28th > April > 2006 Archive

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Ballmer blames bad guys for Microsoft pricing

Steve Ballmer is blaming software pirates for the premium pricing Microsoft charges on products like Office and Windows. But he speculated that the advent of web-based services could see a lowering of Microsoft's charges. The rise of subscription-based pricing - a charging mechanism favored by a crop of start-ups and software as services (SaaS) companies in Silicon Valley - could help squeeze out the opportunity for pirates to rip off software, Ballmer said. The "tight subscription relationship" SaaS produces between supplier and customer could cut down on piracy, according to Ballmer. "With less piracy, with more proper, use it certainly creates an opportunity for us and for other software companies to take a look at also reducing the cost," Ballmer told an industry conference in Paris. Ballmer aired his views as Microsoft prepared to release its third-quarter financial results on Thursday. Thompson Financial expects a 15 per cent increase in revenue to $11bn and earnings per share of $0.33, slightly higher than Microsoft's own guidance that was issued in January. Today's results will be piqued by the fact Microsoft typically uses its third quarter to make projections for the coming fiscal year, starting in July. The next year's results should start to factor in the delayed Windows Vista, now due in January, and Office 2007, due in "early" 2007 since it was also pushed back. Thursday afternoon's predictions should provide some insight into how much Microsoft is expecting to make from Windows Vista and Office 2007. Ballmer last year promised Wall Street that Microsoft would charge a premium to use certain versions of Windows Vista. While Microsoft has not yet announced Windows Vista pricing, Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund has estimated Microsoft could claw in an additional $1.5bn a year by charging for "premium" editions. Specifically, Sherlund believes 75 per cent of home uses will adopt Windows Visa Home Premium instead of Windows Vista Home Basic, because of the new Aero interface, and ability to burn DVDs - features that are lacking in the weaker edition.®
Gavin Clarke, 28 Apr 2006

Microsoft costs creep up, ahead of launches

Microsoft is keeping mum about how Windows Vista and Office 2007 will affect its coming fiscal year, but conceded investments to promote these, plus other new activities including online services, are pumping up corporate spending. Microsoft said Thursday it expects next fiscal year's revenue to hit between $49.5bn and $50.5bn, an estimated increase of between 11 and 14 per cent over expectations for the current year. Microsoft expects to close the current fiscal year at $44.42bn, which would represent growth of 11 per cent. The next fiscal year will, finally, see Windows Vista and Office 2007 hit both the streets and the company's bottom line. But Microsoft - which has yet to announce pricing for Windows Vista - refused to provide Wall Street with anything but the barest bones about how it expects either product will pay out during fiscal 2007. By implication, it was also keeping silent on Windows Vista's potential pricing. Microsoft revealed these numbers while announcing financial results of its third fiscal quarter. And while Microsoft refused to be drawn on the future, the latest results do reveal the impact its Windows Vista and Office 2007 marketing ramp-up is having. Operating expenses increased 11 per cent to $7bn for the three months to March 31, helping eat away at the company's net income, which grew 16 per cent to $2.9bn. Revenue for the quarter increased 13 per cent to $10.9m - coming in below Wall St expectations of $11bn. Operating expenses included the cost of recruitment of new marketing people to promote Windows Vista and Office 2007. The numbers also tell of growing expenses associated with Microsoft's efforts to break into new markets occupied by the likes of Google, Yahoo!, SAP and Sony, outside of its core client, information worker, and server and tools franchises. For the three months, the client business saw eight per cent growth, information worker five per cent, and server and tools grew 16 per cent, recording respectively $3.1bn, $3.1bn and $2.6bn in revenue and putting each safely into the operating profit zone. However, the newer units - Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS), mobile and embedded, home and entertainment and MSN - remained loss makers even though each - except MSN - enjoyed growth that outstripped the core business. MBS grew 28 per cent, mobile was up 85 per cent and home and entertainment grew 133 per cent driven by Xbox sales. "We have decided to add investments in a number of areas, and they do add up," chief financial officer Chris Liddell told Wall St, who was clearly concerned by the fact margins are being eroded in the face of increased spending. Liddell highlighted marketing to build and promote the Xbox 360, Windows embedded and mobile, Dynamics enterprise resource planning, and online services and MSN. "Investment today will drive future success," Liddell said. He also promised additional investment, particularly in these newer markets. Online services will get a boost to increase the relevance of search results, to devise local and mobile search, and improve co-ordination of advertising across sites. Spending comes as MSN and AdSense unexpectedly faltered during the third quarter. Revenue from search and advertising dropped, falling from a $30m profit to $13m loss, despite MSN seeing a jump of 70% in search traffic. Goldman Sachs analyst Rich Sherlund speculated the projected increase in costs for internet services meant Microsoft was hiding "something really big" for use against Google and Yahoo!, which Microsoft had not yet disclosed. Liddell told Sherlund he had over-estimated his cost projections and assured Wall St. that there was: "no Trojan horse." "We see big opportunities in MSN and Windows Live. But we are not building into our guidance things we aren't talking about," Liddell said. On gaming, Microsoft experienced increased production costs associated with delayed delivery of Xbox terminals during the third quarter. Microsoft plans additional spending during the current fourth quarter to maintain growth and help consolidate market share against Sony's Playstation. Microsoft said it now expects to ship at least five million Xbox units by the end of its fiscal year 2006 on June 30, increasing its earlier guidance of at least 4.5 million units.®
Gavin Clarke, 28 Apr 2006
4

'Unbreakable'? Software? Harr!

