5th > October > 2005 Archive

Thank you. Did you mean to say 'get me an R&D team?' If so, say 'Yes'

Yahoo! gutted a Silicon Valley speech company leaving it with just one engineer on a vital project, a court heard today. Nuance Communications is seeking an injunction to prevent twelve of thirteen employees poached by Yahoo! from working on related projects at the ad and media giant. It also alleges the dirty dozen, which includes former VP of R&D Larry Heck, stole trade secrets from Nuance. Yahoo!'s actions left the project, called Nuance Directory Assistance Automation, 75 per cent completed, Nuance claims. A Santa Clara district judge declined Nuance's request for an immediate injunction, and the case resumes in several weeks. Nuance is no start-up and has deep pockets to fight the case, with $75m reported in the bank as of 30 June, according to SEC filings. Nuance has blamed its rough ride of late on uncertainty surrounding its merger with ScanSoft. In its most recent reported quarter, Nuance lost $7.35m on earnings of $11.25, caused by a 36 per cent decline in gross revenue from the same period last year. The bulk of its income comes from service revenues. Company shareholders approved a merger with ScanSoft two weeks ago. The company estimated merger costs at $2.6m in a SEC filing. Both court adversaries have their roots at Stanford. Nuance was started in 1994 by Stanford Research Institute members, while Yahoo! was a campus hobby until it incorporated the following year.®
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Oct 2005

Chavez heralds el cheapo 'Bolivarian PC'

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has already promised to sell cheap oil to the United States' poor, and now he's going to offer cheap PCs, too. The Venezuelan owned oil company CITGO operates eight refineries in the USA and franchises out 14,000 gas stations; the first cheap gas pilot project will start in La Villita in Chicago next month. The 900,000 residents in the mostly Latin neighborhood will get oil below the rate set by the Arab-dominated OPEC cartel for hospitals, schools and nursing homes. But Chavez thinks people pay too much for computers. A state-owned joint venture with the Chinese hardware firm Lang Chao, Technological Industries of Venezuela (TIV) will produce PCs costing between $327 and $363, according to the President. Chavez calls them "bolviarian computers", after El Libertador Simón Bolívar, reports the Wall Street Journal. Eventually, TIV will produce notebooks and cellphones, too, said Chavez. All good for the local economy, no doubt. China is making great strides producing its own desktop CPU, DVD format, DSP, and 3G standard TD-SCDMA. When that all clicks, domestic manufacturers may feel the squeeze. Venezuela is the fifth largest oil producer in the world. It now plans to ship up to 150,000 PCs per year, as well.®
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Oct 2005

Doctor Who to transmat onto PSP

The hugely popular revival of Doctor Who is coming to Sony's PlayStation Portable. 2Entertain, the music-to-movies company jointly owned by BBC Video and Woolworths, said last week it plans to release three episodes of the recent terrestrial TV ratings winner on the PSP's UMD format later this month. The new series was released on DVD earlier this year. The first UMD release is actually the second batch of epiodes, but since the disc contains hit story Dalek, that's not an entirely surprising choice. The other episodes are Aliens of London and World War Three, which both see the Doc battling human skin-wearing 9ft-tall monsters afflicted with bad wind known as the Slitheen. UMD version of DVD volumes one, three and four - the latter featuring the Skaro war machines' second appearance in the series - are set to ship in December. Ironically, in episide 12, Bad Wolf, the Doctor finds himself in Earth orbit aboard the "Game Station". All four UMDs will retail for £18, though like the DVDs, we expect they'll be heavily discounted by online suppliers. In the meantime, fans are eagerly awaiting the monster series one box set, which contains the series' 13 episodes all with newly recorded cast and crew commentaries, plus a fifth disc full of extras, including video diaries, interviews, making of... documentaries, behind-the-scenes details, not to mention a trailer for the upcoming Christmas Invasion. The box set - yes, it's Tardis shaped - is due to ship 21 November for £50. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005
homeless man with sign

Business leaders team up to fight piracy

Business leaders from across a wide spectrum of industries including entertainment, pharmaceuticals, and software companies met in London yesterday to globalise industry's fight against counterfeiting and piracy. High on the agenda was a discussion on how their individual anti-piracy efforts can be coordinated. The meeting was organised by the BASCAP (Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy) - an initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce. BASCAP describes itself as the world's only global, cross-sectoral anti-piracy initiative. However both of the co-chairs of the organisation hail from the music industry - Eric Nicoli, chairman of EMI Group and Jean-René Fourtou, chairman of Vivendi Universal. Indeed, questions about the music industry's fight against piracy were prominent in a press conference following the meeting to the point where issues suchs the danger posed by knock-off drugs barely got a look in. The group aims to pool the resources of the various industry sectors affected by counterfeiting and piracy, develop a set of tools to deal with the issue and share best practice. Bascap is to launch a "concerted international campaign" to educate governments and the wider public of the consequences of piracy, so expect plenty of lobbying activity from the organisation in future. It is seeking to encourage government to plough more resources into the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Bob Wright, chairman and chief exec of NBC Universal, said that pirates work cross-platform so diverse industry groups need to come together in response. However, BASCAP doesn't intend to supplant trade groups in the fight against piracy in individual markets. Nicoli of EMI said that BASCAP expect industries to continue their own anti-piracy efforts efforts. "But by coming together collectively in the BACSPA we can give industry as a a whole a voice, especially in the developing world. It won't be possible to eradicate piracy but we can push it back. In the music industry we've contained piracy but it's taken years," he added. BASCAP reckons its international make-up will help it grab the attention of governments in the developing world, but it refused to comment on questions about where most piracy originates and distanced itself from suggestions it would target developing countries. There was some serious financial muscle at yesterday's meeting (for example, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer dropped in by video conference) but the relevance of the group in fighting piracy is still very much to be determined. ®
John Leyden, 05 Oct 2005
server room

