9th > November > 2005 Archive
The President of Sony BMG's global digital business division Thomas Hesse has weighed into the storm over the 'rootkit'-style copy restriction software introduced on some recent audio CDs. Sony's software installs itself by stealth, conceals itself, then intercepts low level Windows systems calls. Removing it causes the CD drive to be rendered inoperable. The only cure is to reformat the disk and reinstall Windows. What responsibility did Hesse feel for the havoc his CDs had caused? "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?" he huffed. I think we can take that as: "No responsibility at all." (Hesse made his comments on NPR radio on Friday - you can hear them here, 1m:50s into the short report.) But IT departments beg to differ. A support manager at an IT department in a medium sized corporation told us that a CD-borne infection of Sony DRM is already causing his team headaches. A major antivirus vendor diagnosed the problem as a nasty case of DRM, he told us, but the problem didn't end there. The Sony 'root kit' causes the antivirus software to go haywire, popping up alerts at the rate of one a second. Three systems have so far been flattened, he said. The original culprit was a Van Zant CD - from Sony BMG. And it gets worse. On Sunday Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals.com, whose forensics last week identified the DRM as a 'rootkit' style infection, has been taking a look at the patch subsequently issued by First4Internet, the British company which wrote the crippleware. All the patch does is force XP to issue Windows commands (eg, "net stop") that disable the driver. Because XP is a multithreaded OS, this is a brute force procedure that can cause the system to crash if resources are in contention. Russinovich also notes that the Sony DRM software still contains vulnerabilities that expose a system to a potential blue screen of death. Instead of exiting gracefully and returning standard Windows system errors, the DRM exits disgracefully. Which, we suggest, is exactly what Sony's Herr Hesse should be considering right now. Have you had problems with Sony in your IT support department? Write and let us know. ®
OpinionOpinion Dell has begun to offer AMD Athlon processors via its online store. But the decision has many people scratching their heads. Why would a computer maker with such a staunch Intel-only stance offer chips that can't even slot into its own products? And why would it fail to promote this change in policy if it's actually trying to sell AMD gear? A skeptic - not us, mind you, but a skeptic - might posit the idea that Dell's lawyers have more to do with the Athlon decision than the sales staff. With AMD's anti-trust lawsuit against Intel looming, wouldn't Dell prefer to be in court saying, "We do offer AMD processors, judge." Such a gesture certainly takes some of the oomph out of AMD's hint that Dell sticks with Intel because of a sketchy, binding marketing and product discount arrangement. How else to explain Dell's move? The hardware maker hasn't picked the AMD chip with the most buzz - Opteron. Dell could really use that product as it has fallen behind rivals on the server performance front. Dell was last to market with a system based on dual-core chips and has seen HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems enjoy tremendous press and customer interest at its expense. Instead, Dell is selling six, standalone Athlon processors. The chips perform well, which is nice, and could be seen as a plus for customers. Only, you can't buy a Dell system with the chips installed, and you can't upgrade existing PCs because they use Intel-only motherboards. Dell can hardly claim its a leading component supplier for the white box makers, since most of the build-your-own crowd gets their Athlons elsewhere. Digesting all of this, however, would be much harder for a judge than the simple premise that Dell does in fact sell products from AMD. It might not expect anyone to buy them, and it doesn't have any products that can use the chips, but it sells AMD gear. An Intel-only shop? Not anymore, judge, not anymore. ®
IBM has become the latest big name IT vendor to try and cash in on the "Web 2.0" hype, tapping companies' paranoia about the potential impact that a growing wall of online noise can have on their brand. The Public Image Monitoring Solution from IBM sifts millions of blogs, consumer reviews and news wires from Factiva, compiling the results in graphical charts to summarize the "tone" of coverage, assess negativity, and identify hot topics of discussion. The service delivers new insight into brand reputation and customer, competitor and public opinion and allows a company to act quickly on what it sees, IBM told The Register. By channeling multiple feeds, IBM believes it can help the brand-conscious sift and analyze the explosion in information and publishing sparked by technologies like RSS, blogging, chat rooms and peer-to-peer sites. Mark Andrews, IBM director of strategy and business development for unstructured information, said the impact public opinion can have, when expressed through collaboration forums, is starting to worry large companies in retail and manufacturing. He pointed to the fact retail giant Wal-Mart recently set up a "war room" to track what's being said about it. Wal-Mart has slipped from retail wunderkind, with its RFID and supply chain management stories, to becoming buried under an avalanche of class action law suits over alleged discrimination and sustaining criticism over a claimed policy of hiring "healthy" staff while providing workers inadequate coverage, blocking staff unionization, and accusations it is killing local businesses and hurting the environment. "People are more likely to spout an opinion on a blog than call a company and complain," Andrews said. "Organizations are starting to learn about what potential issues consumers are have having with their companies and services. That market is difficult for companies to actively monitor." Of course, any PR or marketing department worth it's salt has been tracking and analyzing coverage for years. IBM's service, though, comes at a time of growing paranoia among PRs and marketing types about the potential impact blogs can have on campaigns, messaging and positioning. IBM's offering seems ready to exploit further those niggling concerns. Knowledge also comes at quite a price, charged in the "$100,000s" range, with no guarantee of absolute insight as customers will be required to fine tune the system using their own skills, or those of IBM's men in black over at consulting. "It's not going to be 100 per cent 'noise' free," Andrews said of the results. "You make trade offs: do you want to get everything that's relevant or do you want to miss some things? The feedback I'm hearing from companies is, if you can get them 50 per cent or 80 percent there, that makes a huge impact," Andrews said. Instead, Public Image Monitoring Solution should be used as a supplement to actually reading blogs, he observed. IBM's offering follows Microsoft's launch of last week of "live software", which also capitalized on the growing taste among IT vendors for Web 2.0. Live software is a potpourri of concepts spanning blogging, social networking, collaboration and "software as a service". The snappily named Public Image Monitoring Solution uses the IBM WebSphere Integrator OmniFind Edition, the first commercial deployment of IBM's Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA), for a context-based approach to searching unstructured information held in different sources. IBM released code from UIMA to the open source community in August to provide a ready-made framework and standard for third-parties' search tools to plug into. The ability to recognize the context of blogs, news pieces or consumer reviews is provided with the addition of linguistics software from Nstein Technologies. Nstein can detect tone and identify key topics based on how a subject is referenced.®
Two scientists at the University of British Columbia have rather disagreeably debunked the myth that you can - when suitably refreshed after a night on the sauce - stagger into a field and tip over a sleeping cow. According to the Times, Margo Lillie, a doctor of zoology, and her student Tracy Boechler did a few calculations pertaining to bovine bothering and concluded that it would in fact take five sozzled pranksters to tip a cow. More specifically, "a cow of 1.45 metres in height pushed at an angle of 23.4 degrees relative to the ground would require 2,910 Newtons of force, equivalent to 4.43 people," according to Boechler. Dr Lillie elaborated: "The static physics of the issue say two people might be able to tip a cow. But the cow would have to be tipped quickly — the cow’s centre of mass would have to be pushed over its hoof before the cow could react." It gets worse: "Biology also complicates the issue here because the faster the [human] muscles have to contract, the lower the force they can produce. But I suspect that even if a dynamic physics model suggests cow tipping is possible, the biology ultimately gets in the way: a cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body," debunked Lillie. And herein lies the problem. Cows do not in fact slumber soundly on their pins, but rather doze, Boechler said. She added: "I have personally heard of people trying but failing because they are either using too few people or being too loud," before rightly concluding: "Most of these 'athletes' are intoxicated." So, the key to a successful cow-tipping operation is as follows: attack before you hit the pub, go mob-handed and in stealth mode. Then, clear your mind of Newtonian impediments to unhoofing your chosen target before launching a Ninja-style co-ordinated assault. ®