As sometimes happens, I got an email from a reader after writing a piece for Reg Developer. This time, the piece in question was Testing assumptions and the big stack and, as perhaps you will see, the email brought a guffaw, and then a thought.
Martin Banks, 28 Apr 2006

Nintendo splashes Revolution with 'Wii'

It's no joke - Nintendo today renamed its next-generation console 'Wii'. As in 'we', apparently, but in school playgrounds across the UK - and probably everywhere else in the English-speaking world too - they'll be sniggering and adding a second 'e' to the 'we'.
Tony Smith, 28 Apr 2006

ID Card database to be used as population register

The Government announced last week that data from the National Identity Register (NIR) will also be used as an adult population register for a range of novel data sharing functions. The Office of National Statistics had promoted a separate adult population register as part of the Citizen Information Project (CIP) for these functions, but the announcement states that the CIP project has been wound up and its functions incorporated into the wider use of NIR data. The announcement also changes many undertakings given to Parliament when it considered the ID Card legislation. Minutes released in relation to the CIP show the NIR will be used in conjunction with the Census and could check that citizens are eligible to vote at elections. Data from the NIR will also be shared with many public authorities so they can update their databases without the consent of the cardholder. Other changes also envisage the storage of medical records as part of the NIR. When these plans are put into effect, personal data from the NIR will be used for purposes unconnected with crime, terrorism, illegal employment and immigration - the only purposes mentioned by Labour in its manifesto prepared for the 2005 General Election. The manifesto is important as the ID Card Act passed its Parliamentary stages in March after a dispute between the House of Commons and Lords over its wording. Minutes of meetings available on the CIP's website (7 page/22KB PDF) show that the Home Office: "has responsibility for delivering an adult population register that enables basic contact data held on NIR to be downloaded to other public sector stakeholders" (The "Treasury and Cabinet Office should ensure that NIR delivers CIP functionality as planned"); "takes responsibility for ensuring from around 2021 basic contact data held by stakeholders can be up-loaded to the NIR"; "should design the take-up profile of the NIR to be such that population statistics can be realised for the 2021 census". The CIP's final report (29 page/404KB PDF) states (at page 17), that secondary legislation will allow "public services to be provided with NIR data without the need to obtain specific citizen consent". This wide ranging access to NIR data without consent of the citizen is a change from the explanations given to Parliament when it considered the ID Card legislation. On 5 October, MPs were told by Parliamentary under secretary Andy Burnham that: "Direct access to information held on the National Identity Register by anyone outside those responsible for administering the scheme will not be possible, only requests for information can be made by third parties. In the vast majority of cases, verification of information on the register will only be possible with the person's consent." In October 2005, the Home Secretary reinforced this message and told the House of Commons: "What the Bill allows is for information to be provided from the register either with the consent of the individual or without that consent in strictly limited circumstances in accordance with the law of the land." On 10 January 2005, the CIP wrote to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister saying that: "The ID Card would seem to provide a logical way to confirm the identity and eligibility to vote in the longer term" and that the Electoral Register holds the same information on the NIR and that "there would seem scope here for collaboration between the two systems". On 13th February 2006, the Government stated: "There is currently no proposal for these specifications to provide for two-way data-sharing with the proposed identity cards register". The CIP final report provides examples of how NIR data could be used: "DWP targeting the 300,000 eligible citizens not currently claiming pensions"; Taxation authorities "contacting employees required to complete self assessment"; Managing passport application peaks by getting customers to apply early; Department for Education and Skills "tracing children at risk via their guardians addresses"; "Local councils collecting debt from citizens who have moved to another authority"; "NHS targeting specific citizen groups for screening campaigns"; and "reducing the overall administrative burden on bereaved people" The Sunday Times reported on 23 April that ministers are considering whether or not to enter health personal details as part of the ID Card holder's details in the NIR. The newspaper reports that: "the Home Office wants cardholders to put personal health information on the cards to give doctors information for emergencies. Cardholders will also be urged to volunteer details of blood group, allergies, and whether they wish to donate organs". Although the storage of these medical details will require the consent of the cardholder, the step changes the position as stated during the passage of the ID Cards Bill. In the House of Lords, Baroness Scotland of Asthal told Peers on 30 January 2006 that it is clear that the register will not contain health records as "any addition to the list of information in Schedule 1 (the part of the ID Card legislation which describes the content of the NIR) would have to be consistent with the statutory purposes, which in effect rules out any possibility of adding, for example, medical or criminal records". The CIP Minutes also show that a draft of the 18 April announcement was prepared for release nine months earlier. The minutes state: "The board noted that the timing of the CIP announcement needed to be considered against the ID Cards programme." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 28 Apr 2006
channel

BT buys Dabs.com

BT is to flog computers, TVs, cameras, and other digital gear after it announced today that it has bought Dabs.com. The deal follows weeks of speculation that Dabs.com was on the block. However, the identity of the successful bidder will come as a big surprise to many in the channel. The giant telco said the deal was designed to "strengthen its online sale and service capabilities" as it looks to shift hardware to SMEs and consumers. Financial details surrounding the deal were not disclosed, however, El Reg understands BT wouldn't have received much change from £30m for the firm. In a statement, BT Retail boss Ian Livingston said the acquisition of Dabs.com would "boost BT's online power to sell innovative, value for money, communication and converged IT products". Established in 1990 and employing more than 200 people, Bolton-based Dabs.com handles some 75,000 orders a month. The firm has around a million consumer and business customers across the UK, as well as a small operation in France. In the year ended 31 March, 2005, the company's revenues were £180m with gross assets of £42m. ®
Team Register, 28 Apr 2006
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Breach case could curtail web flaw finders

Security researchers and legal experts have voiced concern this week over the prosecution of an information technology professional for computer intrusion after he allegedly breached a university's online application system while researching a flaw without the school's permission.
Robert Lemos, 28 Apr 2006

Sales of handheld devices continue to drop

Sales of handheld devices are continuing to fall, according to new figures issued by research firm IDC. The organisation's latest worldwide Handheld Qview report reveals the total number of devices shipped during the first quarter of 2006 totaled 1.5m, a drop of 22.3 per cent year-on-year.
Charlie Taylor, 28 Apr 2006

Intel chief to chop workforce?