Sun lines Opteron kit up for grid and HP users

Sun Microsystems stepped up its server attack this week with one campaign aimed at grid computing customers and another targeted at disheartened Itanium server users. On the grid front, Sun has started selling its new X2100, X4100 and X4200 Opteron-based servers in large configurations. Customers who buy 20 or more of the boxes will receive a 33 per cent discount from Sun's services unit on the cost to bundle the gear together. In addition, Sun will offer a price cut to customers who buy its Application Server or N1 management software for the rack of servers regardless of how many boxes are in the rack. There's more information on the program here. Sun's latest server push, however, comes as it struggles to find customers for its $1 per processor per hour grid computing rental service. In fact, since the program launched in 2004, Sun has yet to reveal a single customer that is actually tapping into the rental model. To help nudge things along, Sun this week started a Grid Developer Community web site. The company hopes developers will turn to the site and find out how to write software that can easily be mapped to Sun's grid network. Away from the grid, Sun has once again fired a shot at HP by offering discounts to customers willing to abandon HP-UX. In particular, Sun will offer HP's Itanium server customers a 12 per cent discount off its new Opteron-based gear, if the HP crowd is willing to jump ship. Sun keeps referring to something called "Itanic" in its ads, but we don't know what that is. ®
Ashlee Vance, 05 Oct 2005

Apple calls press to 'video iPod launch'

Claims are coming in that Apple will unveil the long-awaited video iPod next week. The Mac maker is certainly hosting a special event on Wednesday, 12 October, and it bears all the hallmarks of a product announcement. We'd note that Apple missed a trick here: ten more days, and it would have made the announcement on the fourth anniversary of the original iPod launch, which took place, if we remember correctly, on 22 October 2001. Perhaps, then, next week's unveiling isn't iPod related? We'd guess it's certainly about movies and/or video, as suggested by the invitation's positively theatrical red velvet curtain background. Apple fansite AppleInsider cites unnamed "reliable" sources who claim a video iPod will be announced next week. Apparently, it's a 60GB job with a Nano-sized clickwheel to make way for a bigger colour display. If previous speculation is correct, it will be based on Toshiba's latest generation of 1.8in hard disk drives, which use perpendicular recording technology to increase the drive's storage capacity without growing its size. Apple has to date publicly dismissed the idea of a video iPod, but then CEO Steve Jobs always used to put down Flash-based music machines - right up until he launched one of his own. The video iPod will be accompanied by the inevitable iTunes update - already loaded, a peek at the software's resource files reveals, with video download icons - and an updated AirPort Express WLAN adaptor which incorporates video out as well as the audio port found on today's model. The film and video theme wouldn't be entirely inappropriate for the launch of faster Power Macs, pitched as they are at content creators, so we wouldn't rule out the introduction of new Mac hardware either. And don't forget the rumours a little while back about HD edition Macs, designed to capitalise on interest in HD video - and, indeed, widescreen iBooks. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005

EC warns on roaming

The European Commission has warned the mobile industry that it expects to see mobile roaming charges fall within six months or regulators will take action. Helping the process of "self-regulation" along the Commission launched a website to help European consumers check how much they are being charged and if they could get a better deal. The website lets you compare international roaming charges from different operators. It does not claim to be a comprehensive list. The Commission noted that charges have come down since 1998 but that roaming charges could vary between 0.5c and €5 "Only a well-informed consumer is a well-armed consumer,” said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “At a time when we have seen in Europe so much progress in other telecommunications services, the cost of using your mobile phone abroad is hard to believe." The Commission hopes the initiative, together with work from national regulators, will push down prices. Press release here and you can check how much you are paying here®
John Oates, 05 Oct 2005

