11th > April > 2006 Archive

BT drags heels over LLU

What was it BT Wholesale chief exec Paul Reynolds said in May last year? "We are fully committed to seeing LLU a success. We are committed to continuing our work with the industry to improve the operational processes surrounding LLU." Ten months on from this heart-warming committment from BT, the UK's dominant fixed line telco is once again being slammed for failing to live up to expectations. The Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA) says BT's delivery of backhaul - the lines that link unbundled exchanges to rival operators' networks - is "still unacceptable" and that "this has been an outstanding issue for some time". Those words carry a lot of weight. For ISPs investing millions of pounds into local loop unbundling (LLU), BT's failure to get this process right means that expensive telecoms kit could be sitting idly in BT exchanges because the telco has failed to provide the vital backhaul connection. Plans are in place for the backlog to be cleared. But with LLU operators knowing that BT (in the guise of its access services division Openreach) is failing to deliver backhaul, there are concerns that some providers may be forced to postpone plans to provide rival broadband services until this issue is resolved. Whether BT's failure to get this issue right is deliberate or not, the only winner in this "unacceptable" situation is BT. Whether the telco is dragging its heels - or its heels are being dragged - the result is the same. LLU is failing to take-off as hoped and confidence among ISPs remains shaky. One insider told us privately: "BT Openreach has failed at the first hurdle. It's failed to deliver the infrastructure on time to enable LLU operators to deliver unbundled services to consumers. This delays the whole rollout and is costing the industry tens of millions of pounds in additional costs and lost revenues." And this from a company that is "fully committed to seeing LLU a success...and committed to continuing [its] work with the industry to improve the operational processes surrounding LLU". ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2006

Former Sun exec eviscerates McNealy

A former Sun Microsystems executive has dug into Sun Microsystems's leadership with an unrelenting critique of both CEO Scott McNealy and President Jonathan Schwartz. Retired server chief John Shoemaker let loose on Sun management in a piece written for Indiana University's business school magazine Business Horizons. The lengthy Sun attack regurgitates many of the complaints put forth by Wall Street over the years, including criticism of Sun's reluctance to cut costs by firing thousands of staff. Shoemaker, however, is the highest ranking former executive to insist that Sun needs to oust McNealy moving forward. "Key executives at Sun met our greatest challenge when we were unable to convince our top decision maker to take quick action to implement a massive headcount reduction," Shoemaker wrote. "In the fall of 2000, Silicon Valley experienced the greatest number of layoffs in its history. While other large technology firms like Cisco and Intel bit the bullet to save what they had and to protect the investments of shareholders, Sun's reduction-in-force actions were too little, too late." Later, he adds,"In spite of all that has happened, I still believe Sun Microsystems has been extremely fortunate in having one of the best and brightest cadres of employee talent anywhere. However, the bottom line is that it's all about quality leadership. Perhaps there will still come a time when the leadership problem at Sun will be effectively and decisively addressed." Much of Shoemaker's argument against McNealy centers around the size of the workforce. While being a painful move, Sun should have fired a lot of workers as soon as it gauged the scope of the downturn, the former exec said. In so doing, Sun would be in better position today and more able to serve existing employees and investors. Sun's management has long maintained that axing staff will not help it turnaround the company in the long-term. Shoemaker presents some rather sweeping statements throughout the article. For example, he declares at one point that, "SPARC was never competitive," even though the chip powered a multi-billion dollar business for Sun. Later, however, Shoemaker clarifies this point by saying that a single SPARC processor did not perform well against other chips but that SPARC servers as a whole did compete well against gear from IBM, HP and Dell. The former server chief is also quick to chide Sun management for not mimicking other companies during the downturn, despite noting that the bust was a unique situation at Sun. "Due to Sun's dramatic success winning Internet based applications, the downturn hit us much harder than our competitors who had not been growing as rapidly and had a stable long-term base of traditional customers," he wrote. "For example, we lost 30,000 servers at Exodus alone. Thousands of Sun's new system units were suddenly being sold at fire sale prices on the gray market." A similar situation occurred after the bust when customers moved to more powerful Linux on Intel servers that could handle many tasks by being grouped together to replicate the performance of larger, more expensive Sun servers. "In a flash, this small-box market went from a $2 billion (at most) add-on business to being the major ball game," Shoemaker wrote. "Up to this point, all of Sun's R&D focus and inherent competitive advantage was in big systems and the vertical enterprise systems business." Shoemaker doesn't disclose how he advised management during these times despite being in charge of Sun's largest business. Instead, he turns all of the failings back on McNealy and Schwartz. "You have to hand it to leaders, such as Steve Jobs at Apple and John Chambers at Cisco, who acted fast and made the tough decisions to turn the negative technology outlook into a positive competitive position for their companies," he wrote. "The lack of like decisions at Sun led to a major impact on morale, a loss of competitiveness, and a brain drain." And then Shoemaker closes out by growing nostalgic for former COO and Prez Ed Zander who left Sun and took the CEO post at Motorola. "I look at Motorola's rising stock price and can't help but think of what might have been for Sun. When Ed left Sun, an already low morale hit bottom. Sun lost an opportunity to go outside the company and bring in a proven, senior, high-profile replacement for Ed. Instead, they brought in a junior, unproven, internal person to the COO position." Shoemaker clearly does not believe in the power of the Schwartz. You'll find Shoemaker's full Sun dissection (in PDF) here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 11 Apr 2006
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Fujitsu comes clean on pay

Fujitsu revealed its pay scales to some of its UK staff on Friday allowing them to check for the first time if they are being paid the going rate - but employees not signed up to union Amicus will have to keep guessing. Union staff can now see whether they are earning as much as anyone in a similar post. As managers in the IT sector prefer to keep individual pay deals secret, other staff have been left to fend for themselves. "We have a situation here which is quite common in IT companies where there are no pay scales," a source at Fujitsu said. "So people don't know what the going rate is and that puts them in a difficult position because the management have all the cards, all the information, and all the power." Amicus has been campaigning for a transparent pay structure at Fujitsu for a number of years, but the employer refused to co-operate. The union took matters into its own hands and, after conducting its own limited pay audits in 2004 and 2005, started enforcing its legal right to transparency. It applied to the Central Arbitration Committee last June to get information that would even out the sides in pay talks. This right is given to recognised unions. Amicus is recognised in the Manchester offices of Fujitsu. The Register understands that Fujitsu agreed to share pay scales with the union on the condition that they would not be shared with union members. Only union negotiators would get to see them. In March, just before the CAC hearing, Fujitsu capitulated. The firm refused to comment. A spokesman said it was policy not to discuss matters relating to staff with other people. Till now, that did include other staff, or the union.®
Mark Ballard, 11 Apr 2006
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Unilever offloads IT staff to Accenture

Accenture has won a seven year, multi-million pound deal to run the IT of washing powder giant Unilever, as part of the company's controversial "One Unilever" cost-cutting programme. Accenture will provide application development, implementation, and support across Europe. Accenture will run Unilever's IT from six countries: France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. The agreement is a "master services agreement" and local contracts have still to be signed. In December last year, Unilever staff across Europe took a "day of action" to protest the company's plans to outsource human resources, IT and finance functions. Unions feared these cost-cutting measures could translate into as many as 2,500 jobs lost. A number of staff will move across to Accenture as part of the deal - "in accordance with local laws". Both firms will "work together to minimise the impact on staff wherever possible", according to the statement. Calls to union Amicus were not returned by press time. The Accenture press release is here. ®
John Oates, 11 Apr 2006
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End of HCI sends first dealer to the wall

