8th > November > 2005 Archive
Grokster, the largest and the best known of the P2P networks, has closed today as part of a legal agreement with the Hollywood studios. WinMX suspended operations six weeks ago. MGM pursued Grokster all the way to the Supreme Court, with the judges considering the case in the summer. While the Supremes declined to make a ruling, the guidance they offered in sending the case back down to a lower court suggested that there was no Get Out Of Jail Free card in the shape of secondary liability protection for network operators who induced copyright infringement. A message on the Grokster home page today read: The United States Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that using this service to trade copyrighted material is illegal. Copying copyrighted motion picture and music files using unauthorized peer-to-peer services is illegal and is prosecuted by copyright owners. There are legal services for downloading music and movies. This service is not one of them. The page points to a plug for Grokster's forthcoming, legitimate P2P service Grokster 3G. The record labels are increasingly looking to turn the P2P networks into 'walled gardens', or 'music service providers' (MSPs) where fans can share music inside the network, while artists get a cut of revenue set aside to compensate them. Mashboxx and PlayLouder MSP have both won major label backing. However, the closure of the marquee names doesn't mean that P2P activity has diminished. After WinMX closed, readers reported that they could import lists of OpenNap servers and continue using the WinMX client - with more content available at high transfer rates than before. ®
AnalysisAnalysis Fabric7 has arrived on the server scene as something of a rarity. It's a start-up with a pitch that actually makes a lot of sense. Linux on x86 chips has eaten away at the low-end sales enjoyed by Unix server makers. So with x86 gaining performance, and Linux software gaining maturity, why not go after the higher-end systems? Most start-ups come to us with fanciful pitches and seem destined to have short runs. If they're lucky, a larger vendor will acquire their goods to fill a small gap in their product lineup. Blade server maker RLX and intelligent switch firm Topspin fit this mold well, being picked up recently by HP and Cisco, respectively. The idea is to be just far ahead enough of the big boys so that it's easier for them to buy you than develop their own hardware or software. Fabric7, however, has a play that the Tier 1 vendors have already tried and then largely abandoned. It's going after Unix SMPs with a fast, networking-rich system that can run business software which has been ported to Linux, along with Windows server software. The flagship Fabric7 box is the Q160 server. The system can be configured with anywhere between 2 and 14 Opteron processors from AMD. You might be shocked to find out that the system takes up half a standard rack, but there's a reason for the size. The Q160 is packed full of networking technology. It boasts 128 Gbps of non-blocking, switched I/O that permits up to 40 Gbps of bandwidth to processors and memory. Customers can link the systems together at speeds of up to 30 Gbps. "Everything about the product just screams, 'We are going to eat up I/Os,'" said Jonathan Eunice, lead analyst at Illuminata. "The idea of providing that big switch in the back-end means that it should have a boatload of I/O performance. There is constant attention here to quality of service, and the systems should handle any data-heavy applications that need a big memory footprint or tons of bandwidth." Just before Opteron and 64-bit Xeon arrived, the Tier I server makers largely pulled out of the x86 SMP game. HP waved goodbye to its 8-way systems, and Dell abandoned its 8-way server before it reached the market. IBM alone continues to invest large amounts of money into high-performing chipsets for its Xeon-based gear and can scale its Xseries systems up to handle databases and other demanding business software. More minor companies such as Unisys and a couple of Asian suppliers also offer large Xeon-based gear. The big boys' aversion to x86 SMPs continued even as 64-bit x86 chips appeared. The right processors had arrived for the job, but attention moved elsewhere as the Tier Is decided to maintain their Unix server lines and focus on selling x86 clusters and blades. Fabric7 hopes it has caught the market at just the right spot. It's offering a product that differs from the SMP kit sold by Unisys and IBM and wants to revitalize the 64-bit Linux and Windows businesses. "Two years or even a year ago, I would say Linux was still a bit immature for this play," Eunice said. "But the 2.4 and 2.6 kernels are really quite good at handling bigger resource pools. They are not AIX, HP-UX or Solaris. I totally grant that. Still, I think the applications are there for Linux and even Windows Server 2003 to take advantage of this. I think it's actually the right time." The Fabric7 systems offer a lot of the tools founds on Unix SMPs. Each system can be carved up into different sized partitions - the smallest being a two-socket slice. (That's a four-way partition with dual-core Opterons.) Customers can then control the amount of bandwidth, memory and storage dedicated to each partition in some sophisticated ways. The switching infrastructure provided by Fabric7 gives you far more I/O control options than typical systems, meaning you can set up unique quality of service levels for each applications. Fabric7 has a clean looking GUI and a command line interface for management and touts its software as a big asset, but then what start-up doesn't? If you need raw horsepower to go along with the I/O-heavy Q160, Fabric7 sells the more traditional Q80 server. This box takes up just 6U of rack space and still has 8-sockets. It can also be carved up like the Q160 and touts 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 8 PCI-X slots. It supports up to 64GB of memory, while the larger box support up to 128GB. We already covered some of the brains behind Fabric7 here. There's a lot of old Tandem and Sequent talent on board with, of course, the requisite Sun Microsystems hands that seem to feature in every hardware start-up. Speaking of Sun, Fabric7 looks to face new competition from the House that McNealy Built when the 8-socket Galaxy box finally arrives. From a pure horsepower standpoint, Sun should match the start-up. HP too could reenter the 8-way market any day now that it has seen solid sales of its Opteron gear. Fabric7 though will keep touting its networking edge over these larger players. Most networking start-ups brag about all their ports and I/Os but forget the processing part of the equation, while server start-ups tend to scream about their processing power while forgetting about I/O. Fabric7 thinks it has found a solid middle-of-the-road approach. "We think we are hitting this at the perfect moment in time," said Sharad Mehrotra CEO of Fabric7 in an interview. "If you're already looking at Linux, every major ISV is already there. They've moved en masse. What is missing is the iron to run those workloads." In recent years, some of the more practical server start-up ideas have played out. Egenera, for example, still competes well in the blade server market and briefly considered an IPO based on its success. Rackable Systems has enjoyed a solid IPO and made a name for itself as a thin server specialist. Fabric7 looks to follow this trend and capitalize on the interest in AMD's Opteron chip. Readers interested in the Fabric7 gear can find more information here. The Q160 has started shipping at a list price of $144,000. The Q80 will ship in the first quarter of 2006 at a list price of $42,000. ®
