29th > September > 2005 Archive
Tiger Telematics (TT), the Florida-based company behind the Gizmondo handheld games console, has posted its annual report for the year to 31 December 2004. It makes fascinating reading - particularly since the company yesterday announced its plan to begin trading its stock on Nasdaq. To date it has been an OTC stock. Last year, before it finally shipped the Gizmondo, TT lost $99.29m, its latest filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reveals. It expects to report an operating loss of $210m for the first six months of 2005, "principally due to development costs for the Gizmondo and non-cash expenses associated with shares of restricted common stock issued for services". In other words it has bartered shares in lieu of cash payments. The Gizmodo was released in the UK on 19 March. The console is scheduled to ship in the US in October - or Q4 2005, as the SEC filing cautiously puts it. Curiously, TT claims "during 2005, the Company launched the Gizmondo first in England and then in the European market". Its website indicates that the console is only available in the UK. The use of the past tense in the SEC filing is puzzling - presumably the Gizmondo is in continental Europe later this year. Despite the losses, TT has gained funding, including $73.1m worth of investment capital during the year, and it issues some 24.7m shares which brought in over $200m. That's the reason for the Nasdaq listing request. If granted, it will "permit the company to engage a much larger investor base as it permits retail solicitation orders and research by analysts. Tiger's common stock will then be considered a marginable security for loans", TT said today. As a starter for analyst research, what about the following? Gizmondo Europe CTO Steve Carroll was given a $231,324 car by the company in Q1 2005. The subsidiary's company secretary, Tamela Sainsbury, got one too, though it only costs $70,000. She may not need it, since she can ride to work with her "co-habiting partner", who happens to be Steve Carroll. Sainsbury was paid nearly $150,000 in base compensation during 2004, plus $83,000 in bonuses. Carl Freer's 2004 "automobile allowance" for the year stood at just over $115,600. Stefan Eriksson's was $104,095. Freer and Carroll each earned more than $1m in 2004, while the former gained more than $1.1m in bonuses. Their 2004 stock awards amounted to 975,000 and 1,492,587 shares, respectively. Companies can, of course, recompense their senior employees as they see fit, in line with what they perceive as the going rate for the jobs they do. But wth Tiger gearing up to launch the Gizmondo in the US - and, given what the report says, in Europe too - it might have been more prudent for the start-up to award its senior staffers less extravagant-seeming packages. Especially since the company was forced in July to lay off an unknown but believed-to-be-large proportion of its UK workforce. ®
IBM has recruited a pair of networking chums to help slot a 4Gbit/s switch into its blade server chassis. To bring the blade/switch combo to life, IBM will use a 4Gbit/s HBA from QLogic. That HBA will connect BladeCenter servers with 4Gbit/s switches from either McData or QLogic. The switches then link to IBM’s TotalStorage DS4800 storage area network (SAN) system. “Each switch module is available in 10 and 20 port models and upgrades are accomplished easily via software keys,” IBM said. With the new gear, IBM has made good on its efforts to bulk up blade servers and turn them into serious business software workhorses, according to Pund-IT analyst Charles King. “Two of the more remarkable IT success stories over the past couple of years have been the x86 architecture’s notable high performance computing (HPC) capabilities, and its ability to support increasingly complex IT environments,” King wrote in a recent research report. “IBM’s BladeCenter solutions leverage both of those trends by delivering ‘datacenter-in-a-box’ that can be populated with various flavors of x86 blades (both Intel and AMD) as well as the company’s own Power-based JS20 solutions. “The new switches kick BladeCenter up a notch by delivering 4Gb performance to uplinks (as do switches from other vendors including HP) as well as to each individual blade (which other switches do not). This capability particularly complements high-end applications such as the new analytics solution announced by IBM and SAP last week, which should be particularly valuable for enterprises in retail, insurance, oil and gas exploration, and other areas that utilize business or database analytics.” To its credit, IBM has been aggressive about lining up networking aid for its blade server line with embedded Fibre Channel switches also made by QLogic and McData. The 4GB switches from QLogic start at $8,999, while the 4Gb switches from McData start at $10,999.®
As Voyager 1 spacecraft speeds through the outermost boundary of our solar system it is tearing clods out of our understanding of the universe, say mission scientists. Researchers at the University of Maryland's Institute for Physical Science and Technology confirmed in Science last week that Voyager 1 had crossed the termination shock, the unexplored area of space that marks the beginning of the heliosheath, where our sun's solar wind starts to run out of steam as it comes smack against the swirling currents of interstellar space. (The date this occurred had been disputed, but it happened on 16 December 2004, said the Maryland team). When Voyager got to the shock it discovered that things were not quite as predicted. Scientists expected it to find there the source of the little understood Anomalous cosmic rays (ACRs). Instead, it found that they come from somewhere further out there on its trajectory. Matthew Hill, an anomalous cosmic ray expert at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (who was at Maryland till this week), said the findings will help us understand other shocks, such as those created by the solar flares that wreck our communications systems and endanger our astronauts. ACRs were thought to be created in the termination shock after electrically neutral particles had been netted from the interstellar space clouds through which our solar system hurtles on its course around the galaxy. On hitting the solar wind, the interstellar particles pick up a charge, becoming pickup ions. The ions are then accelerated with energy, it was thought, by the shock, to become anomalous cosmic rays. ACRs are, as their name would suggest, a bit weird. They are weaker than cosmic and galactic rays, and tend to get buffeted around like clouds of manic dandelion spores on the solar wind. They exist in high densities at the edge of the solar system and spread farther apart the closer they get to the sun. They pass through the solar system without causing any bother beyond a headache for puzzled astrophysicists. It appears they are now causing a little more turmoil than their low charges would warrant. Hill said 25 years of research on the termination shock and ACRs would now have to be revised. "We'd now like to find out where these particles are coming from. It's either in the heliosheath or beyond," he said. "We don't know where they are coming from...But they are probably still created in the heliosphere because with their energy it would be difficult for them to come from too far away." Next up on Voyager 1's intrepid mission into the heliosheath, in addition to discovering the source of anomalous cosmic rays, will be a greater understanding of what happens when our solar wind goes phut phut against the pressures of interstellar space - and there are probably some more theories to be debunked as well. ®
Nobel prize-winning chemist Professor Aaron Ciechanover is set to give a talk about human disease and anticancer drug development to 120 scientists of the future. The students, all studying for their A-levels or the equivalent, come from schools across London, and all say they want to go on to study chemistry at university. The idea of the talk is to give students a flavour of what lies beyond university education. After his presentation, the students will have the opportunity to meet and speak with Professor Ciechanover abotu his research, and their own scientific ambitions. The lecture is fully booked. "It's standing room only. We have been inundated with calls," a spokeswoman gushed. Professor Ciechanover will be speaking at the Science Museum on Monday 10 October, ahead of giving the Ron Arad lecture to the medical community that evening. In December 2004, he was awarded a Nobel Prize for his part in discoveries of ubiquitin-related protein degeneration - now known as the "Ubiquitin System". His work is already being used in new treatments for cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's. ®
