15th > November > 2005 Archive
SC05SC05 Struggling SGI won't back down from its Linux on Itanium charge. In fact, SGI next year will release the Altix 4000 – a monster of a machine that uses new blade server components and supports up 128TB of memory. The Altix 4000 will start shipping in the first quarter of 2006 and support both Intel's current "Madison" Itanic chip and the upcoming dual-core "Montecito." The box will also run standard versions of Red Hat and Novell SuSE Linux along with SGI's Reconfigurable Application Specific Computing (RASC) technology. Unlike the Altix 3000 that used clunky "brick" servers, the Altix 4000 will be packed with sleek blades. This gives customer a bit more flexibility as they can mix and match blades packed full of processors, or ones that contain only memory and networking components. SGI also has a compute-heavy blade available that mixes both CPUs and memory. A datasheet with all the Altix 4000 specifications is available in PDF format here. The new system will hold 512 processors, just like its predecessor, but will support the 128TB of memory, up from 24TB with the Altix 3000. Without question, SGI's focus on bringing Linux to the highest-end systems has been appreciated by the industry. Its reliance on Itanium, however, has proved less rewarding. Back when SGI pitched Irix on MIPS, it was burned just by the idea of Itanic. Customers questioned how SGI could compete against this super chip from Intel and HP and stalled their purchases of SGI gear. That was the first burn. Then SGI actually moved to Itanic and saw the chip struggle to gain a foothold in the server market. Intel still has not shipped a dual-core Itanium, while competitors busy away on their second, third and fourth generation dual-core parts. In addition, HP stands as the clear Itanium server leader, making SGI look like an also ran tied to a rival's architecture. Industry standard? Hardly. The slow sales of Itanium-based gear have left SGI in financial turmoil. It now trades on the pink sheets and has a market cap far less than relative newcomer Rackable Systems. Customers aren't likely to flock to the Altix 4000 until the dual-core Montecito ships arrived in the middle of next year. That's a long time to wait for a troubled concern. ®
Consumer data security breaches are leading to customer revolt and an average cost per incident of $14m, according to a brace of surveys out this week. One in five US consumers quizzed by Ponemon Institute said they immediately terminated their accounts with vendors that lost their information. An additional 40 per cent polled by the organisation's National Survey on Data Security Breach Notification considered taking their business elsewhere after receiving notifications of information mishandling. The survey polled 9,000 consumers, 12 per cent of whom had received notices of information security breaches. A parallel study conducted by Ponemon estimates an average cost of $14m per security breach incident, with costs ranging as high as $50m. The survey, Lost Customer Information: What Does a Data Breach Cost Companies?, is among the first to look at data from actual cases of lost customer data. Covering 14 separate incidents, the research encompasses 1.4m compromised data records and an estimated total of $200m in resulting losses. Total cost estimates include the actual cost of internal investigations, outside legal defense fees, notification and call center costs, PR and investor relations efforts, discounted services offered, lost employee productivity, and the effect of lost customers. Both studies show customers are punishing companies that lose their confidential and private information. However the second corporate study suggests a lower number of consumers take their business elsewhere following consumer data security breaches. This study suggests an average loss of 2.5 per cent of all customers, ranging as high as 11 per cent, as compared to 20 per cent defection after security screw-ups suggested by the consumer survey. Corporations no longer have the option of hoping that US customers will not find out about mishandled information. Currently, 21 US states have laws requiring that customers or employees be notified when protected personal information has been breached. A series of high-profile consumer data security breaches involving US firms including data mining firm ChoicePoint, payment processing firm CardSystems Solutions and others have pushed the issue up the political agenda. Security firms such as PGP Corporation are cited by Ponemon as emphasising the need for wider use of encryption technologies in safeguarding customer data. Ponemon's studies can be downloaded from PGP's website here (registration required). ®
CA WorldCA World Tools to manage converged networks and radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are top of CA's technology development agenda. Yogesh Gupta, CA's chief technology officer, said its recent purchase of network management specialist Concord Communications gave it the ability to develop tools to tie together the management of converged voice and data networks. By addressing the converged networks market CA reckons it can ease the headache of managing service levels and quality of service. CA plans to integrate technology from Concord within its flagship Unicenter systems management suite. Gupta also singled out the management of mobile devices and security as key to the firm's technology development plans. The increased use of RFID in the supply chain to track goods "into stores and potentially beyond" also creates a emergent management market that CA is keen to exploit. Delegate badges at CA World this year came with a thin sticker containing an in-built RFID chip. This "innovation" allowed CA to record who visited presentations without scanning badges. Visitors to the show were able to peel off the badge if they knew it was there (and providing they defeated a strong adhesive bond). Speaking during a presentation at CA World in Las Vegas, Gupta said the firm recently established a CA Labs unit which will focus on technologies due to come to market between three to five years in the future. The unit - which is yet to be fully staffed and even then will only employ 40 people - will collaborate with universities on research and focus on areas such as mobility and convergence. ®
ExclusiveExclusive Not to obliterate a dead horse, but we've spotted Sun Microsystems' upcoming Sun Fire T2000 server once again – this time on Sun's own site – in pictures. We're determined to convince Sun that this box exists despite its protestations that it doesn't. A dig on the search engine of your choice will show that Sun is selling four-core, six-core and eight-core versions of the Niagara-based Sun Fire T2000 to the State of Florida. The web site won't be around long, but you can find the cached version here at least until Sun calls its good friends at Google. The highest-end system costs $26,995 with 32GB of memory and 2 73GB drives. A low-end, four-core system costs $8,295 with 8GB of memory and 2 73GB drives. That pricing fits with what we presented earlier this month. Sun, of course, won't officially comment on the pricing because it doesn't want anyone to talk about the Sun Fire T2000 until an official Dec.6 launch event. Sun isn't doing a very good job of protecting the secret though, as you can see from this page. (Don't expect that site to be around too much longer either.) After a couple of clicks, we were able to find a picture of the T2000 and all of its specs. Many of you will be familiar with these details since we've been over them in the past. According to Sun's official product brief sheet, the Sun Fire T2000 will ship with a single UltraSPARC T1 chip with 4, 6 or 8 cores. It will have 16 memory slots than can hold 512MB, 1GB and 2GB DDR2 DIMMS. In addition, customers will find four 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, four hard drive slots, four USB ports, three fans and one blower, three PCI-Express slots, two PCI-X slots, two power supplies, advanced lights out management and cryptography acceleration in hardware. Quite the package. For some reason, the smaller Sun Fire T1000 has started to disappear from Sun marketing materials. Insiders, however, assure us the system will arrive. It's hard to imagine Sun still being able to deny the T2000 after all this, but we're sure it will try. ®
So how many CDs actually contain XCP, Sony BMG's notorious DRM consumer assault weapon? And which ones? Sony says that only 20 titles, which it refuses to name, contain the XCP virus - software which attacks music piracy by attacking your PC. But is it being economic with the actualité? Reg reader Geoffrey McCaleb has found no fewer than 47 titles containing Sony's DRM rootkit. They are spread across several sub-labels owned by Sony-BMG, so it looks like a little finessing is going on. Geoffrey has posted the list of rootkit-infected titles he's uncovered so far in his blog. Sony BMG's woes continued yesterday with Microsoft's decision that the DRM software contained on infected CDs, counted as "malicious software under the rules it uses to define what Windows should be protected against", the BBC reports. Sony has suspended production of CDs incorporating XCP copy protection, but the PR nightmare continues: class action lawsuits in California mean the record giant will be cleaning this oil slick for months to come. ®
