21st > April > 2006 Archive

Blu-ray another Betamax - MS Xbox exec

The Xbox 360 will be able to play HD DVD movies, Microsoft's European console business chief, Chris Lewis, has apparently confirmed. "It will give people access to HD DVD," said this week. In an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel, Lewis dismisses Blu-ray Disc as another Betamax.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

Toshiba tweaks Gigabeat P players

Toshiba has updated its Nano-esque Gigabeat P digital music player family, adding an tweaked FM radio, a choice of three new colours and a fancy new face to the player's clock application.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006
fingers pointing at man

Oracle CEO gets strategic with Red Hat name calling

AnalysisAnalysis Red Hat chief executive Matthew Szulik has written an open letter to Larry Ellison, essentially accusing Oracle of being a relic of a dying enterprise software age, which has served its own interests rather than those of customers for 30 years.
Gavin Clarke, 21 Apr 2006

Something might happen at Sun some day - WSJ

Who says the blockbuster exclusive is dead? With rumors of Scott McNealy taking up a back seat at Sun Microsystems once again making the rounds, the Wall Street Journal armed and dispatched two reporters onto the battlefield. McNealy has long been tipped to take up the chairman's post at Sun, with Jonathan Schwartz being groomed for the dauphin role. The dot com crash abruptly shifted Schwartz several places nearer the front of the bus, and his nose has been pressed up against the windshield since 2004, when he was appointed president and chief operating officer. This is what the WSJ special ops team discovered. Don Clark and Christopher Lawton report that Scott McNealy may or may not be relinquishing his role as Sun CEO. And if he does, it'll take place uh, ... whenever. "The timing of any change isn't clear, though some speculate that a change could be disclosed as early as the company's earnings announcement, slated for Monday, or some months later." Or "we haven't got a clue", is the best translation we can muster, as the rest of the 1,100 word piece dutifully recaps Sun's history. Presumably, this tedious task was delegated to Joann S. Lublin, who we're told "contributed to this article". We heard the rumors too. But figured that rather than wasting your time - and accelerating deforestation - on speculation, we'd pass. Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre ends his editorial conferences with the battle cry "Go, Paras! Go!" It's hard to imagine what Dacre would think of this pair sneaking back across enemy lines, empty handed.®
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Apr 2006

Subversion on Demand

Selling open source software is a bit of a problem, Bas Nijjer of CollabNet UK has just told me. Seems this guy comes up to him at a show and says: “So, you’re selling Subversion…” “No, not exactly,” Bas replies, “it’s open source…” “So, what exactly are you selling?”
David Norfolk, 21 Apr 2006

Sun streaks ahead in open source DRM and CAS

We can see from last week's story on Sun Microsystems DReaM DRM that it is rapidly honing in on a future open source DRM market, with a completely new vision of how DRM should work, and it's running at least six months ahead of schedule by our reckoning.
Faultline, 21 Apr 2006

US consumers pump up Nokia profits

Nokia, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, announced stronger than expected results for Q1 yesterday. Profits plumped up 21 per cent based largely on increasing sales in the US market. Net income for the first quarter soared to €1bn compared to €863m in 2005. Revenue at the Espoo, Finland-based company jumped 29 per cent to €9.5bn, up from €7.4 bn in the year-ago quarter. Emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, and China also performed well with quarter-on-quarter per centage growth all in the teens. Of the newer markets only Latin America performed poorly for Nokia with volumes down by just under a quarter. Earnings per share jumped nearly a third to €0.25, outperforming the Wall Street consensus forecast of €0.22. Nokia president Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said 2006 will be a year of good growth for the global mobile market. He expects Nokia's market volume to increase by at least 15 per cent. "This year we anticipate approximately 70 per cent of industry volume growth to come from the emerging markets," he said, adding that lower priced entry-level products were "critical" for Nokia's future success. Nokia phones are getting more expensive. The average selling price of a handset before Christmas was €99, rising slightly to €103 for the current quarter. The firm's network business also seems healthy, with new contracts announced this quarter in Kuwait, China, Ecuador, Ukraine, Finland, Spain, and a United Arab Emirates deal alone worth €190m. Nokia chief executive Jorma Ollila reportedly said he believed the recent merger with Lucent and Alcatel will not affect Nokia's market share. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 21 Apr 2006

'Free' txts a go go

Hotxt, a flat-fee SMS service backed by Dragon's Den entrepreneur Doug Richard, has a rival. The Hotxt service was launched in March and was billed as being a text version of Skype, which has helped slash the cost of making phone calls. Targeted at 16 to 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, while 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 5p and 12p a message, the average Hotxt charge is just a fraction of a penny. Now, a Southampton-based outfit reckons it can go one better by offering a "free" text service without any subscription charges. Like Hotxt, Tex2 uses a mobile phone's data connection to send messages to others in the Tex2 community by using software downloaded onto the handset. But unlike Hotxt, Tex2 doesn't charge £1 a week for its service, although SMS messages are subject to network data charges, typically, just a fraction of a penny. "Our vision is to create a community that's able to communicate via their mobile for just the cost of the data," Tex2 spokesperson Phil Jones said. "That means text messages can, in future, cost fractions of a pence rather than up to 12p which the networks charge for SMS. "Furthermore, we pledge that Tex2 will remain free. Like Skype, we're harnessing the power of the internet to let people communicate, virtually free of charge." So if Tex2 isn't charging for its service, how in the heck does it plan to make any money? Well, it seems the priority for Tex2 at the moment is to build the community. If successful, it could always generate some revenue by charging for premium services. Oh, and the outfit says it has "very low overheads and no greedy shareholders to satisfy". ®
Team Register, 21 Apr 2006
For Sale sign detail

Newcastle strikes schools IT deal

Newcastle City Council has set up a service organisation to run the provision of IT for some of its schools. It has signed a contract with Dell to support the delivery of an IT managed service for the Building Schools for the Future programme. A spokesperson for the company told Government Computing News that the council would place the management of the service in the hands of the new organisations, Newcastle City Service, rather than keeping it inhouse. "It's a big deal in that it is one of the first councils to go through with it," the spokesperson said. ""It's unique in that it has set up an independent company to run the programme. It will work aligned with Dell." The Building Schools for the Future programme to improve school buildings and provide IT facilities. Newcastle's programme currently covers 16 schools in the city. Newcastle City Service is aiming to complete detailed planning and preparation by November 2006 and establish the managed service by March 2007. Implementation of the new IT infrastructure will begin in January 2007 with a target completion of March 2009. As the strategic partner, Dell will help to design the IT infrastructure and provide support, with Newcastle City Council providing the overall managed service. The deal will provide one PC to every three pupils, interactive whiteboards in each teaching area, and a notebook for every teacher, plus a storage area network and a wide area network. Lorraine Dixon, Newcastle's client services manager ICT, said the deal would improve overall accessibility to IT in the schools, and support increases in productivity. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 21 Apr 2006

Climate change outlook clarified

A new dataset revealed today bolsters the scientific consensus on the effect of greenhouse gas emissions. A reconstruction of the Northern Hemisphere's climate over the past 700 years appearing in Nature suggests global temperatures are more robust than some reports previously indicated. "Climate sensitivity" is a defined measure of how the climate behaves when the level of carbon dioxide is doubled. Some previous estimates had predicted the temperature could rise by as much as 9°C. Some hardcore statistical work by a transatlantic team at Duke and Oxford universities states that anything much higher than 6.2°C is highly unlikely. The accepted likely broad range is 1.5°C to 4.5°C. Crucially, the level of climate sensitivity they got from reconstructions based on tree rings and other data was totally consistent with the estimates made from direct temperature observations in the 19th and 20th centuries. The work should buttress the scientific foundation available to policymakers when making the case for tackling carbon emisssions.®
Christopher Williams, 21 Apr 2006

Seagate readies 750GB desktop hard drive

Seagate is on the verge of announcing a 3.5in desktop hard drive with a capacity of 750GB - increasing the Barracuda 7200.10 line's maximum storage space by 50 per cent. Seagate hasn't formally announced the 750GB model, but it is already beginning to appear on the company's marketing material.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

Japan offered micro Mac Mini rival

Japanese consumers will be able to buy one of the world's smallest PCs next month when local vendor Third Wave ships what it calls the Prime Super Mini - a desktop machine smaller than a 12in notebook computer.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