Despite efforts to attract more IT professionals into government, industry is still widely seen a more attractive place to work than the UK public sector, according to the findings of new market research.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of US global hegemony, and this week a new initiative, supposedly from US President George Bush, and talked up by US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, was intended to push the intellectual property agenda overseas. There are three new initiatives, one to put intellectual property rights experts on watch in key overseas countries including Brazil, China, India and Russia, and a new Small Business Outreach program to educate US small businesses on how to protect their intellectual property rights and a global intellectual property academy which is expected to provide training for foreign government officials on IP issues. In the end this has all become a political agenda driven by the USPTO which foisted the flawed Digital Millenium Copyright Act on the world in the form of the Word Copyright Treaty signed by 179 countries. Recently European legislation pushed by the European Commission on patents failed to gain the support of the member countries. This would have made it possible in Europe to patent obvious business model ideas and software in the same way that they can be patented in the US. The US is where most IP litigation takes place, much of it due to patents that should never have been granted in the first place. Many US multinationals now commonly file patents for inventions that have huge amounts of prior art, a process that could be stopped if there was more onus on the filing companies to show diligence in looking through prior art. It sometimes appears that if a patent has not been filed in the US, it doesn't count, so a US company can file it in the US and claim that it invented it first, hence the amount of litigation. The message from this new initiatives are pretty confused. Is the US administration tying to stop other countries from pirating music, or is it trying to drive patent and royalty streams for US technology businesses, which would be far more valuable. Comments like "The Bush administration is committed to stopping trade in pirated and counterfeit goods. Theft of intellectual property is not tolerated and will not be tolerated," seem to suggest that it is directed towards copying films, which would protect a few $ billion in revenues, but surely the entire technology business is far larger than the entertainment businesses, and in particular in communications where everything from wi-fi, to OFDM to CDMA in wireless communications, drive multiple trillion dollar communications businesses. The focus was also cited as being technology, IP-based businesses, such as software, bio-technology and the entertainment industries, now represent the largest single sector of the U.S. economy. IP theft costs US businesses an estimated $250bn per year, and 750,000 American jobs. The World Customs Organization and Interpol estimate the total global trade in illegitimate goods increased in 2004 to more than $600bn.Does that include, we wonder cynically, companies claiming patents on inventions created overseas? Perhaps that's unfair. Increasingly the war for all technology will be fought in the courts, and only while the US remains a plumb key market, will its laws remain relevant. Right now its ability to withdraw trade from a country has a huge impact. In perhaps as little as ten years, the laws of China may become the global international standard, as it uses its market weight to establish just how it might insist that its own intellectual property is policed. Copyright © 2005, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
A thought has been torturing Microsoft of late, and that thought emerges from the business model of Google. Microsoft has long pioneered the idea of giving away a new application as an "operating system feature" and cornering a market. Google gives away applications because it always leaves a door open for advertisers to benefit from them. It is this loophole that Microsoft moved to close this week when it announced its own new approach to advertising, with a new adCenter set of applications that will allow both MSN carried advertising, and in a direct aping of Google Adwords, other websites, to use advanced demographic data. Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of the MSN Information Services & Merchant Platform division, opened this week's Advertising Week conference declaring that the system has gone live in France this week, and went live in Singapore at the end of August and would go to test in the US in October. The boast is that adCenter can focus not just on the search term used by a person on the MSN search engine, but can also factor in geographic location, gender, age range, time of day and day of week, and suggests keywords based on the desired audience. An example given was the if a man is searching for flowers he may need a florist to buy flowers for his wife or girlfriends, but that when a woman keys in flowers, she is really looking for a gardening store. Not sure we can agree with that, but let's turn it around. If an advertiser says: "Our buying audience is 75 per cent men," then it can show its ads to men either 75 per cent of the time, or 100 per cent. The advertising technology that Microsoft used is supplied by Yahoo. And gradually between October and next Spring, the new systems will take over the ad serving responsibilities on MSN from the Yahoo software. The simple truth is that not only is Google searching currently more effective and preferred over MSN search, but it has found itself in a growth area that promises to fuel its corporate growth for the next five years, as advertisers turn away from the difficult to prove ability of hyper-expensive TV advertising, towards the feedback and interaction of the internet. If Google maintains its market share of web advertising, it can continue to grow unhampered and profitable for some time, giving it ample opportunity to take potshots at Microsoft. Microsoft has to move now to claw back market share before this happens. Some of the tools added this week include the ability to assist advertisers by suggesting alternative keywords based on the content of their own website; the ability to predict the type of search customer that will look for specific keywords, based on past history; and the service has a cost estimator that helps advertisers predict what a campaign will cost. At present when they buy advertising around a keyword search, they have no way of knowing how many people will search that word and can end up with unexpected bills if they are too successful. Also new is a Campaign Optimization system to refine budget allocations and keywords and a Post Sales Audience Intelligence & Reporting system. MSN currently says it has 420 million unique users worldwide per month in 41 markets and 21 languages. Can we picture a Microsoft that offers software free, paid for by advertising? Well no, but it needs rapidly to find a way of carving out ad market share, in order to stop Google becoming that nightmare competitor that it fears, a company that can give an operating system away which is paid for by advertising. Copyright © 2005, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
The company behind eDonkey, MetaMachine, is getting out of the file sharing business according to its boss Sam Yagan. Yagan disclosed the news in testimony to Congress, Extreme Tech reports. Yagan said he is responding to a cease-and-desist notice served by the Recording Industry Ass. of America to several P2P networks. "I have personally committed to Mr. Sherman – which I reiterate today – that we are in the process of complying with their request," said Yagan. "Therefore I am not here as an active participant in the future of P2P, but rather as one who has thrown in his towel." Yagan blamed the Supreme Court's June judgement which suggested that a P2P company's copyright liability rested on its intent to infringe. As a consequence, small companies were being forced out of business because they couldn't afford to litigate. As a result, he said, innovation was being stifled and the US economy would suffer. A good point, until one remembers the long litigation necessary to permit innovation such as reverse engineering and cryptography. In the case of PGP, litigation took many years, and PGP developer Phil Zimmermann had far fewer users and backers. So Yagan might equally direct his frustration at the wealthy technology and telecommunications industries - which dwarf the recording industry - for their failure to support him. At the Congressional hearings, the Grand Dame of Californian politics, Senator Dianne Feinstein, yesterday called for new legislation to enforce copyright, but failed to give details of what she had in mind.® Related link Yagan's testimony to Congress [Extreme Tech]
CTIACTIA Who this week said that GPRS is "slow and cumbersome, and nobody wants to use it on a mobile or laptop." Intel? Flarion? Or a Wi-Fi lobbyist, perhaps? No, actually it was Orange's chief of partner operations, Steve Glagow, giving an insight into how Orange views the mobile data market. Steve was speaking at an SD Forum event called Mobile Software Value Chain where top executives were notable for their frankness. "Consumers don't want mobile data," he added. It's a good job there wasn't a reporter in the room. What business customers were really demanding from Orange instead, Steve said, was consistency from the office to the home. People who dink about on high-end phones on the commute are pretty rare. Naturally the former DEC, HP and SGI exec has a 3G network to plug, you might point out, and Orange was one of the few networks to gamble on high speed circuit switched data, on which it took a bath. So Orange was never really on board with 2.5G GPRS, or its 2.75G EDGE enhancement, and wanted to sit it out until WCDMA 3G was ready. With 3G, as let the front runners take the bruises. But it's hard with Orange's view when the numbers tend to back him up - and the GPRS experience requires - let's be honest - a fair bit of patience. Mobile mavens like us might want better mobile data deals, but there aren't enough of us to justify the plans. Steve's point that GPRS, even at EDGE data rates, isn't ready for a mass market used to broadband speeds is probably correct right now. It's something only enthusiasts really have the perseverance to endure. Loading 3kb ... 9kb ... 11kb ... Loading... So mobile nirvana continues to elude consumers on both sides of the pond. Europeans have an abundance of low cost 2.5G gadgets that are capable of roaming across the wild wastelands of the web, but few affordable plans. You need deep pockets to make a habit out of using your smartphone for the internet. By contrast, Stateside GSM subscribers can still snap up an all-you-can-eat deal for less than $30 (£16.40) a month, but lag way behind in the gadgets. Neither Cingular nor T-Mobile wants to subsidize you. And the CDMA networks shun the top-end Nokia and Sony Ericsson smartphones completely. For every optimistic note heard in Europe - such T-Mobile loosening the 'walled garden' approach in Germany - there's another, such as er, T-Mobile nixing POP3 access in the UK. Which is just daft. Simply because a phone makes a perfect caching device for material delivered via a broadband connection to the home (a TV clip, for example) or the office (a large data set that needs to be reviewed, probably including a PowerPoint presentation) shouldn't mean it will only ever be useful as a caching device. Er, we hope. ®
