It is undeniably hard for technology vendors like BEA to step outside of their comfort zone of talking technological terms, especially when they are dealing with the still-alien concept of enabling `business services’ rather than simply selling products. This is brought into relief even more sharply when it acquires businesses that extend the ability to provide those services. This issue came to the fore at the recent UK version of the company’s BEAWorld conference and exhibition, held at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel. Against a background of a valedictory keynote presentation from CEO Alfred Chuang, and VP of Solutions and Product Marketing Bill Roth, where the technology of providing service orientation seemed definitely more important than the services themselves, and where BT’s head of Platform Design and Build, Jim Crookes, gently castigated them for such a view, BEA also announced the acquisition of ConnecTerra, a company specialising in RFID middleware. This acquisition can be seen in number of ways, not least being another major US software vendor snapping up some useful technology to expand its empire. For systems architects and applications developers, however, there is another way to look at it: a way that maps onto Jim Crookes’ view that service orientation has little to do with software and is all about business. Service orientation is now about building re-useable, re-deployable business function services where the technology used to construct them has no specific value to the user outside of that function. What it does is now the important criterion, and the question of how it does it is irrelevant to all but the few. For applications developers and architects in the user community this means that their playground will increasingly shift to integrating these services – as business functions – rather than working directly with code. The ConnectTerra acquisition is a case in point. RFID is likely to be a major business tool over the coming years, particularly in the logistics and retail markets. The need to integrate those services with both new and legacy business applications, in order to build new business services, is fundamental to this trend. As many of those applications will be managed by services provided by the likes of BEA’s WebLogic, integrating the two has a certain sense. Indeed, prior to the acquisition, the ConnecTerra middleware and WebLogic had already been used together for some 18 months. According to the company’s worldwide EMEA Technology Evangelist, Martin Percival, the acquisition was stimulated by users. “We get asked by users to integrate technology like ConnecTerra into the WebLogic stack,” he said. “It becomes one less thing they have to think about in building business processes.” This is a user view of the world that leads back to what BT’s Jim Crookes told the BEAWorld conference, and for which he got the largest cheer of the day. “If SOA is seen as just being about software, it will fail. It is not about technology, the target now is to have systems that are enablers of business agility, not barriers to it.” As such enablers, the focus shifts to what the technology does, rather than how it does it. Ideally, like the technology underpinning a ball-point pen, it should eventually become irrelevant, even to end-user business service architects and developers. ®
Quantum makes its latest bid to keep DLT alive today, with the launch of a sub-$1000 version targeted directly at DAT. The DLT-V4 drive is a half-height version of the SDLT-320 with a Serial-ATA or Ultra160 SCSI interface, and it stores a nominal 320GB per cartridge, assuming 2:1 compression. "This is our pitch against DAT - a relatively low-end server can easily have 200 Gigs [of disk] and DAT struggles with that," said Quantum product manager Graham Hunt. DAT currently tops out at 72GB per cartridge compressed, while rivals such as Exabyte's VXA-2 and Sony's AIT-2 manage just 160GB. Hunt claimed that Quantum, which now makes DAT drives via its acquisition of Certance, could sell the planned next-generation DAT-160 today, if it were available: "People want that performance and capacity," he said. However, he says DAT-160 depends on HP, and may not reach the market until mid-2006. The DLT-V4 is also the first value-series DLT drive to have Quantum's DLTice WORM capability and DLTsage reliability and failure-prediction software. Hunt said that at $999 and 20MB/sec, not only does it provide more capacity and speed than DAT, it is also half the price of a similar capacity half-height LTO-2 drive - and it uses existing media, not a new cartridge. He added that the 1.6TB fourth generation SuperDLT is still under development; to be called DLT-S4, this should appear by the end of this year. He warned though that the gap between successive tape technology generations is going to rise, perhaps to as much as 30 months. ®
Wanadoo UK is to flick the switch on it new unbundled broadband service next month with the promise of speeds up to 8 meg. The ISP - which is owned by France Telecom - will start hooking up new punters to its service from next month and will also upgrade for free existing customers who are wired up to its unbundled exchanges. From next month, those wired up to Wanadoo's local loop unbundled (LLU) service can expect to pay £17.99 a month for an 8 meg connection, although this includes a usage cap of 2 gigs a month. For the vast majority of punters not connected to an unbundled exchange, Wanadoo has also pledged to upgrade them for free to 8 meg once BT Wholesale has finished tweaking its network next spring following the completion of its "Max" trials. Said Wanadoo UK boss Eric Abensur in a statement: "LLU heralds the beginning of a new era for Wanadoo and its customers and we look forward to unveiling more market-disrupting services in the near future." Kicking off its LLU network, Wanadoo has installed its kit in 150 BT exchanges in five UK cities - Leeds, London, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham - enabling it to provide broadband services direct to end users. Although its investment to date covers around 12 per cent of the UK population, Wanadoo plans to continue investing in LLU and expects to wire up a total of 500 exchanges within the next 12 months, giving it access to around 40 per cent of the population. ®
The US's television industry will have to make the switch from analogue to digital by 7 April 2009, paving the way for a spectrum auction that would have to raise at least $5bn, if draft legislation in the US comes into force. According to Reuters, the Senate Commerce Committee is set to consider the bill on Wednesday this week, meaning they could include the money they expect it to raise in the next budget planning session. The draft calls for the auction to begin 28 January, 2008, and requires that it raise no less than $4.81bn for the US Treasury. According to government estimates, the auction could raise up to $10bn. The money raised could be put towards a fund to help TV owners buy the kit they need to upgrade their TV boxes to receive digital signals. The US government says that around 21m households in the US still rely on broadcast TV only. Currently, TV stations will be required to make the switch by 31 December, 2006, or when 85 per cent of the TV audience can see the new digital signals, whichever comes later. Since this could take up to a decade, Congress has been under pressure to establish a more definite deadline. ®
