20th > October > 2005 Archive

fingers pointing at man

Apache cause celeb for Sun and BEA

Java vendors' growing captivation with Apache has resulted in expanded product and licensing support from BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems. The latest toolkit for Sun's Jini peer-to-peer networking architecture has been released under the newest version of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF's) software license. Among the conditions of the Apache License 2.0, you can freely download software and distribute the software, as long as you provide attribution. Sun said the release of Java Technology Starter Kit 2.1 under the Apache license would make Jini easier for developers to adopt, while encouraging improvements to the architecture from the open source community. BEA Systems, meanwhile, is adding the ability to manage clustered instances of Apache's Tomcat web server to its WebLogic Console. Users will be able to drill down into web applications in order to find out information about servlets and deployment descriptors, while the Console will present information through graphical charts. BEA openly endorsed Apache last year, creating the Beehive project that was quickly submitted to Apache for the community to nourish. Beehive is BEA's development framework, which has been pushed out for broader adoption by the community. Java infrastructure providers, though, have realized the open source community represents a potentially large group that is capable of expanding the pool of Java developers. Apache's status has been cemented by the fact Tomcat is the internet's most popular web server while its open source Struts development framework for building Java web applications has growing appeal. Apache is now mentioned in the same breath with Linux, the MySQL database, and the Perl/PHP/Python scripting languages as part of the LAMP open source software stack.®
Gavin Clarke, 20 Oct 2005

ITV trials broadband TV

ITV has become the latest outfit to dip its toe in the water of broadband TV with the launch of a pilot service on the south coast of England. The TV service is aimed at viewers in the Brighton and Hastings area who will be able to tune into channels featuring local content including news, weather and entertainment guides via a broadband connection. There's even the chance for budding filmmakers to post their own TV reports onto the service as part of the three month trial by the commercial broadcaster. Said Lindsay Charlton, who is heading up the ITV Local Project: "The rapid advance in the number of broadband homes in the UK, combined with improvements in streaming technology, has transformed the opportunities for local broadcasting. "By combining our traditional broadcasting expertise with the opportunities of the web, we are creating something truly unique." Charlton might be right. A recent report claimed that TV will become more like the web, as traditional scheduled broadcast channels are elbowed to one side as viewers are given a choice of "millions of programmes" available on-demand or for download. And broadcasters are already exploring the opportunities. Last month news outfit ITN became one of the first broadcasters to sign up to a new broadband TV service, GreenGrass.tv, making its news bulletins available to broadband users on a pay-to-view basis. In July the BBC premiered the new series of its comedy The Mighty Boosh on the web a week ahead of transmission on its digital channel BBC 3. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Oct 2005

Secret tracking codes in laser printers cracked

The pages that are printed by your colour laser printer may include tiny dots, almost invisible to the naked eye. The dots form a code that can be read by the US Secret Service, ostensibly to track down counterfeiters. Now, for the first time, the code has been cracked. The Secret Service has admitted before that the tracking information is part of a deal struck with selected colour laser printer manufacturers – including Xerox, Canon and many others. If a colour laser printer is used to forge a document and agents get sight of the document, the codes can be read. However, the full nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known. "We've found that the dots from at least one line of printers encode the date and time your document was printed, as well as the serial number of the printer," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth David Schoen. You can see the dots on colour prints from machines made by Xerox, Canon, and other manufacturers. The dots are yellow, less than one millimetre in diameter, and are typically repeated over each page of a document. In order to see the pattern, you need a blue light, a magnifying glass or a microscope. But once you've cracked the pattern, you may be able to trace the owner of a printer that produced a suspicious document. The major manufacturers tend to say little about the issue on record. When investigating the issue earlier this year for Issue 12 of OUT-LAW Magazine, a typical response was: "Epson is cooperating closely with industry groups and the relevant authorities in each country to prevent counterfeiters use [sic] its products in illegal activities. However, due to the sensitive nature of this issue we are unable to comment about the exact measures that are being taken." With a serial number, a supplier can identify its customer – although it may not expect to receive such requests. OUT-LAW spoke to dabs.com, the UK's leading online retailer of computing and technology products. Spokesperson Louise Derbyshire said the company was unaware that printers left their fingerprints on each printed page. She acknowledged, however, "dabs.com uses serial numbers to track products as they move through our warehouse and are shipped to customers". So, if required, "we could trace the delivery address." EFF and its partners began its project to break the printer code with the Xerox DocuColor line. Researchers Schoen, EFF intern Robert Lee, and volunteers Patrick Murphy and Joel Alwen compared dots from test pages sent in by EFF supporters, noting similarities and differences in their arrangement, and then found a simple way to read the pattern. "So far, we've only broken the code for Xerox DocuColor printers," said Schoen. "But we believe that other models from other manufacturers include the same personally identifiable information in their tracking dots." Xerox previously admitted that it provided these tracking dots to the US Government, but indicated that only the Secret Service had the ability to read the code. The Secret Service maintains that it only uses the information for criminal counterfeit investigations. However, there are no laws to prevent the Government from abusing this information, according to the EFF. "Underground democracy movements that produce political or religious pamphlets and flyers, like the Russian samizdat of the 1980s, will always need the anonymity of simple paper documents, but this technology makes it easier for governments to find dissenters," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "Even worse, it shows how the government and private industry make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by compromising everyday equipment like printers. The logical next question is: what other deals have been or are being made to ensure that our technology rats on us?" Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 20 Oct 2005

