16th > November > 2005 Archive

Offshoring fears hit US college computing enrollments

CA WorldCA World Scare stories about the offshoring of IT jobs to locations such as India are discouraging US students from studying computing, according to Yogesh Gupta, CA's chief technology officer.
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2005

Sony pulls rootkit DRM CDs

Sony has bowed to consumer pressure and will withdraw all CDs encumbered with its notorious 'rootkit' DRM, XCP. Sony says around 4m XCP CDs have been manufactured. For the 2.1m CDs already sold, Sony will institute an exchange program, with details to follow later in the week. Sony remains committed to releasing all CDs next year with some form of copy restriction measures. How many people have been infected with XCP? DNS hacker Don Kaminsky investigated by querying DNS servers with the address XCP uses to 'phone home', and found traces on over half a million servers. Of these 217,296 were from Japan, 130,519 from the USA, and 44,421 from the United Kingdom. And one from Afghanistan. The figure represents a minimum, as some domains, such as AOL, will have millions of users, but will register with a domain name server just once in a give time frame. Sony's first 'fix' for XCP potentially opens the door for websites to take control of a PC, a Finnish researcher Muzzy has noticed. An ActiveX control installed by First4Internet Ltd, the British company that devised XCP, allows remote systems full access. First4Internet has since scrapped this method of delivery and now downloads an executable without this particular vulnerability. Princeton academic Ed Felten has a test page, here, where you can test if the CodeSupport ActiveX control is present on your system. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Nov 2005
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Enterasys goes private in $386m buy-out

Enterasys Networks, the firm formed from the enterprise division of networking pioneer Cabletron five years ago, has been bought by a private investment group for $386m. A consortium of firms, led by The Gores Group and Tennenbaum Capital Partners, have offered $13.92 in cash per share, a 32 per cent premium over the closing price on the New York Stock Exchange on 11 November. The transaction is subject to shareholder approval and expected to complete in Q1 2006. The deal draws a line under a difficult period for Enterasys as a stand-alone company during which it has recorded only one profitable quarter and weathered a financial scandal that saw its former chief exec convicted with fraud and the arrival of a new management team. Financing difficulties faced by Enterasys prompted the new management team to accept a buy-out that will the firm de-listed from the stock exchange. Mark Aslett, president and chief executive officer of Enterasys, said: "We believe operating as a private company with the backing of Gores and Tennenbaum will enable us to capture market opportunities not available to Enterasys today. The company's current senior management team will continue to lead Enterasys, with corporate headquarters remaining in Andover, Massachusetts," he added. Michael Tennenbaum, senior managing partner of Tennenbaum, said the transaction "provides operational support and financial resources that will enable Enterasys to be a more formidable competitor in the global market for enterprise networking solutions". The Enterasys portfolio includes multilayer switches, core routers, WAN routers, wireless LANs, network management, and intrusion protection systems. It was created 2000 after parent firm Cabletron was split into four as a strategy to create more dynamic and focused companies from the body of a networking pioneer that (like so many others) got its butt kicked by Cisco. Cabletron, long considered the Rolls-Royce of networking, with clients like NATO, the BBC and err... Rolls-Royce, weathered a decline in fortunes during much of the late nineties even while its competitors were enjoying boom times. It relied too heavily on hubs for its revenues while the market migrated to LAN switches, and as arch-enemy Cisco Systems tried to pitch its kit against circuit-switched technology - which telcos know and trust. Cabletron was co-founded by former New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson before he went into politics. Benson was known for his aggressive management approach and flamboyant style he shared with fellow founder Bob Levine. Levine bought a tank and memorably managed to lose a tooth after crashing into a tree during a jaunt he took with it through the New Hampshire woods. ®
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2005
fingers pointing at man

Tory contender in laptop theft flap

The theft of Tory leadership candidate David Cameron’s election plans and a laptop from an aide's car last Friday should act as a warning for users to keep laptops out of sight from potential thieves. A thief smashed a window of Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood's car to steal a laptop bag containing documents, a mobile phone and memory sticks, but unaware of what he had in his possession, ditched the swag. Peter Jaco, chief exec of UK-based encryption firm BeCrypt, commented: "Laptop bags are a regular target for thieves. Although it’s unclear whether the sticks were encrypted in this case, it just underlines the importance of encrypting data to prevent unauthorised third party access. "Although it is likely that people working in Cameron’s support team will have access to sensitive information and will be following government guidelines on encrypting devices, many companies and individuals are still not protecting themselves," he added. ®
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2005
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CA debuts desktop password reset tech

CA WorldCA World CA is pushing forgotten password support onto the desktop with the launch of CA Identity Manager. The technology, which partly stems from CA's recent purchase of security firm Netegrity, is designed to automate the management of user identities and entitlements. One of the functions in the product is self-service password management. Users can reset their passwords - providing they know the answer to a secret question - without having to call help desk support. The technology takes advantage of GINA (Graphical Identification and Authentication) support that comes built-into Windows. Toby Weiss, senior vice president and general manager of CA's Security Management business unit, said the feature cuts down the number of password reset requests fielded by enterprise help desks. One in five helpdesk call are associated with password reset requests, CA estimates. Recent Separate research from the Burton Group reports that IT help desk calls cost somewhere between $25 and $50 each, so firms should see cost savings if they can reduce call volumes. CA Identity Manager uses the company's integration platform to simplify the management of enterprise-wide security by establishing workflows tied to the creation of user identities and entitlements. The product was launched at the CA World conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday. ®
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2005
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Patents database posted for developers

A database containing more than 500 software patents and backed by big-name vendors has been posted online to foster development of litigation-free open source. Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) has launched its Patent Commons Project with backing from IBM - the industry's largest holder of technology patents - Computer Associates International (CA), Novell, Red Hat, Intel and Sun Microsystems. The site hosts more than 500 pledged patents and more than a dozen technical standards supported by additional patent pledges and covenants. Content hosted in the library is available to developers, users and vendors. Stuart Cohen, OSDL's chief executive, called the project an important first step in helping developers reduce the chances of patent litigation, because it would help them understand commitments associated with different intellectual property (IP). "Developers can innovate as free as possible from litigation," he said. OSDL announced the project at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, California, this August. Despite receiving broad support, at least one open source evangelist was critical. Bruce Perens said the pool was like “spitting in the wind” because it was backed only by "friends rather than the enemies of open source". IBM alone this year has donated 500 of its patents to the community. OSDL said the project would catalogue existing patents commitments from companies and individuals who wish to retain ownership of their patents. In coming months, the site will feature information about open source licenses, indemnification programs and information for those who wish to contribute to the commons. ®
Gavin Clarke, 16 Nov 2005
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'Honest' card scam hits e-traders

