3rd > May > 2006 Archive

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Microsoft and SAP do a Duet on Office

Microsoft and SAP have laid out a roadmap for Mendocino, renamed Duet, and promised greater integration between their Office and business applications to automate business activities. Duet 1.0, scheduled to launch on 28 June just over a year after Mendocino was unveiled, will debut with four so-called scenarios for use by employees, the companies said Tuesday. Scenarios integrate workflows and data in Microsoft Office and SAP applications and data repositories. The companies will follow June's launch with the release of two value packs during the third and fourth quarter, with additional scenarios that target management and sales. Support, too, will be added for newer versions of SAP with support for the forthcoming Office 2007. SAP and Microsoft announced Mendocino as a way to expose data held in commonly occurring SAP systems, like sales and HR, through the Office front end. Integration with calendaring and messaging capabilities appears to be in the driving seat, as this - next to Word and Excel - are arguably Office's most popular application among business customers. Microsoft hopes to enhance the value of Office 2003, and the forthcoming Office 2007, by enabling users to tap SAP's dominance in back-office applications. Shai Agassi, president of SAP's products and technology group and an executive board member, picking up on Microsoft's common lexicon for Office users - "information workers" - told press and analysts: "We are focusing on the information worker community. We want to take business processes and access and interact with them from a Microsoft Office environment. That lets customers leverage existing investment in their [their] backbone and in Office." SAP is expecting big things from Duet. Agassi said SAP hoped to quadruple its number of customers by exploiting accounts that are running Office with SAP. That means Duet forms one plank in the company's overall strategy to serve a combined market consisting of business process, mid-market and "business solutions" worth $70bn by 2010, up from its $30bn business applications market. The companies are also keen to draw a distinction between integration of Office and SAP, and Microsoft's separate integration between Office and its Dynamics back office software, a project called Snap. Duet targets enterprise users while Office and Dynamics is aimed at the mid-market, the companies said. "Both of us believe this idea of Office connected to business process systems is very important," Microsoft business software division president Jeff Raikes said. "SAP's leadership in the enterprise space is the thing we focused on here jointly. We are each approaching how Office fits into the rest of our product lines." While both companies are keen to champion the possibilities of Duet, it seems developers and systems integrators will have to wait some time before they can actually build their own scenarios. SAP built scenarios using its own internal model driven environment, and the company is not saying when it will release development tools to third parties. It has, though, promised tools would work with developers' integrated development environments (IDEs) of choice. In the meantime, developers, SIs and customers get to customize the scenarios using tools that will ship with Duet. Additionally, SAP noted, Duet uses the WS- web services specifications for partners to plug in their own information sources and applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP). Ahead of that, partners and customers have Duet 1.0 and the two value packs to content with. Duet 1.0 will provide employee-level functionality with lead, organization and budget monitoring, and time management integrated between Office and SAP. Value pack one will include scenarios for management-level types, including recruiting and analytics, while value pack two will add activity and contact management, and purchasing functionality. The first value pack will also add support for mySAP 2005 and internationalization and the second pack will update Duet to work with Office 2007. ®
Gavin Clarke, 03 May 2006

Buggy spreadsheets: Russian roulette for the corporation

How many scenarios can you imagine where a momentary loss of concentration could cost over $1bn? Perhaps a nuclear power station meltdown...or if a currency trader hit a few wrong keys? Well, another possibility is a simple spreadsheet error.
Tom Welsh, 03 May 2006
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Gartner: More Windows Vista delays

Microsoft and Gartner are squabbling again, this time after the analyst predicted yet another delay to Microsoft's already late-running Windows Vista operating system. According to Gartner, Windows Vista is unlikely to ship before the second quarter of 2007, pegging it for launch in April next year, with "broad availability" not expected until at least the second quarter. For good measure, the analyst firm noted that Microsoft "consistently misses target dates for major operating system releases". Microsoft must be thanking Gartner for that little reminder. Microsoft earlier this year pushed back Windows Vista from an expected blockbuster fourth-quarter launch event, opting for a staged delivery that means consumer availability in the first quarter, January 2007, while users on Microsoft's volume licensing agreements get Windows Vista in November. Any delay would be especially embarrassing to Microsoft, which re-organized in March with news of the split delivery and put Office chief Steven Sinofsky in charge of Windows and the Windows Live Group, to finally kick Windows Vista out the door. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company "respectfully disagreed" with Gartner's view, and re-stated the party line that Windows Vista would ship in November and January with a second beta due in the second quarter of this year. Gartner and Microsoft have been scrapping over Windows Vista for some time. The analyst first said Windows Vista could slip into 2007 way back when Microsoft insisted things were on track for a 2004 launch, and has advised customers to hold off installation of the operating system until 2008. The devil - as ever - appears to lie in the details. Microsoft may well hit its revised delivery dates in November and January, but that would mean that it has won the marathon to deliver Windows Vista on a technicality only. The acid test of delivery is volume availability online, in the channel, and on business and consumers' PCs. That means while Gartner could be correct to say Windows Vista will be further "delayed," whether that qualifies as a classic missed delivery date in the traditional Microsoft definition of the phrase, though, remains to be seen. Andrew Orlowski adds: "2003 is the next major milestone for us in terms of the Windows release," Bill Gates told the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference back in 2001. For a full, grisly timeline of Longhorn and Vista delays, click here. ®
Gavin Clarke, 03 May 2006

