CommentComment Digital Rights Managements hurts paying customers, destroys Fair Use rights, renders customers' investments worthless, and can always be defeated. Why are consumers and publishers being forced to use DRM?
A delegation of European unions will tour Indian call centres next week to investigate an industry scheme to register the country's call centre employees in a biometric database. Visiting under the umbrella of Union Network International (UNI), a workers' association, they will also be checking on working conditions and dropping in on fledgling professional associations that are being groomed by the international union movement. Peter Skyte, national organiser for Amicus, a union in Britain and Ireland, said he was concerned a database would allow employers to keep tabs on employees. Launched in January by an Indian trade body representing employers, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), will store biometric, personal, professional and educational details of workers in IT and outsourcing industries. "Unless you are on that [database], you won't get a job," Skyte said. " I want to talk this through with Nasscom." "Employees could be struck off the register and lose their livelihoods on a whim," he said. "If you have an argument with your boss in Wipro or Tata, what's to stop them saying to Nasscom they want you struck off?" he added. Skyte will be joined on tour by UNI representatives and unions LBC NVK from Belgium and HK from Denmark and will also be concerned to see that Indian call centre workers are being "treated fairly". Yet their concern sits side by side with self-interest. The unions have loudly opposed the outsourcing boom that has seen so many of their members' jobs outsourced to India. Indian call centre workers are cheap and poorly protected, which is why so much work has been given to them by European firms. The centres are reputedly characterised by high-pressure, long hours, and a high staff turnover. Worse still, they have to put up with abuse and condescension from the customers they serve on telephone lines to countries in the northern hemisphere. Yet these call centre jobs are comparatively well paid and highly sought after. By doing what it can to raise working conditions for middle-class Indian workers, the European unions movement can serve two demanding taskmasters at once - its fragile membership, which does not want its jobs outsourced to India, and its own conscience, which cannot directly betray the cause of international solidarity. Pulling off that trick will oblige the unions to give up their anti-outsourcing rhetoric. That is, stop trying to scare European firms off outsourcing deals by slagging off Indian workers. The Nasscom biometric database of workers was the Indian response to an international news storm initiated by Britain's Sun tabloid newspaper, which engineered a leak of British bank details from an Indian call centre last year. Unions including Amicus shamelessly exploited the opportunity and helped whip the storm up to the point where Nasscom had to do something to protect its business interests. A biometric database seemed like the obvious solution*. Now this could be the single largest barrier to the unionisation of emerging Indian industries. As for workers in Indian call centres, they have been lucky to land jobs that are considered luxurious, so telling them that their conditions are rubbish may not wash. Unless their new-found wealth and power gives them the confidence to take on employers, the only way to help them unionise will be to encourage them to see their place in the global economy. That will mean treating them as comrades rather than enemies. ® * The adoption of bureaucratic processes from the northern hemisphere has always been the clincher for most Nasscom members in deals for outsourcing business. They have signed up to anything they can, from data protection to formal methods of business.
Intel pulled in top executives from Hewlett Packard and Oracle on Wednesday to pledge undying commitment to Itanic despite having "screwed" HP over use of its newest version of the chip in the latest Integrity servers. The chip giant's president and chief executive Paul Otellini rallied HP's Mark Hurd and Oracle's Larry Ellison, the latter via satellite from Japan, to squeeze out pledges of money and love for Itanic via a web cast. HP CEO and president Hurd promised his company will spend $5bn during the next five years on R&D, software, hardware and services for his company's Itanic-based Integrity family of servers. "I've heard [our commitment to Integrity] talked about a lot by some of our competition. HP is committed to invest $1bn per year over the next five years," Hurd said. Hurd got his game face on as his company prepared to ship a fresh batch of Integrity servers running a new HP chipset based on the current Itanic chip - Madison - instead of the new, dual-core Montecito Itanic, which is running late. Faced with delay, Hurd stressed the value-added features around Integrity and its place in the remotely managed, automated "lights-out" datacenter of the future, instead of mainframe-like features combined with more than double improvements in performance and power efficiency. Hurd called HP Integrity one of the "key building blocks" for this mythical datacenter along with systems integration, software and services. "There is no better organization on the planet for architecting, implementing, managing and servicing our customers," Hurd said of HP's services. As Hurd valiantly took one for the Intel Itanic alliance, The Reg quoted one HP insider earlier this week who said bluntly "Intel screwed us" by delaying Montecito. Over to Larry, who called it in. "Oracle has no more important partners than HP and Intel. The Oracle database depends on more Intel-based servers than any other platforms in the world. Itanium is an extremely important technology platform... there is no more important partner for platform than Integrity and Itanic," Ellison said. That will make interesting reading for Sun Microsystems who counts Oracle as a high-end systems partner and who in January announced joint server and database bundles using Sun's UltraSPARC to undercut HP. Itanic is, of course, positioned by Intel as an alternative to RISC architectures like UltraSPARC. Cementing its commitment, Oracle announced its Database, Fusion Middleware, Enterprise Manager and E-Business Suite would run on HP’s Integrity servers with HP-UX 11i. That left Otellini and Hurd to convince skeptics Itanic is set for take off and that companies who buy Itanic-based servers won't be left stranded by a backtracking Intel or its partners. Otellini committed to a roadmap consisting of four generations of Itanium by 2010 with Montecito "on track for mid-year launch." "We are investing more money [in Itanium] in 2006 than 2007. There is a $28bn RISC mainframe replacement market that's available to us - larger than the market for standard, higher volume servers addressed by Xeon," Otellini said. Hurd told potential customers and industry observers: "I want you to sleep well at night knowing you have tremendous energy and investment behind this." What? You need more. There's the fact 70 per cent of the Fortune 100 will be running mission critical applications on Itanium servers by the end of 2006, up from half now, according to Otellini. "You will see customer adoption much faster than people have expected," Intel's chief executive said. Still not convinced? Well, there are those IDC numbers, Otellini said.®
With decision day about a penalty fine looming, Microsoft has accused the European Union of ganging up with its rivals against it. The complaint alleges that EU anti-trust staff had "inappropriate" contacts with consultant Neil Barrett, and rivals including Sun, IBM, Oracle and Novell. "The commission, the trustee, and Microsoft's adversaries were secretly collaborating throughout the fall of 2005 in a manner inconsistent with the commission's role as neutral regulator and the trustee's role as independent monitor," alleges Microsoft counsel Horacio Gutierrez, wires report. The conspiracy charge could be hard to prove. Microsoft was found guilty of anti-competitive business practices two years ago, and as part of the enforcement process, the companies who most need to interoperate with the company's software have been monitoring its compliance. Last week, a group representing Microsoft rivals, ECIS, filed a further complaint alleging that the monopolistic practices continue. These focused on interoperability, with the group pointing to Office document incompatibility, XAML, and Microsoft's bundling of its own DRM in Windows Vista. ®
Apple's upcoming video-oriented iPod will sport a 4in widescreen display, with the height of the landscape-oriented unit comparable to existing iPods' widths, presumably to allow it to use Apple's 'universal' dock.
