5th > January > 2006 Archive

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Microsoft begs for Windows Vista feedback

Microsoft is talking up a simplified mechanism for providing feedback on the company's planned Windows Vista operating system, due later this year. Hours before Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates was due to evangelize Windows Vista during a keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Microsoft publicized a web form inviting beta tester feedback on Vista. Microsoft is encouraging Windows Vista beta testers to bookmark the link, pass it onto friends and complete an entry as many times as they want. According to one online link, Microsoft is using "very, very cool technology" on the back-end to summarize feedback, and it is publicizing the link just to let beta testers evaluating Windows Vista know that the service is there. So, go on. Have a go. Tell Microsoft what you really think of Windows Vista. Microsoft is listening.®
Gavin Clarke, 05 Jan 2006

HP benches iTunes and promotes Real's Rhapsody

CESCES HP's career as an Apple reseller has come to an end. The computer maker is expected to announce that it has dropped iTunes as the main music software on its PC and picked up the Rhapsody service from Real Networks as a replacement. This move follows HP's July decision to stop selling rebadged iPods. Rhapsody will become the default music service on HP's vast computer line. In this position, it will enjoy an icon of its very own on the HP desktop. Customers will also be offered a one-month free trial to Rhapsody, which is a music rental service similar to that offered by the struggling Napster and Yahoo!.
Ashlee Vance, 05 Jan 2006

Lampposts wired for Wi-Fi

Boffins in Scotland are wiring up lampposts with solar panels and Wi-Fi technology to provide renewable street lighting and solar powered wireless broadband. The pilot project at the University of Abertay in Dundee is based on technology developed for disaster recovery services in the Third World. If successful, those behind the StarSight scheme say it would provide a free energy source to light Britain's streets, with any excess energy generated resold to the national grid. With a wireless broadband box bolted on it could also be a way to supply high speed broadband services to homes and businesses. Said Calum McRae, head of Fife-based Compliance Technology, which is working with the university to trial the scheme: "The new photovoltaic technology, which will be showcased in Dundee, will mean that no local community needs to be without reliable, economic street lighting with the added benefit of Wi-Fi technology outside their front doors." ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2006

McAfee and Applix agree SEC settlement terms

McAfee is coughing up $50m and establishing an ethics "hotline" for customers and partners to report suspicious behavior by the company, following a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation. The SEC investigation, begun in 2002, accused the security vendor of inflating net revenue by $622m between 1998 and 2000. Under the settlement McAfee has promised not to violate future provisions of the US securities laws, without admitting or denying any wrongdoing. Securities regulators have also settled a separate action against Applix, which began in 2003. The business performance management and business intelligence (BI) vendor has, also without admitting or denying the SEC's findings, agreed to comply with future federal securities laws and appoint a consultant who will assist in reviewing Applix's compliance procedures. The SEC had alleged Applix improperly recognized revenue in two transactions, with the company forced to re-state earnings in 2001 and 2002. Both settlements were accompanied with an SEC announcement of new guidelines to help assess fines imposed on traded companies that breach trading regulations. Penalties will be principally assessed according to how far the business gained from a securities violation and the degree to which the fine will cause further harm to shareholders. Additional guidelines will also measure the extent of injury to innocent parties and whether the violating is widespread throughout the corporation. ®
Gavin Clarke, 05 Jan 2006
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Gates makes case for Windows in consumer world

CESCES Bill Gates headed a Microsoft executive line-up before the consumer and entertainment industries on Wednesday to make the case for adopting Windows in new devices and services rather than software from rivals. Opening the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Gates and co. outlined advances in graphics and search for the planned Windows Vista client operating system for gamers, music and photography enthusiasts.
Gavin Clarke, 05 Jan 2006
homeless man with sign

Oracle Raptor takes bite out of complexity

Oracle is a step closer to launching its planned graphical programming environment, designed to simplify development of database tasks. The company has published an early release of Project Raptor, which enables software developers to browse database objects, run SQL statements and SQL scripts, and edit and debut PL/SQL statements using a set of graphical tools Unveiled last fall, Project Raptor is due for release on Windows and Linux in early 2006. A version for Mac is also in the works. Project Raptor is designed to improve developers' productivity and simplify the development of every-day database tasks. As such, Project Raptor connects to databases through the industry based Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) API. Project Raptor fits into a trend among Java tools and platform vendors of introducing graphical tools that mask the complexity of building enterprise systems in Java. Many are borrowing from a style of development pioneered by Microsoft in its Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE) for Windows. However, Project Raptor appears to work in Oracle environments only, connecting to Oracle Database 9.0.2.1 or higher and is based on Oracle's JDeveloper IDE. ®
Gavin Clarke, 05 Jan 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Windows beats Linux - Unix on vulnerabilities - CERT

It might not feel like it, but Windows suffered fewer security vulnerabilities than Linux and Unix during 2005. Linux and Unix experienced more than three times as many reported security vulnerabilities than Windows, according to the mighty US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) annual year-end security index. Windows experienced 812 reported operating system vulnerabilities for the period between January and December 2005, compared to 2,328 for Linux and Unix. CERT found more than 500 multiple vendor vulnerabilities in Linux and Unix spanning old favorites such as denial of service and buffer overflows, while CERT recorded 88 Windows-specific holes and 44 in Internet Explorer (IE). For a complete list of vulnerabilities, you can visit the CERT site here. The annual poll does not include the Windows MetaFile (WMF) vulnerability, which has become the most widely reported attack on Windows according to security and antivirus specialist McAfee since being reported on December 28. News of Windows' relative security will prove little comfort to millions of computer users now bracing for the latest attack of the Sober worm variant due this week. CERT's data underlines the scale of the challenge faced by Microsoft on security, four years into the company's highly publicized Trusted Computing initiative. Despite posting fewer vulnerabilities than its Unix and Linux challengers and Microsoft going out its way to talk up its "progress" in security in 2005, it is attacks on Windows that still cause more concern and generate most headlines. The reason is that, unlike Linux, Windows has greater potential to cause harm because of its presence on desktops in the hands of users who receive self-propagating worms, click on email attachments and download malicious code. And while it seems just as each hole is fixed, a new vulnerability is unlocked elsewhere in the vast Windows code base.®
Gavin Clarke, 05 Jan 2006

