Two Dutch telcos - KPN and Scarlet - have introduced mobile phones specially made for young children. On Wednesday, national carrier KPN will unveil a kid phone - iKids - with a built in GPS receiver, which remains working even when the phone isn't activated. Parents can select three 'safety zones', areas where their children are allowed to play. If they wonder off to another area, parents receive an SMS message. They can also look up the child's whereabouts on a virtual map. If one pre-defined number isn't answered, the phone will try the next one. Scarlet, which launched its Buddy Bear on October 15, targets 4 to 9 year olds. Kids can receive calls from all over the world, but they can only phone and SMS to four pre-defined numbers. The € 129 handset can also be used as a baby phone. Parents receive a warning SMS when the battery gets low. The idea of a phone for kids is not entirely new. In the US, a company called Fireflymobile already sells a four button mobile phone, shaped to fit a kid's hand and capable of making pre-defined calls. A survey in Germany shows that 6 per cent of 6 to 9 year-olds about already own a mobile phone. Not everyone seems to like the idea of children babbling away for hours to grandpa or grandma. Earlier this year, scientists in the US warned that parents should think twice before giving in to a kid's demands for a cell phone, because of the potential long-term health risks. In the UK, the National Radiological Protection Board advised that parents should not give mobile phones to children age 8 or younger. As a result of these warnings, Dutch electronics retail chain BCC last year pulled the Foony phone from its shelves.®
AMD wants its channel partners to feel the love - the love that is Opteron. The chipmaker has created the new AMD Commercial Channel Access Program to pump partners full of technical knowhow, test units and of course financial incentives in the hopes of increasing Opteron and other AMD64 chip sales. AMD's recent rise into the enterprise has forced it to grow up and resemble rival Intel a bit more. How so? Well, AMD wants the fabled - don't say it - "ecosystem" - ew, you did it- of component makers, systems vendors and ISVs surrounding its 64-bit chips. The idea here is that data center interest in Opteron can turn into corporate interest in AMD-based desktops and notebooks, which can then turn into interest for goods from partners. "This isn't about just doling out dollars," said Ben Williams, a VP at AMD. "It's about getting together with our partners and creating value." Specifically, AMD's Commercial Channel Access Program will begin with a portal. Not that sexy. We know. But this portal will have it all if you're into "distributed channel communications" such as newsletters and alerts or if you fancy white papers, success story templates and information on joint customer solution pilots. If those buzzwords aren't your thing, then AMD will deliver up regular old access to engineers via the portal and provide customers with technology roadmaps. "A core supporting component of the program is the Web portal that is designed to allow access to tools, information, training and practical help in multiple languages around the clock," AMD said. "This is intended to help participants bring AMD64 processor technology to market quickly and provide a high level of service to their customers. Access to demo units for evaluation and sales opportunities will be also available via this route." In total, AMD wants to have more partners focus in on its chip and build more sophisticated data center systems. It will help guide customers through building Oracle clusters or inform them on how it plans to implement virtualization technology in chips, for example. In addition, AMD will help with test systems, performance tuning, marketing and pilot programs. You know, the good stuff. More information on the partner program for all you OEMs, VARs, DMRs and systems integrators out there can be found here. ®
Intel is to spend $650m upgrading its Rio Rancho, New Mexico 300mm-wafer plant the chip giant has announced. The expansion of Fab 11X will create more than 300 new jobs at the facility, the company added. The cash will be used to increase the fab's capacity, allowing Intel to punch out even more 90nm and, soon, 65nm processors than before. It's all about increasing chip volumes which, in turn, allows Intel to reduce prices. Intel said the work will see the construction of new clean rooms taking place next year with a view to beginning production early in 2007. That may not impress some local residents who have in the past criticised the plant's environmental record. Intel maintains it does what it can to minimise the environmental impact of the plant, but chip-making is inherently a dirty business, and the facility has been known to pump out more toxic materials than it should. In a bid to calm environmental fears, Tim Hendry, Intel Technology and Manufacturing VP and Fab 11X factory manager, said: "Manufacturing with 300mm wafers uses 40 per cent less energy and water per chip." That said, if you produce more wafers, you'll use more water and energy, so the benefits may prove fleeting. In July, Intel said it will build a new 300mm-wafer fab in Arizona at a cost of $3bn. It is also planning to spend $345m expanding two US 200mm-wafer fabs. ®
Apple has finally launched the Australian version of its iTunes Music Store after almost a year of speculation that the debut was imminent, and the appearance of the Aussie flag in the recently released iTunes 6.0.1 jukebox. By UK standards, the songs are cheap: AUD1.69 per track, equivalent to 72p a song. Videos are priced at AUD3.39 (£1.44), while "most" albums sell for AUD16.99 (£7.22). Prices include Australia's Goods and Sevices Tax (GST). Apple is offering iTunes Music Cards for cash purchases on the iTunes Music Store. The Cards are available in AUD20, AUD50 and AUD100 denominations and are available through Myer, Megamart, BI-Lo, Coles, Pick'n'Pay Hypermarket, Kmart, Target, Coles Express, Officeworks and Harris Technology. Tracks can also be purchased by credit card, as usual. Over a million songs are available for download, many from Aussie bands such as Eskimo Joe, Thirsty Merc, Spiderbait, Killing Heidi and Powderfinger. Extensive catalogs are available from Australian greats INXS, Hunters & Collectors, Paul Kelly - this reporter's Aussie missus' fave - and Slim Dusty - her dad's fave. ®
