22nd > February > 2006 Archive

fingers pointing at man

Oracle would be smart to love Sleepycat

With the dust settling on Oracle's Sleepycat Software acquisition, attention has focused on the future open source developers and products can expect in the closed source camp. Former Sleepycat chief executive Mike Olson has said employees of open source companies and developers supporting their software tend to get itchy when closed source companies buy them, especially when they are rivals. Olson, speaking during an Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) panel on mergers and acquisitions last week, said it was important for buyers to maintain "trust". He piped up during an OSBC debate where one speaker said that those who buy open source ISVs worry that engineering teams will leave once the buyer takes over, and be able to form their own rival company because the product's code is open. Olson, now an Oracle vice president, said: "I can say from the other side of the table... our community and employees are concerned about what the buyers intend, and what's going to happen to the software going forward. "If you intend to deliver a community, you need to pay attention to maintaining the trust and enthusiasm. Don't overlook that," Olson said, in what sounded like a warning to his new boss. Oracle bought Sleepycat to make headway in the embedded database market and with the community of open source developers. Commenting on further open source deals, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said: "Rather than fight this open-source trend, we think it's important to figure out ways to make it work to our advantage." Oracle launched its own database for embedded systems last October, but - critically - this lacked buy in from open source developers. By contract, MySQL - whose bread and butter is embedded deployments - is used by nearly 50 per cent of developers. Oracle has already taken one step to undermine MySQL with last year's purchase of InnoDB, maker of an advanced storage engine used by MySQL. While Oracle has committed to continue development of InnoDB, the deal has caused ripples as developers seek alternatives that mean their fate is not tied to Oracle's good will. Will Oracle use Sleepycat to undermine MySQL, by phasing out development? Sleepycat has provided MySQL with the Berkeley DB transactional storage engine. Well, two things are likely to see Oracle preserve Sleepycat, and they both have everything to do with Sleepycat's large customer footprint. Sleepycat claims 200m deployments with customers including Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Amazon and Google. That's a large base of developers now working towards the greater good of Oracle by building and maintaining Sleepycat's Berkley DB - and the applications that run on top of it. Secondly, that's a huge opportunity in services and support that Oracle can monetize almost immediately. In an attempt to demonstrate Oracle's good intentions, Olson said the company would continue to produce the Berkley DB, XML Edition and Java databases. He said Sleepycat's board have been involved in a "significant effort" to maintain the trust and enthusiasm of the open source developer community. ®
Gavin Clarke, 22 Feb 2006
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HP dishes up iSCSI infusion for EVA systems

With its storage business on the mend, HP today announced a few additions to its StorageWorks EVA and XP lines. First off, HP has started touting the "EVA iSCSI Connectivity Option." This lets customers turn an EVA system into a dedicated iSCSI box and means they can tap into data stored on Fibre Channel SANs (storage area networks) via their IP networks. HP pitches the iSCSI support as an option for customers who want SAN benefits but don't want to pay for expensive Fibre Channel HBAs. Customers can configure two iSCSI EVA system to run in a redundant configuration, HP said. Also on the EVA front, HP has added support for 4GB host connections in a move that will allow its boxes to take full advantage of existing 4 gigabit switches and HBAs. HP has shipped a couple of updates for XP system users as well. Customers will now find that the latest batch of EVA systems - 4000/6000/8000 - can sit behind XP boxes and be managed via the same software. In addition, HP has doubled the cache size of XP systems to 256GB for the XP 12000 and to 64GB for the XP10000. On the tape side of the house, HP kicked up the maximum configuration of the StorageWorks 6000 Virtual Library System to 70 terabytes by adding 500GB drives as an option. It also rolled out the StorageWorks MSL2024 tape library that has 9.6TB of space in a 2U system. Software fans will find that "Storage Essentials Backup Manager extends its backup reporting capabilities to HP-UX and Linux environments, while HP Storage Essentials Provisioning Manager offers new provisioning capabilities for third-party disk arrays and switches from IBM, Sun, Xiotech, Cisco and QLogic," HP said. HP has improved its storage business in the last couple of quarters after having a rough run. The company seems so enthused by its progress that it has taken to calling EMC a "boutique" vendor. Easy, fellas. ®
Ashlee Vance, 22 Feb 2006