AOL could be about to unveil its own broadband service in the UK by investing in local loop unbundling (LLU), The Register has learned. The ISP - which has more than a million broadband users - has just kicked off a small trial in London to test its broadband service. It's also just placed its first orders with BT to unbundle exchanges. Exact details of AOL's LLU plans are being kept closely under wraps although El Reg understands that an announcement could be made within the next couple of weeks or so. Asked to comment a spokesman for AOL UK told us: "We can confirm that we have placed orders for exchanges. A handful of people have just started trialling our LLU service." AOL's decision to invest in LLU comes as rival Wanadoo UK is due to flick the switch on its new unbundled broadband service this month with the promise of speeds up to 8 meg. And that's not all. The UK's LLU industry is buzzing at the moment with a string of operators announcing their plans for unbundled broadband. Satellite operator Sky has made it clear it intends to enter the UK's broadband market with the £211m acquisition of LLU operator Easynet, while Carphone Warehouse last week confirmed plans to spend up to £45m by installing its kit in around 1,000 BT exchanges. Video Networks - which already has some 34,000 broadband punters - is to unbundle hundreds more exchanges as it makes its broadband TV service available to some ten million viewers in the UK. Meanwhile Cable & Wireless (C&W) owned Bulldog is fighting back after a miserable summer with the launch of a new marketing campaign for its LLU service. ®
Nokia's Linux-based Tablet will be available in the USA this Thursday, a week after its European debut. The imaginatively titled Internet Tablet is an unusual move for Nokia in a number of ways. Linux PDAs such as Sharp's Zaurus haven't shown much staying power on the market, and have in recent years been hard to find outside Japan. Nokia is effectively launching a brand new PDA platform - its open source Maemo - that starts with zero applications against competition from PalmOS and PocketPC that can boast abundant software catalogs. As a hardware platform, the Tablet looks decidedly underpowered, with its smartphone OMAP chip from Texas Instruments no match for similarly priced StrongARM-powered competition. Expanding the Tablet is much more expensive than it should be, as it uses an expensive RS-MMC slot, and as a PDA, Nokia's Tablet even lacks a built-in calendar. In its favor, the Tablet is lighter than the competition and boasts a better screen, at 800x480 pixels. (More specs in last week's report here, on the Maemo site, and at the Internet Tablet Talk community site.) However Nokia has managed to cultivate an enthusiastic hacker community since announcing the Tablet in June - the well-thought out Maemo API poses no great challenge for Gtk developers, and end users can flash the firmware from Mac OS X and Linux as well as Windows, giving it tinker appeal. Nokia executives are determined to keep the platform open, encouraging developers to produce software that makes Nokia's traditional customers - mobile phone networks - nervous, such as VoIP and file sharing software. It's a stealth product in other ways - while existing PDAs have been retrofitted to use Wi-Fi, Nokia is hoping a low-power device designed from the ground-up for internet radio and browsing might be a better fit. We'll see. Nokia will be selling the Tablet direct from its US web site. Nokia's European sites report that the £245 (€349) Tablet is sold out.®
AMD's Socket F processor interconnect has appeared on the web. Dutch-language site Tweakers.net has the pictures, which reveal the 1207-pin - count 'em - socket in all its glory. Socket F is expected to debut in 2006 as the interconnect for future dual-core AMD Opteon 2xx and 8xx server processors, all with 'Pacifica' virtualisation technology and probably AMD's 'Presidio' security system. Like Socket M, the desktop and Opteron 1xx interconnect, Socket F will support DDR 2 SDRAM, certainly clocked to 533MHz and 667MHz, and possibly up to 800MHz. AMD's plan for Socket F emerged in May 2005, but little has been heard about it since. Most roadmap leaks have focused on Socket M and the desktop side of the story. Today's pictures at least indicate that the server interconnect beast may be real. ®
The class-action lawsuit brought against Apple following the iPod Nano 'scratch scandal' has crossed the Atlantic. Seattle-based lawyers Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro (HBSS) said yesterday they had filed a parallel complaint from UK resident Ben Jennings. The lawsuit was filed with the US District Court for Northern California. Jennings claims he bought a Nano in September but despite treating the screen "extremely cautiously" it became "so marred with scratches it became hard to read", according to HBSS. How long did it this take? Within a week, the plaintiff claims. "If I had known the truth about the problem, I never would have purchased a Nano," said Jennings via his legal representative. The "truth" in this matter, as stated in the original HBSS complaint, filed with the US District Court in San Jose, is that the Nano is endemically faulty thanks to a "defective design", and that Apple knew as much but chose to release the product anyway and hide the fault from consumers. The fault, it's claimed, allows the screen to become badly scratched even through "normal" use. So, at least, allege the plaintiffs' HBSS is representing, who are seeking recompense. HBSS said Jennings, who is not a US resident, can nonetheless seek restitution through the US court because Apple is headquartered there. The lawfirm also said it had filed a complaint on behalf of a Mexico resident, though it did not provide further details. ®
Taiwanese memory makers may have seen big sales gains during Q3, but they remain a long way from market leadership, according to quarterly statistics from market watcher Gartner Dataquest. Out of the top ten DRAM makers, Taiwan's Nanya, PowerChip and ProMOS all saw the biggest sequential revenue growth in Q3, Gartner's numbers show. Nanya's sales were up 30.7 per cent from $308m in Q2 to $422m the following quarter. PowerChip's gain was a more modest 20 per cent, from $225m to $270m, and ProMOS' increase lower still: up 15.8 per cent from $190m to $220m. Japan's Elpida was close behind in the growth stakes. Its sales went from $403m to $466m sequentially, a rise of 15.6 per cent. By contrast, market leader Samsung's sales rose a mere 4.4 per cent between the two quarters. But then Samsung's sales totalled $1.98bn, more than twice the sales of the three Taiwanese firms' quarterly sales put together, so we don't think it's too worried. Samsung accounted for 30.6 per cent of DRAM sales in Q3. Its nearest competitor, fellow South Korean Hynix, took 16.6 per cent of the market, ahead of US-based Micron (15.3 per cent share), Germany's Infineon (13.5 per cent) and fifth-placed Elpida (7.2 per cent). Nanya, PowerChip and ProMOS took the sixth, seventh and eighth places in the chart, respectively, with shares of 6.5 per cent, 4.2 per cent and 3.4 per cent. The DRAM market as a whole grew 11.5 per cent sequentially, from $5.8bn to $6.47bn, Gartner said. Industry revenue in the first nine months of the year was $18.9 billion, down 1.9 percent from the same period last year. Gartner said it expects DRAM revenues to decline 2.3 per cent to $25.7bn in 2005. ®
Fraudulent use of credit cards online is increasing because Chip and PIN technology makes other forms of fraud more difficult. The six-monthly survey from Apacs, the UK payments association, found that card-not-present fraud, which covers internet, mail order and telephone scams jumped nearly a third compared to the same period last year. In the period January to June 2004 card-not-present scams netted fraudsters £70.2m but in the first half of this year losses grew to £90.6m. The internet part of this fraud grew five per cent to £58m. But despite the growth in card-not-present frauds total card losses fell 13 per cent to £219.4m. ID theft on card accounts fell 16 per cent from £19.1m to £16.1m. Apacs also carried out research into consumer attitudes to security and found one in four online shoppers not checking whether sites are secure or not. Almost half of women and half of 16 to 24 year olds do not know what 'phishing' is. Apacs is starting a marketing campaign to show punters how to protect their cards. A spokeswoman at Apacs, said: "The latest online fraud losses are comparatively low considering the huge number of transactions now being carried out online and it is clear that fraudsters are having more success targeting cards than online bank accounts - so our campaign is focused on cardholders." Apacs will publicise its top ten tips including: keep details safe in the real world - because that's where most internet fraudsters get them from - check your browser is up-to-date with security patches and only use secure websites. Tickbox carried out the research for Apacs and spoke to 2,104 online shoppers. More from Apacs here.®
Criminal mastermind David Carlile kidnapped a talking African Grey parrot he encountered during an uninivited visit to a remote country house because he thought it would grass him up to the Old Bill, UK tabloid the Sun reports.