Phone scams top list of UK cons

Phone scams that promise punters non existent prizes are the UK's number one con, according to a survey by consumer group Which?. A third of adults say they've received an automated call offering them the chance to claim a cash prize or holiday, while two million grown-ups have called a premium rate phone line charged at up to £1.50 a minute to try and claim their "prize". Said Malcolm Coles, editor of Which?: "The con artists who run these scams are experts in fooling people into parting with their money. Unfortunately, it's rare to get something for nothing - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." In a bid to try and crack down on premium rate scams new legislation has just been introduced that sees the maximum fine for offenders increased from £100,000 to £250,000. Speaking just before Christmas the head of regulator ICSTIS, George Kidd, said: "Our current fine limit of £100,000 is no longer sufficient to deal with the worst services we see. "A new fine limit, combined with the other proposals in the Ofcom review to strengthen consumer protection, should ensure that the relatively small number of rogues out there do not continue to damage trust and confidence in the entire premium rate industry." Elsewhere, the Which? survey also described the internet as a "breeding ground for scams". Its survey found that one of the most common cons is the so-called "Nigerian 419" email scam which offers to pay out huge wads of cash in return for an up-front fee, absolute secrecy and a foreign bank account number. It goes without saying that punters never receive their cash. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2006

Sex chat doctor struck off

The 42-year-old doctor who posed as a teenage girl and used this false identity to chat online with 26 genuine teenage girls using "indecent language about sex and underwear" was yesterday struck off by a General Medical Council fitness-to-practise panel. Thomas Dent - a GP and director at the National Institute for Clinical Excellence - "accessed porn websites and swapped photos with youngsters while talking to them in chatrooms about masturbation and orgasms", as we reported yesterday. Dent was arrested in May 2004 by a special constable who happened to sit next to him on a train while he used his laptop to pose as "Katie Beckinsale" and was spotted "looking at a picture of a teenage girl". He avoided criminal prosection for grooming children, but received a five-year risk of sexual harm order and a civil order. The GMC ruled Dent unfit to practice. He said: "I'm ashamed of what I did." ®
Lester Haines, 05 Jan 2006
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Zero-day holiday

A few hundred million Windows XP machines lay vulnerable on the web today, a week after a zero-day exploit was discovered. Meanwhile, new approaches and ideas from the academic world - that focus exclusively on children - may give us hope for the future after all.
Kelly Martin, 05 Jan 2006

Science cans stem cell paper

The journal Science yesterday announced it would take the highly unusual step of retracting a paper written by disgraced stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk and colleagues as the scandal surrounding Hwang's suspect study on tailored embryonic stem cells refuses to lie down. According to Reuters, Science has got permission from everyone named on the May 2005 paper to retract the document. The journal said in a statement: "To ensure that the wording of the retraction reflects the final conclusions of the Seoul National University (SNU) investigation, Science will finalize the retraction text and proceed with the final steps of the retraction process only after the SNU investigation is completed next week. "Science hopes this approach will yield a retraction that will convey accurately as much information as possible to the scientific community." The said SNU investigation has already concluded that none of Hwang's work - as published in Science - could be proved, and is now deciding whether or not he succeeded in producing the world's first cloned dog in April 2005. To add to Hwang's woes, MBC TV reported two days ago that he had allegedly "coerced" female colleagues into providing eggs for cloning research. ® Bootnote Thanks to those readers who wrote in to note that the "coercion" story actually broke back in November 2005, as our report into the matter indeed proves. The allegations predate that by two years but were picked up by Nature and quickly provoked Hwang's exit as Chairman of the World Stem Cell Hub. However, the Seoul University Ethics panel stated that there was "no illegality or ethic breach" in Hwang's actions.
Lester Haines, 05 Jan 2006

TomTom offers compensation over service outage

TomTom - the satellite navigation service - is offering its punters free traffic updates after its service was interrupted last month. The service interruption, which TomTom blames on problems with its ISP, follows similar problems in September, originally blamed on a server migration falling behind schedule. Both glitches affected TomTom's website and its TomTom Plus traffic update service. The company declined to say how many of its customers had been hit by the snags but issued a statement this week in response to questions from The Register. It said: "TomTom`s ISP experienced two problems on their network causing the TomTom websites and the TomTom Plus services to be slow or even at some point inaccessible. This was in September and mid December. Although TomTom, in both cases, didn't hesitate to compensate all its users, TomTom truly regrets each and every problem and therefore measures have been taken to prevent these problems from happening in the future." ®
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2006
For Sale sign detail

Santa good to Fayrewood

Christmas trading matched expectations at Fayrewood, the pan-European distributor reported this week. A brief note to the City today, where it is listed on the Alternative Investment Market, bragged that it "experienced the anticipated strong sales across the group in the final quarter of 2005". Total dividends for 2005 will be double those given in 2004, at 1.5p. Its role as a wholesaler of computer equipment to retailers in France and Spain may have done the most to keep the firm feeling festive this year. Prelimary results due in March.®
Mark Ballard, 05 Jan 2006

