20th > January > 2006 Archive

UK.gov loves computer contractors (true)

The government has surpassed the private sector to become the country’s largest employer of freelance IT specialists. Over one in four IT contractors in the UK now work in the public sector, according a report by contractor services firm Giant Group.
Startups.co.uk, 20 Jan 2006

ONS struggles to define ecommerce revenues

The growing popularity of online shopping has transformed from just another showroom for selling goods into a driver of economic growth, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) claims. In an article examining trends in online spending, published yesterday, the country’s official statistician acknowledges that its coverage of ecommerce should be revamped. The ONS includes internet sales in its coverage of the retail sector, but it says that growth in industry sub-sectors, such as online gambling and gaming, international purchases, software and specialist online retailers, now warrant separation into a wider category of study. “Although coverage of internet spending is good, there are some areas where future work is needed to ensure coverage is as good as possible,” the ONS said. “The most important area is the increasing use of the internet to make purchases from abroad. Traditional trade data may not be covering all areas where internet purchasing is taking place and this needs further investigation.” The authors suggested the ONS should also look more closely at small but fast-growing markets, such as ringtones and downloadable music. More than 55 per cent of households in Britain have access to the internet. It is this statistic that has largely driven the sector’s sales, which topped £18.1bn in 2004. But the ONS said that a growing number of businesses are getting in on the act. “The internet is not only an expanding channel for household and business spending, but it is also a driver for productivity growth,” it said. Copyright © 2006
Startups.co.uk, 20 Jan 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Swindon goes large on outsourcing

Swindon Borough Council is planning to outsource its back office services in a deal that could be worth up £500m. The Wiltshire authority is inviting tenders for a contract of between 10 and 15 years, with a proposed option to extend for a further five to 10 years. The annual value of the tender is expected to be worth £20m a year to take on management of a large number of the council's services. Swindon has seen its comprehensive performance assessment rating rise from zero to two out of a possible three stars, but it said in the OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) notice that it wants to improve further. It is looking for a partner to take on the running of a number of key back office functions including ICT, HR, property management and revenues and benefits, among others. This tender notice follows the high-profile cancellation last week of one of the biggest outsourcing deals in local government, when Walsall Council pulled its £650m deal with IT company Fujitsu Services. The collapse of the Walsall deal came after the council decided its services had already begun to improve, and that the partnership with Fujitsu was no longer affordable. The 12-year deal had been expected to create about 750 new jobs. 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, 20 Jan 2006

IT industry prepares for the worst over ID cards

After years in which suppliers have absorbed most of the blame for government IT failures, the case for there being equal measures of ineptitude in the civil service is gaining momentum behind the concerted campaign against ID Cards. The latest evidence was submitted as a statement this week by Intellect, the UK's IT trade association, in a thinly veiled case of passing the blame. It followed a machine-gun of criticism about the feasibility of ID Cards this week, from the opposition, the Lords and anti-corporate campaigners. The consensus fear is of the costs running out of control and the system not working, both are which are par for the course in public sector IT. Intellect's members have been on the back foot for the last 18 months as the government's procurement agency, the Office of Government Commerce, streamrollered plans to make them take the bulk of accountability for IT failure. IT failure is so commonplace that everyone appears to expect ID Cards, should they ever make it out of the Westminster ideas factory, to be an embarrassing debacle. The problem for Intellect is that the suppliers always get the blame. And it does not suit them. Intellect director general John Higgins should not therefore be blamed for sounding a little chippy when in his latest statement he says an ID fiasco would be the fault of government, not industry. That's what he says between the lines anyway. What he actually says is that if the government wants ID Cards to work it should pay attention to all those things that it is known more for neglecting when implementing IT projects. In summary, it is define a project's objectives well from the start, fix it in stone, give it strong leadership, audit its progress thoroughly, test it properly. That is, avoid doing going the usual way of government projects: plan it on the back of an envelope, ask for the world and plan for it to be built in a day by a couple of blokes found hanging around outside the Job Centre. Intellect's advice is accepted knowledge in professional and academic circles, but it never fails to stop either government or businesses doing exactly the opposite when they want some IT system put in: they give all the responsibility and save all the blame for the supplier. The most widely respected authority on this matter - and one that has advised the government over IT procurement - is the Standish Group. The IT failures Standish has studied all have one thing in common, which is a list of common reasons for going wrong. Most of them regard the amount of preparation, discipline and responsibility taken by the customer. The top three reasons for IT failure are most telling: user involvement; executive management support; clear business objectives. IT suppliers, being the experts, should do more to make sure their customers pay attention to these things. But pendulum had swung too far out of their favour in recent years. Cut them some slack. It's got a long way to carry in the other direction before we find a happy medium.®
Mark Ballard, 20 Jan 2006

AOL UK to spend £120m on local loop unbundling

AOL is planning to spend £120m to provide broadband and phone services direct to punters in a move that will further erode BT's dominance of the UK's telecoms sector. The ISP joins a growing number of companies - including Wanadoo, Sky, Bulldog and the Carphone Warehouse - that are committed to local loop unbundling (LLU). An initial £50m investment in LLU will see AOL install its kit in about 300 exchanges during the first half of this year - enabling the ISP to provide services to about 20 per cent of UK households. The company then plans to spend an extra £70m unbundling another 700 exchanges, giving it the chance to offer broadband and phone services to about half of UK homes. By controlling the line between the exchanges and people's homes, AOL would then be well-placed to roll-out other services such as internet telephony (VoIP), TV and video-on-demand, as well as other content services. Over time, the ISP - which has 1.1m broadband users in the UK out of a total user base of 2.3m - plans to migrate hundreds of thousands of customers onto its unbundled platform. In a statement, AOL UK chief exec, Karen Thomson, said: "We finally have the opportunity to bring large-scale competition into the UK's national telephone network. "The opportunity to compete on a level playing field with the incumbent will encourage substantial investment in digital services and content in the UK. "This will allow the UK to catch up with leading European countries, where unbundling is already delivering higher value services to consumers." One senior source told us: "With LLU we can offer products when we want and not when BT makes these services available." LLU's investment is being funded by parent company Time Warner. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2006

AMD looks to quintuple CPU cache capacity

AMD has licensed a memory chip technology that could allow it to increase its processors' cache sizes fivefold without changing the size of each chip's die. The technology is called Z-RAM and was developed by US-Swiss start-up Innovative Silicon, EETimes reports. IS' technique strips out the capacitor components commonly integrated into on-chip memory. The upshot: more space is created for memory cells, boosting the size of the cache.
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006

Rambus Q4 income drops 35 per cent

Rambus posted mixed Q4 FY2005 results yesterday, with a large year-on-year income gain accompanying a big sequential slide. Net income for the three months to 31 December 2005 came to $9.4m, down 35 per cent on the previous quarter but up 45 per cent year on year. Fully diluted earnings for the fourth quarter were nine cents, compared to six cents in Q4 FY2004 and 14 cents in the previous quarter. Sales for the period totalled $41.6m, up 16 per cent from Q3's $36m and up eight per cent on Q4 FY2004's $38.6m. The Q4 figures include $6.9m in contract revenues, Rambus said, up 14.3 per cent over the same period last year and down 13.5 per cent sequentially. The decrease arose from the timing of deliverables under certain memory and serial link technology development contracts, the company said. A 23.7 per cent sequential increase in royalty revenues - to $34.7m - was primarily due to Infineon's first quarterly royalty payment of $5.9m under the licensing agreement that ended the two firms' bitter legal battle in March 2005. For the full fiscal year, Rambus reported net income of $33.7m - barely higher than 2004's $33.6m - on revenues of $157m, up eight per cent on the $157m the company reported this time last year. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006