Gordon Brown's Budget decision to end the Home Computing Initiative has claimed its first victim - RedPC is going into liquidation. RedPC - its strapline was "Tax free home computing" - described the Chancellor's decision as "a devasting blow". The London-based company was formed in 2002 and its directors wrote the guidelines for the DTI which led to the tax break being set up. Managing director Martin Prescott said: "We are presently considering our options." He apologised for any inconvenience. More here. Nitin Joshi, a partner at Vantis representing the company's creditors, told CRN: "There are at least another 15 companies involved in HCI that are at risk. I am in discussions with two other companies that will soon go bust because of the HCI fiasco." More from CRN here. Joshi said creditors were furious and considering legal action. But some dealers say RedPC could have acted too soon because Brown is still considering a replacement for HCI. The CBI has been asked to propose a replacement scheme which would better target resources at the poor. Carolyn Worth from Evesham Micro said the company was waiting to hear something concrete from a government department on plans for a replacement scheme.®
John Oates, 11 Apr 2006
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Intel to boost chipset production, bank claims

Intel is set to stop shipping motherboards based on third-party chipsets, or at the very least significantly reduce its dependency on other companies' products, investment bank Friedman Billings, Ramsey Group (FBRG) has claimed.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006

Mars Orbiter sends colour snap of Red Planet

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera has captured its first colour image* of the Red Planet, snapped as part of a series of test images to calibrate the camera: The image - a composite of green, red, and near-infrared - shows a "story of geologic change in the eastern Bosporos Planum region", according to the HiRISE team blurb, in which "wind and sublimation of water or carbon dioxide ice have partially eroded patches of the smooth-textured deposits, leaving behind areas of layered and hummocky terrain". The NASA vehicle arrived at Mars on 10 March and now faces a six-month period of "aerobraking" (repeatedly descending into the atmosphere and using the resulting drag to slow down) in order to attain its final orbit of between 255 and 320 kilometres above the Martian surface. The above pic was grabbed from an altitude of 1500km during a 10 minute window of opportunity currently available to mission controllers during the orbiter's elongated 35 hour orbit. During these 10 minute drive-bys, New Scientist reports, the Sun had hardly broken the Martian horizon. Accordingly, colour images were difficult to obtain, but "this first image nevertheless shows some very interesting and informative colour variations", noted HiRISE top boffin Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona. Specifically, the blue tinge on the left-hand side of the picture may show early-morning fog, while streaks on the right seem to be where wind action has exposed an underlying stratum of darker soil. ® Note *We have rotated the NASA original 90 degrees CW. Further info Here's further HiRISE team background on the above image: Image AEB_000001_0000 was taken by HiRISE on 24 March, 2006. The image is centered at 33.65 degrees south latitude, 305.07 degrees east longitude. It is oriented such that north is 7 degrees to the left of up. The range to the target was 2,493 kilometers (1,549 miles). At this distance the image scale is 2.49 meters (8.17 feet) per pixel, so objects as small as 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) are resolved. In total this image is 49.92 kilometers (31.02 miles) or 20,081 pixels wide and 23.66 kilometers (14.70 miles) or 9,523 pixels long. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 07:33 and the scene is illuminated from the upper right with a solar incidence angle of 78 degrees, thus the sun was 12 degrees above the horizon. At an Ls of 29 degrees (with Ls an indicator of Mars' position in its orbit around the sun), the season on Mars is southern autumn.
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006
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Sage first half trading is on course

Sage updated the Stock Exchange on its first half trading this morning, saying it was on track to fulfil expectations. For the six months ended 31 March 2006, Sage expects to bring in revenues of £444m and profits of £115m. It expects to make a pre-tax profit of £111m. This is the first period Sage will report under International Financial Reporting Standards. The accountancy giant will post full results on 9 May. Sage shares were trading slightly down at 264.50 pence this morning. Visma, which Sage offered to buy for £334m last month, has delayed making a statement on the takeover until tomorrow. Visma's board recommended the offer in the short and medium term. Read the whole statement here. ®
John Oates, 11 Apr 2006

Carphone unveils 'free' broadband

The Carphone Warehouse has fleshed out details of a new bundled broadband and phone service that is half the price of its nearest rival. The offer, which is being plugged as "free broadband forever" massively undercuts similar services from leading players such as AOL, BT, and cableco NTL:Telewest. To take up the offer punters must subscribe to Carphone's TalkTalk fixed line phone service. For £9.99 a month, punters get unlimited local and national landline calls, unlimited international landline calls to 28 countries and up to 8 meg broadband access. In addition to the monthly fee, customers are also faced with paying a monthly line rental charge of £11.00. The total cost of line rental, calls and broadband is just £20.99 a month. A similar package from BT would cost more than £55 a month while rival local loop unbundling outfit Bulldog can currently do it for just over £42 a month. Announcing its ambitious plans to cut more than 60 per cent off the average cost of residential phone and broadband bills Carphone chief exec Charles Dunstone said: "The residential telecoms market in the UK will never be the same again. From today, broadband is a right, not a privilege." Carphone is able to offer such competitive prices because it is investing megabucks in local loop unbundling (LLU) - a process by which it installs its kit in BT's telephone exchanges to provide services direct to end users. Even though Carphone's targeting 1,000 exchanges serving around 70 per cent of the UK population, it means a sizeable minority of people in the UK will not be able to subscribe to this offer at this price. Punters outside Carphone's LLU footprint will have to stump up an extra £9.99 for the package. Anyone signing up to the service is also tied in to an 18 month contract, must adhere to a 40 gig a month download limit and shell out a one-off £30 connection fee. Of course, all of this doesn't come cheap. The firm reckons that this investment will result in an operating loss of around £50m this year. Add on the investment in LLU, operating losses and all other associated costs, and the firm reckons it will set it back around £110m. However, it reckons that by 2008 it could soon be payback time with an operating profit of £30 - £40m. Said CFO Roger Taylor: "We believe that the investment and short term profit impact are fully justified by the rapid recruitment of customers to ensure higher penetration of our unbundled exchanges. The pricing reflects what we believe to be the real costs and benefits of providing residential telephony and broadband through unbundled exchanges." Carphone has around 2.6 million residential voice customers in the UK under the TalkTalk brand. As a result of this aggressive pricing strategy it aims to have 3.5 million residential customers by March 2009, of which over half are likely to be combined voice and broadband customers. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2006

BenQ sells optical drive biz to Liteon IT

BenQ is to sell its optical drive operation to fellow Taiwanese manufacturer LiteOn IT. This gets it closer to shedding the last of its component businesses and focus entirely on end-user products, including phones, notebooks and consumer electronics equipment.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006
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Do dedicated security vendors have a future?