Ericsson is paying £1.2bn for the name and most of the assets of Marconi. Marconi shareholders will receive 275p per share and keep ownership of Telent plc. Ericsson's chairman has reportedly said job cuts of up to 20 per cent will be unavoidable. Ericsson gets Marconi trade marks, its optical networks business, the majority of its Access Networks business, its data networks and services business in North America and services business in the Middle East. The remnants of the firm will be renamed Telent and focus on services for telcos and enterprises - it will be Ericsson's preferred partner in the UK. It will stay on the London Stock Exchange and will keep the UK telecoms business, UK and German services business and System X narrowband digital switches and the payphones business. Marconi has been looking for a suitor since BT decided not to list it as a supplier for its next generation network. John Devaney, Marconi chairman, said: "Over a period of several years we have had conversations with a number of potential partners regarding the necessary consolidation in our industry...The transaction delivers value to shareholders...also enables us to take steps towards resolving our UK pension plan issue." Telent will be responsible for pension payments and will keep almost £500m in an escrow account to cover liabilities. Marconi will keep net cash of some £275m. Marconi said it was focussed on protecting the 69,000 UK pension holders - it is contributing £185m. For the year ended 31 March 2005 Telent would have made sales of £336m and an adjusted operating profit of £37m. But as a result of the deal Telent will be left with more costs and it currently benefits from sales of legacy kit which is likely to decline over time. The deal needs the usual regulatory approval and will be put before shareholders at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 21 December. Ericsson shares rose on the news. Gugliemo Marconi filed the first patent for communication using Hertzian waves in 1896. The Marconi Wireless Telegraph company was founded in 1900 - in 1901 it acheived the first transatlantic transmission. More details and webcast available here.®
PortalPlayer, the audio chip maker whose products power the majority of Apple's iPods, saw Q3 income jump 221.9 per cent year on year. For the three months to 30 September 2005, PP recorded sales totalling $57.9m, up 29.8 per cent sequentially and 126.2 per cent on the year-ago quarter. Net income came to $10.3m (40 cents a share), up 63.5 per cent sequentially. It's not hard to see why: Apple introduced the iPod Nano during the period, and if its big Flash memory deal with Samsung is anything to go by, it will have similarly ordered rather a lot of PP's audio SoCs too. PP's chips are found in the new video-capable hard disk-based iPod too. However, the Nano is the first Flash-based MP3 player the company's chips have been used in. Apple's iPod Shuffle is based on a SigmaTel audio processor. Looking ahead, PP said it expects Q4 revenue to be in the range of $65-75m - up 12.3-29.5 per cent - with net income falling in the $9.7-12.3 million range. ®
Merseyside police have ordered the local community to "stop grieving" after Liverpudlians flocked to deposit flowers, cards and teddy bears in tribute to a dead chicken found in an alleyway. According to the BBC, one card read: "RIP Little Baby. Safe in the arms of Jesus. From someone who is a loving mother xxxx." A spokeswoman for Merseyside police explained to the BBC: "It seems a member of the public saw the remains of a foetus, which possibly resembled a human foetus, and called us. We cordoned off the area to investigate, as we would with any possible suspicious death, but it became apparent it was not a human foetus. The flowers and cards are obviously the result of local gossip, but we can assure people that the remains were not human." Accordingly the Old Bill on Monday issued a "stop grieving, it's only a chicken" edict. The BBC rather unfairly concludes by noting that Spectator editor Boris Johnson last year attracted a hailstorm of flack for condemning Liverpudlians as "hooked on grief". ® And the IT angle? We at El Reg are right now laying wreaths to commemorate the golden days of this publication when 100 per cent of the content had at least a passing reference to a motherboard. Readers are invited to forward their email tributes to the news editor who is currently struggling to decide whether to lead with an exclusive on blade servers or an exposé revealing that Paris Hilton's pet parrot is infected with H5N1.
Intel has begun offering ATI-based motherboards as anticipated. The launch is intended to protect the chip giant's mobo business while it shifts chipset production away from low end. The D101GGC board is based on ATI's Radeon Xpress 200 chipset family. Specifically, it uses ATI's RC410 integrated North Bridge and ATI's IXP450 South Bridge part. The board supports LGA775 Celeron D and Pentium 4 processors running across frontside buses clocked to 533MHz or 800MHz. The board sports a pair of DIMM slots to hold up to 2GB of 333MHz or 400MHz DDR SDRAM. There's a 16x PCI Express slot for an alternative graphics engine to the one built into the chipset, plus a PCI Express x1 slot and a regular PCI slot for other cards. The D101GGC provides eight USB 2.0 ports, four Serial ATA connectors, a parallel ATA-100 interface, 10/100Mbps Ethernet and legacy ports. The Ethernet port is controlled by a discrete Realtek 8101L LAN chip, while the board's audio is managed by a Realtek ALC861 codec chip. So far, the D101GGC is the only Intel desktop mobo based on a chipset not made by Intel itself. The chip giant has been said to have bought chipsets from SiS, so other similarly non-Intel Intel boards may appear shortly. The board's arrival follows a shortage of entry-level Intel chipsets. Intel itself maintains it has simply and temporarily refocused its manufacturing on high-end, high-margin chipsets, but some industry figures have suggested the move actually heralds a full withdrawal from the low-end chipset arena. ®
A British-based professor of sociology has testified in a US federal court that intelligent design (ID) is a scientific concept, not a religious one. Professor Steve Fuller, from Warwick University, said that the intelligent design philosophy, which holds that life on Earth is just too complex to have arisen without the aid of some kind of designer, should be taught in American schools. Professor Fuller was called as a witness by the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania to help defend its decision to allow intelligent design to be taught in science classes, The Guardian reports. Subsequently, a group of parents began legal proceedings against the school board, demanding that ID be removed from the science curriculum. They argue that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state, and is merely creationism in disguise. However, Professor Fuller holds that because scientists have inferred the existence of a designer from observations of biological phenomena, it should count as scientific. "It seems to me in many respects the cards are stacked against radical, innovative views getting a fair hearing in science these days," he said. But the idea that an intelligent designer might be responsible for complex forms of life is hardly new or even radical. It was first put forward in 1802 by William Paley in his book Natural Theology. In the opening passage of his book, Paley suggests that just as we can observe a watch and make an inference that it is a made thing, we could look at natural objects like stones and draw the same conclusion. Fuller, author of An Intelligent Person's Guide to Intelligent Design Theory went on to suggest that if the principles of ID were to be taught in schools, students might be inspired to develop the theory further. ®
