7th > February > 2006 Archive

Patent 'fundamentals' questioned

The UK Patent Office has called for worldwide consultation on the fundamental principles of patenting to tackle growing doubt in the efficacy of the IP approval system.
Mark Ballard, 07 Feb 2006

Eutelsat held talks to buy Aramiska

Eutelsat was in talks to acquire troubled Aramiska shortly before the satellite broadband operator pulled the plug on its service last month. Insiders have told The Register that giant satellite operator Eutelsat had been holding talks with Aramiska since before Christmas, but that those negotiations broke down. One source told us that execs at Aramiska rejected this approach because Eutelsat failed to put enough cash on the table. Another said talks broke down the day before Aramiska made its shock announcement to pull the plug on the service. A spokeswoman for Eutelsat refused to comment on the takeover talks and, when asked if Aramiska owed it any cash, said the "capacity used by Aramiska on one of our satellites is leased from Eutelsat by Belgacom". So, did Aramiska owe Belgacom any dosh? A spokesman for the Belgian telco confirmed that Aramiska was a customer and also owed some cash, but declined to say how much. He added that Belgacom had "good contacts with Aramiska" and the telco "regrets the situation". Exactly what that "situation" is still remains unclear as former employees and customers hunt for more information as to what went wrong. Last week El Reg reported that the first staff knew of Aramiska's demise was when they were called to a meeting on the day Aramiska axed its service. Indeed, no one from Aramiska has been available for comment since the firm told customers it would no longer be providing a broadband service and as a result, rumours about the firm have been spreading fast. No one from US-based VC outfit, Whitney & Co, which ploughed money into the business, has returned calls seeking comment. However, TelcomWeb tracked down former Aramiska boss Philippe Bodart, who said in 2004 around three quarters of the firm's business was in the UK, but increased availability of broadband and lower costs put the squeeze on the satelitte internet service. He told TelecomWeb: "I think the first signs that things were not great in the UK were when BT announced the availability of DSL/broadband around the country at a price of $35.60 to $53.40 (£20 - £30). That is when we got hit very heavily in the UK market. From an economic perspective, this is when things started to go sour for the company." ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Feb 2006

'All' AMD CPUs to support virtualisation mid-2006

AMD yesterday demo'd its upcoming DDR 2-supporting dual-core 64-bit processor. The core also supports 'Pacifica', AMD's answer to Intel's Virtualisation Technology. AMD said Pacifica was now available for broad licensing, and will be built into "all" its CPUs this year.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006

IBM launches chipset on unlicensed waveband

IBM says its latest chip could boost wireless data transfer to ten times the current capacity. The silicon-germanium chip uses an unlicensed section of the radio spectrum. There have been previous attempts to exploit the 30-300GHz wavelength bands, but they've been hampered by cost, size and difficulty integrating with other chips.
John Oates, 07 Feb 2006

First look: Expression Interactive Designer

ReviewReview It's been a long time coming. First rumoured at the 2003 PDC (Microsoft Professional Developers Conference), Microsoft's Sparkle has finally made it part way out the door.
Simon Bisson, 07 Feb 2006
homeless man with sign

DDR 2 memory prices leap 18%

DDR 2 SDRAM chip contract prices have jumped 18 per cent this month compared to the average price during the last two weeks of January, market watcher DRAMeXchange has said. And with both Samsung, Hynix and other memory makers already implementing price-rises this month, the increase is going to continue.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006

Scientists probe 'Lost World' rainforest

An expedition to one of the world's most remote rainforests has turned up a bonanza of undiscovered species. Western New Guinea's Foja mountains are home to one million hectares of pristine ancient tropical forest that, until December's month-long jaunt, were largely unknown to science. Dozens of new species, including 20 new frogs, plants, butterflies, and birds were found by an international team of biodiversity experts. Conservation International expedition leader Bruce Beehler describes the region as: "As close to the Garden of Eden as you're going to find on Earth." The group solved a major ornithological conundrum – the fate of a bird of paradise previously known only by feather specimens from native hunters. Berlepsch's Six-Wired Bird of Paradise had eluded past expeditions, but this time appeared in the scientists' camp on their second day in the jungle to perform a mating dance. Many of the animals showed no fear of humans, making them easier to study. Large mammals, such as the Long-beaked Echidna, that have been hunted to near extinction elsewhere in the region were found in abundance in the Foja. An unknown honeyeater bird with an orange face and wattle under each eye – unlike any other on New Guinea – delighted the party. One new species of frog measured just 14mm, while botanists came across a huge, world record-equaling six-inch rhododendron flower. For scientists, the mountain forest represents an increasingly rare example of an undisturbed ecosystem, and the large numbers of unique species make it a 'laboratory' of evolution, where isolation has produced unusual adaptations. The team hopes to return to the forest this year, having "only scratched the surface". ®
Christopher Williams, 07 Feb 2006

Global 'blogathon' marks Safer Internet Day

The European Commission is putting the potential dangers of using the web under the spotlight by naming today "Safer Internet Day". Insafe, the EU's network for safer internet use, today launched a global "blogathon" to draw attention to the legal, ethical and safety issues associated with the internet. A wide range of organisations involved in promoting internet safety, as well as special guests, will make postings on the blog, inviting comments from users around the world. The site has content in several languages and a geographical focus that moves west through global time-zones from New Zealand to Argentina. According to blog tracking site Technorati, 70,000 new blogs are created every day, many by young people, while a Guardian/ICM poll in the UK found a third of young people published content online on a personal blog or website. The aim of the event is to raise awareness of the potential risks associated with the posting of personal information and copyright material on blogs. European Commissioner for Information Society and Media and patron of the event Viviane Reding said: "Blogs are a popular new way of communicating for young people and for all age groups, so it is appropriate that the Insafe network is using a blog on Safer Internet Day to show how using the Internet can be enjoyable, and what young people need to remember when blogging." Visit the Safer Internet Day website here. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
eGov Monitor Weekly, 07 Feb 2006