Global chip sales totalled $19.66bn in January, the US-based Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said last night. The figure's seven per cent up on January 2005's $18.38bn total, but 1.5 per cent down on the $19.95bn sales recorded for December 2005, though a month-on-month decline is a traditional feature of the market at this time of year.
Microsoft Office is facing an organized challenge from an alliance of government bodies and IT vendors that are promoting OpenDocument Format (ODF). Thirty-five organizations including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat, Oracle and Novell, plus international government representatives, are to start the Open Document Format Alliance, a group that will promote education and learning around ODF. The ODF Alliance will operate through the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA), and represents a second attempt to push the XML-based ODF as an alternative to a set of XML file formats in Microsoft Office. Sun, IBM and others are also pushing for the technical advancement of ODF through a committee of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). The ODF Alliance has been founded in the wake of last year's debacle around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' declaration that all state IT departments dump proprietary document file formats by 2007 and adopt standards. Massachusetts' decision, reversed amid considerable acrimony and politicking, would have seen the state dump Microsoft Office for productivity suites using ODF. That would have allowed in IBM, Sun and others who support ODF. IBM vice president for standards and open source Bob Sutor told The Register the alliance will provide guidance and a forum for people interested in adopting ODF. "We are there to eliminate the friction in terms of the understanding of ODF," he said. As governments make more documents available in digital form, Sutor said they need to be sure the file formats they use are really open standards. ODF has been ratified by OASIS, while Microsoft's own XML standards, the Office XML File Format, are still in pre-standards mode and are being pushed by Microsoft and a handful of companies through the European Computer Manufacturers' Association (ECMA). Microsoft believes the ECMA process will lead to multiple implementations of its file formats. "We are at a point around document formats that people will have to make some hard choices. Just sticking with the status quo won't be the right thing to do," Sutor said. ODF Alliance chief open source officer Simon Phipps said the alliance would work through the SIIA - incidentally no friend of Microsoft. "We want to make clear what the benefits of using ODF are for government users who have a strong concern the documents they are creating remain a part of their history and heritage, rather than being lost in a digital Alzheimer's as document formats change," he said. Conspicuous by its absence from the ODF Alliance is Microsoft. Both Sutor and Phipps said the software giant is welcome to join, with Phipps noting that representatives from Microsoft have sat in on the OASIS committee. Phipps added he'd hate to see "a great company like Microsoft left behind" as governments and industry adopt ODF. ®
The authors of a US government-sponsored report claim to have delivered the first reliable guide into judging the safety and reliability of open source software. The report, backed by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has evaluated 31 popular open source packages searching for defects that will cause "hard crashes" - problems that leave users open to hackers or cause downtime. And fortunately for many a young Silicon Valley start-up and entrepreneur, the report, conducted by fault tracking specialist Coverity, has effectively given the Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP/Python (LAMP) stack a healthy rating. LAMP "showed significantly better software quality" above the report's baseline with an average of .32 defects per 1,000 lines of code, according to Coverity. The average for open source projects analyzed is .42 per 1,000 lines. Coverity co-founder Dave Park called the report a first because it provides a single standard to evaluate software from different open source projects. Increasingly, developers use open source form multiple projects to build applications, making it important to provide an overall measurement for things like bugs. Park told The Register: "This is one clear metric to decide how reliable or secure open source is. No real or proper yardstick existed before." Coverity's report, Stacking up the LAMP stack: a study of open source quality, was produced as part of a $1.24m, three-year DHS Science and Technology Directorate effort to evaluate and improve the security of open source. Coverity evaluated 15m lines of open source code with Stamford University's Computer Science Department. The report has identified bugs that can corrupt a machine's memory space, memory leaks, buffer overruns and crashes. Coverity said it would now engage with open source developers to improve code, and identify potential reasons for why some projects have more bugs than others. ®
LettersLetters It's Friday, so we'll kick off this round up of the very best our bulging mailbag has to offer with a bit of light relief, viz: names for Pluto's new moons: Hi, Who or what are "Tracey and Chardonney"? (mentioned at the bottom of the letters page). A search on google only gives back 289 hits, none of the early hits are relevant besides the first hit - your own letters page! Putting the phrase in quotes in a google search limits the results to only your letters page. Changing the spelling to "Chardonnay" doesn't yield much either. Thanks, Allan Whiteford Well, Pluto's other moon is called Sharon, sorry Charon, so... Dear Lester Obviously, the other two moons of pluto should be named Mikey and Goofy or Donald, as you choose. Albert Gonzalez As to the two new moons of Pluto, I think we should explore the Walt Disney side of things and call them Mickey and Daffy. Jim Lyon I think Robert Anton Wilson already worked this out in Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy: Pluto's new companions simply have to be Mickey and Goofy... :-) Re: Pluto's moons. Whilst I too would like "them" to stay with the theme, I must admit that my first thoughts came down to these few: Romulus & Remus, Tom & Jerry and GNU & Linux. Sigh... sad or what... Colin Sharples Hi Lester, For the names of the two new moons how about Bush and Blair because neither of them are of any practical use to mankind at all? Andy I humbly suggest the names "Iran" and "Syria" for Pluto's two recently-discovered moons. Should they be so named, Bush and Blair will no doubt wish to invade them to bring freedom and democracy to those struggling Plutonians who have too long lived under the oppressive yoke of their dictatorial overlords. Dan Halford Right, that's enough frivolity. Let's get down to something serious - like brooadband. Apparently (and non-UK readers can look away now) British Telecom is upping its broadband speeds across most of its network: I always thought that the UK was more advanced than France as far as the Internet is concerned. Internet penetration in households was always higher than this side of the Channel and broadband arrived earlier. Yet, here I sit behind a computer that has had a 10mbps connection for about a year. And that speed would be 20mbps if the local loop was unbundled by France Telecom. What went wrong?!?! Godwin Stewart What went wrong? This is Britain, for God's sake! With most swedish ISPs now offering up to 100Mbit/s as standard, some even offering up to 