21st > March > 2006 Archive

God smiles on Sun and delivers grid computing miracle

At long last, Sun Microsystems will fire up its retail grid computing service and give any US customer access to a supercomputer class system. Casual Sun observers will be scratching their heads right about now, believing that Sun had already announced such a service a long time ago. That's correct. Sun first "launched" its $1 per CPU hour plan in September 2004. At that time, Sun promised a number of massive server farms packed with thousands of Opteron and UltraSPARC processors that would be available to anyone would wanted them. Sun, however, got a bit ahead of itself with all that talk. As we pointed out last Oct., Sun has managed to attract large customers to its server farms. But these folks don't use the $1 per CPU hour utility model championed by Sun. They prefer to buy fixed space on the Sun clusters and use the horsepower to crunch through demanding jobs. No one would claim that this type of contemporary time-sharing was a terribly innovative breakthrough. The juicer part of Sun's plans revolved around the idea that any company could pop onto a web site, enter a credit card number and then access as many CPUs as they needed. Sun has spent the last 18 months trying to make this happen. First, it battled the basic logistics behind creating a massive publicly accessible cluster, then it battled the government. Regulators didn't care for the idea that rogue nations could log on to the Sun cluster and design nuclear weapons or run dirty bomb simulations in their spare time. It seems unlikely that an Axis of Evil member would want to leave such an obvious trail of their activities, including their Visa account, in the hands of Sun and its three-letter friends. But, hey, everyone likes frequent flier miles. Sun has managed to assuage the government's fears by making the initial Sun grid a US thang only. "We engaged with the folks who monitor technology export control for the US Government (if there's a harder civil service job in the government, I'd like to know it) - who helped us ensure the grid wouldn't be accessible to people with nefarious intent," wrote Sun Prez Jonathan Schwartz on his glob. "They understood we wanted to make this as simple as applying for an eBay account - we'll be close, but we've got to have a higher level of scrutiny (which is why, when you apply for an account, it'll take a few hours, and won't be instantaenous - but that's our goal)." Sun does plan to open the grid up to international customers one day. The grid that US customers find will be less ambitious than the one originally promised by Sun. Instead of myriad centers with 5,000 dual-core CPUs each, Sun will open one center with "less than" 5,000 dual-core CPUs. Schwartz said that the grid will officially open "in a few days." It will reside at the fancy network.com url. That's easy enough to remember. Sun also owns www.thenetworkisthecomputer.com but, er, hasn't put anything up on the site. Overall, Sun should get some credit for sticking this thing out. There's something rather egalitarian about the whole idea. Plenty of businesses have large jobs that could benefit from a huge clusters of systems, but they're not about to spend millions and millions on the servers, cooling, and admins needed to run such a beast for one or two specific workloads. Now, they can send these occasional jobs off to Sun. It's a bit like supercomputing for the masses. In addition, this whole use your credit card for CPUs does bring the entire industry closer to a real utility computing vision. That said, we wonder how well this plays out in the long run. We're estimating that Sun could pull in about $44m in revenue per year for every 5,000 CPU cluster, or twice that if Sun settles on a per core model. (Someone please check our math on that). And that's with every CPU humming 24 hours a day. Sun would have to run a heck of a lot of these centers to generate meaningful revenue. So, let's see what happens. ®
Ashlee Vance, 21 Mar 2006
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Sun bangs NetBeans drum

Sun Microsystems hopes to take some of shine off this week's EclipseCon open source conference by unveiling new NetBeans tools and support for Java developers. Sun is offering developers using its Java programming tools paid per-incident online support for its NetBeans, Java Studio Creator, Java Studio Enterprise, Sun Studio 11 and Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE). The Developer Expert Assistance program costs $99 per incident, and comes as Sun tries to do a better job of explaining its support options to developers. Sun director of developer marketing Jean Elliott told The Register other support options would be clarified during the coming weeks. She promised a single page explaining Sun's support, putting Sun only several years behind rivals also providing tools and platforms. "In the past we have made that information available but it was more difficult to find," Elliott said. "We are pulling together many of the services offerings we have had and making sure they are clearly communicated." Elliott said the push comes as the company recognises the "strategic importance" of developer support. She claimed the Software Developer Network (SDN), home to Sun's Java tools and projects, will reach one million registered developers by the end of Sun's fiscal year in June - up from just over one million last June. Currently there are 1.75m users, although it is unclear how many are repeat visitors to SDN. Elliot said Sun's decision to give away tools last year helped membership take off. Sun hopes to continue this momentum with latest offerings for its open source NetBeans IDE and framework. The company is releasing a C/C++ plugin for Windows, Linux and Solaris, an updated Java Web Services Developer Pack previewing web services in the next Java SE and Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE), and a free preview edition of NetBeans Enterprise Pack 5.5 for Mac OS X. The news breaks as Sun tries to convince press and analysts that NetBeans is a growing and viable alternative to the Eclipse open source IDE and framework. Eclipse, hosting EclipseCon in Santa Clara, California, this week, has attracted support from a healthy number of platform providers and ISVs since its creation in 2001 and is seen by many as the only serious alternative for the Java camp to Microsoft's .NET and Visual Studio environment. ®
Gavin Clarke, 21 Mar 2006
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EDS wants MOD pound of flesh

