27th > March > 2006 Archive

Sonic gets a workbench

While it can make a technology seem more artisan than artist, the appearance of a Workbench for developers is usually a sign that the technology is starting to have some reasonable traction amongst users. That is what has happened with the launch of Version 7.0 of Sonic Software’s Enterprise Service Bus. The major addition to the system is a Workbench environment aimed, according to the company’s technology evangelist, David Chappell, at raising the level of developer productivity in SOA projects, as well simplifying project lifecycles. It exploits a visual modelling environment as the basic tool for building business process models, providing as a by-product an implicit bridge between traditional applications developers, architects and business analysts. The modelling tool is based on Eclipse and Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN), which allows the processes to be modelled without having to delve down into defining specific details or dependencies. Once established, the model can then be configured by drilling down into it to define specifics and set dependencies. When modelling is completed the workbench then provides tools for testing and deployment. According to Chappell it is a simple task to move modelled development scenarios onto the testing stage as a complete entity. Indeed, this capability can also be used to move scenarios between different members of a development team. Chappell sees this as a core part of building a communications bridge between the different team members. Sonic is using some new technology, which has patents pending, to provide distributed debugging capabilities. This allows developers to debug not only their own work but also take a step into services deployed on other machines. According to Chappell, this automates a capability that was previously only possible by expert hand-crafting in Eclipse. Deployment from the workbench is, he said, still one area with a few problems. “These can occur with those applications or tools that have inbuilt inflexibilities, such as the hardwiring of server names, which can cause deployment conflicts,” he said. This problem is quite common with older applications and tools which, Chappell concurred, could now be classed as “dumb, with hindsight.” Version 7.0 of the ESB also now incorporates the four key standards for web service delivery. These are WE-Reliable Messaging, WS-Addressing, WS-Security and WS-Policy, and Chappell claims Sonic is the first vendor to have them in a shipping product. It also includes an extended version of the Continuous Availability Architecture (CAA) introduced in version 6.0. This is known as CAA Fast Forward, which skips the normal write-to-disk stage of high availability and recovery systems by utilising a real-time replication approach. ®
Martin Banks, 27 Mar 2006

Apple schedules Southampton, Manchester stores

Apple is planning to open at least two more Apple Stores in the UK, with shops set to open in Manchester and Southampton in the company's current fiscal year - by the end of September, in other words.
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2006

InPhase touts 'record breaking' holo storage density

Holographic storage specialist InPhase last week said it had managed to squeeze more than 515 billion bits of information into a square inch of storage media - higher than any commercially available data-archive technology, the company claimed.
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2006

EU ponders 'more risky' procurement rules

The EU Commission is considering new proposals that would require public procurers to purchase innovative products and services still in need of further research, alongside the more traditional, risk-free approach of buying only established products. The proposals, which were presented yesterday in Vienna by an ad-hoc working group of ICT experts from all national administrations, takes the view that such "pre-commercial procurement of innovation" could be an important new driver for research and development in the EU. "Europe must create a commercial environment that encourages more rapid innovation and take up of research results," said Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner responsible for the Information Society and Media. "The public sector has massive buying power, but it needs the right incentives to share the risks as well as the benefits of investing in new technologies and services." The classic approach to public procurement is one of buying established products and services in order to minimise the risk and to maximise the benefit to buyers. In contrast to this, yesterday's proposals suggest that buyers should come together to share the risks and the benefits of pursuing novel services and products with the providers themselves. Such an approach would greatly stimulate innovation, increase investment levels and stimulate take-up of related R&D, and at the same time reduce risks through a pooling of resources, the working group says. In a report, "Pre-commercial procurement of innovation: A missing link in the European innovative cycle", the group reveals that US and Asian economies are already procuring pre-commercial R&D services in line with WTO rules. It says that such an approach could have a profound impact in the EU, where R&D investment by member states is much lower than in other regions of the world, and represents only a very small fraction of their public procurement expenditures. The commission now proposes to follow up on the report by exploring with those directly responsible for public procurement – in particular national authorities – opportunities for a number of joint actions in domains such as health, transport, security and government. It will also consider whether further legal guidelines are required to facilitate pre-commercial public procurement. See: the report (33 page/322KB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 27 Mar 2006

Online to be next gen console battlefield

Tech DigestTech Digest Online is where it's at Sony has announced further details of its PlayStation Network Platform (PNP) at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose. Sony's PS3 rival to the Xbox 360's Live service looks set to place itself halfway between the current decentralised PS2 online offering and Microsoft's sewn-up-tight Live service. Sony's PNP (the name is only temporary – a snazzy consumer brand is expected by E3 in May) will feature a user-created identity that's held across all games, as well as worldwide ranking, matchmaking and lobby services and, most importantly, multi-player options. In other words, you'll be able to play online against other people, and like with Xbox Live, PNP will handle the chatting to people before playing, queuing for a game, then the online multi-player, the end results, and therefore make sure you play people of appropriate skill levels. Also stolen from Live's playbook are micro-payments and downloaded content via a central market - an option that's proving phenomenally successful on the Xbox 360, where the marketplace has already seen over 10m downloads, faster than iTunes took off. Over half of Xbox 360 owners have connected to Live, and of them, 85 per cent have downloaded something from the marketplace. There the differences between Xbox Live and PNP start to emerge though. Firstly, Sony's PNP service will be free. Xbox Live costs £35 annually. But with Sony's service, based on infrastructure from Sony Online (makers of EverQuest), individual publishers will be able to add on premium services at their own whim. So some publishers may charge you for some multi-player options. Sony has also configured its download system so you'll be able to buy extra content within a game. So if you want to buy a new gun for your Killzone character you won't have to wade through other games. It seems as though Sony has been watching Microsoft's moves closely. But despite smartly copying some Xbox Live tricks, it remains to be seen whether Sony actually has the expertise to pull them off. Either way, with Xbox Live in the ascendant and Sony's PNP following close behind, online's where it's at for the next generation. Nokia readies next generation of gaming mobiles Its last attempt at cracking mobile gaming ended up an ignoble failure. But despite the mistakes made in the N-Gage saga, it looks like Nokia is set to return to gaming-focused mobile phones early next year, as mobile phone gaming finally takes off. Over the last year, mobile gaming downloads have risen and risen, and perhaps just as importantly, a host of big games industry players have got in bed with mobile gaming experts. The time is apparently right for Nokia to consider stepping back into the mobile gaming arena. According to In Stock, a games industry news magazine, Nokia has announced new gaming handsets for the first quarter of 2007. Alongside the announcement, made at Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Jose, Nokia also unveiled toolsets and middleware to make it easier for games programmers to make mobile phone games. Nokia has already promised a new generation of smartphones with enhanced gaming functions – and gaming power akin to current generation handheld consoles. The problem then is whether Nokia's new game phones can compete against the PSP, DS and theoretically even an "Xboy" in an increasingly crowded handheld games market. Other top stories Sony sees sense on PS3 banana controller X-Files back? Sony PSOne RIP Colossus stomps on awards Oregon prisons use videogames to cut violence
Games Digest, 27 Mar 2006

