28th > October > 2005 Archive

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Wall Street puzzled by Microsoft's performance

It may have been Microsoft's show but both Google and Yahoo! made their presence felt during the company's first quarter earnings call Thursday. Wall St analysts, clearly wowed by Google's ballooning business model, quizzed Microsoft over why MSN's revenue is projected to be flat or grow by two per cent this year, when Google and Yahoo! have seen growth of between sixteen and six percent. The projection came as Microsoft announced MSN saw revenue growth of less than one per cent to $564m for the three months to September 30 while income grew close to 4 per cent to $83m. "Are you losing [market] share or is pricing weaker," one puzzled analyst asked chief financial officer Chris Liddel. "Its not a volume issue," Liddel said. "Our market share remains where it was. It's a monetization issue. That's something we are going to have to address in future." In short, Microsoft is not making as much money as Google on ads. Comparisons come as Microsoft has spent the best part of the last quarter campaigning to be seen as a viable online search and content player with its eye on the future. Chief executive Steve Ballmer and chief software architect Bill Gates have been busy telling those who'd listen during the first quarter that they plan to, politely, "win on the web" or, more candidly, "trounce" and "fucking kill" Google. Overall, Microsoft's first-quarter income grow 24.6 per cent to $3.1bn while revenue grew 6.1 per cent to $9.74bn. Earnings per diluted share increased six cents to $0.29. The full breakdown of Microsoft's results can be found here. ®
Gavin Clarke, 28 Oct 2005
cloud

Visual Studio and SQL Server '05 step closer

They've been a longtime coming, but Microsoft's next database and developer tools have entered the final straight with code released to manufacturing. Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 have been posted to Microsoft's Developer Network (MSDN) with code due to become generally available at a November 7 launch event in San Francisco, presided over by Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. Also released on Thursday was the next edition of Microsoft's BizTalk Server - BizTalk Sever 2006. Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 are more than a year late and have been delayed up to three times. Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 were last year pegged for delivery in the first half of 2005, having been pushed back from the second half of 2004 and "by the end" of 2004, respectively. SQL Server has suffered the biggest delays, being originally due in the summer 2003. Delays to Visual Studio 2005 have been attributed to security improvements in SQL Server and the complexity of combining Microsoft's integrated development environment (IDE) with its database for the first time. Microsoft's Common Language Runtime (CLR) has been built in to the database engine making Visual Studio 2005 the programming environment for SQL Server. Visual Studio developers can now build database applications using Visual Studio tools and languages like Visual C#.NET, instead of T-SQL. Final release is long overdue. While Microsoft has tried to keep developers fresh by handing out snap-shots of Windows code released as Community Technology Previews, or CTPs, instead of final product code, it's been five years since SQL Server users have had a completely new product to use. Rivals IBM and Oracle, meanwhile, have released completely new versions of their products during that time.®
Gavin Clarke, 28 Oct 2005

Verizon's MCI deal gets Washington green light

The US Department of Justice has OK’d Verizon’s $8.4bn takeover of MCI, finally bringing an end to one of the US’ most spectacular corporate soap operas. The DoJ is forcing the combined company will have to offload some some dark fiber connections to ensure competition. The Feds are enforcing similar divestitures on the SBC/AT&T combination, which has also just won approval. (We’re not quite sure how the competitive arithmetic adds up on this, but this is the telecommunications world after all. All that remains for the deal to proceed is Federal Communications Commission, but given the FCC’s laissez faire attitude to telecoms competition, that is seen as a formality. Verizon’s takeover of MCI, formerly known as WorldCom caps a rancorous takeover battle. Rival telco Qwest also sought to acquire MCI. Eventually, Verizon won out, capturing MCI for $8.4bn, which was less than Qwest had on the table. Still, that explosive takeover slugfest was nothing compared to the spectacular collapse of WorldCom in 2002, after an $11bn accounting scandal floored the firm. A number of the firm’s former top brass are now serving time. After helping destroy confidence in the US’ business world’s ethics, albeit with some help from Enron, WorldCom languished in Chapter 11 for a couple of years, before being born again as MCI dragging itself out of bankruptcy protection. It then promptly began trolling itself around the market looking for a suitor. All that remains is for Hollywood to shoot the movie. Straight to cable, of course. ®
Team Register, 28 Oct 2005

MIT and Nokia open joint research facility

MIT said yesterday that it is starting a new research centre in partnership with Nokia, as part of its Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). The new facility, called the Nokia Research Centre Cambridge, will focus specifically on advancing "the state of the art in mobile computing and communications", the two institutions said. The research assumes that small mobile devices are not going anywhere anytime soon, and that they will become increasingly integrated into a so-called ecosystem of services, information and other devices. Researchers will be looking into new user interfaces, especially ones based on speech, low power hardware, as well as new software architectures and wireless communications technologies. Researchers also plan to make use of the semantic web to develop new ways of managing information. MIT and Nokia says that this will allow researchers to develop devices that are more intuitive. Around twenty scientists from Nokia, and an equal number from MIT will work at the Centre. Projects will be selected by a joint steering committee, but Dr. James Hicks from Nokia Research Centre with be the overall managing director. Professor Arvind, Johnson Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, will be the program manager. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Oct 2005

