Many people think that presentation skills come naturally. For some lucky people this is true, but for the rest of us mere mortals presenting is a daunting minefield of rights and wrongs. To help us out with our lack of natural talent, the guys down at Microsoft UK organised for us to take part in a two day speaker training session organised by Melita Walton and delivered by Alan Elston of leading edge presentations.
Borland Software has provided greater detail on where it expects the majority of its recently announced job cuts to fall, while announcing preliminary results for its first quarter. The tools company, trying to re-position itself purely as a provider of application lifecycle management (ALM) software, said most of the 300 jobs cuts announced last week would be felt outside the US, in the 29 other countries in which it operates. Chief executive Todd Nielsen told Wall Street analysts Borland is unable to afford the direct sales model required to push ALM under its current structure, and Borland would instead rely on a mix of channel and partners. He claimed Borland already has partnerships in place so the cuts, executed over the next few months, won't impact revenue. Borland's chief executive said the cuts and a restructuring would result in a "focused, tight and efficient company targeting the enterprise." Executives will meet next month to assess opportunities in new markets and vertical sectors. Also going, although it's not clear when, will be some 180 employees from Borland's 20-year-old tools business, which Borland said earlier this year it hoped to spin out. Borland claimed the spin out was "progressing quite well" having received a large amount of initial interest with a "number" of parties are engaged in due diligence. Meanwhile, Nielsen announced revenue for the company's quarter to March 31 in excess of $69m and a reduced loss compared to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2005. He recommitted Borland to hit profitability during the fourth quarter of 2006.®
Like a well-travelled jellyfish, Google is now more transparent and international. So a cavalcade of Google executives tried to convince reporters from all around the globe during an event held today at the Google Playground in Mountain View. The hacks arrived early in the morning, were shuttled from a nearby parking lot to the Google headquarters and served coffee from French Presses. Close to the main auditorium, hired actors played beach volleyball, while hairless adolescents made their way into the office for a hard day's work putting text ads on web pages. We were lucky to make the Google Press Day given that our invitation arrived about 20 hours before the event started. Other reporters had weeks to prepare for the grueling news extravaganza, but then they write nicer stories. No matter. Google is all about openness now, and so our invitation did eventually arrive. "The goal of my team is greater transparency," said Elliot Schrage, Google's VP of communications, when welcoming the reporters. Google has decided to be "more open about what we are doing, and what we aren't." Don't think for a minute that the new culture of openness means that Google will provide details on how its technology works, more refined breakdowns of its money makers or real insight into future products and ambitions. No, the culture of openness is simply a means of helping troubled journalists "cover us more accurately and completely," Schrage said. It always warms the heart when a company offers to help you do your job better in this fashion. It would seem that Google has finally put the press corps into "beta," and we couldn't be happier about it. Along with the openness theme, Google executives pushed the international angle of the company's business. This entails more localized services and more overseas employees. It's not a terribly interesting topic, but Google decided to pursue it anyway. We won't. On the product front, Google didn't show a heck of a lot. One executive demonstrated Google Notebook, which allows Google Desktop users to make little notes while they surf the web. You could, for example, keep track of interesting sites you've find while looking for a certain product and save the links, make notes about the sites and save photos for later review. You can also open up your notes to friends via a sharing function. Google also showed off its version of widgets called Google Gadgets. The most compelling new product was Google Trends, which is just a handy way to compare the popularity of certain search terms based on location and periodic spikes in traffic. You can check it out here. Back to the openness front, Google did make a stride toward transparency during a lengthy question and answer session. CEO Eric Schmidt and his boy toys Larry Page and Sergey Brin fielded plenty of questions from reporters at the Google Playpen and from online interrogators. Brin kicked off the session in style by going right after Microsoft after being asked why Google has concerns about Internet Explorer defaulting to the MSN search engine. Google always yammers on about the best products winning out in the end, so why does it care what Microsoft does? "We just certainly see the history with that particular company - Microsoft - being anti-competitive being a convicted monopoly and not necessarily playing fair," Brin said. "So I think we want to focus early on to make sure that we are looking at areas where power can be abused." Page added that he happily supports the Quaero European search engine. So, competition is okay across the pond. One question that kept creeping up was how Google would improve its non-search services. A couple of reporters noted that search is Google's only stable service and that other services are often flakey and not well-baked. "Well, I guess we think a lot of (the products) are great but not perfect," Brin said. "You know, we probably abused the word beta." Brin noted that Google Labs was originally meant to be a testing zone but has since received too much attention for it to serve as a true beta ground for fledgling products. "We don't have an appropriate venue," he said. "I think we need to communicate better the things that we actually expect to do well and the things that are really just where you guys are guinea pigs." The Google executives overall urged the press to avoid comparing the company with Microsoft, saying such talk makes little sense. Google does not try to mimic Microsoft by spending millions on areas as soon as it sees a threat. The "cornerstone of (Google's) strategy is to solve new problems," Schmidt said, rather than focusing on competing in areas where other companies have already succeeded. We guess that Google's e-mail, calendar, office, widgets, maps and videos were just aberrations from that core tenet. One reporter closed out the session by asking if the Google boys have a certain "Peter Pan craving" where they long for the good, old days when they could play with their colored balls without worrying about investors or the press. Neither Page nor Brin took that gem head on. Transparency indeed. ®
UpdatedUpdated Here's a bit of fun for those of you whiling away your time at work assembling an improbably long paper clip chain: imagine you're in London's Holborn and looking for ther nearest branch of Barclay's bank tentacle Woolwich. Pretty straight forward you might think, since this sort of information is readily available online. Don't, however, ask Multimap or you could find yourself booking a flight on Virgin Galactic just to get to a cash machine: Your odyssey begins here at the "Branch and cash machine locator" page. Just select "Woolwich branch" and "London street" and type "Holborn" into the "Details" field and voila! - you just booked yourself on a 14,000+ mile wonga search mission. Now, as our correspondent Martin Richards points out, the Earth is roughly 24-25,000 miles round (the equivalent of 3.3bn Wikipedians laid head-to toe), which means if the above is the shortest distance to this particular branch, then it must be in some sort of Earth orbit. Handy for the chaps aboard the ISS, but less than useful if you're in a hurry to get to the pub. ® Update This just in from Multimap: Hi, Lester, Thanks very much for spotting a bug in the service Multimap provides for Barclays. We've now fixed that, and the service is working properly. Best regards, Audrey Mandela, Director Our pleasure. The invoice is in the post.