Dishonest consumers are employing a credit card crime that confounds usual verification methods, fraud protection firm Early Warning warns. The latest scam, described as customer denial fraud, involves credit card holders denying any involvement for purchases they have made as soon as their credit card statement arrives and after goods have been delivered. Internet or other fraud insurance that most companies provide is then invoked, with the result that the value of the order is charged back to the merchant - who ends up footing the bill. Early Warning runs an online fraud protection system for merchants, called Card Aware, that has allowed it to spot what its identified as a growing crime. Card Aware allows pattern of the frauds to be identified which might otherwise have been perceived as isolated incidents. Instances of customer denial fraud are been circulated to Card Aware members as they are reported, so on-line merchants know which cards to avoid – even if everything else is in order. Cross-referencing is possible by email address, IP address, delivery postcode and name. ®
John Leyden, 16 Nov 2005

Digital download markets: cut up and segregated

CommentComment In recent years there has been a worldwide move towards “free” trade. Arguably there have been winners and losers from this process. One winner has been consumers in Western countries who enjoy purchasing content like music, film, games and software. In my home country, Australia, one of the success stories of the late 1990s was the introduction of parallel imports in the music industry. Parallel imports allow retailers to import authorised CDs from anywhere else in the world. Retailers can legally sell these CDs in Australia, and many do, delivering cheaper CDs to Oz consumers. We have seen similar trends in free trade zones like the EU. As a result of these free trade zones, we are increasingly seeing in countries like the UK, France and Germany more CDs in shops that have been manufactured elsewhere in the EU, and have been imported into those countries. Typically these parallel imports and free trade zone imports are chart CDs or compilation CDs, rather than independent or less overtly commercial CDs. Certainly you are more likely to find compilation CDs in UK stores that have been manufactured and imported from Portugal, Slovenia or Estonia than before. You can spot them by their lower price! It may not be to your taste, but it does provide an alternative for the budget conscious. In Oz, parallel imports are the reason we can purchase current chart albums in some shops for as little as US $7.50 each. These CDs are usually identical to the Australian manufactured version of the same CD, except they are manufactured in places like Argentina, Mexico, and Indonesia. Despite what IFPI, ARIA and MIPI may claim, these are not “pirate” CDs – these are legal imports, manufactured by the artists’ record companies in those countries. Artists benefit from parallel imports – they receive sales royalties whether or not the CD is manufactured locally or is manufactured in say Mexico, and is imported into Australia. However, in Australia the local recording industry was always opposed to parallel imports. There was a long fight between major record companies on one side, and consumer advocates on the other side. This was because, to use an example, a Universal Music CD imported from Mexico and sold in Australia adds to the sales revenue and “bottom line” of Universal Music in Mexico, not to Universal Music in Australia. Naturally, the local branch of the multinational record company wants to hang onto the local sale if possible, in order to maximise local revenue and profits! Doubly so if the bonuses of local record company execs are tied to local sales levels! Given the past behaviour of the Australian branches of multinational record companies towards the parallel import of physical CDs, it’s not surprising that these record companies and digital content re-sellers have allowed the market for digital downloads to by-pass Australia's parallel import laws. So what does this mean to consumers? To look at one digital download provider, instead of iTunes having a single service selling all of its sound recordings from a single server to the entire world for a single price, there are 21 iTunes services in different markets. These services charge different prices and have different products available. As a result, after adjusting for currency differences, UK iTunes consumers pay more for downloads than Australian iTunes consumers, who in turn pay more than US iTunes consumers. Why offer different prices for different markets? Isn’t this simply artificial market segregation to maximise profits? The Australian iTunes service launched without Sony/BMG repertoire. So, why should Australian iTunes consumers be locked out of Sony/BMG repertoire when UK and US consumers can obtain these tracks? Why should US iTunes customers be able to buy digital downloads by Australian artists Delta Goodrem and INXS when Australians can’t buy these same tracks from the local iTunes service? Consumers are typically locked out of international services unless they have a locally issued credit card. This “lock out” takes place because the world has been divided into different territories or music markets. In this way the digital download market operates the same way as the Australian market for physical CDs in the 1990s, which was prior to the introduction of parallel CD imports. In Australia, under current laws, if physical CDs were 55% more expensive in Australia than the US, or were unavailable in Australia, retailers could simply import them from the US and sell them locally. These rules don’t apply to the digital music market in Australia. Effectively, the music industry has been able to resurrect territoriality. Territoriality was lost by record companies in Australia in the late 1990s when parallel imports were introduced. To some degree, territoriality was lost to in other countries when free trade agreements were executed allowing cheaper CDs to be imported from “low cost” countries. With territoriality resurrected, consumers again face excessive prices and limited choice. Despite the atmosphere of free trade, local digital music re-sellers are protected from international competition, record company profits are maximised, and local consumers are left to watch other markets in envy. IFPI has proudly proclaimed that there are over 300 international re-sellers of digital music downloads. Yet only a handful of these operate re-sellers operate on a worldwide basis. IFPI even seem to endorse territoriality when they invite consumers to visit their worldwide directory of Authorised Digital Music Services – a worldwide directory which is conveniently divided into 37 separate country-based directories (including the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – to name 5), and only 3 “barely there” continental directories. The operation of the internet was supposed reduce the market powers of major record companies, which have long disadvantaged consumers. It was supposed to create a democratic environment, thereby delivering cheaper music and a wider range of repertoire to consumers. While the internet has boosted the thriving independent music sector, the internet does not seem to have been allowed to benefit consumers and fans of major label product. By their actions, major record companies and traditional retailers have effectively ceded control of the on-line market place to online resellers who are happy to take us back to the 1990s. While the leaders of the digital revolution were proclaiming the democratization of the music industry as a result of the impact of new technologies, these same new technologies were being used to create a brand new closed, uncompetitive market place. If an Oz consumer wants to access the US Napster, Wal-Mart or iTunes services why can’t he or she do it? For that matter - why can't ANY international music consumers access ANY international music service? Or are we only supposed to enjoy the benefits of globalisation and the internet as a market without borders when the record companies and content re-sellers say it’s ok for us to do so? ® Alex Malik is a technology lawyer and music industry commentator. He can be contacted at Alex.Malik@student.uts.edu.au.
Alex Malik, 16 Nov 2005

