11th > November > 2005 Archive
Friday Poll ResultsFriday Poll Results Three weeks ago we asked you - what does "Web 2.0" mean? What is it, really? No one who promotes the buzzword seems to be able to explain it. Even after a few mystical incantations of "collective intelligence" - we were none the wiser.
Wearing a tinfoil hat to deflect government mind-control radio waves is even more foolish than most people think. According to several (apparent) students from MIT who tested several hat designs, there was "a 30 db amplification at 2.6 Ghz and a 20 db amplification at 1.2 Ghz, regardless of the position of the antenna on the cranium."
Dell waddled through a sticky third quarter in which the company met lowered revenue totals and coughed up hundreds of millions for faulty products and layoffs. In its worst quarter in recent memory, Dell posted revenue of $13.9bn - an 11 per cent year-over-year rise. The hardware maker once suggested that revenue for the period could hit has high as $14.5bn but pared back such guidance last month. At the same time, Dell warned that it would take a $442m charge - $300m for OptiPlex desktop fixes and $100m for laying off close to 1,000 workers - and then delivered on those warnings today. Dell's net income fell to $606m in third quarter from $846m last year. That 28 per cent drop is a rare miss for a company that prides itself on delivering consistent double-digit growth. CEO Kevin Rollins had once pledged to push Dell's revenue to $80bn within three to four years, but refused to commit to such a definitive timeline, during a conference call today with analysts. A number of pundits speculated this week that the Dell will struggle reach strong growth in the near future due to pricing pressure and a heavy dependency on PC sales. Dell expects fourth quarter revenue to come in between $14.6bn and $15.0bn. The majority of revenue for Dell came from PCs, although sales of computers fell from $5.2bn last year to $5.1bn. Laptop sales improved to $3.6bn from $3.1bn, server sales increased to $1.4bn from $1.2bn, storage sales increased to $500m from $300m, services increased to $1.2bn from $1bn and software and peripheral sales jumped to $2.1bn from $1.7bn. Dell shares moved slightly lower in the after-hours markets after it reported the results. ®
The shady world of rogue diallers and premium rate phone scams comes under the spotlight today following an investigation by the BBC's Money Programme. The half-hour film reveals how criminals exploit premium rate services and run rings round regulator ICSTIS. Programme makers managed to track down and interview someone who has been involved in such scams. He tells how scammers are able to dial millions of phone lines over a weekend telling punters they'd all won a prize. Even with a tiny percentage of people responding and calling a £1.50 a minute number to claim their prize, scammers are able to net hundreds of thousands of pounds. What's more, some scammers are so business-like in their approach to ripping off punters they factor in the cost of a £100,000 fine from ICSTIS as part of their overheads. But the programme is also critical of ICSTIS with many of those targeted by scammers believing that they do not receive the protection they would expect from the regulator. In an interview as part of the programme the head of ICSTIS George Kidd denies that the regulator is "toothless" even though one PRS fraud victim - who's prepared to go to court rather than pay up - called for ICSTIS to be "taken out back and horse whipped because they're full of crap". The Great Phone Call Con, a Money Programme investigation into telecom fraud, is due to be broadcast tonight (Friday November 11) at 7 pm on BBC2. ®
Apple faces an uphill battle to get a crucial patent application accepted, say senior systems experts who have reviewed the proposal. Apple filed the application in April 2004, and it was published by the US Patents and Trademarks Office last week. If it works as described, the technology will be a key factor in ensuring Mac OS X doesn't run on generic PCs, and only on Apple hardware. Apple needs to deploy some kind of technique to ensure that Mac OS X remains tied to its own Intel PCs next year, rather than Intel PCs from rival manufacturers. Apple cannot presume that a secure TCPA chip is present, as most PCs on the market don't deploy the chip, and are not TCPA compliant. Without it, Apple's "crown jewels", Mac OS X, will be able to run on generic hardware, priced without the premiums Apple charges for its computer systems. Apple derives half of its revenue from selling computer systems. Patent Application (#20050246554) describes a " System and method for creating tamper-resistant code" Only it doesn't. "I find it difficult to believe that it was accepted," said one source, a senior systems engineer at a Tier 1 vendor, speaking on condition of anonymity. "For Apple, the issue is how can we rebuild OS X with a modified compiler so that, without having to change the source code, every single component contains non-obvious operations that check if it's running on a genuine Mac. By non-obvious, that means that it's not easy to do a scan of the binary to remove the checks. If all of the OS X code contains checks distributed throughout, it will be very difficult to make it run on a basic Intel PC," he explained. The problem with Patent Pub. #20050246554 is that it doesn't describe how it will perform the task. "There's nothing here to patent," said another senior engineer at a large systems company based in Silicon Valley. Application '554 appears to contain a lot of wishful thinking, but no specifics. The abstract inform us that the invention covers: "A system and method for creating tamper-resistant code .... In one embodiment, the method comprises receiving a first object code block. The method also comprises