Those readers who have ever wondered, like you do, how many miles to the cow you'd get from a bovine biogas-powered train need look no further than the Swedish cities of Linkoping and Vastervik for the answer: 2.5. That we are able to reveal this astounding fact is thanks to the aforementioned centres of population which are linked by a methane-driven rail service which gets its fuel from a local biogas factory dedicated to turning cows into combustibles. And, although the boss of Svensk Biogas, Carl Lilliehook, admits to BBC that the cost of running the train is 20 per cent higher than with conventional diesel, the inexorable rise in oil prices will ultimately vindicate the initiative. The production process is pretty simple: kill cow, extract organs and guts, stew for a month and then draw off methane. The gas can be used to power the rail network or, in the case of Linkoping, the city's 65-strong bus fleet. The miles-per-cow of your average bus is not noted. The Beeb's report also showcases the biopowered model of the Saab 95 - designed to run on an 85 per cent bioethanol mix derived from Brazilian sugar beet. Naturally, while the Swedes have the infrastucture to deliver this "carbon-neutral" fuel, Saab says it can't sell the car in the UK because we're just not up to speed. Britain will miss its end-of-year target to up the percentage of biofuels burned to two per cent of total consumption, hitting an estimated 0.3 per cent. Sweden will acheive three per cent. ®
Asus has pre-announced Nvidia's upcoming second mobile GeForce 7 series graphics chip, revealing the part's existence in its latest notebook launch. The OEM's A6Vm laptop will sport the GeForce Go 7300 GPU, according to Asus' website. The graphics chip, as yet unannounced by Nvidia, incorporates TurboCache, allowing the 128MB of dedicated graphics memory to be beefed up with 128MB of system RAM. According to Asus, the 7300 ensures the A6Vm's "3D performance is increased by 41 per cent [over] the previous graphic solutions". The A6Vm itself is a Centrino-branded machine with a Pentium M 700 series CPU and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi support. The notebook will be offered with up to 2GB of 533MHz DDR 2 SDRAM. It also sports a built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and Bluetooth 2.0. Asus will offer a choice of either a 15in or 15.4in display. An AMD Turion 64-based alternative, the A6Km, is also in the pipeline. Nvidia launched its first mobile GeForce 7 series GPU, the 7800GTX, late last month. ®
Borland is famous for confusing its loyal fans; well, it sometimes confuses us. So, we asked David Intersimone and Jason Vokes to guide us through its roadmap, with particular reference to Delphi.
A Hong Kong man has been found guilty of copyright infringement for his use of BitTorrent. Chan Nai-ming was found guilty of infringing copyright after he made three films available. Hong Kong police claim he is the first person charged with copyright offences as a result of using BitTorrent. BitTorrent enables large files to be distributed by breaking them up into smaller files and using peer-to-peer delivery. It holds no central database of files. The 38-year old man put Daredevil, Red Planet and Miss Congeniality onto the network, according to the BBC. Nai-ming was freed on bail of HK$5,000 (£362) and must return to court for sentencing 7 November. The maximum sentence under Hong Kong law is four years in prison and a fine. Hong Kong Customs was quoted by AFX and BBC saying that illegal file-sharing had fallen 80 per cent since the arrest which suggests a chronic lack of illegal material in the administrative region.®
Microsoft plans to adopt a stronger cryptography protocol in the next version of its web browser software, Internet Explorer 7. IE7 will replace the SSLv2 (Secure Socket Layer) protocol with the sturdier TLSv1 (Transport Layer Security) protocol in default HTTPS protocol settings as a means to provide improved security for ecommerce transactions, according to a posting in Redmond's official IE development blog. Users of IE6 can manually configure these stronger settings but the changes will mean that more users will be directed towards using the stronger SSLv3 or TLSv1 protocols rather than SSLv2. The change should be seamless for end users but adoption of the stronger encryption protocol by a wider percentage of surfers could create some work for sys admins. Microsoft reckons that only a "handful of sites" left on the internet require SSLv2. "Adding support for SSLv3 or TLSv1 to a website is generally a simple configuration change," said Eric Lawrence, an IE program manager. As part of Microsoft's "secure by default" design philosophy, IE7 will block encrypted web sessions to sites with problematic (untrusted, revoked or expired) digital certificates. Users will receive a warning when they visit potentially insecure sites, which users can choose to ignore, except where certificates are revoked. "If the user clicks through a certificate error page, the address bar will flood-fill with red to serve as a persistent notification of the problem," Lawrence explained. The Beta 2 version of IE7 also changes the way non secure content is rendered in a secure web page. IE7 renders only the secure content by default but it offers surfers the chance to unblock the nonsecure content on a secure page using the Information Bar. In the same posting, Microsoft also revealed that the new Windows Vista platform will offer several crypto improvements beyond what's offered by IE7. These include support for AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), a strong algorithm recently adopted as a US government standard for electronic security, which offers support for up to 256 bits encryption. Windows Vista will also enables certificate revocation checking by default. ®
Abba's Waterloo has been voted the Eurovision Song Contest's best ever tune during a 50th anniversary event in Copenhagen, Denmark. Organisers decided to allow viewers in 31 countries to vote on a shortlist of just 14, a wise move since it avoided the embarrasing spectacles of the Greek jury awarding douze points to a Cypriot goatherd playing a lament for his partitioned isle on the nose flute and former world pop superpower Great Britain coming away with nul points as a result of its improvident involvement in Iraq.* Second spot was occupied by Domenico Modugno of Italy with Volare with Irish crooner Johnny Logan and Hold me now in third. The UK's former domination of Europop secured it fifth spot with the peerless Save your kisses for me, forever etched in the memory of anyone old enough to remember 1976's epic musical battle which saw the Brotherhood of Man soundly thrash Yugoslavia's Ne Mogu Skriti Svoju Bol and Finland's Pump-Pump into melodic submission. Sadly, the 1975 Dutch sensation Ding Ding-A-Dong did not make the final cut, so here's a verse in celebration of all that is great and good in Eurovision: When you feelin' alright, everything is up-tight Try to sing a song that goes ding ding-a-dong There will be no sorrow when you sing tomorrow And you walk along with your ding-dang-dong Outstanding. Here are the top five Eurovision hits of all time: Waterloo - Abba, Sweden, 1974 Nel blu, di pinto di blu (Volare) - Domenico Modugno, Italy, 1958 Hold me now - Johnny Logan, Ireland, 1987 My Number One - Helena Paparizou, Greece, 2005 Save your kisses for me - Brotherhood of Man, UK, 1976 Bootnote *Oh, alright then, the reason Jemini got nul points in 2003 was because they were crap. And the song was crap.
