2nd > November > 2005 Archive

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Sun trims loss despite weaker server sales

Sun Microsystems continued to suffer from waning product sales during its first quarter but did manage to trim its net loss. Executives blamed the recent introduction of new Opteron-based servers for part of the sales slump, saying key customers put off purchases to evaluate the new gear. Sun posted first quarter revenue of $2.76bn - a rise over the $2.68bn reported in the same period last year. The results, however, were boosted by sales from recently acquired SeeBeyond and StorageTek. StorageTek and SeeBeyond contributed $226m to revenue in the period. Sun's net loss for the quarter came in at $123m, which compares to a net loss of $133m last year. The results from the most recent quarter include a $50m charge related to stock option expensing. The company reported cash flow from operations of $224m in the quarter, leaving it with $4.53bn in cash. Sun blamed weak spending by financial services, communications and government customers for a 6 per cent year-over-year drop in server and storage revenue (excluding StorageTek). This fall proves especially painful given that Sun has tried to zero in on courting financial services and government sales. Management insisted that the slowdown may be a result of customers waiting to buy the new Opteron-based servers. "There is some indication that Wall Street customers may have delayed purchasing decisions in Q1," said Sun's CFO Steve McGowan. Analysts weren't convinced by this line of reasoning and went after Sun's top executives for not producing better numbers. In particular, they questioned why Sun has failed to ship servers for the lucrative, growing blade market. One analyst also challenged Sun's boast that its new line of Niagara processors would arrive sooner than expected. CEO Scott McNealy said the chips will appear "this quarter" instead of the first quarter of 2006, and Sun's PR staff have sent reporters an invitation for a "major processor announcement" on Nov. 14. Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Toni Sacconaghi noted that Sun notoriously announces products as available before they're actually shipping in volume, and asked if this would be the case with the Niagara-based servers. McNealy declined to provide more specific guidance. Sun is under as much pressure as ever to improve its sales as evidenced during a recent shareholder meeting where investors decried a more than three-year slump. ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 Nov 2005

Hollywood wants its finger in the analog hole

Hollywood is running another batch of ersatz legislation up the flagpole, in the hope of finding Congressmen who'll salute. The latest proposals aren't bills destined for the floor of the House so much as discussion documents intended to gauge Congressional reaction at a copyright panel hosted by the House Judiciary Committee later this week. Of the three drafts circulated for review, two are predictable - seeking the re-introduction of the broadcast flag for digital TV broadcasts its introduction into digital satellite radio broadcasts. But the third is a spectacularly optimistic punt that seeks to restrict the import, sale or distribution of equipment that performs analog to digital conversions. Simple A to D, a crime? Yes, indeed - in some circumstances. Entitled the "Analog Hole Legislation Discussion Draft" the paper proposes the introduction of an "Analog Content Security Preservation Act Of 2005", amending Title 35 of the US Code. It would give the US Patent and Trademarks Office the job of enforcing the CGMS-A rights system used on PAL broadcasts. (In the digital successor to analog, these are handled by our old friend CPRM.) There are exemptions for certain free-to-air broadcasts, and the whole venture is slightly moot in any case, as the US proposes to turn off analog broadcasts by 2008. British TV viewers can be excused a chuckle at this point. Digital TV was introduced to the UK in 1999 and regulators proposed a ten year shutdown timescale for what the British spell "analogue" TV. But the more viewers got acquainted with digital TV - which has all the reliability of a Windows 98 PC and the ease of use of a sed editor - the more the public clamored for the analog shutdown date to be pushed back. So a three year timescale looks extremely optimistic. We have to wait until Thursday to guage the reaction of Congressmen, but we can already imagine the reaction of the USPTO, as it's unexpectedly invited into a new role as hardware inspector. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Nov 2005
globalisation

SGI delisted, becomes penny stock

Silicon Graphics Inc today issued a melancholy press release confirming that it has been kicked off the New York Stock Exchange, and will now trade as a "penny stock". The news will bring a shudder to many in Silicon Valley for whom SGI was not simply an employer - and many Reg friends have passed through its doors - but a company that represented the heady elixir of what untrammeled engineering prowess may achieve when married to some fairly intoxicating dreams. SGI was the high-bandwidth, visualization-rich, media-savvy computer systems company that flourished in a decade when media pundits clamored for a winner in what they called "the convergence space". SGI obliged, and spared nothing - for a while its budgets were flush for R&D and fancy architecture. "The engineering budget was a firehose they couldn't turn off," Larry McVoy once told us. While other companies could barely muster a showroom, SGI built expensive "theatres" to showcase its kit, and it worked: there was no shortage of customers in data mining, government, science research and Hollywood to buy SGI's first class systems. But as one reader who mournfully passed on the news to us tells it - "SGI had the most wonderful technology coupled with lethally inept management. I bought one of their monster servers to do genetics research in the late 90s and they walked all over every other vendor we saw. These guys were the bomb where HPC was concerned." "Then came a few years of pure craziness: the workstations running a special version of NT; the Itanium clusters; abysmal quality control on the O2 and Octane workstations; selling off their great broadcast technology to Kasenna; ignoring the inroads that Linux was making into render farms." "Oh, SGI, we loved you and you screwed up. Bigtime." SGI failed to foresee not only the rise of cheap, commoditized render farms running Linux but the astonishing increases in 3D graphics performance from NVidia, available at low cost to any PC user. So TV viewers tuning into 2003's network spectacular - the US invasion of Iraq - saw maps rendered not on Onyx clusters but on Keyhole's simple PC technology, over the web. Keyhole was started by, and largely staffed by former SGI employees. Today Google occupies the place in the popular media's consciousness as the wish fulfillment company, the place where all dreams come true. And Google also occupies SGI's spectacular high tech offices by the sand dunes on Shoreline Boulevard. And Google bought Keyhole, and renamed it, and made available to you as "Google Earth". Are those Shoreline dunes haunted? Surely not. But SGI's spectacular rise and fall should give any company so drunk on its own technical prowess and media kudos, just a moment's pause for thought. ® Related link SGI Securities to Cease NYSE Trading - press release
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Nov 2005
graph up

Software vision ain't what it used to be at Microsoft

It was meant to usher in a new era for Microsoft. Bill Gates, along with recently appointed CTO Ray Ozzie and an entourage of lesser-known vice presidents pitched presentations and demos to press and analysts in San Francisco, California, to convince them Microsoft has a vision for "software as a service".
Gavin Clarke, 02 Nov 2005
graph up

S3 turns to Transmeta tech for low-power graphics chips

S3 Graphics, chip maker VIA's graphics processor subsidiary, has signed Fujitsu to fab the company's products at 90nm, the partners announced today. Fujitsu will produce S3's Chrome family, including the upcoming Chrome 20 mid-range chip, expected to be clocked at 700MHz or more yet consume only 5-15W of power. Today, S3 said the chips would indeed provide "high speeds and industry-leading performance per watt". Fujitsu's 90nm process makes that possible, it said, because the technology yields chips that run "25 per cent faster and with power savings of at least 25 per cent compared to chips made with conventional 90nm processes". S3 may well have erstwhile VIA rival Transmeta to thank for that. In December 2004, Transmeta licensed its LongRun 2 power conservation and transistor-leakage reduction system to Fujitsu for incorporation into the Japanese firm's production process. Technology licensing deals like this are part and parcel of Transmeta's business model these days, now it has stopped offering x86-compatible CPUs under its own name. S3's 90nm chips will be made at Fujitsu's Mie, Japan plant, a 300mm-wafer facility that only opened for business in April this year. S3, which has in the past looked to the likes of TSMC to produce its graphics processors, said it would be using Fujitsu for future, post-90nm products. The Chrome 20 is set to ship later this quarter. It has been said the part features eight pixel pipelines and four vertex shaders, and it supports HD video and SLi-style multi-card operation. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2005