New Horizons off to Pluto

NASA's New Horizons' mission to Pluto blasted off yesterday from Cape Canaveral - the first step in a 10-year, one-way trip. According to the NASA press release, the Atlas V rocket carrying the vehicle lifted off at 14:00 EST. It separated from the solid fuel "kick motor" a tad under 45 minutes later. Five minutes after that, radio signals from New Horizons confirmed that all was well. Dr Colleen Hartman, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, enthused: "Today, NASA began an unprecedented journey of exploration to the ninth planet in the solar system. Right now, what we know about Pluto could be written on the back of a postage stamp. After this mission, we'll be able to fill textbooks with new information." Dr. Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal investigator, indulged in a bit of flag-waving with: "The United States of America has just made history by launching the first spacecraft to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond. No other nation has this capability. This is the kind of exploration that forefathers, like Lewis and Clark 200 years ago this year, made a trademark of our nation." There's still a long way to go, though. The NASA blurb explains: "The 1,054-pound, piano-sized spacecraft is the fastest ever launched, speeding away from Earth at approximately 36,000 miles per hour, on a trajectory that will take it more than three billion miles toward its primary science target. New Horizons will zip past Jupiter for a gravity assist and science studies in February 2007, and conduct the first close-up, in-depth study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015. As part of a potential extended mission, the spacecraft would then examine one or more additional objects in the Kuiper Belt - the region of ancient, icy, rocky bodies (including Pluto) far beyond Neptune's orbit." New Horizons packs, as we previously reported, "imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a multi-color camera, a long-range telescopic camera, two particle spectrometers, a space-dust detector and a radio science experiment". The vehicle will spend most of its jaunt in hibernation mode, sending out a weekly beacon signal to report on status. Once a year, scientists will perform a health check to monitor "critical systems, calibrate instruments and perform course corrections, if necessary". New Horizons gets its juice from "a single radioisotope thermoelectric generator" and consumes less than 200 watts. Once at Pluto, New Horizons will "characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon [Pluto's moon], map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure". ®
Lester Haines, 20 Jan 2006

Tesco VoIP service flawed, say rivals

Tesco says the launch of its internet phone service will see the cost of calls "slashed to rock-bottom prices", but according to rivals, the service has too many restrictions and will not necessarily be any cheaper. The upshot for consumers is yet more confusion as they try to figure out whether it's worth buying into VoIP. Yesterday, the UK's giant supermarket chain announced that it had teamed up with Australian-based Freshtel to launch a VoIP service in the UK. The starter pack for the pay-as-you-go service costs £19.97, which includes a handset and £5 of free airtime. Once up and running, calls to other Tesco VoIP users are free, while landline calls in the UK and some international destinations such as the US, Canada and Australia cost 2p a minute. Calls to mobiles cost 10p a minute. Speaking yesterday, Andy Dewhurst, chief exec of Tesco Telecoms, said that Tesco's VoIP service will "make a niche product, previously the domain of techies, appealing to a mass market". He said: "Tesco internet phone is the future for fixed-line calls. It is so easy to use that people will see this as a pay-as-you-go landline. It will become a service rather than a gizmo. "Our prices speak for themselves. It costs 24p a minute to make a peak-time call to an Australian landline with BT. With Tesco home phone it costs 2p a minute at any time. The simplicity of the product and the great value call costs will mean customers will quickly catch on." The product might be simple, but trying to work out which tariff is more competitive is a real headache. BT, which continues to come under pressure from rival phone providers, hit back, describing the offer as a "poor deal for consumers". John Petter, chief operating officer of BT Retail, said: "Why would anyone want to pay £1.20 for a 60-minute call at the weekend or evenings when the same call would be just 5.5p with BT, which is 21-times cheaper? "Calls to mobiles at a flat rate of 10p per minute can also work out as expensive. A weekend call to a Vodafone mobile with BT is half that price, at 5p per minute." Wanadoo, which launched its VoIP service last year and claims to have more than 90,000 users, was also quick to point out the service's shortcoings. "Despite its promise of simplicity, consumers should be aware of the service's restrictions," said Wanadoo boss, Eric Abensur. In a dig at Tesco's service, he said: "With our service, consumers don't need to download any software, are not tied to a PC (it doesn't even need to be switched on) and can use an ordinary touch-tone phone to benefit from free evening and weekend calls to all UK landlines." Earlier this week Tesco announced it has signed up its one millionth punter for its mobile-phone service. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2006

ATI R580 GPU benchmarked

ATI's R580 graphics chip will appear in three Radeon X1900 configurations: the XT, the XTX and a CrossFire Edition. So claims Anandtech, citing an "internal ATI presentation". According to the website, the XT and XTX are clocked at 625MHz and 650MHz, respectively, with their DDR memory buffers set to run at 1.45GHz and 1.55GHz, respectively. Both chips support up to 512MB of GDDR 3.
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006

Mobile phones don't cause brain tumours

Using a mobile phone will not increase your chances of contracting cerebral cancer, a four-year study conducted in the UK has concluded. The results of the study, published today in the British Medical Journal, indicate that no matter how long you have used a phone for, or how frequently you make and take calls, your risk of developing a brain tumour remains the same.
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006

US man kills himself 'live' on gamers' forum

A 20-year-old US man is reported to have killed himself live on a webcam on Bulgarian gamers' forum www.metalgearsolid.org, according to AFP and other agencies. Mitchell "Mitch" Lee Stuekerjuergen, aka "Kuja105", reportedly swallowed antifreeze and pills "after complaining about family problems and a lack of money", forum administrator Boyan Georgiev is said to have told Bulgaria's BGNES news agency on Wednesday. Stuekerjuergen subesquently died on 4 January in hospital in Illinois. A certain amount of controversy surrounds the whole sorry affair, with some claiming that other forum members "thought the man was joking, even though he rambled for six hours about the effects of the substances and disappeared from view several times", as AFP puts it. The webcam part of the story is also disputed. This alleged misreporting has not impressed the gaming community. One indignant Slashdotter fumed yesterday: "Pulling from the AFP newswire, Yahoo, CNN, and others have been reporting about how a gamer broadcast his own suicide on a gaming forum via a webcam, and that members of the forum continued to ridicule the gamer while he killed himself. Gaming Horizon has just learned that this is completely untrue. The newswire reporter failed to check the facts, and, in turn, painted this simple gaming forum as cruel monsters." As a result of the suicide the forum was recently "pulled offline via the request of a government agency pending an investigation regarding the unfortunate passing of TUS forum member, Mitchell Stuekerjuergen", as a site statement notes. It is now back online with a number of tributes to Stuekerjuergen. ® Bootnote The Gaming Horizon version of events can be found here. It states, in part: Earlier this month, gamer named Mitchell S. with the online screenname "Kuja105" who posts on a few online videogame forums (including GameFaqs.com and MetalGearSolid.org) committed suicide. On January 2 he posted a message in both forums detailing his intent to end his own life, citing overwhelming complications with school and finances. A very brief period of initial disbelief was followed by a barrage of replies from fellow forum members pleading that he not take his life, trying to talk him out of it. For days, no word was heard from Mitchell. Fearing the worst, members and administration from metalgearsolid.org began searching for contact information, spending hours on the phone trying to get in touch with him. Finally on January 4, Ryan K., an administrator at metalgearsolid.org, got him on the phone and spent hours desperately trying to talk him out of it. Sadly, Mitchell soon ended his own life by consuming antifreeze and painkillers
Lester Haines, 20 Jan 2006

BOFH: 'Did you know..?'