US gov optimistic on wireless auctions

The Bush administration has increased the amount it believes it can raise from auctioning off wireless spectrum. The US government now expects, or hopes, to raise $25bn between 2007 and 2009 - rather than the $17.2bn it originally predicted. The Federal Communications Commission will start by selling off 90MHz of airwaves in June, which could raise as much as $15bn. The FCC will sell off spectrum currently used by TV broadcasters as they move to high definition frequencies in 2008. Internet companies and mobile carriers are expected to bid for the radiowaves, which could be used for video-streaming or faster internet access. Some of the cash raised will go towards improving search, rescue and emergency communications, $1.5bn will go on subsidising set-top boxes for those stuck with analogue TVs, and $7.4bn will go to reducing federal debt. The US government plans on a budget deficit of $318bn for 2005, rising to $423bn in 2006 and $354bn in 2007. More info here from the Office of Management and Budget or there's more on Reuters here. ®
John Oates, 07 Feb 2006

Inventec preps 'Mercury' smart phone

Is this the face of Palm's upcoming 'Lowrider' low-end smart phone? At this stage we can't say, but it's certainly the case that it's made by Inventec, it's a Windows Mobile-powered device and it's a codenamed 'Mercury', as revealed by the manufacturer's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006

Managing Agile Projects

Book reviewBook review Some of the more fundamentalist exponents of agile development methodologies would reduce the totality of roles within software development to two: developers and customers. And even then you get the impression that customers are viewed as no more than a necessary evil. Architects, project managers, DBAs, testers, integrators, build masters and the rest barely get a look in. In particular, the role of the project manager is conspicuous by its absence in most of the formal agile methodologies (with the notable exception of SCRUM, which mandates the need for a SCRUM Master to manage the process/project).
Dr Pan Pantziarka, 07 Feb 2006
fingers pointing at man

Drive-by downloads on the wane

Spyware programs that monitor users' surfing habits remain prevalent, but their frequency is on the decline, according to a recent academic study (PDF). Security researchers at the University of Washington used web crawler technology to discover that around one in 20 executable files (5.5 per cent) offered for download on the net during a five month period contained some type of malware, mostly less malign code that generated invasive pop-up ads rather than more dangerous key-logging software. At the start of the May 2005 survey, 5.9 per cent of sites surveyed attempted to use security exploits to download spyware onto potentially vulnerable PCs. This figure for so called drive-by downloads dropped to 0.4 per cent by October 2005. Warez sites that offer pirated software topped the list for drive-by downloads (4.3 per cent of domains), with celeb sites (3.9 per cent) coming a close second. Although the density of scripted attacks dropped between May and October last year, spyware remains a substantial problem, the Washington researchers conclude. Spyware and adware programs covertly install themselves on users' PCs in order to serve sneaky pop-up ads or install tracking software to spy on users' surfing habits or, in the worst cases, steal personal information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers. ®
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2006

Samsung readies TV phone for Europe

Samsung will next week formally unveil the handset it will pitch at Europeans who want to watch TV on their mobile phones. It's called the SGH-P900 and it's capable of receiving T-DMB (Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) signals and relaying them on its 2.2in swivel screen.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006

Court hands Gizmondo Europe to liquidators

Gizmondo Europe has gone into liquidation after parent company Tiger Telematics' attempt to persuade the English High Court to put the subdsidiary into administration failed last week, Reg Hardware can reveal. The court hearing took place on Thursday, 2 February after being adjourned from Tuesday, 31 January. The court ordered Gizmondo Europe to be wound up and placed the remains in the hands of joint liquidators David Rubin & Associates and Bigbee & Traynor.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006
graph up

Sage chairman steps down

Sage Group chairman Michael Jackson will step down as of August 1 this year and leave the board to be replaced by Vodafone deputy chief executive Sir Julian Horn-Smith. Ovum Holway Hotnews reports that Jackson's abdication after 22 years in charge has been precipitated by his chairmanship of PartyGaming which, like Sage, is a FTSE 100 company. UK corporate guidelines state that an individual should not hold two FTSE 100 chairmanships simultaneously. Horn-Smith has been at Vodafone since it was founded in 1984. He joins the Sage board in March as a non-executive director, before leaving Vodafone in July and then taking the reins on Jackson's departure. Jackson took up the chair in 1997 and has led Sage to international growth through aquisition. There has been press speculation that the switch will lead to further Sage investments. Perhaps tellingly, a statement from Sage particularly praises Horn-Smith's experience "around investment in and integration of aquisitions". A sale of Sage itself has even been mooted, according to Ovum. Recent buys by potential suitors Microsoft and Oracle make it unlikely that they'll be investing in more business applications soon, however. Intuit, meanwhile, was in a position to buy Sage some time ago, but probably recoiled at the asking price. ®
Christopher Williams, 07 Feb 2006

