18th > November > 2005 Archive
HP today proved that layoffs pay as it managed to squeeze bigger profits out of its hardware businesses during the fourth quarter. Overall, HP's results weren't too impressive, but they fell inline with analysts' expectations and pleased investors. HP reported revenue of $22.9bn. That total marks a seven per cent year-over-year increase from the $21.4bn reported last year. Excluding charges, HP posted a solid 22 per cent rise in net income to $1.5bn from $1.2bn. Including a massive $1.1bn restructuring charge, HP's results weren't as pretty. It earned $416m – down 62 per cent year-over-year from $1.1bn. For the full year, HP saw sales rise nine per cent to $86.7bn and net income drop to $2.4bn from $3.5bn. "HP delivered another strong quarterly performance, with balanced revenue growth, good cost discipline, improved margins in key businesses and strong cash flow," said Mark Hurd, CEO at HP. "We are pleased with our progress to date, but there is more work ahead of us." Hurd has adopted a pragmatic approach to HP's business and employee relations since taking over from Carly Fiorina as CEO. HP has fired 15,300 staffers during his reign. On the financial front, this strategy has helped the PC and enterprise hardware divisions that struggled under Fiorina. The PC group saw revenue rise nine per cent to $7.1bn with unit shipments also rising 13 per cent. The group turned a tidy $200m profit up from $77m last year. By comparison, Dell saw sales of PCs fall to $5.1bn from $5.2bn in its most recent quarter. Server and storage revenue at HP jumped ten per cent year-over-year to $4.5bn. These groups were particularly hard hit by the job cuts. Overall, HP reported a profit of $405m from the hardware unit up from a profit of $100m. Things turn more distressing in HP's vaunted printing and imaging business. For many years, this unit has carried HP, boosting the bottom line with huge profits. The IPG unit did increase revenue four per cent year-over-year to $6.8bn but saw its profit drop to $896m - down from $1.1bn last year. That's still a ton of cash, but HP can't be happy about the direction IPG's profits have taken in recent months. HP's services group reported a revenue increase of six per cent to $3.9bn. The profit there, however, fell as well to $322m – down from $375m. Software revenue increased 11 per cent to $311m. The software unit reported a profit of $27m, which compares to a loss of $7m last year. Employees may not be pleased with the job cuts, but investors sure seem to like them. HP's shares, which were stagnant under Fiorina, surged past the $30 mark in the after-hours markets for the first time since 2002. ®
The fall-out from pointedly critical remarks made at the opening ceremony of the World Summit in Tunis by Swiss prime minister Samuel Schmid continues. Following Swiss criticism that the host government censored the speech when it was relayed on Tunisian television to remove remarks critical of press freedom in Tunisia, Tunisia has responded by firing that very press freedom back at the Swiss minister of communications. Mr Moritz Leuenberger has spent most of the day being hounded by the Tunisian media decrying the Swiss prime minister's statement. Mr Schmid stunned delegates to the Summit when he said it was not acceptable for the UN to "continue to include among its members those states which imprison citizens for the sole reason that they have criticised their government or their authorities on the internet or in the press." He then mentioned Tunisia in particular: "For myself, it goes without question that here in Tunis, within its walls and without, anyone can discuss quite freely. For us, it is one of the conditions sine qua non for the success of this international conference." Mr Leuenberger has borne the brunt of Tunisian irritation, getting into heated arguments in a number of press conference today. At one this afternoon, the editor of the Tunisian national newspaper, as well as another three Tunisian journalists took over the conference demanding to know about Swiss banking laws, accusing the Swiss of lecturing other nations, setting hypocritical standards and so on. One Tunisian journalist, who claimed to be a CNN stringer, insisted the minister explain why two Arabs had been arrested in Geneva for allegedly looking at fundamentalist Islamic websites. The minister said he hadn't heard of the story. Nor had anyone else in the room. To make matters once, the main Swiss news site covering the conference - Swissinfo - has been added to the official Tunisian blocking list and cannot be picked up in Tunisia outside the Kram centre where an unfiltered pipe to the Internet has been written into the host country agreement with the United Nations. Things got even more heated when Mr Leuenberger then tried to enter the main press area to do an interview. He was chased by a Tunisian camera crew, and a series of Tunisian reporters. At one point he actually started running. What followed was an impromtu press conference with Mr Leuenberger pressed against a raised stage answering dozens of questions alternatively in French, German and English. He refused to back down, saying that press freedom remained a fundamental issue; and that while he knew it would be a delicate matter, the Swiss government had decided that rather than stay away (as every other major head of state from Western countries has done), to come to Tunisia and talk about it. Even so, he said, the Tunisian response had been "rather harsh". He also revealed that he had received an official complaint from the Tunisian government over an interview he had done on the issue with Swiss national television. That complaint means Tunisia and Switzerland are one-all after an official complaint by the Swiss minister to the Tunisian foreign ministry two days ago over police restrictions at a meeting of human rights organisations in downtown Tunis. Never a dull moment in Tunis. ® Related link The Swiss prime minister's speech
BEA Systems has shifted its chief technology officer (CTO) to help squeeze success from this summer's $200m Plumtree acquisition. Mark Carges will now lead BEA's Business Interaction Division that is "central" to BEA's AquaLogic brand and which was formed following the Plumtree purchase. At the same time Plumtree's products have been re-branded the AquaLogic User Interaction suite. The changes emerged as BEA announced third-quarter fiscal results that record a continued surge in services over software licensing. Net revenue from software licensing grew 5.5 per cent to $121m for the three months to October 31 while services increased 13.8 per cent to $170m. Overall revenue increased 10.25 per cent to $291m. Net income jumped 10.84 per cent to $37m while earnings per diluted share increased one cent to $0.09. Announcing the results, BEA was coy in supplying details over how long it is taking to close sales of AquaLogic, launched this summer, or how many pilots of the WebLogic SIP Server, launched in February, are actually going live. Chief executive Alfred Chuang promised SIP Server deployments in the fourth quarter and next year, indicating there have been two deployments so far. Dodging the AquaLogic question completely, He thanked press and analysts for no longer asking tricky questions about what is BEA's vision and accepting AquaLogic as BEA's strategy for Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs). "The world, press and customers finally get it," Chuang told analysts. "That's a relief to our salesforce, that we are crystal clear."®