Deutsche Telekom backs away from O2 counterbid

Deutsche Telekom has ruled itself out of making a bid for O2, the telecoms giant confirmed today. In a statement handed to Reuters, DT's top beancounter Karl-Gerhard Eick said: "Deutsche Telekom will not make a counterbid for O2. This would not be in the interests of our shareholders." So that's that, then. Shares in O2 slipped 11.4p (5.46 per cent) in early trading this morning. On Monday Spanish telco Telefonica announced that it planned to buy the O2 for £18bn as part of a strategic move to enter the UK and German markets. Since then, speculation has mounted that DT might launch a counter offer that could spark a bidding war, although others believed DT would have been put off by the regulatory difficulties associated with such a deal. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2005
channel

Intel flicks switch on second 65nm fab

Intel has finished upgrading its Chandler, Arizona-located Fab 12 chip manufacturing facility to 65nm production standards, the company said today. The 300mm-wafer fab is Intel's second 65nm production facility. It's been powered down for the last year and a half, but it's now punching out wafers, with the number of wafer starts each month due to ramp up over the coming 12 months. Intel is scheduled to begin shipping its first 65nm processors, the dual-core, next generation of Pentium M, aka 'Yonah', by the end of 2005, just ahead of the chips' formal introduction in Q1 2006. Next quarter should also see the arrival of 65nm single- and dual-core desktop processors, codenamed 'Cedar Mill' and 'Presler', respectively. Chandler is also home to Fab 32, which Intel is currently upgrading to take 300mm etched using 45nm lithography, at a cost of $3bn. It's due to go into volume production in H2 2007 as Intel's first commercial 45nm fab. The chip giant is also upgrading its Fab 11X 300mm-wafer facility in Rio Rancho, New Mexico to increase 90nm production and add a 65nm output capability. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2005

Man sacked for message board posting calls in lawyers

A US man sacked after 16 years working for the same energy company is suing the firm after it dismissed him for making anonymous comments on an internet messageboard. He is taking action against Allegheny Energy for misuse of legal process because he claims they filed a "John Doe" suit only in order to discover his identity, not to support further legal action. Clifton G Swiger of West Virginia is taking the action with the support of lobby group Public Citizen. In November 2003 the energy firm filed a subpoena against Yahoo! to discover the identity of a poster called "ayeyawn" on a messageboard which was highly critical of Allegheny management. Ayeyawn, or Swiger, accused Allegheny management of "turn(ing a) respectable Blue Chip into a POS (piece of sh*t) he criticised the company's racial sensitivity programme saying: "We were force fed 'love thy n*gger' with [Allegheny Energy's] DIVERSITY program. Yet another brainstorm that was going to bring on tremendous growth, high dividends, and astronomical profits!" Clifton Swiger worked for Allegheny Energy but posted the comments in his own time from his home computer. Allegheny Energy claimed the action was justified because he could have been a high-ranking employee even though he described himself as a "non-exempt" or hourly paid worker. In November 2003 Yahoo revealed that Swiger was the person behind ayeyawn. In early December 2003 Swiger was told that because the ayeyawn account was registered by his wife the company believed he had made the posts and his use of a racially-offensive term breached company guidelines so he was indefinitely suspended without pay. Allegheny Energy faces action for abuse of process, wrongful use of civil proceedings, invasion of privacy and wrongful discharge. Read the Public Citizien press release here. and see the actual complaint here.®
John Oates, 02 Nov 2005
channel

NHS e-bookings system is a year behind schedule

The NHS' much discussed eBookings system is a year behind schedule, because of problems linking computers in GPs' surgeries to those in hospitals. The Choose-and-Book system was designed to give patients a choice of places they could be referred to when they needed specialist treatment. Sir Nigel Crisp, head of the NHS, said that this choice would still be available by the January 2006 deadline, the BBC reports. A spokesman for the Department of Health explained that "manual procedures" have been developed to make sure that patients will have a choice of four hospitals, as the government had promised. The government was warned by the National Audit Office in January this year that it would miss the January 2006 deadline. Back then, then the spending watchdog noted that problems with the IT system underpinning the project were likely to cause delays. As expected, the main difficulty has been getting the choose-and-book software to talk to all the different computer systems that are installed in GPs' surgeries. Originally the government said it wanted 200,000 bookings to have been made through the system by the end of 2004. By January this year, just 63 referrals had been made. That figure is currently at around 20,000, still some way short of the 10 million appointments the government had hoped to be booking through the system when it goes live. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Nov 2005

HTC touts record Q3 sales, income

HTC, the Taiwanese handset manufacturer that has revolutionised the Windows Mobile-based smart-phone business, this week reported record third-quarter sales and income despite the quarter being traditionally a slow one. For the three months to 30 September 2005, the company recorded revenues of TWD16.56bn ($492.71m), up 7.3 per cent on the previous quarter and 134 per cent on the year-ago quarter. Net income for the period amounted to TWD2.78bn ($82.71m) before tax and TWD2.64bn ($78.55m) - up 251 per cent year on year - after the deduction is made. Pre- and post-tax earnings were TWD7.88 (24 cents) and TWD7.48 (22 cents), respectively. For the first nine months of the year, HTC's business yielded a post-tax net income of TWD6.70bn ($199.35m) on sales of TWD45.24bn ($1.35bn). The figures were up respectively 105 and 175 per cent year on year. Earnings were TWD18.96 ($564.12m). HTC provided no Q4 guidance beyond forecasting "stable growth momentum" through the quarter. The company is expected to launch further handsets, including Breeze, its first 3G candybar form-factor smart phone. Q3 saw the launch of Universal, a 3G clamshell device with integrated keyboard, and Wizard, a keyboard-equipped 2.5G tablet form-factor phone. Both have been launched by a number of networks in Europe and around the world, including Vodafone, Orange, O2 and T-Mobile, and by unaffiliated vendors, like i-mate. End-user demand is likely to ramp through Q4, as supply becomes less of a problem than it is right now. The Orange SPC M5000, for example, was launched in September, but has only now started to appear in some Orange stores, and in limited numbers by most accounts. The M5000 is based on HTC's Universal design, as is the O2 XDA Exec and T-Mobile's MDA IV. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2005
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Novell gets new boss

Novell has promoted Ron Hovsepian from vice president and president, global field operations to president and chief operating officer. He will have direct responsibilty for worldwide product development, marketing and sales. Hovsepian joined Novell in 2003 as president of North America from IBM where he worked for 17 years. He was also a managing director of venture capitalists Internet Capital Group. Novell number one Jack Messman, chairman and CEO, welcomed the appointment. As he should. More on Novell's site here.®
John Oates, 02 Nov 2005
cloud

MessageLabs nabs Omnipod for IM security

Net security firm MessageLabs is extending its services beyond email and web filtering with the acquisition of Omnipod, a provider of enterprise instant messaging. The deal, which is subject to shareholder approval, extends MessageLabs’ offering to include managed email, web and instant message services. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. MessageLabs plans to integrate New York-based Omnipod’s fully managed hosted IM service - called Professional Online Desktop (POD) - into its own managed service portfolio. Omnipod's on-demand secure instant messaging service is designed for enterprise use and integrates collaboration features such as persistent chat, global SMS, WebEx online conferencing, Salesforce.com, file sharing and transfer capabilities, as well as various other communications functions into a secure presence-based messaging infrastructure. It's been a eventful year at MessageLabs with the launch of services including a web scanning service and an email encryption service between enterprises as complements to its core email filtering service. The acquisition of Omnipod comes only a month after the start of the web scanning service. MessageLabs reported revenue of $67m (£36m) for its financial year ending July 2005. Security vendors are looking to tap into corporate concerns about IM security prompted by new compliance regimes prompted by Sarbanes-Oxley and the like and fears the communication channel might be used as a vector to spread malware. MessageLabs managed IM services will compete with rival services from Postini. Enterprises also have the choice of building their own IM security defences using technology from the likes of CipherTrust, which launch an IM security appliance (called IronIM) last month. ®
John Leyden, 02 Nov 2005

