The wide-ranging coalition that objects to a tax on sending email has a new, and unexpected opponent. One that mere earthlings dare engage at their peril. It's former "Net Queen", space cadet, and Register reader favorite Esther Dyson, whose latest transmission has been captured, decoded and published by the New York Times. Esther thinks paying to send email is a great idea. Why? Well, as she explained in the Times on Friday, it unleashes the goodness of market forces. And the doubleplus emergent goodness of Darwinian evolution! But aren't computer communications system supposed to just work? And why do we, the users, have to pay for the broken protocols? (Even the inventor of the SMTP protocol that's used to send the world's email messages says we need to rip these up and start again.) Instead, AOL and Yahoo! are endorsing a scheme which guarantees to deliver email to their subscribers only if the senders have paid an intermediary of their choice. Which happens to be GoodMail Systems. Email sent from the rest of the world, which GoodMail considers "uncertified", must therefore risk running through AOL and Yahoo!'s discrimination process. And as this potential profit center for the two net giants takes off, there's no incentive for either company to deliver the "free email" - and every incentive for them to get the world conditioned to paying for guaranteed delivery. It's as if the police began charging crime victims for the guarantee that they would log and investigate an incident. Do you think the crime figures would begin to rise or fall with the introduction of such an "innovation"? Of course the utopian ditz doesn't quite see it this way. Let Esther herself explain. "I agree that pretty soon sending most e-mail will cost money [er, what? - ed] but I think that's only right. It costs money to guarantee quality and safety. Moreover, I think the market will work, and that it will not shut out deserving senders, if we only let it work freely." She doesn't mention what choices face say, the rural poor, who suddenly have a new, US-imposed tax to deal with. When you earn on a dollar a day, paying a cent for send is not a trivial amount. (Let's put it this way, when Esther herself earned $10,000 a day for providing vacuities to ignorant dotcom companies, that would have worked out as $100 an email.) She continues: "In the long run, recipients will be able to use services like Goodmail to set their own prices for receiving mail." The goodness spreads. And in a surreal moment that channels the spirit of Marlene Dietrich, Esther reveals that she has her own tariff: "In my case," she says, "I'd have a list. I'd charge nothing for people I know, 50 cents for anyone new … and $3 for random advertisers. Ex-boyfriends pay $10." That can only be interpreted as a cruel sideswipe at Bill Ziff, so we shan't dwell on it. Resistence is futile! The coalition, assembled by the EFF, is not impressed with Esther's comments. "Dyson's acknowledgement undermines AOL's PR scheme for its pay-to- send proposal, which centers on convincing the public that their email tax is 'voluntary' and 'nothing will change' for everyday emailers," it responded in a statement. Dyson stormed back complaining that she'd been misquoted. She said that most of the money raised by the caper would find its way to recipients. Now to really interesting part - and the show stopping Esther moment you've been waiting for. The amorality of technology enthusiasts has been discussed a plenty, but rarely their deep misanthropy, and anti-democratic instincts. If you've ever doubted the values of these determinists - whose mystical faith in the market is accompanied by magical incantations of Darwin - here it is. "I find it ironic that many of the very people who want to teach evolution in the schools (a position I agree with it), want to stop it on the Internet," claimed Esther. "What shocks me most about the opposition to Goodmail is that people who claim to believe in the free and open Internet, with its welcome attitude to innovation, want to shut down an idea. That's wrong." No, Esther. Not if it's a bad idea. There are ways citizens can influence that decision, other than leaving it the magic of the market. "Trying to engage the public about the real consequences of AOL's plan isn't anti progress," responds the EFF's Cindy Cohn, "it's educating the market. And the market should get a chance to debate whether we want top live in a 'pay to send' world or not." ®
Microsoft has pushed back the consumer release of Windows Vista to January 2007, because it isn't good enough to meet its Q4 2006 target.Instead, Microsoft has staggered the launch into two parts - subscribers to Microsoft's Volume Licensing Program will be able to get the code in November 2006, while OEMs can begin shipping it in January next year.
Consumers have noted a large increase in the amount of debit card fraud since the beginning of 2006, as well as a wide recall of cards by banks and financial institutions. Three major incidents are likely fueling the fraud, according to financial and security experts.
Drummer/singer Phil Collins once asked the philosophical teaser: "How many times can I say I'm sorry?" It seems Bill Gates might have the answer: three. Gates used his company's AJAX-friendly MIX06 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, to issue his third self-confessed mea culpa, this time admitting Microsoft made a mistake on Internet Explorer. Specifically, Gates confessed to an error over his company's sub-par development efforts around IE in recent years, while pledging to bolster future engineering work. "In a sense we're doing a mea culpa, saying we waited too long for a browser release," he said. Does that qualify as an apology? We guess we'll have to take what we're given, but The Reg does note it takes a big man to admit his mistakes in public and it's pleasing to see that the world's richest geek is not above making such frank admissions. In recent years, Gates has issued mea culpas on his company's behalf for its poor track record on security in Windows and Windows applications, and for also failing to deliver on the .NET vision as outlined by Gates himself. Job done, Gates made it clear to the MIX06 crowd that Microsoft is now making up for lost time on the IE front. The company is working on the next two versions after IE 7.0 while Microsoft used the conference to announce the release of a second IE 7.0 beta. ®
Gordon Brown is setting up an International Business Advisory Council to advise him, and trade secretary Alan Johnson, on global business and the challenges of globalisation. Brown said: "“There is no more important question for advanced industrial countries today than how to rise to the challenges and opportunities of globalisation. In Britain we have strong foundations, built on macroeconomic stability, openness to competition and trade, and investment in infrastructure, science and skills." The twelve apostles will meet at 11 Downing Street once a year initially for three years. The first meeting will be later this year. They will advise the chancellor on globalisation and how to keep Britain competitive. Members include Bill Gates, Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay, Rajan Tata of the Tata Group, Sir Ka-shing Li, chairman of Hutchison Whampoa, Sir Terry Leahy, boss of Tesco and Lee Scott of Wal-Mart. Bosses from GlaxoSmithKline, BP, Rolls Royce, Citigroup, LVMH and James Wolfensohn of the World Bank will also attend. More from the Treasury press release here. Brown today delivers his tenth, and probably last, Budget.®
Taiwan's Quanta has won the contract to manufacturer Apple's eagerly anticipated video-oriented iPod, Chinese-language newspaper the Economic Daily News has claimed citing unnamed industry sources.