Sony's rootkit-style DRM software, XCP, designed to prevent copyright infringement, looks like it's breaching the terms of a copyright agreement itself. In fact it contains code written by the Motion Picture Ass. of America's villain of the week for several years running, 'DVD Jon' Johansen, who was dragged through the Norwegian courts by the MPAA using a very dubious extension of US law, for circumventing the DRM on DVDs. Johansen eventually prevailed in having the spurious charges against him thrown out. The irony of a company using code from someone who circumvented DRM to develop an even nastier form of DRM - without even saying "Thanks!" - will surely feature in geek trivia quizzes for years to come. The British company that developed the DRM software for Sony, First4Internet Ltd, has included free software code covered by the Free Software Foundation's LGPL, a cousin of the GPL, amateur sleuths have discovered. The LGPL, or Lesser General Public License, was designed to protect author's rights for chunks of code rather than finished programs. It's a complicated area, with subtle distinctions between rights over code that is compiled into, and distributed as part of the final binary program, or code that is only called at as the program is executed. But it is pretty clear cut that First4Internet has used code without observing the terms under which it's distributed - terms backed up by the power of copyright (one of our greatest inventions). And we all know what happens to people who don't respect copyright. Sebastian Porst discovered code from the LAME project, mpglib and VideoLAN in the XCP copy restriction, which has caused Sony so much grief. Jon Johansen is a contributor to the VideoLAN project. "I just want to mention that the function that can be found at virtual offset 0x10089E00 in ECDPlayerControl.ocx is the function DoShuffle from a GPL-ed file called drms.c written by Jon Lech Johansen and Sam Hocevar (Google for it)," notes Sebastian. A parallel, and even more exhaustive forensic examination of the XCP code was undertaken by 'Muzzy' - who published his findings here. So why is First4Internet in such trouble? If you use LGPL code, the licence requires that you acknowledge the provenance of the code you're using - with a clear notification and an assurance that you can provide your own source code on request. It's designed to deter lazy programmers such as... well... the kind employed by First4Internet Ltd. FSF attorney Eben Moglen told us this evening he couldn't offer a statement on what the organization planned to do next. ®
Tech DigestTech Digest Certified gadget obsessives Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny scour Gizmoville for the oddest digital goodies, Bayraider keeps tabs on the best and worst of eBay and Corrie blog keeps you up to date as to what’s happening on the street... Cut-down Windows smartphones from T-Mobile and O2 If you like the look of one of those HTC Universal (like the T-Mobile MDA Pro and Orange SPV M5000) devices with their sizable keyboard and great connectivity options, but are put off by their pocket-bulging size then O2 and T-Mobile might have something for you. This week both have launched the latest in the seemingly never-ending series of Windows Mobile devices from Taiwanese manufacturer HTC which they are billing as the MDA Vario (T-Mobile) and Xda Mini S (O2). Both phones, which are virtually identical, sport a much smaller form factor than the Universal, yet they do boast a full QWERTY keyboard which is accessed via the user sliding the bottom half of the unit. Unlike the Universal there’s no 3G connection, but the phone features Wi-Fi as well as GPRS and comes with the full suite of MS applications that are served up by the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. Other niceties include Bluetooth, a 1.3 mega pixel camera, a 2.8inch 64K-colour TFT-LCD touch screen and an external Mini SD card slot. The O2 Xda Mini S is available from £260 for pay monthly contract customers, while the MDA Vario sells for from free to £149.99. Projectors get seriously small No presentation is complete without a huge projector and a projectee suffering severe arm strain from having to lug it round. Those days however might soon be history as Texas Instrument’s new range of pocket DLP (Digital Light Processing) models hit the stores. The company has made a fairly significant breakthrough in that it has replaced the lamp, the mainstay of the projector, with LED technology. This has the twin benefit of significantly shrinking the size and weight of the models, while emitting much less heat – so for example users won’t be able to fry eggs on them as they almost can with lamp-based projectors. Three DLP Pocket projectors are due to reach the UK in the next month with the very striking and ultra tiny Samsung DLP Pocket Imager leading the charge. There are also slightly chunkier projectors – but we are still talking models you can hold in one hand- from Mitsubishi (PK10) and Toshiba (FF1). All the models will sell for between £500-800. Texas Instruments reckons they might have a life too beyond the board room with users hooking them up to their digital cameras and camcorders to show image and footage and using them to seriously expand the screen size of Sony PSPs. Future models are likely to feature wireless technology built in to enable fast and cable-free connections with devices. One thing they aren’t ready for is High Definition TV. The projectors all have pixel count of 800x600, which is apparently HD compatible in that it will show a HD in standard resolution, but not footage in its full 720p 0r 1080i glory. Designer digital radios You can keep your Stella McCartney coats (satin trenchcoat? She'll be designing a cardboard kettle next) and odd high-heeled lace-ups – the designer treat that's giving the girls at Shiny Shiny goosebumps is Matthew Williamson's latest DAB dooling for digital radio overlords Intempo. The KTM-02 is MW's follow-up to (have a guess) the KTM-01, whose peacock feathers had us all agog last summer. For the sequel, Matt's gone even more girly-swirly with a print called Tokyo Georgette from his new autumn/winter fashion collection – like a bling explosion in a retro wallpaper factory. The radios are exclusive to John Lewis and cost £125, a wodge of which goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. PC tip of the day from Propellerhead Hidden desktop file finder Here’s another one of those weird and wacky undocumented features in Windows and this one is well worth getting to know. This tweak puts new Toolbars on your desktop that lets you quickly search your PC’s filing system using fast access drop-down menus. It works on any Windows PC using Internet Explorer 4 or later and to set it up drag and drop the My Computer icon to the extreme right hand side of the screen. A new vertical toolbar will appear displaying the contents of My Computer (quite handy on its own) but it gets better. Next drag and drop the C: drive icon to the top edge of the screen and a new horizontal toolbar appears. On the far right of the new toolbar there’s a double continuation arrow, click on that and a menu bar appears on the right side of the screen. Just hover the mouse pointer over the folders icons and the contents will be shown in drop-down menus. To hide or get rid of the new toolbars just right-click into an empty area and select Close or Auto Hide. There are plenty more great Word tweaks in the BootLog Top Tips archive here. Other top stories Star Wars space bike prop on eBay Games as addictive as drugs say researchers Is it worth buying a second hand PC? Sony’s super skinny laptop reviewed Shake powered calculator Vodafone and Sky TV a hit? Bluetooth ID bagdes
We may be two peoples separated by a common language, as Shaw once suggested, but the US propensity to find teeth-grindingly literal explanations for the world around us never ceases to cause the British mirth. The caricature of a fearful United States where every I must be dotted, and every T must be crossed, where coffee cups warn the the user of hot liquids inside, and where blogs are tattooed with incomprehensible license terms, isn't just the stuff of myth, however. This nit-picking has become the foundation of the nation, one that pitches the established class of nit-pickers (the lawyers) against a new breed of nit-pickers (the technocrats). But few stories illustrate this derangement are well as the bizarre - but true - story we bring you here. Bear with us. The United States takes the separation of church and state (and body and mind) with a scary earnestness, so although it's nominally a Christian country, the Christian time of celebration is formally celebrated through a complicated euphemism. Here, it's called "the Holiday Season". Isn't that a tautology? Hush for a moment. Being the land of untrammeled commerce, this also throws up a few anomalies. For example, the uptown department store Macy's currently offers what the British call Christmas Trees (here they're called "Holiday Decorations") in a variety of pre-themed categories such as the South Park™-theme and the Barbi™-theme. But we digress. In a sphincters-held-tight culture such as this, little things mean a lot, so when the giant US big box retailer Wal-Mart recently changed a greeting from "Merry Christmas!" to "Happy Holidays!" it drew complaints. And here the troubles began. The emails duly arrived, and a customer-facing rep took it on herself to explain the change with this ill-advised exhibition of learning. The employee, who we know only as Kirby, launched into a fantastically earnest historical explanation of what the Christmas Holiday Season™ really meant. "Christmas is actually a continuation of the Siberian shaman and Visigoth traditions," Kirby replied. "Santa is also borrowed from the [Caucasus], mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world," the helpful Kirby replied, making sure every I was dotted and every T crossed. All of which is true, but as you can imagine, these weren't exactly the soothing words the complainer wanted to hear. The Wal-Mart punter simply wanted a reassuring pat, a promise that this sudden switch from religious to secular, didn't actually mean aliens had landed. And she got fairly firm confirmation that aliens had not only landed, but - Worship of Baal?? - actually had their scaly alien tentacles manning the tills. Yikes! What's a god-fearing literalist to do, except call out the fire brigade? In this instance, it arrived in the form of Catholic League demagogue Bill Donohue. A boycott was duly summoned, Wal-Mart relented, and heads rolled. Kirby is no longer an Wal-Mart employee, we learn, which is a shame, as in her own painfully literal (and right-on) way, she was only trying to be helpful. In a flash, the two worlds just shot past each other. Integrating cultures is always messy, but it's far from impossible, as the successes have proved. France's most notoriously "Arab" city, the port of Marseilles, escaped the recent riots unscathed and in Manchester, England the fireworks that mark Eid, the end of Ramadan, are celebrated by everyone. As is Christmas. The idea of a party seems to be universally understood - and when it is, recourse to weird schematas or diagrams simply doesn't occur to anyone as an option, thankfully. We just need to loosen a few sphincters, but the USA is a tense place these days. ®