OFT objects to Visa transaction fee pact

The Office of Fair Trading says that Visa and its members, including most major banks, are breaking competition laws by agreeing a fee that is payable on card transactions. It follows a similar ruling last month against MasterCard. The statement of objections focuses on what is called a domestic multilateral interchange fee, or MIF. Last month, it dubbed MasterCard's equivalent MIF as a "tax on consumers" because it believes that the cost of the fees is passed on to retailers and ultimately to consumers. The OFT is of the view that the collective agreement between Visa and its member banks on the interchange fee charged between card issuing banks and merchant acquirers, on Visa card transactions taking place in the UK, restricts competition and infringes Article 81 of the EC Treaty and the UK's Competition Act. The OFT believes that, like the MasterCard MIF agreement, the Visa MIF agreement leads to an unduly high fee being paid to card issuing banks by merchant acquirers on every Visa transaction. The parties now have an opportunity to make written and oral representations to the OFT. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 20 Oct 2005

Publishers join forces to sue Google

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is suing Google over its plans to make scans of millions of books available online. Google announced earlier this year that it would digitise and index the content of five major libraries, and make the content searchable. The publishing group says Google's Print Library project will infringe their copyrights, but adds that it is not seeking damages, only legal costs. The complaint was filed, yesterday, in the US District court in New York by Penguin Group USA, McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons, For its part, Google says the lawsuit is "shortsighted", according to the BBC. It argues that its plans, which will not make full texts available online, amount to little more than a catalogue of the books in question. According to Business Week the company says its plans are entirely legal because copyright law allows for reproduction for research purposes. Copyright owners can ask Google not to include their works, provided they do so by the beginning of November. But the AAP says this is not enough, and has asked the New York court to issue an injunction stopping the process, on the grounds that its members will suffer "continuing, irreparable and imminent harm". In September, the Authors Guild and a former US poet Laureate joined forces to sue the search company over the same issue. Authors Guild president Nick Taylor described Google's actions as "a plain and brazen violation of copyright law". He argued that the authors are the only people who should be able to decide what happens to the works, and that it was not a decision Google should be making. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2005

Colt shunts more jobs overseas

Colt - the UK-based telecoms group that provides communications services to businesses - is still shunting jobs overseas as it continues to cut costs. By the end of the year 15 per cent of its workforce will be based in India taking headcount there to 450 while numbers in Europe will drop to 3,400. Turnover for the three months to the end of September was up a smidgen to £311.8m compared to the same period last year although pre-tax losses fell over the same period from £35m to £19m. Even though the telco recently won two major contracts with Commerzbank and Nomura, and a €9m hosting and managed services deal in Spain, the company is still cautious about the future. "Conditions in the European telecoms markets continue to be challenging," said Colt chief exec Jean-Yves Charlier. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Oct 2005

Animal lovers slam Choke-A-Chicken toy

Aussie animal lovers are up in arms about a dancing chicken toy which squawks and slaps his wings when strangled, slamming the Taiwanese novelty as "grossly irresponsible", AP reports. The Choke-a-Chicken is imported into Oz by Jaycar Electronics, which pitches the electronic pet at kiddies over three. The blurb explains: The Choke-A-Chicken flaps and waddles around doing the Chicken Dance, clucking and flapping its wings in sync with the Chicken Dance melody. Grab him by the neck and he will squawk and cluck like mad, flapping his wings and feet wildly as if he is really being choked. Put him down and he will waddle off, singing and dancing as he goes. Michael Beatty, spokesman for the Queensland state branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, fumed: "What's next? Burn a cat? Shoot a dog? Children of that age are likely to turn around and try the same thing on their pet bird or even the cat or dog. Then they're going to wonder why the animal fights back." A bemused Jaycar MD, Gary Johnstone, admitted he was "amused and mystified" by the RSPCA'a stance, adding: "I would have thought they would have better things to do like saving real animals from cruelty. This is a toy that is used to relieve stress, it's meant to be a bit of a giggle." We agree, but would like to add that Jaycar has missed a trick here. Surely the current avian influenza menace requires all responsible parents to educate their children as to the correct procedure for dealing with chickens? We suggest the company immediately investigate a Cull-a-Romanian-Goose Xmas stocking filler: "Grab him by the neck and he will squawk and cluck like mad until you put him in a black bin liner and throw him on the back of a lorry." ® Bootnote The usual thanks to Christopher Winpenny for the poultry-strangling lead.
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2005