Telecity snaffles Redbus

TeleCity is to acquire rival data centre outfit Redbus in a move that sees further consolidation within Europe's colocation industry. The takeover values Redbus at £59m with the enlarged group better able to compete in the fragmented data centre market. The deal also gives the enlarged group greater financial clout to invest in the business. In particular, the take-over gives the group "an enlarged presence in the highly competitive European markets of London, Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt", the company said in a statement today. Redbus operates seven facilities in London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris and Milan and boasts more that 800 clients including AOL, AT&T, BT, Vodafone, City Index, BBC and Google. In 2004 Redbus lost £1.1m on a turnover of £16m. TeleCity operates nine datacentres across six European markets and has some 600 punters. The offer was made by an outfit called Torch Partners on behalf of TeleCity. In the summer TeleCity agreed to a £58m buyout led by the 3i investment group. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2005
channel

Nokia delivers digital TV phone

Tech DigestTech Digest Tech Digest Nokia took the wraps off its first phone with an integrated digital TV decoder today at its annual Mobility Conference in Barcelona. Set to launch in Q2 2006, the N92, which runs using Nokia's Series 60 interface, features a DVB-H TV tuner that in the future will be able to receive as many as fifty TV channels. DVB-H is a variant of the digital TV standard as used in the UK by Freeview, which has been optimised for mobile devices. It is set to launch in Italy in time for the 2006 World Cup with other European countries following later in the year. There's no official UK launch for the service, but it could theoretically arrive as early as 2007. Nokia, along with O2 and NTL, recently conducted a DVB-H trial in the Oxford area. Similar to other N Series phones, the N92 runs using Nokia's Series 60 interface and features a suite of high-end facilities. The clamshell-style device includes integrated Wi-Fi, web browsing and music playback. Its 2.8-inch 16 million-colour screen can be flipped round so that it looks like a tiny DVD player making it ideal for TV viewing on the go. The handset can also record TV programmes on to an SD card and deliver an on-screen electronic programme guide. Some innovative interactive facilities are also in the pipelines, allowing you to cast votes on live TV shows, for example. In Barcelona Nokia also unveiled two other N series phones. Also set to launch in Q2, the N71 features the N series signature facilities of 3G connectivity, web browsing and PDA-style applications. Its headline feature is a unique web browser that Nokia calls minimap. This delivers two screens on the device, the main close-up screen and a second transparent navigation screen that provides a snapshot of the entire page the user is seeing. This lets you quickly access and scroll around various parts of the page. The browser is also compatible RSS and XML feeds and has up to two Gigabytes of storage via a miniSD card. Completing the line up is the Nokia N80, a slider handset and the first mobile phone to feature Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) so that it can network wirelessly with any device in the home. For example, users will be able to stream MP3 tracks wirelessly from the handset to a hi-fi system. The phone is also the first quad band phone with dual band 3G. Nokia's CEO Jorma Ollia also predicted an explosion in sales of convergence phones during 2006, forecasting that over 100 million devices would be sold. Other Shiny Media stories Nikon's top-end DSLR Ultimate in-car navigator First ever iPod? Heated USB gloves
Tech Digest, 02 Nov 2005

EasyMobile goes live in Germany

EasyMobile - the cheap and cheerful discount phone service backed by no frills airline entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou - has launched its service its Germany. Today's cork-popping ceremony comes a little over a week since easyMobile launched its service The Netherlands. EasyMobile launched its first service in the UK in March this year and by August had signed up 15,000 punters. And just as in the UK, the easyMobile service is backed Danish Telco TDC and piggybacks on the mobile network of T-Mobile. EasyMobile.de MD Christian Winther said the new service is "simple and inexpensive" with punters paying as low as 16 cents a minute flat for national calls 12 cents for a text message. "Rather than spending our money on high-street shops or giving away subsidised mobile handsets tied to complex tariff plans and incomprehensible long term contracts, we intend to spend our time and money on providing our customers with the most attractive and transparent service in the market," he said. EasyMobile.de is based in Hamburg and employs some 25 staff. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2005

Astronomers find Eta Carinae's companion star

Researchers using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer satellite have made the first ever direct observation of Eta Carinae's companion star. Astronomers have good indirect evidence that a companion star exists. They have observed a five and a half year period repeating pattern of changes in the star's visual, X-ray, radio and infrared emissions. Once every five and a half years, the X-rays from the region disappear completely. Interestingly, Eta Carinae itself is too cool to produce X-rays, but it does have a stellar wind blasting particles into space at 300 miles per second. A collision between this wind and a similar one from a companion star could produce the observed X-rays. This sparked suggestions that Eta Carinae does indeed have a companion, and that the X-rays drop off when the companion moves in front of the region where the two stellar winds collide, blocking it from Earth's view. Eta Carinae is one of the most massive stars in the galaxy, according to NASA, and is thought to be nearing the end of its life. Its instability and odd quirks have made it one of the most studied stars of the last few decades. Scientists have long suspected that it might have a companion star, because of its strange behaviour. But the research from the scientists led by Dr. Rosina Iping of the Catholic University of America in Washington, is the first direct evidence that the companion star is there. Iping and her team used the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer satellite because it can detect shorter wavelengths than can Hubble. Hubble had previously scanned the region and found nothing. The astronomers turned the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer satellite to look at the star just ahead of the regular cessation of X-rays from the region. When the X-rays stopped, there was also a noticeable drop off in far ultraviolet light, which Eta Carinae is also too cool to produce. They concluded that when the X-ray emitting region is eclipsed, so too is the companion star, hence the drop off in far UV light. Dr. George Sonneborn, Far UV project director at NASA's Goddard laboratory noted: "This far ultraviolet light comes directly from Eta Carinae's companion star, the first direct evidence that it exists. The companion star is much hotter than Eta Carinae, settling a long-standing mystery about this important star." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Nov 2005
channel

Apple iPod sales to pass 37m this quarter - analyst

AnalysisAnalysis Apple will have sold more than 37m iPods by the end of the year, putting it in a position where it really can start enjoying the much-vaunted halo effect that will boost its share of the computer market. So claims senior Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, according to a Forbes report. "We expect the iPod to continue to be a foundation for growth in other parts of Apple's business, and we expect that by the end of calendar 2005 more than 37m iPods will have shipped, providing Apple with a greater scope of awareness for various products," Munster told investors this week. Forbes appears to read Munster's forecast as 37m shipments in 2005, but since Apple has shipped only 17.917m digital music players in the first three quarters of the year, it will have to sell 19.083m more in that last three months of the year to meet Munsters' target. With only 6.451m shipped in Apple's fourth fiscal quarter - effectively equivalent to the year's third calendar quarter - that means it will need to grow shipments by almost 196 per cent quarter on quarter. More likely, we'd say, Munster's figure represents overall iPod shipments to date. Apple hasn't published such a figure thus far - it only began breaking out iPod unit sales when it published its Q4 FY2003 figures in October 2003, around two years after the iPod was launched. Apple's published numbers for Q4 FY2003 and all subsequent quarters put the total to date at 27.249m, but that's likely to be short by the three hundred-thousand units we estimate shipped between the device's Q1 FY2002 launch and Q3 FY2003. Even so, that still leaves Apple needing to ship the best part of 10m iPods in the current quarter, if Munster's target is to be achieved, which amounts to sequential unit-shipment growth of 46.5 per cent or thereabouts. Realistic forecast? Can Apple manage that? Well it has done so in the past, between the third and fourth quarters of FY2004, when it experienced its first big surge in iPod sales. Then shipments leapt from 860,000 in Q3 FY2004 to 2,016,000 in Q4 FY2004, an increase of 134.4 per cent. In Q1 FY2005 it shipped 4,580,000 iPods, an increase of 127.2 per cent. Since then, sequential growth rates have fallen to around 16 per cent and, most recently, 4.8 per cent. However, the introduction of both a highly slim form-factor with the Nano, the ability to play videos on the hard drive iPod and, we'd note, the addition of black-hued versions, takes Apple into calendar Q4 with a strong product portfolio - scratched screens notwithstanding. Apple already has a strong lead over its competitors, and the new models should only reinforce that. More to the point, its rumoured deal to ensure adequate supplies of Flash memory chips will make it harder for rivals to produce sufficient numbers of players to compete, so some complain. With fewer alternatives, it's going to be easier for new buyers to choose the Apple product where they might have otherwise become a Creative or an iRiver customer. If Apple does take the iPod sales total to 37m or more, whether many go on to buy new Macs or not, plenty will increasingly turn to the iTunes Music Store for content, driving that aspect of the company's business further. Munster himself has forecast Apple will have sold 1.365bn songs through ITMS by the end of 2006, allowing the content service to account for five per cent of Apple's revenues next year. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2005

