11th > January > 2006 Archive

DVD it in many colours

Sun and Oracle promise to work together for 10 more years

Sun Microsystems and Oracle today renewed their vows in front of loved ones, employees and hacks.
Ashlee Vance, 11 Jan 2006

IntelliJ IDEA 5.0: can it survive the Eclipse onslaught?

ReviewReview The rise and rise of Eclipse is a mixed blessing for developers. There are obvious benefits in the existence of such a high-quality tools platform, free and open source, and seemingly everyone bar Sun and Microsoft has signed up to use it. The downside is the pressure it puts on other independent tools vendors.
Tim Anderson, 11 Jan 2006

Mercury buys Systinet for SOA goodness

Mercury Interactive is buying into SOA with the $105m cash acquisition of privately held Systinet. The application performance and tuning specialist says the deal will help it enable customers to "take a lifecycle approach to optimizing the quality, performance and availability of SOA business services". Systinet offers the SystinetRegistry to organize, manage, discover and publish re-usable business services and other service-oriented architecture (SOA) assets. The company also offers the SystinetPolicyManager for creation and management of policies to manage services. But Systinet's competitor, Infravio, poured cold water on the deal's potential to help Mercury. Miko Matsumura, Infravio's vice-president of technology standards, said his company had beaten Systinet in 16 head-to-head customer bids and replaced Systinet in a second customer account during the last quarter. He said the deal left the field open for partnerships between Infravio and major platform companies making a name in SOA, such as BEA Systems, IBM and Oracle. "Infravio now has huge OEM partner opportunities," Matsumura said. Mercury was delisted by NASDAQ last week in the wake of a share allocation scandal. ®
Gavin Clarke, 11 Jan 2006
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European IT spending shrinking

IT spending across Europe is under even more pressure and budgets will grow by just 1.6 per cent in 2006, compared to 2.9 per cent last year. Researchers from Forrester found that more than half of European firms plan to reduce IT budgets this year. The main priority across Europe is for spending on security, anti-virus and host intrusion detection. For IT services price pressure is the main concern, with nearly half of European firms saying that cutting costs is an important or critical priority for the year ahead. Miguel Angel Mendez, associate analyst at Forrester Research, said the caution on IT spending was at odds with people's more optimistic view of their own industries - 60 per cent of respondents expect the coming year to be good or OK for their industries. The feeling in the UK seems slightly more optimistic - British firms expect to increase IT spending by 2.3 per cent, but only 20 per cent of this will go on new developments. Big technology brands such as Cisco, HP, IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle get the lion's share of purchasing preferences. Forrester spoke to 506 companies across Europe.®
John Oates, 11 Jan 2006
fingers pointing at man

Contractors not 'tax dodgers' - PCG

The Professional Contractors Group (PCG) is having a strop over an ad it claims portrays self-employed people as tax dodgers.
Tim Richardson, 11 Jan 2006

Sprint Nextel in Clearwire spectrum swap

Sprint Nextel and Clearwire are the biggest holders of 2.5GHz spectrum in the US and both are looking to build major WiMAX-class networks. But they are likely to steer clear of head-on competition, in order to accelerate their roll-outs and strengthen the potential of new broadband wireless services to shift the balance of power in US telecoms and provide a counterweight to the Bell operators, with a full wireless triple play.
Wireless Watch, 11 Jan 2006
graph up

Thin-client firm offers fat margins

A German maker of thin-client hardware has set up shop in the UK. Called IGEL Technology, the company has hired Simon Richards, previously at Wyse, to build a channel-only business here. Apparently, the UK is the biggest thin-client market in Europe and server-based computer sales are growing at a lick, according to IDC. IGEL offers reseller margins of 10-20 per cent, and has a dealer authorisation and training programme already in place. ®
Team Register, 11 Jan 2006
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Systems Union hails record results

Systems Union Group will announce record results when it files accounts for the year ended 31 December 2005. The accountancy software group has, helpfully, issued a trading statement today to let investors and analysts know what to expect - although they already know what to expect, as the results are in line with market expectations. Sales in 2005 advanced 8.5 per cent to £113m (2004: £104.2m) and EBITDA (earnings before bad stuff) grew 14 per cent to £16.2m (2004: £14.2m). Revenue growth was particularly strong in Asia-Pacific and the Americas. The company is a good generator of cash, ending the year with £23.7m in cash (2004: £16.5m). Strip out £15m in medium-term bank debt and the net cash position falls to £8.7m (2004: £1.5m). Press release is here. ®
Team Register, 11 Jan 2006

BT cuts ribbon on new Openreach biz

The great and the good of the UK's telco sector are converging on central London to celebrate the formal launch of BT's network access business, Openreach. Speaking today, Steve Robertson, Openreach's chief exec, said: "The big day has arrived. The whole Openreach team is utterly committed to providing Britain's communication providers with equivalent access to the local access network and to serving all our customers in the same even-handed way. "This is an exciting time for the telecoms industry and Openreach has a vital role to play in making sure that Britain's consumers and businesses have access to the most innovative and competitive communications market in the world. We're ready to do our bit." Robertson might not be able to contain his enthusiasm for this new venture, but there are plenty of those in the industry who are still not convinced. And BT would do well to remember why it has been forced to splash out £70m creating this new division. For Openretch - as it's known - forms part of a regulatory deal with Ofcom to ensure that rival telcos and operators get transparent and equal access to BT's phone network. Operators have long complained that the UK's dominant fixed-line telco has stifled competition, failed to develop new services fast enough and given preferential treatment to its own businesses. In a bid to increase competition, the regulator struck a deal with BT comprising 230 "legally binding undertakings", with the monster telco promising never again to engage in the kind of behaviour that "restricts competition" and "discriminates" against its competitors. The deal - which Ofcom reckons will encourage investment in infrastructure by other operators and promote innovation, while also leading to greater competition, lower prices and improved services - meant BT was spared an investigation that could have led to the break-up of the dominant telco. Key to the deal was the creation of an access services division within BT - Openreach. Ofcom is confident the new separate division - which will provide access to the local loop and be overseen by an independent body - will allow "all communications providers to gain real equality of access to critical BT infrastructure on fair and equal terms". However, critics remain cautious and have called on regulator Ofcom to keep a close eye on BT and Openreach. A spokeswoman for telecoms trade group UKCTA, which represents a number of firms including AOL, Cable & Wireless, EasyNet and Thus, told us: "Openreach is still in the implementation phase and has yet to be proven." ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Jan 2006