David Copperfield to attempt stage impregnation

Not content with making the Statue of Liberty disappear or or having himself sawn in half by a circular saw and then reassembled, magician David Copperfield will attempt to impregnate a woman live on stage - without going anywhere near her with his magic wand. If he succeeds, it will be his crowning acheivement - doubly impressive since he clearly didn't get Claudia Schiffer up the duff despite his legendary powers. Copperfield told German mag Galore he completely rejected the received wisdom that there were just seven kinds of magic tricks, proclaiming: "Bull shit! There is a great deal of new territory to conquer. In my next show I'm going to make a girl pregnant on stage. Naturally it will be without sex. Everyone will be happy about it, but I'm not telling you any more." Readers are invited to imagine how Copperfield will pull off this magic coup, but we reckon it will involve a couple of balls, a cup and plenty of legerdemain. ®
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2005

ISS astronauts see Wilma intensify

As Hurricane Wilma became the most intense category five hurricane on record, astronauts on board the International Space Station were on hand to capture the evidence. The storm, currently wandering through the Caribbean, seems to span the globe in the image from NASA TV. It has since dropped to a still fearsome category four. As of yesterday evening, hurricane force winds extended as far as fifty miles from the centre of the storm and tropical storm force winds radiated a further 160 miles further out. Yesterday morning, hurricane force winds had only reached around 15 miles away from the eye. Although the storm is bigger, the pressure in the centre of the storm had increased yesterday evening, up from the 882 millibar record reached yesterday morning to 900 millibars. The previous lowest pressure recorded was in Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which reached 888 millibars. NASA says plenty of rain is in the offing as the storm makes its way towards the US coast. Landfall is currently expected in Florida at some point this weekend, and residents have been advised to keep an eye on the storm's progress. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2005

AOL erases 700 workers

AOL is axing 700 jobs in response to the hordes of users fleeing the service. The bulk of the jobs are to be lost at its "Member Services" organisation with the closure of its operation in Orlando. Some jobs in Dulles have also been zapped while a "small number of actions across our worldwide operations were taken in an effort to streamline activities or eliminate unnecessary costs," said the internet giant in a memo to staff. "In all, more than 700 positions have been eliminated and, as always, the company has strived to treat all our affected employees fairly," said AOL. This latest round of restructuring comes as AOL - which lost more than 2m paying punters last year - appears to be lining up a joint venture with any number of hopefuls. The Time Warner company is reportedly holding talks with Microsoft, Google, Comcast and Yahoo! that could lead to a possible tie-up. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Oct 2005

Chinese babies for sale on eBay tentacle

Shanghai police are searching for someone called Chuangxinzhe Yongyuan (forever innovator) who offered babies for sale on eBay-owned Chinese site Eachnet. Ads placed on 16 October punted infants from the impoverished province of Henan for 28,000 yuan (£1,950) for a boy and 13,000 yuan (£900) for a girl. According to China Daily, 50 people persused the offer before it was removed. Eachnet spokesman Tang Lei told Reuters the ads - or specifically the word "baby" - had slipped the site's security net "because of the large number of baby products pitched on the site". As a result, Eachnet will now scrutinise every posting. Tang did, however, tell China Daily that the whole thing may have been a practical joke. If not, he warned, the perpetrator could face years in chokey or even the death penalty. The Chinese authorites do not look kindly on the trade in babies, although their own regulations restricting many couples to one offspring do little to discourage the practice. ®
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2005

Irate Chinese threaten Google boycott

China has thrown a predictable strop at Google after the search monolith apparently bowed to Taiwanese pressure to stop calling the island a province of China on its popular maps service. As we recently reported, Taiwan emailed Google to insist it is in fact the Republic of China. Foreign ministry spokesman, Michel Lu, explained: "It is incorrect to call Taiwan a province of China because we are not. We have contacted Google to express our position and asked them to correct the description." According to the BBC, Google has now removed the offending reference to "province" and the Chinese have kicked off as a result. Peng Keyu, consul general of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, expressed his disappointment to the SingTao Daily, and the Chinese media reckons that chatroom militants across China are suggesting a boycott of Google's China service. Down at poor old Google, meanwhile, spokeswoman Debbie Frost attempted to downplay the significance of the change when she told Chinese state news agency Xinhua that it was nothing more than a "regular update", rather than "a deliberate effort to specifically update the Taiwan page". Yeah right Debbie. We're almost inclined to feel a bit sorry for Google on this one - caught as it is between a rock and a hard place. On the other hand, we'll save our pity for a more worthy cause and continue to enjoy Google discomfort. ®
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2005