Intel may be about to take an axe to its employee roster as the chip giant strives to become "leaner, more agile and more efficient", the goal of a major restructure announced by CEO Paul Otellini last night. It will be the firm's biggest shake-up since the mid-1980s, he claimed.
Tony Smith, 28 Apr 2006

Smart mobile device market up 55%

Over 16.7m 'smart mobile devices' were shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2006, up 55 per cent on the same period a year ago. According to research from Canalys, the Asia-Pacific region has now overtaken Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in sales of smart mobile devices. Asia-Pacific represented 46 per cent of all shipments during Q1 2006, compared to 39 per cent for EMEA and 15 per cent for the Americas.
Charlie Taylor, 28 Apr 2006
channel

Info commission calls on business to protect bio data

The UK's Information Commissioner has called for businesses to pull their socks up and protect their data. Its latest campaign is to encourage businesses to "avoid embarrassing security breaches" that involve the loss or abuse of data about customers or employees by employing privacy technologies. A guidance note issued today by the IC promoted the use of software that provides anonymity to computer users. And it gave official sanction to a technology that is championed by civil liberties campaigners as an alternative to ID cards, known in the trade as federated identity management. Deputy Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford, said it was important for businesses and governments to retain the trust of their customers and citizens by nurturing their data. "There's a competitive advantage in looking after people's personal information properly," he said. The right controls ensure data doesn't get into the wrong hands, is used for anything other than its intended purposes, "so it doesn't become fair game in the information wild west", he added. In the course of laying out its advice, the IC also threw some new technologies and principles into the same bag, which techies call privacy enhancing technologies (PETs), as anonymity software. This included biometric scanners that do not retain the fingerprints they scan, banks that allow online users to edit their personal records, and privacy policies that stick to the information with which they are associated and ensure it is never used for anything but the purpose intended when it was divulged. ®
Mark Ballard, 28 Apr 2006

ID cards without contact

The Home Office has indicated that it is likely to adopt a "contactless" form of smart card for the National Identity Card. This follows the publication of the Smart Card Durability Survey on 27 April that collected views from smart card producers and organisations that use them on the technology options. A Home Office spokesperson told Government Computing News that it would need a contactless feature - through which a reader could pick up the details of the card from a few metres away - to meet international travel requirements. "It has been indicated that the identity card programme is intended to enable the cardholder to travel in Europe," the spokesperson said. "Thus, it will need to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements for travel documents. "As a result, under new requirements for travel documents (both passports and identity cards), contactless functionality will need to be included to operate at borders. "This functionality is being included in the current UK passport as well as in passports across the world." Respondents to the survey indicated that, despite the recent emergence of the technology, it is feasible to expect contactless cards to have a 10 year lifespan. There are some issues around the way the antenna is inlaid into the card and the strength of its connection to the chip. Also, they are 15 per cent to 30 per cent more expensive than contact cards. Some respondents said they did not have as much confidence in the main alternative, dual interface cards, which can work by contact or without contact with readers. The other main option, hybrid cards, was considered too expensive and posed too high a risk of damage due to the inclusion of two chips. Only 12 out of the 21 organisations responded to the survey, which forms part of the government's wider market research. The Home Office is expected to start the IT procurement process for the scheme in "due course". Contracts are expected to be worth more than £6bn. The scheme has been estimated to cost £584m a year to run, and puts the cost of an individual ID card at £30 and at £93 with a biometric passport. It was given royal assent in March. Around 38m British citizens over the age of 16, and foreign nationals who have lived in the country for more than three months, will have their details recorded on a National Identity Register. 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, 28 Apr 2006

Wanadoo to kick off Orange makeover in May

Wanadoo is to complete its second rebranding in two years when it changes its name to Orange sometime during the next month. Details of the costly name change were released yesterday during an analyst's conference as execs at parent company France Telecom confirmed it would take place in the UK before the end of Q2 and in Spain by the end of Q3. For the UK, that means the ISP - which used to be known as Freeserve before being bought by France Telecom - is within weeks of ditching the Wanadoo brand and adopting the Orange name. The ISP still won't say exactly when the relaunch will happen, but it seems the end of May or early June is favourite. That's because Wanadoo staff are already letting the odd detail slip. One reader who wrote in yesterday told us: "I just phoned Wanadoo to try and switch ISPs and they said they'd give me a month's free broadband so I could stay until their new packages came out in June." The launch of new packages is likely to coincide with the rebranding, and mirrors the approach used by the firm when it changed its name from Freeserve to Wanadoo in 2004. But what of the "new packages"? Execs yesterday were just as evasive on the matter. They admitted that the launch of Carphone Warehouse's "free broadband forever" offer did see an increase in the number of people leaving Wanadoo, but that has now slowed, they said. And while they claim they have a solution that is "more competitive than anyone else", the firm is also keen not to see revenues clobbered by "free" offers. Unlike Carphone, which is making a land grab for new consumers, Wanadoo has two million punters while Orange has 15m users. Industry insiders predict that Orange's new bundled packages are likely to reward loyalty and those taking bundled services, rather than an all-out assault on attracting new customers. ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Apr 2006

BBC seeks 'Digital Assassins'