MIX06MIX06 Microsoft’s sold-out MIX06 conference is a brave affair, attempting to bridge an almost impossible divide – the gap between developers and designers. Under fake Italian skies, and hidden in the cavernous halls of Las Vegas’ Venetian hotel, 1700 attendees are learning about Microsoft’s new web technologies and, if all is going to plan, having a conversation about the future of the web. It's different from the usual sort of Microsoft event - with more than half the speakers coming from outside the company and many, many shiny Powerbooks among the hordes of laptops. Bill Gates opened the event by introducing Microsoft’s web strategy, describing the future of the web as one where software helps deliver user experiences, and takes them “beyond the browser”. With Microsoft in the middle of launching a range of web application development tools and new browser and display technologies, now was the time for the company to start working with designers as well as developers. One key theme in Gates’ introduction was the idea that user experiences needed to scale from mobile devices to PCs to TV screens and large public displays, and only software was able to help solve this problem. The CTO of MySpace described how moving from an earlier version to ASP.NET 2.0 allowed him to reduce server count from nearly 250 to 150, and still support 65 million users. He then demonstrated a Windows Vista sidebar gadget that displayed MySpace hosted images, and linked directly to the web site. Ashely Highfield from the BBC showed a WinFX concept application that could be the future face of the BBC’s planned P2P programme distribution platform. The economics make sense – a terrestrial TV channel costs £7 million a year to run, satellite £700,000, and online only £70,000. The much hyped conversation between Bill Gates and Tim O’Reilly wasn’t the slugfest that some predicted, but nor was it the love-in that others feared. Instead O’Reilly interviewed Bill Gates, focusing on some of the Web 2.0 issues that have featured in O’Reilly’s recent conferences. While Gates’ replies were clear and consistent with Microsoft’s view of itself as a platform company, he seemed to miss on some of the vision of the social networks at the heart of many Web 2.0 applications, and how Office and Outlook specifically could help build and manage individual networks. Internet Explorer7.0 took centre stage, and Dean Hachaumovitch began to drill down into its features, from the slimmed down user interface, to its built-in RSS feed management tools. A new preview build released at the event is “layout complete”, so while the application may change, web pages designed to use IE 7.0’s improved CSS support shouldn’t need updating before Microsoft’s new browser’s final launch with Windows Vista. There’s also support for Microsoft’s identity management platform, Infocard. A demonstration showed Infocard working with both local and third party information services. Perhaps the most significant announcement (at least for developers) of the first day was the release of the March CTP of its Atlas AJAX toolkit – along with a “go live” licence. While it plugs into both Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Web Developer Express, there’s no new UI, so you’ll need to roll your own code to handle asynchronous operations. There’s a lot to be said for Microsoft’s ASP.NET control model, as it allows developers and designers to assemble a page using familiar techniques, and then edit the code to quickly turn it into an AJAX application. As Microsoft’s existing ASP.NET data controls are based on XMLHTTP, they’re ready to go – but your own controls may need some work to be ready for Atlas. Expression Web Designer made a brief foray onto the stage. Unfortunately, despite rumours of an imminent public release, we won’t be able to get our hands on any code until June. The demo build was impressive enough, a standards-compliant web design tool that works with Dreamweaver templates and ASP.NET master pages. Its CSS design tools were impressive, and intelligent enough to avoid generating redundant CSS. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so any verdict will have to wait for another three months… So far, so MIX. Microsoft seems happy with the event so far, and is planning future design oriented conferences. If they manage to keep the marketing out of the equation, MIX could be a regular fixture on the conference calendar. ®
The organization which runs the bar code systems has backed the extension of EU privacy rules to cover RFID technologies. EC commissioner Viviane Reding earlier this month launched a consultation on RFID, saying that while there was a level of hysteria over the technology’s perceived threat to privacy she was prepared to extend EC privacy legislation to cover the technology. Jim Bracken, chief executive of GS1 Ireland, said RFID and its associated technologies should indeed be brought under the existing privacy regime. GS1 has administered the bar code system for 30 years and also oversees the electronic product code standards which will underpin the expected explosive growth of RFID. Bracken said some high value retail items are already being tracked on an item level basis, and this is likely to be extended down to many low cost items as the cost of tags drops in the coming years. But Bracken said that the organization's existing policy already called on retailers to post signs informing customers that items are tagged, and to give customers the right to have tags switched off or destroyed at the checkout. At the same time, he said, customers may find it advantageous to keep tags active, eg, for returns/warranty purposes, and it is entirely possible to have tags switched off, then reactivated if customers wanted it. He acknowledged that GS1 had no power to force companies to adhere to its own advice. But, he said, "We'd support it if the EU made it statutory." Item level tracking is the nightmare scenario for privacy advocates already tossing and turning over the rise of RFID, with the most paranoid claiming Walmart and the like will be able to track your toiletries right to your home - and beyond. Bracken said that RFID tags will themselves carry just a bundle of product and tracking codes identifying the particular product, where it's been, where it's going, when it was made, etc. Everything that rattles privacy geeks - such as tracking shopping patterns and profiling customers - just needs tweaks to allow the RFID data to be fed into databases so it can be data mined by vendors. Just like they already do with store loyalty cards, targeted marketing, etc, which should be covered by existing data protection regulations. Bracken’s comments came as IBM opened an RFID Centre of Excellence at its campus in Dublin. Colm Shorten, CTO of the Dublin RFID site, said that the company had to reassure its potential corporate customers about the privacy implications of the technology as much as potential consumers. It has to set some of them straight on the limits of RFID tracking while outlining what is and isn't acceptable practice. The Dublin site will focus on asset tracking technologies, and has already developed a system for tagging laptops, which can then be tracked automatically by RFID-enabled portals at “choke points”, ie, the exit doors. The firm has already run a pilot of the technology, and plans to extend it to around 500 laptops operating across seven buildings on the campus and in Dublin city. The company did not say exactly what effect the program has had on "delinquent" laptops – presumably those machines that go walkies. Let's face it, if you can't trust the man in the blue suit, who can you trust.®
Computer 2000 has hired an inventory and online sales expert from DIY retailer B&Q. Jean-Francois Bessiron was head of supply chain for seasonal products at B&Q - he ran multi-channel sales and set up its online store. B&Q posted results today - profits fell by two thirds which the firm blamed on lower consumer spending and exceptionally cold weather.