Quocirca's changing channelsQuocirca's changing channels McAfee proudly proclaims itself "the largest dedicated [IT] security company in the world". Based on revenues this is a fair claim - it is some way ahead of closest rivals Check Point and Trend Micro for that crown. But is a dedicated security company really the best thing to be in 2006 and beyond? Until late 2004 the "dedicated security" crown was firmly on Symantec’s head – its security revenues are still about double those of McAfee. The change came about because of Symantec's choice to diversify its business through the acquisition of Veritas, at the time the world's largest dedicated storage software vendor. Symantec now talks about "information integrity" solutions as it pulls together storage and security packages for both enterprises and smaller businesses. If a crown was being awarded for "security revenues" then it might well go to Symantec, but it would be a close run thing with Cisco, currently the world largest networking equipment vendor (it will be demoted to number two if the Lucent/Alcatel merger gets approved). For Cisco, IT security is classed as one of its six advanced technologies, these being areas it believes it needs to be in to maintain business growth and avoid becoming a pure vendor. In truth, measuring Cisco's security revenues is not easy as it builds security into many of its base products. For example, its Integrated Service Routers (ISRs), products for directing the network traffic of branch offices and SMBs, include a firewall, VPN, intrusion prevention and so on. In other words, Cisco is building security into the fabric of its networking products. It is in Cisco's interest to do this to make sure its products are used safely by its customers and its good reputation in the market is maintained; which brings us on to two other potential claimants for the "security revenue" crown – Microsoft and IBM. It is also in Microsoft's interests to build security into the fabric of its operating systems to ensure their safe use and try and rid itself of the reputation it is has gained for being insecure. Tying down Microsoft's security revenue is even harder, but if you allow for the fact that every copy of Windows XP includes a firewall and every Small Business Server shipped includes its Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA Server), the revenues are substantial. And Microsoft has more security offerings coming down line in the forthcoming releases of its operating systems, having made a number of acquisitions in the last 12 months (including Giant, Sybari and Frontbridge). All of IBM's security products are either embedded in its platform software – WebSphere and DB2 – or offered as part of its Tivoli system management suite, mainly pertaining to identity and access. As with Cisco and Microsoft, actually tying down IBM's revenue from IT security is problematic. With giants like Cisco and Microsoft building security into their infrastructure and Symantec diversifying into storage and building security into its new offerings, will there be any place left for dedicated security vendors in the long term? There probably will be, providing they stay ahead of the game, i.e. keeping on top of emerging threats and coming up with innovative new products to counter them. Others will disappear as the security solutions they offer become available as part of the IT infrastructure mainstream. The revenue share of the IT security market going to dedicated vendors will decrease more and more with time. But even for those dedicated security vendors who keep ahead, there is another lurking danger (or opportunity, depending on your view point). There are plenty of infrastructure vendors who do not have that much security embedded in their offerings and may consider that they should do so to protect their good names. They are likely to look at acquiring security specialists rather than building from scratch. All this should make life simpler for those resellers who focus on general purpose IT delivery. They need to make sure they are delivering secure offerings to their customers and, if security is embedded in the infrastructure, they have fewer vendors to deal with and the total product costs will be lower. Cisco and Microsoft are stalwart supporters of the channel and Symantec has just unveiled its new partner programme, which looks reasonably channel friendly. Resellers who focus purely on security face some of the same challenges of the dedicated security vendors. But at least they are able to drop one vendor in favour of another as the market moves on. Many will have relationships with Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and Symantec anyway, and be in a good position to advise their customers when the embedded security is good enough and when it makes sense to fork out a bit more for an additional product – something they will often be tempted to do in their own interests, this may offer a further lifeline to the dedicated security vendors. Copyright © 2006, Bob Tarzey is a service director at Quocirca focused on the route to market for IT products and services in Europe. Quocirca is a UK based perceptional research and analysis firm with a focus on the European and global IT markets.
Bob Tarzey, 11 Apr 2006
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QinetiQ to steer UK cybercrime policy group

In briefIn brief Qinetiq, the former Ministry of Defence research lab, has been given chairmanship of a UK group designed to develop government security policy. The committee, which comprises government officials, academics, and other experts, will help inform UK government policy on issues such as the introduction of biometric-based identity cards and the establishment of ecommerce projects, the FT reports. ®
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2006

NASA to crash probe into Moon

NASA has announced its intention to crash a probe into the surface of the Moon to analyse the resulting plume of material for possible water ice. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is part of the agency's raft of planned robotic missions slated for 2008 to 2016, dedicated to studying the lunar surface as a prelude to future manned missions. It will launch in 2008 as a secondary payload along with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, subsequently travelling independently to the Moon. The plan is to impact the vehicle's upper stage into a "permanently-shadowed crater at the lunar south pole". The plume created will, NASA says, be visible from Earth-based observatories and available for visual and physical inspection by the satellite component of the craft. Its mission completed, this in turn will be crashed into the Moon, thereby brewing up a second plume for Earth and Moon orbit-based observation. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006

Fujitsu unveils Blu-ray 37in HD PC-TV

Fujitsu will this month ship a monster high-definition PC-TV hybrid that incorporates not only four TV tuners - two for digital and two for analogue broadcasts - but also twin 300GB hard drives and a dual-layer enabled Blu-ray Disc recorder.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006