Peter Jackson to appear on Halo movie credits

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has been named as one of the upcoming Halo movie's Executive Producers. So has his missus, LoTR co-scriptwriter Fran Walsh. Halo fanboys and LoTR buffs are now viewing the proposition much more enthusiastically, which was surely Microsoft's intention. The software giant also announced that Jackson's Weta Studios, and its subsidiaries Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, would work on the movie. Indeed, it's that deal that almost certainly led to Jackson's Executive Producership. The assumption is - and Microsoft is understandably doing nothing to suggest otherwise - that Jackson will have some creative input and/or oversight of the project, but in reality Executive Producerships are usually credits assigned as a way of getting individuals better financial deals. Jackson's name on the credits, we reckon, is more about allowing Microsoft and partner 20th Century Fox to splash "from the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy" all over the movie poster than anything else. Given what Jackson did to the Two Towers, Halo purists might prefer it if he left well alone. In any case, Jackson is busy finishing King Kong right now, in order to get it in cinemas in December. The Halo movie is due out in 2007, though as yet no cast or crew - beyond Jackson and Walsh, and scriptwriter Alex The Beach Garland - have been announced. Unlike most if not all other computer and video games, Halo at least has a decent plot, which should translate nicely to the big screen, unlike, say, the upcoming Doom flick or the two Tomb Raiders. Halo harks backs to Bungie's Marathon series, which managed to bring explorations of history, religion, metaphysics, identity, death and reincarnation, and artificial and non-artificial intelligence into the realm of first-person shooters. Few games have even attempted to tackle such concepts, let alone do so successfully. Halo's storyline, while above par, doesn't have quite the same depth. But there could be enough there to lift it above all the other game-to-screen translations. Given Hollywood's record, however, it's hard to believe the movie will be anything more than "dust and echoes". ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005

Pentax Option S55 5mp digicam

ReviewReview It seems like every other week I'm reviewing yet another tiny Pentax five megapixel compact camera. In fact a quick browse through my camera samples folder shows that this is the eighth one that I've written about this year. Come on Pentax, give my aching fingers a break, writes Cliff Smith.
Trusted Reviews, 05 Oct 2005

BBC blew $375k on bbc.com

The BBC has defended its decision to blow $375,000 (£212,000) of public money on the bbc.com domain. The broadcaster - which is funded by a licence fee payable by every UK household with a TV - bought the domain back in 1999 from US firm Boston Business Computing but refused to say how much it had paid out. At the time estimates suggested that the BBC had shelled out between £20,000 and £200,000, although some even suggested it could have been as high as $30m. But following a request under the Freedom of Information Act the broadcaster has finally come clean. "The BBC purchased the domain name bbc.com in 1999 from Boston Business Computing, Limited, a Massachusetts registered corporation, for US$375,000. The sale involved a 24 month transitional period to ensure emails for Boston Business Computing and visitors to its site were redirected," it said. But in the six years since acquiring the domain what exactly has the Beeb done with the domain? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Unless, of course, using it to merely redirect visitors to its main bbc.co.uk portal is a good use of $375,000. Defending its position a spokesman for the BBC told The Register that it was a "very prudent, forward thinking move". "At the time the BBC purchased the bbc.com the internet landscape in the UK and abroad was still developing," he said. "The BBC had a duty to both its brand and its users to provide an easy route to its online content and so bought the .com suffix from Boston Business Computing." And although the BBC admits that it "has not exploited bbc.com to date" it now insists that within the last twelve months, "this situation has changed". "We are currently looking at the possibilities bbc.com offers us, including its potential as an international facing site. Over the long-term, we feel that this justifies the cost of recovery." While the BBC may have been able to buyout Boston Business Computing, its tough tactics to extract bbc.org from a small Canadian computer club were nowhere near as successful. In 1999, lawyers acting for the BBC wrote to Big Blue and Cousins demanding it relinquish its bbc.org domain at its own expense even though the Canadian club has legally owned the domain since 1995. Big Blue and Cousins still operates bbc.org. A brief description of its spat with the BBC reads: "We suffered a temporary challenge when, in December 1999, the British Broadcasting Corporation complained about our use of 'BBC' in our domain name. However, we had a strong case and ultimately prevailed. The BBC just dropped their request." ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2005

Microsoft eyes disposable, play-once DVDs

The prospect of landfill sites pilled high with disposable DVDs has once again reared its ugly head on the shoulders of claims that Microsoft is touting just such a product to Hollywood as way to beat movie piracy. So suggests UK newspaper The Business which this weekend told its readers Microsoft has "invented... a cheap, disposable pre-recorded DVD that consumers can play only once". Not quite, we're afraid - play-once DVDs already exist and have done for some time. In the US, Convex subsidiary Flexplay has has been touting its EZ-D play-once DVD for the last two years. Buena Vista Home Entertainment has experimented with the technology, and Convex recently signed a deal with Japanese disc maker Nippan to begin offering the technology in that country this autumn. Last year, French company DVD-D launched its own disposable disc. Like EZ-D, DVD-D is a standard DVD with an added layer that oxidises when exposed to the air. The process last a pre-set time - 48 hours in EZ-D's case, or 8-24 hours for DVD-D - after which the oxidation layer is opaque and the disc can no longer be played. Microsoft's interest in the technology - whether it has prepared its own version or licensed an existing technique - appears to be predicated on widening the reach of its proprietary DRM technology. According to the Business report, Microsoft is pushing the concept as a sell-through product that would be made available at rental prices. Unlike rentals, consumers wouldn't need to return the discs and would have complete freedom to watch whenever they choose. By making movie-watching cheap and flexible, Hollywood could ensure consumers wouldn't need to download films from P2P networks or dodgy BitTorrent sites. That appears to be Microsoft's logic, at least, but the business case is less clear, particularly with the emergence of Net-based download-on-demand services, and mail-back DVD rental programmes, not to mention pay-per-view TV. The attraction to Microsoft must be the opportunity to get its DRM technology onto even more boxes and discs, to encourage further the adoption of its proprietary technology as the de facto standard, at least until next-generation optical disc formats, with their much-tighter-than-DVD copy-protection systems become commonplace. Meanwhile, ever-tighter regulation of rubbish means that disposable discs are unlikely to prove popular with legislators if not consumers. Flexplay touts partnerships with disc recyclers, but that only works if consumers make use of them and don't simply chuck dead discs in the bin. Since the costs of collecting unwanted items for recycling can carry an environmental cost higher than the saving made by recycling, even organised recovery programmes could prove problematic. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005