SpyMedia hasn't even launched yet and already Register readers are telling us about it. Unfortunately they aren't telling us how great it is but because the company sent a welcome email to all subscribers and left all their addresses clearly visible in the To: field. Customers were not impressed. One said: "This is such a fundamental breach of simple protocol and internet security that I am closing my Spy Media account forthwith and will be passing details of this to the UK Information Commissioner..." The email, which was a welcome letter from company president Bryan Quinn, included about 1,500 addresses. A company spin doctor sent us an email statement: "Due to a technical error, a welcome message to Spy Media members was inadvertently sent with email addresses visible to all recipients. Upon receiving the message, members notified Spy Media of the error and requested immediate action. The problem has since been corrected and the company expects no further problems. Spy Media has apologized to its members and assured them that their personal registration information remains secure and has not been used in an inappropriate manner." That's alright then. SpyMedia is one of several start-ups aiming to exploit sales of news-related amateur photographs. Users are encouraged to register, upload pictures and wait for big media companies to start buying their work. Glasgow-based Scoopt.com and celljournalist.com offer similar services. More from the world of blogs here and here.
VeriSign has dropped all its lawsuits against internet overseeing organisation ICANN, agreed to hand over ownership of the root zone, and in return been awarded control of all dotcoms until 2012.
AMD's share of the x86 chip market reached 17.8 per cent during Q3 as the chip vendor grabbed market share from arch-rival Intel and lesser competitor Transmeta. The latter's share will soon barely trouble the scorer - in this case Mercury Research - now that it's down to a tenth of a percentage point from two-tenths of a percentage point in Q2. Intel, by contrast, holds 80.8 per cent of the market, down from 82.2 per cent in the previous quarter. VIA's share remained the same quarter on quarter: 1.4 per cent. In the desktop segment, AMD's processors accounted for 20.4 per cent of chip sales in Q3, the first time it has passed the 20 per cent mark since 2001, according to a DigiTimes report. Intel took 77.5 per cent of the segment, down from 78.4 per cent in the previous quarter. AMD's Q2 share was 19.6 per cent. AMD certainly has momentum. While Intel's PC shipments grew 10.5 per cent quarter on quarter, AMD's were up 20.5 per cent. Likewise, its notebook chip growth rate was 55 per cent to intel's 22.7 per cent. In the server processor arena, AMD and Intel experienced growth rates of 16.5 per cent and 5.2 per cent, respectively, according to Mercury's numbers. Of course, big growth rates aren't the same thing as big market shares, but they do suggest that demand for AMD products is running beyond the industry growth average, which can only erode Intel's lead further. ®
No one managed to claim the top prize in NASA's Beam Power Challenge and Tether Challenge, competitions to develop technologies that could be used in space elevators. The two top prizes of $50,000 went unawarded because none of the ten finalists managed to meet all the qualifying criteria, NASA said. To win the Beam Power Challenge, teams had to construct robotic climbers capable of climbing a 200-foot cable, at a speed of a metre per second, powered only by the light from an industrial search light. The winner would be the team that got the furthest carrying a load, but no robot could sustain the qualifying speed, and none made it to the top of the cable. The best efforts were from Team SnowStar, which was the first past 20 feet, and The University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team, whose robot hauled itself 40 feet up the cable before running out of oomph. Metzada Shelef, founder of the Spaceware Foundation, a supporter of the contest, said that the climbs were the equivalent of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight. The second competition, the tether Challenge, teams had to produce high-strength, low-weight tethers. Part of the competition was a head to head strength test, which was won by the Centaurus Aerospace team. To win the jackpot, though, the tether had to be 50 per cent stronger than a commercially available material. New Scientist reports that Centaurus manage to carry 544kg before snapping, but that NASA's in-house tether was still stronger, registering 590kg before it failed. Both purses will roll over into next year's contest. NASA says the competitions will be more difficult, as the teams will have to create their own power supply for the climbing robots, and the tethers will have to be even stronger. ®
An industry group has released what's billed as the first comprehensive description of security and threats to Voice over IP (VoIP) systems. The framework - dubbed the VoIP Security Threat Taxonomy - was put together by the newly formed Voice over IP Security Alliance (VOIPSA) and is designed to provide the industry with a clearer view of VoIP security risks put into context with a discussion of technical trade-offs. "Until now, the public has been uncertain about the various threats, how risks related to each other and technical trade-offs. This is fundamental to all future work in the field," said Jonathan Zar, secretary and outreach chair for VOIPSA, head of the taxonomy project and senior director for firewall supplier SonicWALL. Major elements of the work include: Core definitions that give specific meaning to privacy and security A framework that effectively connects public policy and technology issues Recognition of the human element in threats as distinct from their technical means Specific sets of issues for consideration by legislative bodies and by law enforcement A detailed structure for technical vulnerabilities across the value chain The security framework is intended to be a framework for further (more detailed) technical work and discussion. VoIPSA is inviting comments on its work. Portions of the VoIP Security Threat Taxonomy are available for discussion by registering here. The discussions will help inform the direction VoIPSA takes on net telephony security. David Endler, chairman of VoIPSA and director of security research for 3Com’s TippingPoint division, said it expects to deliver a list of security requirements for VoIP by the end of the year. VOIPSA has recruited 100 organisations - including major carriers, software firms, equipment vendors, large users and system integrators - since its foundation in February 2005. More about the organisation can be found here. A public VoIP security discussion board (VOIPSEC) run by VOISPA can be found here. ®
Many of you will remember the fanfare and bravado surrounding Sun Microsystems' Sep. 2004 announcement of a $1 per hour per processor utility computing plan. What you won't remember is Sun revealing a single customer using the service. That's because it hasn't. The missing customers prove quite shocking when you consider that utility computing users must agree to be named in marketing programs as part of their contract with Sun - a fact learned by The Register and confirmed by a Sun spokeswoman. More than one year since it first started hyping the "pay-for-use grid computing services" Sun is still weeks away from presenting a customer to the public. The program has proved much tougher to sell that Sun ever imagined. "It has been harder than we anticipated," said Aisling MacRunnels, Sun's senior director of utility computing in an interview. "It has been really hard. All of this has been a massive learning experience for us a company. I am not embarrassed to say this because we have been on the leading edge." The "leading edge" serves as a bit of an understatement in many respects. Sun got way too ahead of itself with the $1 per CPU hour and $1 per gigabyte of storage plans. For example, in September of last year Sun said, "Sun today expanded its vision of 'The Network is the Computer' and took its N1 Grid program to a new level by delivering a