The Eclipse Foundation is making a play for Microsoft's ISV partners deciding whether to port their applications to Windows Vista with a cross-platform alternative that expands their market reach. The open source tools consortium has announced four new application frameworks under the umbrella Rich Client Platform (RCP) project. These are intended to help ISVs build client applications and interfaces using Java and XML. Mike Milinkovich, Eclipse executive director, yesterday urged the legions of Microsoft ISVs to "look at RCP", warning that applications moved to Vista would not be backwards-compatible with older versions of Windows. "Microsoft will be very busy trying to convince [ISVs] that now is the time to step away from Win32 to WinFX," he said. "In RCP, you find the framework lets you build Vista applications but ship product on Mac and Linux. If you are going to move off Win32 you should also look at RCP." He added: "If you move your application to WinFX you are in a position to not be backwards compatible with Win32. "He was speaking at the annual EclipseCon show in Santa Clara, California. The pitch comes as Eclipse also announced its latest application lifecycle management (ALM) project. Visual Studio Team System (VSTS). The Eclipse Tools Services Framework, called Corona, will build a server-based infrastructure for developers using Eclipse tools to share information. Microsoft this month launched the final VSTS component Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, a server-based environment for collaboration between development teams. Compuware, Corona project leader, told The Register that Corona was "very comparable" with Team Foundation Server, for the Java camp. Eclipse is now the second most popular integrated development environment (IDE), after Microsoft's Visual Studio, according to the analyst firm Evans Data Corp (EDC). Eclipse is used by 24.3 per cent compared to 55.3 per cent for Visual Studio. Eclipse usage has grown 88 per cent in North America since 2003. At current growth rates, Eclipse could catch-up with Visual Studio in two years, Albion Butters, EDC senior analyst told EclipseCon. He outlined the challenges Eclipse faces in tempting Microsoft-friendly developers. Top of the list is addressing the perception that Visual Studio provides better functionality than Eclipse and the fact it has better support through the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). Developers' familiarity with Visual Studio is also a challenge, as programmers expect similar features and functionality in alternative products. "This isn't something that Eclipse can't surmount," Butters said. "It comes down to familiarity with Visual Studio at the adoption phase and people understanding it can do what they want." Eclipse no doubt hopes that Windows Vista will do its bit to continue that growth. Windows Vista replaces Microsoft's Windows 32-bit API programming architecture with WinFX, a mark-up language-based framework. The goal is to attract developers previously put off by Win32, while enabling developers to build rich-interfaces and web services in XML. Eclipse argues that if ISVs must change, they should at least evaluate an architecture and tools that can target more than just Windows Vista. RCP uses Java SWT, which runs as a thin layer on top of the platform's underlying widget model so that ISVs' applications can adopt the look and feel of the platform. RCP applications can be deployed on Mac, Linux and Unix. Microsoft is no stranger to attempts by the Java camp to exploit disruptions in its roadmap. In 2002 and 2003, for example, BEA Systems tried - and failed - to woo Visual Basic developers disgruntled by the launch of Visual Studio .Net to its WebLogic Workshop web services development environment. ®
AMD's upcoming Socket AM2 single- and dual-core processors look set to support 800MHz DDR 2 SDRAM when the new interconnect is launched in Q2 - almost certainly at the Computex show in June - a variety of sources citing AMD documentation have claimed.
Lenovo will next week ship its first own-brand dual-core notebook. The new model will be pitched a small-business buyers on a "limited budget".
Microsoft is doubling or tripling the number of XBoxes it will send out to retailers every week. It has added a third manufacturer - Celestica - and has got a solid supply of components.