Conservatives investigate government IT

David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, is setting up a working group to investigate the Labour government's use of IT and management practices. The Conservatives said the group, announced on 1 May, is a direct response to recent "fiascos" surrounding the Labour government's handling of IT and management information. A Conservative spokesperson told Government Computing News: "We do not think the Labour government is able to implement IT systems and get them online in time. Look at the recent fiascos surrounding child tax credits, or the issues surrounding foreign prisoners (freed without facing deportation because their details were not on the national police computer). "The working group will not just report what has or hasn't been done; it will look at new ideas to improve administrative competence and management practices within government." The group, made up of business leaders and former civil servants, is expected to make its findings available to the current Labour government within 18 months. It will be chaired by Sir Brian Williamson, former chairman of the London International Financial Futures Exchange, and Sir David Lees, chairman of sugar company Tate and Lyle. Archie Norman, former chief executive of Asda and MP for Tunbridge Wells, will also take part. Other appointments will be announced shortly. Oliver Letwin, chairman of the Conservative research department, said: "It is clear that the government has vast amounts of information at its disposal. Ministers do not at present have timely access to the mission-critical information that would enable them to spot major systemic failures in the operations for which they are directly responsible. "We hope that this group will provide that management information and hence enable ministers to ask the right questions and do a more competent job." 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, 03 May 2006

Sony shows summer Vaio laptops

Sony has announced its summer Vaio notebook line-up, boosting family members' memory, processor and storage specs. Take the FJ3 series, for example. This slimline 14.1in range now incorporates dual-layer DVD+RW support in addition to the many other recordable and rewriteable CD and DVD formats already handled.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

Kids texting not sleeping

Kids are going to school too tired to learn because of the temptations of late night texting and playing computer games. Telecoms provider ACE-COMM says UK telcos could do more to help parents. Jock Percy, senior analyst at the firm, said: "Confiscating a child's phone seems an unreasonable invasion of privacy to most parents, but they may be at a loss to know how else to stop their text-obsessed teen from chatting with friends at all hours of the night." Percy reckons UK mobile firms should follow the lead of companies like Disney which offers mobile services with restrictions parents can set. A recent ACE-COMM survey found 80 per cent of UK teenagers have no restrictions put on their mobile phone use. A survey of Australian children found 42 per cent of boys and 40 per cent of girls were tired enough that their concentration was impaired at school because of late-night texting. Research in the US found up to 28 per cent of school kids admitting falling asleep in class at least once a week. Nearly all kids in the US have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms - a TV, mobile phone, music player or games console. ®
John Oates, 03 May 2006
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EDS results on track

EDS posted improved profits for the first quarter ended 31 March 2006, but just missed Wall Street predictions. The services giant made $24m profit in the three months, compared to $4m in the first quarter of 2005. Analysts were expecting closer to $30m. EDS brought in revenues of $5.08bn, up 10 per cent on the same quarter last year. The company signed $10bn in contracts in the period compared to $6.9bn in the same period a year ago. Big contract renewals included $3.6bn with General Motors and $3.9bn with the US Navy. Revenues in the US grew three per cent in the period to $2.3bn, and profits were up to $306m, a 10 per cent increase. In EMEA revenue grew 16 per cent to $1.6bn thanks mainly to the UK Ministry of Defence. EDS is providing a new communications network "DII". Asia-Pacific brought in $303m, up eight per cent. US government projects, including the troubled NMCI project for the Marines, brought in $840m, a 28 per cent increase. For the year, EDS is keeping up with previous guidance - it expects to bring in between $20bn and $20.05bn. More from EDS here.®
John Oates, 03 May 2006
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£20,000 reward for software whistleblowers

The Business Software Alliance has doubled its maximum reward for people who report the use of unlicensed software within UK businesses before the end of June. Staff can report their bosses, remain anonymous, and receive up to £20,000.
OUT-LAW.COM, 03 May 2006

AMD reportedly 'delays' dual-core Turion debut

AMD has put back the launch of its upcoming dual-core Turion 64 mobile processors to June, online reports have claimed. If true, the move - which had been forecast - will see the chip family's debut delayed just a month, though it brings the line's debut closer to the arrival of Intel's 'Merom' CPU.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

Intel ships 3.6GHz Pentium D 960

Intel has begun shipping its latest top-of-the-line 65nm dual-core Pentium D desktop processor, the 3.6GHz 960. The chip maker has yet to launch the part formally, though it did get a casual mention in CEO Paul Otellini's analyst day presentation last week.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

Apple wins right to retain fixed-price downloads

Apple has apparently succeeded in persuading the world's major record labels to re-license their content for sale on its iTunes Music Store (ITMS) for a flat-rate 99 cents - 79 pence in the UK - per track. To date, label executives have been keen to stress their demand for variable pricing - higher prices for new songs, lower prices for older material - but they've clearly been willing to let it pass this time.
Team Register, 03 May 2006

Elvis' first house hits $450k on eBay

Any reader with a spare $450k+ burning a hole in his pocket and interested in acquiring Elvis Presley's first house should make his way down to eBay and get busy with the bidding: Presley bought this Memphis des-res in 1956 with the royalties from Heartbreak Hotel, according to the blurb. It comes with all the expected trappings of musical success, including swimming pool, soundproofed recording area and "the original music note themed wallpaper from 1956!" Interestingly, it appears cutlery-molesting Israeli mystic Uri Geller has made a number of bids topping out at $351,000, but is currently trumped by a top offer of $450,100. Potential buyers should note that "all bidders will need to be prequalified before placing a bid in order to ensure financial means as well as seriousness of the bid". They'll also need a strong stomach for 1950s interior design, as this snap demonstrates. ®
Lester Haines, 03 May 2006