1Gbit/s (In Lund only) and several other European countries offering 16Mbit/s upwards as standard, isn't it a bit embarassing for BT to call 4 - 8Mbit/s fast? The only ones they're going to impress with such figures are possibly the Eircom technical staff. Ian. Which?! Who?! What now?! Is this a free upgrade like the 2Mbit one? Which exchanges? Where do I find more?! Aaarrgghh!! Damn you and your dangling information antics!! No, not really. Though I would like to know if there's any chance of some further information, such as a link to the list of exchanges that aren't getting upgraded? I'm out here in the sticks (whee, snow) and I'd hate to get left behind; I was only able to get broadband a year ago as it is. Cheers. Tim Hale Fair enough - you can find BT's list of exchanges and their status right here. And pity the poor suckers who live 2 miles from a big BT exchange but are connected by cr*ppy quality aluminium cable and only just lucked through the line test to get 512Mb! Yeah, that's me... Failed the 1Mb test on several occasions, including one where the guy on the other end of the phone couldn't even believe I'd managed to get a 512Mb connection installed, let alone working! As for LLU... Pah... Who's gonna want my loop! Steve Evans Not us mate - you can keep your loop, with our blessing. And on the subject of fast internet connections, some ISPs are thinking about throttling connections, thereby limiting useability of apps such as Skype. Well, that was the example we used in the headline: I would like to take issue with the FUD spreading title of your article and question why it is stuck on the front page of the Register. I am a big fan of Skype, I use it on a daily basis to talk to people around the world, I have a Yamamoto Easyblue box that allows me connect my home cordless phones to my PC to use for Skype, and in fact I am dropping my landline in favour of purely using Skype for my home telephony needs. Based on this I was rather perplexed as to the dramatic headline "The real reason Skype isn't as good as it was". The article is fair enough, a *few* ISP's use bandwidth shaping to deter users using P2P apps, but for the vast majority of users, Skype is up and running better than ever. The headline is one thing, but it has now been innexplicably stuck to the front page of the Register for a week and is just serving to put people off trying a great product. Thanks, Andrew Prockter Surely ISPs restricting the flow of VOIP traffic other than their own is a serious anti-trust issue. And if they're (NTL) looking at trialling 100Mb broadband, surely they don't have major problems with network capacity. I just hope they don't trial a 100Mb down / 200Kb up line.... Chris Key I just read your article titled "The real reason Skype isn't as good as it was" on The Register and thought I'd send a quick edit, from the article: The number of file sharers has risen dramatically, says Sandvine. "Users are moving from sharing three meg songs to uploading and downloading 600 gig movies. That means that service providers have had to apply a lot of traffic assistance for this increased traffic." I know Lord of the Rings was a long movie - but 600 gigs? Surely that should be megs? Regards, Haydn. No, that's right - Lord of the Rings was possibly the longest movie ever. Or at least it seemed like it. Mac OS vulnerabilities - guaranteed to generate some traffic: All this noise being generated over Mac vulnerabilities and the fact that a member of the 'security community' himself created a virus 'just to prove that it can be done' smacks very hard of the great desire of the producers of anti-virus software to find new markets for their products. In over a decade of driving a Mac I have never once worried about viruses. As soon as more former Windows friends get real sick and tired of having to update their anti-virus definitions every 15 minutes or so and they migrate to a platform that doesn't suffer from the same ailment, we see them bringing along the virtues of their 'cultural diversity' and now I have to start taking security seriously. Thank you very much. To make real sure that we don't forget that 'Mac OS X is not invulnerable' the security industry itself tries to prove its relevance really hard by producing a virus of their own, a hands-on approach to creating your own market the likes of which I have not seen many times before.You have to ask yourself whether they have not created some of the best Windows virii themselves. You know, just to keep the business going... I could have done without that one more worry that is going to compromise my computer use one way or another somewhere down the line. Arguing that it's much more productive to just use the machine, warts and all, for the purposes it was intended to is undoubtedly testimony to a naivety that we just can't have in this world. I -must- be security conscious because there are so many people on this planet that have no practical use for their life and by jove I, and countless others, will suffer the agony of their existance. How else would we know they are here, right? Vermin, the lot of them! Jorge ALL of the recent security attacks rely on users accepting or giving permission to the application to elevate it's privileges. IF they deny the application the superuser rights it's craves then the whole system won't be compromised, just what the user has rights to. I think people need to be better educated as to using MacOSX and the security implications of giving applications root access when requested. But the traditional virus as we see on other platforms which spreads by itself or by leaving a floppy in the drive so it attempts to boot aren't here yet, I'm not saying they won't but they'll take a lot more effort to write to combat the traditional UNIX security features like seprate memory and spereate user and system spaces. Even though we have these exploits, OSX is still MORE secure than anything that will ever come out of Redmond. Aaron Johnson Right, on with the show with a section entitled "kick the Reg", featuring a litany of errors, snafus and general misdemeanours. First up, something about schizophrenia: You appear to be confusing schizophrenia with dissociative identity disorder, sometimes known as multiple personality disorder or "split personality". The two are not related. The name "schizophrenia" (Greek for "divided mind"), does not refer to a splitting of personalities, but more a dissociation of the external and internal universes. More information can be found on Wikipedia, which is always right: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia Regards, A schizophrenia sufferer with only one identity (withheld) Nigerian email scammers: not someone you want to meet everyday every day: >> I figured everyday I was eating up Mr Ibrahim's time, << Oops - better command of the English language ? "Everyday" = normal, ordinary (adjective) Regards, Mike A botanist writes: Tim Price is talking garbage when he refers to " this plant also known as 'Morning Glory' ". For the record, Morning Glory are members of the the Convolvulaceae family, of which common species include Rivea Corymbosa and Ipomoea Violacea ('Heavenly blue'). They have no connection with Banisteriopsis caapi, which is of the Malpighiaceae family, apart from the fact that, as one of your other correspondents writes, the mixture referred to as 'ayahuasca' often contains both. cheers, Dave Korn Wannabe headline writers beware the pitfalls of "Sting nets two spam scam suspects": So has the former lead singer of The Police turned his tantric skills to spam busting then?