Infineon's supervisory board yesterday voted to split the company in two and create a separate, independent company out of its troubled memory products division. This will see the DRAM operation become a legally independent entity on 1 July 2006. It will not go public immediately, Infineon said, although an IPO remains the board's "preferred option". According to market watcher Gartner, delaying the IPO is a sound move. Yesterday, it forecasts 2006 will see a big decline in the DRAM market as it enters one of its regular downturns - "a period of oversupply and falling prices", is how Gartner describes the market. It believes DRAM revenues will fall five per cent next year, from the $25.7bn worth of sales it's anticipating this year. In 2007, revenues will fall another 20 per cent to $19.5bn, as price erosion next year bites home. By 2010, the market will have risen a little, to $20.2bn - still well below today's level. The coming years, then, will hardly be the best time to IPO a memory company, senior Gartner analyst Andrew Norwood said. The Infineon board's rationale for the move are the "diverging... processes and business models" of the two sides of its business. Alongside memory, Infineon also focuses on chips for automotive, industrial and communications applications. Improved fourth quarter During its recently completed fourth quarter of fiscal 2005, Infineon lost €43m before tax, rather less than the €234m it lost in Q3, on revenues of €1.73bn, up eight per cent sequentially. All divisions reported increased sales and either reduced losses or improved earnings. Infineon took a €81m, hit on its quarterly earnings due to the closure of its Munich-Perlach plant and a €64m impairment charge within the communications products division. The company's Q4 net loss of €100m, compared to a net loss of €240 million in the previous quarter. Infineon pointed to higher bit shipments and slightly increased average sales prices in the memory market as one of the quarter's growth drivers, but if Gartner's forecast proves correct, it can't count on that for long. For Q1 FY2006, the company expects revenues to rise "slightly" on a sequential basis, with no significant charges set to be recorded. For the memory division, the picture is less clear: "Pricing pressure and uncertainties regarding chipset availability in the PC segment, makes price development difficult to predict," the company says, although it is banking on seasonally strong demand for computers to drive increased shipments. Like Gartner, Infineon points to "competitors" who have shifted their DRAM production to NAND Flash - Gartner named them as Samsung and Hynix, the world's two largest memory makers - which will take some of the pressure off the DRAM business, but "only partially". ®
Collaborative development is increasingly popular but perhaps a hosted services model helps it really work. It's not often you see a software development product endorsed by a world-famous physicist, especially a dead one, but it's a feat Collabnet appears to have pulled off. Perhaps we shouldn't laugh: Albert's soundbites are a lot more interesting than the average CEO can manage. We are talking about a little red book called “Software Development According ² Einstein” and, for example, Einstein's remark “insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” certainly describes the way some people react to failure in developing systems. You know, "we wrote a system spec and froze changes before we cut any code and then it wasn't what the users wanted by the time they got it - so next time we'll produce an even longer system spec and accept absolutely no changes at all...". On the other hand Collabnet is on rockier ground when it claims that Einstein “would likely have been amazed by how fast so many things happen” these days. He may well have been amazed that, with so much computing power and knowledge available, so little has changed fundamentally over the last 60 years in the way we work - read Vanevar Bush's Memex article from 60 years ago or Fred Brooks' Mythical Man Month from 30 years ago and wonder why they can still make inspirational reading today. Perhaps Collabnet should stick to its own guru, Brian Behlendorf, founder and CTO, who was pretty impressive when we met him for supper recently. As the man behind Apache, he has some strong development credentials. He apparently sees his job as being to "get out of the way when good work is being done" – something that many managers could take to heart. We also met Collabnet's “secret weapon": Roy Woodfine, principal collaboration consultant, who mentors customers through the cultural changes associated with developing software collaboratively. In essence, increased transparency, which is a core part of successful collaborative environments, is worrying, because sharing information and looking for ways to improve things can make the people responsible for the status quo open to blame. It's necessary to have a key sponsor - with the vision and determination to get things done, and Collabnet is proud of selling its approach to the BT CIO, Alnoor Ramji, who certainly has vision and determination - and will need all of it to transform IT in BT. Do no wrong, do no right But in our experience such dynamic sponsors sometimes introduce a blame culture – where the evangelists for the new order can do no wrong and those struggling with keeping the business status quo going can do no right. You need to reward people not only for finding improvements but also actively demonstrate that mistakes will only be punished if they're repeats of old mistakes or if you don't learn from them. Investing in a “collaboration mentor” can be a good way to demonstrate a company's real commitment to its people, to transparency-driven development and to a learning culture. But what is left to distinguish Collabnet when established Application Lifecycle Development companies such as Borland are adding collaboration tools to their suites (e.g. JBuilder) and are even embracing Open Source (Eclipse)? Well, you could argue that its background in Apache, a real distributed development project, gives it an edge stil lover people adding collaboration to existing suites; In a report sponsored by Collabnet, Melissa Webster of IDC makes the point that, “distributed teams need their automated tools to help them bridge the cultural, time and geographical barriers they face - she talks of fostering a sense of community and teamwork, which, we think, involves more than just technology. Even so, whatever the increasing collaboration, it does seem that Collabnet may do this rather well. All the same, perhaps its real USP is its “hosted services” model. Collabnet Enterprise Edition 3.0 is available as a hosted solution on Sun Solaris or Red Hat Linux, exploiting MySQL for data persistence and the Apache Webserver for scalability. This means that the initial investment barrier is low, as there no need to buy hardware and software before you can get started. And, perhaps more importantly, there is no barrier to dropping the product if it doesn't deliver, as there are no licences or hardware you're still paying fo. All application development tool vendors claim to put their customers' needs first, but Collabnet really does rise or fall by its success at doing this – it is just as easy for it to lose its customers as to acquire them, and this should make its customers feel rather comfortable.... ® David Norfolk is the author of IT Governance, published by Thorogood. More details here.