Microsoft and Autodesk infringed patents, jury rules

An entrepreneur has been awarded $133m by a jury in a Texas courtroom after winning his claim that two of his anti-piracy software patents were infringed by Microsoft's Office and Windows XP, and Autodesk's AutoCAD programs. David Colvin is founder of z4 Technologies Inc, a digital rights management company based in "Automation Alley", the high-tech centre of Michigan. The company exists to prevent infringement – and on a page of its website includes quotes from both Microsoft and Autodesk about the pest of piracy. Colvin obtained patents for methods of assigning passwords and codes to individual copies of software to prevent unauthorised use. This week, Microsoft was ordered to pay him $115m and Autodesk $18m. The impact on their respective products is unknown. Microsoft spokesperson Rachel Wayne told OUT-LAW.COM: "While we are disappointed with this verdict, we continue to contend that there was no infringement of any kind and that the facts in this case show that Microsoft developed its own product activation technologies well before z4 Technologies filed for its patent. "We will await resolution of all issues by the trial court before we make any decisions." According to Reuters, Microsoft awaits the court's decision on another point: whether z4 Technologies knowingly withheld information from the US Patent and Trademark Office about other companies' product activation technologies when submitting its patent applications. In a separate decision earlier this week, a federal appeals court ruled that customers who bought computers with Microsoft's software preinstalled, or who bought its programs through a reseller, can't sue the Redmond company for anti-trust violations. Twenty-six plaintiffs were seeking up to $10bn in damages, but lost because they were indirect purchasers. See: z4 patents Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 21 Apr 2006

IO Data preps pricey Blu-ray Disc writers

Storage specialist IO Data has said it will ship internal and external Blu-ray Disc writers in just over a month's time. The company said it will launch the two products in Japan and the US simultaneously.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006
homeless man with sign

PC market continues solid growth

Quarterly figures show global shipments of PCs rose nearly 13 per cent with Dell still leading the way among PC vendors.
Maxim Kelly, 21 Apr 2006

Sapphire renames water-cooled graphics card

Sapphire is to rename its water-cooled ATI Radeon X1900 XTX-based video cards. Out goes the 'Blizzard' moniker, replaced by the less appropriate 'Toxic', the graphics card company announced this week. Britney Spears may like it, we guess...
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

Mobile phone shipments to hit 1bn in 2006

The number of mobile phones shipped worldwide rose by 31 per cent during the first quarter of 2006, according to new figures. Strategy Analytics' latest study reveals that 229m mobile phones were shipped in the first three months of 2006. This marks the first time sales have passed the 200m mark in the opening quarter of the year.
Charlie Taylor, 21 Apr 2006

Enterprise software vendors jump on the Express bandwagon

Two out of four ain't bad. So far, out of the big hitters in the enterprise management space, IBM and BMC have announced 'Express' versions of their products. IBM's announcements came in February of this year and BMC's in March. Neither announcement offered anything particularly innovative, not from a functionality perspective anyway: the tools will offer similar, if cut-down capabilities as their enterprise versions, such as help desk, application monitoring, event management, and so on. The real interest comes in the pricing (lower) and packaging (easier to deploy), and the products are to be targeted at mid-market customers. Different software vendors define the mid-market in different ways but, suffice to say, these are the companies whose IT is sufficiently complex to require a team of support staff but for whom the term 'enterprise' would be pushing the point. We're probably talking thousands, rather than hundreds of users, but certainly not very many. It's easy enough to package up products for the mid-market who, after all, have very similar IT support challenges to their larger brethren. There is also a desperate need for such tools, which until now have lain financially out of reach of the cash-strapped IT budgets of smaller companies. Even if the money was there, management tools could be difficult to justify. The $50,000 question, however, is will companies adopt such products now the price has been dropped? Realistically, these are not the first ever mid-market offerings of management tools, and the price points being set by IBM and BMC are awfully similar to those we have seen in the past. We believe that if Express products are offered on the strength of brand or function alone, they face an uphill struggle. The reasons why companies failed to purchase in the past remain valid today, and neither IBM nor BMC have exemplary track records at managing the kinds of channel partners they need to get these products to deployment. Drivers of the new wave of IT service management in the enterprise, such as the standardisation of management processes through ITIL, do not have mid-market equivalents: ITIL is unlikely to scale down to provide the process guidance appropriate to smaller companies, which do not have the budget for services to implement such processes, even if they have the will. Rather than the top-down, strategic approaches familiar in enterprise environments, mid-market companies tend to work more from a bottom-up perspective - solving problems as they happen and implementing tools to help them along the way. It is for this reason we believe Microsoft stands more chance of success, as (through its distributed systems management initiative) it is looking to deliver a framework that pulls together its various fragments of management capability and ties them together into an integrated whole. What Microsoft currently lacks in its portfolio, it gains in its approach - and, indeed, any shortfalls can be filled by partnerships, OEM deals and acquisitions. For all comers, there's also the possibility of online versions of tools, offered as a hosted service. At first glance it is difficult to see how this would work - think of the complications (security and otherwise) of allowing your systems to be monitored by a third party, across the Internet. However, such an approach may well offer the 'on-ramp' that is required by smaller businesses - limited trials (by user seat, by device monitored or by functionality used) could be expanded as the value of the technology was proven. We know that at least one major vendor is considering hosted management, and we expect to see such offerings in place by the end of this year. What with IBM, BMC and Microsoft now at the table, we await with impatience what CA and HP (both under new management) have to say on the subject. We're not expecting much from these vendors any time soon - HP has its work cut out developing its enterprise management portfolio, and CA also has enough on its plate as it develops its SMB packaged information protection tools, taking on McAfee and Symantec in the process. Speaking of the latter, there is a chair reserved for Symantec if the company could only get its act together and realise that there's more to IT management than "information integrity", a.k.a. anti-virus and backup. Indeed, the more the merrier - particularly if the healthy competition results in these companies finally getting the tools they need, at a price they can afford. Overall, we do believe there is an untapped market for IT management tools in medium sized businesses. This isn't a case of trying to sell tools to organisations that don't want them - the need and will is there to use such tools, and if the approach from the vendors can be made to fit the requirements of the customers, it should be a win-win all round. In the meantime, we hope that the overall effect of mid-market interest should result in further downward pressure on pricing, which should be welcomed by customers of all sizes. Copyright © 2006 Macehiter Ward-Dutton This article was originally published at IT-Analysis.com.
Jon Collins, 21 Apr 2006

RCA HD DVD player due 18 May

The US' second HD DVD player looks set to be a machine from RCA. According to Wal-Mart's website, RCA's HDV500 machine will ship on 18 May, almost a month after Toshiba's HD-A1 and HD-XA1 players launched in the States.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

US sees record jump in e-ad revenues

Online ad revenues in the US jumped 30 per cent in 2005 as spending on online advertising continued to grow at a "healthy rate". The latest figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that overall internet advertising revenues for the US hit a record $12.5bn during last year. In the last three months of 2005 US internet advertising revenues hit $3.6bn - up 34 per cent on the same period in 2004. What's more, the experts reckon that online spending is set to increase still further as advertisers twig that it's a fab way to plug their brands and boost sales. Plus with the emergence of new services such as video-over-broadband and internet TV there's plenty of whizzy new things to excite even the most reluctant of creative boutiques. "The Internet continues to be a vibrant and ever-changing channel, providing advertisers with broad offerings that enable them to promote their brands using a highly cost effective platform," says David Silverman of PwC. "This year's record figure of annual internet advertising revenue demonstrates the enduring enthusiasm for the medium as a whole." In March the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC) on behalf of the Advertising Association (AA) revealed that online ad spending soared in the UK last year. The trade group said spending on online advertising in the UK rose 73 per cent during 2005, taking ad revenues to £1.13bn - way past other media such as consumer and business mags, radio, outdoor and cinema. ®
Team Register, 21 Apr 2006

Panasonic to ship Blu-ray writer in June

A Panasonic internal Blu-Ray Disc writer will ship in June, the electronics giant has said, but like the similarly spec'd models announced by IO Data, the LF-MB121JD isn't going to come cheap.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