E-voting experts call for revised security guidelines

A federally funded group of voting system experts called on the United States' Election Assistance Commission, which oversees the nation's state-run elections, to revamp its recommended process for evaluating the security of electronic voting devices.
Robert Lemos, 05 Oct 2005

UK Met Office to simplify weather forecasts

BBC weather forecasts, not renowned for being enormously difficult to follow, are about to be simplified, the Met Office says, in a bid to make them "clearer and more relevant" to more people. Apparently, showery outbreaks will never darken our doorways again, though we might still be inconvenienced by patchy rain. Similarly, it will not be "chilly in isolated areas". Instead - and this sounds so much nicer - it will be "warm for most". The Met Office has proposed new guidelines after consulting its staff on how they thought the weather ought to be presented, the BBC reports. The result is that forecasters will be warned off over-dramatising the weather [like Michael Fish did in 1987? - Ed] and will face wagging fingers if they start a forecast on a negative note if most of the country will be fine.[But they always start with Scotland - Ed] The Met Office, rather predictably, denies that it is dumbing-down the weather, or trying to portray it in a more positive light. A spokesman for the Met Office elaborated: "One of the problems is understanding what a weather forecaster is trying to tell you. High temperatures for most are a good thing, but for farmers, for example, who need rain they may not be." He concluded that forecasters "should just give the temperatures, and say if they are above or below the yearly average, and let the public decide if they are good or bad". Now, we at El Reg are all in favour of removal of spin, but we have to wonder how much spin can possibly be put on the weather, or how useful it might be.[how do you de-spin tornadoes and hurricanes - Ed] For one thing, a forecast is just that: a calculated best guess about what the weather is most likely to do. For another, the forecast has absolutely no bearing on what the weather actually does. And finally, when was the last time you looked at a miserable weather forecast and decided that that kind of weather was not for you, and that you'd go with the competitor's brand instead? ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2005

ARM pitches Cortex-A8 CPU at 65nm era

UK chip designer ARM yesterday debuted its latest high-performance, low-power microprocessor for mobile phones and other handheld devices. The Cortex-A8 is based on the ARMv7 architecture. It incorporates Java acceleration technology, signal processing extensions to improve media decoding, and adds a security engine to support DRM and secure online transactions. The processor can execute instructions in parallel, though ARM didn't specify how many can be pipelined simultaneously. ARM will offer designs based on either 16KB or 32KB of L1 cache and a customer-specified L2 cache. Geared toward 90nm and 65nm fabrication processes, Cortex-A8 will run at up to 600MHz in low-power applications but clock to 1GHz in more performance-sensitive roles. ARM said the chip's power-management facilities, which include the part's Intelligent Energy Manager (IEM) and "advanced leakage control", allow it to consume less than 300mW when fabbed at 65nm. The Cortex-A8 core has already been licensed to Freescale, Matsushita, Samsung and Texas Instruments, ARM said. Its other major licensee, Intel, was notable by its absence, which may indicate the chip giant is indeed pursuing a plan to brings its x86 architecture into the handheld market, as it hinted at Intel Developer Forum in August. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005

Ofcom continues phone slamming investigation

All of the UK's 35 leading phone operators have managed to introduce guidelines to prevent their staff from mis-selling phone services. That's a big improvement on six months ago when only three of the 35 had introduced the necessary measures to prevent customers being ripped off by unscrupulous sales staff. Of course, having a code of practice in place to prevent slamming - where people are transferred to a new supplier without their consent - is not enough to guarantee consumer protection. Which is why the never-to-be-rushed regulator is now trawling through thousands of complaints to see whether they warrant a full-blown investigation into the sales tactics of certain operators. The regulator insists that it continues to "examine evidence of consumer complaints about mis-selling of fixed-line telecommunications services". And if operators are found to be in breach of the rules they can be fined up to 10 per cent of their turnover. But despite threats by Ofcom to name and shame, it has so far failed to finger individual companies. BT has questioned whether Ofcom's deterrents are working and whether consumers are getting the protection they deserve. The UK's dominant fixed-line telco - which is losing tens of thousands of customers to rival operators - says the number of mis-selling complaints have increased from 15,000 a month in May to 21,000. Ofcom puts the number of mis-selling complaints at between 500-600 a month. In August BT secured an out of court settlement against Caudwell Communications Ltd (CCL) for "infringement of registered trade marks and for passing off". The High Court action, which kicked off in May, followed customer complaints that CCL's sales agents had misled customers into thinking that the company was in some way connected to BT. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2005