Mac vs Windows: the Boot Camp revolution

LettersLetters We've got lots of lovely mail for you today - although most of it is about IT industry vet Cormac O'Reilly's corporate view of Apple's Boot Camp announcement. For the record, we're staying out of this one. Our opinion on the matter of Win v Mac must, for reasons of national security, remain a closely-guarded secret: Great, so you justify your Faustian deal with the Devil for years by deluding yourself into believing Windows was *ever* better than the Mac and Mac OS. Windows, even in its Win95 and Win98 years, is a ghastly GUI fake-front to a command line C:> mentality computer system. It's GUI was a wholesale intellectual property right ripoff! But there you were on an expo stage, cheering yourself for not only beating Apple but also DEC. Hooray! And you've built a comfortable livelihood around the Big Windows Lie to boot. But now you're feigning being 'back in the Apple camp', renegade that you are. If one could summarize your IT career in one word, would 'phony' be appropriate? Perhaps you can redeem yourself before you have to face St. Peter by admitting, at least to yourself, that you were wrong, all along. And practice this redemption by going back to your country of origin and prosyletize Mac OS X until your ready for the baths in Bath. Go back and convert Shell and Schlumberger to Mac OS X, St. Peter is whispering.... Lefty Hello Cormac: Interesting article. In my (much-much-smaller) spin at a career I tried convincing a library to go from then Dos/Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, and escape things like writing Windows autoexec files for loading a CD Changer, or having multiple boot options in Dos for various applications that took up too much of the 640K of memory. It failed, as the mentality was what clunked along was good enough. I think now an old Quadra would have been a godsend to them. At a recent place I worked at, Exchange was a nightmare, and the high costs of Windows and related software kept everyone scrambling to look for open source solutions, even if none existed. Fortunately I was only an observer for those fights. I never thought (or even knew that much) about Macs until I started participating in messageboards about 6 years ago. Since then I owned a G4 and a Motorola based Mac Mini. I sold them after the announcement to the Intel changeover. A lot of the major applications I use are still in a Windows only format, but the new ability to run x86 based applications in OSX is appealing. I think for nonprofits and education institutions, a holdback for Apple was the proprietary hardware (since machines are constantly being repaired by robbing older parts) and the different look of OSX. To be honest, I don't care for it, but it's what's underneath that counts. But today, with Vista coming and promising to be expensive, and Microsoft's insistence on charging top dollar for Windows XP means places with small budgets are facing a squeeze. An Apple, even if it would require buying new parts to fix it, looks appealing. If it wasn't for some 3D graphics I do and a perpetual need to tinker, I'd buy an iMac, but since I'm in a career dry spell (read broke and marginally employed) I'll stick with my aging Athlon 64. I think the real horror(tm) will beging if/when Apple releases an Intel based tower machine. This will start the droves of people trying to make drivers for unsupported video cards and PCI devices, and the Apples will start truly becoming PC's in pretty cases running BSD. Either way, it looks like some interesting times ahead. Sincerely, Scott Peterson Mr. O'Reilly, I enjoyed your article on Apple, especially in light of the Boot Camp announcement. Like yourself, I have had re-occuring love affairs with the Macintosh with long interludes of Windows use in-between with a bit of LAMP mixed in. For several years, while I worked as a product designer at Microsoft, I insisted on having a Mac alongside my Windows box - much to the amusement of my dev team. (However, it helped that for most of that time we were under the same umbrella as the Mac BU). While working for other predominantly Windows-based employers I have always succeeded in sneaking a Mac into the system. But at some point in the last two years I realized that most of what I do now - programming and database development - really didn't need a Mac. I still enjoy firing up Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, but for my purposes these days the Windows versions work just as well. And frankly, being handed Visual Studio, C# and type-safe, managed code has become more intellectually stimulating than anything I did as a designer. (I also work with PHP/mySQL on FreeBSD, but those leave much to be desired). I'm more excited by the new features in SQL Server 2005 and being able to run virtual servers (for free now) under 2003 Server than hearing that you will be able to dual-boot to Windows. It seems that the major reason for Mac users to do that is to waste time playing games. My point is that once I was hard-core Mac, willing to do anything to work on that platform and now I find it less and less compelling. I realize this has more to do with my own transformation, but I also think there has been a blurring between competing systems in their capabilities. Where's the differentiation, beyond the eye candy? For users in a corporate environment won't cost and network homogeneity still be the ultimate measure of adoption? There's only one thing I would buy a Mac for now - video editing/production. There's nothing more exciting about the Mac than the thought of a souped-up dual-processor Mac running Final Cut under 8 Gb of RAM and 400 Gb of drive space with a couple 23" monitors thrown in. Regards, Jonathan Nehring Hi Cormac - loved the article. I completely agree - why Windows? I run my business completely with OS X - though I do use XP for the accounts and for specialist programmes but on the whole I get on fine without XP. However, the stuckness of the tech support people in big corporations and government agencies is severe. In a recent project with regional government in the UK I asked them if they'd set up an FTP site to ease transfer between consultants. They just said no and the reason I finally discovered was to do with the nature of their licenses with MS - it was either expensive or difficult. Irritated by this I bought Rumpus for OS X and set up a server on a spare Mac Mini - in an evening. And I am not a tech person. I think Boot Camp is a good thing but it won't be widely used. Stephen Feber "I think we are on the cusp of businesses allowing folks to buy and own their own business PCs and funding them through the expense system."???? I have seen that tried. The problem isn't supporting the OS as much as what happens when the hardware breaks. Everyone wants you to get their machine fixed no matter who made it. If it is a Toshiba they may be without their machine for a long time and get it back still broken. That user is going to be unhappy when a coworer's mac gets turned around in 2 or so. The OS and the software load out is still a problem. Everyone's experience is going to be different depending on which vendor built the machine. A guy at work bought a sony for use at work since he refused our coorperate standard system. Turns out the USB drivers on this machine do not work and he can't use a mouse and keyboard. I don't have the time to help him. Supporting systems has hardly gotten any easier in the last 10 years. The types of problems and complexity haven't been solved by the improvements made in other areas. Wesley Horner Cormac, Great CV, even though you're not qualified for the job I'm recruiting for. And it is enlightening that your career mirrors the pressures that established the Windows monopoly in business. What I would like to question is the phrase "significant economic business case". Most corporations seem to disregard the additional time employees spend using or losing stuff, and the lack of productivity that results from not being able to find or keep previous work, in favour of a huge IT support cost. I do work that means I am often inside major corporations, with varying degrees of control that limit the work I can do. When I use CAD or Microsoft Project software, for example, I know that using a 23-inch screen lets me work, say 20% or 30% faster, but they will give me a 15-inch screen and happily pay me $150 an hour to work more slowly. The last place I worked a big chunk of time, I could switch between my Mac and a Windows XP machine, and I gradually found myself using the Mac more, mainly because of improved productivity (i.e. less wasted time) in two areas: searching the network file heirarchy, using Mac OS X Finder's column view, and checking and searching mail using Mac OS X Apple Mail with its spam filtering. Now I am working at a corporation that is still on Windows 2000 and is locked down as far as they can make it. I am back in the world of frequent crashes, freezes, re-doing work, losing work and spending several hours every day to wait for the technology to let me do my job. A competing corporation has just switched its entire workforce to a nice set of iMacs, but they didn't justify the switch on an employee productivity basis either, they said it was justified by "stability and lack of viruses". In both cases, the IT people want to ensure that everyone uses the same set-up, however crummy. Any "significant economic business case" completely overlooks the additional cost of that IT department and all the technical support, and likewise completely overlooks the additional cost of all the hours its employees spend re-doing lost work, re-sending trashed e-mails and scrolling around a tiny screen. Except for that enlightened "competing corporation that switched to iMacs", of course. What makes you think there won't be others? Andrew Sheppard Wow!! So now we can combine the rock solid reliability of Windows with the fantastic value for money of Apple hardware. Who will be able to resist? Steve Walker Not us, that's for sure. Right, onwards... Linguists' brains are apparently different to those of mere mortals. Something to do with more white matter, we gather. Our piece last week on the subject challenged readers to tell the difference between a French and Hindi "da". And the results are... "* We gave it a go and couldn't discern the slightest bloody difference between the two. We have therefore concluded that we have beautifully symmetrical brains - as God intended - packed with grey matter and without wasting space on white stuff which serves only to tell the difference between Hindi and French." I'm *supposed* to be linguistically gifted, and I couldn't tell the sounds apart either. This may well explain why I speak French with a powerful accent (no, not Hindi), but has anyone pointed out to these chaps that they were merely testing for the ability to differentiate sounds? What sort of result would they have got from, say, professional musicians? I suppose if you can get a grant for it.... Rose Humphrey "We gave it a go and couldn't discern the slightest bloody difference between the two" -- at first I thought you had a lousy sound system. After trying it for myself with *my* AKG headphones, I can confirm it: there really *is* no bloody difference between those. Them scientists are mad, it couldn't possibly be both you /and/ me at fault! Therefore don't worry, you don't necessarily have beautifully symmetrical brains - as God intended, but rather you have your brains indeterminately symmetrical or not - whichever way God intended. My qualifications for this verdict? I own AKG headphones, damnit, and I want the world to know! Gutza I'm well beyond the years where I need the reassurance that I'm 'different from other people', but the difference between these sounds is quite distinct. It didn't take me 20 minutes to 'get it', about 10 times for each sound. And after that my French is still halfway to mediocre and beyond a few stray words I have no clue about Hindi at all. Go back and listen carefully, it's not that difficult. Jorge The scale of Jorge's brain's asymmetry can only be wondered at. Or maybe that's not the reason... Of course, this has predictive power in so far as it measures how quickly people will pick things up from the get-go, but it doesn't have predictive power for much beyond the person's current brain setup. The brain grows and adjusts as it learns. Again on the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/677048.stm - London taxi drivers' brains grow on the job. Of course that's grey matter, but the same principle applies. Barry Kelly London taxi drivers' brains grow on the job? No comment regarding this astounding assertion is required. It would be easy to draw hasty conclusions from these results. It may be that linguists *keep* more of the white matter than others: Since both types of "das" sounds tested are distinct in *any* of the Indian languages (not just Hindi), and one can be badly misunderstood by substituting one for the other, concluding that the difference is only detectable to linguists means that everyone who's successfully learned any of the Indian languages is a linguist. Or it means that all Indians have massive amounts of white matter that the rest of us don't have...and that may be, but I don't think it's the case. Perhaps it means that the Indians have more white matter than the French? I think the indication here is that we develop or keep the white matter depending on what faculties we use or work to develop. There are lots of other implications of the study, but it goes beyond linguistics as a general study. For instance, is it the case that someone from an aboriginal society where the members may distinguish between subtle sounds (e.g., different songs from the same bird) that the (average) city dweller would find indistinguishable, has more white matter than the non-linguist city dweller? Boffins should not be allowed to draw sweeping conclusions from their studies. Cheers, Matthew Barker There's got to be a way to insert a 'cunning linguist' joke in there somewhere, eh? Paul Renault You're right... Let me be one of the masses who point out that to make out the difference you have to be a cunning linguist... Brett Weaver Duly delivered. And finally... ...Her Maj Liz II sent her first email way back in 1976. We didn't have any details, but here are the facts: In case you were wondering, the "army base" in question was the Royal Signals Research Establishment (RSRE) in Malvern. The network link was routed via University College London (as was all early ARPAnet and Internet communications in Britain). Much more early UK Internet history is covered in this history by Peter Kirstein: http://nrg.cs.ucl.ac.uk/mjh/kirstein-arpanet.pdf Mark Handley Here's a bit more, gleaned by Paul from the Association for Computing Machinery. He reckons it's pretty authoratative: The ARPANET connection was inaugurated during a visit to RSRE by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty sent a message of greetings to the members of the HOLWG from her net account, EIIR, by pressing a red velvet Royal carriage return. Because the address list was long, it took about 45 seconds for the confirmation to come back, 45 seconds of dead air. Prince Philip remarked, joking respectfully, that it looked like she broke it. Phil the Greek, eh? What a card. More on Friday, when we promise a postbag completely devoid of Win/Mac controversy. Maybe. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006