US wins net governance battle

The United States has won its fight to retain control over the internet, at least for the foreseeable future. The world's governments in Tunisia finally reached agreement at 10.30pm last night, just hours before the official opening of the World Summit this morning. In the end, with absolutely no time remaining, a deal was cut. That deal will see the creation of a new Internet Governance Forum, that will be set up next year and decide upon public policy issues for the internet. It will be made up of governments as well as private and civil society, but it will not have power over existing bodies. Equally, there will be no new oversight body for ICANN, or no new ICANN come to that. Instead, all governments have agreed to work within existing organisations. Effectively that will mean within the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN. Note the word "advisory" because, again, the GAC has no powers of control over ICANN. However, head of ICANN Paul Twomey promised delegates that ICANN was happy for the GAC to recreate itself as it saw fit. Twomey later pointed out to us that although the ICANN Board has to approve any GAC decision, there has yet to be an occasion when it hasn't gone along with it. A special meeting of the GAC will be convened at ICANN's conference in Vancouver in a fortnight's time. The deal represents a remarkable victory for the United States and ICANN : only a month ago they were put on the back foot by an EU proposal that turned the world's governments against the US position. But following an intense US lobbying effort across the board, the Americans have got their way. Countless press articles, each as inaccurate as the last, formed a huge public sense of what was happening with internet governance that proved impossible to shake. Massive IT companies - again, mostly US and thanks to intense US government lobbying - came out publicly in favour of the status quo. And the EU representative, David Hendon, confirmed to us last night that in political and governments circles - at every level - the US had pushed home its points again and again. A letter from US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice sent to the EU just prior to the Summit also had a big impact. Hendon said the UK's position was pretty much set by then, but that it may well have had an impact on other EU members. The exact wording of the letter has yet to come out but it is said to be pretty strong stuff. And so without the EU forcing the middle ground, and with the US backed by Australia, the brokering - pushed in no short measure by chairman Massod Khan - was led by Singapore and Ghana. The result was that Brazil, China, Iran, Russia and numerous other countries were stymied. Because of the extremely short timetable, the only deal possible was consensus. And every radical proposal was simply shot down. Today will see a jubilant US ambassador David Gross, a resigned EU (and one that may well learn some lobbying lessons in future) and a depressed Brazil. Everyone of course claims victory but the reality is that the US has won out by shouting loudest. Expect to read numerous press articles that claim the United States has saved the Internet from a fate worse than death. That was never true, and there were never any good real reasons why the US should not cede some control to an international formation of governments. But reality and politics have never been good bed-fellows. The shift to an international body will still happen but it will now be at least five years down the line. The plus point of all this great theatre however is that the world, and its governments, are now infinitely more aware of how this internet thing really works. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 16 Nov 2005
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Microsoft searching enterprise for success

In its effort to snatch back the baton clumsily handed to Google, Microsoft Tuesday staked a fresh claim to enterprise-wide search. But IBM could be the bigger threat. Microsoft said its existing Windows Desktop Search would now serve as a "starting point" to search across a "range of data silos". Users can scan email, desktops or shared network drives on machines running Windows 2000 or XP and Office. The integrated search is provided through the addition of a beta feature to the consumer-centric MSN Search Toolbar launched in May, which IT departments are expected to download to corporate machines. The beta feature enables users to consolidate search results inside their Office Outlook clients. According to Microsoft, the toolbar enables users to switch between desktop, web or intranet searches. Developers can further extend Windows Desktop Search to index additional information and file types, using IFilters and protocol handlers available from Microsoft's Developer Network (MSDN), while add-ins to the MSN Search Toolbar are available here. A Microsoft spokesperson told The Register customers had asked Microsoft to "extend [its] success" in desktop search for corporate environments to improve timely access to information. Tuesday's launch, announced at Microsoft's IT Forum 2005 in Barcelona, Spain, comes as Microsoft tries to contain the search, advertising and online community beast that is Google. In recent weeks, Microsoft has launched a "live software" strategy pitching Windows services paid-for by a Google-style advertising business model. Search has also been chafing Microsoft's butt, as it increasingly serves as the foundation for other activities at Google. However, it is a complex task to unify desktop, enterprise and internet search as they rely on different approaches to ranking and context. And, while much of the focus among the press and Microsoft is on Google, it is IBM which has been steadily pushing an enterprise search strategy through its information management business. IBM this summer open sourced its Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA) used in the company's WebSphere Information Integrator OmniFind Edition, WebSphere Portal Server and Lotus Workplace. IBM also open sourced the UIMA toolkit, with a view to creating an industry standard for large-scale searching across different information silos. Sixteen companies promptly annouced support for UIMA, including Attensity, ClearForest, Cognos, Endeca, Factiva, Inxight and SAS. The companies plan to use UIMA as a standard framework for search and text analysis of unstructured information, which inevitably means support for IBM's WebSphere and information manager family of products, and suport for IBM's Workplace. Workplace combines IBM's portal, collaboration and web content management softare to delivere a cross-platform, cross-device alternative to Windows on clients for information workers. IBM, meanwhile, joined forces with Google in May to deliver Google Desktop Search for Enterprise, a free tool enabling millions of Lotus Notes users to search Notes email, instant messaging and non-Lotus files. Google Desktop Search is also integrated with Google's search appliances for intranet and web searches.®
Gavin Clarke, 16 Nov 2005
amd logo

AMD clears fog from roadmap

AMD has re-iterated its plan to offer quad-core processors by 2007. The chip maker also said it will migrate to a new version of its HyperTransport-based Direct Connect Architecture the year after. AMD CEO Hector Ruiz first floated the quad-core CPU 2007 ship date back in April this year, but the company didn't formally add the technology to its public roadmap until yesterday after CTO Phil Hester mentioned it at the company's annual analyst conference. Hester also pointed to chipsets containing L3 cache, which also harks back to Ruiz' April prognostications - he too hinted AMD might one day return to the chipset market. AMD has "shared L3" down on its roadmap for 2007, alongside further extensions to the AMD64 instruction set - or extensions to the extensions to the x86 instruction set, as we guess they'll be.
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2005

Home Office issues net child protection guidelines

The Home Office yesterday announced new guidelines for ISPs to help protect kids from the dark side of the internet. The main points suggest that providers should: Offer users a way of reporting material that is illegal or potentially harmful to children Offer content filtering on search engines Manually review and approve websites included in search services aimed at children Consider whether they need human or automatic moderation for chatrooms Ensure where necessary staff who come into contact with children have had relevant Criminal Records Bureau checks Home Office minister Paul Goggins - who is chair of the government's Taskforce on Child Protection on the Internet - proclaimed: "Countries across the EU and around the world are committed to making the internet safe for children and cracking down on paedophiles' use of the internet. I want to make sure that by working across international boundaries and involving the internet industry, we keep children safe from abuse in the UK and the rest of the world. "These guides will ensure safer online standards for our children. The internet is a great tool for children with massive benefits for our society, but we know that paedophiles will target children in any setting they can. Our message to them is clear - there is no place for online abuse anywhere in the world, and our police are one step ahead in the fight to protect children." Goggins used the launch of the guidelines to announce the appointment of National Crime Squad Deputy Director Jim Gamble as Chief Executive of the UK's new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which will be operational from April 2006. The London-based centre, with around 100 staff will provide "a single point of contact for the public, law enforcers, and the communications industry to report targeting of children online". It will also be available 24/7 to offer advice to parents and kids, as well working with the police on "proactive investigations". The full ISP guidelines should be available shortly right here at the dedicated Home Office child protection page. ®
Lester Haines, 16 Nov 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

AMD paints white-box notebook vision

AMD is to develop a series of barebones notebook PCs in a bid to bring OEMs and system builders into the company's fold, the chip maker said yesterday. Speaking at the firm's annual analyst conference, Marty Seyer, head of AMD's microprocessor business, said the system would bundle AMD processors, integrated chipsets from ATI and Nvidia, plus ancillary I/O chips.
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2005
fingers pointing at man