eBay ID fraudster jailed

A UK-based phishing fraudster who raked in an estimated £200,000 after tricking eBay members into handing over their account details was jailed for four years on Tuesday. David Levi, 29, of Lytham, Lancashire, who is already in prison serving a four-year sentence for drug offences, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the fraud charges to run concurrently with his present spell of porridge. In addition, he also received a 12-month consecutive sentence for perverting the course of justice. Preston Crown Court heard that Levi masterminded a phishing scam that conned more than 160 people into handing over their password and user names in response to bogus email security notices purporting to come from the auction site. Levi and his cohorts assumed the identities of these people between July 2003 and July 2004 to lend credibility to bogus auctions of non-existent goods. Levi's younger brother, Guy, 22, of St Anne's, Lancs, and co-conspirator Daniel Lett, 22, of Lytham, Lancs were jailed for 21 months and two years respectively after admitting conspiracy to defraud. Four accomplices who permitted the use of their bank accounts to receive the proceeds of bogus auctions were each sentenced to six months imprisonment, The Daily Telegraph reports. These four were named as Derek Anderson, 59, of St Annes, Lancs; Craig Jameson, 31, of Cheadle, Greater Manchester; Gareth Rice, 22, of St Annes, Lancs and Chris Worden, 23, of Blackpool, Lancs. Sentencing of the Lancashire gang this week comes days after a different UK-based gang were jailed for a total of eight and a half years over a separate fraud. Nicolae Cretanu, 30, and his wife Adriana, 23, a Romanian couple based in east London, conned victims into handing over cash for non-existent goods. The duo operated using 12 alias to run bogus auctions for approximately two years. Victims were told they had failed to win auctions for anything from non-existent cars to concert tickets before being offered a "second chance" to secure goods by sending cash directly to the gang, who pocketed the dosh without delivering anything but empty promises. George Titar, 23, a Romanian illegal immigrant, was used by the gang as a 'foot-soldier' to pick up their ill-gotten funds from Western Union offices in London. ®
John Leyden, 02 Nov 2005

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Team Register, 02 Nov 2005

Samsung SGH-D600 mobile phone

ReviewReview Just like Chelsea Football Club's manager, the D600 is a suave and sophisticated phone that comes across as one cool cucumber. But does the phone have the features to match or is it all style and no substance? We have to admit it, we love the D600. Its black curvy lines, the large screen and the sliding motion ensure this phone oozes with style. The slider has to be one of the best balanced we've seen and you won't be able to stop yourself sliding it backwards and forwards even when you're not making a call. The nearest thing we can relate it to is trying to push two repelling magnets together. Lovely. Get past the sliding action and the keypad is just as lovely to use. In recent experiences with some handsets we've tested we found that once you reveal the keypad inside, it all goes rather downhill. Not here. The keys are well spaced and a back light makes finding the right number in a darkened pub very easy. Closing the model automatically locks the keys on the top, but can read texts, access the menu system, view images and listen to MP3s without the need to open the phone up. The phone isn't just about a great keypad - there are other features here too. The phone also features a two-megapixel camera, Bluetooth connectivity to connect a headset, quad-band support for global travel, a 240 x 320 262,000-colour screen and the ability to drive a television to display videos and images you've captured. Considering the scaling that has to be done from the small screen to the TV, the results are very impressive. The menu system is very easy to use, and we liked the attention to detail. Numbers when punched-in are large and clear, and anyone who normally needs to wear glasses to see what is going on with their mobile phone will be happy to know that they won't need them here. Likewise an additional feature we loved was the ability to automatically text multiple people in one hit - ideal if you're trying to arrange a night out or merely have something to share. So what's the catch? Well the D600 is still only GSM rather than 3G and it's not really big on the email functions or mobile office working. Additionally, we were disappointed by Samsung's choice to move the camera from under the slider, where it was on the D500. Placing it under the slider kept it safe and free from scratches when the unit was closed. Perhaps the two-megapixel camera's technology forced the move, and it's one of the very few disappointments for this model. Verdict This is a great handset that should be at the top of your list if you are looking for a good GSM handset without a focus on mobile office working. What the D600 is good at is just being a stylish-looking phone for those not fussed with being connected to the office every waking minute or turning their mobile into a home entertainment system. It's small size will certainly appeal and rightly so. We love it. Review by Samsung SGH-D600   Rating 90%   Pros The screen; TV output option; two-megapixel camera; sliding cover.   Cons The camera's position.   Price Depends on carrier and tariff   More info The Samsung D600 site
Stuart Miles, 02 Nov 2005

Gay Americans favour hybrid electric vehicles

It's a little-known fact, but US gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender consumers buy cars. What's more, they show a penchant for the luxury end of the market and are "significantly more interested in hybrid electric vehicles than their non-gay counterparts". That's according to a study by Harris Interactive which has managed to pull this latter factoid from a survey which actually proves nothing more than homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals have jobs, tastes and money with which to indulge them. Indeed, Harris reckons this demographic - abbreviated to GLBT - represents more than $600bn in buying clout and as a consequence has become a significant target for US automotive manufacturers. Harris declares: "Nearly three-quarters (72%) of GLBT consumers indicate they are more likely to consider purchasing a vehicle from a manufacturer that has specifically targeted automotive advertising to the GLBT community." Apparently, Volkswagen, Subaru, Volvo and BMW are seen as the firms that "extend the greatest outreach to the GLBT community through their marketing communications". The said manufacturers have apparently tempted the GLBT buyer with an increased use of online and viral marketing because "this group relies heavily on both the internet (62%) and "word-of-mouth" (45%) advice when deciding which vehicle to purchase". Regarding hybrid electric vehicles, 51 per cent of GLBTs consider it worth paying the extra for the technology, compared with just 34 per cent of the non-GLBT population. We look forward, therefore, to Toyota targeting the GLBT market with an online ad campaign declaring: "Prius: brings out the bisexual in you" or "Test drive the Prius - the car that swings both ways". In the meantime, we'd like to suggest that the average car advert - in the UK at least and we're happy to be contradicted as to the US equivalent - seems to involve either resolutely heterosexual men racing pyroclastic flow along a road which has miraculously transformed itself into a snake, or punts for people carriers extolling the virtues (to mothers, naturally) of having 47 seat configurations so you can get all of your wailing brats and three prams in the back and still have plenty of room for the weekly shop.® Methodology In case you're sceptical about the results of this survey, here's reassurance: The AutoGLBT Study was conducted online in the United States by Harris Interactive® between July 21 and August 1, 2005 among 2,818 self-identified gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults (aged 18 and over) and 2,121 heterosexual adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
Lester Haines, 02 Nov 2005
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PC recycling to boom