Merrill Lynch and the US Securities and Exchange Commission have settled proceedings brought over a failure by the company to promptly produce emails requested by SEC staff. The brokerage firm will pay $2.5m. The proceedings related to “various investigations and inquiries” being carried out by SEC staff into Merrill Lynch between October 2003 and February 2005. In the course of this, according to the SEC, it had asked the firm to provide certain emails dealing with its business as a broker, dealer and member of an exchange. US regulatory rules require that securities and investment firms have adequate systems, procedures and policies in place to promptly produce evidence, including emails, requested in the course of an investigation. Communications relating to its business must be kept for three years. However, according to the SEC, on numerous occasions Merrill Lynch was unable to furnish the requested emails promptly. On one occasion it took around seven months to produce the emails, on another around five months. The regulator found that Merrill Lynch had wilfully breached the Securities and Exchange Act 1934, and Rules relating to it. The action has now settled, with the firm, which has not admitted any wrongdoing, undertaking to review its systems, procedures and policies in connection with email retention and to appoint a consultant to advise on the review. The SEC has censured Merrill Lynch and imposed a penalty of $2.5m. Merrill Lynch spokesman Mark Herr told Reuters that the firm has improved its systems and now believes it is able to promptly provide any further requested emails. The SEC Order (7-pages / 57KB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
ITV - the UK broadcaster that is branching out into net TV and which recently bought dotcom giant Friends Reunited - has rejected an approach regarding a possible buyout. In a statement to the stock exchange today ITV said that a consortium comprising Apax Partners, The Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs' Principal Investment Area had "recently expressed an interest in the possibility of acquiring a controlling interest in ITV". However, execs "unanimously concluded that the proposal could not be in the best interests of all shareholders and accordingly rejected it". With the advent of internet TV and video-on-demand industry watchers reckon ITV is ripe for an approach. Six months ago ITV launched a pilot on the south coast of England of a new regional broadband TV service. The trial formed part of ITV's plans to diversify away from traditional TV content to help cash in on growing net-based revenues. According to the latest figures available, the amount of cash spent on internet advertising in the UK soared 73 per cent last year to £1.13bn - way past other media such as consumer and business mags, radio, outdoor and cinema. In December ITV snapped up Friends Reunited for £120m in cash and paper with a further £55m payable if the operation hits certain numbers in 2009. The acquisition of Friends Reunited gives ITV the chance to generate content online which, in turn, will help attract much needed advertising bucks. ®
TechScapeTechScape Peter Cochrane started out digging ditches for a living, before what could be described as a meteoric rise to CTO of BT.
If humanity does ever colonise the wintry wastes of Mars, at least between having their faces sucked and uncovering Total Recall conspiracies, pioneers will be able to console themselves with eyeball-meltingly explicit broadband video feeds. Researchers at MIT have made the possibility of high-speed optical communications in space a more realistic one by near-trebling the efficiency of a nanotech-based photon detector, New Scientist reports. Co-author of the study Karl Berggren, publishing in the journal Optical Express, explained: “It can take hours with the existing wireless radio frequency technology to get useful scientific information back from Mars to Earth. But an optical link can do that thousands of times faster.” The team cranked-up the sensitivity of their detector by giving it an anti-reflective coating to reduce light bouncing away and a 'photon trap' consisting of a cavity between a sheet of glass and a titanium and gold mirror which concentrates the signal on the detector. The photon-detecting component itself is an extremely thin nanowire made from the nitride of the transition metal niobium. Berggren says the function of the detector comes from the super conducting properties of the nanowire. It has zero electrical resistance when cooled to near absolute zero. During the experiments the detector was operated at just 1.8 degrees Kelvin, or about -456 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it has such low resistance, when even a single photon hits it a tiny electrical current is generated. Interplanetary distances mean that even high-powered lasers would spread out and be hard to detect. The MIT group's improvements to the efficiency of the receiver – raising it from 20 per cent to 57 per cent - means even an extremely weak optical signal can be recognised. NASA's canned Mars Telecomunications Orbiter was set to carry a beam capable of transferring 30 million bits per second. By comparison Mars Odyssey, which reached the Red Planet in 2002, manages a glacial 128,000 bits per second.®
Want your fifth-generation iPod to run for longer than two hours when you're playing videos? Accessory specialist Belkin reckons it has the answer: a bolt-on rechargeable battery pack that the company claims boosts the player's playback duration by 300 per cent.
Recent widespread debit-card fraud likely has roots in three major data leaks that occurred in the last six months, two of which have yet to be publicly disclosed by the companies involved. Consumers have noted a large increase in the amount of debit-card fraud since the beginning of 2006, as well as a wide recall of cards by banks and financial institutions.
Verizon is paying CBS an undisclosed amount for access to its analog and digital content as well as video-on-demand. Verizon will retransmit the content on its FiOS TV service delivered via fibre-optic network. The network is available in some parts of seven states. The company was already using CBS content under a previous agreement. Prices were not disclosed by sources told Reuters it was likely to be about 50 cents a subscriber. More from Reuters here or the press release is here. Verizon is building a fibre-optic cable network to homes across America. It is banking on consumers downloading an awful lot of content. Its FiOS TV system offers personal video recorders, movies on-demand and high-defintion sets.®
The Commons yesterday stuck to the government's guns rejecting (by 284 to 241) a truce offered yesterday by the House of Lords. The Lords have seen their attempts to liquidate government plans for covertly compulsory ID cards rejected by MPs three times. The Lords had proposed a compromise on Monday that they hoped would end the current round of legislative ping-pong. Compulsion would have been put off until 2012, making it an issue for the next election. But that idea's been kicked out of Parliament too. Before Parliament's vote yesterday, Edward Garnier, shadow minister for home affairs, compared the centres where people would have their fingerprints taken, their eyes scanned and their photographs taken for the government database, to the Soviet gulags. "If compulsion by stealth is so good and so popular, why do not the Government have the self-confidence to try voluntary take-up? If the public are sufficiently attracted and follow the arguments on cost, they will flock into the gulags and processing places so that their information can be put on the national identity register," he said. For a moment it almost conjured an image of country as concentration camp... but this evaporated as Garnier was promptly forced to withdraw his remark by home secretary Charles Clarke. Nevertheless, David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall, North, and a critic of the "jackboot jibes" that have been thrown at the government's ID plans, urged the government not to force a bill with such serious implications for citizenship through parliament without having it proposed clearly to the electorate first. Which brings us to the New Labour manifesto commitment that has now been parsed ad nauseam: that the cards would be voluntary when someone applied for a passport. This argument has been wrung dry, leaving the government to argue its case for compulsion on two key points, as it has done since Monday: uncertainty and cost. As Clarke said yesterday and Baroness Scotland of Asthal, Minister of State for Criminal Justice and Offender Management, told the Lords on Monday, any delay to the imposition of ID cards or voluntary take-up of the scheme would complicate it because the government would have to rewrite the business plan for system and confuse the tendering of suppliers. Clarke accused opponents of a "deliberate plan for delay and destruction of the process in the Identity Cards Bill." Opponents said delaying the imposition of ID cards would do no such thing. The government had not even finished drawing up plans for the system and certainly had no idea how much it would cost. New proposals for ID card readers had only just been floated when the Lords debated the issue on Monday. "If I wanted to be difficult, I could say that they are making it up day by day. But I don't want to be difficult," said Baroness Anelay of St Johns.®
Transmeta has confirmed it is engaged on "proprietary" design work for Microsoft, a revelation that will undoubtedly fuel speculation that the software giant is working on a mobile version of its Xbox 360 games console. In fact, it's more likely to relate to the shipping 360 product.