Bell Micro to buy German distie

Bell Microproducts is buying MCE, the Munich-based storage distie, chairman Don Bell revealed yesterday. Speaking at the IT Supply Chain Conference in New York, Bell did not say how much it is shelling out for the $300m t/o business, CRN reports. Last month, the company announced plans to re-organise its European ops, following a "disappointing ... shortfall in sales and products". Yesterday Bell announced plans to abandon Sweden and expressed his concerns for the UK , the "place where we have the heaviest market share and we have the most exposure". Yesterday, the company showed off a new badge - EMC Software Group Authorised Technical Support Provider (ATSP) status in 10 European countries. In the UK, support packages are available through Bell's Ideal and PSL divisions. ®
Team Register, 16 Nov 2005

Wanadoo defiant as BT wins 'dear Ben' ad row

Wanadoo UK is in defiant mood today even though BT scored a clean sweep of advertising-related complaints against the ISP. The advertising watchdog upheld five complaints against Wanadoo following the publication of an ad in the guise of a letter poking fun at BT's decision to double the speed of its entry-level broadband service just hours after Wanadoo UK announced a similar offer. In the letter addressed to BT chief exec Ben Verwaayen published during the summer, the ISP said it was "flattered" by BT's decision to follow "Wanadoo's lead in making 2 Meg its standard broadband offer for customers". Said the "Dear Ben" letter: "We don't blame you for trying to emulate the great deals we give - but let's be honest, our customers are still going to be a lot better off than yours". And in a dig at BT's position as both a wholesale and retail supplier of broadband the letter says: "OK, we may have to charge £20 to upgrade an existing customer to 2 Meg - but you know why that is don't you? Yes, it's because you folks at BT charge us to do it. Still, local loop unbundling will sort that issue out won't it? "But even with that regrade charge, our customers end up saving more and getting a lot more than yours do," said the letter before signing off as "Your friends at Wanadoo". BT objected to the ad on a number of grounds including Wanadoo's allegation that BT was behind the £20 upgrade charge. BT pointed out that it was only responsible for 64 per cent of that charge (£11 plus VAT) and that Wanadoo was responsible for the rest. The ISP rejected that saying the charge was imposed to "recoup some of the costs of administering the BT charge". In a ruling today the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected Wanadoo's defence of its ad upholding all five complaints. Undeterred a spokesman for Wanadoo UK told us: "We will not back away from highlighting to customers where we feel they are getting a bad deal from the incumbent previous monopoly player." And Wanadoo should know about "incumbent previous monopoly players". Last week France Telecom - the incumbent in France and parent company of Wanadoo - was fined a whopping €80m (£54m) for failing to open up its network to rival broadband providers. It plans to appeal the ruling issued by France's Competition Council branding the fine as "disproportionate". ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2005
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Intel's secret logos revealed

Intel's new logos, kept secret until now, have slipped out onto the web. Posted by French-language site x86-Secret, but later withdrawn at the behest of Intel's legal team, the logos were re-posted today by Taiwanese site DigiTimes. Dual-core processors appeared to be referred to as 'Duos', so machines based on the upcoming 65nm 'Yonah' dual-core Pentium M will be branded 'Centrino Duo', while those based on the single-core version of the CPU will simply be 'Centrino'.
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2005

Flash inventor wins innovation award

Fujio Masuoka, the inventor of Flash Memory, was recognised for his work last night at the Economist Awards, scooping the Innovation Award for "No Boundaries" at a ceremony in London last night. Masuoka developed Flash Memory technology in 1984 while employed by Toshiba, and is now a Professor in the Solid State Institute at Tohoku University. Last year he initiated legal action against the firm, claiming a $9.2m share of the patent rights for his contribution to developing the technology. The "No Boundaries" award is supposed to recognise innovations that have "positively transformed global business", according to the organisers. We suspect the rather noticeable success of the Flash-based iPod Nano (yes, and to a lesser extent Shuffle) might have brought the technology to the top of the judegs' minds. It probably explains why the judges have handed out an innovation award for something that was invented in 1984. Meanwhile the Innovation Award for Computing and Telecommunications went jointly to Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergei Brin. The organisers said the award was in recognition of their "individual thinking...in the business world". ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2005

Infineon board favours DRAM unit IPO - report

Another day, another way for Infineon to rid itself of its loss-making DRAM division. After yesterday's claim that the German company is to sell the unit to Micron and Nanya, today we hear the firm would prefer to float the business. According to the Financial Times, Infineon's supervisory board is preparing to vote in favour of separating out the DRAM division in preparation for spinning it off entirely through an IPO. The report claimed such a course has the support of most members of Infineon's executive board. It's suggested, however, that other options have not be totally rejected, so yesterday's claim, made by US investment bank Needham and Co., that the division will be sundered and the bits sold to Micron and Nanya - with whom Infineon already has a partnership - could still prove accurate. Infineon's supervisory board is due to meet tomorrow, the FT said. ®
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2005

Saint Bob Geldof blows gasket at email

Saint Sir Bob Geldof has advised delegates at a London innovation conference to ignore emails after revealing that they "get in the way of serious consideration of what you want to do". Geldof said that emails "give a feeling of action, which is a mistake" and revealed his masterplan for business productivity: "Don't do e-mail." It's as simple as that. Mercifully, Geldof's Luddite tendencies do not extent to that other scourge of modern society - the SMS. Punters wanting tickets for Live8 had to text in their application, time which could surely have been better spent ignoring bulging inboxes and thereby redefining the work productivity paradigm. To be fair, Saint Bob is a successful suit in his own right, although he seems to have caught a touch of Bono Syndrome here - the absolute belief that celebrity achieved in one arena confers the right to give forth on any subject whatsoever. Having said that, we look forward to Geldof and the U2 frontman berating Kofi Annan on the amount of time UN staff spend emailing business-critical PowerPoint presentations concerning Iraq oil for food programmes to each other when they could be unloading sacks of aid to wailing African orphans while their lonely inboxes fill with pointless e-communications. ®
Lester Haines, 16 Nov 2005
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Software company 'sorry' for murdered schoolboy email

A Peterborough technology company has "regretted any offence it caused" after sending an email plugging its pupil registration system following the murder of Scottish schoolboy Rory Blackhall. Four days after 11-year-old Rory's body was found in woods, Anteon UK Ltd sent an email to 340 local authorities promoting its "VeriCool" school registration software. Said the email: "Dear Sir or Madam Like everyone else, we were shocked and saddened by the apparent murder of the young schoolboy in West Lothian. We believe that we can help reduce the possibility of such future tragedies and so wish to bring to your attention our new anti-truancy and first day contact system that is already in use by some schools in the UK. "I appreciate that you would not normally spotlight one type of technology from an unsolicited email, but our parent company, Anteon UK Ltd (www.anteonuk.com), has worked with Government Departments on a number of occasions, and I genuinely feel that we are better placed than many to assist you in your target of reducing truancy and improving school children's security." Although Anteon pulled the ad after receiving a complaint and has since expressed regret for its actions, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed that the e-mail was "offensive and distressing" because it "used a recent probable murder as a means of promoting the product". "We considered that the e-mail was potentially offensive and distressing to recipients," said the ASA which has banned the ad. Rory went missing on August 11 after being dropped off near his school by his mum. His body was found three days later in woods. ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2005
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Windows Server thrashes Novell's Linux