first-of-its-kind capability for customers to access grids of secure computing power as easily as buying utility services such as phone, power or water. Using a pay-for-use pricing model starting at $1/CPU, per hour, grid cycles can be purchased in packs of hours through Sun." In fact, however, Sun is still in beta with this CPU program and not set to launch a publicly available utility computing system for weeks. And on the storage front, Sun has been forced to have a major rethink of plans, as it has seen much less interest in the program than expected. "The storage thing is definitely behind where we are with the computing," MacRunnels said. The reason you haven't heard about any Sun utility customers is because most of them have avoided the company's publicity requirement by avoiding the original product. A number of companies in the financial services and oil and gas sectors have purchased large quantities of Opteron CPUs from Sun, MacRunnels said. These customers negotiate their own price for the processors, tend to use the chips all the time instead of popping on and off the grid and refuse to reveal their names to the public. Sun has started to call these "commercial" utility computing customers. The company assures us that some of these commercial customers do pay for these utility computing services. They use huge blocks of processors to crank through models such as Monte Carlo simulations. Sun won't name any of the customers or say how many it has other than to declare "the figure is in the tens" of customers. The same cannot be said for the wide open, free-wheeling computing and storage utility Sun envisioned for a broader base of customers. Despite requirements that these folks talk to the press, not a single one has appeared in a Sun press release. It seems hard to believe that Sun would pass on the opportunity to dangle such a user in front of the press if it existed given that we're 14 months away from the utility computing launch date. Sun just started the beta of this program a few weeks ago, which is shocking given the amount of press the program has received all year. You would have thought this thing was a smashing success. The Register is no more innocent than the rest of the news hounds in promoting Sun's ambitious but vacuous plan. One day, customers will be able to pay for processors and storage simply by entering credit card information into a Sun web site. The company promises us such a day is coming sooner than later and that it will have plenty of customers to name in the near future. Still, given that it took a year to push the program to a beta, one wonders how long an actual living, breathing utility center will take. "We found it easier to write about it and document it than it was to achieve," MacRunnels said. So did we. ®
Flooding caused by tropical storm Alpha has killed at least seven people in Haiti, according to reports. The storm dumped at least 38cm of rain on the Caribbean island of Hispanola before it weakened into a tropical depression. However, this is the 22nd named tropical storm of the season, and means that the US' National Hurricane Centre (NHC) has run out of Tropical Storm names for the first time ever. Every year the NHC allocates 21 names for a season of tropical storms. This has, so far, been enough to see everyone through until the end of the hurricane season, but not this year. The 2005 hurricane season has been the most prolific in 150 years of record keeping. Five weeks shy of the end of the storm season, Tropical Storm Alpha emerged, forcing weather forecasters to abandon their traditional naming conventions and start naming storms after letters of the Greek alphabet. After losing much of its strength over the mountains of Hispanola, the downgraded tropical depression alpha moved north, and is currently heading towards the Bahamas. The NHC says it expects the remnants of the storm to be absorbed into the outer fringes of Hurricane Wilma. Meanwhile, NASA has closed the Kennedy Space Center in preparation for Wilma's arrival. Wilma is still considered a strong category three hurricane, with windspeeds of almost 120mph, and is likely to drop as much as 50 inches of rain on parts of the Yucatan region, New Scientist reports. ®
AnalysisAnalysis Government contributions to last week's debate on the third reading of the ID Cards Bill were largely unenlightening, with Charles Clarke in particular confining himself to reading from his flash cards ('will help to control the Big Brother state', 'ID fraud costs £1.3 billion', 'a third of terrorists use false ID'), but a couple of his minions were helpful (inadvertently, we assume) on the subjects of inevitability and finance. Do we have no choice, because the world is moving to biometric ID? And how is it that despite costing £93 for combined ID and passport and £30 for just ID, the ID card is somehow not costing us anything really? That second one's a toughie, but Home Office Minister Andy Burnham took a stab at it. Alongside this he presented a fascinating 'proof' of how the money to fund the scheme would kind of emerge, but nevertheless wasn't available to fund the extra police the opposition says we should spend it on, because it didn't exist - or something. But life's too short - let's take the inevitability of biometrics. Walthamstow Labour MP Neil Gerrard had moved an amendment which was intended to decouple passports and ID cards, his argument being that the initial 'voluntary' nature of the ID card was illusory, because in order to travel freely you will need a passport, a passport will be a "designated document" under the ID card scheme, and in order to get a designated document you will need to be entered on the National ID Register. Gerrard's amendment therefore sought to allow the passport applicant to choose whether or not they wished to be entered on the NIR, thus removing compulsion. This would have broken the artificial linkage the Government has created between passports and ID cards, and left ID cards to sink or swim on their own. This would have been deeply unhelpful for a Government which desperately wants ID cards, and desperately wants everybody to believe that it's all the fault of the International Civil Aviation Authority. The truth is however simple. Currently, ICAO wishes to establish an international standard for what it terms a biometric passport. The current requirement for this is merely for passports to include a digital image of a photo, this image to be held in a chip in the passport. So it's perfectly possible to comply with ICAO standards without forcing applicants to attend centres to be snapped by cameras with added biometric secret sauce; an ordinary picture, sent through the post if you like, would do. And, as it happens, this appears to be pretty much what the Government proposes for overseas passports. In addition, overseas passport holders will not only not be required to accept an ID card - they won't be allowed one because, not being resident in the UK, they don't qualify. So actually, while the Home Office is telling us that the decoupling of passport and ID card is impractical/impossible, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is building that very system for British passport holders who don't live in the UK. During the debate, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty argued the Government case as follows: "As I understand it... all parties agree on biometric passports. That is on the record. One cannot have biometric passports without the infrastructure we are talking about bringing in by 2008." [Which is, as we have already established, not true] "By infrastructure, I mean contact centres and how we capture biometrics. Everyone should agree as a starting point that that is necessary for the biometric passports on which we all agree. The argument is not about how many centres there should be; 70 may be enough with mobile facilities, but it may not be enough. That is a matter of detail that, of course, needs discussion in terms of the roll-out of biometric passports, which will happen whatever happens to the Bill tonight. That is a position with which every party in the Chamber agrees." Spot the technique? If you argue that