A team of computer forensic investigators has pointed out that a character in a recent episode of hit TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation failed to follow a basic rule of looking for evidence: don't switch on the computer. Experts at CY4OR, based in Bury, England, praised CSI for bringing computer forensics to the forefront of public awareness; but they say it does little to reflect the correct and essential procedures that must be put in place when there is suspicion of criminal activity. In the offending episode, chemistry boffin Greg Sanders (played by Eric Szmanda) walks on to a crime scene, turns on a nearby computer and begins accessing email. Bad move, says Joel Tobias, Managing Director of CY4OR. This is exactly what budding investigators must not do, he warns. "Not only could this potentially damage evidence, any incriminating data that was uncovered would undoubtedly be thrown out of a court of law as the proper evidential procedures would not have been put in place," he said. "The evidential continuity would have been compromised and a criminal case could collapse." The temptation for IT departments to become digital detectives and deal with a breach of security in house is understandable, says Tobias, as companies worry about investor confidence, company reputation and business in general. It can also be fun. However, there are a few basic steps to follow, to minimise exposure and resolve the situation as quickly as possible. CY4OR's guide to crime scene investigations Treat the matter seriously. Tell your legal team not your colleagues about your suspicions. Do not inform your IT department. Instead, hire computer forensic experts. Professional analysts from reputable companies adhere to ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officer) guidelines, can identify digital evidence quickly and ensure that it will stand up in court by following the correct procedures. They can even image your computers at night, to avoid inevitable discussions by the water cooler. The principle of forensics which says that "every contact leaves a trace" cannot be emphasised enough, says Tobias. "There is a time and a place to leave it to the experts, and this is it," he warned Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The organisers of a broadband conference have been forced to abandon the event because it clashed with a Government backed "Broadband Summit". The "Broadband End Game" conference was due to take place next Tuesday (November 22) in London. Its theme was for Government and the industry to look beyond ADSL and consider what technology and infrastructure needs to be put in place over the next decade. Event organiser ABC (Access to Broadband Campaign) believes that although much progress has been made to date in rolling out high-speed services, there is too much complacency around and that the UK is falling behind other nations. ABC even managed to secure in excess of a £1,000 in an eBay auction for BT's former CTO, Peter Cochrane, who was delivering a keynote speech at the event. Now, though, organisers are left counting the cost of having to return ticket money to those who had signed up. "We just haven't been able to compete with the publicly subsidised 'Summit' event the day before our End Game Conference," said a disappointed Lindsey Annison, co-founder of ABC. "The 'Job's Not Done' message is obviously not what government and industry want to hear." "Fat pipes, fibre and connected homes with innovators in bedrooms do not suit the political or corporate shareholders' agenda at this time when so many believe that a basic 512kbps or 1Mbps service is going to meet the future needs of our economy. "This country and some others in the EU with incumbent 'copper' telcos risk playing broadband second fiddle for years to come. We are ignoring the economic threats in the new industrial revolution that is the knowledge economy," she said. The Government-backed "Broadband Britain Summit" to be held at London's QEII Conference Centre on Monday (November 21) includes presentations by Industry Minister Alun Michael and Ofcom bigwig Ed Richards, and will look at how "achieving digital excellence can improve the cohesion of UK society, the wealth of its economy and the quality of life of its citizens". ®
Panasonic will next month begin sampling what it claims is the first optical drive control chipset capable of writing to any recordable or re-writeable disc format. Well, all except HD DVD, that is. No great surprise there, since Panasonic parent Matsushita has its feet firmly in the Blu-ray camp - unlike, it seems, HP. Panasonic's chipset comprises a chip to handle the analogue mechanics - the servo and laser control, for example - and a second to do the appropriate digital signal processing. Among the latter's duties are format support, for which Panasonic lists BD-ROM, BD-R/RE, DVD±R/RW, DVD-RAM, DVD-ROM, CD-R/RW and CD-ROM.
An industry group formed to promote trust between consumers and websites will begin certifying adware programs starting next year, the organization announced on Wednesday. The group, TRUSTe, will put programs that meet certain criteria - such as only installing themselves after users accept an explicit agreement and allowing easy removal of the program - on a whitelist of so-called Trusted Download Programs. Sponsors of the organization, such as Yahoo!, AOL, Computer Associates, CNET Networks and Verizon, plan to use the tool to make business decisions, TRUSTe said in its statement. Adware providers have widely skirted legal boundaries in the past, and trampled over the rights of many PC users by installing a variety of advertising software and spyware without adequate notification to the consumer. Such tactics net the industry a large windfall, with some analysts estimating that each PC installation nets the adware firm $3 a year for a total annual revenue of $2bn in 2004. Such tactics have faced stiff criticism from consumers and digital rights activists. Media giant Sony BMG is the latest company to come under fire for installing software with inadequate notification. Security researchers found that the company's copy protection used tactics commonly found in the rootkits used by online attackers and did not call out the function of the program before installation. The Trusted Download Program will better inform users about adware. The program requires that current PC users that have adware on their systems be asked to agree again to have a Trusted Download Program installed on their machines. The program will launch in a beta format early next year. Microsoft and the policy think tank Center for Democracy and Technology provided guidance on the program, according to TRUSTe. Copyright © 2005, SecurityFocus
Motherboard maker Asus this week confirmed the existence of the next Intel Pentium Extreme Edition by saying its latest mobo will support the part. The chip, dubbed the PEE 955, is expected to go head-to-head with AMD's Athlon 64-FX in early 2006. Intel quietly launched its 975X chipset on Monday. Later in the week, Asus announced a motherboard based on the 975X, the P5WDG2-WS. Among the entries in the board's specifications list is support for the PEE 955.
A US and Netherlands-led team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have identified 19 new examples of gravitationally lensed galaxies. Among the new examples are eight so-called Einstein Rings, a rare phenomenon where an image of a hidden galaxy is stretched in a complete circle around the lensing object. Only three examples of visible-light Einstein rings were previously known. Gravitational lensing takes place when a sufficiently massive object lies between the Earth and a light source, like a distant galaxy. The gravity of the intermediate object is strong enough that it will bend light from the object it obscures around itself, so that it is visible from Earth. This takes the form of an arc, or of multiple images of the otherwise hidden object around the lensing object. When the two objects are lined up exactly, an Einstein ring is formed. Beautiful as these objects are to look at, the astronomers at the Sloan Lens Survey (SLACS) have not been probing the universe for these things just for the aesthetics of it all. The researchers, led by Adam Bolton of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the US, and Leon Koopmans of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in the Netherlands, study the arcs and rings to calculate very precisely the mass of the foreground galaxies. This information can reveal how much of the galaxy's matter is normal matter and how much is dark matter. "Being able to study these and other gravitational lenses as far back in time as several billion years allows us to see directly whether the distribution of invisible and visible mass changes with cosmic time," says Koopmans. "With this information, we can test the commonly held idea that galaxies form from collision and mergers of smaller galaxies." The initial findings of the survey will appear in the February 2006 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. Check out the pictures here. ®
Creative has extended its Zen Neeon MP3 family into Flash territory, the better to compete with the similarly diminutive iPod Nano. Already available with either a 5GB or 6GB hard drive, the Neeeon family now includes three new members offering 512MB, 1GB and 2GB of music storage capacity, respectively. The Neeeeon weighs in at 55g, just above the Nano's 42g, and the two players' vital statistics are 8 x 4.7 x 1.6cm and 8.8 x 5.6 x 0.7cm, respectively. Creative claims a 32-hour playback period, more than double the 14 hours Apple says the Nano can run for on a single charge.