The US Justice Department has stepped into the ongoing patent infringement suit against BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM), asking the court to ensure that any injunction on the use of US BlackBerrys will not affect Government workers. The Justice Department has filed a “statement of interest” with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, seeking a 90-day delay so that government agencies can compile a list of workers who would be affected by a BlackBerry shutdown, the Washington Post reports. These workers, says the Department, should then be exempted from any service cut-off imposed by the court. The Department has also expressed concern that "there may be a substantial public interest that may be impaired" if the BlackBerry service is closed down, reports the newspaper. The District Court is due to consider arguments on the merits of some of the patent claims brought by holding company NTP Inc., following last month’s refusal by the Supreme Court to rehear an appeal by RIM against a Court of Appeal ruling. The District Court will also decide whether to impose an injunction prohibiting RIM from selling the BlackBerry and any other products, software or services using the disputed technology, in the US. According to reports, NTP has already confirmed that government workers will not be impacted by an injunction, but the Administration is concerned as to how this will be ensured in practice. Background NTP sued in November 2001, claiming that certain RIM products were infringing on patents covering a method of using radio frequency wireless communications in email systems. RIM was found guilty of patent infringement in November 2002, when a jury awarded NTP Inc damages of $53.7m and imposed an injunction – which was then stayed pending an appeal. The injunction was lifted by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington in August this year, after the court found that the BlackBerry did infringe on some of NTP’s patents, but that one of the lower court’s key definitions, relating to the term “originating processor," was too wide. The Court of Appeals therefore returned the case to the District Court for further arguments over the claims that may have been affected by the flawed definition. RIM appealed, asking that the full Appeals Court re-consider the case, but the Appeals Court and the US Supreme Court have both refused to take the case further. Separately, the US Patent and Trademark Office has cast doubt on all of the patents involved in the dispute. RIM hopes that the USPTO rulings, which are independent from the litigation process, will boost its arguments before the District Court. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Local government workers should be allowed to work from home if the public sector is to realise efficiency savings outlined by last year's treasury-backed Gershon Review. Not only would teleworking increase staff productivity and help improve chances to hang on to key workers and attract new staff, it could also lead to councils reducing costly overheads such as maintaining office space. So says a survey by Telewest Business, which quizzed 100 senior council officials on how to cut increase staff productivity to help save £6.5b by 2007-2008 identified by the Gershon Review. The introduction of e-government is seen as one way the public sector can halt spiralling costs. But the way it manages its own staff is also seen as critical. "Local council priorities have shifted to the next wave of e-government with Gershon, from getting public services online to waking up to how efficiency gains can be made across the entire organisation," said Christopher Small, a director at Telewest Business. "Our survey found that 65 per cent of local councils are feeling under increasing pressure to reduce office space in the next few years. When you couple this with the pressure to increase staff productivity and find people with the right skills, embracing new communications technologies could be the key to making sure councils gain greater efficiencies without cutting staff or public services." Telewest described as "alarming" findings that only a limited number of councils employed teleworking to reduce overheads. ®
CA WorldCA World CA is on the prowl for acquisitions to round out its technologies in its four key business groups: systems management, security, storage and business service optimisation. But it is waving goodbye to the buying spree that characterised the company throughout the nineties. Reviewing the competitive landscape this week at CA World conference in Las Vegas, the company acknowledged its products are behind some competitors in some features in the four key markets it plays in. CA conceded that BMC is ahead in the service management sub-segment of the business service optimisation market while Mercury Interactive is ahead of the game in apps management. CA naturally rated itself well ahead of competitors in (its heartland) mainframe software and systems management markets while admitting Symantec/Veritas is top dog in data availability. That suggests that business service optimisation purchases will be key to the firm's acquisition plans. CA, naturally enough, isn't saying who it intends to buy, but chief operating officer Jeff Clarke did explain its acquisition criteria. Acquired firms must be best of breed, meet CA's goal for long term growth and have projected returns on investment in excess of 13 per cent (ahead of its cost of capital). "Of 20 firms we've looked at over the last 18 months we've only pursued eight acquisitions because the others did not fit our criteria," he said. In the last year, CA has splashed out $1.2bn on four major acquisitions - security firm Netegrity, storage company iLimin, and services management outfit Niku and networking management firm Concord Communications - as well as a string of smaller purchases. Former Niku chief exec Josh Pickus said senior CA execs were able to reassure its user base that support and development will improve as a result of the company's acquisition. "CA has a history of certain acquisitions not being positive for users, and customers were concerned, but we've been able to show users Niku's technology will get adequate resources. Joining with CA gets us over the objection that users don't want to buy technology from another small vendor," he said. Clarke told The Register that the new CA is going out of its way to distance itself from the aggressive sales tactics commonplace under its previous regime. "There been a drop in the percentage of customers who view us as antagonistic. We've done a lot of hard work meeting customers and unwinding contracts that they weren't happy with. This has created short term financial challenges but is right in the longer term," he said. Last week, CA announced plans to sell a majority stake of its Ingres open-source database unit. Private equity firm Garnett & Helfrich Capital is financing the deal, which will see it become the majority shareholder in Ingres Corp. CA will retain a minority stake in the new business and a seat on its board. In response to questions about the many products CA owns outside its four key strategic market segments, chief financial officer Bob Davis said it had no plans to sell off anything else of any consequence. ®
Infineon is to quit the DRAM market. The German chip maker will split up its DRAM unit and sell the bits to Micron and Nanya. So claims US investment bank Needham & Co., by way of a Reuters report. According to the story, Nanya will get Infineon's non-US assets, while Micron will pick up the North American plant. Terms of the deal - which none of the parties have yet confirmed or denied - remain unknown. Will the companies pay cash, offer up shares or a mixture of the two? We shall see. Nanya and Infineon already have a relationship through Inotera, their soon-to-IPO DRAM joint venture. And in September, the two firms also agreed to extend their DRAM development co-operation agreement. The deal will see the two work on a 60nm production process at Infineon's Dresden fab - due to be taken over by Nanya, if Needham is correct - to be used by "both companies and at their manufacturing joint venture Inotera". Infineon is the world's fourth largest DRAM maker by sales revenues, but the company's memory division has been struggling of late. In July, the DRAM business' chief, Andreas von Zitzewitz, resigned under a cloud of motorsport sponsorship irregularity allegations. His replacement is Kin Wah Loh, formerly in charge of Infineon's communications product division. Infineon itself has been losing money over recent quarters, in part thanks to falling memory prices and slowing demand. ®
Softonic, the Spanish free software download site, has set-up an English-speaking version. This contains reviews, a useful comparison utility and paid-for software too. Softonic inglés is the Barcelona-based firm's third site - it set up a German version last year. Its claim to be Europe's biggest download portal - and the world's fourth biggest - is based on Alexa rankings, which is hardly scientific. But Softonic is undoubtedly a biggie, with 33,000 programs online, and 235,000 downloads a day. It claims more than 4.5m uniques and 60m page views a month. en.softonic.com. ®
The intellectual property battle between Qualcomm and leading competitors and hand set makers has been stepped up a significant notch, with the US chipmaker suing Nokia, not over its core CDMA technology but over claimed patents for data over GSM. This has raised speculation that Qualcomm is gearing up for a sweeping claim directed at the whole GSM industry, which could shift the balance of power in mobile intellectual property again and could have a negative effect on the creation of low cost GSM devices for emerging economies.