Sex.com thief arrested

The con-man who stole the most valuable domain name in the world, Sex.com, has been arrested by Mexican police and handed over to US agents after nearly six years on the run. Stephen Michael Cohen was arrested on an immigration violation by Mexican authorities and turned over to the US border patrol yesterday, the LA Times has reported. Cohen is being held without bail at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego, according to deputy marshal Tania Tyler of the US immigration service. Cohen is wanted in the US for failure to pay $65m in a court judgement reached in April 2001. The judgement was the result of a five-year court battle by the original owner of the domain, Gary Kremen, which nearly bankrupted the entrepreneur and founder of the net's biggest dating site, Match.com. Kremen was awarded the sum in compensation after Cohen stole Sex.com in October 1995 through an elaborate scam. Cohen then ran the site at an estimated $100m profit until the domain was finally handed back to Kremen by the court in November 2000. As soon as he lost the case however, Cohen fled across the US border to Tijuana and refused to return. He then began to illegally siphon his money from US bank accounts to offshore tax havens through a series of ingenious shell companies. In May 2001, Cohen was officially made a fugitive from justice by the US authorities. It was in Tijuana, sat right on the US border and where Cohen was reportedly living in a mansion, that he was arrested by the Mexican authorities. Tijuana has been used by Cohen and his associates as a base for his diverse business activities for a decade, but he fled it soon after Gary Kremen posted an award for Cohen's detention that attracted the attention of US bounty hunters, back in June 2001. Cohen claims a shoot-out at his house between bounty hunters and Mexican police had put his life in danger. Kremen claims the event never happened, but Cohen nonetheless bought himself a house in Monte Carlo and has been living there on and off for the past five years. Kremen has never recouped any money from Cohen but did manage to seize control of two of his houses - a shack perched on the US side of the Mexican border, and a mansion in the exclusive Santa Fe resort in San Diego. A second court case brought by Kremen against the-then administrator of all dotcoms, Network Solutions, resulted in out-of-court settlement in April 2004 thought to be worth up to $20m. It is unclear whether that judgement will allow Kremen to chase Cohen for the remainder of the $65m (now increased to $82m with interest). Kremen told the LA Times he hopes to get more of Cohen's assets. "I'm excited, and I'm happy to prepare for the next stage of justice. Hopefully, I'll get to them before the IRS," he said, referring to the US tax office. During the long court case with Cohen, it was revealed that Cohen had paid almost no tax on his multi-million-dollar annual earnings over 20 years.® Kieren McCarthy is writing a book on the Sex.com saga. He is currently looking for a publisher. Related link LA Times story Related stories Sex.com epic battle finally ends VeriSign misses Sex.com trial deadline Sex.com owner can sue VeriSign Sex.com, Sex.com, you're my Sex.com Sex.com conman continues ludicrous legal fight Is this the end of the domain transfer nightmare? Sex.com could cost VeriSign $100m, says suit Manhunt starts for Sex.com snatcher Sex.com owner wins $65m damages
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Oct 2005
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Anti-Spyware definitions finalised

The Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC), an alliance of software companies, security firms and consumer groups, finalised its definitions of spyware on Thursday. The group defined spyware and other potentially unwanted technologies as those deployed without appropriate user consent and/or implemented in ways that impair user control over: material changes that affect their user experience, privacy, or system security; use of their system resources, including what programs are installed on their computers; and/or collection, use, and distribution of their personal or other sensitive information. ASC also published a "risk modeling" document that explains the criteria anti-spyware vendors use to determine whether or not to label a piece of software as "spyware." The document, which contains a fair amount of technical detail, is designed to help consumers to better understand how security products work, as well as offering anti-spyware companies guidelines for their own proprietary rating processes. The risk modeling language will be open for public comment until 27 November on the ASC Web site. "The spyware definitions give those of us united in the battle against spyware a common language, while the risk-modeling document clearly lays out the behaviors that make certain software dangerous. These developments move us closer to a world in which consumers have the upper hand over those who create malicious, unwanted technology," said Ari Schwartz, Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, which has led the work of the group. In addition, ASC announced that its first public meeting will take place on 9 February at the Hyatt Capitol Hill in Washington DC. A second public meeting will take place in Ottawa, Canada on 16 May. ®
John Leyden, 28 Oct 2005

Dutch Big Brother mum quits show

The woman who gave birth in the Dutch Big Brother house has walked out of the show after branding housemates "childish, talkative and manipulative", the BBC reports. "I want to enjoy maternity, not feel annoyance," Tanja told Dutch paper De Telegraaf, admitting: "I'll be happy when I am amongst normal people again." The catalyst for the shock exit of Tanja and baby Joscelyn Savanna was apparently housemates' taunts about smoking and their jibes that "she had smoked so much during her pregnancy that the baby would end up breast-feeding on tar". Surprisingly, no-one seems to have questioned her judgement regarding dropping a sprog in a house packed to the rafters with halfwits purely for the benefit of a television audience and in the offchance that she might pocket the €400,000 prize for being the last person aboard this ship of fools. Tanja gave birth on 18 October under strict conditions imposed by the Dutch Social Affairs Ministry which would not allow the spectacle to be broadcast live by Talpa TV. The editor of Big Brother admitted it was shame Tanja had made good her escape because the whole sorry affair had been "good television". ®
Lester Haines, 28 Oct 2005

Janet Jackson in net strip shocker

Janet Jackson yesterday made an unexpected guest appearence on at least two websites in a 34-second clip showing the singer sunbathing in her birthday suit. According to Reuters, the video "appears to have been shot surreptitiously through an opening in a fence surrounding an outdoor enclosure where the subject was lying on a chaise lounge (sic)". The offending item popped up on both iFilm.com and ThisWebsiterules.com (the latter most certainly NSFW), although it has now disappeared, apparently because of swift legal sabre-rattling by Jackson. Indeed, iFilm.com last night posted a message stating: "Out of respect for Ms. Jackson, this film has been removed from IFILM.com." Accordingly, Reuters rather usefully explains that the ThisWebsiterules.com version showed "a woman who appears to be Jackson is first seen lying on her back, tapping her hands beside her and moving her head back and forth as if listening to music. "At one point, she appears to be rubbing lotion on her upper body, then her face is revealed as she sits up slightly. The woman is then shown lying facing down and reaching behind her to tap her buttocks rhythmically." You get the idea. We hasten to add that Justin Timberlake at no point makes a cameo appearence in the video, nor is Ms Jackson - if indeed it is she - wearing any form of jub jewellery. And no, we don't know where the exposé can currently be seen. ®
Lester Haines, 28 Oct 2005
Broken CD with wrench