Google and Yahoo step up mobile ambitions

Google and Yahoo, for the second time, announced new mobile activities on the same day. Their approaches, while quite different, will increasingly bring the giants into conflict in the emerging market for delivering consistent services and content across home, PC and mobile devices – and will enable them to challenge the handset makers and carriers to be the dominant mobile brands.
Wireless Watch, 11 Jan 2006
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Mentec goes completely Mentec

Mentec, the Irish Great Plains reseller, is having an image makeover in a bid to reflect its integration with its recent UK acquisitions. The companies bought, Xdat and Sytation, will now trade alongside their parent company as Mentec International. ®
Team Register, 11 Jan 2006
TuneBuckle iPod Nano belt

Levi's tailors jeans to fit iPod

Jeans-maker Levi Strauss has designed a pair of denim trousers with an integrated iPod remote control. The jeans also provide an iPod dock and retractable earphones. The hardware tucks into the trouser's special side pocket - neatly side-stepping those bottom-broken back-pocket iPod Nano blues. The controller is located in the watch pocket, itself tucked into the right front pocket - which is surely going to lead to male users getting some very odd looks while they innocently switch from Whitesnake to Johnny and the Hot Rods.
Tony Smith, 11 Jan 2006

AOL buys video-search firm

AOL is buying in talent to strengthen its video-search function as more and more big players get interested in the technology. The Time Warner subsidiary has paid an undisclosed amount for Truveo, a two-year-old, privately owned start-up. This is not its first move into video search - in 2003 it bought Singingfish, which provides the technology behind its current video search. AOL confirmed it was the largest deal the company had completed since paying $435m for Advertising.com in 2004. An executive close to the deal told the New York Times that AOL had paid about $50m for the firm. The deal was signed and closed 21 December 2005. Truveo claims to do a better job of searching through video content because it uses a form of "web-crawler", which does a better job of recognising and indexing video content. It claims this means its search engine "finds" substantially more video content than others. Some other search engines rely on text descriptions or subtitles to make sense of clips but Truveo has some visual understanding of the video it finds. The company offers the service for browsers on its website, supported by Google ads. It also offers the service to other companies to include on their own sites. Apple, Google and Yahoo have all made recent deals to increase or improve video searching. Google is trying to get its slice of revenues by offering to collect payments for videos viewed through its site.®
John Oates, 11 Jan 2006
For Sale sign detail

More cracks appear in Windows

Microsoft released two more critical patches on Tuesday - days after it released an emergency fix for a critical WMF vulnerability that has been exploited by hackers and virus writers. The two latest updates - which, unlike the WMF patch, came out as part of Microsoft's regular Patch Tuesday update cycle - fix a flaw in the way Microsoft Windows processes embedded web fonts (MS06-002) and a Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format (TNEF) decoding vulnerability (MS06-003). Exploitation of these vulnerabilities creates a means for hackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service on a vulnerable system. The earlier WMF vulnerability remains the easiest to exploit, but security vendors warn that the embedded web-forms flaw also caries a computer worm risk. Alan Bentley, UK managing director at security tools firm PatchLink, commented: "It has clearly been a bad year for downloadable file formats in the Windows world and it is only 10 days into the New Year. The new patches show some critical issues in Microsoft WMF, MS-TNEF and Web Font download file formats that can all allow remote code execution. "The new MS06-002 Web Font vulnerability looks to be just as much of a problem as the WMF issue discovered last week. Once again, there is the opportunity for an attacker to use a spam HTML email or web page to impact users within an organisation. Failing to install the third critical security update released this month could compromise both your Microsoft Exchange email server and the Microsoft Outlook email client, once again, because of a file format problem that allows remote execution when decoding a hacked file." Users are urged to apply the latest patches as soon as possible. "With an increasing trend in zero-day exploits, it is important for IT staff to plan ahead and really minimise the cycle time to get critical updates installed in a timely manner. Last year’s industry average of 30 days for organisations to deploy a patch from the time it is made available will clearly not be acceptable in the 2006 threat climate," Bentley added. ®
John Leyden, 11 Jan 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Another computer factory to close in Scotland

There's yet more bad news for tech workers in Scotland after a second computer firm announced plans to shut down its factory. Glasgow-based Inventec Scotland Servers announced yesterday that it plans to close its factory later this year and transfer operations to the Czech Republic. The closure of the factory will result in the loss of some 370 jobs. A spokesman for the company told the BBC: "Inventec Scotland Servers regrets the decision to end operations and would wish to record at this difficult time for staff, their families and the community that this is due to economic and market considerations rather than any difficulty with staff, who have always been diligent in their work." Last Friday, US-based Sanmina-SCI announced that it planned to close its computer plant in Greenock with the loss of some 300 jobs. Inverclyde Council leader, Alan Blair, described Friday's announcement as "disappointing news for the area". ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Jan 2006

