15th > February > 2006 Archive
Sun Microsystems has published specifications for its UltraSPARC T1 processor, open sourcing its latest chip, while issuing a challenge to IBM and Intel. Sun on Tuesday released the specifications for the UltraSPARC processor architecture 2005 and its HyperVisor API under the General Public License (GPL) 2.0. The architecture is available at www.opensparc.net.
Start-up XenSource has experienced its first growing pains in the form of a CEO swap and a few layoffs. The open source virtualization software maker has waved goodbye to Nick Gault and hired Veritas veteran Peter Levine as CEO and president. Levine gives XenSource some big software company experience, having served as marketing, OEM and M&A chief at Veritas. The rest of XenSource's upper management remains intact. John Bara, the vice president of marketing at XenSource, declined to provide exact details on the nature of Gault's departure. "It was really a board level decision and about scaling to even grander heights than the company first envisioned." Loosely translated, we believe that means the venture capital folks behind XenSource wanted a veteran manager, but that's rampant speculation. Gault founded management software company Network Physics and worked as a VP at Hummingbird Communications. XenSource said Gault "hasn't announced his plans" for what's next. XenSource has been working hard to put the Xen virtualization software in customers' hands. The software helps slice up Linux servers to run multiple copies of the OS and applications on a single server. The technology is similar to that being offered by VMware, Microsoft, SWsoft and others. As the main backer of the Xen project, XenSource has enjoyed all the benefits that follow open source upstarts. It's seen as a cheaper, faster alternative to market leader VMware and also-ran Microsoft. The larger rivals, however, can point to myriad customers using their software, and VMware has a host of complementary packages to sell around its ESX Server product. Meanwhile, XenSource has yet to name a customer and is just beginning to release management products that support Xen. XenSource reckons the CEO switch along with some personnel shifts have put it in a position to build out its product portfolio. The company recently axed "a handful" of workers as part of "resource shifting" exercise around a "skill set build out." Clearly, the start-up has already mastered the marketing language of a massive enterprise software house. These firings have nothing to do with XenSource's overall health though, Bara said. The company is hiring at fierce pace, particularly in Cambridge. So, have at it, lads. “My goal is to extend XenSource’s position as the trusted leader in open source virtualization. The combination of next generation open source technology, the advent of hardware virtualization and an exploding growth market make XenSource a compelling opportunity”, said new chief Levine. ®
Linus may have it wrong on digital rights management (DRM), but it's the vague wording and confusing concepts - like what is meant by a "derivative work" - that is causing the real headaches over the next General Public License (GPL). A representative of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), leading the effort around GPL 3.0, said that Linux creator Linus Torvalds had "misread" the license's provisional terms. He said GPL 3.0 is intended to stop developers using GPL code to build DRM products, services or protected content. That means not allowing developers to build code that requires a DRM key to be unlocked and certainly not allowing developers to prosecute others for unlocking their code without the use of specially provided DRM keys - or, in other words, "hacking". "We want to discourage use of GPL to further DRM efforts," Freedom Software Law Centre counsel Richard Fontana said at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco on Tuesday. The Freedom Law Centre represents the FSF. Torvalds last month ruled out putting the Linux kernel under GPL 3.0 because he believed it required contributors to make their private signing keys available. The draft GPL 3.0 states DRM is "fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of the license". Fontana said: "Linus Torvalds has misread it... We require disclosure of the codes if it's necessary to make the software run." So that's clear, then. All that remains are a handful of unclear definitions in other parts of the license that require clarification. Open Source Institute (OSI) general counsel Lawrence Rosen, appearing with Fontana on an OSBC panel discussing GPL 3.0, pointed to statements in the proposed license that lack legal clout. These included the sentence: "The sole purpose of this section is protection of the integrity of the free software distribution system. "I'm trying to identify what sections of paragraphs or words are trying to express some kind of philosophy, and which have legal effect and require or prohibit you from doing things," Rosen said. There is still further confusion over what should happen to a piece of software that is created when GPL code is linked to non-GPL code. Does that count as a "derivative" work or a "collaborative" work? And in either case, which license will apply to the new code? "This license [GPL 3.0] doesn't resolve that," Rosen said. ®
Apple has updated Mac OS X for both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs, bumping its operating system up to version 10.4.5. The patch incorporates a number of fixes and improvements for the OS itself, along with a number of compatibility tweaks for third-party and Apple-branded applications. It also includes Apple's most recent security updates.