Tech DigestTech Digest 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 Propellerhead answers your PC queries. Bill Gates’ lunchbox on eBay Over on eBay US, 'Foodbankny' has 17 lunchboxes designed by mostly American stars, which are being auctioned in aid of childrens lunch programmes in New York and South Africa. You can put your lunch treats in boxes designed by Joaquin Phoenix (his box looks like he put slightly less effort into it than one would need to pronounce his name) or a beautiful, feminine, albeit slightly putrid-orange design by The King's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. But the rose among the thorns is without a doubt Microsoft's Bill Gates, who looks like he passed the task onto one of his very talented software designers. Check ‘em out here. T-Mobile brings Sidekick II to UK We hear through the old mobile phone grapevine that T-Mobile is going to bring the Sidekick II, aka the Hiptop version two, to the UK. Now we have had a run in with the Sidekick before and kind of liked its kooky design, A1 messaging facilities and not at all bad web browser. But it was a nightmare using it as a phone and is there any point in bringing out a youth-ish mobile these days which doesn’t have an MP3 player? And as for its VGA camera that's sooo 2004. Anyhow we’ll be intrigued to see what, if any, tweaking T-Mobile has done to the device to get it ready for the UK. We suspect it may be taking version two to prepare the ground for version three which should arrive early next year. PC tip of the day from Propellerhead Make Word easier on the eye The bright white text area of most word processors can become a quite tiring on the eyes after a few hours. You can of course jiggle the brightness and contrast settings on your monitor but a far better solution is to give your blank pages a light grey tint. In Windows XP open Display Properties by right-clicking an empty area of the desktop and select Properties or go to Display in Control Panel. Select the Appearance tab and click the Advanced button then Select the Appearance tab and click into the area marked Window Text. Next click on the Color box and choose the Other option. This will bring up a colour palette, select grey or white from the block of colour options and use the slider to the right of the multi-colour panel to adjust the level. When you are happy with it click Add to Custom Colors then keep clicking OK to exit the dialogue boxes and XP will reset the colours. If you are using Windows 9x (95/98/ME/SE) it’s actually a little easier. Open your word processor and load a page of text, so you can judge the effect. Next, from the Start button select Settings, Control Panel and the Display icon. Select the Appearance tab and click into the area marked Window Text. Next click on the Color box and choose the Other option. This will bring up a colour palette, select grey or white from the block of colour options and use the slider to the right of the multi-colour panel to adjust the level. Click OK and if necessary re-adjust until you are satisfied with it. The tint only applies to the display and will not affect the way documents look when they are printed Other top stories BlackBerry cool : official Unread mail message annoyance Bloke’s testicle on eBay Jacko’s shoe on eBay The perfect autumn album Nintendo Wi-Fi site launches
UK Online - the broadband ISP owned by LLU operator Easynet - has cranked up the speed of its broadband service to 22 meg. From today, punters living in urban areas and connected to a BT exchange unbundled by Easynet can now tap into the ISP's ADSL2+ network. As ever with these things, the speed on offer depends on various things including line length and quality. Or as Chris Stening, boss of UK Online puts it: "While some customers will get 22Mb or even more, up to 24Mb, the quality of their phone line and distance from the exchange will dictate their maximum speed. Which is why we give customers a pragmatic estimate of the speed their line will support before they sign up." The service, based on Easynet's local loop unbundling (LLU) network, costs £29.99 a month. Existing users can upgrade to the higher speed for free, while new punters will have to shell out a £25 connection fee. In all cases users will have buy an ADSL2+ Wireless Router for £79.99. Last month Easynet agreed to be bought by Sky for £211m as part of the satellite broadcaster's ambitious plans to invest in broadband. ®
So the rumours flooding out of Dell's UK headquarters in Bracknell turned out to be true. The company is waving goodbye to around 230 staff. But it has told Bracknell business officials that it also aims to hire another 150 staff over the next six months. Bracknell's business community is up in arms over the cuts. Mary Flavelle, executive member of the local Chamber of Commerce, told Bracknell News that the company had received a "rap on the knuckles" from the chamber. "Staff are not necessarily highly prized and have every right to feel undervalued," she told the newspaper. "But in the next six months they may be hiring another 150 staff, so it then appears that everything is project-based. If a project does not work, get rid of the department and then hire new staff later on. "Everyone wants stability coming up to Christmas, and they want stability in the New Year as well. Large companies must take responsibility for the people working for them - they should be their prize assets." Dell insiders say the cuts are disproportionate to current trading levels and speculate that the company is using the cull to remove "dead wood" - such as managers whose jobs have been transferred to low-cost locations. According to local reports, 20 sales staff have left the company already. Dell is also cancelling its Christmas party for UK staffers. Which obviously will save the company a lot of money. ®
DCC, the Irish distribution and sales group, saw its share price moving upwards yesterday despite posting a a small fall in profits. Profit before exceptional items was down 3 per cent but turnover was up an impressive 37.5 per cent. DCC warned in the summer that its IT division was suffering. For the six months ended 30 September 2005 DCC brought in revenues of €1, 527.5m and made an operating profit of €38.6m Jim Flavin, DCC's chief executive, said: "DCC achieved excellent growth in its Healthcare and Food and Beverage divisions and good growth in its Energy and Environmental divisions. The IT and Entertainment Products division was adversely affected by tough market conditions." The IT and Entertainment division made a profit of €7.6m - a fall on 37 per cent on last year. Revenues were down slightly to €448.9m compared to €457.1m in 2004. Looking forward ,the group is confident of hitting targets of double-digit earnings growth for the full year. More on DCC website here. ®
CommentComment I'm always more interested in failure stories than success stories, because you learn more from failure than you do from success. If you're successful, you might just have been lucky. But there's no real incentive to think about any issues and the next person to try could fail. However, failure often highlights bigger issues than just the technical quality of your tools - it's unusual to start a project with tools that are manifestly incapable of doing the job. Nowhere is failure more likely than in BI (Business Intelligence). How many projects start off promising to bring decision support to the masses but end up with a lot of unused licenses and a few power users using decision support for a few high-profile projects? Sure, the power users may do good work but the masses make decisions too and projects are typically predicated on helping everyone to make better decisions. So, I'm rather attracted to Information Builder's view that getting operational BI out to the masses should be the focus of attention – the power users can probably look after themselves once the technology is available. As Calum Nobles, technical drector for EMEA at Information Builders, says of his peers: “They're still talking about executives, planners, big power users... The bit they miss out is getting the plan executed [throughout the company] and that is what operational BI is all about, giving the operational users the measures, the KPIs [Key Performance indicators] they stand or fall by”. Shiny toy In other words, this means empowering the operational users at the sharp end, giving them enough information to make the right decisions. Of course, this has implications for company culture, as it implies a mature, metrics-focused organisation that can handle disruptive technology projects (those that can change the way the company works) and one that also prizes information transparency above secrecy. Without executive sponsorship from someone with a vision and the authority to back it, the next shiny toy that comes down the line may marginalise such initiatives. This insight will probably appear in the Operational BI Best Practice guides that Information Builders is working on – which should be available from its website soon. These should be worth reading – so long as readers, as always when reading vendor advice, keep their critical faculties awake - because Information Builders claims to be one of the few vendors that can cite customer examples of mass BI adoption. For example, Monaris, Canada's leading merchant payment processing company, has 300,000 business customers doing BI on credit card transactions and keeping track of sales trends. A new example of the technology Information Builders uses to enable its Operational BI vision is the. iWay Enterprise Index. This uses the iWay Adaptive Framework, with over 280 integration adaptors, to convert raw information, in ERP systems, say, on the company Intranet into XML, which is then fed into the Google Search Appliance (GSA). The GSA wouldn't normally find this information, because it only searches hyperlinks on web pages and not all your information is on web pages. At the same time, the iWay Enterprise Index shouldn't compromise performance or security because information is intelligently “pushed” towards the GSA. Admittedly, this implies that measure of systems design is needed, together with properly thought-through company security policies). What the end users see, of course, is a familiar Google search interface to all the documents in the company that they're allowed to see – all the information they might want to base decisions on. This all sounds useful, although we suspect that Information Builders may soon see competition from the commoditised BI provided by Microsoft's recently released SQLServer 2005, and possibly even in larger companies (although Information Builders' proven cross-platform abilities and scalability may well give it an edge here). According to Nobles, the essence of operational BI is that when we retain manual processes in our increasingly automated systems, they're often there because we want human intelligence to be applied at that point. This implies a real need for perational BI; that is, decision support which enables tight coupling between business workflow metrics and any decisions being taken. ® David Norfolk is the author of IT Governance, published by Thorogood. More details here.