Weird scenes inside the BI gold mine

CommentComment If there is a gold mine in the software industry right now it is surely business intelligence. However, the business intelligence market is supposed to be consolidating and commoditising. In that case, why is it that there are a whole bunch of new vendors and products entering the market? I have spoken with four in just the last couple of weeks. Perhaps that's not weird, but it is certainly interesting. And even well-established players are coming up with innovative and fresh approaches to queries and reporting. Information Builders, for example, is very active in developing new ways in which business intelligence, particularly at the operational level, can be used. However, that is a story for another article, as are the other three newbies: the one I want to discuss today is ICS. ICS (www.icsltd-uk.com) is a well-established (over 10 years old) service company focused on the BI market. Its client list includes household names in both the public and private sector. While this isn't actually the first product the company has launched, it is the first the company expects to have a significant impact on the market and it has given the product, RSinteract, its own website (www.rsinteract.com) to prove it. RS (as the astute among you may have guessed) stands for Reporting Services, as in SQL Server Reporting Services and RSinteract is a tool for building and deploying reports based on Reporting Services. So, why would you want to use this in preference to the facilities provided by Microsoft? To answer that you need to understand the options offered by Microsoft. With the previous version of SQL Server your only option was to use the Report Builder in Visual Studio. However, this is a developer tool. It is fine for building rich, strictly formatted reports and forms but it isn't much use if you want to generate an ad hoc report and it is not suitable for end users. To meet the needs of business users for less formal reporting, with SQL Server 2005 Microsoft has introduced a second product called Report Builder. While this is fine for quick, simple things, it has a number of drawbacks. First, it requires you to download a smart client. Secondly, it has a different semantic data layer (because it is based on acquired technology) from SQL Server itself. Thirdly, you can only have one report on a page, you can't display a chart and its data together, there is a restricted set of templates, the editor is separate from rather than a part of the product. I could go on, but you get the idea. What ICS has done is build a tool that not only overcomes these issues but has much greater applicability. So, for example, it is a zero footprint product on the client, the editor is built in, there are extended template definition and reuse capabilities, there are additional report types supported, you can mix and match data and charts, you can create compound reports, and so on. The company has not yet built in support for the SQL Server semantic data layer but it will do so in due course. As yet the company is only selling direct, and within the UK, however it is actively seeking re-sellers and partners both here and abroad. Target markets are both end-user organisations and ISVs that might want to use RSinteract to build reports into their own products. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Philip Howard, 22 Feb 2006
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Strict liability for data breaches?

CommentComment A recent case involving a stolen laptop containing 550,000 people's full credit information sheds new night on what "reasonable" protections a company must make to secure its customer data - and what customers need to prove in order to sue for damages.
Mark Rasch, 22 Feb 2006
channel

Core Web Application Development With PHP and MySQL

Book reviewBook review PHP and MySQL provide the development language and database components of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python) stack that drives huge chunks of the web. Over the years they have each evolved and grown in complexity and functionality and yet they are still tied together to provide a powerful and flexible platform for web applications.
Dr Pan Pantziarka, 22 Feb 2006

Apple to unveil 'fun products' next week

Apple's anticipated February product launch will take place on Tuesday, February 28, not today, as previous speculation had hinted. The event, which will be held on Apple's Cupertino campus, will see the Mac maker unveil a number of "fun new products".
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006
arrow pointing up

Microsoft faces another anti-trust suit

Microsoft, still mired in arguments with the European Commission as to whether or not it has complied with EC demands, faces yet more court action. Tangent Computer has filed suit in the court of Northern California asking for damages against Microsoft for damaging its business. Tangent accuses the software giant of pushing up prices and acting anti-competitively by promoting its own Digital Rights Management software. Microsoft is also accused of failing to give enough information to allow conversion of its Office documents. So, as Microsoft is trying to persuade the EC that it has fulfilled its anti-trust demands, the firm is accused of still not complying with its 2002 settlement with the US Department of Justice. The case says: "Microsoft has delayed producing usable specifications and its specifications have been inaccurate and incomplete. Moreover, although Microsoft was required to offer licenses to third parties, the terms of those licenses were too burdensome." The case further claims that Microsoft's next operating system Vista, "promises more bundling, tying and undocumented interfaces". More on ZDNet here and on Arstechnica here. ®
John Oates, 22 Feb 2006

Micron sets RICO on Rambus

Memory maker Micron has accused Rambus of foul play after being sued by the memory technology developer last month. In a lawsuit filed with the US District Court of Eastern Virginia, Micron claims Rambus “engaged in a pattern of destruction of evidence, false testimony and other improper activities designed to mislead courts and Micron and to extract unjust patent licensing fees or damages from Micron".
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006

Judge rejects US govt Blackberry ban immunity request

RIM vs NTP trial judge James Spencer has denied a US Department of Justice demand that all the parties concerned work out a way to ensure DoJ staffers can continue to use their Blackberries even if the judge orders the service to be shut down.
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006
T-Mobile US' MDA and SDA smart phones

Euro cops seize Razorback P2P servers

Belgian and Swiss police yesterday shut down Razorback 2, a hugely popular source of content on the eDonkey and other P2P networks. Law enforcement officials mounted early morning raids on sites in the two countries, and seized servers and network equipment.
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006

PlusNet ups sales and profit

PlusNet racked up increased sales and profit last year as broadband users flocked to its service. Publishing its prelims to the end of December, the Sheffield-based ISP reported that turnover was up 27 per cent to £35.2m compared to the year before. At the same time, operating profit before exceptional items increased by 69 per cent to £4.9m compared to 2004. Profit before tax was £4.5m, compared to £1.9m last year. Much of this was boosted by a massive surge in new broadband subscribers taking the total number to 176,000 at the end of 2005. The ISP says BT's roll-out of 8 meg broadband across the UK from April, and the availability of higher connection speeds associated with local loop unbundling (LLU), will help "fuel PlusNet's customer growth in 2006". "We expect the quality and value of our broadband products to drive continuing gains in market share," it said in a statement today. And as consumers continue to demand more for less, PlusNet reckons the total spending on phone, broadband and content will continue to fall, something service providers will need to heed. ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Feb 2006