The outsourcing commandments

CommentComment Sure it’s all the rage, but is the outsourcing of web and software application development all that it’s cracked up to be? Outsourcing is a subject of wonder, disdain, and even ignorance. I have a fairly unique position in that I have been a promoter of technology/development outsourcing for more than eight years. Back during the rising internet bubble, I felt it was highway robbery that a developer or designer could charge $100, $200, or even $500 an hour for something that used to be done for an average wage. At the time I was living in the Czech Republic, and you could have had a Cisco CCNA engineer for a laughable rate. While enterprise-sized companies were not eager to jump on the bandwagon on a one-on-one basis, they did start turning to companies for unique projects, and eventually whole development streams. A company, even one on the other side of the world, has SLAs to be accounted for, people to phone and fax, and crucially, can be sued. Outsourcing, though, is not the panacea for cutting costs that people would have you believe. Thanks to overzealous CTOs and CIOs, development teams around the globe are being shuttered at a rapid rate. Entire divisions of development and support staff are being handed their pink slips AND being told to train their replacements. Are people paying too much attention to the bottom line? Back during the bubble, consultants and salesmen used to use the old FUD technique to sell their software and kit. And it worked, just look at Sun and Cisco, and to a certain degree the vast amount of unused or dark fiber in the US. Now is no different. Outsourcing has a very clear business proposition: dramatically lower your production costs and ramp up whole teams (and vice versa) at the drop of a hat. For the amount of money you pay, hell, do three projects/versions in one fell swoop. It almost sounds too good to be true. Which, of course, means it is. Yes, it is very nice that you are now paying $14 an hour for a Java developer. But what other costs are you incurring that you may not be able to quantify? Here are my tips and tricks for ensuring your offshore project goes smoothly. Outsourcing doesn’t mean your projects magically get delivered on time. Any pitfalls that come with your particular territory will only increase with outsourcing. An example of this is cutting-edge Java development. Remember all that testing time you needed last time? Well, double it. Always, always, always factor in the time zone of your offshore partner. Not only must they communicate with you 20 time zones ahead of them, but also any third-party hardware or software vendor as well. Before you realise it, minor problems could take days to resolve simply because of the time differences. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) - still the best way. This is by no means an insult to offshore vendors, but people often forget that English is not the world’s first language. Forget the flowery language and hyperbole, just stick to the facts. And do not let anyone from marketing in on the email chain. Skype Me! Personally, phone lines in India and Russia still have a long way to go. VOIP can really improve meeting interaction simply from the line quality. Remember, there are very, very clear cultural differences between you and your offshore vendor. And no, it does not make you or anyone racist to bring that sort of thing up. I once managed a project team in Beijing, and I had no idea, for weeks, that things were going terribly. Why? Because the Chinese find it rude to say no and don’t like disappointing you. Do you have a shit-hot project manager on your side? Do they? If not, forget it. Like in every other facet of business, solid communication is the key to success. Project transparency is key to this. You must have a partner that is willing to include you, warts and all, in all the project’s gory details. If you don’t want to be involved, then you should just quit now. Remember, to err is human, but to be ignorant is fatal. The quality of developers is improving all the time. But remember the old Dennis Miller quote: “All-you-can-eat shit is still shit.” Do not be afraid to request CVs from the developers who work on your projects. It's your money, after all. Do NOT be surprised if testing takes longer, and the actual days to deliver a project are more than it would have been had you delivered the project locally. Some people have the mistaken impression that a 100-day project onshore, translates into a 100-day project offshore. Your local teams understand you, your business, and your requirements. A team half the world away will take longer to get the same level of cohesion (if at all). Document like you are being the most anally retentive writer you’ve ever known. And once you're done, then document some more. Use screen shots, use cases and succinct and clear steps for everything. Connect early and often. Why not fly out for the kick-off meeting? Explain your business, your project, the pain points that drives this project. Demand demos, lots of them (or at least screenshots). In short, get involved. Don’t get me wrong, I'm a personal and professional proponent of outsourcing/offshoring. But running technology projects is hard enough without separating yourself from your team by 1,000s of miles. The pain comes from incorrect or unrealistic expectations from the customers, which can be compounded by an uncommunicative vendor. At the end of the day, offshoring works and works well when both parties strive to work like they are part of the same team.® Geoffrey McCaleb writes content management systems for a living. His blog lives here.
Geoffrey McCaleb, 05 Jan 2006

Are you an idiot? Click here

Well, it worked, because here you are. Now click here to discover how www.ClICkheREYouidIot.com (CHYI) is "harnessing the power of suggestion to better connect and converse with the consumer in today's diverse marketplace". Indeed, as CHYI CEO Mr Vaistte O'Tyme, discussing the news that from 5 January the CHYI website will start accepting online payments, explained: "An extended survey was conducted into the likely revenue generation from the voluntary model adopted here and it was conclusive in its findings that people may or may not use the website to complete transactions and make payment." Whether or not Mr O'Tyme is ultimately proved right is up to you. Proceeed directly to www.ClICkheREYouidIot.com. You know it makes sense. ®
Lester Haines, 05 Jan 2006

Yorkshire boasts blanket broadband

Every telephone exchange in Yorkshire has been wired up for broadband following the injection of £2.2m of public sector cash. Regional Development Agency (RDA) Yorkshire Forward confirmed that the last of 24 exchanges - at Ramsgill Dale in North Yorkshire - was enabled for broadband at the end of December. BT had originally said that upgrading these two dozen exchanges would not have been commercially viable. Following the investment, some 4,000 householders and 800 businesses are now served by telephone exchanges which offer access the same high-speed broadband services as the rest of the region. However, while Yorkshire can now boast that the whole county is wired for broadband, it also has some of the lowest take-up rates for high-speed net access in the UK. "This needs to be improved and, over the next few months, we will be doing everything we can to make it happen," said Jim Farmery, head of technology infrastructure at Yorkshire Forward. Yorkshire Forward announced in March 2005 that it would stump up £2.2m to broadband-enable 24 exchanges that BT had previously announced were not commercially viable. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2006
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Linksys wrestles with wireless webcam