In an email apparently leaked to almost every media outlet and their dogs, Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie warn that the current move to a services-based world poses a serious threat to Microsoft's business. Gates's email to senior staff, dated October 30, described the move to Web-based services as "the next sea change" and as important as his late conversion to the internet ten years ago. The memo warns senior staff they must "act quickly and decisively" because "This coming 'services-wave' will be very disruptive". A spokesman for Microsoft confirmed to the New York Times that the emails were genuine but refused further comment. The memo notes the threat from advertising-supported businesses like Google and Yahoo but also warns that "grass-roots adoption and popularization model" makes it easier for start-up companies to reach a mass audience. A document written by Ray Ozzie is called "The Internet Services Disruption" notes that Microsoft has failed to exploit technologies it was responsible for creating. He mentions search, the widespread use of pdf documents and VoIP as areas where Microsoft missed a trick. He said: "We knew search would be important but through Google's focus they've gained a tremendously strong position." More details on News.com here or take your pick from Google news here.®
Transmeta's decision to stop making and selling microprocessors and focus on licensing chip-design technology was once again validated during the company's most recently completed quarter. However, the company warned it expects to make a loss in its current quarter. For the three months to 30 September 2005 - the third quarter of Transmeta's current fiscal year - revenues of $27.9m yielded a net income of $10.1m (five cents a share). During Q2, Transmeta made $6.8m (four cents a share) on sales of $24.7m. For the year-ago quarter, it reported revenues of $7m and a loss of $28.8m (16 cents a share). Back to the most recently completed quarter, and the company reported gross margins of 70.5 per cent, up from 67.1 per cent in Q2. Revenues were split $9.6m from licensing, $10.3m from services and $7.9m from product sales. Transmeta quit the quarter with $56.9m in the bank. It had a positive cash flow from operations of $9.5m. Looking to Q4, Transmeta said it expects its cash flow to go negative to the tune of $3-3.5m, which will leave it with $53m in the bank - though that's still up from the company's previous forecast, $47m. It said it expects Q4 revenues to total $12-13m, less than half Q3's figure and ending the company's profit streak: it will lose $5.4-5.9m (three cents a share) the company said. ®
Intel will this quarter begin making 865GV mainstream desktop PC chipsets again, even as it brings forward the release of the high-end 975X chipset. So claim Taiwanese motherboard maker sources, cited by DigiTimes. Whether they're the same sources who in June claimed Intel was getting out of the low-end chipset market altogether isn't known. Whatever, the moles now claim Intel has seen "huge" demand for the 865GV from the channel and as a result will start making the part again. Production was suspended in the summer to allow Intel to target its production capacity on high-end products. Restarting production of the 865GV also allows Intel to ensure the chipset meets RoHS (Reduction of Hazardous Substances) regulations due to come into force in Europe on 1 July 2006. The arrival of the revived 865GV will be accompanied by the demise of the 915 family, the sources claimed. The chipset is to be phased out in a bid to encourage manufacturers to migrate to the 945 series, which supports DDR 2 SDRAM. The appearance of the 975X, originally expected to ship in Q1 2006, was heralded recently by motherboard maker Gigabyte. Its GA-G1975X mobo is based on the part and will ship on 14 November, the company said recently. The 975X is the follow-up to the 955X, adding support for both Nvidia's SLi and ATI's CrossFire, both of which technologies Intel is believed to have licensed during the summer. ®
Europe's Venus Express mission successfully blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the small hours of this morning. Mission controllers received a signal from the craft some 90 minutes after launch, confirming that all was well. It will spend the next five months en route to our sister planet where it will study the atmosphere and planetary surface for clues about Venus' past. Scientists hope that some of the data might illuminate the mechanics of climate change more fully, and help us to understand weather systems on our own planet. "With Venus Express, we fully intend to demonstrate yet again that studying the planets is of vital importance for life here on Earth," said Jean Jacques Dordain, ESA's director general. "To understand climate change on Earth and all the contributing factors, we cannot make do with solely observing our own planet. We need to decipher the mechanics of the planetary atmosphere in general terms." The next big challenge for Venus Express will come just as it arrives at the planet, when the engines will need to wake up to complete a long, sustained braking burn to slot the craft into its orbit. Although the Venus Express craft is based on the same design as the Mars Express mission, and carries many similar experiments, the Venusian Gravity is much greater than that of Mars, meaning the braking will have to be more severe. When Venus Express arrives at its destination in April 2006 it will drop into an elliptical polar orbit. At perigee (the closest approach to the planet) it will orbit a mere 250km above the planet's surface, while its apogee (furthest away) will take it to a distance of some 66,000km. Its job will be to peer through the dense cloudy atmosphere and gather data that will help scientists unravel some of the unusual phenomena observed in the Venusian clouds. It will also study the surface of the planet, looking for signs of geological activity. ®
CommentComment One of the first and last things I do every working day is to log on to Yahoo! Finance to check what is happening to the stock market. One of the features of the page is that it continuously shows the prices of the last ten stocks I have expressed an interest in. The only problem is that it doesn’t work. There are two obvious problems with this portfolio capability in Yahoo! Finance. The first is that it does not appear to be able to display falls of more than 9.99 per cent. As soon as a share price falls by more than that much the minus sign disappears (I wish it would also disappear from the share price). Alright, I can live with that: it doesn’t happen too often (fortunately). But that’s not the only problem with the web site. Prices from time to time freeze at some apparently random point in time, either across the board or for an individual share. Clearly the code for the web site has its fair share of bugs. I was reminded of all this when I was recently talking to Identify about its next release of the Windows version (there is also a J2EE version) of AppSight, which will be tightly integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 TeamSystem (Identify is part of the launch tour next month). However, the new features of this release (which are impressive) are not what I wanted to talk about. When I last wrote here about AppSight I concentrated on the product’s ability to track (record and playback) and identify performance and bug-based problems in production environments. However, over the last twelve months or so the company has been expanding into testing and QA environments, where AppSight’s facilities can be used to identify bugs, document them automatically, and so on. To discuss this new focus, Identify used a demonstration of a trading system - and this prompted me to think of Yahoo! Finance and how it could profitably make use of AppSight’s facilities to produce better quality code. Identify reports a couple of interesting things from customer feedback based on using AppSight as a part of the QA process. The first is that users do not to include so much instrumentation in their code (which they estimate means a 10 per cent productivity improvement) and, secondly, the QA process itself is speeded up. Identify asked its users in QA departments what they did with the time they saved, to which the response was that they were able to spend more time on QA and discover more bugs. This poses an interesting question about the role of QA: is it to thoroughly test the code or is it just something that you do for x hours and then stop? I know what I’d like to think the answer is but I suspect I’m wrong: certainly Yahoo! Finance seems to think so. There are two final issues: first, why haven’t I tried another provider I guess I am too lazy; second, why haven’t you contacted Identify to see about improving your code quality? And don’t use my excuse. © IT-Analysis.com
Microsoft has released a patch to address two critical vulnerabilities in Windows, both related to the processing of graphics files, that might by used by hackers to take control of vulnerable systems. The first vulnerability involves a flaw in Windows' Graphics Rendering Engine which comes into play when rendering certain malformed Windows Metafile (WMF) and Enhanced Metafile (EMF) image files. The security bug created a means to execute arbitrary code on vulnerable system via a specially crafted, malformed WMF/EMF file. eEye Digital Security, the firm which discovered the flaw, said that Microsoft's fix for the critical flaw doesn't come a day too soon. "The flaw was reported March 29 — more than 200 days ago — and has been marked with a 'high' severity rating by Microsoft, as it allows malicious code to be executed with minimal user interaction through commonly used media, such as HTML, email, a link to a web page or instant messenger," it said. The second critical flaw is a similar, high-risk heap overflow in WMF. The bug created a means for hackers to inject malware into vulnerable Windows boxes providing a user can be induced into viewing a maliciously constructed image. As with the first flaw, hackers might exploit the vulnerability by embedding the image in an Office document, or by convincing the user to view an HTML email in Outlook containing an image attachment, or via a malicious web site. Credit for discovering the second flaw goes to Venustech AdDLab, eEye Digital Security and Symantec Security Response. Both flaws affects Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP (even those running SP2 - Microsoft's highly promoted security update) machines. That means just about every Windows user will need to apply Microsoft patch (MS05-053), the single patch released by the software giant this month as part of its regular Patch Tuesday monthly update cycle. ®