EU Commission eyes MIT-style research powerhouse

The European Union will get its own research hub, in an attempt to compete with the US' MIT and emerging academic powerhouses in China and India. Proposals are due to be presented today for a centrally funded and administrated body, with up to €1bn budget. Today's announcement from the commission will address whether the European Institute of Technology (EIT) should be a physical place, or a collaboration between existing universities. Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said EIT will: "Act as a pole of attraction for the very best minds, ideas and companies from around the world." Whatever form it takes, the new institute will be aimed at commercialisation of research, which MIT has turned into a fine art. Some top universities have hit out at the plans however. The League of European Research Universities, including Cambridge - which already has ties to MIT - described the whole idea as “perverse”. They say the commision's November consultation report was “narrow and unimaginative” and that it “fails to address” the challenges facing the academic community in Europe. Their point is that a central university will divert funding from already world-class institutions, while the network model for EIT will lack the attribute that makes MIT so effective - the ability to respond as a complete institution to research advances. Predictably, there is already bitching over who will get the gig if a new university is to be founded – though today's announcement from the commission will dodge that question. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has proposed a building, unsurprisingly, near Paris. Siting the institute in Strasbourg has also been mooted by MEPs, with the EU Parliament moving to Brussels, an idea the French have fought themselves. ®
Christopher Williams, 22 Feb 2006

Wanadoo punter slips through LLU net

Wanadoo is busy trying to reconnect one of its punters who has been left without broadband for more than a month. The punter (we've decided to withhold his name) from Manchester, received an email on January 5 telling him that his broadband connection would be upgraded to 8 meg on January 16. The upgrade is part of Wanadoo's investment in local loop unbundling (LLU) enabling it to offer increased speeds to users. Snag is, instead of an improved connection he got nothing, and 35 calls to Wanadoo tech support over the last month have failed to get him reconnected. In a statement, Wanadoo said it was now in contact with the customer, who has been with the ISP since the early days of Freeserve, and is working "to try and resolve his situation as quickly as possible". At the moment it's not known why or how this punter lost his broadband connection. It could be an isolated case, just "one of those things". Then again... According to the latest industry predictions, between 2m and 3m lines could be unbundled this year in the UK. Even if a tiny fraction of these migrations fail - for whatever reason - thousands of people could slip through the net and lose their connections. Senior industry sources have told The Register that while there is real excitement about the potential of LLU, there is a fair amount of nervousness too concerning a whole host of "what ifs?". That's why ISPs are doing all they can to ensure the complex processes and procedures involved in switching customers from BT's network to their own is done without a hitch. But they're aware that despite all their best efforts, things could still go wrong. Indeed, this is a view shared by Wanadoo. In a statement regarding this case the ISP told us: "Ever since we began our LLU programme, our utmost objective has been to preserve and improve our customers' experience and that's why we are rolling out our LLU network in a controlled manner, rather than migrating our customers en masse. We have already successfully migrated thousands of our customers to the new Wanadoo network. "However, in common with all new technologies, and as experienced by other LLU operators, not just in the UK but also elsewhere in Europe, we know that from time to time, some faults will arise. We are fully equipped to deal with these and are working closely with BT Openreach to resolve any problems as soon as they are brought to our attention. "In the unfortunate event that customers experience extended problems, we will make sure they are fully compensated, and we will work with them to resolve any problems as quickly as we can." ®
Tim Richardson, 22 Feb 2006

Supreme Court greenlights mind-expanding tea

A US branch of a Brazilian church can use hallucinogenic tea as part of its religious rituals, the Supreme Court has decreed. The court ruled that the government "must allow the use of the tea under religious freedom laws", the BBC reports. Around 130 members of O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal quaff "hoasca" tea twice a month during four-hour rituals, saying this is the only way they can understand God. The Brazilian blend of hoasca uses Banisteriopsis caapi - a jungle vine known as "ayahuasca" in Quechua - which is a rich source of the hallucinogenic dimethyltryptamine (DMT). It's mixed with with extracts from either Psychotria viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana to produce the mind-expanding infusion. Problem is, DMT is a controlled substance in the US. Back in 1999, federal agents grabbed the church's supply of hoasca. The Bush administration argued that the brew was illegal and dangerous, until the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts settled the matter. Or not. The Supreme Court did return the case to a federal appeals court, where it could be re-examined with more evidence. ®
Lester Haines, 22 Feb 2006

Google Perfect 10 thumbnails 'breach copyright'