CommentComment Local government techies are prancing about like dogs with new toys. Once neglected backyard pets, they have for the last five years been lavished with £675m funding from the ODPM and inflated with responsibility for popular projects like Freedom of Information and websites that do something useful for citizens. The list of ways in which central government is pampering local government IT departments is endless. People are even pretending to take notice of what they have to say. Now they are playing a pivotal role in Tony Blair's modernisation programme as well, which gives them elements of responsibility not only in the Gershon-inspired shared (consolidated) services efficiency drive, but also Ian Watmore's transformational government agenda. Ooh, makes you heady just reading about it, which may explain why local government IT directors all go around calling themselves CIOs (chief information officers) nowadays. It may also shed light on the latest fawning word from The Society of IT Managers (Socitm) on the radical government agenda for which its members have been deputised. Socitm is unashamed of its excitement over the idea that computer systems will help transform local government into organisations that correspond with Blair's vision of local public services. Ian Watmore, the new darling of local government and newly promoted head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, will be joining Socitm to endorse its party view of local government next Monday. The event will feature case studies from Socitm's transformation reports, which were submitted by local authorities themselves. The society says the idea was to create a picture of what local government was doing in the name of transformation. But through whose eye? The most prominent case study in the accompanying management report, a mobile benefits service for Halton Borough Council, uses a hackneyed press release that has been doing the rounds for a number of years. Halton's press office has done well with this one. It won awards in 2003. Then in 2004, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) included Halton's press release in a report about the exciting things local authorities were doing with its funding. "Not surprisingly, everyone is happy: customers, voluntary sector partners, registered social landlords...and staff," the 2004 ODPM release said. "Not surprisingly, everyone is happy...," says Socitm's case study, published last week. Compare Socitm's rose-tinted view of e-government to the perspective granted by the cold eye of the Audit Commission. An audit of e-government spending at Birmingham City Council (IT boss Glyn Evans is a Socitm chair), published in January 2005, gave it one star out of three, gave some praise where it was due, and levelled some constructive criticism where it was warranted. But as far as Socitm is concerned, Birmingham cannot put a foot wrong: "The council has taken best practice in change management and combined it with best practice in project management." Socitm is quite clearly enamoured with the transformation agenda. Its reports are full of the usual high-faluting management speak of the adapt or die ilk. "To what extent is your council locked into a cautious, controlling public sector mindset? Is all the bureaucracy really necessary?" it chants, while rustling the Blairite hymn sheet. Why indeed? Socitm makes no attempt to answer the question, it is clearly implied: local government is full of bureaucrats because it is not dynamic, efficient and exciting. From this perspective, civil servants only have to smell the coffee, get with the programme, for everything to change for the better. Yet the real problem with local government is a dependency on central government for the majority of funding and, therefore, a requirement to justify its existence to paymasters with some ticked box or bureaucratic process. Rather, as the New Local Government Network likes to point out, this discourages efficiency, dynamism and excitement. ®
3GSM3GSM Nokia is to create a joint venture with Sanyo to produce CDMA handsets. Financial details remain murky, but the new company will be a jointly-owned spin-out, on the model of Sony Ericsson. The new company will focus on cdma2000, and both parents' GSM and W-CDMA operations will remain inhouse. The JV begins life with around 20 per cent of the market share for CDMA handsets, a market led by Samsung, but neither parent is in a position of strength. Since retreating bloodied from the Korean market in the early noughties, Nokia has refocused its CDMA efforts by developing its own chipsets and low cost, mass-market designs. Despite claiming a 13.3 per cent market share, it's shunned by the world's biggest CDMA operator Verizon. The mobile phone business has proved to be a graveyard for Japanese ambitions. Neither Sony, Sanyo nor Sharp has been able to translate success in other consumer electronics into Tier One status. Historically, CDMA has only been a factor in the United States and Korea, but operators in India and China are now providing the volumes. ®
The government has chosen 16 local authorities to experiment with new ways of voting in the forthcoming local elections. Constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer this week announced a series of pilots as part of the government’s ongoing efforts to modernise the electoral system. Falconer said the emphasis of the pilots was on finding new ways of administering the electoral process rather than changing the system wholesale. The chosen councils will trial a number of innovations, including the increased use of electronic processes in voting. Two of the chosen councils, Epping Forest and Newham, will trial a system for electronically checking the signatures on postal votes. The same authorities, plus Westminster and Lewisham councils, will also pilot new processes for e-counting ballots. Other innovations under trial include voting in alternative locations such as shopping centres and rural locations to increase access for voters. Falconer said: "[This] will build on past work and test how this can be refined to ensure confidence and support future use of technology to gain efficiencies in the administration of elections. This will also enable us to identify how technology can support counting in the different voting systems used in local authority and regional elections." He added: "Some of these pilots will assist us in planning the implementation of the proposals in the Electoral Administration Bill, in ensuring the ongoing integrity of electoral mechanisms and in refining and developing the programme of work for ensuring electoral processes fit with the needs of modern lifestyles." 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.
AMD has taken the axe to prices across its desktop, mobile and server processor line-ups with particular emphasis on the Opteron range: server chip prices were this week cut by up to 54.2 per cent, some older models were dropped and new dual-core 2xx and 8xx series parts added to the range.
3GSM3GSM Skype has clinched a deal with Hutchinson that paves the way for cheaper VoIP calls to be offered on the Hutchison 3G networks. Limited trials, which have begun in Sweden, are expected to precede a wider launch in Austria, Australia, Hong Kong, Sweden, the UK and Italy by the end of the year.