Episode 3Episode 3 "Did you know..?" the Boss asks, strolling into Mission Control and attempting to read at the same time (which probably accounts for those thudding noises we heard earlier). "Yes we did," the PFY says, getting in early before the Boss can really get started.
Simon Travaglia, 20 Jan 2006

Phones4U raves about '3G Christmas'

Three in 10 of all 3G phone contracts sold in the UK are flogged by Phones4U shops, the retailer announced yesterday. "This has definitely been a 3G Christmas for Phones4U," said boss John Caudwell, echoing comments made by Dixons that this year had been a "digital Christmas". "I believe Phones4U is attracting younger and more technology-savvy customers than any other high-street mobile-phone retailer in the country," he chirped. His bullish comments came as the retailer revealed record profits on the back of strong Christmas trading. Publishing results for the 12 months to December, the firm reported that group turnover rose 15 per cent to £2.12bn while EBITDA (earnings before interest etc) hit £161m. The firm - which also includes phone business Caudwell Communications as well as mobile handset and accessories distributors 20:20 and Dextra - is still looking for a buyer following the tycoon's decision to flog his business empire. A shortlist of firms interested in buying the business is being compiled with a sale likely to be completed later this year. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2006

Acer to integrate 3G into notebooks

Acer is to embed 3G mobile-phone technology into its future notebook PC products, kicking off with a pair of Centrino Duo-based machines, the company said this week. The TravelMate 4260 and Aspire 5650 will both incorporate UMTS 3G and tri-band GSM/GPRS 2.5G radios to allow their users to connect to the internet across cellular networks without the need to connect the computer to a mobile phone.
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006
arrow pointing up

802.11n Wi-Fi spec nailed down, at last

Broadcom has begun sampling the first wireless chipsets that support the 802.11n draft specification that was finally approved yesterday for submission to the IEEE for ratification as a standard. The chip maker claimed its Intensi-Fi WLAN chipset family supports the specification agreed by the IEEE Task Group, but is software-upgradeable to ensure they remain compatible with the standard should it change while it's gaining IEEE approval. The finalisation of the 802.11n draft specification ends months of fighting between groups of companies touting their own visions of how the technology should work and what features the standard should deliver. In August 2005, the three main rivals agreed to merge their respective suggestions into a combined Joint Proposal to the Task Group. In October, however, Intel and a number of other companies launched a fourth group, the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC), in a bid to make the 802.11n proposal more suitable for consumer electronics and mobile applications. Last week, the JP team and the EWC agreed to align their specifications and to work to combine them ahead of yesterday's Task Group meeting. Clearly they were successful. The specification must now be formally submitted to the IEEE's 802.11 Working Group. Its engineers will vet the specification, tweaking it if necessary. Each modification must be put to the vote and win the support of 75 per cent of voters to be set in stone. The final Working Group specification will then be submitted to the broader IEEE for ratification as a standard. That could happen late 2006 / early 2007. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006

Banks make it easy for scammers

Financial scammers are making easy pickings of small businesses because banks are too lazy to check their transactions, say fraud campaigners Early Warning UK. It appears that standing orders are so easily forged that anyone can do it. The hardest part is getting a victim's bank account and sort code. Many companies put these on their websites to make it easy for their customers to set up electronic BACS payments. Then all you need to do is mock up a standing order form and scribble an unintelligible signature. Make the standing order out to claim money from the victim's account and put it into your own, preferably fake account.* Early Warning says the only reason this works is that the banks don't check their standing order forms properly. The only means of verifying a standing order, says Early Warning managing director, Andrew Goodwill, is with the signature. But, he says: "It relies on the bank checking it...it's a loophole that needs tidying up. The fault is always with the bank because the banks are not checking." We like stories that show banks up as greedy, lazy, anachronistic institutions. The only problem is that Early Warning's evidence for this trend is still a little thin on the ground. In fact, it is not quite a trend, but comprises two reports. One case which was stopped by the bank in question, apparently because the amount was so high. Another report from a mobile-phone company says petty criminals are forging standing orders to set up mobile-phone contracts. If the amount had been more reasonable the forged standing order would have slipped through the net, Goodwill reckons. (Money launderers being as greedy as money lenders - fancy that). Nevertheless, Goodwill has a hunch it is a trend. And he is in the business of giving early warnings. And it's not hard to believe he is right, not least because the banks are in the habit of caring more about their own profits than the care of their customers. * If you do not have a fake account of your own, apparently you can get one by sending out spam offering people home working jobs on the proviso that they set up a bank account for you. Then you give them five per cent of everything you launder. Easy!®
Mark Ballard, 20 Jan 2006

Million $ pixel site faces legal threat

The student entrepreneur behind the milliondollarhomepage.com is facing the threat of legal action from the firm that paid more than $38,000 for the last 1,000 pixels. Milliondollarweightloss.com secured the last slot on Alex Tew's website after he auctioned it on eBay. But the FT reports that lawyers representing the weight-loss site are preparing to sue Tew in a US court for "breach of contract", among other things. Lawyers representing milliondollarweightloss.com maintain that Tew told them they would receive "substantial free publicity" from the auction. "Our clients won the auction and wired the money eight days ago and it took Mr Tew at least five days just to put up their pixels and to engage in any PR," they said. "Our clients have lost the entire benefit of the bargain and were forced to incur expenses." But Tew said that he never "guaranteed" that the winner of the auction would receive any publicity and hopes the matter can be resolved without having to resort to legal action. Indeed, part of the problems stem from the fact that the site was floored by a DDoS attack, with the techo-extortionists demanding he cough up $50,000. In his blog, he makes a point of congratulating milliondollarweightloss.com for winning the auction and that the FBI in the US and the UK's National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) are investigating the DDoS attack. "My fingers are crossed we catch those responsible for the site attack/blackmail, but I'm aware it can be very difficult to track these types of people down, because they know how to cover their [digital] tracks," he wrote. He added: "I apologise to all the advertisers on the homepage for the site downtime. However, I do hope all my customers will see that I acted in what I thought was the best way: to get the site back online without paying the ransom." ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2006
Asus EAX1800XT TOP

Asus Extreme AX1800XT TOP

ReviewReview The ATI Radeon X1800 XT will go down in history as one of the shortest-lived flagship 3D graphics products in history. Launched three scant months ago, in October 2005, the lengthy delay in its introduction - said to be due to production problems with the R520 graphics processor that powers it - means that it's set to be replaced this month, January 2006, by the next generation of high-end ATI GPU. In the bare quarter of its existence, however, the Radeon X1800 XT has gathered plenty of praise for its performance and feature set, meaning its legacy is cemented and the product that will replace it will have a strong base to build on.
Ryszard Sommefeldt, 20 Jan 2006