Messe AG is expanding its Hannover CeBIT CeBIT trade fair in March with a seperate show called Digital Living, showcasing the latest consumer electronics. Experts say this is a clear sign CeBIT is competing head on with IFA in Berlin - the world's biggest consumer electronics show, which will be held annually from next year. Just a couple of weeks ago, the organisers of CeBIT that they are not unduly concerned by the announcement that IFA will in the future take place annually. "The conceptual basis of the two trade shows differs fundamentally," Ernst Raue, Board Member of the Hannover trade show company, said in an annoucement. However, it is no secret that CeBIT is attracting more and more manufacturers of consumer electronics. Earlier this year, there already were a lot of HDTV flat screens on the show floor. But with IFA expanding, Messe AG also saw a couple of defectors, including German mobile network operator E-Plus. The show at CeBIT has been developed with the CMP WEKA publishing house and will include home entertainment electronics, mobile computing and gaming. Opening hours for the event (March 9 - 15) will be 9am to 10pm. Admission fee will be € 10. At CeBIT 2006 there will alo be a special presentation entitled "ICT in Motion", covering the whole spectrum of traffic telematics, navigation, automotive communication systems as well as rear-seat-entertainment.
Hackers have developed proof-of-concept code that attempts to take advantage of an unpatched Windows vulnerability to crash systems, Microsoft warned yesterday. Fortunately the risk of attack is low. The experimental code shows it's possible to knock over machines running Windows XP SP1 and Windows 2000 SP4 in certain configurations by taking advantage of flaws in Windows memory allocation functions. This vulnerability manifests itself when a malformed request is made to the UPnP service in the data section of a call to the GetDeviceList function. In handling this request, memory consumption on vulnerable Windows boxes increase to the point where the system becomes unresponsive. Repeated requests can therefore be used to mount denial of service attacks. Attacks on Windows XP SP1 would rely on having user authentication, reducing the scope for mischief by remote hackers. Microsoft users running Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 are not affected by the vulnerability. Win 2000 shops are most at risk but providing systems are properly firewalled then attacks should fail. Irresponsible disclosure? Normally the arrival of proof-of-concept illustrates weaknesses that might subsequently by used by hackers for more malign purposes. In this case, however, the attack approach is not especially successful in slowing down systems to a crawl much less as a means to infect vulnerable machines with hostile code. This is a denial of service only risk and the real interest (except to people interested in revisiting the long-running debate about the responsible disclosure of security bugs) is that it is based on an unpatched vulnerability. Winny Thomas of Nevis Labs in India, the security researcher who developed the proof-of-concept code, readily concedes the Windows RPC memory allocation remote denial of service exploit he highlights is only a moderate risk. Microsoft is yet to develop a security fix. It criticises Thomas of publicising details of the flaw through FrSIRT, a full disclosure web site, instead of submitting it to Microsoft directly first. ®
There is a fine old country saying - often to be heard emanating from old boys leaning thoughtfully on farm gates - that rats are rats, pigeons are rats with wings, and squirrels are rats with good PR. Indeed, the non-native grey squirrel has long been a source of delight to innocent kiddies who ply the tree vermin with peanuts in London's leafy green spaces while indulgent parents encourage their offspring to get closer to the UK's fauna. Not for much longer. The next time you see a grey squirrel in one of the Capital's parks it will most likely been running from a bloke with a rifle hell-bent on turning it into Rind-Crusted Fried Squirrel with Molasses Red-Eye Gravy. That's if Tufty from Death to Grey Squirrels! gets his way. The anonymous resident of Stroud Green in North London has launched a campaign to rid our shores of the imported squirrel menace by any means necessary. Tufty explains: Have you ever loaded up the bird table with winter treats for your garden birds, only to find it stripped down to the last nut and sunflower seed a few hours later? Did you recently spend all afternoon digging in crocus bulbs, then wake up in the morning to find your garden borders looking like the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme? Did you once put up a bird nesting box and watch a family of tits settle in, only to find that just at hatching time a massacre had taken place? Yes, we've all been there. Action, it's clear, is urgently required. Tufty asks: Do squirrels have any natural predators? Yes - you! This site is dedicated to how to become a squirrel predator. What is the best way to make your garden or country estate a grey squirrel-free zone? Let us know. Squirrel recipes, squirrel traps, anti-squirrel measures, individual squirrel deterrents- let's hear them all. That's the kind of fighting talk we like to hear, although the RSPCA is rather less keen. It told This is Local London: "The RSPCA is opposed to the taking and killing of wild animals, and the infliction of any suffering upon them. To find long-term solutions to pest control, it is important to determine why the animals are attracted to the area such as for food or shelter and wherever possible, remove these attractants." In short - cut down every tree in Britain and concrete the resulting space over. No, we're with Tufty on this one. He explains: "It's a challenge. I have tried squirrel-resistant feeders, placing wire mesh around the bird table, hanging bird feeders on washing lines, fixing the seed tray to the top of a 12-foot greased pole and drenching everything with commercial anti-squirrel red pepper spray all to no avail. The squirrels are obviously much smarter than we are. They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. Not so for squirrels." In fact, Tufty should consider himself lucky that his local squirrel population has not yet developed a penchant for crack cocaine - as recently reported from Brixton, South London. When it does, it'll be more than tits and crocuses our vigilante will be fighting to protect as hoards of drug-crazed tree rats turn Stroud Green into a blood-spattered warzone. Time to lock'n'load and pull on the combats, we think. ®
Apple's iTunes Music Store has a larger share of the UK digital music download market than the rest of its competitors put together, recently published figures from London-based researcher Xtn Data reveal. Xtn's research, based on a late September survey of more than 1,000 British consumers who buy music online and offline, puts ITMS' UK market share at 54 per cent. Its nearest rival, Napster, has just ten per cent of the market. British company Wippit, one of the longest running providers of legal music downloads in the UK, comes in at number three, with an eight per cent market share.
ReviewReview Low-cost GPS satellite navigation systems have largely kept the European PDA market afloat for the past few years. Connecting a cheap GPS receiver to a Palm OS or Windows Mobile-based handheld and bundling some route-planning code has proved a popular, inexpensive alternative to high-end, high-price dedicated navigation systems. But the market continues to evolve, and the focus is shifting once again to dedicated, but still low-cost units. Take BlueMedia's BM-6380. It's essentially the same hardware as a PocketPC but with the PDA features stripped out and replaced with a more basic, navigation-centric user interface and control cluster. It may not have Windows Mobile, but it's still a Windows CE device. UK and Ireland street maps are pre-installed on the bundled SD card.