Easynet - the telco that's invested heavily in providing broadband services to rival BT - has confirmed that it has been approached regarding a possible buyout. The admission follows reports that satellite operator BSkyB is lining up a bid for local loop unbundling (LLU) operator Easynet as part of a cunning plan to go head-to-head with BT and NTL/Telewest. In a statement issued today the company said: "The Board of Easynet notes the recent press speculation and movement in its share price. The Board can confirm that it has received an approach that may or may not lead to a formal offer being made for the Company. "There can be no assurance that a formal offer will be made for the Company as a result of this approach." Although Easynet - which also operates the UK Online ISP - would not confirm that it's holding talks with BSkyB, there seems little doubt that the satellite broadcaster has made an approach. Last week it emerged that BSkyB wanted to acquire a broadband telco and was prepared to invest in LLU in a bid to provide phone and broadband services direct to end users. Such a tie-up would enabled BSkyB to offer punters the all-important "triple play" of phone, TV and broadband services - something its rivals NTL and Telewest do already. Now that NTL and Telewest have agreed to merge, the enlarged group - with access to half of the UK's homes - would pose a serious threat to BSkyB's position. Likewise, BT is also pressing ahead with its plans to offer TV over broadband with a commercial service expected to be launched within the next 12 months. ®
Beating off newspaper reports that biometric scans could misidentify up to one in 1,000 users, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty told Sunday's BBC Radio 4 World at One programme that the possibility of errors in one type of scan was precisely why the UK ID card system would be able to check 13 biometrics. Impressed? Confused? Both? Previously the Home Office had shrugged-off suggestions of unreliability by pointing out that three biometrics will be used, fingerprint, iris and facial, but as McNulty continued it became apparent that it's actually 13, if you count fingers individually. As he told Radio 4, "if there are difficulties with the facial biometric, there are 12 other biometrics, two iris checks and ten finger and thumb prints." This novel new way to deconstruct biometrics will no doubt be compelling to the Great British Public and a boon to the marketing departments of the biometric industry. The UK ID card scheme has always been intended to cater for all ten digits, so the switch from saying three to saying 13 is simply a sign that the Home Office thinks it needs to spin harder. The use of three (we'll just stick with that number, if it's all the same to you) types of biometric can in principle identify an individual more reliably, but it's more costly and complicated (Do you read all three and set a pass rate? Do you read different ones depending on circumstances? Do you fall back to the second and third on failure of the first?). Nor is accuracy simply a matter of how many biometrics you read, because to a great extent you set the accuracy level yourself when you calibrate the readers. If you're too strict on accuracy, then you incorrectly reject an unacceptably high proportion of sus..., er, subjects. And if you're too slack, anybody can walk in. You complicate matters further if - as the UK Government would so dearly like to do - you want to conduct one to many searches so that you can snag duplicate IDs and individuals you're looking for, because you're likely to want to calibrate the system differently for those purposes. Essentially, the Home Office spin about three, 13 or umpteen different kinds of biometric is just drizzle obscuring all of this. If the equipment you're using to read the biometrics is proving less accurate than you had initially anticipated then yes, it does affect what you have to read and how much you have to read in order to improve your chances of getting an accurate result. That does not mean it's 'all OK' because you cleverly anticipated this by deciding to read three classes of biometric right from the start (actually, you didn't, but now you reckon you'll have to). It means that the overall capabilities of the system are not as great as you had initially hoped. But going onto the radio and saying something like, 'Yes, individually they're all crap, so we're going to have to read all three' doesn't sound nearly so good. The news story McNulty was responding to was carried in the Independent on Sunday, here. We assume this will go into the paid-for section shortly. The problems it covers are mostly well-known ones, but it's a useful summary. McNulty himself helpfully added "people with brown eyes" as a problem area to the list in the paper. While we're about it, we couldn't resist McNulty's comments on The Politics Show in defence of Home Office dawn raids on asylum seekers: "We are not knocking down doors at four in the morning with people booted and suited in riot gear. Most of the removals occur around half-five, half-six, seven in the morning." So presumably the borderline between free democracy and police state lies somewhere between the hours of 4am and 5.30am. Does freedom get a longer lie-in at weekends? ® Related stories:
Four private equity groups look set to pool resources in a bid to snap up NTL and Telewest once the UK cablecos merge next year. So reports The Sunday Times, which names the cash quartet as Blackstone Group, Cinven, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and Providence Equity Partners. It seems the group is prepared to stump up £6bn for the enlarged cableco although sources told the paper that the deal still might not come to anything. Earlier this month NTL and Telewest finally agreed to merge in a deal that values Telewest at around £3.4bn. Once the deal is completed, the pair - whose cable networks do not overlap - will be able to provide TV, phone and broadband to more than half of UK homes. The combined group will have almost five million residential punters and is set to be the largest provider of domestic broadband services in the UK with 2.5m subscribers. The WSJ has already reported that private equity groups were interested in NTL/Telewest. ®
It's official: two per cent of gamers are neither male nor female, leading us to believe that this small yet significant section of the gaming demographic is either hermaphrodite, represents a species further down the evolutionary pyramid or is perhaps of silicon-based extraterrestrial origin. That's according to the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) 2005 report into the state of the industry - enticingly entitled "ESA'S 2005 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry" - which is available right here (PDF): That's right - page five blows the lid on the astounding truth. We look forward to more ESA revelations in the future, including the earth-shattering insight that 37 per cent of analysts cannot operate an electronic calculator, 41 per cent cannot successfully proofread a document and the remaining 24 per cent are concealing the chilling truth that the lower mammalian orders have developed a penchant for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Fascinating stuff. ® Bootnote Thanks to reader Matt for giving it 110 per cent in finding this statistical gem.