translating the first object code block into a second code block, wherein the translating includes applying taper-resistance techniques to the first object code block or the second object code block. The method also comprises executing the second object code block." "Taper? That's the first patent application abstract I've seen with a spelling mistake," said our second source, who hold several system design patents. The author of '554 presumably intended to write "tamper". The patent makes 72 claims - one for every conceivable eventuality - without specifying the nature of the invention, our experts agree. So '554 appears to be a set of Russian dolls, only no invention can be found in the smallest. What is the purpose of Apple trying to bamboozle the US Patent Office with a bogus patent application? Or was the idea of submitting a patent about code obfuscation which was itself heavily obfuscated too good a practical joke to resist? There may be a simpler explanation. Apple's protection of its IP assets is notoriously lax. Last year Apple agreed to pay undisclosed royalties to EU-data for IP related to its online music store. It's currently locked in dispute with Microsoft over patents covering its iPod, which also look like sloppy paperwork. And most famously of all, Apple agreed to license GUI elements to Microsoft which Apple thought only applied to Windows 1.0, but which legitimately permitted Microsoft to incorporate much of Apple's look and feel into subsequent version of Windows. Clearly, in the Jobs era, Apple lawyers are far better trained at attacking bloggers and DIY publishers than they are at protecting the company's intellectual property assets. Someone needs to have a word with Steve. ®
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. Now Samsung has a skinny phone Earlier in the week it was Motorola, today it is Samsung’s turn to grab the mobile spotlight. It has launched no fewer than five mobiles for the European market two of which are 3G models. The one likely to get all the attention is the SGH-P300, which is basically Samsung's attempt to out skinny the Moto RAZR. It is 8.9mm thick, or is that thin? Yet Samsung has shoehorned in a 1.3 mega pixel camera with flash, music player and video recording capabilities. Looks a bit like a calculator though... The 3G-ers, the SGH-Z510 and SGH-Z540 mix small (for 3G handsets) frames with the usual whack of features. Both tout a 1.3 mega pixel camera and 4x digital zoom, video telephony, real-time video streaming and video messaging. The SGH-Z510 has a very cool looking 2.2-inch QVGA screen display and includes MP3 playback, while the SGH-Z540 is aimed at the fashion conscious buyer (aren’t we all?) and sports a similar set of features as well as Bluetooth and storage of a pretty impressive 150MB. Samsung also debuted the SGH-D800, a 14.9mm slim slide-up phone with a 1.3 mega pixel camera, document viewer, Bluetooth, PictBridge, and TV-out, and the slightly chubbier SGH-D820, another slide-up phone. It features a wide (2.12-inch) and high resolution (QVGA) LCD screen and 1.3 mega pixel camera. All will be available in European stores before the end of the year. Celeb auctions for Children in Need The BBC is kicking off a series of celebrity auctions for its Children In Need appeal, including a signed copy of a collection of 50 poems and lyrics written by Sir Paul McCartney. We'll be disappointed if they've left The Frog Chorus out. Other items up for grabs include tea with actor Joseph Fiennes, Ulrika Jonsson's artworks, a signed and bound copy of the Love Actually script (BURN IT, BURN IT!) and even the chance for Jamie Cullum to write you a personalised love song (BURN HIM! BURN HIM etc etc). More items will be added daily on the Beeb's Great Big Bid website, which also lets you sell off your old stuff and donate the proceeds to the appeal. Well, it beats sitting in a bathtub of baked beans... PC tip of the day from Propellerhead Reclaim desktop space Here are two quick and simple little tips that will let you reclaim valuable screen space. The first one is to make the Windows taskbar disappear when it's not being used, and magically reappear when needed. This trick works on all versions of Windows and all you have to do is right-click on the Taskbar, select Properties and the Taskbar tab (Taskbar options in Windows 9x) then put a check in the box next to Auto Hide the Taskbar and click Apply. It will vanish, and rematerialise when you hover the mouse over where it used to be. My second and preferred tip for increasing screen real estate is to move the taskbar to the right hand side of the screen. This tends to be a dead area in most applications and moving it to the side will increase the depth of the screen by a centimetre or two, handy for web browsing and word processing. To move the taskbar right click on it and make sure 'Lock the Taskbar is unchecked. Next, move the mouse point to an empty area of the Taskbar, click and hold the mouse button and in one swift action drag it to the side of the screen. You need to be fairly decisive and keep the mouse button down until it is in position otherwise it can expand and shift around. Click on the border to trim the width and move the separator bars to shift your Quick Launch and open application icons to where you want them and when you are happy with it go back and re-check Lock the Taskbar Other top stories Telewest to offer HDTV next month Asus’s environmentally-friendly laptop Next generation Roomba – the Scooba – coming to UK PS3 won’t play second hand games Batman Xray camera on eBay PowerPoint by remote control Cocaine anthems for the common man
