Poor planning combined with acquisition and restructuring costs have pushed Sun Microsystems into its second loss for the fiscal year. Sun reported a $223m net loss, down from a $4m profit, on revenue that grew 17 per cent to $3.337bn for the three months to December 25, 2005. Sun recorded a loss of $0.07 per share compared to break-even last year. The figures build on Sun's first quarter's losses, which came in at $123m. Sun's chief executive told Wall Street on Tuesday that lead times for servers running the UltraSPARC IV+ machines had been "longer than we expected" and had equated to a product back log worth $100m during the second quarter of Sun's fiscal 2006. "Our new year resolution is not to underestimate demand of new products," McNealy joked. "We hope to get caught back up by the end of the next quarter." Unfortunately for McNealy, that much needed server revenue occurred as Sun simultaneously absorbed $145m of purchasing price accounting adjustments and $10m in restructuring charges associated with last year's acquisitions of both SeeBeyond Technologies and StorageTek. Frustrated by Sun's poor sales and capacity planning, Wall Street analysts grilled McNealy over whether the company expects the UltraSPARC IV+ backlog will translate into a third-quarter sales fillip. He initially demurred, saying Sun was "not in a position to speculate" about the ability to translate demand into sales, but finally promised a straight translation of order to sales with "1:1 book to build." In a further unsettling twist for analysts, the impact of SeeBeyond and StorageTek will continue to be felt on quarterly results into the near future. Sun expects to write down $75m per quarter for the next three and a half years. It remains unclear, meanwhile, how much SeeBeyond or StorageTek will help Sun's boost its revenue. The company Tuesday reported $368m in product revenue from StorageTek during the quarter, but did not break out income from SeeBeyond as it was "not material to the quarter's numbers". McNealy said Sun expects to monetize its open source and "free" software strategy during the coming quarter through support contracts. Elsewhere in the second quarter, revenue from the sale of Sun's servers, workstations, data storage and other hardware increased 14.5 per cent to $2.11bn, while services revenue rose 22.7 per cent to $1.23bn. ®
An open source business intelligence (BI) project has been updated for PHP developers, attracting support of Zend Technologies. The Eclipse Foundation has announced Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) 2.0, which has been extended to support cascading style sheets (CSS).
Google has been basking in good publicity from refusing US government demands to hand over search results but in China it is happy to create a search engine based on government specifications. Google will offer a censored version of its search engine running on servers in China. It will remove results on "sensitive" topics like human rights and Tibet. The decision would not seem so bad coming from another company but Google used to pride itself on the morality of its business strategy and devotion to free speech. Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel, said: "In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on Google.cn in response to local law, regulation or policy." "While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission." Google will offer web and image searches, local search and Google news. More on Reuters here. The search giant will not offer its email or blogging services. Rival portal operations from Yahoo! and Microsoft have attracted controversy recently with Yahoo!'s decision to hand over personal details of a disident journalist and Microsoft's removal of certain words (democracy, freedom) from the Chinese version of MSN. Reporters Without Borders accused the search giant of hypocrisy pointing out that it defends its US users against government action but will not offer Chinese users the same protection. More here. Baidu.com is the local Nasdaq-listed rival to Google. This is not the first time Google has kowtowed to government. This blog points out that Google Germany blocks access to a body modification (think extreme piercing) website in response to a request from the German government. In other repressive bastards news Iran is blocking access to the BBC's Persian service for the first time - more details here.®
A judge has refused a developer's pre-emptive request for a High Court declaration that its software code was not ripping-off a rival's – in part because she had not seen the code or much other evidence, but also because the developer refused independent scrutiny.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is now an even wealthier man, and it has nothing to do with iPod sales. Disney is indeed buying Pixar, the computer animation studio Jobs bought off George Lucas, for a rumoured $7.4bn. As the majority shareholder in Pixar, Jobs walks away with a good chunk of that $7.4bn, though since the deal is a share-swap - at a rate of 2.3 Disney shares for each Pixar share - it's paper wealth rather than good hard cash. He also gets a seat on Disney's board.
Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin yesterday defended the company's US strategy and said it was keeping its 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless. Major shareholders including Standard Life and Morley Fund Management have publicly cricised the strategy, but Sarin remains firm. He said, however, the board would look at the investment again in light of shareholder criticism. The Telegraph quoted Sarin saying: "Clearly some shareholders would like us to sell now, and we will discuss that at a board level." Sarin pointed out that the Verizon stake had gone up by $20bn in the last two years.® More from the Scotsman here.
