10th > February > 2006 Archive

fingers pointing at man

SourceLabs puts its SASH around Oracle

A services start-up has certified four increasingly popular open source frameworks for "out-of-the-box" interoperability with Oracle's Java and middleware portfolio. SourceLabs has added Oracle's Application Server 10g and Fusion Middleware to the latest edition of its Spring, Apache Axis, Struts and Hibernate (SASH) distribution, called SASH 1.1, that was released Thursday. SASH combines the four open source application frameworks in a stack that is integrated following a battery of tests spanning security, scalability and functionality. SourceLabs charges SASH customers for on-going support. SourceLabs' goal is to help customers using open source with popular Java and middleware runtimes save time and money that they would otherwise spend integrating the open source frameworks with their application infrastructure. Previous versions of SASH have certified the application frameworks on versions of BEA Systems' WebLogic Server and IBM's WebSphere application server, Oracle's database and a developer edition of Oracle's application server. Oracle has dropped hints for almost a year that it might enter the field of certifying open source application frameworks to its software. Oracle has the market footprint and application portfolio to make a move worthwhile for many customers and to harm the growth potential of companies like SourceLabs. Oracle, though, is making SASH 1.1 available for free download from its own web site, here. This indicates the value Oracle has placed on leaving certification of these frameworks with its own software to external specialists and that Oracle may not be quite ready to become directly involved in this particular activity just yet.®
Gavin Clarke, 10 Feb 2006

Oracle in talks to consume three open source darlings - report

Oracle is in talks to buy three open source companies in a strategy that would potentially reinforce the company's middleware against low-priced competitors, according to a report in BusinessWeek. The database and applications giant is talking to JBoss, Zend Technologies and Sleepycat Software about deals that could exceed $600m, the magazine reported. JBoss is seeking up to $400m and Zend could settle for $200m, while no figure was given for Sleepycat. Rumors of an Oracle and JBoss deal have circulated for awhile, but BusinessWeek is the first to claim all three companies are targets. The companies could not be contacted at the time of going to press. Any acquisitions would follow a 12-month buying spree that saw Oracle snap up $18bn worth of vendors of varying sizes, spanning enterprise applications, databases and single sign-on software. The deals were intended to deepen Oracle's technology footprint and expand its customer base. One primary target in Oracle's 2005 acquisition spree was SAP, who Oracle whishes to unseat as the world's largest supplier of business applications. By making the open source deals, Oracle would rip a page from IBM's strategy of surrounding its own middleware products with open source software that leads the way to the company's full suite of proprietary products. This strategy is designed to help ensure that license and service revenues from products go to IBM rather than competitors. As such, IBM bought open source Java application server Gluecode to serve as a low-priced entry point for customers who were unable to afford, or unwilling to buy, IBM's full WebSphere Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) application server. Until now, Oracle has tackled open source middleware by offering "free" versions of existing products. Last year, Oracle launched its 10g Express Edition, Oracle Database XE. This was in keeping with IBM's tactic of also offering a free version of its DB2 database, DB2 Universal Database Express-C, and Microsoft's free Express edition of SQL Server 2005. With developers latching on to open source, though, it's questionable just how popular a free version of a closed-source product would become. In databases, for example, close to 44 per cent of developers are using the open source MySQL Server, according to analyst firm Evans Data Corp (EDC). A JBoss deal would deliver to Oracle a middleware stack that is popular among developers for a relatively low price, while Zend would unlock the knowledge and technology involved in PHP. Zend last year completed optimization of PHP to Oracle's database potentially helping millions of developers using the open source scripting language to build web applications that require a database tier. Sleepycat would give Oracle another popular developer community, this time around databases. Sleepycat claims more than 200m deployments and has some of the world's largest and best-known IT suppliers as customers. The BusinessWeek story is here. ®
Gavin Clarke, 10 Feb 2006