LG will be the first company to commercialise a portable fuel-cell system for notebook computers within a year, the company has pledged. Developed by LG subsidiary LG Chem, the fuel cell comprises a reaction vessel and removable 200cc methanol fuel reservoir. Together, they can generate 25W of power for more than ten hours. The cell itself lasts for more than 4000 hours - eight times longer than competing products, LG Chem claimed. Designed for notebooks, the fuel cell will also be able to power handheld devices such as portable media players and mobile phones, LG Chem said, by connecting to their USB ports. Still, LG Chem's prototype isn't exactly compact, as the company's photos show. It said the fuel-cell unit weighs under 1kg. LG is looking to develop other units, capable of generating between 5W and 50W, so there's clearly the prospect of much smaller devices down the line. The company said the global market for fuel cells is likely to hit $600m next year, rising to $1.9bn by 2010. Toshiba is also pursuing the fuel-cell market, but doesn't expect to have product on the market until 2007. Earlier this month, it revealed a pair of prototype MP3 players with built-in, refillable fuel cells. It is also working on notebook-oriented versions, as are NEC and others. ®
Frustration with an elitist approach taken by governments at the crucial PrepCom3 meeting in Geneva boiled over yesterday. In two strongly worded interventions, first the civil society and then the private sector condemned the decision taken in some meetings to exclude everyone but government officials. Ayesha Hassan, representing a consortium of business interests calling itself the Coordinating Committee of Business Interlocutors (CCBI), later told us that the meetings were being run on an ad hoc basis - sometimes they were entitled to stay and speak; at others only observe; in some, they were banned from entering. Both Ms Hassan and, earlier in the day, Ms Avri Doria, speaking as a civil society representative, pointed out two fundamental points: one, that the both civil society and the private sector had, and continue to have, an enormous influence on the internet’s success and future; and two, that their role has been explicitly recognised by the UN and is written numerous times into the very text being decided at the conference. In an impassioned plea, Ms Doria stated that: "The decisions to exclude non-governmental stakeholders from meaningful participation in the drafting groups are not acceptable as a matter of principle." They were also breaking "fundamental conditions" and undermining the WSIS’ legitimacy, she said. Ms Hassan drew a wider historical point. "In the case of the internet, multi-stakeholder participation is not just a political and moral commitment, it is an acknowledgment of the genius of people from around the world from every stakeholder group that have driven the internet’s growth. "A lack of full and active participation in all phases of this process is thus not only inconsistent with WSIS’ commitment, it is a historic departure from how internet stakeholders have dealt with each other." Her statement, which was loudly talked over by some in the room, was greeted with applause by those relegated to the fringes. The entire WSIS process has come as something of a culture shock to many government officials who have been consistently stymied in their attempts to cut deals behind closed doors. With the UN stating time and again - and the US and European governments enforcing it - that a "multi-stakeholder" approach (meaning the inclusion of businesses and internet organisations) be taken, they have had little choice. Earlier this week, several countries sought to exclude non-governmental observers, fearing a precedent would be set for future UN meetings. Hours of subsequent debate produced a series of options ranging from exclusion to full involvement. However, a vote was never taken, a consensus never reached and now the decision of whether or not to allow "observers" in is dependent on the general feeling in the room. Nevertheless, the vast majority of meetings remain open, to the bemusement of some who have consistently asked this reporter how he got in. It is unclear what governments fear from holding open meetings. Certainly the petty political squabbles could prove embarrassing if extensively reported on. And the general sense that they can’t speak freely if observed by "outsiders" is no more than cultural inertia. The reality is that the deals struck and the alliances made occur in corridors and phonecalls, not in front of a commission meeting. The point made by civil society and private sector is a good one: we built a big chunk of the internet and if you want to produce a document that will hold up in future years, you will benefit from our knowledge. In one sense, both are superior delegates to WSIS meetings for the simple reason that their self-interest lies only in improving the internet.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday welcomed testimony from parties seeking the legislative final solution to P2P networks during a Capitol Hill hearing confidently entitled "Protecting Copyright and Innovation in a Post-Grokster World." The labels are clearly encouraged by the recent Supreme Court decision in MGM vs Grokster, which holds that the makers and distributors of technology used primarily to violate copyrights may be liable for infringement, and would like to see the spirit of that decision enshrined in new laws. However, since that decision, file sharing networks have begun to capitulate, so additional laws are not needed now, at least until the ruling's implications have a chance to emerge in courtroom dramas across the country. But no doubt the labels are eager to press their advantage, and no doubt they're dissatisfied with the Supreme Court's rather fair interpretation of the law. Aside from content-industry angels like US Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California), who fretted openly that P2P is "going to destroy the intellectual property industries," the Committee's mood overall was cautious, with Chairman Arlen Specter (Republican, Pennsylvania) content to wait and see. "At least in the short term, I think we'll carry out the wishes of those who want [Congress] to do nothing," Specter said in conclusion. Additionally, the Committee heard a lament from US Registrar of Copyrights Marybeth Peters, who decried the outdated methods by which artists are paid royalties, and warned that the process has got to be brought in line with current technological realities. She did not, however, think that Congress should hurry to begin writing new legislation. At this point, it appears that the Committee might give the courts a chance to make sense of existing law, and perhaps step in later if that yields confusion and inconsistency, or fails to satisfy the industry's lust for total content control in the guise of copyright protection. ® Related stories Mashboxx appoints music industry insider as CEO Good ship P2P burns to the waterline WinMX and eDonkey: offline, doors closed Mashboxx in Grokster 'takeover talks' RIAA calls time on P2Pers
Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have finally joined their high-tech peers by scoring annual salaries in the one million dollar range. Microsoft's chief software architect and chief executive officer were paid $1m during the last fiscal year after each receiving a $400,000 bonus on their $600,000 salaries. Both men were previously just shy of $1m, being paid $901,000 each. In its latest Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing Microsoft said the compensation reflected their status as significant shareholders of the company. Both men are eligible for bonus of up to 120 per cent based on a review. The reward came as Microsoft announced a record year, reporting $39.79bn revenue for fiscal 2005 that ended on June 30, 2005. Revenue for the year increased eight per cent. The award finally puts Gates in the same league as their peers at at lest two rivals - Oracle and SAP. But only just. Henning Kagermann, chief executive for SAP, draws a $4.16m salary from the ERP Goliath while Oracle's Larry Ellison keeps a lavish lifestyle of boating and designer homes afloat with a $7.48m pay check. The blip is not enough to beat two of Microsoft's other top performers, though. Kevin Johnson, recently appointed co-president of platform products and services, pulled in $1.05m in salary and bonuses while Jeff Raikes, head of business solutions, scored $1.04m. Out-bound co-president of platform products and services, Jim Allchin, drew level with Gates and Ballmer. Microsoft noted in its SEC filing that the salaries of Gates and Ballmer are "significantly below competitive levels elsewhere in the information technology industry and large market capitalization US companies, and they do not participate in the company's equity compensation program". ®