enrolment centres are an absolute requirement for biometric passports, then everybody who accepts that biometric passports are inevitable must also accept that the centres are inevitable. Having established this to at least his own satisfaction, McNulty begins to move on towards the inevitability of the National ID Register: "The argument, put quite fairly by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow [Neil Gerrard], is about the link beyond that [passports and centres] to ID cards... unpicking the ID card from the passport would drive a coach and horses, to coin a phrase, through the entire structure of the system that we aim to produce. I freely accept that that may be what my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow is seeking to do, but we must not run away with the notion that we will not have biometrics if this Bill fails. The question of whether 70 contact centres will be sufficient to do the necessary biometric work will not go away, as all parties agree with biometric passports." Note here that McNulty says the amendment would wreck "the system that we aim to produce", which is true, whereas 'the system we have to produce' would not be. Repetition of the contact centre and biometric passport refrain therefore serves as a sort of chorus to reinforce the message of inevitability, and draw the attention away from the join. On, then, with the system we aim to produce: "My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow and I disagree, but my contention is that the two processes involved — in securing the biometric passport from 2008, and in registering people on the database and securing the ID card — are virtually the same. Given the facility and proximity of those two processes, it would not be fair to ask people to submit information in respect of passports and then do the same thing again some way down the line." That's quite neat. The Government frequently argues that, given that we have to make the passport investment, we might as well go the (it claims, short and inexpensive) distance from there to ID cards. But notice that this isn't the argument McNulty uses here. He is actually treating ID cards separately from passports while simultaneously treating the two as virtually the same thing. Biometric passports are something we have to do, while ID cards were an election promise made by McNulty's and Gerrard's party. If it's to fulfil this commitment the Government actually will need people to report to the network of contact centres, and it would indeed be unfair to ask them to report twice. Of course, they only have to report twice if you accept the prior argument that they have to report the first time in order to get the biometric passport. If you don't accept this, then the truth that it's the ID scheme alone that needs the contact centres becomes perfectly clear. McNulty might have been poised to give us more of this excellent stuff, but unhappily, he ran out of time, and the amendment went to a vote. Naturally, the Government won. ®
And ninethlyAnd ninethly Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society - Mark Twain The collision of professional sports and IT tends to embarrass both camps. It happens most often with techie advertisements surrounding sporting events. Or sometimes you'll see a jock with an iPod or BlackBerry in hand. Conversely, you could find uber-dweebs at the Googleplex imitating people with coordination during a twisted game of roller hockey or pin the tail on the donkey. Like I said - embarrassing stuff. This blushing past provides all the more reason for geeks to take note of the NBA's (National Basketball Association) recent actions. And I'll tell you why. The NBA's Commissioner's office has instituted a controversial dress code for athletes. They must wear business casual attire at any NBA or team-related function. No more sweat suits, T-shirts, 'do-rags or bling on the outside of clothing. The millionaire jocks must look like respected members of society instead of moronic thugs, which most of them really are. Many of the thugs complained about this policy, saying it would no longer allow them to look like thugs. They have thuggish clothing lines to promote and need to stay in touch with their inner-thug. If the NBA wanted such a policy, it should pay for the business casual clothes, some of the thugs said. (Damn straight. Let's order up some Wal-Mart khakis and shirts for the boys and see who wears them.) Without question, there's a massive, racial aspect to the dress code. Few white guys wear 'do-rags unless they are real hard asses whereas tons of black dudes wear them. Even pansy black guys wear them and get away with it. This is standard attire. But I don't really care about the racial implications. I care about the example this policy should set for the IT world. IT executives could share a rare moment of equality and mutual understanding - a level playing field, if you will - with the sporting community on this dress code issue. For once, us geeks wouldn't look like tools but rather normal members of a functioning society full of sports, art and other types of normal entertainment, if we adopt a similar plan. IT leaders need to demand that their software developers, engineers and administrators adhere to an industry-wide dress code. That's right. No more sandals. No more T-shirts. No more bellies hanging over belts. No more jeans. No more grease-covered khakis. No more stained underarms. No more lame-ass bluetooth headsets. No more cell phones attached to belts. No more drool dripping down the sides of mouthes. No more pizza in the back pocket. No more Cokes attached to the face. No more two-week-old stench. In short, no more slovenly swine. For too many years, geeks have been abusing their roots as antisocial miscreants who could do things normal people couldn't do. Companies needed computer work done and would tolerate these freaks roaming around data centers. Do not poke the geek because he may ruin you if make him angry. Today, guys like Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy and that loser Tim O'Reilly still embrace this mentality. They're businessmen of the highest caliber and run around in jeans and sweaters. This makes people way down on the totem pole think that sandals, torn jeans and KISS T-shirts will suffice as proper work attire. Not true. Not anymore. Quite frankly, I'll happily cheer a room full of Indians who just took your jobs - if they're well-dressed. There's a certain dignity to outsourcing. It's called a tie. I challenge proprietary software makers to exploit their edge here. You've already got the more businesses-minded, grownup coders working for you. Go ahead and require them to shape up or start learning to train their Polish replacements. Microsoft can get every developer on staff into a tie by yearend with this policy. Windows Vista? Forget it. Institute a no Cheetos stain on the face program first. And how great will this look for Microsoft when it must compete against the likes of Red Hat or IBM's open source squadron. You can't begin to convince me that any German city would pick Linux over Microsoft again with such a dress code in place. No the "open source community" - whatever that means - smells and looks worse than any other software "community" on the planet, and it's time they paid for their lack of respect. It's not cool to be filthy anymore. No one thinks software developers are that neato or unusual. Anyone can junk out some Python or Perl garbage. Face the facts, dweebs. It's time to abandon your sloppy, pathetic ways and buy some real man's working clothes. Otherwise, it's "Hello, China" where we can get a man in a vest to crank code. ® Otto Z. Stern is a director at The Institute of Technological Values - a think tank dedicated to a more moral digital age. He has closely monitored the IT industry's intersection with America's role as a world leader for thirty years. You can find Stern locked and loaded, corralling wounded iLemmings, nursing an opal-plated prostate, wearing a smashing suit, spitting on Frenchmen, vomiting in fear with a life-sized cutout of Hilary Rosen at his solar-powered compound somewhere in the Great American Southwest.