In BriefIn Brief Re-marked Intel Pentium M processors have turned up in China, the chip giant admitted this week. However, the company maintained the number of dodgy chips in circulation is small. According to an Intel spokeswoman, cited by IDG News, the chips are engineering samples sent out to Chinese PC makers. Somewhere in the supply chain, however, they were re-marked as consumer-ready product. The spokeswoman said it had warned PC makers that sample CPUs are not to be resold, and advised end-users to ensure they buy from Intel-certified dealers if they are concerned about buying unauthorised product. ®
Information has come to light about Nividia's mysterious G72 and G73 graphics chips. According to an AnandTech report which quotes a number of industry insiders, the G72 and G73 will ship as the GeForce 7200 and 7600, respectively. The 7200 will launch in February 2006, the 7600 a month later. Past reports have suggested the G72 is a 90nm part - current GeForce 7 series chips are fabbed at 110nm. It has also been said to have an early 2006 ship date, which ties in with the latest information. Both the G72 and G73 have appeared in Nvidia ForceWare driver releases, the G72 going back to July, though the G73 emerged more recently. To date Nvidia has released GeForce 7800 GT and 7800 GTX desktop GPUs, and the Go 7800 GTX and Go 7300 on the mobile side. The company is believed to have a 7800 GS desktop part in the pipeline, again according to recent driver contents. A version of the 7800 GTX that supports 512MB of video memory is said to be in the works too. The AnandTech report's sources claims the 7200 and 7600 can use the same circuit boards as the GeForce 6200 and 6600, respectively, allowing them to roll out boards based on the new chips more easily. ®
All eight Dover, Pennsylvania school board members up for re-election have been booted out after introducing intelligent design to the science classroom. In their place are a number of those who campaigned against the policy. The original school board ruled that intelligent design could be taught alongside Darwinian evolution, in science classes. A group of 11 parents decided to challenge the decision in court, on the grounds that intelligent design is merely creationism in disguise, and is therefore unconstitutional. The trial wrapped last week, and the judge is expected to rule by January 2006 at the latest. Both sides had been expected to appeal a loss, but now the school board maybe less likely to do so. One of the winners, Bernadette Reinking, told the New York Times: "I think voters were tired of the trial, they were tired of intelligent design, they were tired of everything that this school board brought about." During the trial it emerged that one of the main proponents of the intelligent design policy, Mr. Bonsell, has previously tried to get creationism on to the local curriculum. Of all the candidates up for re-election, Mr. Bonsell recorded the fewest votes, the NYT reports. One of the old school board members who lost his seat in the election has said he will challenge the result. Voting machines recorded no votes for James Cashman at all in one precinct, but in others he says he polled plenty of votes. Meanwhile in Kansas, the Board of Education has voted to make the teaching of the principles of intelligent design mandatory. Science teachers will now be required to instruct their students that evolutionary theory is not proven, and will have to add that life is in fact so complex, it could not have arisen without the involvement of some external agent, or higher power. Board chairman Steve Abrams told Reuters: "This is a great day for education." The new standards approved by the Board of Education mean several specific challenges must be leveled at Darwinian theory. These include statements to the effect that the fossil record is inconsistent with evolutionary theory; that there is a lack of physical evidence to explain our genetic code, and that evolutionary explanations are "not based on direct observations...and often reflect inferences from circumstantial evidence", the BBC reports. ®
Microsoft hopes to sell up to 3m Xbox 360 consoles by the end of February 2006 - three months after the next-generation machine machine debuts in the US in two weeks' time. The 360 arrives in the US on Tuesday, 22 November, and the UK and Europe on Friday, 2 December. Japanese consumers will be able to get their hands on the console on Sunday, 10 December. Together, Microsoft hopes, they will all buy 2.75-3m units in the 360's first 90 days, Bryan Lee, the Xbox division's CFO, said at an analyst conference in New York yesterday. "I'm very proud to announce that we think through the first 90 days of launch... We expect to have sold 2.75-3m consoles worldwide," he said. Add together the consoles, the accessories, the Xbox Live subscriptions and, crucially, the software, and the overall revenue accrued from the 360's launch period will be "well over" $1.5bn, Lee forecast. "I can't think of many other, if any other, products that have had an initial launch that have sold $1.5bn to consumers in their first 90 days," he said. Microsoft has said it expects to sell 4.5-5.5m Xbox 360 consoles during its current fiscal year, which comes to a close on 30 June 2006. ®
Capgemini increased turnover ten per cent in the third quarter, compared to the same period a year ago. For the third quarter ended 30 September Capgemini brought in €1.67bn against €1.59bn for the third quarter of 2004. The company said outsourcing grew fastest at 15 per cent and contributes 39 per cent of group revenues. By region Europe had the highest growth rate at 13 per cent while North America fell back 1.3 per cent. Bookings for the third quarter were €1.25bn up 1.3 per cent on the similar period last year. Capgemini adjusts its growth forecast for the full year to 14 per cent, operating margin forecasts remain the same at 2.9 per cent. More on Capgemini website here.
The governor of the Cambodian province of Kampot has initiated legal action against an American internet cafe owner who promoted the area as the ideal place to commit suicide, Reuters reports. Roger Graham's www.euthanasiaincambodia.com and www.asian-hearts.com (both currently offline) both carried the banner: "You're going to die anyway, so why not in Cambodia?" which provoked around 50 complaints from foreigners, including the relatives of a 47-year-old British woman who recently took her own life in Kampot - something they believe was partly provoked by the websites. Governor Puth Chandarith said: "A lot of foreigners were scared to stay here when they learnt about the Web Site saying Kampot was a good place to commit suicide with no pain." Accordingly, he has filed suit against Graham for "disseminating false information" and "defaming the province". Graham, owner of Kampot's Blue Mountain Coffee and Internet Cafe, expressed surprise at the kerfuffle. "It was a nice quiet little website," he told Cambodia Daily. "Now it's blown into this circus and it's a bit much for me." Cambodia has no legislation regarding euthanasia and, according to Reuters, "diplomats say it does not rank as a high priority in one of Asia's poorest nations". ®
Now, this may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but the late Dennis Thatcher has left you a cool £950k in his will. How can this be, you gasp - I never even met the bloke. No matter, the Lads from Lagos reveal all: SS Peter& Paul Catholic Parish 7 Tetlow Lane, Wimbome DORSET BH21 ILF London ,UK. Dearest, On behalf of the trustees and executor of the estate of Late Sir. Dennis Thatcher, I wish to notify you that late Sir. Dennis Thatcher, made you a beneficiary to his Will. He left the sum of Nine hundred and fifty thousand Pounds Sterling (950,000.00 BPS) to you in the codicil and last testament to his Will. This may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Being a widely traveled man, he must have been in contact with you in the past or simply you were nominated to him by one of his numerous friends abroad that wished you good. Sir. Dennis Thatcher passed away peacefully in the Lister Hospital London, after a short illness at the age of 88 years. He was businessman and husband to Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister. He was Born May 10th 1915; died June 26th 2003, and his Will is now ready for execution. Sir. Dennis Thatcher, until his death was a very dedicated Christian who loved to give out. His great philanthropy earned him numerous awards during his lifetime. In a tribute to him at a News Conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Mr. Tony Blair said: "Sir Dennis was a kind and generous-hearted man, a real gentleman who had many friends here and abroad. According to him this money is to support your activities and to help the poor and the needy in your country. Please If I reach you as I am hopeful, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible. Yours In His Service, Rev.Fr. Charles Jones. Terrific. A word of warning though - we reckon Mark Thatcher might challenge this bequest. After all, it costs money to organise coups in Equatorial Guinea and £950k buys an awful lot of helicopter gunship. ®