With the number of installed PCs worldwide fast approaching 800m, IDC expects the PC recycling market to grow to meet disposal regulations. The research firm estimates there were 749m installed computers around the world in 2004. With the market showing no signs of slowing, and companies around the world routinely involved in upgrading their systems, IDC expects the PC recycling and refurbishing industry to expand and create a new market. "Millions of systems will be moving out of homes and offices and will have to be properly disposed," said David Daoud, research manager for IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker and Personal Computing programs. "Some will have their life elongated through a data cleansing and refurbishing process, others will be de-manufactured with their various parts reused by other industries, while others will be completely destroyed," Daoud said. The majority of companies do not yet include asset disposition in their PC ownership cost analysis, according to IDC, which indicated that less than 37 per cent of enterprises of all sizes have a formal PC recycling and end-of-life policy. The need to safely dispose of the millions of PCs and related peripheral devices that reach the end of their working lives every year requires action from lawmakers and governments, IDC said. A survey commissioned by computer maker Dell in 2004 revealed that two in five Irish businesses throw out old PC equipment. The study also showed that a mere nine percent of Irish consumers planned on recycling their old PCs. Back in July Ireland became only the second country in the EU - after Greece - to implement the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive. This waste management regulation states that any company manufacturing, importing or selling any kind of electrical or electronic equipment in the Irish market will have to accept old equipment from consumers and help to fund the recycling process of this material. Copyright © 2005, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 02 Nov 2005
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SDBot raises IM security concerns

The latest variant of SDBot spreads through America Online instant messaging software (AIM) and installs surreptitious remote control software on victims' computers, focusing the media on security experts' concerns that instant messaging will become the next popular vector for these programs. The program - known as W32.Loxbot.B - infects systems after a victim clicks on a link that seemingly comes from an acquaintance listed on the victim's AIM buddy list. The software downloads and installs remote administration software and connects back to one of two IRC servers to await further commands. The added load on the operating system can slow a computer's response time significantly, according to security firms' technical advisories. The bot is a modified version of another self-spreading program known as W32/SDBot.ADD and W32.Loxbot.A that also uses AIM to infect trusting victims. Since the Nimda worm, security professionals have believed its only a matter of time before some bot variant can spread automatically through an instant messaging application. Taking those fears over the recent infections even farther, technical publication eWeek questions in an article headline "Is IM Doomed?" Instant messaging applications certainly have their share of security issues, and rootkit technology - such as that contained in Loxbot.A - is also improving , with some of the newer types being nearly undetectable by currently deployed security software. Yet, computer users historically have been able to defend themselves against these threats, through education, updates and a healthy dose of skepticism, and software developers have been able to patch flaws quickly. Simple defenses and the application's popularity mean that instant messaging users are unlikely to give the application up any time soon. Copyright © 2005, SecurityFocus
Robert Lemos, 02 Nov 2005

ASA finds Mazda 5 surprisingly stimulating

Hundreds of complaints about an advert for Mazda, that showed a female mannequin becoming sexually aroused by a driving experience, have been rejected. The ads were likened to the family-friendly humour of a Carry On movie. The ad showed a man loading female mannequins wearing lingerie into the back of a Mazda car. As the Advertising Standards Agency describes it: "The camera focused on the smooth breasts of one of the mannequins." Viewers of the TV and cinema ad saw the man driving around a city, inter-cut with shots of the same mannequin's face and its hand hitching up its negligee to expose the top of its stockings. Its eyes glazed over. The man parked outside a lingerie store and lifted the mannequin out of the car. Its chest was at his eye level. Its nipples were now erect. The driver gave the mannequin a bemused look. There was a shot of the mannequin's face and the sound of a woman's giggle. A voiceover said: "The all new Mazda 5. Surprisingly stimulating". The ASA received complaints from 404 viewers who said the ad was offensive in its sexual reference; or that it was demeaning to women by portraying them as sexual objects; that the broadcast times were unsuitable because the ad would be seen by children; and that it should not have been shown in cinemas for movies that carried a PG rating. OUT-LAW also received a complaint from a viewer of the ad: "I wish to complain about the new car advert. Where he puts the mannequins in his car and drives off, one lady gets roused (sic), with her nipples erect, it is very degrading to all women." We redirected the complainant to the ASA. The ASA heard from the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) which "considered the ad's creative treatment carefully." Key to its approval appears to be the driver's surprise and confusion in the end scene: he showed no sexual interest. The Cinema Advertising Association also found the sexual reference "mild" by comparison to much of the innuendo in PG films. It compared the humour to that of a Carry On movie. The ad agency, J. Walter Thompson, said its ad highlighted the exciting aspects of a type of car that many may regard as uninspiring. French, German and British audiences "reacted positively" to the adult theme in test screenings. The ASA wrote: "We understood that the depiction of a mannequin becoming aroused by the excitement of a journey in a car may not have been to everyone's taste but we did not consider it likely to cause serious or widespread offence." As for the concern about objectifying and demeaning women, the ASA considered that the intention was "to humorously present the absurd notion that an inanimate object could be turned on in the first place." It concluded: "We considered that to the majority of viewers the sexualisation of the mannequin would not have been taken to be demeaning to women or portraying them as sex objects." Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Nov 2005

Single Chinese man spawned 1.5m

Researchers have discovered that 1.5 million Chinese men from north-east China and Mongolia are directly descended from one busy chap called Giocangga - grandad of the founder of the Qing dynasty. According the the BBC, the high prevalence of a set of genes passed on from Giocangga's Y chromosome is due to his offsprings' hard work in the wife and concubine department. Wellcome Trust Sanger geneticist Chris Tyler-Smith, who made the discovery, explained: "What we did was analyse around 1,000 men from that part of the world. We noticed just two types of Y chromosome that were extraordinarily frequent - one of them making up around 3% of our sample. When Tyler-Smith's team looker closer, they found the genes in question absent in the majority Han population, but present in around five per cent of local ethnic minorities, including Mongolians. They used this to track down the genes' origin - north-east China around 500 years ago. Tyler Smith elaborated: "We soon realised there was a major historical event going on at this time - the establishment of the Qing dynasty, which conquered China and ruled for several hundred years. It was ruled by the Qing imperial nobility, who were a highly privileged elite class, and they had several wives and concubines. Because of the privilege, they could have had many children - and those children would have had a good chance of survival." The figures stack up thus: the Chinese population in Giocangga's time was around 100 million, compared to 1.3 billion now. Accordingly, your common or garden non-royal from that time might expect to boast just 20 descendants today*. Giocangga, on the other hand, racks up a whopping 1.5 million. Tyler-Smith concluded: "The difference is accounted for by the large number of wives and concubines - and in particular, this practice being linked to the Y chromosome for many generations." ® Bootnote *No, we're not sure this is right, either - and thanks to all those readers who have deployed their abacuses this afternoon.
Lester Haines, 02 Nov 2005

BT wins contract for rural broadband

Some of the UK's most remote areas should be able to tap in to broadband by next summer after BT was awarded a public sector contract to wire up 45 areas in the Midlands and the South West of England. The UK's dominant fixed line telco beat off competition from eight other suppliers including Cable & Wireless (C&W) and Claranet to win the contract. Exactly how much of tax payers' money is being used to pay BT to upgrade its own exchanges for broadband has yet to be released, but at least four development agencies are known to have put their hands in their pocket to fund the project. Those behind the deal claim it is "unique" because three English regions - East Midlands, West Midlands and the South West - joined together under a single organisation, West Midlands Networking Company (WMNC), to award the contract. The areas - which include villages in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and the Scilly Isles - are regarded as not commercially viable for broadband without some form of hand-out. The project also needed the thumbs-up from the European Commission to ensure it met rules governing state aid. The Commission decided that the project could go ahead because the public money "was not likely to cause undue distortion of competition within the Single Market and was therefore compatible with EC Treaty state aid rules". Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes accepted that the "rural nature and geographical remoteness of the concerned areas make them an unattractive goal for investment by broadband service providers" and that the "aims at correcting this digital divide by awarding grants to service providers selected through public tenders". A full list of exchanges covered by this project can be found at Thepowerofbroadband. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2005
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CSC shares leap on takeover talk