The prosecution of alleged Pentagon uber-hacker Gary McKinnon shows that the US is failing to take even basic precautions to protect its military systems, according to a reformed computer hacker accused of similar crimes 10 years ago. Mathew Bevan, whose hacker handle is Kuji, was accused of breaking into US military computer systems but escaped without punishment when a 1997 case at Woolwich Crown Court was dropped after a long-running legal battle. After the case, Bevan became an ethical hacker and security consultant with Tiger Computer Security, and later on a freelance basis with his firm the Kuji Media Corporation. "The internet was just starting out and in its infancy at the time of my alleged crimes. The prosecution against McKinnon, and what he says he was able to do, show that US military security has not changed. The authorities have not woken up," Bevan told El Reg. Earlier on Wednesday, a judge gave the go-ahead to the extradition of McKinnon (AKA Solo). If Home Secretary John Reid confirms the decision, which may become the subject of appeal, McKinnon faces the possibility of trial by a military tribunal and the prospect of decades in jail. McKinnon is accused of causing damage to US military and NASA systems that he allegedly conducted in search of evidence the US government was suppressing alien technology salvaged from wrecked UFOs. Bevan, like McKinnon, has an interest in free energy and evidence of UFOs. "You might say Gary was following in my footsteps and doing the same thing, albeit using different techniques. McKinnon has admitted hacking into systems in interviews. He's unfortunate because what he's done is a few years too late and in a different political climate," Bevan said. Bevan said the military systems McKinnon is accused of hacking were an open resource that were likely used by numerous hackers, some with hostile intent. "McKinnon was just snooping and what he did was not motivated by personal gain. There is no reason for his extradition. He ought to be tried in the UK. The US has labeled him as a cyberterrorist and the 'biggest military hacker ever', but this just looks like an attempt to drum up publicity for the case," he added. Daniel Cuthbert, a London-based security consultant tried over allegations that he illegally accessed the Tsunami appeal website, and subsequently convicted on what many in the security industry reckon was questionable grounds, also feels McKinnon has been harshly treated. "I do feel he is being made an example of. He screwed up and shouldn't have been in the systems at all, but at the same time the punishment he is facing just doesn't match the crime. For the amount of years he is looking at, it would have been better in the eyes of the law to be a rapist or some other type of violent criminal," Cuthbert told El Reg. "It's another example of the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] and legal system not being able to cope with the movement of technology. They are still 10 years behind and using the CMA [Computer Misuse Act] as the backbone for all technology related cases," he added. ®
Around 20 Fujitsu-Siemens staff face the chop in what the firm is calling a "repositioning" exercise. The Register's source said the jobs would go from the firm's large enterprise sales group at its Bracknell headquarters, and that they accounted for as much as 20 per cent of the department. A meeting yesterday heard that despite record profits the redundancies would still go ahead. A Fujitsu-Siemens spokesperson conceeded some UK staff were for the heave-ho, but could not confirm from what areas of the business. He said the cuts would put their operation in a better position in "an ever changing marketplace". ®
Dell has won the first round of a legal slugfest disputing close to $300m in incentives awarded to the computer maker by North Carolina. Judge Robert Hobgood of the Wake County Superior Court today tossed out a lawsuit backed by the non-profit North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law (NCICL). The organization has been supporting seven citizens' quest to deem North Carolina's lucrative Dell package unconstitutional. The judge, however, found that NCICL failed to show how the Dell deal directly hurts the interests of the North Carolina residents. "We are obviously disappointed by the ruling and anticipate filing an appeal in the case as soon as we have consulted with our clients and our Board of Directors." said Robert Orr, the executive director of NCICL. "However, we anticipated from the beginning of the litigation that the case would ultimately have to be decided at the appellate level and we look forward to presenting our arguments on the constitutionality of these acts at the next stage of the process." North Carolina enticed Dell to build a new PC manufacturing plant by giving it a wide variety of perks, including tax incentives, roads to its factory and classes at local colleges that will teach students how to fix Dell gear. The North Carolina package is pretty incredible when you consider the political leanings of Dell founder Michael Dell and CEO Kevin Rollins – both staunch Republicans – and the overall success of the company. You'd think a pair of wealthy Republicans would be the last to ask for government handouts just to run their business. It would seem the Dell Model isn't all about supply chain efficiency. Some locals certainly think it's unfair, as Dell will enjoy price breaks and other perks that could create a tilted playing field. Dell, after all, already has its massive size on its side against smaller, local IT shops. "This issue is not going away, either as a question of constitutional law or as a matter of public policy." Orr added. "All across the country and here in N.C. citizens are questioning these rapidly escalating hand-outs to the largest and wealthiest international corporations at the expense of smaller businesses and individuals who have to pick up the tax burden for those who don't pay there fair share." ®
Maybe grandma wasn't right. Experts now contend that reading in the dark probably has no long-term damaging effects on the eyes. But eyes become more tired in poor light since they have to work harder to discriminate letters, colors, and objects. So it’s a good idea to work and play in plenty of light, especially as one gets older. It's a sad fact with eyes that as one gets older, pupils get smaller. When you're older and wish to read with ease, it may take more light to illuminate the retina to the same level that it took to read with ease as a youth. Opinion is divided as to whether or not regular eye exercises can strengthen the muscles in the eyes responsible for focusing. Eye exercises, also known as vision therapy, should only be undertaken on the advice and monitoring of an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Such vision therapy is usually intended for younger patients who have undeveloped or underdeveloped visual problems that may or may not involve specific eye muscles. Some problems are perceptual in nature. The problem in middle age, when focusing on close objects becomes a strain, affects everybody at different times depending a host of factors. Some major factors include: 1. Refractive status of eyes (for example, nearsightedness (myopia) and other conditions), 2. Daily visual demands, 3. General health status and medications taken, and so on. The muscles responsible for focusing do not really change. It is the transparent lens that actually gets less malleable with age. The chemical properties of the lens of the eye change and harden the lens that prohibits the lens from bending and changing thickness as easily. Human evolution is probably to blame for this as our prehistoric ancestors probably did not depend on eyes for close work nearly as much as we do. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
I've said it before (four years ago, to be precise), and I'll say it again. Software is in the ascendant at Sun Microsystems. Last time I said it, the then up-and-coming Jonathan Schwartz had been appointed software executive vice president.