US IT services giant EDS is seeking compensation from the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) after being given bum orders for the delivery of a £2.3bn contract. In the firm's annual report, filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week, it said it was trying to get "adjustments" to compensate for the "financial impact" of the MOD having changed its mind about how it wanted its ambitious Defence Information Infrastructure (known as DII) built. According to an MOD spokesman, the value of compensation sought by EDS was "in terms of the overall value of the contract...not significant". But EDS's SEC filing suggested the amount could be significant: "If we do not reach satisfactory resolution with respect to these matters...our revenues, earnings and free cash flow for this contract, or the timing of the recognition thereof, could be adversely impacted. The statement also implied the MOD had failed to meet contractual responsibilities on which EDS was dependent to do its work. In EDS-speak this was reported as "client driven program changes and inability to achieve dependencies". It expects to take a hit to profits and revenues if it fails to get compensation. "We have met client expectations regarding key deliverables under this contract," EDS said, "despite program changes and inability to achieve certain related dependencies that have extended the initial development timeline." The total value of this deal over 10 years, spread between a consortium of suppliers led by EDS, is £4bn. These issues have arisen just a year after the contract was awarded and the month before work was officially due to begin. It was an ambitious project from the outset, and not just because of its size, involving 2,000 jobs and 70,000 desktop computers. It involved the assimilation of umpteen old computer systems into an all embracing network, the kind of task that complicates any IT project. According to analysts at Ovum last year, DII was intended to "change the way the armed forces operate". EDS would be required to manage this organisational change, yet change management is time and again the spanner in the works of government IT projects. There is a severe shortage of people with the skills to manage this aspect. There are other, more commonplace concerns raised by EDS's revelation. What, for example, will be the cost to the MOD of changing its mind about what it wanted from EDS, should it capitulate? According to analysts at Ovum last year, the project was estimated to bring savings of £170m within the first three years. £43m of this was expected to be gleaned in the first year. Will they still be realised? Why did these changes have to be made and why weren't they spotted before? What impact will they have on project timescales and future costs? The MOD provided written answers to some of these questions. The Gershon efficiency review had required some changes, but these had been anticipated, it said. Apparently, the contract "allows for a level of change". It failed to say how changes in orders that had been anticipated and worked into EDS' contract would prompt the supplier to admit it was "working with the client to agree upon the appropriate adjustments provided for under the contract". Contractual negotiations with the MOD prior to signings may have been "aggressive and confrontational", as said one source who had been involved in competitive negotiations for the MOD business before it was let this time last year. "Once you get the contract out of the drawer and start poring over every sentence, then clearly the partnering has broken down," the source added. ®
Mark Ballard, 21 Mar 2006

First Minister of blogging

David Miliband has prompted a heated debate by becoming the first government minister to launch his own blog. It is hosted by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, where Miliband is Communities and Local Government Minister. Miliband says the aim of the blog is to "help bridge the gap – the growing and potentially dangerous gap – between politicians and the public". It will be monitored by the independent Hansard Society as part of a Department for Constitutional Affairs pilot investigating the way central government uses ICT to communicate with the public. Miliband has been experimenting with the blog within his department since the beginning of the year, but it only went live at the end of last week. Because it is being run as part of an official government site, Miliband said it would focus on his ministerial duties and not "lapse into party ranting" or link to other party political sites. But the minister’s inaugural blog has already drawn criticism from respondents. One, 'Harry', said: "If you intend this to be a personal blog why are you using your Government Department's website? How much civil service time is spent drafting/vetting your 'personal' comments? Doing this via a Government website is a misuse of the taxpayers money and also renders the claim of it being a genuinely personal blog suspect." Another, John Zims, wrote: "Another New Labour gimmick/ego trip with the taxpayer picking up the bill." And Kingston councillor and blogger Mary Reid questioned how Miliband would write a blog without being political. She said: "Would his blog become political if he mentions the Labour Party by name? What about endorsing Labour Party policies? Or does it only become political if he comments on the views of other parties?" But if Miliband does become "political", Reid said she would be "celebrating any small step that he takes to give dignity to political activity". Read the blog here. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
eGov Monitor Weekly, 21 Mar 2006

The podcasting rule book

The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society have launched a licensing scheme for music podcasters. The MCPS and PRS plan to assess the operation of the licence and update the scheme early next year. Podcasting is the creation of audio (or video) content for download to a mobile device or computer for an audience to listen to where and when they want to. According to Steve Porter, MD of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the medium has exploded into life over the last six months. "It has quickly moved from the efforts of a few hobbyists into an accepted method of distributing content," he said. "We are introducing this licence as quickly as possible to enable music podcasters to trade legitimately over the next year." The licence will allow podcasters to use the global repertoire of musical works represented by the alliance - some 10m musical works - by granting the necessary writer/publisher permissions for inclusion of their works within the podcast. The royalty rate for the scheme will be the greater of 12 per cent of gross revenue or the minimum fee per track downloaded as part of the podcast: full-track 1.5p; half-track (less than 50 per cent by duration) 0.75p. Under the scheme, where podcasters do not use digital rights management technology on their podcasts, they will have to comply with certain conditions. In particular, the podcaster will be required to: obscure at least 10 seconds at the beginning and end of each individual track played in a podcast with speech or a station ID; deliver podcasts only in their entirety, not individual tracks or portions of a podcast; ensure that music constitutes no more than 80 per cent of the total length of any programme; ensure that the podcast is at least 15 minutes in length; and take all reasonable steps to ensure that individual tracks within a podcast are not capable of being ripped and that metadata or other information or data transmitted or downloaded by the podcaster is not used to identify recordings for download from unauthorised databases or sites. Podcasters will also be obliged not to: produce podcasts that contain recordings from a single artist or that have more than 30 per cent of the musical works written by the same composer or writing partnership; play any individual track more than once in any single programme; provide an electronic guide to the podcast which contains tracks played and corresponding times; insert any flags or other markers in the podcast which may directly indicate or which may be used to indirectly infer the start and end point of tracks or segments of copyright content; incorporate repertoire works into advertising; or use the repertoire in such a way as may be taken to imply that any goods or services are endorsed, advertised or associated with the repertoire or any artist whose performance is contained on the repertoire or any other party who owns rights in connection with the repertoire. The alliance is also providing cover for podcasts that generate low levels of revenue and usage, by incorporating the medium into an update of its Limited Online Exploitation Licence (LOEL) - due to be launched in the second quarter of 2006. Non-music podcasts (e.g. predominantly speech with very little music) will be licensed under a new on-demand scheme for non-music services, which is being prepared for launch at the end of April 2006. The podcast licence is not the first of its kind. AIM, the UK's Association of Independent Music, launched a trial of its own version of the licence back in December. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 21 Mar 2006
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Fujitsu to pay Rambus for third-party DRAM purchases