Google has been held liable for infringing the copyright of images purloined by others from adult website Perfect 10. Thumbnail images displayed in Google Image Search breached Perfect 10 copyright, according to a preliminary ruling in a US Federal Court this week. But US District Court Judge Howard Matz held Google was not responsible if surfers clicked on thumbnails that directed them to full size porno images hosted on third party websites, taken without permission from the official Perfect 10 site. Perfect 10 argued that these hi-res pictures constituted a copyright infringement by Google as well as the third-party sites. Matz rejected this argument and proposed a narrow preliminary injunction that respected Perfect 10's copyrights while upholding Google's broader right to catalogue online images, AP reports. No trial date has been fixed. Perfect 10 said it was confident it would win on both strands of its case at trial. Google said the preliminary ruling would only effect searches relating to Perfect 10 adding that it would contest any injunction. "While we're disappointed with portions of the ruling, we are pleased with Judge Matz's favourable ruling on linking and other aspects of Google image search," Google spokesman Michael Kwun said. Perfect 10 is also suing Amazon-run A9, which uses Google technology, over the same issue. The courts are yet to consider the A9 portion of the case. ®
John Leyden, 22 Feb 2006

Morgan Stanley offers $15m to make up for missing emails

Investment bank Morgan Stanley has offered to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) $15m to settle an investigation by the regulator into an alleged failure by the firm to produce email evidence during a legal dispute. According to an Annual Report filed by Morgan Stanley with the SEC earlier this month, the investment bank has reached "an agreement in principle" with the enforcement division of the SEC, but the settlement has not yet been presented to the full SEC. "No assurance can be given that it will be accepted," warns the filing. If it is accepted, a $15m settlement would be the largest sum ever paid for email retention failures, according to reports. The firm is also discussing settlement with financial watchdog the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), although no agreement has been reached. The investigations relate to the 1998 sale of Coleman Co, owned by billionaire Ronald Perelman, to Sunbeam Corp. Sunbeam stock formed part of the purchase price, but the stock value fell dramatically just shortly after the sale. Morgan Stanley had advised Sunbeam in the deal and Perelman accused the firm of complicity in an accounting scandal that hid Sunbeam's problems. The case turned against Morgan Stanley when the firm failed to produce emails and documents sought by Perelman’s lawyers. This annoyed the judge so much that she reversed the burden of proof so that Morgan Stanley was obliged to prove its innocence. The jury awarded Perelman $1.45bn in damages. Business 2.0 magazine notes in its annual round-up of 'Dumbest moments in business' that Perelman had reportedly offered to settle for $20m. The Perelman case is now subject to appeal, but regulators were concerned that the failure to produce the documents indicated some breach of federal regulations, and began their own investigations. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 22 Feb 2006

Round up all the Fortescues! DNA crime scene surname matching

DNA could be used by police, today's public prints tell us, to 'predict the name of suspects', according to a new study from the University of Leicester Department of Genetics. And indeed it could, but only up to a point, and the way the police would do it involves different, slightly worrying, ways of looking at the data, rather than any new gosh-wow breakthrough in DNA analysis. The study, published in Current Biology (abstract here) found that in a sampler of 150 pairs of men with the same surname, in 25 per cent of cases the pair had matching Y chromosomes. When the common surnames such as Smith and Jones were excluded, this increased to 50 per cent, and when you have large numbers of DNA samples on record (the UK database is now over 3m and climbing), the potential here starts to become clear. Familial DNA matching has already been used by police in the UK where the DNA found at the scene of crime was of an individual who wasn't on the database, but who was related to someone who was. But if police were to begin to associate their existing samples by surname or groups of surname, then a similar approach could be employed on a far wider basis. So, round up all the Fortescues? Kind of. If for the past 800 years or thereabouts everybody had behaved themselves in bed (or haystacks or whatever), and if naming systems had been completely orderly, as the UK database grew it would start to spawn detailed and precise family trees, and the surnames of mysterious offenders could be predicted with a very high rate of accuracy. Real life isn't quite like that, but it will still be possible in some cases to produce a suspect's surname from the DNA sample - provided the police database jockeys get their sums right. Police will then be able to prioritise elimination sampling*, so instead of (as is current practice) requesting that, say, the entire adult male population in a specific district provide samples to 'eliminate them from the inquiry', they can just ask those adult males called, say, Hayman first. And widen the net if this doesn't throw up anything? To the whole local population, or to Haymans further afield? Discovering you're the owner of a suspect surname will clearly be a tad unnerving, and the approach is obviously dangerous in that, if the database jockeys aren't doing their jobs properly and the technique is used as a blunt instrument, lower probability surname matches could be chased over higher populations or, to the accompaniment of cries of 'what have you got to hide?', owners of rarer surnames ('Guilty', says news piece author) could be sampled nationally, or even internationally. As with most such matters, it all depends on how much you trust the people running the system. Pleasant dreams. ® * Elimination sampling can involve pressuring the local population to 'volunteer' on the basis that those declining must have something to hide (example). Subjects may also feel pressured to allow police to keep the sample after the enquiry has concluded, and the employment of this approach in areas and populations of high crime will tend to magnify the presence of these populations on the 'voluntary' national DNA database. So you can see how the voluntary nature of the database's compilation must result in the national suspect list becoming heavily loaded against ethnic minorities and residents of poorer districts.
John Lettice, 22 Feb 2006