The French Senate appears to be softening plans that would have forced Apple and others offering copy-protected music downloads to open up their services so that music can be made interoperable with other music players, Associated Press reports. Apple has always refused to share its digital rights management (DRM) software, known as FairPlay. Music downloaded from Apple iTunes will only play on a computer or an Apple iPod. It will not play on a rival portable music player. Microsoft and Sony do the same with their proprietary formats. The French National Assembly approved a copyright bill in March which would make the separate systems interoperable with each other, by forcing the firms to make their DRM software available for scrutiny by competitors. The lawmakers' motive was greater competition and consumer choice. But Apple called it "state-sponsored piracy", fearing it would reduce the effectiveness of copy-protection systems and of copyright itself. Associated Press reports today that an amendment has been proposed by the Senate Cultural Affairs Committee that would allow Apple to maintain the exclusive link between iTunes and the iPod. But it appears that Apple would need to negotiate authorisation from record labels and artists to circumvent the requirement for interoperability in future downloads of their music. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
GlaxoSmithKline won an injunction last night against animal rights extremists to prevent them acting on threats to publish shareholders' personal details on the internet and to stop them further contacting or harassing its private shareholders. An animal rights extremist group had already written to shareholders of the pharmaceutical giant, demanding they sell any shares they hold in the company within two weeks. The Financial Times reports that the letters came from the Campaign Against Huntington Life Sciences. Glaxo approached the police and wrote to its shareholders to reassure them. Glaxo's letter also urged shareholders to keep the extremists' letter, together with its original envelope, in a safe place for collection by the police. "Minimise any handling of the letter and envelope and be careful not to overwrite or cause indentations," it wrote. It also offered shareholders wishing to protect their privacy the opportunity of transferring their shares, free of charge, into a nominee account. It added: "For ethical, regulatory and scientific reasons, research using animals remains a small but vital part of the research and development of new medicines and vaccines. Animals are only used where no alternative is available and our scientists constantly strive to reduce the numbers used. We aim to exceed industry standards in the care and welfare of the animals it uses." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The RAF has declared it will have its stalled human resources computer systems fully operational by the end of the week, seven weeks after it went live. But the MOD still has to determine what the problem was before it can guarantee that the Joint Personnel Administration system (JPA) can be rolled out on schedule to the Army and Navy later this year. The HR system, installed by EDS, has only been able to manage taxiing speed while engineers figure out what went wrong. Wing Commander Trevor Field, a RAF spokesman and administrator, said he was unhappy with press interest in the delay and "bored" RAF "whingers" on chat sites like the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe), which he said make things appear worse than they are. "It adds fuel to a fire that is now smouldering, and by the end of the week will be solved completely," he said. EDS and RAF staff are also trying to figure out why JPA was unable to cope with its inaugural workload, Field said. It was supposed to allow personnel to do their own "self-service" HR administration, but the system buckled with the effort of servicing them. That meant they had trouble checking their personal information to ensure the system did what it ought to on their behalf. Approximately 1,000 personnel subsequently had problems with the basic payroll, which Field said involved less than 0.2 per cent of a £1.2m payroll. In addition, 1,100 people had their flight pay missing on the first run in April. It is not known how many people encountered other payroll problems involving the many other types of RAF allowance, such as that provided for overseas work. Neither is it known how many personnel were affected by non-payroll related issues, such as problems booking leave, or correcting errors in their details in the system. The JPA should reduce the incidence of errors in the system. But until they finger the underlying problem there can be no guarantee that the introduction of the HR system into the Army and Navy will not be put back again. Army and Navy implementations of an HR computer system by EDS may face further delay after an earlier installation of the same software put a spanner in the works for the RAF. The RAF system was originally meant to go live in December. The Navy was meant to go live last month, while the Army was scheduled for October, according to targets agreed with the Treasury and 10 Downing Street in the MOD's 04-06 Partnership Agreement. The deadlines were later set, in the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency Corporate Plan for 2005-06, at August and December for the Navy and Army respectively. They slipped again, however, in February, when it was determined that the Navy would see the system working by November and the Army by March next year, a year behind schedule. Wing Commander Field could not say whether the MOD would seek compensation for the delay from EDS, despite a recent application for compensation from the supplier for MOD delays that impacted another EDS project, the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII). ®
AMD's Socket AM2 processors for desktops and its dual-core mobile Turion 64 CPUs will be announced this month after all, and not early June as previously expected. The Turion 64 X2s will be unveiled on 17 May, a week ahead of the Socket AM2 Athlons' debut on 23 May.
One in five broadband users in the US and Europe is hooked up to a wireless network in their home, prompting analysts Strategy Analytics to suggest that Wi-Fi is emerging as a "mass market phenomenon". The report found that seven per cent of all households now have a wireless network. The US is the leading market with 8.4 per cent penetration, followed by the Nordics with 7.9 per cent. In the UK penetration rates are at 6.1 per cent and 5.1 per cent in Germany. When the numbers are crunched to include just broadband users, the survey found that 20 per cent of broadband subscribers across the US and Europe now use Wi-Fi to share their internet connection between PCs and other devices. "Wi-Fi has become the preferred networking technology for affluent early adopters," analyst David Mercer said. "Rising ownership of laptop PCs and other portable internet devices will make Wi-Fi the dominant home networking choice for most broadband subscribers." ®
The extra security features in Microsoft's upcoming Vista operating system could negatively affect smaller security firms, according to a new report. The report, from the Yankee Group, suggests that as Microsoft users get a welcome security boost when the new Vista operating system is finally available, aftermarkets for anti-spyware and desktop firewall applications will be hit dramatically. However, it is not all bad news for smaller security firms, as anti-virus vendors are expected to be safe from Microsoft's new security applications. Coupled with Microsoft's record for security flaws in its software, it is likely that third-party anti-virus vendors will still be kept quite busy, as the software giant has a lot of ground to make up with consumers. "Overall, Microsoft Vista will bring spectacular improvements to the overall level of security for users, but only if Microsoft succeeds in making customers and ISVs comfortable with the new security system," Yankee Group security solutions and services program manager Andrew Jaquith said. "However, Windows security issues will continue to be a permanent fact of life for Microsoft, which means that third parties will always have a rich and robust aftermarket available to them to serve." The Yankee Group also believes that widespread adoption of the new OS won't match Microsoft's estimate of 400m desktops in 24 months. Conor Flynn from security firm Rits doesn't think security firms will be killed off by the new operating system. "There will be a certain segment affected by Microsoft's bundling," he told ENN. "But there is always a market for specialised or focused products to exist." He also pointed out that existing security firms will most likely be forced to up their game, producing better products for customers. Microsoft will also have to be careful that the new system adheres to competition rules. Microsoft has already been put on the alert by EU regulators, who will be closely watching Vista for signs of anti-competitive practices. The operating system has also been hit with a series of delays, and will now be available to consumers in 2007, missing the crucial Christmas market. Copyright © 2006, ENN