BOFH: Interview with a CEO

Episode 15Episode 15 It's late at night and I'm in the CEO's office rifling through his correspondence for evidence of the much-rumoured budget cuts in IT. Apparently, the powers that be have decided that the IT spend isn't reducing as fast as the board would like, so they're just going to hack out a major part of the annual budget and see how we cope with the pain. Or so the document says... I'm midway through the re-edit of the document on the CEO's laptop (recommending increased investment for future growth, blah, blah) when the man himself walks in. And when I say walk I mean a drunken stagger, assisted by a couple of young women with the aura of professional services delivery about them. "What the hell are you doing here?" he fumes alcoholically. "Just doing some, uh, out of hours maintenance work," I say, touch typing the remainder of the sentence about one-off bonus payments for key technical staff and closing the document." "How'd you get in?" "With the key?" "What key?" "This one," I say, selecting the appropriate key from a large ring on the CEO's desktop. "Where'd you get them from?" he asks, going for the belligerency heavyweight title. "Security?" "How?" Sigh. "We have keys to all areas of the building - to fix faults, particularly out of hours." "My laptop doesn't have a fault!" "No," I adlib. "I was just using it to DETECT a fault - in the...uh... network connectivity" "It's not connected to the network!" he slurs. "I'm using the built-in wireless network," I say, pulling another one out of the adlib bag. "I disabled that," he counters. "Yes, but I re-enabled it - to test for coverage patterns, structure penetration, solar flare interference and suchlike." "Solar flares? At night?" "When we least expect them," I nod, knowingly. "You're just nosing through my office aren't you? Trying to find something worth stealing?" "No no, I took all that weeks ago. Nice brandy by the way" "So you admit you're stealing?" "Only the good stuff. You'll note that I left the corked wine and the aftershave-quality gin behind. And as for the 'home movies' in your office safe. >shudder< " "You're for the high jump!" he snarls. In situations like this, harsh experience has taught me that the best course is usually to admit fault in the first instance and attempt to diffuse the situation in the second. "You're probably right." I admit, "It does look pretty damning. You caught me red handed in your office, using your laptop, stealing your drinks and about to take a dump in your top drawer - which reminds me can you hand me some paper - the company newsletter will do - there's a photo of you on the front this month isn't there?" Never could get the hang of that second part... "I...most certainly will not, you..." "Oh, well perhaps you could get one of your nieces to do it then?" "They're not my...ah." CAN ANYONE ELSE SMELL A PERFORMANCE BONUS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?!! "Yes, I see the similarity between them and your wife," I say, tapping the desktop photo. "Yes well..." the CEO burbles, going for the suave save. "...in that all three are women. At least I think she's a woman. A bit on the mannish side, but I'm sure she's all original - no major structural alterations, plumbing refits, etc?" "Leave my wife out of this - you broke into my office!" "No, no, I'm here in pursuit of a fault." "Oh yes, and what fault would that be - I think we'll find there's no wireless network up here at all!" "Which in itself would be a fault, but no, I was here because...your desktop machine was damaged" "It's not dama.. >SHOVE< >CRASH!<" "Looks like it was dropped," I say, "which is a simple replacement job - hardly worth me tackling after hours. Still, better safe than sorry!" "You just did that!" he gasps, "No I didn't!" "You did, and I have witnesses!" "Witnesses? What witnesses? Ladies, did you see anything?" "It depends," one of them says astutely. "On?" the CEO asks. "The number I'm thinking of," she responds, even more astutely. "Is it a large number?" I ask. "A large number with something that looks like an L in front of it?" "That's the one!" "I'll just have to check my bank balance," I say, grabbing the CEO's phone. "Whatever you're wanting I'll double it," the Boss says, catching on. "So let me get this straight," I say, moments later, "you're offering these two ladies of your acquaintance double the amount of money they're thinking of PLUS whatever you were offering them before, to continue your night of debauchery and claim that they saw me push your desktop machine off the desk?" "Indeed." "Well, I can't compete with that. I can only offer the amount of money I'm thinking of, which is 200 quid." "I was already going to pay more than that." "Well I guess you win. But wait, silly me, did I accidentally press the quick dial number for your home instead of the number to your bank? And is that your wife on the other end of the phone instead of the automated attendant. And is she probably thinking of ringing the bank, reporting your cards as being stolen and locking you out of the house before freezing your communal assets?? Oh...she's rung off!" >SLAM!< >clatter< "So ladies, who fancies a rather nasty gin?" ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 21 Apr 2006

Netgear Wi-Fi Skype phone to ship June?

Netgear's answer to Linksys' CIT200 Skype phone is due to go on sale in two months' time, according to the online supplier the company has chosen to handle pre-orders for the product. Amazon.com's website has the $250 handset down to ship on 30 June.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

China poised to pinch US spam crown

China is closing in on the USA at the top of a league of spam relaying countries. According to statistics from security firm Sophos, compiled in the first three months of 2006, China (including Hong Kong) originated 21.9 per cent of the junk mail messages captured in its spam traps compared to 23.1 per cent for the US. Two years ago, the US accounted for half of all spam sent in the world, a figure that has now dropped to less than a quarter, thanks to crackdowns against spammers and better information sharing among ISPs. But despite progress from the United States in reducing its spam-relaying quotient, there's still more junk mail sent from US computers than any other nation. However as a continent, North America is now close to being overtaken by Europe, with both lying behind Asia in terms of volume of spam each is responsible for. The reduction in US-relayed spam has shaken up Sophos's chart, with China edging closer to the top. Poland, Spain and Germany all saw their spam-relaying percentages rise between Q4 2005, and Q1 2006, while the UK (absent from the Q4 2005 chart) has now re-entered the table in tenth position. Sophos notes that the vast majority of spam is generated by zombie computers (infected computers under the control of hackers). "A combination of technology, legal action, user education and international co-operation is needed to truly make spam a thing of the past," a Sophos spokesman commented. Sophos's dirty dozen of spam relaying countries United States (23.1 per cent) China (incl Hong Kong) (21.9 per cent) South Korea (9.8 per cent) France (4.3 per cent) Poland (3.8 per cent) Spain (3.3 per cent) Germany (3.0 per cent) Brazil (2.9 per cent) Japan (2.0 per cent) United Kingdom (1.9 per cent) Netherlands (1.8 per cent) Taiwan (1.6 per cent) ®
John Leyden, 21 Apr 2006

Rivals want to invest in Australia's broadband network

Some of Australia's top telecoms companies want to club together with incumbent Telstra to invest in upgrading the nation's broadband network. The telcos - Internode, Macquarie, Optus, PowerTel, Primus, Soul and TransACT - believe proposals put forward by Australia's dominant telco are bad news for consumers and competitors. In a nutshell, Telstra's plans to invest in five major cities serving some four million homes and businesses. But rivals say this will "divide Australia into the digital haves and have-nots," with less than half of all phone lines able to receive the new high speed services. Worse still, Telstra also wants to be given something in return for its investment and rivals are concerned that this will mean restricting competition and higher prices for end users. Instead, rival operators are putting together a plan that would pool resources and provide a "collective investment in an open access network" that could be used by all broadband providers. "Under our proposal, Telstra would be joined by other telcos and internet service providers in making the necessary investment to upgrade the existing copper local loop into a high bandwidth fibre to the node network," said David Tudehope, chief exec of Macquarie Telecom. "This approach will deliver high speed broadband services to more Australians, more quickly, than if the new network was a Telstra monopoly." Michael Simmons, boss of Soul, said: "Telstra has offered Australia a false choice: a high speed broadband network owned by a monopoly provider; or preservation of the existing market structure involving several competitors, but with no increase in broadband speeds." Instead, the rival operators that have long-battled with Telstra for access to its network say their proposal will deliver improved broadband competition, better prices and product innovation tanks to the creation of a "genuinely national, open and competitive broadband network". The Government is understood to be keen to hear further details of the plans, but Telstra has already rubbished the proposals. A spokesman for the telco told The Age that the proposals were a "self-serving, pickpocket plan to rip off Telstra's shareholders and taxpayers. What they are doing is becoming the ultimate parasite on Telstra's network." ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Apr 2006

HTC 'Star Trek' to lift off on 10 May

HTC's 'Star Trek' handset - the Taiwanese smart-phone maker's answer to Motorola's Razr - will ship in the UK on Wednesday, 10 May, as the Qtek 8500. At least, that's what UK supplier Expansys' website says, which is offering the phone on pre-order for £360.
Tony Smith, 21 Apr 2006

Dimension Data share deal

R&V Technology Holdings Limited has cashed in chips worth 12.3 per cent of Dimension Data. It had bonds worth $100m that on conversion, according to one report, gave R&V the largest holding of all DiData shareholders at 18.2 per cent. DiData was unavailable for comment. In a statement to the City, DiData merely gave the 12.2 per cent value of the converted shares and said: "In terms of the agreements governing the convertible bonds, Dimension Data had the right to redeem the bonds under certain share price conditions. Given Dimension Data's share price performance, these conditions had been met, and R&V has elected to convert the bonds rather than accept redemption." A loss-making 2004 is all but forgotten, with nearly $18m net profit in 2005. Revenues are growing in double figures and top $750m. ®
Team Register, 21 Apr 2006

Probe reveals three ages of Mars

Europe's Mars Express probe has revealed new insights into the history of water on the Red Planet. The work is key to understanding the likelihood of there having been life on Mars. The findings, appearing in Science, are based on data from the orbiter's Omega spectrometer, which uses infrared and visible light to investigate geology. A team led by Jean-Pierre Bibring of the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay, France, used mineral measurements to define three ages of the Martian environment. The Phyllocian, the first of the three periods, was characterised by an abundance of clay-rich minerals, which would need plenty of alkaline liquid water to form. It lasted a relatively short time – from when the planet formed at the same time as Earth about 4.5bn years ago to 4bn years ago when Mars became significantly less hospitable. The profusion of sulphate deposits marks the Theiikian era, and indicate volcanoes broke out like acne across the face of the adolescent planet. The huge quantities of sulphur dioxide the eruptions churned out mixed with the water on the surface, forming the basis for the sulphate deposits. This lasted for a billion years. The final period, Siderikan, beginning 3.5bn years ago and lasting up to the present day, is less exciting. Mars became frigid, volcanically inactive, and most of the water disappeared. What remains is frozen at the poles. Slow formation of Mars' trademark red iron oxides was caused by peroxides in the thin atmosphere, the team say. The researchers say future explorations of Mars' surface should aim for the oldest clay deposit regions as the chances of finding evidence of life are best here. NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers are in sulphate-rich areas from the middle era. Bibring told the BBC he hopes to put a minature version of Omega on the European Space Agency's exploratory 2011 ExoMars mission. He said: “We will look for samples that are rich in hydrated clays because we think that they are the most favourable to host, at a microscopic level, potential bio-relics." ®
Christopher Williams, 21 Apr 2006