Cleanfeed working overtime, says BT

BT is blocking 35,000 attempts each day by net users trying to access child pornography, the UK's dominant telco said today. The stats from its Cleanfeed web filtering system coincide with Safer Internet Day, a global event designed to promote online awareness. When BT first launched Cleanfeed in summer 2004, it was blocking around 11,000 attempts a day to access illegal content. Although that figure has risen threefold, experts say the numbers need to be put into perspective. "As alarming as these figures are, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) have been successfully combating child abuse images online for 10 years and as a result just 0.4 per cent of potentially illegal content is apparently hosted in the UK, down from 18 per cent in 1997," the UK internet trade group said in a statement. BT's Cleanfeed system works by blocking access to several thousand websites on a blacklist compiled by the IWF. Sites on the list contain images of child sexual abuse, which are illegal to view in the UK, under the 1978 Child Protection Act. IWF chief executive Peter Robbins said: "The increase in BT's figures is consistent with the Internet Watch Foundation's figures, which show the number of 'actioned' reports. That is, reports received from the public via our internet 'hotline' where potentially illegal child abuse content was confirmed rose from 3,438 in 2004 to over 6,000 in 2005. "We provide a list of these websites to service providers and filtering companies, including ISPs and mobile operators, so that attempts to access these sites can be blocked. Our list is dynamic as it is updated everyday. Of these sites, there is a 50/50 split between pay-per-view and free-to-view sites." The IWF was formed in 1996 following an agreement between the government, police, and ISPS to tackle the distribution of child abuse images online and operates a 'hotline' in the UK for the people to report illegal content. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Feb 2006
For Sale sign detail

BitTorrent sues for trademarks

BitTorrent - which usually finds itself reading lawyers' letters rather than writing them - is going to start taking legal action rather than just being its subject. The company will set the lawyers on anyone using the BitTorrent name, and trademark, if they are using it to distribute spyware or adware. BitTorrent users are more used to legal attacks from the likes of the Movie Picture Association of America. Company president Ashwin Navin told ZDNet yesterday: "We're sensitive to people calling their software BitTorrent to achieve a certain level of popularity in order to distribute spyware and adware." Anyone wanting to use the name must demonstrate their software is reasonably secure and pay a small licensing fee. The scheme is designed to keep the software secure rather than raising revenue. Bit Torrent software will continue to be released under an open source license. More on Ziff here. Browser company Opera is the first to take advantage of the new licenses. A BitTorrent search window will appear in the latest version of its browser Opera 9. BitTorrent is more than another pesky P2P network - it divides large files into sections so they can be downloaded from different computers before being reassembled. Once you have received a section it can also be uploaded by other users so very large files can be distributed much faster than from one dedicated server. ®
John Oates, 07 Feb 2006

Cheated wife 'resprays' hubby's BMW

As the olding saying goes: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," and the owner of a BMW M3 Coupe currently for sale on Ireland's Car Buyers' Guide know this better than anyone: Crikey. As the blurb rather splendidly declares, this car has "some cosmetic damage due to having a cheating husband. Best offer secures. Idiot put car in my name". The current going rate for a 2005 M3 is, according to Car Buyers' Guide, around €45k, so this is a bit of a bargain - even if the vehicle's going to need a bit of TLC in the valeting department. ® Bootnote Thanks to all those readers who have emailed to express their suspicions about this auction. They're right - the pics are actually of a US BMW (from North Carolina) which were doing the rounds a couple of months back and have been reversed for the Irish market. Why? Well, a couple of you reckon the number given is a car dealers - a nice trick to draw in the punters. Sneaky.
Lester Haines, 07 Feb 2006

AOL UK's email suffers collywobbles

AOL's email service in the UK appears to be up and running again after suffering the collywobbles earlier today. The ISP blamed essential maintenance work in the US for the problems, which left some users unable to send or receive email, while others temporarily "lost" emails in their inbox. A spokeswoman for AOL UK said fewer than one per cent of its UK users were hit by this morning's glitch, but with more than two million users, that's still several thousand users without email. She apologised for the snafu before adding that the work would be completed by lunchtime. Yesterday, it emerged that AOL and Yahoo! are to start charging for sending emails. Both companies will still accept free emails but are offering the chance to pay to avoid their spam filters. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Feb 2006

Apple cuts iPod Shuffle prices, debuts 1GB Nano

Apple has begun shipping the much-rumoured 1GB iPod Nano, pitching the new product as the "affordable" entry into the Nano line-up. The company also slashed the iPod Shuffle family's prices. The 1GB Nano, which goes on sale today in the customary black and white versions, will retail for £109 in the UK and $149 in the US. The 512MB Shuffle now costs £49/$69, while the 1GB model - not, it seems, to be ousted by the new Nano - costs £69/$99. Neither model appears to sport the anticipated redesign.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006