Microsoft is joining rivals like Fast, Google, Verity and Yahoo by offering enterprises Desktop Search software. The software can be added onto any Microsoft server product for free. It will run on Windows-XP and Windows 2000-based machines. It promises integrated search across desktop files, emails and shared network files. The announcement follows the release of a consumer version last summer. The enterprise version is similar to the consumer version but is said to be easier to deploy and manage. Customers can choose the MSN Search Toolbar which lets you view search results from within Outlook. It can be customised to give access to the users desktop, corporate intranet or the web. A beta tester customer, quoted in the press release, said users typically felt comfortable using the software within 15 minutes. Available in 15 languages Desktop Search can be downloaded for free from http://msdn.microsoft.com.®
NASA is planning to slash millions of dollars from the International Space Station's science budget in a bid to find the cash it needs to fulfil President Bush's ambition to return to the moon, and journey to Mars. Somehow, the agency needs to lay its hands on an extra $5bn of funding. The space agency is cutting $344m from the ISS' budget next year, The Guardian reports, by canning the station's research programme. Hundreds of contractors are being laid off, and many experiments are simply being cancelled, the paper says. Michael Griffin, NASA administrator, explained that he has had to put the station's construction ahead of the science. Addressing the US House committee on science he said: "It seemed to me it was getting the cart before the horse to be worrying about money for human or other life sciences when we could not assure ourselves the continued capability to be able to place people in orbit in the first place." While the cuts will not be good news for those directly affected, many space scientists have regarded the space station as being very poor value for money in terms of the research output. It is also way over budget and long overdue: it was supposed to cost $18bn and be complete by 2003. Instead it has been something of a black hole for NASA's funds. So far the US is estimated to have spent over $100bn on its share of the ISS, and it is not likely to be finished before 2017. Keith Cowing, a former NASA scientist and now editor of the NASA Watch web site says that Griffin privately refers to the ISS as an albatross. "The only reason he has to continue with it," he told The Guardian, "is that we have binding international treaty commitments with Europe and the Pacific nations." He's also constrained by the other nations who have invested so far: European and Japanese modules have yet to be launched and added to the station. Finally, consider how NASA's credibility would be affected if it did pull the plug. "Picture a congressional hearing where Griffin says he's going to abandon this thing we just spent $100bn on," Cowing commented. ®
Vodafone investors got the jitters this morning as the giant cellco reported a fall in profits and warned that growth would contiue to slow. By late morning shares in the company were down 11p (7.5 per cent) at 134p even though Vodafone reported an increase in turnover and customers. Reporting numbers for the six months to September, the Newbury-based company said revenues had risen from £16.7bn to £18.2bn. But over the same period pretax profit slipped from £4.5bn to £4.1bn while "profit for the period" was down 23 per cent from £3.7 bn top £2.8bn. All this comes as Vodafone is bragging of its success in acquiring new punters while hanging onto existing ones. It added ten million new users over the last six months taking total numbers to 171m. It's also chuffed to bits with the take-up of 3G services with some 5m handsets in use. Which is nice. ®
Micro Direct, the Manchester based PC components retailer, has appointed Amtrak as its exclusive deliver contractor. The deal, over an unspecified period, is said to be worth millions of pounds. Micro Direct has not revealed which couriers it is kicking out - Amtrak is an existing partner, having worked with the reseller for eight years already. Amtrak expects to shift up to 1500 consignments a night from Micro Direct. ®
When looking at the rampage of the internet giants into the mobile world, there has been great focus on the threat to the carriers, especially as Google and possibly Microsoft seek to acquire networks and spectrum. More commonly, though, the internet players will partner with the established operators to pursue a common goal of convergence, one that will change the role of the handset and turn it into a communications and media platform with the same range of functionality as a PC. Carriers will need to negotiate relationships carefully to avoid losing the bulk of the revenue to their new allies, but the real challenge is for the handset manufacturers, in particular Nokia, which have been trying to control the transformation of the handset into PC/set-top/organizer themselves. While the phonemakers can no longer hope, as they once did, to control the mobile internet environment entirely, working closely with the internet specialists will offer a chance to regain a measure of dominance over the cellcos. Microsoft has not always executed its mobile convergence moves very slickly but it certainly grasped the idea early that users could access services, from phone books to music, seamlessly across various devices in the home and on the road, with common interfaces, passwords and databases, and using a variety of methods from email to instant messaging. Now its challengers, Yahoo and Google, are stepping up their moves in the same direction, all with a view to becoming the default environment in which users access their services, whether wirelessly or on the PC, and so driving advertising and other revenues. Yahoo is to introduce a handset, in partnership initially with SBC and its mobile arm Cingular, that will link cellphone services such as music, photos and email with existing Yahoo address books and preferences. Like Microsoft MSN, Yahoo is working to integrate various communication methods, such as email and instant messaging, and in future push to talk, across different platforms in a uniform way. The SBC-Yahoo phone, the latest in a series of collaborations with SBC, will be made by Nokia and cost up to $300. The partnership is part of SBC’s increasingly aggressive strategy for converging wired and wireless networks and offering the same services over both, in bundles that it believes will reduce churn and increase margins. Other internet players are expected to form similar alliance with telcos chasing the convergence dream. Google-a-go-go Google is majoring on location based services, also a priority for MSN. Both are collecting massive databases of satellite maps, and Google has just announced mobile access from certain cellphones to its Maps offering. Google Local, the company’s first downloadable cellphone application, will initially be available on about 100 Java enabled handsets – in the US from Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Cingular. Allowing people to access information relevant to their location is also a value add that many cellcos are chasing, but for Google it has the additional benefit of enabling locally-based advertising, for instance for restaurants in the user’s vicinity. Such applications, which are free to download, are a double-edged sword for the cellcos. On the one hand they drive internet traffic and mobile phone usage, which when data is paid for by volume or time, and when the data optimized cellular networks remain underused, is a bonus. But well branded, free options like Google Local will prevent the cellcos themselves from charging fees for their own location based services, which are seen as a key revenue driver for mobile data. They will have two main defenses. One is to create location based services that are so much easier to use than Google’s that users will pay for them – a realistic option in the short term, since Google Local is widely said to be cumbersome, making the Microsoft error of transferring PC interface norms to a device that usually lacks a keyboard. Cellcos and their partners are undoubtedly better, at this stage, at creating applications that take advantage of the handset’s form factor and interface, but this advantage it likely to be short lived. The other defense is to sign up attractive partnerships with providers of services that can be reached via the basic free location platform, so that usage of apps like Google Local encourages users to move back into the cellco’s semi-walled garden. The dilemma is even greater for the handset makers, which in the early days of mobile data believed that they would control the market. Since they understood how to make attractive handsets and user interfaces, they argued, they would find the best ways to deliver data services and would sign up the internet partners. The operators hit back by creating their own content platforms, such as Vodafone Live! and by moving towards self-branded phones and interfaces. How the shifting balance of power between cellco and handset maker works out in the coming few years will partly depend on which side makes more creative alliances with internet companies. Nokia’s Preminet applications platform and its increasing interest in open handset designs with full internet access over IP and Linux, show its determination to regain the momentum as the mobile world moves away from walled gardens and into the PC-style open internet era. The Nokia-Yahoo handset may be specifically for SBC/Cingular, but it will be the first of many collaborations between the Finnish giant and the internet world as the former seeks to push its smartphones into the roles currently occupied by IP-connected PCs. The Microsoft response Microsoft followed up its recent announcement of internet-based office software with one of chairman Bill Gates’ sporadic high level emails, which often signal a major strategy shift for the company. The email, accompanied by a memo from Ray Ozzie, the man tipped eventually to take over Gates’ helm as chief software architecture, focused on Microsoft’s response to the challenge from internet companies like Google, and the need to deliver services over multiple platforms seamlessly, including mobile handsets and televisions. Ozzie called on the operating system and MSN units within Microsoft to join forces to define "next generation internet services platform” for creating new services and products internally and with partners. Ozzie believes Microsoft’s progress in the internet world has been shackled by tensions between different teams, while "a set of very strong and determined competitors is laser-focused on internet services and service-enabled software”. He calls for Microsoft to become an innovator not a follower, pointing out that Skype popularized consumer VoIP and BlackBerry mobile email, even though both were well researched at an early stage within Microsoft. The former Lotus executive did not define specific services and software that Microsoft should create, but stressed they must be seamless and designed for users who move between PCs, cellphones, TVs and game consoles. Such a system would "deploy software automatically and as appropriate to all of your devices”, he wrote. Copyright © 2005, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Delivering the second keynote speech which opened the IT Forum in Barcelona, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division, gave delegates a quick glimpse of the upcoming version of Outlook. The most obvious immediate change is an integrated "To Do" list which drew applause from the audience. Raikes showed how changes to the To Do list are integrated with the Outlook calendar. The SharePoint calendar allows you to view team appointments. Inbox search has also been improved. The preview panel for viewing emails will now include a preview of any attachments. Raikes said that users complained they could not find many of the capabilities which existing software has so he pledged Office12 will make it easier to find the functions you need. This was demonstrated with an Excel page which changes the options offered to users according to where and what they are doing in the document. Outlook will also include a "Finish" button to allow users to review mails before they are sent to ensure that tracked changes or other unwelcome information is not included. The first beta version of Office12, for a few thousand techies, will be available shortly before a wider beta release in the second quarter of next year. ®
Sony and other manufacturers have been accused of asking online retailers for 10-15 per cent more for wholesale electronic goods than they charge their traditional counterparts, The Times reports. This "dual pricing" strategy - designed to narrow the price differential between net and high street - was allegedly initiated by Sony and quickly adopted by other suppliers. Big-name retail chains have exerted pressure on the CE giants at a time of falling high street sales in the face of cut-price internet offers. Online retailers have naturally cried foul and will meet today to decide whether to "name and shame" the guilty parties. Sony already faces Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and European Commission examination of its pricing strategy. Sony has a specific interest in supporting its branded Sony Centres, of which there are around 100 in the UK. It has the clout to force the issue too, as one website's MD told The Times: "If you are seen to be a troublemaker it can have a detrimental effect on supplies. If they want to, they can just put you out of business. We are struggling to stay in business and some companies have already gone to the wall." The manufacturers' case was put this morning by Edward Whitefield of retail consultancy Management Horizons. He told the BBC's Today programme that this "variable pricing" strategy was designed to create a "more even playing field between different channels of distribution". He noted: "The high street retailers are already suffering thin and declining margins. It's becoming very unprofitable to retail electrical goods on the high street." According to Whitefield, the cost of distribution through the internet is about 20 per cent of sales, compared with 45 per cent of sales for a bricks-and-mortar store, and consumers have greatly benefited as a result of online operations. They'll continue to benefit, too, added Whitefield: "Even after this 10, 15 per cent, the internet price points will still be 15 to 20 per cent lower than comparable high street stores." Asked if it was legal to charge different wholesale prices to different retailers, Whitefield asserted: "Yes it is, and it recognises that there are actually different costs of distribution in running a market stall and an expensive high street store". He added that if internet retailers complain to the competition authorites "they will find that they that they are up against not only Sony but they're up against the whole industry". Whatever the OFT decides in the matter, e-tailer spokesman James Roper, of the Independent Retail in Media Group, told The Times that manufacturers face a backlash from millions of online customers. "For the major brand which has instigated this policy, this appears to be an extremely risky step which will upset a lot of consumers," he warned. ®
Nvidia has finally shipped the 512MB version of its GeForce 7800 GTX chip. The company claims it offers a 33 per cent speed increase over the 256MB version. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512's increase comes from a faster core clock and a bigger memory clock speed: 850MHz (1.7GHz effective), the latter yielding the 54.4GBps of bandwidth provided by the chip's 256-bit memory bus. Nvidia didn't provide a core clock speed - it's believed to be around 550MHz - but it did say the GPU can colour 13.2bn pixels per second and processes 1.1bn vertices each second. It can process up to 24 pixels per clock cycle. The GTX 512's core speed is 30.9 per cent up on the 256MB GTX's, its memory clock 41.7 per cent higher.