419ers one digit short of a conspiracy theory

Our illuminating piece yesterday on the figure 420 stirred a certain feeling of unease among some Reg hacks who noticed a chilling sequential relationship between this new number of the beast and Nigeria's favourite numeral: 419. Were, we wondered, the two in some way related? Was the dark hand of conspiracy at the the controls of a black helicopter so vast that the mere thought of it might obscure the midday sun? In short: yes. 419 is, as regular readers know, commonly used to abbreviate Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal code relating to advance fee fraud. Hence 419 scam, 419er, and so forth. It's also the year in which the Visigoths invaded Spain (AD), a London bus route between Richmond and Hammersmith, an area code in northwest Ohio, and the number of a 2003 Scottish Statutory Instrument relating to regulation concerning the importation of peanuts from China. A pattern is beginning to emerge. Let's consider 419 as a date: 19 April in the US (41 September in the UK). On that day in 1012, St Alphege* was martyred in Greenwich, London, while in 1587 Sir Francis Drake specifically chose 4/19 to sink the Spanish fleet in Cadiz harbour. Here's more, courtesy of Wikipedia: 1692 - Bridget Bishop goes on trial in Salem, Massachusetts for witchcraft. 1904 - Much of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is destroyed by fire. 1927 - Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in jail for obscenity for her play Sex. 1961 - The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba ends in failure. 1971 - Charles Manson is sentenced to life in prison for the Sharon Tate murders. 1980 - In The Hague, Netherlands, Johnny Logan wins the twenty-fifth Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland singing What's Another Year. 1993 - The 50-day siege of the Branch Davidian building outside Waco, Texas, USA, ends when a fire breaks out. Eighty-one people die. 1995 - Oklahoma City bombing: The Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, is bombed, killing 168. That's right: the event, considered by many to be the blackest of the 20th century, took place on 19 April 1980, when Johnny Logan secured the Eurovision crown, effectively sounding the death knell for a musical Pax Britannica under which the citizens of Europe had enjoyed years of high-quality, undemanding melody. But it was long before 1980 that the number 419 made its first artistic appearance. The warning from history came in the form of 1933 film The Girl in 419 - a melodramatic tale of hospitals, gangsters and vigilante sawbones. What's the significance of the year 1933? It began badly when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on 30 January. On the very same day, the first radio episode of The Lone Ranger was broadcast. The series would eventually run for 2,956 episodes, a figure which, when divided by 419, gives 7.05: the exact time of the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness monster on 2 May - an event which in turn played no small part in the Paraguayan declaration of war on Bolivia on the 10th of the same month. And if you're still not convinced, consider this: it was in 419 BC that Sparta attacked Argos. Quite why a Greek city state would want to assault a UK domestic goods retail chain is unclear, although this transcribed stone tablet from the time closes the conspiracy circle: GOOD DAY SIR I AM MRS MARIAM ABACHA TAYLOR, WIDOW OF THE LATE CHARLES TALYOR OF ARGOS. DUE TERRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING SPARTAN ATTACK ON CITY (READ HERE PLEASE) http://www.thespartandailynews.gr/homenews/argos_ass_kicked.html AFTER WHICH I ESCAPE TO SAFETY ONLY ABOARD RED CROSS CHARIOT WHILE HUSBAND THROWN INTO GORGE IN GHOSTLY DEATH INCIDENT, I AM LOOKING TRUSTWORTHY PARTNER TO COLLECT 13,000,000 (THIRTEEN MILLION) GOLD PIECES DEPOSITED BY DEAD HUSBAND FOR SAFEKEEP IN ATHENS BANK FACILITY. FOR YOUR HELP AND ASSISTANCE I WILL GIVE 5% (FIVE PER CENT) OF ALL SHECKELS AFTER DUE EXPENSES SUBTRACTED. DUE TO THE CONFIDENTIAL NATURE OF THIS BUSINESS, I ASK DO NOT DISCUSS WITH OTHER PERSON. IF I CAN, GOD HOPES, TRUST YOU IN THIS MATTER, PLEASE RESPOND ON CLAY TABLET FOR SPEED. YOURS IN DESPERATE, MARIAM ABACHA TAYLOR (MRS) ® Bootnote * St Alphege was a noted cleric captured in Canterbury by marauding Danes who demanded a three thousand pound for his release. When they didn't get the cash, they hit him with an axe and then beat him to death. Whether the Danes in question had acquaintances in Lagos is not recorded.
Lester Haines, 21 Apr 2006

Scots founded first cybercafe in 1751

We have no doubt that there are those among you from the UK and the US who can bang on until the cows come home as to who exactly opened the world's first cybercafe, but we're about to put an end to this debate once and for all: That's right. The Scots got in there first, way back in 1751 - no mean feat since the Americans reckon they didn't invent the internet until, well, you can argue that one amongst yourselves. For the record, the cybercafe in question is in Saint Vincent Street, Glasgow. Our man on the spot, Charlie Dick, notes: "I knew Scots were good but I didn't realise how good we were." ®
Lester Haines, 21 Apr 2006

HP Compaq nx6125 biometric laptop

ReviewReview With IBM gone from the business notebook market, the old ThinkPad cachet is changing, and this seem to be an opportunity HP is trying to cash in on with its Compaq nx6125 range of ThinkPad look alikes. But it's only at first glance that the nx6125 could be mistaken for a ThinkPad - there are some major differences. The most obvious one is the AMD Turion 64 sticker, a first on an HP business laptop and not something you'd have found in a ThinkPad...
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 21 Apr 2006

German court rules moderators liable for forum comments

A Hamburg court has ruled that moderators of internet forums are liable for content posted on their sites. The previous interpretation held that they were only accountable for illegal content they had been made aware of. The new ruling means if operators do not have enough in-house resources to monitor forums, they should "reduce the scope of their business operations". The case started with a forum member of German news site Heise Online, who posted a script in order to disrupt the business practices of Universal Boards. This Munich company has been widely criticised for allegedly distributing premium rate internet dialers. Universal Boards was also accused of buying up domain names that expired, and then using those domains for advertising porn, including a site that was previously owned by a German Volunteer Firemen's Association. Last year Universal Boards demanded that Heise removed the script, which it did, but the publisher refused to sign a formal obligation. Universal Boards then asked the district court to issue a temporary restraining order. The legal fight continued until last week, when the judge handed down his final ruling. Legal experts now fear that because of the ruling, lawyers will be seeking damages from moderators who they believe are breaking the law. Heise says it will appeal the ruling.®
Jan Libbenga, 21 Apr 2006