What if they held a digital media revolution - and nobody came? The BBC is having trouble finding citizens to attend a conference devoted to the exciting new world of Citizens Media. It's a Beeb-sponsored day about the "democratization of the media", but despite a 50 quid bribe to attend - that's more than you get for appearing on Newsnight or Radio 4's Today program, and the kind of practice we thought had been outlawed in the 1832 Reform Act - no one seems to be interested. Which has led to some frantic last-minute emails from BBC Innovation. We're not quite sure what kind of citizen the BBC wants to attend. But the weird, trying-too-hard title - "Digital Assassins", and this this delicious questionnaire given to early responders may give you some idea. Questionnaire for Digital Assassins Senior media executives, journalists and managers will be getting together on May 3rd at a conference devoted to the democratisation of media. One of the key sessions of each day will be called "Digital Assassins" The session aims to investigate the impact of new technologies on how audiences consume, find share and create news. I would be very grateful if you could fill in the following short questionnaire for further information (sic) [ Respondents are invited to tick Yes/No or add comments ] 1. I don't buy a newspaper 2. I use the internet for news more than any other sources 3. My main news source is Google News. 4. I have SkyPlus (or a similar device) and it has changed the way I watch TV 5. I have uploaded video to the internet 6. I have downloaded a legal or illegal TV programme, film or animation. 7. I always carry a camera (either separately or via my phone) 8. I keep a blog, upload photos and/or share video online. Grammarians, look out. The subject lurches suddenly into the second person at this stage. 9. You spend "too much" time playing World of Warcraft 10. You have than one games console In other words, the BBC wants as many people as it can find who play with gadgets, can't follow a linear narrative, don't have any friends, have a weird authority complex, and who would never listen or respect anything put out by the BBC in the first place. The BBC frets that a third of Britons now "feel that the BBC does not make programmes for them", according to its own polling, and that "60 per cent of the 16 to 24 age group watch less than three hours of TV a week". But were these figures any different during, say, the Macmillan era when the target demographic spent happy Bank Holiday weekends knocking the crap out of each other in small seaside towns? Or when the only radio stations were "Home", "Light", and "Third"? We don't know, because no one asked. It's hard to think of a time when the BBC has been more pervasive. So it's really a tribute to the moral fibre of the nation that such pleas to make it more inclusive - by making it more crap - have gone ignored. We may even consider suspending our campaign to reinstate Michael Fish (No! - ed). ®
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Apr 2006

Net Neutrality bid gone for good

The final attempt this session to give the United States regulator more discretion over the deployment, and potential abuse of broadband, has failed. A "net neutrality" amendment to the telecommunications reform bill failed to pass the House Energy and Commerce committee by 34 votes to 22 yesterday. The move comes against the backdrop of consolidation in the telecommunications business, with the former monopoly AT&T coalescing back into two giants: Verizon and AT&T. Both want to take on the entrenched cable industry by offering high speed video download services, and net-based TV, IPTV over fiber. It's given rise to much paranoia, some of it justified. But the response, framed under the unpromising moniker "net neutrality", was never likely to succeed. Rather than ensuring the scope of regulation is appropriate to reflect the recent consolidation, and ensuring that the FTC actually does the job, the amendments were full of pettyfogging detail. For example, where a simple FTC guideline would have been adequate, amendments specified minimum bandwidth requirements right down to the Kilobit/s. That's the FTC's job to judge, and would have led to a course of action that would have required the committees to return to the subject in detail each year. And the home-brew attempt to manufacture a grass roots consensus behind the amendments only succeeded in embarrassing everyone concerned. A small gun lobby signed up at the last minute to the SaveTheInternet.com website, having been tricked into the idea they'd lose their right to free speech. There are important principles at stake here, so here's hoping the campaign regroups in more coherent and professional fashion next time. And with better branding. The only people who went to the barricades for the cause of "neutrality" were the Swiss. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Apr 2006

Da Vinci Code judgment decoded

Disappointingly, the hidden message inserted by a High Court judge into his ruling on the Da Vinci Code copyright trial has already been solved. Mr Justice Peter Smith's code, reported yesterday, has been cracked by a London lawyer. It reads: Jackie Fisher, who are you? Dreadnought Rather than a clue to the lizard conspiracy that probably permeates every level of the judiciary, Smith's message actually promotes his personal hero from British naval history, a long standing hobby interest. John Arbuthnot "Jackie" Fisher sailed the seven seas in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. He's considered a forgotten hero of naval history and is the Judge's pet admiral. Fisher was a big reformer and chairman of the committee that commissioned the groundbreaking battleship Dreadnought. Smith used the Fibonacci Sequence, which appears in The Da Vinci Code to encrypt the historical nugget. Under the Fibonacci Sequence each number is the sum of the previous two numbers thus: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21... Some arithmetic gymnastics based in the sequence was used to rearrange the italicised letters in Smith's judgment to decrypt them. Marvellously, Jackie Fisher is said to be the originator of the belligerent gem: "Never explain, never apologise." Smith apparently lives by this maxim. He told The Times: "It was for my own pleasure. The answer is nothing to do with the case." ®
Christopher Williams, 28 Apr 2006

Road warrior Wi-Fi

iPass, the company that pioneered straightforward dial-up support for roadwarriors worldwide, and which recently bought its main rival in the business, GoRemote (known to many as Gric), is seeking to take that customer base to the next generation of connectivity: the Wi-Fi hotspot. Typical company travel policy doesn't take any notice of the facilities provided by a hotel. For connectivity in the past, this did not matter, because companies like iPass or Gric allowed the user to make a local call from their room and get online. With Wi-Fi, however, the provider in a hotel does matter. There's rarely, if ever, a choice of networks. The user is potentially stuck, having to manage multiple accounts, or pay the one-off 24-hour access fee, which can be expensive. iPass has set out to fix this problem and also to offer a range of security enhancements for good measure. The company has signed roaming agreements with a number of carriers and offers the IT manager centralised billing as well as a simple to use laptop client called iPass Connect. Together they aim to make the process of locating and joining the network as straightforward as possible, without the need to delve into some of the helpful (or not) wizards offered up by the typical laptop. The value-add for the corporate user includes detailed statistics on network usage (but not any particular URLs visited), as well as endpoint management software. This allows the IT department to set policies for the software levels on any computers joining the network, as well as enforcing and managing the loading of patches etc, before the user is allowed in. This is a major benefit for a network manager who can often struggle to maintain the currency of the software image on traveling laptops. In addition, iPass offers sophisticated device authentication, based on a detailed fingerprint of the hardware, which can complement or replace token-based authentication. Again, this is a major productivity advantage as many users are resistant to complicated authentication mechanisms. All in all, it looks like iPass has a good set of offerings that prove it has what it takes to preserve its pre-eminent position as the road warrior's essential remote access solution. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
David Perry, 28 Apr 2006