TDC could be about to become the latest operator to be snapped up after a group of businesses offered almost $11.5bn (£6.7bn) for the Danish telco. The FT reports that a group comprising Apax, Blackstone, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Permira and Providence have all chipped in to make the bid although a rival group of investors is also understood to be preparing a bid too. Speculation that TDC could be the target of a takeover has been circulating for some time now. In April the operator was linked to an approach by UK telco Colt and an un-named international group of investors. TDC is active in central and northern Europe with operations in Sweden, Austria and the Middle East, among others. A year ago TDC - previously Tele Danmark - announced it was buying Swedish IP and business telecoms outfit Song for $552m. Song provides businesses with IP and data services, and operates in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. In the UK, it is behind no-frills discount cellco easyMobile which has recently expanded its operation into The Netherlands and Germany. ®
Episode 31Episode 31 It's that time in the early morning when mistakes are made - mistakes outside of still being at a lock-in in a darkened pub in Soho. Every decision counts and you know that you can't afford to take time off to smell the roses. More importantly, you can't take time to go to the bog - even if your bladder feels like its the size of a medicine ball and filled with hot gravel - because that would be your biggest mistake...
The endangered Patagonian toothfish is getting a helping hand from Envisat, one of Europe's research satellites. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), a radar monitoring scheme using data from Envisat and Radarsat-1 has reduced the illegal fishing in one region by around 90 per cent. Envisat is a polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite, launched to gather data on the atmosphere, ocean, land, and ice. Now, it is also being use to keep track of fishing vessels in the vicinity of the endangered fish, helping to keep it safe from pirate vessels. The Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean seabass, was discovered 25 years ago by Antarctic researchers. Since then it has been fished almost to extinction. This is partly because it is such a long-lived fish, and takes around 10 years to mature sexually, so any over fishing has a huge impact on the population. Restrictions have been placed on how much can be fished, but according to the BBC, some 100,000 tonnes are still taken from the sea illegally every year. ESA puts this figure at around 26,000. Legal quotas total around 10,500 tonnes annually. But with the fish fetching as much as $1,000 each (according to the NYT), the motive for piracy is quite clear. The project is part of France's attempt to limit illegal fishing in its territories off the coast of Réunion Island. Patagonian toothfish earns Réunion Island between €40m and €60m each year, an income the region can ill-afford to lose to piracy. France maintains an economic exclusion zone around Réunion Island, in which only French ships are allowed to fish, but the area is too large to be effectively policed from the sea. Legal boats should all carry an Argos satellite transmitter, which allows them to identify themselves, and also shows their location. Envisat tracks all vessel activity in the area and this data is cross referenced with the Argos data to rule out legitimate vessels. Any other vessels in the area can be investigated further by French marine patrols. Indeed, shortly after the system went live in 2004, French authorities intercepted a vessel, the Apache, carrying 60 tonnes of illegally fished Patagonian toothfish. Philippe Schwab, technical director of CLS, a subsidiary of the French space agency CNES, said that the system seemed to be working well as a deterrent. He commented: "Today, illegal fishing [in this region] has almost disappeared. It seems that the unscrupulous fishermen have understood the efficiency of the system." It is not clear whether there has been an overall reduction in piracy or whether the illegal fishing has merely moved to a less watched region. ®
A further six people linked to the trade in stolen personal information and credit card details via the notorious Shadowcrew web site pleaded guilty on Thursday. The six are among 28 people charged last year following an undercover investigation, codenamed Operation Firewall, mounted by the US Secret Service against Shadowcrew.com, a members-only underground web site that became an online marketplace for credit card fraudsters and counterfeit identification document forgers. The group of six pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud in New Jersey on Thursday in exchange for the state dropping other charges pending against them, Wired reports. They were named as: Andrew Mantovani, 23, and Brandon Monchamp, 22, of Arizona; Kim Taylor, 47, and Omar Dhanani, 22, of California; Jeremy Stephens, 31, of North Carolina; and Jeremy Zielinski, 22, of Florida. In total, 12 people have now pleaded guilty to Shadowcrew-related charges. Shadowcrew members allegedly trafficked in at least 1.7m stolen credit card numbers and caused total losses in excess of $4m. Victims of this carding activity included banks and credit card companies, who bore the brunt of losses, as well as consumers whose identities and credit histories were damaged by identity theft. Mantovani, suspected of co-founding Shadowcrew.com, also pleaded guilty to a second charge of trafficking in stolen identity information involving the sale of address and birth dates associated with 18m email accounts. This data made it easier for Mantovani and other fraudsters to run more powerful phishing scams. Credit and debit card details, once secured through these phishing scams, were used to fraudulently buy goods which were subsequently laundered through online auction sites. Shadowcrew members are expected to be sentenced between mid-February and mid-March 2006. ®
InTechnology, the storage distie and computer services group, is whacking overheads following a whopping operating loss of £13m for the six months ended 30 September. The Leeds-based company blames pricing pressure in its UK storage wholesale business for the loss - revenues in the division were 10 per cent down on the same period last year. The company has completed restructuring for the UK storage division, axing 42 jobs and reducing office space. It is embarking on the same process in its Continental Europe distribution subs and the aggregate cuts costs by £6m a year and return the business to profitability. It has taken a restructuring charge of £4.2m in these results and is also recording an asset impairment charge of £6.4m to account for the longer-than-expected turnaround time for its five Continental European subs. On the upside the company's managed services business is now in the black, making a profits contribution of £500K in H1 (H1 2004: -£1.7m). ® InTechnology statement
Testimony from US ISP Earthlink has led to a one-year prison sentence for a notorious timeshare spammer. Peter Moshou was also ordered to pay $120,000 in compensation this week following his June conviction for violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. Moshou's criminal prosecution was among the first under US anti-spam legislation. Moshou was charged with sending millions of spam emails in 2004 and 2005 seeking personal information by offering brokerage services for people interested in selling their timeshares after Earthlink sued him in January. EarthLink's lawsuit charged Moshou with CAN-SPAM violations including spoofing sender identities, using deceptive subject lines and failing to provide an electronic unsubscribe option. Separately, EarthLink announced on Thursday that it secured a $15.4m court order last month against a man implicated in the distribution of hundreds of thousands of unsolicited emails advertising discount ink jet printer cartridges and other printer supplies. Like other such judgments it would seem unlikely that Craig Brockwell and his company, BC Alliance, will ever be able to pay up but the ruling does place an injunction against Brockwell preventing him from illegally spamming any internet user, regardless of the user's ISP. ®