Sex.com owner sells up to chase $65m damages

He may just have sold it for $14m, but the owner of the world's most valuable domain name, Gary Kremen, now intends to spend his time recovering the $65m he is still owed by the con-man who stole the domain 10 years ago. Kremen sold Sex.com to Escom for $14m on Wednesday but retains the technology he has built behind it since November 2000, plus a trademark for the name Sex.com. It is also believed that Kremen has not sold the entire domain but only a majority holding in it, retaining a minority stake for himself. Kremen refuses to discuss any details of the deal but exclusively told The Register he had been "made an offer I couldn't refuse". Asked how he could sell his baby, which he spent millions of dollars and years in court to gain ownership of, he told us simply: "Babies grow up." Kremen had originally registered Sex.com in May 1994 but it was stolen by lifelong con-man Stephen Cohen from under his nose in October 1995. Cohen spent the next five years battling to regain control of the domain. Cohen continued to run the domain at the height of the dotcom boom, making tens of millions of dollars each year and using part of the profits to ruin legal efforts by Kremen to get it back. Eventually, however, Kremen won the case and with it $65m in damages. Rather than pay, Cohen fled to Mexico and was on the run from May 2001, until he was finally caught in Tijuana in October. He is now resting in a US jail. Cohen has appeared before the original trial judge, Judge James Ware, who reportedly went "ballistic" at the fugitive from justice. Ware also ruled that Cohen will stay in jail until he starts collaborating with investigators trying to track down the millions he has stashed in off-shore accounts. Kremen told us now he has sold Sex.com that he will spent his time on the "100 different investments" he has. He recently bought 5,000 adult domain names and intends to use the advanced pay-per-click technology invented at Sex.com to make money from data traffic. However, Kremen confessed the main focus of his attention will now be tracking down Cohen's money through the labrinyth of shell companies he runs across the world. "He clearly made even more than we thought," Kremen explained. Cohen has been forced to give depositions while in jail outlining his financial affairs. As with his previous depositions in 2000, however, he has had an enormous attack of amnesia, this time, the confidence trickster asserts, due to a stroke he suffered while on the run. Kremen has yet to receive one cent of the $65m owed to him, although he did manage to seize ownership of Cohen's mansion in the exclusive San Diego district of Rancho Santa Fe, where he lives to this day.
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Jan 2006

Pipex hosting service floored by electrical fault

Pipex' data centre in London was floored by a power failure yesterday, leaving tens of thousands of customers in the dark. The electrical fault happened at about 10.00am yesterday morning at Pipex's Harbour Exchange data centre in the Docklands area of London. The broadband ISP is unable to say exactly how many web-hosting customers were hit yesterday, but accepted that it would be in the region of "tens of thousands" adding that the incident was "significant". In a statement, the firm said: "At 10am on Thursday, 19 January, there was a power fault on the distribution network that supplies Pipex's Harbour Exchange data centre in London. "This caused a consequential fault on an internal UPS (uninterruptible power supply). The result was a loss of power to some areas of the data centre for less than 30 minutes. Pipex is awaiting a full incident report from the regional electricity company and the building landlord. "While the majority of services were back online immediately, some required human intervention to restart. In addition to the on-site engineers, Pipex mobilised support in the south of England to aid a speedy recovery." The ISP said yesterday's downtime was "uncharacteristic of Pipex's services". Separately, Pipex announced yesterday that it had raised £14m to "fund further growth opportunities in the UK market". ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2006

Vive la France!