Ad watchdog fingers Telewest

Telewest has been ticked off for not being crystal clear on the availability of its broadband, TV, and phone service. The cableco, which is now part of NTL, ran a radio ad which bragged how "getting broadband couldn't be easier". The commercial went on to urge listeners to get in touch "if you live in a Telewest area and you want all three (unlimited broadband, digital TV and phone) for £30 a month for a year". Snag is, an existing Telewest phone customer contacted the cableco to find out more, but was told that although he lived in a Telewest area the firm was unable to provide broadband or digital services. Telewest admitted it was unable to offer digital servces to all its customers and that around four per cent of its users are unable to hook up to broadband or digital TV. Despite this admission, Telewest insisted that this anomaly was covered by the "conditions apply" catch-all bolted on to the commercial and that the ad had not misled listeners. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) rejected Telewest's defence ruling that the ad "implied that all listeners living in a Telewest area would be able to take advantage of the broadband and digital services on offer, but this was not the case; the offer only applied to Telewest digital areas". "We considered this important restriction should have been explained in the ad and that 'conditions apply' had not been adequate to cover such a significant condition to the offer," it said. The ad watchdog decided the ad was misleading and should not be aired again without changes. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 May 2006

T-Mobile Sidekick III piccy posted on web

Is this the face of Danger's third-generation Hiptop? The company's not saying, of course, and neither is T-Mobile USA, which sells the current Hiptop as the Sidekick II. The shot's said to come from marketing material, presumably being prepared for an upcoming launch. The latest pic matches the machine shown in blurry shots taken in February this year.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

Nano-friendly Bluetooth stereo adaptor in pipeline

German Bluetooth accessory specialist AnyCom is preparing a wireless stereo audio adaptor for Apple's iPod Nano. The slimline add-on draws its power from the player to beam out songs using the Bluetooth 1.2's Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP).
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

Piracy reduces Hollywood to penury

Pirated DVDs and illegal net downloads are costing the US movie industry a staggering $6.1bn annually in "global wholesale revenues", according to a Wall Street Journal report. The total - estimated by El Reg as the equivalent of a breast augmentation and facelift for every man, woman and child in California, or the special effects budget for a single Peter Jackson film - is "75 per cent higher than earlier estimates", Reuters notes. These blockbusting stats were put together by LEK Consulting LLC during an 18-month, $3m study conducted in 28 countries. Suspicious readers may already have already guessed that it was commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of America. The main culprit in reducing Hollywood to miserable penury is apparently Mexico - "the world's largest market for pirated US films" - representing "$483m in lost revenue in 2005". ®
Lester Haines, 03 May 2006
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Open source needs charitable help

BriefBrief The National Computing Centre, which has been commissioned by the Home Office to promote the use of open source software in charity and community organisations, has opened a survey into the use of software in the sector. If you are a voluntary or community organisation, or an IT supplier to tone, put your tuppeny's in here. ®
Mark Ballard, 03 May 2006

Oracle taking BI seriously

CommentComment What would happen if the people with one of the best databases for business intelligence were to add tools and applications of a similar class? Well, we shall soon find out, because after the acquisition of Siebel, Oracle have started to merge their product lines, and the resultant solution set is very exciting.
David Norris, 03 May 2006

BT gets tough over broadband usage limits

BT is tightening up rules governing usage limits for its retail broadband service. From this month, punters who exceed their monthly usage limits are to be emailed about upgrading their packages. Subscribers of BT's Option 4 package - which costs £29.99 a month and includes a 40 gig limit - will also be warned about their usage. Customers who consistently breach BT's download limits (BT Broadband Option 1 costs £17.99 a month and comes with a 2 gig limit, Option 2 is £22.99 and 6 gig, Option 3 is £26.99 and 20 gig) can expect to be charged £1 for each additional gig used. An insider told El Reg that the changes were being made to help claw back the additional charges BT is forced to pay out by users who exceed their usage limits. In March, BT began pulling the plug on around 4,000 of its broadband punters because of "excessive usage". The giant telco said these punters - who make up less than 0.2 per cent of the firm's 2.3m broadband users - were consistently hoovering up more than 100 gig each a month. These "exceptionally heavy users" were in "consistent breach of BT's fair usage policy and have failed to respond to requests to contact BT to discuss the matter", the telco said. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 May 2006

UMD format's outlook 'bleak', warns analyst

US market watcher NPD has described the outlook for Sony's PlayStation Portable-friendly UMD format as "bleak". PSP users are not opposed to the disc format, but they're finding the range of available content limited and the price uncompetitive, the researcher said this week.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

Murdoch wants teenagers'...

Teenagers should beware of Murdoch-owned website MySpace.com snatching their digital identities, child campaigners have warned. Freechildsafeweb.com, which lobbies for the safe use of MySpace, said small print in the new terms and conditions, introduced since the acquisition of MySpace by News Corporation last year, could mean that careless content posted by teenagers could come back to haunt them later in life. "If you post risqué images as a teen and later move into professional life, these images along with any comments, journals and conversations can be sold to the press and there is nothing you can do. It is worth remembering, the owners of Myspace.com - News Corp - are the Press," an unattributed article on Freechildsafeweb said yesterday. Approximately 68m people use MySpace as a personal exhibition space and networking club. Many of these would have originally agreed to terms and conditions, (retained by Freechildsafeweb), that give the website non-exclusive rights to use the material they display there, but only while they keep it there. "This license will terminate at the time you remove such content from the website," the old terms read. However, new terms introduced after News Corp's acquisition of MySpace, extend the website's rights over any content their users upload. They give MySpace "non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free" worldwide license and sub-licensing rights "to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute" any matter posted by its users, including "messages, text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other materials". "Content posted by you may remain on the MySpace.com servers after you have removed the content from the services, and MySpace.com retains the rights to those copies," it adds. Paul Varney of Freechildsafeweb contacted The Register by email to air his concern: "I want to bring this to the attention of the 65M+ (MySpace) users, as many I feel are perhaps not aware of these very different terms, especially band recordings, or young teens who post content that may come back to bite them in later years," he said. MySpace has caused a lot of concern for campaigners such as Freechildsafeweb for the way in which teenagers use it to socialise freely. "Would you allow your 14 year old daughter to regularly 'hang out' with older men in the evening in the park, wearing masks, her pretending to be 16, they pretending to be only 17? Getting to know the intimate thoughts and personal details of your daughter's likes and dislikes, exchanging personal information about her school, location and friends," warns Freechildsafeweb's Myspace campaign leaflet. For its part, MySpace has been trying to counter the warnings. Early last month it removed 200,000 profiles for containing risqué or hateful matter. Yesterday, veteran child safe internet worker Hemanshu Nigam joined MySpace to take care of safety, education and privacy. Nigam is the former director of child safe computing at Microsoft. He also fought as a prosecutor in child pornography, predator, trafficking and crime cases at the US Department of Justice and was a White House advisor on cyberstalking. MySpace was unavailable for comment. Bootnote: Murdoch has since freed the children. Updated terms that are dated 1 May remove the right for the web site to keep matter published by its users for as long as they like, doing with it what they like. The terms now include a reference that will remove MySpace's right to the content when the user pulls their matter from the site, which should leave teenagers free to make a complete embarrassment of themselves today, delete the evidence and forget all about it when they grow up - unless anyone has archived their bloopers. MySpace was checking out the terms at the time of writing, but their vice president of marketing said they were constantly working to protect the privacy of their users.®
Mark Ballard, 03 May 2006