Samsung has shown off what it claims is the world's smallest dual-core notebook, a machine it describes as "ultra-mobile" that weighs just 1.9kg and sports a 12.1in, 1280 × 800 widescreen display.
The European Commission (EC) is urging countries to invest in broadband and use all the state aid funding available to ensure that high speed net access is available in rural and remote areas. It remains adamant that broadband is essential to future prosperity and the creation of jobs. And while competition and open markets are accepted as the best ways to deliver broadband among the 25 member states, there are concerns that rural areas could miss out. Which is why the EC is urging countries to to "make clever use of all policy instruments" to ensure that broadband is available for all Europeans by 2010. Eurocrats say that where private investment fails to deliver broadband, state aid should be considered to help fund investment such as public/private partnerships to support the construction of open networks. Although there's plenty of cash sloshing about for state-funded investment, the EU insists that aid can only be used as long as it doesn't interfere with the market. "Deployment of broadband may be hampered by market failures in rural and remote areas," said Viviane Reding, commissioner for Information society and media, yesterday. "In such cases, well-targeted state aid may therefore be appropriate...but we have to make sure that state aid does not crowd out private initiative, nor distort competition to an extent contrary to the common interest." Commissioner Danuta Hübner, commissioner responsible for regional policy chipped in: "Where there are genuine market failures, the EU Structural Funds play a vital role in stimulating investments in broadband infrastructure and services, boosting competitiveness and innovation and enabling all regions of Europe to participate fully in the knowledge economy." Last month the EC gave the green light for plans by the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) to construct an open, carrier-neutral, fibre-optic network to wire up 14 Welsh business parks in North Wales. As part of the state aid-funded scheme the network would remain in public ownership but would be available to telecoms operators to provide broadband to business users. Speaking at the time competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said the project was "fully in line with the commission's policy to promote broadband in rural and remote areas". Although the project has been given the thumbs up by the EC, the Welsh Assembly Government is not expected to make a final decision on the project until later this year. ®
Readers who have been following the recent spate of senior citizen misbehaviour across Europe will be glad to hear that evolutionary biology has provided an explanation. For the uninitiated, just lately there's been the Russian OAP's porn crypt, his countryman who became a porn star at 75, and the poor Italian policeman who pulled over a swerving car to be confronted by a 70-year old nude nonna humping the driver. Thank crivens for Roxana Torres and colleagues, of the Institute of Ecology at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, and their paper: “Senescent birds redouble reproductive effort when ill: confirmation of the terminal investment hypothesis,” published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The terminal investment hypothesis is a pretty intuitive idea and should be the same for all long-lived species. Simply put if you know you are not long for this Earth then the trade-off between everyday survival and reproductive effort tips in favour of getting one's end away. Although the hypothesis was proposed way back in 1966, before this new study in birds, evidence to support it had so far been scant. The team took two groups of male blue-footed boobies, one in their studly prime and one, relatively speaking, peck-peck-peckin' on heaven's door. Both were injected with a bacterial toxin. This elicited an immune response much the same as being diagnosed with a bout of the flu (not bird flu); if you're close to full-time coffin-dodging then your number could easily be up. The plucky old boobies then redoubled their reproductive efforts, showing a 98 per cent increase in luck with the birds, in the form of more fledglings. The younger group's success meanwhile fell away in response to the immune stress. The implications here are obvious - old folks just can't help themselves. In conclusion, the recent spate of superannuated lustiness is nothing new, its evolutionarily hard-wired; birds do it, bees do it, continental OAPs do it. As an Australian toad hunter might say: “Not in my backyard.”® Bootnote Expect the inhumanity to get worse. As we reported, fiftysomethings are already being rather inappropriate.
Budget cuts at the FBI have left some agents without email accounts. "As ridiculous as this might sound, we have real money issues right now, and the government is reluctant to give all agents and analysts dot-gov accounts," said Mark Mershon, head of the FBI's New York office, AP reports. "We just don't have the money." Every New York agent has access to a secure internal messaging system but only three in four have email accounts that can be reached from outside the organisation. FBI officials denied that a squeeze on spending was to blame for some agents having to operate without access to government email accounts. A Washington spokeswoman told AP that email addresses were still being handed out to New York staffers. The FBI expects to provide all 2,000 agents in its New York office with email accounts by the end of the year. At least one US politician is unimpressed that agents don't already have access to modern communications technology. "The FBI should have the tools it needs to fight terrorism and crime in the 21st century, most of all in New York City, and one of the most effective means of communications is e-mail and the Internet," Senator Charles Schumer told AP. ®
Australian IT minister Helen Coonan has rejected proposals from the opposition Labour party to force ISPs to install filters to remove pornographic content and provide Aussies with "clean feed" internet access. Under the proposed scheme adults who wanted to view porn would have to ask their ISP to remove the filters. Minority parties made the suggestion late last year and Coonan criticised Labour for coming late to the debate. Coonan said that PC-based filters remained the most effective way to remove such content. She said a recent trial of server-level filters found they reduced network performance by between 18 and 78 per cent. She said the government estimated such a scheme would cost $45m(£18.4m) to implement and $33m(£13.5m) a year to maintain. A government study in 2005 found 35 per cent of family PCs protected by filtering software. Coonan said the proposal did not even have full support of the Labour Party. She pointed to comments made by shadow spokesperson for IT Kate Lundy in 2003. Describing server level filters she said: "This ridiculous proposition is made even more absurd when the weaknesses of filtering technology at this level effectively ensure that it would not work anyway.". The Australian government already bans all X-rated and restricted content from being hosted in Australia and requires age checks on all restricted material. More details from Helen Coonan here.®
Australian sky-watchers have spotted a second flying car on Google Earth and - like the first example clocked back in January - this one is also menacing the good burghers of Perth: The story has just broken in theage.com.au, which pinpoints the hyperdrive-driven vehicle as taking off "near the shores of Coogee Beach, just off Cockburn Road, near the corner of Powell Road". The evidence, it must be said, for a clandestine Oz flying car X programme based in a secret underground facility somewhere in Perth is now pretty conclusive: For the record, we have received inside information as to the exact specifications of the Point Walter transdimenional Holden seen above. Sadly, if we shared this information with you, we'd have to kill you - as the old saying goes. Accordingly, we leave it to you to speculate as to the truth behind this latest sighting, which can be found on Google Earth (.kmz) or Google Maps. ® Bootnote Thanks to all those readers who hotfooted it to their PCs to send us an urgent flying car alert.