Rambus has licensed its memory technologies to Fujitsu, presumably allowing the Japanese vendor to buy DRAM from any company it cares to without the fear that Rambus' lawyers will come knocking on its door because it has bought allegedly unlicensed product.
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2006

Generalissimo Blairo 'fesses up on loans

The executive chairman of Capita and a boss of London Bridge software are among those named today for lending the Labour Party some £14m. Because the money was lent, rather than donated, it was free of the usual rules governing donations. The banana republic behaviour was kept secret from the party treasurer Jack Dromey - he launched a furious attack on Blair and "Number Ten" last week. Rod Aldridge's donation, although private, has been singled out because Capita runs dozens of big public sector IT projects. It provides the technology to collect the London congestion charge, runs IT services for 21 local authorities, and has re-tendered for a £120m contract with the DTI. Aldridge, who is an OBE, has said the loan was personal and he expected to receive commercial rates of interest when it was repaid. Gordon Crawford, chairman of London Bridge Software, is the other IT figure named - he lent the party £500,000. Science minister Lord Sainsbury has also been named - he lent the party £2m. Tory Treasurer Jonathan Marland, interviewed on Newsnight, refused to name the people his party borrowed money from. The Tories are believed to have borrowed as much as £20m. General Blairo came to power on an anti-corruption ticket in 1997. Since then, with the help of Tessa Jowell and others, he has reclaimed sleaze, which was the birthright of dishonest Tories. Funding of political parties will now be investigated by Sir Hayden Philips, which could lead to some state funding. The party's National Executive is also meeting to discuss the matter. More from the BBC here and the FT here. ®
John Oates, 21 Mar 2006

Tech bubble banker gets retrial

A US appeals court yesterday overturned the prison sentence imposed on one of the biggest cheerleaders for the dot-com boom of the late 90s. Frank Quattrone ran Credit Suisse First Boston's technology and internet business and took Amazon, Netscape, and others public. He was convicted of obstructing justice and witness tampering in 2004. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, two years' probation, and fined $90,000. CSFB paid $100m, with admitting liability, to settle with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The appeals court yesterday found the jury in the original trial was not properly instructed. Quattrone sent an email, just days after an investigation into CSFB was announced, telling staff to "clean up" files. The jury found this was evidence of wrongdoing, while Quattrone's lawyers claimed he was only guilty if he was aware the statement could be taken as instructions to destroy documents asked for under subpoena by investigators. He was also accused of allocating shares in upcoming flotations to senior figures at client companies. US regulators have already banned Quattrone from Wall Street for life. More on the Seattle Times here and the Beeb here.®
John Oates, 21 Mar 2006
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Dutch coffee shops introduce fingerprint ID

Some Dutch coffee shops, which sell marijuana in small quantities for personal use, are introducing fingerprinting technology to check the age of customers. The shops are not allowed to sell to anyone under the age of 18. Coffee shops currently require photographic ID for proof of age. The first coffee shops to use turnstiles with built-in fingerprint sensors are Inpetto in Rotterdam, Birdy in Haarlem, and 't Rotterdammertje in Doetinchem in the east of the country. Customers must first register with the shops, but personal details will not be stored. The technology has been developed by FingerIdent, a company owned by Gerrie Mansur, one of the members of legendary Dutch hacking group Hit2000. According to Mansur, the system can match 35,000 fingerprints in less than a second. ®
Jan Libbenga, 21 Mar 2006

Intel lining up Q3 Pentium D price cuts?

Intel hasn't launched the dual-core Pentium D 960 yet - it's due late April, we understand - but already it's planning to cut the processor's price, sometime in Q3, according to the latest claims coming out of Taiwan's system builder community.
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2006

Gold in the BI hills

CommentComment Organisations are rarely short of data, but the information it contains is often elusive. Business Intelligence (BI) gives the business user an amazing tool: it turns data into information, making BI an area of huge growth and one where skilled developers are in short supply. It is worth knowing the job roles in a standard BI project so that you can see where you fit in and can secure a lucrative (sorry, useful and effective) role on a BI project.
Mark Whitehorn, 21 Mar 2006

Ofcom proposes to free BT from price controls

BT could be free to charge what it likes for phone services such as line rental and call charges if proposals to scrap 22 years of price controls get the go-ahead. Regulator Ofcom says there is now sufficient competition in the UK's telecoms sector to release BT from its price constraints and allow the market to work without regulatory intervention. Ofcom claims that average call prices have fallen by more than half over the last ten years and that more than 10m households use telcos other than BT for their phone calls. It also points to the increased take-up of VoIP and local loop unbundling as further signs of improved competition in the UK. "Given this, Ofcom believes it is now appropriate to consider allowing existing retail price controls to lapse as increasingly effective competition between providers continues to drive down costs to consumers," the regulator said today. "These developments are also taking place against a background of continued growth in the market for mobile services." Although Ofcom wants to see a free for all, its proposals include some measure of protection for vulnerable groups that would stay in place until the end of 2007. If adopted, the changes would come into force from 1 August. "More than 20 years on, sustained competition, informed customers and the rapid growth of new technology provide the necessary environment for substantial deregulation," Ofcom chief exec Stephen Carter said. However, there are already mutterings that the decision to lift regulation on BT has come too soon and that consumers could lose out in the long run. Indeed, Ofcom will have to ensure that its deregulation of the telecoms industry is handled better than the liberalisation of the director enquiries (DQ) industry. Last year the National Audit Office (NAO) said the regulator made a hash of deregulating the UK's service, leaving punters paying more for a service they're using less. The report added that Ofcom could not "yet demonstrate that, overall, consumers have benefited from liberalisation". ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2006