We knew that TiVo was on to something when it began the idea of opt-in, voluntary viewing of advertising two and a half years ago, when it said that 65 per cent of its audience had volunteered to watch an advert it had placed on its Digital Video Recorders, on behalf of Universal Pictures, to advertise the film Bruce Almighty. Back then Tivo had only one million subscribers, but since many of them went on to view the film, it was a surefire winner for Universal and TiVo has since been trying to bring the concept to market as a fully fledged, rounded ad concept. Now though, TiVo has 4.4m subscribers. Back in November, TiVo said it had now merged the concept with search advertising, rather like Google for a DVR. TiVo has now launched this service as Product Watch (Geddit – if you want a product, watch it on TV). There are plus and minuses to this type of advertising. Right now if someone "knows" they are "in the market" to buy a new car, they will actively seek out adverts on the internet, on the TV and in magazines about cars, and they will go to car showrooms. To a certain extent each car manufacturer should expect that this type of buyer will examine its proposition and decide if they want to be their brand of car. Often advertisers would rather reach people that don't yet realise they are "in the market"and then can guide them onto an advert on impulse and be the "only brand considered". This is especially true for say job advertisers, that always say they are looking for someone that doesn't know that he or she wants a new job. The people that are already aware they are about to move have already put their CV out to everyone. But in a way, search advertising that sits on a DVR attracts both "in the market" and "not in the market" viewers. Some just want to dream about a new car, and opt to view the car ads, even if they can't afford one, and others are genuinely seeking guidance on which one to buy. The new TiVo service then delivers long form advertising between one minute and up to an hour, always under the control of the viewer, broken into five sub-markets - automotive, entertainment, financial, lifestyles, and travel and leisure. TiVo Product Watch launches with relevant advertising content from more than 70 advertisers, supporting over 100 leading brands. The idea is that TiVo subscribers can search, and the selected videos that meet the criteria of the search, will be moved to the Now Playing section of the TiVo service. TiVo viewers can also search based on their favorite brands and even subscribe to a brand and opt-in to receive video content directly from that company on an ongoing basis. Although TiVo has only announced this for TiVo customers, TiVo is also under contract to build new advertising formats around the DVR for Comcast over the next year or so, and these capabilities are likely to be retrofitted to each of the Motorola and Scientific Atlanta set tops that Comcast has out there which have DVR capability and which can be upgraded via software. TiVo is also contracted to share its ideas on advertising with DirecTV. Most advertising that runs on cable is sold by the cable operator's suppliers, the cable networks, but here the cable operator could suddenly take on delivery of a whole new source of advertising, which would not relate to any specific piece of programming. The revenue would be additional to what it gets from in-program advertising. If TiVo has negotiated continuing licenses to this technology, or better still a percentage of revenue for using it, it could shortly have this rolled out across most DVRs in the US, some 40 per cent of pay TV homes by 2010. And assuming that TiVo is patenting each idea as it goes, there could be a windfall down the road, when these patents are licensed to the big consumer electronics companies overseas, as in many case, the original DVR patents were licensed. At launch, General Motors, Sony Pictures, Lending Tree and Kraft Foods will be included as the premium advertisers for their respective advertising search categories. Examples of content range from cooking demonstrations from Kraft Foods, to understanding the impact of different types of mortgages from Lending Tree, to behind the scenes movie trailers from Sony Pictures, and new automotive features and options from General Motors. Starcom MediaVest Group, MindShare, Cmedia, BrightLine Partners, Interpublic Group, OMD, and The Richards Group all partnered with TiVo to help recruit advertisers and develop pricing. These agencies, along with Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, provided advice concerning the product and its pricing model, which will be based on a cost per advert downloaded, plus an initial set-up fee to put the video adverts into the network. This week the Wall Street Journal also said that TiVo had partnered with online video technology service Brightcove, which will enable TiVo users to download videos from the internet and watch them on their TV set by June. Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Hitachi has brought back the look of its original dry-cell alkaline AM2 battery after more than 40 years to celebrate its introduction of the technology in 1963, the year of the Kennedy assassination and the debut of Doctor Who. Its 'core' is set to operate at 1.5V.
Microsoft and various divisions of News Corp made another major move this week to dominate gaming, with the announcement of a professional gaming league that will make cultural icons, rather like today's skateboarding, wrestling or basketball players from video game players. News Corp will aim the big guns of DirecTV, IGN Entertainment and Fox Interactive Media at the project, which is likely to glorify Microsoft Xbox games above the soon to be launched Sony PS3. Sponsor, Mountain Dew, and retailer Best Buy will add their weight to launch the Championship Gaming Series during 2007. The tournaments – three a year - will be broadcast in a kind of reality TV show, something that Fox is brilliant at, over the DirecTV satellite TV service, giving it yet more exclusive "sports" content. With the weight of promotion these companies can bring, the Championship Gaming Series could potentially grow into a full TV channel and immediately wipe out the exiting professional gaming leagues, Cyberathlete Professional League, Global Gaming League, Major League Gaming and Video Gamers League. The televised games will feature one on one league play, using technology that will take viewers inside the actual game competitions. This will likely take the form of a video representation of play characters and might begin the creation of a platform that could be used to show games over the Xbox Live service. The statement said that through broadcast and online media, the CGS will be available to the gaming community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round. As we have said in recent weeks, Microsoft is almost certain to use both its recent Massive acquisition and its Xbox Live network as a basis for advertising both in and around games. This married up with the News Corp owned IGN Entertainment, which reaches 35m gamers per month, will mean the show becomes a "de facto" leader overnight. Prizes will be donated by fizzy drink brand Mountain Dew, in the form of the "Dew Cup" and huge amounts of prize money. DirecTV said it will place virtual cameras within the video games themselves and allow DirecTV customers to experience video games in much the same manner as other professional sports. So if this is a "shoot 'em up", the views of the characters won't merely be those that can be seen from the screen, but also include key viewing points from around the game. The three tournaments this year will be a warm-up for the start of CGS league play in 2007, and the first of these will take place on July 21, 2006. This week at US gaming show E3 Microsoft, chairman Bill Gates announced Live Anywhere, which allows video gamers to play games with each other whether they're on Windows Vista computers, Xbox 360, game machines, or even mobile phones. Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
UpdatedUpdated Sony and Matsushita today launched a would-be standard for HD camcorders that used DVDs as their storage media. The two companies said they would promote the AVCHD specification on their own products - Matsushita doing so through its Panasonic brand - and encourage other camcorder vendors to do the same.