The creative boutique at 3 has been working overtime developing a cunning plan to get people to stay with the 3G phone outfit. Its "revolutionary concept" - their words, not ours - is to pay punters for receiving calls and texts. The new pay-as-you-go price service from 3 - called "WePay" - sees punters rack up cash credits each time someone calls or texts them, which can then be redeemed each time they buy a new top-up voucher. According to the blurb, when a punter receives a five-minute call, they earn enough credit to send two texts, or send a picture message, or watch the highlights from two episodes of Corrie. However, the firm rejected any suggestion that those making the inbound calls were effectively subsidising the offer. Instead, 3 insisted WePay is all about rewarding customer loyalty going on to explain that WePay is "the next development in 3's mission to bring better value to UK mobile users" describing the pre-pay market as "notoriously complicated with a plethora of tariffs and special offers". Said Graeme Oxby, 3's marketing director: "It pays to be popular. Anyone who regularly receives calls and texts could end up much better off by moving to 3. You pick up, we pay up; it's as simple as that." The WePay service from 3 - which is owned by Hutchison Whampoa and has 3.2m punters in the UK - becomes available from February 1. Earlier this week El Reg reported how iMovo is in the final stages of testing a service that offers mobile phone users the chance to send text messages for free in return for viewing ads on their phones. The service is due to be unveiled later this month although exactly how many free texts people will receive depends entirely on how many advertisers are prepared to give away. ®
Seven branches of the already-wireless central Seattle library are going Wi-Fi. The announcement focuses on warnings that "no technical help is available" - but further south, in the San Francisco Bay area, the Joint Venture Silicon Valley organisation is planning to cover 1,500 square miles with 802.11 signals. What happens when such projects collide? According to Glenn Fleishman the Joint Venture group has yet to reveal any details - it hasn't even officially announced anything on its own website - but is organising a lobbying effort to local communities. The group, headed by Intel, seems to be focusing on mobile, according to a local paper report, says Fleishman. That raises the real question of what the technical platform will be, because while Intel has done some work on mobile Wi-Fi, it is spending a lot of effort planning for mobile WiMax - a confusingly similar technology, which has yet to be defined by the IEEE. Neither report, it seems, is talking of the inevitable spectrum conflict looming as domestic Wi-Fi proliferates, and City Wi-Fi spreads through the same areas. The issue is discussed by ABI Research's senior analyst of wireless connectivity research, Philip Solis, who points out that the Qualcomm-Flarion merger has gone through, providing WiMAX with a possible competitor in 802.20. Solis has contributed to a recent paper from the company on the status of WiMAX, now that the WiMAX Forum has announced that some suppliers have put equipment for WiMAX certification for 802.16-2004, and passed. "There is a long queue of companies waiting to undergo the same certification process. Then, they can proceed to 'wave 2', covering security and quality-of-service, and when they too are certified, we can expect to see larger numbers of products actually reaching the market," was one comment. But Solis added: "The picture is complicated, however, by a resurgence of rival wireless broadband access technology 802.20, based on frequency-division duplex technology developed by Flarion. With the closing last week of Qualcomm's acquisition of Flarion, 802.20 may get a new lease on life. Qualcomm will almost certainly attempt to rally support from other industry participants, but many companies had abandoned 802.20 to support 802.16e ." Tags: WiMAX and urban Wi-Fi Copyright © Newswireless.net
Your letters yesterday regarding the mysterious Perth flying car threw up quite a list of possible explanations for exactly what this object might be: The list included: A hoax Two cars parked next to each other Hole in the ground Trailer Bus shelter Water tower Tent Car on a pole Harry Potter on holiday Well, we can discount a lot of those right now, because we have secured the first on-the-spot photographic evidence of the area in question, courtesy of flag-waving Aussie Mark Zed: Listening to Poms talk about Australia (and Perth in patricular) is pretty much like listening to American presidents talk about history... anyway... from the man on the spot who was f:8 and there. As you can see from this overview... ...we have Point Walter in the background to the left, Honour Avenue down the center diagonal and the two carparks appearing in the upper half of the picture. Most importantly we have the point of specific interest to our immediate left. What we can see from exibit A and B... ...(markings indicate the point of interest), is that there is a complete lack of any sort of structure viz bus shelter (there is no bus route along this road anyway), nor a gazebo nor rotunda nor information booth etc etc. Regarding exhibit C... ...also here note the lack any evidence of excavations beyond natural rain-water run off... given the steep escarpment (down into water) to the right, no work of any substantial degree could occur without significant re-enforcement or collapse of the escarpment also as there are no buildings to service there are no utilities running down this side of the road. Which brings us to exhibit D: Anyone who may have visited this area in the past may remember information booths dotted along the way giving summarised accounts of pre & post settlement history, note however that the last of these is in fact at least 400 meters away to the south. Therefore with overwhelming weight of logical argument, accompanied with photographic and empirical evidence one can only conclude that we West Australians have accidentally let slip that we antipodeans have secretly been leading the Jetsons lifestyle. ... Or I could explain the simple concept of a shade tent but that may be a bit much to a nation of people who's summer lasts but half a day ;) Right. To summarise: no buildings or permanent sturctures of any kind. Our investigator favours the shade tent explanation (for all you Poms, a shade tent is a sort of a canvas awning type structure which you can use when its not raining, so bugger all use over here), although the two parked cars theory still holds water. As we go to press, various other Lucky Country readers are applying themselves to solving this mystery. We gather that at least one member of the Perth police department is also looking into the matter. In the meantime, we are able to reveal that we last night received some intelligence which may enable us to correctly identify the object in question. Our operatives are right now working on obtaining corroborating evidence. Watch this space. ®
If it's your job to stop people pirating movies, you should really be very careful not to get caught making pirate copies. But that's what the Motion Picture Ass. of America has managed to do. The MPAA lobbies for stronger action against pesky pirates and more effective digital rights management. This week it admitted copying a movie, but effectively claimed it was above copyright law.