Consumer body bemoans harsher Euro IP laws

UK quango the National Consumer Council (NCC) has called on European Commission legislators to take a fairer stance on consumer intellectual property rights. The NCC believes it's disproportionate to invoke ever-tougher penalties for individuals found guilty of infringing intellectual property laws. The key word is 'individuals', because the NCC sees a clear difference between consumers copying content and "organised criminal gangs" doing the same. There is a difference - the latter are motivated solely by financial gain while consumers generally aren't. At the same time, because technology has made it so easy for consumer to duplicate content, the effect on copyright holders is increasingly the same whoever does the copying. "The European Commission must think again before bringing in new and tougher intellectual property laws," said the NCC's policy director Jill Johnstone. "Criminal sanctions for infringing copyright holders' rights must be applied only to organised crime - not to individual citizens making use of new technologies." "Moves are afoot in Brussels to tighten up enforcement of intellectual property laws," she added. "It could mean consumers facing criminal sanctions and a criminal record for sharing creative content." Alas, just as the EC is failing to differentiate between pirates and those who copy for convenience - which we think are the people the NCC has in mind: those folk who copy CDs so they can also play songs in the car, say - the NCC similarly fails to appreciate there's a difference between a consumer who engages in what might be termed a 'fair use' and another who posts thousands upon thousands of new songs for anyone and everyone to plunder. "Any new laws must be very clear on this point and must strike a balance between right holders’ interests in getting a fair return and the public and consumer interests of fair access and use, and the encouragement of innovation," added Johnstone. Her language puts her dangerously close to the techno-utopian camp, but still Johnstone and the NCC are correct on at least one point: future EC legislation does need to define closely what is reasonable copying - ripping a CD so you can play it on your iPod, an act currently illegal in the UK though not in some other European countries - and making it possible for anyone to steal music. In short, there needs to be a clear distinction made between the private and public domains. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005

Envisat could track coral bleaching

The European Space Agency's Envisat satellite could be used to keep tabs on the state of the oceans' coral reefs, Australian researchers say. Scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) Wealth from Oceans Flagship program say that the satellite's MERIS sensor can detect coral bleaching down to a depth of ten metres. In theory, the satellite could scan reefs worldwide on a fortnightly basis. The MERIS sensor takes multispectral optical pictures of Earth's oceans, land and atmosphere. Normally the observations are made from boats, planes or helicopters, but this is a slow process, and many reefs are not easily accessible. Regularly collected data would be invaluable to researchers because bleaching events can happen quickly, and bleached coral is soon colonised by blue-green algae. This makes it hard to spot, the researchers say. CSIRO's Dr. Arnold Dekker notes: "Coral bleaching needs to be mapped at the global scale. High-spatial resolution satellites can only do it on a few reefs due to cost and coverage constraints. We need a system that has appropriate coverage and revisit frequency, with a sufficient amount of spectral bands and sensitivity." He argues that there is no system better suited to the task than the MERIS instrument. When scanning in full resolution mode, the instrument is so sensitive that for each complete 300-metre pixel of coral under one metre of water it should be possible to detect a two per cent bleaching of live coral. Under ten metres of water, a bleaching of seven to eight per cent should still be detectable. Coral bleaching is likely to be one of the first tangible effects of global warming, as it is closely linked to unseasonably high summer sea temperatures, and to solar radiation. Extensive bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 have been linked to the shifting El Niño current. "The concern is that coral reefs might pass a critical bleaching threshold beyond which they are unable to regenerate," Dekker concludes. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2005

100 people to trial WiMAX for BT

A hundred people are to take part in WiMAX trials in Belfast and Birmingham as BT tests the water for wireless broadband. The UK's dominant fixed line telco is hooking up with US-based Navini Networks to carry out the pilots, which will run until March 2006. BT is looking to test the commercial viability and customer experience of wireless broadband. A spokesman for BT said the tie-up with Navini was "not a strategic partnership [but] one of many vendors we're testing WiMAX products with". Navini's WiMAX systems are already being used in Europe, Australia, Asia-Pacific, Africa, and the Americas. In a recent interview BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland was bullish about wireless broadband - he expects WiMAX to "take the place of current 3G mobile phones". He added that BT would begin a WiMAX service at the end of 2006. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2005
homeless man with sign

Nvidia G72 due 'early 06'

Nvidia's 90nm G72 graphics chip, believed to be a die-shrink of the company's GeForce 7800 GPU, will ship early next year. So claim Taiwanese graphics card maker sources cited by DigiTimes today. The GeForce 7800 line is currently fabbed at 110nm. The shift down to 90nm should increase Nvidia's yields, giving it scope to price its high-end products more aggressively. Indeed, the report's sources suggest the new part will allow card makers to equip graphics boards with two GPUs, utilising Nvidia's SLi system, usually used simply to connect to separate cards. The Nvidia news comes on the day its arch-rival ATI is due - at last - to launch its Radeon X1x00 series of next-generation Shader Model 3.0-supporting graphics chips based on the R520, RV530 and RV515 parts. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005