* Stuart Gray * This comes to you as part of the "Give an old joke a Home" appeal. If you feel it in your heart to make a donation, please contact the sender of this email for a bank account number. Then add yopu r name to the bottom of the list and ... (deleted due to lack of space) Yup, bless 'im. When he's not shagging the missus for thirteen days or saving the rainforest, young Sting likes to wind down by indulging in a bit of roving melodic anti-spam vigilanteism. Remember: you read it here first. Some chap from Gizmondo wrapped his Ferrari round a telegraph poll. At the scene, the cops found a gun clip/magazine (delete as appropriate): I might not be the first (nor the last) person to write this, but just in case I would like to point out that the terms "clip" and "magazine" - as they relate to firearms - are not interchangeable. A magazine is the box-like spring-loaded structure that goes into the hole in the firearm with a satisfying "click". (Usually slammed home roughly with the heel of the hand or the palm in action films.) Clips on the other hand are not as common nowadays but they are still used - a Google image search for "mauser clip" will trim the results sufficiently to get you good images of loaded clips. They are thin sheet-metal things that hold a row of cartridges (a "bullet" is the part that flies out the barrel - the entire thing is called a cartridge or 'round' as in 'one round of ammunition'). For firearms that use clips, the magazine is usually an integral part of the gun - it cannot be removed. The gun's action is held open while the clip is inserted into a notch designed to hold it, and the rounds are pushed down into the gun to refill the magazine - leaving behind the empty clip. An empty clip doesn't look like much, if you were to see a barrel of them, you probably would not guess they had anything to do with firearms. To get technical for a moment, what I just described is more accurately called a "stripper clip" (the rounds are "stripped off"). The Lee-Enfield can be reloaded with a stripper clip, for example. Another kind of clip is the enbloc clip. It is used in another WWII firearm - the Garand. The entire clip is inserted into the gun (like a magazine, but it is technically a clip). When the last round is fired the clip is ejected with a distinctive "PING" sound. In any case, hope I shared something useful. Regards, Don Papp Trust us, you were the only person to set the record straight on this. Good job, though. More arithmnetical blunders now, to compliment that featured in last week's letters:. Just read your letters page about poor vulture arithmetic in that RSI piece, only to find the following in an article on IMS (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/02/24/telcos_collaborate_for_ims/) "70 per cent of the experiment will work reasonably well, ten per cent probably won't work at all, and that the remaining 30 per cent..." That's 110 per cent then? That scrubbing brush is going to get worn down to a stub Michael K Vegfruit Which would you vote for: retention or prevention? The UK's keenness to push through tough data prevention laws during its stint in charge of the European Union (EU) has won it the "Internet Villain Award" at this year's net industry awards. Typo. Ought to be Retention, not prevention, surely. Get that spell checker sorted out or lay off the gin. Jez Data prevention, eh? We'll drink to that. Right, that's enough Reg-bashing. Let's get down and dirty with something of import, like that filthy MS New Zealand Office advert: "Dinosaur head" is an apt description for Microsoft - that particular series of advertisements not only demonstrates a poor grasp of English grammar, it also shows that the Microsoft Corporation regards "data" as a singular noun. I've never forgiven Microsoft for inventing the word "unmovable" when they created their disk defragmentation tool, which leaves immovable data (plural) where they were found, unless of course MS staff pirated their version of the word from the Bible (OK, yes, it's in there) and presented it as the company's own intellectual property, but they wouldn't do that, would they...? (don't mention Burst.com). I mean, I know that they are American, but even then... You wrote: > Fantastic. For the record, an MS operative confirmed this morning that this is "an old > advertisement which ran only in New Zealand for a short period and is no longer being used". For the love of all that's Holy, why not? < Because it angers and alienates 51% of Microsoft's potential customers. Alisa Neeman hiya Lester: Study the photo more carefuly, look at the bulging sheet. the bloke is masturbating, thats why the bird is annoyed. There more to this advert than first impressions, prob why it got pulled. regards Malcolm The bloke in the ad looks disturbingly like Bill Gates. Now *that* is just too high a price to pay. David Harper Brilliant bit of advertising, that. Thanks for sharing. Of course, it becomes a bit more interesting if you consider that it's the "Student _and_ Teacher Edition" and we question whether it's necessarily a pair of _students_ in the pic. Just a thought from a sad (married), lonely (married) high school teacher. Cheers, Michael Ahh, but the interesting thing is that this ad is not AIMED at the geek... let's just analyse this a minute, eh? The ad is implying that the person reading it may have to pay to get their assignments done. This is not likely to be the geek, as he's got the smarts to get things done, right? It must be the blonde girl next to him who has 'paid' to get her assignment done. You see, the ad is actually addressing the beautiful people, who may or may not have to get a geek to do things for them. It's saying to them: "Look here! You don't have to be beholden to those nerds anymore. If you buy our Office for Students, you can do the work yourself!" The horrific implication here, that I think your article may have omitted, is that with this ad, Microsoft was actually trying to take away what little currency exists for us geeks to get laid in this world. Of course, I have a beautiful fiancee, so I'm not too worried. But I've been there, and it's a sad world to be in. It would be even worse if the non-geeks of this world didn't have to rely on us! ;-) Francis Mr. Haines, Bah this is old news it appeared "somewhere on the net" on "sometime before today" so you are a bunch of "reporters", because *I* had NOT seen it 'til THIS morning !! Don't forget the old French (I think) MS commercial showing off their security by stopping some poor lad from undressing his girl ! [And the anti-Sun "car-ride" video featuring Bill & Steve !!] They DO have a sense of humor ! Then again, they MUST. Thanks for the early morning chuckle !! Second best way to start the day ! Jim B === Hi Lester, Regarding the prurient MS Office ad, "old" and "no longer being used" are a bit misleading. For the record, it appears in the current issue of 'Salient', the weekly student magazine at Victoria University here in Wellington, NZ. I will avoid rising to the bait of "unseen in the civilised world" ... Cheers Frank. Linux programmers have plenty of sex with women, thank you very much.. but you seem to know a lot about not having sex, huh ? :) Oooh er, the enraged Linus programmers are out to get us - if they can find time between shagging gorgeous Brazilian supermodels and eating cold pizza (the best way to start the day). Right, we've had enough of this now and it's time to go to the pub for a couple of pints of gin. To wrap it up, let's have a couple of quickies: Re: Bird flu licence plate Interestingly the RAC data search (http://www.rac.co.uk/web/carbuying/vehicle_data_search/) doesn't come up with anything for HN51FLU... I also notice that the entrepreneurial fellow has upped the buy it now price by £5k since you featured it - what kind of cut are you getting? Mark Knowles For the record - 10 per cent, 15 minutes with Giselle Bundchen and as much gin as we can neck in an hour. And finally, we at El Reg know better than most that you mock Candian rock legends Rush at your peril. God alone knows what John Leyden thought he was doing, then, when he decided to indulge in a light bit of Rush-bashing: As a Rush fan I should be incensed by your slanderous, defamatory etc comments. However, if there's one thing I've learned from my time on the Internet, it's don't get into flame wars about Rush :-) So I feigning un-incencedness. Don't be surprised if FotW is from a Rush fan though... I can foresee a Rush fan or two buying one of these pads and re-enacting their drum solo of choice... Though not me of course. I'm a bass player. Cheers, Andy PS No, I'm not Canadian Well thank God for that. Have a good weekend and, if you're a Linux programmer, try and save a little bit of energy from those 12-hour Sunday tantric sex marathons with the Brazilian female beach volleyball team - we're expecting you back bright and early on Monday. ®