Mexico set to join space race

Mexican lawmakers are in the process of setting up a national space agency, according to Reuters. The lower house in Mexico City has given the green light to a proposal that could see rocketry in development within the year. The politicians aren't under any illusions that they'll be able to rival NASA's spend which, at about $16bn, is getting on for the GDP of Cameroon. A Mexican science and technology commission spokesman said: "We'd love it to become the Mexican NASA, but obviously the levels of investment are incomparable. It's very distant, perhaps not in the vision but in resources." The initial outlay would be just $2m, about enough for an inflatable globe and a bottle rocket, but it's a start. The early days of the agency will concentrate on developing technology and working with universities and industry on satellite launches. Not everyone's keen on the idea. Ruling group the National Action Party voted against the move, saying the cash would be better spent on trying to tackle widespread poverty. ®
Christopher Williams, 28 Apr 2006
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BOFH: That security thang

Episode 16Episode 16 "Excellent work on that security thing" the new Boss burbles happily. "A hacker would be lucky to see our web pages now, let alone hack them, the system is so secure!" "Security is a journey, not a destination," the PFY nods, exuding a Zen-like vibe. "Like Slough," I add. "No, that's 'a craphole, not a destination'," the PFY corrects. "What?" the boss Burbles, "I'm from Slough!" "Course you are," the PFY says kindly, patting him on the shoulder. "I..." the Boss starts, then thinks the better of it. "So, how do we access the online resources that we used to?" "Which online resources are they then?" "Oh, just online stuff. Some of my stuff isn't working any more." "The online virus downloading site?" "Eh?" "The Russian 'shareware movie' site that you watch movies on." "I...what!?" "Oh puleese, we monitor peer-to-peer networking like hawks. Mainly to see if there's anything good coming down, but also because it's virus central if you're not too selective about what you download. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN," the PFY says, nudging the boss's arm. "No, they said that there were no copyright issues because the site's in Turgekenistan!" "Ah Turgekenistan, one of the more easygoing of the imaginary East European nations." "But I paid money to see them! They said it was all kosher!" "As kosher as a ham sandwich with a side order of bacon," I respond. "With pork icecream for afters. Incidentally, what's your credit card limit?" "What? Why?" "Just want to know what sort of bill you've racked up buying stuff online in the Ukraine?" "I've not boug... ... >crash!< >rush!< >patter patter< >slam!<" "Do you think it'll be bad?" the PFY asks. "As bad as...a large rear-projection TV and a HDD-based DVD recorder in a lockup in Bayswater..." "You didn't!" "Course I bloody did! There was blood in the water!" "But what about me?" "Don't worry, I got you a selection of DVDs." "Oh, thanks. But surely he'll cancel the order before it's delivered!" the PFY responds. "Ordinarily yes, but the secret is to use a multinational company then ring them and tell them that, with the internet being so confusing and all, you think you might have accidentally placed your order at the .com site instead of the .co.uk site, and if so it'll take forever to get delivered, so could they possibly rush the delivery locally in time for the wife's birthday - whatever the cost, then fix it up with the .com people" "And you really think it'll work?" "Oh, yes. In fact, they got here last night." "Really?! So where's my DVDs?" "In the box under your desk!" I reply. I'm hardly back in my chair before the PFY is doing a bit of gift horse dentistry. "What!? The Sound of bloody Music!?" "The FIVE STAR remastered version!" >shuffle< "BAD BOY BUBBY?!" "A...classic!" I say, thinking hard to find a euphemistic phrase with no direct link to excrement. "Driller Killer?! Anne of Green Gables! BLOODY Sheltering BLOODY Sky!!!" "Oh, I thought I'd ordered the Bertolucci Omnibus!" >shuffle< "That's Bloody IT!" "What?" "TITANIC! What the hell were you thinking?" "I...well nothing really. I clicked on the 30 cheapest DVDs - after all I was on a limited budget." "You bastard!" The PFY's 10 minute monologue on the genus of my family tree and its reentrancy are interrupted by the Boss' return. "THEY'VE BLOODY CLEANED ME OUT!" he wails. "That's terrible," I cry, almost meaning it. "I talked to the security people and they said..." "Sorry, you talked to OUR security?" "Yes, and they..." "About an electronic transaction?" "Yes, and..." "And you know their skills in computing are limited to putting a red card on a black card?" "Or vice versa," the PFY says. "No, they ring the helpdesk for that." "Yes, yes," the Boss snaps. "But they have some contacts and apparently it's been delivered locally all I need to do is find the vending website within 24 hours, ring the credit card company, and they can trace the package delivery and have the police standing by when the culprit arri... >KZZZERT!< "Oh! The Boss has fainted!" I say slipping a couple of sleeping tablets into a glass "I'd best get him some water!" "But I think I've got smelling salts in my desk," the PFY proffers helpfully. "Which I could probably find - which would bring him around before you got back with the water...unless..." "Unless?" I say, recognising my old friend blackmail from a distance. "Unless my eyesight were to fail (because of the ridiculously small television screen I'm forced to use) and I weren't able to find them in time." "An eyesight problem which would be rectified by a larger TV screen?" I sigh, knowing the answer already. "Ja Mein Herr!" "Ok, it's a deal - but...I'll need a hand keeping him out of the way for a few hours." "Sorted!" Quarter of an hour later the PFY is helping the Boss onto a train to Slough with a one-way ticket stub stapled to his jacket (and a half bottle of sherry and a suspicious stain on his groin to ward off the curious). Finding his second credit card was a bit of a bonus, as was finding the .com website with a sale on B-grade movies... The PFY's going to be so happy! BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 28 Apr 2006

Sony to bring net-based TV-to-PSP streaming to Europe

Sony will next month launch its LocationFree TV (LFTV) service in the UK and other key European territories, allowing PlayStation Portable users to receive television programmes transmitted from the home and out across the internet. Mac users are to get access to the service too.
Tony Smith, 28 Apr 2006