Level 3/Cogent agree new traffic deal

Level 3 and Cogent Communications’ customers should not have to worry about being marooned from one another’s networks without notice after the firms announced a reworked peering agreement. The new deal continues the internet firms’ peering agreement, with revamped traffic agreements. More importantly for users, the firms will give notice to their customers if the new agreement is terminated. Earlier this month Level 3 dropped its peering deal with Cogent in a dispute about traffic volumes. Some Cogent customers woke up that day to find they couldn’t reach some customers on Level 3’s network, and vice versa. The companies later agreed on a November 9 deadline for scrapping the deal, but today's deal clearly supercedes that. Nevertheless, the dispute highlighted the fact that the internet can quickly become an internot when the companies operating the infrastructure fall out.®
Team Register, 28 Oct 2005
fingers pointing at man

Info Commissioner criticises ID Cards Bill

The Information Commissioner believes the measures set out in the National Identify Cards Bill go "well beyond" the requirements to set up a secure, reliable and trustworthy ID card system. In a statement published on the organisation's website, to the Bill that was passed by Parliament on 18 October, Richard Thomas, the Commissioner expressed several issues of concern relating to privacy and data protection of personal information of an individual. The document says that while the government is looking to develop a 'gold standard' for identity verification for the ID card that requires the recording and collecting of biometric and other data, once this process is completed and the standard established there is "little justification for retention of all such details in a central National Identity Register." It goes further by calling the holding of this data "unwarranted and intrusive" and "not easily reconciled with fundamental data protection safeguards." In addition, the extensive nature of this data means the onus on the individual to ensure records are kept current is "excessive and disproportionate." The development of the Register and its operation is considered by Mr. Thomas as another step towards a "surveillance society" that may lead to "unwarranted intrusion into individual’s lives by government and other public bodies." He also expressed concern over potential future use of the system as outlined in the bill, which allows for potential function creep into "unforeseen and perhaps unacceptable areas of private life." The ICO's concerns follows a critical report published by the House of Lords Constitution Committee that was critical of government’s approach for ensure the integrity of the National Identity Register and called for national identity scheme commissioner with the power to investigate complaints and report directly to Parliament. Read the statement here (42KB - PDF) Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
eGov Monitor Weekly, 28 Oct 2005
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Hounslow outsources revenue and benefits

The London Borough of Hounslow has this week awarded an outsourcing contract worth £50m. The council appointed BPO service provider Liberata on a 10-year contract to manage a host of Hounslow’s back office functions including the administration and payment of housing and council tax benefits, council tax and national non-domestic rates billing, collection and recovery as well as the preparation of grant claims and government returns. The company will also provide a call centre and some front office services. Liberata was awarded the contract following a re-tendering process under EU procurement rules. The company was one of four short-listed by Hounslow. The others were Capita, Northgate (formerly SX3) and Serco (formerly ITNET). The company was selected as the preferred bidder at a meeting of the council executive, with negotiations completed and a contract formally signed recently. As part of this contract, a number of initiatives will be introduced to improve delivery of services to Hounslow residents. Cllr.Jagdish Sharma, deputy leader of Hounslow Council, said: "We are pleased to announce Liberata Plc as the Council's preferred supplier of the management of our revenues and benefits service. "Overall, Liberata's bid promised delivery of quality services for Hounslow's residents and represented the best value for money for the Council." The new contract will officially begin in January 2006, when it takes over from the existing supplier, Serco. There will be a gradual transition to Liberata over the next few months. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
Team Register, 28 Oct 2005

Manchester boffins hunt tropical storms in Darwin

Researchers from the University of Manchester are heading off to Australia next week in search of a better understanding of the role dust particles play in the weather, ozone layer depletion, and possibly even in climate change. Yes, we know, it sounds like a lovely project: swapping a cold, gloomy Manchester winter for the beaches and barbies of Australian summer, but the team is actually headed to Darwin, where the rainy season is just about to begin. Useful, if what you want to study is the formation of tropical thunderstorms and the high-altitude clouds they produce. The researchers will be studying aerosols, the tiny particles around which water vapour condenses and forms clouds. The kind of aerosol that seeds a cloud determines many of the cloud's future properties. They can be sea salt, desert dust, particles from pollution and so on. Storms carry aerosols up into a layer of the atmosphere known as the Tropical Tropopause Layer, stuck somewhere between the main tropical weather systems and the stratosphere. What goes on in the region is relatively poorly understood, and the Manchester scientists are hoping this work will be revealing. Professor Geraint Vaughan, who will lead the study, explained that understanding the atmospheric processes in the tropics is important because tropical weather systems drive global atmospheric circulation. "Deep thunderstorms are a major feature of tropical weather, but their overall effect on the transport of material to high levels is poorly understood. This is important because it helps determine the composition of the stratosphere and the kinds of clouds which form high in the atmosphere." He added: "If we can understand the nature and composition of these clouds, we will be able to use this information to help predict future climate change." The scientists will fly two small planes through as many storms as they can over a four month period. The data will be used to create models of the storms, the clouds, and the chemicals they contain. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Oct 2005
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Sales up but profits down at Ingram Micro

Profits at Ingram Micro slipped to $48.4m in Q3 2005 from $77.3m in the same period last year. The distie's income dropped even though its sales grew 16 per cent from $6.02bn in Q3 2004 to $6.96bn in Q3 2005. Europe made up a third (43 per cent) of these sales, up 10 per cent compared to last year. Ingram Micro blamed one-time charges and the absence of exceptional gains it recorded a year ago for its failure to reach the dizzy heights it reached in the 2004 quarter. Even so its figures came out ahead of analyst expectations. First Call predicted Ingram would post profits of $47.3m on sales on $6.94bn. Looking ahead, Ingram estimates Q4 2005 sales will range from $7.75bn to $8.00bn. ®
John Leyden, 28 Oct 2005
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WD Q1 nets increased income