Canadian regulators have dismissed insider trading allegations against ATI Technologies’ chairman, his wife and other company staffers and their spouses. Ontario Securities Commission staff had charged that KY Ho and his wife, Betty, had avoided losses and maximized their charitable tax breaks by selling or donating ATI shares ahead of a profit warning in May 2000. A number of other ATI execs were also named in the OSC staff’s claim. On Friday, an OSC panel dismissed the allegations against all the respondents after comprehensively taking them apart in a 22-page report. Earlier this year, the OSC approved a settlement with ATI, with the chip vendor agreeing to pay Can$900,000 ($743,000) to settle allegations that it failed to disclose key financial performance information and made "misleading statements" to the Commission during its investigation. ®
Almost 20m UK households are opening themselves up to fraud by failing to take precautions against identity theft, according to new research marking the UK's first-ever National Identity Fraud Prevention Week. A 'bin raiding' exercise by MEL Research found that 77 per cent of household waste contained at least one or more items which could assist fraudsters in stealing an identity. That means more than 18m UK (out of a total of 24.5m) households are throwing away sensitive financial documents such as bank statements and utility bills that might be useful to "dumpster diving" identity fraudsters. Although the public fear being a victim of identity fraud more than pickpocketing, mugging or even burglary, a large number still put themselves at risk by disposing of private information without first rendering it unreadable. A poll by Populus shows that 40 per cent of the public questioned rated identity fraud, one of Britain’s fastest growing crimes, as their major concern in a list of crimes that included burglary (27 per cent), mugging (21 per cent) and pickpocketing (3 per cent). Identity Fraud Prevention Week will run from 17 - 23 October. UK police and credit reference agencies - including the Metropolitan Police, Crimestoppers, CIFAS (The UK's Fraud Prevention Service), Fellowes, Equifax and Experian - are backing the campaign with the launch of a dedicated website (echoed). They've also set up a free-phone number - 00800 1810 1810 - so that members of the public can call to receive a 'Protect Your Identity' guide. Top tips to prevent ID fraud Keep your personal and confidential documents secure Always shred before disposing of documentation – bank and credit card statements, utility bills, receipts, direct mail containing any personal information, mortgage applications etc Regularly check your bank and credit card accounts for unusual transactions Regularly obtain a copy of your credit report from credit reference agencies Equifax or Experian When you move home redirect your mail to your new address by contacting Royal Mail Redirection Service on 0845 7740 740, visiting your local post office or Met Police fraud alert Never give out any personal information to unidentified individuals or organisations who contact you by phone, email or face-to-face If you have been a victim of identity fraud contact your nearest Police station or visit Met Police fraud alert If you have information about identity fraud contact the police, or call Crimestoppers to give information anonymously on 0800 555 111. ®
Workers across Britain will this week celebrate "Email-Free Friday" - an initiative promoted by Sport England's Everday Sport campaign to encourage the desk-bound to get off their fat arses and circulate around their work environments with calorie-burning enthusiasm. The reason is simple: emails make you fat. Long gone are the days when employees would run breathlessly to the human resources department to tell all and sundry that Tracy from accounts had been caught in the stationery cupboard administering sexual favours to Dave from transport - now it's all done electronically* and our waistlines are suffering as a result. Sport England health advisor Dr Dorian Dugmore told the Observer: "We're losing millions of hours of exercise through the explosion of email. People email colleagues who sit next to them, never mind those who work on the other side of the office. We have to change people's lazy attitudes." Experts reckon that upping activity levels by 10 per cent could save 6,000 lives and, crucially, £500m a year. The Observer cites the example of Phones 4U, where top dog John Caudwell has "banned his 2,500 staff from using email in the office". He explained: "We have email paralysis. If you have a cancer, you have to cut it out." So there you have it. Accordingly, don't bother to finish reading this piece, resist the temptation to email it to a colleague and sprint as fast as you can to the lobby where you can tell your fellow smokers how much fitter you're feeling while puffing on a Silk Cut. Your heart and your waistline will thank you for it. ® Bootnote *We mean the dissemination of information, naturally. We have no doubt sexual favours are still administered personally in stationery cupboards across the UK, and quite right too.
BT has joined a gaggle of companies eager to snap up Friends Reunited, according to The Sunday Times. The paper reports that BT and commercial broadcaster ITV have slapped bids on the table for Friends Reunited. News Corp, Daily Mail & General Trust and a John Doe dotcom have already registered their interest in the web site that specialises in bringing old friends and enemies together. According to the paper, BT is keen to use Friends Reunited's network of chatterers to help flog its phone service. El Reg ain't so sure. BT is losing around 100,000 punters a month to rival telcos and we reckon that buying Friends Reunited could be its only way to stay in touch with ex-customers. Who knows, it may even be able to woo a few back again. ®
AnalysisAnalysis There are more than 300 ISPs in the UK of varying sizes, from VISP resellers to tier 1 backbone carriers – most resell BT Wholesale’s core DSL product, basing their service costs on the deals they can offer on BT Central backhaul, network bandwidth and external connectivity arrangements.
Are you female, nice, easygoing, funny and out for a laugh? Do you fancy a four-star trip to Antigua with a bored software engineer? Are you willing to "top and tail" - and maybe more? Yes? Read on: I have a 4* all inclusive holiday to Antigua booked with flexible dates. My Ex-Girlfriend wont come with me and I didnt want to go alone - so I thought I would see if a random individual would come with me. All food and beer (or wines/whatever) are included and so is an array of sports. Its at the Jolly Beach resort. I have no idea what the terms and conditions are - youve got to be nice, easygoing, out for a laugh and funny. Im 30, sporty, software engineer, bored, in need of my break and going to do something really mad for a change !!! I can rebook at anytime and the flights are with Virgin and go from Gatwick. The holiday is for 10 days. Normal double room but we can top and tail ! Maybe more if things work out ! For some more pics of me as I have been asked for a few go to http://www.954.cc/holiday *After several messages - Im sorry Im not looking for a guy to come with me - and Im certainly not selling myself or my services!!* Be quick though, there are just eight days left to secure this opportunity at a knock-down starting bid of 200 quid. Happy top and tailing. ®
In briefIn brief Palm has shaken hands with Research in Motion to allow the Treo 650 and future devices to link to BlackBerry Connect. The deal will mean that the 650 and other upcoming Treos will be able to access RIM’s BlackBerry Server technology, delivering amongst other things, push-based email, wireless calendar synchronization, and IT policy enforcement and commands to the Palm devices. The Treo/BlackBerry integration will be offered from early next year and pricing and distribution will be unveiled nearer the launch.®
A British engineer has ensured that the British breakfast table will no longer be the scene of early-morning trauma and despair in which sobbing children and their distraught parents struggle to tackle that most demanding of disciplines: creating the perfect toast soldier with which to bother their boiled eggs. Mike Minton, a 37-year-old engineer, has calculated that the ideal width for a toast soldier should be 22mm. He explained to Ananova: "There has always been a danger of cutting your soldiers too fat or too thin. If they are too fat then obviously they can't fit into the opened neck of the egg which is infuriating. But if the soldiers are too small then there's the risk of a catastrophic failure after they're dunked into the yolk. The simple act of withdrawing the soldier may cause it to break in half, forcing the person who is eating the egg to resort to a teaspoon." We hear you Mike. The solution? Simple: a hand-held toast perforator which pre-prepares the bread for easy post-toaster action. And if you reckon this is the sort of invention which can be knocked up in a couple of minutes between inventing other life-saving devices - like a gyroscopic toast stabiliser which ensures that it always lands butter-side up, or indeed an SMS kettle - then rest assured that a whole year of development went into the "Perfect Soldier", which will go on sale soon for around six quid. Put us down for half-a-dozen. ®