Testing assumptions and the big stack

Like a number of other major vendors, Oracle is now positioning itself to offer enterprises as much of the infrastructure 'stack' of technology and services as possible. The coming of Fusion, both as products and architecture, is inevitably set to change the ground on which applications development has stood for many years, as is its part in the move towards delivery Service Oriented Architectures (SOA). But the company is aware it is now stepping out into uncharted ground, where some of its claims are inevitably based on assumption. For example, one of the factors Oracle sees as an important plus point for SOA is the potential for significant improvements in applications development cycle times. But this process highlights one of those assumptions. As principal product director Kevin Clugage observed, Oracle has already found customers with experience of changing applications requirements, which would have taken the development team several months to complete, that can now be turned round in a week. "That is 60 per cent to 70 per cent faster development," he said, noting the greater productivity and resultant workload that can ensue. "The business is so happy they say: 'if you can do that, then you can do that, that and that as well'." But faster development cycles can mean hitting the wall of testing new applications for issues such as interoperability, because testing is a process that takes a finite time to do properly. Clugage was confident this was one of the advantages of code re-use inherent in SOA implementations. "Services, once they're deployed, have been tested and are production ready," he said. "So when you build a composite application you are no longer going to be dragged down by bugs in those services because they have been through multiple testing and deployment cycles. They are rock-solid already, so a composite application where 60 percent is based on existing services reduces your testing requirement by 60 percent." Here, of course, lies something of an assumption, for when services and applications are put together in a composite, even though the individual components have been tested, the potential still exists for operational problems to be created in the interactions between them. Clugage acknowledged the possibility: "I think time will tell whether they correlate directly or if there is some multiplier effect." Time will also tell, presumably, whether enterprises find that a sufficiently comforting advantage of increased developer productivity. Oracle's SOA Suite is an example of many major vendors' view that they need to offer as much of the overall stack as possible. The elements have been around for some time as individual components. It includes BPEL Process Manager, which has a BPEL engine for orchestration plus the ability to add features such as a rules engine and workflow. The second part is Business Activity Monitoring, and the third a Web Services Manager, which provides the policies and governance components, as well as security. There is also an Enterprise Service Bus, largely constructed from existing technology elements re-packaged to be consumed as a single component. According to Rick Schultz, vice president of Fusion Middleware at Oracle, there is more to Oracle's offering than just the desire to lock users in. He denied the notion that Oracle has intentions that lean towards the Highlander Principle - 'there can only be one'. The way he described the company's position is that if a customer wanted to migrate from another company's technology to an Oracle product, the company would make it easy for them with migration paths and technologies. "But if a customer is heavily invested and does not want to move they can run our products on top. There is no forced migration, that is the point," he said. "Sure, if they want to upgrade and they have surrounded their Apps Server with Oracle technologies they are likely to want to look at Oracle Apps servers, but force them? Certainly not." Force may not be applied, but having everything the user might need is an obvious marketing lever to be pulled as hard as possible. "It does matter a little which stack users choose because, as you go up the stack, if you use a BPM from someone like IBM you don't have the option, despite the standards, to swap out the application server whereas our BPEL process manager can run under other J2EE applications servers. That is why we say that we include standards but go beyond that, because we actually certify support on these other servers and frameworks," he said. "There are essentially four players here: SAP, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. IBM is out of the picture if packaged application functionality is required," he added. "If users are looking for a broad stack where applications and technology work with existing systems they need a hot-pluggable heterogeneous capability, so that rules out Microsoft which only runs on one O/S. It also rules out SAP, which only runs on its own applications stack and integration means connecting one SAP application to another R/3 application. We take a very broad heterogeneous view of what the world looks like inside the enterprise IT environment." Part of the stack and the overall SOA offering is Fusion, about which there has been some confusion. Schultz acknowledges this, for in the important world of branding, using the same word different ways is at least a different approach. "We use the word Fusion in three ways," he said. "One is as a code name, but it is actually the brand name of the shipping middleware products. We also use the phrase Fusion Architecture to define the architecture we are building applications on, which captures the best elements of SOA and also Grid. The other way we use it is as Project Fusion, the code name for developing the next generation of applications that brings together the functionality of PeopleSoft, Siebel and the rest. We have shifted away from calling it Project Fusion and now call the applications that are coming out of it as Fusion applications. So we have Fusion middleware shipping now, we have Fusion applications forthcoming in a phased approach, and we have Fusion Architecture, which describes to customers how it all fits together and how they can build applications on the Fusion Architecture."®
Martin Banks, 21 Apr 2006

Adult film industry trials burnable content

NSFWNSFW A leading US provider of hard-core porn plans to sell downloadable films that customers can turn into DVDs and watch on their TVs. Vivid reckons the approach will increase online sales by attracting punters who'd rather knock one off while watching TV rather than staring at a computer screen. Piracy fears and the possibility of alienating existing sales channels have caused both porn producers and mainstream Hollywood studios to be reluctant about testing "burnable" films. Attitudes are changing, however, and as with many new areas of technology, such as streaming media and home video, the adult entertainment industry is once again at the forefront of adopting new technology. Vivid plans to begin selling burnable movies through online distribution service CinemaNow from 8 May. CinemaNow began offering a selection of adult films as streaming media downloads late last year that incorporated features such as pay-per-minute movie rentals. The evolution of this service will see around 30 Vivid titles offered at $19.95 a throw. The downloads will include all the material that features on a DVD, encoded using copy-protection technology in order to deter piracy. Mainstream Hollywood is also trialling the technology. Earlier this month, a number of studios agreed to sell films online through CinemaNow and rival service Movielink. Consumers can download and view films including King Kong and Brokeback Mountain using the service. But unlike Vivid's offering, they can't burn content onto DVDs in a form that can be viewed on TV. Other producers of high-quality smut, such as Red Light District, plan to introduce a similar service. Skin flick studios are interested in pushing online distribution because it helps remove the stigma of buying DVDs from back street stores, while reducing the distribution costs of producers. DVDs account for around 34 per cent of sales in the adult entertainment industry, the global revenue of which hit an estimated $12.6bn last year. ®
John Leyden, 21 Apr 2006

Switching LLU ISPs to be made easier

A new system is due to be introduced by the end of June that should make it easier for broadband users to switch providers. The system, currently under trial by BT, is part of an automated process called the "Equivalence Management Platform" (EMP) and should help speed up migration from local loop unbundling (LLU) operators back to BT's wholesale end-to-end IPStream product, which is commonly resold by ISPs. At the moment, broadband users who subscribe to an LLU provider such as Bulldog, or have been migrated to an LLU platform by their ISP, are finding it tricky to switch ISPs because the existing process is complex and cumbersome. Even if the "cease and reprovide" needed to move from an LLU provider back to IPStream works flawlessly, it can take at least 10 days to switch providers. Typically, it takes longer. However, once the new EMP system is up and running that delay should be reduced to just a couple of days. While an improvement on today's poor performance, it's still miles away from the MAC system which enables punters to switch ISPs (reselling IPStream) with just a few minutes downtime. Well, that's the theory. News of the EMP system comes as El Reg has received a number of emails from broadband customers who've tried to switch providers only to be told they have been shunted to a LLU platform. One told us: "ISPs are stopping users from migrating without an expensive cease-and-reprovide and anywhere up to two weeks offline." Another said that their only option to move ISPs was to "cancel their ADSL connection". Plusnet is one ISP that is migrating some of its punters onto unbundled exchanges, following a deal with Tiscali. But the ISP accepts that until the new EMP system is in place, switching ISPs is not a hassle-free process. "We face the same issue as all other ISPs using LLU in that BT Wholesale does not have fully automated systems for migrating customers who want to leave the service," a Plusnet spokesman told us. "We are working with our LLU supplier (Tiscali) to push Ofcom and BT Wholesale to deliver a fit-for-purpose solution. "In the meantime we are participating in a trial which synchronises a cease and a re-provide so customers who do want to leave shouldn't see more than a couple of days without service." Earlier this month Ofcom began a major piece of work to assess the effectiveness of processes which enable consumers to sign up to, and switch between, broadband providers. With broadband numbers currently growing by around 80,000 a week and competition delivering higher speeds, cheaper prices, and new services such as VoIP and IPTV, Ofcom wants to ensure that customers benefit from an active market. "Current migration systems - using established industry procedures - have evolved to meet the needs of a relatively young market," the market regulator said. "However, as competition - and switching - grows, it is important to ensure that transfer processes are sufficiently robust to support the increased complexity and mass-market scale associated with next-generation broadband access, particularly over unbundled local loops. "Ofcom will therefore seek to build on work already underway to assess current migration processes, and will consider whether those existing systems are sufficient to meet the future needs of consumers and industry," it said. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Apr 2006
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Virus writers get into cyber-extortion

Incidence of cyber-blackmail attempts rose during the first three months of this year. Malicious hackers are moving away from 'stealth use' of infected computers - stealing personal data, using infected computers as part of zombie networks - to direct blackmailing of victims, according to a new report from Kaspersky Lab.
John Leyden, 21 Apr 2006