'Critical' IE bug threatens PC users

A dangerous new exploit in Internet Explorer could put PCs and data at risk, Microsoft has admitted. The flaw, for which code has already been published on the internet, could be exploited to set an email-borne virus free on the unsuspecting public. Potential viruses could come as an attachment that conceals the code, or could possibly redirect users to a site that will unleash the code on the user's machine, leaving the computer open to remote attack. Once the PC is being controlled by a malicious user, it can then be used to launch attacks on other PCs. Even supposedly fully patched versions of Internet Explorer 6 are vulnerable to the flaw, it seems, as are users with XP Service Pack 2. However, Microsoft has no plans to patch it until its next security update is released. This is despite some security companies rating it as a high level threat. In a security advisory on its website, Microsoft outlined the threat: "We have seen examples of proof of concept code but we are not aware of attacks that try to use the reported vulnerabilities or of customer impact at this time. "Microsoft has determined that an attacker who exploits this vulnerability would have no way to force users to visit a malicious website." Instead, it has warned users of its browser products to be careful when opening email attachments and to avoid untrusted websites. It has also recommended that users disable Active Scripting in their browser in an attempt to reduce their exposure to attack. The other option is to choose an alternative browser, such as Firefox or Opera. However, even these browsers are not as safe from attack as they were once considered. Firefox has been subject to a number of flaws over the past year, including one that could leave its users more vulnerable to phishing scams. Meanwhile, a report published in September by Symantec rated Internet Explorer as safer than Firefox. The report found some 25 flaws in Mozilla's Firefox internet browser, almost double the number it discovered in IE. However, it has been a tough week for Microsoft - this is the third security flaw it has had to investigate in the past seven days. On Tuesday, it admitted it was looking into a security flaw that could leave Windows PCs open to remote control, while earlier in the week it also alerted users to a vulnerability that could cause the Internet Explorer browser to crash. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Ciara O'Brien, 27 Mar 2006
graph up

S'kiddies get into spyware for just $15

A Russian website is selling a DIY spyware kit, called WebAttacker, for around $15 a throw. The site, which proudly boasts of its creator's credentials in the scumware industry, also offer technical supporter to potential buyers. The kits come in a script kiddie friendly form with code designed to make the task of infecting computers a breeze. All the buyers need do is send spam messages inviting potential marks to visit a compromised website. Spam samples trapped by internet security firm Sophos use newsworthy topics to lure unwary users. One presents itself as a warning about the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, providing links to the bogus website, purporting to offer health advice. Another plays on claims that Slobodan Milosevic was murdered. Surfers visiting these websites will find themselves exposed to JavaScript code that attempts to take advantage of known web browser and Windows vulnerabilities to download malware. The exploit downloads a program that attempts to turn off the firewall and install malware, generally a password stealer, keylogger or a banking Trojan. "This type of behaviour is inviting the return of script-kiddies," said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos. "By simplifying the task of the potential hacker for a mere tenner, sites like this one will attract opportunists who aren't necessarily very skilled and turn them into cyber-criminals." ®
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2006

Motorola Q smart phone 'available April'

Motorola has tacitly confirmed past claims that its Blackberry-style smart phone, the Q, will just miss its original Q1 2006 shipping timeframe. According to a page posted on the company's website, the 1.2cm-thick, keyboard-equipped handset will be "available April 2006".
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2006
SGI logo hardware close-up

Altiris releases desktop software virtualisation

CommentComment As companies go, Altiris has managed to garner huge recognition over the course of the last few years as a supplier of the management tools that today are essential to administer much of the distributed IT infrastructure. Perhaps best known for its Asset, Change Management and Software Deployment solutions the company has become a key player in the IT areas where the importance of automation, knowledge and control capabilities cannot be underestimated. Now the company has increased its portfolio of offerings with the release of the Altiris Software Virtualisation Solution (SVS). SVS has been designed to address the problems associated with the deployment of application software to desktop devices. The use of 'virtualisation' capabilities in the new Altiris solution can help organisations alleviate many of problems associated with software conflicts that are commonly encountered. In addition, the use of SVS could speed application deployment making it simpler for IT to help align IT usage with rapidly fluctuating alterations to business requirements. SVS works on the principle of abstracting files and desktop registry settings associated with the installation of an application. Altiris SVS makes use of some of the company's own patent pending technology to put application and configuration data into 'virtual units' that affect just how the application's files and registry settings are installed, not how they are utilised or run in operations. No customisation of the application is required and users of the application are, to all intents and purposes, unaware of the involvement of SVS. Central administration of SVS can be achieved using the extensive family of Altiris management tools. However, it should be noted that SVS has also been designed to interoperate with other desktop management offerings such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). Indeed Altiris plans to release an SMS console snap-in for SVS administration. The snap-in will be available in the near future without charge. Altiris is pricing the Software Virtualisation Solution at £18.90 per node with volume discounts available. The company is also providing a free personal use license; this could prove attractive, for example, to organisations that have taken advantage of Microsoft's Home Use Program. Altiris has a slightly different interpretation of application 'virtualisation' to that with which some people may be familiar. This is most apparent to those capabilities provided by desktop virtualisation tools such as those supplied by VMware and Microsoft. Altiris will need to address this issue during its promotion of SVS. There is every likelihood that Altiris SVS will attract the attention of its existing user base. However SVS deserves consideration of an even larger audience. It will be interesting to see how broadly Altiris can spread the message and how quickly SVS is adopted in organisations large and small. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Tony Lock, 27 Mar 2006

Managing network bandwidth

For those of us approaching what I'd like to think of as early maturity (or even late youth), it's inspiring to see some things come to pass that we'd dreamed of during our formative years, such as complete smoking bans and low cost air travel within Europe. It's also good to see some of the promises turning into reality in the world of communications, like the prospect of a wide choice of broadband service providers and low cost bandwidth, which seemed such a long way off back at the start of telecom deregulation. So, while I am still recovering from being able to fly to and from CeBIT for £155, maybe it's a good moment to consider the temptations of cheaper network bandwidth. The IT industry has always been good at throwing resource at a problem, whether it's memory, disk space or CPU cycles. The issue is that the new capacity or horsepower made available soon gets consumed, usually putting us back where we started. I recently upgraded my CRM application, for example, which had ‘progressed’ from a proprietary format to .NET running on a SQL database. Not only had it ballooned in size, but my brand new 3 GHz machine with a gig of RAM is practically on its knees trying to run it. When you look at some of the developments in the communications arena, are things really any different? WAN congestion has historically been an expensive problem that was worth attention because of BT's near-monopoly on leased line services here in the UK. Workarounds such as EPS 8 and 9 circuits had their use, but have fallen increasingly out of favour as they were not designed to support the higher speeds of today's digital modems. Now that Ofcom has really got stuck into deregulation though, the cost per bit has plummeted and this kind of workaround is no longer necessary. As an IT manager, if you are running between fire drills, it's easy to take advantage of this newly available bandwidth to keep enterprise applications running (a 10Mbps LES circuit compared to a 64K leased line is an embarrassment of riches). But other problems like patch Tuesday and SPAM can still bring the network to its knees without warning if the use of that bandwidth is not under control. Fortunately there are vendors that take the idea of managing your network bandwidth seriously and its important for IT managers to take a look at these, despite the temptation to continue to feed badly behaved applications with ever bigger pipes. One company that has a strong philosophical starting point is Blue Coat Systems of Sunnyvale, CA. The company, which began life as CacheFlow, now asserts that there are three components to a connection: performance (compression, caching, bandwidth management and protocol optimisation), security (encryption and threat management), and choice. Of the three, choice is critical, as it not only means prioritisation, but understanding the unwanted applications that may be on the network such as uncontrolled personal IM and Skype, and doing something about them. The idea is expressed very well in Blue Coat's literature: "At the core, Blue Coat appliances use a proxy/cache architecture, which enables two key functions—visibility of user/application interaction, and control of that interaction. With visibility comes context and understanding, and with control comes the ability to accelerate desirable applications, while limiting the impact of undesirable applications." The latest announcement from the company adds the protocols CIFS and MAPI to the fairly common industry offering of SSL and HTTP acceleration. It's good to see a company with a mantra of application acceleration looking to move beyond the low hanging fruit of TCP optimisation. As I recently commented in another review, no single box can address all the key network issues. In combining extra protocol optimisation with a sound fundamental approach, however, Blue Coat has its customers' backs covered, making it a strong contender to provide one of the key components necessary to achieve a genuinely well managed distributed application network. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
David Perry, 27 Mar 2006