EU to follow Google's lead with online library

Google's internet library project will face competition from Yahoo!, but also from a less predictable rival: the European Commission announced its own plan on Friday. And it has an advantage: if copyright laws interfere with its plans it can change the laws. The Commission wants to put Europe’s cultural heritage on the internet by turning books, photos, records and films into a massive digital library. It has launched a consultation that invites suggestions for legislative measures that could facilitate the digitisation and subsequent accessibility of copyright material while respecting the legitimate interests of authors. “Without a collective memory, we are nothing, and can achieve nothing. It defines our identity and we use it continuously for education, work and leisure,” said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “The internet is the most powerful new tool we have had for storing and sharing information since the Gutenberg press, so let’s use it to make the material in Europe’s libraries and archives accessible to all.” Google's library project takes the book collections of several research libraries – about 15 million books – and makes this content searchable online. According to the Commission, Google's initiative "triggered a reflection on how to deal with our European cultural heritage in the digital age." Google has faced problems: some copyright holders whose books featured in the libraries were upset and are currently suing the search company. The Commission hopes to avoid such problems by addressing copyright issues upfront. It does not depend on legal change in order to succeed; it can also work within today's laws. Its only driver for adjusting the laws is to increase the range of material on offer. Without change, the Commission can still stock works in which copyrights have expired or where permission is granted by copyright holders. There are already several Member State-based digital library initiatives, including the British Library backed “Collect Britain” project. But these are fragmented and could result in duplicate work and systems that are mutually incompatible, according to the Commission. It therefore proposes that Member States and major cultural institutions join EU efforts to make digital libraries a reality throughout Europe. The scale of the project is ambitious: there are 2.5 billion books and bound periodicals in European libraries and millions of hours of film and video in broadcasting archives. Current copyright restrictions will limit the collection to works from the early 1900s or before, depending on the year of death of the author, and those works for which agreement has been obtained. Even if works are out of copyright, the Commission notes that the situation is not always straightforward. There may be rights attached to the different editions of a work that is itself no longer protected by copyright, for example rights to introductions, covers and typography. The Commission notes in its Communication to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, "An online library offering works beyond public domain material is not possible without a substantial change in the copyright legislation, or agreements, on a case by case basis, with the rightholders." Identifying the rightholders may also be difficult. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 05 Oct 2005
homeless man with sign

ATI finally unwraps Radeon X1000 GPU series

Yes, they're here. Well, almost. ATI today launched its 90nm Radeon X1000 series of graphics chips, though the mid-range X1600 won't be available until late October/early November. The X1300 and some X1800 configurations are available and shipping immediately, ATI said. The X1800 contains 321m transistors and contains 16 pixel processing pipelines - half the rumoured 32, but we suspect ATI has left itself room for expansion - fed by eight geometry engines. The chips connect to GDDR 3 and 4 SDRAM across an eight-channel 256-bit bus. The X1600 uses 157m transistors to deliver 12 pixel pipelines, five vertex shaders and a 128-bit four-channel memory bus that also supports DDR and DDR 2. The X1300 has the same memory bus, but only four pixel pipelines and two vertex pipelines. It also lacks the higher end cards' "ring bus" memory controller, which is 512 bits wide in the X1800 and 256 bits wide in the X1600. All three GPUs support DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0. They operate on a PCI Express x16 bus, though some will be offered with AGP 8x interconnects. They're also equipped to deliver video input and output to ATI's Avivo standard. Graphics cards powered by Radeon X1000-series GPUs will be available from ATI and its board partners, including Asustek, Club 3D, Gigabyte, MSI, Sapphire, Tul and others, and the usual suspects will be building X1000-based boards into upcoming desktop systems, ATI said. Full specs for the X1800, X1600 and X1300 can be found here, here and here. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Oct 2005

£27m carrot dangling for Scots broadband

Broadband providers are being invited to tender for a £27m contract to provide high speed net access to the south of Scotland. The public sector-funded project - with a majority of the cash coming from the Scottish Executive - is looking to wire-up schools, libraries and council offices with broadband services of at least 8 meg. For although parts of the area already have broadband, officials want greater speeds introduced. The South of Scotland Broadband Pathfinder Project is being backed by Dumfries and Galloway Council, and Scottish Borders Council. Details of the contract have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Officials expect to award the contract to the successful bidder by the middle of 2006 with the broadband network up and running in targeted locations two years later. In a joint statement the project organisers said: "Ensuring that local public services have access to the latest broadband technology is a vital step in modernising local government. "It will provide a tremendous boost to modern learning and teaching practice and to the provision of services to the public." ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Oct 2005

Creationism and evolution can co-exist, says cardinal

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, considered a contender in the recent papal race, has apparently distanced himself from remarks he made in the New York Times in July when he said that an "unguided, unplanned process of natural selection" was not "true". His remarks were widely interpreted as a signal that the Vatican no longer accepted that the theory of evolution could co-exist with a belief in the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. In 1996, Pope John Paul II issued a formal statement on the compatibility of science and religion. Schoenborn is considered something of an expert on church doctrine, so Schoenborn's apparently revisionist reading of that statement came as something of a surprise. However, in a lecture given at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna on Sunday, Schoenborn said that it was possible he had not expressed himself clearly. "Such misunderstandings can be cleared up," he said, according to a Reuters report. The 60-year-old cardinal now says that there need not be an inherent conflict between divine creation and evolution. He says that one is a matter for religion, the other for science, and that the two disciplines are complementary. Schoenborn said: "Without a doubt, Darwin pulled off quite a feat with his main work and it remains one of the very great works of intellectual history. I see no problem combining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, under one condition - that the limits of a scientific theory are respected." He explained that in his view, those limits would be overstepped if scientists claimed that evolution proves that there could be no creator. Since science has never made any such claim on evolution's behalf*, it looks like it's still OK by the Vatican. But as much as he has paid tribute to Darwinian theories, Schoenborn has not totally distanced himself from the Intelligent Design camp: "It is fully reasonable to assume some sense or design even if the scientific method demands restrictions that shut out this question," he said.® *Abiogenesis, the theory that life can spontaneously arise from non-living matter, is another field entirely. Harvard University recently launched a multi-million dollar research effort into just this question.
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Linux on desktop is a diverse market - really