Tul ships Radeon X1300 board overclocked 150MHz

Taiwan's Tul has begun shipping PowerColor ATI Radeon X1300-based graphics cards that overclock the GPU by more than 33 per cent. The PowerColor X1300 HyperMemory 2 card's 90nm graphics chip runs at 600MHz, well above the customary 450MHz.
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006

'Millions suffer RSI' from text messaging

Almost four million Britons suffer from text-related injuries, according to Virgin Mobile. Its report follows recent warnings about BlackBerry Thumb and iPod Finger. Listen to your body, say the experts: numb fingers and aching wrists are a signal to stop. RSI, the symptoms of which include pain and immobility in the joints, nerves and muscles from the fingers to the neck, is caused by repetitive movements and fatigue resulting from natural stresses and strains on the body. It is frequently found in the workplace, where factors such as inadequate computer set up or repetitive or monotonous work patterns are to blame. Texting is also a cause. Each year, 3.8m people complain of injuries resulting from text messaging, according to the nationwide survey by Virgin Mobile. Each day, almost 100m texts are sent in the UK – so perhaps it is no surprise that 38 per cent of us suffer from sore wrists and thumbs as a result. The problem stems from the small size of mobiles. People tend to hold the device in their fingers and press the tiny keys with their thumbs. This reverses the computer keyboard position, where clumsy thumbs are relegated to the space bar and let fingers do the typing. And while most text messages are short, the survey shows that users make up for this by sending a lot of them: 10 per cent of those surveyed send up to 100 texts a day. British Chiropractic Association (BCA) spokesperson Dr Matthew Bennett was unsurprised by the findings. "BCA chiropractors recognise that text messaging regularly, over a long period of time, could cause repetitive strain which may cause both short and long term injuries," he said. Dr Bennett expects the problem to worsen unless users take precautions. "When text messaging, the tendency is to keep your shoulders and upper arms tense," he explained. "This cuts down the circulation to the forearm, when in fact it needs a greater than normal blood flow to achieve the consistent movements of the thumbs and fingers." In a bid to prevent injury, Dr Bennett has compiled a range of simple exercises to combat effects of RSI through texting: Sensible advice If texting starts to hurt. Stop. Use the other hand or call instead. Vary the hand you use. Vary the digits you use. Don't text for more than a few minutes without a break. Exercises Stop these exercises if you feel any pain otherwise you can do more harm than good. In your texting hand: Tap each finger with the thumb of the same hand. Repeat five times. Pull your thumb firmly with the other hand. Repeat five times. Wrap an elastic band around the tips of fingers and thumb and open your hand against the resistance. Repeat 20 times. Palms down wrap an elastic band around each thumb and force apart. Repeat 20 times. Tap the palm and back of your hand on your thigh as quickly as you can. Repeat 20 times. Massage thumb web, back of forearm and front of forearm. Two minutes. Press and rub in a circular motion the painful nodules in those muscles. Thirty seconds for each nodule. Reach up high with both arms and shake your hands. Reach down low with both arms and shake. Repeat three times. Arms at 45 degrees, squeeze them behind you. If it still hurts after a week of doing exercises, wrap an ice pack on sore hand and arm parts. Do not put ice directly on the skin but wrap in a thin cloth or piece of kitchen roll. Ten minutes on, 10 minutes off. Repeat three times. In November, the BCA warned that music fans who constantly use the scroll-wheel or buttons on their MP3 players are at risk of 'iPod Finger'. It said young children are particularly susceptible to this form of RSI because their bones and muscles are not fully developed. The BCA recommended that users flex their hand muscles – to keep the blood flowing and break up the repetition – and vary the finger used to operate the device. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 22 Feb 2006

Have sex, live longer

Scientists have confounded the long-held tenet that sex is bad for your health. For Zambian mole-rats at least, a bit of the other extends lifespan. The work by German researchers, to be published in the journal Current Biology goes against accepted wisdom that carnal gymnastics are biologically expensive and tend to decrease lifespan. Zambian mole-rats have an unusual social structure, more akin to termites than most other mammals. In a family group just one pair does the baby-making while their offspring mostly stick around and stay celibate to help with raising more young, digging tunnels and foraging for food. By examining 20 years of breeding habits, the team found that the fortunate few who got their end away on a regular basis lived on average twice as long. The authors of the report hope the discovery could shed new light on the evolution and mechanisms of ageing. This latest news from the sex-age interface comes after yesterday's revelation that older men are more sexually satisfied. ®
Christopher Williams, 22 Feb 2006