The Rotting Dog BlogThe Rotting Dog Blog Vive la France! January 19, 2006 - 09:13 am Here are three words I never thought I'd say: Vive la France! (Long Live France! - in French! - thanks Babelflush!). Seems like just last year there was cheese, the monkeys were eating it and there was a whole heap of surrendering going on. Well, not any more since their top guy has said if terrorists so much as wave a crusty baguette on the Champs Elysees then he's gonna pop a nuclear cap in their butts and no messing. I assume he means he'll ask the US to pop a nuclear cap since I can't imagine that the US Defense Department is going to just hand out independent nuclear deterrents to anyone who happens to turn up on a bicycle with a basket of stuffed songbirds and a bottle of calvados. And just whose ass is going to get popped with enriched plutonium? Iran, that's who. Jesus, do these Arabs never give up? There are [0] responses to this entry Where Kong went wrong January 19, 2006 - 10:45 am Hey, check out www.ireallyreallyneedprofessionalhelp.com - a fantastic King Kong blooper resource listing 10,359 celluloid howlers. For instance, did you spot that 'When Ann is juggling for Kong on the cliff edge she starts juggling at one point. If you look closely, you can see that she is simply moving her hands, and the rocks have been added digitally. This is most obvious when she leans right back, and the rocks don't match her hand movements at all'? Worse still, 'Note the chrome centers on the wire wheels of the taxi that Jack commandeers towards the end of the film. Initially the left rear one is missing, but it magically reappears later on.' My favorite, though, is: 'The drop fare on the taxi is shown as 25 cents. However, this fare was not charged until 1953, when the former taxi fare of 20c 1st 1/4 of a mile and 5c each additional 1/4 of a mile (which went into effect in 1934) was increased to 25c the 1st 1/5 of a mile and 5c each additional 1/5.' Jesus, this film cost around eight billion bucks. You'd think they could have gotten a properly qualified continuity person and someone to check the background facts on Wiki. Losers. There are [0] responses to this entry Dual core heaven January 19, 2006 - 11:00 am Uncle Tom Cobbley's hardware blog is having a sensational run to kick off the year. Last week, it carried an almost exclusive look inside the new Itashimami dual-core turbogaming hypertower - pretty well essential if you really want to get the full effect of Tapdancing Ninja Assassins - The Gene Kelly Legacy. Here's a top tip, btw, from Norleen Streetfighter's Xboxapocalypse: When you enter the kingdom of Murph the Shapeshifting Irish Deathmonger, hit Alt+A+CapLock then Ctrl+Shift+Alt+56 then quickly type in "sgynbiuwegfkejwrfb" to refill your energy sack with magic water and add 25 per cent extra wood to your fertility staff. And if that's not enough, Cobbley today is the first to reveal (after the NYT, but like who reads print these days? Jeez) the new HardOn Industries "Sidewinder" Bluetooth VoIP mouse with 26 Gig of flash memory, GPS, magnifying glass, sailmaker's awl and a really small pair of tweezers which slide into a little slot on the base. The bad news is, it only works with Windows XP, although an emergency Umbongo Linux Collective codefest says it'll have a driver ready by Saturday; Friday if the Coke and coffee supplies hold out. There are [0] responses to this entry Time to go January 19, 2006 - 11:15 am Knocked sideways by a blitzkrieg blogslap (marked 'DEFCON 9/11-PearlHarbor-Alamo' - in red, and flashing) which says Osama bin Laden is about to attack the US. Took me a couple of minutes to fully take it in, but thank God I prepared for this. Gonna sign off for a couple of minutes. Will log onto the WLAN from the panic room as soon as I've sealed myself in. I suggest you get down to www.protectsurviveandvotebushagain.mil.us. and get with the program. Here's a summary: In the event of unexpected attack by Arabs, you and partner should: Panic buy the following essential items: Flour, sugar, gasoline, toilet paper, plastic sheeting, duct tape and a year's supply of Wendy's Crunchy Chilli Fingers and Sunny D. Use the plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal up the doors and windows of your designated "safe room". Once inside this quarantined area, you are completely safe from all forms of nuclear, bacteriological and chemical attack. Remain in this room until told it is safe to leave, or until the Sunny D runs out, whichever is the sooner. Use the plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal up the doors and windows of your SUV. This is in case of surprise al-Qaeda attack while you are double-parked outside your kids' school. Once inside this quarantined area, you are completely safe from all forms of nuclear, bacteriological and chemical attack. Remain in the vehicle until told it is safe to leave, or until the Sunny D runs out, whichever is the sooner. Pass the time by joining queues at gas stations, whether you need fuel or not. This will make you feel that you are doing everything possible to protect your children. Turn off the television. Small children are easily scared, especially by documentaries demonstrating in graphic detail the effects of an al-Qaeda dirty bomb detonated in, say, Times Square. If your children cannot exist for more than 15 minutes without television — as a result of being kept indoors since birth as a precaution against shooting by crack-fuelled gangs of Hispanics — at least turn down the sound. Such programs tend to favour a doom-laden baritone narrator and apocalyptic synth soundtrack. Keep a clockwork radio tuned to emergency frequencies at all times. These will relay essential information as to the whereabouts of small supplies of gasoline for which you can queue to pass the time until the all-clear sounds. Make sure that your children have plenty of educational reading material. Desperate as things may seem, remember that a post-war America will need a new generation of literate and well-informed citizens to ensure that future generations will never again suffer the horrors of armed conflict. We recommend: Noddy in Ragheadland, Five go mad at the UN Security Council and Harry Potter and the Missile of al-Samoud. Most important of all, don't panic. Your children's lives may depend on you keeping a level head. Having proper information as to the scale and scope of any threat will enable you to make adequate provision for enemy attack. The government is the only reliable source of unbiased scientific data as to how Osama bin Laden, if unchallenged, will kill millions of innocent kiddies whose only crime was to ask: "Mom, why doesn't nice uncle George go and smack those bad, bad Iranians?" Remember, this is why we are fighting. There are [0] responses to this entry Faraday January 19, 2006 - 12:02 pm Ok, back online. If I drop out for a few minutes, just bear with me - the wireless LAN hasn't been the same since I rigged the Faraday cage to keep the spooks out. Word is my blog has the guys up top pretty rattled, so you can never be too safe. There are [0] responses to this entry Apocalypse January 19, 2006 - 12:17 pm Blogosphere's all a-tremble with the bin Laden thing. Nothing on CNN, but then that's only to be expected. As ChopperBoy says down at circlingblackhelicopters.cia says: 'All news media is instructed - in the event of imminent attack - to broadcast as normal.' That makes sense. I guess they don't want people to panic and all jump in their SUVs at once in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to escape the apocalypse. Sort of reminds me of that film Deep Black Armageddon - the one where Bruce Willis is sent to nuke an asteroid which is about to destroy all life on earth and when he gets there he finds it's controlled by a sneering Arab played by that Alan Rickman guy. There are [0] responses to this entry Thanks guys January 19, 2006 - 13:13 pm Feeling pretty lonely down here in the basement. Thanks guys for hanging in there for me. There are [0] responses to this entry WTF? January 19, 2006 - 14:39 pm Dad rang to say something about Iran and Arabs and Persians. I think that's what he said because the Faraday cage was making a complete mess of the cell signal. What the hell cats have to do with Iran's nuclear program I have no idea, but I was pretty pissed with the old man when he should have been duct-taping himself and mom into the basement. Better news from Norlene Streetfighter. She's still blogging in there with the best of them from her emergency blog facility out in the yard. Actually, it's just a dumpster with a tarpaulin slung over the top, but she reckons it'll give a couple of hours protection from SARS or anthrax - long enough to use the suicide kit she's assembled from two hundred barbiturate tablets, a razor blade and a six-pack of Coors. That ought to do it, I reckon. Jesus, that Coors sucks. There are [0] responses to this entry Nothing January 19, 2006 - 20:59 pm Nothing. Not a word. CNN is still broadcasting as normal which leads me to fear the worse. Am down to my last slice of pizza but I am not leaving this room until I have been told it is safe to do so. Gonna hit the sack now, to conserve energy. Anyone who's ever been reduced to drinking their own urine - get in touch. All advice welcome. There are [0] responses to this entry Shame January 20, 2006 - 07:11 am I'm ashamed to admit it, but hunger drove me this morning to unseal the safe room and make a dash for the kitchen. I put on one of those paper masks which protect you against airborne Ebola (99c from Wal-Mart). If I'm still blogging in an hour, it worked. If not, it's because I'm oozing my vital organs out through my ass. Thanks to ISurvivedWoodstock, btw, for the urine advice. I had no idea it could take three days to find your way out of a field if you were bombed on LSD. There are [0] responses to this entry Is this the end? January 20, 2006 - 13:07 pm I don't know how much longer I can hold out. In the last 24 hours I've had just four family-sized pizzas, a jumbo bucket of sweet popcorn and a 2-liter bottle of Dr Pepper. Plus twelve beers. I'm starting to come round to Norlene Streetfighter's way of thinking. There's no way on God's Green Earth I'm going to lie here and wait for the radiation to burn off my skin. Maybe it's better to end it now. Any thoughts? Oh yeah - wow. If anyone else out there needs cheering up at this, the darkest hour, try these Rachel Weisz sites. I tell you, that girl gets my vote for her Golden Globes: www.rachelweiszforpope.de www.nipslipinternational.com/rachelweisz/goldenglobes/jubtastic1.jpg www.weiszversusportman.com www.rachelpleasehavemybabies.co.uk There are [36,207] responses to this entry 36,207 responses to "Is this the end?" marrymecarrie says: January 20, 2006 - 13:09 pm i think you need to calm down before you do something silly - like start comparing rachel weisz to natalie portman or - and i think you know where i'm going here, her imperial divineness carrie fisher JolieWorshipper362 says: January 20, 2006 - 13:11 pm Rachel Weisz? I'd rather kill myself than even contemplate killing myself with an image of Rachel Weisz as the last thing to slip through my mind as it lapsed into unconciousness. Try this: get a full-sized promotional cut-out of Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, stand it in front of the garage door and then hang yourself from the rafters. BlogPedant says: January 20, 2006 - 13:26 pm 'The drop fare on the taxi is shown as 25 cents. However, this fare was not charged until 1953, when the former taxi fare of 20c 1st 1/4 of a mile and 5c each additional 1/4 of a mile (which went into effect in 1934) was increased to 25c the 1st 1/5 of a mile and 5c each additional 1/5.' No - the 25 cent drop fare came into force in 1952. MoulinRouge says: January 20, 2006 - 13:34 pm Hey beautiful - here's that great site I told you about! You owe me one: www.stuffedsongbirds.fr Kurt666 says: January 20, 2006 - 13:43 pm JolieWorshipper362 wrote: Rachel Weisz? I'd rather kill myself than even contemplate killing myself with an image of Rachel Weisz as the last thing to slip through my mind as it lapsed into unconciousness. Try this: get a full-sized promotional cut-out of Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, stand it in front of the garage door and then hang yourself from the rafters. No - get a topless picture of Madeleine Stowe, pin it to a wall in front of a homemade guillotine and then decapitate yourself while listening to Niravana EdelWeisz says: January 20, 2006 - 13:46 pm marrymecarrie wrote: i think you need to calm down before you do something silly - like start comparing rachel weisz to natalie portman or - and i think you know where i'm going here, her imperial divineness carrie fisher youguys suck rachel big goodess in san petersberg may you dicks fall off pigs TaxiDriver says: January 20, 2006 - 13:55 pm BlogPedant wrote: No - the 25 cent drop fare came into force in 1952. Jesus, you moron, the 25 cent drop fare was introduced in 1954. I should know, I was a New York cabbie for 73 years. bangbangyou'redead says: January 20, 2006 - 14:04 pm Kurt 666 wrote: No - get a topless picture of Madeleine Stowe, pin it to a wall in front of a homemade guillotine and then decapitate yourself while listening to Niravana Hey, try this - cover the walls of a room with photographs of Carrie Ann Moss. Sit and stare at them for around 12 hours after which time you should be finally convinced that she really isn't going to let you f**k her, ever, then pull out your pa's service reveolver and blow you fu**in' brains out. Emarrymecarrie says: January 20, 2006 - 14:12 pm EdelWeisz wrote: youguys suck rachel big goodess in san petersberg may you dicks fall off pigs THIS ENTRY WAS DELETED FOR BREACH OF THE BLOGFELCH TERMS AND CONDITIONS BlogPedant says: January 20, 2006 - 14:13 pm TaxiDriver wrote: Jesus, you moron, the 25 cent drop fare was introduced in 1954. I should know, I was a New York cabbie for 73 years. THIS ENTRY WAS DELETED FOR BREACH OF THE BLOGFELCH TERMS AND CONDITIONS NorleneStreetfighter says: January 20, 2006 - 14.29 pm i don't feel very well. anyone know the antidote for barbiturates and coors? Something positive January 20, 2006 - 15:00 pm Something positive amid the despair. The Umbongo Linux collective finished the driver for the HardOn Industries "Sidewinder" Bluetooth VoIP mouse this morning at 06:16 - well ahead of schedule. Well done guys and have a beer for me. Dad called again. Something about Osama bin Laden on TV. Still nothing on CNN, though. I suppose the mass exodus from the cities is well underway by now. I just hope I'm on the list of the million or so essential people who will be selected to live underground for the next five years, thereby preserving the species while the rest of you die above ground. The post-apocalypse world will need opinion formers. I'm expecting the call any minute now... There are [0] responses to this entry
The Rotting Dog, 20 Jan 2006