Western Digital saw hard drive shipments rise more than 8.2 per cent during the three months to 30 September 2005, the hard drive maker announced last night as it published its Q1 FY2006 financial figures. Sales for the period reached $1.01bn, up 23 per cent on the year-ago quarter and 7.5 per cent up on the previous quarter. Unit shipments totalled 17.1m drives, up from 15.8m in Q4 FY2005 and the 14.2m drives it said it shipped this time last year. Gross margin for the quarter was 17.7 per cent, up from the previous quarter's 17 per cent and Q1 FY2005's 13.7 per cent. WD reported a net income of $68.6m (31 cents a share), rising to $73.4m (33 cents a share) on a non-GAAP basis. GAAP net income was up 126 per cent on the year-ago quarter and 66.5 per cent sequentially. Desktop PC hard drives remained the biggest contributor to WD's bottom line, accounting to 75 per cent of its Q1 revenues. The rest came from notebook drives and storage for consumer electronics kit, enterprise systems and its retail products. A year ago, 80 per cent of WD's revenues came from desktop drives - last quarter, the figure had fallen to 77 per cent. Despite the decline, the desktop PC hard drive market remains strong, WD said. Of the drives shipped in Q1, 55 per cent went through OEM channels, with 39 per cent going through distribution and the remaining six per cent shipping via retail. WD quit the quarter with $581m of cash and short-term investments in the kitty. ®
Tony Smith, 28 Oct 2005

Florida ponders violent game distribution limits

Florida looks set to join California and introduce legislation to limit the sale of violent computer and video games to children.
Tony Smith, 28 Oct 2005
fingers pointing at man

PDA shipment slide continued through Q3

While the world's mobile professionals continue to buy fewer PDAs than they have in the past, the low-end of the market continues to show some strength, market watcher IDC said yesterday. Worldwide PDA shipments fell 16.7 per cent between Q3 2005 and Q3 2004, IDC's numbers show, with the most recently completed calendar quarter's shipments totalling just under 1.7m units. Shipments were down 8.5 per cent on Q2 2005's total, IDC said. Palm remained the market leader - its products accounted for 33.8 per cent of the units shipped during the period - but shipments were down 22.7 per cent year on year and 10.8 per cent on the previous quarter. The market's number two, HP, managed a sequential increase in shipments of 4.4 per cent, but was down 35.4 per cent year on year. It took 23.6 per cent of the market, IDC said. Fourth-placed Dell was down too, by 13.9 per cent year on year and 9.6 per cent sequentially. Like Palm and HP, it has primarily targeted traditional executive PDA buyers. However, Acer, in third place, and Mio, in fifth, both saw year-on-year gains, up 421 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively. Both have built a solid user base at the low end of the market, in the main by targeting consumers seeking low-cost GPS satellite navigation bundles. They have also benefited from other players' departures from the market. Like HP, Acer saw a small, 5.3 per cent sequential gain, but Mio's shipments were down 22.6 per cent on the previous quarter. Acer, Dell and Mio took 11.2 per cent, 9.6 per cent and 5.1 per cent, respectively, of the market in Q3. Other vendors together accounted for 16.8 per cent of the market. Looking to the current quarter, IDC said it expects shipments to rise above Q3 levels for most vendors but still be below last year's numbers. ®
Tony Smith, 28 Oct 2005
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Mobile data a rip-off says email software vendor

A British email software claims greedy mobile operators are locking it out of the mobile data, forcing it to find a backdoor into the lucrative sector. OpenHand Software says it became so exasperated by trying to sell its mobile data service through operators that it came to the conclusion they have a vested interest in selling overpriced data contracts. Tim Belfall, operations director at OpenHand, said the £1m turnover firm had decided to recruit dealers after years of getting the cold shoulder from operators. It would launch a campaign in November with the aim to have up to 400 UK dealers within a year. "It doesn't make cost sense for the operators to support a company like OpenHand. So when we've approached Vodafone and O2 they've not been encouraging... It makes financial sense for them to push a higher-priced product," said Belfall. Belfall said OpenHand's cost per user is about £15 a month including tariff and license. Typical data costs included in this price are about £2 to £5 a month. He said users typically waste money on high tariff charges that cost double and give them bandwidth they never use. OpenHand keeps its tariffs down by charging per use, rather than for a package with an allotted monthly data use. It also pulls data across the network, rather than pushing, which keeps usage down. Other reasons why OpenHand says it is not favoured by operators are that as the software is network independent, users are freer to find a better deal at the end of the contract period. "The networks don't get a lock-in and the amount of data that crosses the network is low," said Belfall. OpenHand is also device independent, the only exception to the rule being Blackberry, to which the software publisher resolutely refuses to port its software. Rob Bamforth, a mobile data analyst with Quocirca, supported OpenHand's story: "The value chain is making an awful lot of money out of [mobile data] - but that also includes RIM (the owners of Blackberry)". He said platform and operator independent software like OpenHand was attractive to corporate customers and operators were thinking short term by not using it. Yet the case against the operators is still not cut and dried. On the one hand, Etienne Greef, professional services director of security integrator and OpenHand reseller MIS CDS, agreed that it was not in the interests of operators to sell OpenHand because it used about a third less bandwidth than rivals such as Blackberry - and that translates into about half the tariff price. However, he said, as OpenHand was platform independent it could be troublesome for an operator to install across a range of devices. Mobile data tariffs are about as unfathomable as mobile phone tariffs. Patrick Kingsley Williams, managing director of reseller MWL, has been toying with mobile data and reckons the cost to a single user can be upwards of £80 a month with Blackberry and Vodafone. On Vodafone's Web site (they were not available to comment) the tariff is around £30 a month. Even without embracing the market leader, OpenHand has some bittersweet enticements for dealers. OpenHand will be telling its dealers that although it is not in bed with the operators, they can still sell smart phones subsidised by the operators at zero cost or close to it as part of the telephone contract. The operators still make money from the telephone usage, while the dealer can offer a separate email contract on the same device at about half the usual cost. Belfall also said dealers will be safer this way from having their business pinched by operators: "When it comes to the contract anniversary, the networks won't be able to approach the customers directly, as they do, to provide a better deal."®
Mark Ballard, 28 Oct 2005