Tearful Gene Pitney fans hit eBay in force

Fans of the late Gene Pitney - who died last week of heart disease shortly after a gig in Cardiff - have been branded "money-grabbing" and "ghoulish" for expressing their dismay at the singer's demise in the traditional way - by offering any artifact they can get their hands on on eBay. That's the verdict of UK tabloid the Sun, which reports that a ticket stub from Pitney's final appearance went for 300 quid on the internet tat bazaar. Other related memorabilia reportedly up for grabs is "a copy of the local 40p South Wales Echo, headlined 'Gene Pitney found dead in Cardiff'," - yours for £4.99 - and a "free publicity handout from the St David's Hall gig", billed as a "rare flyer" for £19.99. A quick peruse of eBay UK did indeed reveal this sale of a Pitney last concert ticket: Pitney's friend John Hughes told the Sun: "It's morbid, it’s ghoulish, but I suppose that's the way the world is these days. I find it strange and mercenary." ®
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006
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Argentina extradites Spanish hacker

A hacker who's suspected of stealing hundreds of thousands of euros from online bank accounts has been extradited from Argentina to Spain. José Manuel García Rodríguez, 24, dubbed (rather uncharitably) by the Argentinians as "the fat Spaniard", faces up to 40 years imprisonment if convicted of various cybercrime offences. García Rodríguez (whose online handle is Tasmania) fled his native Spain two years ago. Nine international arrest warrants were issued against him before he was eventually tracked down and arrested in Carcarañá, Argentina in July 2005. ®
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2006

Carphone bosses get a soaking

A faulty sprinkler led to a group of Carphone Warehouse managers getting a soaking yesterday as the firm announced its major new broadband strategy to hundreds of senior staff. The firm was holding its twice yearly managers' conference in a London hotel yesterday when El Reg received the following text from someone attending the bash. "700 managers, the biggest launch in CPW history...one faulty fire sprinkler...10 people soaked and a hotel evacuated. Priceless." A spokesman for Carphone confirmed that the firm's managers were attending a major company conference yesterday, but refused to verify that the event was interrupted and that some staff got a soaking. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2006
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VMware throws next punch in virtualisation battle

CommentComment VMware has announced it is making its virtual machine file format freely available, with no license or royalties. Despite the company's claim that "it is committed to supporting any other open virtual machine disk formats broadly adopted by customers and working toward converging on open standards in this area", this announcement is clearly motivated by the desire to ensure that VMware's virtualisation technologies are at the hub of a healthy ecosystem of third parties offering a range of value-added capabilities, such as backup/recovery, provisioning, performance optimistation, and so forth. To emphasise the point, VMware had Akimbi Systems, Altiris, BMC Software, PlateSpin, rPath, Surgient, Symantec and Trend Micro on hand to explain how they intend to use the file format. VMware first made its intentions clear in this regard with the announcement of the VMware Virtual Infrastructure SDK in June 2004. VMware is not alone. At the Microsoft Management Summit in April last year, Steve Ballmer announced royalty-free licensing of Microsoft's equivalent Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format. At the time of writing, Microsoft has signed up 45 licensees, including XenSource, which is leading the open source community behind the Xen hypervisor technology, as well as offering a range of value-added solutions based on Xen. Yesterday, Microsoft also announced that Virtual Server 2005 R2 is now available as a no-charge download. This announcement, like VMware's release of the free VMware Player (in December 2005) and VMware Server (in February this year), is indicative that the core virtualisation engine is becoming a commodity - as, of course, is Microsoft's intention to include a hypervisor in the Windows operating system. It is this commoditisation that is at the heart of these moves by VMware and Microsoft. The virtualisation battle is not going to be won on the basis of who is armed with the best engine, particularly in the face of open source alternatives such as Xen, which the likes of RedHat and Novell are building into their Linux distributions. The spoils will go to the vendor whose engine can be harnessed most effectively. VMware clearly recognises this and is investing heavily in technologies such as VirtualCenter. It's not lost on Microsoft either, but it still has some way to go to catch up. But both vendors clearly recognise, as the opening up of their respective file formats indicates, that they can't do it alone. In particular, they need to ensure that the leading management players - BMC, CA, HP and IBM - are on board, since that's who many of their target customers will be turning to for a lead. VMware has done an excellent job of cultivating partnerships with these players but none of them can afford to ignore Microsoft. These moves are good news for enterprises. Not only does it increase competition and, as a result, choice: it also drives innovation in the management areas required to maximise the potential benefits of virtualisation technology. In the absence of industry-wide open standards, enterprises will rely on these management solutions to abstract the underlying virtualisation engine. Copyright © 2006 Macehiter Ward-Dutton This article was originally published at IT-Analysis.com.
Neil Macehiter, 11 Apr 2006

Fujitsu unveils world's third HD DVD laptop

Fujitsu has announced the world's third notebook to incorporate an HD DVD drive, following the lead set by Toshiba and, more recently, Acer. However, the 17in machine is not expected to appear until June.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006

Should AT&T have to divest its broadband wireless holdings?