Philips turns on feature-filled Media Centre system

Philips has begun pitching its entry into the Media Centre PC arena to UK consumers, touting its MPC9350i as the ultimate home entertainment rig, offering music and movie playback, twin TV tuners, hard disk-based PVR functionality, wireless internet access and more.
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2006

Mobile users diss premium content

Mobile users will use almost any kind of media content on their phones, but they won't pay a premium for it. Operators should view mobile content as a way to reduce churn rather than as a new revenue stream, according to a worldwide survey from accountants KPMG. Forty per cent of those questioned said they would not pay a premium for mobile content. Sean Collins, global head of KPMG's Communications practice, said: "Mobile service providers will need to stop thinking of converged services purely as a revenue booster...This is a generation of consumers raised in the internet era, where content is perceived as being free. Therefore, service providers need to follow the internet example themselves. Users told KPMG they would rather have one provider for all services and they also want to receive just one consolidated bill." Ovum senior analyst Michelle Mackenzie said: "It is not surprising the survey reveals that 40 per cent are unwilling to pay a 'premium'. We will only pay a 'premium' for mobility if there is a clear value associated with it. The value of mobile access for many content services is not always so clear." But, Mackenzie believes there is still demand for wireless services, predicting wireless service revenues will grow 13 per cent to $193bn by 2010, and data revenues growing by 78 per cent to $52bn - but 65 per cent of this will still be from messaging. The research also revealed some global differences. Asian users were likely to have used various entertainment services on their phones - which KPMG puts down to long commute times on public transport. In contrast, users in Europe and North America are more likely to have used their phones for accessing email or the internet. KPMG enlisted the help of Taylor Nelson Sofres to carry the the survey, which garnered the opinions of 3,500 mobile users in Asia Pacific, Europe and North America. More details on KPMG's website here. ®
John Oates, 21 Mar 2006
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Adware backers named and shamed

Large corporations and dot.com firms are funding the distribution of software that loads invasive pop-up ads with their advertising dollars, according to a report by the Centre for Democracy and Technology. The US consumer rights organisation named and shamed a number of firms over the practice, including Club Med Americas, uBid, PeoplePC and GreetingCards.com. It is calling on mainstream firms to become more vigilant about policing their advertising practices. In its report Following the Money: How Advertising Dollars Encourage Nuisance and Harmful Adware and What Can be Done to Reverse the Trend, CDT explains how the adware works through a complicated series of middlemen to persuade advertisers to pay for ads generated by unwanted advertising software or "adware". In most instances, surfers unintentionally install adware after visiting maliciously constructed websites or responding to online solicitations. The CDT report (PDF) documents the financial relationship between one unscrupulous adware distributor and mainstream firms. "Knowingly or not, these companies are fueling the spread of unwanted programs that clog people's computers, threaten privacy, and tarnish the internet experience for millions," CDT deputy director Ari Schwartz said. "Because the adware financing model is willfully convoluted, many companies may not know where their advertising dollars are ending up. We're urging those advertisers to be more vigilant to ensure that they aren't unwittingly bankrolling one of the internet's fastest-growing problems." Several organisations, including the Interactive Travel Services Association, Dell and Verizon, have established policies that prohibit or discourage the use of nuisance or harmful adware in serving ads. CDT wants to see these policies adopted by other advertisers. It also wants corporates to monitor the advertising practices of their marketing affiliates. Earlier this year, CDT filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that 180solutions, engaged in a "pattern of unfair and deceptive trade practices". In its latest report, CDT looked at firms that advertised through 180solutions, and enquired about why their marketing messages were been propagated using 180solutions' advertising software. Two of the firms identified responded to CDT's requests by establishing ad placement policies, and five more said they already had policies in place. Eleven others - Altrec, Club Med Americas, GreetingCards.com, LetsTalk.com, NetZero, PeoplePC, PerfectMatch, ProFlowers, True.com, uBid and Waterfront Media - failed to respond to CDT's request for information about their ad placement policies. CDT said firms that support nuisance or harmful adware with their advertising dollars deserve increased scrutiny. "The time is now for companies to take a more active role in policing their own online advertising activity," CDT deputy director Schwartz said. "Although unscrupulous adware companies bear the greatest blame for the spread of the unwanted programs, those programs wouldn't exist without advertising dollars to fund them. We need to cut that revenue stream off at the source." 180Solutions rejects CDT's criticism over its business practices. "We object to the overall premise that consumers are duped into installing our software," 180Solutions chief executive Keith Smith told The Washington Post. "It's no different from what's on television. People are paying for this content by agreeing to some ads." ®
John Leyden, 21 Mar 2006

ID cards to spur e-signature take up

ID cards programmes and e-government initiatives are hoped to spur the development of an electronic signatures market across the EU, according to the European Commission. The commission is concerned that low take up of e-signatures across Europe is slowing down trade in goods and services online. It wants the public sector to drive the adoption of the technology. The latest progress report issued by the commission on e-signatures finds that the market for the more sophisticated versions of the technology has been "much slower to take off than expected". It is hoped that ID cards programmes could encourage the use of e-signatures as in many cases they could serve to authenticate identities online, the commission says. In general, it is also hoped that ID management and public sector e-procurement schemes could also stimulate demand. In its future plans the commission intends to place emphasis on interoperability and cross border use of e-signatures. A report on standards for e-signatures is to be compiled later this year in order to assess what further regulatory measures are needed. European commissioner for information society and the media Viviane Reding said that usage levels of e-signatures are unsatisfactory. "A reliable system of electronic signatures that work across intra-EU borders is vital to safe electronic commerce and the efficient electronic delivery of public services to businesses and citizens," she said. "The EU rules that all 25 Member States have transposed into their national laws make e-signatures legally recognised on their territory. However, I am not fully satisfied with the take-up of electronic signatures in Europe. "Much work still has to be done in particular to make signatures work across borders. I also see a need for asking whether we need further adaptations of our EU framework for electronic signatures to technological and market developments and to the better regulation-policy of this Commission. The development of e-signatures in the internal market will therefore continue to be under my close scrutiny in the year to come." This article was originally published at Kablenet.
Kablenet, 21 Mar 2006