Nokia ships beastly number of phones in third quarter

Nokia jacked up its estimate of the likely size of the world mobile market this year, as it revealed third quarter numbers which show it taking a third of the market overall. Total revenues in the quarter ending September 30 were €8.4bn, up 18 per cent on the year. Net profits came in at €881m, up 29 per cent on the year. Mobile phones still accounted for the vast bulk of the Finnish firm’s sales, bringing in €5.2bn, up 15 per cent on the year, and generating €880m of operating profit. Jorma Ollila, chairman and CEO, said in a statement that overall industry growth in the third quarter “continued to exceed our expectations”, hitting 199 million units. Nokia accounted for 66.6 million of those units, a significant number in so many ways. Ollila expects the market to hit 780 million units for the full year, compared to its previous estimate of 760 million. Nokia expects to exceed the industry’s average growth rate. The company would presumably be even happier if this growth wasn't concentrated in developing markets, which tend to opt for cheaper devices. Unsurprisingly, Nokia expects average selling prices to decline sequentially in the fourth quarter.®
Team Register, 20 Oct 2005
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Firefox hits 100m downloads

UpdatedUpdated There's reason to crack open the champagne at the Mozilla Foundation today after Firefox browser downloads reached the 100m milestone. Yup it's party time and fans of the open source browser are invited to upload their celebratory snaps here. There's also a plan to release a Firefox One, a weather balloon capable of carrying a 14lb (6.4kg) payload to 100,000ft (30.5km) in elevation from central San Francisco on Saturday. "Our payload will be a large Firefox banner, CD, and camera to take photos of Firefox at the edge of space1," according to Spread Firefox. In a statement, the Mozilla Foundation extended 100m thank yous to Firefox community members for "reigniting innovation on the web". "Firefox's download success is a direct result of the collaborative efforts of thousands of contributors worldwide. Their work developing and fine-tuning the Firefox browser ensures the best Web experience available. Volunteer extension developers further enrich Firefox's capabilities by enabling users to customize and enhance their browser and truly take back the Web," it said. Since Firefox lacks a proper update function you have to download the software every time you want to update the browser, as reg
John Leyden, 20 Oct 2005

eBay names beancounter for top Skype job

Ebay chief beancounter Rajiv Dutta has been named president of Skype as the online auction site attempts to capitalise on its $4bn acquisition of the VoiP outfit. Dutta will work with Skype chief exec Niklas Zennstrom and eBay's head auctioneer Meg Whitman to help integrate the internet telephony business across eBay. Whitman described Dutta's contribution to eBay over the last seven years as "enormous" and reckons he'll play "an even bigger role in eBay's future" by helping Skype reach its "full potential". Curiously, it was this "full potential" that was of interest yesterday as eBay announced its latest set of results. Described as "a gamble", there are plenty who question whether the addition of VoIP software will be a hit with buyers and sellers. But speaking yesterday Whitman said VoIP was jolly important and that phone calls would eventually be free, reports Reuters, with telcos making their cash from transactions or advertising. Whitman was speaking as eBay reported record consolidated Q3 revenues of $1.1bn - up 37 per cent on the same period last year. At the same time operating income rose 40 per cent to $356.7m. Net income came in at $255m, compared to $182m last year. Describing how the results exceeded the company's own top estimates, Whitman said: "We saw very strong growth across every part of our business in Q3." While the US saw revenues increase 29 per cent to $449m, its international operations soared 42 per cent to $409m. Looking ahead, eBay warned that profits would be reined back to pay for recent acquisitions including Skype. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Oct 2005

Netflix hits pause on movie download plan

Internet DVD renter Netflix has put its plans for a movie download service on hold after failing to agree terms with Hollywood. In a conference discussing its third quarter numbers Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company would continue working on the infrastructure for the planned service, Reuters reports. However, due to problems obtaining license agreements with Hollywood studios, the test phase of the service has not been postponed. Hastings said the company would hit the play button on its plans “when the content climate beings to thaw.” The studios' reluctance to let Netflix squirt their movies down the wire is no great surprise. Because of its paranoia about unregulated distribution of its content Hollywood is currently about as keen on the internet as it is on thoughtful, foreign language dramas featuring real, unaugmented people. Perhaps Netflix would have more success if it courted Bollywood instead of Hollywood. For the third quarter, Netflix reported revenues of $174.3m, 23 per cent up on the previous year. Net income was $6.9m, well down on the previous year's $18.9m.®
Team Register, 20 Oct 2005
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New software lobby group to target EU politicians