CommentComment With the regulatory review of the proposed AT&T/BellSouth merger looming, one issue is whether the combined company would be able to hold on to its 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz spectrum holdings. Some lobbyists have picked on the wrong argument from the start, however, claiming that because broadband wireless in these bands would compete with the Bell operator's wireline services, AT&T would be likely to keep the spectrum dormant. In fact, although all the Bell companies have failed to use this spectrum for years – taking a swathe of valuable wireless real estate out of the market – now is the time they are most likely to dust it off in order to expand their triple play coverage into markets where they have no lines installed; to build a licensed band metrozone to try to see off companies like EarthLink; or to combine wireless with their DSL services to offer high value broadband bundles that include portable access. Even without those commercial pressures, the FCC can certainly take the opportunity of the merger to insist, as it did with the Sprint Nextel merger, that AT&T uses its 2.3GHz assets or loses them. The real issue is whether one company should be allowed to keep such a huge range of broadband network options – DSL, fiber, a global network of long lines, the Cingular cellular networks, and broadband wireless - or whether competition would be better served by sharing things around a bit more. In many ways, with Verizon rejuvenated and the cablecos getting stronger, AT&T can argue it faces more effective competition in its markets than it has for years. And while the company looks absurdly powerful, certainly in terms of any smaller challenger having a chance of success against it, would the removal of the 2.3GHz holdings really make a difference? Sprint, of course, was allowed to keep its 2.5GHz holdings post-merger, on condition it created a network and services by 2009. But Sprint has a far less impressive set of networks than AT&T, being effectively a wireless-only quadruple play operator now, especially once it spins off its local lines unit, Embarq. However, its broadband wireless assets are far more valuable than those of AT&T, partly because they cover a higher percentage of the US's markets and, in many areas, with large quantities of bandwidth, such that Sprint can create the ambitious strategy that it has to deliver a challenge to the Bells in association with the cablecos. Weaknesses of the 2.3GHz band Although BellSouth is rolling out a pre-WiMAX network in some territories using Navini kit in 2.3GHz, the potential of this spectrum for AT&T is far less than for Sprint because it has far less bandwidth. The difference between 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz may not be important technologically, but in the US the two bands are a very different proposition. The main holders - Verizon, BellSouth, AT&T, and the owners of the assets of former operator Metricom - have let the licenses gather dust, partly through fears of cannibalising their other services and partly because the band is more difficult to exploit in America than elsewhere. This is because there is limited space compared to other countries – 30MHz in two channels, from 2305MHz to 2320MHz and from 2345MHz to 2360MHz – and those two channels are separated by the DARS (Digital Audio Radio Service) band. This raises possible interference problems from DARS satellite radio terrestrial repeaters, which have high power limits (2,000 watts EIRP). The satellite radio operators, Sirius and XM, having paid $80m each for their DARS frequencies, are highly protective of their signals, and even tried to limit 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. That move failed, but their aggression can cause problems for operators in 2.3GHz. Technologies like WiMAX are able to make better use of 2.3GHz, through their spectral efficiency, than other equipment has in past times, but it is still not reasonable to compare AT&T's spectrum with Sprint's as an asset. Whether the merged Bellco keeps or loses these licenses will not have a huge impact on the broadband pattern of the US. Where the issue could be more important is in the cellular side of the business. Increasingly, the 3G technologies are expanding into 2.5GHz, with the European regulators having set aside this band for 3G expansion, for instance. So technologies like TD-CDMA and even CDMA2000, plus the LTE next generation of W-CDMA, will cross the divide between current 3G bands below 2GHz and the broadband wireless spectrum. This is another advantage Sprint has, since it will be able to run its CDMA EV-DO network and 2.5GHz systems in parallel, and may well choose a next generation network that will provide an upgrade to both systems at once (an option Qualcomm is pushing with the concept of using EV-DO and Flarion Flash-OFDM, with the promise of a common upgrade in future. IPWireless holds out a similar promise for a dual strategy based on W-CDMA and its own TD-CDMA, both then moving up to LTE in future). This could bring 2.3GHz into play as a valuable addition to the strategy of Cingular, the AT&T-BellSouth cellular joint venture. And if the FCC decides that is too great an advantage for the cellco, there would be a golden opportunity for T-Mobile USA, which badly needs new spectrum, to acquire licenses to create its own next generation wireless network. Another contender, of course, would be Clearwire, seeking to add to its own stockpile of 2.5GHz spectrum. This scenario argues for the divestment of AT&T's 2.3GHz – not because this would have a material effect on its core broadband business or the competition in that market, but because it could give a small but valuable leg-up to one of the mid-sized operators that represent one of the only hopes – apart from the Sprint-cable venture – of chipping into the dominance of what will become just two senior Bellcos. 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, 11 Apr 2006

ATI rebrands Xpress chipsets

ATI has formally renamed its Radeon Xpress 200 chipset to CrossFire Xpress 1600, the company's website reveals. Such a move had been anticipated - a number of motherboard makers have already begun cutting and pasting the new name into existing product documentation.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006
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Senior figures call for NHS IT audit

A group of IT academics have sent an open letter to the House of Commons Health Select Committee asking them to set up an independent audit of how the programme to modernise IT within the health service is going. The letter was sent to Computer Weekly and eventually put on its website here and here. The strongly worded letter warns that the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) has technical challenges that have not been met, that there have been delays in delivering software for the programme, and that two suppliers have issued profit warnings related to the project. The letter asks questions which would be funny of anything but a government IT project. The letter asks: "Does NPfIT have a comprehensive, robust: Technical architecture? Project plan? Detailed design? "Have these documents been reviewed by experts of calibre appropriate to the scope of NPfIT?" The letter was sent by Martyn Thomas, visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University. It was signed by professors at Brunel University and the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian, Ulster, York, and the LSE and UCL. The Department of Health sent us a terribly reassuring statement: "The National Programme for IT is under constant review, scrutiny and audit by Parliament and Government bodies. It is a robust and resilient programme of healthcare IT delivery in the NHS. We remain confident that the technical architecture of the National Programme is appropriate and will enable benefits to be delivered for patients, whilst ensuring value for money to the taxpayer." How do you rate the chances of the NHS getting a decent IT system any time soon? Let us know at the usual address. ®
John Oates, 11 Apr 2006

US tells China to tackle pollution

The US has told China to get its environmental act togther ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying that "the world was watching its environmental protection efforts" in the run-up to the sportsfest. That's according to US Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen Johnson who, Reuters reports, told it like it was during a speech at Beijing's Qinghua University. He added: "More environmental protection progress can and must occur." Specifically, Johnson called for "more stringent enforcement of central government environmental policy" and "greater co-operation between China's levels of government" to get to grips with the problem. Johnson does have a point. As he gave forth, a pall of pollution hung over Beijing and the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) reported that the city had enjoyed its lowest number of "blue sky" days (official measure of low-pollution days) in five years. The Chinese will no doubt jump to it forthwith and look to another Olympic city - Los Angeles - for pointers on how to tackle air pollution. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006
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ATI readies Radeon X1900 GT

ATI is preparing to release a cut-down version of its Radeon X1900 XT and XTX GPUs, reducing the chip's pixel shader complement from 48 to 36 and knocking back its clock speed. The part will ship as the Radeon X1900 GT, it has been claimed.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006

EU domain registry hijacked, claims GoDaddy

Europe's brand new .eu top level domain has been hijacked, according to one of the internet's leading registrars. GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons has laid into .eu registry owner EURid for approving hundreds of what he calls "phantom" registrars who have walked away with the bulk of the 1.4m .eu domains registered since the domain was opened to the public earlier this week. In a blog post, Parsons accused EURid of "grand manipulation and lax administration" for allowing hundreds of companies to be registered with the same contact details. The way the process worked, each registered company was effectively put in a line and was entitled to make a bid for a single .eu domain. If the domain was available, it was given to the company, if not, it wasn't. That registrar then was sent to the back of the line to queue up again. However, out of the 1,570 accredited registrars, we have calculated that at least 630 were not separate registrars. One company in New York - whose backers Parsons claims to know - are responsible for at least 350. This meant effectively that one company had several hundred times its usual opportunity to get hold of particular .eu domains. Not only is this unfair, says Parsons, but it will most likely lead to the end users paying much more for a .eu domain because the company behind it will charge more and/or auction the domain. It wasn't just the New York company either: there were 58 registrars from Vancouver approved that were the same company; 57 from Bellevue, Washingon; 32 from Portland, Oregon; 32 from Elsbethen in Austria; 18 from Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and 12 from Stanberg and Regensburg in Germany. However, EURid has rejected the charge that these are no more than phantom companies. "Each registrar had to show us proof of the company registration," a EURid spokesman said. "They had to sign a registrar agreement, follow the regulations, show proof of their existence, and deposit 10,000 euros." EURid had to "treat everyone on an equal basis", he claimed, answering Parsons' suggestion that only established registrars should have been entitled to register .eu domains, with the assertion that the process needed competition. Each shell registrar had provided bona fide documentation that it was a separate company to EURid, and if they are in breach of the signed registrar contract, they will have the domain names they have registered put on hold, EURid confirmed. But this still leaves EURid open to accusations that it failed to close a loophole that has allowed unscrupulous companies to walk away with the lion's share of Europe's own top level domain. Despite the controversy, many observers remain amazed at .eu's success. With 1.7m domains now registered in total, it has established itself as the internet's seventh biggest registry in just under a week. ® Related link Bob Parsons' blog post
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Apr 2006