Japanese space telescope is go

Japan this morning sucessfully launched its Astro-F infrared imaging surveyor from its Uchinoura Space Centre. The satellite, nicknamed "Akari" or "light" took to the skies at 06:28 local time atop an M-5 rocket. The Astro-F's 500-day mission is to participate in the international All Sky Survey of the heavens "with much better sensitivity, spatial resolution and wider wavelength coverage" than the IRAS satellite - launched in 1983 by the Netherlands, UK and US. It's equipped with "a 68.5cm telescope cooled down to 6K, and will observe in the wavelength range from 1.7 (near-infrared) to 180 (far-infrared) microns" as the Japanese Space Agency blurb puts it. Astro-F is in a Sun synchronous polar orbit at 745km (463 miles). It orbits the Earth "above the twilight zone" in around 100 minutes, passing over the North and South Poles. The All Sky Survey aims to probe galaxies dating back to the earliest days of the universe. Dr Stephen Serjeant, senior lecturer in astrophysics at the UK's Open University, told the BBC: "This is a tremendous new window on the primordial Universe." ®
Lester Haines, 22 Feb 2006

Nintendo DS Lite to hit Europe well before 16 August?

Nintendo's DS Lite handheld games console may launch in Europe much sooner that the Wednesday, August 16 ship date circulating on a number of websites. The rumoured debut is "way off", according to a UK retail source cited by GamesIndustry.biz.
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006

Shuttle next-gen SFF PC exposed

ExclusiveExclusive Shuttle has taken the wraps off its upcoming next-generation small form-factor PC which crams an Intel 65nm dual-core processor, memory, hard drive, optical storage and other goodies into a case that's just 5.4cm high and has a footprint the size of an A4 page.
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006

EC gets fresh Microsoft complaint

A group of IT companies has complained to the European Commission that Microsoft is still engaged in anti-competitive practices. The European Committee for Interoperable Systems has filed a complaint claiming that Microsoft "threatens to deny enterprises and individual consumers real choice". The group called on the EC to take action to prevent Microsoft pushing its market dominance in some areas to new areas of technology. It emerged today that Tangent Computers filed suit against Microsoft in the US on Valentine's day. ECIS is made up of IBM, Oracle, Sun, Nokia and Real Networks - and is dismissed by Microsoft as a front for IBM using regulators to bolster their business. More on Yahoo here and Reuters here. ®
John Oates, 22 Feb 2006
Griffin TuneCenter iPod dock

Amazon.co.uk Xbox 360 order cancellations a 'mistake'

ExclusiveExclusive Amazon.co.uk today admitted that the cancellation of a raft of Xbox 360 'standard edition' orders had been a "mistake". The company told Reg Hardware it would contact all affected customers to re-instate their aborted orders. However, the online giant has also courted controversy by demanding a "sourcing fee" for certain Xbox 360 games.
Tony Smith, 22 Feb 2006

Unpatched Mac OS X hole poses critical risk

Security researchers have discovered a vulnerability in Mac OS X that creates a means for hackers to compromise vulnerable systems. The critical security flaw is unpatched but workarounds have been issued. The flaw stems from errors in the processing of metadata file association meta data in ZIP archives. By renamed "safe file" extensions stored in ZIP archives, hackers could trick users into executing malicious shell scripts. The security bug might also be used to attack Apple Safari browser users by creating a means for attackers to automatically run malign code when a Safari user visits a malicious-constructed website, an even more potent exploit scenario.
John Leyden, 22 Feb 2006

Nextel gives Sprint profits indigestion

Sprint today blamed the cost of integrating Nextel, the US cellco for missing analyst profit forecasts for Q4. But the US telco hailed a “solid quarter”, in which it gained more than two million net wireless subscribers. Net income for the three months to December end, 2005 fell 55 per cent to $197m (Q4 FY2004: $437m) on sales advancing 63 per cent to $11.3bn. Wireless revenues were $8.23bn, more than double the same time last year. ARPU (average revenue per user) for post-paid contract customers who signed directly with Sprint was $63, against last year’s $65. Churn for this customer class was 2.1 per cent, more or less the same as last year’s 2.2 per cent. The company also does substantial business through affiliates and lower-quality pre-paid revenues through its Boost brand. Sprint bought Nextel last August for $36bn. ®
Team Register, 22 Feb 2006

Canadian Uni hot under the collar over Wi-Fi safety

A Canadian university has limited Wi-Fi networks on campus, not out of information security concerns, but because the long-term safety of the technology is "unproven". Fred Gilbert, president of Canada's Lakehead University, made the order on the basis of possible health risk from the technology, especially to young people. Inconclusive studies into possible links between radio transmissions and leukemia and brain tumors from, among others, scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, led Gilbert to make the "precautionary ban". "All I’m saying is while the jury’s out on this one, I’m not going to put in place what is potential chronic exposure for our students. Admittedly that’s highest around the locations of the antenna sites and the wireless hot spots, but those are the places people tend to gravitate to because they get the best reception," Gilbert said, Canadian technology website IT Business reports. The Ontario University makes limited use of WiFi only in areas where fibre-optics links can't reach. Gilbert says he want to see conclusive evidence that the technology is safe before he'll be prepared to approve its wider use. Robert Bradley, director of consumer and clinical radiation protection at Health Canada, said documents due to be published this year should establish that WiFi networks operating at below current regulatory limits poses no risk to humans. But if the controversy about the possible health risks of mobile phones are anything to go by that's unlikely to reassure everyone. Jorg-Rudiger Sack, a computer science professor at Carleton University, said that while wireless is useful in environments where people are not likely to be working in fixed locations (such as airport departure lounges) its benefits in campus environments are far more tenuous. ®
John Leyden, 22 Feb 2006

The Business Intelligence (BI) scandal: why pay more to get less?