Windows is more reliable than Novell's Linux and easier to manage, according to Microsoft-funded research carried out by Security Innovation. The research simulated two IT departments, one running Suse Linux from Novell and one running Windows Server 2000. It found the Linux system required an eye-watering 187 patches while Windows needed just 37. Ashim Pal, Microsoft's chief Linux basher, told the Reg: "Windows is more reliable over time and the time to provision (getting systems up and running) is 40 per cent less than Linux."* Researchers followed the imaginary IT departments over the course of a year as they moved from Windows Server 2000 to Windows Server 2003 and from Suse Enterprise Linux 8 to Suse Enterprise Linux 9. In that period the Novell system suffered 14 "critical breakages" while the Windows system suffered none. In effect, the Suse set-up was impossible to adminster - the actions taken to keep system running meant the terms and conditions of the contract with Novell were broken so any warranty would have been null and void. Pal said Microsoft had learnt from the success of Linux in providing modular versions of its server software and its attitude to its community of partners. Novell was not able to comment at press time but we'll update the story when they do. *Microsoft got in touch to correct this figure:"The actual statistic is that the Linux administrators took 68 percent longer to implement new business requirements than their counterparts, not the 40% statistic that Ash referenced." More details on the research and its methodology should be available here soon: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/facts/default.mspx. ®
John Oates, 16 Nov 2005
fingers pointing at man

Bavarian police have spooky Sober moment

Bavarian police issued a press release that warned of new Sober.worm virus variants, just one day before three new variants appeared. In a bizarre set of circumstances, Bavarian Police have issued a press release (translated version) that not only warns of new Sober.worm virus variants, but also includes the email text that will appear in infected emails. The text, "Thanks for your registration. Your data are saved in the zipped Word.doc file!" appears in an email, along with an archived attachment registration.zip. F-Secure made note of this on their blog, and indicated that at least one of the new new Sober worm variants that appeared today had this identical message text. The Bavarian Police have not provided any additional details as to how they were able to predict the new worm outbreaks, other than indicating that this was part of an ongoing investigation. The author of the Sober worm and some of its many variants is believed to be German. Copyright © 2005, SecurityFocus
SecurityFocus, 16 Nov 2005

Vietnam plans human bird-flu vaccine trials

Vietnam's health officials are planning to start testing a potential human vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu virus in early 2006, it emerged yesterday, despite international warnings that developing a specific H5N1 vaccine would be futile if the virus mutates. Pham Ngoc Dinh, deputy head of the National Hygiene and Epidemiology Institute, said that the vaccine was developed in 2004 and had been tested successfully on chickens and monkeys. Human trials would begin as soon as the World Health Organisation and the Vietnamese government approved the tests, Reuters reports. The vaccine is developed using cell culture technique. The Hanoi-based researchers start by taking a sample of a weakened form of the virus from a patient who has died of the disease. This is then grown in monkey kidney cells, and would be tested on human volunteers, probably from within the research team. Researchers in the country have also identified new strains of the flu in poultry. However, given the amount of attention the disease is getting, it should not be too surprising that new strains have been picked up. "The presence of more subtypes of the flu virus in poultry make the virus all the more dangerous," Dong Manh Ha, director of Ho Chi Minh City Regional Animal Health Centre, told the news agency. The new strains are not as virulent as the H5N1 strain that affects humans, nor do they seem to spread as quickly. But according to Lo Wing-lok, an expert in infectious disease based in Hong Kong, people could still be at risk, if the new strains are allowed to spread in bird populations. Bird flu is still not easily spread to humans, nor have there been any confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2005

Toilet-disposed mobiles menace Helsinki's sewers

More and more mobile phones are turning up in the sewage system of the Helsinki Metropolitan area, according to Helsinki Water, which serves over one million households. It's not known if the phones are purposely or accidentally disposed of, but with 4.8m mobile users in Finland, it's reasonable to expect a certain number of toilet-related mobile incidents. Helsink Water didn't supply exact numbers, but dropping mobiles down the loo is pretty common elsewhere too. In the UK alone, as estimated 600,000 mobiles are flushed every year. As mobile phones get smaller and smaller, this number will undoubtedly increase, although dropping a cell phone down the pan is still only number six on a list of mobile phone accidents compiled by Swedish retailers. Most mobiles apparently come a cropper as a result of tight jeans. At the sewage treatment plant in Viikinmäki in Finland, one thousand tons of solid waste, equalling 200 truckloads, is collected every year. Apart from mobile phones, false teeth, toys, cameras and even torches are found. Those misplaced items are difficult to remove and will eventually cause system blockages, environmental manager Yrjö Lundström warned newspaper Helsinki Sanomat today. According to Helsinki Water, annual waste treatment fees are increasing as a result of the rubbish found in Finnish sewers. ®
Jan Libbenga, 16 Nov 2005

Court rejects UK web lotto game patent appeal

The High Court has dismissed an appeal against a Patent Office ruling that refused to grant a patent for an online lottery game. It reasoned that the patent application did not support any technical contribution other than the provision of specific web pages. Shopalotto.com was hoping to patent an online lottery game that uses brand names instead of numbers. UK patents, like European patents, are only supposed to be granted for inventions which are capable of industrial application, which are new and which involve an inventive step. Schemes for performing mental acts and computer programs "as such" are among the exclusions from the scope of patentability. Shopalotto.com's application was therefore turned down by the Comptroller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks on the grounds that it fell under one of the exclusions from patentability set out in the Patents Act 1977. The Buckinghamshire-based company appealed to the High Court, arguing that the patent application concerned not just a computer program, but a new game. It pointed to a Patent Office ruling of 1926 to argue that games are traditionally patentable. The High Court disagreed, Mr Justice Pumfrey pointing out that the 1926 ruling could not determine how to interpret the 1977 Act. According to Judge Pumfrey, the real question to be asked in determining whether a patent application for a computer program falls within the exclusions is whether it creates a “relevant technical effect, or, more crudely, whether there is enough technical effect”. The answer, he wrote, can be found by taking the traditional two-stage approach adopted by the Courts: “First, determine what the inventor has contributed to the art over and above a computer operating in a new way as a matter of substance and, second, determine whether this contribution lies in excluded matter or, on the contrary, whether it consists in a technical contribution or effect. The contribution must be considered as a matter of substance so as (for example) to prevent patents being granted for such things as novel computer programs on a carrier such as a compact disc. “An invention may be viewed as a solution to a concrete technical problem. Merely to program a computer so that it operates in a new way is not a solution to any technical problem, although the result may be considered to be a new machine. It follows that an inventive contribution cannot reside in excluded subject matter.” Mr Justice Pumfrey said Shopalotto.com's application does not put forward any contribution to the art apart from providing web pages. The fact that the brand-based game set out in the web pages allows for brand promotion means that it contains elements of “methods of doing business” – which are also excluded from the rules of patentability. He dismissed the appeal. See: The Ruling  Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 16 Nov 2005