CSC shares jumped more than $8 yesterday on rumours that the company could be in line for a massive takeover. Shares closed at $58 after floating at around $50 for most of the year. Lockheed Martin is leading a group of investors who will pay up to $12bn for the services company. The group is offering between $64 and $65 a share, according to AP. Lockheed shares fell slightly on the news. Lockheed is working with private investors Blackstone Group, Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, reckons Lockheed is keen to get its hands on CSC's government contracts while the private equity groups will get the commercial contracts. Lockheed is primarily a defence contractor although it does have some IT services business - it took over the deeply troubled UK air traffic control project. Buying CSC would give Lockheed solid government revenues and help it move towards the current buzzwords of "network-centric warfare and defence". As defence projects increasingly rely on software so Lockheed needs better software skills.®
John Oates, 02 Nov 2005

BP boss appointed science body president

The chief executive of BP is lined up to take over as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) when the current president, Francois Cairncross, steps down in September 2006. The BA was established in 1831 with the idea of making science accessible to the public. "We aim to promote openness about science in society and to engage and inspire people directly with science and technology and their implications" it says on its website. Part of the organisation's remit is to "facilitate open debate about the social and ethical issues of science", which makes the appointment of the head of a petrol company an interesting choice. Lord Browne of Madingley says he is looking forward to the challenges of the post: "Science, engineering and technology are at the heart of human progress. It is critical to enhance the public profile of those already involved in these fields, to attract the very best of the next generation, and to listen to the public's aspirations for what they can do for our world," he said. The BA said it appointed Lord Browne because of his long history in science and engineering. Professor Patrick Dowling, chair of the BA council noted that Lord Browne's industrial background made him particularly well suited for the role: "Much of what people see and experience of science and technology is mediated through industrial innovation," he said. Previous presidents of the BA include Sir David Attenborough and Professor Robert Winston. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Nov 2005

PETA prez sells herself on eBay

In the great tradition of "buy my services for a day and do with me what you will", the president of animal-hugging pressure group PETA is auctioning her services on eBay. The blurb explains: Here’s a unique chance to hire hands-on corporate administrator and founder Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as your personal assistant for a day. Use her experience in animal matters and corporate know-how to good advantage, perhaps by having her accompany you on your annual hunting expedition or to the rodeo or a bullfight. What about having her redesign your animal testing lab or your bear bile farm, check your trapline, sharpen the lamb mulesing shears on your Outback farm or unload your poor old sheep from the docks in Dubai, build supports to stop your cattle from slipping off the truck ramps at the leather market, or count how many times the workers at your slaughterhouse miss with the captive-bolt gun? You can have her clean rodent cages or racehorse stalls, serve customers at your dog-soup restaurant, or just have her listen for hours to your hunting club members expound on their manhood. Of course, as one of the world’s most prominent animal rights leaders, Newkirk would gladly also help you veganize your corporate cafeteria or cook your family’s dinner, bring your wardrobe into the 21st century by going with you on a compassionate shopping spree, or cap your chimney to keep wildlife out of your fireplace this winter. She could help you select cruelty-free holiday gifts, train you to be nicer to your Rottweilers or teach you how to talk to your cats, restock your bathroom cabinet with cruelty-free toiletries and cleaning products, or swap out your sticky glue traps for Havahart® humane box traps. Or perhaps you have other ideas. Yes we do. A quick poll of the office included: mucking out rat cages at Huntingdon Life Sciences; acting as deckhand on a Japanese whaling ship; blowing up a terrier by attaching a firework to its tail (currently a UK favourite among alcopop-crazed teens who have not yet attracted the attention of an Asbo); actually fighting a bull at the Plaza de Toros in Madrid; throwing a blindfolded donkey from a church tower (another Spanish favourite - are there no depths to which the Dons will not sink in search of family entertainment?); fighting a fur-clad Naomi Campbell in the ethical fashion Arena of Death during London Fashion Week; and excising the word "veganize" from the dictionary so that all innocent, defenceless people are not made to suffer unnecessarily at the hands of cruel US amateur lexicographers. We're sure readers can think of plenty more. The bidding currently stands at around $1k with eight days left to run. Go to it. ® Bootnote Check out the lovely pic accompanying the auction. We reckon the dog might be a bit handy at ratting or hare coursing. Hmmm...
Lester Haines, 02 Nov 2005

32,000 face axe at Deutsche Telekom

Deutsche Telekom (DT) is to zap 32,000 jobs in Germany over the next three years as it looks to cut costs and restructure its business. The telecoms giant insisted today that there would be no compulsory job cuts as part of the overhaul, which is set to cost the company €3.3bn in charges. In short, DT is facing up to the changes that have swept the telecoms industry over recent years. Or as chief exec Kai-Uwe Ricke put it: "The worldwide realignment of the industry, the rapid pace of technological development and, in particular, the tough competitive environment in the fixed network and broadband sector in Germany imposed by the regulatory situation, intensify the challenges facing the entire Deutsche Telekom Group "On the one hand, we have to cut jobs in old core markets; on the other, there are opportunities to create jobs in new innovative markets." Over the next three years, about 32,000 employees in Germany will leave Deutsche Telekom including 7,000 workers who are to be outsourced to customer service outfit Vivento. In an email to workers seen by The Register execs say they are "aware of the seriousness and the extent of this decision". "The measures which have been decided are unavoidable, however, in order to ensure the viability and market competitiveness of the entire Group," it said. "There is no alternative: We must constantly scrutinise the performance and the achievement potential of each unit and make necessary adjustments. "This is the only way to assert our position in the market. It will allow us to face our competition from a position of strength and meet the demands of our customers," it said. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2005
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EDS scrapes to profit

Services behemoth EDS scraped to a profit yesterday, making profits of $8m in the third quarter against a loss of $153m in the same period last year. The firm signed contracts worth $5.3bn, up 83 per cent on last year's quarter. It also announced the imminent management buyout of its consulting arm, AT Kearney. Revenue for the period was $4.87bn, up three per cent on last year. Organic revenue, excluding currency changes and acquisitions was flat. Third quarter non-General Motors revenue was $4.44bn. Revenues in the Americas were flat at $2.29bn but profits were up 10 per cent to $375m helped by the Financial Services and Transport divisions. Sales in Emea were up six per cent to $1.48bn thanks mainly to a contract with the UK MoD. Asian Pacific revenues were up one per cent to $347m but profits fell nearly 30 per cent to $33m, "due to investments and unfavourable change in portfolio mix". EDS's ill-fated contract with the US Navy - the Navy Marine Corps Intranet - is still costing the firm dearly. Last year EDS wrote off $500m in wasted assets. This year EDS lost $11m on the contract despite it bringing in $208m in revenues. The company also announced it is in talks to sell AT Kearney to its managers. No financial details have been disclosed although the two hope the deal will close before the end of the year, subject to usual regulatory and shareholder approval. The two companies would continue to work closely together.
John Oates, 02 Nov 2005