EasyGroup is facing yet another court case after being sued by Swiss luxury goods outfit Richemont. The company, headed by entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, is already being sued by France Telecom's mobile division Orange over easyGroup's use of the colour "orange". Now it seems Richemont - the posh company behind brands including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Montblanc - has got the hump with Stelios' online watch business, easyWatch, suing it for naming one of its range of watches after the Italian port of Portofino. "In July Richemont told easyWatch to stop using its 'Portofino' trademark and to stop selling counterfeit watches," said easyGroup in a statement today. But easyGroup maintains that it is not breaching any trademarks and rejected claims that its own watches - which sell for between £10 and £20 each - are "counterfeit". easyWatch has been summoned to appear in court in The Netherlands next Wednesday (November 23). No one from Richemont was available for comment at the time of writing. However, in a statement Stelios said: "If anyone at all could confuse an easyWatch with a Richemont watch then I should be charging $2,500 for an easyWatch instead of £9.95. "I have now recently twice been sued by big, bullying companies that are worried about a smaller player in their industry offering consumers lower prices. Neither Richemont nor France Telecom have anyone's interests at heart but their own, all they want to do is to protect their ability to charge a fortune." In May, easyGroup threatened legal action against a Welsh business which had been trading as easymobile since 2003 - some two years before the launch of Stelios' no-frills cellco business easyMobile.com.®
LettersLetters Sony messing around with DRM software has probably been the biggest topic for discussion this week. (Can everyone say "Rootkit"?) Once we got over the initial shock of the scheme, everyone seemed to be enjoying dissecting the bits they deemed most odious, or speculating about the origins of the idea itself. For example: The part that baffles me is: ...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" It's malicious for a program to use an OS hook to hide an entire class of processes from user view, but perfectly alright for the OS to have that ability, let alone have a hook for it available at the user level? How is it that Microsoft believe they are in the sinned-against camp? Matthew Given all the chaos Sony is now directly blamed for in the past few weeks, I guess we now know what the BOFH did on his vacation... Alex Mr. Cullen, This entire episode completely sickens me. In 1967, I took the money I received from graduation from grammar school to buy a Sony 720U B&W TV. I STILL have it. It STILL works. I have purchased , over the years, 12 Sony Electronics components, from tiny radios, to all kinds of walkmen, top end stereo components, and big TVs. If I had to use one word to describe Sony, and their behavior towards consumers it would be "Honorable". Always. And almost every person I know says the same. I hate to say it, but this only started after Sony started letting Americans "be the boss" in their corporations. I think that Mr. Masuru Ibuka and Mr. Akio Morita would not like what their 'child' has turned into. It is a shame. Jim The problem is, because it was released on mass market CDs, this stuff is going to be around for ever. Ordinary viruses and malwares just die, but this one, having been put out on huge numbers of CDs by a mass market supplier, will have a really really long life. I guess the law suits will be around for ever, too. You could get infected in ten years time, and still have the right to sue. What a mess. Al And then, news trickled out that Sony's now-very-popular root-kit-esque DRM stuff has a wee copyright problem of its own... Laugh? I nearly needed a change of clothes. You couldn't write this as fiction - no one would believe it was credible. I can only describe this as "Irony in its most ferrous form" Rob Also this week, former MI5 boss Stella Rimington dismisses ID cards as being as useful as chocolate fireguards (not her exact words, of course), while the Lords voted the bill down. This prompted some political musings on the other side of the Atlantic: Why in the hell haven't you got rid of that damn Blair, geez, wasn't he the dork that started to mess over your system of government by doing away with the house of lords? Yes, I know, we have this needledick Bush over here in the US, but we have an excuse, we are the new cargo-cultists of the new religious order. It's the British Empire for god's sake, don't you people know how to tie a hangman's noose? John Answers on a postcard... Students don't want to study computing anymore because all the jobs are being offshored. Shocker, that. Humanities courses are picking up the otherwise would-have-been-geeks, but you had your own theories about why that might be: Of course humanities courses also have the cutest chicks. All geeks rue their choice on arriving at university and wish that they had chosen to study English, French or Spanish. What American Universities need to do is get a good trashy marketing department that puts babes in bikinis draped over their servers. See the enrolment climb. Chris Absolutely right. Why should young people oblige the corporate world with investing an important amount of their time and money studying engineering? They will be expected to work very long, unpaid, hours working on a project that is always critically understaffed doing the job of two, preferably three people on ever tighter deadlines. There will not be budgets for the most mundane pieces of equipment while sales, marketing and finance always seem to find funds for the latest and the greatest kit. On top of that, they will be expected to oblige the customer, who does not have clue one about what their doing, with every silly request they care to come up with. And in the end, yes indeed, they will hear that unfortunately economic forces [the shareholders want to make that extra 1 cent on the dollar and the C ranks have to earn their bonuses and stock options] require the department to be outsourced. Only the outsourcing isn't actually that cost-effective, with the remaining engineers correcting the work the slaves in NameYourCountry haven't done quite to the required spec, adding again to the workload. Studying engineering is a favor to the corporate world which you will be repaid for in excessive stress, an ulcer, a divorce, a flat career and serving as a prime candidate for outsourcing when strategic considerations [not even economic ones] decide it's time for you to go. You are under no obligation to do the corporate world this favor. Do something you'll enjoy doing instead. Jorge "Media Hype"? What Hype? Companies are moving their software development offshore. Only they call it globalization. Name a fortune 500 company that doesn't use offshore labor.... While this trend is real, this shouldn't discourage people from studying Comp Sci / Software Engineering. Going "offshore" reduces the quality of the software. Yeah you can get cheap labor, but the quality of the goods is also inferior. Of course, a good engineering background is great for other fields like medicine and law. But hey, what do I know? I'm just a pseudonym.... ;-) -Gumby Naughty people will find a way to cheat nick stuff, given half a chance. The new trick, buy something online, have it delivered, deny all knowledge of the purchase: Welcome to the 20th century. This scam has been perpetrated ever since US law forced credit card companies to void fraudulent charges. You don't need the internet to do this. I could drive to the nearest large city tomorrow, buy a 42" Plasma screen, and call the card in as stolen the next day. The 'net just makes it *slightly* easier. If the dollar amount is high enough (say a 42" plasma screen), then an investigation is undertook, but if it's a small amount (say $150) then the retailer just has to eat it. Stephen The world (well, England) has too many grey squirrels, according to a new website. Well, some of you are more worried about other wildlife, but the consensus seems to be that taking pot shots at the rats-with-good-PR has made it on to your list of things to do this weekend: Squirrels!!!!! Squirrels should be the least of his problems. Just be glad he's not dealing with bears. That's right bears, attacking bird feeders are a much bigger problem and should be dealt with accordingly. By the way, I do have proof. M. Johnson Someone make sure all the sharp objects are taken away from Mr. Johnson, please? There was an piece on Gordon Ramseys FWord last night about exterminating the grey squirrel in order to save wonderful red 'squirrel nutkin'. The guy presenting it (not ramsey.. some other t*sser) had another chef cook him up some squirrel which he then took much delight in eating, he also went out on the street with some and asked passers by to taste it, i think the outcome was it tasted like a cross between pork and chicken. The most important part of the piece was when the guy stated the law on killing squirrels... basically, if your the landowner or you have the land owners permission you are allowed to snipe squirrels with no repercussions (there might be some bit about them actually being pests but what court would convict eh?!)