Nvidia yesterday said it is shipping its latest mid-range graphics chip, the GeForce 6800 GS, and the part is now available for consumers to buy. The 130nm 6800 GS chip is said to be clocked at 425MHz with memory set to 500MHz (1GHz effective). The chip has five vertex engines and 12 pixel shader pipelines, setting it between the lesser 6800 and the higher-specced 6800 GT. The chips supports both DDR and GDDR 3 SDRAM, connected across a 256-bit bus. Memory bandwidth is 32GBps. The GS supports SLi. Like other GeForce 6800 family members, the GS supports DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0, along with Nvidia's Intellisample 3.0, PureVideo 3.0, CineFX 3.0 and UltraShadow II technologies, plus 64-bit texture filtering and blending. GeForce 6800 GS-based cards will cost around $249 (£143/€211) and are shipping now from the likes of Albatron, Chaintech, Innovision, Leadtek, MSI, Palit, PNY, Sparkle and XFX. Expect the part to appear in a range of PCs from the world's system builders too, Nvidia said. The launch comes a day after Taiwanese graphics card maker sources alleged ATI was experiencing product shortages. They claimed supplies of Radeon 9250, X300, X550, X1300, X1600 and X1800 parts are not as high as they could be. ®
Japanese mobile phone network NTT DoCoMo is to buy a majority stake in Tower Records Japan. The telco said it will pay ¥12.8bn ($108.84m) for a 42 per cent stake in the privately held retailer which was founded by the US record store chain in August 1979 but since October 2002 has been an entirely independent entity. DoCoMo will initially provide Tower's 100 Japanese stores with pay-by-phone systems allowing consumers to purchase music and have it billed to their FeliCa mobile phone accounts. Both firms also said they are considering a digital music download service partnership, and that's likely to be the real motivation behind the deal. DoCoMo gains a music brand and knowledge needed to provide such a service which could integrate perfectly with the telco's i-mode facility. Some reports claim music accounts for around half of all i-mode content sales. Indeed, Tower Records Japan is already working on a digital download service, in partnership with Napster. Phones are going to be a key music playback platform, and the Tower deal puts DoCoMo in a strong position to capitalise upon the trend. ®
Cable & Wireless (C&W) is pressing ahead with its investment in local loop unbundling (LLU) despite suffering a miserable summer when its Bulldog service was savaged by customers. The telco has already installed its kit in 408 exchanges and intends to double this number within the next ten months. Rival operators including Wanadoo, AOL, Carphone and Sky are all taking steps to invest in LLU, helping to create a sense of real excitement in the industry. "We intend to take advantage of the buoyancy of demand in this market and of the infrastructure we have built ahead of competitors and are likely, therefore, to accelerate investment to support Bulldog's commercial plans," said C&W today. C&W's commitment to LLU follows a miserable summer when Bulldog - which has some 55,000 unbundled punters - was savaged by customers fed up with service failures. It culminated in an investigation by regulator Ofcom. "Bulldog has committed to certain customer compensation measures and will continue to report to Ofcom on its ongoing performance improvements over the next few months," said C&W in a statement today. Once again, though, as C&W published an update of its operations today the telco was quick to single out BT for some of the problems currently facing the LLU industry. "We share the Telecoms Adjudicator's concerns over the BT provisioning process," said C&W. "After four consecutive months in which the Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator (OTA) reported provisioning problems that impacted negatively on the 'right first time' metric, the process has begun to show improvements. "The OTA has more recently voiced its disappointment at BT's poor performance and slow progress in delivering the stable automated systems on which LLU operators rely," it said.
Fun-loving and fur-free animal rights outfit PETA is looking for Europe's hottest veggies or vegans because, as the campaigning organisation puts it: "Vegetarianism has become synonymous with sexy." Well, you might go and explain that to Paris Hilton, responsible earlier this year for millions of adolescent tumescences worldwide when she cavorted, bikini-clad, with a steaming Carl's Jr. Spicy BBQ Burger. Nonetheless, according to PETA: Hot vegetarian hunks include Chris Martin, Tobey McGuire, Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix, Outkast’s Andre 3000 and Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis. Meat-free glam goddesses include Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Liv Tyler, Pam Anderson and siren songbirds Shania Twain and Joss Stone. Yup, it's enough to have the most die-hard bacon sandwich aficionado running for a glass of virgin-thigh-rolled wheatgrass extract with added organic jojoba essence, make no mistake. To enter, you have to be a veggie or vegan and resident in one of the countries listed on the PETA website. The list rather interestingly includes the Vatican City - that world-renowned breeding ground of waif-like, meat-eschewing supermodels. And speaking of waif-like, as far as we are aware cocaine is a 100 per cent natural and animal-cruelty-free product, so no impediment there to entering if your entire diet consists of Bolivian marching powder and Bacardi Breezers. The deadline for photographic entries (which should be "tasteful", meaning no naked poses with your laughing gear wrapped suggestively round a meat-substitute sausage) is 9 December. The finalists will appear on PETA's website and two lucky winners - one male and one female as selected by you, the public - will receive some fabulous, fabulous prizes. Plus, no doubt, a $1m contract to pose for the Non-Genetically-Modified Soya Product Marketing Board's 2006 calendar, shot entirely outside the gates of Huntingdon Life Sciences. ®
Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox 360 will not play songs downloaded from Apple's iTunes Music Store because the Mac maker won't license its DRM technology, at least not for a price the software giant is willing to pay. When the Xbox 360 was formally announced in May 2005, Microsoft said it was compatible with the iPod. Since then it has emerged that the console's control panel software allows music to be played off a USB 2.0-connected MP3 player. Microsoft has its own Windows Media-based music player infrastructure, of course, but clearly the company believes there's value in ensuring Apple's player is supported too. Plug one into the console and the machine can display a list of artists, albums, songs and so on, and allow the user to select one to play. But not iTMS-sourced songs, according to Scott Henson, a product unit manager with Microsoft's advanced-technology group, cited by a CNet report. "We do not have an official relationship with Apple for the iPod connectivity," said Henson. The report also cites Xbox digital-entertainment executive producer Jeff Henshaw, who claimed Microsoft had approached Apple, but had been sent packing. Anecdotal evidence suggests Apple isn't unwilling to license its FairPlay DRM technology, but it's very picky about how it will consider. Our sources indicate well-established hi-fi brands might be in with a chance. Whatever, clearly the Xbox 360 isn't in the right league. Enabling base-line iPod compatibility is easy enough - they're essentially standard USB mass storage devices, the AAC audio format is part of the MPEG 4 standard, there are open source Apple Lossless decoders available, and numerous third-party utilities have figured out how the tracks are stored on the player - and so that's what Microsoft has done. The Xbox 360 launches in the US in two weeks' time, on 22 November. It will arrive in Europe on 2 December. ®
Wanadoo is now a fully fledged local loop unbundling (LLU) operator after it flicked the switch in 15 exchanges in Leeds yesterday. The move means that anyone signing up to the Wanadoo service in Leeds - which was originally used to test the ISP's unbundled broadband service - will be able to get download speeds of up to 8 meg. Existing Wanadoo punters are due to be migrated to the unbundled service over the next couple of weeks. In the next month or so Wanadoo plans to bring a further 135 exchanges in Birmingham, Bristol, London and Manchester online as well. ®