Some of Europe's biggest software companies have joined forces to form the European Software Association, a new industry body set up specifically to lobby the European Commission and Parliament on behalf of the software industry. Other similar lobby groups already exist, but according to the newly formed ESA (not to be confused with the European Space Agency), they work on a global stage, while this group will keep its focus strictly European. The group says issues it will concern itself with include open source software, privacy, and funding for research and development. It would be astonishing if it didn't concern itself with the question of software patents in Europe as well. Although the European Parliament recently rejected the proposed directive on computer implemented inventions, anti-patent campaigners say it is unlikely that is the end of the story. Companies qualify for membership of the ESA if they are European, or if they have major European subsidiaries, so it should come as no surprise to learn that Microsoft is already on board. Indeed, it is the only US company in the group, and one of just three non-European firms. "Microsoft believes that software development is a traditionally under-represented sector of the industry and ESA is a constructive and inclusive means of engaging with policy-makers on relevant issues," it said in a statement. Microsoft is certainly now in a better position to lobby the European authorities than it has been. Just last week it signed a settlement with Real Software to settle the firm's anti-trust actions. Under the terms of the deal, Microsoft is to pay Real $761m, and in return Real will pull out of antitrust actions in Europe and Korea. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2005

CA lights up storage with iLumin capture

AnalysisAnalysis This week Computer Associates strengthened its already robust storage management offerings with the acquisition of iLumin, a privately held supplier of enterprise message management and archiving tools. The move will add extra functionality to CA's existing line of storage management offerings, particularly in the rapidly developing area of 'information lifecycle management'. iLumin is a vendor headquartered in Reston, Virginia, that has become one of the fastest growing suppliers of email management, compliance and discovery solutions. Indeed, in the active-archiving sector of the email space iLumin is one of the leading suppliers with new license revenues accounting for almost 20 percent of the market. However, most of this revenue was generated in the United States where the company has eight offices. Outside of North America, prior to the acquisition, iLumin had just a single representative in EMEA—based in London. The acquisition by CA should make iLumin's offerings available to a far wider customer base, especially in Europe. This will be of interest to many organizations given that iLumin supplies archiving solutions for email platforms such as Notes, GroupWise and Oracle Collaboration Suite in addition to the more commonly supported Microsoft Exchange. iLumin also provides archiving for a number of instant messaging platforms—an area now under rigorous inspection. iLumin's product line-up consists of Assentor Enterprise, Assentor Archive, Assentor Mailbox Manager, Assentor Discovery, Assentor Compliance and the Assentor File System Manager. Assentor Enterprise is an email and file system archiving and records management solution designed for corporate repositories. The software includes archiving, records management, storage management, electronic discovery, plus compliance and supervision capabilities. In addition to the enterprise suite, each of the individual components can be purchased separately to provide individual functionality such as work process support of litigation search (Assentor Discovery), intelligent content inspection (Assentor Compliance) as well as the core archiving capabilities. CA hopes to retain all of the staff employed by iLumin as it recognises the value that both the development and sales teams can bring to CA's operations. Indeed, it is reported that Steve Schneider, Chairman and CEO of iLumin, will transfer into CA to become a Senior Vice President at BrightStor. This is a shrewd purchase. The iLumin products neatly complement the existing CA portfolio of storage management solutions and add considerable depth to the protection architecture that CA is developing. Altogether, iLumin coupled with the CA storage infrastructure management and security tools will prove attractive to organisations struggling to meet the growing pressures for good governance and compliance. It will be fascinating to watch how CA develops its comprehensive solution set. The amalgam of CA's existing core solutions, iLumin and the recently acquired Niku Clarity tools could provide organisations with comprehensive mail, messaging, file, database, and application knowledge and management capabilities. I confidently expect CA to integrate these systems with rapidity. CA is clearly on the move and is, just as importantly, working hard to bring these solutions to market around the world. Copyright © 2005, IT-Analysis.com
Tony Lock, 20 Oct 2005