Hollywood PI in wiretap charge rap

A former sleuth to the stars has been charged with masterminding an illegal wiretapping operation targeted against actors, reporters and agents. Anthony Pellicano is charged with running unlawful wiretaps or unlawfully obtaining background checks against actors Sylvester Stallone, Keith Carradine, and an entertainment reporter at The Los Angeles Times. He's also accused of impersonating staff at the Creative Artists talent agency. Pellicano, 61, and alleged co-conspirators including a former phone company staffer, a former Los Angeles cop and four others, have been indicted with offences ranging from racketeering and conspiracy, to wiretapping, identity theft, and obstruction of justice following a three year investigation, the The New York Times reports. According to the indictment, Pellicano's clients used the information he illegally obtained as ammunition in disputes. It's unclear whether Pellicano's clients understood his methods. The government is seeking $1.9m in damages against the alleged wiretapping gang. Prosecutors allege that around 1995, Pellicano hired a programmer to write software to convert audio signals into digital files that could be stored on a computer. Around the same time two Pacific Bell workers, Rayford Earl Turner, 49, and Teresa Wright, were hired to provide the phone records of potential targets so snooping devices could be placed on their lines. In 1997, Pellicano stepped up his operation by recruiting LA police officer Mark Arneson, 52, and a Beverly Hills cop, Craig Stevens, 45, to illegally access police databases in order to obtain dirt on targets. Wright and Stevens have already pleaded guilty to offences, while the charges against Arneson and Turner became public on Monday. The investigation against Pellicano began in 2002 after an LA Times reporter, Anita Busch, was threatened while investigating a story about actor Steven Seagal and his alleged relationship with a Mafia suspect. Investigators discovered evidence that an ex-con had been hired by Pellicano to stop Busch from looking into the story. Evidence obtained allowed police to obtain a warrant to search Pellicano's office where they seized computer files and wiretaps. The indictment against Pellicano names three of his clients including Robert Pfeifer, 50, the former head of Hollywood Records who allegedly hired the private investigator to spy on a former girlfriend, Erin Finn. Pellicano, who was released from prison after serving time for unrelated firearms offences last week, was refused bail at a hearing on Monday during which he pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. ®
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2006
fingers pointing at man

Relisys customers told to wait

Monitor maker Relisys is still in administration and customers are being told to hang on - talks are still going on but a decision should be announced soon. It was hoped that takeover talks for part of the business would be settled last week. On 2 February customers received an email which said: "The administrators stated they hope to complete a deal within the next 10 days." Customers received a further email email today urging them to keep the faith. The company is hoping to honour all warranties. Adrian Mills, of Relisys customer services, wrote: "The administrators have not been in touch since the last mail I sent on the 2nd February. From this I draw the conclusion that talks ongoing and they are still on track." (sic) Mills said he hoped the administrators would have some news by Friday. The mail ends: "Once again I cannot stress we are trying to move this along as quickly as possible and a big thank you for your kind and continued patience, it is very much appreciated." Concerned customers can contact relisys@relisys.com for more information. Administrators PKF have not returned numerous calls asking for comment. Relisys's traditional monitor business dragged down profitability but without this Relisys hopes to get back in business concentrating on flat panels. ®
John Oates, 07 Feb 2006

Fossett flight foiled in Florida

Millionaire businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett has been temporarily thwarted in his latest round-the-world wheeze. The attempt to break the record for the longest uninterrupted flight was nixed by persistent fuel leaks, which have plagued preparations of fellow sky-botherer Richard Branson's ultra-light Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer aircraft. Fossett told reporters back in January: “We're still struggling with this problem.” Despite this, the latest fuel leak was discovered as the equipment was being loaded, just 25 minutes before Fossett's planned first light take off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida this morning. This a second hold-up for the mission, which was previously grounded by Chinese new year celebrations. The engineers say the problem needs sealant which takes 24 hours to dry. In a press conference Fossett said he does not now expect to take off tomorrow, though is optimistic for later in the week as weather forecasts remain favourable. Fossett last year became the first person to fly solo around the world with fuel to spare, and and set his sights on the distance record, held since 1986 by Dick Rutan and Jeanne Yeager. His planned route will this time take him from Florida, around the world at an altitude of 45,000ft, before crossing the Atlantic a second time and landing at Manston in Kent. Stock market tycoon Fossett's record-breaking endeavours have included the Le Mans 24-hour race, the zeppelin speed record, dog sled racing, and yachting. He is best known for round-the-world ballooning however, including several crash-landings, and near death in the Coral Sea on one occasion. Global Flyer has been lauded by Richard Branson as a model of fuel efficiency that future commercial jets should work towards given the predicted increases in aviation and the consequent greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of this, he has founded Virgin Galactic, which will offer extremely carbon-hungry space travel to those who can afford the $200,000 asking price. ®
Christopher Williams, 07 Feb 2006

E-tailer rocks to Pebble MP3 player

UK online retailer Advanced MP3 Players will this month ship its first own-brand device: the small, ready to skim across the waves Pebble. The ovoid audio item sports a shiny black back and a mirrored silver front lit by a blue OLED status panel. The controls are arranged in a circle that'll be familiar to iPod Shuffle users.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006

GetMeTickets.net to be wound up

A website that promised punters tickets to the hottest gigs has been shut down following complaints from music fans. The Official Receiver was called in by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to wind up Get Me Tickets Ltd - which traded via getmetickets.net - in the "public interest". When officials visited the offices of GetMeTickets.net they found a large number of tickets which they hope to dish out to punters. "My staff are at present sorting through the tickets recovered from the premises and matching them against paid orders," said a notice from the Official Receiver on the GetMeTickets.net web site. "As you will appreciate, this will take some time." Last year, the BBC's flagship consumer affairs TV show Watchdog received hundreds of complaints from punters who paid top dollar for tickets, only to receive them at the last minute or not at all. The petition to wind up the company will be heard on March 22. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Feb 2006

Mens fashion store offers custom-coloured iPods

Posh gents outfitters Bamford & Sons has followed Selfridges down the expensive iPod-related services path by offering to paint any new iPod bought at one of its London stores with a custom colour scheme of the buyer's choice. It's a snip at between £121 and £196, excluding the cost of the music player.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006
For Sale sign detail