Telstra is to cut up to 12,000 jobs, almost a quarter of its workforce, in a massive reorganisation. At the same time Australia's former monopoly telco is invest AUS$10bn ($7.3bn) in an IP network, of which $2b-3bn is new money. The company is also abandoning plans to pay shareholders a special dividend of AUS$1.5bn ($1.1bn), diverting the cash instead to restructuring. The massive efficiency drive will also see replace its CDMA mobile phone network with what it calls a 3G GSM network. Telstra is in no hurry to fire everyone just yet: it plans to cut 5,000 - 8,000 jobs over three years and 10,000 jobs over five. But it is in more of a hurry with its technology overhaul, aiming to have an IP core for its network in place by 2007. Other efficiencies sought include the reduction over three years of the number of network platforms - currently standing at 330 - by 60 per cent, and also of business and operational support systems - currently 1,200 - by 75 per cent. Telstra press release ®
Microsoft's entry into the world of supercomputers will help push the technology beyond government and academic departments and towards business users, the company's head of server and tools claimed today. Bob Muglia, senior vice president of server and tools for Microsoft, announced the public availability of the beta version of Windows Compute Cluster 2003 at the vendor's conference in Barcelona today, saying it will take on Linux and Unix in their traditional homeland - very high-end machines and groups of machines. The company is working with more than 20 companies to create applications to run on Windows Cluster. Speaking after his keynote speech, Muglia said: "This is for any workload which needs high-power computing. We are seeing a transition from government and academic use to a broader market - to bring it into the mainstream. The sweet spot is not for really big machines but in the range of 4 to 64 way machines." Muglia said the main markets targeted would be oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, financial services and universities. Such machines run intensive tasks like modelling Speaking without apparent irony Muglia said: "We've spent some time talking to Independent Software Vendors recently and the software community welcomes the arrival of a consistent environment to this area." He might be right but he might also have a fight on his hands - such academic and research units are usually staffed not by Linux enthusiasts but Linux obsessives. Academic ideals of peer-review and openess have further helped Linux gain ground. This is a new and not necessarily friendly market for Microsoft to join. To support its move Microsoft announced "a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment in the academic community". It is bankrolling the establishment of ten institutes for High-Performance Computing with universities including Stuttgart(Germany), Southampton(UK) and Nizhini Novgorod State University(Russia). Is the arrival of Windows really what cluster computing needs? Let us know what you think at the usual address.®
Intel's upcoming 65nm desktop dual-core processor, 'Presler', isn't entirely stable, motherboard-maker moles have alleged. The unnamed sources, cited by DigiTimes, suggest Intel could even be forced to delay Presler's introduction, which they claim is scheduled for January, to give it time to squash the bugs. Presler's not officially due to ship until Q1 2006, but Intel appears to have engineering samples out in the field to allow mobo companies to confirm the compatibility of their own hardware.
ReviewReview Sony's Bean - or the NW-W205, to give it is proper title - is a 512MB MP3 player that breaks away from the conventional flat and slim Flash player form-factor. This makes it perfect for clenching in your fist when you go for a run, but will create a curious bulge in a pair of trousers when out and about. Laid on a desk, the top and bottom are void of any buttons, with Sony opting to place them on only one side of the player. We say buttons, but in reality its really only one button: a d-pad that controls volume, track selection, play, stop, as well as the navigation around the menu system.
Pfizer Netherlands has started a radio campaign against Viagra spam, warning consumers that 97 per cent of the pills offered are counterfeit. Radio commercials on public broadcast radio and Sky Radio also warn purchasers that many of the illegal drugs are unapproved and may not contain the real chemical. Pfizer is citing a report by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), which says that falsifications are a risk to public health. Many of the pills are produced without adequate quality control, although the pills and the packaging can appear to be the same. Some rogue pharmacies claim to sell "legal generic Viagra", which doesn't even exist, as Pfizer's patents are still in place. Others claim the drug meets World Health Organization (WHO) standards, although the WHO does not ensure the quality or safety of drugs. Fifty five per cent of Dutch men say they receive Viagra spam. Of those, 85 per cent say they are annoyed by it. About 46 per cent of people that receive Viagra spam think that Pfizer sends out these solicitations, a spokesman for the firm says. "We get a lot of phone calls from people asking us why we do this." Earlier this year Pfizer, along with Microsoft, filed 17 parallel lawsuits against two "international pharmacy spam rings" selling what they claim were generic versions of Viagra online. Pfizer said it would also take action to ban the domain names of a dozen other websites, which sport addresses like freegenericviagra.com.®
Transport officials are looking into a so-called Smart-CCTV system that would automatically alert managers of tubes and trains to left packages or odd behaviour. Trials of this kind of technology have so far proven unsuccessful. Trials of so-called smart CCTV were abandoned at Liverpool Street Station after the system generated too many false positives. A spokesman for London Underground (LU) said that the improved technology was being tested in New York, and LU was keeping a close eye on the performance of the technology. The London Underground network is currently watched by some 6,000 CCTV cameras, and authorities plan to double that figure over the next five years. Arguably, 12,000 cameras running for most of each day will generate more footage than can practicably be monitored by London Underground staff. A quick visit to almost any tube station will illustrate this point. You'll find a booth filled with screens showing the CCTV camera output, which may or may not be being watched by LU staff. Finding a way to automate the monitoring of the cameras will then be very important to LU managers, unless they want to double the number of monitoring staff along with the camera installations. Speaking at a conference in London yesterday, transport secretary Alistair Darling also said that millimetre wave scanners would be introduced on to Paddington's platforms for the Heathrow Express in 2006, to test the scanners' usefulness in detecting weapons or explosives. The same kit could later be used on the tube network, according to the LU spokesman, but Darling ruled out full airport-style security at the UK's rail stations. ®
The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) is to hold a public inquiry into the issues surrounding Digital Rights Management (DRM), including the degree of protection needed for both copyright holders and consumers. DRM software is designed to protect copyright in material such as music, films or software that is stored or transmitted digitally. It works by encrypting the content and managing how that content is used. The policy debate around DRM is often cast as an argument between publishers of software, music and movies, anxious to prevent revenue loss from illegal duplication; and consumers, who fear they may lose existing rights to freely enjoy what they have purchased and to pass it on to others when they have finished with it. The issue has hit the headlines recently as music giant Sony BMG has come under fire for selling CDs that install allegedly dangerous copy-control software on user’s PCs. The firm has now temporarily ceased production of the CDs. However, to portray the issues surrounding DRM as merely a consumer versus publisher debate is misleading, said APIG today. APIG exists to provide a discussion forum between new media industries and Parliamentarians for the mutual benefit of both parties. It informs Parliamentary debate through meetings, informal receptions and reports. It points to wider applications of DRM in, for example, allowing individuals to buy the right to read a book just once, or pay a fraction of a penny every time they play a song. This allows publishers greater flexibility in the services they offer and leads to increased consumer choice, says the Parliamentary Group. “DRM systems bring threats and opportunities to both publishers and consumers,” said APIG Chairman Derek Wyatt MP. “This inquiry will seek to establish how consumers, artists and the distribution companies should be protected in a continually evolving market place.” The inquiry will focus on: Whether DRM distorts traditional tradeoffs in copyright law; Whether new types of content sharing license (such as Creative Commons or Copyleft) need legislation changes to be effective; How copyright deposit libraries should deal with DRM issues; How consumers should be protected when DRM systems are discontinued; To what extent DRM systems should be forced to make exceptions for the partially sighted and people with other disabilities; What legal protections DRM systems should have from those who wish to circumvent them; Whether DRM systems can have unintended consequences on computer functionality; The role of the UK Parliament in influencing the global agenda for this type of technical issue. APIG requires written evidence from interested parties by 21st December 2005. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The BPI, Britain's answer to the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA), today said it had filed lawsuits against 65 more UK residents for allegedly sharing music without the permission of the copyright owner. The new lawsuits take the total number of file-sharers accused by the BPI of music piracy - a group the organisation characterises as "digital shoplifters" - to more than 150. Of that number, 70 have agreed to pay up to £6,500 to settle their cases out of court, the organisation said. Five more currently have court cases pending against them. The 65 UK lawsuits are among 2,100 similar cases launched around the globe this week by local recording industry trade associations operating under the auspices of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). So far some 3,800 people have been sued by the music biz around the world, though that figure excludes the 16,200-odd individuals targeted to date by the RIAA in the US. The latest international action saw lawsuits issued for the first time in Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Hong Kong and Singapore. ®