Wanadoo LLU service goes titsup

Thousands of Wanadoo UK customers were left without broadband after the ISP's broadband service went titsup yesterday. Punters in London and Manchester - two cities in which the France Telecom-owned ISP is rolling out its unbundled network (LLU) - reported that their connection died early yesterday morning. One Wanadoo user told us: "They collapsed at about 9:30am yesterday and, despite various promises of being fully active by 9pm, there was no sign of the network at midnight or indeed this morning." Wanadoo (which is busy putting the finishing touches to a major rebranding exercise as it adopts the name of sister company Orange) confirmed that it suffered "a broadband network outage yesterday", although it insists the problems have now been resolved. "Only customers within our LLU network areas were affected and the outage was caused by a network equipment failure," it said. "We worked with our suppliers to rectify the problem as quickly as possible and normal service has resumed. We apologise to those customers affected." Ever since Wanadoo began migrating customers onto its LLU network, the ISP has been suffering teething problems leaving some users without broadband for several months. The matter has been made worse because a faults system is failing to work properly, creating a backlog of snags and broken connections. The ISP told us recently: "As we have said before, LLU is a very complex technology and a number of things can go wrong, so if a very large number of customers are being migrated, a few might experience problems. The fact remains that the very vast majority of Wanadoo LLU customers have not had any issues at all." ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Apr 2006

The black art of software estimation

Book reviewBook review Steve McConnell of Code Complete fame, is not joking when he describes software estimation as a black art, though even then he's being generous.
Dr Pan Pantziarka, 28 Apr 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Bill Gates' letter to hobbyists (en Français, 2006)

EU vs MS CommentEU vs MS Comment European Court justice Cooke gave Microsoft's lawyers a tonic yesterday, by raising concerns about the transfer of Microsoft's intellectual property.
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Apr 2006

AMD Opteron CPUs hit by heat stroke

ExclusiveExclusive AMD today admitted it has inadvertently allowed a number of 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz single-core Opteron x52 and x54 processors that could corrupt data under extreme conditions to escape into the wild.
Tony Smith, 28 Apr 2006
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The summing up

MS v ECMS v EC It’s nearly over… The Court of First Instance met this morning to hear final pleadings from both Microsoft and the Competition Commission on whether or not Microsoft would be obliged to license its technology under an open source licence. First we dealt with congratulating Mr Hellstrom on the birth of his baby daughter. Next, Mr Forrester outlined Microsoft’s objections to the decision. He said the information required to fulfill the commission demands go beyond interoperability and are covered by patent and copyright law. He also said rivals like Sun and Novell are unable to compete within Microsoft’s “blue bubble” and would not be able to do so unless Microsoft gives them internal server algorithms so they can create network maps or trees in an identical way as Windows boxes - the so-called cloning. Further, he said the commission’s definition of the market was flawed. Forrester also denied that the cancellation of licensing agreements with AT&T represented an “interruption of supply”. He said there was no evidence of leveraging from the desktop market to the server market. For the commission, Mr Whelan said Microsoft’s claim that revealing interoperability information would necessitate revealing internal algorithms had been disputed by the trustee, Neil Barrett, appointed to ensure compliance with the remedy. He said Microsoft was guilty of leveraging its super dominant position in desktop software into a new market - server operating systems, particularly but not exclusively within workgroup servers. He described Microsoft’s actions as providing a double lock on the PC market because any potential rival in that market would have to forcefully enter not just the desktop, but also the server market. And, this action was taken in a context where the Software Directive aims to encourage interoperability. Whelan said: “Patents are merely a pretext and the use of copyrights is bordering on the bizarre." Finally, he addressed whether the commission would require Microsoft to release its technology under an open source license. Whelan said the commission had yet to take a “definitive postion on whether Microsoft’s view is non-discriminatory. Doubts have been raised by the commission, but prelim formal steps had not yet been taken”. The court was also told by Microsoft that Samba could solve a specific password problem using Samba Vampire - Tridgell explained Microsoft should not rely on media reports of Samba events and showed slides warning that the software mentioned was pre-alpha… We reconvene shortly to hear pleadings on the fine.®
John Oates, 28 Apr 2006

Comment on this story and we'll sue you

LettersLetters The word on the street this week is: be careful what you say, especially on the internet. It all kicked off with a Hamburg court ruling that forum moderators were legally responsible for posts. Cue general outrage:
Lester Haines, 28 Apr 2006

Mio A701 GPS smart phone

ReviewReview Satellite navigation is a must-have these days. Established brands like TomTom, Garmin, Navman and Magellan are being challenged by a wide range of companies. Mio was early to market with competing products and even its own route-planning software, although until now none of its devices have sported phone features. Enter the Mio A701, a smart phone with a fully integrated GPS receiver...
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 28 Apr 2006

Scientists advance bug-eyed CCTV tech

US scientists have developed minuscule compound lenses that will allow insect-style panoramic vision. The research, reported in Science, was carried out by Professor Luke Lee and colleagues at the University of California, with backing from DARPA, the US government's defence research organ. Each pinhead-sized lens consists of nearly 9,000 individual “eyes” in a honeycomb patten. The light paths are burnt into a special polymer by concentrated light. Each one is oriented in a slightly different direction, producing the super-wide-angle. Although the view is low-resolution, the lenses will be very good at picking up movement, the team say. The next step for the project is to find the best way of hooking the compound eye up to a device to produce images. As well as the obvious surveillance applications, the hypoallergenic plastic compound used means the technology could have a less shady use in internal medical investigations. ®
Christopher Williams, 28 Apr 2006
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'Pentagon hacker' prepares for verdict

InfosecInfosec Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who's due to hear whether he will be extradited to the US on 10 May, rates his chances of avoiding trial in the States as only "50/50".
John Leyden, 28 Apr 2006