Mobile cheats diddle exam system

More and more kids are using mobile phones to cheat in A Level and GCSE exams. According to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), 1,100 pupils were collared smuggling phones into exams last year making hi-tech trickery the most popular form of cheating among students. Not only can vital bits of information be stored as text on phones, more adventurous students can also use their mobiles to access the net. It's a far cry from when students had to cheat by writing on their hand or by making notes on a hanky. "Over recent years we have seen a noticeable rise in the number of mobile phone related incidents in examination halls across the country," said Ken Boston, chief executive of the exams watchdog who warned students not to take mobile phones into exams. Those who get caught cheating will be disqualified, he said. "Cheating compromises the integrity of the exam system and QCA is strongly committed to working with awarding bodies to combat it in all forms," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2006

Mars Orbiter beams back first images

The trio of cameras aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has beamed back its first shots of the Red Planet. Mission controllers are again relieved the kit seems to be functioning properly, having dodged the 'Mars Curse' by entering orbit safely. The main purpose of this first image set was to help with calibration procedures for the main mission in autumn. The precise corrections needed for colour imaging and high-resolution surface measurements from stereo pairs of images need to be worked out. Even so, principal investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, Alfred McEwen said: “These high resolution images of Mars are thrilling, and unique given the early morning time of day.” Taken from about 1,500 miles above the surface, the image pictured shows deep canyons on Mars' southern highlands. NASA says the best-quality version shows about 2.4 metres per pixel. The orbiter's elliptical path will gradually become more circular and take it closer to the Red Planet's surface over the next few months. Once at around 158 miles up, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be used to investigate the atmosphere, surface and underground in unprecedented detail. It will make the measurements necessary for planning a manned jaunt. ®
Christopher Williams, 27 Mar 2006

Denmark joins France in Apple-kicking

Denmark could be the latest country to join France in forcing Apple to open up its iTunes system to rivals - but only if market forces don't sort out the problem first. French law makers are considering a Digital Rights Management bill which would force Apple and others to make their products interoperable. Apple has blasted the move as state-sponsored piracy. Ars Technica reports that Maersk and TDC, two of Denmark's largest firms which both operate online music stores, are backing the move. Danish Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen is looking at the issue but has made no decision yet. A spokesman for the ministry told El Reg: "It is under consideration. The minister will look at the situation in the fall of 2007 and see if the market has fixed itself or if there is a need for action." ®
John Oates, 27 Mar 2006

Sony preps Shuffle-style MP3 Walkman update

Sony is preparing to launch a redesigned set of Network Walkman E-series digital music players, this time sporting a range of coloured cases and an integrated USB connector a la iPod Shuffle, a number of websites have claimed.
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2006

Aussies trumpet scramjet success

The team behind Saturday's scramjet test in South Australia have hailed it as a success. They are now preparing another trial of the experimental technology for Wednesday. University of Queensland and QinetiQ engineers are poring over telemetry from the short, vertically downward, flight of Hyshot III. The scientists say it will be months before they have fully processed all the data, but that initial indications were that it had followed its “nominal trajectory”. The engine was flown 330km up by a conventional rocket, and needed to be travelling at more than five times the speed of sound to kickstart the air-breathing scramjet. Hyshot III then accelerated to around 9000km/h before slamming into the desert. A recovery team will set out this week to try and recover what remains of the £1m jet, thought to have impacted some 400km away from the Woomera launch site. Wednesday's lauch will be of a different design, the Hyshot IV, backed by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA. Watch the Hyshot III launch here (.mov). ®
Christopher Williams, 27 Mar 2006

Sony ends PSOne production

Sony has stopped manufacturing the PSOne - the redesigned version of the original PlayStation aka the SCPH-100 - it has emerged. With the PS3 due to ship in November, the PS2 is set to become the entry-level system, so there's little need to keep making PSOnes.
'ard Reg, 27 Mar 2006

PayPal founder's private rocket burns, then crashes

A private rocket designed to revolutionise space transport suffered an embarrassing setback over the weekend. The maiden flight of SpaceX's low-cost Falcon 1 ended in disaster, with the flight not making it past its first stage. Take-off was at 2230GMT Friday from a launch pad on the Pacific Kwajalein Atoll. Just 25 seconds into the flight onboard cameras showed Falcon 1 spinning out of control shortly before the video feed was lost. SpaceX spokeswoman Gwynn Shotwell told reporters: "We do know that the vehicle did not succeed after that. Clearly this is a setback but we're in this for the long haul." A fatal fire aboard the paraffin-fired booster is currently the prime suspect. It's thought fuel leaked and caught light around the top of the main engine. Before Friday's launch attempt, SpaceX claimed it had launch contracts lined up worth nearly $200m by undercutting bigger government-backed space hauliers such as the European Space Agency. For a bargain £3.8m Falcon 1 was attempting to carry a 19.5kg satellite to a low-Earth orbit of 450km. SpaceX chief and PayPal tycoon Elon Musk said: “I cannot predict exactly when the next flight will take place, as that depends on the findings of this investigation and ensuring that our next customer is comfortable that all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure reliability.” ®
Christopher Williams, 27 Mar 2006

Carphone mum on 'free broadband' speculation

Execs at the Carphone Warehouse are said to be mulling the idea of offering broadband for free as part of a bundled phone package. The retailer-cum-telco is expected to release details of its broadband strategy shortly following confirmation earlier this year that it plans to press ahead with plans to invest £45m in local loop unbundling. Following its acquisition of OneTel and the UK and Ireland business on Tele2, Carphone has some 2.4m punters and is keen to make an impact in the phone and broadband market. An announcement about its broadband strategy was due to be made in March although there is speculation now that this will slip to April. According to trade mag Mobile, Carphone is due to unveil details of its broadband service on April 11 ahead of a summer launch backed by a massive ad campaign. As part of its bid to shake-up the market, the firm is mulling the idea of giving broadband away for free to its TalkTalk punters, reports the paper citing sources close to Carphone, or making free calls available to broadband subscribers. Either way, the report claims that Carphone's announcement is "expected to send shockwaves through the broadband market". A spokeswoman for Carphone declined to comment on what she described as "speculation" and wouldn't even be drawn on when an announcement would be made. However, industry insiders have told El Reg that they remain sceptical about any "free broadband" give-away because the numbers just don't add up. If Carphone did launch a free broadband service then it would most likely be a short-term gimmick, they said. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2006

iTunes offers music DVD download

Apple has begun selling music video downloads in DVD-duration batches, an approach that mirrors the way its sells songs as both singles and as album packages.
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2006
channel

Red Bull gives you wings: official

Red Bull does indeed give you wings, a Brazilian study has shown. A Sao Paulo university team plied 26 male volunteers* with booze, Red Bull or a mixture of both, and demonstrated what deranged clubbers already knew: mixing energy drinks with alcohol provokes "an increased sensation of pleasure and a reduction in sleepiness". Or, as team leader professor Maria Lucia Souza-Formigoni told the BBC: "The person is drunk but does not feel as drunk as he really is." Souza-Formigoni explained: "In Brazil, as in other countries, people believe that Red Bull and other energy drinks avoid the sleepiness caused by alcoholic beverages and increase their capacity to dance all night." Her subjects fuelled with the Red Bull and alcohol mix did indeed report "less perception of headache, weakness, dry mouth and impairment of motor coordination". And the danger? Thinking you're less legless than you really are and then taking the car for a spin. Souza-Formigoni's fellow researcher professor Roseli Boergnen de Lacerda, of the Federal University of Parana, duly warned: "The implications of these findings are that this association of alcohol and energy drinks is harmful rather than beneficial as believed by consumers." An Alcohol Concern spokeswoman told the BBC: "This is a small study but it does highlight the risks of excess drinking in relation to personal safety. Alcohol affects physical coordination and impairs an individual's ability to gauge how safe they are in a particular situation and take appropriate action. So any drink that heightens a person's perception of being in control, when they are not, could increase the potential risk of harm." A Red Bull spokeswoman declared: "Red Bull strongly advocates the responsible use of alcohol at all times. The position of Red Bull, in line with responsible adults and driving organisations worldwide, is that it is absolutely wrong to drink alcohol and drive at any time, regardless of whether alcohol has been mixed or not." And the case for Red Bull? The spokeswoman added: "Driving organisations, including the RAC, have endorsed the sole consumption of Red Bull or other caffeine-based drinks whilst driving to improve concentration and reaction time, and therefore safety." ® Bootnote *No, sadly, we were not invited to participate in this essential research programme. How that one slipped past us is anyone's guess.
Lester Haines, 27 Mar 2006