Improved performance through more competitive use of IT is what 2006 holds for chief information officers, new survey findings suggest. Carried out by Gartner Executive Programmes, a unit of Gartner Inc, the report titled Growing IT's Contribution: The 2006 CIO Agenda, says CIOs will come under increased pressure in 2006 to perform, while making their IT organisation more externally focused. The survey found that worldwide IT budgets are expected to increase by an average of 2.7 per cent in 2006. This modest increment, slightly up on 2005's 2.5 per cent rise, is the third consecutive annual budget increase. But while budget increases are modest, business expectations of what IT can and should deliver have risen dramatically, the report shows. While security and cost were primary concerns during 2005, executives are now expecting their CIOs to concentrate more on helping to grow the business. "Last year saw the beginning of a transformation that is intensifying in 2006," said Marcus Blosch, vice president and research director at Gartner EXP. Data protection remains an important issue, but the survey shows concerns about security breaches and disruptions dropped from the second to the seventh ranked priority, Blosch said. Overall, the survey found that IT spending on security-related tools remained healthy at a projected average increase of 4.5 percent in 2006. It also revealed that the three most important issues in executive minds are improved customer relations, sharper competitiveness, and better overall efficiency. Two thirds of CIOs feel their competitors make better use of information, creating opportunity for the business. For this reason, CIOs and the business are making their communication and collaboration more dynamic, based on ongoing business needs rather than according to annual planning cycles. Building IT business skills is another area seen as needing major improvement, with seven out of 10 survey respondents recognising the gap in IT skills. Two out of three CIOs realise the need to use IT to more effectively to handle information, make themselves distinct, and attract and retain customers. The survey was carried out among CIOs representing more than $90bn in IT spending in more than 30 countries. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Navicore has launched the 2006 release of its eponymous GPS-fed route planning software for Symbian Series 60-based smart phones. In addition to updated maps from TeleAtlas - the final versions were supplied just a few weeks ago, Navicore told us - Navicore Personal 2006 adds support for full seven-digit postcode searches, along with the ability to use addresses stored the phone's contacts database. It will now plan paths for pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists.
Microsoft has failed to deny allegations that it's ceasing production of the original Xbox potentially to allow its manufacturers to punch out more Xbox 360s. The claim was made earlier this week by a retail worker who maintained that's what his wholesaler had told him. Kotaku, the website sent the missive, checked with Microsoft, which duly said it expects "to continue to sell Xbox version one consoles well into calendar year 2006... We expect to continue to see good demand for the platform in calendar year 2006".
Former Veritas chief exec Gary Bloom is to leave Symantec. Bloom, Symantec's vice chairman and president, will vacate both jobs before the end of March following an "orderly transition". In a statement, Bloom says he is taking a break after 25 years in the IT industry. Bloom's exit follows the recent departures of Symantec's chief operating officer (and former president), John Schwarz, and chief finance officer, Greg Myers. This leaves Symantec chief exec John Thompson as the only survivor of the senior management team responsible for the mega-merger of Symantec and Veritas. Thompson described Bloom as a "terrific partner" in the merger and integration of Symantec and Veritas last year while Bloom "still firmly believe[s] in the strategic rationale for bringing Symantec and Veritas together". The lines of business currently reporting to Bloom will report directly to Thompson, with Symantec leaving the position of president vacant, at least for now. Bloom joined Symantec through the company's merger with storage software firm Veritas. Prior to the merger, Bloom served as Veritas chief exec for five years. Symantec's share price closed at $17.56 on Tuesday down from $18.60 on Monday and $22.50 a year ago. Investor fears that Microsoft's entry in the consumer anti-virus market will erode revenue for Symantec and McAfee, rather than doubts about the rationale behind the Veritas and Symantec merger, are the likely explanation for this share price dip. ®