US patient records faxed to herbal pill firm

US doctors have been mistakenly faxing confidential information on hundreds of patients to a small Canadian distributor of herbal remedies. North Regent Rx has been at the receiving end of reams of sensitive information including people's names addresses, Social Security numbers, medical histories and salaries because its fax number is similar to one used by Prudential Financial's insurance group. "Almost everything a person needs for identity theft is actually faxed to us on a daily basis," North Regent Rx spokesman Jody Baxmeyer told The Canadian Press. North Regent Rx, which operates from a house in Lockport near Winnipeg, Canada, has tried for months to stem the deluge of unsolicited information, but has thus far been unable to resolve the issue with Prudential Financial, the intended recipient. The information is being sent to North Regent Rx because it uses a toll-free number that differs by only one digit from that used by Prudential's insurance department, which receives faxes from doctors' surgeries about medical insurance claims. The disability claim of at least one woman, a diabetes sufferer whose eyesight has been affected by the disease, was delayed after being sent to Canada instead of Prudential in the US. North Regent Rx has tried to forward the misdirected claims it has received, or at least alert clinics when mistakes have happened, but this has proved to be a time-consuming operation for a small firm. It wants Prudential Financial to buy its toll-free number and compensate it for the cost of putting together new stationary and advertising material. In a statement, Prudential said it was willing to work with North Regent Rx to resolve the problem. In the meantime it has "asked the six medical providers that we are aware of that have misdialed to be more careful when dialing". The misdirected fax problem entangling Prudential Financial and North Regent Rx is far from unprecedented. Confidential data about Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce customers was faxed to a scrapyard in West Virginia because of a similar snafu that lasted between 2001 and 2004. The volume of faxes prevented the scrapyard's owner from dealing with customer correspondence, a factor that Wade Peer blames for his eventual decision to shut one of his businesses, the Canadian Press reports. ®
John Leyden, 07 Feb 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Lawsuit forces users to update Microsoft Office

Users of Microsoft’s Office and Access packages have been told they will have to install updates as a result of a patent infringement dispute between Microsoft and a Guatemalan inventor that has cost the software firm almost $9 million in damages. Analysts warn that many businesses will be hit by the requirement. The case, which Microsoft lost in June last year, concerned a software application invented by Carlos Amado, which linked Microsoft’s Excel program and Access database through a single spreadsheet. The inventor had sued for $500 million. Last week, according to reports, Microsoft began informing clients they would have to install Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack (SP) 2 for any future deployments of Office Professional Edition 2003 and Office Access 2003. They would also have to install the Microsoft Office XP SP3 Patch for all future deployments of Office XP Professional and Access 2002. Microsoft also requested that its clients update all current installations of Office Professional Edition 2003 and Office Access 2003 with Office 2003 SP2, and Office XP Professional and Access 2002 with the Office XP SP3 Patch. In an advisory issued last week, Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Alexa Bona warned that while few firms were likely to be in the process of deploying Access 2002 or 2003, refreshing or re-imaging PCs – which takes place frequently within firms – could be construed as a new installation. According to analyst firm AssetMetrix Research Labs, around 22 per cent of installs will be affected by the need to make changes. The firm had carried out a study of around 600,000 PCs running various versions of Office. This presents firms with a problem because there is a risk, according to Gartner, that if firms do not make the changes when they are technically obliged to, they will no longer be covered by Microsoft’s guarantee against patent infringement liability. Gartner therefore advises that firms: Check all relevant applications will work with the new code. Use a version of the software without Access for those users who have no need for Access database functions. Be aware that to simply install the patches without testing may result in malfunctioning applications, although it will avoid the legal risk. See if Microsoft will provide free or cheap consultation to help. Ask if Microsoft will issue a patch for SP1, which would be easier to test and install than a whole new Service Pack. Many firms are still running the older version of the software. Speak to a lawyer if unable to comply. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 07 Feb 2006

O2 to launch 'radio with pictures'

O2 has pledged to become the first mobile phone network to bring Nokia's 'visual radio' technology to UK consumers, courtesy of a tie-in with the Virgin Radio station. It's a "completely new kind of radio experience", apparently.
Tony Smith, 07 Feb 2006