Police find rape suspects on MySpace

Detectives in Colorado have used profiles posted on networking site MySpace to identify six suspects accused of a brutal rape and robbery. The victim, who has not been named, first met the men through MySpace. They subsequently met for a party. Detective Ali Bartley told Associated Press: "At some point, the victim was no longer aware of what was happening, and she was sexually assaulted." Bartley said: "Primarily, we pulled up her friends list. It helped us identify some of the players." Six men, aged between 18 and 20, were arrested late last month and one is still being sought. They are being charged with various offences ranging from rape to sexual assualt and robbery. Police told AP the attack left blood in almost every room in the house. Hearings will be held 6 April. More from AP here.®
John Oates, 27 Mar 2006
channel

Unipalm ups Symantec range

Unipalm has been chosen to distribute Symantec's Sygate and WholeSecurity products. Symantec bought Sygate in August 2005 and picked up WholeSecurity in September 2005. WholeSecurity aims to protect against "day zero" attacks.
John Oates, 27 Mar 2006
chart

SCC Exchange roars into Watford

In briefIn brief SCC is setting up a branch of its SCC Exchange division in Watford. Birmingham-based SCC says the new site will bring around 80 jobs to Watford. SCC Exchange targets the SME market, both in the public and private sectors. The Watford office will be up and running from June. ®
Team Register, 27 Mar 2006
arrow pointing up

HCI traders fight for the right

Resellers wrong-footed by Gordon Brown have launched a campaign to save the Home Computing Initiative (HCI) from closure on 6 April. They appealed to the charitable traditions of the British people to support a scheme has allowed them to undercut other computer retailers on the back of £150m of government tax-breaks for employees buying PCs. Killing the scheme will mean job losses, poor working class families being left on the wrong side of the digital divide, and Britain falling behind in the international league of computer proficiency, say firms that sell computers through HCI. Rob Howes, managing director of HCI trader Bizzapp, pleaded the case for his ilk when he told The Register how they worked to bring cheap computers to the poor: "All [HCI traders] started because of the opportunity to make a profit, but almost all were doing it because they felt it was doing good. These are genuinely people wanting to do good." HCI was launched two years ago as a way of closing the digital divide, between those people who could afford home computers and those who could not. Employees who bought PCs through their wage packets effectively got a tax-free allowance of £1,500 over three years. The scheme suddenly became quite successful, but it was of questionable value in getting computers into the homes of the most needy. It did allow needy computer traders (who sell the computers that employers sell to their employees) to make more than double the margins they would from selling through usual channels. Howes said the sale of a PC through retail would normally earn a three to five per cent margin. "[HCI dealers] they'll make about 10 per cent margin, but they've got more costs anyway from running the HCI administration," said Howe, who used to sell software to city traders. The HCI Alliance, an industry lobby group, claimed in January that the number of employers offering HCI computers to their workers had risen almost four-fold to 1,250. Half a million people had taken the scheme up. HCI Alliance director Vivien Quinn said in a statement last week: "We know the digital divide cannot be bridged by HCI alone, but we fundamentally believe it is making a real difference. The statistics speak for themselves. “Sixty per cent of [HCI computers] have been acquired by blue collar workers and 75 per cent by employees who pay the standard rate of tax or lower." The HCI Alliance failed to break the 75 per cent of people on "standard rate of tax or lower" down to show how many were on a standard tax rate and therefore not likely to be in need of government subsidy to buy a home computer, and those on the lower rate of tax who were more likely to be needy. Quinn has not returned our calls. But Howes noted that 15,000 nurses had bought computers through the scheme. What's more, there were plenty of companies set up with the sole purpose of selling HCI computers to employers. A representative of Onecall Technologies, another HCI trader, told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme over the weekend that 2,000 people were employed by HCI traders. Howes produces software that makes it easy for a trader to administer an HCI programme for an employer. He had invested £500,000 and signed up 80 resellers. He took offence at a previous Register story that suggested the scheme had mostly been adopted by large employers. Seven hundred employers with an average of 275 employees were either using or had shown an interest in doing HCI through Bizapp, Howes said. The "SaveHCI" campaign advertised on Bizzapp's website said: "The Government's own statistics show that 9.6m employees are employed in SMBs and most of these employees will now be denied access to HCI." Each employee who buys a HCI computer is being given £1,500 of tax breaks over three years. Employers save about £192 National Insurance Saving over the same period, according to Howe.®
Mark Ballard, 27 Mar 2006

US to test missile-killing airborne laser

The US is pressing on with its highly ambitious Airborne Laser (ABL) project - a 747-mounted ballistic missile killer previously slated for possible termination due to the program's "inability to meet cost and schedule targets", as Space.com puts it. The joint Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin project - slated at $1.1bn, with $471.6m in the pot for 2006 - will now proceed towards a 2008 full-fat test on a missile target. The ABL is a three-laser set-up with two low-powered, solid state lasers dedicated to tracking the missile and testing for atmospheric distortion, and the main chemical laser weapon. The whole shooting match is housed in a computer-controlled turret aboard a Boeing 747 which is expected to fly a figure-of-eight pattern over any potential launch site. Once onboard infrared sensors detect a launch, the computer automatically positions the turret at the optimum position for a kill. That's the idea, anyway. This year the programme expects to wrap up ground-based "testing of the solid-state lasers for missile tracking and atmospheric-distortion correction" leading to flight tests before the end of 2006. Boeing vice president and ABL program director Greg Hyslop rather marvellously explained that during the latter "the lasers will be fired at a military NKC-135 aircraft with a picture of a ballistic missile painted on its fuselage". Quite how much of the budget is being committed to ballistic missile artists is not noted, but the project directors will be hoping the thing goes off with a bang. Despite the lifting of the threat of sudden death, the ABL must still meet certain "knowledge points" which allow the guys paying the bills to keep track of progress, the ABL's overall director, Air Force Colonel John Daniels, explained. The principal knowledge point will be, naturally, the 2008 missile-busting test, after which the ABL's fate will be decided. It is in direct competition with the Kinetic Energy Interceptor - a missile-based Northrop Grumman Corporation and Raytheon Company collaboration consisting of of a "mobile launcher, an interceptor and a command and control battle management and communication system that is housed in a transportable trailer". Over at DARPA, meanwhile, they're keeping quiet regarding progress on the High Energy Laser Area Defense System (HELADS) programme, which - as we reported last year - promised to get a 150kW, fridge-sized weapon in the air by 2007. ®
Lester Haines, 27 Mar 2006

Boffins break data speed record

A combined research team from Germany and Japan has broken the world record for data transmission after sending a signal at 2.56 terabits per second (Tbps) over a 160km fibre optic link. The achievement doubles the previous benchmark of 1.28Tbps and represents a transmission rate more than 50 times faster than the fastest commercial broadband connections in use today, 40Gbps. Boffins from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications in Berlin teamed up with eggheads from Fujitsu in Japan to achieve the feat, which was secured using advances in modulation techniques. The team used phase modulation to pack four recognisable states into a single laser light pulse instead of only two (on and off). "Faster data rates are hugely important for tomorrow's telecommunications," explained Professor Hans-Georg Weber from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, who led the research. Weber said the high performance systems the researchers are developing will be needed once the growth in internet traffic pushes up the necessary speed of back haul links into the terabit range. ®
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2006
channel