Downloads, iPods make music more 'disposable'

A University of Leicester psychologist has concluded that modern listeners don't value music as much as their 19th-century counterparts did - and he blames the iPod and music downloading. A team of researchers from Leicester, Surrey and York universities, led by Leicester School of Psychology's Dr Adrian North, questioned 346 mobile-phone users by text message. Over a 14-day period, they were daily asked to report back on music they had heard in the previous 24 hours. The goal of the study was to determine "people's experiences of music in naturalistic, everyday circumstances", said Dr North.
Tony Smith, 11 Jan 2006

Vultures under threat worldwide

Vultures worldwide are under threat from a commonly used livestock painkiller which destroys their kidneys, the BBC reports. Our feathered friends are being wiped out in India as a result of eating carrion contaminated with Diclofenac - a cheap inflammation treatment for cattle. A report by the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds claims that, whereas the subcontinent once enjoyed large flocks of oriental white-backed vultures, the birds have been driven to the point of extinction in a matter of years. This is bad, because the oriental white-backed used to be the commonest large bird of prey anywhere. The report's lead researcher, Deborah Pain, says she has "never seen such a rapid decline of any species". Other species, too, are under threat - particularly the Eurasian vulture, since juveniles "migrate into northern India, where dead cattle are left unburied". The solution? Find a safe alternative to Diclofenac before the drug does for vultures around the world. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jan 2006

Catch as catch can

StobStob Exception handling is a comparative newcomer to the programmer’s toolset. The mighty for loop, the enigmatic if statement and the cheeky little counter increment have been with us since the first automatic languages bubbled to the surface of the primordial programming bog at Manchester, more than half a century ago. But, according to my skimpy research, it wasn’t until IBM’s PL/I came along, in the mid 1970s, that exception handling appeared in a language.
Verity Stob, 11 Jan 2006

Pinder takes chair at Becta

Andrew Pinder is to head up UK IT quango the British Education Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), the government announced today. Pinder’s bio includes a stint as Tony Blair’s e-envoy, as well as time in other government and private sector IT roles, and in venture capital. He left the e-envoy job in August 2004, as the role morphed into head of e-government. Later that year Pinder joined the board of security firm Entrust. As of today, he is still listed as a director of Entrust. Apart from that, it’s not immediately clear what else Pinder has been upto in the meantime. The Becta chair was previously filled by John Roberts CBE. It is understood Roberts will be staying on tbe board of Becta. No worries about Pinder being on a gong hunt in his role - he's got a CBE already. ®
Joe Fay, 11 Jan 2006
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Microsoft wins FAT patent case

The US Patent Office has upheld Microsoft's claim of patent rights over its File Allocation Table. The decision reverses two earlier judgements and potentially allows Microsoft to go after open-source developers who use the technology. FAT controls how computers store information to hard drives and other storage devices such as Flash cards. The US Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the file system is "novel and non-obvious" and, therefore, deserving of a patent. The decision is important because it could mean Microsoft could force open-source distributors to pay it a royalty or remove the software from their products. Open-source software must, by definition, be patent-free. Concerns over patents within some Linux distributions have been blamed for hindering wider adoption of the operating system. Florian Mueller, founder of nosoftwarepatents.com, said the decision gave Microsoft the weapons to attack Linux. Mueller said: "This is now a situation in which Microsoft could cause major problems to Linux vendors and users. Microsoft may not want to do that yet for other considerations, but the USPTO's decision gives Microsoft the strategic option to do so at a time of its choosing. Also, the USPTO and even the European Patent Office continue to grant new patents to Microsoft daily, and some of them may be equally dangerous to open source as the FAT patents. "The example of the FAT patents shows that all those patent quality initiatives and patent pledges have no significant value to open-source developers, vendors and users if Microsoft ever wants to go for Linux's throat." Microsoft was unavailable for comment.®
John Oates, 11 Jan 2006

Microsoft drops hotel in English Channel

We have, in the past, made merry with Microsoft and its command of cartography - notably when its MapPoint recommended that the best way to drive between the Norwegian towns of Haugesund and Trondheim was a 2,600 jaunt via the North Sea and English Channel - one of many curious jaunts. MapPoint could not, however, at that time recommend any hotels en route - slightly inconvenient if you suddenly found yourself in urgent need of a hearty meal and a bed for the night somewhere between Folkestone and Boulogne. It's all sorted now, though, as reader John Rutter explains: Just got confirmation of a booking at the Holiday Inn in Eastleigh, Hampshire, which included a PDF file containing booking details and two location maps. Attached is a screenshot of part of this PDF, which apparently uses some Microsoft software to display the hotel location. I always thought that Eastleigh was inland, not offshore in the middle of the English Channel as shown in this map! Good Lord. Luckily, as John adds: "Multimap seems to recognise the postcode and give me a land-lubber location to go and stay." Unless, of course, Redmond has now acquired the power to relocate entire buildings at will. Highly likely, since it last year - and using nothing more than the power of Windows Server System - moved Switzerland to Russia. Impressive. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jan 2006
Griffin EarThumps earphones

Griffin EarThumps earphones

ReviewReview I've long stopped listening to portable music players on London's Underground. You have to turn the volume so high to rise above the background racket, it quickly gets uncomfortable. I began to worry about my hearing. Skip forward several years to the iPod era and my fears were undiminished - quite the reverse, actually, since I use my MP3 player far more than I did my Walkman. So Griffin's claim that its EarThumps earphones offer "exceptional noise isolation" intrigued me. Could they provide enough insulation from background noise to let me listen to my iPod on the tube at a sensible volume?
Tony Smith, 11 Jan 2006
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Scammers offer defunct MS mag to developers