Piracy fighters at the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) have trained a pair of dogs to locate DVDs. As part of a project promoted by the Motion Picture Ass. of America, FACT instigated the training of two black Labradors named Lucky and Flo. After eight months, the two canines were trained to identify DVDs among other items of cargo. Lucky and Flo were put to put to the test at FedEx’s UK hub at Stansted Airport where they were successful in identifying packages and parcels containing DVDs. Customs officers who opened these packages discovered that all were legitimate shipments. Sniffer dogs can normally be trained only to detect one illicit item, normally either explosive substances or drugs. You might be forgiven for thinking that the effort spent in teaching Lucky and Flo to detect DVDs would have been better spent elsewhere, especially when you consider that fake DVDs smell no different from legitimate items. Despite the dogs' failure to find any knock-off goods, FACT is acclaiming the initiative as a great success. "This is the first time dogs have been used anywhere in the world to search for counterfeit DVDs and the results were amazing", gushed FACT director general Raymond Leinster. "With the cooperation and assistance of FedEx and Customs we were able to properly test the dogs in a real life situation and prove that they can work in a busy airport environment." Mary Callahan, director optical disc operations, worldwide anti-piracy at the MPAA, added: "Lucky and Flo’s immediate success in locating DVDs in transit offers us a new and highly effective means of detection for counterfeit discs." FACT's announcement of its initiative can be found here. ®
A gamma-ray burst (GRB) in our galactic neighbourhood could decimate life, destroy the ozone layer and trigger drastic climate change. A new study of Hubble data, published in Nature, has found such a cosmic deathray scenario is less likely than previous doomsday predictions. The radiation the international team investigated comes with some of the biggest star explosions in the universe – long GRBs, which occur when a core-collapse supernova triggers an even more violent explosion. Supernovae occur all over the universe and throughout galaxies. The researchers were testing the assumption that the galaxies with most supernovae would suffer the most GRBs. Instead, they found that long GRBs tend to originate from the runts of the cosmic litter – small, faint, irregularly shaped galaxies (pictured below; crosshairs indicate locations of GRBs). Our own Milky Way is a regular spiral, so GRB armageddon from a nearby star death is unlikely, they reckon. Out of 42 GRBs measured, the astronomers found just one in a Milky Way-like spiral. Lead author Andrew Fruchter of the Space Telescope Science Institute said: “[GRBs] occurrence in small irregulars implies that only stars that lack heavy chemical elements tend to produce long-duration GRBs.” Heavy elements are themselves produced in supernovae and have built up in the universe over time. The implication is that long GRBs are getting less common in the universe generally. They also found that unlike standard supernovae, long GRBs are concentrated at their host galaxy's brightest region. Study co-author Andrew Levan explained: "The discovery that long-duration GRBs lie in the brightest regions of their host galaxies suggests that they come from the most massive stars – perhaps 20 or more times as massive as our Sun." The team concludes that GRBs are "relatively rare" in the Milky Way. ®
In briefIn brief IBM is to launch new 4Gb/s fibre channel mid-range storage kit. The announcement comes after EMC unveiled its own 4Gb/s Clariion updates on Monday. IBM says the new DS4700 Express offers SMBs front to backend 4Gb/s fibre channel support, lowering data backup, transfer, copying, and restoration costs. Storage VP Kristie Bell trilled: "The DS4700 Express hits the sweet spot for response time and performance by offering customers an outstanding, affordable midrange option." The DS4700 will be available from 9 June and is listed at $19,449. ®
We're increasingly convinced that eBay has become the online equivalent of a 19th-century dockside flash house - a dark and menacing lushery shrouded in London particular and packed to the gunwales with snide-pinching screevers, barker-bearing bludgers, tea-leaving toolers, strumpetrous dollymops and, naturally, griddling glocks. Of the latter, here's a fine example: someone trying to flog a golden ticket which might gain the bearer entry to that celebrated televisual penny gaff - the Big Brother house: We should explain at this point that the perpetrator of Big Brother - Channel 4 - has cast its net wide in the search for starstruck, emotionally-retarded, socially-inadequate TV wannabes with which to populate its human zoo by concealing Willy Wonka-style golden tickets inside chocolate bars: 100 golden tickets will be placed into KitKat four-finger single bars and Kit Kat Chunky single bars for distribution across the country. The lucky winners of these tickets, having passed the programme's prerequisite and thorough background checks, will be invited to pack their bags, say goodbye to their loved ones and head down to the Big Brother studios for a special live TV broadcast where one of the lucky ticketholders will then be chosen at random to enter the house. Yes, lucky doesn't even begin to describe it. We gather, however, that the programme's makers are worried that said golden tickets might pop up on eBay - commanding as much as £10k. Well, their concerns are well-founded, it appears. There is however, something not quite legit about this particular auction: **BIG BROTHER 7 GOLD TICKET** HERE IS YOUR UNIQUE CHANCE TO OWN A BIG BROTHER HOUSE GOLD TICKET, AND BECOME ONE OF THE CONTESTANTS IN THE BB HOUSE THIS SUMMER. BY BIDDING IN THIS AUCTION, YOU GUARENTEE YOURSELF A PLACE IN THE BIG BROTHER HOUSE IF I FIND A GOLD TICKET. THIS IS A LIFE CHANGING OPPERTUNITY YOU WILL RECIEVE A GOLD TICKET, WHICH WILL BE HAND DELIVERED BY A SPEICALLY DESIGNATED COURIER. DELIVERY CHARGES ARE INCLUDED IN THE WINNING BID That's right - the golden ticket KitKat frenzy doesn't kick off until 18 May. What you're bidding for here is the chance to secure the ticket in the event that the seller get lucky on the chocolate confectionery front. Since the promotional bars are being hawked at 40,000 retailers nationwide, you've got to say it's a long shot. Nice try, though. ® Bootnote What's a griddling glock? Come off it - you're at work. Get Googling. Thanks to ream cove Gary Cowan for nosing this fine example of fawney-dropping. A shiny alderman says it's topped within the hour.
Sony is preparing to update its NW-A1000 line of hard drive-based Walkman digital music players with an 8GB model, Reg Hardware has learned. The new version will ship with the SonicStage CP jukebox software the company announced yesterday.
Intel, Hynix, Micron, Sony and others have founded the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) working group which will develop a specification that may make it easier to incorporate Flash memory in notebooks to shorten start-up times and boost battery life.
Sony has claimed that the 20GB version of its upcoming PlayStation 3 console will offer "identical functionality" to the 60GB model. However, it remains unclear whether the lower-capacity machine will sport an HDMI port. Indeed, comments from the company suggest it won't.
At last, the long-awaited Intelligence & Security Committee report on the London 7 July 2005 bomb attacks is here, and out chunters the release via gnn.gov.uk. The release, issued on behalf of the Cabinet Office, tells us that the report is available at the ISC's "web site", and directs us here, which at time of writing housed a splendid document on intelligence assessments of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. You could say that you could not make it up, but as the old report (last updated 5/8/2005, it says here) was pertinent to their having made it up, under the circumstances you probably wouldn't. Never mind, it's a Cabinet Office release, so click on news, news releases, and (again, we stress, at time of writing) nothing had actually happened there for a week. OK, back to www.gnn.gov.uk and start at the beginning again. "Sorry" (it says here), "Unauthorised access. "Under The Computer Misuse Act (1990), it is a criminal offence to facilitate or obtain access to computer material and electronic data without authorisation. Please contact the GNN News Distribution Service for help." Or possibly to arrange one's arrest. Never mind, click on "Go to the homepage", which ought to field you through to GNN's default.asp and, nope, here they are threatening you again. One more click and maybe you should get the toothbrush packed. OK, skip the link in the release text (which we got to in the first place via the external (and therefore operational) The Government Says RSS feed, and try the apparently more convoluted link over on the right hand side of the page.* Nope, arrested again. Try link again from the RSS feed - ah yes, the whole shooting match seems to have fallen over, and it's just an everyday story of UK Government Internet buggeration. Last week Tony Blair stressed to Hazel Blears how important it was to Labour Party to maximise its use of the internet. Obviously, he's stuffed. ® * Update: This one now works, as, unusually, does the link in the release text. Dud links are so common in these things, we suspect wrong links in press releases and statements may be a Whitehall rule. The Government's response to the report is also now up, and reader Pav claims to have spotted the text "On 7 July 2006 fifty-two people were killed in the terrorist attacks ..." But we think wherever that might have been, they've fixed it too. Anyway, that's enough updates. Oh alright, one more update. The 2006 date is in Paul Murphy's covering letter to Tony Blair, included in the PDF of the report. As this is a PDF, fixing it may take them some years.