Sage plans to buy its way into the Scandinavian market with the £334m acquisition of Oslo-based Visma. Visma is the largest Scandinavian vendor of business management solutions for SMBs. Its revenues last year were £166m at a profit of £22m, and assets were estimated at £197m. Sage will offer 125 Norwegian Krona per share, a 19 per cent premium on the average price over the last twenty days trading. One pound gets you about 11 and a half Kroner these days. If it goes through, the deal will be the second acquisition in 2006 for shopaholic Sage after January's £184m purchase of US firm Verus Financial Management.®
Nvidia is to buy Hybrid Graphics, a Finnish developer of graphics middleware for mobile devices, the graphics chip company said today. Terms are undisclosed.
Apple has denounced France as a sponsor of piracy after the country's parliament backed a bill that, if enacted, will force the company to open its DRM technology to other hardware vendors and online music stores.
Gordon Brown delivered his tenth, and widely assumed last, Budget today and promised to keep UK growth on track at between 2 and 2.5 per cent for this year rising to between 2.75 and 3 per cent for 2007. Brown is introducing a zero rate of vehicle tax for cars with the lowest pollution rating. But rates increase up to a new high of £210 for the most polluting one per cent of vehicles. He announced funding for an extra 3,000 science teachers, and science will be included in assessments of schools' performance. All students will be entitled to study any science subject and there is funding for afternoon science clubs at 250 schools. Brown announced a single research budget for the medical research council and NHS which will be worth at least £1bn. Tax relief on R&D will be increased and companies with up to 500 staff will be now eligible. The previous limit was 250. Investments in venture capital trusts will get 30 per cent relief. The British Chambers of Commerce welcomed the expansion of R&D credit but would have liked "to see it extended to cover firms' expenditure on intellectual property. The BCC questioned Brown's forecast of a strong recovery in business investment because of low business confidence. A bottle of wine will go up by 4 pence, cigarettes by 9 pence a pack, beer by one pence a pint but tax on champagne and spirits will be frozen. More from the Beeb here and a full transcript courtesy of 24dash.com here.®
Forget meteorite strikes and global cooling - the dinosaurs were killed off by a lack of proper kip, according to Niels Rattenborg of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. And it wasn't because they were too knackered to run away from extinction-causing threats, either - they apparently didn't survive "because their reptilian sleeping patterns meant their brains did not learn new skills properly", as the Scotsman puts it. Specifically, reptiles can't get a proper night's zeds and therefore don't experience "slow wave sleep, the type of sleep believed to be responsible for boosting memories, especially those connected to performing new tasks". Mammals and birds suffer no such deprivation, thereby benefiting from the "enhancements in both learning and physical performance" which slow wave sleep promotes by closing down those parts of the brain which have "acquired new skills, thereby allowing this learning to become consolidated without interruption". The upshot of all of this is that as the Earth's climate changed, the poor old dinosaurs weren't able to learn enough "new tricks" to muddle on, the theory claims. Hmmmm. Regarding birds and mammals, the research does point to one interesting thing: if both experience slow wave sleep, they must have evolved this ability independently, coming as they do from different evolutionary lines, with our flying friends being more closely related to modern, shattered reptiles. Niels Rattenborg's paper is published in the Brain Research Bulletin. ®
Want the fastest Windows XP Core Duo notebook? Then buy a Mac. According to benchmarks carried out by website GearLog, Apple's MacBook Pro running Windows XP is a better Adobe Photoshop rig than any other Core Duo laptop on the market.