Fraudsters are attempting to sell subscriptions to a defunct magazine in a lame attempt to defraud Microsoft developers. Software developers in the US have been receiving offers through the post to "subscribe" to the Microsoft Systems Journal (MSJ) for a "cut-price" $50 a year. But the programming journal, which began life in 1986 and ran up until merging with Microsoft Internet Developer magazine in 2000 to create the current MSDN magazine, is now defunct and the offer is nothing more than a scam. Prospective marks were invited to send payment to a rented mailbox in a Mailboxes Etc. store in a Kentucky shopping mall. Stephen Toub, technical editor at MSDN, warned about the scam in a blog entry after being contacted by readers who'd received the bogus offer. “Recently, we at MSDN Magazine were contacted by several readers concerned about some mail they had received (USPS, not email). The mail was from a publishing house offering subscriptions to MSJ," he wrote. "If you receive one of these offerings, do not send these people money! MSJ is no longer being published." It's unclear if anyone fell victim to the ruse, which was poorly conceived and unlikely to fool many. Magazine subscription scams are a common trick among US con-men. The Council of Better Business Bureaus received 4,964 complaints about magazine sales in 2004, a third (36 per cent) of which involved postal offers, Computerworld reports. ®
John Leyden, 11 Jan 2006

Korean uni 'sorry' for stem cell scandal

The president of Seoul National University has apologised for the Hwang Woo-suk scandal which has seen the stem cell scientist exposed as a fraud, out of a job and today stripped of his title as Korea's first "supreme scientist", Reuters reports. Chung Un-chan told a press conference: "Hwang's research team did something scientists should never do. This incident left a mark that cannot be erased in Korea and the international science community. For embarrassing the country, as the president of this university, I am deeply to sorry to everyone." A panel investigating Hwang's claims to have produced tailored stem cells and the world's first cloned dog yesterday reported that data in two papers into the former could not be proved but that Hwang's team had indeed cloned Afghan hound Snuppy. Hwang also stands accused of "coercing" female team members into providing their own eggs for stem cell research, and now faces a possible probe into misuse of state funds - a charge which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail, local media says. Hwang does still have his supporters - a few hundred fans draped in Korean flags and bearing banners reading "Hwang is the pride of Korea" have held a candlelit vigil in downtown Seoul, Reuters notes. The disgraced scientist may hold a press conference tomorrow, and continues to defend his findings. Elsewhere, meanwhile, fellow stem cell reseachers are downplaying the significance of Hwang's disgrace. Dr Stephern Minger, of Kings College London, told Reuters: "All of us who admired Hwang are deeply saddened by this revelation. However, it is likely to have a minimal effect on stem cell biology per se and work in the field will continue." ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jan 2006
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Cost and confidentiality concerns undermine NHS IT plan

Support is dwindling among medical practitioners for the multi-billion pound modernisation of the NHS’ IT systems, a major new study shows. A survey of doctors by research firm Medix between December and January 2006 found that only one per cent of respondents thought implementation of the NHS' National Programme for IT (NPfIT) had so far been "good" or "excellent". NpfIT, the largest civilian IT modernisation programme in the world, is expected to cost more than £6bn, and aims to connect 30,000 GPs to 300 hospitals. However, the Medix survey reveals that widespread support for the programme when it first launched has given way to scepticism. In a survey three years ago, two-thirds of doctors said the programme was a priority for the NHS, compared to only four-in-10 in the latest poll. And in the Medix survey, only 13 per cent of GPs and 19 per cent of other doctors said the NPfIT was a good use of NHS resources, compared to 66 per cent and 50 per cent respectively who said it was not. The survey also raised concerns among doctors over issues of consultation and confidentiality. Most doctors said they knew fairly little about NPfIT, with 56 per cent claiming to have little or no information about it, including six per cent of respondents for whom the survey was the first they had heard of it. Only one-in-25 doctors said they have had a lot of information on NPfIT - a slight increase on the one per cent three years ago. And asked whether the advent of the NHS care records service - a central plank of the NPfIT - would mean greater security for patients’ records, 71 per cent of GPs said the information would be less secure. This compares with only one-in-12 respondents who said they would be more secure. More positively for NHS Connecting for Health (the agency charged with implementing NPfIT), 59 per cent of GPs and 66 per cent of other doctors said the programme would improve clinical care in the long-term. Responding to the Medix survey, NHS Connecting for Health said its own research, by pollsters Mori, had found staff to be "supportive" of what the programme is trying to achieve. A spokesman added: "There is usually a dip in confidence in IT change programmes as early implementation gets underway - this is the phase that NHS Connecting for Health is in." View the survey results here (PDF: 444KB). View NHS Connecting for Health Response to Medix Survey January 2006 here. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
eGov Monitor Weekly, 11 Jan 2006

EC waves through O2 buy-out

The European Commission has cleared Telefonica's takeover of O2, Eurocrats announced yesterday. Although it agreed to give the deal the necessary rubber stamps, the Commission had raised concerns that the buy-out might jeopardise competition for international roaming charges. That's because both Telefonica and O2 belong to different industry groups that co-operate on roaming enabling punters to use their mobiles overseas as if they were at home. Along with incumbents France Telecom, Telecom Italia and Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica is part of the so-called FreeMove alliance. O2, on the other hand, is part of the Starmap alliance made up of smaller telcos. This, said the Commission, "gave rise to competition concerns on the market for international roaming services" because O2 would most likely join the big boys at FreeMove and "O2 would in all probability be less ready to exchange international roaming traffic with non-FreeMove members". To resolve this potential problem, Telefonica has agreed to leave FreeMove. Or as the Commission put it: "To address the Commission's concerns and in order to avoid an in-depth investigation, Telefonica committed itself to leave the FreeMove alliance as soon as possible and not to re-enter that alliance without the Commission's prior consent in the coming years. "With the termination of its alliance membership the serious doubts outlined above are removed and the Commission can approve the merger." In October last year O2 agreed to be bought by Telefonica for £18bn as the Spanish telco looks to expand its operations into UK and Germany. Mobile outfit O2 - which split from BT in 2001 - will retain its bubbly brand and keep its HQ in the UK. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Jan 2006