Graphics chip maker XGI has said it is to move away from desktop products and focus instead on embedded and server applications. The statement, made yesterday, came amid claims the company was about to be bought by ATI, and follows 3Dlabs decision to focus on embedded and mobile phone graphics chips.
DMFDMF This may not be news to most of you, but in light of DiMA's Jonathan Potter blaming music publishers for the sorry state of digital downloads, it's a topical reminder. Music companies - and we blur the distinction deliberately for the moment, for the sake of simplicity - paid songwriters in two ways. For what they called 'licensing' - for masters and movie soundtracks, for example - the artist took home 50 per cent of the deal. For 'royalties', the artist typically gained or 20 per cent of wholesale or 10 per cent of retail. Along came the digital download services. When the labels cut deals for their catalogs with third parties, they considered it a royalty, rather than a licensing deal. That reduced the amount of money going to songwriters overnight. Now many of these deals were with wholesalers such as Iris, or Orchard, who are essentially intermediaries in the distribution chain. To you, a deal between a label and a distributor may look like a wholesale deal, and walk like a wholesale deal, but it doesn't quack like a wholesale deal. The labels regarded it as a retail deal. So overnight the artists' cut fell from 50 per cent to 10 per cent. Attorney and author Steve Gordon, who was at Sony Music at the time, put it quite succinctly: "It's all about fucking the artist." ® De-obfuscation: By law, the music collection agencies who operate on behalf of songwriters in the US cannot refuse a license. Getting money from the deal is another question. The big four labels own the major publishers, although this is in a state of flux, with the third and fourth biggest labels (EMI and Warner) looking to merge: they own the two largest publishers, and divestment is a possibility.
Nvidia has posted software that allows certain GeForce graphics chips to decode video encoded using H.264 format. But it wants up to $49.95 for the Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center plug-in.
Amazon has decided to relocate its customer service centre to Cork in a bid to take advantage of stronger language skills in Ireland. The workforce in perennial joke-butt Slough doesn't have the necessary polyglotism required to deal with calls from all over Europe, it says. Headquarters will stay in Slough, but 90 call centre and support staff face relocation. Combined with expansion, the move will create up to 450 jobs on Cork's Airport industrial estate. European customer services chief Jim Adkins offered the FT a banal explanation for getting the movers in: "As our business has grown, and as we have expanded the categories of products we offer, we need to expand our customer service support as well." A dearth of French and German speakers is behind the shift to Cork. A 2005 European Commission poll revealed the UK lags behind its near neighbour in language skills, with just 30 per cent of the population able to converse in a second tongue, to the Irish's 41 per cent. The news can only make things worse for Slough - long regarded as Britain's most depressing place to live and visit. The BBC recently took pity on the wretched setting for The Office by sending a team of "happiness experts" to cheer the place up in its series "Making Slough Happy". For the uninitiated, John Betjemen's poem "Slough" sums up the ambient despair rather eloquently. ®
Script kiddies have latched onto a minor glitch in Symantec security software to boot users off Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels. Typing “startkeylogger” or “stopkeylogger” in an IRC channel results in the involuntary logoff of users of Norton Firewall and Norton Internet Security suites, The Washington Post reports. The commands mimic those used by the infamous Spybot worm, a botnet client with multiple variants, some of which spread over IRC and peer-to-peer file-swapping networks, that installs a backdoor onto compromised systems. Symantec’s software doesn’t recognise the context of the commands and therefore takes fright, exiting IRC channels with the response “Read error: Connection reset by peer” whenever the dreaded Spybot-style phrases are uttered. A number of IRC channels have reportedly started filtering out the phrase. Symantec said it would fix the bug, which is best described as a “minor quirk”. IRC channels are full of pranksters and mischief makers who’ve undoubtedly had some fun with the Symantec glitch, even though it’s unlikely to have affected more than a handful of people. ®
More than 6m books and other culturally significant works are to go online via the European Digital Library over the next five years. The ambitious scheme will involve establishing centres throughout Europe dedicated to rendering works in a digital format, partially funded by the European Commission. The commission plans to establish a framework for setting up the library that respects intellectual property rights. The commission also published the results of a consultation on the digital libraries initiative on Thursday, which revealed opinions are divided on copyright issues, in particular between cultural institutions and right holders. On the practical side, the European Digital Library will build upon the TEL (The European Library) infrastructure, which also gives access to a range of digitised resources of the participating libraries. By the end of 2006, the European Digital Library should involve collaboration among all the national libraries in the EU. Over coming years this will be expanded to include archives and museums. Two million books, films, photographs, manuscripts, and other cultural works will be accessible through the European Digital Library by 2008. A figure that will rise to at least 6m by 2010, as potentially every library, archive and museum in Europe will be able to link its digital content to the online resource. The commission intends to work with member states to thrash out a plan to tackle barriers to digitisation and online accessibility by the middle of this year. Before the end of the year, commission proposals will address broader issues such as intellectual property rights management of digital content. ®
Episode 9Episode 9 "Is it a full moon?" I ask the PFY disgustedly as I put the phone down for the third time this morning. "Could be," the PFY says, deleting a swathe of jobs from the helpdesk system.