PlusNet is to piggyback onto Tiscali's unbundled broadband network in what's believed to be Tiscali's first deal as a wholesale LLU provider. As part of the trial Sheffield-based Plusnet will be looking to test ADSL2+ technology to provide punters with speeds of up to 24 meg. The tie-up with Tiscali mirrors a similar deal PlusNet has struck with another local loop unbundling (LLU) operator Easynet, which is being acquired by satellite broadcaster Sky for £211m. In a statement Nathan Francis, head of Tiscali UK Business Services said that the link up was "consistent with our strategy to build on our existing wholesale base and become a leading supplier of wholesale broadband services to the industry". Seven months ago Tiscali announced plans to plough €90m (£61m) into unbundled broadband services in the UK over the next three years as part of a renewed effort to secure a sizeable share of this ever-growing sector. The ISP plans to have unbundled 200 exchanges by the end of the year with some 600 wired up by the end of 2006. ®
ATI will release its next members of the Radeon Xpress family by the end of the year. So internal documents seen by Anandtech indicate. The site suggests ATI will offer the RS485 and RS490 North Bridge parts in the same late 2005 timeframe. The RS485 is said to be a tweaked version of the already-shipping RS482. Both parts incorporate a Radeon X300 graphics core, but the RS485's is clocked higher than the RS482's. The RS485 is said to be pin-compatible with the RS482, ensuring a relatively smooth upgrade path for motherboard makers. The RS690, the report claims, swaps out the X300 graphics engine for an X700-based model. Again, it's said to be pin-compatible with the RS482. ATI is also said to be preparing a tweaked release of its SB450 South Bridge chip, to be called the SB460. A version called the SB600 will ship in the same timeframe to support the RS690. By the end of the year, ATI should also have launched the RD580, its CrossFire-supporting Radeon Xpress part that extends the current product line by adding support for twin 16x PCI Express slots. Other recent reports tend to confirm Anandtech's RD580 timeframe. Such early release dates calls into question leaks this past summer which claimed the RS485, RS690 and RD580 would ship in Q2 2006 and bring support for AMD's upcoming Socket M2 processor interconnect, which will accompany the debut of DDR 2 SDRAM-supporting Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 X2 CPUs. ®
Yahoo! has dipped out of a possible tie-up with AOL after the pair couldn't agree terms, the WSJ reported yesterday. The giant portal with its distinctive "!" admitted that the bosses of both companies had met last month to discuss a possible deal but that there wasn't enough common ground. Yahoo! made no formal offer, it said. With Yahoo!'s position now clear, it paves the way for a two-horse race between favourite Microsoft and Google, although Google may or may not launch a bid in conjunction with cableco Comcast. ®
Asus will this month ship its latest GPS-oriented PocketPCs in the UK, the MyPal A632 and A636. Both devices feature an integrated GPS receiver with the rotate-and-fold antenna mounted on the side of the handheld rather than the back. The receiver is powered by SiRF's Star III chip. The bundled route-planning app is Destinator, provided with street maps of the UK and Ireland. Other territories are available direct from Destintor, an Asus UK spokesman said. The machines also eschew the usual PocketPC button layout in favour of styling designed to work as well in landscape orientation as portrait mode. The customary five-way navigator control sits between four application buttons, arranged in a circle, and the unit's speaker. As PDAs, the two MyPals run Windows Mobile 5.0 on 416MHz Intel XScale PXA272 processors backed by 64MB of SDRAM and 128MB of Flash - users get access to 85MB of combined memory and storage capacity. An SD IO slot provides space to increase that total, though the A632 also supports MiniSD. The gadgets sport 3.5in, 240 x 320, 65,536-colour displays and incorporate Bluetooth 1.2. The A636 also has a 802.11b wireless networking adaptor. The 12.2 x 7.3 x 1.9cm (2cm at the stowed antenna), 186g units contain a 1300mAh rechargeable battery good for 7.5 hours' continuous GPS usage, Asus said, rising to 44 hours with the wireless receivers and the GPS turned off. The A632 will retail for around £299, while the A636 should come in at £349. ®
Apple has apparently begun bundling a soft fabric slip-case with its iPod Nano, recent buyers of the diminutive digital-music player have claimed. According to a forum post on iPod fan website iLounge, the new cases are white and stamped with the iPod logo. Essentially it's the same type of case that ships with the new video iPod, but slimmed down so the Nano fits more snuggly. A series of pictures of the case have been posted here. So is this tacit recognition on Apple's part that the Nano is particularly scratch-prone? 'Tacit' it certainly is - there's no mention of the case on Apple's iPod Nano website or on the AppleStore Nano purchase page. The latter fact suggests the company hasn't reprinted the box art, just simply tucked the case in among the carton's other contents. Whether it's an admission that there's a problem or not, the move should ensure that virgin Nanos remain less likely to be scratched by users who treat them less carefully than other iPod owners do. Apple's spreadsheets no doubt show it's cheaper to give away the free case than than take the cost of replacing scratched Nanos, no matter how few are returned. ®