Just a day after announcing that Ethernet power would drive all its wireless access points in future, Linksys unveiled a wireless webcam - which needs wires. The new Internet Video Camera, announced at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas this week, will ship in the spring, says Linksys. Unfortunately, although it's a big improvement on the original design, the new webcam still relies on a standard power brick.
Guy Kewney, 05 Jan 2006
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Spear phishers target eBay

Security researchers have uncovered a campaign of targeted spam messages that seek to defraud eBay sellers. Cybercrooks are targeting eBay sellers by sending forged auction inquires from what appears to be eBay's "Question from eBay Member" message portal, according to US-based security reseller Greenview Data, which markets the SpamStopsHere junk mail filtering service. The junk mail messages seek to dupe account holders into following a "Respond Now" link button in the email which directs users to a fraudulent eBay login screen. Once the seller has entered their login information, fraudsters "hijack" the seller's account and steal their identity. Unlike traditional phishing attacks in which millions of emails are sent indiscriminately, the latest eBay attacks are more targeted, a factor Greenview uses to justify describing the fraudulent messages as "spear phishing" attacks. Spear phishing refers to highly targeted and co-ordinated attacks at a specific organisation or individual designed to extract critical data. The term is generally used to apply to assaults that target employees in a specific company in an attempt to gain passwords and usernames to access confidential data rather than consumer attacks but whichever way you look at it targeted phishing attacks are on the rise. Consumers beware. "Just about anyone with an email account has undoubtedly seen an eBay phishing scam email at one time or another," said Ted Green, CEO of SpamStopsHere. "We are seeing an evolution in phishing and spear phishing attacks. The sophistication of attacks is constantly increasing. Cyber criminals are relentless in developing new and ingenious methods of monetary and identity theft. End user education is the best defense against spear phishing attacks." ®
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2006

West Midlands picks Avanti to fill broadband gaps

The West Midlands looks set to receive blanket broadband coverage from next summer following a dealwith broadband outfit Avanti. The West Midlands Networking Company (WMNC) - which is working on behalf of the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands - is paying Avanti £358,000 to install its wireless broadband network in rural areas that are not served by broadband-enabled telephone exchanges. AIM-listed Avanti reckons the deal could be worth around £1.2m over the lifetime of the five year deal, estimating that revenues from subscribers could add up to £155,000 a year. Two months ago WMNC signed a deal with BT to bring ADSL services to 45 areas in the Midlands and the South West of England. Despite this major investment there were still some rural areas that would not be covered by this injection of public sector funds. The deal with Avanti is designed to fill the gaps left from the BT deal. ®
Tim Richardson, 05 Jan 2006
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Florida spammer fined $11bn

A small Iowa-based ISP has been awarded $11.2bn (£6.5bn) in a record judgment against a Florida spammer. CIS Internet Services successfully sued James McCalla over claims he sent more than 280m illegal spam messages with fraudulent return addresses towards CIS accounts, punting mortgages, debt consolidation services, pornographic and gambling websites. The judgment by US District Judge Charles Wolle, issued in late December 2005, further bans McCalla from using the internet for three years. The lawsuit against McCalla was one of a series of lawsuits filed by CIS Internet Services owner Robert Kramer in 2003. Earlier rulings against other junk mail purveyors in Florida and Arizona have extracted fines in excess of $1bn, AP reports. Robert Kramer doesn't expect to receive any of this money but reckons the lawsuits were still worthwhile because they help put junk mail providers out of business. "Gross abusers of e-mail risk exposure to public ridicule as well as the economic death penalty," Kramer said in a statement on the McCalla case. ®
John Leyden, 05 Jan 2006

Nokia scores hit with wireless internet device

The world's largest mobile manufacturer Nokia looks to have scored a major hit with a new wireless device that doesn't have any phone functionality. The Finnish firm announced on Wednesday that, against its expectations, it is to increase production of its 770 Internet Tablet handheld after achieving huge online sales since its launch in early November. In fact, demand for the product in Europe and the US is so great that the company has currently run out of stock and customers are facing a minimum two-week wait for the device. The sleek, pocket-sized device is Nokia's first Linux-based terminal product and is dedicated to internet browsing and e-mail communications over Wi-Fi. The Tablet, which retails for EUR350, comes with a high-resolution widescreen display with zoom and on-screen keyboard, making it easy for users to view content online. The handheld also boasts a web browser with Flash player, e-mail client, internet radio, news reader, file manager and media players.
ElectricNews.net, 05 Jan 2006