Mystery surrounds the identity of a security consultant who posed as a peer of the realm throughout his adult life. The bogus aristocrat lived for 23 years as Christopher Edward, Earl of Buckingham1, marrying under this false name and fathering two children. He even promised his oldest son that one day he would inherit a peerage. But the impostor's cover was blown after checks by the Passport Agency revealed he had stolen the identity of Christopher Edward Buckingham, an infant who died aged just eight months, in 1963. The ruse was copied from one employed by the assassin in Frederick Forsyth's novel The Day of the Jackal. Unlike that character "Buckingham" maintained an unremarkable life working as an IT security consultant for a Swiss insurance firm since 2001, The Times reports. Buckingham's passport was revoked in 2003. He was arrested in January after checks by an alert immigration official in Calais showed he was traveling under fraudulent documentation. Buckingham was allowed to travel back to the UK but was arrested by police as soon as he docked in Dover. "Buckingham" was charged with making a false passport application and pleaded guilty to the offence at a hearing a Canterbury Crown Court last month. He has steadfastly refused to reveal his true identity despite the added risk of a jail term this might bring. He told his former wife that his parents died in a plane crash in Egypt in 1982, shortly before the pair met in Germany. The couple divorced in 1997. DNA and fingerprint checks on Buckingham have drawn a blank. Strict privacy laws in Switzerland have hampered checks in the country, where Buckingham is believed to have a safety deposit box. Buckingham owns a house in Northampton and is not short of a bob or two but little else is known about him, least of all his true identity. Police hoping to uncover Buckingham's true identity have released a picture of him, taken in the '80s, to the media in the hopes that someone might come forward to identify him. ® 1 The title of Earl of Buckingham has been extinct since 1687 after the death of the second Duke who "had a reputation for debauchery and killed his mistress’s husband in a duel", The Times reports. Bootnote And, yes, we know a Duke, a Baron and a Lord are not neccessarily the same thing. But in the Vulture Central style book, alliteration comes before aristo.
It's official: IT doesn't work properly and as a result you're glued to your desk trying to resolve some technical issue when you should be in the pub, effing and blinding and occasionally throwing things, and pausing only to ring some hapless helpdesk operative and give him or her a piece of your mind. The ultimate loser? Yup, it's the poor old IT service desk worker who pays the price for this techno-driven despair, abused without mercy by furious users. That's according to a survey by IT business management solutions outfit Touchpaper (full plug later, as is the local custom) which took the results of three surveys into IT breakdown and incorporated them into an illuminating übersurvey from which the above factoids were gleaned. The figures add up thus: one third of adults "who had experienced IT problems admitted to missing family and social commitments because a glitch had kept them at their desks late"; two thirds 'fessed up to swearing as a result; 45 per cent admitted an IT-related palaver sank them into a Black Dog for the whole day; and 15 per cent said they had thrown things. That's as nothing compared to those on the sharp end: eighty-one per cent of service desk workers surveyed "admitted they or a colleague had been verbally abused by disgruntled callers"; and 22 per cent had considered quitting their jobs on the spot after a particularly obstreperous exchange. Apparently, male callers are more diffcult than females, and those over 30 and senior management are more inclined to indulge in a bit of bash-the-helpdesk. The solution? Well, 80 per cent of end users said "reducing the use of automated voice response systems" (yes, we hear you) would help. Seventy per cent wanted those on the other end of the line to have a better command of English, while 66 per cent reckoned giving the blighters on the front line more technology to resolve problems remotely would do the trick. Graham Ridgway, big cheese of Touchpaper, which uncannily "provides software for managing IT service departments", explained: "Our research shows how emotive people can get when they have an IT problem. But given the growing importance of IT in so many organisations - when it breaks down, many people simply cannot do their job - we feel service desk teams should be given more help to manage the increasing workload. "For example we are finding that end users can actually solve a lot of simpler IT problems themselves if they are provided with the right self-service software tools and access to knowledge based systems that learn from previous service incidents and provide advice and guidance on potential solutions. Much more productive than throwing something at the computer." Not neccessarily, but we get your drift. You can download the full Touchpaper report right here (PDF). ®
Sony PlayStation 3 games may ship without codes that fix releases to specific geographical territories. According to Sony Computer Entertainment Australia chief Michael Ephraim, the company sees the emergence of a global HDTV standard as the basis for dropping region-coding, in an interview with Australian IT. "If you look at the fact that [the PS3] will support high-definition TV, which will be a global standard, there's a good likelihood that it will be global region, as for example we've done with the PSP," he said. PlayStation and PS2 games are currently fixed to specific regions, much like DVDs are. A game bought in, say, the US will not play in a machine purchased in Europe, a least not without controversial and potentially illegal modification work on the console. The legality of the action depends in which country the change is made. ®
South Korea's largest online music service, Soribada, yesterday shut down its P2P file-sharing operation, seven days after it was ordered to do so by the Seoul Central District Court. Soribada had some 22m users, South Korean paper the Chosun Ilbo reports. The court order was the result of legal action brought against Soribada by the Korean Association of Phonogram Producers (KAPP), South Korea's answer to the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA). In addition to the suspension, the court fined Soribada KRW10m ($9,550) a day for so long as the P2P service remained operational. The KAPP this week said it may institute fresh legal action against Soribada in a bid to reclaim money it alleges its members lost to illegal file-sharing enabled by the service. In September, Korean P2P company Bugs Music agreed to charge users a subscription fee and license content from local music labels. The KAPP said it is currently talking to other Korean P2P business about paying royalties for songs traded on their networks. If they fail to agree, they face legal action, the organisation warned. ®
Cable & Wireless' acquisition of Energis looks set to be completed within the next couple of days, the UK telco announced today. Two weeks ago the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) gave the OK for the £600m deal to proceed without any further scrutiny. In an announcement today C&W said that it "anticipates completion within the next few days" securing its place as the UK's second largest fixed line telco behind BT. "We will launch our integration of the two businesses on 14 November and we will update the market on the progress of the integration and our plans for the combined business in February 2006," said C&W. Energis also revealed that it's been successful at weaning itself off dial-up revenue from narrowband ISPs. Instead, it's been winning business from large customers including the BBC, Siemens and the UK Government. As a result revenue for the first six months of the year was up from £348m to £361m. Separately, C&W reported that interim group revenues for the six months to September were £1.48bn - up 1 per cent compared to last year although pre-tax profits fell from £178m to £126m over the same period. ®