Readers battle botnets for control of planet Earth

LettersLetters The focus of today's letters is botnets: the threat they represent to the future happiness of our children, and how they can, and must, be stopped. The following pretty well represents a cross section of opinion on the matter, starting with your thoughts on the cunning "let's block port 25" plan: >(1 - Many ISPs now block port 25, which is an excellent trend). Take away peoples' car keys and there won't be any more road deaths. A solution that penalises legitimate needs of some users and in particular many SMEs with their own servers is one that should not be condoned by someone with 20 years network/security experience. Education is the best, if not only, answer but in the real world this is not going to happen. I'm no security expert so I'm not going to profer a solution, I'll leave that up to you lot, just come up with a sensible one. Kind regards, Chris Winpenny Your "Stop the bots" article mentions something I find somewhat peculiar. You say "(1 - Many ISPs now block port 25, which is an excellent trend)". Is this such an excellent trend? I understand, and agree with, your point of view -- that by blocking port 25, these botnets cannot send out mail. The trouble is that there is no way to determine if an SMTP connection is to your appropriate SMTP server, which will send the message for you, or whether the connection is a direct connection to the recipient's SMTP server. I have nine email accounts covering four domains. Only one of those accounts is the account I have with my ISP. If my ISP blocked port 25, I could not send my outgoing mail through the appropriate server for the remaining eight accounts; it would all have to go through my ISP's server. This causes two problems. First, some ISPs do not relay mail, period. If the "From:" address is not the address associate with your account at that ISP, they will not send the message (Verizon used to be this way; I don't know if they still are). The bigger problem, however, is with SPF records. No one in their right mind would add their ISP's SMTP servers as trusted servers for their domain. So any receiving server enforcing SPF records would reject the messages because they didn't come from the sending domain's trusted servers. You may then say "Well, host your own mail server". But the problem would remain because the ISP would then be blocking port 25 traffic from the mail server instead of from my workstation. I agree that spam is a big problem that we need to do something about (I guess Bill Gates was wrong about eliminating spam within two years, eh?), but I think blocking port 25 is the wrong way to do it. Chris Food for thought there on the port 25 ruse. Now, where does Microsoft fit into all of this? "...If you found some Trojan bot software on your parents' computer, stealing their credit card information and distributing viruses, would you just wipe the computer, reinstall, and leave it at that? Has it become your problem yet? Would you analyse the botnet, log in yourself as a bot and see if you can disable its command and control centre? Is there any point in helping thousands of people along the way?..." Wrong questions. What you SHOULD be asking is why does my government allow a company like Microsoft to sell shitware to 95% of the population that allows such infections BY DESIGN? Why is my Grandmother expected to be a computer engineer and expert in root-kits/spyware/virus infection vectors just to detect/remove all the bad stuff that self-installs on her computer? Why do I have to load down my CPU with all manor of extraneous bandaid software called anti-virus/spyware/firewall/etc just to be able to even run it for more than a few days on the Internet? And don't even try to come back with all the bs about keeping the computer software updated, be careful, etc... the standard updated Windows box is still a sitting duck for break-ins, it doesn't matter what the operator does. Windows boxes have broken security BY DESIGN... why are they even legal to sell? I got your 'BOTS' hangin dude. Tony Aaron has a couple of points to make regarding the statement "...In another 15 years, they [bots] might be ready" (to subjugate humanity, etc, etc): Bloody hell! How about a little rationality? A little sanity? A little less drawing strained and silly comparisons to an enjoyable but not exactly prescient sci-fi flick? A little more something worth the time of Reg readers? To be entirely fair, some small portions of the article is actually worth reading -- the bits in the middle, where it talks about botnets and how to go about investigating and potentially disabling them -- those bits are worthwhile, although I think it might not be a bad idea to mention that pissing off people with botnets can lead to some pretty unpleasant consequences (massive DDoS anyone?) Going wild about Skynet and distributed AI intelligence launching all the nukes and destroying humanity to replace it with a sterile, cold nuclear-winter vision of chrome steel in completely unnecessary and impractical bipedal-humanoid form, grinning metal skulls and plasma rifles and all, well -- if Mr Martin takes all that crap seriously, he should probably get out into the bright sunlight a little more, and if he doesn't then he should probably check the calendar again because I think he missed that April 1 was almost a month ago. And, while I'm on the subject -- "What interested me most about this SciFi classic was how real and plausible this future could be, understanding the dark side of human nature that creates evil and some people's inherent need to cause harm." Mr Martin needs to watch the movie again. In the movie(s), Skynet was a human creation, designed to automate the entire US military and defense systems, and it became conscious and went batshit on its own -- there was no human agency of evil involved. In fact, there was only questionably any evil at all, considering that Skynet destroyed humanity as the most probable threat to its (Skynet's) continued survival -- it's more of a moralistic 'man should not tread in god's domain' kind of story with guns and shiny robots. Speaking of man, god, and shiny robots, I'd go on to add that humans didn't create the Terminator robots; that was Skynet's doing, because the HKs (robot tanks and airplanes with big guns) weren't efficient enough at killing humans. Skynet figured it'd have better luck if it had something which could impersonate humans well enough to get into their caves and hideaways, at which point the shooting would start. Now, granted, I might sound like a sad bastard knowing all this, but it's made perfectly clear in the first Terminator movie, which in a lot of ways is the best of the lot -- and if Mr Martin's never seen it, then he needs to toddle back over to the VCR and spend a couple of hours learning what he's talking about. Whatta bloody moron. It doesn't help him make his point any, either; without all the incompetent sci-fi wibblage, I'd have taken his article a lot more seriously. (To be fair, I wouldn't have laughed nearly as much, but that's what the BOFH is for.) Blimey. That set us straight, and no messing. To conclude the botnet round-up, we're always happy to bring a little cheers into our readers' lives: I'm sorry, but I had to laugh when I saw this in your article about botnets: "Most readers would have the ability to read the logs, find the attack attempt, download the script themselves, and see how it works." What can one say to that except HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAR?! Most people in my department, which is tech support, wouldn't even be able to tell you how to change the default mail program, and they all read El Reg. On the other hand, thanks for the laugh. I was still blowing Pepsi out of my nose an hour later... Paul Readers should note that this email was not sponsored by Pepsi. See the end of these letters for the reason we are making this disclaimer. Right, let's have another rantette, what with it being Friday and all. The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of Reverend Jerry Falwell against an Appeals Court ruling that allowed a gay rights activists to continue operating a site about the television evangelist under the domain name fallwell.com: It's heartening to see that bigot Falwell get slapped down by the justice system! Bullying, free-speech hating, neo-conservative, so called Christians (what, exactly, is Christian about being a judgemental f**ktard anyway?) need to be firmly put in their place before they have a chance to destroy this country entirely. We're hated by half the world and laughed at by most of the rest, in large part thanks to idiots like Falwell, so I have a lot of respect for folks who speak out against them and hopefully remind the world that not everyone in the USA is a fundamentalist moron. Paul Glover You don't rate the bloke much then? Moving on to matters linguistic, the UK's ASA has ruled that the umlaut in Möben doesn't make the furniture outfit sound Germanic. Ahem... This isn't a dig at your report, but a dig at the ASA. Artistic device, my ass. Möben, or moeben (for that is how I shall write their name if I can't find the umlaut on my keyboard) is desperately trying to sound German. An umlaut as an artistic device only serves to create a Germanic feel - that's what the "artistic device" is trying to achieve. The German word for furniture is "möbel", in the plural it becomes "möbeln". Sounds and looks uncannily similar to "möben", doesn't it? It's as if someone wanted to create a german sounding name that suggested German furniture company. I had assumed that they're a German company: that makes me both stupid and gullible. It would be hard to think of a better trademarkeable name for a German furniture company! I do sort of see where the ASA are coming from, but the sheer balls of Moeben for saying that they're not trying to appear German is almost as good as SCO saying that they have evidence of literal copying of their code into Linux. Cheers, Nick. My favourite example of this sort of caper is the completely American-founded and -owned Haagen-Dazs... Chris Ah yes, you have to admire Ben and Jerry's for wearing their roots on their sleeve. No mistaking them for a couple of München cream worriers. Sounds like the evolution of the Heavy Metal Umlaut? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy-metal_umlaut James Indeed, as the cited Wiki piece notes: "It is a form of marketing that invokes stereotypes of boldness and strength commonly attributed to peoples such as the Vikings." Hence the Möben umlaut ploy: "Yeah, hello love, this is Möben Basingstoke here. We're going to come round tomorrow at three and cremate your husband on top of his Löngböat kitchen, if it's convenient." Some company somewhere in Wales has decided to lay cables in sewers. That's fibre optic cables, by the way: Presumably, you're talking about storm sewers, and not sanitary sewers. You might clarify that. Brand Hilton Erm, not sure - but we reckon it really is the sanitary sewers... This idea was used in Paris some years ago and was such a success that the sewer company sold off its sewerage business and went into dark fibre MAN's instead. Should give a whole new meaning to the internet being variably; full of shit, swimming in filth or stooping to new depths. grahame Fibre optic networks in the sewers - is that a case of the Sun shining *into* your arse for a change? Jay Sounds like a shit-hot idea Keith McMahon Nearly missed this one lads: "Thames Water has also allowed its sewers in London to be used to lay cables." It didn't really matter if there was an IT angle on this one did it? -Andrew Not really. We reserve the right to completely ignore the lack of IT angle in any story if we believe it's in the public interest to publish. Kev Warwick, eh? The good prof, aka Captain Cyborg, recently hooked up with a Dalek: Lester, you've got it completely the wrong way round. You write of "Warwick's Dalek slave" -- but Warwick is, in fact, the Dalek's slave, controlled through the RFID chip that Warwick was foolish enough to implant. Sadly (or, from the human perspective, not), this demonstrates alien stupidity in ways that a long and dishonourable history of administring rectal examinations to straw-chewing hicks, and of incompetent bovine vivisections, could never hope to rival. The chances of Kevin Warwick either doing any significant damage to humanity, or being accepted as an ambassador for anything other than pointless self-mutilation, are ... not good. "The remote-control alien will be accompanied by Professor Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University" is clearly in the same sense as "the queen will be accompanied by her favourite corgi" --- it will obviously be the Dalek which controls cpt. Cyborg. As per usual. If you doubt this, I challenge anybody to point me to any trait the beloved captain has exhibited, which would be too complex for a Dalek's logical circuitry? Michel An opportunity missed. As any fule kno, the Daleks are manic xenophobes who can always be relied upon to turn upon their unwitting allies "at the death", so to speak. By unmasking their dastardly alliance, you have merely served to save Professor Cyborg from at least one of the following: Being showered in something that looks suspiciously like shaving foam, but obviously isn't as it's fatal. Being illustrated in alternately positive and negative film footage causing death. Being shot [does happen, even with Daleks - I can describe the series when this happened although I cannot name it, nor do I care whether you or one of your mates down the pub can before you ask]. Being subjected to miscellaneous Quantel effects, considered trendy at the time by the more discerning Dalek, causing death. Being surmounted in wavy bright lines that are, apparently, fatal. The cry of "Exterminate" is common to all the above as Daleks have much in common with the English and are, therefore, traditionalists. This is by no means an exhaustive list as even I'm not that sad, although I am disappointed at the missed opportunity to study exactly what technique the Daleks have devised for disposing of redundant pawns these days. Tim PS: If anybody's got the recording of 20,000 Dalek supporters chanting "Two intergalactic wars and one world cup" as their first XI beat Germany 3-1 in the 2197 World Cup Final I'd like a copy please. Yes, we'd pay good money for that, too. Re: Kevin Warwick. He's not the cyber-messiah, he's a very naughty bot! :-) cheers, DaveK Oh dear, oh dear. A California woman has decided to knock up a house from bits of old 747. An interesting idea... She's quite a brave one to take one for the team, since aluminum dust is toxic: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts22.html Also, one hopes other American Indians "Using the whole buffalo" aren't trying to do so in her watershed, especially since acid rain will wash aluminum into the soil and attack plants' root systems. Brian Bush This has, of course, been done before. I refer to Neal Stephenson's excellent novel, Cryptonomicon, in which Randy's gaming nerd friend Chester builds a house with the entire remains of a crashed TWA 747 suspended from the glass ceiling. In this case, Chester reports, "the FAA and NTSB were surprisingly cool about it." Chester also possesses an "espresso machine that looks like a scale model of an oil refinery" but sadly no make or model number are quoted. Steve Oram Yes, a shame that. Jumbo Jet wings reused for residential roofing... Do you see anything wrong with that? Think 'high winds'. Think perfect aerofoil. Think several hundred thousand pounds of lift. Think roof flying away. -Jeffy Stuff the flying car, where's my flying house? A quick correction re: pythons as delivered to a Scottish family with a shiny new telly: I feel compelled to comment on the article regarding the snake in the television because it contains an obvious and very common fallacy regarding snakes. The vast majority of non-venemous snakes (which includes the one mentioned in the article) do NOT have fangs. They have itty bitty teeth which they obviously use to aid them in swallowing prey. The correct term for what the snake did is called a "threat gape". The purpose of which is to make the snake appear as threatening as possible and hopefully scare away whatever creature had scared it in the first place. Which, according to the article, it had admirably succeeded in doing. The absolute LAST thing a snake will want to do if it has any choice in the matter, is strike. Especially a poor little 10 incher, which at that size, would be lucky if it managed to even break skin on a successful strike. Imagine yourself dumped out of your happy home, in front of four giants who out-mass you by several orders of magnitude. I'm sure the first and only thing on YOUR mind would be to do whatever you possibly can to make sure they leave you alone. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program of silly British antics. :) Ilsa Agreed,... ... so here's a Paris Hilton quickie: PARIS HILTON IS NOT AN "amateur pornstar". Please don't use this in your articles. It is false. She did not take part in the release of the tape. Thanks Enkil To be fair, we did also describe Ms Hilton as "multi-talented", and have in the past described her as "highly talented", Mind you, we've also accused her of flaunting herself like a two-bit hussy, which is a little unfair since she is only an amateur pornstar and, as you point out, did not take part in the release of the tape. Before putting a stop to this madness, let's have the latest gripe on an old theme: I was wondering when did Microsoft buy The Register it seems very odd to see any advertisers name on same level as the sites so I assume they bought you oh well see ya round hope you understand I dislike Microsoft and won't read an MS fan site, or an intel fan site or an oracle fan site you used to tell the truth now I know you can't be trusted. Alan Donaly We reckon Alan is moaning about our InfoSec section, sponsored by Microsoft and duly branded in lovely Redmond sky blue. Well, it pays the bills, which is more than you lot do, coming down here every day, getting your top-notch IT news for nothing, banging on about sponsorship deals, etc, etc. We're reminded by this letter of the mail we got years back when we sold El Reg to Microsoft. The deal was concluded on 1 April, but we still have sleepness nights thinking about those abusive emails... ®
Lester Haines, 21 Apr 2006