Orange animals not on endangered list

Reports that Orange's laughably misguided “Animals” campaign is to be binned after just two months are not true, according to the operator. The story is being carried by industry newsheet Marketing and mobile news outlet Cellular News. An Orange spokesperson said the campaign would run, as originally planned, until the end of the year. "Animals" marketing tries to get customers to identify themselves with one of four animals; a dolphin, a panther, a canary, or most improbably, a bin-foraging raccoon. For more details see our report here. The high-profile campaign has apparently set Orange back getting on for £10m.®
Christopher Williams, 28 Apr 2006

Bulldog doubles broadband speeds

Bulldog has cut the ribbon on a faster broadband service that provides speeds of up to 16 meg. The local loop unbundling (LLU) operator - owned by Cable & Wireless (C&W) - says its decision to double the speed of its existing service makes use of ADSL2+ technology and provides upload speeds of 1 meg. The ISP has two packages on offer - Anytime Plus which costs £15 a month and Unlimited Plus at £25 a month. A package aimed at small businesses will cost SMEs around £45 a month. Bulldog's "DoubleSpeed broadband" is available across the operator's entire footprint of unbundled exchanges, currently available to about a third of UK homes and businesses. By the end of September, the ISP should have its kit installed in some 800 BT exchanges, making its service available to half of UK homes and businesses. ®
Team Register, 28 Apr 2006
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HCI lobby's plea for mercy

The industry association of deserted HCI traders has presented proposals to resuscitate their intravenous tax subsidy before a commons debate on Tuesday. Since the Home Computing Initiative was scrapped in the budget last month, various business lobbies have been seeking to have it reinstated. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are expected to table amendments in its support during the second reading of the Finance Bill on Tuesday. The treasury is conducting its own informal consultation. The HCI Alliance, a trade lobby, proposed today that the government "put the abolition of the tax exemption on hold" while it considers alternative ways of helping people buy home computers. But the HCI Alliance's proposal merely tinkers with the old scheme. It includes a mixture of checks to ensure the scheme isn't abused and that is doesn't unfairly favour those who earn enough to money to buy their own home computers with cash. It then proposes linking HCI to other campaigns that promote digital inclusion (equality) and digital strategy (education). The most important suggestion, which would tackle the fatal accusation that HCI wasn't of any use to those it was supposed to help most - namely, the poor - is unfortunately lacking. These rules were reconsidered, only weeks ago by the Low Pay Commission. It recommended no change because the existing rules - which prevent employers deducting anything from the already meagre pay packets of people on the minimum wage - prevent the working poor from being exploited. There are two arguments that might work in HCI's favour on Tuesday. The Commons might be persuaded that the Treasury ought to have given fair notice to those firms that became dependent on its subsidy, because the 10 days they got was, for some, nothing less than an unofficial winding up order. Now that notice period has already passed, arguing the case that it should have been longer is a far cry from having it reinstated so that HCI traders can adjust to life without a government subsidy. Secondly, they could argue that an alternative scheme could be established to help the poor get home computers, while HCI could be carefully targeted. The HCI Alliance says 30 other countries are considering or establishing a scheme based on the now defunct British model. The Treasury wants its consultation to produce a scheme that will help the unemployed get computers as well. It has ruled out a tax break. That pretty much rules out HCI. ®
Mark Ballard, 28 Apr 2006
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Computerland pleased with itself

Everything's on course for a celebratory sherry at Computerland this year, according to the firm's pre-close trading statement. Only a month ago, the firm's directors announced how pleased they were with themselves. They were all so chuffed that they've not been able to contain themselves. They're ever so pleased, they say, that since they last said they were doing ever so well, they're still doing ever so well. Second half trading has been good because of "new contract wins and a good performance within our existing customer base". Like it's going to be attributable to anything else? Expect more when they announce their 05/06 results on 22 June.®
Mark Ballard, 28 Apr 2006
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OFT probes e-shopping

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is conducting a major fact-finding study to discover whether consumers receive enough protection when shopping online. Although more and more people are shopping online, some consumers are still concerned about matters such as payment security, fraud, and delivery problems. That's why the study wants to assess the level of concern by examining whether consumers are confident when shopping on the internet and whether they receive the right level of regulatory protection when shopping online. The OFT is also keen to establish whether consumers are aware of their rights and whether businesses understand and comply with existing regulations. In particular, the study will concentrate on four key areas - domestic electrical goods, music sales including downloads, airline ticket sales, and online auctions - because together these make-up a third of all online spending. "[The internet's] rapid evolution means that we need to ensure that the consumer protection regime gives current and future users the confidence to realise the internet's potential for shopping," OFT head John Fingleton said. "This study is core to the OFT's mission to make markets work well for consumers." According to the latest figures available online, sales hit £18bn in the UK last year accounting for around 2.5 per cent of all household spending. In 2005, the typical online shopper spent £560 online, and forecasts suggest that this could grow to more than £860 a year by 2010. ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Apr 2006