Plans for an area of the internet dedicated to pornography were killed last night in a vote by overseeing organisation ICANN. In a split 9-5 board decision, the organisation acted ruthlessly, against its own previous position, in order to put an end to an increasingly difficult and controversial issue - the approval of a .xxx top-level domain. The .xxx registry application has been the focus of enormous political pressure on ICANN for the past six months and was used at one point as a political football in a wider tussle for power within the internet. Despite everything that has been written and will continue to be written about the application however, two simple facts need to be recognised: 1. The US government, despite its constant denials, has been the driving force in preventing the .xxx registry from being approved thanks to a campaign of right-wing Christians with close links to the current administration. 2. The company behind .xxx, ICM Registry, has done all that has been asked of it in order to answer people's concerns, but has had its efforts ignored or misrepresented by those opposed to the registry. The history of the .xxx domain has been long and incredibly complex, with its approval constantly delayed or stymied for increasingly untenable reasons. It has also exposed ICANN's flawed decision-making processes and revealed the hidden hand behind what is supposed to be an autonomous organisation overseeing the internet. ICANN has had to decide against its own recommendations, and has been caught in a web of conflicting statements. A huge campaign against .xxx has seen ICANN's public comment board for the registry flooded in recent days by hundreds of posters with little or no understanding of the .xxx bid, but all stating their opposition to its approval. The same campaign has been raging for months, with one ICANN Board member sent threatening letters due to an assumed bias for the registry. What happened behind the scenes was that the US administration told ICANN chairman Vint Cerf and head Paul Twomey that it did not approve of the domain, but due to the difficult political position that it would put both ICANN and the US government in were it to be seen to be directing internet policy (against its publicly stated "hands off" policy), there has been a carefully co-ordinated effort to kill the registry through delay. The final crunch came in a series of letters last week, and only just released, between the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) constituency of ICANN and ICANN head Paul Twomey. Effectively, the GAC made it clear it would continue to delay introduction of .xxx for as long as it deemed necessary and ratcheted up the pressure by asking ICANN to send it a written explanation of its decision with regard to .xxx. ICANN top brass decided the hot potato had started to burn and so decided to vote the whole application down in a board meeting. The split in the board vote, however, represents an ongoing, if slow, revolution at the heart of ICANN. A majority of the board can be relied upon to vote with chairman Vint Cerf without asking questions, but a new breed of board member has tired of the secretive approach the organisation continues to take and is fighting against its rubber-stamping image. It is no mistake that the 9-5 split is the same as the ICANN board's approval of a new contract which handed VeriSign control of the .com registry in perpetuity and handed it huge money-raising powers - a decision that was greeted with dismay and fury by internet observers across the world. In an effort to control the outbreak of rebellion within its own board, ICANN has repeated its constraints following the dotcom contract approval and put a gagging order on all board members for 48 hours. Supposedly, this action allows the non-English speaking board members to prepare their statements, but in reality it prevents what will no doubt be strong criticism of the .xxx decision and ICANN processes by ICANN's own board members from hitting the media at the same time as the announcement. Most furious today, though, will be the owner of ICM Registry Stuart Lawley who had spent years and millions of pounds pushing the .xxx domain. Only last month, when the .xxx issue was again delayed at ICANN's meeting in New Zealand, he told us he would continue to answer everyone's concerns. But his sense of injustice was clear: "ICANN have gone well outside their previous procedures for the other sTLDs on this one," he told us. "Given the political posturing I guess it is understandable, yet extremely frustrating. The contract was reviewed by the board during their 18 April call and by inference they must be happy with the terms as they did not ask for any amendments." The reality is that ICANN has again been compromised by political pressures - pressures that both sides claim not to exist. ®
We're obliged today to reader Alexander Livingstone who has just alerted us to the fact that the Lads from Lagos - or the Lass in this case - have moved into the London property rental business.
Book reviewBook review The title of this book should have been "Pre-refactoring", and for a suitable subtitle, "Getting It Right First Time" would have been a bit more informative than "Extreme Abstraction, Extreme Separation, Extreme Readability", which is a bit extreme on the extremes.
Europe's telecoms regulators have supported plans to cut roaming charges but believe this should be done by cutting the cost of wholesale charges rather than retail prices. The European Commission (EC) has already announced plans to regulate the amount cellcos can charge punters while using their phone overseas. Four weeks ago the EC published proposals for wholesale and retail regulation that would link international retail roaming charges with the price punters pay in their home country. But the European Regulators Group (ERG), which includes UK regulator Ofcom, believes that attempting to regulate retail prices could be counter productive for end users. Indeed, the ERG said that while it "supports the commission's objectives, it has significant reservations about the regulatory mechanisms proposed by the EC". Instead, the ERG favours wholesale regulation and wants to impose a single European-wide price cap on wholesale roaming charges (the price imposed by one mobile network operator on another for the use of its network) set at around €0.30, as opposed to the current average level of about €0.75. And in a bid to ensure that these cost savings are being passed on to consumers, cellco roaming charges would be monitored. The introduction of retail price caps should only be introduced if wholesale regulation failed, the ERG said. "Mobile roaming charges are simply too high and do not currently represent a fair deal between the customer and the operator," ERG chairman Kip Meek said. "We share with the commission a desire to see prices continue to fall. However, we continue to believe this can best be achieved through wholesale price regulation with retail price regulation held in reserve." Vodafone announced earlier this week it would cut roaming charges ahead of any intervention by the EC. It reckons that average European roaming costs for Vodafone customers will be cut by at least 40 per cent by April 2007, when compared to last summer seeing prices fall from more than €0.90 to less than €0.55 per minute. ®
Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser has tacitly alleged that iPod owners are music thieves, a claim that echoes the words of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Both companies compete directly with Apple's iTunes Music Store.