A top Cambridge astronomer has warned that star-gazing will be impossible by the middle of this century. Professor Gerry Gilmore said ground-based telescopes would be "worthless" if cheap air travel continues to boom and climate change increases cloud cover as predicted. He said to reporters: "You either give up your cheap trips to Majorca, or you give up astronomy. You can't do both." Condensation from jets - contrails - contributes to the overall murkiness of the atmosphere, Gilmore said: "The rate at which they're expanding in terms of their fractional cover of the stratosphere is so large that if predictions are right, in 40 years it won't be worth having telescopes on Earth anymore - it's that soon." Optical and infra-red astronomy on Earth will be the casualties - radio telescopes will continue to peer through cloud cover. ®
US Department of Justice investigators have begun to probe major music labels' download pricing policies, sources close to the world's four biggest recording companies told Billboard magazine.
Intel appears to be preparing to launch is ultra-mobile PC on 7 March, if the umpc.com website is anything to go by. The date is just two days before the deadline set by Microsoft's Origami Project website for more information about the Windows XP-based consumer-friendly tablet PC.
Google promised Wall St the world yesterday, as it sought to steady nervy analysts who have wiped billions of its stock value in recent weeks. CEO Eric Schmidt lifted the roof of the Googleplex a touch when he told a meeting of analysts he reckoned the firm could become a $100bn company, the Associated Press reports. However, Schmidt did not say whether that would be $100bn in sales or in market cap. If he meant revs, that would be quite a jump on the $1.6bn it turned in last year. Whatever kind of a target Schmidt had in mind, he said it was achievable as the company pushed into new advertising channels. Execs also said they expected to top last year’s $838m capital investment, as it further racks up its computing muscle. It will suck in people as quickly as processors, it added, though this will mainly be outside the US. Schmidt also said Microsoft was still the company that was the biggest threat, mainly because of its history of strangling promising startups at birth or shortly after. All this was uncommonly open for Google, which is happy to circulate details of what it serves up in its staff canteens, but won’t give Wall Street financial guidance. However, recent concerns over the company’s growth rate, partially stoked by CGO George Reyes, led to a major slip in its share price. ®
The new dotcom contract undermines ICANN's integrity and "poses unacceptable risks to the values that underly ICANN's mission", one of the internet watchdog's own board members said. In statements released today over the controversial contract passed earlier this week, new member Susan Crawford pulled no punches in her dissection of the deal. She also has the support of other board members, including some that voted in favour of the deal. The contract, which awards control of all dotcom domains to VeriSign until at least 2012, was ratified on Tuesday by nine votes for, five against, and one abstention. Board dissension over the deal was widely known, and two special meetings were held to push the deal through before ICANN's public meeting later this month. Todays statements reveal the degree of disagreement at the top of the organisation, and reflect the internet community's dislike for the new contract. Crawford said the agreement damages ICANN's reputation, undermines its mission as a forum for policy development, and disrupts its effectiveness. She said: "We will need to evaluate how ICANN should be structured and should operate for the future, so that crises of confidence like that created by this proposed agreement can be avoided." Other board members rallied to her cry. Raimundo Beca raised points about the secrecy of the deal and the long and short-term impacts of ratification. Njeri Rionge said the main reason behind her decision to vote against the deal was that "the community with whom we are representing are clearly not in favour of this agreement". But among the camp that favoured that deal, Veni Markovski marked it as "a positive step forwards, as it puts an end to a long-lasting tension which was driving ICANN away from its main job". Instead, he laid the blame on the ICANN community that he said was only interested in finding problems, rather than solutions. But, he says: "I agree with Susan that we need to start to talk about ICANN and its role in a changing environment. We'll see soon whether this was a 'good day for the internet', or a 'death sentence' for ICANN." Collectively, the board members that approved the deal released a statement which said the decision to approve the contract was made based on four main factors. It claimed the "presumptive right of renewal" granted to VeriSign - effectively permanent control of the dotcom registry - was in the previous contract with VeriSign and as such was not a "substantive change". Secondly, it said the agreement was the best it could expect given the lawsuits VeriSign holds against it. The third factor is an attempt to explain why the agreement was reached behind closed doors. Private negotiations were "an essential element of ICANN’s ability to obtain an agreement", the statement says. It also claims that the public comment process was sufficient for objections to be raised. And finally, the issue of VeriSign's ability to raise dotcom prices by seven per cent a year was ICANN's attempt to "loosen the artificial constraints that have existed on the pricing of .com and other registries". The statements are a radical departure from the organisation's usual approach of complete silence on board discussion and feeling, and as such will be warmly greeted by those that argue ICANN's opaqueness is a major contributing factor to its problems. However, the fact that such strong disagreement is present on the ICANN board is only likely to encourage critics of the deal, of which there are many. ® Related links Individual statements by board members Board joint statement
The South Korean government may be about to investigate claims that local memory makers Samsung and Hynix conspired to fix memory prices, a senior official from the nation's Fair Trade Commission has suggested.