Easynet - the local loop unbundling (LLU) operator bought by Sky for £211m - is to continue installing its kit in BT exchanges to provide broadband services direct to end users. As it stands today, the ISP has unbundled 232 exchanges giving it access to 20 per cent of UK homes. But by the end of the year around 750 exchanges are due to be unbundled enabling it to offer broadband services to around half of UK households. And by the end of 2007, Easynet looks set to have unbundled around 1,200 exchanges giving it access to seven in ten UK households. Details of the firm's ongoing investment in LLU was delivered at a briefing for analysts yesterday. But although it was billed as a strategy update, there was precious little detail about Sky's broadband plans. A Sky broadband service is due to be unveiled in the second half of 2006 but it's name and pricing details are being kept under wraps. What is known, though, is that in common with other communications operators, Sky's vision is to provide comms services throughout the home. As well as TV from Sky, a broadband connection would also enable web access, video on demand (VoD) and VoIP, among other services. "Broadband and integrated whole home solutions represent a real opportunity for growth," said Sky in its presentation adding that this would deliver "more customers, greater loyalty and profitable revenues". In January the satellite TV outfit kicked off its Sky by Broadband VoD service and has notched up 140,000 registered users in just three months. ®
An enormous project to build the world's largest neutrino telescope underneath the South Pole has completed its second Antarctic Summer of drilling work. The $272m IceCube detector will harness a cubic kilometre of solid ice to explore these mysterious sub-atomic particles. Because of the unbearably bleak Antarctic winter, work is only viable for five months of the year. The team are pleased with the 2005/6 progress, though. Project leader Francis Halzen of the University of Wisconsin said: “It's good news all round. All the major challenges encountered by drilling a first hole last season have been solved.” The drill uses simple hot water to cut down into the virgin ice, though the group assures us its tool is very sophisticated. The plan is to sink strings of basketball-sized optical sensor modules one-and-a-half miles down into the crystal-clear ice. Very rarely a neutrino will smack into another particle in the ice and the light generated will be detected. This Antarctic summer the engineers positioned 480 of the eventual 4,200 below-ice modules. The neutrinos IceCube hopes to detect will come from outside the Solar System. They will have passed all the way through the Earth from the Northern hemisphere. The idea is that the planet will act as a giant filter, removing the noisy cosmic background. Neutrinos are like ghosts, say scientists, able to pass through Earth virtually anonymously. Billions go through our bodies every day without causing damage that more strongly-interacting, larger particle radiation can. Their 'weakness' is also what makes them so hard to detect, and so mysterious. Even a property as seemingly basic as how much the little scamps weigh has proven elusive. Until recently, the boffins didn't even know if they weighed anything. This enigmatic nature stems from the fact that they are only involved in two of the universe's four fundamental forces: the weak nuclear force and gravity. Relative to the strong nuclear force and electromagnetism they're feeble and interactions are rare. That's why IceCube has to be so colossal. It's the 'throw enough sh*t and some of it will stick' school of particle physics. The fusion reactions of the Sun produce neutrinos in great numbers. The particular type the IceCube scientists are interested however in are formed by the most violent events in the universe; the big bang and supernovae. They want to know more about the distribution, and the origins of these highest-energy neutrinos. The IceCube neutrino telescope is due for completion in 2011. Visit their site here.®
The European Commission has dismissed Microsoft's latest attempt to placate the regulators by offering free support to licensees signing up to see server code. A statement from the EC criticises Microsoft for going to the press rather than giving them details. It says the issue of support is irrelevant because the documentation is not up to scratch. But it says Microsoft will have the chance to explain its latest offer in court at the end of the month. Prior to this offer companies got 500 hours of free support to help make sense of the code. IDG has details of the Microsoft offer here. We asked the European Commission what they thought of the offer and they sent us this statement: The Commission has not been told about this offer by Microsoft. The only information we have is what they have given to the press. We therefore do not know any details. Nevertheless at first sight this seems to be a constructive proposal as Microsoft will naturally be well placed to answer questions from licensees on specific points of the documentation. However, technical support is only helpful once the documentation has reached a certain quality standard. Two years after the Decision, the Commission’s preliminary view is that the technical documentation still does not comply with the requirements of the decision. Companies trying to compete with Microsoft must be able to have access to usable, workable documentation, and should not be forced to rely on help from Microsoft staff. Microsoft will have the opportunity to explain how this technical support is relevant to compliance with the March 2004 Decision at the March 30-31st hearing. The Commission is already aware of Microsoft having submitted a work plan to the Monitoring Trustee detailing a number of projects to enhance the Workgroup Server Protocol Program’s technical documentation, projects which the Trustee and his expert advisors consider vital to ensuring that the documentation is usable."®
Preview versions of Firefox 2.0 have been posted on the the Mozilla Foundation's website. Although Firefox 2.0 "Bon Echo" alpha isn't out officially yet developers can already obtain Windows, Mac OS X and Linux versions of the code. Users hoping to get a glimpse of the improved anti-phishing, session restoration and management features promised in Firefox 2.0 are likely to be disappointed. This pre-feature alpha version of Firefox 2.0 is aimed squarely at developers working on the internals of the software and making sure the code is compatible with Firefox 1.5. Expect many sites that render normally with Firefox 1.5 to misbehave under Firefox 2.0 until this basic work is completed. Mozilla's road map marks out the delivery of a feature-complete beta during Q2 prior to the release of a full version of the software in summer. At this point mere mortals - rather than intrepid code jockeys - can take Firefox 2.0 for a spin. Among the features to look out for will be a places menu, accessible from the bookmark toolbar, which allows surfers to easily access previously visited sites. Users will be able to search their history, bookmarks or RSS subscriptions. Firefox 2.0 will also ship with anti-phishing technology from Google, Ars Technica reports. Google Safe Browsing uses a combination of blacklisting of known phishing sites and inference. ®
Dell today starts taking orders for its "limited edition" XPS 600 Renegade quad SLI, physics engine-equipped desktop gaming rig. The kit will set you back a whopping $9,930, although this includes Dell's 30in LCD monitor.
A member of the Oakland, California "Nut Case" gang who allegedly indulged in an orgy of murder, attempted murder, robbery and kidnapping could face the death penalty if the jury at his trial finds him guilty on commission of a robbery and multiple murder raps. Demarcus Ralls is the first Nut Case to stand trial for a six-week crime spree in late 2002 and early 2003 which "terrorized Oakland residents", ktvu.com reports. The Nut Cases - some of whom sport Planters' "Mr. Peanut" logo tattoos - were so dubbed because they apparently indulged in crime for fun. Ralls alone racked up four murder charges, two counts of attempted murder, 17 counts of robbery, one count of kidnapping and "various enhancement clauses". According to the Oakland cops, "several suspects told investigators that the gang often played the video game Grand Theft Auto III in which players are awarded points for committing crimes such as murders, robberies and carjackings". The jury has been deliberating Ralls' fate at Alameda County Superior Court since 7 March. His attorney Ted Johnson claimed during the trial that Ralls "didn't fire the fatal shots in any of the four murders he is accused of carrying out", while prosecutor Darryl Stallworth insisted "the overwhelming weight of the evidence" supported a conviction. Ralls' five fellow nutcases face trial later this year and in early 2007. ®
Samsung has announced Intel's Core Duo T2700 mobile processor before the chip giant has even said it will offer such a part. The as-yet-unlaunched 65nm dual-core CPU is set to appear in the notebook maker's upcoming Q35 laptop, as we were first to report earlier today.