Certified gadget obsessives Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny scour Gizmoville for the oddest digital goodies, Bayraider keeps tabs on the best and worst of eBay and HDTVUK charts the latest High Definition TV news. The BBC has confirmed that it is to offer High Definition TV to satellite and cable viewers at some point during 2006. It will also start what it is billing as ‘limited technical trials' of HD over digital terrestrial, (Freeview) but acknowledges that there won't be the bandwidth to offer HD to consumers in this format until the digital switchover, which starts in 2008 and finishes in 2012, is completed. Cable and satellite viewers will be able to see highlights of BBC ONE's peaktime schedule in high definition. The corporation is apparently in talks with the operators to secure this. The terrestrial trial will run in the London area at the same time and apparently won’t affect reception of existing Freeview channels. The BBC hopes to provide a limited number of HD set top box receivers to triallists. Director of Television, Jana Bennett, will outline the BBC's vision for future free-to-air high definition television when she takes part in an industry event in London tonight. She said: "High definition may take time to grow in Britain, but as with the other technologies we helped to build, the BBC wants to prepare now to be able to deliver the benefits of HD to all its licence payers in the long term." The BBC's HDTV announcement won’t surprise anyone in the TV industry. The BBC has been making series like Rome and Bleak House in High Definition for several years now largely to sell to the US and Far eastern markets. All it needed was a platform to parade its HD footage in the UK. Offering its HD services via satellite is also something of a no brainer for the BBC. It can lease space on the Astra satellite (as used by Sky) and then broadcast the signals with any owner of a Sky HD box able to receive the transmissions. Newly merged NTL and Telewest is expected to offer HD at some point during 2006. Although it is not clear if it will deliver the signals via existing TV-oriented cable technology or offer it via IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) in which the signals are delivered by an ultra fast (at 8Mbps) broadband connection to a set top box. The disappointing part for the BBC is that by offering its services via satellite it is likely to strengthen Sky’s position as a key provider of HDTV for the UK. Sky is likely to launch its HD service for consumers in the spring with its own sports and movie channels supported by broadcasters that may include Discovery and MTV. For viewers with no access to cable the only way to see BBC HD will be via satellite. In announcing the trials of HDTV over digital terrestrial the BBC is doing little more than dipping its tow in the water. Realistically it won't be able to deliver HDTV over digital terrestrial nationwide until 2012, by which time other distribution systems such as satellite, cable and broadband will be available to most Britons. More HDTV news PS3 pricey because of HDTV Starter guide to HDTV Is HDTV cable's secret weapon?
Get set to program your PVR, the new Doctor Who returns for a half-hour special next week. Part of the BBC's Children in Need charity event, the Doctor Who story is scheduled to be broadcast at 9pm on 18 November, according to listing magazine Radio Times online TV guide.
Computer Associates has announced plans to divest itself of a majority stake of its Ingres open-source database unit. Private equity firm Garnett & Helfrich Capital is financing the deal which will see it become the majority shareholder in Ingres Corp. CA will retain a minority stake in the new business and a seat on its board. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ingres Corp. will make a living selling consulting services to organisations that use Ingres database software, adopting a similar model for databases as Red Hat has applied in the world of operating systems. "We want to be the Red Hat of the database world," said Terry Garnett, managing director of Garnett & Helfrich Capital and interim chief exec of Ingres, told Reuters. According to CA, Ingres has more than 5,000 customers around the world. Even so the technology is far less widely deployed than MySQL, an open-source database alternative. CA said the Ingres divestiture will allow it to focus on its core markets, including enterprise system and security management. It said the spin-off of Ingres will result in the move of 150 CA workers over to the new firm, Ingres Corp, but will have no material effect on CA's earnings. Ingres began as an early relational database management system at the University of California, Berkeley 30 years ago. CA acquired the Ingres technology in 1994 as part of its purchase of the ASK Group. Last year, CA released the Ingres database to the open source community. ®
Serco has won an IT services deal with the DTI that could be worth as much as £125m over the next nine years. The services vendor is now responsible for delivering the government's business.gov programme. This will mean working with plenty of government departments, including the DTI, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and HM Revenue and Customs. Specifically the deal is to develop and manage the DTI's Businesslink.gov.uk portal, with the aim of making it easier for smaller businesses to work with the government. The contract will initially run for five years, with four year-by year renewals up for grabs if Serco performs well. Earlier this year, Serco acquired ITNET, and inherited a number of public sector contracts, one of which (a BPO deal with Hounslow council) it promptly lost. In 2004, ITNET had a contract with the Cabinet Office terminated less than a year into its five year run. The company certainly has something to prove. John O`Brien, of analyst house Ovum, said that the deal will be a test of Serco's reputation with central government. "Serco obviously can't afford to make mistakes given the history here. A lot hinges on its ability to deliver a successful service. If it fails, Serco's new-found credibility in central government could all be undone," he said. ®
Peter Cochrane - the former CTO of BT and a keen supporter of the Access to Broadband Campaign (ABC) - is up for sale on eBay. Well kinda. Cochrane is delivering a keynote speech at the Broadband End Game conference on November 22 in London. And according to the sales patter: "Bidders have the chance to bid on sponsoring that speech and being associated with this radical thinker and technology strategist at a leading edge broadband conference." Whoever wins the auction also gets the chance to have their company's name "at the forefront of the Digital Revolution". Oh, and there's a signed copy of Cochrane's book Uncommon Sense thrown in as well. And a free ticket to the event worth a bob or three. ABC, which is organising the conference, reckons there's too much complacency about broadband in the UK and wants the industry and Government to think beyond ADSL. "In order to win the broadband end game with an infrastructure which will deliver what is required by 2012, we need to develop a cohesive strategy now," said Lindsey Annison, co-founder of ABC, says. "We need to look to put fibre into every home and business, and wireless into the first mile where this is not feasible. Apathy has no place in the race to win market share of the global knowledge economy, and this nation needs to forge ahead with partnerships and innovative solutions to our problems not sit on its laurels with ADSL. "The digital divide within the UK is widening as some urban areas are offered the options of 24Mbps, whilst many, many others are stuck with 512kbps to 2Mbps asymmetrical connections. Other nations now offer up to 100Mbps symmetrical connections to each end user in these same market segments today. We are fast falling behind." At the time of writing Cochrane attracted a dozen bids with the highest currently standing at £230. The auction can be found here. ®
ReviewReview Ultra-compact digital cameras don't come much thinner than the 1.5cm-thick Sony Cyber-shot DSC T5 a supremely pocketable 5.1mp digital camera that will really turn heads towards the lens. The T5 has swooping curves to the slimline body edges and a sliding lens cover on the front that also provides extra rigidity for its diminutive frame. The cute styling houses a large 2.5in LCD screen that reduces boosts brightness by reflecting light that hits it back out again. It's crisp and clear to use. There's no optical viewfinder but thankfully the power management has been improved over the old T7, which gobbled battery power at an alarming rate. Here you'll get around 240 shots per charge. Not bad given it's the same rechargeable Li-ion cell as used in the T7. The camera's 38-114mm 3x optical zoom lens is very sharp Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar glass but with a merely adequate F3.5-F4.4 maximum aperture range. Focusing and metering work a treat, the former using a wide-range auto-focus set-up with very clear markings and the latter which seems to get the balance about right, even in quite high-contrast scenes. Noise suppression is well handled in brighter conditions but in low light, there's marked shadow noise, even at ISO 100, and which gets worse as the ISO goes up. The sensitivity ranges from ISO 64 to a modest ISO 400 but to be fair to the little T5, the noise is no different from many such models it competes with on the market. Despite the small size, handling the T5 is actually not bad with only a minor demerit on the shutter release: it seems very long and can get in the way when using back-plate controls. And the zoom control is so small it's very fiddly. Otherwise, the camera is easy to use. Menus are of the animated and fun variety with icons that swoop about on the screen as do the menus. The latter are simple to understand and range across the bottom of the screen that sadly necessitates some frustrating scrolling to change settings as there's very little in the way of manual controls. You do get ten scene modes - including the usual stuff such as portrait, landscape and night scene modes - and exposure compensation to +/-2EV in 1/3rd stop steps. Verdict The 5.1mp T5 provides enough detail for large prints, even up to A3, meaning if all you need is a small, eminently pocketable digital camera with basic controls but oodles of wow factor as standard, then this a digital camera that's sure to hit your sweet spot. Sample images from Sony DSC-T5 Review by Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T5 Rating 80% Price £280 More info The Sony DSC-T5 site