Ofcom has published the results of a survey assessing the extent of media literacy in the UK. It finds that media platforms are seen mainly in 'traditional' terms, with little widespread recognition of their wider digital functions. Ofcom, as telecommunications regulator, is obliged by the Communications Act of 2003 to promote media literacy in the UK. It defines media literacy as the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts. The survey of 3,244 respondents found that television was the most familiar media platform, with most people being aware of the watershed and how particular channels are funded. But the research shows that TV is still being used in a largely traditional way, with only 30 per cent of those with digital TV having made use of the interactive features. Seventy-seven percent of respondents had access to digital radio services, but one third were unaware that they could access the services through their digital TV or the internet. Only 27 per cent of all respondents had ever listened to digital radio, but of these, 68 per cent said they now listened to more radio stations. Most people who used the internet said they did so in order to access information, while almost 75 per cent of internet users used email at least weekly. Age was found to be a significant indicator of the extent and types of media literacy. Mobile phones were seen to be a pervasive media technology for the 16 to 24 age group, while those aged 65 and over appeared to have significantly lower levels of media literacy than other age groups. With regard to mobile phones, the 16 to 24 age group was found to be comfortable with the wider functionality of the devices, while older users tended to use them mostly for communication. According to the research, levels of concern about content vary across platforms, with there being little concern over mobile phone content and more concern over internet content. A sizeable minority of internet users were found not to be confident about blocking viruses or email scams. Many people, especially the elderly, said they preferred to learn media skills from family and friends or by themselves, rather than in formal groups. The highest area of interest for many people was in learning how to use the internet, the survey said. One third of people said they were interested in learning more about digital platforms and services. See: The Ofcom report (89-page / 1.2MB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Geek TVGeek TV And the Oscar for best HD movie line-up goes to... Sky, which has now secured a batch of Disney films to add to its various HD channels. But you know how Oscar-winning movies often aren't out in the UK for ages after the red carpet has been mothballed? Well, in tribute to the Oscars, Sky is making us wait before we can see the films as the gods of HDTV intended. And wait. But don't fret over the delay in Sky's HD service launch. Instead, pass the time with another new movie channel, Eat Cinema. The 24/7 channel launched last Monday with a line-up including film news and plenty of T4-flavoured Hollywood gossip. It's no coincidence that the channel launched just in time for the Oscars, which you can watch all night on Sunday on our old friend Sky Movies. If you fancy placing a bet or five, ValueChecker has all the latest odds, including 1/2 on for King Kong to win for the visual FX. Meanwhile, back in reality land, the past week has been the best of times and the worst of times. The Apprentice continues to delight, but BBC1's Just the Two of Us should be hauled up before Sour Sugar and given a sound firing. Police drummer Stewart Copeland - yes, he's got a gig as a judge on a minor-celebrity singing competition - has aged into the uncanny spawn of Hugh Laurie and Beaker from The Muppet Show. And Lulu needs to be drowned in a sack. I don't want to end on a downer, so here's some good news: The IT Crowd and Peep Show have both been recommissioned. Yep, all that scaremongering was a pile of nonsense, probably put about by C4 to make us buy DVDs and set up Save Peep Show/Save Moss petitions. Five things to watch this week The IT Crowd, Friday 3 March, C4, 9.30pm Last visit to the IT basement for the time being sees Jen getting her "time of the month", with terrifying consequences for Moss. Planet Earth, Sunday 5 March, BBC1, 10pm The Attenborough is back in the biggest-ever series from the Beeb's Natural History Unit. The first episode of "awe-inspiring landscapes and rarely-spotted creatures" sees Dave in the Arctic. Bears! Wolverines! Looks a bit chilly! The Oscars, Sunday 5 March, Sky Movies 1, 12.05am (Monday) That time of year again. You'd never have guessed. Comedy Connections, Monday 6 March, BBC1, 10.35pm Fab series is back with a brief history of The Fast Show, best TV sketch show of all time. Excited to the point of dampness. Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe, Thursday 9 March, BBC4, 10.30pm TV version of the weekly telly column by Guardian smartass and Nathan Barley creator, Charlie Brooker.
Intel has warned that its first-quarter sales will not meet its expectations, thanks not only to demand proving less substantial than the chip giant had anticipated, but - AMD watchers will love this - a "slight market segment share loss".
Yes, it looks like something that landed near Roswell, but this Skype-certified speakerphone will land in the UK later this month, its manufacturer, US Robotics, said this week. Officially dubbed the USR9610, the £50 gadget connects to a host PC's USB port and then via the VoIP network to callers around the globe.