LettersLetters If the volume of your correspondence is a true measure of the importance of a story then the world is in serious trouble. The most pressing issue this week was clearly the tipability of cows. Still, before we get to that, why don't we wander past a disintegrating government IT project and look at the broken bits? Which one? Well, why not the flagship NHS revamping we've all be oh-so excited about? Do you know one of the reasons why so many projects go over budget? It's because the contractor comes back to the client and says "this won't work as you thought, it will need a change". Or "well, while we are doing this, we could change this as well". And then the customer goes "Oh, well, if you say it is a good idea, yes". Then they get hit with a charge for the change in contract and another charge for the extra work done (though no refund for the work not done...). Then that change means they have another bite of the cherry - "because of that change, this won't work, so you ought to change this too". And so the contract mutates and grows. 'Course government aren't all that good at saying "why did you sell me a duff idea in the first place - fix it on your own pocket!". Well, it ain't *their* money, and it could be that the CEO is a good friend of a minister... If anything "Yes Minister" didn't go far enough. Mark I fail to understand how something that is little more than a jumped up hotel online booking system could cost 20 million quid to create. Geoff Haven't they heard of phased delivery ? In the real world, new requirements that would need large changes get kicked into release 2.0 - or so I've heard ... Regards, Mike Man I can so relate to this poor bugger! We are really battling to implement procedures where by we can tie clients down to a finite set of requirements, and get them to sign off a project design just once! Government departments are of course the worlds worst when it comes to scope creep!!! :-) Hilton Ah, naked people. How easily they offend some. And since that is the case, isn't it just a well that some clever biggers have come up with software to automatically blur all the scary parts: Of course you can make it out. You just have to get off your seat, move back about a metre and squint a bit. However, you chopped the top of the picture off, which was a bit disappointing. And who is the mystery male hand? What a load of twaddle this is. It's the next step in the nanny state. I'm now not allowed to video my kids in their school Christmas panto in case I use it as paedophile material. I have to admit that "Santa's Deep Throat" was a strange title for a panto but you have to go with the times, I suppose. But I want the job of the person who all this blocked material is sent to for checking. Imagine that on your CV! Alan Oh, yeah, like Olympia isn't porn. I'm so sick and tired of the artsy-pansy types claiming that fine art depicts the beauty of the human female form. What bullshit. Painting naked people is exactly that. Notice noone ever paints ugly naked people. I mean Rubinesque women might not be too hot to us, but they definitely were in their time. There is no platonic philosophical beauty to the human form. There is only hotness. It's the reason people like looking at the paintings, and it's the reason they are painted. It's as simple as that. In fact, I don't really see the destinction between when hot naked women (or men, like David) are painted or when they're photographed. Except perhaps that the paintings, by virtue of being commonplace and widely accepted, don't tickle the pickle quite as much. Aside from that, the distinction is dogmatic bullshit. It's doublethink. It's a lie to make it seem like you're not making porn culturally acceptable. Of course the general cultural taboo on nudity is bullshit too. Oh no, dogs walk around with their dicks hanging out all the time and no one cares. Even if the intent is some puritanical drive to suppress sexual desires, there's no way that is working. It's all relative. If all girls wear nothing but sweaters, i'll still be staring at the faint curves of their boobs all day anyway. Now that everyone skanks themselves out, I don't feel it makes any difference. If everyone became a nudist, the number of boners i'd pop in a day wouldn't change one bit (at least after the pleasant adjustment period). It's all relative. The only thing that does change is that with clothes, old wrinkly saggy women have a fighting chance to contort those curves in their sweaters to be on par with the young ones. That could be the only reason for clothes: evening the playing field. And another thing while i'm at it: nude models in art class. They're not hot at all. Sure, if the goal was the beauty of the human form, hotness wouldn't matter. But like I said, you're not gonna find a single esteemed classic painting of someone naked and ugly. The fact is there is no intrinsic beauty to the human form. Painting ugly art models is totally not in line with any actual art. It's ridiculous. Alex "The administrator can view an encrypted copy of the image..." But if the image is encrypted, how can he ascertain it's porn? And if it's not, being a BOFH isn't going to be a job for the faint of the heart. How can you write that Perl routine when Joe Accountant is surfing? Bertrand "The administrator can view an encrypted copy of the image" I can see it now, the faithful sys admin diligently checking all those images. Just to be sure the software isn't flagging up the wrong images, of course :P Duncan Think of the havoc such software would wreck in the NHS or other medical establishments. Doctors and surgeons unable to view images about breast cancer, genito-urinary problems etc. This also reminds me of my daughter and other classmates whilst studying biology GCSE were required to look up about breast cancer for their home work, but were unable to do so on school computers because of software installed on the school network which blocked the word "breast" and other derivatives like "mammary". Useful huh! I understand that it caused some problems at home too, when similar software on home computers started blocking them as well. "But its my homework Dad!! Honest!!" Martin That was a mean, evil, cruel, VISCIOUS prank to play on people. And I loved it. Richard How dare you post a nude picture of rosie o'donnell and claim it's natalie portman! for shame! FoR sHaMe!!!! :) Vince Nice picture. From here it looks like shapeless blobs, but for the people who can see my screen from the other side of the floor it looks like I'm looking at porn ..... thanks Reg! Andy And is there no one who will mourn the passing of the science programme aboard the International Space Station? Er, seems not: To be quite honest, the ISS should be scrapped anyway. The orbit it occupies is too low for one thing. To be really useful it should at least have been geosynchronous. The problems with the shuttle have all but doomed it as well, just how long can thrusters on soyuz capsules keep maintaining its altitude? Not only that, but the original reasons for building the ISS have long since gone. Space faring nations are more interested in satellites, asteroids and getting to the moon or mars these days, i.e, actual practical exercises, not political checkpoint charlies in space. There is perhaps a solution. Sell it to japan, they've always wanted a hotel in space. Or Branson, yup, he'd love it. Carey Gartner warns on Vista, you say "And...?" This might seem like a fairly uncontroversial story but... Don't Gartner recycle this stuff for every Windows release? I'm sure I remember the very insightful comment not to rush to XP and wait for the first service pack. Do Gartner get actual money for these predictable banalities? Perhaps The Register could proffer advice on becoming a Garnet like entity. For free I could offer the following advice: don't run with scissors, don't dive into shallow water and never try to cut your own hair. I look forward to Gartner's insights on the Pope's choice of religion and bears' lavatorial preferences... Andrew More feedback on Mr. Otto Stern's advice for the IT professional who wants to make it big in the corporation: I work (or will, until this Friday, when i leave for somewhere with a training program) for a national civil service department, ostensibly in what is called IT support. I assure you it isn't even remotely what private industry would recognise as IT support, whatever the press clippings say. For the last three years we've had an enforced dress code, whether we meet the public or not. I have never been less productive. The thing was brought in without consultation or nods to common sense and I feel so self conscious all the time having to wear bloody trousers and a shirt that I can't concentrate properly. I am spending more of my already meagre wages on laundry not to mention having to buy new clothes which we could get assistance with, but would have had to pay it back - the first installment due in the month you borrowed the money, natch - so I didn't bother. Crawling around under desks has indeed damaged these articles of clothing, which I have had to replace from my own wallet. Now I'm wearing