From time to time, reports emerge suggesting that senior business people, such as the financial director (FD), are becoming more IT savvy and more involved in IT decision making. True though this might be, it's important not to get carried away with what it means in practice. Are we seriously expecting FDs to be grilling vendors on the capabilities of their systems management software, or what exactly the vendor means by phrases such as "straightforward upgrade path", "easy to integrate", "all based on open standards", etc? While it might be a sales rep's dream to drive business through purely non-technical decision makers who don't have the knowledge and experience to ask the awkward questions, it's probably not in the best interests of the organisation for this to happen. Clearly, however, FDs and other executives are involved in prioritising spend and approving budgets and business cases in line with business requirements and objectives. This is something they do across all parts of the business as they juggle the allocation of funds between investment in buildings, plant and machinery, marketing, sales, R&D, and so on, as well as IT. If someone like an FD is doing their job well, they will therefore learn enough about all of these areas so they can converse effectively with the specialists in each department, participate productively in strategy discussions, and make better sense of the plans and proposals that are put to them for review and sign-off. In an ideal world in which business and IT activities are well aligned, executives should therefore be tuned in to the IT strategy at a high level, with the specialists in the IT department taking care of the details of IT service delivery. Sometimes, though, it doesn't all quite hang together in the way it should, and there is a danger that IT vendors who engage business executives directly can unduly influence an organisation's IT strategy in line with their own agenda. While FDs generally don't have the time, inclination, or level of knowledge to get involved in the specifics of technical product evaluation and selection, vendor sales people often beat a path to their door and pitch to them directly anyway. The danger then is that they are delivered "business oriented" visions, which are very compelling, but fail to address real world practicalities and considerations. It's then that we can end up hearing statements such as: "I think we should phase out all of our unix servers and replace them with Windows so we can save money and take advantage of Microsoft's flexible and agile architecture", or questions like "What are our plans to build an Enterprise grid?" As IT vendors, the big ones especially, are increasingly targeting business executives with their sales and marketing activities, it is becoming more important than ever that the internal IT department has the boardroom beat well covered. There is a lot that goes on in the IT department that business executives don't need or want to know about, but when vendors are hitting them with business spins on the latest infrastructure and architecture concepts and buzz words, it is easy for misunderstandings and disjoints to arise. The ability for internal IT staff to effectively articulate the same concepts and ideas - utility computing, grid computing, service oriented architecture, software as a service, etc - to the business management audience in the context of the organisation's own business and IT landscape, is therefore critical to maintaining harmony and keeping things on track. The truth is that this is something IT should always have been doing, as executive education and awareness in relation to high level IT concepts is a pre-requisite for effective communication and coordination. But saying it is easier than doing it, especially as hot concepts and ideas are often poorly or inconsistently defined at an industry level. If you are an IT pro reading this, for example, how clear is the meaning of some of the latest industry buzz phrases and acronyms in your own mind? If they are clear to you, how should they be explained to non-technical managers who may need to agree to investments that allow you to take them on board? These questions and others are explored in the latest Reg Research Study, and we would be really interested in your views and opinions. Please help us by completing the short survey here. ®
Samsung, Hynix and Infineon have agreed to cough up $160m to a collection of small companies who sued the memory giants after the US Department of Justice launched a probe into DRAM price-fixing claims.
EDS has been testing Team System since its early betas, and now has three live projects on the system. What does it like? “The integration aspect, the fact that there’s less context-switching between applications is very important. The extensibility is very important, either through third-parties or by doing our own stuff. Customizability of the process is important – nobody’s actually using MSF out of the box. The invisible metrics gathering is huge. Unbeknownst to the developer, metrics are gathered, and then reports magically appear,” says Chief Technologist Aaron Kowall. “We believe that it will improve our productivity when developing .NET applications,” adds lead technologist Etienne Tremblay. EDS has also run into limitations. It has to use other tools for UML modelling and requirements analysis, addressed by a licensing deal with Borland for its tools, which Borland promises will, in future, integrate well with Team System. Other frustrations include policy management and the inability to move projects between multiple Team Foundation Servers. These last problems are likely to be resolved in future updates. Independent contractor Sean Hederman has a contrasting view. “I'm an independent contractor, who would dearly love to have Team System, but simply cannot afford it. What I do note is that many of the "features" such as reliable source control that Visual Studio developers have been begging for since VB5 days are only available in this system. “There are many components in it that I feel are very useful indeed, even for non-Enterprise projects. The built-in testing and profiling are big advantages, as is the whole SDM [System Definition Model] concept. Throw in software development lifecycle control and issue tracking and integration and you have a really nice product. Unfortunately most of that is stuff that should have been in VS Pro 5 years ago. My attitude so far is that I'll just use things like NUnit, SubVersion, and Red Ant Profiler to close up the gaps.” [Comment first posted here]. This article is linked to Tim Anderson's Microsoft Team System review. Return to Page 1 of the main article here - otherwise use "back" button.
Gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg has been cautioned for affray under Section 4 of the Public Order Act for "use of threatening words or behaviour" during an incident last month at Heathrow airport, the BBC reports. Dogg and five of his entourage spent a night in the cells after allegedly taking exception to an airline staff's refusal to let them enjoy a Heathrow Terminal 1 VIP lounge while en route to South Africa with British Airways. They subsequently "clashed with officials" and then "became abusive and pushed police officers" called to control the disturbance. The men were bailed, continued their journey and returned voluntarily to receive their cautions. They are "expected to go to the west London police station to answer bail later on Thursday", according to a police spokesman. Dogg and his posse have also been banned from BA "for the foreseeable future", the BBC notes. In related attack celebrity news, Naomi "Don't You Know Who I am?" Campbell is expected in a NY court next month on a felony rap after allegedly beating her housekeeper with a jewel-encrusted portable device. Fellow clotheshorse May "Air Rage" Andersen was recently chucked out of the US for not having the proper visa. The fact that she "slapped and wrestled" a flight attendant while en route from the Netherlands to Miami might have also had something to do with it. ®
Taiwanese manufacturers of small form-factor PCs have re-iterated Intel's scheme to pitch 'Santa Rosa', the next version of the chip maker's Centrino platform, as the basis for future compact desktop and living room PCs.
Intel and AMD may be bitter rivals, but they will both be pushing products they have codenamed 'Santa Rosa' in the coming months, it seems. Fortunately, they two are unlikely to clash: one's pitched at notebooks, the other at heavy-duty servers.
IBM has concocted a new recipe for making blade servers more attractive to small- to medium-sized business. Take some networking, add a dash of services and then wrap the whole package in sweetened financing. Blade servers have primarily been aimed at larger customers with racks and racks full of servers. IBM, however, hopes to extend the server technology to the little guy by making the boxes easier to manage and cheaper to acquire. While smaller guys might not need the space saving features of blades, they do want to tap the shared networking and management aspects of the systems, according to IBM. "SMBs very much want the same kind of simplification benefits that the enterprise guys can get," said Tim Dougherty, director of IBM's BladeCenter biz, in an interview with The Register. "The smaller guys don't necessarily have the staff to maintain multiple systems, so blades can be a good way to go." The first part of IBM's SMB blade package is a $999 "Server Connectivity Module" otherwise known as an Ethernet switch. Perhaps IBM thinks a "module" more palatable than a "switch" to the little guy. The device has IBM's name on it but is made by Nortel spinoff Blade Network Technologies. To make life easy on SMBs, IBM has color coded the system so that customers can map blades to the ports on the switch. The second bit of the blade extravaganza comes in the form of a 3.5 days Global Service engagement. IBM's services team will teach the SMB customers the ways of the blade, including networking, heat considerations and management tools. The idea is to get your blades up and running as quickly as possible. Along similar lines, IBM's financing team is also here to help. IBM has set up a 60-month lease for the BladeCenter chassis and a 36-month lease for the actual blades. There are also "easy outs" at the end of the three-year blade term, Dougherty said. Such a structure makes sense given that customers can hang onto their chassis for quite a bit longer than the blades, which are more dependent on changing components. Lastly, IBM has a Windows management package that lets blade customers tap into System i (formerly iSeries) boxes. SMBs have shied from blades for a couple of reasons, including the higher average cost of a blade server and the lack of standards in the market. Each major vendor still ships a proprietary chassis, so why get locked into one vendor when you can keep buying rack-mount systems? In addition, SMBs don't often have the same data center space constraints of larger customers or, in fact, the cooling needed to run several racks of blades. Dougherty, however, says these SMB problems with blades are fading. The per server cost of a blade versus a standard box moves in favor of the blades when you factor in the shared networking and power management aspects of the BladeCenter chassis, he said. ®
T-Mobile UK believes VoIP isn't sufficiently consistent or capable of providing calls of a high enough quality calls to be allowed into its mobile phone network, the carrier said to day in response to revelations it has effectively banned the technology from its latest data-oriented airtime package.