... you have to do it cleanly tho folks, so we only want to see head shots... no letting those little fsckers bleed to death on the wire! cheers Eddy Have you seen those assault courses people build for squirrels? Slowly, one by one you add obstacles. Rope traverses, see-saws, hatches and doors and so on. What you do is you build one, you train the squirrels, and then just when they're getting cocky you booby trap it. Cut the rope traverses and reconnect them with a thin piece of thread, while spiking the ground underneath. Attach a guillotine blade to the doors. Hinge the end of the see-saw so it tips the squirrel onto spikes just when it thinks it is across. And so on. The other alternative is a bird feeder that only squirrels can get into, and then poison the seed. But that's too boring. Alistair Thanks for the read on the squirrel genocide! Amusing and we need that. I shared my tip with them for using a Havahart trap. Squirrels liked my attic and now, they live elsewhere. George In light of the recent animal updising against humanity, it think it would be useful if El Reg would create a new public service of the Most Wanted Animal Species. The site would list all animals that pose a great threat to humanity and enable various defence groups around the globe to better combat these terrible threats. For squirrels, I would recommend jumping out from behind a tree and shouting "Boo!" loudly while lunging towards them. They'll drop their nuts and scamper away, never to be seen again. The site could also offer rehabilitation services to animals that want to get back on the right side of the law or reintegrate with society, such as drunken moose or smoking chimps. Of course, any animal failing the rehabilitation problem would have to visit Steve Ballmer wearing a "Google Rocks!" T-Shirt. Regards, Guy We have the same problem in the US, although in my region it's more the red squirrels, not grey. My sister used to have this habit of tossing peanuts out for the squirrels to eat; she thought it was "cute"... That is, until one evening she left the bag of peanuts by her sliding door when she and her friend went out for the evening.. Given that it was summertime and she lived on the 3rd floor of an apartment building, she had left the glass slider open and only had the screen closed. Along comes Mr. Squirrel, sees the bag of nuts, breaks into the apartment by chewing through the screen, eats half the bag, then runs and hides in the closet. I got called in for Emergency Squirrel Removal, made all the easier with an Airsoft gun. My solution to the squirrel problem? The writer of the site mentioned hanging a bird feeder from a clothesline.. My solution falls similar, but is much more effective: Take an ordinary extension cord, say, 50ft in length. Strip bits of insulation off the wire so there are bare spots staggered between the two wires, but never next to each other. Suspend said bird feeder from wire, and if you see a squirrel tight-roping the wire, plug 'er in! 115v is pretty effective in the US; I'm sure the UK's 220v would do the job that much more efficiently. Aeryck And now a new, and semi-regular feature: weird letter of the week. We get a lot of these, but for some reason our poor security correspondent John Leyden seems to get more than his fair share. The following is a classic example: hey do u think uk can get me into a porno? weirdo_dork The only response poor John could muster, looking baffled as he spoke, was: "Who does he think I am? Hugh Hefner?". Well, quite. Just to clarify: there is no casting couch at Vulture Central. We are reporters, not porn agents, honest. However, the idea will almost certainly have provoked the boys in the strategy boutique to carry out a SWOT analysis and some swift consumer research to see if we could make any money out of it. Enjoy the weekend. ®
Hackers are on target to release more than 6,000 keystroke loggers in 2005, a 65 per cent increase from the 3,753 keyloggers released last year, according to security intelligence outfit iDefense. Five years ago iDefense (which was recently acquired by net infrastructure firm VeriSign) recorded only 300 such programs, demonstrating a huge growth in a strain of malware that has become a favourite with cybercriminals as a preferred tool to plunder online banking accounts. A keylogger is a form of malware program that install itself surreptitiously, records keystrokes made on the infected computer and sends this data to hackers. Once a keylogging program is activated, it provides fraudsters with any strings of text a person might enter online, placing personal data and online account information at risk. Largely distributed by organised cyber theft groups, keyloggers are typically packaged with phishing emails or spyware programs. Using account information to impersonate victims, hackers run up charges averaging $3,968 per victim, according to a recent survey by US insurance firm Nationwide Mutual. Sixteen percent of victims were required to pay for at least some of this fraud, and spent an average of 81 hours to resolve their cases, the Nationwide Mutual survey reports. ®
Macrovision's failure to deliver iPod compatibility appears to have got major music company EMI into a little hot water with Apple. EMI is using Macrovision's anti-rip CD system, and this week told the world: "Apple is nearly finished with the technical work necessary to enable consumers to transfer music from content-protected discs to their iPods... music consumers will soon be able to legitimately port music from protected discs they own to the iPod." Such moves apparently came as something of a surprise to Apple, which immediately told Cnet: "The information EMI provided regarding iTunes and iPod compatibility with Macrovision's technology is not true and we have no idea why EMI made this statement."
Stern responseStern response I have faced the giant and won. That much is clear from your letters related to my incisive analysis last week, exploring Google's ills.
Cisco has agreed to plunk down a whopping $6.9bn for Scientific-Atlanta, hoping to take a major share of the set-top-box market and push video efforts. The networking giant will pay $43 per share in cash for Scientific-Atlanta ($5.3bn) and swallow $1.6bn in debt. With the buy, Cisco acquires one of the more dominant set-top-box makers. In addition, it pushes well beyond the data center to touch consumers where they live. "Video is emerging as the key strategic application in the service provider triple play bundle of consumer entertainment, communication and online services," said John Chambers, CEO at Cisco. "The combination of Cisco and Scientific-Atlanta brings unmatched experience and innovation in delivering large scale video systems and networks, and the addition of Scientific-Atlanta further extends Cisco's commitment to and leadership in the service provider market." With its previous Linksys acquisition, Cisco found one route to the consumer. This purchase, however, provides a more direct avenue for delivering content and services to the home. Cisco plans to turn Scientific-Atlanta into a division of its Routing and Service Provider Technology Group. Scientific-Atlanta has 7,500 employees and reported revenue of $1.9bn in fiscal 2005. Cisco expects the deal to close in its third fiscal quarter of 2006, pending standard approvals. ®
SC05SC05 Mercury Computer Systems – the leading Cell-based server maker – has started showing off a new "Turismo" design that promises to pack an incredible amount of compute power in a small space. Mercury had pictures of the Turismo system on display this week at the Supercomputing event here in Seattle. The rectangular box can supply up to 800 GigaFLOPS of horsepower in a 600 cubic-inch system. Four of the boxes can be combined to create a 5U system that cranks out 3.2 TeraFLOPs. A six-foot rack of the boxes would produce 25 TeraFLOPs. Mercury's CTO Craig Lund was happy to pat the company on the back for this achievement. "The amount of processing that Turismo is designed to provide in such a small footprint is simply astounding," he said. "We expect that our new Cell processor-based offering will truly make a difference for many customers in solving problems that require this caliber of performance density in an affordable solution." Representatives at the Mercury booth were cagey about Turismo details. "NDA, NDA, NDA," they said, as we recoiled. Even the Turismo artwork was light on information being nothing more than a picture of a rectangle with words like "powerful" and "super" around it. Mercury has been hyping a Cell-based blade server for some time. Trial systems are in customer's hands and volume shipments will start early next year. It fits into IBM's BladeCenter chassis, and seven of the dual-Cell blades slot into 7U box. Mercury has taken the clear lead in Cell server marketing and stands as the major hardware backer to date of IBM, Sony and Toshiba's multicore chip. The Turismo system will hold four Cell BE (Broadband Engine) processors, have dual 4X InfiniBand support and "multiple" Gigabit Ethernet ports. The system will also run Yellow Dog Linux. Customers, however, will have to wait awhile for Turismo to arrive. It should be around in limited quantities in the third quarter of 2006 with volume production in early 2007. Until then, it's blades only. ®