A phoney English Lord who stole a dead baby's identity to lead a fantasy life has been jailed for 21 months for passport fraud. 'Christopher Edward Buckingham' was sent to prison by a judge yesterday without revealing his true identity, after living 23 years under the assumed name. The self-styled Earl of Buckingham married under this false name and fathered two children, whose nationality has now been called into question. He told his former wife Jody that his parents died in a plane crash in Egypt in 1982. The couple divorced in 1997. 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 the 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 Zurich-based Swiss insurance firm since 2001. Buckingham's passport was revoked in 2003. He was arrested in January after routine checks by an alert immigration official in Calais showed he was travelling under fraudulent documentation. He was shipped back to the UK and charged with making a false passport application. He pleaded guilty to the offence at a hearing a Canterbury Crown Court last month. Sentencing him on Tuesday, Judge Adele Williams said: "Someone does not assume a false identity unless there is a very good reason... You have shown a lack of remorse and have actively obstructed in revealing your true identity," he added Detective Constable David Sprigg, the Kent Police officer who investigated the case, told The Daily Telegraph: "I think that he has got some dark secret that he is hiding and he doesn’t want us to know what it is." The mother of the real Christopher Buckingham, Audrey Wing, said the trial had brought back the agony of her baby son's untimely death during a caravan holiday in 1963. Despite police appeals, Buckingham's true identity remains a mystery. 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 but little else is known about him, least of all his true identity. ®
A US court has ruled that a disgruntled customer of an insurance firm cannot be sued for defamation over statements he made on his “gripe site” because those statements are protected free speech. The case dates back to May 2000, when Ronald DiGiovanni obtained a service warranty – provided by Pennsylvania insurance company Penn Warranty Corp – for his 1994 GMC Sonoma truck. The truck broke down, but Penn Warranty denied DiGiovanni's warranty claim. Consequently, he brought a small claims action against the firm, alleging breach of contract. The dispute eventually settled with a payout of $2,500. But DiGiovanni was still unhappy. He set up a 45-page website – PennWarrantyLitigation.com – complaining about the firm. The site was available online for a few weeks in January 2004 but is no longer operating. According to court papers the site contained some negative comments about the car service warranty industry, auto insurance and judges from New Jersey, but mostly focused on the small claims dispute. Penn Warranty took objection, and filed a defamation action in relation to eight statements contained on the site, including descriptions of the firm as “crooked” and “blatantly dishonest”. In response, DiGiovanni argued that the comments were truthful and his personal opinion. In a ruling, published in late October, Judge Judith Gische agreed with the latter argument. “Competing with an individual's right to protect one's own reputation, is the constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech,” she wrote. “Consequently, statements that merely express opinion are not actionable as defamation, no matter how offensive, vituperative or unreasonable they may be.” “Moreover, in the context of statements pertaining to issues of consumer advocacy, courts have been loath to stifle someone's criticism of goods or services,” she added. “The courts have recognised that personal opinion about goods and services are a matter of legitimate public concern and protected speech.” On this occasion, said Judge Gische, the defamation action had to be dismissed because, on looking at the site as a whole, it was obvious that DiGiovanni was a disgruntled consumer and the speech in question was “merely a statement of defendant's personal opinion about the quality of services provided by plaintiff company.” The Judge was also asked to rule on whether DiGiovanni’s use of the domain name – PennWarrantyLitigation.com – made him liable for damages in terms of the US Lanham Act, because it infringed upon Penn Warranty’s registered trade mark in the name. Judge Gische said no, because DiGiovanni was not using the website for a commercial purpose and accordingly could not have the necessary bad faith intent to profit from the trade mark. Nor were the names of the websites confusingly similar, she added. See: The ruling Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Good news for interplanetary Reindeer: researchers in the Netherlands have discovered that Lichens can survive in the harsh environment of space. This raises the possibility that Lichen could survive on the surface of Mars, the European Space Agency says, and might also widen the focus of exobiology research beyond the realm of bacteria. Two different species of Lichen were sent into orbit on the Foton-M2 mission back in May this year (2005). The M2 capsule housed some 39 experiments in total, ranging from exobiology to fluid physics and materials science. The lichens, were housed in the "biopan" section of the capsule, located on the outer shell of the craft. Once in orbit, this section opens to expose the contents to the full hostility of the vacuum and high radiation levels present in space. After just over 14 and a half days in orbit, the lid was closed and the capsule returned to Earth. On their return, the space-faring lichens were all still alive, and their ability to photosynthesise had not diminished. Lichens are known for their ability to survive in extreme environments, but it is still impressive that such a complex organism could survive in quite such brutal conditions. In evolutionary terms, lichens are far more advanced organisms than bacteria. They are composed of millions of algae cells and fungal cells which have a symbiotic relationship. The algae provide the fungus with food, while the fungus provides the algae with a nice place to live. ®
As network perimeters become ever more porous, and endpoint security becomes even more critical, companies today are struggling with the problem of unwanted software - whether it's new, unknown, and potentially malicious software, or simply known but non-business applications.
Over the weekend, several stories of a "new low power wireless revolution" have appeared on the internet, sparked by a Florida demonstration by a startup wireless company, xG Technology. Unfortunately, the demo only allowed observers to see a black box. Black magic, is what it seemed to be. It's using less than a watt of power to transmit high-speed data 20 miles using a standard omnidirectional antenna and - most important - it doesn't need a licence to broadcast, because the power is below the level where you have to have one. And if the claims are right, they'll be able to have dozens of such links all in the same area, without interfering with each other. Black magic, indeed! - so, is it real? One man outside xG Technology says "Yes." That's Stuart Schwartz, Princeton professor of electrical engineering. He says it's real. But he's not allowed to explain how it works. One thing xG is not, is conventional; judging the new technology is not a simple matter. But what it claims to be is "wireless broadband a thousand times more efficient than WiMAX." How does it work? The founders won't say. The list of weird features of the launch starts with the fact that the announcement was made in America, to a bunch of European journalists. The next weird feature is the "legacy" which you'll quickly find if you search for Joe Bobier. Search google news, and you get only nine hits, all about this week's announcement. Go back only a little way in history, however, and you start finding the names iDigi Communications, and Island Labs, and the word "fraud" pops up, together with the names of Bobier's colleague, Richard Mooers. Mooers regards all this as "vilification" and refers to "smears". According to Mooers, the problem was the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, which paralysed investment firm GE Capital at a time when he had a bridging loan for iDigi. "We could have just shut it all down after 9/11, using that as an excuse... but we said no, we are going to take the high road," is how Mooers sees it. And he now has new investors, who, he says "would never have got involved with us if there werre any truth in the smears." The journalists who saw the demonstration saw high bandwidth data travel 18 miles, and are pretty convinced Bobier "has something." As one put it: "If you put a gun to my head and said which way would I bet, I'd say they have got a genuine innovation." Crown jewels The trouble is, the observers weren't allowed to see the "crown jewels" - the actual "how it works" 50c wireless chip. And it's not altogether clear why not. The reason given was solid enough: a patent which will be granted later this month. Can't disclose before patent - absolutely true. The trouble is, if you go searching for Bobier's comments over the previous few years, you'll find that he frequently refers to the fact that his technology is already patent protected. What has changed? Well, the claims, for one thing. The older reports suggest that xMax will be 20 times faster than conventional wireless broadband. By the time you get to this year's claims, the multiple is substantially improved. You're left without any way of knowing whether it's a hype upgrade, or a technology breakthrough. ZDNet's technical editor in Europe, Rupert Goodwins, is a genuine, no-nonsense radio expert; radio ham licence, several hardware designs to his credit. He saw. His report is uncertain: "Does it work? Nobody can say for sure - not even XG. No independent tests have been published of any of the technology." However, he observes, the company has demonstrated a very important part of its plans: "it has covered an area of over a thousand square miles with a claimed 50mW signal, and shown nearly 4Mbps arriving at a point almost 18 miles from the transmitter. Even given the details of the test some 14dB total gain in the antenna systems and a 260m-tall tower for the transmitter this is an exceptional result," Goodwins concluded. If only the word "claimed" wasn't there! Ex-employees say Bobier is a genius. To quote one disaffected technician: "Joe Bobier is pretty much a genius, but the company (whichever one he happens to be working for at the time) is always touting what they've come up with and how great their technology is - and then never delivers." Observers like Goodwins want to believe. But when it comes down to it, his report has to use words like "claimed" and "alleged" rather too often for comfort. Another report from TechWorld writer Peter Judge, also struggled to be fair: "With a new technology you do have to be careful whether you are actually seeing what they claim. In this case, we saw a demo that appeared to send data from a 50mW base station, using an omnidirectional antenna, to a receiver 18 miles away. Even given the fact that there was 6.5dBi of gain on the sending antenna, and 8dBi on the directional receiving antenna, that is still impressive - consider how small a signal that is, when you reach that radius!" Phrases like "appeared to send" won't warm the hearts of potential corporate customers. They'll want hard data, and a solid explanation. One person has Bobier's confidence: "[The technology] has been checked over by Princeton professor of electrical engineering Stuart Schwartz, and that is the most important badge it has," was the word of the Judge. "Schwartz has effectively staked his reputation on it. Initially sceptical, he came round to the conclusion that it is clever, but not magic, and certainly not snake oil." The proof of the pudding, for most people, will come later this month, when the patent is supposed to be published. At that point, it's hard to see how the veils of secrecy can be sustained. See also this report from May, in Shorecliff. Copyright © Newswireless.net