Microsoft becomes Wembley Stadium sponsor

Microsoft has announced a deal to becomes Wembley Stadium’s first founding partner. The deal - reportedly worth £5m over five years - comes with an agreement by Wembley National Stadium Ltd to take on the software giant as a technology partner. Hardware vendors such as HP and Sun have been heavily involved in sponsoring motor racing and other sports. IT vendors regularly become shirt vendors of UK premiership teams. By contrast Microsoft has seldom got involved in sport up till now apart from a sponsorship of the British Olympic Association. "The deal is fairly unusual," a Microsoft spokesman told El Reg. "But as well as serving as a premier sports stadium Wembley will also act as a music venue and serve as a national icon. It will be a real landmark." "This is not a branding deal - although there will be some signage on the turnstyles. What Microsoft gets out of the agreement is the right to hold one event at the stadium per year and a box for corporate hospitality." Microsoft also gets the right to associate its name with Wembley. Since the stadium closed for redevelopment in 2000 a string of financial and political problems have delayed its redevelopment. Any unwelcome associations between this and Redmond's frequent difficulties in getting its software delivered on time were obviously not enough to queer the deal. The new Wembley, which will seat 90,000, and is promised to boast state-of-the-art facilities, is due to open next year. It will employ 5,000 and is at the heart of a major regeneration program for the London Borough of Brent called Vision 2020. The stadium will host a range of sporting, musical and live events, including The FA Cup Final, The Football League Cup Final, The Rugby League Challenge Cup Final, major music concerts. It will also be the home of the England football team. Wembley Stadium currently has two Official Suppliers to the stadium: npower, the official energy supplier; and Betfred, Wembley Stadium’s official bookmaker. Under the deal with npower, Wembley will become the first major UK stadium to be supplied by 'green' (renewable) energy. ®
John Leyden, 20 Oct 2005

Starry future for broadband movies

Every home in the UK will download at least one movie using their broadband connection by 2010 giving filmmakers a potentially lucrative new source of revenue, according to research from Screen Digest. Analysts predict that the market for the legitimate downloading of movies is set to be worth more than £60m in the UK over the next five years. Across Europe, downloading movies via a broadband connection is set to generate €250m. "Although there are still issues in terms of bandwidth, download times and general consumer familiarity with the Internet as a means of consuming movies, these issues are becoming less significant," said analyst Arash Amel. "The market will be driven by the emergence of competing service providers, whether telcos, ISPs or DVD rentailers and retailers, as well as the eventual appearance of download-to-own and download-to-burn strategies from content owners." This latest research suports similar claims that TV is to become more "web-like" with viewers downloading programmes they want to watch from the net. Indeed, ITV has become the latest broadcaster to try out broadband TV by testing a service in Brighton and Hastings. ITN is already flogging its news bulletins via an independent broadband TV portal, while the BBC has already shown programmes online. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Oct 2005

US Navy sued over dolphin-stranding sonar

The US Navy is facing legal action from environmentalists over its use of sonar in routine training, according to reports. The Natural Defense Resources Council (NRDC) argues in a federal lawsuit that the sonar can cause injury and death to many marine mammals, and that the Navy is violating environmental law with its sonar use. The NRDC says that mid-frequency sonar is behind mass strandings of whales and dolphins, and can cause internal bleeding in these mammals, Reuters reports. It also accuses the Navy of failing to take proper precautions to prevent injuring these animals. The Navy, while not commenting specifically on the lawsuit, says its sonar use is critical to national defence, and is a vital part of its training programme. It added that it employs "scientifically-based protective measures" as part of a "comprehensive strategy for assessing the potential effects of its use of mid-range active sonar on marine mammals". But the coalition of environmental groups would like the Navy to be more judicious in its use of the technology. In the suit, it asks the court to force the Navy to avoid migration routes, and to gradually increase the volume of sonar, which it says would give animals in the area time to swim away. "Military sonar needlessly threatens whole populations of whales and other marine animals," NRDC lawyer Joel Reynolds told Reuters. "In violation of our environmental laws, the Navy refuses to take basic precautions that could spare these majestic creatures. Now we're asking the courts to enforce those laws." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2005
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Webroot guesstimates inflate UK spyware problem

The UK had the third highest rate of spyware infections last quarter, according to research by anti-spyware firm Webroot Software which lumps tracking cookies in with far more malicious risks such as Trojans and keylogging programs. The UK has 18 "spies" on an average PC if you include cookies but only 4.5 if you exclude these lesser threats, a figure which puts the UK outside the top 10 of spyware infested nations. The US - either with or without cookies - tops Webroot's spyware poll. Spyware falls into several categories. At its most basic, spyware consists of programs that track online and offline activities, which are shared with third parties without a user’s consent. Spyware can include system monitoring tools that record everything from visited sites to chat sessions, while also including keylogger programs which capture keystroke information such as usernames and passwords used for online banking, for example. A bigger category (by number) are invasive programs that feed advertising to unsuspecting users - spyware’s more benign cousin - adware. Webroot's study discovered that almost 55 per cent of consumer machines are infected with adware; 21 per cent Trojans and five per cent with system monitors. Adware, such as pop up adverts, significantly slows a PC’s overall performance. How much of a performance hit adware infested machines take is hard to say, but Webroot reckons the figure could be anywhere between 10 to 90 per cent. Stat attack The anti-spyware firm guesstimates that spyware is costing the UK as much as £445m in lost time, productivity and in computer repairs. How does it come by this incredible figure? Richard Stiennon, VP of threat research at Webroot, said the figure partly comes from an estimated £100m impact on productivity due to spyware plus an estimated £345m based on the idea that spyware infested PCs take four hours to clean. The impact on productivity figure comes from multiplying the number of PCs in the UK (30m), by the amount of time people spend online during the average day (two hours) by a 20 per cent degradation in productivity on infested machines by an average UK wage of £12 per hour. Stiennon said he used conservative figures in making his calculations before conceding they were "not statistically rigorous". He said he calculated the figures (on the back of an envelope, we'd suspect) in response to a question by an unnamed journalist. Estimates on the damage caused by computer viruses are a notoriously inexact science. The same seems to apply to looking at the adware and spyware market, but Webroot, though honest enough to backtrack when challenged, continually feels the need to trot out guesstimates on the spyware market or (in this case) the UK impact of spyware problem. ®
John Leyden, 20 Oct 2005