Topless car spares wow eBay

NSFWNSFW Long gone are the days when any shiny new motor car would be rolled out at some motor show with a near-naked hussy draped across the bonnet enticing the howling mob of (male) press and public to "come and adjust my twin carburettors" and "ooh, just the thought of fuel injection makes me go all dizzy". Why? The world has grown up and moved on, that's why. Well, it almost has, which is why we salute the following old-school listing from eBay UK which has taken the best traditions of 1970s men's motoring mags and Carry On films and seamlessly fused them into one glorious celebration of all that was great about the UK automotive industry: Yes, indeed, they don't write 'em like this any more: What a lovely pair! these are nice original badges for the ROVER P6 V8 S 3500S, just need a bit of a wipe as have been in storage for ages and are a bit dirty (like the model ;-) Pure class. For the record, the seller is offering quite a range of other bits and pieces, including some MOTO GUZZI style classic INDICATORS VGC PAIR FLASHERS. The pics are pretty well what you'd expect, but the blurb is quite innocently priceless, declaring as it does: "Nice big round indicators, can't remember what they were originally from but looked nice on Le Mans Mk1, will fit all big Guzzis & probably many others". Phwooooar! ® Bootnote A big pair of bouncy thank yous to reader Dave Smith for this bit of jubwatching. Now get back to work the lot of you.
Lester Haines, 11 Jan 2006

Neuros preps DVD-quality, HDD-enabled video recorders

Neuros is to update its MPEG-4 Video Recorder with a new industrial design and an integrated hard-disk drive. It is also preparing to revive its Digital Audio Computer (DAC) line of MP3 players, basing both systems on both a common hardware platform and open-source firmware. Both the Recorder III and the Neuros III DAC will be based on a dual-core CPU from Texas Instruments and a Linux-derived operating system, CEO Joe Born revealed in a presentation given to The Register last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. So too will an upcoming upgrade to the company's hand-held media player, the 442.
Tony Smith, 11 Jan 2006

'Quantum-Optical' chip maker shows 6.8GHz CPU

Controversial computer company Atom Chip has said it will open the claims it makes about its ultra-compact memory technology and its 6.8GHz notebook CPU to independent scrutiny. The catch? Any such investigation must be made in the presence of company officials - just in case someone attempts to open the chip or the host computer to find out what makes it tick. As The Register reported in September, Atom Chip attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this week. The company's stand was small and unprepossessing when compared with the larger, flashier booths nearby, but it caught our eye and we stopped by for a look.
Tony Smith, 11 Jan 2006

Revenge of the Sith is the People's Choice

Think of it what you may, but Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith last night won the People's Choice Award for best film when the great and the good gathered in LA to celebrate all that is wonderful in mainstream entertainment. According to the Beeb, George Lucas mounted the podium to declare: "I'm not a big favourite with the critics, but who listens to them. The reason I make films is for you. The audience rules." Which is, we suppose, the closest we'll ever get to an admission that the film is, in fact - and in common with parts I and II - complete hogwash.* Nonetheless, the people have spoken. Nominees for the awards were selected by a "6,000-strong Entertainment Weekly magazine panel" and then voted for by 21 million online voters. Reese Witherspoon, honoured as favourite leading lady for her role as June Carter in Walk the Line, echoed Lucas's sentiments when she said: "You guys voted for us. Not the stuffy people in closed rooms... people who voted actually go to the movies." Bless. Other awards included Ellen DeGeneres (favourite daytime talk show host), Jennifer Garner (female action star) and Sandra Bullock (favourite female movie star). The full list of people's faves is available on the website. ® Bootnote *And no, this is not Star Wars bashing. If you want to see a proper film, try The Empire Strikes Back.
Lester Haines, 11 Jan 2006

IT grads damn university courses

UK IT graduates complain that their university courses do not prepare them for work in the real world and that the Government is not doing enough to help them find jobs. Only six per cent of recent IT graduates believe the Government is doing enough to get them into work.
John Oates, 11 Jan 2006

Face transplant woman hits the streets

The French face transplant recipient who received part of the visage of a brain-dead donor back in November has been out and about "without drawing stares", her surgeon has said. According to the BBC, Dr Bernard Devauchelle told Le Courrier Picard: "Every day she passes by people with her face uncovered - and they don't necessarily recognise her." The unnamed 38-year-old woman underwent surgery after her pet Labrador savaged her while she slept, in the process removing her nose, lips and chin. Although she is now "walking, riding a bike, chatting and eating", she still requires further treatment in Lyon and Amiens. "When you look at her you realise there is something not quite normal about her facial mobility. But a certain expressiveness is slowly coming back," noted Dr Devauchelle. The jury is still out on face transplants - on psychological, practical and ethical grounds. As Iain Hutchison, an oral-facial surgeon at Barts and the London Hospital, previously said: "In the short-term, blood vessels in the donated tissue could clot. And in the long term, the immunosuppressants fail. The drugs also increase the patient's risk of cancer." Regarding the donor issue, Hutchison said: "Where donors would come from is one issue that would have to be considered. The transplant would have to come from a beating heart donor. "So, say your sister was in intensive care, you would have to agree to allow their face to be removed before the ventilator was switched off. And there is the possibility that the donor would then carry on breathing," he added. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jan 2006