Don't expect hegemony from a single Linux vendor on the desktop comparable with Microsoft's Office, as rival frameworks and implementations tackle different markets. That's according to Red Hat fellow Alan Cox, who said research indicates users are adopting KDE and Gnome to serve different scenarios. He added that business users are less interested in the technical aspects of their desktops than technology experts, and simply want something that's familiar, reliable and comes at a low cost. Cox, speaking at LinuxWorld in London, said the slowly growing market for Linux desktops is largely dominated by Gnome and KDE. Evidence from different reports suggests KDE is more widely used in Europe and Gnome in the US. "Everything else in the free software world gives you a package and the best [package or distribution] is used. The fact KDE and Gnome exists suggest they serve different groups of users," Cox told LinuxWorld. "KDE provides more configuration and control, and Gnome more ease of use while giving up that control." He said it is unlikely that the leading Linux and open source distributors would co-operate on a single desktop offering until the market matures. "That will only happen at the point where there is no commercial differentiation in those tools," Cox predicted. Cox noted that, with much debate over the desktop as the next platform for Linux, end-users are not interested in the technology debate that fuelled much of the development of KDE and Gnome. "What matters are the applications," Cox said. Business users want a desktop that can be immediately used by those familiar with a Windows and Office interface, that provides centralized management, and that comes at a low purchase and management price. Sticking points for desktop Linux, Cox said, are the ability for systems to scale beyond pilot projects that involve 2,000 and 5,000 machines, to provide file compatibility that is better than that provided by OpenOffice, that does away with the OpenOffice spreadsheet, and that provides a replacement to Microsoft Access.®
Gavin Clarke, 05 Oct 2005
channel

Brit Prof will oversee Microsoft for EC

A British IT security expert began work today to ensure Microsoft complies with the strictures imposed by the European Commission last year. The Commission ruled last year that Microsoft had abused its market position, ordering the company to open up its products and hitting it with a €497m fine. The decision also provided for a trustee to oversee the company’s compliance with the ruling. Dr Neil Barrett will be the trustee providing "technical advice to the Commission on issues relating to Microsoft’s compliance with the Commission’s 2004 Decision," Brussells said yesterday. Microsoft has refused to accept the EC ruling lying down, unsurprisingly. While adhering to the decision for now, and thus avoiding more fines, it continues to mount an appeal. In the meantime, Microsoft submitted a slate of candidates for the montior role, with Barrett winning the EC’s endorsment as “most qualified to carry out the Monitoring Trustee function.” Barrett's lengthy CV includes stints at Bull and the UK government, and more recently as technical director of security consultancy IRM. He is also a visiting professor at a number of UK Universities. More to the point, perhaps, his background is in Unix, and a quick trot across the internet shows him describing Microsoft as trying to monopolize access to vital information.®
Team Register, 05 Oct 2005

FIPR warns of danger of criminalising IP breaches

The British government is trying to use its presidency of the EU to push through a European directive would give police more powers to act against copyright infringers than they currently have to deal with suspected terrorists, according to the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR). The FIPR also warns that the directive, a follow up to the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement directive, would force the UK to criminalise patent infringement, and incitement to infringe copyrights or patents. If patent infringement becomes a crime, the FIPR argues, the risks involved in launching a technology start-up will be even greater than they are today. It warns that promising businesses will choose to set up in the US instead, where patent infringement will remain a civil matter. Ross Anderson, chair of FIPR and professor of security engineering at Cambridge University said that despite government promises to "foster the creative industries", this directive will have exactly the opposite effect. "It will interfere with enterprise and choke off competition. It will push up prices for consumers at a time of rising global inflation, and do particular harm to the software and communications industries," he says. "It will also harm universities, libraries and the disabled." You can read the full text of the proposed directive here (pdf). ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2005
channel

'DEC hacking' trial opens

Horsferry Road Magistrates Court has heard the first day of evidence against the East London man accused of hacking into a donations site for the tsunami appeal last December. Daniel James Cuthbert, 28, of Whitechapel, London, is accused of breaches of Section One of the Computer Misuse Act, 1990, on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, 2004. He had earlier pleaded not guilty. Cuthbert is accused of attempting a directory traversal attack on the donate.bt.com site which handles credit card payments on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee. Giving evidence on his own behalf, Cuthbert, at times near tears, said he had made a £30 donation to the site, after clicking on a banner advert. Because he received no final thank-you or confirmation page he became concerned it may have been a phishing site, so he carried out two tests to check the security of the site. The case continues tomorrow. ®
John Oates, 05 Oct 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Read Microsoft's Linux reports, says Novell