CommentComment The eye-catching headline above recently appeared in a press release from “business data specialists ICS". What!? A scandal in the moral world of BI? Surely not.
Mark Whitehorn, 22 Feb 2006

Yahoo! unbans! Allah!

Yahoo! has reversed its decision to stop people registering Yahoo! IDs which include the letters "allah". The Reg was contacted yesterday by a reader - Ed Callahan - who was having trouble registering his mum - Linda Callahan - for a Verizon email address - provided through a Yahoo! portal. But Yahoo! got in touch with us this morning to say it is now accepting Yahoo! identities which contain the letters "allah". The Callahans will be overjoyed. Yahoo! said in a statement: "We continuously evaluate abuse patterns in registration usernames to help prevent spam, fraud and other inappropriate behavior. A small number of people registered for IDs using specific terms with the sole purpose of promoting hate, and then used those IDs to post content that was harmful or threatening to others, thus violating Yahoo!'s Terms of Service. "'Allah' was one word being used for these purposes, with instances tied to defamatory language. We took steps to help protect our users by prohibiting use of the term in Yahoo! usernames. We recently re-evaluated the term 'Allah' and users can now register for IDs with this word because it is no longer a significant target for abuse. We regularly evaluate this type of activity and will continue to make adjustments to our registration process to help foster a positive customer experience." ®
John Oates, 22 Feb 2006
channel

IBM goes after small biz

Big Blue is changing its channel strategy to better serve small and medium businesses. Joe Senior, of IBM's integrated partner team, said: "This is a global initiative with significant investment of dollars and people." IBM wants to double the numbers of partners it has serving the Small and Medium Business market. Senior said IBM was doubling spending on the sector compared to last year. He said resellers would get solid pre and post-sales support, dedicated account managers and marketing help. He said it was not just about Express - Big Blue's budget range - but other products too. Andrew Kandiah, commercial director at Southampton-based reseller WCI - which has already signed up to the programme, said: "We liked the Express offerings but also the chance for bespoke pricing on other products and funding for local marketing." Kandiah said IBM suffered from a perception in the market that they are too expensive. He said WCI had concerns over HP's channel strategy which led the company to deepen its relationship with IBM. Michael Barnard, of IBM's SMB and Channels marketing, said: "There are three aspects to the marketing - firstly selling to end users in small businesses and creating awareness and "pull". Secondly marketing to the channel - making existing and potential partners aware of what we have. And thirdly marketing with the channel - where we work with a partner to generate demand - that varies a lot partner by partner. Smaller partners will not have revenue targets although the IBM teams that manage them will have such targets. Senior stressed that the team was dedicated to channel partners - "we live or die according to the success of the channel...and there's nowhere else for us to send the leads to - there's no competing team at IBM."®
John Oates, 22 Feb 2006

Nominet responds to rule-change concerns

Nominet's chairman and chief executive have hit back at claims that changes to the company's Memorandum and Articles of Association will over-commercialise the not-for-profit company.
Kieren McCarthy, 22 Feb 2006

Yahoo! Go? Yahoo! No!

ReviewReview About a year ago, a man I'd never met before showed me pictures of a dramatic episode in his life. These showed him driving his wife to the hospital, where she was about to give birth. There were dozens and dozens of these pictures, and in each one his wife was looking progressively more grumpy. As you'd be, too, if your waters had broken, and your husband had only one hand on the steering wheel.
Andrew Orlowski, 22 Feb 2006

EFF Awards 2006: Nominate a Founder!

It's that time of the year again. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking nominations for its prestigious Pioneer Awards for 2006. Last year, the award went to Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder Mitch Kapor - a decision vigorously defended by another Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder, John Perry Barlow. Who'll win this year? Well, two stand-out candidates must consider themselves at least hopeful. The EFF has three co-founders, and only one has so far received a Founder's Pioneer Award. This is an anomalous situation, but happily, there's a chance you can help correct this injustice, because nominations are open to the public. So for 2006 we urge you to nominate the two EFF co-founders who've yet to be recognized by the EFF: John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore. The EFF simply needs 1) the name of your nominee - which should be "Gilmore" or "Barlow"; 2) your phone number, email address or website; and 3) a reason for nominating the individual, which should read "He co-founded the EFF, stoopid" We've made it really easy. Just click here. And according to the EFF's own newsletter, dated 27 January, you have until the 1 February 2006 to nominate your favorite co-founder. Er, no - wait! That's just another EFF cock-up. You actually have until next Wednesday, March 1, to make your nomination - according to this page. Get to it - and see justice is done. You can read Barlow's moving tribute to 2006 Founder's Award recipient Kapor here - it's the one where Kapor falls out of a Wyoming sky to share prana. ® Bootnote: Seriously, we do hope this goes to someone no one's ever heard of before. But "digital rights" awards are like a game of musical chairs where no chairs are ever removed, and when the music stops, everyone picks up an award. All shall have prizes...
Andrew Orlowski, 22 Feb 2006