trousers not jeans I regularly lose things out of my pocket while I'm lying on my back trying to cable manage a desk bought from the lowest bidder and it was a large part of my decision to finally leave my current employment. If you really belive that the clothes make the man then first off you must be one of the most shallow individuals to ever walk gods earth, but abuse aside, have you ever considered that perhaps the most suitable clothes for getting effective IT support are ones that enable much-abused staff to feel just a little more comfortable? As an executive I'm betting Otto has absolutely no conception of the sort of abuse and unreasonable demands placed on IT support staff - mostly from executives like him who should know better. I can appreciate the view that if you meet your company's customers you should dress professionally, especially in the business world where image is so important. But I must agree with those who have suggested that since IT support personnel very rarely meet external customers, there is little point in dressing up. That's like saying you should go to dinner in your own house in a tux because if you were out at a function its what would be expected. I'm sorry Otto, but it simply doesn't hold water, although it may well make it easier on your obviously over sensitive eyes. There is legislation to stop people making decisions based on race - in other words, what they look like - so why would you think it acceptable to judge someone based on their clothes? Yours un-flamingly, Jez Lawrence You propose tapping other renewable sources of energy in the wake of a government funded report on wind power: Sorry, but when I first read the headline "Britain's wind power could be best in Europe", I couldn't help thinking that someone had finally found a way to make use of all the hot air coming out of Charles Clarke's arse. Just thought I needed to share that... Simon And from hot air to the world of the bovine displacement as we return to the most important issue of the week: cow-tipping. Can it be done? The scientists may say NO! but some of you claim to have participated in this bizarre rural sport. Others just think the scientists are talking a load of nonsense, and an ex dairy farmer would like to add his two cents. Either way, dive in and enjoy: Cow tipping: it takes two moderately sozzled teenagers to tip a cow. I have direct, first-hand experimental evidence of this, unlike your "boffins" in the article, who sound like they've modelled a cow after a standard army-issue vaulting horse. There appear to be some errors in this article. Firstly, the force required to tip a cow (2910N) together with the calculation of how many people this would require (4.43), the angle, etc, all seem to be specified to a rather high degree of accuracy, typical of the seminumeracy common amongst zoologists. Second, the description of the process (requiring a cow's centre of gravity to be pushed over its hooves) indicates a rather poor physical model of a cow: one which a later quote gives the lie to - "the biology ultimately gets in the way: a cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body". True. In practice, a smartly tipped cow will stagger sideways - the process is more like tripping than tipping. It took two of us (neither large) to get around a 50% hit rate. Three drunken teenagers can reliably tip cows with a much higher success rate with a little practice. In my defence, it was a long while ago and there's not much to do when you're growing up in the country. Paul As a former dairy farmer with about 50 cows I can tell you they do not sleep standing up. They lie down first. However horses do sleep standing up thanks to a special bone at the back of their knee that locks it solid. I've never though of pushing one over. Andy BULLSH*T Well cow pats, however the perfect recipe for cow tipping is in fact as follows. Two or three dozen pints of lager Two or more fairly large blokes Identifying a cow which is dozing (they snore a little) Running at the cow, very quietly and pushing your arms into the cow along with your inertial force. If you get the cow near the top and push fast and heavily enough you'll tip the bovine beast. The trick to this is simply having a combined weight larger than that of the upper part of the cow to the point you're tipping it. Lifting from the belly for instance is impossible, but the closer to the top and the more weight (as per fly wheels) and the added force of pushing your arms into the beast as you meet with your inertial force will sucessfully tip a cow! The problem here is in all obviousness that the scientists who debunked this FACT (not myth) are in fact weedy pencil knecked, toothpick armed jealous gits who have probably tried very hard in their younger years to tip cows, and spend the remainder of their life trying to justify exactly why they were unable to perform this sacred act of drunks. All i can say is, get on the roids, eat beef pasta and other big man food, and once you're big and hard enough, try again... You see it DOES work! Karl While the physics of that study might be right (can't be bothered to redo the calculations), but I think their result is wrong. They are saying that you need a force of 2910 Newtons to tip a cow, and that 2910 Newtons equals 4.43 persons which is 657 Newtons per person. Hmm sounds quite strange... When I was 14 years old, I could lift 140 kg for something like 30 cm, laying on my back and lifting the weight with my feet. I was always the scrawny one, so I had friends who could lift over twice that weight. As 300 kg roughly equals the force needed to tip the cow, you can see that my friends were able to produce the needed force. Add ten years of physical training to that, and you can easily imagine that it really is possible to dislocate cow's center of mass enough for it to tip over. It's not like you have to lift the cow over your head... In reality, tipping a cow might be hard to accomplish because you need to be fast so that the cow doesn't have time to run away. But I really don't think that physics makes this impossible. (I am a graduate student in physics btw, although this is more like highschool physics.) Valis No, she has it all wrong. She's left one vital aspect out of her equation - human ingenuity! There are several methods to tip a cow (not that I've ever tried as the thought of coming a cropper in a cow pat is a good enough deterrent for me to stay say at the bar): 1. Shoot the cow - gravity will take over 2. Get the cow drunk - gravity will take over 3. Tie the cows legs together then kick it’s ass - as it tries to either run away or headbutt you, it will stumble and gravity will take over 4. Saw two of the cows legs off - gravity will take over 5. Play David Hasslehoffs (sp?) new german music video to the cow - it will have a fear induced heart attack - then gravity will take over 6. Do nothing - the cow will eventually get the bovine equivalent of bird flu and die (unless we use the recently discussed Reg. approved tactics for averting an avian invasion) - then gravity will take over As an infamous bat once said: "Ah, gravity does work >thud<". It's really that simple. Why would intoxicated "atheletes" want to go to the trouble of actually trying to push the bovine? That's too much like hard work if you ask me! I'd rather be down the pub and let gravity be my guide. Also, I was rather hoping the report would examine whether a toppled bovine would actually explode due to it's own greenhouse gasses building up inside it's "tracts" - an urban myth I've heard many a time when the conversation inevitably gets on to cow tipping, but never believed to be true. Should this be true, we quickly need to add a bovine kulling league to our "all animals must die as they will eventually kill us" squads, sponsored by the Chinese I would assume. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do some scientific tests on a whale burger... Guy The cow-tipping works fine if you get the cow drunk instead of yourself. Mikael Interesting reading. Or something. I'm just curious, does the report say what happens if you move the hoof under the centre of mass, rather than moving the centre of mass over the hoof? Like if you would, lets say, lean your shoulder against the shoulder of the cow and then pull its opposite hoof towards you? Just a thought. ;-) (Initiated sources have told me that is how you do it) The Secret Cow Tipper "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." Perhaps you could hire Ingrid Newkirk to help? Phil The Times carried a letter yesterday from someone (who was prepared to give their name) who claimed that he had tipped a cow with three people by the clever method of one person pushing the cow from one side and then, when the cow responded by pushing back the other two give a big heave from the other side. Another responded that you could exert a lot more force by just taking a run up and he seemed to think that a single person could do the job. Cheers Jon Save us from back of the envelope approximations! These `physicists' you mention... Oh dear. Cows are not rigid bodies. Cows are really, *really* bleedin' obviously nothing like rigid bodies. Any working out of what a cow will do under the influence of an applied force has to take this into account: cows cannot usefully be considered any kind of approximation to a rigid body for these purposes. Each cow is a living, breathing animal with a central nervous system, any number of sensors doing their jobs (including the inertial balancing gear in a cow's ears, don't forget), and the ability to keep itself balanced up on its feet. It's hard to stop a cow trying to keep itself upright and they seem quite good at it, what with them rarely just falling over. Rigid body approximations `prove' that bees can't fly (whereupon the dinner party guests of the famous tale were told that the simple approximation just tried out was rubbish and more complex maths was needed) and cats can't land on their feet - except that bumblebees do and cats can. Any `physicist' using such approximations on animals needs their head examining if you ask me. It's a famously completely