Readers reacquire Greenwich Meridian

LettersLetters The Google China search engine kerfuffle is unlikely to abate in the near future, so we'll start off this dredge of the Vulture Central mail repository with some reponses to a letter last week from Colin Jackson. To recap, Colin wrote: Possibly the most frightening thing I have ever seen on this web of ours: Search Tiananmen from Google Images: http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen Search Tiananmen from Google China: http://images.google.cn/images?q=tiananmen Here's more: The race between censor and source is a continuous one - presently page 5 of the chinese 'tiananmen' google image search contains one of the 'classic' images. I wonder how long it will last. Phil Carmody It appears google likes to bury bad news as much as junior ministers, as you can find tianamen square on google.cn, it just takes a little looking. Whether this poor bloke's blog stays up is a matter for debate... http://images.google.cn/images?q=tiananmen&svnum=10&hl=zh-CN&lr=&cr=countryCN&start=80&sa= (check the 2nd and 3rd rows) Mike Green I checked out the page on google china that Colin Jackson mentioned in his email to you and half an hour later I started getting port scans from an IP address that Whois says belongs to the Data Communication Bureau in China. If I get dissappeared it's all your fault. Named supplied and forwarded directly to Google and thence to Beijing Some bright spark has suggested four year patents for techie-type applications. A good thing, or not? Not a bad compromise, especially if it is to be the only way software-only inventions can be patented. It'll never happen though, because no-one in the software patents debate wants it. It's too restrictive for Big Biz and the Penguin-heads will oppose any software patents. Stuart Where is the benefit to the public from a 4-year patent for obvious "inventions"? Existing patents reward inventors for describing novel, non-obvious developments. It is the provision of that description which is of benefit to the people as a whole, and it is in return for the provision of that description that exclusive rights are granted. The description of an obvious invention has no real value (it's, uh, obvious), so why should we give up our right to use obvious ideas freely in return for essentially nothing? According to the IEEE Spectrum article "the goal is to prevent knockoffs". What's wrong with knockoffs? Lots of companies making similar products is good. I thought that competition was what capitalism was all about. It would be nice if companies had to be sucessful by providing better products and a higher standard of service, rather than by gaining exclusive rights to something. Tim Auton Back to Google now, and its decision to remove BMW and Ricoh temporarily from search results in punishment for some "doorway pages" naughtiness: Maybe I'm missing something here, but I do wonder exactly how many masochistic English-speakers there are out there searching for BMW's German homepage via Google (presumably they'll be relying heavily on Google's translation function to make sense of all that dense Teutonic poetry?), let alone whatever subset of the greater unwashed who aren't going to hit BMW's international site just by typing BMW into their address bar and letting their browser do the rest. Anyway, it looks like German residents themselves aren't going to be too hard-hit by Google's policy, judging by a quick search for "BMW Deutschland" on www.google.de... Yours, jof (neither German or in any way affiliated to BMW. Or Google) Jof Personally, I think that the tactics which are being used by google: "Bad BMW: staaaay" are really likely to backfire. Users aren't likely to care that either Ricoh or BMW was modifying its behaviour to get better rankings out of Google, they just want a reliable search. It seems that Google has started to compromise its reknowned reliability for the sake of chastisement. If the trend continues, for example if a larger number of corporations started being delisted from Google, the quality of the service provided to the punter would be seriously compromised..... What puzzles me is why BMW and Ricoh may have been attempting to modify their rankings. I mean, if I want to look at a BMW, it's not very hard to find. Greg Linux users are demanding Photoshop, among other apps. This is a topic guaranteed to get a good response from you lot: These requests from users show that Linux is becoming more mainstream and that users of it are ready to go beyond 'configure the living daylights out of this puppy'. I haven't seen many Linux apps but I hear there are some fairly good ones. What is going to hurt the Linux community is the number of distributions. The hardcore girls and boys will want to use their own distro to run all these shiny apps on. I don't think Corell, Apple or Adobe are going to jump at the idea of supporting all these funky beasts though. From a support point of view it is not going to be easy to mount these apps on the system and have them stay where they are while the typical Linux user will insist on hacking drivers and builds of every type imaginable onto the system. Linux by itself will be stable enough, but how is a major vendor going to guarantee that it will stay that way when the user compiles the latest craze and runs it on a production system? By the way, you mentioned which distro you're using, you didn't say which assault rifle would be your weapon of choice to accost the local mall rats. Jorge AK-47, naturally. Who'd have thought it? Novell, a shop based upon COTS, has found that (having taken over SuSE Linux) people really want COTS on GNU/Linux, too. Interesting how you can get the answers you want by asking the right questions - was "I want GIMP on Linux" an option? was "OpenOffice.org on Linux is good enough for my purposes"? Heaven forbid, was "Solaris 10 x86, with StarOffice, Gimp, et al available, a viable option"? Well, that Mono stuff (clearly no relation to COTS!) threw us all into thinking that Novell had suddenly grasped the community factor of F/OSS. Steve Parker That tickled me - open source advocates appear not to like eating their own dog food. Surely the mantra in the OSS world is if you want something then just write it, right? Isn't software development fully democractised these days? They mean to tell me that OpenOffice can't sub for Visio, GNUCash for Quicken and Nuv for Dreamweaver? Surely then now some of the piety has worn off the OSS people aren't trying to admit a lot of these efforts are just a bit shit? It's ironic that this "demand" for applications tends to make many of Microsoft's key points about software development true; users want applications, not platforms. That markets, not developers, decide what applications are written for what platform. I'm no capitalist and I'm no flag-waver for the ludicrous prices of software like Photoshop which make software piracy a self-fulfilling prophecy but there isn't a single area of desktop software that has seen commercial software give way to open source. The Gimp was shit 5 years ago and time hasn't been kind to it. It took Mozilla four years before it was even tolerable. I think all we can say for certain is that there is absolutely no chance any of these applications (other than, may be, Lotus Notes as its market share continues to slide) ever coming to Linux. And even if they did, how many copies of Photoshop for Linux at £400 would you even sell? Surely all good OSS advocates know you want all this stuff and you want it for nothing, too. Kevin Hall "But then again, how many photo professionals use Linux in the first place?" You seem to missed that bit - logical disparity. Why is there a demand for the pro application if no pros are using Linux? It's bit opposite of ODF v. M$O situation: there is no demand for ODF in M$O since everyone who had M$O already locked in to M$O proprietary file formats. Thanks God, graphical file formats are still (mostly) open. Ihar Filipau Not that