Wi-Fi for dummies

The average user has no idea of the risks associated with public Wi-Fi hotspots. Here are some very simple tips to keep network access secure. My friend Philip is an expert at community activism and is a cracker-jack financial advisor as well. One thing he is not, however - and he would be the first to admit this - is a knowledgeable computer user. Oh sure, he can send emails and cruise the web, and use Word and Excel, but he doesn't really grok his computer. And one thing he especially doesn't know much about is security. He knows there are bad guys out there, and he knows that he should try to practice safe computing, but he just doesn't know how. Recently we were talking during a financial meeting, and he remarked that he always felt nervous using his laptop at one of the many coffee shops here in St Louis that provide free wireless access. After I assured him that he should in fact be very nervous, I reassured him by saying that there were things he could do to protect himself in the local Panera or Kayak's. When he asked me what those things were, I told him I would write a SecurityFocus column that would answer that question. This column, therefore, is written for Philip and all the other average computer users out there who use Wi-Fi without understanding its inherent risks. WEP and WPA Most people know by now that they should connect to a wireless connection using one of two encryption technologies: either WEP or WPA. Sure, WPA is a heck of a lot better than WEP, but even WEP is better than nothing. However, that's what most coffee shops use: nothing. Free wireless is an add-on, so they want to keep costs low. WEP or WPA would add additional complications and expense, and additional customer support where none would be available, so most coffee shops just run their wireless wide open. That means that unless you're specifically given a WEP or WPA key to enter, assume that everything your computer is sending or receiving is sent in the clear. Meaning, anyone who knows what they're doing can see many of your passwords once you type them in. To use that wireless connection securely, then, you need to worry about the programs you're using to access the net. By and large, people do three things online: use the web, send and receive email, and IM friends and associates. Sure, lots of programs use the net in some way, but the three I just mentioned are the biggies, so let's focus on those. Web When it comes to web browsers at the coffee shop, there's one big piece of advice you should follow: don't use Internet Explorer! Yes, Microsoft has released a preview of the beta of the forthcoming IE7, and it does look better in a lot of ways (although holes were found almost immediately upon its release, but hey, it's a preview of a beta), but that final release is still a long ways off. For now, use IE 6 only if you are absolutely forced to. So what should you use instead? Firefox, Opera - or Safari if you're a Mac user. All three are free, powerful, yet easy to use, and all are safer than Internet Explorer. I'm partial to Firefox (heck, I wrote a book about it), but you should be interested in Firefox for its excellent security record (especially when compared to Internet Explorer's truly abysmal security problems) and the extensions that help you secure the browser and your internet usage even more. Once you have your browser open, use your head. Avoid we sites in which you're viewing or entering user names, passwords, account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other sensitive data ... unless those sites use https instead of http. If you have to log in somewhere, but the web page's URL begins with https, then it's using a technology called SSL, and it's OK; if the URL begins with http, be careful. If you're just reading the news or sports scores, don't worry about it, but if you're working with sensitive data, do not view or enter information on those types of pages. If your company provides you with VPN access on your laptop, use it. That's a sure fire way to ensure that everything you send and receive is encrypted, and it makes your surfing much safer. Email You can check your email in two ways: using a web browser, or using an email program running on your computer (like Outlook, Outlook Express, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Eudora, and others). Let's talk about each of those in turn. Email via Web Browser There are companies that provide email primarily through web browsers, like Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail, but most ISPs who allow people to download their email using programs also provide access to that same email using web browsers. Most every web mail out there provides a secure (https) page for logging in to check your email, but that's it. Your password will be safe, but none of your emails. Reading and writing emails is done using plain ol' http, which means that everything is sent in the clear. Not good. I like Gmail a lot, but Gmail doesn't use https for reading emails (it does use it for logging in, though). To get around that, I installed the Customize Google extension for Firefox (and it only works in Firefox). Once the extension is installed, go to Tools, CustomizeGoogle Options. Go to the Gmail tab and make sure that "Secure (switch to https)" is checked. Press OK to close the window, and you're done. Now you'll log in to Gmail on an https page, and you'll read and send mail on https pages as well. I like this solution because you don't have to think about it again. All that said, you can switch to https once you're in Gmail by simply clicking in your address bar, changing the http to https, and then loading the page. Now everything is secure ... as long as you don't close your browser. If you do, you need to manually change to https again, and again. The Customize Google extension does this automatically, so it's a better solution. Hotmail offers a "secure mode" that uses SSL, but by default you login at an insecure http page, just like you do with Yahoo! - which isn't good. For either service you can click on the tiny "Sign in using enhanced security" or "Submit over SSL" link that most people will never see, but why should anyone have to? C'mon, that should be the default, and http shouldn't even be an option! Worse than that, all other email actions - reading and writing - are strictly http only, with no possibility for https. That's pretty terrible. If you access mail through a web interface provided by your ISP, you need to look and see if it supports SSL. If you're not sure, call and ask them. If they support it, use it; if not, use something else. Personally, I'm very happy with Gmail. And hey, it's free! Email via a program Basically, you're vulnerable during two processes: when you're checking email (using something called POP3 or IMAP), and when you're sending it (using something called SMTP). If those connections aren't protected, then a bad guy can see your actual emails, which may contain sensitive or even just personal information, and he can also view the usernames and passwords you're using to log in to check or send email as well. You want to wrap both those processes in a secure wrapper like SSL (the same technology that protects your credit cards on https web sites) so that someone listening in gets gibberish and nothing else. For instance, my email is through Pair, and they allow me to check it using SSL to encrypt both my username and password, and any email I download (one of the many reasons I recommend Pair to folks looking for a mail host). That means you need to call the company that manages your email - AOL, SBC, Earthlink, your cable company, etc, and ask them if they support secure POP3 (or secure IMAP). You can also try a Google search for "[your email company] secure pop3 email". Doing that, I found several different pages of instructions for AOL, for instance. If your email provider doesn't offer secure POP3 or IMAP, well, that's pretty close to unacceptable nowadays. I'd seriously consider moving to someone else. Or only use a web mail service like Gmail that does work with SSL when you're at the coffee shop. When it comes to sending email from a coffee shop, things get a bit more complicated. Many coffee shops, due to the way they've set up their networks, only allow you to send email using their ISP. Some of those ISPs might offer secure SMTP, but it's a sure bet that the guys and gals behind the counter making your coffee won't have the slightest clue what settings you should use. So what to do? If you're really lucky, your ISP allows for secure SMTP and you can use that from the coffee shop. This probably won't work, though. In my case, Gmail to the rescue again. Yes, Gmail is a web-based email service, but you can configure your email program to send email securely using Gmail, which is fantastic. The Gmail Help Center has several pages devoted to showing you how to set up a wide variety of email programs so that they can send email securely using Gmail. In my experience, I have yet to be stymied when using this service. Give it a try. IM AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is the most popular IM program in the world. Unfortunately, all messages are sent completely wide open, so that anyone can read them. Not good at all. But MSN Messenger is the same. And so is Yahoo! Messenger. You could use Skype, which encrypts all IM messages, although that program - and its parent company - has its share of unanswered security questions. Not to mention, Skype is a totally closed system, so anyone you wish to IM with must also use Skype. The Gizmo Project is another contender (like Skype, it features its ability to make phone calls over the Net, but it will also IM), and the company claims that it offers secure IM, but its answers to questions about security are completely unacceptable, bordering on ignorant. If you want to encrypt your IM conversations, there are many solutions out there. Most cost money, though some are free. Search Google for "im encryption" and you'll find plenty of things to check out. A solution I can recommend, however, is to use free IM software that supports encryption such as GAIM, an open source software project. GAIM runs on all the major operating systems, it's free, it's powerful, and, even better, it supports all the big IM networks. This means that you can use GAIM to talk to AIM users, MSN Messenger users, Yahoo! Messenger users, Google Talk users, and even more. Best of all, it supports protected messaging through the Gaim-Encryption plugin. Install that, and you can chat with other encrypted IM users, through whatever network you like, and the conversation will be secure. Other uses don't need to be using GAIM either, just a similar IM application that supports the same encryption. In a similar vein, Off-the-Record Messaging is another plugin for GAIM that will also encrypt IMs, no matter what network you're using. Either way, you're safe. Conclusion It's possible to use your laptop safely in a coffee shop, but you have to take a bit of responsibility for that security. You'll need to use your common sense, change a few habits, and perhaps install and use some new software. I know that this is a lot for most people, but aren't your private data and conversations worth it? And if you have any questions, you know who you can call. If you're a security professional reading this column, why not show it to the Philips in your life and offer your help; if you're a Philip, try the advice in this column, and feel free to ask the computer person in your life for aid. I know they'll be glad to help.See you at the coffee house! This article originally appeared in Security Focus. Copyright © 2006, SecurityFocus
Scott Granneman, 10 Feb 2006
For Sale sign detail