Oxford University has launched a SETI@home-like joint project with the BBC to harness processing power from home computers to model climate change. Lead scientist Myles Allen told Reuters: “If 10,000 people join in, you are already bigger than the world's biggest supercomputer.” The program will take an average home PC around three months to run a climate model from 1920 to 2080. The scientists say it will not significantly affect performance. Allen said the aim of the 500,000 permutations was to get an accurate picture of changes that occurred in the 20th century. They group also claim that extra electricity used for the experiment will be negligible, and so will not contribute to further greenhouse gas emissions. Anyone wanting to take part should go here.®
Intel has backed an initiative to equip future notebooks with a SIM card slot, the better to integrate support for 3G mobile phone network connectivity into the machines. The scheme, launched this week by the GSM Association (GSMA), has the goal of making GSM, GPRS and 3G connectivity as ubiquitous in tomorrow's laptops as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are today.
Privacy and anonymity on the internet are as important as they are difficult to achieve. Here are some of the the current issues we face, along with a few suggestions on how to be more anonymous.
ATI will launch its R590 chip early next month as the Radeon X1800 GTO with support for 256MB of graphics memory, according to internal roadmap information surreptitiously slipped to website DailyTech. The data suggests the part is an X1900 with a lower clock speed and an unknown set of features disabled.
Workers at Orange and Wanadoo in the UK are breathing a sigh of relief today following confirmation they will be spared from the 22,000 job cuts announced by France Telecom yesterday. The shake-up at France Telecom comes as the firm struggles to cut its whopping debt mountain while facing a cut in traditional revenues. The giant telco said 1,000 of the job cuts would come from outside of France, prompting speculation that Orange and Wanadoo in the UK could be forced to take its share of losses. However, a spokeswoman for the giant telco has confirmed the UK is safe from the job axe. She told The Reg, "We expect staffing numbers to remain stable at 15,500 employees" and that this number would "probably be about the same in three years time." This assurance comes even as France Telecom prepares for a massive corporate makeover, scrapping the Wanadoo name and rebranding its internet operation under the Orange logo. Those plans were announced last year and, at the time, the UK was set to be of the first operations to undergo the name change. However, there is still no word from France Telecom as to when these changes will be made. ®
3GSM3GSM China's home-grown 3G standard TD-SCDMA is on course for a hard launch this year, and to prove it, its representative industry body the TD-SCDMA Forum showed off a range of handsets and vendors at 3GSM this week. The technology is being developed to 4G and beyond, and Chinese vendors are eyeing markets beyond Asia. The Forum's press conference, while sparsely populated, turned out to be the most intriguing of the show - giving us a fine display of both China's technical confidence and tact. It was only after some goading that we got a sense of how the Chinese manufacturers see the IP battlefield. TD-SCDMA is backed by the Chinese government with the intention of promoting domestic business and know-how, and skirting the royalties demanded by European vendors and Qualcomm. And the IP issue is at center stage. 3G has a horribly complex series of royalty arrangements. Manufacturers of the Qualcomm flavor of 3G, cdma2000, pay Qualcomm a royalty; those who choose the W-CDMA flavor used in Japan and Europe pay both a Qualcomm royalty and make a contribution to a royalty pool. It's a sensitive subject, that has recently tipped over into private litigation between the parties, and an antitrust probe in Europe against Qualcomm. By sidestepping these royalties, TD-SCDMA will be much more attractive to potential vendors. But for now, it's a war of nerves between the TD-SCDMA and Qualcomm that's being conducted largely through the press. Jing Wang, Secretary General of the TD-SCDMA Forum was pressed repeatedly on what Chinese vendors would do if they received an IP demand from Qualcomm. Would they nay or pay? Wang replied, not unreasonably, that it was premature for vendors to take a position before they'd seen the IP claim, let alone the parking fee. The subtext was that Chinese businesses don't simply pay up on demand - especially if that demand has been made through the press. Wang urged all parties - and Qualcomm and Ericsson (the other major IP holder in CDMA) are members of the TD-SCDMA Forum - to sit down and thrash it out. "Qualcomm has not spoken collectively to TD-SCDMA Forum," he said. "There hasn't been any official IPR talk. My view is they have to talk, either individually or in another manner. And so do other companies." Sounding the very model of diplomacy, Wang pointed out - "The TD SCDMA vendors are ready to talk. The problem is now that to facilitate a conclusion, you have to make sure all your patent claims must be on the table and discussed. We want to have this discussion." Then things got really interesting. Put your IPR on the table Recall that almost two years ago, China made a pledge not to give favor to TD-SCDMA and not to monkey around with private negotiations between foreign IP interests and its own manufacturers. (And to agree to GM food - but that's another story). But that turned out to be another diplomatic statement. Reports circulating this week suggest that China has instructed the W-CDMA trials to wind down, giving the green light for TD-SCDMA. "It's not black and white," said Wang, singling out Qualcomm: "Believe me they don't have that many [IPR claims]" he added, with not a little confidence. Datung has quite a few too, he said. The inferences we're invited to take away are that the TD-SCDMA engineers have cunningly sidestepped the CDMA IP claims in their designs - and that Qualcomm doesn't really have that much to boast about. We'd very much like to hear Mr Viterbi's response to that one. Of course as NTP has proved in its case against RIM, you only need one patent to stick and the legal system will ensure your claims for royalties are upheld. But which international legal system is enforceable in China? This is a rhetorical question. The issue of 3G IPR has featured prominently in previous WTO talks, and looks set to again. The difference being that this time, China is negotiating from a position of strength. The Chinese are mindful that at the turn of the last century, American domestic growth was helped by a successful combination of protectionism and IP "theft" - so what's sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Qualcomm and Ericsson hardly need to be reminded who invented the firecracker. ®
Microsoft has pledged to post a patch that will fix the power drain bug that has hit some Core Duo-based notebooks when they're connected to USB 2.0 devices. Separately, it has been claimed Intel has also finished a fix, though at this stage it remains unclear when one or both solutions will ship to users.