A Boeing 777LR (Longer Range) airliner yesterday broke the world record for the longest distance travelled non-stop by a commercial aircraft when it landed at London's Heathrow after a marathon 11,664 nautical mile, 22 hour, 42 minute flight from Hong Kong. The 777 left Hong Kong at 10.30pm local on 9 November, travelling east across the Pacific and crossing the continental US. It touched down at Heathrow at 1.30pm local yesterday. 777 program manager, Lars Andersen, enthused: "This record-setting distance flight exemplifies the pioneering aviation spirit that has made Boeing a leader in the aerospace industry. The 777 has been a leader in its market ever since it first went into service. The 777-200LR Worldliner continues that market leadership by offering unmatched capability that allows airlines to offer passengers non-stop routes to their destinations." The first 777-LR is slated for delivery to Pakistan Airlines in 2006, with total orders to 43 airlines standing at around 700. According to the Boeing figures, the 777-200LR variant can carry 301 passengers up to 9,420 nautical miles. There's more on the 777 family at the Boeing website. ®
Iomega has brought the "drop-shock technology" increasingly finding a place in notebook hard disk drives to its line of compact external HDDs, the company said yesterday. The new Micro Mini Hard Drive line comprises a pair of drives, one offering 4GB of storage, the other 8GB. Both connect to a host Windows, Linux or Mac system, using a built-in fold-away USB 2.0 cable through which the drives are also powered. The drives weigh less than 50g, Iomega said, and measure 7 x 5 x 1.4cm, so they take up less space on your desk than a credit card does. They contain a 4200rpm HDD with 2MB of cache RAM. Iomega bundles back-up tools for both Mac and Windows. Iomega didn't detail the drives' "drop-shock technology", but claimed it does offer protection from "drops and bumps", though that may be as much down to the alloy casing and its "sleek, durable design". The 4GB and 8GB Micro Mini Hard Drive are available now to US buyers for $130 and $170, respectively. In the UK, the prices are £87 and £115 - European buyers may also choose a 6GB model, retailing for around £100. ®
A software update on Monday night left Louisville residents unable to call 911 for help. For 2 hours the 32 phone lines were jammed, with dispatchers unable to disconnect the calls they had taken previously. The error was related to the enhanced 911 system, designed to show dispatchers the addresses and telephone numbers of callers. The software upgrade was considered routine, although the results it produced by 9pm were anything but. By 11pm the telephone company had rerouted the lines to restore service and workers scrambled to call back anyone who had called during the outage, using the telephone records as reference. Software glitches such as this are at the extreme end of things, but even more routine errors can cost lives - database errors listing the wrong address are common, and cause emergency personnel to be misdirected, preventing them from getting to where they are really needed. With billions of dollars being poured into securing critical infrastructure from terrorism, software bugs are often overlooked - yet they can create the same devastating results as systems become increasingly complex. Copyright © 2005, SecurityFocus
Sony BMG's controversial DRM code controversy may have now spread to Macs. According to long-running Mac user website MacInTouch, at least one CD distributed by the major label includes a Mac OS X application that purportedly installs a pair of extensions to the operating system's microkernel. MacInTouch correspondent Darren Dittrich claims a recently purchased copy of Imogen Heap's Speak for Yourself CD contains an extra disc partition for "enhanced content". Within it sits Start.app, a Mac application that sits alongside the usual Windows files. The CD ships on the RCA label, part of of Sony BMG. Darren reports that running Start.app presents the user with a licence agreement. Pressing the Continue button pops up a dialogue asking for an administrator's username and password - a warning that something is about to be installed somewhere - to allow the program to copy over two kernel extensions: PhoenixNub1.kext and PhoenixNub12.kext. The licence agreement states that proceeding will install software on the host machine. It is not believed that the two extensions incorporate the rootkit that is causing such controversy because of its effect on Windows machines. It's a Mac version of SunnComm's DRM software, MediaMax, which Sony BMG uses to copy-protect a range of CDs. ®
The criticism of music giant Sony BMG Music Entertainment and its surreptitious copy protection software went up an octave this week as attorneys and law firms readied nearly a half dozen legal complaints against the company on behalf of consumers.
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences - the body responsible for dishing out niche-market Emmys, including those for daytime TV, sports and news - is to honour original mobile content with a new category of award, the New York Times reports. Although the US demand for mobile entertainment is small - there are an estimated 500,000 mobile video viewers among the total 193.6 million mobile phone subscribers - some networks are developing custom-made material for people on the move. Pixar Animation Studios is currently knocking together half-a-dozen animated films destined for the video iPod, hot on the heels of News Corporation's 24: Conspiracy serial for mobile phones. MTV Networks, meanwhile is planning to unleash the animated Samurai Love God on an expectant mobile world. The new category of Emmy will be formally anounced on Tuesday and, rather confusingly, awarded as part of the Sports Emmys on 1 May 2006. The criteria for nomination are that the material cannot have already appeared on TV and cannot exceed 20 minutes. ®
Episode 30Episode 30 "WHERE THE **F#@K** HAVE YOU BEEN?" the Boss screams at me the moment I try my key in the door to mission control. "Uh... On holiday?" I respond, noting two things - (a) my key doesn't fit and (b) the door's new. "You should know, you signed the leave form! Or you could have asked the PFY."