The provision of triple play services - TV, broadband and phone - is set to become a major growth area as demand for converged services intensifies. So say the researchers at technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. They predict the market for digital home services will take off in Europe over the next 12 months. According to their report The Future Role of Cable in Shaping the Digital Home in Europe, the long-term winners will be those players able to offer "triple play" on a single bill at a decent price. While many cablecos have pushed ahead with their triple play offerings, the research points out that an increasing number of telcoms providers are now forcing their way into the TV market. "With that, the competition is set to steeply increase, although the balance of power remains uneven," the report says. In the UK, the major players are already lining up to take a shot at securing their place in the digital home. NTL has bought fellow cableco Telewest to increase its clout, and now wants to nail down the acquisition of Virgin Mobile. BSkyB, which has 9m pay-TV subscribers, recently bought the ISP Easynet to add broadband and phone services to its existing TV offering. And BT is on track to unveil its broadband TV service later this year. But success does not come cheap: NTL, BSkyB and BT will all need to invest megabucks to develop and expand their networks, and create new digital content. Even with that in place they will have to spend more cash trying to tempt customer to sign up to these services. Size and financial strength are therefore becoming ever more important success factors, Booz Allen notes. ®
Academic institutions and tech companies have teamed up to fight spyware with a new name and shame initiative. StopBadware.org, launched today by the Harvard University's Berkman Centre and the Oxford Internet Institute, aims to establish a neighborhood watch-style scheme that will put pressure on purveyors of unsavoury programs that snoop on consumer's net habits. The project is supported by Google, Sun, and Lenovo. Consumer Reports WebWatch, a grant-funded project of the Consumers Union, is taking a pro-bono role as special consumer adviser. The project has created a website, www.StopBadware.org, where net users can check to see if programs they encounter are potentially damaging or benign. StopBadware.org hopes to educate consumers and software developers as well as shining a light on firms that make millions using sneaky pop-ups and tracking software to spy on users' surfing habits or, in the worst cases, steal their personal information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers. StopBadware.org will publish "user-friendly" reports on downloads it has identified as badware, as well as more detailed academic studies on the problem of malicious code. It will solicit and publish horror stories from net users adversely affected by badware (malware). The project is directed and advised by a clutch of net luminaries such as John Palfrey of the Harvard University Berkman Centre for Internet & Society, Jonathan Zittrain of Oxford's Internet University, Vint Cerf and Esther Dyson. According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project, about 59m American adults have malware on their PC. Malware-related problems prompted computer users to spend roughly $3.5bn in 2003 and 2004 on replacing or repairing hardware, Consumer Reports WebWatch calculates. Leaving aside the argument that such replacements are rarely necessary, spyware programs clearly create a huge nuisance. "Badware and its nastiest effects - violation of privacy, identity theft, and computer hijacking - hit consumers without warning," says Beau Brendler, director of Consumer Reports WebWatch. "WebWatch research shows these and other threats are turning almost a third of US Internet users away from the web. We believe StopBadware.org is a great way to fight back." ®
Microsoft is to open up the source code behind its server communication protocols, in an attempt to get the European Commission off its back. The announcement covers the source code behind the communication protocols for Windows Workgroup Server and Windows Desktop. Microsoft already offers 12,000 pages of technical documents and 500 hours of free technical support to anyone applying for a license. Companies making software which interacts with Microsoft servers use those licences to make their products work properly with Microsoft ones. Such license-holders will now also get to look at the source code, but will not have the right to publish the code or include it in their own products. In December the commission said it was unhappy with the documentation Microsoft had provided. It published a statement of objections expressing its view that Microsoft was not doing enough to comply with the anti-trust agreement. Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in a conference call: "The commission asked for specifications. If you want to understand the protocols the source code is even better. This is the ultimate documentation. "This is a substantial step and a significant change, but it doesn't lay to rest everything over compliance - the EC is still looking at the price we charge for this." There will be no additional charge for access to the code. Microsoft has previously opened up source code to a restricted list of customers and governments, but never to a direct competitor. Smith noted that the case has now taken eight years. Microsoft is back in court with the commission between April 24 and 28.®
ReviewReview Nikon's D200 is the successor to the D100 launched way back in the Summer of 2002. Back then the D100 went up against Canon's EOS-D60, a model which Canon has since replaced twice, with a third successor expected to be announced by March. Yes, it's sure been a long time coming, but at least Nikon's pulled out all the stops for its latest digital SLR...