Microsoft has claimed Nintendo's Wii console will cost $200 when its ships. Well, sort of. In a dig at Sony, Microsoft VP Peter Moore said consumers will be able to buy an Xbox 360 and a Wii for the price of a $599 PlayStation 3, according to Reuters.
Networking manufacturer D-Link has settled a dispute with a Danish administrator Poul-Henning Kamp over the way its kit queries internet time servers. Critics claim the way D-link equipment polls NTP (Network Time Protocol) servers is impairing their operations, leaving operators to carry unsustainable excess bandwidth charges. NTP servers handle a variety of functions including, for example, helping create a record of the timing of eBay bids. The dispute between D-Link and self-confessed "time geek" Poul-Henning Kamp over the issue went public in April after Kamp wrote an open letter to D-Link prompted by his frustrations in attempting to get the firm to acknowledge that a misconfigured implementation of NTP on its kit left him staring at a bill of around $8,800 a year. D-Link products worldwide query a small NTP server located at the Danish Internet Exchange, intended to service only 2,000 or so organisations in the country, which is being maintained by Kamp. Kamp reckons that between 75 and 90 per cent of the traffic hitting his servers comes from D-Link devices. Growing costs forced Kamp to consider abandoning his time-keeping service. The address of Kamp's NTP server - which is run on a non-profit basis and allocated only minimal bandwidth resources - was hardwired into the firmware in various D-link products. A more flexible approach would have seen the products reconfigured remotely and redirected to a more appropriate NTP server. D-Link is freeloading onto as many as 50 NTP time servers, critics claim. The US military, NASA and government groups worldwide are reportedly running NTP servers interrogated by D-Link kit. Cambridge University security expert Richard Clayton, the man who tracked back the source of unwanted international traffic sent to Kamp's Danish NTP server to D-Link kit, reckons D-Link would rack up $1,000 a month in bandwidth charges if it ran those time servers itself. Instead of acknowledging that it might have made an error, D-Link first hid behind its lawyers. D-Link's attorneys demanded that disgruntled punters submit to Californian law. A month later, reason has begun to prevail and an "amicable" settlement has been forged between D-Link and Kamp. D-Link has agreed to take steps to reduce the impact of the problem. It's unclear if D-Link also agreed to cover Kamp's excess costs, as he originally requested. Kamp was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press but a statement on his website does go some way towards explaining the terms of the settlement: "D-Link and Poul-Henning Kamp announced today that they have amicably resolved their dispute regarding access to Kamp's GPS.Dix.dk NTP Time Server site. D-Link's existing products will have authorised access to Kamp's server, but all new D-Link products will not use the GPS.Dix.dk NTP time server. "D-Link is dedicated to remaining a good corporate and network citizen," the statement adds. ®
The Entertainment Software Association has effectively ruined the best chance that the average gamer will ever get of seeing a authentic expanse of female flesh by ordering "booth babes" at the E3 Expo in LA to put it away - or face the consequences. ESA President Douglas Lowenstein explained earlier this week: "Last year there were a lot of complaints about how the models were beyond, in many cases, what was decent." Accordingly, gone are "nudity, partial nudity, bikini bottoms or any sexually explicit or provocative conduct", according to the ESA guidlines. And the aforementioned consequences are indeed dire: a verbal warning for a first flash of skin and then a $5,000 fine if the perpetrator continues to flaunt herself like a two-bit hussy, Reuters reports. The flesh police have already moved to clamp down on excessively hot dermatological action: booth babe Pauline K told Reuters that one strumpet had already got a finger-wagging for too much cleavage. Ms K herself escaped censure, although she was wearing "a white shredded tank top with an exposed midriff, short mini skirt and knee-high leggings as she handed out fliers for a company that makes custom face plates for Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 game machine". Phwooooar! ®
A NASA spokeswoman has denied that the agency plans to hold talks with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) over the development of the latter's Next Generation Supersonic Transport (SST). NASA's Melissa Mathews shot down the claims on Tuesday with: "It's my understanding there is no discussion on that at this time with the Japanese." A spokewoman for Boeing - which had been rumoured to be in the frame to build the vehicle's airframe - confirmed that the company was "not aware of any plan" to even discuss such a project. The initial report of the scheduled June talks came from Japanese business sheet Nihon Keizai. JAXA spokesman Kiyotaka Yashiro said: "In the future, we think we need some kind of co-operation with NASA." Whether that co-operation now happens remains to be seen. The Japanese have, however, managed to get the project off the ground without NASA or Boeing's input. Back in October 2005, JAXA successfully tested an 11.5m SST prototype at Australia's Woomera range reaching around Mach 2 for 15 minutes. The Japanese reckon they have cracked the two big problems associated with supersonic aircraft: fuel consumption and noise. They plan to tackle these with improved aircraft shape, quieter and more economical jet engines, coupled with the use of composite materials. There's more on the project here. ®
Lloyds TSB has admitted that flaws in the new Chip and PIN system recently introduced for debits cards in the UK open up the system to fraud. Conventional fraud may be down because of the system but crooks are still able to use cloned debit or credit cards in foreign ATMS. Instead of authorising debit card transactions by signature Chip and PIN means that customers use a four digit PIN code to give the go-ahead to purchases. Although cloned cards won't have a forged chip the PIN associated with this microchip is the same as that associated with a magnetic stripe. Foreign ATMs only read this magnetic strip and not the microchip. So providing fraudsters obtain the data on the magnetic strip, along with the associated PIN, they are able to make withdrawals overseas using a conventionally cloned card, something that wouldn't work on a UK high street. Delays in identifying foreign ATM cash withdrawals as potentially fraudulent are compounding the problem. One Lloyds TSB customer had £3,000 withdrawn from an account via a series of 19 withdrawals in the Netherlands, the Daily Mail reports. Similar scams involving cash machines in France, Thailand and Hong Kong have hit other Mail readers. Lloyds TSB told the paper that it is updating its procedures in a bid to clamp down on a rise in fraudulent transactions from overseas bank accounts. "In recent weeks, we have identified an increase in fraud via overseas cash machines," a Lloyds TSB spokesman told the Daily Mail. "We have reviewed the way we operate to protect our customers. We are always updating our many measures to prevent and detect fraud." A spokeswoman for APACS, the banking association overseeing the introduction of Chip and PIN in the UK, said that victims of the fraud would get their money back but accepted that this may take some time. She defended the overall integrity of the system. "We never said there would be no card fraud. There has always been a difference between the banks' level of security and fraud detection. Some include monitoring cash withdrawals as part of their fraud detection systems," she said. ®