The sale of the domain sms.co.uk has suffered a hiccup after bidders failed to match the reserve price. When sms.co.uk was put up for auction last month those behind the sale were optimistic that it could net more than £100,000. At the time David Carter, director of Hollywood Internet Ltd - one of the companies helping to flog the domain - said sms.co.uk "is the biggest name ever to hit the UK resale market". However, Mr Carter has now told El Reg that the domain failed to reach the reserve price that we had set after the "initial interest of the large telecoms companies didn't materialise as we had expected". "This doesn't meant that the name will not be sold," he went on, "as we always had a contingency and we will be changing the current site and inviting offers on the name from this weekend." ®
Armed Swedish police were this week obliged to confront a herd of drunken elk which had surrounded an old people's home in Östra Göinge, near Malmö, the Guardian reports. The elk, however, were unimpressed by the Boys in Blue and their dogs, and dispersed only when gun-toting hunters attended the scene, according to Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter. Apparently, the elk got plastered after eating fermented apples. Forester Fredrik Jönsson explained to Dagens Nyheter: "It's not unusual for elks to get drunk. They don't recognise the difference between fermented and not fermented and stuff themselves down to the last apple." The battle of Östra Göinge is just the latest evidence of the burgeoning elk attack menace, the Guardian adds. A female elk recently assaulted three joggers in Norway, while last year another four-legged reprobate made off with a bicycle from an old couple's garden in Sweden. The bike was later recovered "bent and damaged beyond repair". ®
A US operation which allegedly hit 600 blogs with spyware attached to free downloads has been temporarily shut down by a Los Angeles court pending further action by the Federal Trade Commission. According to a CNET report, California-based Enternet Media disseminated its spyware via an affiliate programme in which webmasters were paid to include Enternet "installation boxes" in their websites. These boxes offered free music, ringtones or photos, but when a visitor downloaded the material it came with spyware attached which "tracked a user's Internet activity, changed their preferred home page settings, inserted a new toolbar onto their browsers, or displayed numerous 'pop up' ads on their computer screen", according to the FTC. The LA court on Thursday issued a tempoarary restraining order against Enternet and three of its "officers" - Lida Rohbani, Nima Hakimi and Baback Hakimi, owners of various sites including Searchmiracle.com, c4tdownload.com and cash4toolbar.com. Also restrained was affiliate Nicholas C. Albert, whose website IWebtunes allegedly attracted 600 victims who downloaded music for use on their own sites, only to become spyware distributors themselves when Enternet installation boxes appeared on their blogs. According to the FTC, the spyware was "very difficult for users to remove or uninstall". The Commission added that Google, Microsoft and Webroot had assisted in the investigation, without giving details. An FTC spokesman said the Commission is "seeking a preliminary injunction against the defendants" and expects a hearing in the LA court soon. This latest legal action against spyware operators comes hottish on the heels of FTC moves against New Hampshire-based Odysseus Marketing, alleged to have crammed victims' computers with dozens of programmes which "served up pop-ups, captured and transmitted information, and replaced and reformatted search results, serving up rigged results to place the defendants’ clients first", as we previously reported. ®
A migratory wild flamingo discovered last week on a beach in Kuwait was carrying the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus, the BBC reports. It is the first confirmed case of the disease in the Middle East. The milder H5N2 strain was found in an infected falcon in a shipment at Kuwait Airport. Kuwait Public Authority for Agriculture and Fish Resources official Mohammed al-Mihana confirmed to AP that the birds had been destroyed immediately, thereby preventing a possible spread of the virus. Kuwait, in common with other Middle East countries, has banned wild bird and poultry imports from Asian states. ®
Brit actress Kelly Brook is getting more exposure on the web this week than she might like after website What Would Tyler Durden Do? (NSFW) posted nude scenes from her movie Three for the benefit of the internet viewing audience worldwide. According to WWTDD: "This is one of the clips from the movie Three, the movie Kelly is suing because she felt certain scenes were too explicit and she didn't want them to be seen. Umm, it didn't work. This scene is Kelly topless in the ocean writhing around with some dude, and then there's some other dude in the bushes watching them. If that second dude was there to judge the bikini contest, he's gonna be pretty disappointed." Interestingly, although Brook is indeed reported furious at the nude scenes due to their "explicit" nature, some commentators down at WWTDD suggest that the actual justification for their ending on the cutting room floor is because they're "crap", as one critic puts it. ®
A Lincolnshire mum has been left "annoyed" and "gobsmacked" after her 10-year-old daughter returned from school with a bag of amphetamines - courtesy of the local Old Bill. Now, we can think of several sink estates where parents would be delighted if their kids came home with speed in their satchels, but Amanda Butterfield mercifully does not live in one of them. The outrage resulted from a bit of a mix-up during an anti-drugs day organised by Kia Butterfield's school, held at a Butlins near Skegness, the BBC reports. Cops hid two bags of whizz to demonstrate their sniffer dog's prowess, but only one was retrieved. Lincolnshire police spokesman Chief Superintendent Dave Wheeler explained: "When the packages were being hidden two packages were inadvertently placed in the girl's bag and when the dog found the drugs only one package was retrieved. It was a training exercise for the dog and education for the children but what happened shouldn't have happened." Wheeler promised that steps were being taken to ensure that never again would Lincolnshire constabulary supply class-Bs to minors. The police collected the drugs from Butterfield's home and apologised to the family. Kia's mum concluded: "I am pleased Kia is sensible and did the right thing by handing the drugs over to her father - and the police did the job to get the message across. But I am very annoyed it did happen." ®