Aramiska, the troubled satellite broadband network that pulled the plug on its service giving punters just a few hours notice of the shut down, could be back in business. No sooner had the firm cut off thousands of customers last month leaving them stranded without net access, than its website disappeared from screens. Late yesterday, though, we received reports that its website had flickered back to life. And sure enough, it had. What's more, a short notice on the site reads: "Ouranos Networks has taken over Aramiska's activities and will restart the satellite service in the coming days. All former Aramiska customers will be contacted soon." At the moment, El Reg has no information on who or what is behind Ouranos Networks or whether this notice is genuine. Attempts to contact the firm using the number posted on its website were met with a recorded message. However, Ouranos is another name for Uranus, which in Greek mythology was the god of the sky. So, is Ouranus the work of the creative boutique who are linking the god of the sky with a broadband satellite service that is beamed from the heavens? Or some grubby gag about Uranus? If execs at Ouranos can get in touch, that would be great. After all, we've still yet to hear a peep from Aramiska. ®
A utility has been released that will allow the Intel-oriented version of Apple's Mac OS X operating systems to be run on machines other than the company's own iMac and MacBook Pro. However, the coder behind the patch, Maxxuss, warned that the software is a work in progress and that there's "still a lot of work to do".
Ingram Micro managed to squeeze a drop more efficiency out of IT distribution in mature markets last year, but Asia and South America needed no persuassion to give. Profits for the year increased a mere $3m and came it at $216m overall. That was on a mind-blowing $28.81bn of sales. Overall, sales increased only a little over $3bn. Little growth is seen in Western markets, where it appears the behemoth has already feasted on about as much as the market will give. American and European growth were 4 and 1 per cent respectively. In Asia and South America sales grew 27 and 25 per cent respectively. Still not increases of the sort seen in the consolidating late 90s, but they must provide some relief all the same.®
Paul Bates has returned to base after ten years exploring the length and breadth of the IT industry. Bates has joined Azlan UK as UK general manager of enterprise sales. He left a place on Computer 2000's VAR business unit in 1995. He travelled the land putting in time at openPSL, Sybase, and Embarcadero Technologies. Computer 2000 took over Azlan in 2003.®
The neoLuddite Resistance Army (NRA) is today on Defcon Laguna following the chilling news that a second Freeview box has been making pre-invasion broadcasts to the Lizard Army battle fleet.
Network Technology PLC said today it has bought certain assets of Maidenhead, Berkshire, firm Madge Limited from the receivers. Network Technology said it has acquired the rights and copyright to Madge’s products, brand and website, as well as the remaining inventory. The assets will be absorbed by Network Technology subsidiary Ringdale Limited, making it the world's largest supplier of Token Ring technology. The company hopes to provide a seamless transition for remaining Token Ring customers, as well as aiming to transfer them to newer technologies. Network Technology estimates Token Ring's installed base at 15m nodes. In a statement, Network Technology said: “Madge’s customers will be able to benefit from Ringdale’s consultancy expertise in advising on the transfer to the latest networking technology.” Despite being a technically superior technology, Token Ring has been unable to withstand the rise of ethernet, and new investment in it is rare. ®
In BriefIn Brief Already engorged, Oracle has stuffed yet another software maker into its belly, gobbling up Sleepycat. Sleepycat produces the open source Berkeley DB database that gets embedded within applications. Its software has proved popular with relatively fixed function applications such as switches, routers and email servers. Oracle will slot Berkeley DB into its own embedded database line. Sleepycat claims more than 200m deployments in the world and has high-profile customers such as Google, eBay, Cisco, Yahoo! and AT&T. So, Oracle will inherit a strong developer presence and some choice accounts with its buy. Away from the massive purchases of PeopleSoft and Siebel, Oracle also grabbed open source database maker Innobase last October. Rumours have Oracle eyeing open source types JBoss and Zend as well. Oracle did not disclose the financial terms of its acquisition. ®
Microsoft marked Valentine's Day with the release of seven patches - two critical and five important - as part of its regular monthly "Patch Tuesday" update cycle. The most serious security vulnerabilities involve flaws in Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. The IE patch (MS06-004) covers a cumulative update of security fixes. The (more noteworthy) Windows Media Player flaw creates a route for a malicious bitmap file (BMP) to inject malign code on vulnerable systems. It's similar in type to the Windows WMF flaw that became the subject of a large number of Trojan attacks in late December. But the latest vulnerability is harder to exploit and is not currently the subject of any hacker action. Nonetheless, Media Player versions 7.1 through 10 all need patching. Microsoft's security bulletin, which gives a full run down of all seven flaws, can be found here. ®