The cost of renting a fixed phone line in the UK could fall by a few pence a month following the intervention of regulator Ofcom. It wants the cost of Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) - which enables telcos to invoice customers for line rental and phone charges on the same bill, as opposed to having to pay for calls and line rental separately - to fall from January when it becomes the responsibility of BT's new access services division Openreach. In August, BT reduced the residential WLR charge from £9.24 a month to £8.74 a month, but clearly Ofcom doesn't believe the UK's dominant fixed line telco is being generous enough. The regulator has proposed that residential WLR drops from £9.24 a month to £8.39 a month, while it expects business WLR to fall from £9.95 a month to £9.17 a month. In a statement the regulator said: "Ofcom's proposed changes aim to support the continued growth of competition in this market. Ofcom believes that over time, more choice of supplier and more services offered via a single bill will increase value for money for consumers and businesses." Last month, Ofcom decided that WLR - which is essential if rival telcos are to compete on an equal footing with BT - should now be passed "fit for purpose" even though it's taken BT two and a half years to get it right. ®
ReviewReview Placed firmly in the musical youth market, the W550i is one of latest edition to the Sony Ericsson Walkman series: a tri-band GSM phone with music, Java, web and email capability. As with the K750i/D750i, Sony Ericsson has again introduced a cluster of phones with a common theme and brand, all based upon the same internal technology. The good news is that Sony Ericsson gets it right and has a selection of solid phones to suit the needs of media-hungry consumers. The W550i's two stand-out components are the speakers and the flip mechanism. Tired of clamshell designs, I found the spin refreshing, though there's no lock at the 90° position, as there is on the W600. And it opens upside down. Did the designers consider pinning the top piece the other way around? The speakers are prominent on top and side, and this helps send out the 'music on the move' message. Sound-wise, there's no discernable difference on the inside from the K750. Both handsets use the same sound processor and emit the same 40-voice polyphonic range. The speakers are good for voice too, perhaps better than playing the world (or night bus) your latest tracks, but some Mega Bass and stereo phones make the best of the MP3s and AAC files. The W550's insides may be the same as other Sony Ericsson devices, but the external design is different and so is the functionality. Even for the Nokia-influenced user, they're easy to pick up. Turn on the phone and you will be prompted to choose between phone or music-only modes - the latter handy for aircraft, hospitals and so forth as the radio is disabled. The phone is Bluetooth enabled. Expect 510 minutes of talk time and a whopping 400 hours of standby time in ideal circumstances, claims Sony Ericsson. The phone is light - just 121g. Aside from the upgradeable firmware and Java support, this phone is POP3 ready, enabling email from a third-party email server. The WAP service is complemented by a fully compatible HTML browser. Hardware-wise, the camera is 1.3mp digital camera with flash. The camera has its own button, but the phone needs to be closed to use it. There's no optical zoom, but the quality is high. The flash is bright enough to get a clear capture in a dark room. Video capture is easy with such a nice screen. Other on-board amusements an FM radio complete with Radio Data Support (RDS) feeds, essentially a weather/news ticker over the radio screen, and some nice pre-packed games, including Worms, Fortress 3D and the classic Gauntlet. News of the iTuneMyWalkman crack will no doubt be of interest to some potential punters, but the majority of music transfers will be done using the bundled software. It's simple enough, PC-based, and drag and drop, although a simple plug-and-play folder system is always my preference. The main problem for music fans is the lack of a removable storage card. The W550i relies entirely on the 256MB of on-board memory, which also has to hold contacts, diary appointments, emails, images, ringtones and downloadable apps. Verdict With little in the way of direct competition, save from the other members of the Sony Ericsson Walkman range and the Motorola ROKR, the W550i almost fills the small niche market of music-based handsets distancing themselves from the core functionality of a telephone. Yet I see the gaming, web and email elements of this phone as important and enticing as the MP3 playback. Furthermore, the good use of buttons and the comfortable in-hand feeling when the phone is side-on sets this above the likes of the Nokia 6101 and the Siemens CX75. Consider the W550i a smaller, tri-band alternative to the 3G, 2mp, 470MB W900. It might be branded as a Walkman, but it is also a good all round phone. Entertaining and stylish. Review by Sony Ericsson Walkman W550i Rating 80% Price Depends on tariff More info The Sony Ericsson W550i site
I'm glad that it was our San Francisco correspondent, Gavin Clarke, who got to hear Steve Ballmer in person, challenging his competitors to have any doubts as to whether Microsoft's SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 (and the latest Beta of Biztalk Server 2006) are "enterprise ready". Ballmer is one of the few IT execs who physically frightens me. However, at the London launch of Microsoft's latest attack on Enterprise Computing -computing, that is, for large multinational companies doing large volumes of business- it was clear that this time it really does mean it. Perhaps it's personal.
AnalysisAnalysis Movie downloading in Europe is set to grow but not as quickly some would like
Billionaire John Caudwell is bailing out of the phone business after announcing today that he intends to flog his whole empire. In September, Caudwell confirmed that he was looking to sell his fixed line telecoms business after receiving "a number of approaches from third parties interested in acquiring Caudwell Communications". Now, though, he's decided he doesn't want to break up the empire after all and instead wants to flog the lot - which includes mobile phone retailer Phones4U, mobile handset and accessories distributors 20:20 and Dextra, and repair outfit MPRC. As a result the sale of telco Caudwell Communications is now on hold. His decision to sell the whole kit and caboodle follows a strategic review of the business by Rothschild, which found that the Caudwell Group of businesses "is in a very strong financial position" and that the future outlook for the outfit was "extremely positive". In fact, the outlook was so rosy potential purchasers have been lining up to buy the business. As a result, today it "decided to invite offers for 100 per cent of the share capital of Caudwell Holdings Limited," said the company in a statement. Caudwell founded the business in 1987. Over that time it has grown steadily and now employs 8,500 people and generates a combined annual turnover of more than £2bn. ®
O2 will roll out HSDPA across its national 3G networks by Q3 2006, the network operator has revealed. The carrier has been testing HSDPA (High Speed Data Packet Access) technology on the Isle of Man, which also played host to its original 3G trials. Next year's roll-out will see the service launched in the UK, Germany and Ireland. HSDPA upgrades 3G to improve the network's data performance, taking downloads speeds up to 1.4Mbps in its current form, though O2 is looking to improved data rates that should push 3.6Mbps by the time the technology goes live outside the Isle of Man. Upload speeds should hit 384Kbps from today's 128Kbps. Come early 2008, and the download speed is set to rise to 7.3Mbps before hitting 10.2Mbps in late 2009. The trial network became a commercial service run by O2 subsidiary Manx Telecom last week. "This is the first super 3G network," said Dave Williams, O2's CTO. "It's the 3G we always wanted." Initially the service will be delivered direct to PCs courtesy of HSDPA-equipped Sierra Wireless AirCard 850 PCMCIA cards. Williams claimed two unnamed notebook makers plan to integrate HSDPA into their machines next year. Handsets capable of accessing the faster download speeds are in the pipeline too. ®