The UK government is making good progress toward meeting the targets outlined in the Gershon efficiency review, but the hard work is still to come. To meet targets, government departments and local authorities need to share best practice, so that everyone can gain from it. Speaking at the OGC's annual conference on efficiency today, Des Browne MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, said that "reasonable progress" had been made in local and central government towards realising the efficiency gains outlined in the Gershon review. He warned that the initial round of savings - £2bn have been realised so far - have probably been in the areas where it is relatively easy to tighten things up, and warned that "later efficiency gains will be harder to realise". OGC chief executive John Oughton said that he was not concerned by the challenge. "These savings may be harder to find, but we've had longer to plan for them. People know what they are going to have to do, and they are planning already," he said. Oughton stressed that the process must not become mandated. "Mandating doesn't really deliver the results you want. At this stage in the project, we have everyone's attention already. Bodies beyond Whitehall have a lot of autonomy anyway, and I don't want to cut across that." Around a third of the future savings will come from changes to procurement, the OGC says. The rest will be from increasing productivity, policy funding, corporate services and so on. But better exchange of information between organisations will be vital to achieving the targets, Oughton says. The OGC has conducted an IT benchmarking survey across government organisations, to find out how much various institutions are paying for the same products. It found that across 12 organisations, the amount departments were paying for desktop monitors ranged from £159 to £269. "We will expect benchmark prices to be more visible," Oughton noted. The Gershon report identified a total of £21.5bn of savings that can be made in public spending over the next two and a half years. ®
A teenager charged with GBH who failed to comply with the conditions of her bail has escaped being tagged after successfully convincing magistrates that the ankle-borne electronic device would look "stupid" with her preferred choice of attire. Skirt-wearing 18-year-old Natasha Hughes, accused of grevious bodily harm against another woman, found herself before Worcester magistrates after failing to answer the door of her house to police officers on at 2.30am on 1 November - as required by the curfew conditions of her bail. The Crown Prosecution Service demanded she be tagged as a result, but Hughes lawyer argued it would be visible, look strange and "affect her dress sense". Magistrates agreed, and Hughes walked tagless from the court. She still faces another appearance before the beak, and a maximum five years' jail if convicted on the GBH rap. ® Update The Department for Constitutional Affairs has issued the following statement on behalf of South Worcestershire Magistrates' Bench: Despite what has been widely reported, Worcester magistrates' decision not to tag Natasha Hughes on 8 November was certainly not based on any element of fashion. At the bail hearing at Worcester magistrates court, magistrates took into account what was said on Ms Hughes' behalf, any previous history of failing to answer bail, whether she had she re-offended while on bail, and whether she was a risk to the public. The bench did not consider tagging was appropriate in this case, hence no discussion arose regarding the actual wearing of a tag.
Here's some more hot-off-the-presses sizzling 419 action to round off the week - this time from the Gaza Strip: My name is MRS LIGI SOLOMON; a contractor from ISREAL The statistics shows that the Economy of your country is getting better and will be more profitable in few years to come.I am interested to invest in your country through you. I am now in London with the Sum of US$8,400 000.00 Dollars which I would like to invest in your country if possible? I made this money through one of the contract I handle in Jerusalem during the relocation of Gaza trip and I am not safe if go back to Gaza since we are not allowed to stay there again. I hope you can understand. Please kindly get back to me as soon as possible. Best regards, MRS LIGI SOLOMON Tel: +44 7031923299 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Yes, we understand, we really do. A nice typo in there, btw - or is it a Freudian slip, as our informant Mark Lawson asks: "ISREAL". Hmmm. we rather think it is not. ®
Energis is now officially owned by Cable & Wireless (C&W) following the completion of the £600m acquisition today. From Monday, Energis boss John Pluthero takes on a new role as executive director of the Cable & Wireless UK business. While the deal means that C&W should be able to compete more effectively with BT, it will also have to restructure its business to take account of its new acquisition. Integrating a company like Energis into its existing business will take time, especially since some 700 jobs have been identified for the chop between now and 2008. At the same time, C&W must also keep more than an eye on its local loop unbundling (LLU) ISP Bulldog. This mutt has already been in trouble with regulator Ofcom and if C&W wants Bulldog to corner a sizeable chunk of the fast-growing LLU market, then it needs to keep the ISP on a tight lead. ®
We at El Reg have been known to take the ocassional pop at search monolith Google - especially regarding its erratic policy of marking anniversaries and commemorations with a make-over of its logo. Regular readers will, of course, remember the 2005 St George's Day outrage which had old boys spluttering with barely-concealed rage into their pints the length and breadth of England. It seems only fair, then, to commend Google for making amends with Armistice Day, marked at 11am this morning by a two-minute silence. The Royal British Legion website has full details of events today and over the weekend to commemorate the end of the First World War at 11am on 11 November 1918. ®
Graphics card company Club 3D today said its 512MB Radeon X1800 XT-based board is now available to gamers across Europe. The chip itself is clocked at 625MHz, and with the half a gig of GDDR 3 clocked to 750MHz (1.5GHz effective), Club 3D claimed the board was "the fastest VGA card available to buy". The Radeon X1800 XT contains 16 pixel pipelines with DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0 support. The memory connects to the core across a 256-bit bus. It provides up to 16x anisotropic filtering, and up to 6x multi-sampling anti-aliasing and 12x with temporal multi-sampling. The board incorporates ATI's Avivo video processing system, which runs from digitising video through to its display in 10-bit per-channel colour, and incorporates H.264 hardware decoding. The card is also compatible with ATI's CrossFire technology, though it's not a master card - X1800 XT CrossFire master cards are not expected to arrive before late December and possibly not until early 2006, if online reports are to be believed. Club 3D's board is available now, however, for around £450 in the UK. ®