Caudwell Comms gets new MD

Caudwell Communications - the fixed line phone business of Phones 4u boss John Caudwell - has appointed David Downie as MD to "bolster" the management team. Well, for the time being at least. Last month Downie was appointed MD of Phones 4u Retail (Caudwell's chain of mobile phone outlets) having worked for ASDA for the last 15 years. But in an email to workers seen by El Reg Group MD Tim Whiting announced that Downie has also been appointed as MD of Caudwell Communications. He replaces Keith Basnett who resigned six months ago. Downie's appointment comes as the whole Caudwell empire is up for sale following a strategic review of the business. With the sale of the whole shooting match underway with potential bidders already lining up, Whiting told staff that this was a "very exciting and challenging period for the group and all of us individually". "It is essential that we have the right leadership in place in all our businesses to maximise performance by leading and directing our people effectively through this exciting period of change. "I am therefore delighted to inform you that David Downie will be taking up the role of Managing Director of Caudwell Communications from today," he said. A spokesman for the Caudwell group explained that the appointment of Downie as part of the telco business was part of his "induction into the Caudwell Group". "This is not an irregular practice when a senior executive joins the Caudwell group, in fact, it is quite common. "David's role will be to bolster the existing management team...he will be returning to Phones 4u as MD after his induction period is over," he told us. ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2005

Swiss driver attacks Gatso with pick-axe

We know this will find favour with a large number of Reg readers: an enraged Swiss driver has smashed a speed camera off its mountings with a pick-axe after the Gatso snapped him doing 50mph in a 30mph zone in the Swiss alpine village of La Punt Chamues-ch.
Lester Haines, 16 Nov 2005
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Will IBM buy BI?

AnalysisAnalysis While much of the acquisition talk this year has been about Oracle and its spate of purchases, IBM has been quietly building up its portfolio of capabilities within the business intelligence area and associated technologies. Of course the most notable of these acquisitions was Ascential but there have been a number of others, including what is now Entity Analytic Solutions (previously SRD) as well as both customer and product master data management offerings. This means that IBM has the building blocks of a complete master data management solution, ditto for data integration, ditto again for data quality and, of course, it has Alphablox as well as existing data mining capability. Now, bear two further thoughts in mind: first, IBM describes itself as a BI vendor despite the fact that it does not offer a business intelligence solution per se, and secondly it divorced from Hyperion early this year although the two companies retain a close relationship. Put all this together and you have to wonder if IBM may not be positioning itself for a further acquisition. If we follow this thought experiment through then the next logical question is who they might buy? One of the smaller vendors is theoretically possible but this would not make the sort of impact on the market that IBM would be likely to want to make - though Actuate is a possibility because of its work with Eclipse-so a major player is much more likely. The major players (leaving aside other infrastructure players such as Microsoft) are SAS, Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion and MicroStrategy. Any of the last three seem more likely targets than the first two because there is less overlap between the various product sets: both SAS and Business Objects are significant players (or aiming to be) in the data integration space, for example. Cognos, on the other hand, only markets its ETL (extract, transform and load) tool within the confines of its product set whereas SAS and Business Objects both market their tools in non-BI environments. Similarly, both SAS and Business Objects play (or will play) in the EII (enterprise information integration) space whereas Cognos partners for this technology. There is one final consideration: IBM is adamant that it does not want to sell application software. While this might change, if we assume that this remains the case then MicroStrategy is the obvious target since it is the only one of these vendors that does not offer market planning, consolidation and other front-office corporate performance management (CPM) software. IBM could then market this BI software as the partner of choice for in-depth BI and analytics for those vendors, like Cartesis, Geac and others who address the CPM space but whose strength and expertise is in the operations and finance space rather than BI per se. Will this happen? I don't know. But it seems an obvious hole in IBM's infrastructure and the purchase of MicroStrategy seems the natural conclusion if it wants to plug that gap. Unless, of course, it can convince itself that Planning and allied applications are not really applications at all but just part of the BI stack: in which case either Hyperion or Cognos would be targets. Copyright © 2005, IT-Analysis.com
Philip Howard, 16 Nov 2005
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Symbian touts 131% jump in smart-phone shipments

Symbian saw its smart-phone operating system ship on 131 per cent more handsets in Q3 2005 than shipped in Q3 2004, the company boasted today. It's all down to Nokia, of course. Symbian said 8.54m handsets shipped in Q3 with its software on board. It didn't break that down by licensee, but market watcher Canalys recently said Nokia shipped 7.1m smart phones in the same period, all of which are based on Symbian. Even allowing for discrepancies between the way Symbian and Canalys calculate their figures, Nokia accounts for over 80 per cent of Symbian's shipments.
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2005

Stem cell researchers want watchdogs for human tests

As the debate over the ethics of leading stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk's research programme continues, UK scientists have called for international watchdogs to be set up to monitor the human testing of experimental therapies. The scientists also said that the sourcing of human eggs for use in research is another area that needs to be addressed from an ethical standpoint. These remarks were almost certainly prompted by reports earlier this week that Hwang had sourced the eggs used in his experiments from one of his own lab assistants. If this is the case, he would be in clear breach of ethical guidelines. However, he says all his work has been in line with government guidelines, but would not comment further to protect the anonymity of those involved. The scientists, who were speaking at a meeting on the ethical, legal and social issues raised by the research, said that beyond early stage research, stem cell therapies needed to be "assessed rigorously" in terms of safety and potential benefits, Reuters reports. Finally, some of those present accused nations banning, or seriously restricting stem cell research, of double standards. Professor Jan Helge Solbakk, of the University of Oslo in Norway said that if nothing else, these countries should donate any spare embryos from fertility treatments to countries that do allow the research. "My message to these countries... is that one cannot continue to ban this research while at the same time silently accepting it will import any future therapies. That is a kind of double standard," he said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2005