Wanadoo UK is slipping down the broadband league tables after revealing it has 904,000 broadband punters. And with news that Tiscali has 935,000 broadband users in the UK, it means Wanadoo has slipped into fourth place behind DSL providers BT and AOL, which both have more than a million users. Wanadoo - which used to be called Freeserve but is set to change its name to Orange sometime this year - is now in a race with Tiscali to see which ISP can hit the magic million mark first. But it won't be easy. Not only are existing rivals breathing down Wanadoo's neck, it also admits it faces increasing pressure from strong new brands, even going as far as naming Carphone's TalkTalk, pay TV outfit Sky, which bought broadband outfit Easynet, and supermarket giant Tesco. And as competition increases, revenues also face the squeeze as broadband prices are predicted to continue to drop. In a bid to fight back, Wanadoo UK has rejigged its broadband packages to try and tempt punters to sign up to the service including a "starter" package at a penny under £15 a month. While the ISP is tinkering with its products to sign up new punters, it is also trying to hang on existing ones. One way, it reckons, is with the launch of a broadband TV service. But it also intends to continue investment in local loop unbundling and, once the Orange makeover is complete, flog its service to Orange punters too as a bundled package. A spokeswoman for Wanadoo wouldn't be drawn on the ISP's tussle with Tiscali except to say that Wanadoo is "focusing on building a long-term customer base". ®
A US federal judge has ordered the state of California to make its lethal injections a less potentially uncomfortable experience for customers - or he will stop the planned execution next week of convicted rapist and murderer Michael Morales. Specifically, the BBC reports, judge Jeremy Fogel is demanding "new measures to ensure the lethal injection does not cause undue suffering". Morales' lawyers have claimed the cocktail of "paralysing and heart-stopping chemicals in the injection" might cause extreme pain if the dose of barbiturates previously administered is inadequate. Accordingly, Fogel wants the lethal mix changed, or an expert to be on the spot to "ensure Morales is not conscious when the toxins take effect". He cited the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution which forbids punishments "incompatible with the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society". During last December's execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams at San Quentin prison, staff struggled for several minutes to insert a needle into his arm. Eyewitnesses said it took the former gang leader a further several minutes to die after injection of the lethal cocktail. Morales is scheduled for execution on 21 February. He was sentenced to death for the 1981 rape and murder of 17-year-old Terri Winchell. He may still have cause to plead for clemency, the Seattle PI reports, since the judge who heard the original case has told governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that he would "not have approved of the jurors' death sentence had he known a jailhouse informant falsely testified that Morales bragged about the crime in jail". ®
3GSM3GSM Content on mobiles is what most mobile companies hope and believe will offset falling revenues from voice calls. The great hopes for mobile content are sport, games and what the industry calls "erotica", and you would call porn. So we talked to some content providers at 3GSM about what people are actually consuming now. Evgeny Kosolapov, general manager at United Fun Traders, which markets mobile content from three Russian companies, said: “The markets are different in western and eastern Europe but the trends are the same. Games are more successful right now because of screen size and the times you use it. A game you play many times but a video you probably only watch once – unless it's erotica.” Mobilestreams (which floated on AIM this morning) CFO Jitesh Sodha, said: “In terms of what people are actually doing now, music is huge and games are in second place. Graphics and animations and comedy do well too. But I think we will also see different kinds of content – a new medium creates new media.” But Sodha was less convinced that mobile TV, the “big story” of the show, is ready to roll. Sodha said: “Mobile TV is here but some things need to happen. 3G networks have capacity issues – you can’t have 5m people all watching TV via your network. But consumers definitely want TV on their phones.” Unfortunately, porn providers were a little coy when approached by The Register. One “adult” content company agreed to talk, but modestly requested anonymity. He stressed that “adult” was more than just porn – violent video games and gambling also get an honourable mention. He said: “We have to make sure the right people get the content, but what we are doing now is what all operators will have to do to deal with content, not just erotica.” Our source does not believe regional differences are very strong. He said the difference was operator to operator – “We can sell to one and cross the street to talk to the other and they are not interested – they’re too conservative.” In terms of the importance of smut in driving the market, our source said: “Look at it historically over the last 200 years – the press, cameras, VHS and even DVDs – a few years ago the only DVDs you could buy were erotica.”