UK.gov in partial ID card climbdown

The UK government is reportedly poised to accept key concessions in an effort to ease the passage of its controversial ID card plans through parliament. Amendments to the legislation, due to be tabled by a home office minister, would mean a new bill would have to be enacted in order to make it compulsory for Britons to carry biometric identity cards, following a defeat in the House of Lords over the issue. And in a concession to concerns over the possible cost of identity cards, the Home Office is expected to agree to make a report to parliament on costs every six months, once the scheme is set up. From 2008, anyone applying for a new British passport can also expect to pay for a identity card containing biometric data, including fingerprint and an iris scan. This biometric data would be placed in a national register. The Lords voted to say people should have a choice over whether this data goes into the database. But that's a concession too far for the Home Office, which is standing firm over its plans to make entries compulsory, the BBC reports. Legislation paving the way for an identity card returns to the Commons on Monday. ®
John Leyden, 10 Feb 2006

CD-Rs to get cheaper as Philips backs down on licensing

An anti-trust investigation into the licensing of Philips' recordable CD technology has been shelved after the firm changed its tune. The result is that CD-Rs are going to get even cheaper. The European Commission anti-trust investigators said in a statement that the end of restrictive licensing woud bring prices down. Philips already cut its royalty charges by almost half to $0.025 per disc and back-dated the cut to October 2005.
Team Register, 10 Feb 2006

Toshiba, LG to share CD, DVD, HD DVD toys

Toshiba and LG have agreed to share their respective optical disc patent portfolios the better to make each company's product development budget go further. The deal covers not only discs, but players and recorders too, and even extends to HD DVD - an interesting move given LG's preference for the Blu-ray Disc format.
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

Fossett faring fine

The Virgin GlobalFlyer and its pilot Steve Fossett have passed the halfway point in their bid to break the record for the world's longest flight. The experimental plane is currently over the Pacific, with next land sighting set for Mexico's Baja peninsula at about 1800 GMT. The team at mission control in Kent report that jetstream tailwinds in the Pacific are strong, and Fossett is making good progress, having enjoyed spectacular views of Japan's Mount Fuji. There has been no more fuel lost, and engineers now calculate that he will land with up to 1000lbs to spare. GlobalFlyer is set to lose speed and gain altitude as its weight decreases. Conditions aboard are said to be uncomfortable, with Fossett enduring extreme temperatures, turbulence, and sleeping for no more than five minutes at a time. Mission sponsor Richard Branson expressed sinister worries about his daredevil friend: “I have always suspected Steve was half human, half android, and after what he's been through I believe I may be right!”®
Christopher Williams, 10 Feb 2006

Geek TV is back

Hoping to leave the living room at some point this year? Not a chance. This spring, the Tellyville honchos have two main ways of getting you off your computer and making you watch the box - assuming they're not one and the same, of course.
Jane Hoskyn, 10 Feb 2006

Does Cisco need consumer electronics?