Another day, another gadget buffet

CESCES Certified gadget obsessives Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny scour Gizmoville for the oddest digital goodies TV to go on your PSP coming to UK Sony’s CES presentation might have been high on gloss and short on content, but it did deliver some wonderful news for British PSP owners. Location Free TV – a very cool application for the handheld – is coming to the UK later in the year. Launched in the US in late 2005, Location Free TV enables PSP owners to watch remotely via Wi-Fi regardless of what is showing on their home TV. The system consists of a decoder box – which sells in the US for $350 – that plugs into any video device and a broadband connection. The box then takes the video output and streams it over the web to the PSP. So, you can hook it up to your Sky box and wirelessly stream a live football game across continents, if you wish. Sounds like another very cool reason to invest in a PSP. VoIP from any phone any time eBay may have shelled out a an awful lot of money for Skype, but if CES is anything to go by it was cash very well invested. VoIP is everywhere, and Skype is making deals with everyone. One really cool new gadget which may help to edge VoIP even closer to the mainstream is the VoSKY Call Center from Actiontec. Its big advantage over traditional Skype systems is that you don’t have to be anywhere near a PC to use it. In fact, you can use it to make free Skype calls remotely from any phone, including your mobile. The system revolves around a small device, the Call Center, which you connect to your PC and your phone jack. You can then use any phone anywhere (you don’t need Wi-Fi) to access the Call Center and make free Skype calls. It also has a facility to forward Skype calls to any number. So, in theory, you could receive Skype calls on your mobile. It sounds like a real innovation to us and we are further cheered by its cheapo price of just $69.95. Given that Actiontec has a reasonable presence in the UK, here’s hoping we get it soon. Media management for kids In the good old days, once Top Of The Pops was over your mum simply switched off the TV and sent you to bed. Now, however, kids need a Media Time Management System to ensure they don’t go all square eyed. The brainchild of a US start-up called Hopscotch Technology, the system revolves around a small box called B.O.B that is designed to limit the amount of time kids spend watching TV or playing computer games. The box allows parents to set a certain amount of time per week and, once their kids have reached that limit, it switches the set off. It works with a PIN system and parents can limit the viewing time by the day or the week. Anyway, the company is rolling the device out in the spring in the US. No news on a UK launch yet. JVC adds new hard disk cams As expected, JVC is adding to its line-up of Everio hard disk-based camcorders. At CES it has announced four new models: a pair of 20 Gigabyte cams, the GZ-MG21 and GZ-MG27, and two 30 Gigabyte models, the GZ-MG37 and GZ-MG77. The big innovation for this year is that all the camcorders can be teamed up with a DVD burner for direct footage transfer, even if the owner doesn’t have a PC. JVC has also upped the transfer speed. The top-end GZ-MG77 has a 1.9inch 2.3 mega pixel CDD, a 10x optical zoom lens and a 2.7inch monitor. The other three models have lower resolution 680k CCDs, but offer a more powerful 32x optical zoom. The 30 gig models can house between seven-37 hours of video storage with the 20 Giggers having 4.5-25 hours. All four models will be available in the US in February/March. There is, however, no sign of the promised HD-compatible Everio. Maybe that’ll follow later in the year. Sony also announced its first hard-disk cam at the show. 802.11g Wi-fi phone Wi-fi is a pretty standard feature on smartphones these days, but the HyFi-110G from WNC has a couple of key advantages over its rivals. Firstly, the clamshell-design handset is pretty small for a Wi-Fi-endowed phone – think Sharp/Toshiba-style mobiles. Secondly, it is the first mobile we are aware of to feature the faster version of Wi-Fi, 802.11g. This makes it particularly nifty for video streaming or transferring files over a home network. It could also find a niche in streaming IPTV (TV via the web). The phone – which is due in the first half of 2006 – also features email, voice recording and a USB charger. Talk time is three hours while the battery lasts 70 hours on standby. More rumours and gossip Bill Gates and Sky the new dream team Who will be first in the UK with a Blu-ray box? Video rear-view mirror PentaEXternal HD drive for Xbox 360
Tech Digest, 05 Jan 2006

eBayer bids £1k for photo of 42in plasma

UpdatedUpdated How much would you pay for a 42in Panasonic plasma TV worth more than £3,000? A thousand quid? It's an absolute snip down at eBay, where one lucky punter is about to secure himself said item at a never-to-repeated price: Hold on a minute – that might not be quite the bargain we thought. Let's check the blurb: Yup. Sadly, it's the "photo of an Xbox 360" gag part two. Caveat emptor once again, although we very much doubt whether the highest current bidder will be inclined to part with his hard-earned cash when he realises he's been had. ® Update No sooner had this piece been published than Reg-reading vigilantes moved in for the kill. Here's how the bidding ended: Realising he'd been rumbled, the seller terminated the auction himself. He then sent us this explanatory email: Hi, I was the seller of this item, I had to bid on the item myself and end the listing early. the price was getting rediculous. There was no way that I was going to allow someone to pay £2000 for a picture. I couldnt live with myself with that. Also an ebay told me that I needed permision from panasonic to sell a picture of their item, which I did not know. Other than the permision that I needed, there was nothing wrong with what I was selling as far as I can see. It was listed under home and garden: decorative items and there was also another note further down the listing that said 'note: you are bidding on a picture of the plasma being described and not the actual plasma itself'. And no where on the listing does it say that you the buyer is bidding on a plasma screen. Now as far as I can see, other than needing permission from panasonic there wasnt anything wrong with the listing. But if you know that there was then please tell me. I would be very gratefull to know. I just thought id let you know that no one has been had. thanks for your time, james. We're sure Reg readers can tell James what was wrong with the listing. In the meantime, justice has been done.
Lester Haines, 05 Jan 2006
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RM to handle pupil data

RM Plc has been awarded a £16m extension on its contract to process pupil performance data for the Department for Education and Skills. The contract, which will run for five years, consolidates three previous arrangements under one consortium, headed by RM. The consortium includes RM data management subsidiary, Forvus. Other consortium members are the LEAP SERAP Group of the University of Bath and the Fischer Family Trust, which is run by RM founder and lifelong president Mike Fischer CBE. RM held the previous contract for 10 years.®
Mark Ballard, 05 Jan 2006