PartyGaming - the online gaming outfit - is forking out $14.5m to snap up a Scandinavian poker outfit. MultiPoker.com uses PartyGaming's online poker playing platform, and has some 255,000 registered players in Scandinavia. The deal means that PartyGaming gets the whole shebang - business, assets, player database, brand and MultiPoker.com site. PartyGaming is also buying a slice of IntertopsPoker.com but calling time on a relationship with Coral Eurobet. ®
LettersLetters The bogus Lord BOFH has kept you all agog this week. This, for the uninitiated, is the story of a man who assumed the identity of a dead baby. Catch up on the details here before you take a stroll through your fellow readers' thoughts on all things Buckingham related: "Bogus Baron?" Please, "Ersatz Earl." Joe Well, regarding the 'Earl of Buckingham', you drew the connection between the aquisition of his identity and a Frederick Forsythe novel. But the same trick was used by Christopher Lambert as the Highlander in that movie - so perhaps we have an immortal uncovered? (and then the 21 months in prison would be laughable to him) *chuck* *chuck* *chuck* (black helicopters closing in....) Kind regards, Thomas Buck 23 years, a wife and two children: I don't know what it takes to establish a 'true' identity in where you come from, but that identity sounds true enough to me: certainly more 'true' than any previous identity he may have had. David There's so much wrong with this story on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin: 1/. Firstly, how and why was this man's passport revoked? Granted he'd assumed a false identity many years ago, but surely the documentation was valid documentation based on a false identity. What was it about his documentation that raised suspicion? 2/. Can he really be said to have 'stolen' the dead baby's identity? Granted he assumed a false identity, but we can all do that...by deed poll. The baby, being dead, had nothing stolen as such. I've heard over-emotional claims that this man lived a lie (really? isn't he the same man whatever he calls himself?), that he lived the dead baby's life (wtf?), that his children don't know who he is anymore (maybe that's more to do with the fact he lived in Switzerland?). A mother still grieving after 23 years feels sinned against...a family turn against a man they're supposed to love...all because he chose a false name and then was obliged to stick with it? Maybe he's just a bit whimsical! Lets ask ourselves what this guy is really guilty of. He took the name of a dead baby. That was foolish, since he'd have been better off just plucking a name out of the air. But many people change their name legitimately. Isn't this guys crime simply that he didn't use proper channels? Who was the crime comitted against? He continued to live under the assumed name for the next 23 years. So? Having made the decision to do it, he stuck to it. The longevity of the event bears no relationship to the severity of the crime. The fact that his family and friends only knew his assumed name is entirely consistent - that would probably be the case if he'd changed his name legitimately. Again, no big deal. Besides, lying to your family isn't illegal, as far as I know. In the end, this guy did one (slightly baffling) thing 23 years ago, then lived a quiet life as a BOFH without annoying anybody or doing anything wrong. If he comitted some terrible crime before that, then find it out and convict him. But 21 months for pretending to have a different name than he really has seems a bit steep. It seems like he's been sentenced to a stiffer penalty simply because it's 'believed' he's comitted some more severe crime, and because people having been queueing up to air their slightly fanciful grievances. It's all very rum. Colin Just goes to show the importance of peer review, hey? Butting Oh well done, sir. Well done. Are you in IT? Do you despair? Join the club: Why is the study worried about what we as IT people can do to stop people from unloading on us? Why isn't it taking a stand against the meglomaniacs with PDAs they refuse to learn how to use, email bulletins they refuse to read, and warnings and guidelines they refuse to abide by? So _I_ could have done something better if they feel angry? Bull. Meet me halfway. Troy and it never fails - the people who are stupid enough to by the worst kit at the lowest prices always demand the most tech support and have the worst attitudes about it - I D 10 T problems are thedeath of any helpdesk operation. Rich I've personally watched abusive users literally badger IT personel into full blown nervous breakdowns in the past. Its not a pretty sight. typically it will be someone who is the IT guy being called repeatedly at all hours of the day [2am, 4am etc etc etc ] while he's trying to sleep. [having not slept in 45 days] one thing that comes to mind as a BASIC RULE OF ENGAGEMENT is to ensure that the userbase understands in very clear terms that... "The redial button is a privalege, not a right, don't abuse it". Sean Websense briefly mistook Microsoft's software download page for a nice big doobie. Oops: Makes sense. How often have you thought to yourself: "What were they smoking when they did THAT?" while cursing the latest, greatest MS "it's-not-a-bug" feature? Aravind A strange response to a nice picture from outer space: "It is a generally accepted part of the theory of star formation that large and dense dust clouds eventually collapse in on themselves under the force of their own gravity, eventually forming massive stars" Oddly enough this theory also applies to Local Government in the UK. I know of a couple of Authorities which are dense dust clouds on the verge of collapse, and the Chief Execs are adamant they are about to become stars. They will be delighted to have science on their side :-) Mark News emerged this week that Sunncomm isn't planning to deafen downloaders with a 250 decibel shriek should they attempt to play illegally copied music on their portable music players. There are reasons for this beyond those identified by the author, as we shall see: Perhaps the most amusing part of this story is that 250 decibels is rather louder than the loudest sound pressure level physically possible in the Earth's atmosphere; at that intensity, the minimum pressure in the "troughs" of the sound waves is a hard vacuum. Bit of a reach for those teeny stylish earbuds, what? Regards, Steve Hersey (and, yes, I *am* a rocket scientist ;-) If SunnComm was paranoid about that, and then was found to be talking to themselves, it sounds to me like they should seek help for schizophrenia, no? Let us hope that they can find help in a nice safe padded room (or, well, anywhere but here) soon. Arah 250db? Sorry, but 194db is the loudest sound possible. http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html Steven Dear Sir / Madam, Decibels of sound volume must be specified with the distance, typically one metre, otherwise they are meaningless. Which unfortunately makes your article meaningless. Kind regards, John Why the 250dB claim cannot be true Let's look at this scientifically: Typical headphones have a sensitivity (i.e. how much level do I get out for a given 1mV input voltage) of 100 dB. (Data from other standard headphones, Apple give no spec on their website). 