i want to bitch and moan about what working is but.... photoshop V7...not sure on 8/9 Dreamweaver MX flash MX all run under wine reasonably well......adobe owns macromedia now so all in all its not that big a deal to them as long as they keep wine compatability high and easy..... porting to linux doesn't necessarily help them and if they already get your money and have "THE BEST" software why would they want to change that model....no competitior of note... GIMP is a bit far away from good enough for Pros and all the none Pros dont buy it just copy it or use the lower end products anyways... they own their market no change required is there?? Jason Lotus Notes made the top 10? Good lord, have these people used it? It would be number 1 on my list of applications I hope I am never forced (by work) to use again. I don't use Linux so I'd be more than happy if IBM devoted all future development to the Linux platform and stopped producting that awful application for Windows. PLEASE! Leo Davidson 2. AutoCAD: hmm, interesting. Of course, AutoCAD was originally a Unix workstation application that got moved to Windows. Following that the Unix flavour was dropped. At the time that the IntelliCAD company got eaten by Microsoft just after IntelliCAD the program was made open source there were conspiracy theories that Autodesk and Microsoft had a deal: that Microsoft would stay out of the CAD market as long as Autodesk stuck to Windows. I've no idea if that's actually true - perhaps it's time for some investigative journalism? Microsoft and Autodesk do seem to have a pretty good relationship though and a Linux port of AutoCAD seems unlikely to me. Regards, Ed Davies A few years ago Adobe beta tested FrameMaker, but unfortunntely decided to drop it. Not sure how relevant that is to Photoshop there was already a Unix port of FrameMaker, but the Linux market place has moved on a long way since then. Ken Green Thanks for the best laugh I've had in ages. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at Adobe when that pitch gets made: The brief: to produce a linux version of Photoshop, or ideally several different packages to be compatible with all the varying package dependencies of the major distros. This will of course involve massive re-engineering, redesign, testing, and maintenance, all for an operating system that is maybe running at 0.3% of the desktop share. Oh, and please be prepared to absorb all the development costs yourself, because the desktop user community for linux is used to a business model based on the gift economy and your competing products on the platform are free. You'll get a free cuddly penguin and lots of respect on slashdot though! Steve Mansfield Warning: a bit of shameless self-promotion follows... I'm the maintainer of Krita, which will be released begin of March (first beta already available: http://klik.atekon.de/wiki/index.php/KOffice-1.5.0_Testing), and which will include cmyk, L*a*b, 8, 16 and 32 bit channel depths, adjustment layers, layer groups, scripting, a plugin architecture that allows for colorspaces, tools, paint operations, filters and almost everything else I can think of to be implemented as plugins. Our scripting support is a plugin, for instance, as is the 8 bit rgba colormodel, the brush tool or the airbrush paint operation. Of course, we miss the breadth of features and the decade of polish both the Gimp and Photoshop have. But we're coding as fast as we can :-). Boudewijn Scandal and outrage: Google has moved the Greenwich Meridian 100m east. What the hell is going on? It's not just Google who disagree with the Observatory. MapPoint, MultiMap, Streetmap all put the Prime Meridian to the east of the Observatory. http://mappoint.msn.com/map.aspx?C=51.477898%2c0&L=EUR& A=12&PN=1890202946&S=800%2c740&P=|51.477898%2c0.00000|1|51.477898,0|L1|&TI=51.477898,0 http://www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?lat=51.4775&lon=0.0000&scale=5000&icon=x http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap.dll?G2M?X=538987&Y=177334&A=Y&Z=1 Perhaps the Observatory are wrong... Dave Liney According a plaque a the Royal Observatory Museum, the US Navy in designing the GPS (system) shifted the prime meridian for reasons I do not know (or can't recall from the plaque). A keen eye at the Royal Observatory Museum would see their demonstration GPS showing 000°00' longitude but also there is no antenna attached to the GPS, the no GPS signal icon verifies this. Obviously, someone took the GPS out the prime meridian then disconnected the receiver and took it back indoors to the museum for display. Again, I have no idea why the US Navy did this, I am sure some reader does. Thank you, Hunter Chisholm a more reasonable suggestion is that the co-ordinates in Google Earth correspond to the WGS-84 ellipsoid (or another equivalent), which doesn't exactly correspond to the Earth's surface. See the ROG's own FAQ on the issue here: http://www.nmm.ac.uk/server/show/conWebDoc.416 Carl Warnell Don't blame Google, blame the U.S. Navy. Don't worry, there aren't any black helicopters, nor is it a plot by those Yankee imperialists to confuse us Limeys and steal our meridian. The 100-metre discrepancy is a by-product of the fact that the most accurate terrestrial coordinate system is defined by the Global Positioning System (GPS) these days, and not, alas, by Airy's transit telescope at Greenwich. Plate tectonics (the slow movement of the continents as they float on top of the Earth's mantle) means that "fixed" points on the Earth's surface are *not* fixed at all. Now that we have the technology to actually measure the slow but inexorable drift of the continents, it makes no sense to rely on features on the Earth's surface to define something as important as the prime meridian. Instead, a network of reference points scattered around the world define the International Terrestrial Reference Frame, whose prime meridian is a little over 100 metres east of the Greenwich meridian. Just as the poor old Earth isn't stable enough to provide an accurate time scale, and Greenwich Mean Time was replaced by International Atomic Time in 1972, the Earth isn't stable enough to define a system of latitude and longitude either. At least, not to the accuracy required by modern GPS-powered technology. I hope this sets your mind at rest. Dr David Harper Greenwich not stable enough? It's enough to have any true Englishman coughing beef and oyster pie over his copy of Longitude. We prefer this explanation: The shift takes Google even closer to Beijing Richard Cain Our report on Deportivo Wanka yesterday caused much merriment among those of you with a similarly juvenile sense of humour. This chap, however, needs to work on his funny bone: The Wanka tribe existed until some time before 500. The word doesn't enter the English language (at least in this sense) until some time in the 19th century... Carsten No such problem here - and if you've ever wondered what a bunch of wankas looked like: A group of Charlton fans were introduced to Deportivo Wanka around two years ago by our friend Richard Pool when he moved out to Peru to teach. Ever since we've been wearing the shirts with pride to all Charlton's cup games, including this season as you can see from: We're playing Brentford in the 5th round of the FA Cup on Saturday February 18 and will be in the Rose of Denmark pub on the Woolwich Road in Charlton with the shirts! Regards, Glynne Jones Splendid. Gentlemen, we salute you. And finally, as it were, "The Final Countdown" controversy rumbles on. To recap, we reckon it goes: Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-daaaa... While another reader has it as: dah-duh-dahh-dumm dah-duh-dah-da-dumm Here's what Simon Harpham says: You're both wrong. The Final Countdown goes: d d daa daa d d da da daa d d daa daa d d da da da da daaa d d daaa d d da da da da daa daa daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Right, we're off to count those das. More Friday. ®
Lester Haines, 07 Feb 2006