Official: iPod owners are not thieves

iPod owners might be daft fashion victims who are easily parted from their money, but they are not thieves, despite what Steve Ballmer may, or may not, have said. A survey of US and UK music buyers reveals that although 25 per cent of people admit to downloading music from file-sharing services, only seven per cent of iPod owners do so. Proving that iPod users are either scrupulously honest or more paranoid they'll get sued by RIAA than owners of lesser music players.
John Oates, 11 Jan 2006

Apple stock price equals Intel's first x86 CPU

Apple's shares yesterday closed at $80.86 on the day CEO Steve Jobs introduced the first-ever Macintosh computers based on Intel microprocessors. Astute Register readers will immediately recognise that number: the 8086 was, of course, Intel's first 16-bit, x86 processor. It shipped in 1978, the year after Apple was founded. It contained 29,000 transistors and clocked a massive 5MHz. That's 5MHz, not G5MHz, of course. The 8086 paved the way for the 8088, the CPU used in IBM's first PC in 1982, and then in countless clones of that machine. The rest, as they say, is history. IBM's PCs are now sold by China's Lenovo. The first cloner, Compaq, is owned by HP. Bill Gates is as rich as Croesus. Apple's market share is a fraction of what it was back then. ® Thanks to reader Neil Sunerton for spotting this one.
Tony Smith, 11 Jan 2006

Sky unveils VoD service

Sky has unveiled details of a video-on-demand (VoD) service which gives punters access to sport and movies via a broadband connection The media giant reckons "Sky by broadband" gives customers greater choice to watch stuff when and where they like. Sky's VoD service is available to subscribers of two or more premium channels at no extra charge and lets them download movies and highlights from Sky Sports onto their PCs. With more than 200 movies available and a thousand sports clips to choose from, the satellite broadcaster reckons it is onto a winner. Of course, this is only part of the picture. Later in the year Sky intends to roll-out its own broadband access product - a direct result of its £211m acquisition of EasyNet. A spokesman for the company declined to say exactly when Sky would add net access to its portfolio of services, but confirmed it would be "later this year". As well as broadband VoD, Sky has also unveiled a service that beams its content to mobile-phone users. "Families' entertainment needs are changing fast and audiences increasingly expect to be able to access content whenever and wherever they want," said Sky's chief operating officer, Richard Freudenstein. "We are giving millions of viewers the ability to download movies legally or to keep up with Sky on the move," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Jan 2006
fingers pointing at man

Booming Infosys feels growing pains

Indian offshoring giant Infosys posted a profit of about $146m in its most recent quarter, up 30 per cent year-on-year, as revenues grew 35 per cent to $559m. Yesterday, however, the company warned that its growth was being constrained by infrastructure issues, and that it couldn't acquire the land it needed in Mangalore and Bangalore. Executives also cited lagging road infrastructure. The company benefitted from a fall in the value of the rupee, but this was more than offset by hedging costs. Infosys added more than 3,200 to its net headcount in Q3. Which means it's growing three-times faster than Google. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jan 2006
chart

US patents get open-source flavour

The US Patent and Trademark Office is working with open-source developers to improve the way patents are applied to software. The USPTO has been talking to several firms, including IBM. Big Blue topped the patent charts again last year with 2,941 applications. The Patent Office will provide an open patent review section on its website so interested parties can search for patent applications in certain areas, or register to get an alert when someone files for a relevant patent. This would make it easier for people to show "prior art". The office will also work to provide a quality index to show people best practice when applying for patents. Jon Dudas, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property, said: "For years now, we have been hearing concerns from the software community about the patent system. It is important that those in the open-source community are joining USPTO to provide resources that are key to examining software-related applications." There will be an open public meeting on 16 February at USPTO's HQ to discuss the changes. More details from the Patent Office here and from the New York Times here.®
John Oates, 11 Jan 2006

Spielberg's Munich mired in Bafta awards muddle

Steven Spielberg's Munich has effectively been knocked out of the running for next month's Bafta awards after a batch of DVDs sent to voters eligible to judge the UK award were coded incorrectly for European viewing. Copies of the film were earlier held up for a month in UK Customs. When they finally made it out of cold storage British Academy of Film and Television Arts voters found they were encoded as Region 1 DVDs. That meant they would only be playable on multi-region DVD players. But the DVDs was encrypted so that they'd only play on proprietary DVD players supplied by Dolby-subsidiary Cinea so even that approach was doomed. A spokeswoman for Munich's distributors blamed a "lab error" for the SNAFU. She said UK screenings of the film would be arranged to make sure voters saw the film but it's unlikely there's enough time to arrange this properly before the second round of voting, which ends on Thursday. Munich, which went into theatrical release in the US last month but is yet to air in the UK, is in running for Bafta's Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay categories. The critically acclaimed thriller tells the story of Israel's campaign to assassinate Palestinian terrorist leaders suspected of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes after taking them hostage during the 1972 Munich Olympics. ®
John Leyden, 11 Jan 2006
graph up