A Dutch Court has ruled that photos posted onto photo-sharing site Flickr under a Creative Commons licence should not have been reproduced by a gossip magazine without the permission of the poster. The case concerned former MTV VJ and podcasting guru Adam Curry, who published photos of his family on Flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike license. Founded in 2001, Creative Commons is a non-profit US corporation based on the notion that some people may not want to exercise all of the intellectual property rights the law affords them. Its aim is to encourage creativity and innovation by paving a middle ground between "All rights reserved" and anarchy. It describes this as "Some rights reserved". Inspired partly by the GNU General Public License developed by the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons has drafted licences that give the public some rights to use and manipulate the work of authors and artists, while allowing the authors to retain some rights, such as those permitting commercial exploitation. On this occasion the licence allowed material to be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, so long as the reproduction gave credit to the original author of the material. However, Dutch tabloid Weekend reproduced four of the photos in a story about Curry’s children, in breach of the licence, and Curry sued for copyright and privacy infringement. In its defence, Weekend argued that it was misled by a notice on the website stating "this photo is public" (which is a standard feature of all Flickr images that are viewable by the public), and said that the link to the licence was not obvious. Weekend had assumed that no authorisation from Curry was needed, it said. Audax, the publisher of Weekend,, argued that it was informed of the existence of the licence only much later by its legal counsel. The Court rejected Weekend’s defence and, according to a translation by the Creative Commons, held that the photos were subject to the licence and that Audax should have followed its conditions. “It may be expected from a professional party like Audax that it conduct a thorough and precise examination before publishing in Weekend photos originating from the internet,” said the District Court of Amsterdam. The company faces a fine of €1,000 per photo if it publishes any of Curry’s copyrighted pictures without permission again, Curry said in his blog. Paul Keller, Public Project Lead for Creative Commons in the Netherlands welcomed the ruling: “We are very happy with this decision as it demonstrates that the millions of creators who use Creative Commons licences are effectively protected against abuses of their willingness to contribute to the commons,” he said. Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons' CEO and chairman, added: “This decision confirms that the Creative Commons licensing system is an effective way for content creators to manage their copyrights online.” “The decision should also serve as a timely reminder to those seeking to use content online, to respect the terms that apply to that content,” he said. See: Adam Curry’s blog on the judgment Creative Commons Canada blog on the issue The ruling (in Dutch) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Scientists have offered a decent explanation for why the bird flu pandemic we're all supposed to be cowering in our hermetically-sealed Anderson shelters from has yet to materialise. The H5N1 influenza virus needs to acquire the ability to pass from human to human in order to precipitate the downfall of civilisation. According to virologists reporting in tomorrow's edition of Nature it all comes down to human anatomy. They say that the disease can only replicate in the presence of a particular flavour of the molecule it recognises and binds to in order to cause trouble. In humans it seems this receptor is concentrated in the lower region of the lungs, which means viruses can only replicate down there. In turn this means it is much less likely to be spread by sick people coughing and sneezing. The upper respiratory tract has an alternative form of the binding molecule. H5N1 would have to mutate in order to use this molecule. Given the mainstream media firestorm over bird flu has abated slightly, actual science like this explaining why so far we're not all rotting in mass graves, surrounded by empty packets of Lempsip Max Strength, is unlikely to get much coverage.®
Financial services companies appear to have it in for their technology customers with Fidelity Investments adding to a spate of laptop thefts. A laptop lost by Fidelity this month has exposed 196,000 current and former HP employees, staff were told last night. "This is to let you know that Fidelity Investments, record-keeper for the HP retirement plans, recently had a laptop computer stolen that contained personal information about you, including your name, address, social security number and compensation," employees learned via email. Fidelity has also set up a web site that "includes some immediate steps that you can take to protect yourself, as well as information about how to enroll for a 12-month period of credit monitoring at no cost to you and a Fidelity call center number in case you have additional questions." Now that's service. The latest leak follows a string of laptop losses by Ernst & Young that exposed information on Sun Microsystems, Cisco and IBM employees. Ernst & Young has provided a similar service to Fidelity, although the auditing firm was a bit less proactive with its laptop losses. A single laptop containing information on the Sun, Cisco and IBM workers went missing, and Ernst & Young waited close to two months to inform some of the employees about the loss. This information was revealed here in a string of exclusive stories. Ernst & Young had another four laptops stolen from a Miami conference room when its workers left their kit in the room as they went out for lunch. We've since learned that Ernst & Young pushed forward a company-wide rollout of encryption software made by Pointsec. Employees were ordered to install the software on March 9, according to two sources. Ernst & Young has declined numerous requests for additional comment on the laptop thefts other than to say it believes encryption software is keeping the stolen data safe. The company will not say if anyone has been held accountable for leaving their laptops unguarded. At least on paper, Fidelity seems to be taking its breach more seriously than Ernst & Young. The company sent us a detailed statement about the situation. "At this time, we are unaware of any misuse of the information contained in the software on the laptop," said Fidelity spokeswoman Anne Crowley. "The application was running on a temporary license from a third-party software vendor. The license has expired. Since the expiration of the license, the scrambled data would be difficult to interpret and generally unusable. "We have taken steps to implement extra security processes requiring additional authentication for access to those HP accounts as well as other measures to prevent unauthorized use. We have also employed additional security controls above and beyond our already significant monitoring activity to identify if there is any unusual activity in these accounts. Further, we have reviewed activity in the HP accounts and have found no indication of unusual or suspicious activity." HP has not returned a call seeking comment. ®