Trade body Intellect is failing in its efforts to regulate public sector IT suppliers because it lacks the vital support of government customers. Instead of trusting suppliers to do a good job, government has taken matters in its own hands and used a more severe approach to making them behave responsibly. The result is that Intellect's code of best practice - a set of principles by which government suppliers swear to do their best to produce IT systems that work - is looking ever more like a damp squib. Prolonged government neglect of the code is becoming an embarrassment. On its first anniversary this time last year, Intellect complained that government indifference was stunting the scheme's growth and civil servants insisted they would show it more kindness in 2005. But little has changed. Intellect's statements on the matter this week were indistinguishable from those it made a year ago. We've done our bit, said the trade association's government director Nick Kalisperas, it's up to the public sector to pull its weight now. Intellect has ailed to attract more than a couple of suppliers from its membership of around a thousand to join the 50 who were already signed up to the code this time last year - though, it should be noted, these do include the major government suppliers. Government is taking little interest in this ornamental code of honour, partly because it doesn't have to, partly because there are more important matters to be dealt with. It is a good indication of where the power currently lies in the relationship between industry and government. The reason the government doesn't have to play ball is that the IT industry is dependent on government business as its major source of income. So the British government's contracting sheriff, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), has got suppliers by the goolies. All suppliers can do is smile sweetly, show their medals and hope it doesn't squeeze too hard. The OGC has accordingly been dictating terms of business, most significantly through tough contractual terms. Though of questionable use in helping to avoid IT disasters, these terms might be a far more effective means of ensuring suppliers play to the government's tune than a voluntary code. And it may also be a favoured method of protecting public sector IT managers (who are less clued-up than their private sector counterparts and therefore easy prey) from unscrupulous sales people while the eGovernment unit puts them through its newly formed IT management school. The OGC has got enough on its plate besides. As well as its ongoing controversial review of contracts, there is a bothersome set of European procurement laws being implemented, and a new government IT strategy. On top of all that, it has to help deliver the Gershon efficiency savings - arguably the most radical change programme the government has seen. The code is of little practical value to Intellect without public sector buy-in. Customers are not even demanding that suppliers have the code when they put business to tender. Neither are they noting whether suppliers abide by the code and complaining about them when they do. Perhaps if Intellect had real teeth it might attract some interest. As it stands, suppliers who offend the code face having their association membership revoked. (Ouch - ed) The OGC says it has people on the job promoting the code among government customers, though you never can tell. The latest word from the agency is that it is being considered part of the Government IT strategy, which is a euphemism for, 'not now, dear, I'm busy'.®
Reg readers have been quick to rubbish 3 UK's claim that its "free call" offer is a "revolutionary" scheme. Earlier today we reported how 3 is to introduced a new PAYG service - called "WePay" - which sees punters rack up cash credits each time someone calls or texts them, which can then be redeemed each time they buy a new top-up voucher. The 3G operator - which has some 3.2m punters in the UK - went on to describe WePay as a "revolutionary concept". But is it? According to emails we've received so far, it ain't revolutionary at all. So far we've had reports from readers that cellcos have run similar schemes in Portugal and Sweden. But our favourite comes from a reader in Romania. "Something similar was offered by [major cellco] here, in Romania, for a student-oriented service. What happened was that students signed up for the service and then put up classified ads offering non-existent apartments, cars or other merchandise at too-good-to-be-true prices, asking to be called on their mobiles. As far as I know, [major cellco] had to withdraw the offer." Ho hum. ®
O2's German subsidiary will launch its latest own-brand PDA phone at the CeBIT show in March, the company announced this week. The device, dubbed the XDA Neo, sports a two-megapixel camera, incorporates Wi-Fi and runs Windows Mobile 5.0, the cellco said. In addition to what O2 Germany mentioned, we can add that the Neo will provide Bluetooth connectivity and its WLAN facility runs to both 802.11b and 802.11g connections. The phone component is based on a quad-band GSM radio (850/900/1800/1900MHz), and it supports the EDGE data-speed extension to GPRS.
A Member of the European Parliament, Richard Corbett, has stepped in to save the anti-scam website www.stopecg.org - which was forced offline by legal threats to its service provider. Server Centre, and its upstream supplier RapidSwitch, decided to pull the website after a flurry of legal notices from Birmingham solicitors Wragge & Co. But Richard Corbett, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, is prepared to host the site for as long as necessary. Corbett has campaigned against Novachannel and European City Guides - both named on stopecg.org - for several years after complaints from his constituents. A spokesman for Corbett, who's hard at work in the European Parliament today, said: "Richard has campaigned for three years against these kind of scammers and the website is a useful resource for people in Yorkshire. He has mirrored the site for the last two days and is happy to do so for as long as necessary." The spokesman