Does Cisco really have any desire to enter the consumer electronics business, as many analysts, and Cisco itself have been saying of late? We've put some numbers together, and don't think it does. The acquisition of both Kiss and Scientific Atlanta, which was approved by shareholders this week, have led to lots of rhetoric about how internet attached consumer devices may make a good new market for Cisco, but does that add up financially? We've ranked three types of companies against Cisco to give Faultline readers an idea of how such deals appear from the lofty heights occupied by CEO John Chambers, as he looks at acquisitions. They are consumer electronics companies, four of the largest in the world, plus TiVo plus Apple; two handset makers, three traditional telecoms suppliers and its recent acquisition, Scientific Atlanta. The ratios we have chosen to look at are, along with free cash flow, among the most important that Wall Street analysts use to examine what a company is worth. It is easy to see why analysts have recently got in a funk about Cisco potentially buying Nokia. Nokia has the second highest revenue per employee of all these companies, after Apple. These are the ONLY two companies that are generating more dollars for each employee they have, than Cisco. Nokia is also growing faster than Cisco, but it still doesn't have its margin and buying such a large company, apart from all the cultural and other issues, would dilute its margin far too much. After Cisco, it's a long fall to first Motorola and then to TiVo with revenue per employee of $541,000 and $501,000 respectively. Sony is the first real consumer electronics company that enters the rankings on this statistic and it's number is roughly two thirds that of Cisco. We are not suggesting that Cisco is being lined up as a buyer of Sony, even though Cisco has sufficient market capitalisation that it could theoretically afford to buy any of these companies, but our point is that there are few that it would ever want to own. And there are few whose business it wants to enter. Having lots of employees, albeit cheap Chinese and Asia Pacific employees, would just weight down Cisco's management processes so don't expect it suddenly to buy into one of the smaller Asian CE firms either, because it shares financial statistics similar to Sony and Panasonic. Lower revenue per employee also says a lot about the type of employee you have, and culturally they would tend not to fit in with Cisco's working ethos. Manufacturing staff don't sit too well with programmers and vice versa, and both need very different environments. But overall net margin, something Cisco cannot dilute too aggressively, would also be dramatically effected by entering some of these businesses however it entered them. When it first acquired Linksys, the famous Cisco margin took a while to recover. How long would it take to recover from owning something the size or Thomson or Sony? Or even a smaller competitor. It's just not in the nature of Cisco to want to be any of these beasts. What Cisco is really saying is that it is tempted to enter these markets on the back of the Scientific Atlanta and Kiss purchases, and on the back of the Linksys retail brand. But anyone who wants to go into the market for selling directly to consumers, has to expect no better net margin that Apple's and Philips' current 9 per cent plus. Cisco would need to enter these markets with a margin that is 2.5 times the industry average, for it to be entirely comfortable. In Scientific Atlanta it is buying a company that is 20 per cent of its total workforce, so more easily digested by its HR department and management. It is acquiring a company that will make half as much profit margin, but only on 7 per cent of the total combined revenue. That makes the dilutive effect on income just $230 million, an amount that can be saved by HQ combinations and component purchasing efficiencies. But then Scientific Atlanta (SFA) isn't actually in the consumer electronics business at all. SFA sells set tops, in the main, to large cable operators. It has perhaps 80 per cent of its business among its 5 top clients. In other words, it sells like Cisco sells when it is addressing Telcos. True consumer electronics businesses sell via retail, to consumers, as Linksys and Kiss do. SFA had already shown that it can land some of the big IPTV supply contracts to major US telcos, with the AT&T deal. So suddenly traditional Cisco telco customers (the other main source of Cisco revenue being major enterprises) can suddenly be of service to Scientific Atlanta. The Cisco sales process can pull through more SFA product, which is why it makes sense as a deal. But it’s more utilitarian than visionary. But where else in the consumer supply chain can Cisco realistically do that? Effectively making more sales from the same sales force? Well, it is possible that Telcos and cable operators may move out of simply supplying set tops and go on to become important in any home network which works with a set top. This would include networked TVs, DVRs and even portable devices. This is because they will need to interact with the set top, so it may end up being safer to buy these from your TV operator than from a store. That process would then drive CE companies to whomever held the set top technology (for instance the DRM) in order to make their devices work alongside them. DRM will become a key part of this play and, Cisco needed an anchor in the home with which to manage encrypted content. SFA provides it with that in the US. But it may also need something similar outside of the US before that type of control is really worth having, but there is no automatic candidate in both DRM and set tops in Europe with a decent market share. But once a set top is in Cisco’s hands it can drive Cisco APIs and decryption techniques onto other devices, which it doesn’t have to make, but which it can charge some intellectual property for. Portable players, DVD players, DVRs and home networks MAY be made and provided by Linksys and SFA, but they might just as easily be controlled from the SFA boxes and a Cisco home networking architecture may emerge. In that scenario Cisco has no need to get into the consumer electronics business at all. Cisco should be jealous of Apple growth rate of 68 per cent, but it is not in the nature of the Cisco sales process to be at the beck and call of fads and fashions, in devices, which is Apple’s strength, so we hardly see it chasing that. Instead, expect a vision from Cisco of using SFA to extend control and influence through partnerships which will reach into the operator dominated entertainment gizmo market. Because at least there the financials add up. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 10 Feb 2006

Web suicide pacts sweep Japan

The number of Japanese people who killed themselves after making suicide pacts forged over the internet almost doubled last year. Ninety-one people topped themselves in groups after meeting on the net during 2005, compared with 55 in 2004 and 34 in 2003, when the National Police Agency in Japan began keeping records of the disturbing phenomenon. Desperate individuals in their 20s accounted for 40 per cent of these figures, or 38 deaths, 39 were in their 30s, while eight youngsters between 10 and 19 ended their lives after forming online death pacts. Fifty four of the 91 suicides were males and 37 were females. In response to this growing trend, Japanese ISPs have begun passing on details of people who post suicide pact messages on sites they host to police, local English language paper The Daily Yomiuri reports. Since October 2005 when ISPs drew up guidelines on the practice, and the end of 2005, police intervened in 12 cases involving information about 14 people, 12 of whom were taken into protective custody. The BBC reports that Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates and online pacts make only a small contribution to a much larger problem. A downturn in the Japanese economy was followed by an upsurge in suicide by 35 per cent in 1998. Deaths by suicide have exceeded 30,000 in every year since. The idea of suicide pacts appeals to desperate individuals frightened of dying alone. Those that look will find no shortage of data online including an online guidebook that gives advice on the best locations to take your own life. "Many people are too scared to die alone," said Yumiko Misaki, director of the Tokyo Inochi no Denwa (Phone of Life), a suicide counselling service, told Reuters. "So they reach each other through the internet and make arrangements. "And the worst thing is that people are often very influenced by reporting on this, so it's likely to keep on increasing." ®
John Leyden, 10 Feb 2006
graph up