Police are questioning a Cambridgeshire mother who allegedly used a webcam to keep an eye on her three children while she went on a jaunt to Germany. The woman, who hasn't been named, was arrested yesterday on "suspicion of child abandonment and neglect", the BBC reports. She kept in touch with her children aged 13, 10 and eight by using a webcam hooked up to the net. The woman, from Peterborough, said she went to Germany for five days to pick up some belongings but could not afford to take her kids with her. ®
Shares in 888 began trading this morning following the IPO of the online casino. The share price was set at 175p valuing the gambling operation at £590m ($1.04bn). At one stage in the run up to the float the company was estimated to be worth between £700 and £800m. However, the enthusiasm for internet gaming took a knock four weeks ago after PartyGaming, which floated for £4.6bn earlier this year, warned that online gambling would not continue its current rapid growth. As a result, its shares tumbles by around a third triggering a loss of investor confidence. In statement today 888 chief exec John Anderson said: "We have a clear strategy for creating sustainable shareholder value by becoming the market leader in the online gaming industry and continuing to provide our members with a comprehensive range of gaming activities in a secure and trusted environment." Which is nice. ®
Legislators in Peru have approved a hotly contested bill sanctioning use of open source software by government and levelling the playing field for start-ups against Microsoft. The Peruvian Congress has passed a bill that prohibits any public institution from buying systems that tie users into any particular type of software or that limits "information autonomy". Public institutions are also barred from having a pre-determined preference for either proprietary software or open-source software. The bill is the product of three years' work from its chief sponsor, Congressman Edgar Villanueva. During that time, there have been claims of all kinds of pressure on Peru to kill the bill. This ranged from the ominous - official US disapproval - to the generous: a $500,000 donation to the Peruvian school system by Microsoft's chief software architect, Bill Gates, on a visit to the country in 2002. Congressman Villanueva also famously penned a detailed letter in support of the bill designed to rebut FUD allegedly circulated by Microsoft against his work. Peru's president, Alejandro Toledo, now has 25 working days to either sign the bill into law or send it back to Congress for modification. If Toledo does approve the bill, then Peru would be joining a growing roster of national, regional and city authorities internationally either approving or actively encouraging adoption of open-source software. ®
A former AMD inventory planner was yesterday sent to prison for more than three years for accepting bribes totalling $1m from Citiraya Industries, a Singaporean electronics recycler. Ex-employees from Seagate, STMicro and 3M were also sentenced by the Singaporean court to jail terms of four weeks, 13 months and four weeks, respectively. The four - Johnny Seow Teck, Chang Kar Yang, Francis Wong Chin and Bobby Teh Ah Bah - were also fined between $11,800 and $945,600. District Judge Wong Keen Onn at the Subordinate Court said the hefty fines, described by local lawyers as more harsh than usual, were intended to send a strong warning that corruption within publicly-listed companies will not be tolerated. The convictions, reported by Singapore's Business Times, arose from claims that Citiraya principals had offered technology company workers financial incentives to turn a blind eye to the resale of products scheduled for destruction and recycling. According to the paper, the four convicted yesterday were among 11 people so far charged over the affair. Among those who have yet to appear before the court are Citiraya CEO Ng Teck Lee and his brother, Ng Teck Boon, Citiraya's former assistant general manager. He faces 193 charges of falsifying accounts and bribery. ®
A man who showed an Iraqi beheading clip to a hotel worker was jailed for 60 days yesterday. Subhan Younnis, 23, caused Charlotte Cray distress when he played the footage on his mobile during a conversation with her in a shop in Glasgow's Moathouse Hotel last September, Glasgow district court heard. Younnis pleaded guilty to a breach of the peace over the offence. Stipendiary magistrate Euan Edment rejected Younnis claim that Cray was forewarned that she was about to be shown the beheading clip. Younnis downloaded the clip from the net prior to transferring it onto his mobile. "I struggle to understand why you had images on your phone entailing the death and degradation of another human being, regardless of their religion or race," the magistrate told Younnis, the BBC reports. "Miss McClay was shocked, upset and distressed by the images. This is a serious offence and something she will remember for a long time, perhaps for the rest of her life." ®
In a bid to promote careers in science and medicine, particularly in the NHS, physiologists are compiling a snapshot survey of the general health of the nation's youth. The idea is that the project will help students understand how scientists use measurements, analysis and results to reach conclusions for diagnoses and treatment. In collaboration with selected schools, the scientists will be measuring the body mass index, peak flow rates and resting and racing pulse rates of students aged between 14 and 16. Students will be able to upload their data during Healthcare Science Week, which runs from 14-20 November, through specially-designed pages on the NHS Careers website. Lung function in particular is being targeted in the snapshot survey because 17 November is also World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) day. The organisers hope that the survey will help draw attention to causes of and solutions to this disease. Other events planned during the week include open department days in Healthcare Trusts all over England, a conference at Guys Hospital in London where medical scientists will showcase their research, and other activities for school aged kids, being organised by the National Blood Service. ®
Anyone who believes that increasing cultural globalisation will inevitably lead to a dumbing down of consumers' critical faculties has been proved right on the button by a Sony Ericsson poll of 700,000 "music lovers" in 66 countries which has voted Queen's We Are The Champions the world's favourite song. Britney's Toxic crooned into second spot, beating child-friendly Jacko into third place with Billie Jean. Next up comes the timelessly abominable Hotel California followed by Shakira, Nirvana, The Beatles, U2, John Lennon and Dire Straits. Sony Ericsson marketing supremo, Dee Dutta, described the winner as "an anthem worldwide, both in music and sporting arenas, it conveys the passion music brings to everyone's life as well as proving a classic rock song is truly timeless." Hmmm. Rather more interesting is the UK top 10, dominated almost exclusively by the aforementioned Mr Jackson. The only other artists who get a look in are Robbie Williams and Guns'N'Roses, which gives a clue about the demographic which voted in the Blighty section of the poll. For the record, a quick trawl of the international top 100 reveals Zep's Stairway to Heaven at 35, Wonderwall by Oasis fighting its way into 48th position and R.E.M. fave Losing My Religion at 70. All of these are soundly thrashed by Whitney's I will always love you (22), My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion at 32 and yes, you guessed it, Queen's We Will Rock You at 12. All together now... ® That international top ten in full: We Are The Champions - Queen Toxic - Britney Spears Billie Jean - Michael Jackson Hotel California - The Eagles La Tortura - Shakira Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana Yesterday - The Beatles One - U2 Imagine - John Lennon Sultans Of Swing - Dire Straits And here are the results of the UK jury: Billie Jean - Michael Jackson Thriller - Michael Jackson Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen Beat It - Michael Jackson Angels - Robbie Williams Smooth Criminal - Michael Jackson We've Had Enough - Michael Jackson Black or White - Michael Jackson You Rock My World - Michael Jackson Welcome to the Jungle - Guns 'N' Roses
Nvidia unveiled its first GeForce 7 series mobile graphics chip last night, as expected. The GeForce Go 7800GTX incorporates the latest generation of Nvidia's pixel processing and video enhancement technologies, CineFX 4.0 and PureVideo 2.0. Intellisample 4.0 and UltraShadow II are in the mix too. The 7800GTX can process up to 24 pixels per tick of the chip's clock, yielding a fill rate of 10.32bn pixels per second. Its geometry engines can process 860m vertices each second. Nvidia claims it "delivers up to 2x the shading power of previous generation products". It also said the part is the first mobile GPU to support transparency super-sampling and multi-sampling, enhancing the look of objects modeled in alpha-tested textures, such as chain-link fences, grass and trees. The core connects to video memory across a 256-bit bus. Nvidia quotes a memory bandwidth of 38.4GBps, indicating the memory is clocked to 600MHz (1.2GHz effective). Interestingly, the 7800GTX is compatible with Nvidia's SLi technology, according to the chip maker's website. That suggests notebook makers will soon be able to offer mobile gaming systems containing two graphics cores. The part also support PowerMizer 6.0, the latest version of Nvidia's power management system, which allows the faster, more feature-filled chip to operate within the same power envelope as its predecessor, the GeForce Go 6800. The new GPU is immediately available in notebooks from Sager, Falcon Northwest, Voodoo, Eurocom, ABS, Hypersonic, Evesham and ProStart. ®
Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion Our old mate tritium - as featured in the now legendary Glowring - has resurfaced at Reg merchandising tentacle Cash'n'Carrion, but this time in a more useful role than simply providing an entertaining keyring with which to amaze your friends. Yes indeed, a small, atomically-powered round of applause if you please for the Nite range of tritium-illuminated timepieces, encompassing the MX10 (on right), MX20 and MX 30 at £119.11 (£139.95 inc VAT), £170.17 (£199.95 inc VAT) and £161.66 (£189.95 inc VAT), respectively. And you get plenty of bangs for your bucks, with no less than 15 or 16 (depending on model) GTLSs (Gaseous Tritium Light Sources) spread across the hour markers and hour, minute and second hands. The specs of the MX 10 (seen here by daylight) are: Diameter - 41mm Weight - 78 grams Case - solid stainless steel Dial Plate - solid black Water Resistance - 100 metres Illumination - GTLS. 15 individually positioned light sources Back Plate - laser engraved, screw-in stainless steel Strap/Bracelet - black polymer Battery (life span) - v391 silver oxide (5.5 years) Movement - Miyota 2117 calendar Japan movement Guarantee - watch 2 years, light source 10 years The tough MX20 "Time Tank" boasts: Diameter - 45mm Weight - 105 grams Case - Solid Stainless Steel case (Gun Metal) Water Resistance - 200 metres Illumination - 16 individually hand positioned light sources Back Plate - laser engraved, screw-in stainless steel Strap/Bracelet - black polymer Battery (life span) - SR1120 Silver Oxide (5.5 years)) Bezel: One direction rotatable, solid Stainless Steel (gun metal) Crown: Screw down with triple "O" ring Movement - Miyota 2117 calendar Japan movement Crystal: Sapphire Guarantee - watch 2 years, light source 10 years While the MX30 offers: Diameter - 45mm Weight - 105 grams Case : solid stainless steel (brushed) Bezel : one direction rotatable Crown : solid stainless steel (brushed) Water Resistant - 200 metres Illumination - GTLS. 16 individually positioned light sources Back Plate - laser engraved, screw-in stainless steel Strap/Bracelet - black polymer Battery (life span) - SR1120 silver oxide (5.5 years) Crystal: Sapphire Movement - Miyota 2117 calendar Japan movement Guarantee - watch 2 years, light source 10 years Pics of all three watches are available at Cash'n'Carrion and, if you're a bit of an aficionado of all things atomic, we still carry the magnificent "Nite Glowring Safety Marker" (aka the Atomic Keyring) in blue, green and pink at £8.08 (£9.49 inc VAT). Illuminating stuff. ®
ReviewReview You've got to hand it to iRiver. Faced with Apple's iconic iPod, the company hasn't tried to emulate its rival by devising a single, clear product identity around which to build its range. Instead, it's gone for a scattergun approach: fire off lots of different models and hope some of them stick to consumers. Enter the T10, T20 and T30. I'll be looking at all three over the next few days, but first it's the turn of the smallest, the T20. Available in 1GB and 512MB versions, I took a look at the latter. It's an archetypal compact MP3 player, all straight lines and tiny, fiddly controls. The black and red front panel plays host to a small blue-backlit LCD of the kind we've seen on Creative's MuVo range and other Flash-based devices. The back is an iPod-like shiny chrome panel that wraps around the sides, splitting to form the T20's main controls. Like the iPod, it quickly becomes a mess of fingerprints. There's barely any movement to the buttons, which are flush with the edge of the player. I didn't take to them, and I found the player to be too small to be comfortable to use. It might look great hung from a young model's neck, but it didn't pass my 'use on a crowded bus' test. The top of the device has two 3.5mm-jack sockets, one for earphones, the other for line-in recording. There's a microphone on the front for voice recording, too. I've always felt recording is an excuse to tick a couple of extra boxes on a feature comparison chart, but they're there if you do need them. The line-in even has a sensor to automatically break tracks after a sufficient length of silence. The T20 sports the usual custom and pre-set EQ settings, along with SRS, the '3D' sound enhancement technology. Moving between these changes the sound immediately, allowing you to quickly sample each one then move on to the next without having to re-navigate the menu structure. That's just as well, because the T20's menu system is something of a step backwards. Pressing and holding the M key displays the top-level menu, and you use the track skip controls to move from one selection to the other. Since these are on the other side of the player to the M key, which is right next to the + and - buttons used usually to control the volume. The Play/Stop button next to the track skip controls is used to select an option or make a setting. The main menu runs laterally, all the others stack one option on top of another in a vertical list. It's all inconsistent and unintuitive. Back to the sound, and the quality isn't at all bad. But then solid-state music players have been around long enough that the underlying audio technology is well understood now. Hence the presence of SRS, to provide a slightly more interesting audio enhancement technology than the usual EQ pre-sets. Like EQ settings, SRS' results are both a matter of personal taste and a drainer of battery power. You can give your songs a spacier sound, though the effect is inevitably limited by the earphones iRiver bundles, and the extra processing will reduce the battery life. That's important in the T20's case because unlike other iRiver Flash players it has a built-in rechargeable battery, so there's no swapping in a new power cell when the current one runs down. iRiver quotes a 14-hour playback period for 128KBps MP3s. With SRS turned on, and playing a stack of DRM-protected 128KBps WMA files, I got 8-9 hours out of a single charge. The T20 uses Microsoft's MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) to manage file transfers, so you're pretty much limited to using Windows Media Player 10's sync system to copy songs to the player. You can do drag-and-drop, too, but Windows monitors the process to make sure you're not copying anything you're not supposed to. I tried a stack of MP3s, most of which were mysteriously mangled in the process. For some reason, the T20 kept seeing their sample rate as 8kHz. It's something to do with the ID tags inserted by iTunes, because other songs not encoded in the Apple jukebox software played as they're supposed to. It's impossible to say where the blame for this lies, Microsoft, iRiver or Apple, but it's a warning if you plan to use iTunes to manage your MP3s and WMP just to copy them to the T20. Inevitably, DRM-protected WMA files played just fine. The T20 supports subscription-sourced downloads, but I prefer to own my music, so I was only able to test one-off downloads. It can also handle Ogg files. The T20's stand-out feature - literally - is its USB connector. This is protected not by a cap, but by a mechanism that allows it to slide into the body of the player. The slider locks in the open position to ensure that pushing the connector into a USB port doesn't nudge it back into the player - to retract it, you push a button to release the lock. It's fiddly, but cute. iRiver has slipped a tiny rubber bung on the end, but it's not connected to the player and my guess is most owners will lose it fairly quickly. Verdict The T20 is a perfectly competent music player. It isn't bad, but there are better products out there, from iRiver and elsewhere. It's closely tied into Windows Media Player 10, so that will determine your source of legal downloads, and how you get them onto the device. The retractable USB connector is certainly a neat feature, and you may enjoy the SRS sound enhancer, but for me, the controls were just too irritating. It's not much of a looker either. ® iRiver T20 Rating 70% Pros Retractable USB connector; SRS 3D sound enhancement. Cons Odd menu system; hard-to-use controls. Price £99 (512MB), £132 (1GB) More info The iRiver T20 site
Researchers from NASA and the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) have warned that the arctic ice cap could completely disappear within a century, after a satellite survey this summer revealed ice cover was at its lowest level ever. Sea ice coverage was just 2.06m square miles, the scientists said, which is around 20 per cent below the average cover at this time of year in the 1970s. This is low enough to put many arctic species, including the polar bear, at risk. The scientists said that the reduction in ice cover - equivalent to an area twice the size of Texas (or 62 times the size of Wales) was "stunning". It is also the fourth consecutive year in which cover has fallen. NSIDC's Walt Meier commented: "Having four years in a row with such low ice extents has never been seen before in the satellite record. It clearly indicates a downward trend, not just a short-term anomaly." The sea ice in the arctic always retreats in summer, but generally builds back up again during the colder winter months. Last year, however, the ice did not approach its normal winter coverage, so when the spring thaw came, levels were already low. However, as always with news of this sort, there are some voices calling for a stay of judgment until all the facts are in. The earliest satellite records available for comparison are those from 1978. Some scientists are cautious about making long term trend predictions based on relatively short term data. Others argue that the Arctic is particularly vulnerable to global warming, because small temperature changes quickly become a positive feedback loop. When ice melts, more ground or water is exposed, both of which absorb more solar energy than ice or snow. Peter Bond from the Royal Astronomical Society says that data from the CryoSat mission, scheduled for launch on 8 October, should help settle the argument. ®