Palm TX Wi-Fi PDA

ReviewReview It's not so long ago that Palm launched the LifeDrive, the first PDA to include a hard drive, and Palm set itself up with a tough act to follow. Its twin autumn launches comprised one PDA designed to get newcomers interested - the £80 Z22, and one for the more serious PDA fan, the T|X, writes Sandra Vogel.
Trusted Reviews, 28 Oct 2005

Biometric monkeys get Imperial about student satellites

LettersLetters What a mixed and varied week it has been. Let's see...where to start? None of you was very impressed that a sociologist was giving evidence this week in the Dover intelligent design trial. We had several letters suggesting that some kind of science, as opposed to arts-based qualification would be more useful. Reader Scott Nicholson suggests that the next witness might be a mechanic from Colorado, while David Deaves wonders why the Pope has not been called to testify (testify!). Others were less polite. Others still wrote in to point out that the idea of intelligent design goes back a long way before William Paley started mulling stones and watches he may or may not have tripped over in a field. Fair point. We'll certainly concede that one, since it only serves to further emphasis the point we were making. We also heard from Professor Stephen Fuller himself, who wanted to explain his testimony a little further. And how churlish it would have been for us to refuse: In the Dover trial, I defended the teaching of intelligent design (ID) not to vindicate the existence of the Christian God. Rather, I argued that the assumption of God’s existence has been historically useful in conceptualizing and tackling scientific problems, especially at the high level of abstraction implied by ‘design’, a term still used by biologists. However, the deity’s heuristic role in prompting scientific thought should not be confused with its validation. Here the philosophical distinction between the contexts of discovery and justification is crucial. You can't have science without both contexts, but the two contexts must operate independently. Truly scientific claims must be justifiable by those who don't share the discoverer’s original mindset and motivation. Yet, certain scientific claims would probably have never been proposed at all, were scientists not bold (or arrogant) enough to think they could get into ‘The Mind of God’. This lends credence to the pedagogical value of introducing design-based arguments into the science curriculum. The Protestant Reformation took deadly seriously the Biblical idea of humans created in the image and likeness of God. This move, nowadays associated with Christian fundamentalism, also emboldened the nonconformists who started the Scientific Revolution. The greatest ID theorist is not William Paley, who wrote as design arguments were waning, but Isaac Newton - and after him, Charles Babbage, the computer’s inventor, who envisaged God as having programmed the universe with stochastic variables (to account for free will). That impulse was carried into biology, especially genetics, nowadays known for ‘playing God’. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the two seminal figures in this field, Gregor Mendel and Theodosius Dobzhansky, were devout Christians. Contemporary ID defenders have yet to reconnect fully with this history - I suspect, more for religious than scientific reasons: After all, once you assume the mind of God, you also assume his sense of responsibility for what happens in nature! Professor Stephen Fuller University of Warwick IBM wants to donate a subsection of its Rational Unified Process software process platform to the OS community. It reckons this will help promote better software development practices: I'm awestruck at the audacity of this move. No need for black helicopters to whip Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman and other communistical coding ne'er do wells to Guantanamo. Instead, just persuade 'em to spend 90% of their time producing 'myriads of plans, processes, and compliance documents' like the cubicle slaves in the 'commercial' software industry'! Legal, painless and effective! Even if they do manage to get something out the door it'll be just as crap as IBM/Rational's stuff and they'll be so fed up they'll give up and go do-gooding for Oxfam. In no time at all you could again start charging mega-bucks for senile ports of Unix System V! Give that IBMer a raise! Andrew A survey found, this week, that lots of DNS servers are not secured properly: "Use hardened, secure appliances instead of systems based on general-purpose servers and operating software applications." Indeed. Considering that the "core" DNS stuff without the bells and whistles is rather trivial, I imagine a 4 in^2 board with a few MByte NVRAM for configuration would suffice. Or you could ditch "bind" and use e.g. Bernstein's DNS tinydns/dnscache implementation. Be prepared for some arrogance when you do the 'my way or the highway'-style installation - but it sure is relaxing when one can finally stash the O'Reilly 'DNS and BIND' book into the archive room. David One line fix for Bind 9.3.1: allow-recursion { "name-of-acl-list"}; or allow-recursion { "10.0.0.0/24"}; Add that to your named.conf options{} section and restart Bind. Presto, recursive queries are only allowed from the pre-defined acl "name-of-acl-list" or from the 10.0.0.[0-255] network. It really is that simple. Any client not in the acl or the 10.0.0.[0-255] network will be denied recursive queries. Yes it really is that simple. -Kurt Disclaimer: The Reg doesn't recommend anyone runs code on their own machines or anyone else's unless they know what they are messing with. Use hardened, secure appliances instead of systems based on general-purpose servers and operating software applications (such as InfoBlox's appliance for DNS, we guess the firm is saying here, well it had to get a product pitch in there somewhere). --- A very good reason to avoid giving credibility to "firms" specializing in research at any level. In order to make money; somebody has to pay them to research and answer (they expect to receive). Add to that-- any company that builds a product or service, then offers 'research' into their line of business only detracts from their credibility. We all know that a company's marketing department is the only authoritative entity. Ultimately what it comes down to is the credibility of research. Silliness such as this, inaccuracies, and "guided" research is the basis for the beloved Slashdot "Netcraft confirms it!" joke. Furthering the joke by publishing them or referring to them in other forums only legitimizes them in areas where they'd otherwise be laughed out of existence. Scott A timely reminder of why a sceptical ear is required when listening to government assurances about security of personal data: David Bassinet led a major trades union. After he retired he gave Channel 4 TV permission to try to access his personal records. Four private detectives were each paid £500 to do this. They all obtained his medical, bank, tax, and