Intel offers Pentium D discount promo

Intel is offering resellers instant cash rebates for purchasing its boxed dual-core Pentium D processors. Dealers can get up to $80 off the price of a chip just by ordering one from an Intel Authorised Distributor. Sounds good? Well, it pays to check out the Ts&Cs. The offer is limited to three chip models: the Pentium D 820, 830 and 840 - all other dualies are excluded. Resellers can buy no more than 1000 discounted processors of each type. Crucially, Intel reserves the right to "pull back" the promotion "at any time for budgetary or other reasons". So if too many resellers buy too many cut-price processors, Intel may decide to knock the offer on its head early. The 820 attracts a $40 instant rebate; the 830, $60; and the 840, $80. Intel also said it will offer a further $100 when Intel Product Dealers buy their first five Pentium Ds of any type before 25 February. The deal is aimed at North American resellers, but we note there's a similar offer being made to European dealers, though the exact details are hidden from our prying eyes on the company's channel-only site. ®
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

Qinetiq kicks off £1.3bn IPO

Shares in Qinetiq began trading today as the UK tech firm kicked off its £1.3bn IPO. The shares were valued at 200p each - at the top end of 165p-205p range set for the float - but surged ahead in brisk early trading. By mid morning shares were changing hands at 216p. Qinetiq - the science and technology outfit formed from the British Government's defence research and development organisation - published details of its intention to float last month. Boffins intend to use the cash raised from the IPO to help develop the business and snap up a few "appropriate acquisitions". Around £45m of the cash raised will be used to plug a hole in its pension scheme. In the six months to September 2005 Qinetiq generated a turnover of £473m and an operating profit of £37.5m. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Feb 2006

ATI tweaks Catalyst, adds set-up Wizard

ATI has updated its Catalyst graphics card driver package. The new release, 6.2, incorporates tweaks for more than half a dozen games titles, including World of Warcraft, Half-life 2 and City of Heroes, and fixes a whole series of glitches. For the non-technical, ATI has added a Wizard-based interface for Catalyst Control Center to guide users through the most commonplace tasks. A list of products for which the update is suitable, along with release notes and the download itself can be found at the ATI support site, here. ®
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

IBM bids for personal area network crown

IBM's bid to open up chip technology that could be used as a basis for high speed in-room networks, seems destined to flounder. IBM stood up at the Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco this week and said it had a component that would allow electronic devices to transmit and receive ten times faster than today's Wi-Fi networks. Really this was about using a combination of Silicon and Germanium to make radio chips that operate up in the rarified atmosphere of 60GHz, a line of sight range that has little wall penetration and which is used almost exclusively to create expensive line of sight high powered, long distance wireless fibre in the west and mesh in Japan. What the paper doesn’t say, but we suspect, is that using millimeter bands around the home would mean signals could be interrupted by simply walking between two devices. The breakthrough here for IBM is that previous chip designs trying to exploit this spectrum have been too large, expensive and difficult to build, often based on Gallium Arsenide, which is corrosive and easily infected by impurities. These technologies are required because of their extremely fast switching speed compared with simple Silicon. IBM says its design allows embedding of antennas directly within the chipset package, further reducing system cost and a prototype chipset module, including the receiver, the transmitter, and two antennas, would occupy the area of a small coin. IBM is the global leader in chip packaging and a constant focus of its chips designs over recent years has been to reduce inter-chip communication, rather than directly drive up chip processing power. IBM said the technology could be targeted as a 60GHz wireless personal-area networks in the 10 metres and below range. This is likely to be in extremely low power ranges that would cause no interference outside, say, a living room. This technology might enable broadband video distribution to stream an uncompressed high definition video signal from a DVD player to a plasma display mounted on a wall. The trouble is that UWB technologies, particularly those from the WiMedia Alliance, are well positioned to take this market over the next 18 months or so, with the added advantage that they could operate in spectrum where the signal is not so easily disrupted. However this IBM process might feasibly be used as a way to build UWB chips, but even Silicon Germanium is unlikely to reach the price point that these chips will eventually need given they will be manufactured in hundreds or millions once they are standardised, and there are efforts to massage CMOS techniques into this speed range. Separately, IBM said this week that Freescale Semiconductor had joined its Power.org effort to promote the Power range of processors which drive most of IBM’s servers and is at the heart of all IBM chips, including those used for every major games platform (such as the Cell chip which will drive the Sony Play Station 3). Freescale, of course, is one of the original Power designers. The two companies got together to create a new chip architecture, which was initially embraced by Apple to drive its Mac PCs back in the early 1990s. Apple has only just departed from the architecture in favor of Intel chips. Freescale will become a founder member of Power.org and join the Power Architecture Advisory Council which guides the direction of development for the processor core. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 10 Feb 2006

Google to get a handle on handwriting

Google is funding research aimed at making handwritten documents searchable. The Dublin City University project is a rare external collaboration for Google, which in the past has preferred to simply buy in the expertise it needs. Computer scientists are adapting technology originally developed to recognise objects like cars and people in video. Team leader Professor Alan Smeaton told The Register: “We stumbled upon the idea of using the algorithms for handwriting.” When the system is given an example of a word in someone's handwriting, it can then search through documents written by that person and find other instances, adapting to variation in style. The approach has already been successfully tested on George Washington's personal diaries – every appearance of the word "battle" can be quickly accessed, for example. The researchers say before now this kind of material has only been accessible in digital libraries one page at a time, which is slow and cumbersome, or is kept behind closed doors. Google has provided enough funding for the team at Dublin, and its partners at the Universities of Buffalo and Massachusetts to work on the problem for at least a year. It's hoped the tools the group develop will become a key part of Google's stated aim of digitising the world's libraries. Professor Smeaton said: “This will make historical manuscripts searchable for scholars and others in a way that has never been possible before.”®
Christopher Williams, 10 Feb 2006