German court orders shutdown of Wikipedia

The German Wikipedia site was taken down by court order this week because it mentioned the full name of a deceased Chaos Computer Club hacker, known as Tron. A Berlin court ordered the closure of the site on Tuesday after it sided with the parents of the German hacker, who wanted to prevent the online encyclopedia from publishing the real name of their son. A final ruling is expected in two weeks' time. On Friday, the Wikipedia Foundation settled with the court so that users can still access the site temporarily on a different URL. There, oddly enough, the full name of the German hacker still appears. The English version of Wikipedia also has an entry on Tron. In 1998, Tron - who took his name from a Disney movie – mysteriously disappeared, apparently because he was under suspicion of committing computer fraud. The hacker was later found hanged in a Berlin park. His parents originally objected against publishing his full name last year, but the court order was mistakenly addressed to Saint Petersburg, Russia, rather than Saint Petersburg, Florida, where the Wikipedia Foundation resides. A spokesperson for the Chaos Computer Club (Germany’s most famous hacker and electronic rights group), is supporting the parents, but the court action may have the opposite effect, as many German papers now purposely mention Tron's full name.®
Jan Libbenga, 20 Jan 2006
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Apple to open stores in Germany, reseller claims

Apple is planning to open a series of Apple Stores in Germany, with the first shop coming on stream before the end of the year. So claimed Archibald Horlitz, head of German reseller Gravis, in an interview with local business newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this week. The move is "99.9 per cent" certain, he said.
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006

UK splashes out £5bn on bumper e-Xmas

Consumer demand for online shopping broke more records this Christmas with UK sales up almost 50 per cent compared to last year, according to research from Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG). The company estimates shoppers spent almost £5bn in the 10 weeks to Christmas compared to £3.33bn during the same period last year. These latest figures cap off yet another good 12 months for online sales, with IMRG describing 2005 as a "year of remarkable dynamic growth for UK online shopping". Over the past 12 months, UK consumers spent £19.2bn on goods and services - 32 per cent more than in 2004. Researchers reckon that 24 million UK shoppers bought something online last year, spending, on average, £816 each. "There can no longer be any doubt that the internet is a major part of the retail landscape and that it will dominate the retail agenda for the next several years," said IMRG managing director, Jo Tucker. "A step change happened in retailing at Christmas. Consumers have spoken. They want the convenience and choice that online shopping provides. Many just don't have time to trudge the streets hoping goods are in stock." Looking ahead, IMRG reckons that e-tail will grow 36 per cent during 2006, with sales of £26bn and punters spending on average more than £1,000 online. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2006
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South Korea warns Japan over Hynix DRAM tax

The South Korean Government will formally complain to the World Trade Organisation if Japan proceeds with a plan to impose a punitive import duty on Hynix DRAM products, it said this week. The Japanese Government announced the 27.2 per cent levy in October 2005, though the duty is not expected to be formally imposed until next month. The decision to hit Hynix this way followed an investigation into complaints made by Japanese memory companies that Hynix had received unlawful financial aid from the South Korean Government, thus giving it an unfair competitive advantage. The complaints hark back to a rescue package put in place by Hynix's creditor banks between 2000 and 2002. At the time, many of these banks were owned or part-owned by the South Korean Government. This week, the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Energy described Japan's punitive tax plan as "unreasonable and disappointing", and claimed it has "no legal basis". It said that while discussions between the two nations have sought to resolve the matter, little progress has been made. It also said that it would consider legal action in Japan. Hynix described the proposed tariff as unfair and unjustified. Japan's probe into Hynix's rescue funding and its decision to impose an import duty on the company follow similar moves made three years ago by the US and European Union. They too imposed levies, and were taken to the WTO by South Korea. While the WTO made preliminary verdicts in Hynix's favour, the rulings were later overturned in the appeal phase. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jan 2006
homeless man with sign

IT security a problem, says FBI

People are frustrated with the "non-stop barrage" of intimidation they get from computer security troublemakers, says the FBI. It's annual survey of computer crime contains some other stunning revelations, like the fact that most of the companies it surveyed had encountered problems with viruses, spyware and so on. Most of the 2,066 firms in the survey knew nothing about Infraguard, "a joint effort by the FBI and industry to educate and share information related threats to US infrastructure." Well now you do. Most had reported their problems to "law enforcers" and where happy with the response they got. And they were all keen to attend seminars hosted by the FBI, apparently.®
Team Register, 20 Jan 2006