Tunisian Internet control lambasted at opening of World Summit

An extraordinary criticism of Tunisia’s approach to the Internet was fired at its president Zine Ben Ali at the opening ceremony of the World Summit in Tunis this morning. Swiss president Samuel Schmid drew huge applause from the back of the room when he directly criticised Tunisia’s controlling Internet policies. "It is unsupportable that the UN still has members that imprison their own citizens because of what they have written on the Internet or in the press," he said. "Everyone should be able to express their views freely." Ben Ali shifted uncomfortably in his chair and refused to look at Schmid when he sat down next to him after finishing his speech. However, Schmid’s speech was followed up by even more direct criticism from Shirin Abadi from the International Federation for Human Rights. "Certain governments that are not genuinely elected by their people do not reflect the people’s desire on Internet matters," she said. "It is important to make sure that non-governmental organisations are not manipulated by creating so-called NGOs that transmit false information on the situation prevailing in their country." That was a direct reference to a diplomatic incident that happened in Tunis on Monday, when Tunisian police forcibly prevented local and international human rights organisations from meeting to organise an alternative "Citizen Summit". The German ambassador to the UN became involved, as did several World Summit participants who have immunity in Tunisia while the Summit continues. The trouble sparked an official EU complaint to the Tunisian foreign ministry yesterday afternoon. Ms Abadi went to slam countries that "suppress an author that expresses any criticism of their government" - to which Ben Ali, acting as chair of the ceremony, shook his head. The extraordinarily frank criticism followed Ben Ali’s own opening speech to the Summit in which he spoke at some length about his view of the Internet. Its content clearly irritated the other speakers. "We look forward to the adoption of practical decisions and proposals to solve the questions put forth by the information society," he said, before continuing: "These last few years have witnessed the emergence of some types of use that shake call into question the credibility of information. Some arouse racism, hatred, terrorism. Others disseminate allegations and falsehoods." He went on to describe how society would have to make individuals "commit to responsible use" of the Net, and how it was necessary to "set ethical standards". The current culture of the Internet, he argued, was not a true representation of the world’s people as a whole and how there was a "collective moral responsibility" to change this. He then outlined how Tunisia was "enlarging the scope of individual freedom." UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s address was less directly critical but nevertheless made a strong statement. Freedom, he said, was "the information society’s lifeblood". He continued: "It is freedom that enables citizens everywhere to benefit from knowledge, for journalists to do their essential work, and citizens to hold government accountable". A few hours later, he told a press conference that he has personally spoke to President Ben Ali about the problems with human rights and press freedom in Tunisia, and he answered questions by journalists about the practice of Tunisia to block websites and control access directly. "It is one thing to establish standards and another to achieve them," Annan said, before adding that by having the conference in Tunisia it had in fact "put a spotlight on the issues here". Suddenly it seemed that rather than the UN being wrong for hosting the event in Tunisia, it was Tunisia that had most to lose from the deal.®
Kieren McCarthy, 16 Nov 2005

Wholesale broadband costs fall again

BT has cut the cost of connecting punters onto fully unbundled lines, the UK's dominant fixed line operator announced today. From December 15, the cost of unhooking lines from BT's network and reconnecting them to a rival service will drop 40 per cent from £168.38 (ex VAT) to £99.95 (ex VAT). The cut in connection costs relates to fully unbundled lines that provide both phone and broadband services, and follows a move in the summer to reduce the line rental for fully unbundled lines from £105.09 to £80 a year. In a statement today Steve Robertson, head of BT's new Openreach division that is now responsible for local loop unbundling (LLU): "These price reductions clearly demonstrate BT's ongoing commitment to LLU and are designed to create additional certainty and confidence for operators investing in LLU. "We are confident that the price reductions announced today will further boost demand and stimulate competition in the market." Which is all well and good, but as welcome as this move is, price isn't everything. The broadband industry is also keen to see LLU simplified so that it can rolled out to the massmarket. Last month the UK's LLU regulator described the behind-the-scenes problems affecting LLU as so bad it was giving "significant cause for concern". "Current poor performance is being caused by a combination of automation instability, poor software problem handling, volume growth and resource shortfalls. This has led to an overall deterioration in the quality of delivery," said the regulator last month although the latest assessment record a glimmer of improvement. But that's not good enough for operators who blame BT's cumbersome back office systems and clunky processes for making LLU such a misery. Responding to the Telecoms Adjudicator's downbeat assessment Bulldog said the report "endorses the ISP's experiences in recent months". "We share the Adjudicator's disappointment at the continued instability of BT's automated provisioning system, which diverted resources into managing the inadequacies of the system and impaired the quality of service we have been able to offer our customers." Despite this, Bulldog is "delighted" with today's announcement from BT. ®
Tim Richardson, 16 Nov 2005

Apple's iPod, iTunes 'big in Japan'

Apple's iPod has taken almost 60 per cent of the Japanese portable digital music player market, the company claimed today, citing local news source Business Computer News (BCN). The iPod leads its nearest - alas unnamed - rival by a "wide margin", it added. Meanwhile, the iTunes Music Store has become the number one online music service in Japan, Apple said, though without stating exactly how it knows this to be the case.
Tony Smith, 16 Nov 2005

Sun goes storage mad with upcoming Opteron kit

ExclusiveExclusive Sun Microsystems next year will expand its Opteron-based hardware line with a unique system that packs moderate processing power with high-performing I/O and tons of storage, The Register has learned. A system code-named Thumper should ship in the first half of 2006. The 4U high system will hold two dual-core Opterons and support up to 16GB of memory. A more unique part of the server will be Sun's use of 48 SATA drives. In addition, Thumper will have room for four Gigabit Ethernet ports and make use of all four Hypertransport I/O links that are unique to Opteron, according to information obtained by The Register. Thumper has been in the works for a long time. We first brought word of it in October of 2004. In actual fact, however, the system's design originally took place well before that at Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim's start-up Kealia. Sun had samples of the system available throughout 2005. Sun will likely pitch the system as a type of media server that could be used to stream content or to hold large amounts of data such as video files, medical images or document archives. Thumper will also work as part of Sun's Streamstar video server offering. Based on the applications, you can tell that Sun is enamored with Thumper's I/O performance. We've heard throughput figures of close to 2.3GB/s. Key to Thumper is the ZFS software found in Solaris 10. The file system was delayed, which affected the hardware's rollout. ZFS, however, has now been released to the Solaris Express program and will be in a Solaris update next year. Once it's ready to go, Thumper should follow. Along with Thumper, Sun is also expected to roll out a new line of four-socket and eight-socket blade servers. Yep, you read that right. Eight-sockets. We'll have more on Sun's upcoming blade line soon. Overall, we're starting to get a sense of how serious Sun is about Opteron. It already sells four lower-end systems and will add an eight-socket box early next year. In addition, it has a pure storage system code-named Honeycomb that runs on Opteron as well. ®
Ashlee Vance, 16 Nov 2005