The Final Countdown: case closed

LettersLetters Those of you who have been closely following the ongoing debate as to how exactly Europe's The Final Countdown goes (and let's face it, bird flu is a worry but this really matters) will be delighted to learn that we have the definitive answer. Before revealing the astounding truth, let's recap. We originally offered the transcription thus: Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-daaaa... Another reader then offered: dah-duh-dahh-dumm dah-duh-dah-da-dumm Before Simon Harpham chipped in with: 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 That was not, however, an end to the matter. Try this: I am a board member of HumanBeatbox.com and codeveloper of the standardised system of beatbox notation (SBN). Beatboxing is recreating music with your mouth (not just the singing, the drums and instruments as well, all at the same time). Our site is the largest international community of beatboxers, and as such I think I can have the final say on this. SBN it is quite a loose standard but in my opinion "The Final Countdown" guitar part should be written like this: [ _ _ / _ DIDL / UHR / DUR ][ _ _ / _ DIDL / UH DE / DEH _ ] [ _ _ / _ DIDL / UHR _ / DUR ][ _ _ / _ DIDL / UH DE / DE DE ] [ DUR _ / _ DIDL / UHR _ / _ DIDL ][ UH DE / DE DE / DUR / DEH _ ] [ DER _ / _ _ / _ _ / DEDL IDL ][ UHR _ / _ _ / _ _ / _ _ ] and with a simple simultaneous hiphop beat it would look like this [ b t / t DIDL / kUHR _ / DUR b ][ b t / t DIDL / kUH DE / DEH b ] [ b t / t DIDL / kUHR _ / DUR b ][ b t / t DIDL / kUH DE / DE kE ] [ bUR t / t DIDL / kUHR t / t DIDL ][ bUH DE / DE bE / kUR t / DEH k ] [ bER t / t b / k t / bEDL IDL ][ bUHR t / t b / k b / k k ] More about SBN is available here: http://humanbeatbox.com/forum/showthread.php?t=21827 Mark Splinter Good Lord. The time had now come to settle the matter once and for all before it got out of hand. Thanks, then, to Kevan Heydon who made a timely intervention with this: You could try this site to see which one of the submitted versions is correct. http://www.songtapper.com/s/tappingmain.bin The url sort of gives it away - you simply tap in a song's rhythm on your space bar and viola! it will identify the song. Get the rhythm wrong and you've blown it. Yes, yes, we know what you're thinking - this is a load of complete and utter nonsense. That's what we reckoned too, until we gave it a go and - by the Lord Harry and Saint George - it correctly named that song in just 20 taps, beginiing as follows: Tap, tap, tap tap, tap, tap, tap tap taaap... So, there you have it. The Final Countdown file is now closed. ® Bootnote There's always one, isn't there? Here's Simon Holt's contribution to the debate: The vitally important question of how that boring poodle-rock song "The Final Countdown" goes is very similar to the more erudite old school play-ground conundrum of "How many 'D's are there in 'Match of the Day'?" to which the answer is of course "About 72 - D D D D DDDDD D D D D D D D D D D DDDDD D D D D D D etc". Our extra-UK readers should note that Match of the Day is a venerable BBC football (=soccer) programme which actually begins: Da da da daaa da da da da da, da daaa da da da daaa...
Lester Haines, 10 Feb 2006

Video surveillance outfit chips workers

A Cincinnati video surveillance company CityWatcher.com now requires employees to use Verichip human implantable microchips to enter a secure data centre. Until now, the employees entered the data centre with a VeriChip housed in a heart-shaped plastic casing that hangs from their keychain. The VeriChip is a glass encapsulated RFID tag that is injected into the triceps area of the arm to uniquely identify individuals. The tag can be read by radio waves from a few inches away. The news was reported by CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), a US organisation that opposes the use of surveillance RFID cards. Although CityWatcher does not require its employees to take an implant to keep their jobs, they won't get in the data centre without it. CASPIAN’s Katherine Albrecht says chipping sets an unsettling precedent. "It's wrong to link a person's paycheck with getting an implant,” she says. CityWatcher argues that chipping employees is a move to increase the layer of security, as present systems can be compromised. However, CASPIAN warns that this can happen to implantable chips too. Security researcher Jonathan Westhues - author of a chapter in a book titled Hacking the Prox Card - recently demonstrated how the VeriChip can be skimmed and cloned by a hacker. A cloned chip theoretically could duplicate an individual's VeriChip implant to access a secure area. ®
Jan Libbenga, 10 Feb 2006

40-metre profanity spotted from space

NSFWNSFW Here's a Friday poser for you: you're a member of a highly-advanced alien civilisation and have just travelled to Earth in your hyperdrive-powered craft intending to enjoy a long-weekend break. The trouble is, you can't decide whether to: a) nip over to rural Idaho, abduct a farmhand and anally probe him before modifying his DNA and dumping him back on the highway; or b) pop down to Billingley in Yorkshire and leave a cryptic message for humanity in a corn field…
Lester Haines, 10 Feb 2006
New Intel logos

Intel 'Sossaman' Core-Duo-for-servers chip surfaces

Intel is getting ready to release its 65nm Core Duo-derived 'Sossaman' server processor as the Xeon LV - if the latest announcement from Supermicro is anything to go by. The server motherboard maker this week launched a pair of products that will support the new chip and its 31W power envelope. The boards and the Xeon LV were almost immediately offered up by Tokyo computer retailers.
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