Street scum-busting lamppost spotted in London

Back in March last year we carried a chilling report into the Q Star FlashCam-530 shouting lamppost "currently being deployed across the nation". The US-developed FlashCam is designed to issue verbal warnings to street ne'er-do-wells, miscreants and scalliwags, thereby cutting outdoor mischief to zero overnight. That's the theory, but we haven't heard sight nor sound of the FlashCam since, and, as any Londoner knows, the mean streets have not yet been successfully purged of the prostitutes who were the principal target of the device.* Thanks, then, to reader Dave Dodd for the following: I thought this sinister reminder of the dark days in which we live might be of interest. I took this photo of some unusual street furniture yesterday near Cannon Street station in the City of London. The device appears to be quite similar to a lamp post, in that it's a post, but in place of a lamp there appears to be the mounting for a yet to be installed CCTV camera. Most telling however is the cluster of 'tannoy' style loudspeaker-horns half way up the pole. Just the right height for guiding a flailing mass of blood thirsty coppers to their quivering prey, or simply remote-screaming at passing citizens. Last year a section of the 'V is for Vendetta' film was shot near my flat in Camden. The set featured futuristic Nazi camera-shout-poles that looked EXACTLY like this. I've tried to find some evidence of this on the film's website but I've had no luck so far. What do you think it's for? We reckon Dave's answered his own question there - it is indeed a "futuristic Nazi camera-shout-pole", albeit missing the vital CCTV camera by which the powers that be might scan passing commuters for serious breaches of the anti-litter laws and passing strumpets for outrages against public decency. If you don't believe us, here's a pic of a fully operational shouting lamppost, complete with a pair of menacing "No Entry" sentinels, situated on Crutched Frairs at the junction of Crosswall near Fenchurch St Station. According to our informant Michael Dear, it's been operational for around six months, although he did not offer whether littering and prostitution in Crutched Friars have been brought under control as a result. This shouting lamppost deployment is most disturbing. Readers can consider themselves duly monitored. ® Bootnote *Well, you try to get your end away while some bloody lamppost is ordering you to "pull your trousers up and push off home, you dirty old man".
Lester Haines, 03 May 2006
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Linux hater/traitor turns to Windows

Internet satirist Shelley the Republican has embraced Microsoft Windows, barely 10 days since publishing a tongue-in-cheek diatribe that painted the open source community as a bunch of communist hackers. Shelley side kick Tristan wrote a weblog that asserted the free, open source operating system Linux, a rival to the omnipresent operating system sold by US behemoth Microsoft, was the product of a communist plot to overthrow American capitalism and had been gleefully exploited by terrorist-at-large Osama Bin Laden. This was from the same publisher that justified the headline, "Europe: Liberal Hell", with statistical references that included the revelation that 29 per cent of Europeans wear leather or rubber underwear, or that 25 per cent of European marriages had been "divorced as a result of leather or rubber fetishes". The Linux story created a bit of a stir in the open source community - not surprising given the lack of restraint demonstrated by your average ubergeek with too much chocolate in his gullet and caffeine in his brain. Nearly 54,000 references to the Linux article have appeared on Google in the 13 days since it was posted. Shelley was inundated with insults in reply to the article. Shelley's weblog was out of action today, but the following message was displayed: "Friends. We are currently in the process of switching our hosting to Windows. Please check back tomorrow. God bless, Shelley." Shelley had been accused by nosy techies of running the website on a Linux operating system, after publishing the original piece. "Me and Linux hosting? Never!," Shelley replied to one of nearly 500 postings to the site, most of which contained insults from open source geeks. Was Shelley a secret Linux lover, forced by vindictive propellerheads to ditch the operating system in favour of Microsoft, the obese victors of that great meritocracy, North America? Shelley, alas has been unavailable to comment. The article had claimed that open source was created by communist hackers in Europe and China, jealous of the "great American engineering", produced by "productive" organisations like Microsoft. "They hate our lead in computing technology and will stop at nothing until they have control of all of our computers," it read. Maybe the "seductive Marxist ideology" Shelley attributed to the open source movement is not that far off the mark. The community clearly takes a Stalinist approach to dissent as well. ® Bootnote: Shelley is since back online and on form. She had denied having her Web site hosted on Linux, she said, because that's what her webmaster told her. So she sacked him, as only a blue-blooded capitalist could do.
Mark Ballard, 03 May 2006
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Renegade spammer targets junk mail registry