A power outage in Tiscali's Frankfurt data centre disrupted net services to its German customers on Sunday. Power was down for 40 minutes between 2005 and 2045 on 21 October knocking an unknown proportion of the ISP's Germany hosting customers offline and affecting at least one UK firm whose international partners used the TINet data centre. Although performance graphs from Tiscali show the affect of the power outage (French portion) on its backbone it's unclear how many businesses, either directly or indirectly, were hit by last weekend's outage. A spokeswoman for Tiscali said she was unable to comment on the Frankfurt issue but added that the glitch in "no way" affected UK services. "We do peer with TINet through Italy, but issues in Germany or France would have no significant affect on UK customers, Our UK Network Operations Centre reports no outages on or since Sunday," she added. ®
Eight major storage vendors, including IBM and Cisco, have joined forces to develop a common open source platform for managing storage devices. The idea is that customers will be able to use the result of their labours to make it easier to manage their storage systems, regardless of the vendor. Brocade, Sun, CA, Engenio Information Technologies, Fujitsu and McData complete the line up, while players like Symantec, EMC and HP are more notable by their absence. The group says it will not forsake existing efforts to develop a standard platform, such as those from the Storage Networking Industry Association. Instead it plans to build on work already done, according to reports. The main difference is that this project will be open source. IBM has said it will donate chunks of its storage management technology to the project, and that all other members are welcome to do the same. ®
The UK’s Office of Fair Trading has waved through Cable & Wireless’ takeover of rival telco Energis. The OFT announced this afternoon that C&W’s takeover of Chelys Ltd, Energis’ owner, will not be referred to the Competition Commission.” “We do not believe that Cable & Wireless could impose higher post-merger prices on CPS (carrier pre-selection) customers, because of the number of credible competitors to which CPS retailers can turn to supply them with wholesale services,” the body said. The deal will now move ahead, meaning C&W can follow through on its plan to assemble a serious competitor to British Telecom, and reduce its reliance on BT’s infrastrucure. When it announced its bid for Energis back in August, C&W said it would pay £594m in upfront cash for Energis, followed by £80m in cash or shares three years after the deal is completed. C&W will also inject £35m into the Energis business, to cover short-term working capital requirements.®
Security researchers have identified two groups of potentially serious security vulnerabilities involving Skype, the popular VoIP client software. Both create a means for hackers to run hostile code on systems running vulnerable versions of Skype. Skype has issued patches for the "critical" security bugs. In the first case, a security bug in the Skype for Windows means the software can be crashed and forced to execute arbitrary code through a buffer overflow when presented with malformed URLs in the Skype-specific URI format callto:// and skype://. Skype can also be made to execute arbitrary code via the importation of a maliciously formated VCARD (an electronic business card format). A second security vulnerability is not restricted to Windows PCs and hits Skype across all supported platforms. Here a heap-based buffer overflow security is the culprit but the upshot is the same as the Windows specific bug - hackers might be able to take over vulnerable systems, at least in theory. At the time of writing, neither of the security bugs is subject to either publicly available exploits or malicious code. Nonetheless users are urged to upgrade to Skype for Windows release 1.4.*.84, Skype for Mac OS X 1.3.*.17 or Skype for Linux 1.2.*.18 or later to guard against attack. No patch for Skype for Pocket PC has been released. The vulnerabilities were discovered by Pentest and EADS Corporate Research Center. A bulletin from Secunia provides links to relevant advisories and patches. Advisories from Skype can be found here and here. The scope - and cross-platform reach - of the vulnerabilities has security researchers worried. "Skype's ubiquity and the closed nature of their protocol means that all clients are based on the same code – Windows, Linux, business and home users all share the same, equally vulnerable client, a fecund breeding ground for worms and other malicious code," said Tom Newton, product manager for firewall vendor SmoothWall. "Skype's ease of use is partially facilitated by the port-agile firewall-dodging protocol used – this poses further danger to unsuspecting administrators who may not realise the scope of VoIP activity on their network." In a statement, Skype said it reacted swiftly to reports of security vulnerabilities in its communications software with the release of software updates. "The updates were needed in order to fix two software problems, one of which can render a user vulnerable to a malicious attack if the user is duped into following web hyperlinks that are specially crafted to cause unwanted software to run." "Skype proactively discloses and rates security issues when they arise so that its customers have the latest information about its software. In addition, Skype participates as a member in the international Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams, a global body that allows for rapid interchange of information among software vendors, government, business and network operators," it added. ®