The Forum of Private Business, which represents small and medium-sized businesses, is calling on the Treasury to close a loophole which allows ecommerce firms based in the Channel Islands to sell goods VAT-free to UK consumers. It cites the example of Tesco.com, based in Jersey, which is selling the latest Oasis dirge for £8.07 rather than a recomended retail price of £15.99. Tesco can do this because it doesn't have to pay, or charge, VAT on goods despatched from the Channel Islands. Items worth less than £18 can be imported by individuals into the UK without paying VAT. The FPB wants the Treasury to immediately lower this threshold from €22 to €10 (about £7). The association believes this would make the business unprofitable. But it is also calling on the Treasury to ask the EC for special dispensation to close the loophole completely. John Healey, finance secretary at the Treasury, told a select committee in February that the loophole was already costing the country £80m a year and this was expected to rise to £200m in two years. CDs, DVDs and contact lenses are among the most popular items sold. A Treasury spokesperson told the Reg: "Goods imported into the UK are generally chargeable with VAT. The rules in this area are complex and vary depending on the nature of the supply and the value of the supply and we keep the matter closely under review." The FPB says Amazon, Asda, Boots, HMV and Woolies are also all selling goods from Jersey. FPB members say they cannot compete in a market where their distributors charge them more for a CD than they can buy it from Tesco's website. The National Audit Office is preparing a report on the subject, called VAT on e-commerce, which will be published early next year, more details here. More from the FPB here.®
Security researchers have discovered a vulnerability in Macromedia's Flash Player that creates a mechanism for hackers to attack the PCs of users running the popular application. The security bug - described as critical - affect Macromedia Flash Player 6.x and 7.x. Macromedia has issued security updates. The flaw stems from a failure to reject malformed SWF files as invalid. This bug might be exploited by using specially crafted (malformed) SWF file to execute arbitrary code on the machines of users induced into visiting sites under the control of hackers. Flash Player version 188.8.131.52 and prior on the Windows platform, and in versions prior to 184.108.40.206 on Unix, are reportedly vulnerable. Users are advised to upgrade to Flash Player 8 (220.127.116.11) or apply a Flash Player 7 update (18.104.22.168 or 22.214.171.124) in order to guard against possible attack. An advisory from Macromedia explaining the security glitch can be found here. The bug was independently discovered by Fang Xing of eEye Digital Security (advisory here) and Bernhard Mueller of SEC Consult (advisory here). ®
PlusNet's tight rein on its network and its willingness to curtail the activities of broadband hogs has contributed to increased revenues at the Sheffield-based ISP. Publishing results for the three months to September the ISP reported turnover of £8.8m - up 22.2 per cent on the same period last year. At the same time the total number of punters stood at almost 140,000 following a "strong surge" in demand. But this is the bit that's of interest. "Once again gross margin strengthened between the third quarter of 2004 and the third quarter of 2005 due largely to PlusNet's efficient management of wholesale broadband network," said the ISP in a statement today. "PlusNet exploits industry-leading network management techniques through its unique low cost operating platform known as 'Workplace' to control and optimise data traffic over the internet. "PlusNet is able to identify, manage and sometimes exclude very heavy users who cause problems for other users by downloading large amounts of data and dominating the network. PlusNet is confident that its leading-edge products combined with an effective approach to heavy user management mean that it enjoys lower customer churn than its competitors." So now you know. ®
German Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel - whose website (extreme political views and NSFW) pretty well claims outright that the Nazi extermination of the Jews didn't happen - is on trial in Germany on charges relating to 14 pieces of printed and internet written material which use "pseudo-scientific methods to try and rewrite the accepted history of the Nazi Holocaust". He also faces charges of incitement, libel and "disparaging the dead", the BBC reports. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany, and Zündel was previously fined €6,400 on a 1991 trip to Germany from Canada where he had sought refuge in 1958. Zündel has a long history of fighting for his right to express his views. In 1998, a Canadian court found him guilty of "knowingly publishing false news" in a leaflet entitled Did Six Million Really Die? - a verdict later overturned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the "false news" law "violated freedom of expression". Zündel never became a Candian citizen, and moved to the US in 2001 only to be dispatched back north of the border for reportedly violating immigration laws. Germany managed to get an international arrest warrant for the outspoken white supremacist in 2003, but had to wait three years until a Candian judge declared him a "security threat" and deported him to his native land. The judge in Mannheim - speaking today before a public gallery packed with Zündel sympathisers - told the defendant he faced charges relating to "spreading biased views through his website" and "denying the Holocaust after claiming that the death camps were merely a Jewish plot to extort money from post-war Germany". Zündel's wife, Ingrid Rimland, called the charges against her husband "politically tainted". Rimland is a fellow white supremacist whose administers Zundelsite and claims to be "pioneering a True World Order" through "her concept Lebensraum!", although historical scholars may reckon Adolf Hitler got the jump on her with that particular bright idea. For the record, and to give a flavour of Zündel's line of attack, it's worth looking at his main revisionist argument which states: There is no proof that the Holocaust, as depicted by the Holocaust Promotion Lobby and the highly politicized Hollywood industry, actually occurred. Elsewhere on the website, there's an analysis of events during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp in 1945, during which, Zündel claims, US troops massacred Axis troops who just happened to have innocently wandered into the camp: The German guards murdered at Dachau by the Americans in their mafia-style, St. Valentine's Day Massacre machine-gunning were previously wounded and exhausted veterans from the Eastern Front. These ethnic Germans and Hungarian army soldiers in German uniforms had fought communism with deeds, not words, and had been transferred to Dachau only days before their murder at the hands of the Americans, so whatever one might accuse the Germans of doing at Dachau, these murdered men had no part in it! More recently, there's a "Zundel letter to his wife, ethnic novelist Ingrid Rimland, on the eve of the Third Great Holocaust Trial starting on Tuesday, November 8, in Mannheim - this time on European soil." It reads in part: The battle is on - even the Zundels have rights! So, my brave wife, we are making history together! That's nice! This judgment is important for other imprisoned idealists / human rights activists - people who struggle for their human and civil rights in Germany and beyond! So, Ingrid, it looks like your husband is back at home! And as I promised you, and predicted from prison in Toronto, the content of the struggle has not changed - only the geographical location has expanded to the European front, for we will continue our actions in Canada and America. Zündel must hope he does not suffer a heavy legal defeat on the European front. If convicted of all the charges against him, he faces five years' jail. ®
LettersLetters The anti-software patent campaigners have long drawn a parallel between patenting software and patenting a story. Their plan was to use the notion as an exaggerated and hypothetical illustration of the nonsense of patenting software. But that hasn't stopped someone actually going out and trying to patent a plotline.