6dB increase in level equals a doubling of the input voltage - so 250dB requires >30000 Volts. Any questions on the reliability of this story? Timo Shouldn't buying copies of your own album be frowned upon as unethical and dubious practice? Only if the album in question has actually been released. Otherwise its just a publicity stunt perfectly reasonable attempt to keep hold of your copyrighted material: I like the fact that the winner of this auction has been given this as feedback: "A buyer of the highest integrity......" Click here while its still live... Oh, the sarcasm. Dave Sad sack that I am I had a search on eBay for the offending item. Here it is. Shouldn't be too hard to find out whodunnit as the seller's postal address and email address are on the page too, tho the email addy is missblenehassit, but the postal address says Kevin Blyth. The seller has been a member since 1999 and seems to mostly sell records. As further evidence of my sadness, a Google search for Kevin Blyth turns up a couple of possibilities in Oz. One was an electrician on Star Wars 2 and the other contributed to an article on Australian Punk Cheers, Colin. We build an ark to prepare for the coming floods, just like Defra wants us too: Do us a favour and leave the IP lawyers behind.... Bertrand "*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." You mean Vulture Central doesn't have a rad bunker in the mountains stocked with enough materials to last for decades? Or is that plan B? Sincerely, Arah Leonard They really don't have their heads around this, do they... Would it even be possible to hurricane-proof the entire southern and western coasts, prepare for a six-month drought in the south and east, or move London so it doesn't flood completely when sea levels rise by several metres. But, they must be seen to be doing something.... Jerry And top prize for Missing the Really Obvious Joke goes to Bjorn, who spectactularly failed to spot the satirical tone of Orlowski's musings on the "leaked" (cough, cough) company memo: Is this "leak" a hoax? It all seems a bit unlikely to me. Either that, or Bill has a very strange sense of humour. "Excellent! See, Steve? This is why I hired him" "... attempted to undo the damage caused by my book" "Products that remain in beta for many years should be ... Microsoft products." This just seems a bit _too_ honest, even for Mr Gates, and sounds more like the clichéd outsider's view of MS (the M$ mob, if you will). Bjorn We're going to have work on the assumption that something was lost in the translation there... And on to the weekend. ®
US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has proposed tough new copyright enforcement laws that would criminalise consumers simply for trying to make unauthorised copies of music, movies and software, whether they are successful or not. Dubbed the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2005 (IPPA), the bill, which has yet to be put before the US Congess, seeks to provide harsher penalties for copyright infringers, in particular those who do so persistently. For tougher sentences, think not only bigger fines, but also jail terms, the seizure of equipment used to make illegal copies and the payment of compensation to the owner of the copied work, Gonzales indicated. "Rapid technological advancements have made the reproduction and distribution of counterfeit goods and pirated materials easier than ever in our history,” Gonzales said yesterday night, the Red Herring reports. “[We] must advance along with modern technologies if we’re going to keep pace with this evolving area of criminal activity.” Gonzales was speaking at Stopping the Fakes, a US Chamber of Commerce-sponsored conference focused on exploring measures to combat counterfeiting. The IPPA doesn't appear to seek to change the fundamentals of US copyright law, which govern who owns a work and the extent to which others may make copies of it without seeking the permission of the copyright holder, but to allow law enforcement agencies greater leeway to pursue those suspected of infringing copyright and to come down harder on those found to have engaged in such actions. Gonzales' IPPA proposal comes after the US Supreme Court ruled that anyone seen to be knowingly aiding and abetting copyright infringement can be sued by copyright holders. That judgement led to renewed efforts by the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) to force P2P companies to block copyright infringement and to obtain licences to allow copyright works to be shared. A number of them have since complied, or closed their networks down while they get legal. ®
The BBC has revealed what the major villains from next season of Doctor Who will look like. Yes, that's right, the Cybermen have a new design, the latest in a long line of silvery, cybernetic fashion statements that the monstrous Mondasians have been attempting to foist upon Earthlings since the late 1960s. Gone are the loose cloth bindings of the original Cybes, from William Hartnell's final story, The Tenth Planet, and the more fetish-friendly diver gear from Patrick Troughton outings The Invasion and The Wheel in Space. Ditto the g-force suits favoured in the 1980s in stories Earthshock, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nonsense. Sorry, Silver Nemesis. In the 21st Century, the Cybes clearly prefer a more robotic, mechanical look, and while they have fortunately lost the cricket gloves acquired for their last appearance on our TV screens, the emotionless mechanoids have gained trouser flares. Indeed, bar the elegant feminine shape, the new cybes have all the halmarks of the Robotrix from Fritz Lang's Metropolis filmed in 1927. Remember, retro is the new futurism... ®
And ninethlyAnd ninethly Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency - Raymond Chandler Keep your friends close and your herpes closer. That's a maxim I've always lived by. I've found it to be rewarding, and suggest you adopt it as well.