Hollywood tunes into anti-piracy audio signals

Pirate DVDs made by copying movies in cinemas could become a thing of the past in the HD era, if technology presented to the DVD Forum proves successful. The system requires film distributors to embed an inaudible watermark in film soundtracks. HD DVD players will contain a sensor that listens out for the watermark in the soundtracks of any disc being played. Since official HD DVDs will not contain the watermark, its presence on the disc reveals the disc to be a pirate copy. Playback will then be aborted, and the buyer's name and address beamed to the nearest law enforcement agency. Just joking. The watermark comprises digital data encoded in subtle shifts in the audio waveform that makes up the soundtrack, New Scientist reports this week. Human ears can't detect the fluctuations. Whether the pirates digitise a movie print directly, or simply point a camcorder at the cinema screen, they will still capture the audio and the watermark with it. Legitimate DVDs will also contain a different watermark, Hollywood hopes, which can be used to look for content ripped from official discs, but that's going to be harder to square with established 'fair use' copying provisions in certain territories. If the technique wins the approval of the DVD Forum, the presence of the watermark detector could be mandated in any player stamped with the official HD DVD brand. Of course, there will be plenty of machines out there whose manufacturers use the HD DVD logo without permission, or don't use it at all, and in either case may ship machines without the sensor. However, Hollywood presumably believes it would nonetheless create a major disincentive for most consumers to buy pirate HD DVDs. Buy one that turns out not to work, and users may go on to buy a second disc. But they won't buy a third, the argument runs. It is not clear at this stage whether the rival Blu-ray Disc format will adopt the technique. The system was detailed this week by a Warner Bros representative. Now that Warner is backing both BD and HD DVD, there's a good chance BD will incorporate the system. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2005
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Watmore government policies?

The man at the helm of Britain's e-government unit unveiled a broad-brush strategy to be filled out by Easter in consultation with industry. The three guiding principles of Ian Watmore's strategy are to improve skills, put citizens' needs at the heart of IT and develop shared services. So on the face of it, no bombshells. But there will be issues for citizens and industry to scrutinize as the government puts flesh on the bones of the document, Transformational Government over the coming months. For the punters it constitutes a promise to develop fancy new methods of delivering public services, such as over mobile phones, in ways that are better attuned to their increasingly demanding consumer egos. A commitment has also been given to tackle the social exclusion that may occur as a result of a long term plan to phase out, where feasible, all conventional - ie paper-based and face to face - methods of delivering government services. The shared services agenda should concentrate the minds of civil rights campaigners as the long term aim is to bridge the "silos" of information in government IT systems so that data can be shared across government. There's no significantly new material here for civil servants, but their worrisome secrets have been swept from under the carpet and will have to be faced. The public service has been well aware of the implications set out in today's report from the work it has already done to meet the government's target to have all services e-enabled by the end of 2005, and from the findings of last year's Gershon Review: more IT will mean consolidation - ie union negotiations - in the back office and a desperate need for skills to make it all happen. Watmore's announcement last month that the hard work was just beginning, as laid out again in this report, was something everyone involved in public sector IT already knew. Now it is out in the open the pressure is really on. The headline grabber for industry is the decision to divert £1.4bn from spending on legacy systems (10 per cent of the total government IT spend), which are "old, custom-built, use obsolete technology, [and are] costly to maintain". This is to be expected, and will be of concern to the many SMEs that have built their businesses around supplying specialist systems to government, such as with the NHS National Programme for IT. There are also implications for the whole of industry, most of which it is already tackling head on and will be determined largely by the outcomes of existing negotiations - which may drag on for some time as they are the most contentious of the reforms. They are also among the most crucial and are related to the key theme of Watmore's strategy, which between the lines reads as, better specify IT project requirements in the first place and manage them better once they are under way. This should also give industry confidence in its ongoing contractual negotiations. The private sector is arguing that the government is trying to pass the buck instead of dealing with the root cause of problems with IT projects: poor specifications and project management on the government side.®
Mark Ballard, 02 Nov 2005

Blair unsettles greens, edges away from Kyoto

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the solutions to climate change lay not in externally imposed emissions targets, but in developing new, green technology. Speaking at an international conference on climate change, Blair noted that legally binding targets on emissions, such as those laid out in the Kyoto Protocol, "make people very nervous". "The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," he said. Downing street later denied that his comments represented a policy shift, The Guardian reports. He said that post-Kyoto (the treaty runs out in 2012), the world would need a more economically sensitive approach to tackling emissions. The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialised nations, like the UK, to cut their greenhouse emissions by 5.2 per cent by 2012, as compared to levels in 1990. The UK had said it would reduce its emissions further, gunning for a 20 per cent drop in CO2 emissions by 2010. However, that now looks unlikely. Meanwhile the US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, complaining that developing nations like India and China were exempt, and that the requirements would hurt the US economy. Blair has previously had to refute suggestions that he is moving to a more US-style approach to climate change, following similar comments in a meeting with Bill Clinton in New York. "All economies know that the only sensible, long-term way to develop is to do it on a sustainable basis," he said. Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth argued that by downplaying clear targets and frameworks "the Prime Minister is ignoring calls from UK companies who want a clear framework to operate within now." He told the Environment News Service: "There has been a lot of discussion about the false choice between targets and technologies, but the reality is that without both we cannot achieve either." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Nov 2005
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Swedish programmer in Greek spam probe protests innocence

A well-known Swedish programmer is fighting to clear his name after he was arrested in Greece last week on charges of spamming people with penis pill adverts and the like. Rick Downes runs software companies Rixstep.com and Radsoft.net and is strongly against spamming. Downes runs these firms part time from his home in Crete after taking early retirement. But these credentials cut little ice with Greek tourist police who arrested Downes on 26 October and confiscated his main computer. Local police were acting on complaints made by a travel agent business acquaintance and two other people who received nearly identical spam messages (advertising drugs such as Viagra and Valium) soon after meeting the software developer and his wife, Sydney Phillips. Police told local paper Xaniotika Nea (Chania News) that Downes, along with another unnamed Swedish citizen, were illegally selling pharmaceutical drugs on the net, promoted through an enthusiastic spamming campaign. But, according to Phillips, there is no connection between him and suspect emails shown to him by the police. These sample emails contained no header information but ostensibly came from the domain 'acnielsen.com', the online ratings firm. Downes strongly denies the accusations and maintains there is nothing to link him with the spam messages. He said his knowledge of computers was taken as suspicious by investigators who knew nothing about technology. "We tried to explain to the police that what most likely happened is that the travel agent's computer is compromised and that her address book (including the addresses of her two friends who've met Rick) has been harvested for use by spammers, but they did not understand this. They were very unsophisticated in terms of computers and seemed to believe spammers met people and collected email addresses one by one," Phillips said. Downes operates an Apple Mac machine and is an expert in low level functions so there was no way his machine was compromised to send the offending messages, according to Phillips, who remains baffled about why her husband came to be charged and is highly critical of the police handling of the case. "We've received no help from the Swedish consulate. All they can do is recommend a translator," she said, adding that the case has affected the couple's health and affected the operation of Downes's software development businesses. Police are still investigating the case but Phillips is hopeful this probe will be completed within a week. At that point, police will either drop the case or give Downes a court date. ® Clarification An earlier version of this article said Downes had been nominated to the caretaker board of EINSA, the new European taskforce for Internet security. While Downes was recommended to the board, he never formally applied, and therefore has no formal links with the organization. We are happy to clarify this point.
John Leyden, 02 Nov 2005
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Stock fallout hits Mercury management