Sony launches true electronic book

CESCES Sony is to bring its Librié e-1000 electronic book to the US in March, the company annnounced at CES today. The device has been redesigned since is launch in Japan in 2004, and renamed the PRS-500 Portable Reader. The second-generation unit is smaller - it weighs 250g - and thinner - it's 1.3cm deep, including its leather-like cover - and features a dual MemoryStick Pro Duo/SD slot to augment the "under 100MB" memory built in. The integrated memory is enough for about 80 books, a Sony spokesman told us.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

Xbox 360 to get HD DVD drive

CESCES Microsoft's XBox 360 will support the HD DVD next-generation optical disc format after all, the company's hardware chief, Robbie Bach, revealed at CES last night. However, the ability to play the discs will be delivered through a face-saving external drive, shipping at some point this year, Bach said.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

HD DVD to debut in US in March

CESCES US consumers will be able to buy HD DVD content and hardware at the end of Q1, companies backing the next-generation optical disc format announced yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas. That's perhaps a little later than Toshiba, one of the format's strongest supporters, hinted when the launch window was put back from Q4 2005, but should keep the format 's debut ahead of that of its arch-rival, the Sony-supported Blu-ray Disc.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

HD DVD to come to Europe this year, hints studio

CESCES HD DVD will come to Europe in 2006, it has emerged. France's Studio Canal, part of the Canal Plus media combine, this week said it will ship 30 titles on the next-generation optical disc format this year. While the announcement was made at event predominantly pitching HD DVD's US debut, Studio Canal said that its HD DVD content library would be made available in five European countries, including the UK, France and Germany.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

Sony touts Bluetooth camcorder mic

CESCES Sony will next month ship a cute Bluetooth microphone accessory for members of its DVD camcorder line-up. The ECM-HW1 is designed as a pick-up for audio that the camcorder's main mic can't always catch, particularly since it can be located up to 30m from the recording device. The consumer electronics giant is pitching the part as a 5.1-channel device, but it actually feeds the centre channel of 5.1-channel recordings made using a suitably-equipped - and Bluetooth-supporting, of course - camera. For suitable models, look to Sony's upcoming DCR-DVD405 and DCR-DVD505 cameras shipping in the US in February and March, respectively, for around $900 and $1100. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

DNA pixie dust fails to solve all UK crime, shock horror

The Home Office has boasted of a quadrupling of detection of crime via DNA technology over the last five years, during which period the UK's National DNA Database has trebled in size, and now exceeds 3 million records. An enthusiastic report from the Home Office's Forensic Science & Pathology Unit (DNA Expansion Programme 2000-2005: Reporting achievement) lists impressive improvements in detection rates, thanks to DNA, which is "a powerful aid to crime investigation." Under, erm, certain circumstances. The report happily shares the glad tidings of how much better clear up rates are with the addition of DNA (e.g. domestic burglary up from 16 per cent to 41 per cent, and theft from vehicle clear-ups boosted from 8 per cent to 63 per cent), but is rather less forthcoming on the extent to which these welcome improvements can be achieved on real burglaries and nickings of car stereos and MoD laptops. As the report bashfully tells us, "the rate of recovery of DNA from crime scenes remains lower than expected and is a bottleneck at the beginning of the process." Which means? Luckless inner city inhabitants among the Reg readership will possibly have the impression that if they're burgled or their car window gets smashed, they're a lot likelier to get offers of counselling than an actual crime investigation; historically, it frequently hasn't been cost effective for the police to try to find solvable crimes in among the huge pile of unsolvable low ticket ones, hence the low clear-up rates for them. But, as the Home Office figures show, DNA matching produces dramatic boosts in clear-up rates, so it now makes sense for police to get round to the scene of the crime and collect the samples, right? Not entirely. To some extent the low rate of DNA recovery the report talks of is caused by the failure of some police forces to use DNA sampling as extensively as they might (the report pulls up ten out of 43 forces for this), but largely it's because, contrary to popular belief, forensic investigations don't always produce a useable DNA sample. Au contraire... In a presentation delivered at the end of 2004, Robin Williams of Durham University's School of Applied Social Sciences reported that 17 per cent of recorded crimes were examined by crime scene investigators, that DNA was recovered from 5 per cent of scenes (accounting for 0.8 per cent of all recorded crime), and that 45 per cent of crime scene profiles matched subject profiles when loaded. The last number is the sort the Home Office is ecstatic about, but the others are more significant. Obviously these numbers will have changed somewhat over the last 12 months, but you can see the bleeding obvious starting to creep in, can't you? A relatively small percentage of crime scenes get the forensic treatment, smaller numbers still produce a useable result, but where a result is produced, there's a reasonably good chance of the police finding someone to nick. Now, you could consider the possibility that if the police got their fingers out and increased the number of crime scenes they examined, they would increase the number of nickable people they discovered. Which they would, of course - but the lowish hit rate produced from the ones they do already examine suggests that the percentage of positive results would fall as the percentage of crime scenes covered rose. So the question of bangs per buck starts to creep in - more resources could be ploughed into DNA work (and will be, it being a major Home Office enthusiasm), but would tend to produce diminishing returns, and lead one to suspect that the resources might have been better deployed on some more fruitful aspects of crime-fighting. Which perhaps explains why the police's failure to show up for your minor burglary, although irritating, is the sensible thing to do (N.B. Fingerprints are also supposed to be magic, right? So how come, pre-DNA, the didn't dust your house as a matter of course? For pretty much the same reasons, right?). Home Office propaganda might lead the unwary to believe that DNA is the magic pixie dust that will solve all crime, but if you think about it, it quite obviously ain't so. People leak DNA wherever they go, which is an advantage for the investigator in the sense that it's extremely difficult for a criminal to be absolutely certain they didn't leave a trail, but a disadvantage because of the amount of leaked DNA 'noise' the world is full of. Burglars and car thieves will tend to leave less DNA at the scene than the usual inhabitants, and as their awareness of DNA matching climbs, they'll leave less still, because they'll be more careful. They will also be more likely to leave false trails (e.g., as police have been beginning to note, random cigarette butts in stolen cars), or to plant evidence (note that it's a lot easier to plant DNA than fingerprints). The Home Office announcement offers us numerous satisfyingly large percentage increases to get the message of the DNA Database's 'success' over, but the bottom line is that the impact of DNA on overall crime is considerably less dramatic, and it's unlikely to get much more dramatic with further expansion of the Database. That expansion, however, is the Database's most unqualified 'success'. When New Labour took office in 1997 the national database (which tended not to be referred to as such, because we weren't building a National DNA Database by stealth) stood at 700,000 records, but by dint of a series of legislative changes it has now passed 3 million, and is intended to reach 4.2 million by 2008. We're certainly building it now, but by increment, not by stealth. Which is possibly more dangerous. The database currently has records of 37 per cent of black men in the UK, 13 per cent of Asian men and 9 per cent of whites. The Home Office justifies this on the basis that most of the records on the Database are for those who have been charged and convicted of crimes, but as not all of those on the Database have been charged and convicted, that is not a wholly adequate response. If there are large numbers of 'suspects' within particular communities, then the tendency will be for more 'suspects' (on the DNA database, we're all suspects) from those communities to be added to the Database, and distortions will tend to be magnified. There is, one hopes, a ceiling to the size of the DNA Database that can achieved via current means. As of 1st January, the law changed to make all offences arrestable, and DNA and fingerprints can be taken and retained, forever, on arrest. It is therefore conceivable that littering, or even wrongful arrest for littering, could add you to the Database. But despite this expansion and the large number of new laws and offences the Government has added to the statute book over the years, surely some percentage of the population will remain splendidly unarrested and unsampled, meaning that there will on the one hand be a pile of sampled 'suspects', and on the other a pile of unsampled 'innocents'. We wouldn't care to bet on the likely sizes of these piles, but clearly it's not fair, and the logic (as argued by Alec Jeffreys) is either you delete records or you sample everybody. If you sample everybody then your general clear-up rate goes up a little more, but not a lot more, and you're maybe going to be able to crack a couple more high profile unsolved crimes from days gone by. There's an obvious price to be paid for this in terms of civil liberties as the technology currently stands, and a greater price further down the road as the technology develops. The public may or may not be willing to pay this price, but even if it is, the question of whether, from the point of view of fighting crime, it's actually worth the money, remains. Quite possibly, it isn't. ®
John Lettice, 05 Jan 2006