mortgage records and those of his wife. They apologised for not getting his criminal record and one detective actually told the reporter to be careful as people who could expunge criminal record were dangerous. Of course, David Bassinet had no criminal record to expunge. We are told that the new biometric database will be completely secure just like databases were then. But then they would say that wouldn't they? The thing that really infuriates me is having to send gas bills to prove my identity. I own a computer and it I could be arsed to put a colour cartridge in the printer I could produce gas bills much more convincing than the ones that come from the gas company. John Dell announces consumer backup/hardrive mirroring for $99. You say it bothers you not at all that this offer appears to be staying stateside, since it will be of no use to man or beast: Is this just Dell adding a second drive and configuring it with the onboard SATA raid? Surely if the first drive gets screwed up by a virus, so will the second? This only protects against hardware failure... something which in far less common than fred bloggs deleting the windows folder... Nathan Your report doesn't go into much detail, but going from the sparse information, that's not a backup system. That's RAID done badly. Is there any history? Offline storage? RAID is included on many motherboards, and PCI RAID controllers aren't very expensive, and XP comes with software RAID anyway, so I'm not impressed by software that merely updates a copy of your data. A current copy of your data is a great hedge against hard drive crashes, but does little against accidental deletion of files. Nor will it help if you've been infected by a virus for the last month (and presumably only just noticed) and want to recover from before that. One power glitch could take out your entire computer, including both hard drives. What good is that copy now? Offline storage solves that problem neatly. Jeffrey RAID is not a backup - Please ask Dell to repeat this until they understand. R - stands for redundancy, not backup. It protects from single drive failure, but nothing else - no software failures or human error. A backup allows me to go and grab last weeks version of my tax return, before someone accidentally deleted it. Assuming the Dell system really is a constant replication system then I'd be stuffed! John One problem. It sounds like they are doing RAID 1 (mirroring), which isn't really a proper backup, it's replication. This means that any user errors like deleting important files will be replicated (files are deleted on the "backup" drive as well). Most data loss is due to human error (I deleted what now? Oh bugger!) not crashing hard drives. Selling this as a "backup" solution will probably result in long term problems (like a lawsuit) when customers find out that their data is gone. Kurt I was just reading the article "Dell launches back-up system for dummies". Noticed that a launch date hasn't been set for outside the US. Since these new Dimensions come with a gear shaft that you don't have to mess around with anymore Dell might have to work around different trade laws since they have a hybrid pc car on their hands. This could cause delays in shipping.. Rgds, W Note to companies. This is why its a bad idea to try to work out how much spyware costs the industry. Yes. You will be mocked. I estimate that guesstimates on the cost of Internet threats is costing the industry at least $40 billion every year. In this estimate, I take into account the number of meetings such guesstimates invariably prompt, as well as the salaries of the numerous, highly-paid managers who attend such meetings in force in order to : 1) show off their PC knowledge to their more clueless colleagues 2) get recognized as a forward-thinking, technically-aware element of value by the Boss 3) insert some of their own wrong ideas on security in the already badly-thought-out security scheme 4) get some emotional thrills when someone inevitably utters a question about customers finding out security issues 5) be able to take credit in the rare case when something approved by the meeting members actually does improve data security Pascal. The Met Police decide to go after cybercrime on a commonwealth-wide scale: Hmmn, that's going to be successful. This is the Met remember. Since they arrest security professionals (the people who they need to help them catch criminals) for typing /../../../ on a URL, I fully expect members of their team to be arrested for treading on the cracks in the pavement. K. MPs call for the government to force ISPs to disclose their child porn blocking policy: Or to put it another way... "MP to publicly advertise which ISPs it's easiest to get kiddie porn on" Funny thing is that the BBC article says that some ISPs deliberately do not disclose their site blocking procedures in order to make it more difficult for people to get hold of the stuff... Maybe someone needs to take Ms. Moran aside and have a long talk with her using very short words... Matt Some terrible puns about Tropical storm alpha: Bah. I'm waiting until the storm at least goes beta. I might even put it off for retail. I'm all over gamma storm though, I could use me some super powers. Bill I guess you could call it a Greek tragedy... Alex Students in Europe send a satellite into space. Alright, it's not working so well 24 hours later, but it was looking good yesterday: >> exactly how a stolen traffic-cone improves the aerodynamics of a rocket launcher Why, it was left right on the top, of course !! The sociology students would have had a satellite too, but they left all the work right till the end of term, and it was too late. The science and engineering students had to do lab work every week day afternoon, so at least they had theirs ready. Regards, Mike How was this project funded? Did they all get together at the end and scrape together lots of loose change after carefully dividing the bill according to work done? :-) Ian I thought you might like to know that the satellite built "by China" was actually built by us here in the UK and sold *to China*. So there were two satellites built in Guildford on this morning's launch - and they are both working extremely well so far. Everything has been working perfectly on the few times they have flown over and we have talked to them Regards, David Peilow, SSTL And finally, why we Brits should hold our heads high and refuse to worry ourselves with trivial details like having RFID chips in our passports: Simply coat the passports in tinfoil or similar, then you can only read the passport when it is open. Thus, walk through customs holding your passport open in your hand. Although I still prefer the old heavy leather bound passport we British used to have... it spoke of authority.... you didn't give it to the customs officials, you used it to smash them aside. Purpose of visit? Imperialism! Get out of my way! Nathan And that's all she wrote. Let the countdown to Saturday begin. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Oct 2005