Sweeping management changes have been instigated at Mercury Interactive following an official investigation into irregular allocations of the company's stock. Self-styled business technology optimization specialist Mercury has accepted the resignations of chief executive officer (CEO) Amnon Landan, chief financial officer Douglas Smith, and general counsel Susan Skaer following a year-long investigation initiated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Mercury named president and chief operating officer Anthony Zingale as CEO and senior vice president for corporate development David Murphy as chief financial officer. The probe found forty-nine instances in which the stated date of stock option grants was different from the date on which the options appear to have been actually granted. The price was higher on the actual date than the stated grant date. The allocations took place over a 10-year period from 1995. Mercury said in a statement that Landan, Smith and Skaer were each aware of, and to varying degrees, participated in the practices, and that grants were made to all levels of employees. "Each of them knew or should have known that the practices were contrary to the options plan and proper accounting," Mercury said. "Each of them also benefited personally from the practices." The case is particularly ironic as Mercury delivers a suite of software and services that help corporations achieve good governance and comply with regulations like the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) - conceived to end corporate scandals. Fall out from the changes means Mercury is not now in a position to provide third-quarter financial results, which were expected Wednesday afternoon, as it is assessing the impact on current and past financials. The company said it was unlikely it would have to re-state historical results as a result of the misdated stock grants.®
Gavin Clarke, 02 Nov 2005

Sun's 128-bit ZFS file system to ship this month

More than a year ago, Sun unleashed the idea of the Zettabyte File System (ZFS), and customers paid attention. A high-performance 128-bit file system that prevents data corruption and stretches across tons of systems? Sure. Why not. Customers, however, have become concerned in recent months that ZFS was no more. Sun officials said relatively little about the product, and it didn't appear in Solaris 10 updates. So, a number of you wrote to us asking for an update on the software. Here it is. Our phone taps at Sun have turned up some key ZFS information. First off, the software made it into the next version of Solaris's code base just this week. ZFS will stand as another feature in Solaris 11 or whatever Sun plans to call the next major version of its operating system. In the meantime, customers will be able to grab ZFS from the Solaris Express program in two weeks time. It's reasonably safe to assume that an OpenSolaris launch will follow. So what does ZFS do? Well, the software has been in development since July of 2001 and fits broadly into the virtualization technology category. Administrators can use ZFS to spread a common file system across numerous storage boxes, getting rid of volume and partitioning management and ending the need to grow and shrink individual file systems for certain applications. ZFS also has sophisticated checks for preventing data corruption, ways to improve I/O performance and of course 128-bit support. More technical information is available here. A number of storage companies, both large and small, have extensive file system work going on in the efforts to deliver a "pool" of boxes to customers. Many, in fact, already claim to have solved this problem, as you can see here. Just how well ZFS stacks up against these other products remains to be seen. In its favor, however, is Sun's growing storage business. In the past, the company has struggled to find much interest for its storage gear. But, following the StorageTek acquisition, Sun now has one of the larger tape and disk businesses. This should let Sun make the ZFS pitch to plenty of large customers. There's more information from Mr. ZFS available here.®
Ashlee Vance, 02 Nov 2005

Symantec shares collapse as sales shrink

First Symantec shocked investors, then investors shocked Symantec. The software maker saw its stock drop more than 20 per cent after reporting a second quarter loss, announcing the surprise departure of its CFO, and issuing a gloomy sales forecast. When Symantec's acquisition of Veritas was first announced, many feared that the slower growing storage software market would weigh on Symantec's more lively security software business. Well, Symantec managed to mock these fears by showing that its core security business can grow just as slowly as the storage business. The company cut its fiscal 2006 revenue forecast by $130m to $5bn, citing poor sales of its consumer and corporate security products. "It should be noted that consumer sell-through during the quarter appears to have slowed as compared with prior Septembers," CFO Greg Meyers told analysts. "This slowing is most likely a combination of the late release of our 2006 consumer products in the quarter, a lack of high profile threat activity and competitive pressures across the various consumer channels." The gloomy outlook seemed to be the main reason for a 20 per cent drop in Symantec's stock price today. At the time of this report, Symantec was down 19 per cent at $19.45 per share. Veritas managed to dent Symantec's results too. Symantec reported a $251m net loss during the second quarter with $284m in charges related to the Veritas buy. In the same period last year, Symantec reported a $136m profit. Symantec also said that CFO Myers would resign. Former president John Schwarz recently left the company to take the CEO post at Business Objects. Some pundits have characterized these departures as the start of a post-merger brain drain. "We are very pleased with our first quarter of combined operations," said John Thompson, Symantec's CEO in a press release titled "Symantec Reports Solid Second Quarter Earnings." It would seem Thompson's investor e-mail account was down on the day. ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 Nov 2005
channel

Developers become advertisers with Microsoft

Google has given Microsoft something to think about with a seemingly successful advertising-based business model, but Microsoft can "out Google" Google with developers. That's the enthusiastic view of Microsoft's recently appointed chief technology officer (CTO) Ray Ozzie, who believes Redmond can utilize MSN to beat Google and become the industry's largest beneficiary of online advertising-based services. Ozzie was speaking ahead of Tuesday's rather disappointing "live software" announcement in San Francisco where Microsoft unveiled the advertising - and subscription - based Windows Live and Office Live. Microsoft hopes to convert millions of Windows developers using software development tools like Visual Studio into content providers, building adverts and services into Windows Live, Office Live and Windows applications. Microsoft is not just trying to follow Google, it's also chasing eBay and Amazon.com. These online empires have been releasing their APIs to developers for several years now, with developers building business offerings that integrate back into the main eBay and Amazon platform for exposure and sales. While Microsoft may have been happy to let eBay and Amazon slide, Google caught Microsoft's attention with its advertising revenue and superior search. "Google has done an amazing job at proving out the ad-supported model," Ozzie told last week's Vortex05 conference of chief information officers (CIOs), in San Francisco. "We [Microsoft] have to think how we'd monetize that under a different model." The secret to monetization is - apparently - to translate the concept of the vast data center that Google has built using an infrastructure of commodity PCs (running Google's own Linux) that drives Google search, into the pseudo data center that is the MSN server and client architecture running Windows. And, the fact MSN is just one of a handful of internet operators who has that size of infrastructure on tap, and because Microsoft "will" beat Google, Ozzie seems to believe it's a foregone conclusion that Microsoft will therefore beat all others to take the lion's share of the market for advertising-based services. "There will be very few companies who have that scale to build that infrastructure," Ozzie said. Ozzie joined Microsoft this year in a hire that was vital to the company's efforts to crack the nut of services and peer-to-peer, software-based, networking. Microsoft claims to offer "services" already, through such over-hyped activities as its Dr Watson to report errors in Windows and Xbox live. Ozzie, creator of IBM's Lotus Notes groupware software, though, was going far further by developing software at his start-up Groove Networks that let individuals work together by securely slipping through firewalls to speed-up the collaborative process. That's got interesting crossover appeal for Microsoft's Office desktop productivity suite. Microsoft's white-haired new boy says the company will leverage its relationships with enterprises and small businesses, and its footprint among seven million Windows developers to kick-start the ads revenue wheel. "An amazing number of developers use the [Microsoft] tools. I am very, very passionate about how services can be brought to bear to help those people make money," Ozzie said. As ever, though, Microsoft's problems are scale and applicability of its service. Microsoft is renowned for building personal software that's great for individual or relatively small groups of users, but that struggles at the enterprise level. Ozzie, for example, foresees problems developing different types of access controls in services that are simultaneously availably in public and private domains. Also, how do you provide search capable of spanning desktops, intranets and the internet - that's something even IBM has been at pains to differentiate between. Relevancy on the internet may be links or track backs while number of emails is a better indication of relevance on an enterprise network. That's where Microsoft will need to draw on developers to enrich Microsoft's underlying platform or service. "We haven't yet cracked how to integrate what's on the desktop with what's in the various content management systems," Ozzie said.®
Gavin Clarke, 02 Nov 2005

Ex-PeopleSoft chief's Kubla Khan thwarted

Heart wrenching news from Northern California, where former PeopleSoft chief David Duffield has been forced to give up plans to build a 72,000 square-foot mansion in Alamo, Ca, a suburb near San Francisco.
Ashlee Vance, 02 Nov 2005