Boffins build see-through chip

Scientists at the Oregon State University (OSU) have produced the world's first "completely transparent" integrated circuit using inorganic materials. The see-through transistor technology will revolutionise electronics, allowing circuitry to be integrated into items like windows, bottles, glasses and car windscreens. It will also boost LCD technology, the researchers say.
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2006
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Google Finance beta lives

Google has launched a beta version of its finance portal - it looks like Google news with some market report charts stuck on top. But if you search for a company you'll be taken to a page that looks more like a traditional finance portal. It shows a graph of recent share price movements, a company overview, related news items and related firms, company management and even recent blog posts about the firm. Here's Google's own entry on Google Finance. Related companies are "algorithmically determined" according to past associations and past Google searches - so they could be partners, arch rivals or subsidiaries. Google account holders will be able to use the site to track a portfolio. The site is being launched as a North American service although it has some European relevance. It is likely to launch in Europe and the UK at a later date. The site does not yet cover bonds or options. It will compete with the likes of Yahoo! Money, MSN Money and specialists like the FT, thestreet.com and motleyfool. The site requires Macromedia Flash 7 to work properly. Visit finance.google here. ®
John Oates, 21 Mar 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury backs evolution

The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the teaching of creationism in schools. In an interview with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, Dr Rowan Williams said the Biblical creation stories do not belong in the same category as evolutionary theory. He explained: "My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it." Creationists and proponents of intelligent design (ID) - the "alternative theory" to evolution by natural selection - assert that the natural world must have had a designer. Moves in the United States to teach ID alongside evolution have had some success. Last August, at the height of the controversy, President Bush said: "Both sides ought to be properly taught...so people can understand what the debate is about." Dr Williams's comments indicate he believes that creationism and evolution are not two sides of the same coin, however. He said: "I think creationism is...a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories. If creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories." As leader of the Church of England, the Bishop's intervention also puts the heads of the two most popular flavours of Christianity, Catholicism and Anglicanism, at odds with creationists. Both Pope John Paul II and current Pontiff Benedict XVI have spoken out in favour of evolution being incorporated into religious people's view of the world. Tony Blair goes along with Bush on this one, though. At PMQs, in reponse to a question from Lib Dem Jenny Tonge about whether he was happy for ID to be taught in used car magnate and evangelist Peter Vardy's new city academies, he said: "I am very happy...If she looks at the school's results, I think she will find that they are very good." Given the PM's well publicised plan to become a Catholic, perhaps a lesson in the principle of papal infallibility is required...® Bootnote Darwin himself attended a Church of England school and, until his famous voyage aboard the Beagle, believed in a great designer. What he saw convinced him otherwise, but didn't stop him being buried in Westminster Abbey alongside other great scientists. We'll let the great man have the last word on this one: "A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can."
Christopher Williams, 21 Mar 2006

Telcos will have to fight for IPTV success

BT will have to work hard to make its newly announced broadband TV service BT Vision a success, according to a report by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. Incumbent operators in France, Spain, Iceland and Sweden are already kicking off their own commercial IPTV services, and BT is due to begin trials shortly ahead of a commercial launch pencilled in for autumn. Although pricing details have yet to be released, the telco has signed up a number of content partners. However, while analysts reckon IPTV is "likely to establish itself as a valid alternative to cable and satellite TV over time" they warn that despite the high expectations, "IPTV may not be an immediate success throughout Europe". It seems that question marks over the appetite for IPTV services, the content available, and competition from existing TV services such as satellite and cable could all help to stifle take-up early on. However, if IPTV providers are able to offer other bundled services - such as voice, instant messaging or unified messaging - then IPTV might just be the application that takes broadband beyond the PC and net access. Senior analysts Fernando Elizalde said: "Telecom operators launching IPTV can make it a success if they deliver a service that is truly differentiated from that of cable operators, not only in content but also in applications, customer service, and overall user experience." The latest figures from Ofcom reveal that the UK has the highest digital penetration of any country in the world. At the end of 2005 almost seven in ten UK households were tuned in to digital TV, while take-up has not passed the 50 per cent mark in any other European country. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2006
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DiData is Cisco God

Dimension Data bagged three gongs yesterday from Cisco at the data networking vendor's annual partner summit in San Diego. The company has been named Cisco Global IPC (Internet Protocol Communications) Partner of the Year, Cisco APAC (Asia Pacific) Partner of the Year (Datacraft Asia) and Cisco Emerging Markets Partner of the Year. ®
Team Register, 21 Mar 2006

LG to ship GSM-flavoured Chocolate in Europe

LG is to bring its popular 'Chocolate' mobile phone to Europe in May, the company said today. The handset, also known as the LG5900, is a dark-brown - hence the more casual moniker - slider phone with a touch-sensitive keyboard outlined in red. The product has won a variety of awards for its looks. Chocolate is 1.5cm thick and sports a 2in 240 x 320 display.
'ard Reg, 21 Mar 2006

Samsung unveils 32GB Flash-based 'HDD killer'

Samsung has launched what it reckons its the world's first 32GB NAND Flash-based hard disk drive replacement unit. The company claimed the so-called "solid state disk" can access data three times faster than an HDD can and write files one-and-a-half times more quickly - though we don't know what HDD spec it was comparing its product to.
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2006