The Home Office has published an extract of the independent report which assessed the costing estimates of the National ID card scheme as "robust and appropriate." Charles Clarke used this report to underline the basis for the cost estimates of £30 for a stand alone ID card and £93 for a passport and ID card package that was announced on 13 October. The report produced by international consultancy firm KPMG on the Outline Business Case concluded that "the cost assumptions within our scope were based on appropriate benchmarks and analysis from the public sector and suppliers." Conducted between 12 September and 3 October 2005, it reviewed the method used by government to establish the cost in the OBC scheme and the key assumptions used to arrive at the £30 figure. Four specific cost areas which total around 60 per cent of total expenditure, were examined: Card production costs and card life; Enrolment processing times and resourcing; National Identity Register (NIR) ICT costs; and Identity Card take-up. KPMG makes a number of recommendations to ensure subsequent estimates for the scheme remain as accurate as possible. The report proposes "options for refining some cost assumptions and recommend market testing some cost assumptions as soon as possible, subject to commercial and procurement constraints." It also recommends greater sensitivity analysis on operating costs to reflect the information and understanding of the programme needs as they become available. For example, the report believes the cost of hardware and software for the NIR is based on reasonable assumptions, but the number of enterprise scale servers required to host the system is not certain and it suggests the government should take "market soundings" with CRM providers or telecom or utilities companies. The Home Office has published a second document outlining the department's current progress in addressing KPMG's recommendations. Commenting on the publications of the report extracts, Home Office Minister Andy Burnham said: "We are confident in our cost estimates for the ID Cards Scheme and I am very pleased that confidence is shared by KPMG. There has been lots of discussion of the potential costs of identity cards, much of it based on misinformation and misunderstanding. This review provides independent confirmation that, while estimates will continue to be refined as new information becomes available, the methodology is fundamentally robust and reliable. The total average annual running costs for issuing passports and ID cards to UK nationals is currently estimated at £584m. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
HP is shifting 200 manufacturing jobs from its Erskine factory to Pardubice in the Czech Republic. Jim Sheridan, MP for Paisley and North Renfrewshire told the Daily Record the decision was: "one of the worst cases of corporate deceit I have ever come across." Sheridan had previously been assured by HP managers that jobs were safe when they were transferred to Manpower Services and Excel. HP sent us a statement: HP can confirm that the manufacture of the next generation, Industry Standard Server (ISS) DL380/385, will be outsourced to our alliance partner, Foxconn, who will manufacture the product at its facility in Pardubice, Czech Republic. The customization of these servers will continue to be undertaken at the Erskine Campus. This move means that up to 200 jobs, from our resource partners Manpower and Exel, based at our Erskine campus, will be affected during 2006. HP has taken this decision as part of our global supply chain strategy to drive increased value for our customers and ensure that we remain competitive in the marketplace. We remain committed to our presence in Scotland; Erskine is one of our main sites in the UK comprising a range of activities including delivering high end customer configured solutions and a sales and customer service support centre. HP confirmed in mid-September that 968 UK jobs, and 6,000 across Europe, were going. No further details were released because discussions with staff were still going on.®
Palm CEO Ed Colligan has pledged his company's whole-hearted support for the Palm OS - in particular when it comes to its Treo family of smart phones. Colligan promised a "rich product roadmap" of Palm OS-based Treos - and PDAs and Mobile Managers. "Our Palm OS customer loyalty is extremely high, and we intend to continue to earn that loyalty with great Palm OS-based products," wrote Colligan in an open letter to developers of Palm OS-based apps. "We have sold more than 30 million Palm OS-based products over the years, and it is not our intent to walk away from such a strong and loyal user base. That's why in May we extended our license for Palm OS, giving us the right to continue to make and market Palm OS-based products until 2010." Colligan was responding to fears that Palm's decision to offer a Windows Mobile-based Treo marked the death knell for the Palm OS version. It is believed the company is preparing a new line of Palm OS-based mid-range Treos, which it intends to ship mid-2006 after releasing a Palm OS-based version of the Treo 700w, the Windows Mobile machine. A 3G Palm OS Treo is expected to appear late next year. Of course, Palm's OS balance, at least on the Treo side, will depend on uptake of each version. If there's a big shift toward Windows Mobile, the company could expand that side of the product family at the expense of the Palm OS members. Right now, adopting Windows Mobile is good for business, Colligan said. "It's a fact that a large majority of businesses around the world use a Microsoft-based infrastructure across their IT assets. And many of those companies simply aren't open to products that use another OS," he claimed. Carriers want it, and so do plenty of smart phone buyers, he added. "We can either answer that marketplace demand with a Windows-based product, or we can walk away from that business," he said. ®
The government is beginning a 12 week period of consultations with industry and some public sector institutions to find out exactly what is being done to prepare the UK for the effects of climate change. In a press notice issued today, the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) argues that the UK must adapt because some impact from climate change is inevitable "regardless of current and future action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions". Environment Minister Elliot Morley commented: "Climate change is happening and it will impact on all organisations across the country. The government is aiming to put together an adaptation strategy to assist in this planning. But first we need to know what is already in hand." Defra suggests preparation for the impact of climate change could include things like relocating businesses, redesigning buildings, and forming partnerships with other similar organisations to help spread the costs.* The findings will be used to inform the development of an adaptation policy framework. This framework will be designed to establish local and national objectives and measures of progress, provide a structure for adaptation activities and provide long term guidance on climate change policy. *We are preparing for the impact of climate change here at El Reg by commissioning the construction of a large floating craft upon which animals could go, two by two. ®
Peter Francis-Macrae, the 23-year-old who's allegedly the UK's biggest spammer, has testified that he may have "over stepped the mark" in posing as an approved domain registrar at his trial at Peterborough Crown Court this week. Francis-Macrae faces a variety of charges ranging from threats to kill to fraudulent trading. Operating from a bedroom in his father's home in the town of St. Neots, Cambs, Francis-Macrae allegedly made an estimated £1.5m through a series of domain registration scams, promoted using bulk email. He is accused of fraudulently selling unavailable .eu domains among other dubious business practices dating back five years. He's also accused of sending out fraudulent re-registration letters to UK domain owners. Testifying on his own behalf, Francis-Macrae said he was taken back by the response to his "registration business" and conceded that he exaggerated what his company might be able to accomplish in registering .eu domains as soon as they were officially released. "I think, under pressure on occasion I have straddled the line. I may have implied we were an accredited registrar," he told the court, local paper Cambridge Evening News reports. Later in his testimony Francis-Macrae refused to disclose the location of an estimated £425,000 he'd earned through his domain registration activities. A number of accounts run by Francis-Macrae in the UK have been frozen and thousands in cash were seized when police raided his home but hundreds of thousands remain unaccounted. Francis-Macrae claimed Cambridgeshire police would "steal" the money if he revealed where it was hidden. He declined to answer questions from Judge Nicholas Coleman over the purpose of a trip he made to New York. Francis-Macrae allegedly resorted to using violent verbal abuse and threats when challenged over the legitimacy of his business activities. He's accused of threatening to slit the throats of trading standards officers investigating suspected scams and of telling a police switchboard operator, who'd recently been diagnosed with cancer, that he hoped she caught the disease. Francis-Macrae denies making separate threats to kill three people, threatening an arson attack against Cambridgeshire trading standards department, blackmail, fraudulent trading and money laundering offences. The trial, now in its fifth week, continues. ®
Spandex-clad, falsetto rock singer Justin Hawkins has paid £350 to win an eBay auction of an advance copy of the Darkness's soon-to-be released album. Hawkins said he had acted to stop the CD being leaked before its official release at the end of this month. We notice that we have now drawn attention to the album's impending arrival. But surely The Darkness would not engage in daft publicity stunts as part of a well-orchestrated plan to build interest in the CD, would they? Well, Hawkins certainly sounds upset about the almost-leak, and says that the person responsible will "go down". "I've bought our own album back off this character who's selling it on eBay," he told the BBC. "It cost me £350 and it's going to be a tenner when it's in the shops - with artwork." The band's record company released only a small number of CDs to people in the business and music journalists. Each was tagged with a serial number, so tracing the leaker should not be too difficult, particularly for a band with their own spaceship. (See The Darkness video back catalogue.) Hawkins says the culprit won't be getting any more advance copies of albums from the record company, and won't rule out legal action. The band's drummer meanwhile is calling for the culprit to be sacked. eBay says its rules don't specifically prohibit the sale of pre-release CDs. Oh, and a single will be out on 14 December, since we're discussing it. ®