When mainframe meets SOA

CommentComment Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is becoming the preferred method of developing new business solutions. Everyone developing in a green field environment should be using SOA, but very few people have this luxury. The biggest stumbling block, delaying wholesale SOA implementation, is the plethora of existing systems that do not provide an SOA interface. Should they be re-engineered to create a web services interface, or can an interface be created by wrapping or indirection? Nowhere is this problem more pressing than on the mainframe because: The many existing mainframe transactions should provide a rich seam of useful services. The average CICS COBOL program does not understand the alphabet soup of web services. The owners of these transactions are justly proud of their reliability, performance and security and are wary of distributed applications and programmers accessing them directly. Merrill Lynch faced this problem and developed an internal solution called X4ML. Having proved its efficacy, the company has sold it to SOA Software, which will now maintain, extend, and integrate it with the rest of SOA Software's product line. SOA Software markets the tool under the name SOLA. The requirement was to create a tool that could be used by the service owner (the CICS developer) to quickly and easily publish mainframe programs and data as Web Services without modifying or writing any code. The CICS developer should not need any special environment, beyond being able to use a browser, and should not have to understand any XML, Java or web services. Merrill Lynch met these requirements by creating a tool that analyses the COBOL source of a CICS transaction, not just the copy books, and from that can identify its inputs and outputs, and therefore the signature of the resulting Web Service(s). As part of this process, the developer has the opportunity to tailor the Web Service in a variety of ways such as publishing the service using more intuitive variable names than those chosen by the COBOL programmer. When completed, the tool automatically creates the WSDL and publishes it in a UDDI directory. Once published the service is available in the run time environment and will execute the unmodified CICS transaction. The tool comes with a test harness so that the new service can be tested by the owner again without any need to understand web services or the distributed environment that will be using the service. A key benefit of this approach is that the CICS transaction continues to operate in its native mode as well as a web service. This means that there is no chance of breaking the existing system when adding the new service, and also no issue of having to keep two versions of the transaction in sync. This is about as painless as moving from an old to a new technology gets. I can now hear CICS aficionados saying: "that is all too easy, but what about conversational 3270 applications?" Obviously, Merrill Lynch had thought about that and have created a solution where the interface can be taught, in an intelligent way, what a multi-step transaction looks like and what the inputs and outputs are. This conversational, multi-step transaction can then be published as a single Web Service. As before, the WSDL is automatically generated and the service is registered in UDDI. The original intention of SOLA was to enable enterprises to integrate the mainframe into the SOA environment as a first step to phasing it out without the need for a rip and replace policy. However, having seen how easy it is to integrate existing applications the owners realised that it would be just as easy to develop new web services on the mainframe using the existing CICS COBOL developer's talent. SOLA has in fact given a new lease of life to mainframe development and applications. SOA Software plans to deliver SOLA later this quarter, integrated with the rest of the SOA Software portfolio including Registry, XML VPN and Service Manager. SOA Software is also considering providing SOLA for IMS TP. Any enterprise with major CICS COBOL production systems on the mainframe should look at SOLA as a way to extend the life of these systems, and potentially as the way to make the mainframe the heart of the SOA world. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Peter Abrahams, 07 Feb 2006

HP's inner voice tells it to buy OuterBay

HP has gone to the software acquisition well again and purchased storage specialist OuterBay for an undisclosed sum. OuterBay carved out a decent niche as an EMC and HP partner. The companies teamed to sell versions of OuterBay's Application Data Management software suite - a package that makes it possible to discover and archive database transactions or transactions from homemade applications. The archived information is then moved off to cheap storage boxes. Such software fits into the broad and popular ILM (information lifecycle management) category. EMC was the first major storage vendor to partner with OuterBay, which has raised up to $40m in venture funding. HP signed on as a reseller in September of 2005. The acquisition - expected to close in two weeks - builds on HP's pursuit of management software companies. It has purchased the likes of AppIQ, Peregrine Systems and RLX in recent months. "With OuterBay's technology, HP can help organizations to more effectively manage database growth and improve database performance by up to 80 percent - a critical capability in today's business environment where database information is in constant use," HP said. "The technology additionally will enable HP to expand its solutions for customers deploying Oracle, SQLServer, and Sybase databases as well as major enterprise applications such as Oracle E-Business Suite, SAP and PeopleSoft." So there you have it. ®
Ashlee Vance, 07 Feb 2006

IBM thumbs nose at heat concerns, kicks Power6 to 6GHz

IBM has carved out a renegade path for the upcoming Power6 processor, opting to crank the chip's clock speed much higher while rivals shy away from major gigahertz boosts with their products. The Power6 chip will run between 4GHz and 5GHz, and has been shown to hum away at 6GHz in the lab. IBM reckons that some process technology breakthroughs have allowed it to kick the frequency higher while still keeping heat and power consumption issues under control. All told, IBM claims that Power6 will be twice as fast as competing server processors from Intel, AMD and Sun Microsystems.
Ashlee Vance, 07 Feb 2006