UN sounds biodiversity mayday

Human activity is causing the biggest loss in biodiversity since the extinction of the dinosaurs, a UN report says. Released to mark the start of the UN environment programme meeting in Curitiba, Brazil, the Biodiversity Outlook 2 calls for rapid and decisive intervention to avert further species loss. A flock of worrying statistics front up the report. As much as 80 per cent of Caribbean hard coral cover has vanished in the last 30 years. Large North Atlantic fish have endured a two-thirds drop in numbers. Up to around half of higher birds are threatened with extinction. Disturbingly, every year since the turn of the century 6m hectares of natural forest have been destroyed. The bulk – around 4m hectares – disappear annually from Africa, which can scarcely afford to lose what natural resources it does have. Even where habitats are relatively intact in terms of sheer area, they are becoming fragmented. This puts huge pressure on their ability to support biodiversity. Productive ecosystems are the foundation of human wellbeing, the authors say. A recent survey showed that 15 out of 24 markers of ecosystem health - from fishery stocks though to water supplies and atmospheric cleanliness - were in decline. In fact, overall demand for ecological resources outstrips supply by 20 per cent. Alien species introductions brought about by human activity are bad news for biodiversity too. Since the opening of the Suez canal, some 300 species have invaded the Mediterranean from the Red Sea, out-competing natives that occupy a similar niche in the ecosystem. The financial hit from introduced pests is estimated at over $100bn. The overall picture frames humanity's effect on global biodiversity in a geological context; there have only been five mass extinction events in the history of Earth that compare. We're now in the same destructive league as asteroid strikes, enormous flood basalts and ice ages. The new report paints an even more grim picture than the first Biodiversity Outlook, released in 2001. In response to that assessment the UN set a target in Johannesburg in 2002 to achieve a “significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010”. That's now looking increasingly unlikely. In effect then, the current Curitiba meeting is a last-gasp effort to rescue that target, “by no means impossible”, according to the new report's authors, though it requires "unprecedented action". The authors urge better habitat protection, pollution curbs, and resource management. Labour has sent DEFRA minister Jim Knight to Curitiba. Though with relatively little biodiversity of its own to preserve, Britain's role must be to support efforts in the tropics, which play host to unimaginable numbers of species. Survey the gloom for yourself here (8Mb/pdf). ®
Christopher Williams, 21 Mar 2006

All eyes on CCTV

The Information Commissioner, which watches the CCTV watchers, said its updated advice for CCTV operators has been given a due date in the summer - six months late. A burgeoning of the high-tech surveillance systems that are being appointed sentinel over our public spaces has overwhelmed the authority charged with keeping them in check. The CCTV Code of Practice, was originally written in 1999 when all CCTV cameras did was stick your grainy mug on a video cassette. Deputy information commissioner Jonathan Banford said he had to settle on a summer deadline to give him time to understand the implications of the new technology. "There's been a movement [of CCTV] away from being reactive to something that's used in a more proactive way by bolting on computer technologies like auto-number plate recognition, facial recognition - technology to look for particular objects or people." Police, for example, have auto-number plate recognition (ANPR) vans watching over motorways, have done deals with places like Bluewater and Trafford shopping centres to track shoppers in out of their car parks. ANPR has boomed in the private sector, with corporate vigilantes at petrol stations, car parks and offices tracking individual's movements. Banford said he was trying to work out how long recordings and data should be kept, and with what protections it was stored. "Potentially, the basis of a movements database is being set-up...We are starting to intrude into the lives of ordinary people going about their business doing nothing wrong," he warned. Peter Fry, spokesman for the CCTV User Group, which represents authorities that operate camera networks, campaigns for laws regarding surveillance to be tightened up because the probity of the system rests only on the "professionalism" of its operators, all of whom are as human as any police officer. He said the new code should also consider "smart CCTV" systems that are backed by "anomaly recognition" software. These spot what petty officials increasingly call "suspicious behaviour" and bring it to the attention of the watchers. The publication of the draft revised code will be followed by a three month consultation that will also consider misinterpretations of the existing code. Banford said the code had specified a maximum time for keeping recordings, but many operators took it to mean minimum. It will also consider what influence case law has on the code; and how well balanced the rights of the individual are being balanced against the rights given third parties under the Data Protection Act when someone needs to call on CCTV footage as evidence, say. Authorities are often inclined to refuse to give up CCTV footage, citing the Data Protection Act in their defence. ®
Mark Ballard, 21 Mar 2006

UK peerage for sale on eBay

In light of the Lord Chancellor's recent announcement that all loans to the Labour Party will soon have to be declared and will be capped at £500k, this may be your last chance to gain that well-deserved peerage by the back door and with no questions asked: a seat in the House of Lords for a modest £1.5m. Here's the accompanying blurb: Not getting enough sleep? Feel you're being unfairly passed over by the government for all that money you've given to their party? Feel you're not quite snooty enough yet? Own a chain of corner shops and want your own coat of arms? You too can now purchase a peerage and become a lifetime member of the House of Lords - The most exclusive private members club in the land. It's not a purchase, it's an investment! Watch as business is put your way by your fellow members in true masonic style... Steel Magnates and Supermarket owners should not miss out on this perfect oppurtunity. So place a bid to become a parliamentarian, without the need for those pesky elections - YOU'LL EVEN GET EXPENSES! These people are a barrel of fun, we even quoted my mate Archer as saying "go for it, it'd be a crime not to" You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want your money back. Nicely done. Corner shop owners note you have just four days left to avail yourself of this once-in-a-lifetime offer. Get to it. ® Bootnote Since we were fully aware eBay would pull this auction within a couple of minutes of us running the story, we rang Tony Blair's office beforehand to offer him our famous "eBay auction killing service". Unsurprisingly, given the stick he's taking over cash for coronets at the moment, he jumped at the chance. We declined payment, however. Suffice it to say, I should now be addressed as "Lord Haines of Hammersmith Broadway". Thanks to Tim Maidment for the tip-off.
Lester Haines, 21 Mar 2006