Users of Blue Security's controversial anti-spam system have begun receiving email threats that they'll end up getting even more junk mail unless they opt-out of its network. Blue has created a "Do Not Intrude Registry" (akin to the Do Not Call Registry for telemarketing) with around 450,000 members. Participants download a small tool, called Blue Frog, which systematically floods the websites of spammers with opt-out messages. Depending on your point of view, this initiative can either be viewed as community action or vigilantism. Earlier this week, members of the Blue community received aggressive spam messages from an unknown group in an attempt to intimidate users into dropping out of Blue Security's network. Blue Security (somewhat hyperbolically) described the attempted intimidation as "spam terrorism". And, in a nice piece of spin, claims that spammers' reaction to its service validates the firm's approach. It claims six out of 10 spammers comply, or are in the process of complying, with Blue’s Registry. Even though a portion of members received the belligerent message, Blue Security is keen to play down fears that its email database has fallen into the hands of spammers. Founder and CEO of Blue Security Eran Reshef said: "Blue Security’s Do Not Intrude Registry is encrypted and individual member emails are not exposed to would-be spammers. The renegade spammer that sent today’s email is using scare tactics and outright lies to further his agenda – to stop the growth of the Blue Community. Our members are not in any jeopardy of 'exposure' as the spammers already have their addresses. That is why they joined the Blue Community – to stop spam at its source by seeking compliance with the registry." ®
John Leyden, 03 May 2006

Summer slot for Sky's broadband launch

Sky is to launch its residential broadband service this summer, the satellite TV operator said today. Despite a string of questions by analysts earlier today, Sky boss James Murdoch declined to spill the beans on Sky's plans for broadband following its £211m acquisition of local loop unbundling (LLU) operator Easynet last year. In March the firm said the Sky broadband service was due to be unveiled in the second half of 2006. Now, the timing has been narrowed to this summer with details due to be released "pretty soon". Asked to comment on Carphone Warehouse's offer of "free broadband forever" - a phone, broadband, and line rental package for £20.99 a month - Murdoch said the proposal was "aggressive...as we expected". Murdoch's refusal to be drawn on whether Sky intended to match Carphone's offer follows the latest round of industry whispers that Sky is mulling a number of pricing options, including free broadband access to premium subscribers. While today's analyst Q&A was short on detail concerning Sky's consumer broadband plans, the satellite broadcaster did reveal that it has made "good progress" in its roll-out of LLU. Sky has now installed its own kit in 259 BT exchanges. With around a dozen exchanges being unbundled each week, it plans to reach around 379 BT exchanges by the end of June. This would mean that some 7.5m (30 per cent) of UK homes would be connected to a Sky-unbundled exchange. The operator is looking to increase coverage so that 70 per cent of UK homes can access its broadband service by the end of 2007. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 May 2006

Nokia ships E61 'BlackBerry beater'

Nokia's would-be antidote to Research in Motion's BlackBerry, the E61 smart phone, has started to ship, the handset giant said today. Initial units went out late last week, the company admitted, as it begins to ramp up global shipments.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006
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LinuxWorld Expo in Windows Server shocker

Linux jockeys: prepare your world to be rocked to the very foundation of discarded pizza boxes and crumpled tissues on which it rests. No, the news is not that Perving Jedi has closed his Natalie Portman nip-slip website, but rather that LinuxWorld 2006 Conference & Expo is batting for the other side - and when we say the other side, we mean the forces of galactic darkness operating from their base in Redmond, USA: http://www.linuxworldexpo.co.uk was running Microsoft-IIS on Windows Server 2003 when last queried at 3-May-2006. Yes indeed, reader "Styles" tipped us off as to this outrage, and Netcraft kindly supplied the above verification. LinuxWorld Conference & Expo 2006 is due to wow the UK-based open source community on 25-26 October. The programme is as yet unpublished but will doubtless feature a guest appearance by Bill "Great Satan" Gates giving forth on the technological and humanitarian benefits of running Windows Server and why open source will eventually drive humanity to mass extinction. Book now to avoid disappointment. ®
Lester Haines, 03 May 2006

LG pours Chocolate into Europe

South Korea's LG today brought its KG800 phone - informally dubbed 'Chocolate' - to Europe in the hope the slimline slider handset will experience the same success here as it has back home.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

RIM re-targets SMEs with free server software

Research in Motion (RIM) is offering a free copy of its BlackBerry server software in the hope of persuading more small businesses to buy into its push email service, long perceived as a big-business offering.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

SanDisk Sansa c150 2GB MP3 player

UK ExclusiveUK Exclusive Everyone wants to be the 'iPod beater'. SanDisk is one of the latest to try its hand, and its introduction of Sansa-branded players last year brought it some success at the low-end of the market. Suitably encouraged, it's launched the Sansa c150, its first MP3 player with a colour screen and the ability to give the competition a run for its money...
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 03 May 2006

Industry and academia line up to bash ID cards

The Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has heard a 2009 roll-out for ID cards is unlikely. The comments came from London School of Economics (LSE) panelist Dr Edgar Whitley, one of the group behind the highly contentious report that put the upper limit on the scheme's cost at £19bn. Whitley's doubts on the 2009 target were echoed by National Physical Laboratory biometrics chief Dr Tony Mansfield and UCL professor Angela Sasse. Whitley added he could still see no possibility that the Home Office's figure of £584m annually is feasible. The four-strong panel of industry reps, who were quizzed by the Committee prior to the academics, was that much work still needs to be done on the specifications for the IT backbone of the scheme. The lack of consideration of online uses was a big oversight so far, they said. Technology consultant and sometime Guardian contributor Dave Birch forwarded the view: "It may be that this system will fail completely and have to be reintroduced in 10 years." Oddly, he later said he thought this risk was "tolerable". Industry reps and academics agreed that comparisons with existing ID schemes in other countries were of limited value. Microsoft's Jerry Fishenden said tangible reductions in identity fraud have not been measured. The societal impacts of government interventions vary hugely, said Sasse later. The professor pointed out that, by their nature, studies of existing schemes have no controls; failures of the system cannot be properly assessed because they go undetected. She added the Home Office's rubbishing of the LSE report was "astonishing". The cross-party evidence session forms part of an inquiry into scientific advice to government. The consensus seemed to be the debate on ID cards has been "open but ill-informed". ®
Christopher Williams, 03 May 2006
homeless man with sign