useless approach. Admittedly, if the rigid body approach says you can't push a cow over, the non rigid reality of the situation makes it even less likely you'll be able to do the job *in the way examined*, so there is *some* faint point to the calculations. But really - the differences between the way a cow moves and the way the rigid body approximation *assumes* it'll move are so great I wonder why they bother. But now I come to a more serious flaw, just because the simply `shove it over' approach doesn't look workable doesn't mean you can't apply forces to the cow such that it'll shift sideways or stagger or something and trip over an object placed to trip it up. There's more than one way to tip a cow. You've probably seen a playground variant used by school kids - one kid kneels down, another applies a shove, victim steps backwards under influence of shove into knelt down kid, victim hits deck. They got me with that one - once as I recall, back in the 70s (I'm betting you met it a touch earlier). I learnt and not slowly, as one does. A cow might well learn just as quickly as me, but could a sleeping cow really spot someone setting it up for a fall like that if it had no experience of the trick? Even with its senses running? I'd say regardless of the results of any rigid body approximation, applying a shove/trip combination might well do the job of getting a sleeping cow to fall over. I've seen a human being pushed from standing to a heap on the floor using a finger-tip applied in the right place - although the `biped man vs quadruped cow' business does make that comparison weak. So anyway, I think it's a bit silly. So there. ;-) I see that you personally seem to have spotted all this, when you say: `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 coordinated assault.' To which I respond `Yep, sounds about right'. Oh dear. I even thought about exactly how to do it. (Even when drunker than drunk I wouldn't dream of pushing over a cow, hypothetical workings-out such as the above aside. You're supposed to take care of animals - farm animals especially - not torment them. Harumph. Well, I suppose that's just a side effect of me being English and therefore more civilised than most people. Whatever happened to Cecil Rhodes. Am I sounding mad enough yet? ;-) )  Well, as serious as one can get when considering something like this. Rowland And finally, a thought for the day, not particularly related to any story: I was thinking about moving back to England, then tonight I downloaded and watched the first episode of Doctor Who from earlier this year. I've never seen anything so shit in my life. That alone is going to stop me coming home. Really. And the only reason I downloaded it in the first place was because I keep reading about Dr Who stuff in The Register. Funny how things work out, innit? Kevin Surely the whole point is that Dr. Who is supposed to be a bit rubbish around the edges... Still, that'll do for today. ®
A "24x7 national vehicle movement database" that logs everything on the UK's roads and retains the data for at least two years is now being built, according to an Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) strategy document leaked to the Sunday Times. The system, which will use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), and will be overseen from a control centre in Hendon, London, is a sort of 'Gatso 2' network, extending. enhancing and linking existing CCTV, ANPR and speedcam systems and databases. Which possibly explains why the sorcerer's apprentices in ACPO's tech section don't seem to have needed any kind of Parliamentary approval to begin the deployment of what promises to be one the most pervasive surveillance systems on earth. The control centre is intended to go live in April of next year, and is intended to be processing 50 million number plates a day by year end. ACPO national ANPR co-ordinator John Dean told the Sunday Times that fixed ANPR cameras already exist "at strategic points" on every motorway in the UK, and that the intention was to have "good nationwide coverage within the next 12 months." According to ACPO roads policing head Meredydd Hughes, ANPR systems are planned every 400 yards along motorways, and a trial on the M42 near Birmingham will first be used to enforce variable speed limits, then to 'tackle more serious crime.' Hughes intends ANPR to go in whenever CCTV systems are installed, and cites the "complete system" around Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield, where every vehicle is checked on the ANPR database, as the model. The primary aims claimed for the system are tackling untaxed and uninsured vehicles, stolen cars and the considerably broader one of 'denying criminals the use of the roads.' But unless the Times has got the spacing wrong, having one every quarter of a mile on motorways quite clearly means they'll be used to enforce speed limits as well, which would effectively make the current generation of Gatsos obsolete. Otherwise, checking a vehicle's tax and insurance status every 15 seconds or thereabouts would seem overkill. The major immediate payoffs from the point of view of the police will come via links with other databases. A DVLA project to computerise MoT test centres, thus facilitating the creation of a comprehensive tax database, was originally intended to go into operation early in 2005, but has been subject to repeated delays. And while the Home Office flagged the success of mobile ANPR unit trials earlier this year, claiming increases in arrest rates of up to 1,000 per cent, it failed to mention that the same trial exposed major flaws in the DVLA's existing databases. The police ANPR system is however also being linked to a database of uninsured vehicles, and new offences, and police powers, were announced last week by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling. Civil liberties trainspotters will share The Register's pleasure at discovering (as revealed here, in the notes to editors) that the Disclosure of Vehicle Insurance Regulations 2005 "were made under powers provided for in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005." The seriousness of untaxed and uninsured vehicles is at the very least a matter of opinion, but 'organised'? The new offence of keeping a vehicle without insurance criminalises the previously harmless pastime of keeping an uninsured vehicle in a garage and not driving it, and comes on top of the previous breakthrough of criminalising keeping an untaxed vehicle in a garage and not driving it. The latter was dealt with by requiring owners to register the vehicle as off the road via a Statutory Off-Road Notification. The administrative convenience of turning not doing anything wrong into a crime will allow the Government to issue fixed penalty notices for failing to renew insurance on time, while there's also now a fixed penalty for late renewal of tax discs (previously, you could pay in arrears). In both cases the penalties are clearly only going to hit people who've previously been registered with the system. Dealing with the large numbers of entirely unregistered and uninsured vehicles will require real-time alerts and pursuit, and these vehicles will have to be differentiated from the many foreign registered cars on the UK's roads. As it will be a lot easier and cheaper to fine the law-abiding but forgetful than it will be to deal with the hardline serial offenders, we think we can guess which way this one will go. In addition to the tax and insurance 'benefits', the proposed two year retention period for the "national vehicle movement database" provides police with a potentially powerful resource for surveillance and for future investigations. Vehicles can be 'tailed' remotely, and particular drivers' past movements can be put together far more easily than in the case of CCTV footage (faces, frustratingly, not yet having number plates). One can also see potential in the ability to link ANPR data with CCTV footage of the vehicle, which to some extent would number plate your face (best avoid baseball caps). And shall we highlight the usefulness of the system in the war on terror before they do? As the recent Metropolitan police document lobbying for detention periods of up to 90 days without charge made clear, the security services' current approach is to move in quickly in response to terror tips, then to sift computers, search homes, and investigate individuals' circumstances and friends in search of actual evidence. Being able to see where they'd been for the last two years as well would be really helpful. Don't worry though - if you haven't done anything wrong you've nothing to fear. Unless your name comes up in an Algerian security service interrogation... ®
SC05SC05 HP continues to refine its server cluster arsenal, announcing this week a new visualization package, more software and fresh processors for its pre-packaged systems. The HP Scalable Visualization Array (SVA) combines numerous workstations, Linux and graphics cards to give customers a graphics powerhouse. The new system will be used to handle clustered parallel visualization software, display high-resolution images and perform real-time rendering. HP will slot the SVA product into its Unified Cluster Portfolio line that includes systems which hold more than 1,000 processors. With SVA, HP will support Version 3.0 of the XC System Software for managing clusters and application workloads. In addition, it will ship the Scalable Visualization Array software for configuring the systems and sending jobs to the boxes. The HP SFS and Remote Graphics packages can be purchased as options. Customers will also find Version 2.4 of the HP ClusterPack for HP-UX available. The fresh release should make Unix clusters easier to manage by allowing new systems to be added to a cluster with minimal overall disruption. The software now works with HP Systems Insight Manager. On the hardware front, HP has added Intel's dual-core "Paxville" version of Xeon as an option with its pre-packaged clusters. Customers could already buy systems with the dual-core Opteron chip from AMD. In addition, customers can now tap HP's full line of blade servers with the clusters. HP has also made it easier for customers to buy its cluster boxes. You can now cruise to HP's web site and configure systems with up to 32 servers, varying processors, memory, interconnects and software. HP will then process the order and deliver a quote to the user. Last but not least, HP vowed to support Microsoft's upcoming Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 operating system, which was also discussed today at the Supercomputing conference here. In the first half of next year, HP will ship the OS an option with its Cluster Platform 3000 and 4000 systems and the Platform 4000 blade boxes. HP also plans to port its message passing interface (HP-MPI) to Microsoft's specialized version of Windows. ®