Reduce your risk of alcohol-related injury: stay drunk

Weekend drinkers are more likely to injure themselves when hammered than full-time pro boozehounds, Swiss researchers have found. Admissions to the emergency department at Laussanne University Hospital over an 18-month period from pool cue related mishaps and the like were much more frequent amongst less committed schnapps bingers. The pattern was the same for both men and women. A further finding of the study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, and to be filed under Bleedin' Obvious, was that people who never drank were many times less likely to wind up in casualty.®
Christopher Williams, 22 Feb 2006
channel

Windows Vista is for businesses - honest

Microsoft is using its latest Windows Visa beta code release to highlight the operating system's money and labor saving features for business users and IT departments. Announcing the fresh Windows Vista Community Technology Preview (CTP), Microsoft talked-up improved user controls and settings along with mobility controls designed to simplify administration, speed performance and enhance the security of Windows. Brad Goldberg, Microsoft's general manager for Windows client product management, said during a conference with journalists on Wednesday: "The impression was created that Windows Vista was a consumer release. Windows Vista is as much, if not more, a business release." That impression was, of course, created by Microsoft who has made a point of outlining the operating system's applicability to consumers. Indeed, it was chief software architect Bill Gates who went so far as to pitch Windows Vista as a home entertainment platform at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Gates told CES Windows Vista would help usher in a "big year [in] digital lifestyle." The latest Windows Vista CTP has been branded an "enterprise" release by Microsoft, with the company promising a "broader, end-user preview" during the next quarter. However, and here's where Microsoft's marketing kicks in, the enterprise CTP contains all the features that will target consumers. That means features like Gadgets, which are web applications similar to Widgets devised by Apple Computer for use in OS X that run outside of the browser over the desktop. Only Microsoft believes developers can write Gadgets that fulfill a business purpose, like monitoring server performance. On the more serious side, Microsoft is taking steps to reduce the burden and costs associated with running Windows. Imaging, where IT departments make multiple versions of Windows configurations for use on different hardware configurations or in various languages used inside an organization, has been improved to provide both hardware and language neutrality, Goldberg said. As previously reported, Windows Vista users will be able to change their PC configuration, like installing a PC driver or connecting to a wireless network, without requiring administrator privileges. Users will have the option of using pre-configured settings to access services or install devices, while Windows Vista dumps the need to connect to services over a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Microsoft declined to detail how Windows Vista would maintain network security without using a VPN. Microsoft is getting its act together on the ability to run existing applications with the new operating system. Microsoft will have a beta version of its application compatibility toolkit available before Windows Vista ships, allowing customers to assess the impact Windows Vista will have on their existing applications. Previous versions of Microsoft's Windows compatibility toolkits have lagged the operating system. The Windows XP Service Pack 2 toolkit, for example shipped nine months after the main release.®
Gavin Clarke, 22 Feb 2006
globalisation

Sun buys Linux and Solaris patch whiz

Ever on the prowl, Sun Microsystems has picked up a small patch management company called Aduva. Aduva, based in Sunnyvale, specializes in keeping Linux and Solaris servers current. In particular, the Aduva OnStage product handles the installation and testing of patches across large numbers of servers. “By acquiring Aduva, Sun will be addressing the number one pain point we hear from IT administrators – patch management – while addressing the principle cause of service downtime and system vulnerability: out of date systems and patches,” said Don Grantham, an EVP at Sun. “By integrating this technology into our offerings and services, Sun can enable customers to update thousands of systems at the touch of a button.” Aduva counts IBM as its closest hardware partner, according to information on the company's web site. The firm has worked on improving the management of Linux running on x86 systems and IBM's mainframes. In fact, Aduva claims IBM and Intel as investors. More recently, Aduva added support for Sun's Solaris operating system as well. The Aduva testing lab is the company's "magic." "The Lab builds enhanced entity-to-entity rules at the component level for Linux and Solaris environments identifying working sets of components and packages without breaking Distro certification," Aduva said. "The Lab harvests and mines all changes to the Linux distributions we track (both Red Hat and SUSE for Intel, AMD, Power, and Mainframe architectures) and continuously monitors for Linux component changes. As each component evolves in its lifecycle, the Aduva Lab enhances and tests its rules for comprehensive accuracy, and certifies the rules and components for deployment." Sun seems to be on an endless quest to purchase small software companies in the hopes of boosting server and storage management skills. The deal is expected to close in the next four months. Sun did not release financial terms for the purchase. ®
Ashlee Vance, 22 Feb 2006