Cable & Wireless' (C&W) £720m take-over of Energis could be scuppered if the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) decides it needs to take a closer look at the deal. According to reports, there's speculation that C&W might walk away from the deal if the OFT doesn't wave it through as expected later this week. Yet John Caudwell - the boss of Caudwell Communications who is flogging his telecoms business - wants the OFT to intervene because he believes the merger would be "anti-competitive", reports The Sunday Telegraph. Caudwell reckons that the tie-up would reduce the number of telcos he can approach for telecoms service, which in turn would make it harder for him to negotiate deals with suppliers. Energis chairman Archie Norman rubbished the claims adding that if the OFT did get involved it would be a "high water mark in regulatory absurdity". Analysts at Ovum reckon the UK's telecoms sector is competitive enough and the removal of one player would be unlikely to tip the balance against the likes of Caudwell Communications. ®
Security researchers have discovered a vulnerability in Apple's popular iTunes application which might be exploited to interfere with shared music downloads. The glitch in iTunes 6.x - involving a failure to authenticate the source of shared music lists received via multicast - is currently unpatched. So it's just as well that it's described by the man who discovered the flaw, Seth Fogie of Airscanner, as annoying rather than potentially devastating. iTunes Shared Music allows users to create playlists for songs on their PC and to share them across a network, a function that only works if copy protection restrictions are absent. The vuln (Airscanner advisory and Flash demo here) might be exploited to kill an existing stream without authorisation via an anonymous packet. At worst the glitch might also permit the Shared Music lists from various users to be renamed and swapped, thus creating a chaotic environment. These avenues of attack exist because it's possible to create spoofed Shared Music entries, to rename existing entries, to disconnect existing entries and to re-initiate existing lists. Version 6.0 of iTunes on Win XP and OS X have been confirmed as vulnerable. Other versions may also be affected. There's no fix, as yet, so it's just as well the glitch is classified as low risk. Security notification firm Secunia advises iTunes users to restrict their use of the shared music feature to within trusted networks only, as a precaution. Airscanner advises users to disable the 'look for shared music' option under the Sharing tab in Preferences. ®
The Linux Association of Germany has failed in its efforts to keep the Microsoft logo off TV stories about the recent elections in the country. A Hamburg District Court on Friday lifted a temporary restraining order, which the Linux Association of Germany obtained against public broadcaster ARD/NDRshortly before the recent German general election. A couple of weeks ago the Linux Association of Germany had objected to German public broadcaster ARD/NDR displaying a Microsoft logo on reports on the evening of the elections to Germany's lower chamber of parliament in September. The Linux Association considered this as "illegal advertising" and decided to go to court claiming ARD/NDR neglected rules laid down by the German Broadcasting State Treaty. However, ARD/NDR immediately fired back and a temporary restraining order was issued against the Linux Association without a hearing. ARD/NDR argued that as German polling agency Infratest Dimap uses Microsoft databases and graphics software for its forecasts, there was little problem in displaying the logo.
Administrators are trying to work out what happened to as much as £8m worth of assets at the Granville Technology Group, the company behind the Time and Tiny computer brands that went into administration in late July this year. In a letter to creditors, Grant Thornton says the investigation is centring on the brothers behind the firm, Tahir Mohsan and Tariq Mohammed, the transfer of assets to offshore companies, and missing hardware stock. Apparently, Burnley-based Granville transferred around £3.3m worth of stock to a France-based start up. The shares were put in an "offshore vehicle" The Sunday Times reports, totally unconnected with the parent company. The Sunday Times, which has seen a copy of the letter to the creditors, reports that in addition to the transferred assets, around £4m worth of PCs and other stock is missing. Grant Thornton told us that it could not confirm this number. "We have no records of the shop stock, so any number here is going to be a shot in the dark," a spokesman said. Administrators have also been unable to recover minutes from board meetings, and say management accounts have not been prepared for more than 12 months. The newspaper also reports that Grant Thornton is considering legal action against the directors of the firm. Granville Technology collapsed at the end of July this year, with the loss of 1,500 jobs. The company was initially thought to owe around £30m, but it later emerged that the debts were closer to £70m. One of the company's main secured creditors, HSBC, has been informed that it is unlikely to see any of the approximately £20m that it is owed. At the time of the company's collapse, Granville said it was owed in the region of £11.2m. Grant Thornton now says this is probably overstated. ®
Tech DigestTech Digest Certified gadget obsessives Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny scour Gizmoville for the oddest digital goodies, while Bayraider keeps tabs on the best and worst of eBay. Shiny has also just launched two new blogs: HDTVUK – the first high definition TV news site for the UK - and PopJunkie. From OMD’s bizarre gay disco album to the retro thrash of the Brian Jonestown’s Massacre’s Take It From the Man, each day PopJunkie offers a mini review of a great lost pop album. Accessory of the Week: GPS wrist watch GPS-endowed wrist watches always sound like a great idea in theory. But alas in practice they are usually so huge that you inevitably strain a minor muscle or two moving your arm to look at the data. I might yet be convinced by the Suunto X9i, which the maker claims is the smallest and lightest wristop computer with GPS and from the pic it seems much more slight than normal. Aimed more at serious super-fit athlete types than trad GPS systems, the X9i also features a variety of apps that enable the user to track their current speed and distance etc. Even cooler is the, ahem, Hansel and Gretel mode (our name, sadly not theirs), which instantly explains to the user where they have come from and how they can back there. Users can also hook up the device to a PC and download digital maps on to it. Other features include an altimeter, barometer, digital compass, thermometer, and an extensive memory. Oh, and it tells the time too. It is on sale now for £350. More here. Traditional ‘how did that get on eBay’ Story: Martian TV robot Owning a martian robot would be cool. Just think of the cool things you could do with it... like... well... we're sure we'd think of something. Anyway, our dream could soon be reality, thanks to this auction. The bot appears to come from a TV show called 'Martian Law' - presumably like 'LA Law' but with more human characters. Boom boom! The robot has a remote-controlled tread, head-turn and body-turn, and can climb "mild grades" (i.e. it can't chase earthlings up stairs). It's up for live auction on 16 October with a starting price of $3,750. Daftest MP3 player of the week: PEZ MP3 player OK, so it's not particular classy. Hell, it's not even particularly nice, but how could I resist posting up this MP3 player which some mad soul has fitted inside a PEZ Pal Boy sweetie dispenser thing? You've got to respect someone who's gone to all that trouble only to produce something that looks like a... well.. like a plastic PEZ sweetie dispenser. It's 512MB (approx 120 songs), and comes pre-loaded with a collection of Indie music. I find myself wanting one against my will. $100 and it's all yours - but there's only a limited number, mind. More here. Glad they thought of that gadget of the week: Video in a snowstorm Here’s some very clever stuff from Philips. The Momento is a snow scene-style video player that will playback your home movie clips, showing a new one every time you shake the ball. I saw it at Philips recent exhibition in Paris and it was larger than it looks in this picture, but I quite liked the idea of removing controls and having something totally basic for normal people to use. The idea is that any video from places like your mobile or digicam would be picked up automatically by the crystal ball, saving you the hassle of having to download stuff onto it, or plug anything in. A neat little concept that's probably not the most practical solution (it's pretty much restricted to one or two people peering at it at a time and everything goes a bit fish-eye), but appealing nonetheless. Vaguely useful service of the week: TV to GPRS phones If you fancy watching a bit of TV on your mobile and don't yet have a 3G phone, here is some potentially good news. Rok, who you may remember as offering storage cards for phones pre-loaded movies and programmes, is now offering a TV streaming service to GPRS handsets. I’ll believe the quality when I see it, but the company says that once the user has downloaded the ROK player they can stream up to 10 live and on-demand channels including the Cartoon Network, CNN and ITN. Similar to Orange's rival 3G TV service it is free to try Rok TV, but after a month or so unless you pay £9.99 per month your screen goes blank. While it sounds great in theory there is a drawback or two. Firstly the service is only available on certain Nokia phones. Also users will also have to pay their network for the data they download on top of the £9.99 per month. Apparently it is around 10MB of data per hour of viewing at a claimed 15fps. More here. Quick Picks: Complete PC museum for sale on eBay Apple goes High Def New Walkman phone imminent Xbox360 – our first impressions Text your kettle Superman’s cape on eBay Brit Pop’s finest hour – made by Americans Loads more of this stuff at Tech Digest, Shiny Shiny, Green consumer blog HippyShopper and Bayraider which delves into the dark side of online auction sites.