Unattended PCs are becoming the focus of insider attacks, according to Gartner. It reckons "someone else must have used my PC" has become a typical defence to accusations of improper online behaviour. Gartner advised businesses to implement 'timeouts' for all PCs to ensure that users are automatically logged out of application sessions or that PCs are locked in order to minimise the risk of attack. Let's be honest, the risks Gartner highlights would be obvious to anyone with anyone with a modicum of common sense. But since commonsense often flies out the window where computers are concerned it's perhaps worth enumerating the potential problems. All manner of mischief is possible on unattended PCs including unauthorised access to personnel data such as salary information, making change to business information in order to cover up fraud or simply sending email in someone's else's name as either a prank or for more malign purposes. "Organisations are protecting their systems and personnel against external security threats but failing to realise the very real risks that exist internally from something as basic as an unattended PC," said Jay Heiser, research vice president at Gartner. Products such as proximity token and improved security policies can help address the problem but few organisations have implemented them, according to Gartner. The issue wouldn't exist providing users could be relied upon to log out or lock their PCs when they leave their desks. A 'timeout' limits the window of opportunity for the misuse of a user’s PC but can lead to complaints about in inconvenience and it's not always appropriate in settings such as trading floors and other instances where rapid responses are needed. That issue doesn't apply in mainstream office environments where Gartner reckons resistance to time-outs can be overcome once workers understand they'll be held accountable for any computer misuse associated with their PCs. "Unattended PCs represent the computer security equivalent of 'low-hanging fruit'. There is little point in implementing some sort of sophisticated identity and access management system unless you can ensure that when people are logged in to systems, they stay at their PCs," says. ®
Ofcom wants to cut the cost of calls to some non-geographic numbers because of concerns that consumers are being ripped off. The numbers (0870 and 0845) which are used by call centres, travel enquiries and banks, for example, can cost up to 10p a minute to call - three times the cost of a BT national rate call. The communications regulator reckons this isn't fair and wants changes introduced that would see the cost of these NTS (Number Translation Services) numbers fall in line with the cost of a national rate call. And if firms want to continue to charge these higher rates then Ofcom wants them to inform callers beforehand of the higher charges before they hang on the line waiting for their call to be answered. In a statement Ofcom said that it wanted to address "consumer concerns about the cost of calling voice services offered on 0845 and 0870 numbers". "These services are often advertised as local or national rate calls respectively, but these descriptions have become a source of confusion as competitive services and tariffs have supplanted a single set of BT prices." While Ofcom accepts that NTS has been "extremely successful" in delivering new telephone-based services such as online banking, it wants to see greater consumer protection. Research shows that phone users are confused about the charges with many unaware that the operators are able to generate revenue from the call. For those aware of this, there is a belief that some call centres, for example, keep people waiting on the phone for longer in a bid to generate extra cash. "Businesses like call centres, that use 0845 and 0870 numbers, may be able to obtain some revenues for receiving inbound calls from the telephone companies providing their service," said Ofcom. "Consumers have become concerned that this revenue may provide an incentive for some companies to prolong calls." The closing date for responses to the consultation is 6 December 2005. ®
Research in Motion (RIM) today forecast its push email service would surpass 5m subscribers by the end of its financial year, up from the 3.65m it said it had at the end of its second quarter of fiscal 2006. For the three months to 27 August 2005, RIM reported revenues of $490.1m, up eight per cent sequentially and 58 per cent year-on-year. Once again, 70 per cent of its revenues accrued from hardware sales, the rest coming from services (18 per cent), software (eight per cent) and other items (four per cent). Net income for the period was $111.1m (56 cents a share), up 57.4 per cent on the year-ago quarter's $70.6m (36 cents a share) but down 16 per cent on Q1 FY2006's $132.5m (67 cents a share). On a non-GAAP basis, the sequential drop becomes a rise: $120.2m in Q2 to $110.1m in Q1. Higher litigation expenses and a $6.2m inventory write-down and incremental warranty item this quarter, plus a big tax recovery in Q1, account for the difference. Looking ahead, RIM said it expects Q3 to yield revenues in the range $540-570m, yielding earnings of 62-68 cents a share, both higher than previously forecast. The company said it expects to recruit 680,000-710,000 more subscribers during the quarter, when ends 26 November. For Q4, it's looking to report sales of $590-620m, earnings of 74-81 cents a share, all on the back of a 775,000-825,000 increase in subscriber numbers. At the lower end of Q3 and Q4's subscriber-addition ranges, RIM should easily surpass 5m subscribers by 4 March 2006, the end of its current fiscal year. It also reckons its annual sales will pass the $2bn mark. Q3 and Q4 should see the introduction of next-generation Blackberry devices based on Intel wireless and processor technology, which are expected to increase the RIM devices' data transfer speeds and widen their network support. Then again, December will see the arrival of Motorola's Q, pitched head to head with the classic Blackberry form-factor, and Palm will introduce its Windows Mobile-based Treo smart phone in January. With so much of RIM's revenues coming from hardware, its next-generation models will need to offer something special if the company's to compete effectively with these players and build subscriber numbers as it hopes to. ®
The next crew of the International Space Station is preparing to launch on 1 October from Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. When the Soyuz rocket launches, the astronaut and the cosmonaut will be joined by a private citizen, 60-year-old Dr. Gregory Olsen. Olsen, described as a scientist and businessman, will be the third civilian visitor to the ISS. He will spend eight days on the station under a a contract with Russian space agency Roscosmos, before returning to Earth with the outgoing ISS crew. William McArthur, 54, a retired Army colonel and Cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, 52, a Russian Air Force colonel, will be taking over from Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev and NASA Science Officer John Phillips. McArthur will be mission commander, while Tokarev will serve as flight engineer and Soyuz commander. Tokarev has stayed aboard the ISS before, briefly, in 1999 when on a Shuttle mission. McArthur has four previous space flights to his name. During their six months on board, the pair will focus on Station assembly preparations, maintenance and science in microgravity. The Expedition 12 crew with spend just over a week in hand over with the existing crew. Expedition 11 will return to Earth on board the Soyuz capsule, expected to land in Kazakhstan on Monday, 10 October. ®
BEA Systems is buying tools vendor M7 in a deal calculated to expand BEA's popularity among developers by combining support for open and closed source software. BEA plans to merge its existing WebLogic Workshop Java web services environment with M7's NitroX integrated development environment (IDE) to deliver BEA Workshop for Java IDE, for use across all of BEA's products. That potentially means support for BEA's WebLogic application server, portal and integration software and the AquaLogic service oriented architecture (SOA) family. The Eclipse-based NitroX combines support for popular open source frameworks - Apache's Struts framework and the Hibernate object/relational and persistence query engine - with Java Server Faces (JSF) and Java Server Pages (JSP). BEA said M7 would become a "key component" to its tools strategy. The deal, BEA's second acquisition this month, builds out what BEA is calling a "blended" application strategy that combines open source and closed source. Faced with increasing competition from companies like JBoss and rising popularity of open source frameworks and movements like Eclipse, BEA has been forced to embrace open source in an attempt turn it to the company's advantage. BEA announced an open source implementation of its Workshop framework called Beehive in 2004, a framework designed to take developers only so far in terms of scalability and security before they had to jump onboard the full BEA framework. Eschewing full membership of Eclipse at the time, BEA instead proposed an Eclipse project called Pollinate that was designed to support Beehive while also donating Beehive to Apache. Four years after Eclipse was formed, though, BEA finally joined in 2005 and announced plans to ship future versions of Workshop on Eclipse. Buying M7 means a greater ability for BEA to target developers on diverse development and runtime platforms. Beyond BEA's own WebSphere, M7's modules support JBoss, Resin, Tomcat, IBM's WebSphere, Mortbay Jetty, Linux and Windows. On paper, BEA is well placed to pick up developers targeting these platforms simply by owning M7. Experience has shown, though, BEA has lacked the ability to win over developers in large numbers - the inability meet its own target of recruiting one million developers to Workshop in a single year is now legendary. Furthermore, BEA actually risks losing existing M7 users should the integration with Workshop be handled badly.®