Court squashes strawberry scent trade mark bid

The European Court of First Instance yesterday dismissed an attempt to register a trade mark for the smell of ripe strawberries, on the grounds that there is no “generally accepted international classification of smells” that would identify the mark. Laboratoires France Parfum had applied for a community trade mark in 1999 – sending a picture of a strawberry with its application, given the need for trade marks to be represented graphically. Its plan was to use the smell in soaps, face cream, stationery, leather goods and clothing. The application for what is classed as an "olfactory sign" in the trade marking lexicon failed on the grounds that the mark could not be represented graphically and was devoid of any distinctive character. Laboratoires France Parfum appealed to the Board of Appeal of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) without success. In the meantime, the perfume company was taken over by Paris-based Eden SARL. It took the case to the European Court of First Instance, arguing that the description and image together were sufficient to “graphically represent” the mark. The Court of First Instance disagreed. The Court accepted that a trade mark might consist of a sign that is “not in itself capable of being perceived visually, provided that it can be represented graphically, particularly by means of images, lines or characters”. But it stressed that the representation must nevertheless enable the sign to be precisely identified. The Court did not rule out the possibility of an olfactory sign being the subject of a description that met all the requirements, but found that it did not do so in this case. A study submitted to the Court showed that different types of strawberries produced different smells, with the result that the description “smell of ripe strawberries” could mean one of several different smells. The Court added, “there is no generally accepted international classification of smells which would make it possible, as with international colour codes or musical notation, to identify an olfactory sign objectively and precisely through the attribution of a name or a precise code specific to each smell.” The written description was therefore not precise enough. Turning to the strawberry image, the Court was unimpressed. It decided that the image represented only the fruit producing the smell for which the trade mark was claimed, and not the smell itself. Therefore, it could not amount to a graphic representation of the mark. The UK's first olfactory trade mark was granted to Japan's Sumitomo Rubber Co. in 1996 for "a floral fragrance / smell reminiscent of roses as applied to tyres”. The mark was later transferred to Dunlop Tyres. The same year, Unicorn Products, a London-based maker of sports equipment, registered a UK trade mark for "the strong smell of bitter beer applied to flights for darts." In 1999, the first Community Mark for a smell was granted to Vennootschap onder Firma Senta Aromatic Marketing of Holland. It registered "the smell of cut grass" for tennis balls. However, trade mark applications for smells rarely succeed. Chanel failed to register the smell of Chanel No 5; and furniture-maker John Lewis of Hungerford plc failed to register the smell of cinnamon applied to furniture. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 28 Oct 2005

eBay scam gang face sentencing

A couple who conspired together to fleece eBay users worldwide out of around £300,000 in a long-running scam are due to be sentenced at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court on Friday. Nicolae Cretanu, 30, and his wife Adriana, 23, a Romanian couple based in east London, conned marks into handing over cash for non-existent goods. The duo operated using 12 alias to run bogus auctions for approximately two years. They persuaded George Titar, 23, a Romanian illegal immigrant to pick up their ill-gotten money from Western Union offices in London. A portion of the loot was sent back to crime bosses in Romania. The scam unravelled after Western Union staff smelled a rat and called in the police who launched an operation that ultimately led to the arrest of the Cretanus in May. The Cretanus and Titar were all found guilty of various deception and money laundering offences and are due to be sentenced at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court on Friday, the London Evening Standard reports. ®
John Leyden, 28 Oct 2005

Girls: fancy an SMS-fired Bluetooth vibrator?

NSFWNSFW Our female readers are invited to imagine the folllowing scenario: It's Monday, you're at work, you're bored, you're thinking "how could I possibly spice up this trawl of the 2,000 weekend emails in my inbox?" when it occurs to you that if someone were to invent an SMS-triggered Bluetooth vibrator then your partner could bring you to an earth-shattering climax simply by texting a few sweet words of lurv, leaving you totally satisfied as a woman and fit to face the most daunting online task. Well, you're in luck, because UK outfit the Cool & Groovy Toy Company Ltd has plugged this particular gap in the life-enhancing technology market with The Toy, described as a "hi-tech vibrating bullet". The blurb explains: Connected to a mobile phone with Bluetooth it becomes an intimate, silent connection between two lovers, regardless of distance. Custom designed for your pleasure, it is intelligent, sophisticated and invented for bliss. The Toy is worn internally, linked to a mobile phone and controlled by sms text messages sent to the phone. Once read, the message is transported automatically to The Toy, which turns it into vibrations - with a huge range of movements, depending on what you have written. Just say what you feel, The Toy will do the rest. Good Lord. Apparently, you crack off a quick SMS containing a secret six-digit tag which enables the device. Twenty-six letters each have three "different movement profiles" with five speeds and three time settings. This allows 45 possible effects from any single letter and an astounding "7200 variations from a single text message". No, we haven't really got a clue what that's all about, so let's have a quick shufti at the specs. Suffice it to say, we're talking cutting edge electronics, intelligent CPU and turbo-boost circuitry packed into a throbbing 90mm of can javelin. Oh yes, it also has a 14.5 cm high tensile coated cable antenna which doubles as a handy extractor - a nice touch. Finally, The Toy is "not discoverable in a Bluetooth search", so there's no chance of your other half being molested by a wireless groper. ®
Lester Haines, 28 Oct 2005

Unspinning the government by text message

The government thinks that it can better engage with the public by sending it text messages. Oh deep joy. We're not sure where the government is going to get everyone's mobile phone number from. A quick straw poll in the office reveals that none of us will be handing ours over voluntarily, and we suspect we are not alone in this. But the head of PR in Whitehall, Howell James, reckons new technology, i.e. texting or corporate intranets, would be better at getting the government's message across than, oh, trying to get untarnished copy into the nasty newspapers. The BBC explains that James has been tasked with rebuilding trust in the government, poor man, following spin related debacles too numerous to mention in detail. If we were to say "45 minutes", or "a good day to bury bad news" you'd probably know what we were talking about. Anyway, James seems to think that more direct communication with Joe Public will help. He suggests promoting anti-drugs events to young people by texting them. Other public information could be distributed via large company's internal communication systems. In support of his idea of direct contact, he said that research had shown 60 per cent of the population was aware of the leafleting campaign advising people how to respond to a national emergency. James was speaking at the first hearing of the Public Administration Committee since he took up his post. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Oct 2005