Hackers libel Canadian PM on train signs

Bewildered Toronto train passengers were left scratching their heads after a hacker altered advertising signs to announce that Stephen Harper, the country's prime minister, "eats babies". An unidentified ne'er-do-well broke into systems controlling electronic signs on Toronto's westbound Lakeshore GO Transit train to substitute transport updates for banners mocking the Canadian political leader. Scrolling LED signs on several trains repeated the message "Stephen Harper Eats Babies" every three seconds during the duration of the attack, which took place on Thursday and Friday last week as well as Monday 1 May. Some commuters, unsurprisingly, thought they were hallucinating. Gerry Nicholls, vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative think-tank formerly headed by Harper, told the Toronto Star: "You go home and you are trying to rest from work and all of a sudden where they usually talk about Ticketmaster, all of a sudden you see this thing say 'Stephen Harper Eats Babies'. I wasn't even sure when I got off the train. Was I hallucinating?" "No one (in the car) seemed to be reacting to it," he added. Security specialists told the Toronto Star that the attack was probably carried out by a remote control device that can be used to program scrolling electronic signs. The kit can be bought over the counter at electronic hobby stores, such as Sam's Club. Transport chiefs have promised to step up security in order to prevent copycat digital graffiti attacks. They plan to password protect 790 digital signs to prevent tampering, using specialist software shipped from the US. "We regret it happened and we're sorry if anybody was offended, including the prime minister," GO Transit spokesperson Ed Shea said. A spokesman for the prime minister categorised the attack as "inappropriate and disrespectful". ®
John Leyden, 03 May 2006
channel

All quiet on the malware front

The volume of virus-ladened emails dropped to a record low last month, according to email security firm BlackSpider Technologies. It reports that virus contaminated emails accounted for just 0.79 per cent of inbound emails during April 2006. In December 2005 the number of virus-infected emails reached 3.93 per cent of all emails, a record high. BlackSpider cautions, however, that the drop in email viruses it has witnessed is more likely to be a sign of changed tactics by cybercriminals than evidence that net security threats as a whole are on the wane. The number of phishing emails seen by BlackSpider in April rose by more than a third (35 per cent) on March’s figure. James Kay, CTO, BlackSpider Technologies, said: "Malware writers are giving with one hand but taking with the other – yes, the drop in virus emails is encouraging, but a surge in phishing emails shows they are simply making their attacks more targeted." ®
John Leyden, 03 May 2006

Colt happy with paying top whack for spectrum

Colt has denied it paid over the odds for a spectrum licence that enables the development of private GSM mobile phone networks in office buildings or campuses. Details of the 1781.7-1785MHz paired with 1876.7-1880MHz spectrum auction were released today as regulator Ofcom confirmed that the 12 licences which have been awarded raised £3.8m. But while Spring Mobil AB and Cable & Wireless (C&W) paid just over £50,000 each for their licences, Colt Mobile Telecommunications paid more than £1.5 million to get its hands on the spectrum - £500,000 more than second highest bidder Teleware plc. Other notable winners in the auction include BT, which stumped up £275,112, O2 which paid £209,888 and Carphone Warehouse-owned Opal Telecom Ltd, which bid £155,555. Asked whether Colt has got its sums wrong, a spokeswoman for the telco told El Reg: "We're very pleased to have won the licence. "We are comfortable with what we paid," she said, pointing out that two bidders - Orange and Zynetix - missed out because they only bid £50,000. For its part C&W has been quick to announce that it plans to use the licence to offer converged fixed mobile services to its corporate customers that could chop up to 30 per cent off mobile bills. Revelling in the news that C&W's spectrum bid was "achieved at a competitive rate", C&W bigwig David Ellis said: "Our bid price was based on common sense. We'll be investing the money we saved on the licence in delivering a superior service to our customers." ®
Team Register, 03 May 2006

MacBook owners plan mass whine about whining laptops

A loose affiliation of MacBook Pro owners who together might be called the Apple Noise Abatement Society is calling on fellow users to join them in a worldwide day of action to protest at what they maintain is Apple's unwillingness to solve the noisy notebook issue.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006
channel

X marks the bug

Security researchers have discovered a critical vulnerability in the X Window system used in Unix and Linux systems. The buffer overflow vulnerability creates a means for hackers to seize root access to vulnerable systems or launch denial of service attacks. So it's just as well that patches are available. The flaw stems from programming errors within the XRender extension triangle handling code connected with a missing parentheses. "This can be exploited by a client that is authorised to connect to the X server to cause a buffer overflow," security notification firm Secunia explains. The error was unearthed using an automated code-scanning tool during an open-source security audit conducted by security firm Coverity and paid for by the US Department of Homeland Security. The vulnerability reportedly affects X11R6.8.x, X11R6.9.0, and X11R7.0 (xorg-server 1.0.x). More info and details of available patches can be found in Secunia's advisory here. ®
John Leyden, 03 May 2006
Broken CD with wrench