Software developer boxes pirate senseless

We like the way they do business down at Cognitive Technologies - and if the company's method of dealing with pirates is anything to go by, then its staff are not be be trifled with. Just ask the unnamed Russian dealer who got caught selling unlicensed copies of Cognitive software off a market stall. Confronted by the company's software department supremo, Andrei Smirnov, the chap rather foolishly decided to indulge in a bit of fisticuffs, Mosnews reports. This initial fracas was broken up by a security guard. The dealer then offered to continue the brawl in the street. Smirnov declined, suggesting instead the matter be settled in a local fitness centre's boxing ring. The result? A 24-16 win for Cognitive over three, three-minute rounds. Simple as that. We can think of a few other disputes which could be resolved in this very civilised fashion. The EU versus Microsoft immediately springs to mind, although it would be a bit more like WWF than Queensbury Rules - what with a quivering EC commissioner armed with nothing more than righteous indignation being battered with a chair by Steve Ballmer while little old ladies jump into the ring to beat the MS man with their handbags. ®
Lester Haines, 27 Mar 2006
graph up

Reg readers are lukewarm about Vista

The latest slippage in availability of Windows Vista may have come as a blow to manufacturers and retailers hoping to sell PCs to consumers in the run up to Christmas 2006, but IT pros in the business sector are probably not going to lose much sleep over it. In a recent Reg Reader Study, only 12 per cent of respondents said they would consider adoption this latest addition to the Windows lineage in the first year of its release. The most commonly cited reasons for this lack of enthusiasm were: 1. Questionable cost / benefit 2. Software and/or hardware compatibility 3. Stability and/or security of early releases This list was derived from analysis of over 2,600 freeform responses in which readers expressed themselves openly on the practical considerations associated with Vista adoption. The Feedback makes interesting reading and here are a few examples to provide a flavour of the comments we received: “Vista will need to have compelling IT management - cost reduction advantages for us to consider dropping our installed base of XP Pro - it ain’t broke…, and we don't wanna *go* broke with unnecessary technology.” “Roll out to 100,000 user machines of XP has only just completed, and the cost is simply way too high to start all over again”. “We have over 300 separate applications to support, and each must be tested in a multi-user environment”. “As with any newly released operating system, and especially with Microsoft, I'd prefer to have the bleeding edge punters be the meat-shield for the security holes and malware that is sure to follow the Vista launch”. “A new OS upgrade of this magnitude is -always- riddled with bugs (features!) and security issues. I prefer to give the software producer at least a year to make repairs. Even waiting, perhaps, until the release of the first Service Pack, depending on global opinion and results.” Interestingly, despite the anticipated hassle and cost, there is little indication from the feedback that the prospect of yet another major Windows migration will push organisations to alternatives such as Desktop Linux or Max OS X. The assumption by the majority appears to be that adoption of Vista is ultimately inevitable, it’s just that the longer you wait, the lower the risk and pain will be. From a Microsoft perspective, given its aggressive plans for Vista rollout, it will be necessary to break through this mindset if it wants to accelerate activity. Addressing uncertainties around compatibility, security and stability of early releases is an important part of this, but is probably not going to be enough by itself. Against the background of already stretched IT budgets and resources, customers need more compelling reasons to invest than they currently perceive. The discussion must therefore move beyond the simple TCO case we have been hearing to date and deal more effectively with the tangible business benefits of Vista as an enabler of the next generation desktop - not just in abstract terms, but in the context of specific business and user scenarios that are meaningful to customers. It remains to be seen if Microsoft can do enough of this to stimulate earlier uptake of Vista in the business sector compared to previous Windows releases. The full research report in PDF format of the study referred to in this article may be accessed here. ®
Dale Vile, 27 Mar 2006

Sapphire Blizzard X1900 XTX water-cooled graphics card

ExclusiveExclusive ATI's Radeon X1900 is a darned fine graphics chip but while it has taken the fight to Nvidia's GeForce 7900 GTX in no uncertain terms it also produces plenty of heat. When ATI updated the Radeon X1800 core to produce the X1900 it increased the number of pixel shaders from 16 to 48, and in the process it raised the transistor count from 321m to a phenomenal 380m, with the core covering an area of 352 square millimetres. As a result, an X1900 graphics card draws about 150W from your power supply almost all of which ends up dissipated as heat...
Leo Waldock, 27 Mar 2006
channel

Ultra-low cost mobiles to steal thunder of the ‘$100 laptop’

CommentComment The much hyped project to create the '$100 laptop' for poor communities, spearheaded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has come under fire in the past weeks, first from Microsoft’s Bill Gates and now from the GSM Association. Both are suggesting alternative ways to get internet access and other digital functionality to a larger proportion of the world's population. While the rhetoric is all about social justice and economic regeneration, both these critics clearly have a commercial interest in ensuring that their own preferred platforms are the main engines of these changes. Gates slammed the $100 laptop prototype as a tool for developing nations, claiming for real progress in underserved areas, a more sophisticated product would be required (involving Windows-style interfaces and software, of course). The MIT product delivers networked applications but cuts costs by avoiding hard drives and other elements, and can be crankpowered in areas where there is no electricity. o The weaknesses in the theory are not those touted by Gates, but rather the opposite – in a community with no electricity, will internet access really be a priority? Therefore Erlich’s objections are more realistic than Gates’s, as he points out that even $100 will be too expensive for many applications and user bases. Naturally, this leads him to promote the handset, which is being driven down to sub-$20 price tags, as a better route – though those ultralow cost devices are basic GSM phones at this stage, and a product with the real data capabilities required for social and economic change will come closer to the MIT price level. "The eye-catching price tag of $100 is going to be too expensive for the 2.5bn people worldwide living on less than $2 a day," Ehrlich said. "Thankfully, there is another hi-tech tool, which is already low cost, robust and frugal with electricity - the mobile phone." The London Business School has estimated that a 10 per cent increase in mobile penetration in a developing country can boost that country's economic growth rate by about 0.6 percentage points a year, which can make a major impact in a slow growing economy. The GSM Association has led an industry-wide initiative, the Emerging Market Handset Programme (EMHP), that has reduced the wholesale cost of entry level mobile handsets from about $100 to below $30 within 18 months, and which is on target to fall even further to $20 before the end of next year. It is also advocating projects designed to encourage entrepreneurs in the developing world to set up 'mobile payphone' businesses for people who cannot afford even a $20 handset. It recently extended its endorsement f Motorola as the EMHP vendor for a further six months from this July. This will help Motorola dominate the ultralow cost segment until 2007, according to new research from Informa, and could have a significant impact on its market share, if not its margins. Motorola CEO Ed Zander recently set a 1,000 day target for the company to usurp the number one market share position of Nokia, which has shown less enthusiasm for very cheap cellphones because of the impact on margins. Informa’s Gavin Byrne believes that if the industry selects the right combination of ex-works cost levels and feature sets, then ultra-low cost handset shipping prices will reduce from $40 in 2005 to $28 in 2010. That would equate to sales of new ULCH models of over 36m in 2007 and almost 48m in 2010, representing 5.3 per cent of total new device sales by 2010. In Africa and India these sales will be about 10 per cent of new shipments. However, the biggest challenge will not be down to cheap devices, but to finding a business model for service providers delivering voice, data and multimedia to this massive new base of users with low budgets. Like free access for poorer citizens in advanced economies, the technology choice – in that case, Wi-Fi mesh – is not the problem, but how providers can make any money from the network, and if they cannot, whether governments or development agencies will prioritise funds to bridge the gap. Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Wireless Watch, 27 Mar 2006