A federal jury has found six animal rights protestors guilty of using their website to incite attacks on the operations of animal testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences. They face jail time of up to 23 years and hefty fines. The six were charged with violating the US' Animal Enterprise Protection Act. During the trial, held in New Jersey, defence lawyers argued the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) activists were not advocating violence on the site, despite listing names, home addresses and personal details of Huntingdon employees. However, prosecutors were able to satisfy the jury that although they could not directly prove the six had themselves participated in violence, they had celebrated it online and repeatedly claimed credit for action. The website is no longer running. The URL now leads to a message saying: "I'm sorry the site has been shut down. You may wish to visit the UK site." Prosecutor Charles B McKenna was also able to produce phone records showing that SHAC president Kevin Kjonaas, one of those convicted yesterday, called a man charged with bombing a California biotech lab soon after the explosion. The jury saw a protest video of group director Lauren Gazzola, also convicted yesterday, warning targets: "The police can't protect you!" McKenna praised the decision, noting that the First Amendment does not give the right to incite violence. SHAC was set up in the UK in 1999 with the sole aim of closing down British firm Huntingdon Life Sciences, which conducts animal experiments. Its campaign has been described as "terrorist" by the FBI. The American arm targeted the firm's New Jersey labs. Huntingdon general manager Mike Caulfield today said the verdict was: "A victory for democracy, research and patients." The landmark case is the first prosecution under the US Animal Enterprise Protection Act, since its enaction in 1992. Science and industry lobbyists have lately called for the law to be tightened in the face of increasingly vociferous attacks. UK lobby group the Research Defence Society director Dr Simon Festing told El Reg the verdict was "fantastic news". He feels the tide is finally turning in the battle with animal rights extremists. The society supports the Pro-Test movement, which last weekend held a demonstration supporting Oxford University's new animal testing lab. Outside court, new SHAC USA president Pam Ferdin said the verdict was an attack on free speech and that with its founders locked up the group would now likely disband. Ferdin - a former child star and the voice of Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon series - complained: "Anyone who writes anything in an email or on a website is being treated like we're in a fascist state." A SHAC UK spokesperson declined to comment today, citing legal concerns before the six find out their punishment. Five of the protesters are being held without bail until sentencing. ®
The US Senate has approved a new version of the so-called "Patriot" Act at last, by a vote of 89-10. After months of stalling and pointless posturing that made two temporary extensions of the previous version necessary, Senators knuckled down and gave the Bush Administration what it has been asking for all along. Although the Senate did tack on a few cosmetic improvements, such as an exemption for libraries from warrantless searches and a provision allowing victims of national security letters to challenge in court the automatic gag order attached to them, the bulk of the Act's more objectionable provisions are now set to become permanent. The Senate version is now close enough to the House version to be approved in the House and sent to the White House, where it is certain to be signed, most likely next week. Apparently, there are only two possibilities in the minds of the Act's Republican backers: a powerful police state, or mass extinction at the hands of terrorists. As US Senator James Bunning (Republican, Kentucky) explained, "civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead." Meanwhile, US Senator Arlen Specter (Republican, Pennsylvania), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has spoken of holding hearings with a mind to creating new legislation that will undo some of the serious damage done to civil liberties and necessary checks on government power by the Pat Act. Whether that will amount to more than a theatrical exercise might depend on how far Congress goes in investigating the Bush Administration's illegal domestic spying racket via the NSA. House Republicans are likely to turn that into a whitewash, so there's little chance that indignation will spill over into momentum useful for getting the Pat Act under control. Still, it could happen, and is an outcome worth hoping for, at least. ®
A Blairite thinktank has criticised the media's treatment of science stories. The Daily Mail came in for particular bashing for its whipping-up of the MMR controversy. The Social Market Foundation's pamphlet "Science, Risk and the Media: Do the front pages reflect reality?" calls for caution in science reporting. They say public mistrust of science is exacerbated by sensationalist stories. Director Ann Rossiter said: "Misreporting can have fatal consequences. In 1998 the Daily Mail devoted some 700 stories to MMR creating the erroneous impression that the vaccine was dangerous." Quite right too. We'd love to give full details of the report's many recommendations, but I think I'm coming down with bird flu. Must've been weakened by those Frankenstein foods I ate. ®
Apple UK doesn't believe PCs are as naff as its Stateside parent company does. Don't believe us? Just take a look at the company's TV adverts for Intel-based Macs. In the original, US-oriented ad, Apple takes a dig at "dull" PCs, but in the version cleared for UK audiences the d-word is peculiarly absent.
SGI's new CEO has wasted no time performing a major shakeup at the server company. Moves announced today include substantial layoffs, executive departures and SGI's plans to tweak its server business. SGI will fire close to 12 per cent of its workforce - 250 staffers - in the hopes of saving some extra cash. Word of the layoffs arrives just about a month after SGI moved former CEO Bob Bishop aside and tapped Dennis McKenna as its new chief. SGI heralded the layoffs as proof of McKenna's quick, decisive action, issuing a statement titled "CEO Delivers Aggressive Changes in First 30 Days as Part of Turnaround." "As promised in late January, the goal for my first 30 days at SGI was to solidify a strong business foundation and assemble an organization that is laser-focused on execution," said McKenna. "We've made tough decisions and we thank all SGI employees for their hard work and commitment." Er, yeah, thanks to you too, Dennis. It was a great month together. The McKenna Effect carried over to SGI's executive suite. CFO Jeff Zellmer and COO Warren Pratt are leaving the company to "pursue personal interests." Kathy Lanterman, the corporate controller, will become CFO. Here's where SGI's future plans become more complex. "The company will consolidate its compute server and visualization platform, and support customers' visualization needs by leveraging best-of-breed, industry-standard, and open-source graphics partnerships," SGI said. "In addition, the Company will aggressively pursue new markets in the enterprise space, which are an excellent match for SGI's highly scalable servers and high-performance storage solutions. SGI helps these companies efficiently manage big data problems through its unique technologies, including its NUMAflex global shared memory, NAS and SAN solutions. Finally, the company will bring new products to market within different price/performance bands, specifically targeting the mid-range." To us, this reads like SGI is exiting the graphics business and moving to be more of a general purpose server maker with a focus on high performance computing. We, however, struggle to believe that's the case. When pushed by us on this issue, SGI would only add the following: "SGI will continue to sell to the high-performance technical computing space. We are adding to our sales targets segments of the enterprise that have high-performance computing needs, such as telcos or very large database users. "We are consolidating our server and visualization product lines into one." ®
Stern responseStern response Last week, I wrote about the need for the likes of Wal-Mart and Dell to set up engineering and computer science training centers in Mexico. This proposal - which is the only way the US can defeat the growing Asian peril - has been well received.
CrackBerry users will not have to face the pains of messaging withdrawal thanks to a $613m settlement between Research in Motion (RIM) and NTP. RIM paid up to settle all patent infringement claims made by NTP. In addition, it has acquired a perpetual license for NTP's IP. Blackberry users everywhere will rejoice as it appeared RIM might have to shut down its messaging service as part of the ongoing dispute with NTP.