School data not good enough

Educational computer systems in Britain face a radical overhaul in order to improve authorities' intelligence about the children in their care. Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education & Skills, gave a hint of the enormity of the task during a speech at the education technology trade show, BETT, in London today. Data held about school children must be brought up to the "highest standard", she said, so that it could be shared with other government departments, parents and teachers. "We intend to establish governance arrangements which will bring together the key partners across the children and learning sectors to tackle this issue system-wide," she said. Behind the scenes, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, a quango, has been entrusted with much of the strategic direction behind this and related technological schemes in education. The Department for Education & Skills wants schools to share data about children with police and social services. But many school systems are not up to scratch. Becta will accordingly be pushing for schools to overhaul their management information systems. These will be linked into learning environments, as well as the systems of external agencies. The department also intends to fold pupils' data back into the system to tailor learning provision to their individual needs. This is all going to take a lot of money, not least because bringing school data up to scratch is going to depend on the completion of a number of other schemes being co-ordinated at Becta. As it happens, every one of the key policy areas being tackled by Becta for the DfES (infrastructure, data, learning, connectivity) will have some bearing on the validity of data held in education. Not surprisingly, said a source at Becta, improving the quality of data in education is going to be a "mammoth task". In 2005, the quango began setting up procurement frameworks to govern suppliers who do the work in these areas. The most significant framework agreements, which will govern the detail of Kelly's plans, are still on the drawing board. Frameworks for infrastructure services, learning services and MIS systems will be decided this year, even as Becta and the DfES are pushing for schools to get on with upgrading their systems in these areas. ®
Mark Ballard, 11 Jan 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

SAP beats estimates, but shares fall

Stronger than expected sales of software licenses by SAP weren't rewarded by the market today. SAP will show a rise in revenue to €2.75bn for the fourth quarter according to company guidance, of which $1.18bn is from software sales. Sales of licenses grew by 18 per cent, higher than the 12 to 14 per cent target. But its stock price fell by almost three per cent in the largest fall for a year. Analysts blamed the company's decision to invest in new staff, rather than reward the shareholders. SAP reports its full figures for the quarter on 25 January.®
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jan 2006
iTablet Mac tablet

Tablet Mac draws bidders on eBay

Tired of waiting for Apple's long-rumoured tablet Mac to ship? Then US-based hardware mod project site, ThePlaceforitAll.com, may have the answer. It today offered the first of 100 12in iBooks re-tooled as a tablet, complete with stylus and touch-sensitive screen. The so-called iTabs - née iTablet, changed for legal reasons - are being modified on a one-by-one basis. The process essentially involves fixing down the laptop's lid after removing the LCD and mounting the touch-sensitive panel in the upper surface. A power button connects through to the one usually found above the iBook's keyboards, and there's a stylus holder attached to the side.
Tony Smith, 11 Jan 2006

Oracle helps Ashcroft board the terror gravy train

Former US Attorney General John Ashcroft has hit the ground running in his new lobbying business - mostly thanks to Larry Ellison. Ellison's Oracle provided $220,000 of the $269,000 banked by The Ashcroft Group, the company reported in a financial statement. Ashcroft started the lobby business last summer with his former chief of staff, David Ayres. Ellison's interest is pragmatic. The explosion in surveillance and data mining under the PATRIOT act is a potential bonanza for database vendors. The Oracle founder wasn't deterred by the firm's declared mission. "The Ashcroft Group will represent big companies with big problems", said a prominent staffer when the lobby firm launched. But Ashcroft's decision to profit from his inside knowledge has raised a few eyebrows. The company says it's touting for business from foreign governments, raising secrecy issues. In fact, the godfather of the PATRIOT Act, appears to have a flexible sense of his own patriotic obligations. Boeing, a major employer in the US, is bidding for a South Korean defense contract, but The Ashcroft Group chose to consult for an Israeli rival. ® Related link Chicago Tribune report
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Jan 2006

Apple bitten by iTunes security bugs

Security researchers have discovered four critical vulnerabilities involving Apple's QuickTime media player software and the download application for Apple's iTunes music store. The flaws create a means for hackers to take control of affected systems, according to eEye Digital Security, the firm that discovered the bugs. All four security issues are exploitable via iTunes. Because of the popularity of Apple's iPod among office workers many businesses, as well as consumers, are potentially exposed to attack. The cross platform flaw affects Windows 2000, Windows XP and Apple Mac OS X systems running vulnerable versions of iTunes. Fortunately Apple has released a fix. Users are urged to update to QuickTime 7.0.4. More info on the flaws can be found in a series of advisories by eEye Digital Security (here, here, here, here). ®
John Leyden, 11 Jan 2006

Papa LSD makes the trip to 100

Heroic comedian Bill Hicks once called for the news media to run a positive story on LSD consumption - a "Boy sees God and humanity's inner-beauty" piece meant to counter the "Boy jumps out of window and splatters" tales. We can come pretty close to achieving this goal by reporting that Albert Hofmann - the discoverer of LSD - has turned 100 today. Far from having some grotesque tumor or a melting brain, Hofmann continues to plod along in smashing style. In fact, he's the celebrity guest at a LSD symposium being held this week in Basel and will give a talk. The conference was set up to match Hofmann's 100th birthday. Hofmann's early research into lysergic acid led to the discovery of LSD-25 in 1938. It would, however, take another five years before Hoffman set out on the first voluntary LSD trip. At the fabled 4:20 pm, Hofmann put down a whopping 250 microgram dose of Lysergic acid diethylamide, started feeling a bit funky and set out for a bike ride - likely the most fantastic and odd ride anyone had yet to experience. For quite some time, LSD was used as a scientific tool and thought to have particularly strong benefits in psychology. As we all know though, the damn hippies got their hands on the acid and shocked the Normals with their "turn on, tune in" culture. It didn't take too long before the "Boy jumps out of window and splatters" stories started to outclass the feeling that LSD would deliver a higher consciousness to humankind or perhaps open a portal to aliens. Hofmann continues to call for LSD to be embraced by scientists once again as a possible tool for helping with psychological problems. Happy birthday, Albert. Our third eye thanks you. ® Bootnote It's surely no coincidence that Zane Kesey - the son of author Ken Kesey - has released word today of his intentions to restore "Furthur" - the Merry Pranksters' faithful bus. The elder Kesey and a crew that included Neal Cassady traveled around the US in the 1960s, draining LSD-spiked orange juice as "Furthur" hurtled along the highways. Kesey, of course, volunteered to take part in a 1959 LSD study at Stanford University. The lab rats were given acid and then observed in a painfully clinical setting. This experience provided some of the inspiration for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and we're all the better for it. There's a well-timed story in The Guardian on LSD's artistic links as well.
Ashlee Vance, 11 Jan 2006