Trekkies to enjoy 11th Star Trek film

The Star Trek franchise will get a shot in the arm following last year's cancellation of spin-off TV series Enterprise with an eleventh cinema outing for the Starfleet chaps and chappesses. According to the BBC, citing New Variety, the new movie will centre on the early days of Spock and Kirk at the Starfleet Academy. It will be co-written, produced, and directed by JJ Abrams of Alias and Mission Impossible III fame. Other movers and shakers in the project are Mission Impossible co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and Lost producers Bryan Burk and Damon Lindelof, who'll be in the co-production chair. The new Star Trek adventure has yet to be named, and is slated for a 2008 release. ®
Lester Haines, 21 Apr 2006

IBM boffins develop new, stronger name for x86 servers

IBM has done some spring cleaning with its x86 servers. It has rolled out a new brand for the servers, officially given Itanium the boot and welcomed Opteron to its core product line. The xSeries monicker for IBM's Xeon-based and Itanium-based boxes will be phased out over the coming year with new servers taking on the "System x" name. When asked if this is mostly a branding exercise, Jay Bretzmann, the director of IBM's System x hardware, told us, "Yeah, pretty much." IBM, however, does hope the name shift means more than simply ordering new bezels and business cards. It wants the System x brand to remind customers of IBM's "systems company" talents such as producing solid SMPs even for the x86 market and handling virtualization software well. IBM has placed a large investment in its own X3 chipset for Xeon-based servers and believes the new name will reflect this effort. It's not a bad strategy and should help IBM differentiate itself from a company such as Dell that cannot make the "systems" claim. How does the new naming scheme work? Well, the top-of-the-line xSeries x460 turns into the System x3950, while the x366 shifts to the System x3850 and the x260 turns into the System x3800. New servers will clearly be rolled out with the System x brand in the coming months. In addition, you won't find an Itanium System x box. "I just sold my last Itaniums," Bretzmann said, breathing a sigh of relief. IBM has not made room for Itanic with its new X3 chipset and will no longer sell any gear with Intel's 64-bit chip. Despite the Xeon-only X3 investment, IBM has made room for Opteron in the System x line. Previously, IBM sold Opteron-based systems as kind of unbranded high performance computing boxes. "We will now move all x86 products shipping into the System x nomenclature," Bretzmann said. IBM, however, remains reticent about committing to a broader Opteron line. "We have made the investment in X3," Bretzmann said. "We have closed the gap between what you can buy from other vendors (in the way of Opteron) in a performance sense." IBM remains in the camp that thinks the x86 SMP should do well in the coming years, particularly with improving virtualization software and maturing Linux and Windows OSes. Along those lines, IBM has been promoting its Consolidation Discovery and Analysis Tool (CDAT) software that can help improve server utilization. "Through the LAN, the software automatically scans resources on the IP network to discover all the computing systems across a client’s datacenter - including UNIX, mainframe and x86 servers," IBM said. "It maps the topology for the systems infrastructure, including the operating systems, utilization rates, and performance rates. The map helps identify operational cost savings for clients." IBM believes the CDAT software gives it an edge over competitors in the x86 market and has been encouraging partners to promote it. ®
Ashlee Vance, 21 Apr 2006

What the hell has happened to you cretinous journalists?