Phone, chip makers demand EC Qualcomm probe

Nokia, Panasonic, NEC, Ericsson, Texas Instruments and Broadcom have accused Qualcomm of abusing European anti-trust regulations - and they have asked the European Commission to force it clean up its act. The six firms' beef centres on Qualcomm's ownership of key 3G mobile phone technology patents and how it makes that intellectual property available to others. They allege Qualcomm has reneged on promises it made to international standards bodies when they agreed to adopt its WCDMA technology as the foundation for 3G that it would license its patented techniques on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. Instead, they say, it charged royalties "for its WCDMA essential patents that are excessive and disproportionate". Qualcomm charges as much for its WCDMA-related patents as it does for its CDMA2000 patents "despite the fact that Qualcomm has contributed far less technology to the WCDMA 3G standard than it has to the CDMA2000 standard", they claim. The six maintain Qualcomm's intention has been to "to exclude competing manufacturers of chipsets for mobile phones from the market and preventing others from entering". In part it has done so by "offering lower royalty rates to handset customers who buy chipsets exclusively from Qualcomm", the rival vendors complain. The upshot: "Qualcomm's anti-competitive behavior has harmful effects for the mobile telecommunications sector in Europe, as well as elsewhere, because carriers and consumers are facing higher prices and fewer choices," the six allege. As yet, Qualcomm has not responded to the allegations. Neither has the EC, but it's likely to take some time to ponder the six companies' claims and weigh up any evidence they offer to back up their allegations. reg;
Tony Smith, 28 Oct 2005

Palm kicks off Euro 3G smart-phone R&D drive

Palm has opened an R&D centre in Ireland, the better to create custom smart-phone applications for its European, Middle Eastern and African carrier customers, the company said today. The R&D facility, located in Airside Business Park in Swords, County Dublin next door to Palm's existing European Operations and Supply Chain centre, was established with the help - for which read tax breaks, grants and/or other incentives - of the Ireland Development Agency. In addition to developing "mobile operator-specific services and applications", the operation will help develop "core, leading-edge technologies, such as 3G/UMTS, to help Palm accelerate the delivery of next-generation smart phones to European mobile operators", the company revealed. It will also work on product certification and quality assurance. Palm CEO Ed Colligan dubbed the centre "a significant step up for our R&D function". Indeed, the move is a sign that Palm needs to up its game in Europe, particularly now that Nokia is gearing up to offer an email-oriented smart phone, the E61, which while is primarily pitched at the Blackberry market, could also impact Treo sales. The E61 is due Q1 2006, just after Motorola's Q, with a similar Blackberry-like form-factor, arrives in the US. The Treo line is also up against HTC's Windows Mobile-based carrier-branded smart phone, which typically offer a broader feature-set than the Palm machine. ®
Tony Smith, 28 Oct 2005
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Microsoft warns that Korea may have to do without Windows

Korean lovers of Microsoft's operating systems may soon have to without the software, according to the code giant. Microsoft has confessed that Windows might be pulled from the Korean market due to ongoing actions by the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). In one of the many global looks at Microsoft's competitive practices, the KFTC has been investigating Microsoft's practice of building media and instant messaging software into its operating systems. The government body has conducted a number of hearings into the matter and could require Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without media or messaging software. Such a move would force Microsoft to take drastic action, the company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. "If the KFTC enters an order requiring Microsoft to remove code or redesign Windows uniquely for the Korean market, it might be necessary to withdraw Windows from the Korean market or delay offering new versions in Korea unless the remedial order is stayed or overturned on appeal," Microsoft said. Such situations are nothing new to Microsoft. The company surely has a game plan for dealing with these pesky government entities. Bundle, bundle, bundle. Pause. Hint that being mean to Microsoft could bring country X's desktop and server software industry to a halt. Rinse, repeat. ®
Ashlee Vance, 28 Oct 2005
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Intel's Xeon chip kill is result of chaos in India

ExclusiveExclusive While stunning in its own right, Intel's cancellation this week of the multicore "Whitefield" processor stands as a more significant miscue that simply excising a chip from a roadmap. Whitfield's disappearance is a blow to India's growing IT endeavors. Originally discovered by The Register, Whitefield stood as a major breakthrough for Intel and its Indian engineers. The much-ballyhooed chip would combine up to four mobile processor cores and arrive in 2007 as the very first chip designed from the ground up in India. In the end, engineering delays and a financial audit scandal killed the processor, leaving Intel to develop the "Tigerton" replacement chip here and in Israel. El Reg has discovered that Srinivas Raman, former general manager of Intel India's enterprise products group, left the company in early August and joined semiconductor design tools maker Cadence - the home of former Intel global server chip chief Mike Fister. Raman declined to return our phone calls, but insiders confirm that he was the lead of the Whitefield project. The executive became distressed about the project when Intel's audit resulted in close to 50 of his staff being let go from the company, one source said. Of the 50 staffers, close to 20 of them were sent to India from Portland in 2001 to work on Whitefield. The cancellation of the project has since resulted in much of the work being sent back to Portland. Whitefield had been meant to serve as Intel's most sophisticated response to the rising multicore and performance per watt movements. The company has fallen well behind rivals IBM and Sun Microsystems on such fronts in the high-end server market and behind AMD in the more mainstream x86 chip market. The Whitefield chip was designed to give these competitors a real run for their money as it made use of Intel's strong mobile chip technology to deliver a high-performing product with relatively low power consumption. Instead of wowing customers, Intel has disappointed them and created a painful situation for its India staff. Local paper The Times of India commented this week on the situation. "India's ambitions of emerging (as) a global chip design and development hub has just suffered a big knock," the paper wrote. "Intel has killed its much-hyped Whitefield chip, a multicrore Xeon processor for servers with four or more processors that drew its name from Bangalore's IT hotspot, Whitefield, and which was being developed almost wholly in this city. "Intel had invested heavily in the project, both in infrastructure and people, drawing in some of the brightest talents. Some 600 people are said to be employed in the core hardware part of the project." Chip staffers in India currently fear losing their jobs and morale is very low as a result of the Whitefield cancellation. Many of the staffers had only been told that Whitefield would be delayed by six to nine months. They learned of the project's end in the press. The difficulties here show how complex global operations can be with sophisticated products. India hoped to take on more and more of Intel's design work, but such plans look iffy now to say the least. These disruptions hurt Intel during a very difficult period for the company. It had appeared that Intel managed to correct the chip delay issues and strategy mistakes that plagued it during 2004. Instead, the company this week delayed work on both its Itanium and Xeon lines, giving AMD a chance to take even more market share from the giant. Intel declined to comment for this story.®
Ashlee Vance, 28 Oct 2005