USwitch calls in advisors to prep sale

USwitch.com - the UK-based utilities comparison web site - has confirmed that the business could be up for sale after appointing financial advisors to carry out a strategic review of the business. Reports before Christmas said that the firm - which helps punters save money on utility, and telecoms bills - had a price tag of around £100m. Today it's emerged that as well as looking for a possible buyer, the firm is also mulling an IPO. Said chief exec Andrew Salmon: "We are at a very early stage of working with LongAcre Partners [financial advisors] to review our strategic options for the business, ranging from finding a strategic partner to an IPO - and we are also in the market for acquisitions. The key is timing." Free for consumers to use, uSwitch.com enables punters to compare different utility services - such as gas, electricity, home phone, broadband providers and personal finance products - to get the best deal and claims the average saving for customers switching home phone is £120. LongAcre Partners - the firm hired by USwitch.com - recently advised Friends Reunited in its strategic review that led to the sale of the business to ITV for £120m.®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jan 2006

Motorola makes up for lost time with Kreatel buy

Motorola came out of the IPTV closet this week, spending an unspecified amount of cash to buy IPTV specialist set-top maker, Kreatel of Sweden. Kreatel is credited with being among the first-ever set-top companies to focus entirely on IPTV and has had good success in the Nordics - with customers such as TeliaSonera - and elsewhere in Europe with Telefónica and KPN. The company recently opened offices in Shanghai in China. The move catapults Motorola from its initial indifference in chasing IPTV sales closer to the market forefront as the area starts to attract bigger telcos. Motorola has a huge 50 per cent-plus market share of the US cable set-top market, where it handles head-end encoders, set tops, cable termination systems and full-scale implementation services and offers its own conditional access system. So far in IPTV, Motorola’s moves have been limited to selecting a conditional access partner in Widevine, a move which acknowledges that, with IPTV, there is a reliable return path, which can strengthen how conditional access works and extends to more flexible DRM. Motorola was recently prime contractor in rolling out a cable-IPTV hybrid for Verizon in its fiber-based Fios TV service. The question now remains whether or not Motorola will extend its IPTV offering to software. Motorola was also chosen for set tops by the AT&T Uverse IPTV service. It is just going to commercial trials now, where it works alongside Microsoft and Alcatel and shares the set-top contracts with Cisco buy, Scientific Atlanta. If Motorola was to go on and acquire or partner with one of the handful of IPTV middleware companies, and add some back-end operational support systems, it could create a threat to market leader Microsoft and established players Orca (which partners with Lucent) and Siemens (who bought Myrio). Motorola may opt to remain only in the hardware segment of IPTV, where it is only short of an ISAM (IP DSLAM) offering. Kreatel uses Linux-based set tops, which is a good fit with Motorola, which has developed its own brand of embedded Linux for use in about a third of its cellphone models. Kreatel has some extensions of its own into IPTV application and middleware layers. Motorola is also pushing its own brand of Ultra Wide Band for connecting the digital home with components that communicate at up to 480 Mbps signals. The Kreatel agreement, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2006. Kreatel’s management team and employees will remain based in Linköping, Sweden, and be integrated into the Motorola Connected Home Solutions business. The existing shareholders of Kreatel are ABN AMRO Capital, SEB Företagsinvest and Innovationskapital. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 20 Jan 2006

Eurovision Search contest: a search engine for Europe

Writing a decent search engine isn’t all that difficult. Turning it into a multi-billon dollar brand is something else entirely. One needs clever inventors, risk-taking entrepreneurs and clever inventors. So we must take the news of a French and German Government-sponsored move to create Quaero, the European search engine, with a pinch of salt. The idea behind Quaero was dropped in a London Financial Times article, revealing that Germany’s Bertelsmann, Thomson, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom will jointly create software that will search audio, video, text and image content, and also include translation tools, accessible from mobiles and PCs and is able to be plugged into consumer electronics devices. For a start the idea is too ambitious. Create a video search engine, fine. Create a translation system for all of Europe, very cool. Take web searching to mobiles, noble aim, but tough. To do all three in one go, not economically feasible. Google didn’t set out to do all of those things, it just wanted to make a slightly cleverer search engine and garner some traffic. That was back when search engines weren’t that clever. But even today, be honest, how many times do you find the hit you are looking for buried on page 7 of the Google hits. Searching is all about the precision with which you need to search, for what reason, for what job. Everyone would like a search engine that tunes itself to their needs, and in companies like Autonomy - itself briefly seen as a giant internet stock - there was research that went down that path and some products that almost made it work. Politicians should stick to one objective. If that objective is to produce better, more used products than equivalent US technology, they should employ someone from the technology business that understands how these things are done, not write the technology spec themselves. Most Europeans will be famaliar with the Eurovision Song Contest, where every country in Europe produces a song, and then judges from each country vote for their favorites. It never produces any hits, and mostly shows just how bizarre each country’s taste is. Expect the same result from what is, effectively, a Eurovision Search Contest. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 20 Jan 2006