Bulldog has jumped on criticisms made by the Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator (OTA) on Friday which highlighted yet more problems with local loop unbundling (LLU) in the UK. The Cable & Wireless (C&W)-owned ISP has been dogged by it own problems culminating in the regulator launching an investigation into Bulldog after receiving hundreds of complaints. Bulldog - which provides unbundled services - has blamed part of its woes on BT. On Friday, the OTA said it was "disappointed" with the progress that's been made in opening up BT's network to competition adding that operational problems reported over the last couple of months "continue to persist and are giving me significant cause for concern". "Current poor performance is being caused by a combination of automation instability, poor software problem handling, volume growth and resource shortfalls. This has led to an overall deterioration in the quality of delivery," said the OTA. Responding to the downbeat assessment Bulldog said the OTA's report "endorses the ISP's experiences in recent months". "We share the Adjudicator's disappointment at the continued instability of BT's automated provisioning system, which diverted resources into managing the inadequacies of the system and impaired the quality of service we have been able to offer our customers. "It is now urgent that work is intensified on a fit for purpose and reliable Name and Address Database. In our view this is already overdue and every possible means should be employed to complete this ahead of the December 2005 deadline. "Bulldog customers and potential customers expected this system to be up and running by May 2005. Five months on we expect to see a greater degree of progress than has been evident to date and a greater sense of urgency," it said. Hitting back, BT said its systems were "under strain due to the massive growth in orders" which has led to a backlog. The UK's dominant fixed-line telco also reckons Bulldog's complaint relates to a "previous formal dispute that Bulldog lodged against BT around address matching". ®
In briefIn brief Yahoo! has been fingered as the latest company to woo AOL, according to reports last Friday. Associated Press reports that the online world's most famous exclamation make is in early stage reports with Time Warner about AOL. The talks are understood to be less advanced than those Time Warner is already in with Microsoft, Google and Comcast. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is already understood to have made its excuses and left.
The BBC has announced plans to create a spin-off series from Doctor Who. Captain Jack, the maverick time traveler who guest stared in the latter episodes of the revived Doctor Who, will take centre stage in Torchwood, a "paranoid thriller" due to debut on digital channel BBC Three late next year. Created by Russell T Davies, the writer who successfully revived Doctor Who, Torchwood will see John Barrowman reprise his role as Captain Jack. The series - described as a cross between the X Files and lawyer drama This Life - will feature investigators solving human and alien crime, as well as chasing alien technology that has fallen to Earth. The 13-part drama, aimed at a post-watershed adult audience, will be filmed and based in Cardiff. Each episode will last for 45 minutes. According to Davis the series will be markedly different from Doctor Who. "Torchwood is a British sci-fi paranoid thriller, a cop show with a sense of humour," he said. "It's dark, wild and sexy." Blimey. So will Rose, the Doctor's latest companion, and Captain Jack renew their flirtation? Sadly not, because although Torchwood will be spawned in the forthcoming Christmas special of Doctor Who there will be no cross-over episodes between the two series. ®
AnalysisAnalysis If Charles Clarke is announcing that ID cards are only going to cost £30, then the ID Cards Bill must be due back in Parliament any day now (yup, Tuesday), and Labour Party MPs must be looking for some threadbare justification for continuing to support it. And if that's not quite enough ('Isn't £30 pretty much what they said last time we bravely gave in?') then Clarke also has a report demonstrating "strong public support for the scheme" and an "independent analysis" from KPMG backing him up on the scheme costs. We now propose to demonstrate how Clarke, who announced the £30, the report and the KPMG analysis in a written answer to a parliamentary question on 13th October, was to all intents and purposes misleading the House. We should however note that he was not lying as such - he was merely giving his target audience on the Labour benches the tools to believe what they desperately want to believe, and the sad truth is that not many of them are going to be inclined to say, 'Er, hang on a minute, Charles...' Clarke's answer (which we reproduce in full below), was intended to convey the impression that the price for an ID card has now been fixed at £30, that this price can be achieved within the Home Office's estimated costs for the full scheme, that KPMG says that these costs are themselves realistic, and that public opinion remains strongly in favour of ID cards. But Clarke didn't actually say any of these things, and at least some of what he said suggests that the truth will turn out to be radically different from the impression conveyed. We'll take the KPMG analysis first - or to be strictly accurate in the way we wish Clarke had been, we won't take it because Clarke isn't about to let us (or indeed anybody) have it. We'll just have to take what he said about it instead, which was "independent analysis in a report from KPMG, a summary of which will be published shortly, has concluded that the costing methodology is robust and appropriate for this stage of development." He does not say that KPMG has said that the costs are realistic, he is simply saying here that the analysis says that the way the Home Office is currently going about tallying the costs is reasonable for a project at this stage. Clarke says no more on KPMG in his written answer, but a footnote to the press release tells us that "KPMG have recommended improvements such as extending the sensitivity analysis, revisiting the process for estimating contingency and revisiting some cost assumptions. KPMG have confirmed that the majority of the cost assumptions are based on appropriate benchmarks and analysis from the public sector and suppliers." Which means? Sensitivity analysis is used to determine the sensitivity of outcomes of an alternative to changes in its parameters (thank you, Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems), which in this case would seem to suggest KPMG may think the Home Office estimates of cost may be overly optimistic. One example (our example - we may never get to hear what KPMG's are) might be if a lot of people decided they were perfectly happy just travelling in Europe on a £30 ID card, and therefore decided not to bother with £93 for combined card and passport. The recommendation to revisit "the process for estimating contingency" is in a similar ball-park, probably meaning the estimates are too dependent on everything going according to plan, while "revisiting some cost assumptions" could reasonably be interpreted as meaning that the ones needing revisiting are wrong. Last Sunday Home Office Minister Tony McNulty offered a small hostage to fortune here by telling BBC news that the contingency is built into the cost structure of the budget for the whole project, and that this has "stood up well" in the project's Gateway Review. Might the cost assumptions that exercise KPMG be related to the cost assumptions the LSE analysis thought were suspect? They could well be, but we may never know because Clarke will not "release the precise costs for individual aspects of the scheme because this information is commercially sensitive and could affect