O2 pushes ahead with super-fast mobile service

O2 is on the verge of flicking the switch on its latest super-fast mobile service. The Isle of Man will see the first commercial launch of an HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) network service in Europe when it goes live on November 1, say those behind the scheme. Once up and running, customers will be able to use their mobile phones to watch DVD-quality streaming video and download whopping great big files including music tracks. Oh, and they'll be able to make phone call too. Said Chris Hall, MD of O2 subsidiary Manx Telecom: "[Our] vision is to provide services that enrich people's lives - wherever they are and whenever they want them. "Our advanced network on the Isle of Man serves as a showcase of the tremendous opportunity offered by the latest technology to our customers." ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Oct 2005
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US regulators mandate extra eBanking security

US federal regulators want banks to adopt two-factor authentication as a means to combat the growing problem of online account fraud. Bank Web sites are expected to introduce systems that move beyond basic password access to accounts by the end of 2006, according to guidance issued by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), AP reports. "The (FFIEC) agencies consider single-factor authentication, as the only control mechanism, to be inadequate for high-risk transactions involving access to customer information or the movement of funds to other parties. Account fraud and identity theft are frequently the result of single-factor (eg ID/password) authentication exploitation," FFIEC said in a report (PDF) on Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment. "Where risk assessments indicate that the use of single-factor authentication is inadequate, financial institutions should implement multifactor authentication, layered security, or other controls reasonably calculated to mitigate those risks," it added. Two-factor authentication involves the use of password-generating device along with the funny list of codes you have on a Post-It note. That means a thief must know more than just a password to gain access to a user's account. Banks in the Netherlands and Scandinavia have been using the technology for years and it's generally credited with helping to make account fraud more difficult. However, security experts have pointed to man in the middle-style attacks that undermine the extra security layer offered by two-factor authentication; so although the technology helps guard against fraud, it would be rash to view it as a "silver bullet" solution. ®
John Leyden, 20 Oct 2005

Intel's Paxville: too slow, too hot, too dumb

When we nicknamed Intel's new dual-core Xeon processor "Hot Carl," we didn't know how prophetic this would be. A fresh set of benchmarks comparing the Xeon with AMD's dual-core Opteron chip show Intel's product to be a power hungry demon that doesn't perform.
Ashlee Vance, 20 Oct 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