Windows and Unix users evaluating Linux should read all studies on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), even those from Microsoft, according to Linux champion Novell. Brian Green, Novell's director of solutions management, has urged potential customers to "get the big picture" even though TCO reports sponsored by Microsoft quote selectively on the performance of Linux. Green noted Novell had also quoted from the same reports used by Microsoft in an attempt to further Linux. "All these reports have something to contribute," Green said on the opening day of LinuxWorld in London on Tuesday. "Keep in mind that many vendors use extracts from the reports containing only the pieces you want to see." Green added: "Not all of the information you read about Linux TCO is favorable... I suggest you read this. You have to draw your own conclusion." Green advised that a final decision on TCO would be based on factors that are unique to organizations' own conditions. Green's comments come two-years into a controversial "Get the facts" campaign from Microsoft waged against Linux, which has seen a series of sponsored analyst reports produced to highlight the advantages of Windows over Linux. IBM, the world's largest distributor of Linux, recently took issue with "Get the facts" releasing a sponsored Robert Frances Group report it claimed proved Linux delivered and improved TCO compared to Windows. Steve Mills, IBM's senior vice president and group executive, pre-empted this report saying independent studies had consistently demonstrated a cost advantage for Linux with any "typical" workload. "The cost benefit gets debated and debated and debated," Mill told LinuxWorld in San Francisco earlier this year. Staffing costs have become an increasing factor in TCO assessments, according to Green. Concerns center around the availability of certified and trained Linux staff and the perceived need to re-train Microsoft and Unix users and administrators. Green warned this is an issue pointed to by rivals but said organizations would find existing Unix skills are transferable to Linux, adding that companies would save money running Linux compared to proprietary offerings. "This is something that's promoted by our competition. Consider this as part of the bigger picture of TCO. We have customers who have moved and see the advantage of the whole Linux solution," Green said.®
Gavin Clarke, 05 Oct 2005
cloud

Microsoft FAT patent rejected - again

The US Patent and Trademarks Office has thrown out two Microsoft patents on its FAT file system. The case had been raised by open source defenders who feared that Microsoft was preparing a legal offensive against Linux based on enforcement of intellectual property rights. But the Patent Office rejected the patents because of an administrative technicality - not because of prior art submitted by the F/OSS team. In November 2003 Microsoft began to license its venerable FAT file system, written by Bill Gates himself for the original 1981 IBM PC. The file system was already in wide use in non-PC devices such as compact flash media used in digital cameras, so Microsoft was inviting vendors to pay for something that they already used for free. This alarmed open source advocates, who cannot use royalty-bearing patents with GPL software; Linux makes use of the FAT file system in the kernel. A non-profit group requested that Microsoft's claims for the patents be investigated. The USPTO rejected one of the patents, (USPTO 5,579, 517, referred to as '517) in September 2004 in a preliminary ruling. Now it's struck down the other, on the grounds that it the six assignees names were incorrect. "Microsoft has an opportunity to submit evidence in response to the examiner's request and remains optimistic that these issues will be resolved in its favor," said the Patent Office. Back in March, Microsoft's chief attorney Brad Smith slammed the USPTO for lowering the quality of the patents it issued. But Microsoft had nicer things to say about the Office yesterday, commending it for upholding the patents' IP content. The Public Patent Foundation, a non-profit, had argued that the two Microsoft patents were invalid because of three prior art patents, filed by IBM and Xerox in 1988, 1989 and 1990. The IP issue remains a potent threat for Microsoft because of the very real difficulties that open source and free software developers have with royalty bearing patents. However, the difficulty of launching litigation means it's only really potent as a threat - like Mutually Assured Destruction, as we discussed here. Earlier this year Microsoft's legal team advertised for patent attorneys, for which "no patent experience was necessary". ®
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Oct 2005

'p2p is leagal its already bought its in the air'

The following letter was sent from a K12 school account in a southern US state. It illustrates the problems facing both paid legal download services, such as Apple's iTunes Music Store and Napster, and the RIAA's attempt to combat the illegal download services. We've protected their identity, for reasons which should become obvious. when will winmx be on again tell me when it does and keep me informed. even if you dont know anything now tell me when its on again p2p fs is leagal its already bought its in the air how can it be illegal i looked into it and the courts just want money my cousin works at the pentagon i asked him to look into it and says they just want money he used to work in the white house. the bible dont say thou shall not download its not stealing its in the air Here's how music business lawyer Ken Hertz, who supports the recording industry withdrawing its co-operation for the iTunes Music Service, describes the problem. "Peer to peer file sharing is really just interactive radio - consumers get to listen to exactly what they want when they want it," he told an ACLU awards dinner in 2002. "File sharing is NOT piracy. Piracy is big fat guys manufacturing fake CDs in Mexico and selling them at swap meets. File sharing is tens of millions of music fans swapping copies of things they wouldnt otherwise buy. An ASCAP or BMI-like pool of money allocated in an equitable way amongst copyright owners is the only solution that could be of benefit to creators, consumers and copyright owners. Compulsory blanket licensing for non-commercial file sharing is the equivalent of loosening a tourniquet tied around the entertainment industrys neck." And so concludes our morality lesson for the day. Your comments are, as ever, very welcome.®
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Oct 2005