FoTWFoTW We do like a good flame down here at Vulture Central - especially when it fulfils all of the criteria for a classic. This one, we have to say, has it in spades: Dear Register chracks, What the hell has happened to you cretinous journalists? You’re recent wad of crap about 419 and 420 really is thick short of pigshit. First you put them in the wrong order, 19 comes before twenty, but obviously you never were able to count were you? And all this other shite about bashing wikipedia, now the communist wikipedia seems to be you’re soul source of information. What kind of technology grabbagagge site needs to reference wikipedia to explain what a botnet is. I think you must read wikipedia whilst simultaneously playing with yourself and cutting yourself, that is the only of explaining you’re hate for something you secretly love. You’re scroundrelous circle of tinfoilhatfetishists and wikilovedenial is offensive. Yours (Up), WisC Terrific. Deranged people of the world, keep 'em coming. ®
Lester Haines, 21 Apr 2006

CASE becomes ALM and consolidates

CommentComment Ever since Rational got three development automation gurus in the same room to agree on UML (Unified Modelling Language) and put an end to those pointless arguments about what shape the boxes in an analysis/design model should be, what used to be called CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering) has been on a bit of a roll.
David Norfolk, 21 Apr 2006

Vendors left waiting on ID scheme details

Just three weeks after overcoming opposition to ID cards in the House of Lords, the Home Office has already published a "10 year plan" for implementing the scheme. Yet the 10 year plan reads like a sales brochure, and the IT industry is getting worried that the new Identity and Passport Service (IPS), whose plan it is, hasn't the faintest idea what it is doing. Speaking before the plan was published this week, Microsoft UK national technology officer Jerry Fishenden told The Register that IT suppliers expected to implement the ID scheme are concerned about the blinkered approach the government has taken to its preparations. Any healthy debate about the best way to build what will be the most ambitious project of its kind anywhere in the world has been bullied into submission. "There's a problem for anyone who is vaguely critical. The reception the LSE got has put anyone off putting their head above the parapet," said Fishenden. The London School of Economics report, which offered constructive criticism of the government's ID plans, attracted government derision. The Home Office says it has been conducting a "market sounding" with hundreds of suppliers since last summer and will publish the findings shortly. Yet, Fishenden said: "Most of the consultation appears to be about the procurement process rather than the system...there's not a diversity of opinion to cover off angles we've not even thought about." There are better ways to make decisions, he said. It is a serious allegation, as the ID scheme is at its most crucial early stages. IT projects are guaranteed to fail or go massively over budget if they are not planned properly from the outset. Fishenden said government's plans to date look immature and is concerned they will end up imposing a mismatched, potholed plan on an ungrateful public. That's why suppliers are so worried. They usually get the blame for IT cock-ups, even though at least half the blame rests with customers who fail to think things through properly before they commit to a project. Once a project is underway, the most likely cause of failure is a change of direction. IT projects are painfully complex at the best of times. A change of mind is not as easy as turning an ocean liner. It's like turning a swarm of flies. Suppliers therefore cling to the terms of contracts till they are blue in the face, because their reputations can be ruined by presiding over a high profile disaster. Equally, they hate to be trapped for 10 years under rudimentary terms that chuck nothing but dross out the other end. Renegotiated contracts at least give suppliers ample financial compensation for recklessly hurried starts, even though that may mean wasting millions, possibly billions of taxpayers' money. The LSE's assertion that the ID scheme could cost as much as £19.2bn, rather than the government's estimate of £5.8bn, could be massively understated if the scheme is not carefully planned from the outset. The government's aim to have a basic ID scheme up and running before the next election looks fatefully ambitious. Experts reckon the procurement process, should it start immediately, may take till the end of the year. Then what is being proposed is no accounting system. It is one of the most ambitious projects, with the most alarming social consequences, ever undertaken. Biometric technology is unproven on armies of co-operative corporate drones. It may not be easy to get it working on a population of 60m people, many of whom will resist its imposition. That's another significant reason for the failure of major IT projects - what they call "user acceptance"; or as government ministers would have it nowadays, "customer satisfaction". ® Note: Jerry Fishendon keeps his own blog on these matters. Fishenden's advice to government consists at its core of the work of Kim Cameron, a renowned expert on identity who recently joined Microsoft.
Mark Ballard, 21 Apr 2006

Your Nokia phone catches the dog raiding the dustbin

You leave your Nokia smartphone casually lying somewhere - like, watching the unattended dinner on the table - and when you suspect the culprit is there, you send a text to the phone. And it takes a picture! And then the software sends the picture - or the video - back to you, automatically, via MMS. Of course, ICamU (designer of the software) is assuming you've loaded this software onto your own phone, and haven't sneakily put it on someone else's. If you did, of course, the software would give itself away, right?
Guy Kewney, 21 Apr 2006

IP telephony goes mainstream

Small and medium sized enterprises are warming to hosted IP telephony services. Frost & Sullivan (F&S) reports that the North American enterprise IP Telephony end point market hit revenues of $822.8m last year. It estimates that revenues will reach $2.44bn in 2012. All this ought to spell boom times for equipment manufacturers and service providers. However, F&S reckons that increased competition and the commoditisation of IP phones could erode margins over time. But firms that are able to market products that are distinguishable from competing offerings can look forward to tapping into a lucrative market opportunity. "IP telephony, which was restricted to the medium and large enterprises segment, is beginning to make inroads into small enterprises as well, thus leading to a rise in demand for IP telephony end points," said Frost & Sullivan research analyst Kumar Alagappan. The availability of hosted IP telephony solutions from service providers and growing acceptance of open standards such as session initiation protocol (SIP) is shaking up the market, according to F&S. "The IP telephony market, which is characterised by end-to-end solutions based on proprietary protocols, will slowly shift to best-of-breed solutions with the increasing popularity of SIP based telephony solutions. Enterprises that were previously confined to phones based on proprietary protocols will now have the option of choosing from low-cost third-party SIP phones," Alagappan explained. As the IP telephony market matures, interoperability, which is currently limited to basic private branch exchange (PBX) features, could be extended to support more advanced feature sets. Vendors need to develop SIP phones that can offer support for the PBX features provided by their proprietary IP phones, which nonetheless still have a future. F&S reckons manufacturers should distinguish their proprietary products by incorporating support for custom applications, such as CRM, targeted at specific industry verticals. ®
John Leyden, 21 Apr 2006

Start-up could kick Opteron into overdrive

ExclusiveExclusive The 2002 film Death to Smoochy reminds us that "friends come in all sizes." AMD executives must embrace this observation on a daily basis, especially when a company such as DRC Computer appears.
Ashlee Vance, 21 Apr 2006

People more drunk at weekends, researchers discover

It's open season on Wikipedia these days. The project's culture of hatred for experts and expertise has become the subject of widespread ridicule. Nick Carr christened it "the cult of the amateur". But what has academia done for us lately? Here's a study from the University of Amsterdam to ponder. New Scientist reports that researchers for Professor Maarten de Rijke at the Informatics Institute have been recording words used by bloggers, in an attempt to find interesting or unusual patterns. What revelations did the team's MoodViews software unearth? The team discovered that the LiveJournal label "drunk" becomes increasingly popular each weekend. And around Valentine's Day, "there is spike in the numbers of bloggers who use the labels 'loved' or 'flirty', but also an increase in the number who report feeling 'lonely'." It gets better. The team also noticed that on the weekend of the publication of the most recent Harry Potter book, bloggers used "words like 'Harry', 'Potter', 'shop' and 'book'," PhD student Gilad Mishne reveals. This work really should put the Nobel Prize Committee on Red Alert. Alongside the existing scientific prizes for Chemistry, Physics and Physiology and Medicine, the Laureate Committee should design a new category for the "Bleeding Obvious", or the "Dying Ridiculous". [Perhaps Mishne can get together with the WSJ's elite research squad and see what they can't discover together.] More seriously, let's look at what this episode teaches us. Two things are immediately obvious: Mishne's study was considered worthy of academic funding, and it was considered worthy of an article in a popular science magazine. The study doesn't tell us anything we didn't know before: unless you're surprised by the revelation that people get more drunk at weekends, or people talk about Harry Potter books more when a new Harry Potter book goes on sale. The study is really considered funding-worthy and newsworthy because of what's unsaid - the implication that the aggregation of internet chatter will reveal some new epistemological truth. Alas, as marketers have already discovered to their cost, the deeply unrepresentative composition of internet enthusiasts means that no such conclusions can be drawn. An agency that market-tested a campaign with bloggers and received an enthusiastic response, came to grief when it flopped with the real public. One only need look at the rise and fall of the Howard Dean campaign to see how steep these delusions are, and how quickly they disintegrate on contact with the wider world. Many more similar and expensive mistakes will be repeated in the years to come. This belief, that there's a "collective conscious" out there we haven't spotted yet because we haven't been looking hard enough (or haven't had fast enough computers), underpins a lot of the sillier technology evangelism today. It should be considered right alongside attempts to teach religious cosmologies on a schools' scientific curricula as part of the same phenomenon. Who can blame the creationists, or supporters of "Intelligent Design", for trying to push their agenda into schools, when you can earn a living doing much the same thing at a grown-up University? But it also highlights a profound crisis in academia, which isn't simply limited to science. The traditional model of scientific enquiry is to make empirical observations on the world, and then find a mechanistic explanation that's reproducible and in some way new. (We oversimply crudely - Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions for example finds many worthwhile contradictions with this view - but bear with us). By contrast, research like this finds nothing we don't already know, which ought to disqualify it from the label research. Unless one is suffering from an acute case of Asperger's, every conclusion here can be explained by psychology, sociology or economics - at a level so basic that a child has no difficulty understanding. So this isn't so much an example of science, but an example of pseudo-science trying to elbow aside other disciplines. Or maybe there's a much simpler underlying explanation. Mishne's previous publication, the delightfully titled Leave a Reply: An Analysis of Weblog Comments was conducted with an internet marketing company employee. Mishne has interned at the company, BuzzMetrics, himself. Perhaps the answer is that corporate sponsorship is now so pervasive in academia that what results in place of scientific research are these worthless little tracts of technology puffery. And it's so subtle, that it's only when we come across a real clunker like this, that we notice. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Apr 2006