AMD has increased its market share to almost 15 per cent compared to just over 10 per cent last year. Figures from Context Research show 14.8 per cent of desktop computers sold through dealers in the third quarter of 2005 were powered by AMD chips. That compares to AMD's market share of just 10.5 per cent in the same period last year. The alternative chip provider is doing particularly well in selling PCs to home users through the multiple retail channel - nearly one in five PCs sold through retail in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK contained AMD chips. But it is also gaining ground among small and medium business users: AMD machines made up 8.8 per cent in September 2004 to 15.1 per cent in September this year. Enterprise customers are also being tempted away from their usual loyalty to Intel. AMD increased its share of business to resellers specialising in larger customers to 8.6 per cent from just 3 per cent in September 2004. Sales of AMD's Opteron chip for servers have also grown - its share of channel sales is up to 4.6 per cent from just 1 per cent last year. Context Research reveals that AMD is also increasing its share of sales by brand vendors - 19.5 per cent of HP's PC sales had AMD inside, up from 13.6 per cent in September 2004. 23 per cent of Acer machines sold in September 2005 had an AMD chip. AMD will also be celebrating today's news that it outsold Intel through retail in the US. According to figures from Current Analysis AMD chips powered 49.8 per cent of PCs sold in October compared to 48.5 per cent powered by Intel. ®
A security researcher who earned fame by quitting his job to present a speech on the security shortcomings of Cisco's networking kit at this year's Black Hat conference has secured a job at Cisco chief rival, Juniper Networks. Michael Lynn will join Juniper in unspecified capacity, according to reports. Lynn gained the respect and attention of the security community by resigning from his former employer ISS so that he could present a talk on how it might be possible to run hostile code on Cisco routers, which until July were thought to be safe from such exploits. Cisco and ISS subsequently obtained a court order preventing Lynn from further publicising his research, a move slated by critics as censorship. Cisco said it was acting in defence of its customers and according to established principles about the disclosure of security vulnerabilities. Last week the networking giant outlined security updates that followed a detailed investigation by the networking giant of security weaknesses highlighted by Lynn. ®
The crew of the International Space Station has performed the first spacewalk since Shuttle's return to flight. The mission was not an extraordinary one: NASA astronaut Bill McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev installed a new camera on the station, removed a broken electronics box and took down a defunct science probe. The Floating Potential Probe was a long-finished experiment dating back to 2000 that was designed to investigate the electrical environment around the station's solar arrays. On the last shuttle visit to the station NASA noticed that the experiment was broken and had pieces missing, so they decided to take it down. The probe was discarded and should burn up in the Earth's atmosphere in around 100 days time. As to the rest of the to-do list, the TV camera has been installed to help monitor future construction work on the station, and the faulty electronics box will be sent back to Earth so that ground crews can work out why it failed. The walk was also the first in US spacesuits since April 2003. In the interim, excursions to the outside have presumably been conducted in Russian kit. ®
Borland Software has appointed Tod Nielson, the man who helped turn Microsoft's Developer Network (MSDN) into a success, as its president and chief executive. Nielson replaces interim CEO Scott Arnold who took-over following Dale Fuller's resignation after Borland announced preliminary financial results that missed Wall St's expectations. Borland, hosting its annual BorCon users' conference in San Francisco, California, said in a statement it is pleased by Nielsen's deep experience in its target markets and his proven leadership, and confident it could continue to push ahead with the Software Delivery Optimization (SDO) strategy. Nielson certainly has his work cut out for him. Revenue from Borland's JBuilder Integrated Development Environment (IDE) has been hit by the rise of open source, Eclipse-based tools. Borland is seeking to spread its revenue streams by selling suites of combined application lifecycle management (ALM) capabilities under SDO. Revenue from licensing fell 29 per cent to $38.1m during the quarter Fuller stepped down and 26 per cent during the subsequent third quarter to $39.2m. Borland recorded losses of $17.9m, down from a profit of $2.8m, and $4.8m, down from $160,000 for the second and third quarters respectively. Nielson joins Borland from Oracle where he'd served as vice president for marketing and global partner sales support. He oversaw marketing support for Oracle's server software, including the Oracle database and Fusion Middleware. Prior to Oracle, Nielson was BEA Systems' executive vice president and chief marketing officer, having joined directly from web services start-up Crossgain where he was CEO. Nielson left BEA in August 2004 amid management fallout over strategy, and following an ill-advised company commitment to recruit one million developers in the 12 months following the launch of its first WebLogic Workshop development environment. Nielson is best known as Microsoft's long-serving developer tools evangelist. During his 11 years with Microsoft, Nielson shook-up MSDN - laying the foundation for the rich and diverse content and services that are found on MSDN today - and helped establish the massive ISV community that today surrounds Windows.®
In BriefIn Brief Next month, IBM will start selling a new fleet of storage systems aimed at the midrange market. The N5000 series systems mark the second set of gear to come from partner NetApp. Both the N5200 and N5500 will be sold with single and dual-controllers. The lower-end N5200 will start at $60,000, while the N5500 will start at $85,000. The boxes arrive on Dec. 9 and will support Ethernet, iSCSI, IP SAN and FCP for Fibre Channel protocols. IBM reckons that smaller data centers and remote offices will embrace the N5000 series. "The IBM System Storage N5200 and IBM System Storage N5500 support a combination of up to 30 advanced software features ranging from comprehensive system management and storage management to disaster recovery and backup solutions," IBM said. Customers will probably turn to the boxes for basic storage, disk-to-disk backups and archiving. In August, IBM started selling the lower-end N3700 - also a result of its reselling arrangement with NetApp. ®
Motorola has announced an upgrade to its hit RAZR mobile phone that features the crippled version of Apple's iTunes software. The mobile iTunes was announced to great fanfare in September, but to date, is only available on one device - Motorola's ROKR E1. However the ROKR spent so long in development that its specifications fall far behind what's considered the leading edge today, causing some wags to nickname it 'the CROCKR'. Early indications suggested that even with a large advertising campaign behind it from Cingular, interest in the $249 phone has been tepid. While the mobile version of iTunes syncs perfectly with its PC or Mac version, the phone is limited to carrying 100 songs at any one time. The new RAZR V3i looks the same as its predecessor, but features a 1.2 megapixel camera, up from the VGA camera in current versions, and a micro-SD flash slot. If Apple and Motorola are serious about phones as a digital music player, they need to shape up fast. Thanks to a single-chip design, Nokia is able to push today's high-end Symbian smartphones down into the midrange next year, and features like WiFi are standard across next year's N series and E series models. More importantly, Nokia is determined to allow users to share their songs and playlists over a personal area network connection using WiFi or Bluetooth - something that Apple is extremely reluctant to do. As the cheeky graphic nicely illustrates.®
PHP supplier Zend Technologies has updated its scripting environment, embracing web services along with support for both enterprise and open source database servers.