Venus Express clears biggest hurdle

The Venus Express orbiter successfully completed its voyage to our inner neighbour this morning with a handbrake turn. Engineers fired up rockets to slow it down so that Venus' gravity could capture the European Space Agency probe. The burn was a tense affair for the team at ESA's mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Relieved Venus specialist Professor Fred Taylor, who helped instigate the mission, said: “It could hardly have gone better.” There was a nail-biting 10 minutes when the signal was cut as the satellite went behind the planet. The success of the 50-minute manoeuvre was confirmed when the connection was reestablished. Engineers gave the nod that the 400 Newton main engine had done its job at 9.08AM BST. The next task is for the polar orbit to be brought closer to the Venusian surface for the measurements to be made. At its closest, Venus Express will be 250km above the South Pole. A bevy of instruments will investigate the mysteries of the super-thick spinning Venusian atmosphere, where winds in the clouds rip around the planet at 200 miles per hour and complex storm systems batter low latitudes. The data will serve as a testing ground for climate scientists to push their models to the limit. The oppressive CO2 and sulphur dioxide produce an extreme greenhouse effect that roasts the surface at 450°C. Dr Colin Wilson, a scientist at the University of Oxford, said if Earth climate models can work in an environment as extreme as Venus, global warming predictions are strengthened. The pressure on Venus's surface is nearly 100 times that of Earth. But lacking a magnetic field to protect the gases from the solar wind, Venus loses around 100 tons of it to space every day. The same nakedness has depleted Mars' atmosphere to just one hundredth of Earth's pressure, so one of the key questions for Venus Express scientists is what maintains it. The obvious suspect is active vulcanism on the surface. The scientists will use a very specific region of the infra-red spectrum, where all the waves come from the planet surface, to peer through the permanent pea-souper for hotspots. Volcano hunt image data will be backed up by atmospheric measurements. After the Sun and Moon, Venus is the brightest object in the sky. It's close to Earth's size, and was formed from the same materials. Its atmosphere and temperature make it extremely inhospitable to life. Scientists have described Venus as Earth's “evil twin”. Its known from hydrogen ion signatures in the atmosphere that there was water there in the past. Venus Express is the first to mission to probe the planet since the 1980s. Back in the days of the space race, the Russians sent 19 probes to Venus. Now, many of the scientists who worked in secret then are collaborating on Venus Express, which launched in November aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. The mission was piggybacked on technology developed for Mars Express. Some of the £140m satellite was cobbled together from spares in double-quick time. Dr Wilson expects the probe to start beaming back useful data in the next week. Taylor added that now the most difficult hurdle was behind them, the mission was “only just beginning”. The mission is planned for 500 Earth days, or just two for Venusians. ®
Christopher Williams, 11 Apr 2006

US team explains near death experiences

A team of US scientists has come up with a plausible explanation for "near death" events, wherein individuals experience out-of-body sensations or an aura of clear white light - and it has nothing to do with ascending toward the pearly gates. Rather, it's all down to "REM intrusion" where "the same parts of the brain are activated when people dream as in near death experiences", the BBC reports. The University of Kentucky team studied 55 people who'd had near death experiences - defined as "a time during a life-threatening episode when a person undergoes an outer body experience, unusual alertness, sees an intense light, or feels a great sense of peace" - and compared them to 55 who hadn't. Sixty per cent of those who claimed a near death experience said they'd also suffered a "REM state of sleep during periods of wakefulness", or REM intrusion, described by study author professor Kevin Nelson to the Daily Telegraph as "an activation of certain brain regions that are also active during the dream state". Nelson added: "However, I hesitate to call it dreaming or dreaming while awake. This is the first testable hypothesis of a biological basis for these experiences. People who have near death experiences may have an arousal system that predisposes them to REM intrusion." The theory has found favour with Dr Neil Stanley, director of sleep research at Surrey University, who chipped in: "There are plenty of rational people who say that these things happen and the one part of us that's utterly fantastical is our dreams. "Our dreams can appear incredibly real - after all they are our reality when they are happening. If you get that sort of reality playing through into your consciousness, it's a very convincing reason to believe such a thing is happening." For the record, common symptoms of REM intrusion include "waking up and feeling unable to move, having sudden muscle weakness in the legs, and hearing sounds just before falling asleep or waking up that others do not hear", the Kentucky team notes. There's more in the full study, as published in Neurology. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006

Sonos slims wireless music playback box

Sonos will this month cut the price of its multi-room digital music system. Its latest ZonePlayer wireless playback device, the ZP80, provides the same core functionality as Sonos' ZP100. However, to get the price - and the size - down, Sonos has stripped out the integrated amplifier used to drive speakers directly from the ZonePlayer.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006

NY subway perv 'really is a w*nker'

NSFWNSFW The NY subway pervert who exposed his meat to a 22-year-old web developer - only to be caught mid-five-knuckle-shuffle on her mobile's camera and subsequently splashed across the net - has revealed his true colours in an astounding interview with New York Magazine. The perpetrator was quickly fingered as 43-year-old Dan Hoyt, the owner of two veggie restaurants called Quintessence, who'd already served two days' community service for "public lewdness" on the subway in 1994. He's now awaiting sentencing on the second rap, for which he'll probably walk away with two years' probation. In the meantime, he's undergoing to court-ordered counselling, but says the sessions are "a little long-winded". Accordingly, he's also getting stuck into some "Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing" (EMDR) which he reckons will remove "emotional problems like stains from a shirt". Well, if the end of the interview is anything to go by, Hoyt has plenty of EMDR ahead of him before his shirt emerges even remotely squeaky clean. Regarding his victim, Thao Nguyen, Hoyt claims she "humiliated him by posting his picture on the web". He further laments: "It's one thing to take it to the police. But on the internet, I read a lot of people saying, 'That was not too cool of her. That was really screwed up'." He concludes by claiming that if he and Nguyen met under different circumstances (when he wasn't beating his meat, presumably), then things might turn out differently: "You know, she'd go, 'That guy’s pretty cool. He's got this restaurant, and he's fun'," Hoyt claims, adding: "She'd probably want to go out with me." We'll leave it to one blogger to sum this one up: "Subway Wanker Really Is A Wanker" reads the headline. Back to your EMDR, matey, and keep your hands where we can see 'em. ® Bootnote Thanks to Anthony Dalton for alerting us to the latest on the objectionable Mr Hoyt.
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006

Samsung unveils Korean card phone

Samsung has shown off a mobile phone that's little bigger than a credit card. The ultra-slim handset - dubbed the Platinum Cardphone but more labelled with the more prosaic model number SCH-V870 - measures just 8.7 x 5.4 x 0.9cm and weighs 81g.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006

Carphone's 'free' broadband just a 'marketing ploy'

BT has brushed off Carphone Warehouse's "free" broadband offer calling it a "clever marketing ploy from a clever marketing team". Earlier today, Carphone released details of a new phone and broadband combo, which it says is up to 60 per cent cheaper than similar packages offered by the UK's leading telcos and ISPs. For £21 a month including line rental, punters get inclusive landline calls and broadband at up to 8 meg. The Carphone Warehouse reckons its new broadband bundle, which will be made available as the retailer-cum-telco invests in local loop unbundling, could save people up to £400 a year. "For too long the British public has been charged costly fees for high-speed internet access, or has had to use slow internet connections. We are bringing this to an end," chief exec Charles Dunstone said. "High speed internet will now become a standard service in the home - just like radio or television. The change this represents for society is huge. This is the tipping point." While it's still unclear whether today's announcement will kick start a much talked about price war, the war of words has already begun. "The broadband market in the UK is the most competitive in the world and this offer from Carphone is yet one more offer in what is already a crowded market," BT Retail consumer division COO John Petter said. "As for this being 'free' broadband, it is only 'free' if you pay them hundreds of pounds a year for other services. We'd advise people to take a careful look at the small print as there are plenty of extra costs." ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Apr 2006
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Cross-platform virus poses little risk