the Department's ability to secure value for money from the market." This commercial sensitivity is a get out of jail free card ministers deploy in order to avoid levelling with Parliament about the costs of virtually anything, not excluding office furniture. It is however clear from the little information the Home Office has dripped out that while KPMG might think the calculator the Home Office is using is OK, it has a few queries about the figures being tapped into it. Judging from previous track record, Home Office spin doctors are working on a dodgy summary of the KPMG analysis at this very moment. This will at best be released a very short time before MPs file through the lobby, leaving no time for anyone to point out that there are no facts in it. As far as the price of a card goes, Clarke said that it will be "affordable to set a charge of £30 at current prices for a standalone ID card which is valid for ten years. This will be affordable within current Home Office spending plans." This isn't quite a guarantee, but as the plan is to keep a low price in the public mind while distracting attention from overall scheme cost, we can be confident it won't shift significantly. This concentration on the standalone card price as a distraction from scheme cost is dealt with in more detail here. Clarke's answer of last week even draws attention to the artificial nature of the £30 price, if you think about it a little. Although he says that £30 is "affordable" within current plans, he also says: "Our current best estimate of the average unit cost of the combined passport and ID card package is £93." So the £93 is an estimate based on how much the total scheme costs, and may still change, while the £30 is based on the same costs, but is fixed. And what, one wonders, does Clarke mean by "average" unit cost? Does this suggest the Home Office is planning different kinds of passport at different prices? The research report which Clarke says "demonstrates strong public support for the scheme" will no doubt come as a relief to Labour MPs who'd seen support ebbing in recent opinion polls. Their relief should however be tempered by the fact that although the report is dated on the Home Office web site as October 2005, it's based on research conducted first in January-February 2005, with the addition of a smaller scale 'refresher' in July 2005. And it's also somewhat twisted to see the report as a level playing field test of public support for the ID scheme; effectively, those surveyed were told that the scheme was going ahead, and then asked about the extent to which they were prepared to put up with this fait accomplit. A few weasel words from the report illustrate this. The analysis approach used allowed the researchers to offer "a more realistic choice situation because participants are asked to choose between carefully chosen sets of complete products" (so who's doing the choosing here, exactly?) and for many people "demand for the card will be 'derived' demand arising from their need for a designated document such as a passport". That is, your 'demand' for an ID card stems from your being willing to pay £93 for a passport because that's what you have to pay to get a passport. Those surveyed were presented with "a Base-case concept' based on a consumer price of £93 for a combined ID card or £50 for a stand alone ID card." Here, we take a 'base case concept' as being a non-negotiable bottom line.* Amusingly, the researchers tell us that the 75 per cent "demand" produced by this 'base case concept' "holds up well compared to today's 77 per cent of passport penetration." So when (not if, when) the price of a passport goes up from £42 to £93, almost all people who currently have passports will still feel they need passports. The non earth-shattering nature of this discovery is reinforced by the researchers' discovery that even if a passport cost £250, 63 per cent of respondents would still renew their passport. The report seems to interpret this as demonstrating the firmness of "support" for ID cards, as opposed to being merely a statement of the bleedin' obvious. Essentially, all the report tells us about "demand" is that most of the public is prepared to cough up the non-negotiable price, and is not at this juncture going to feel driven towards the advocacy of violence in support of political change, which presumably won't have appeared as an option. This is no doubt enough for most Labour MPs these days, and it's a few years still until the next election. ® * The author does not regard what he may or may not have taken at university 30 years ago as having any relevance to the content of this article; therefore in general he declines to comment on such matters. The approach taken by the Home Office's researchers however triggered a disturbing flashback to a student party where a swivel-eyed Trot lecturer explained the principles of something he called 'Romanian marketing.' This, he explained, was far more efficient than the capitalist practices of the West, and hinged on close linkage between marketing and manufacture. Thus, one year might be the 'year of the fridge', the next the 'year of the cooker', and so on. What this meant was that in, say, the year of the fridge the factories only made fridges. Thus, consumers bought fridges because that's all there was to buy, they hadn't been able to buy fridges last year because none were being made, and they wouldn't be able to buy any next year because there wouldn't be any being made ('No call for them, comrade'). Romanian marketing could therefore be tightly targeted, and indeed must have been incredibly cost-effective, given that stimulating demand couldn't have been exactly hard. Romanian marketing now appears to be doing contract work for the Home Office. Clarke's answer: "It will be affordable to set a charge of £30 at current prices for a standalone ID card which is valid for 10 years. This will be affordable within current Home Office spending plans. "This figure has been arrived at following careful scrutiny of the costs of the ID cards scheme over the summer by the Home Office, in full consultation with Treasury and other Government departments. "We are unable to release the precise costs for individual aspects of the scheme because this information is commercially sensitive and could affect the Department's ability to secure value for money from the market. However, independent analysis in a report from KPMG, a summary of which will be published shortly, has concluded that the costing methodology is robust and appropriate for this stage of development. "We are also developing plans to roll the scheme out faster using registration with the criminal records bureau as well as passport application to enrol people into the ID cards scheme. This would lead to faster issuing of the card and improved outcomes and budget savings for the criminal records bureau. "We remain confident that further significant savings to Government and the private sector will be identified as plans are developed. In particular, Tony McNulty MP now chairs a cross-Departmental Ministerial committee to identify transformational benefits and efficiencies which the ID cards scheme can deliver to other Government departments. "Our current best estimate of the average unit cost of the combined passport and ID card package is £93; around 70 per cent of these costs would be incurred anyway because of the worldwide move to biometric passports. We expect that most people will still choose to get their ID card alongside their new biometric passport as this will be the most convenient way to participate in the scheme and will give people the full benefits of having the most secure travel documentation. "I am also publishing today a research report 'Identity Cards: an assessment of awareness and demand for the Identity Cards Scheme' which demonstrates strong public support for the scheme."