Is Fon, the utopian Wi-Fi project from Argentine dot com billionaire Martin Varsavsky, for real? Or is it a tax write-off? Fon may be giddy with revolutionary rhetoric, and its advisory board packed with Berkman bloggers, but the precedents aren't good. Readers with far sharper memories than us remind us that the idea has been tried before - and failed. "Everything old is new again!" says Tim, who points out that an outfit called Joltage Network tried revenue sharing Wi-Fi. Joltage was founded by veteran schmoozer Andrew Weinreich, who had made a mint from selling the Six Degrees site. Like VON, Joltage also offered software that would turn private hotspots into mini ISPs. It lasted a year. "Unfortunately, it appears that it will take substantially longer than expected for the significant numbers of users we anticipated on such a network to materialize," the company said in a flame-out statement in February 2003. Then there's the case of the UK start-up MyZones, which in May 2003 claimed that its DIY franchise would halve the cost of wireless internet access. This time the MTTU (or "Mean Time to Titsup") was thirteen months, and MyZones disappeared in confusing circumstances. (Thanks to John for the reminder). "Too bad the [FON] stock isn't publicly traded, as I'd love to be able to get in on shorting it," writes Tim. Meanwhile, the merry bunch of bloggers, the Fon "Advisory Board" which Versavsky is depending to spread the word profess themselves shocked - simply shocked! - at allegations of payola. "I have never felt more abused in an interview with a reporter in my eight years talking to the press than I did with her," blubs David Isenberg, referring to the WSJ Isenberg says that it isn't fair to say that the FON "Advisory Board" is in Varsavsky's pay - using this curious logic: "In fact, technically, we are NOT compensated, as no written agreement is in place, just a nonspecific verbal intent. We don't know if we're getting warrants or options or stock. We don't know how much. We don't know the terms." "We trust FON founder Varsavsky to figure out something fail (sic) because he is our friend." One can protest too much.®
A BBC cricket message board has been temporarily pulled after banter between Indian and Pakistani fans degenerated into out-and-out abuse, Reuters reports. Insults hurled included references to 9/11 and Hitler and general Hindu and Muslim bashing. The BBC said the board had been more lively of late due to the current one-day series between hosts Pakistan and India, but a spokeswoman admitted it was "becoming too offensive and too much to manage". She added: "In order to stop any more offence being caused, they thought the best thing to do was to take down the board altogether and to let everyone have a bit of a cool down." The Beeb hopes to have the Test Match Special South Asian board - which is "reactively moderated" under normal circumstances - back up again soon. A®
3GSM3GSM Mobile operators across Europe are looking to supercharge mobile data access speeds with technology that puts 3G on steroids. Orange, T-Mobile and Telecom Italia have all outlined plans to launch services based on High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology that offer download speeds of anywhere between 1-2Mbps up to a theoretical maximum of 3.6Mbps. Orange said it plans to launch '3.5G' mobile services based on HSDPA to business users in France and the UK during the second half of this year, with services targeted at consumers to follow early next year. T-Mobile said it would launch HSDPA services in Germany this quarter. Meanwhile Telecom Italia announced a May launch on HSDPA in Italy's biggest cities (Rome, Turin and Milan) along with plans to roll out the technology to across half the country by the end of 2006. It plans to spend € 60m - € 70m upgrading its network. Kai Sahala, head of 3G system communications at Nokia Networks, said operators are interested in HSDPA technology to improve speed and capacities because it only involves a software upgrade to W-CDMA 3G networks, rather than an upgrade of radio technology than came with the step up from GSM or GPRS to 3G. Sahala argued that the technology was a more sensible upgrade path for operators who've already invested in 3G licences than possible alternatives such as WiMax. Standards have only recently been ratified and the technology is around two years from serious commercial roll-outs, according to Nokia. HSDPA offers download speeds up to five times more than available on 3G but its widespread availability is dependant on the availability of suitable handsets and data cards. Hoping to cash in on potential demand, Samsung launched a new HSDPA phone for Europe, the SGH-Z560. Meanwhile Option has developed a tri-band HSDPA, 3G and wireless data card, the GlobeTrotter FUSION+ HSDPA. T-Mobile Germany will use the technology to support its commercial launch and roll-out plans. ®
Ouranos Networks - the outfit that says it's taken over the activities of broadband satellite network operator Aramiska - reports that the service is up and running again. According to an email circulated this afternoon, all punters need to do is reboot their connection to get started again. Said the email: "OURANOS NETWORKS are happy to announce that they have taken over the activities of former Aramiska. The new financing capitals are issued of the world of industry.(sic) "The network is just being brought back in operations and in order to restart your service no modification and no additional costs will be required. You only need to reboot your CPE units at your premises. "We will contact you in the next days to handle all other practical aspects. "We would like to thank you for the trust you're giving us. We are at your disposal for any question you might have on the following email address: email@example.com - www.aramiska.net" One source has already told us that the satellite connection is up and running again. ®