Intel answers Itanium mystery with riddle

The strain of defending the Itanium processor appears to have crushed the spirit of one Intel executive. Will Swope, a VP in Intel's enterprise group, has turned to riddles in order to explain why the company has dropped hardware that could execute x86 instructions from the delayed upcoming dual-core Montecito processor. CNET uncovered the x86 hardware loss by searching through a new Montecito reference manual published by Intel. The manual does reveal that the transistors present in older versions of Itanic to handle old x86 code have been scrapped in favor of a pure software replacement - the IA-32 Execution Layer. As many of you know, Intel has long championed Itanium's ability to run legacy 32-bit applications in addition to newly ported 64-bit EPIC applications. The loss of the x86 hardware was presented by CNET as a tacit admission that Intel's broader Itanium ambitions have failed. Intel and HP never really expected customers to run tons of 32-bit applications on Itanium, but they did expect the x86 hardware to make Itanium look more attractive. A customer might be willing to buy new Itanic gear instead of another Xeon box, if they could run an old 32-bit application or two on the Itanium server. By axing the hardware and going software only, Intel has lessened its focus on making such a dream possible. (We seem to recall Intel showing benchmarks of Microsoft Word running on the x86 transistors in Itanium. If anyone can confirm this hilarity, we'd appreciate it. Intel tells customers that a 1.5GHz Itanium can crunch x86 instructions with the IA-32 Execution Layer at about the speed of a 1.5GHz Xeon.) As mentioned, however, Intel's Swope has taken "exception" with CNET's analysis of the situation and done so via a letter to the editor. The problem is that we can't tell what Swope's argument against the story is. Swope's letter starts by defining his role at Intel and the nature of the missive. "As the co-general manager that developed the software technology for the Itanium processor family, and now as the brand manager for all of Intel's enterprise platforms, I must take exception to your analysis on IA-32 EL," Swope writes. Okay, we get that bit. Then, he explains the point of the x86 technology. "We put the feature into the initial Itanium silicon because we expected that IT shops would run a large amount of mixed code--meaning some that were executing to the 64-bit Itanium address/compute space and a fair amount that would not be rewritten but would just execute their existing code." We're still with you. But it's in the next paragraph that things deteriorate. "Well, many years, thousands of production deployments and many thousands of ported applications later, we now know why we have the migration to the Itanium processor family." We've read this over about 100 times and have come up with two theories as to what it means. The first goes something like: "Itanium has been so successful over the years that Intel's 64-bit decision was the right one." Or as one friend put the tautology: "People have moved to Itanium because so many people have deployed Itanium." Our second theory is that Swopes is claiming Intel has done so many migrations that it knows exactly what types of code people move to Itanic and is safe making the decision to shift to a software emulation layer instead of hardware because of this rich experience. Although, this theory requires a serious leap of faith, as little in Swope's statement backs it up. Dare we suggest that attacking a reporter's assertion that Intel has been forced to pare back its Itanium ambitions by using Itanium's strong sales figures as the central line of argument is a weak position? Too late. That's exactly what we've done. For the record, Swopes closes out his letter with this zinger. "And, just to brag one small bit, that software that does emulate the Xeon instruction set is pretty darn good." Brag and Itanium should never be linked unless you're a manager at IBM, Dell or Sun Microsystems talking about how you didn't bet your company on Intel's hapless chip. Intel, for example, has recently been talking up Itanium's market gains and the broad software support for the processor. According to IDC, the quarter-by-quarter unit volume for Itanium servers since the fourth quarter of 2003 goes as follows: Q403 7616 Q104 8678 Q204 8085 Q304 8235 Q404 8996 Q105 8127 Q205 8500 Q305 8596 It's true that Itanium server revenue has gone up as a result of larger systems being sold, but you can see how flat shipments have been. Meanwhile, IBM has surged from similar Power volumes in 2001 to shipping more than 100,000 servers per year, and Sun is up to more than 300,000 SPARC servers shipped per year. While confused by Intel's response, we can understand why it was made. It's hard to defend the massive investment on Itanium via any standard means of measurement. In the end, the company has decided that only riddles can save it now. ® Related links Cnet's original story Swope's riddle defense
Ashlee Vance, 20 Jan 2006

Mistakes found in 98% of US patents

Almost every US patent contains at least one mistake, according to new research. The vast majority are trivial errors, most of them the fault of the USPTO; but two per cent of the patents examined were found to contain serious mistakes that weakened the core claims. The findings come from Intellevate, a firm that offers support services to intellectual property lawyers, such as prior art searching and patent proofreading, from facilities in Minneapolis and India. Proofreading is an important last step in the process of obtaining a patent because it can identify errors that can affect the patent’s enforceability. Intellevate announced last Friday that its Indian office has just proofread its 5,000th issued patent. According to Leon Steinberg, Intellevate’s CEO: "We find errors in every issued patent we review. Many of the errors are unimportant, but others, such as missing claim, can impair the enforceability of the patent. We identify the errors so that our clients can decide if they want to file a Certificate of Correction." Intellevate reported that Certificates of Correction were filed for an estimated 34 per cent of the proofread patents. Most law firms consider proofreading as a necessary step to reduce their malpractice exposure. Sophisticated corporations view proofreading as the final step in controlling the quality of their patents and ensuring enforceability. However, proofreading is time-consuming and can be expensive. It involves checking the issued patent, which can be hundreds of pages long, against the filed application and all amendments. In addition to being time consuming and usually costly, it is often a lacklustre task that many law firms and legal departments would rather not have to take on. For this reason, Intellevate says proofreading is the perfect activity to perform off-shore. "Intellevate has developed proprietary tools that automate part of the proofreading process and has built a team of legal assistants in India who are thoroughly trained and specialise in proofreading services," said Steinberg. "These capabilities, combined with the lower wage rates in India, allow Intellevate to provide clients a vastly superior work product at a fraction of the cost of proofreading on-shore." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 20 Jan 2006
fingers pointing at man

There's no such thing as an open source business

A gathering of open source pundits have confirmed that the phrase "open source" is what you make of it. We can all breath a little easier now. The pundits - Tim O'Reilly, Sun Microsystems' Simon Phipps and IBM's Rod Smith - came to this conclusion yesterday at an SD Forum event here. Despite a couple of pleas from the SD Forum crowd, the speakers refused to narrow their definition of open source software or companies. Any vendor that uses Apache, for example, is part of the fabled open source community as they help drive a market for such products, the experts said. "I don't believe in definitions," O'Reilly said. (A number of SD Forum attendees must have shared an internal gasp at this utterance. Our internal dialogue went as follows: Murmur, murmur, murmur. O'Reilly doesn't believe in definitions. Gasp. Murmur. Gasp. Murmur. How is this possible? Murmur. Gasp. O'Reilly actually seems locked into the definition game. He's put thousands of words and god knows how many man hours into defining Web 2.0. But we didn't receive a meme map for the SD Forum and were forced to take O'Reilly at his word.) To their credit, the panelists shied away from hyping open source too much during the discussion and fought moderator Larry Augustine's urge to do so. The rather obvious theme pushed by the pundits was that open source is not an end in and of itself. There aren't really pure open source businesses. There are businesses that use open source software as the central part of their attack. There are businesses that rely on open source software for some advancements in their own products. And there are businesses that run on open source software but don't sell or service one bit of open source code. Hardly mind-crushing stuff. And the open source community isn't even as unique as some members of it would like to believe. Microsoft developers share the same passion and love of their code as the open source crowd, O'Reilly said. The most spirited part of the open source discussion came as O'Reilly and Phipps went after Red Hat and Microsoft. "I have a pretty clear prescription (for Red Hat), and that is know what business you are in," O'Reilly said. "I see Red Hat as a bit confused. I always thought Red Hat's mentor should be Dell. "Integration is at the heart of what they do. Becoming better at the integration of all the open source software in the world is (Red Hat's) future." O'Reilly and Phipps agreed that Red Hat could find itself in some serious trouble if it doesn't come to grips with its business sooner rather than later. A swift competitor could "route around" Red Hat, Phipps said, noting that the company has struggled with "the idea of letting go sufficiently." The pundits also urged Microsoft to let go a bit more even though Microsoft is technically an open source company under their own definition. (Countless stories have appeared over the years about Microsoft housing an open source package here and there as a result of an acquisition and of it using open source software such as FreeBSD, for example, to power Hotmail in the past.) "One of the things I see (Microsoft) struggling with today is that Google represents a bigger challenge to them than any previous competitor because they have a completely different business model," O'Reilly said. The book man reckons that Google is a great example of an open source company because it uses vast Linux server farms to build and deliver software services to customers. He pointed, in particular, at Google Maps. "Google Maps is the new open source," said the non-definer. Apparently this is because some chap hacked Google Maps to create mashups. Microsoft and Yahoo!, by contrast, failed to make their map systems open enough for others to build creative systems on top of them. (Google sure is lucky. First it creates a huge ad business by accident and now it's the open source maps leader.) Microsoft will have to relax some of its policies if it hopes to stay as competitive and creative as rivals, moving forward, we were told. In conclusion, the open source experts don't believe open source will be such an interesting topic in five years. "(Open source) will just be part of how you do business," O'Reilly said. ®
Ashlee Vance, 20 Jan 2006