Western Digital Raptor X 150GB HDD

ReviewReview The Western Digital Raptor, possibly the most talked about hard drive among the PC performance community, but why would you even consider buying a 36 or 74GB hard drive? Well, most people wouldn't, but with the introduction of the latest Raptor products Western Digital has remedied this problem to a certain degree by upping the drive size to 150GB...
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 21 Mar 2006

Don't break DRM even if it 'threatens lives'

Copyright holders have collectively objected to proposed exemptions to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in cases where copyright software causes security and privacy harm. Lawyers for the pigopolists (including the Business Software Alliance, Motion Picture Ass. of America and Recording Industry Ass. of America) also said exceptions that would allow DRM software to be circumvented in hypothetical cases where it "threatens critical infrastructure and potentially endangers lives" might create "uncertainty" in the minds of software developers. As Ed Felten of Freedom to Tinker puts it, this extraordinary legal argument (page 21-23) means copyright holders want to keep their options open about developing DRM software even when there are doubts about whether it might threaten lives or the systems that underpin the US economy. "In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives," Felten writes. Common sense would dictate that copyright holders would ensure DRM systems pose no risk to critical infrastructure or lives before their deployment, of course, but Felten remains unconvinced good sense will enter into the US Copyright Office's deliberations on the pigopolists submission. The proposed exemptions were put forward by the Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Open Source and Industry Association during the US Copyright Office’s DMCA exemption rule making review process. "If past rule makings are a good predictor, it’s more likely than not that the Copyright Office will rule in their favour," he said. ®
John Leyden, 21 Mar 2006

Price war looms if BT price controls relaxed

Ofcom's plan to scrap price controls for BT after 22 years of having its hands tied could lead to a price war, industry watchers said today. And while that could be good news for consumers in the short term, a price war could see some competitors losing out and sparking another round of consolidation. "It is unclear how BT will structure their prices, but if they drop, it will inevitably spark intense competition in the home phone market, with BT's existing 12.9m customers benefiting from lower prices," said Blair Wadman, telecoms expert at price comparison service uSwitch.com. "If the company slashes prices to entice those two million consumers who switched away in 2005, this would certainly see the five major home telephony companies in the UK engage in a price war in an attempt to gain additional market share. Increased competition would in turn lead to falling prices and greater choice for consumers." But he warned that if prices decrease significantly, "smaller providers would struggle to compete, which might lead to further market consolidation". Then again, with restrictions lifted, it could decide to increase prices...or do nothing. Publicly, at least, BT is playing today's announcement with straight bat. Gaby Heppner-Logan, BT's Director of Regulatory Affairs said: "BT welcomes this consultation as further evidence of the highly competitive market in the UK. Residential call charges in the UK are already amongst the lowest in the world...and BT has already saved its customers more than £1billion over the past decade and this trend looks set to continue. We look forward to responding formally to Ofcom in due course." But there are those who believe that plans to relax BT price controls are too hasty. Four months ago, Ofcom was warned not to relax the rules that govern BT, despite its regulatory settlement with the UK's dominant telco following last year's Telecoms Review. UKCTA - the telecoms trade group that includes operators including Cable & Wireless, Colt, NTL and Thus - said competition in the sector would be put at risk if regulatory constraints are removed from BT too early. UKCTA was concerned that plans to sweep away BT's regulation would be introduced even before rival operators have had a chance to go head-to-head with the dominant player. As part of the Telecoms review and key to Ofcom's announcement today, BT created a new separate access services division - Openreach - responsible for providing equal access to BT's network for all providers. Within a month of its launch, Openreach faced its first investigation by Ofcom concerning charges for fully unbundled lines. Last month it emerged that Openreach didn't have enough staff to handle enquiries from rival operators. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2006

Handheld Xbox: third time lucky for MS iPod killer scheme?

CommentComment World+Dog is this week feverishly reporting on rumours that Microsoft is hard at work on an iPod killer. Or it may be a PlayStation Portable killer. Or perhaps a PMC killer. No, wait a moment, PMC - aka Portable Media Center - was Microsoft's last attempt at an iPod killer, and just look at what that did to restrict Apple's revenue growth...
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2006

Computer games push up UK inflation rate

The UK's Office of National Statistics (ONS) has placed Apple's iPod and the some of the company's iTunes Music Store downloads in the standard shopping basket the organisation uses to monitor the cost of living in Britain.
Fred Needlestreet, 21 Mar 2006

Clara.net boss blasts 'ridiculous' publishing laws

Clara.net managing director Steve Rawlinson has branded existing laws which hold ISPs responsible for content they host as "ridiculous". Speaking to the Register about the case of "Tube geek" Geoff Marshall's blog - hosted by Clara.net and the subject of legal wranglings with Transport for London - Rawlinson reluctantly advised people to "host their sites outside the UK". Rawlinson said companies were increasingly going after ISPs rather than individuals who publish content they do not like. Rawlinson said: "It is plainly ridiculous. We are held responsible but we cannot make a qualified legal decision on every complaint we receive. We have three staff looking at complaints. I'd like to see customers responsible for what they publish - and I think they would like that too." He said: "As the law stands all I can do is advise people to host their sites outside the UK - and you can imagine how much I enjoy that." Rawlinson said the problem was getting worse. He cited a case of two old ladies who both had websites selling budgerigars - each accused the other of stealing bits of content and eventually both their ISPs removed the sites. Marshall was warned that some material on his website was copyrighted. He was also told to stop linking to other sites which allegedly contained copyright material. Rawlinson said the case for linking to defamatory material came from the 1890s when a man in a dispute with a shop stood in the street outside and pointed up at a sign which was defamatory. Although it was never proved if he made the sign, he was found guilty by reason of pointing at it. He was unaware of it being used to go after copyrighted material. Marshall's main complaint is that Transport for London's own website contains links to sites which contain copyright images very similar to those which were on Marshall's site. We still haven't heard back from Transport for London. Marshall's website is here.®
John Oates, 21 Mar 2006