Boffins breed omega-3-packed porkers

US scientists have genetically engineered an omega-3-packed pig which promises healthier bacon sarnies. The piglets - born at the University of Missouri-Columbia - contain a worm gene named "fat-1". This "produced an enzyme that converted the less desirable omega-6 fatty acids that the pigs naturally produced into omega-3s", as the reserchers explained in Nature Biotechnology, Reuters reports Dr Yifan Dai of the University of Pittsburgh, who transferred the worm gene into the pig cells, said the porkers "could represent an alternative source as well as be an ideal model for studying cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders". Pregnant women are told to eat a diet rich in omega-3s, but are also told to avoid excessive amounts of fish which may be high in mercury. Oily fish are dieticians' traditional recommended source of omega-3s. But it is uncertain if we will ever benefit from the lifesaving black pudding. Regulators are still mulling whether genetically-modified animals should ever be allowed for human consumption, and the reaction of the public to a plateful of Frankenstein pork chops is uncertain. In any case, some scientists have begun to cast doubts on the alleged benefits of omega-3s. According to a BBC report last week, researchers led by a team from the University of East Anglia "reviewed 89 studies into the health effects of omega-3 fats", finding "no clear evidence that they are of any use at all". Specifically, "findings suggested the fats did nothing to prevent a recurrence of chronic heart conditions" and "men with angina given high amounts of oily fish were at a greater risk of heart attack". ®
Lester Haines, 27 Mar 2006

EU leaders back roaming charge cuts

The European Commission (EC) is to get tough with mobile operators over the high cost of roaming charges. Tomorrow, Viviane Reding, Information Society and Media Commissioner, is expected to publish her plans to cut roaming charges and give consumers a better deal. Last week, European Union (EU) leaders gave their backing for calls to cut the cost of using mobiles while abroad, noting "the importance for competitiveness of reducing roaming charges". Reding has already shown her hand. Last month she proclaimed: "In spite of many warnings and policy initiatives, roaming prices remain unjustifiably high at the retail level even though competitive pressure may have brought down charges at the wholesale level". Commenting on the wide difference on charges she said: "The lowest roaming price we found was 20 cents for a four minute peak-time call made on a Finnish mobile contract while roaming in Sweden. The highest roaming price we found was €13.08 charged to a Maltese consumer roaming for four minutes in Latvia. Here, we got a clear indication that the market does not work." Despite calls for the industry to cut charges, Reding maintains that "prices appear to have remained essentially unchanged", and that customers "continue to pay unreasonably high prices for using their mobile phone abroad". Regulation is not expected until 2007; and while Eurocrats don't intend to prescribe a specific "ideal" price for international roaming, they believe international roaming charges should be no higher than national roaming charges. However, the plans to cut roaming charges have already come under fire from mobile operator trade group GSM Association (GSMA), which claims that any regulation is "unnecessary [and] could do long-term damage" to the industry. It maintains that competition is working and that the cost of roaming across Europe fell by eight per cent last year. "Further roaming regulation is unnecessary and could have unforeseen consequences," GSMA boss Rob Conway said, adding that competition is the best way to meet the needs of customers across the whole range of mobile services. He went on: "From the limited information publicly available, the European Commission's proposals appear to be based on an outdated and incomplete view of the roaming market and the wider mobile industry. Before taking the drastic step of bypassing the existing regulatory framework, the commission needs to undertake a careful analysis of the fast-changing European mobile market and the potential impact of any further legislation." ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2006

Weathermen whip up a storm

Top meteorologists are planning to digitally plunge Britain into weather-induced peril. A £5.5m Met Office supercomputing project will test Britain's defences against violent storm surges. The hotch-potch of crumbling sea walls that stand between us and a reenactment of Kevin Costner's Waterworld will be pushed to their limits in the simulation. Heriot-Watt University professor Garry Pender told The Guardian: “You have to do these tests. If you hear a storm surge bigger than you've ever seen is on its way, you want to know you can cope with it.” The silicon storm will ape the conditions experienced last November, when a storm sent a wall of water up the Thames. Fortunately for Londoners, it hit during a low neap tide and had no impact. However, the electronic version will be set in 2015 when a 25 year high spring tide will arrive September 30. The surge will top out at 3.5m. The weather watchers will add some extra spice in the form of strong northerly winds that will batter river banks. The idea behind the wheeze is to test whether the Met Office's artificial intelligence can foresee storm surges, and how different agencies interact in the face of a crisis. More from the Guardian here. ®
Christopher Williams, 27 Mar 2006

Microsoft appeals South Korean anti-trust ruling

Microsoft today filed an appeal with the Seoul High Court, seeking the revocation of a December ruling by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) that the software giant had infringed competition rules. The KFTC found in December that Microsoft had acted in breach of anti-trust rules by tying its media service and media player to the Windows server and PC operating systems. The regulator fined Microsoft around £15m. The firm was also ordered to offer two versions of the Windows PC operating system – one entirely stripped of the media player and instant messaging software, and another containing a "Media Player Centre" and "Messenger Centre", linking to web pages that allow competing products to be downloaded. Microsoft has now appealed. "The facts do not support the KFTC's position. Consumers can easily download and use a wide range of software from many different companies," Jae Hoon Chung, Korea senior attorney for Microsoft, said. "In fact, market data from Korean Click show that Korean consumers use multiple media players and instant messenger clients. New instant messaging services and media players such as NateOn Messenger and GOM Player are flourishing in Korea." Microsoft believes the restrictions imposed by the KFTC are more extreme than those required by the European Commission in a March 2004 anti-trust ruling. It says that, unlike in Europe, the firm would no longer be able to offer in Korea the existing version of Windows that is available everywhere else in the world. It warns that the KFTC’s decision would create complexities for Korean hardware and software manufacturers in a way that would erode their competitiveness in the global market. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 27 Mar 2006

Four 419 scammers indicted, 800 to go

A grand jury in New York has returned a 10-count indictment against three of Nigerian defendants recently arrested in Holland and an 11-count indictment against a fourth suspect. Dutch police last month arrested 12 people and confiscated €25,000 in cash, computers and fake travel documents. The suspects are being held by the Dutch authorities pending extradition to the US, where they could face up to 30 years in prison. One defendant, also a Nigerian citizen, is still at large. Nnamdi Chizuba Anisiobi (a.k.a Yellowman, Abdul Rahman, Michael Anderson, Edmund Walter, Helmut Schkinger, Nancy White, Jiggaman and Namo), Anthony Friday Ehis (a.k.a John J Smith, Toni N Amokwu and Mr T), Kesandu Egwuonwu (a.k.a KeKe, Joey Martin Maxwell, David Mark) and John Doe 1 (a.k.a Eric Williams, Lee, Chucks and Nago) are charged with one count of conspiracy, eight counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. Anisiobi is also charged with one count of bank fraud. The victims, mostly Americans, lost more than $1.2m, according to the US Justice Department. "The defendants in this scheme allegedly fleeced many unsuspecting American victims with promises of charitable contributions and personal riches," assistant Attorney General Fisher said. "We cannot allow these scam artists to prey on innocent victims in this country, and we will work across the globe to knock out these fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes." Unfortunately, that's not so easy. Last week, Dutch private detective company Ultrascan published figures which indicate there are still over 800 alleged 419 scammers working from the Netherlands, suggesting Holland is still the best hidey-hole for Nigerian advanced fraud scammers. The UK is second with 724 scammers, followed by Spain with over 500 suspects. According to Ultrascan, the numbers only represent "hardcore scammers". The company estimates that in Holland alone at least 1,400 people are somehow involved with these type of scams. ®
Jan Libbenga, 27 Mar 2006