said he thought it was less likely that lawyers would try and target an MEP. Wragge and Co represent Novachannel AG - a Swiss-based company which is under investigation by Swiss authorities. The London Swiss embassy website mentions Novachannel on a page called "Unfair practices via Switzerland". The page advises companies on how to cancel contracts with the firm and says it is collecting evidence for an ongoing investigation by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The SECO website, here. here, explains how NovaChannel operates: "Several Swiss companies exercise dubious business practices relating to business directory entries from bases in Switzerland. The forms in question usually give the impression that the entry is free. In actual fact, by completing and signing the form the persons concerned are concluding a contract running for several years." UK businesses believe they are updating their contact details for a free directory rather than signing a contract to pay for as long as three years. The website - www.stopecg.org - has been running since 2001. The original campaign was against directory firm European City Guides but now covers several similar scams. Many thanks to several Reg readers who offered to host the site.®
It may have been described yesterday by one reader as "70,000 alcoholics clinging to a rock", but the Isle of Man has made its pitch to become a space industry giant equivalent to a "Switzerland of Space", according to treasury minister Allan Bell. Indeed, the island is looking to invest £955,000 over the next couple of years in a marketing drive aimed at attracting space business - in particular, satellite comms-related cash. According to Isle of Man Today, Bell told the Tynwald Parliament: "We now find ourselves in a space race of our own. [This is] an increasingly volatile and aggressive race with other jurisdictions to compete for this very lucrative economic sector. "If we do nothing, we will lose the business we already have to a growing number of competitors, including Bermuda, Gibraltar, Luxembourg and Singapore. These jurisdictions are committing increased financial and personnel resources to develop their satellite industries." The Isle of Man's director of space commerce, Tim Craine, says the money will be well spent: "Tynwald will see a major return on investment many times that which has been approved. Within two years, I would like to see the island having reached a critical mass of clustering in the space and satellite industry and have an international reputation as a prime jurisdiction." Quite what critical masses of clustering and prime jurisdictions have to do with Switzerland, we have no idea. We do, nonetheless, wish the Isle of Man well in sobering up and transforming itself into a world-beating space canton. ®
The Swiss Government published proposals to flog its 66 per cent stake in incumbent telco Swisscom. To ensure it doesn't become a victim of a take-over bid, Government is looking to target small shareholders to buy into the telco as part of a "people's shares" scheme, although it accepts this might mean it won't get the highest price for its stake. Instead, it's prepared to "consciously forego the idea of selling to obtain the highest possible price and is laying the foundations for Swisscom to be able to remain independent". For its part, Swisscom has broadly welcomed the plan. Late last year the telco was forced to ditch plans to buy its Irish equivalent, Eircom, after it wase blocked by the Swiss Government. Officials were concerned Swisscom's plans to invest overseas were too risky. In a statement today, Swisscom said: "The Federal Council has today published the consultation document for the disposal of the Swiss federal Government's majority holding in Swisscom. Swisscom will examine the document and accompanying measures in detail before responding. "Swisscom views the proposal as positive overall and expects the political issue to be rapidly resolved. The sale of the Government's controlling interest will increase Swisscom's corporate strategic flexibility in a rapidly evolving international environment." ®
LotusphereLotusphere Confidence is brimming at this year's Lotusphere conference, with a belief that the IBM Lotus collaboration products are bouncing back against Microsoft.
Europeans are not much impressed with nuclear energy and want the powers that be to focus on wind and solar alternatives, according to Reuters. This conclusion has been drawn from a European Commission Eurobarometer poll of 30,000 EU citizens in which just 12 per cent voted yes to developing nuclear energy. Forty-eight per cent warmed to solar, while 31 per cent got behind wind. The issue is divisive at government level, too. Some EU nations, Germany and Sweden among the most notable, intend to bin nuclear energy altogether, while others, including France and the UK, look set to expand their programmes. The poll, however, showed that 47 per cent of citizens favoured a Europe-level decision-making process coupled with a common energy policy. EU heads of state will get together in March to debate the basis for such a policy, which could encompass issues including "boosting renewable sources to harnessing the bloc's combined negotiating power for talks with foreign suppliers". In the UK, trade secretary Alan Johnson this week said it was time for Britain to "close or open the door" to nuclear power. This statement came during the launch of a three-month consultation into the country's energy needs for the next 50 to 60 years. Noting that coal and nuclear-powered electricity plants, which produce 30 per cent of the UK's electricity, will have closed by 2020, Johnson said: "Companies will need to decide how this capacity should be replaced. These are big investment decisions so the Government needs to provide a clear framework." ®
Book reviewBook review Although it's not a new title, Joshua Bloch's Effective Java is one of those classics that invariably crops up on people's list of top Java books. And, when the question comes up 'what book do you recommend for someone who's past the beginner stage?', this is usually the answer.