Texas wants rich geeks, while AMD will settle for the poor

WCITWCIT The World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) kicked off today in Austin with a pair of diverging pleas. Texas Governor Rick Perry made his pitch to big business, while AMD CEO Hector Ruiz hawked his gear to the poor. Speaking to IT leaders from around the globe, Perry delivered exactly the type of speech you might expect. It was a passionate – sometimes rambling – tribute to Texas and its unadulterated love for technology. After covering all the basic Texas clichés, Perry reminded the WCIT crowd time and again that he runs a grand and business-friendly state. "(You're) the researchers, inventors and business leaders laying the groundwork for the next wave of the information technology revolution," Perry said. "I have always had a great deal of respect for you. As we would say, 'Howdy, and welcome to Texas.'" Perry added later that, "There is no better place on the face of the Earth to run an IT business than Texas." This spiel fit in well with the WCIT agenda. While rather small in overall attendance, the event managed to pull in some of the biggest names in technology, including the likes of Microsoft' Steve Ballmer, Intel's Paul Otellini, and Dell's Michael Dell. In addition, delegates come from myriad countries to hear speeches covering topics such as the digital divide, regional policies around IT businesses and the item du jour - "green computing." Texas has always been able to boast about cheap land, low taxes and good weather, and Perry hit on all of these points. In addition, he said the state is working to fund university research efforts and to set up clusters of like-minded technology companies that can help each other out. Silicon Valley has long used a similar model, dating back to the Stanford Research Park built in the 1950s to host businesses near the university. There was nothing exceptional about Perry's presentation unless you count the odd moment where he confessed to a "Blackberry addiction" and noted that he sometimes has trouble paying attention to people because of his obsession with the device. "To anyone who I have offended by doing that before, I sincerely apologize," he said. AMD's Chief Ruiz followed the governor, which isn't surprising given that AMD is the lead sponsor of the WCIT. Ruiz pushed AMD's PIC (Personal Internet Communicator) device hard. The product runs on a low-end Geode processor and has a ruggedized case to make it both cost-effective and sturdy. AMD has been pushing the PIC as a cheap PC for developing countries. All of the WCIT delegates were given PICs, which seemed odd since most of the attendees have multiple computers already. In addition, AMD handed out the version of the PIC with a dial-up port instead of the Ethernet-ready version. This prompted us to ask Ruiz if WCIT attendees weren't getting the dregs of an unpopular device. "We hope (the WCIT people) give them away," Ruiz said, never addressing the glut issue directly. AMD plans to release a second take on the PIC product this year, Ruiz said, adding that there are third, fourth and fifth generation designs in the works as well. Overall, the PIC has a nice, compact design, although we're not going to acquire a dial-up account or likely even a dongle in order to prick the thing with Ethernet. So, it just might make its way to a more deserving soul. AMD hopes to turn the PIC into a real business, but isn't quite sure how long that will take. "It is difficult to say, 'We are going to start seeing a payoff in the next quarter or two,'" Ruiz said. AMD, like vendors such as Sun Microsystems, HP and IBM, have been beating on the "green computing" drum of late as well, although we continue to wonder how authentic the pitch is. Opteron, for example, does consume much less power than Intel's current versions of Xeon, but it's not like either of the server chips do a great deal to help out the environment. We're talking about plastic-wrapped, toxin-filled metal boxes that chew through energy. "The difference is dramatic," Ruiz said. "This is not marketing." "(The servers) still consume a ton of energy, but half a ton of energy is a lot of savings." Away from these specifics, Perry and Ruiz used the WCIT stage to make the usual, general promises about technology saving the world. Perry said that technology gives us "hope for all mankind." Then Ruiz added his bit. "The world is looking to us to help combat its problems," he said. "It is time for the IT industry to help raise the bar on what it can accomplish." ®
Ashlee Vance, 03 May 2006
cloud

Sun illuminates new storage strategy

Sun has promised the world simple management of unlimited piles of data. It says its ZFS 128-bit file system, unleashed as part of a spray of storage announcements from the firm, is capable of storing 16bn times more data than current platforms. The news blitz represents the first harvest from Sun's annexing of StorageTek last year. New products abound including a network-attached storage setup based on AMD's Opteron 252 processor, which it says can be installed or upgraded in just 15 minutes. A brace of new virtual tape products – the System 5 for medium to large mainframes and System 4e for smaller enterprises - up capacity and reduce costs, in part by cutting down on data centre footprint and cooling, Sun says. The software range gets a boost with new versions of Virtual Storage Manager and Enterprise Storage Manager. Sun's stated aim “virtualise everything”, is epitomised in storage by its new management service: “Sun Managed Options for Storage”. It'll offer existing Sun customers more flexibility in combining disk and tape, apparently. Executive VP Mark Canepa claimed: “Sun is setting a course to change the way customers and the industry look at data, from building-in identity management and security to enabling a world in which self-aware applications can discover data wherever it is in its lifecycle.” We'd all better hope Sun knows what it's doing. It says 37 per cent of all the data in the world is now stored on its systems.®
Christopher Williams, 03 May 2006

AMD quad-core Opterons to gain L3 cache in 2008?

RoadmapRoadmap AMD is scheduled to launch quad-core Opteron processors capable of supporting Fully Buffered DIMM memory and sporting an extra level of cache shared by each of the fourt cores, it has been claimed in a roadmap-revealing report online.
Tony Smith, 03 May 2006

Skype to enable 100-way confusion

VoIP fans can download a beta of Skype 2.5 from the firm’s website as of today, though there is no word on when the final version will ship. Improved conference calling is one of the features being highlighted in Skype 2.5, with speakers’ pictures being flashed up when they talk. That might come in handy if you’re a little forgetful during conference calls. A range of other features in the new Beta also seem to be targeted at the absent-minded, for example, country codes comes in a drop down menu, so you don’t have to remember pesky add-on numbers yourself. Updates are now automatic. Payment is now built-in, so you won’t forget to pay. Those punters who don’t need to be spoon-fed will be able to send SMS messages to any mobile in the world, and can adjust their calling and internet settings to optimise call quality. Meanwhile, the eBay-owned VoIP house has also announced Skypecasts, which it describes as “live, moderated conversations allowing groups of up to 100 people from anywhere in the world to talk to one another.” These could be about shared interests, such as, say, an auction? Skypecasts will be free to participate in and host.®
Team Register, 03 May 2006
channel

