltage parts and dedicated an entire paragraph in its statement to the processors. Typically, new processors would warrant far more than just one paragraph in Intel's marketing material. But in these case, the chip giant wants you looking forward to its dual-core chips and not backward at its single-core shame. These new chips are the last single-core Xeons Intel plans to ship - ever. For that reason, it spent much more time hawking the dual-core Xeon chips that it doesn't even sell yet. Think future, friends. "In the coming weeks, Intel will introduce its first dual-core Intel Xeon processor, codenamed 'Paxville,'" Intel said. Quick! Explain how you're not behind AMD as much as you were. "Originally scheduled in 2006, Paxville will deliver improved performance for both dual-processor (DP) and multi-processor (MP)-based servers," Intel continued. Phew. The company then went on to tout the dual-core "Dempsey" chip coming in 2006 for servers and workstations. Dell today also patted itself on the back for not selling servers with dual-core Xeons yet, although the hardware maker didn't phrase its plans in quite that way. "Dell has added multi-core technology to its portfolio of award-winning dual-socket servers and workstations, delivering up to 52 percent greater performance while maintaining a common system image for both single- and multi-core systems. The updated servers and workstations also provide the investment protection and flexibility of the industry's most widely used and scalable architecture." But by "added" and "updated" Dell really meant "conceptualized." The PowerEdge 1850, 1855, 2800 and 2850 systems that will run on the dual-core Paxville version of Xeon won't actually ship until next month. Customers, however, do have the opportunity of ordering the systems now, if they'll sign an NDA. It's not the most romantic counter to buying a dual-core Opteron-based server, but it will have to do. Dell also plans to ship its Precision 470 and 670 workstations with dual-core Xeons. "Dual-core technology combines two processing units into a single processor chip," Dell reminds us in its press release. "The result can be dramatic increases in performance and power efficiency compared to single-core processors, especially when running multiple applications." That's something rivals IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems have been pointing out for months with their Opteron gear. For some reason, first-to-market king Dell didn't mind being last-to-market on the dual-core server chip front. In return for its Intel loyalty, Dell apparently received permission to issue its Paxville-based server press release ahead of IBM and HP. Intel typically has all the OEMs put out statements on the same day, hoping to prove the health of its ecosystem and keep everyone happy. Was shunning AMD worth such a feeble press release - not to mention lost sales? Dell seems to think so. ®
Ashlee Vance, 26 Sep 2005
globalisation

AMD counters Intel with speedier Opterons

AMD today won a round of its ongoing chip marketing battle with Intel by pumping out a new fleet of speedier dual-core Opteron chips. Intel did its best to counter the move with a couple of variations to its single-core Xeon line but obviously fell short of its rival. Customers can start buying 2.4GHz versions of the Opteron 280 and 880 chips. That's a boost from AMD's 2.2GHz mainstream Opteron parts and puts the rest of the line on par with an existing premium 2.4GHz chip used by Sun Microsystems. The Opteron 180 chip for single processor servers and workstations will ship at 2.4GHz as well within 30 days. AMD was quick to note that it's already updating the dual-core Opteron line "less than five months" after first putting the product on sale. Meanwhile, Intel still has not released either a dual-core Itanium or a dual-core Xeon processor, leaving it behind AMD on x86 servers and the likes of IBM and Sun in the RISC market. Intel does, however, plan to fix this embarrassing problem by year end and ship dual-core parts for both lines. HP, IBM and Sun are all expected to bring the faster Opterons to their servers in short order. The Model 880 chip is priced at $2,649 for volume purchases, while the Model 280 will cost $1,299 and the Model 180 will cost $799. In a statement, AMD noted that it's still waiting for Intel to compete in a dual-core chip challenge. We hope there aren't too many folks at AMD dedicated to this quixotic quest. ®
Ashlee Vance, 26 Sep 2005

Club opens for recovering Itanium server sellers

"Hello. My name is SGI, and I'm an Itanium user." So we imagine the beginning of the first Itanium Solutions Alliance (ISA) meeting. This organization of Itanic backers officially came to life today, bringing with it years of sorrow and dashed sales dreams. All the big server vendors are there. Well, except for IBM, Dell and Sun Microsystems. But, hey, who needs those guys around, flaunting their server sales. Itaniums Anonymous, er, ISA is all about being positive and looking to the future. It has a 12-step program set up that promises redemption and maybe even sales. The new group - made up of HP, SGI, Oracle, BEA and others - plans to counter Itanium's slow adoption by dangling dollars and equipment in front of software developers. "All programs will provide software developers resources to speed application optimization for Itanium solutions as well as ultimately providing end customers with a richer set of solution alternatives," ISA said. The organization will even go so far as to hold "developer days" in which it will tell the Windows and Linux crowds about the epic nature of EPIC. We'll spare those of you who aren't part of the exclusive Itanium users club the rest of the details. However, the brave souls out there who did board the Itanic can look here for all the relevant propaganda. A number of analysts were left looking like the Muddle-Headed Wombat after the ISA revealed itself. After all, HP and Intel, among others, have already spent plenty of time and money promoting Itanium. The vendors have long had handouts ready for developers, systems builders and customers willing to give Itanic a go. "It's hard to see the Itanium Solutions Alliance accomplishing anything major that the billions already spent by HP, Intel, and the rest haven't," noted Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. "You don't see an x86 Solutions Alliance." (Haff had more to say on the subject in this note.) Itanium, however, could use a boost these days. This year has seen IBM and Dell give up on their efforts to sell Itanium-based servers and major Itanium backer HP pull its line of workstations. HP dominates the Itanium market, leaving a few scraps for struggling SGI and even fewer scraps for the likes of Hitachi, NEC and Bull. Intel's hopes for a thriving Itanium ecosystem have long collapsed. It's life-support time now. ®
Ashlee Vance, 26 Sep 2005