Physicists have trialed an international computing grid that will help probe the moments following the Big Bang. The Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid will manage data from a huge particle accelerator at CERN in Switzerland, which it is hoped will answer mysteries in particle physics. These include whether the hypothetical Higgs Boson particle, postulated as the progenitor of mass, actually exists. In 2004, bookies Ladbrokes offered odds of 6-1 that it would be proven by 2010. The grid reached an unprecedented sustained data transfer rate during the week-long trial, breaking the 1GB per second barrier - roughly equivalent to a full DVD every five seconds. An earlier test last year managed 600 megabytes per second. Once up and running in 2007, the Large Hadron Collider will produce 15m gigabytes of data per year. Geneva-based CERN sent out data to 12 major academic computing centres across the globe. The UK grid received 200MB per second during the evaluation, a figure they hope to double in time for the LHC coming online. Dr Andrew Sansum of Oxford's Rutherford Appleton Lab explained: “Then we'll really be approaching the speeds we need.”®
3GSM3GSM M:metrics’ first comparison of German, UK and US use of mobile content shows that US consumers are far from being the mobile laggards they are often portrayed as. In the last quarter of 2005 9.7 per cent of US mobile subscribers downloaded a ringtone compared to 7.1 per cent of Brits and 7 per cent of Germans. But 4.1 per cent of UK users had downloaded a game in the period of the survey compared to 3.3 per cent of Americans and 2 per cent of Germans. Mark Donovan, VP of products and senior analyst at m:metrics, told the Register: “Only 3 per cent of US users get games but between June and December last year that grew 73 per cent. As big media brands get into this and off-portal increases this will grow and grow – 2006 is going to be a very disruptive year.” The research also compared how 2G and 3G customers behave. For activities like instant messaging, downloading games and buying ringtones 3G users are about twice as likely to get involved as those on 2G. But there is one difference – 3G users are nine times more likely to view video clips as those on 2G networks. Much of that content is sport, according to Paul Goode, senior analyst at m:metrics, although he said the structure of the survey made it likely that porn was under-reported. It seems 12.8 per cent of UK 3G subscribers have viewed video compared to 1.4 per cent of 2G subscribers. German punters show a similar enthusiasm with 7.9 per cent of 3G users watching video in the quarter compared to 0.6 per cent of 2G users. Europe and the UK still lead the US in text messaging. But the US leads in use of instant messaging – 6.3 per cent of US users had used it in the last quarter of 2005 compared with 3.1 per cent of Brits and 2.5 per cent of Germans. M:metrics carried out the survey in the last three months of 2005. They spoke to 21,000 people in Germany, the same in the UK and 35,000 in the US. More details available here http://www.mmetrics.com/press/PressRelease.aspx?article=20060207-eurolaunch
ExclusiveExclusive Apple's decision to ship faster processors with its first MacBook Pro models will certainly please its customers, but the move may mean many of them don't get their machines quite as quickly as they might have hoped. After announcing yesterday that it will this week begin shipping the new Intel-based notebooks, Apple quietly nudged back the new-purchase delivery estimates to March.
Astronomers at the the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory have led an international team to discovering a new type of star, Rotating Radio Transients (RRATs). They are set to publish their findings in this week's edition of Nature. A survey of the Milky Way for pulsars, using the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, revealed 11 sources of very short radio flashes, each around one hundredth of a second long and typically separated by three or four hours. The time a RRAT may be visible to telescopes is tiny; a total of a tenth of a second per day. Once they realised they had something, a 14-strong team worked on the new phenomena for three years. Co-author of the paper Dr Maura McLaughlin explained: “It was difficult to believe that the flashes we saw came from outer space, because they looked very much like man-made interference.” It is thought that RRATs, like pulsars, are a form of rotating neutron star. Manchester professor Andrew Lyne told El Reg that while radio signals from pulsars (stellar lighthouses) have a regular period concurrent with their rotation, the RRATs at first seemed to pulse at random. Further investigation showed the long silences were always multiples of a shorter time, which the researchers believe is the period of the RRAT's rotation. The period of more than half the known RRATs is over four seconds, Professor Lyne told us, much longer than for the vast majority of known pulsars. He said: “It's as if, following a flash, a RRAT has to gather its strength during perhaps a thousand rotations before it can do it again.” However, the four second period is similar to that of Magnetars, which emit only X-rays or gamma radiation. The astronomers speculate that RRATs may represent an evolutionary stage of neutron stars to or from magnetars. The Anglo-Australian team, which also included astronomers from the US, Canada and Italy, estimates that the new stellar class probably outnumber pulsars. Dr Richard Manchester of the Australia Telescope National Facility said: “Because of their ephemeral nature, RRATs are extremely difficult to find and so we believe that there are about four RRATs for every pulsar”. The number of 'normal' radio pulsars in our Galaxy is estimated to be about 100,000. Professor Lyne framed the discovery: “In my 40-year career as an astronomer, I have had perhaps two other findings which approach this in interest.” ®