A British chef has trousered $1m after seeing off eight US competitors in the final of Paradise Poker's "Million Dollar Freeroll". Chef Lee Biddulph, 28, has only been playing Texas Hold-Em since 2002, but was able to hold his nerve during the face-to-face showdown in Costa Rica following online heats which whittled 3,900 hopefuls down to just nine. His previous best win was $50. Despite coming to the deciding, real-world table with $1.58m in chips - compared to a meaty $2.72m for main rival Mike Darweesh, an Arizona software engineer - Biddulph ultimately trumped Darweesh with a triumphant flush, beating his opponent's matching flush by virtue of a higher card among his five. He admitted that "even his teeth" were shaking as he played the last hand. Paradise Poker's marketing director, Bruce Stubbs, said: "Lee played brilliantly, he started the final table with less chips... and came out a winner." Regarding what he will do with the cash, Biddulph told Paradise Poker's website: "i try not to think about what i would do with the money just give up work and set myself up for the future. oh and buy a kawasaki ninja 600cc for my girlfriend and a cbr 600rr for my brother like mine." While Biddulph can now indulge his taste for fast motorcycles, the defeated octet have little to compain about - all nine finalists got an all-expenses-paid weekend for two in a Costa Rican five-star resort plus $10k just for making it to the grand finale. ® Bootnote For those of you au fait with poker, here's how the press release describes the climactic moments of the clash: On the second to last hand minutes before, both players checked right through to the river, facing a board with four diamonds. Darweesh led with a bet of US$200,000. Biddulph thought for a moment before reraising it up to US$600,000. Darweesh called, and flipped over a 9 of diamonds. Biddulph turned over the 10 of diamonds and took the pot with a higher flush. Darweesh rose to his feet as the final hand caused an eruption from the previously silent crowd. Both players were all in before the flop, and as they revealed their hole cards the crowd saw that Darweesh had queen/nine and Biddulph had the dominant ace/ten. The first card from the deck was an ace, which sent the crowd into a further frenzy. The remaining cards on the flop were a 6 and 3. The turn card produced an 8 - sending Biddulph into shock and sending tears streaming down his girlfriend Debbie's face. The river showed another 6, and it was over.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is angling for a wider role in running the internet, to the extent that it is hosting the WSIS meeting taking place in Geneva at the moment. Situated in the United Nations' Palais des Nations and just over the road from the ITU three-building complex, delegates from across the world have been complaining about the low-tech environment featuring unrecordable audio and a severe shortage of power sockets. However, the one area where the ITU has managed to get its act together is in the provision of wireless internet links for the hundreds of laptops here. There is only one problem: if we were following the strict rules that the ITU would seek to impose on the internet's infrastructure, this network would not exist at all. The ITU's chunk of the internet - its IP block - is 18.104.22.168. to 22.214.171.124, allowing for over 65,000 individual IP addresses. All of the ITU's internet connections (including the one this laptop is using to file stories) are run through this block. But if you do a search on this IP block at overseers RIPE, you'll see that it is actually locked for failing to comply with regulations. Why? Because the ITU is using a "NONE" authentication system. That isn't a fancy acronymn, it means that there is no authentication on the system. The internet has changed so significantly in the past five years that RIPE put an end to the ability to run IP blocks without some form of security. It discussed, agreed and put an end to the "none" system back in April 2004. The ITU however - the foremost communications organisation in the world - remains unauthenticated and as such is on lock. The one person that can sort this out - the designated technical contact, one Luis Rodrigues - hasn't worked for ITU for years. And only an email to his account can free up the block. Plus we have it on good authority that the ITU was informed directly about this situation a fortnight ago and promised to put someone on the case straight away. In an under-regulated internet world, this is just the sort of thing that is allowed to continue unpunished. The question is: if the body that wants to regulate such matters is in flagrant breach of its own rules, what confidence can we have that there are people at the heart of it who actually know what they're doing? ®
Ebay is facing legal action for allegedly "aiding and abetting" the sale of contact lenses via its website without the involvement of a qualified optician. The summons was prompted by the UK's General Optical Council (GOC) which is to argue that "eBay is responsible for preventing unsupervised sales of contact lenses via its website". But the online auction site hit back saying that it considers the GOC's claims that "eBay are just not willing to act" as libellous and has instructed its own lawyers to "seek immediate withdrawal of these allegations by the GOC". The GOC, for its part, has confirmed it has been contacted by eBay's lawyers and refuses to withdraw the claim. "We stand by our statement," a spokeswoman for the GOC told The Register. At this stage it's not known if eBay intends to take libel action against the GOC. The online auction house is due to appear at the City of London Magistrates Court next month. The failure of the GOC and eBay to see eye to eye stems from the sale of contact lenses on the auction site. Under current legislation Contact lenses (including cosmetic lenses) must be sold by, or under the supervision of, either a registered optician or doctor. Failure to seek proper medical supervision could lead to eye infections, damages eyesight or even blindness, warns the GOC, the statutory body which regulates opticians and optometrists in the UK. It says it alerted eBay to the problem in November last year although the auction site said the first it was aware of the problem was when it received the court summons earlier this month. Ebay says that illegal items, including contact lenses, are not permitted on its website and once notified, listings are "promptly taken down". In a statement eBay said: "Since this case has yet to come to court, eBay UK is unable to comment on the case specifics; however, we do intend to contest and plead not guilty to these charges." ®
NASA and Google are to build a million-square-foot research centre at NASA's Research Park at Moffett Field, Silicon Valley. Initially, the two parties will collaborate on a number of projects including large-scale data management and "massively distributed computing". The work would also likely build on Google's Google Earth, possibly extending coverage of the moon to include other planets. NASA's Ames Center director, G. Scott Hubbard, said the planned partnership would cover a wide range of subjects that would benefit the space programme. He said collaborations on bio-info-nano convergence would lead to new sensors and materials. He also predicted improved analysis of engineering problems as well as "Earth, life and space science discoveries from supercomputing and data mining, and bringing entrepreneurs into the space programme". Google, meanwhile, waxed lyrical on what the collaboration would bring to the public: "Imagine having a wide selection of images from the Apollo space mission at your fingertips whenever you want it," said CEO Eric Schmidt. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. ®
Danes and Swedes living in the Øresund region are gnashing their teeth because mobile phone companies charge a 'bridge toll' for crossing the Sound of Øresund separating Denmark and Sweden. 3.6 million people live in an area that generates a quarter of the combined GDP of Sweden and Denmark, and many Danes and Swedes commute from one big city (Copenhagen) to the other (Malmö). Many Danes are choosing to live in Skåne on the Swedish side due to affordable property prices, while Swedes are taking advantage of the wider job opportunities in Denmark. According to recent figures, more than 7,000 Swedes and Danes currently commute across the bridge every day. Approximately 3,400 foreign owned companies have chosen to locate in the region and more than 137,000 students attend courses at 14 universities. A couple of years ago Denmark and Sweden decided to build a 16km-long bridge tunnel in the strait that separates the Danish island Zealand from the south Swedish province Scania. The Øresund Sound separated the two countries since the last ice age, but the new link has boosted trade and jobs in the region. But there is one big gripe: customers of telecom companies pay up to 1000 per cent extra for using their mobile phones when they commute from country to the other, despite the fact that the same companies operate on both sides of the strait. The roaming tariffs are seen as on the biggest obstacles in the way of increased integration and cooperation between eastern Denmark and southern Sweden, the Øresund Institute warned this week. Few companies are willing to introduce a special 'region tariff', creating yet again a great divide in an area that is destined to become one.