OpenOffice challenges Microsoft on XML standards

The open source community has taken a further step towards unseating Microsoft's Office productivity hegemony, with the release of its latest suite. OpenOffice 2.0 has been released featuring a new interface and a standards-based XML architecture intended to tempt even more governments, companies and individuals to convert from Office. OpenOffice 2.0 uses OpenDocument Format, from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), as its default file format to improve the exchange of text, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents between suites. OpenDocument Format is used in Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 8.0 and the KOffice suite and is supported by the European Union and the US Commonwealth of Massachusetts. So far, Microsoft does not plan to support OpenDocument Format in the up-coming Office 12 suite, expected next year. Two big changes to OpenOffice 2.0 include the simplified creation and management of both web forms and cross-platform database applications. OpenOffice 2.0 uses XForms, from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to create web forms, instead of using the traditional approach of HTML. Web forms are easier to create using XForms because they separate the design of a web form from its logic. The suite also introduces the BASE database module, which allows users to create and modify tables, forms queries and reports, and to store information in XML. BASE uses wizards, design views and SQL Views for users with different levels of skills. Database tools are also now easier to access, through the "file - new" menu. Other improvements have been made at the interface level and are geared towards weaning end-users off of Microsoft's Office. These include a multi-pane view of different tools, custom shapes that are similar to Microsoft's AutoShapes, a mail merge wizard, enhanced word count and calculator. OpenOffice said on its web site that: "OpenOffice 2.0 provides a number of productivity enhancements and is designed to assist in the transition from proprietary office suites, while letting new and existing users take advantage from a brand new, appealing, functional and easy-to-use interface." Microsoft is unlikely to lose too much sleep over OpenOffice 2.0 at this stage. OpenOffice has taken five years to offer the kind of features and functionality that Microsoft and users of Office have taken for granted for sometime. Furthermore, Microsoft not only has an immense presence on the world's PCs, but it is preparing to consolidate that hold with planned architectural changes that should help maintain sufficient blue water between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice on a feature/functionality basis. Office is being integrated with Microsoft's servers to provide more of a front end to data on back-end servers. Microsoft could also potentially squash OpenOffice's "unique selling point" of standards-based XML support, should it decide to endorse the OpenDocument Format instead of its own, dubious Office 12 XML file formats. To continue its early momentum, OpenOffice must rely on a combination of Microsoft inertia in standards combined with sustained support for these standards, like OpenDocument, by large government organizations. This could help OpenOffice really take a bite out of Microsoft's business over time. There is also another factor critical to OpenOffice 2.0 going forward - price. OpenOffice is free for download while suites that implement OpenOffice, like Sun's StarOffice, drastically undercut Microsoft. Microsoft, meanwhile, has promised to squeeze customers further with planned "premium" editions of Office in the pipeline. Expect Microsoft to continue to lead on functionality with the real battle for market share between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice being fought on price and standards.®
Gavin Clarke, 20 Oct 2005
cloud

Zend scripts industry PHP push

Zend Technologies is rallying vendors and the open source community to promote industry wide consistency in PHP and promote greater developer uptake.
Gavin Clarke, 20 Oct 2005

Phone buy puts Adobe head-to-head with Microsoft

Macromedia is to acquire Mobile Innovation, a privately-held design and integration house in the UK with around 50 staff, for an undisclosed sum. What makes this deal noteworthy is that Mobile Innovation designs phones as well as user interfaces. It's an integrator, and Tier One handset manufacturers devolve a lot of design decisions to MI. It's similar to Apple's relationship with Tony Fadell's design shop - which created the iPod - only on a larger scale. MI declines to mention which companies it works with because of confidentiality agreements with phone OEMs, and an opaque web site gives little clues as to what it really does. But it's well known amongst industry insiders that Mobile Innovation was responsible for the Nokia 9300 Communicator design and other high-end Symbian smartphones, Nokia's Series 90 user interface, and Hildon, the GUI for Nokia's Linux tablet. Both of the founders, CEO Jonathan Sulenski and CTO Matt Millar came from Symbian with Millar's roots reaching back to Psion and the Series 5 PDA. So what on earth is Adobe, which last week received DoJ clearance to acquire Macromedia, going to do with a smartphone design shop? The answer is Flash, Millar told us today. Macromedia thinks Flash is going to be very, very big on non-PC devices and Millar agrees. It's a plausible pitch, too, and it goes something like this. Here we are in 2005 and that mythical beastie called "Mobile Data" has yet to become an accepted part of our daily lives. Beyond the billion dollar niches of text messaging and ringtones, most of us generally don't use data on the go. And even though the WAP fiasco is a distant memory, phones are now incredibly capable computers, and 3G networks and Wi-Fi hotspots are commonplace, data usage is minimal. How so? Partly it's because mobile has to compete with the real world, and the real world usually beats it every time. Newspapers are more convenient to read, while directions and advice are easier to find by asking a local human. But it's also, as Millar says, because publishers don't have the tools to make delivering that content very easy. Flash makes it a no brainer, he argues. A good app requires only a few lines of code, which means that publishers don't have to deploy armies of Web 2.0 consultants, and the content goes everywhere. "Flash runs on RTOS phones, on Microsoft phones, on Symbian and on BREW. Flash Lite 1.1 is in the Samsung D-600 and all of Sony Ericsson's latest phones," he says. "Now when you think about set top boxes, then the publisher can use the same services for creating content on a PC, a mobile phone, or TV. Our skills include what makes a great UI on a small device with only a few buttons, but a great display: and that's the same challenge you have designing for a set top box." So MI will "create a mobile consulting practice for Macromedia and will form part of the Macromedia Consulting team in EMEA." And it suggests that one of these epic battles that litter the computer industry is about to commence, with Adobe deadly serious about putting its platform software on every device that can possibly run it. So perhaps Chairman Bill had the right idea when he got paranoid over Java in the mid-1990s. He simply identified the wrong platform and the wrong opponent. ® Bootnote: Millar has a nice take on how product design takes place. "It takes one designer to cause enough problems for nine engineers to solve," he says.
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Oct 2005