A 19-year-old lad from Scotland is being treated for e-addiction after blowing £4,500 on text messaging over the last 12 months. The teenager, who hasn't been named, jacked in his office job after bosses discovered he also sent 8,000 emails in one month alone, reports the Beeb. Concerned at the scale of the problem, public sector union Unison helped the guy receive help from Renfrewshire Council on Alcohol (RCA) Trust. Believed to be Scotland's first "text and email addict", he has since managed to wean himself off email and has reduced the number of texts to such an extent that he now spends no more than £10 a week on SMS. The teenager, who recently split from his girlfriend, told Auntie: "When you look at your mobile and you've got a message you wonder who it could be. "It's kind of comforting when you get one. I like it, it's like a game of ping-pong, as you send one and get one back," he said. ®
The European Space Agency, undeterred by the loss of Cryosat, is pushing ahead with plans to launch its Venus Express mission, Europe's first to Venus, later this month. The spacecraft will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 26 October on a journey that will take it approximately five months. Much is still mysterious about Venus. "You can think of Venus almost as being Earth's evil twin," said Dr. Andrew Coates from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL. But our supposed twin is actually very different, the similarity in size and rocky composition really being the only things the two planets have in common. It has an odd, retrograde rotation so slow that one Venus day is around 250 Earth days long. The planet is wrapped in a thick atmosphere which makes its surface pretty much invisible in the optical spectrum, and means the surface pressure is around 100 times than of Earth's. The clouds, which speed round the planet in just four Earth days, are highly acidic, and the surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead. Many other questions about the planet, which for a long time was assumed to be very similar to Earth, remain unanswered. One of the main questions is how did our twin planet end up so strikingly different to Earth, and can we learn anything from studying it that will help us understand our own environment? Venus Express is based on the same design and uses much of the same technology as the Mars Express mission, and the Rosetta probe. Recycling the technology like this means ESA has been able to put the mission together for a relatively modest budget of £140m, inside four years. Many of the instruments are different, however, and the craft has been tweaked to help it survive the different requirements of a Venusian orbit. The craft is designed to find out more about the nature and evolution of Venus's atmosphere, as well as to peer through the thick clouds to study the planet's surface. Scientists hope its experiments will help explain how exactly Venus got to be quite so different from Earth. One crucial difference is that Venus has no magnetic field. This leaves its upper atmosphere vulnerable to the pounding of the solar wind. Scientists theorise that this constant bombardment has been stripping the upper atmosphere away, in the same way as it has on Mars. Venus Express will be positioned to map the background magnetic field in the region, to track how the solar plasma interacts with the atmosphere. The same instruments will help scientists determine what happened to the water, widely believed to have been present when Venus was young. The Venus Express orbiter will also be looking for evidence of current volcanic activity. "We strongly suspect that it is volcanically active," said Professor Fred Taylor of Oxford University, "but we don't really know. We will be able to find out with Venus Express." Professor Taylor adds that the mission might help determine what the peaks of the planet's volcanos are covered in. All the big mountains have "snowy" peaks starting at a the same height. The "snow" was originally thought to be pure tellurium, but this is very rare, and the thought was discounted. "Later it was fashionable to think of the peaks as being covered in iron sulphide (Fool's Gold)," said Taylor. "But the latest thinking is that it is iron chloride, which is more stable." The mission should also establish whether or not there is lightning on Venus. ®
IT workers at Swansea Council - who went on strike for eight weeks last year in opposition to an outsourcing deal - fear their jobs could be put at risk once again. As part of the ambitious service@swansea egovernment scheme as many as seven in ten of the council's IT workers are to be transferred to Capgemini. The council hopes the ten-year £155m project could save taxpayers up to £72m while delivering a whole range of whizzy services. But insiders have told The Register that workers are growing increasingly unhappy about ongoing negotiations between the council and Capgemini and fear for their future. This is supported by Unison, the trade union supporting the workers, which reckons that the council "is about to renege on guarantees of job security". "Rumours of tortuous negotiations between Capgemini and the Council to finalise the already ailing contract suggest that the promises of no job losses for Swansea and no threats to pensions will not be delivered," said Union in a statement. "Whilst the Council insists its 'golden guarantees' will form part of the service@swansea contract, they admit they will be powerless to enforce them once the contract has been signed." But in a joint statement Swansea Council and Capgemini rejected the claims insisting that this was simply not true. "We are disappointed by these inaccurate claims by the Union," they said. "The council has secured unique contractual guarantees which will provide transferring employees with exceptionally strong protection. "It is wrong for Unison to claim that the council promised there would be no staff redundancies for ten years. Neither the council or Capgemini, or any other employer, could make such a commitment." ®
Microsoft has warned enterprises of glitches involving a security update issued last week. A patch designed to fix a flaw in Windows middleware components (MS05-051.mspx) creates system instability in environments with modified Access Control List (ACL) settings. In a statement, Microsoft said it is "aware of reports of isolated issues after deployment with Microsoft Security Bulletin MS05-051. We are working with a limited number of affected customers to help resolve these issues". It's unclear how many users are affected by the glitch. Problems arising from the update can range from leaving users unable to log on after the patch is applied to a blank screen after the update. But not applying the update leaves systems vulnerable to a critical security glitch that security firms warn is ripe for exploitation by an internet worm. That leaves sys admins damned if they don't and (possibly) screwed if they do and in an unenviable position where extra testing would seem to be the only sensible approach. ®
A Bulgarian customs official who decided it was a bright idea to pocket a traveller's mobile phone with GPS now faces the high jump after its owner immediately pinpointed the device in the culprit's pocket, Ananova reports. US ambassador John Beyrle was en route from Varna to Hungary when he submitted his hand luggage for the usual x-ray inspection. His phone subsequently did a disappearing act, and an airport staff search for the missing mobile proved fruitless. Beyrle, however, powered up his laptop, activated the phone's GPS which revealed its location aboard the light-fingered ne'er-do-well. The master criminal and an accomplice were cuffed and now face the sack plus malpractice and theft raps. ®