Redbus in co-lo price hike

Redbus is to increase prices for all its colocation services, the data centre outfit told its punters last week. Telecity-Redbus country manager Adriaan Oosthoek told customers that following a "comprehensive pricing review of our products and services" the firm is to increase prices for all its colocation services. The price rise is the first Redbus Interhouse has implemented since opening its first London facility in 1999. Oosthoek blamed the "unprecedented increase in the cost of energy, which has tripled in the last three years" for a significant part of Redbus' price rise, along with the increased costs of running data centres. "These increases together with the rising cost of rents and other costs related to our business are all contributing factors," he said. "This has left us with no choice but to put our prices up, to ensure not only the viability of the business, but to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure of our facilities and eventually expand our capacity in line with our customers' demands. "We acknowledge that price increases will impact upon your business. However, this decision has not been taken lightly, it is a decision that has been taken over many months of analysis and one that we have delayed passing to you, for as long as possible," he wrote. One hacked off customer who contacted The Register said his bill had gone up a whopping 70 per cent. No one from Redbus was available for comment at the time of writing. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2006
arrow pointing up

Systems Union shares jump

Systems Union Group has confirmed it is in talks which could lead to its sale. The finance software company's shares shot up this morning from 180p to 225p by lunchtime. In response, SUG issued a statement to the Regulatory News Service, which said: "The board of Systems Union Group plc (the 'company') notes the recent movement in the company's share price. As part of its strategic growth objectives and in the background of ongoing consolidation in the Enterprise Resource Planning and Corporate Performance Management marketplace, the board confirms that it is currently holding very early stage discussions which may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company. A further announcement will be made in due course." Read the whole statement here. Last month Systems Union Group posted results for the year ended 31 December 2005. It made a profit before tax of £8.2m on revenue of £113.4m. ®
John Oates, 27 Mar 2006

UK workers abuse net access

Staff misuse of internet access is still rife in the UK despite improvements over the last two years. Office workers frequently access inappropriate websites or goof about surfing the net instead of getting on with their work, according to findings from the 2006 Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) biennial Information Security Breaches Survey. The survey identified staff misuse of net resources as the second largest cause of reported security incidents after viruses for large UK companies. A greater number of firms have an acceptable usage for internet access compared to the last DTI security survey two years ago. Two thirds (63 per cent) of all companies and 89 per cent of large firms have an acceptable usage policy, far more than have an overall information security policy. Chris Potter, the PricewaterhouseCoopers partner leading the survey, said: "Where businesses have an acceptable usage policy in place, they are nearly three times as likely to detect misuse as those that don't. It is very hard to police this area if you haven't agreed what an acceptable usage policy is." After the sharp rises in staff misuse levels two years ago, the number of companies affected has now stabilised, reflecting the improved levels of control. One in five companies overall was affected. Two-thirds of large businesses had at least one misuse incident in the last year. However, many UK firms are failing to implement technology controls necessary to keep the issue in check. Three-fifths do not block access to inappropriate websites. Only one in six scans outgoing email for inappropriate content. Around one in five (17 per cent) of the 1,000 UK businesses surveyed suffered staff misuse of web access and 11 per cent recorded misuse of email. Larger companies are more likely to have incidents of misuse - 52 per cent had web misuse and 43 per cent had email misuse. Several companies reported staff were accessing child pornography. The average cost of such incidents in financial terms was relatively low, but firms risk damaging their reputation if staff misuse of net resources becomes public knowledge. Only one in four firms use encrypted emails to secure confidential business communications. Findings from the survey were published in a factsheet, E-mail and web usage, sponsored by security firm Clearswift. The full results of the survey will be published at the Infosecurity Europe exhibition and conference in London, which takes place between 25 and 27 April. ®
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2006
homeless man with sign

Dell stands by server order

Dell is refusing to give a refund to a customer who believes she was wrongly sold a server. Kate was asked by her boss to contact Dell to buy two new desktop computers and "something to link them". Dell sold her two PCs and a PowerEdge server, ironically with only one network card. Kate realised her mistake because she spoke to a more technically-literate friend (Register reader Chris Morton) who told her she needed a cable to link two computers, not a server. Chris asked Dell to refund Kate because the server was effectively mis-sold. Her company has only two employees. But Dell refused to give her a refund because the order was made through its business channel. Late last week Kate got this email from an "EMEA customer relations executive": "We have followed up internally by checking our records, and have discussed this matter with the sales person concerned. "It is our understanding that the sales conversation was clear, and full and included a discussion about providing a solution that would allow for system growth in future. The solution proposed therefore seems to have been a reasonable one, and the purchase seemed to be an informed one, so we see no reason to cancel the order. "We regret that your experience seems not to have been positive, and we respect your right to pursue this matter further. Our position remains as stated above." ®
John Oates, 27 Mar 2006

Beeb attacks evil trade in Blue Peter badges

The BBC is fighting to have auctions of its famous Blue Peter badges removed from eBay. The badges - which can only be awarded by the kids' TV show to youngsters who "contribute to the programme" - confer on the holder the right to free entry to a range of tourist attractions. It appears that Edinburgh Zoo played a key role in exposing the evil trade after staff "became suspicious of an increase in badge-holding visitors, including one family where every child had one". Accordingly, the zoo has temporarily suspended free entry. Apparently, a Beeb black ops unit has been monitoring the situation for some months and the corporation reckons it's succeeded in getting some of the eBay auctions pulled. There were, though, still plenty of opportunities to get yer dirty mitts on a badge on Monday afternoon, including a nice example at a heady 112 quid. The blurb stated: "This badge will gain free entry for badge holders under 16 into many places such as museums, stately homes and exhibitions. Check the official 'Blue Peter' website for the complete list." The vendor then helpfully provides the link to said resource - a nice touch. Obviously, the BBC has a point here. The badges come in five flavours and "a gold Blue Peter badge is reserved for exceptional achievements such as saving a life, while a green one is awarded for conservation work", and so forth. Blue Peter editor Richard Marson told the BBC's website: "We know how hard children work to earn a badge, and we are doing our best to ensure that this long-standing Blue Peter institution is not undermined." ®
Lester Haines, 27 Mar 2006
channel

HP sacks Israeli CEO - then reinstates him

The chief executive of HP Israel is pondering his future today after HP sacked him on Friday and then rescinded the dismissal on Sunday. Gil Rosenfeld, CEO of HP Israel, and 13 other senior HP executives were accused of grey importing - or presumably in this case of "grey exporting". Grey importing refers to taking kit from a lower cost area to a higher cost area - HP has long taken a stern line against such activity. HP Global has been investigating Israeli sales since February. It originally accused Rosenfeld of personal involvement in the trading, but now says he bears "administrative responsibility". Rosenfeld said: "In contrast to the humiliating letter HP sent, in which it was written they found I was personally involved in the gray market in Israel, they retracted those statements. They talked about administrative responsibility and not about personal responsibility. It amazed me that despite all the requests of the last several weeks, they either couldn't or wouldn't present me with any of their findings." HP was to hold a meeting with the fourteen to sack them but that meeting has now been "indefinitely postponed". Rosenfeld, and his lawyer, are now seeking a restraining order to stop the printer giant from sacking him without providing evidence. We did call HP UK but they declined to comment. Original story from Haaretz here and update here.®
John Oates, 27 Mar 2006