BT Openreach faces first Ofcom probe

BT Openreach is facing its first formal investigation by telecoms regulator Ofcom - less than a month after the official launch of BT's access services division. Openreach installs and maintains telecoms services on behalf of the UK's phone companies and ISPs and its creation was part of a regulatory deal with Ofcom following last year's strategic review of the UK's telecoms sector. As part of that deal, Openreach is "committed to ensuring all communications providers have transparent and equivalent access to the local BT network" in the "same even-handed way". Now, though, it's emerged that Opal Telecom - part of Carphone Warehouse which is keen to invest in LLU - has called on the regulator to resolve a dispute between it and Openreach. Its beef concerns the rate charged by Openreach for the bulk migration of fully unbundled lines, as opposed to shared lines, claiming that this is "discriminatory" and in breach of Openreach's "obligations". According to the investigation, which was opened on 3 February: "Opal has claimed that the refusal by Openreach to extend the offer rate of £20 per customer line (offered for migration in bulk of customer lines to 'shared' loops, or 'shared bulk migration') to full MPF is discriminatory, in contravention of Openreach's obligations under its Significant Market Power Conditions, set following Ofcom's review of the wholesale local access market. Following failure to resolve the matter through commercial negotiation, Opal has referred the matter to Ofcom for resolution." No one from Opal was available for comment at the time of writing. A spokeswoman for Openreach said it was cooperating with the investigation. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Feb 2006

Yahoo! in second Chinese dissident rumpus

Yahoo! has been accused of assisting Chinese authorities for a second time to apprehend a Chinese dissident. Li Zhi was given an eight-year jail sentence in December 2003 for "inciting subversion" over comments criticising official corruption posted on online discussion groups. The case against Li (a 35-year-old ex-civil servant from Dazhou in south west China) was based on data supplied by Yahoo!'s Hong Kong subsidiary, according to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. Last year, Yahoo! was criticised over similar accusations that it bent over backwards to help Beijing gather evidence that led to the imprisonment of reporter Shi Tao for "divulging state secrets", by forwarding an email about the risks of referring to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests to foreign websites. According to Reporters Without Border, 49 cyber-dissidents and 32 journalists are in prison in China over internet postings criticising Chinese authorities. It is calling on Yahoo! China to come clean about how many of these people it has assisted local police in investigating. Yahoo! spokeswoman Mary Osako told the AFP that it was "rigorous" in its procedures and "only responded with what we were legally compelled to provide, and nothing more". Chinese authorities are not required to provide reasons for data requests, she added. Reporters Without Borders said this justification is inadequate. "The firm [Yahoo!] says it simply responds to requests from the authorities for data without ever knowing what it will be used for. But this argument no longer holds water. Yahoo! certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals," it said. The Chinese Government imposes strict control on internet use. IT giants hoping to tap into the lucrative Chinese net market are coming under increase pressure from human rights groups not to comply with Beijing in censoring the internet. Last month, Google came under attack for blocking results from searches on politically sensitive terms on its new Chinese site. Alongside Google and Yahoo!, other IT giants including Microsoft and Cisco have been taken to task for their business practices in China. The US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations is due to hold a hearing on 15 February about the ethical responsibilities of US firms doing business in China. Yahoo! has been invited to attend. ®
John Leyden, 10 Feb 2006

NHS launches web page for w**kers

NSFWNSFW The NHS has incurred the wrath of at least one MP by offering a page on its NHS Direct which advises Brits to set aside a bit of "me time" for some light "going solo". According to UK tabloid The Sun, this outrage has provoked Tory MP Adam Holloway to pile into the "wonks" responsible for the "crazy" idea. He thundered: "If this is their way of looking after patients and saving money they need serious treatment." In fact, the online guide to self-satisfaction is part of a steamy "Two thousand and SEX!" initiatiative, which the NHS described as a bit of "light relief". As the blurb explains: Fancy finding out how to fine-tune your orgasm ability? Want to boost your bedroom antics with some new toys? Well, don’t sweat it – we’re chock-a-block with top tips to whip your sexual self into shape and double your pleasure. Phwoooar! The NHS advises that we should not link to the page since it is "not permanent content". Mind you, it also says the piece was first published on 01/01/1900 - proof were it needed that our Victorian ancestors liked to start their new centuries with a bang. Good show. ®
Lester Haines, 10 Feb 2006

MS: Halo 2 for PC a Windows Vista 'exclusive'

Microsoft looked to Bungie's Halo to sell its Xbox console, and it's now planning to see if the same trick will persuade gamers to upgrade to Windows Vista. Yes, Halo 2, which shipped for Xbox over a year ago, is coming to the PC - but you'll need Microsoft's next major operating system release to run it. The game will not run on Windows XP, Bungie admitted this week. It will run "exclusively" on Vista.
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

Linksys preps VoIP handset pair

Linksys will ship a new, slimline standalone VoIP handset next week, according to at least one US e-tailer which this week said it was accepting advance orders for the product, the WIP300. The device operates across any 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network, includes a POP email facility and sports a 1.8in colour display.
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

BOFH takes a leaf from Captain Kirk's log

Episode 6Episode 6 It's always the new guy that starts the trouble. OK, that's not entirely true - very occasionally it's the sleeper who's been happily working away in the company for years who suddenly gets his activation signal - but mostly it's the new guys.
Simon Travaglia, 10 Feb 2006

Vonage flags $250m IPO

Vonage is looking to raise $250m as part of an IPO, the US-based VoIP outfit revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The cash will be used to fund the continued marketing of the service, which boasts some 1.4m subscribers. According to documents lodged with the SEC, the broadband telephony outfit lost $190m in the first nine months of last year on the back of revenues of $174m. Separately, Vonage announced that founder Jeffrey Citron is to take on a new role as chairman and chief strategist. He'll be dabbling in areas such as developing new product areas and technologies while looking after "employee culture". The day to day running of the firm is to be handed over to the former president of ADT Mike Snyder, who takes up his position as chief executive. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Feb 2006