France Telecom has been fined a whopping €80m (£54m) for failing to open up its network to rival broadband providers. The incumbent telco - which owns mobile giant Orange and ISP Wanadoo - has already said it plans to appeal the ruling issued by France's Competition Council yesterday branding the fine as "disproportionate". The original complaint dates back to 1999 when 9 Telecom complained that it was unable to gain access to France Telecom's network to provide a rival broadband service. Rival operators were not able to gain access to France Telecom's network until late 2002, concluded investigators despite repeated attempts to get the telco to comply. But in a statement France Telecom hit back saying that the complaint was lodged even before the telecoms regulator had "defined the conditions for the opening of this market and before the end of the public consultation to which all players in the telecommunications sector participated". It also pointed out that France Telecom's approach to broadband "was a key factor in the development of the broadband market in France" and that "as a result, France has become the leading European country both in terms of number of ADSL lines and number of unbundled lines". "In view of these elements, the ruling...appears to be disproportionate, all the more since it is sanctioning behaviours and tariffs imposed within the framework of the sector specific regulation," it said. ®
The Liberty Alliance Project has launched a program designed to develop open specifications to allow different strong authentication products to interoperate more easily. Liberty’s new Strong Authentication Expert Group has been created to speed the worldwide deployment of more secure log-in technologies. It aims to create an ID-SAFE (Identity Strong Authentication Framework) standard that will make it easier to mix and match strong authentication products such hardware and software tokens, smart cards, SMS-based systems and biometrics. Work on the initiatives comes a month after the US Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) issued new guidance for banks on online authentication, which advised that passwords alone are becoming insufficient in protecting a consumer's bank account. The new guidance calls on banks to improve their authentication mechanisms by the end of 2006, though it gave no particular direction on what technology financial institutions might decide to use. "The lack of strong authentication in the online space is demonstrably one of the most significant causes of identity theft,” said Michael Barrett, co-chair of the Liberty Alliance Identity Theft Prevention Group, and VP of security strategy at American Express. "The recent FFIEC guidance on strong authentication will likely change how organizations manage online identity threats, but initiatives for addressing these issues need to be coordinated via agreed industry standards." Liberty is modeling the ID-SAFE technical development process on identity specifications for federated identity management and Web services. The group expects to release the first version of ID-SAFE specifications sometime next year. In related news, UK bank Lloyds TSB announced that it gone live with a trial of two-factor authentication using technology from Cryptomathic. The token-based technology, which generates a new password every 30 seconds, will be tested by 30,000 internet banking customers at Lloyds TSB. ®
Grokster is set to be reborn as a fully legitimate P2P service before the end of the year, The Register has learned. Sources familiar with the service's operations revealed that Grokster 3G, as the new service will be branded, is scheduled to be released as a public beta before 31 December. Currently, the Grokster web site simply says the software is "coming soon". The new software is understood to be derived from the code that Mashboxx is developing for its legal but as-yet-unlaunched P2P service. Indeed, confirming earlier speculation that Grokster and Mashboxx were in acquisition talks, our source claimed the two reached an agreement to combine forces in June this year - just a month before the US Supreme Court was to rule that P2P companies who promote copyright infringement could be brought to book by copyright holders. Mashboxx is believed to have initiated the settlement talks between Grokster and both the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) before the Supremes' ruling. That settlement saw Grokster go offline this week, its homepage replaced with a message admitting its status as an illegal operation. "There are legal services for downloading music and movies," the page reads. "This service is not one of them." Mashboxx, meanwhile, is working on its own P2P software, which incorporates Snocap's tracking system to detect what files are being shared and whether the musical content contained therein has been licensed for sharing. The company is nearing the release of its first public beta, the source told The Register. For the immediate future, Mashboxx and Grokster will remain separate brands, even though both are now run by the same company and the two clients are, to all intents and purposes, the same. Grokster has the mind-share, but is tarnished by its past. Mashboxx, on the other hand, has yet to establish itself as a P2P player. Mashboxx is also in the business of providing core technology to other P2P services, and that may be how the brand is exclusively positioned in the future. ®
DRM maker SunnComm has denied that it is behind a new form of technology that would paralyze iPod users downloading illegal songs with high-pitched screams pumped through their headphones.
In briefIn brief Swisscom has confirmed it's in talks to buy Irish carrier Eircom, continuing an accelerating trend of acquisition and consolidation in the telecoms sector. The companies have entered into discussions, Swisscom said Wednesday, but warned that talks would not necessarily result in a deal. Swisscom is Switzerland's largest telecoms operator, with more than 15,000 staff, while Eircom dominates Ireland's market for fixed-lined phone services. It is believed that any deal would be in the region of £2bn (€3bn). A deal would follow Spanish carrier Telefonica's £17bn (€25bn) offer for O2.®
Microsoft hopes to do for software testers what it's done for developers - turn them into "rock stars". However, it may have to get its own house in order before preaching to the industry. Fresh from launching its first application lifecycle management (ALM) suite, Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS), Microsoft said it wants to "raise the importance" of software testers and of testing in general across the industry. This week's VSTS launch used dated, and rather loud, rock music to cast developers in the mold of rock stars, with the theme of the event being "ready to rock." Prashant Sridharan, lead product manager for Microsoft's developer division, told The Register: "I need to build as much importance around the community of testers as we have developers for the last 15 years." Sridharan hopes to begin that work at Microsoft's TechEd and Professional Developers' Conference (PDC), although he did not provide details of what he had planned. "I need to really raise the importance of testing... as an integrated part of TechEd and PDC, and have the megaphone to speak to the industry," he said. It's generally accepted that the software-testing phase of an application's lifecycle has been overlooked by vendors and end-users. The result is software littered with bugs that are expensive to fix and that mean software is delivered late. With two-years of delays to VSTS, SQL Server and Longhorn, Microsoft is a case in point. The focus on the coding aspect of ALM means testers can often vary in quality while coders have become "revered" by vendors like Microsoft who spent years delivering ever-more sophisticated programming languages, integrated development environments (IDEs), training and certification. Microsoft has improved its testing tools with VSTS and also integrated the tools with its coding tools to resolve this. VSTS provides features for improved collaboration between ALM team members, application architecting and modeling - elements of the ALM chain that had also been left untouched by Microsoft. However, Microsoft's earnest focus on testing will stick with some software developers. One vocal group of bloggers have criticized Microsoft for delivering the already delayed VSTS too early and - in doing so - deliberately leaving reported bugs unfixed. Roy Osherove, wrote: "It's completely amazing to me that VS.NET 2005 RTM, after a big cycle of testing, alphas, betas and LOTS of community feedback, can be this buggy." Ayende Rahien added: It's interesting to note that nearly all those bugs were known to Microsoft, but were closed because of time constraints. I'm shocked that even after countless CTPs and two betas, there are so many serious-you'll-lose-work-and-tear-out-your-hair bugs in the product." Sridharan did not tackle these posts, but said Microsoft is subject to the same constraints that hit other companies. "A lot of features get cut in Microsoft because the testing would blow the test matrix" Sridharan said. "That's a classic conundrum." He said, though, Microsoft hoped to resolve these kinds of problems in the future by moving testing into the software build process. This is critical for Microsoft which is pushing the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), a strategy that demands Windows runs more reliably and consistently, and that Windows is easier to deploy and manage. "We are trying to move testing and QA further down the chain," Sridharan said. "The biggest problems in software happen because of a lack of testing at the build phase."®
Novell has insisted it's business as usual for the SuSE Linux operation despite the loss of SuSE co-founder and kernel team member Hubert Mantel. A Novell spokesperson told The Register on Wednesday that Mantel's exit "won't have a significant impact on our strategy or our ability to execute." Mantel resigned from Novell, reportedly telling an email list: "I've just decided to leave SuSE/Novell. This is not [any] longer the company I founded 13 years ago." His exit comes as Novell cuts 600 jobs amid a restructuring designed to reduce costs while the company focuses on its core operations, including SuSE Linux, and spinning out the Celerent business consulting business. Novell acquired SuSE Linux in 2003 for $210m, but the company's leadership has recently come under growing criticism for its inability to develop SuSE or execute on sales. Mantel is the latest former SuSE executive to depart, following ex company president Richard Seibt who quit in May as Novell's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) president.®