Global malware outbreaks decreased last year only to be replaced by smaller scale, stealthier attacks targeted at specific organisations or individuals, and designed to extract sensitive information. Financial gain has become the number one motive for hackers, according to IBM's latest Global Business Security Index. Email-borne viruses went into decline last year. One in every 36.15 emails (2.8 percent) contained a virus or Trojan compared to 6.1 per cent, or one in every 16.39 emails in 2004. But this drop was accompanied by the increased integration of more sophisticated bot capabilities into existing malware. For example the Mytob worm, based on the earlier MyDoom worm, featured capabilities that allowed hackers to remotely control compromised (zombie) machines. These botnets (networks of compromised machines) were often used to relay spam. One type of spam, fraudulent emails that seek to dupe users into handing over sensitive account details to bogus websites (a practice known as phishing), grew markedly last year. In 2005, phishing represented an average of one in every 304 emails, compared to one in every 943 in 2004. Phishing emails against consumers are becoming more targeted while businesses are weathering a storm of more focused malware assaults. In 2005, approximately two to three targeted email attacks were intercepted each week, compared to almost none in 2004. These attacks were often directed at government departments, military and other organisations. Customised malware attacks have the potential to defraud businesses, steal identities and intellectual property and extort money, while damaging the brand and eroding customer trust. Cybercrooks are targeting an organisation's workers in order to infiltrate systems, IBM warns, adding that traditional reactive approaches to security are no longer adequate. "The decrease in pervasive attacks in 2005 is counter-intuitive to what society at large believes is a major threat to their personal data," said Cal Slemp, vice president of IBM's security and privacy services. "IBM believes that the environment has shifted - with increased security protection on most systems and stiffer penalties, we are seeing organised, committed, and tenacious profiteers enter this space. This means attacks will be more targeted and potentially damaging." Future imperfect IBM's Global Business Security Index report 2005 also gazes into the crystal ball in an attempt to predict security trends for 2006. It predicts an increase in attacks aimed at computer users as computer networks become better defended. "Criminals will focus their efforts on convincing end users to execute the attack instead of wasting time in lengthy software vulnerability discovery," IBM predicts. Crooks are also likely to take advantage of shortcomings in international co-operation to launch cyber attacks from countries in regions such as Eastern Europe and Asia, where sanctions are more lenient and enforcement is limited. Networks of compromised machines (botnets) are commonly controlled using IRC networks, but newer botnets will likely move to instant messaging and other peer-to-peer networks for command and control of infected systems, IBM predicts. Last year, IBM predicted the malware affecting mobile phones, PDAs and other wireless devices would increase substantially. It acknowledges that the pervasive outbreaks it predicted last year have failed to materialise but warns mobile malware remains a threat on the radar. ®
Intel has shipped more than one million 65nm dual-core processors, the chip giant announced today. That figure comprises all the Core Duo chips, 'Presler' Pentium D 9xx parts and the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 that have gone out to makers of notebook and desktop PCs, not to mention the products Apple's using in its latest iMac and upcoming MacBook Pro.
Intel has become the first company to produce a working chip fabricated at 45nm, the chip giant claimed today. The part is a 153Mb SRAM memory chip containing more than 1bn transistors and measuring 119mm². And it's fully functional - sufficient, the company says, to show it's on schedule to ship 45nm processors toward H2 2007, though it admitted that timeframe remains an "estimate" of when products will become available.
An international colloboration of astronomers has used a microlensing technique to spot an Earth-like exoplanet just five times bigger than our own piece of rock - the smallest such body discovered so far, and only the third pinpointed with microlensing from a list of around 160 known exoplanets. The snappily-named OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb is orbiting a red dwarf "roughly five times less massive than our Sun", 25,000 light years from Earth, close to the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy. Its orbital period is ten years and it lies around three times further from its parent as we do from the Sun. The microlensing technique uses the "gravity of a dim, intervening star" as a "giant natural telescope, magnifying a more distant star, which then temporarily looks brighter", as a UK Physics & Astronomy Research Council statement explains. It also says: "A small 'defect' in the brightening reveals the existence of a planet around the lens star. The planet is not directly 'seen', or even the star that it's orbiting, but its presence can be deduced from the effect of its gravity." Three separate microlensing outfits were involved in the OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb project: PLANET/RoboNet, OGLE, and MOA, which involved 73 collaborators affiliated with 32 institutions in 12 countries (Australia, Austria, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, UK and the US). MOA collaboration member, Dr Nicholas Rattenbury of Jodrell Bank Observatory, noted: "The chance that an observed background star is sufficiently magnified at a given time is only about one in a million. However, with more than 100 million stars routinely monitored by the OGLE and MOA surveys, there are about 120 ongoing events at any one time where the lens star can be probed for surrounding planets - leading to the prospect of seeing many more low mass objects." The astronomers did, however, hit paydirt with OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb. PLANET co-leader Dr Martin Dominik, of the University of St Andrews, explained: "We first saw the usual brightening reaching a peak magnification on July 31, 2005, after which the event started to fade back symmetrically. On August 10, however, there was a small 'flash' lasting about half a day. By succeeding in catching this anomaly with two of the telescopes of our network and with careful monitoring, we were able to conclude that the lens star is accompanied by a low-mass planet." Straying from the pure science for a moment, the statement allows itself the indulgence of imagining how OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb might be: "Its relatively cool parent star and large orbit implies that the likely surface temperature of the planet is 220 degrees centigrade below zero, far too cold for liquid water, which would be a requirement for the development of life. "It is likely to have a thin atmosphere, like Earth, but its rocky surface is probably buried deep beneath frozen oceans. It may therefore more closely resemble a more massive version of Pluto, rather than the inner rocky planets like Earth and Venus." ® More background on the microlensing collaboration [From the Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council press release] In order to catch and characterise a planet, round-the-clock high-precision monitoring of ongoing microlensing events is required, which is achieved by the PLANET network of 1m-class telescopes consisting of the ESO 1.54m Danish at La Silla (Chile), the Canopus Observatory 1.0m (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia), the Perth 0.6m (Bickley, Western Australia), the Boyden 1.5m (South Africa), and the SAAO 1.0m (Sutherland, South Africa). PLANET operates a common campaign with RoboNet, the UK operated network of 2m-class, fully robotic telescopes currently comprising the Liverpool Telescope (Roque de Los Muchachos, La Palma, Spain) and the Faulkes Telescope North (Haleakala, Hawaii). The other two microlensing planets have masses of a few times that of Jupiter, where the detection of one of them, OGLE-2005-BLG-071Lb, involved PLANET/RoboNet data taken in April 2005. The low number of detections for planets of Jupiter-mass or above, despite being easier to detect, indicates that gas giant planets are rare around red dwarfs. All three detected planets have red dwarf parent stars, which are very dim but also very common and therefore favoured by the microlensing searches that rely on the gravity, rather than the light, of the lens star. The discovery of a sub-Neptune mass object already as the third one detected via microlensing is a strong hint that these objects in contrast are quite common. In fact, "core-accretion" planet-formation simulations predict a large fractional abundance of planets with masses below 10 Earth masses, with orbits of up to 10 AU (Astronomical Unit). By coincidence, these orbital separations match well the range preferred by microlensing, making it an ideal technique for studying this population down to Earth mass.