NTL trials 100Mb broadband

NTL is to begin field trials of ultra fast broadband next month in a bid to hit speeds of up to 100Mb. The UK cableco, which has received the thumbs up to acquire Telewest and is still holding talks to buy Virgin Mobile, is hooking up with US outfit ARRIS to run the trials. The firms have already completed testing in the lab, but want to see how well the technology works in the real world. Possible applications for the 100Mb service include super fast movie downloads and other content, security services such as closed circuit TV, and online gaming. Using the ARRIS' FlexPath 100Mb technology, mega quick broadband services "can be delivered over existing cable networks using readily available home networking devices", the firms said in a statement. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Feb 2006

EFF issues Google Desktop warning

Google has released a revamped version of its desktop search tool which introduces the ability to search the contents of one computer from another. Previous versions of the tool indexed files on user's PCs, but using the optional "Search Across Computers" facility in Google Desktop 3 temporarily stores text copies of searchable items on Google's own servers for up to 30 days. Search Across Computers makes a range of files - including web histories, Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, power point presentations as well as PDF files and text files in the My Documents folder - searchable from other computers. The contents of secure web pages are excluded from the list. Users would log on using their Google password can find data on files they've worked on regardless of which PC they used to produce them. Users can also exclude certain file types or locations from indexing. Even so, privacy activists such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have said the feature "greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy". It describes the facility as a gift to government snoops and a convenient "one-stop-shop for hackers" who've obtained a user's Google password. Users should avoid using Google Desktop 3, it advises. Google argues that the growing use of multiple computers by users makes the feature useful. "Too many people are working across multiple computers now," Google vice president Marissa Mayer told USA Today. "This makes their lives easier." In fairness, Google does acknowledge that the tool involves a trade off between functionality and security. That's a compromise Windows users have been stuck with for years, you might think. But even before the search engine behemoth was subpoenaed for search information by the Department of Justice, Google's latest desktop revamp would have raised eyebrows. The EFF, for one, is adamant users shouldn't trust Google with the contents of their personal computers. "Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the desktop software can index," EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston said. "The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn't even be notified in time to challenge it." ®
John Leyden, 10 Feb 2006

SiS confirms Socket AM2 chipsets to ship Q2

SiS has let the cat out of the bag. Yesterday, it announced half a dozen chipsets all of which will support AMD's Socket AM2 microprocessors - none of which have yet been formally introduced by the chip maker - which will ship in Q2, SiS said.
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

Nintendo preps navy, sky blue DS Lites

Nintendo will ship is DS Lite handheld console in light- and dark-blue hues in addition to the classic iPod white the videogames pioneer had already said the device will be decked out in when it debuts in Japan on 2 March.
Tony Smith, 10 Feb 2006

Fragile Flyer frightens Fossett

Steve Fossett has told his team at mission control in Kent that he was close to bailing out of his experimental aircraft as it hit extreme turbulence over India. The lightweight and fragile Virgin GlobalFlyer apparently feels its effect four times as much as a commercial jet would. He said: "I was afraid it was going to break up. It was a scary time and I had my parachute on and I was prepared to bail out in case a wing broke." This evening he remains above the Pacific, set to make landfall over Mexico at around 1900GMT, an hour later than expected. Latest details here. If all goes to plan he will land at Kent international airport at Manston late on Saturday.®
Christopher Williams, 10 Feb 2006

Archaeologists unearth King Tut's neighbours

Archaeologists have discovered Egypt's first undisturbed tomb since Tutankhamun in 1922 – unbelievably just five metres away from that of the boy pharaoh. Authorities today gave journalists a first sight of the discovery, believed to date from the 18th dynasty (around 1500 to 1300 BC), which included the reign of Tutankhamun. Five mummies in wooden sarcophagi were found, along with painted face masks and 20 storage jars carrying royal seals. Experts are unsure who the mummies are, however. Egypt's antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, said: "Maybe they are mummies of kings or queens or nobles, we don't know. But it's definitely someone connected to the royal family." It had long been thought that the Valley of the Kings, 500 miles south of Cairo, had given up all its secrets. The latest find is the valley's 63rd known tomb. Patricia Podzorski, curator of Egyptian Art at the University of Memphis, which ran the dig told the BBC: "They said it before Howard Carter found King Tutankhamun's tomb and they said it after. But, obviously, they are still wrong." The team which made the discovery were working on an already known tomb when they stumbled on the startling new find. The unknown burial was found underneath construction-related buildings from a later dynasty. A 10-metre-deep shaft was discovered leading to the main chamber, blocked by a stone door. So far, no-one has actually entered the chamber, the treasure trove only glimpsed though a small hole made by the archaeologists. ®
Christopher Williams, 10 Feb 2006

Alaskans warm to volcanocam

Isolated Alaskan communities are using the internet to follow the ongoing eruption of Mount Augustine. The volcano, located in the Cook Inlet, 285km to the southwest of Anchorage, has been spewing out dust, ash and dangerous pyroclastic flows since mid-January. The Alaska Volcano Observatory website, provides images, seismic activity data, and hourly updates from scientists on goings on at the peak. Associated Press reports that the monitoring website has received 158 million this year, from all over the world. However, the site's real raison d'etre is to serve the isolated villages around the volcano. Better informed decisions about school closures and carrying dust masks are now made. Local health worker Vince Evans told the AP reporter: "When I wake up, I turn it on and keep track of Augustine through the night." The eruption has grounded flights and dusted surrounding countryside with a layer of ash, and scientists with the US Geological Survey say the eruptions may continue for some months. Vulcanologist Game McGimsey said: "No erupting volcano in Alaska has ever been this closely monitored before."®
Christopher Williams, 10 Feb 2006