Security watchers have uncovered proof-of-concept (POC) malware that's capable (at least theoretically) of infecting either Windows or Linux PCs. Linux-Bi-A/Win-Bi-A is written in assembler so it is capable of infecting either Linux ELF binaries or Windows exe files.
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2006

Bird flu panic swan was teutonic flotsam

Government vets say the swan found to have died of bird flu in Scotland may have just washed up there from the continent. The genetic signature of the swan's infection matches that of an outbreak in northern Germany. It's been identified as a whooper swan. Although they winter here, the lack of any other cases has caused experts to say it's more likely the unfortunate fowl died abroad. The BBC reports that the "working hypothesis" in Whitehall is indeed that the swan died elsewhere and was washed up at Cellardyke. It's taken until now to identify the swan's species because it was badly decomposed and lacked a head. Looks like the Queen's own British mute swans (she also owns all the dolphins and sturgeon, apparently) are still unscathed. Stiff upper beak, lads. ®
Christopher Williams, 11 Apr 2006

West African owlseller contacts El Reg

This just in: our Reg Hardware tentacle has earned its spurs by attracting the following 419 email regarding, well, read on: From: OKIKI [mailto:okiki4real007@yahoo.com] Sent: 10 April 2006 15:38 To: Lars-Göran Nilsson Subject: Reg reader comment: Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1536 I AM OKIKIOLA BY NAME, I AM A OWLSELLER IN THE WEST AFRICA, I WILL LIKE TO BE BUYING THIS PRODUCT IF YOU CAN BE SELLING FOR ME, I AM CAPABLE TO BE PAYING YOU IN BANK DRAFT, I WILL WANT TO HERE FROM U SOON. Nice one. Okikiola, we have a suggestion: scrub the laptop and get yourself a dictionary instead. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Apr 2006

Ricoh GR Digital 8.1Mp camera

ReviewReview In October 1996, the Ricoh GR series of 35mm film cameras was born. They were some of the company's first compact cameras aimed at the enthusiast and pro snapper where image quality and the resolving power of the lens were the paramount considerations, and not just a tiny package. A digital GR that aims to follow those illustrious forbears in terms of image quality, usability and sheer panache has its work cut out...
Doug Harman, 11 Apr 2006

'Yonah' Celeron M 420, 430 ship in Japan

Intel's as-yet-unannounced Celeron M 4xx series - the first budget-priced processors derived from the chip maker's 'Yonah' core - have gone on sale in Japan, according to local news sources.
Tony Smith, 11 Apr 2006
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DJ typing style used to securely distribute music

A technique used by Bletchley Park cryptographers to identify operators is being applied to distribute musical recordings to DJs securely using the internet.
John Leyden, 11 Apr 2006
cloud

Salesforce.com goes wireless with Sendia buy

Salesforce.com is launching a hosted service bringing enterprise applications to wireless devices following its $15m acquisition of partner Sendia, announced on Tuesday. The hosted customer relationship management (CRM) vendor has announced AppExchange Mobile, which it said would allow more than 60 applications on the company's existing AppExchange service to be "quickly and easily" extended to mobile devices. Salesforce.com will use Sendia's Wireless WorkSpace technology to extend applications to devices including RIM BlackBerry, Palm Treo and Windows Mobile. According to Sendia, Wireless WorkSpace is a mobile application server, centralized management system and device-side smart-client that enables applications to be quickly developed, deployed and integrated in to back end systems. Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's chief executive, said in a statement AppExchange Mobile is "democratizing mobile applications" by reducing the effort involved in taking software wireless. "With AppExchange Mobile, there is no extra coding needed to develop an application on AppExchange and mobile-enable it." AppExchange Mobile is available at $50 per user per month under Salesforce.com's Enterprise Edition and Professional Edition subscriptions, on top of their usual $125 per user per month fee, while users of Salesforce.com's Unlimited Edition, priced $195 per user per month, get the service at no extra charge. AppExchange, Salesforce.com's hosted business software platform, launched in January and was billed by Benioff as the "iTunes for enterprise software. " The idea is developers post and "mash-up" applications that are then shared and downloaded by customers. Salesforce.com claimed more than 60 of its and third parties' applications are now available on AppExchange, adding customers have installed more than 7,100 applications from the service. One thing that appears to be still missing from AppExchange, though, is all-important integration with popular CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from rivals like SAP and Oracle. Integration is needed so that customers can bring in and use Salesforce.com alongside their existing enterprise software. Salesfore.com reportedly last week confirmed an integration with SAP, at least, is in the works.®
Gavin Clarke, 11 Apr 2006

Pundit responds to 'troubling' Reg attack

LetterLetter Mr. Vance: I was deeply troubled by your column in the Register titled “Sun zinged by rent-a-quote analyst”. It is perhaps Ironic that this is all happening as while I’m working with the New York Times “Looking at the Free Market, and Seeing Red" to help defend Lenovo from a similar unfounded, and under researched attack. Roger Key* ends that piece with the comment “Facts don’t matter, perceptions matter” which, coincidently, also forms the basis for my complaint about your piece. While I may be upset about your false statements about my integrity, I am more troubled by your tabloid like approach to this subject. If you do research first, and then form an opinion that opinion will likely have a solid foundation. When you do it the other way around bad things can happen like outing a CIA operative and going to war in Iraq. When folks like you don’t do their jobs, particularly recently, really bad things have happened. Fact checking is still a valuable part of your industry. That isn’t to say I disagree with you about reforms. You only have to go here to conclude something is really broken in my industry. But you can also go here and see that yours has issues as well. What is ironic is I’m trying to help fix my industry. Perhaps if you focused more on correcting your own practices we could both improve things. I've never been paid to take a position for or against a company and it is irresponsible that you even said this without something more then assumption. For most publications that would be a serious problem, you, on the other hand seem to think it is funny. You also now know that both Ziff Davis and Business Week, along with virtually every large research firm, participate in these councils you claim bias me as well and a little research would have cleared up what we do and why they aren’t a problem. These councils are on PCs and have nothing to do with Sun which isn’t even in that business. You feel I talk to too many reporters, I wonder why you think you need to approve who I talk to? They are kind of like family and because I don’t work for a large company anymore they often fill the gap of missed co-workers. It is with a certain amount of pride I answer their questions as truthfully as I can. In the instance you reference the Economist did follow disclosure rules correctly, the Advisory Councils have nothing to do with Sun or Sun products. Maybe you need to read up on disclosure rules. So you basically made a bunch of stuff up and then you concluded that The Economist misacted. And you think this is some big joke, “amusing” was the word you used in a recent email.  This reeks of censorship and an elitist attitude that implies you don’t have to follow the rules of your industry. Doing complete work is the responsibility of anyone in either of our positions because, when we don’t, we break the trust our readers have in us. For me, I now wonder what else you’ve made up, what other things you didn’t have the time to research and check, and, given you are so incredibly positive about Sun, I also wonder about your personal relationship with that company. The Economist was required reading for us at Giga and I still view it as one of the most ethical publications in the business. You, of all people, shouldn’t be criticizing their work. Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst at the Enderle Group Bootnote The correct spelling of the analyst's name is Roger Kay
Rob Enderle, 11 Apr 2006