ADIC buy helps Quantum leap into enterprise

Quantum has set its heart on cracking the enterprise market and is coughing up $770m to buy rival storage vendor Advanced Digital Information Corp. Quantum is banking on the deal to massively expands its sales force and channel operation, particularly in the enterprise market where ADIC typically plays. Quantum said it would be building on ADIC’s StorNext datamanagement software. The buyer also reckons combining the two firm’s technology will allow it to rack up its investment in high growth areas. If Quantum’s numbers are right, the deal should deliver savings of $45m in its first year of combined operations, and add up to 15 cents per share to earnings. That should put a smile on Quantum chairman and CEO Rick Belluzzo’s face – and Belluzzo will be doing the same job at the combined company. Belluzzo’s company could do with something to smile about. The deal was announced the same day Quantum reported fourth quarter sales were down 14 per cent to $206m with losses of $23m.®
Team Register, 03 May 2006
channel

IT: – Still the Black Hole of the Balance Sheet?

IT: – Still the Black Hole of the Balance Sheet?” was the title of an interesting media roundtable organised by Managed Objects.
David Norfolk, 03 May 2006

Cray places order for Opteron Helper

Cray has turned to a small start-up for possible help with its grand plan to win a multi-million dollar contract from the US government. Cray this week announced that it will use a specialized coprocessor from DRC to slot into its Opteron-based systems. The DRC product – an FPGA (field programmable gate array) module – will allow Cray's supercomputers to churn through specific workloads such as algorithms and subroutines at a much quicker pace than standard Opteron chips alone. Cray plans to use FPGA-ready servers as one piece of its "Cascade" project that is competing with rival projects from Sun Microsystems and IBM for a piece of a $200m DARPA contract. Cray has been going the FPGA route for quite awhile, and, in fact, purchased OctigaBay in 2004 to boost these efforts. The OctigaBay gear was turned into the XD1 systems, which can have up to 144 Opteron chips. Each XD1 chassis can currently hold up to six Xilinx Virtex-4 FPGAs. Now, however, customers will use the DRC FPGA modules in Cray's future Cascade gear. DRC has separated itself from other companies by creating a module that plugs right into Opteron sockets. We wrote about the DRC product last month in detail. Cray expects the DRC product to plug into its SeaStar interconnect. "Interfacing FPGAs directly into Cray's interconnect allows multiple system processors to interact with multiple FPGAs in any ratio the customer may require," said Jan Silverman, an SVP at Cray. Cray must like what it sees in the "industry standard" sort of approach presented by DRC. The start-up only employs about 13 people at the moment, although it's looking to bulk up staff due to heightened recent interest in its gear. Cray declined to comment on the financial terms behind the DRC deal or whether or not it made an investment in the company. ®
Ashlee Vance, 03 May 2006

Ballmer impressed by Intel's new laptop for the poor

WCITWCIT The weird battle to provide PCs to the underprivileged continues to hot up with Intel today announcing a new type of kiddie laptop due out in 2007. The Eduwise notebook made its grand entrance here at the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) with Intel CEO Paul Otellini unveiling the product. The laptop has a Trapper Keeper-like look to its outside with faux leather wrapping around a cute handle and around the body of the machine. All told, the laptop is about the size of most of today's smaller notebooks. It boasts a playful silver and pastel color scheme as well.
Ashlee Vance, 03 May 2006

Tom Arnold - MSN's secret weapon against Google

Last week Microsoft alarmed investors by saying it would spend $2bn more than expected to take on web rivals including Google. The overspend led Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund to ask Microsoft's chief financial officer Chris Liddell whether Microsoft is building a secret weapon, a Google or a Yahoo!, inside the company. Liddell denied this. Six days later, though, we can reveal the name of that $2bn secret weapon: Tom Arnold. The New York Times reports Microsoft has signed a one-year, "multi-million dollar" deal to produce a series of ten Web TV pilot shows called MSN Originals for the loss-making MSN. (Liddell clearly wasn't joking when he told Wall St Microsoft's investments in new areas "do add up.") America's bullish Mr Funny is close to signing on the dotted line in one particular MSN Original, as a "lovably flawed pilot for a commuter airline", in a show billed as The Office meets Reno 911 meets Airplane. MSN Originals are being steered by Ben Silverman, producer of The Office and The Biggest Loser on US network NBC, and the man who helped bring reality TV to American audiences. Microsoft appears to have put the failure of past MSN TV shows behind it. The company spent $100m on a web show called 475 Madison, described as a "dark comedy" about a New York ad agency, and on Project: Watchfire, a "serious" look at UFOs, during 1996 and 1997, when it viewed the internet as a garden it could put fences around and charge people to enter. Ahh, the early days of MSN. The NYT article notes: "In November 1996, when MSN announced its transition from a proprietary service to a Web supersite, it unveiled a lineup of more than two dozen shows for what its executives - borrowing from the language of television - called a new season. In the ensuing months it found itself mimicking another tradition of the television business when it canceled almost all of the shows. Within a few years Microsoft had dumped nearly all of the original entertainment programming for more practical, utilitarian services." Gayle Toberman, director of branded entertainment and experiences for MSN, reportedly speculated Microsoft had "invested too much too quickly in content" when neither the broadband connections were available or audiences exited. We'd argue that the audiences still don't exist - not for the proposed MSN content, at least. Microsoft would be better advised to spend its money forging deals with the networks to bring existing hit shows to MSN - content like The Office (ironically) that people are paying Apple to watch - rather than trying to herd people towards its own brand of unproven content. That would leave Microsoft to focus on its core business - building client and server software - and means turning MSN into a content middleman, not a producer, like any respectable, over the air download service.®
Gavin Clarke, 03 May 2006