Microsoft has made an official response to a European Commission demand that it justify its failure to meet obligations imposed under a 2004 anti-trust ruling. But its response appears to have been something akin to "up yours". The firm not only said in a statement this afternoon that its software documentation was good enough, but that it supplied it in time and the EC had not even bothered to read it. In 2004, the EC ruled that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market for server software. It proposed to open the market up by making Microsoft issue technical documentation that would make it easy for other developers to produce server software that could communicate with its operating system. It has been stuck in a playground spat over the documentation ever since. The latest submission from Redmond includes evidence from five computer science professors that claims the last batch of documentation given over to the EC "provided complete and accurate information" that met "current industry standards...to the extent that this can be reasonably achieved." The last expert witness Microsoft chose to examine its documentation was seconded to become the EC's Monitoring Trustee and decide whether the software giant's submissions satisfied the 2004 ruling. The EC says it has had to "repeatedly remind of the need to provide complete and accurate specifications". Further, the documentation Microsoft said had been supplied on time and merely not read by officials had in fact been supplied late. "It is of course the European Commission that will decide whether Microsoft is compliant with the March 2004 decision, and not Microsoft," the EC said in response to Microsoft's statement. Other matters to be considered include Microsoft's provision of source code licences, which the EC says it will have to justify in respect of the 2004 ruling if they are to get off the hook. Microsoft has requested an oral hearing. The EC said "sure thing", but we may have to impose fines backdated from the date of the hearing to the last documentation deadline, December 15, 2005, and we will try and keep them going if there's cause. The row continues. ®
Alleged Pentagon Hacker Gary McKinnon was told in court today that the US Embassy would write a letter to help him avoid the full wrath of presidential anti-terror laws, if he were extradited for prosecution. McKinnon (aka Solo) was facing extradition proceedings in Bow Street Magistrates Court this morning so that he could be tried in US courts for allegedly hacking into 97 US military and NASA computers, disabling the Washington computer network, and leaving a message that read: "US foreign policy is akin to government sponsored terrorism these days... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels". The case was adjourned until March 14. Karen Todner, representing McKinnon for Kaim Todner Solicitors, told El Reg that without the president's signature, the letter would be worthless, because only the president could waive a privileged presidential power. Todner fears that an extradition without presidential assurances to the contrary, could see Solo face solitary confinement in Guantanemo Bay or 30 years imprisonment under the president's special powers, Military Commission Order #1. If McKinnon's extradition is refused, he could still face up to three years in prison under the Misuse of Computers Act. The prosecution has stated that he is not being treated as a terrorist, but has also made their case on his intention to "endanger the public safety" by "causing harm to the US government". Todner said the prosecution had promised a "diplomatic note" from the US Embassy providing the assurances she wanted. "We say that's not sufficient because the only person who can decide is the president, so it must come from the president himself," she said. The case was adjourned while the court awaits the conclusion of another extradition case - that of the three former NatWest investment bankers who are up for extradition over an alleged Enron-linked fraud. The defences in all cases are arguing that the extradition treaty between the US and UK is lopsided because the US has not signed up to its obligations, but is expecting full co-operation in its turn. The US Embassy refused to comment. ®
SAP has been pitching open source start-ups on the merits of its vision and strategy for doing business with enterprises, while knocking software rivals. The giant told ISVs the enterprise software market is facing an imminent period of consolidation as companies reduce their costs, and said providing open source and Linux software alone will not cut it when it comes to doing business. SAP EVP Peter Graf, speaking at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco, said ISVs' best chance of doing business with purchasers of enterprise IT is to partner with SAP. And, according to Graf, the best way of doing business with SAP is to become a member of its developer community and fledgling Enterprise Service Repository. Duh! The repository is designed to establish a growing source of composite applications, which SAP calls xApps, capable of extending SAP's proprietary architecture through NetWeaver and the Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA). SAP is trying to build a community, similar to Sun Microsystems' Java Community Process (JCP), that defines xApps architectures and interfaces. Graf told ISVs it was "very, very difficult to build the inner workings of an enterprise application. It took SAP 30 years to know what capabilities you can put into a platform." And time, according to Graf, is not on the young companies' side. "We believe open source business applications do not have time to mature before this huge consolidation wave hits. The invitation to you, is to join us," Graf said. In an attempt to persuade ISVs to pick SAP over enterprise competitors, Graf said: "IBM doesn't have the applications to build into this. Microsoft doesn't have credibility in the upper end of the market. Oracle has nine or 10 problems to figure out." SAP is, of course, locked in a war with IBM, Microsoft and Oracle over who can get the most developers building for their platforms, which would explain Graf's unsubtle attempt to steer programmers towards his own company's architecture and strategy. While bitterness towards Oracle is understandable, SAP has partnered with both Microsoft and IBM on software. The Microsoft/SAP project Mendocino integrates SAP data and processes with Microsoft Office, giving SAP more of a window into business desktops. IBM, meanwhile, is providing the hosting infrastructure for SAP's hosted customer relationship management (CRM) service, CRM On-Demand Solution, announced last week. SAP's pitch might fall on deaf ears if Oracle has its way. The database giant is picking up open source companies at speed - nabbing Sleepycat this week, while eyeing JBoss and Zend, according to reports. ®