Dione and Tethys pose for Cassini

Cassini has snapped some stunning shots on its meanderings through the Saturnian system, but this one is a corker, even by its high standards. The image, courtesy of NASA's JPL, shows the moons Dione and Tethys facing each other across Saturn's rings, Dione in the foreground some 860,000km from Cassini. Tethys is a further 640,000km distant. The picture was taken in natural light using Cassini's narrow angle camera on 22 September this year. Dione and Tethys were discovered in 1684 by Giovanni Cassini. The larger of the two moons, Dione is 1,126km across and is the densest moon of Saturn after Titan. It is thought to be mainly water ice around a rocky core. Its surface is heavily cratered in places, mostly on its trailing hemisphere - the side facing away from its direction of motion, contrary to scientists expectations. Researchers now think the moon used to spin in the other direction, but was hit by an impactor big enough to change that over. Tethys is not much smaller, measuring 1,071km in diameter. Scientists think it is composed almost entirely of water ice, and that the cracks across its surface were caused by its liquid interior welling up through the frozen crust. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Nov 2005
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Voracious Oracle eats two more firms

If you were beginning to think Oracle couldn't possibly squeeze in another acquisition this year, you'd be wrong. The database giant has pulled off a double. Oracle is expanding its presence in identity and access management with the acquisition of Thor Technologies and OctetString. Financial terms were not released. Oracle said the acquisitions meant it was poised to deliver the "industry's strongest and most robust suite of standards-based identity management technologies." Thor's Xellerate allows customers to manage user-access rights and privileges while OctetString's Virtual Directory Engine enables organizations to connect applications to multiple sources of users' identities and to consolidate directories. The products are to be re-branded Oracle Xellerate Identity Provisioning and Oracle Virtual Directory and will be made available by the end of this year as part of Oracle's Identity Management suite. Excluding Thor and OctetString, Oracle has bought 11 companies since January when it kicked-off with business software rival PeopleSoft. Oracle made its first identity management deal in March with the purchase of Oblix. ®
Gavin Clarke, 16 Nov 2005
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Cray celebrates Opteron joy

SC05SC05 Cray has earned the right to gloat. The supercomputer maker picked AMD's Opteron chip as its horse early on and can now revel in the market adoration for the product. But while interest in Cray's systems has shot up as a result of its new Opteron gear, huge questions remain as to whether or not Cray can turn around its business in a meaningful way. "Last year at Supercomputing, we had just launched the XD1 and were talking about the XT3 and basically talking about our architecture," said Amar Shan, a product manager with Cray, in an interview at this year's Supercomputing conference. "This year we have the products going well and all the success stories to point to. Product managers get to sit back with a smile on their face." Cray attributes much of its good fortune to taking the Opteron risk and betting on the chip when it was unproven in the wider server market. Backing up its commitment to Opteron, Cray this week said it will continue to use the chip through 2010. In addition, it will present AMD-based systems as the core of its proposal for DARPA's lucrative High Productivity Computing Systems contract, which will be awarded next year to either Cray, Sun Microsystems or IBM. "At the moment, it is not any secret that Intel's Xeon has to play catch up," Shan said. "Intel does have a lot of resources, and we know that they will catch up, but we also know that AMD has a very compelling roadmap and a product well-suited to high-performance computing." Cray's XT3 Opteron-based Red Storm cluster currently claims the number six spot on the Top500 supercomputer list. It boasts more than 10,880 processors and is the leading Opteron-based system in the supercomputer world. The company has also claimed recent wins with PING, the Korea Meteorological Administration and Rice University. Such wins outside of Cray's core US government business prove crucial to its overall viability. In its most recent quarter (Q3), Cray posted revenue of $44.7m, which was flat year-over-year. Its net loss, however, shrank dramatically to $10.3 from $111m the previous year. In its second quarter, Cray reported revenue of $53.4m – a large surge over the $21.7m in the year earlier second quarter. Still, Cray depends on US government contracts for the majority of its sales. The business model is restrictive, especially for a public company under huge pressure to grow. Cray maintains that government organizations now need its class of supercomputers more than ever for jobs outside of the defense and intelligence domains. It points to weather modeling, bio-medical research and more general environmental modeling as key tasks. "I do think the government funding will be there, and there are plenty of other opportunities as well," Shan said. "There are lots of friendly nations to sell to." As for what's next at Cray, the company has moved from a spider-themed code-naming scheme for its systems to one centered around mountains. Adams, Baker and Hood are all future product names, although Shan declined to provide any details on the systems. Overall, Cray has done a better job of late of keeping costs in line with its business, and it has a solid product lineup that makes use of commodity parts where possible and proprietary bits to boost total performance. Cray may even be profitable once again in the fourth quarter, a spokesman said. Still, one has the feeling at times that Cray, like SGI, will be stuck in a declining market, while Tier 1 server vendors and a fleet of upstarts try to eat away at parts of its business. It's tough times for the venerable computing crowd. ®
Ashlee Vance, 16 Nov 2005
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More self configuration planned for DB2 'Viper'

Barely a week after Microsoft laid claim to enterprise readiness by launching SQL Server 2005, IBM has upped the stakes releasing early details of its next DB2. The Viper edition of DB2, due in 2006 and announced on Wednesday with open testing, will see an expansion in the number of automated actions such as self-configuration and self-healing established in earlier editions of DB2, IBM said. Earlier this year IBM enhanced DB2 with version 8.2.2 that enabled the database to configure itself for SAP environments. Microsoft had used the example of SQL Server 2005 running SAP last week as proof there was "no job too big" for the Windows platform. "DB2 is unique in the self configuration and self optimizing capabilities that were delivered in the 8.2.2 version... which were initially tailored with the SAP team to enable deployment in an SAP environment," Bernie Spang director of IBM's database marketing told The Register. "SQL Server doesn't have that capability". Spang added: "More features will be added in this area - more automated actions that can be taken." IBM's pledge has added teeth, coming as Microsoft works to speed-up the delivery process behind its own database. Microsoft is reported to have promised customers they won't have to wait another five years for the next edition for SQL Server. SQL Server 2005 is the first new edition of Microsoft's database since SQL Server 2000. Viper, by contrast, is expected just two years after IBM's last major DB2 update, codenamed Stinger, which shipped in September 2004 - a year after it was previewed by IBM. In a further repost to Microsoft, IBM said Viper would become the first database to deliver native support for XML. Viper will store, search and retrieve unstructured XML data for use in business analytics, without parsing or breaking down data into rows or columns - processes that are slow and can result in a loss of data fidelity. IBM claims Viper will address a market where just 20 per cent of business data is stored in a relational data form while 35 per cent is in unstructured XML. This latter figure is likely to grow as Microsoft brings online its version of Office next year with XML file formats and the OpenDocument Format (ODF) sees wider adoption. "The spot we are hitting with Viper is that all the business information needs to be available... and [it] should be secured and [be] highly available, not just the percentage [of data] in the relational database," Spang said. Like Microsoft, IBM is focusing on developers - only, not just Windows programmers using Microsoft's Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE). Viper will be made available with Zend Technologies' Zend Core for IBM, which features a driver to enable the open source PHP to speak to DB2. Viper will also be able to read and understand web services implemented in PHP. In an additional development, the Zend Core will be updated this year to feature a version of DB2 Express for developers without a license charge. Spang said it was important for web services and service oriented architectures (SOAs) written in PHP to talk to information in DB2.®
Gavin Clarke, 16 Nov 2005