Sony Blu-ray Disc player coming 'this summer'

CESCES Sony will ship Blu-ray Disc players to the US retail market in "early summer", the consumer electronics giant said yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas. Dutch giant Philips also got in on the act, pledging to ship a player of its own later this year.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

Four fired for strip club visit - WSJ

Morgan Stanley has fired four employees for visiting a strip club while attending a technology conference in Phoenix, Arizona, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal.
Team Register, 05 Jan 2006

Bloggers have killed Official Secrets Act, claims Murray

Ordinarily we'd avoid mentioning the Government's unaccountable failure to gaol Craig Murray, in case we inadvertently reminded its members of something they missed from yesterday's 'To Do' list. But, as the man himself so plainly wants to draw attention to his continuing liberty, we might as well just go ahead. Bloggers, says Murray, have killed off the Official Secrets Act. We wouldn't put it that strongly ourselves, but the Act certainly doesn't look well. Last week, Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan*, responded to Foreign Office attempts to suppress two confidential documents by publishing them on his website and encouraging blogs the world over to republish them. Murray now claims these appeared in more than 4,000 blogs within 72 hours. We've no idea whether or not the total hit 4,000, but whatever, it's loads and loads - far beyond any number that the UK Government could ever manage to deal with. Despite this, Murray hasn't even been questioned. "We have published," he says, "what were, undoubtedly, classified British Government documents. Under the notorious Official Secrets Act that is an offence, and everyone connected with it is plainly guilty. There is no public interest defence." Actually, it's not the numbers as such that have kept the security forces off Murray's back. Not directly, anyway. Having the documents reproduced throughout the world certainly ensures they can never be suppressed, but has no obvious effect on any desire the Government might have to wreak awful vengeance on Murray. The reverse, if anything. Murray himself acknowledges this to an extent, observing: "British criminal trials still involve juries, and they are reluctant to convict in OSA trials, where they often sympathise with the motives of the defendant. Clive Ponting was acquitted after leaking that the Belgrano was heading home when British forces sank it. The jury acquitted him against the clear direction of the judge. And that was in the context of the Falklands War, which the British public supported. What chance of a conviction in the context of the Iraq war, which the British public oppose?" It's also in Murray's favour that he's loudly opposing torture while the UK Government is giving every indication of skulking around conniving at it. If the Government busts Murray, his book gets more publicity, more waves of outrage will ripple through blogdom, and the jury could well chuck out the charges and render the OSA even deader than it is already. Must be annoying to have Murray crowing about it, though, when you're striving not to notice that official secrets breaches have gone global. ® * It occurs to us that life must be hard for the current UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, whoever they may be. All ambassadors are fairly silent by Murray's standards, but silence from the envoy to Uzbekistan these days might so easily be thought of, throughout the world, as indicating some kind of cynical, torturing, CIA stooge. For the sake of your reputation, whoever you are, we urge you to leak something, quick.
John Lettice, 05 Jan 2006

XM friends bring MP3s to satellite radio devices

CESCES XM Satellite has claimed a pair of firsts over rival Sirius Radio with the release of two new devices that can tune in satellite radio and play MP3s and the announcement that it has topped six-million subscribers. XM unveiled the new devices from partners Samsung and Pioneer at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here in Lost Wages. Both products pull down all the satellite radio content while also playing MP3s or WMA (Windows Media Audio) files. The obvious idea behind such a combination is to give customers the best of both worlds and allow them to buy a single portable music player.
Ashlee Vance, 05 Jan 2006

What do you get if you cross an iPod with a DVD player?