Voice over IP, or VoIP, promises to bring cheap phone calls to the digitally connected - but it's also opening up a new and unexpected fissure in the digital divide. The Federal Communications Commission today said it expects VoIP vendors to suspend their marketing in areas where they can't support 911 calls to emergency services, and promise not to sign up any customers who can't dial 911 over VoIP. It's a compromise of sorts. In June the FCC issued its VOIP 911 Order, which said that providers must prepare a compliance statement by November 28. The implicit threat was that VoIP providers would have to suspend their non- 911-compliant VoIP services. Now they don't have to suspend the service, merely suspend signing up new users. The FCC complimented AT&T on its 911 compliance proposal, where the giant telco volunteered to hold up its recruitment drive. "Although we do not require providers that have not achieved full 911 compliance by November 28, 2005, to discontinue the provision of interconnected VoIP service to any existing customers, we do expect that such providers will discontinue marketing VoIP service, and accepting new customers for their service, in all areas where they are not transmitting 911 calls to the appropriate PSAP in full compliance with the Commission's rules," the regulator said in a statement today. So, if your only phone is a VoIP service beamed at you over some far away Wi-Fi transmitter, and there's an emergency, what do you do? We recommend setting fire to your PC - in a controlled fashion - which may then be used to generate time-honored analog distress signals, as illustrated below. To generate good signals, you may need to fan the fire, and we recommend something light but with a substantial surface area that can be easily discarded - such as old Pulver.com conference material, or some Intel WiMAX marketing brochures. We have plenty to hand if you want to start creating your own 911 emergency system right away. ®
Having been toasted in a recent Belgian children's cartoon, Smurfs are now on the counter-attack, mounting an intellectual property rampage against domain name holders. Studio Peyo, which owns the rights to the Smurfs trademark and copyright, has been sending out threatening letters to webmasters who use the name in their web addresses. The letters are fairly indiscriminate, notes East Bay ISP Robin Bandy. He received one for a nine year old web page he hosts that translates English into Smurf language. He told them to take a Smurfing hike. A Smurf representative hit back, insisting that "the simple registration of a domain name websmurfer.devnull.net containing a protected denomination and the use of that domain name, even as a personal webpage, constitutes a violation of the copyright and trademark rights attached to this denomination, notwithstanding if the web-site refer or not to the Smurf™ character by itself." The email goes on to threaten UDRP, the domain name dispute resolution process overseen by internet quango ICANN. But the UDRP doesn't apply to host names, only domain names, Bandy points out. "In short: ICANN's UDRP does not apply to the site 'websmurfer.devnull.net' and even if it did the UDRP would not treat that site as having been registered in bad faith and would consider my use of the term 'websmurfer' a legitimate interest in the name. Good day," he replied. But the little blue people's legal offensive has had already had a chilling effect on academia with a Smurf Name generator hosted by the University of Michigan falling silent pending legal advice. Stand fast against the blue people, advises Bandy. It seems that there's a new, and as yet undocumented member of the VIS (Very Important Smurf) clan - cloned from the blue DNA of Brainy Smurf - "A moraliser who believes everything Papa Smurf says is sacred. Everyone puts up with him, but let's face it: he's a bore. In fact, he's a real pain in the Smurf." Yes, I think we've all met IP Lawyer Smurf. ® Related link Websmurfer under siege
HP has done the inevitable and replaced the Transmeta processors that once powered its blade PC products with low-power Athlon chips from AMD. The new line of bc1500 blade PCs are HP's latest attempt to reformat the desktop PC market. The systems with Transmeta-based chips seemed to have done as well as most Transmeta-based products - fair to bad. Going with the Athlon 64 chips should at least let HP claim it's making more of a mainstream play with these anything-but-mainstream systems. You all know the blade PC and thin client pitch. Companies save on administration costs and reduce headaches by moving PC functions into the server room. With blade PCs, each user get his own server or shares the server with just a few people. The users still have a monitor, keyboard and mouse on their desk but no wheezing, heater underneath it. With thin clients, more users typically share a more powerful server. Much to Microsoft and Intel's delight, the blade PC/thin client idea never really seems to catch on. Users like their desktops, and the whirr makes them feel comfortable. It also provides customers with a physical object to abuse when things go wrong. Still, HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Lenovo, Wyse, ClearCube and others remain determined to sell these newfangled systems. Who do you turn to when you need a quotation to promote something like a blade PC? You guessed it. Dial-A-Quote. "With Consolidated Client Infrastructure (CCI), businesses are able to better secure, protect and manage their PCs, putting them one step ahead of common IT challenges," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group. "With CCI, HP has the broadest desktop portfolio of any vendor, with all platforms operating under a consistent set of management and security tools. This breadth showcases that HP is targeting their innovation efforts at improving those things most important to business customers." And you can trust Rob because as his online resume shows, he's worked with HP. But that's neither here nor there. The blade PC/thin client pitch really does make sense, which is one of the more frustrating aspects of the technology. To make your blood boil have a look at HP's gear here. ®