The fourth and likely last Itanic miracle has occurred with St. Fister – he of the blessed hand – being cured of all the chip’s wickedness and beastly impulses. Mike Fister once worked as Intel’s server processor chief. In this role, he managed to make Itanium processor hatred disappear with but a wave of his arm and a disarming guffaw. St. Fister’s powers were so prolific that he healed a student and two analysts. The chaps once despised Intel’s 64-bit chip but grew to love it - in an instant. Now, as CEO of Cadence, it seems that St. Fister has been removed of his powers and instead infected by the gospel of IBM and Sun Microsystems – both Itanic haters. During a presentation today at the Fall Processor Forum in San Jose, the miracle occurred in front of a room full of unsuspecting chip engineers. “We use a supercomputer . . . with IBM technology of all things,” St. Fister confessed. Gasp! The RISC lords have spoken! St. Fister has been touched by Power. With this revelation behind him, St. Fister went on to demonstrate Cadence’s design tools working to improve Sun server performance. Oh, how Sun could have used such power when Fister’s Itanium was busy crushing an UltraSPARC IIi chip. Fister’s miracle is unique in that he turned on Itanic, while the others embraced it. Berkeley student graduate student Nick Weaver despised Itanic one day and then loved it the next. Former Merrill Lynch star analyst and hardware god Steve Milunovich also rejected Itanium’s costly ways once only to pronounce it an “industry standard” a few months later. The Loon surely was overcome by visions, as no one clear of St. Fister’s possession would dub the Itanic a standard of anything but failure. And the last healing occurred when analyst Joe Clabby declared Itanic a smashing success – in 2003! Yesterday, however, Intel may have sealed Itanium’s fate by delaying the dual-core Montecito chip until mid-2006 because of mysterious “quality” concerns. Can HP and SGI survive on the massive Madison processor until then? Only if they too are blessed by a miracle. It’s great to see that St. Fister – he who pushed Itanic hardware than anyone else – can embrace competing products with such open arms. Forgiveness is meant to be a virtue. ®
IBM has released a refreshed and re-packaged edition of its Gluecode application server, in the first formal move since buying Gluecode to crush open source and undercut closed source competitors. The systems giant has added the Apache Geronimo M5 code base to Gluecode, meaning certified support for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.4. Geronimo is the open source code foundation for Gluecode. Additional Gluecode features added by IBM include IBM's Java Runtime Edition (JRE), an embedded version of IBM's Cloudscape database and an updated set of database drivers. Gluecode has also been re-branded, confirming its place in the IBM application server family. Gluecode is now WebSphere Application Server Community Edition (WAS CE). IBM bought Gluecode in May to improve its competitive chances among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), large departments, enterprises customers and ISVs in the application server market. Gluecode is a small footprint - 60Mb - Java application server that is free for download. IBM will charge WAS CE customers for support, which will start at $900 per server for a year. Scott Cosby, IBM Gluecode transition executive, told The Register WAS CE would compete against Tomcat, JBoss, JonAS, BEA Systems and Oracle.®
IBM has helped Microsoft do the impossible and deliver a product on time. Big Blue today revealed specifications for the unnamed processor that will slot into Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console due out on Nov. 22, at the Fall Processor Forum here. The rather fancy, custom chip boasts three processor cores each running at 3.2GHz. The cores, based on the PowerPC design, connect into a shared 1MB L2 cache. Overall, the chip has 165m transistors, takes up 168 sq. mm of space and was built with a 90nm manufacturing process. IBM is quite proud that it delivered the product in less than 24 months after signing a deal with Microsoft in the fall of 2003. With the new chip on its side, Microsoft has a serious workhorse for cranking through game code. Both IBM and Chartered Semiconductors are fabricating the processors, which is an usual move but one that Jeff Brown, chief engineer of the project for IBM, said benefited the short delivery timetable. IBM could see which plant produced the best parts and figure out which errors were the result of the manufacturing process and which were design problems. "Having two foundries actually gave us products back quicker than if we had gone with one," Brown said. "We were able to compare very precisely the results we got off of them and this improved the yields at both foundries." Brown refused to disclose the code-name of the processor or to say how much power it consumed. Microsoft expects to begin shipping the new Xbox at a price of $299. Its use of IBM chips serves as a nice win for IBM after it lost Apple this year to Intel. ®
Fujitsu today spilled new details on the upcoming versions of its SPARC processor that will slot into future servers built by the company and Sun Microsystems. One of the main new chips disclosed by Fujitsu is the SPARC64 VI+ chip – code-named Jupiter – that will ship in 2008. The processor, built on a 65nm process, will run at 2.7GHz and have four cores, said Takumi Maruyama of Fujitsu’s enterprise server division here at the Fall Processor Forum. Each of the Jupiter cores can handle two software threads, meaning that the chip as a whole can run 8 threads in parallel. In addition, the four cores share a “large L2 cache” and connect to the rest of the chip via a “Jupiter” bus. The die size for the beast should be close to 460 sq. mm. The Jupiter chip has the same basic core structure as its predecessor code-named Olympus. And both chips should run in the same servers. The Olympus chip – or SPARC64 VI - ships in late 2006 as a dual-core product with each core running at 2.4GHz. This processor will sit in the APL line of servers being built by Fujitsu and Sun and replace Sun’s line of UltraSPARC processors for midrange to high-end systems. Customers can expect Olympus to have 540m transistors and consume at max 120 watts. The chip also uses the Jupiter Bus. Sun will continue to make systems using UltraSPARC-based designs on the lower-end of its server line. These boxes will run on the “Niagara” family of products that should start arriving this year. In addition, Sun intends to ship the “Rock” family of processors in 2008 that could serve as a type of replacement to the Fujitsu products, although Sun has provided little detail on the Rock chips to date. Sun and Fujitsu already resell each others’ servers and share system development costs. This has helped the companies compete against the deep pockets of rivals IBM and Intel. ®