Sci-fi’s old men rule the TV roost

Geek TVGeek TV All the latest TV goss from TV Scoop In the week that foxy fiftysomething Sarah Jane Smith turns up to show Rose how it’s done in Doctor Who, TV’s other young sci-fi whippersnappers are getting their bots kicked by their elders and betters. Sky One has just called time on Hex, which is like a British Buffy but without the ratings. After two seasons of teen sci-fi hijinks, Hex could boast only 200,000 viewers in its prime Sunday 9pm slot. Not even the great Davina McCall can drive people away that fast. But over in TV’s geriatric wing, everything’s just chipper. Trekkies can look forward to seeing Kirk and Spock looking young n’ peachy in the 11th Star Trek film – helmed by none other than Lost/Alias ubermeister JJ Abrams. Kirk’s fellow old-timer Doctor Who is having a splendid time of it, too, with five shiny new Welsh Baftas to decorate the downstairs toilet of the Tradis. Bodes well for the national Baftas, which will be held in London on 7 May. One newcomer is breaking the trend and doing well, though in order to fit in it’s had to drag its leading man back to 1973. Filming on the second series of Life On Mars has started in Manchester, with John Simm and the brilliant Philip Glenister back out in front. Set the Sky+ for next January. And finally, Ricky Gervais is getting yet more work. Mere days after serenading Marge Simpson, Gervais has been awarded a full series of interviews with famous US comedians, including Garry (Larry Sanders) Shandling and Christopher (Spinal Tap) Guest. Wonder how many free plasma screens Ricky was sent after The Simpsons aired last week? Wily scamp. Five to watch this week: Doctor Who, Saturday 29 April, BBC1, 7.20pm ‘School Reunion’: The Doctor and Rose arrive in London, where our hero runs into old pals Sarah Jane and K9. Coffee salesman Anthony Head also co-stars. The Young Ones Marathon, Saturday 29 April, Paramount 2, 9pm Stay up all night with Rick, Vyv, Neil and the other one. Break things, if you must. Turn Back Your Body Clock, Tuesday 2 May, C4, 8.30pm New eight-part series in which volunteers are given their 'death age' by Dr Una Coales. Scientifically fascinating, and just a little pervy. Lost, Tuesday 2 May, C4, 10pm Tune in to have your brain addled by yet more plot twists that won’t be resolved until long after they stop making Star Trek movies. Season two starts with a double bill on C4, followed on E4 by episode three. The Happiness Formula, Wednesday 3 May, BBC2, 7pm Mark Easton goes on a six-part journey to understand the science of happiness. Along the way he looks at the latest research, meets cutting-edge thinkers and collects loads of air miles.
Jane Hoskyn, 28 Apr 2006

O2 hooks up with Disney for new 'family friendly' MVNO

Mickey Mouse and his chums are to launch a mobile phone service in the UK as part of a new service aimed at families. The service from Disney Mobile is due to launch later this year and will piggyback on O2's phone network. Part of Disney's offer is to give parents greater control over their spending on mobiles and to limit their mobile net access. The announcement that Disney is to become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) comes as the media giant prepares to launch a similar service in the US in June. Children's campaigner John Carr welcomed Disney's plans to launch a "safe" service saying that it would give both parents and children "greater confidence". "Many parents want to stay in touch with their children by mobile phone," said Carr, "but worry about them running up high bills, downloading inappropriate content, and being safe." However, there are concerns whether the service - aimed at kids aged between eight and 14 - will appeal to fickle-minded image-conscious teenagers. Senior Ovum analyst Carrie Pawsey asked: "Can Disney manage to segment the market and provide handsets and services that will please a princess/Barbie-mad eight year old, as well as a teenager who is very fashion-conscious and wary of not appearing cool to their peers - together with all the other fads and fashions that kids go through in between?" Now that's a toughie. ®
Team Register, 28 Apr 2006

Magic key to reveal future UK lottery numbers

This has got to be worth a tenner of anybody's money: a Magic key which will reveal future UK lottery winning numbers: Quite remarkable. Let's get one thing straight, though: this is not just an an old Peugeot key. Oh no. Here's the story: As I sat upon the patio chair of great discomfort, resting, contemplating my beer belly and musing upon the terrible journey I had just completed, from the dread wastes of High Wycombe via the road of the dead, known to some as the M40, forced to crawl at stages through the blasted regions infested with red and white cone-shaped wraiths, where no man ever walks or toils, yet always the dark powers observe thee, I pondered my fate and wondered what had become of me. Lo! A vision appeared before me, and it was the Buddha of the trampoline. Offering me great gifts in exchange for food, I agreed, and gave the great Buddha fish fingers, chips and beans. In return, the great Buddha of the trampoline gave me a wondrous prize, the key to a magic box which contains all the numbers of the winning lottery tickets to come. Laughing and burping, the Buddha bounded from the trampoline to get her sacred can of Fanta, saying "Ha! but the way is hard, and knowest thou not where the box is, but I will leave thee these tools, which thou will need to find the box." I am not stout of heart, nor fleet of foot, and have not the will to search and fight for the magic Lottery box, and thus I decided to sell them to the most worthy bidder. All the magic items are listed below, and may Ged forgive me for my weakness. The Mysterious String of Lightness. Rumoured to have appeared to the Buddha from nowhere when the great trampoline manifested itself, the string will be required to retrace thy steps once the Lotto box is found. The Allen Key of Nuisance. This Allen Key is known to motorcyclists everywhere, cast it at thine enemies, and it will force them to go to the shops in the car to buy something that they know they've already got but can't find. The 99p Car Boot Sale Sunglasses of Protection. You will need these when opening the Lotto Box, to protect your eyes from the glare from the make-up of has-been celebrities, who will frolic around you, smelling the gold. The Half Empty Glass of Wine, and the Fag of Doom. The Has-Beens will not be content, and thou wilst need to distract them by placing the wine and smoke on the nearest knackered patio table, thus allowing you to make good your escape. The Tin Whistle of Greed. The Has-Beens will not be sated for long, sharing a few mouthfuls of wine, and one Lambert & Butler. Toot the flute once, hurl it into the air, and at once it will become a shining beacon, drawing all has-beens towards it with it's siren cry "Loan Adverts! Come and do Loan adverts on Council house telly! Help poor people get into Debt!" Very silly, and entirely worthy of a Friday afternoon. We wish the stout-hearted, fleet-footed winner of this auction the best of lucky in locating the magic Lottery box. ® Bootnote Thanks to John List for the magic tip-off.
Lester Haines, 28 Apr 2006

TDK cracks 200GB Blu-ray Disc problem

TDK has gone ahead and produced the 200GB Blu-ray Disc it announced a few weeks ago that it was working on. And while it appears to have failed to compress four standard dual-layer 50GB discs together into a single unit, it has nonetheless come up with a novel alternative.
Tony Smith, 28 Apr 2006

Intel to offer new architecture every two years

RoadmapRoadmap Intel will ship 'Conroe' in July and 'Merom' in August, CEO Paul Otellini said yesterday, illustrating his announcement with a slide using the icon of new buddy Apple's iCal application to indicate the ship dates.
Tony Smith, 28 Apr 2006