Jim Rousou, the industry veteran who established the firm that became Elcom IT, has stepped down as chairman after selling the firm to private investors. Elcom IT, a £50m turnover company, was bought by private investors Owner Venture Managers Limited (OVM) for an undisclosed sum. The current management team, which bought Elcom from Usonian owners Elcom International in 2001, will be disbanded. Lloyd's TSB Commercial Finance provided the backing for both deals. Rousou formed Lantec, Elcom's predecessor, in an MBO from JWP Information Services in 1993. It was bought out by American reseller Elcom in 1995 and was subsequently brought back into British hands in the 2001 MBO led by Rousou and managing director Tony Davis. Rousou remained at the firm as chairman, despite previously annoucning his intention to move on. Davis, managing director for the last four years, will remain as finance director. Nick Ellis, one of the outside management team, will take over as MD. The other members of the last MBO, Paul Rousou and Judy Quoroll, will remain for three months. ®
IBM has acquired privately-held software firm CIMS Lab for an undisclosed amount. CIMS Lab's software helps firms to track and bill software and hardware utilisation back to individual company departments. According to IBM, CIMS complements its existing portfolio of management software for virtualised technology. Big Blue and CIMS Lab have been technology partners since 2003 and they already have 150 joint customers bworldwide. Banks, for example, are interested in CIMS Lab's technology because it gives them an accurate of how computing resources are being consumed across a virtualised infrastructure consisting of many platforms and systems. This let's banks decide what individual departments ought to pay for shared IT systems and helps to better plan and allocate future IT spending. Also, companies deploying a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) can use CIMS Lab software to track and bill for IT usage of services. IBM plans to ship CIMS Lab with IBM Director, complementing the virtualisation capabilities of xSeries eServers and pSeries eServers. IBM also plans to integrate CIMS software for resource accounting, charge back, and capacity planning with IBM Tivoli software products. Virtualisation helps it easier for firms to manage their many individual IT resources as one. According to a recent survey by market analysts IDC, spending on virtualisation will grow to nearly $15bn worldwide by 2009, with more than three-quarters of larger organisations deploying virtual servers. The firms surveyed expect that 45 per cent of new servers purchased in 2007 will be virtualised. ®
Sun Microsystems will take its second step on the path to re-entering the blade server market this summer, a year after vacating the sector in the face of stiff competition. John Fowler, executive vice president for Sun's network systems group, said Sun is working on a series of Sparc and x86 blades that "run all software", and will be released during the course of the company's current calendar year, which means availability before the end of June. This scheduling would make re-entry exactly a year after Sun canned its Sparc, Xeon, and Athlon-based blades, as well as the Sun Fire B1600 blade chassis. At the time, Sun said it was working on the "next generation of the blade platform". Fowler was unwilling to say what architecture Sun's blades will use, but he ruled out using the approach adopted by IBM and Intel. We've discussed Sun's intention to head the four-socket and eight-socket route with the new blades briefly here. Fowler indicated Sun has no plans to join the IBM/Intel BladeCenter initiative, which uses either Intel Xeon or IBM Power processors, even though IBM last year committed to sell Sun's Solaris operating system on BladeCenter servers. IBM currently dominates the blade market with 39 per cent market share, according to IDC. The BladeCenter initiative, meanwhile, has secured support from OEMs, as IBM seeks to build an ecosystem of partners around the architecture. Sun's partnership with IBM, announced in October, marked the company's first faltering return to blades since nixing the company's own products last June. Fowler said: "We have different ideas about how a blade should be designed. The blade marketplace is a long way from being defined. The real battle has yet to be fought. It will be fought over the next few years. "Sun and Hewlett-Packard will bring different ideas to the table. It's going to be an interesting time for customers. There will be competition on technology and price." ®