Talking about logs is like, well, talking about logs. Your log handling expertise isn't usually the big kicker item you want to tout to your CIO or CEO for career development. But that might be changing. US start-up LogLogic has charged itself with the task of making logs sexy. (No that isn't some feeble scat pun.) Using a combination of proprietary software, compression techniques and appliance-like hardware, LogLogic has made it possible for companies to store 100 per cent of their log data. Customers can then use more sophisticated, custom LogLogic software to pore through all this information. Why would any company want to do this? Like many of the predators circling the storage industry, LogLogic has turned to fear as a primary sales pitch. You want to save all your log files because a regulator or lawyer might come looking for a specific bit of compliance information around who accessed certain servers, where employee X sent a confidential file or who saw person X's health care information. In addition, companies may want to make sure old staffers don't still have access to protected servers and that customers aren't making their way to supply chain data meant to be off limits. "We are kind of like the Google or Yahoo! for the world of machine data," said Andy Lark, chief marketing officer at LogLogic. In the past, companies could not afford to keep all of their log data from a storage cost or time point of view. But the ever-falling price of disk coupled with high-performing chips and compression software has made it possible for LogLogic to store 24TB of log data on a single appliance and churn through up to 50,000 messages per second. (As a point of reference, LogLogic said a typical security event recording appliance would only track about 245m message per day.) Most existing products aimed at collecting log data tend to fall in a niche area such as security or web serving. LogLogic cheers such efforts but, of course, says they're not enough. "This has gone from using log management to gain some intelligence in select areas to being a best practices kind of thing for any organization," Lark said. LogLogic can boast customers such as Yahoo!, Fidelity, Harley-Davidson and JPMorgan Chase. These firms use the log management tools for a wide variety of tasks such as seeing what customers do on a given web site and checking that IT and HR personnel are using the correct procedures for canceling an ex-employee's access to a network. The company, which has been in business for two years and just opened a new office in the UK, has released this week Version 3.1 of its appropriately named LogLogic software. Customers will find that the new code runs faster than before and provides a host of new options for customizing log searches and analysis. For starters, companies can now collect log data from their own in-house, custom applications. LogLogic spent a lot of time making sure its software could recognize the unique data outputs and fields of various organizations. In addition, the new software includes 13,000 report templates that can be used to produce information relevant to Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, COSO and other regulatory frameworks. The templates help companies produce and analyze the right types of data and can be customized for particular jobs. To complement these additions, LogLogic 3.1 boasts speedier indexing and search technology, a type of artificial intelligence technology for alerting administrators to odd patterns or behavior and tie-ins to storage management systems from EMC, OnStor and NetworkAppliance. A low-end LX appliance from LogLogic will start at close to $20,000, while a high-end ST 3000 box can cost close to $200,000. LogLogic has also just released a midrange box starting at around $75,000. (At the moment, the boxes primarily run on Xeon chips from Intel, have large amounts of internal storage and memory and take up between 1U and 3U of rack space. In the future, LogLogic may switch to AMD's Opteron processor in the hopes of improving price/performance.) LogLogic has a unique background for a company touching the storage market in that it is filled with ex-Visa staffers - the folks who write software to detect weird purchasing trends and other patterns. Now this group have turned their focus to enterprise-wide logs. (Oh, come on, grow up. Stop with the jokes already - Ed.) There's more information on the company's products available here. And to see a man really in love with his logs or his monitor have a look here. ®
LettersLetters More than half of you who responded to our news of The Blooker Prize suggested that we'd made it all up. Surely no one could produce such drivel? Sorry, it's true - and even as I write, people are vigorously debating who should take the credit for coining the word "blook" - which is a book of a blog, and "flook" - which is a film of the book of a blog. What the fluck is all this, you ask? Hmmm... fascinating. I wonder when the first blook blurning festival will be? Hopefully six months from now, hosted by the plublishers and complete with live effigies… please? Seik Good god. Hear that sucking sound? That's the sound of the entire blogging community disappearing up it's own collective arse. Now, I'm not a specialist in such things, but isn't a floock a kind of parasitic worm? How appropriate. Thank you for publishing that, it has cheered me up no end. Paul Leader And the final point of all this emerging turgescence is : the blash. The blash is the final resting area of all these blooks and flooks, and bhacks and bleaders - situated right under the pilum which mashes it all to a pulp before conveying it to the furnace where it belongs. In any case, I salute the official creation of blooks and flooks. That's two areas I will know I can safely avoid wasting my time in, as there will be nothing there that has any chance of being more valuable than the rantings of my neighbor. It's likely going to take a lot of time, but one day the general public will come around to understanding that the availability of an abundance of personal views does not replace the publications of the informed few. Of course, that won't happen before those who call themselves journalists start actually doing their job instead of running the stories that are dictated to them by the powers that be. Pascal Monnet OK, I've finished blarfing now. Since it's a prize for books based on websites, the winner is clear: Any of the BOFH books. It's quite entertaining imagining the acceptance speech the BOFH and PFY would come up with. Erik Oh good Lord. Screw the typography, the sentiment here is making me roll my eyes. And "a contemporary, magic realist novel about wireless networking" made me shiver, although to be fair I haven't actually read the book so perhaps it's a timeless classic that I've judged harshly and unfairly by its description. Paul Good work with "Will you blother reading a bloring blook?"! Thanks for bringing it to light, twas very funny. It made me wonder why i even bother reading boingboing... they don't even have black helicopters. Dan Williams Thanks for the article regarding blooks. I was left rather queasy by the ideas in the article. Not so much the replacement of curling up with a book by sitting in an uncomfortable chair in front of a computer. It was the thought of these New-Age salesmen fresh from the car-yards trying to sell us a new social technology that no one wants or needs which causes my bile to overflow. Thankfully due to the Register's incisive cynicism I was able to hold on to my dinner. Thanks chaps. Andrew Punch Glad to be of service. What's behind this latest garbage is the notion of a "collective intelligence", where the "hive mind" of the Interweb will enhance and improve an idea or piece of writing. That depends on who's reading of course - and some writing evidently starts its journey through the hive mind's neurons in such a terrible state that nothing can improve it. Take heed, as the idea underpins a great deal of today's techno utopian rhetoric: but it's really the sound of someone farting in a Californian hot tub. Which to date, has been an endless source of bubbles. Finally, we draw your attention to research conducted in over thirty countries which looked at "problem-solving deficit disorder". The study of 100,000 children concluded that computer use had a deleterious effect on literacy. But I bet you didn't know how much. I didn't. ®