BMC buys Identify for $150m

Systems management firm BMC has offered to acquire Israeli-based application problem resolution firm Identify Software for $150m cash. The deal is designed to bolster BMC's business service management portfolio with technology that helps developers troubleshoot programming glitches. The purchase, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close during the first quarter of BMC's FY2007. Identify claims that deployment of its "black box" recorder software can reduce the time needed to resolve software problems by as much as 80 per cent. Identify's Appsight technology captures a log of the status of a system up to and around the time of system problems allowing developers to more easily identify the root cause of application problems, thereby accelerating the whole development process. AppSight is available for either Microsoft (including .NET) or J2EE software development environments. The firm's 500 plus customers are typically mid to large scale organisations in the enterprise and ISV segments that use Identify's tools to develop business applications. BMC hopes adding Identify to its portfolio will help it compete with rivals such as CA and IBM Tivoli by increasing the capabilities of its products in transaction management. ®
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2006

'Dragon' unveils flat-fee text service

A new flat-fee SMS service has been launched today that's being billed as a text version of Skype. Skype has helped shake up the phone industry with its internet telephony (VoIP) service. Those behind Hotxt - which routes text messages over the net - reckon their service will be able to do the same. Targeted at 16-25 year olds, Hotxt offers punters the chance to send as many texts as they like for just £1 a week. The catch is that this inclusive price is subject to network data charges and texts to people not on the Hotxt network cost more. Even so, the firm reckons that while the cost of a regular text is typically somewhere between 5-12p a message, the average Hotxt charge is just a fraction of a penny. Co-founded by Doug Richard, the entrepreneur featured in the BBC programme Dragon's Den fame, the Hotxt business model is based on providing a low cost weekly subscription and attracting mass volume of users to the service. For it to work, users need to install a Hotxt application onto their phone which works on all Java-enabled phones across all UK networks apart from pre-pay 02 and 3. Once loaded, messages are sent to a personal Hotxt Tag rather than a mobile number and access to the service is protected by PIN. Unwanted senders can easily be blocked offering users protection from text bullying, text pests and spam. Said Richard: "Hotxt will change the way UK mobile phone users text in much the same way that Internet use has changed since it moved from a pay as you use to an unlimited model net use changed dramatically as consumers weren't shackled to a usage limit or worried about over use." In a bid to build its community of users quickly new subscribers are being offered free use of Hotxt for two weeks. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2006

Britney sprog drop sculpture wows New York

We're not quite sure what to make of this, but some bright spark has decided to celebrate the birth of Britney Spears' sprog Sean in sculptural form. Fair enough, you might say. However, the result is unusual, to say the least, showing the talented chanteuse on all fours clasping a dead bear's ears while attempting to eject said infant. Yes, it's not for the faint-hearted, to be sure. Although the Capla Kesting Fine Art website responsible for alerting the world to sculptor Daniel Edwards' work has no problems giving us a quick gander at Britney's "lactiferous breasts and protruding naval", we're mercifully spared the "posterior view that depicts widened hips for birthing and reveals the crowning of baby Sean's head" - in the photo gallery at least. There is, naturally, a symbolic meaning to the Brit sprog drop masterwork - and it's all about "Pro-Life", as the blurb explains: Dedication of the life-sized statue celebrates the recent birth of Spears' baby boy, Sean, and applauds her decision of placing family before career. "A superstar at Britney's young age having a child is rare in today's celebrity culture. This dedication honors Britney for the rarity of her choice and bravery of her decision," said gallery co-director, Lincoln Capla. Oh dear, oh dear. Edwards apparently studied various Britney resources for the project - including the "wax figure of a pole-dancing Britney at Las Vegas' Madame Tussauds and 'Britney wigs' characterizing various hairstyles of the pop-princess from a Los Angeles hairstylist". He denied using a bootleg copy of Britney's birthing video to check up on the intimate detailing, so we can't be certain whose posterior view gallery visitors will actually enjoy. Another thing Edwards seems to have rejected as source material is a photo of Ms Spears' face, since we're not convinced this looks anything like the poor girl. Still, gripping bearskin rug while popping a brat can do strange things to one's expression. One last thing: the bearskin rug is intended to "convey the commemoration of the traditional bearskin rug baby picture". And yes, Edwards did study the real Canadian deal, just to be certain. Frankly, given Edwards' evident talent for faces, we're amazed it doesn't look more like a seal pup. ®
Lester Haines, 27 Mar 2006
homeless man with sign

Israel jails spyware-for-hire couple

An Israeli couple were jailed on Monday after confessing to the development and sale of spyware that helped private investigators snoop on their clients' business competitors. Ruth Brier-Haephrati, 28, was jailed four years while her husband Michael Haephrati, 44, was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Both sentences were in line with a plea-bargaining agreement made earlier this month. Ruth was charged with a litany of offences including fraud, planting computer viruses, and conspiracy. Her husband, Michael, was charged as her accomplice to those offences. Each also faces a suspended sentence and a fine of one million New Israeli Shekels ($212K). Investigators allege the duo developed and sold customised spyware or Trojan horse packages designed to evade detection by security tools to three private investigation companies in Israel - Modi'in Ezrahi, Zvi Krochmal, and Philosof-Balali. This spyware code was allegedly installed on victims' PCs by private detectives from a diskette or via email, as part of a spying scam that ran for up to two years. The malware sent stolen documents to an FTP site, allowing unscrupulous firms to swipe confidential documents from rivals. Each software installation allegedly netted the Haephratis 2,000 New Israeli Shekels ($425). According to court documents, Michael Haephrati developed the spyware Trojan horse, while his wife, Ruth, marketed the software. ®
John Leyden, 27 Mar 2006
fingers pointing at man

AMD keeps banging on partners to sell, sell, sell

In an effort to prove it's a grownup server processor vendor, AMD continues to push hard on a program meant to teach partners how to sell its gear. AMD today issued a statement flaunting the arrival of 500 new participants to the Commercial Systems Channel program. This effort, which kicked off in Oct. 2005, provides VARs, integrators, distributors and the like with training material and test kit. AMD hopes this partner love will translate into more sales, as its cohorts can explain why Opteron and even 64-bit desktop chips beat out similar product from Intel. On the surface, the channel program is little more than a marketing and training ploy. On a deeper level, however, it points to AMD's need to bulk up enterprise chip sales skills at a quick clip. AMD will likely only maintain a broad performance edge over Intel for the next six months. Then, Intel will begin rolling out server chips around its new "Core" design that should even the playing field to a significant degree. Where AMD dominates every server benchmark today, the two companies will divvy up various wins in a few months time. AMD sees this coming and knows it needs to hawk as much gear in the near-term as possible, which explains its rather relentless outreach to customers - and reporters - about the channel effort. "The execution level around the commercial business is real and is happening," said Michael O’Brien, AMD's director of the channel effort, in an interview. "Our programs around partners are starting to make the impact we had planned for." Overall, the channel promotion still seems rather obvious, and we wonder why AMD pats itself on the back so much about the program. Training customers about the performance benefits and technical specifications of your product is a must. "Since the program's inception, more than 20,000 global channel sales and technical representatives have been educated on the AMD64 technology value propositions through on-site training, Webinars and partner events in North America, EMEA and Asia," AMD said. A more impressive feat would have AMD team with partners such as HP and Sun Microsystems to provided detailed information on complex setups such as Oracle RAC configurations with Opteron boxes. O’Brien says guides for such designs are coming. This ramping channel program points to the work AMD must do to catch up with the vast partner network set up by Intel over the years. It also, however, highlights a potential advantage AMD has over Intel. The open specification around Hypertransport, for example, has allowed partners to create accelerators and other types of unique products specifically for Opteron motherboards. In the coming weeks, we'll be exploring some of the technology you can expect to see from third parties for Opteron. In the meantime, interested folks can check out AMD's partner portal here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 27 Mar 2006

Oklahoma man asks Reg to turn off the internet

LettersLetters Jerry Taylor, the now famous city manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma, who last week threatened to call the FBI to stop Linux maker CentOS from helping him configure a web server has presented The Register with a massive request. Taylor wants us to shut down the internet.
Ashlee Vance, 27 Mar 2006