CESCES Maybe the tiny video iPod screen doesn’t quite do it for you. Or, perhaps, you’re tired of lugging around a pretty clunky portable device just to watch DVDs. If so, you might want to check out the eVU device from e.Digital. e.Digital describes the eVU as a mobile entertainment device (MED), and that seems pretty darn accurate. The product boasts a seven-inch LCD display, a simple graphical user interface (GUI) with touch-screen functions, dual stereo-headphone jacks and more than 10 hours of battery life. Customers can use the system to play movies, listen to music or watch TV. The depressing part about the sleek-looking device is that it’s not really available to end users. It seems that e.Digital is selling the product to airlines and other customers who will use it as a delivery platform for other services. After all, it has a credit card reader. Still, the device seems to provide a nice example of the direction portable media players are taking. You can scope the system here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 05 Jan 2006
fingers pointing at man

Judge dismisses Hynix 'unclean hands' claim

A US District Court judge has dismissed Hynix's request to chuck out the patent infringement case brought against it by Rambus. Judge Ronald Whyte's ruling came at the end of a two-week period in which he heard Hynix's allegations that Rambus had destroyed and/or changed documents pertaining to the case. However, Judge Whyte, of the US District Court of Northern California in San Jose, this week ruled that "Rambus did not engage in unlawful spoliation of evidence", the memory technology company announced today. Judge Whyte's ruling paves the way for the case to come to trial, currently scheduled for 6 March. Rambus maintains Hynix knowingly violated its intellectual property rights by incorporating its technology in the South Korean memory-maker's DDR and DDR 2 SDRAM products. The case comprises Hynix's original August 2000 lawsuit filed against Rambus in a bid to request a judgement rendering Rambus' patents invalid and seeking a summary judgement of non-infringement, along with Rambus' countersuit alleging patent infringement, filed in February 2001. In January 2005, Judge Whyte ruled that Rambus had a case which Hynix must answer. Hynix's defence was to allege Rambus' hands were "unclean", having destroyed evidence that might favour the South Korean company's original claim. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

OpenOffice supports U3 'portable Home folder' Flash drives

CESCES OpenOffice has been updated to support U3 USB Flash drives, the organisation behind the portable Home folder technology said today. OpenOffice 2.0 can be run from any U3-branded Flash disk. The software automatically ensures that any preferences files and documents it creates are stored on the removable disk and not on the host PC. The upshot - the software can be used on any compatible computer without the need to install the application first.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

JVC to ship 2x dual-layer DVD-RW discs next quarter

CESCES JVC today announced the world's first single-sided, dual-layer DVD-RW media will ship in Q2 - more than a year after the company unveiled the technology. The new discs will support 2x recording speeds, JVC said, but it was quick to point out it has already developed a 4x version in its labs.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

Give me a lipstick MP3 player or give me death

CESCES Our first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrap covers a little bit of everything - from a new twist on binoculars to a pen-sized scanner. If gadgets are your thing, please proceed with pace. The leather iPod bar We’ll start you off with something familiar and easy to digest. It’s the line of device accessories from French firm Manhattan Cellular (MCA). This year’s CES proves that mobile device covers – and iPod accessories, in particular – aren’t unique. MCA, however, does produce some of the best kit on display and has products available for cell phones, MP3 players and video game devices, such as Sony’s PSP. The leather gear, if that’s your kind of thing, stands out and can be found here.
Ashlee Vance, 05 Jan 2006

Samsung to ship Blu-ray 'first' with April player launch

CESCES Samsung today pledged to ship a Blu-ray Disc (BD) player ahead of rival manufacturers, getting its BD-P1000 machine to consumers in the "April timeframe", according to Jim Sandowski, head of Samsung USA's digital product marketing. The player will pump out HD content at 720p or 1080i resolutions, Samsung said. Supported audio formats include 192KHz LPCM, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus, MPEG 2, DTS, and MP3. Like Sony, Samsung said its machine will also play users' existing DVD and CD libraries, along with content stored on DVD-RAM and DVD±R/RW discs.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006
channel

Toshiba turns 90° to boost 0.85in HDDs to 10GB

CESCES Toshiba today said it has finally begun shipping its long-awaited 4GB, 3600rpm 0.85in micro hard disk drives. The company also pledged to boost the drives' capacity to 10GB courtesy of perpendicular recording techniques. That said, consumer electronics companies looking to use the drives in their products will have to wait until 2007 to take delivery of such "high-capacity" 0.85in units, Toshiba admitted when it announced the products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006

Samsung, SanDisk prep iPod Nano clones

CESCES Two MP3 player makers today demonstrated their decision to compete with Apple's iPod Nano by... er... announcing virtually identically styled products. Step forward Samsung and SanDisk, whose YP-Z5 and and Sansa e200 players elicited immediate 'it looks like a Nano' calls from assembled hacks. Ah well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em... Samsung's YP-Z5 is the least Nano-like of the two, but since it comes in shiny silver and black models, in both 2GB and 4GB Flash capacities, it's clear where the company's designers got their inspiration from. It's pretty much the same size as a Nano, too, as is the SanDisk device.
Tony Smith, 05 Jan 2006