Deutsche Telekom fingers Microsoft for IPTV

Deutsche Telekom (DT) is hooking up with Microsoft as part of plans to roll out broadband TV (IPTV) in Germany later this year. The service is to be carried via a new VDSL (Very High Speed Digital Subscriber Line) network capable of bandwidth up 50 meg and has already been tested by boffins at the giant telco. The IPTV service is due to go live in ten major German cities - including Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich - from the summer letting viewers access regular TV programmes, video on demand, interactive programming and personal video recording. Punters can also expect a range of special interest channels and pay-TV programmes. DT is to use Microsoft TV IPTV Edition software platform to offer these services. Microsoft - which is also behind the software for BT's "Vision" IPTV service in the UK - also said it planned joint marketing with DT to help plug IPTV in Germany. "Today's announcement represents Microsoft's largest IPTV agreement in Europe to date and is a very significant milestone in our long-standing relationship with Deutsche Telekom," said Microsoft chief exec Steve Ballmer, who reckons the tie-up will "help create a revolution in TV entertainment for consumers across Germany". Despite all the smiles following today's announcement, a recent report by analysts at Frost & Sullivan warned that IPTV might not be able to live up to its hype - in the near future at least. Although experts reckon IPTV is "likely to establish itself as a valid alternative to cable and satellite TV over time" they warn that despite the high expectations, "IPTV may not be an immediate success throughout Europe". It seems that there are question marks over the appetite for IPTV services among consumers, the content available, and competition from existing TV services such as satellite and cable which could stifle take-up early on. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Mar 2006
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Novell puts Netware on life support until 2015

Novell will support Netware, the veteran, nay ancient, network operating system, until at least 2015. By which time, presumably everyone who ever used the system will be retired or dead. Speaking yesterday at the company's annual Brainshare conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Novell CEO Jack Messman said said the firm would support users of the latest (6.5) version of the network operating system software "as long as customers want to run it." Netware users are not as plentiful as they once were, but they still represent an income stream of sorts for Novell. Which is just as well, as sales for its new flagship software, the SUSE Linux distro are not cutting much mustard, especially when compared with mighty Red Hat. At BrainShare, yesterday Novell unwrapped SUSE Linux Enterprise 10. This is marketed as a platform for the open enterprise - features performance, security, virtualisation and management enhancements over previous versions of the software. It works with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, Novell's recently announced desktop platform. To enable organisations to consolidate multiple workloads on a single server, SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 comes integrated with Xen 3.0, an open source standard for virtualisation services. SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 also features Novell AppArmor, an application-level security service, as part of plans to thwart hacking attacks. Elsewhere at Brainshare, Novell announcement improved integration between its GroupWise messaging platform and Blackberry wireless devices from RIM. Novell also unveiled a significant expansion of its partnership with Dell, with plans by the hardware manufacture to sell Novell ZENworks 7 Linux Management with Dell PowerEdge servers running Linux starting in April. Also, Novell detailed plans to add enhancements to its security and identity management products focused on helping customers to automate user provisioning, simplify single sign-on and manage shared network resources. Implementing single sign-on technology means that users need only log on once to access multiple applications. The idea is to reduce password headaches and save money by reducing helpdesk calls from forgetful users. ®
John Leyden, 21 Mar 2006

UK parents offered kid-friendly MP3 player

German MP3 player specialist Maxfield has launched a digital music player for kids. Pitched at children between the ages of six and 12, the primary colour player sports a playground-safe water-resistant shell and limits the decibels lest the young ones' passion for loud metal play havoc with their wee ear-drums.
Tony Smith, 21 Mar 2006

French struggle to get US visas

The US Embassy in Paris is struggling to deal with a huge increase in demand for visas because the French government has missed Bush's deadline for biometric passports. From last October the US government requires all newly-issued French passports to contain biometric data. Unfortunately, the French government got involved in an old-school fight with unions over who should supply the new passports and the deadline was missed. As a result any French person with a new passport wishing to visit the US needs a visa. The US embassy in Paris has received 24,000 visa applications in the five months since October - it usually deals with about 8,000 applications in a year. A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Paris told the Reg: "There's been huge demand but we are managing to cope now. We are doing up to 700 interviews a day and we've juggled staff around and extended the hours. At one stage people were having to wait months for interviews, but that's down to a couple of days now." She said the embassy was moving to only accepting online applications which should speed the process further. French tour operators claim bookings are down as much as 30 per cent because of the problem and are demanding compensation for lost business. More details from The Times here. Passports have contained digital pictures in the UK since 2003 and government says it is on track to include a chip by this autumn. ®
John Oates, 21 Mar 2006
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Ingram Micro gets into people trafficking

Ingram Micro is setting up an recruitment and temping agency for channel customers in its US homeland.
Drew Cullen, 21 Mar 2006

France votes for DRM interop

It's the "dawn of an equitable internet", says French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres. The nation's parliament has backed a bill to mandate interoperability between competing lock-down software restrictions on digital media.
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Mar 2006
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Introducing the UK Imagine Cup Team

Welcome to the first blog entry from team ‘Three Pair’. Team who? To introduce ourselves, we are a team of three students who all attend The University of Hull on various computer-related courses: James Lissiak, Tom Randell and Andy Sterland. On 10 March, after a day of presentations and camera interviews, it was announced that we had won the UK final of the Imagine Cup 2006 and would be going to the world final in India to represent our country.
Team Three Pair, 21 Mar 2006

Google's deceptive do-gooder claims turn dangerous

AnalysisAnalysis Google likes to attach a greater social significance to its varied work as an advertising broker. The best and most obvious example of this policy comes from the "Do No Evil" stamp placed on financial statements. Time and again, however, Google's actions demonstrate that there is no greater good at hand. Google is little more than a purveyor of capitalism's most despised offshoot - advertising.
Ashlee Vance, 21 Mar 2006