SC05SC05 Sun Microsystems has puts its name back on the supercomputing map with a massive new system to be built in Japan. The Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) has purchased hundreds of Sun's eight-socket AMD-based servers to create a 10,480 processor cluster. The box will be expanded by the first half of next year, resulting in a supercomputer capable of 100 teraFLOPS. That level of performance will almost certainly place the giant as one of top five supercomputers in the world. Sun could use such a win as it has fallen well behind rivals IBM, HP and Dell in the competition to build the most impressive systems. In the recent Top500 list, for example, Sun claimed just 4 systems while IBM boasted more than 200. Sun's new line of Opteron servers have revitalized its efforts in this market dominated by x86 chips and a passion for spreading Linux across huge clusters of machines. Tokyo Tech has accessed Sun's 8-socket servers, which have not even officially been launched yet. They're set for volume shipments next year. Last night, officials from Tokyo Tech, Sun and AMD gathered a reception here at the Supercomputing conference to celebrate the new system. The celebrity geek guest was Sun's co-founder and hardware guru Andy Bechtolsheim, who showed up in Birkenstocks, as one would hope. Sadly, just as Bechtolsheim started to detail the magic behind Sun's 8-socket system and an upcoming blade line, a Sun public relations representative pulled him away from us. Hopefully, Bechtolsheim can find it in his heart to forward some slides that complete our discussion. Sun's head of x86 servers John Fowler told us that Sun plans to make a major push at attracting customers looking for modest-sized but very powerful clusters – mostly in the 5 to 10 teraFLOP range. "We're willing to cede the chess supercomputer market to IBM," Fowler said, noting that Sun doesn't plan to shell out millions to build massive machines for publicity only. Tokyo Tech boasted that its system will be one of the few top-class machines available for civilian use. US government agencies tend to build the biggest systems to handle tasks such as nuclear simulations and defense-related modeling. "There is simply so much science and engineering to be done that is not restricted to these grand challenge problems," Satoshi Matsuoka, a professor at Tokyo Tech, told us in an interview. "We want to bring petascale-level computing to the masses." NEC will serve as the integrator for the system, working with Sun on its construction. The huge box will also make use of technology from ClearSpeed (algorithms), ClusterFS (the Lustre file system) and Voltaire (Infiniband). Tokyo Tech plans to test Linux, Solaris x86 and Windows on the system. ® Bootnote While under the impression that supercomputing talk was reserved for the technology-obsessed crowd only, we discovered that these boxes can indeed prove sexy. Two comforting Seattle ladies - Melissa Valdez and Angela Kim-Horn – were fascinated by our talk of clusters and confirmed that Sun's unit was the biggest, most impressive one they had ever heard of. Alcohol, it would seem, can corrupt the most innocent of minds.
Microsoft is preparing for a year of Windows client and Office launches with tools to help customers penetrate the fog of Microsoft's licensing agreements and upgrades. The company has announced the introduction of the Microsoft product licensing advisor, an online tool for customers to compare and price-out volume licensing plans. The product licensing advisor will help education and business customers "better understand their licensing options" Microsoft said on Tuesday. Microsoft's service is being introduced in three versions, culminating with an offering next spring that will enable customers to assess so-called business "solutions" and look for "best product" scenarios. Ahead of that, between now and January, the service will compare programs and offer downloadable price estimates. A key feature will be the ability, in January, to add use rights and new Software Assurance (SA) benefits, which are due to become available in March 2006, into the mix. SA is Microsoft's unpopular and controversial upgrade program for volume licensing users that has, according to analysts, helped increase customers' Windows licensing costs. SA promoted a customer backlash following introduction in 2001 and 2002, as increased costs accompanied little perceived return on investment. Planned upgrades to the Windows client, Office, developer tools and SQL Server database were pushed outside the lifespan of customers' initial two- and three-year SA agreements. Since then, Microsoft has been working hard to "add value" to SA, adding incentives such as the ability to upgrade across products, home-use rights and training vouchers. Changes due in SA next year continue that trend while their inclusion in the product licensing advisor will potentially help customers assess their real value and, er, realize the benefits of upgrading. For example, a planned Windows Vista Enterprise Edition, a derivation of the client formerly known as Longhorn, will be made only available to SA customers. Windows Vista Enterprise Edition is expected to feature Microsoft's Virtual PC Express, due for release in early 2006, which will allow legacy applications to run on Vista PCs. With Longhorn, Office 12 and BizTalk Server 2006 due, SA customers will - from March - become eligible for "desktop deployment planning services" from Microsoft Consulting Services or certified partners that provide provide them with a "deployment roadmap" while information worker workshops are to be made available for SA customers holding training vouchers. Microsoft also plans to expand the number of training vouchers available. Organizations signed-up under its enterprise and select volume licensing agreements with more than 30,000 Office application of client licenses will get additional vouchers from next March. The Microsoft product licensing advisor will be available here ®
SC05SC05 Not satisfied with owning your PC, Microsoft would like to own your personal cluster too. So said Chairman Bill Gates today at the Supercomputing 2005 conference here in Seattle, where he laid out a vision that includes inexpensive super-powered machines available to average users - not just government labs and universities. "What we see as a key trend here is that we will have supercomputers of all sizes, including ones that will cost less than $10,000 and be able to sit at your desk or in a department," Gates said. A rather humble Gates admitted that Unix and Linux dominate the supercomputing landscape, a fact that only Redmondian logic could deny. To that end, Microsoft plans to create Windows cluster software that can work in tandem with Linux-based kit. Microsoft showed a demo where a Windows cluster and Linux cluster cranked away on calculations at the same time and delivered up a shared set of data to the end user. (What kind of demo? Cancer research of course. How subtle.) "It's all about heterogeneity," Gates said. While some reports suggeseted that Gates talked up a new, publicly available beta of its Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 operating system, Gates mentioned the product's name but gave no more information. The OS is due in production form in the first half of next year. Microsoft, however, did reveal the beta 2 news in a press release. Microsoft also opened up about its cluster OS at an event in Spain. Overall, Gates' message proved a bit boring. He mentioned that supercomputers do important things and will be more important in the coming years because we face important issues. Microsoft, of course, will have a tough time cracking into this important work since Linux is the OS of choice for the supercomputer crowd. Gates does seem to be on the right track though as far as the personal clusters are concerned. Orion Multisystems already makes a super-charged 96-processor deskside cluster than can plug into a standard wall outlet. Researchers have been seeking such machines which will let them crank away at projects right in their labs and transfer bigger jobs to the giant clusters that require special cooling systems and have higher power requirements. "We need an approach here that scales from the smallest supercomputer up to the very largest," Gates said. Microsoft plans to tie its other productivity, database and workflow applications into the cluster OS over time. This would make it possible for researchers to set up projects and then easily see relevant information about the data they were collecting and how other scientists were using the information. Apparently, RSS feeds are very important in this vision, which gives you some idea of how Microsoft may fail in the supercomputing space. The 9,000-person Supercomputing crowd appeared enthralled with Gates and peppered him with probing questions following the keynote. Gates was forced to address his opinions on global warming and supercomputing security. "I am not really an expert on the energy problem," Gates said to the first question. "Security is one of the few things that, if we don't do it right, could take this vision I have talked about and really hold it back," Gates said. Hold on to your hats, friends. Your DNA could be one worm away from entering the global computing grid. But at least you'll have a really fast PC for playing Doom 78. ®