'Live' Visual Studio on drawing board

Microsoft is starting work on a "live" version of its Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE) and is courting input from Windows developers on the project. John Montgomery, a director who spent seven years in Microsoft developer division marketing, has become a product manager to help define features in Visual Studio Live. Montgomery already has some ideas about what Visual Studio Live will offer, but is looking for more input. Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief software architect, launched the "live software" strategy last November. Live software taps into a growing trend for software to be delivered online, with relevant data and content held on back-end servers. Microsoft has already pitched the Office Live and Windows Live services, which have emerged as fairly uninspiring and unoriginal hosted website and email services and links to other websites and communities of interest. According to Montgomery, Visual Studio 2005 - also launched last November - already contains some online features. These include help that searches the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and Microsoft's CodeZone community in addition to locally installed .hxs files for answers. There is no word when Microsoft plans to roll out Visual Studio Live, although - if Web 2.0 as typified by Windows Live is anything to go by - we will probably see a beta made available online for testing well in advance of the first full offering. ®
Gavin Clarke, 11 Jan 2006

Google and CBS release embarrassment of a video store

ReviewReview "This is a truly historical meeting of the established and new media," said Les Moonves, the head of CBS, about his network's new video partnership with Google. Um, no, Les. So far, it's just a really crap web site. If, like us, you expected the new and improved Google Video service to rival something like Apple's iTunes store, then do yourself a favor and don't visit the Google shop for a few months. Google has done nothing to celebrate its unique access to shows such as CSI, Survivor and Star Trek. Instead, the company has buried CBS's shows beneath a dismal interface wrapped in a shambles of a delivery mechanism.
Ashlee Vance, 11 Jan 2006
globalisation

Hungry CA takes a bite out of PC protection

Two weeks into the New Year and Computer Associates International (CA) has bought its second company, again targeting improved systems performance. CA is buying privately held partner Control-F1, whose software helps IT staff automate the detection, prevention and repair of PC problems, which in turn reduces outages. Control-F1 is a venture-backed company with offices in the US and Canada. Under the deal, CA will integrate Control-F1's products with software in CA's business services optimization portfolio, which CA said would help customers reduce costs, improve services levels and "align the IT with the business." Financial terms were undisclosed. Control-F1 provides CA SupportBridge Live Automation to repair remote computers, CA SupportBridge Self Healing Automation that monitors registry and configuration settings and the state of applications and hardware, and CA SupportBridge Self Service Automation that provides internet-based help. Acquisition of Control-F1 follows CA's purchase last week of privately held application performance and management specialist Wily Technologies for $375m. ®
Gavin Clarke, 11 Jan 2006

Investors toy with Sun and HP

This has been a fine week for proving the sage wisdom of Wall Street, particularly where hardware companies are concerned. Witness shares of Sun Microsystems which have drooped to $4.52 since nearing a 52-week high last week at more than $4.80 a share. Part of the drop seemed to stem from a Bernstein & Co. research note penned by analyst Toni Sacconaghi. The analyst downgraded his price target for Sun to $4.00 from $4.20. Sacconaghi - by far the most diligent hardware financial analyst - knocked Sun for a couple of reasons. The first being a muted impact from Sun's impressive Opteron-based and UltraSPARC T1-based servers. The new systems have caught the attention of customers, but they just don't make up a big enough part of Sun's business yet to have a huge influence on overall revenue, the analyst said. The second reason for Sacconaghi's souring on Sun is the more comic one. As he points out almost every quarter, Sun's shares bounce higher ahead of its quarterly earnings reports. Time and again, investors give in to their optimistic feelings and hope to cash-in early on a strong report from Sun. And, time and again, Sun disappoints with falling revenue and either a miniscule profit or a teeny loss. "Sun's stock has run up nearly 30 per cent since mid-November, ostensibly on expectations of notably stronger results driven by its new Galaxy and NIagara offerings," Sacconaghi wrote. Sun will either impress or distress when it reports second quarter results on Jan. 24. Our other bit of Wall Street humor centers around HP. HP's shares today cruised right past a 52-week high to close at $31.34. It's been five years since investors saw such a figure. In steps Prudential Equity Group with an upgrade, kicking HP to overweight from neutral. Few analysts would have deemed HP overweight before CEO Mark Hurd arrived. We don't know if that was in deference to the company having a female CEO or simply because of Carly Fiorina's weak track record. One thing, however, is clear. Hurd has not performed any miracles whatsoever since taking over HP. In fact, Fiorina enjoyed even better quarters during parts of her reign that Hurd has seen in recent months. Still, the market seems to love the man for no other reason than that he is not Fiorina. Far be it from us to suggest that investors would be influenced subconsciously in their stock picks by sexist motivations. No, the reason for the incredible Hurd boost from $20ish a share to more than $30 is clear. "While HP's longer-term strategic issues still concern us, we expect these issues to be overshadowed this year by the benefit of continued cost reductions, improved tactical execution, consistency and credibility as well as strong earnings growth momentum," wrote Prudential analyst Steven Fortuna. Credibility? Yeah, that's it. ®
Ashlee Vance, 11 Jan 2006