The Navy has threatened to court martial a serving officer who is a finalist in the Mr Gay UK 2005. Richard Cowell, 25, is weapons engineer on Type-23 frigate HMS Northumberland. He's also Mr Plymouth and in the running for the UK's top gay male accolade - much to the chagrin of the Senior Service. Cowell has been ordered to withdraw from the contest or face a keelhauling, UK tabloid the Sun reports. The paper has pulled its defence correspondent off Iraq duty to cover this most pressing of issues, apparently without effect because top Navy brass has instructed Cowell not to speak to the press. His 18-year-old boyfriend Sean Wright, though, is not bound by military law, and declared: "The Navy say they are pro-gay but it seems that's only if you don't act it." For its part, the Navy says it's not about gayness, stating: "It isn't appropriate for an officer to participate in any competition with a sexual theme." Ah, that's the old nautical favourite of "find the golden rivet" well and truly consigned to walk the plank, then. Homosexuality in the armed forces was deemed acceptable back in 2000. Prior to that, it was very seriously frowned upon, despite Winston Churchill's assertion that Britain's entire maritime tradition consisted of "rum, sodomy and the lash". Cowell, meanwhile, is still a participant in Mr Gay UK 2005 and appears unwilling to quit. The man who wrote the Village People's In the Navy was unavailable for comment as we went to press. ®
Pipex has tidied up its channel programme to help make life easier for resellers while hopefully boosting the UK ISP's revenues. Up until now each of Pipex's businesses - Nildram, Pipex Internet, Web Fusion, Donhost and 123-Reg.co.uk - has operated its own channel programme. Now that the company is integrating these organisations into its business, its launched a single channel scheme to plug its voice, broadband, hosting and managed services business. The new channel programme is called "gokei" - which is, we're informed, is Japanese for "reciprocal" or "mutual benefit". Pipex's channel director, Angus Peacey, reckons there is "a huge opportunity for resellers and partners that target the SMB sector to add value to their portfolios". ®
E*Trade Financial is blowing $1.6bn in cash to acquire BrownCo - the online brokerage service of JPMorgan Chase & Co. the addition of BrownCo's 200,000 customers will take the total number of E*Trade customer accounts to almost 4.3m. Together, the enlarged financial group will hold around $160bn in customer assets and customer cash and deposits of $27bn. The acquisition of BrownCo is part of E*Trade's eagerness to grow the business in this "fast-consolidating industry". Last month E*Trade announced plans to splash out $700m in cash to buy Canada-based rival Harrisdirect. The transaction, which still needs the usual regulatory rubber stamps, is expected to close by October. ®
In a story entitled Warners raises decapitation strategy for Apple, we wrongly attributed remarks about Apple's iTunes Music Store made during a panel discussion at the CTIA show to Warner Music senior vice president Michael Nash. These remarks were made by another panelist, Kenneth Hertz, partner at Goldring Hertz and Lichtenstein LLP, a law firm representing major recording industry artists. Hertz, not Nash, said - "What if Jobs says 39 cents or 29 cents per download - what then? The industry can say, OK we'll cut him of - very few people people buy music from digital downloads... [Jobs] will figure out another model ... The industry got together and said 'We don't want another MTV'. Well, now we've got another MTV, in Apple. And we have to deal with it." To Michael and everyone at Warner: we're really sorry. ®
EMI has recalled a best-selling CD after it was inadvertently encumbered with over-zealous DRM. And Sony has recalled a web posting by one of the bands advising fans how to unbork the borked disc. Switchfoot's CD debuted at No.3 on the Billboard chart last week, but DRM prevented fans burning backups - or making copies of any kind as they soon discovered. A member of the band, Tim Foreman, professed himself "horrified" and advised fans how to work around the DRM. The board is hosted by Sony Music, which has since deleted the post. Now EMI says it's removing the settings, which it says were put in place accidentally, and is offering an exchange. Fans can swap a version of the CD that doesn't allow any copies to be made for one that permits three burns - as the record company intended. The publicity backlash hasn't done the the Christian rockers any harm. "Thats some major advertising these websites are doing for SF! God is rewarding Timmy's concern for his fans," hoped one fan. There's no one better placed to advise fans on the perils of DRM than the artists themselves. ®
Cingular is finally bringing Nokia's hit Communicator the 9300 to the US market, offering a price challenge to Palm and RIM. For the latter, it'll be the stiffest competition so far to its hardware business on its North American home turf. But equally, the 9300 is the most compelling device to carry RIM's BlackBerry Connect software since the Canadian company began to license its crown jewels three years ago. The 9300 will be equipped with BlackBerry's Connect software as an option, as well as Nokia's recently launched Business Center mobile email. Consumers will be able to sign up for Cingular's Xpress Mail, a version of Seven's email platform. The phone will be available for $299.99 after rebates, with contract, with a choice of $44.99 or $34.99 BlackBerry plans. Businesses can order it right off the Cingular web site from November. Cingular currently touts BlackBerrys at $199 and $249, while Palm's Treo weighs in at $349, and a Samsung Windows mobile for $499 after rebates. The phone was launched at the turn of the year in European and Asian markets, but Cingular's model supports the 850Mhz frequency that's becoming increasingly essential - especially in Silicon Valley. Otherwise, the specs are the same: Bluetooth, EDGE data, and the same 640x200 pixel display. We reviewed the 9300 back in March, and found it did a great job, although we missed the vibrate function. It's the first device in the business category that doesn't make you look like a nerd. Well, not that much. A long term test based on several months' use also revealed a few surprises - and a review will appear here at El Reg tomorrow. Watch this space. ®
Verisign's ill-judged adventure into ringtones took a stumble today, as the company said it would miss its Q3 earnings targets. Verisign blamed the shortfall on having to abide with regulations on mobile content in Europe: regulations it has largely provoked through its own business practices. Verisign now expects its Q3 revenue to come in at $410m, rather than the $435 to $440m range issued in previous guidance. And the notorious Frog's to blame. Last year Verisign snapped up ringtone provider the Jamba! Group, which this year embarked on a cynical saturation advertising campaign - at one stage buying up more than 50 per cent of prime time TV advertising in some markets - for its Crazy Frog ringtone. Jamba's Jamster didn't make clear that the youth market being targeted was unwittingly being sold a subscription service, rather than a one-off download. The result was a predictable explosion in revenues, and an equally predictable backlash. Last week the British advertisers' self-regulator, the ASA, banished the loathsome amphibian from appearing on the nation's TV sets before 9pm. The frog, which had already lost its penis en route to the United States, now it appears to be losing its mojo, too. ®